The Year in Books : July to December 2015

I do not know what happened.  Normally I have no trouble reading.  At all.  One book per month should be a piece of cake for me but for some strange reason, the reading, and the posting of the reading, did not really come to fruition.

I partially blame Frances Mayes’ Every Day in Tuscany:  Seasons of an Italian Life.  It took me forever to read it.  Almost four months!  Why?  Not because it was a huge book – only 306 pages! Not because I was too busy.  It was just soooo tedious.  I cannot tell you how much it pains me to even write that.  I absolutely adored her first two:  Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella Tuscany. They were scrumptious.  Like the other two, this book also had lovely recipes (yay!) and there were moments of pure enjoyment – especially when she wrote about life in general at Bramasole, living in Tuscany and visiting the various regions of Italy. What bored me to tears were the endless descriptions of churches visited and everything Luca Signorelli.  Mayes is obsessed with Signorelli.  I don’t know.  Maybe it was just me and my personal mood.  But I don’t think so.  I was about to make my review in Goodreads and saw that I was not the only one who felt this way.

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I love to encourage my fellow bloggers, real writers, so whenever they post a book they’ve written, I up and buy it.  This was the case with C.E. Ayr’s, Medville Matters, Sound Bite Fiction.  C.E. is a fellow Friday Fictioneer and an expert at short stories (100-200 words long) with a whiplash-inducing twist you never see coming.  I chose to read two or three stories per night, trying to stretch it out.  Besides, only so many “stings in the tail”, as the excerpt on Goodreads states, one can take in one sitting!

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Another fellow blogger, Carol Ann Preibis has written the book Living a Good Life, Live a Meaningful, Happy, and Fulfilling Life.  I am still reading this one as it is more of an eGuide, textbook-like book, to me, than a novel.  It is to be read in sections, pondered over, reflected on.  There are many links to articles and videos so you get much more than you think.  It is not what I would call light reading but it has many fascinating sections with a lot of advice on how to live your good life.  Not the type of book I normally pick up but when Carol asked me to read it, I agreed.  I’ve not regretted it.

And finally,

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I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things.  So NOT Eat, Pray Love! This was a novel about botany, love, adventure and success.  It starts off with Henry Whittaker, a British-born poor but very smart man who understands plants like no one else.  He becomes the self-made richest man in Philadelphia through the quinine trade.  He eventually has a brilliant daughter, named Alma, who not only inherited his looks (poor dear) but also his brains.  She becomes a brilliant botanist herself, specialising in mosses and theorising on evolution.  Her story brings her all the way from Philadelphia to Tahiti and to the Netherlands.  Only at the age of 82, when pointed out by another scientist does she realise just how extraordinary her life has been.  Gilbert must have done tons and tons of research for this book and what could have been pedantic and dry, ended up being a wonderful read.

I felt the need to keep 2015 into one place and will be back soon with my first Year in Books post for 2016!

 

 

The Year In Books : June 2015

This is a first in a long time.  I read not one, not two but three books in May!  OK, they were slim volumes, but still! 😉

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, Please Say Kaddish For Me was a page-turner.  Though a most difficult subject, Rochelle managed to weave throughout all the horror, a lot of beauty.  Her characters were, except for one, all easily fallen in love with.  Through her blog, I was able to read many of her character studies and learnt that this story was based on a true one.  All the more difficult.  A story of survival, of love, of moving forward despite the hardships and pain, Please Say Kaddish For Me was at times cringe-worthy followed by joyful tears.  I couldn’t put it down.

As a result of not being able to put it down, I found myself in the month of May with 16 more days to read!  So, I remained in the Jewish experience by finally reading Elie Wiesel’s Night. I could not put this one down either.  I can’t believe I had it in my bookshelves for so many years without picking it up.  Go figure.  16-year-old Elie, deeply religious, ends up going through many concentration camps with his father, slowly losing his beliefs.  The horrible things he goes through and manages to survive are just beyond imagination.   This one too, I gobbled up in no time.

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Still had a few days left in the month so I picked up Michael J. Fox’ sliver of a book A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Future.  I needed some lighter reading…  I had read his “Lucky Man” years ago and knew I was in for a good read.  I didn’t realize this was a book directed at graduates (kind of ironic, considering he never graduated high school; well, he did get his GED).  His goal was to encourage graduates to recognize opportunities and go with the flow in life.  He compares formal education of various subjects (economics, physics, geography, to name a few) to real-life learnings.  I enjoyed it.  Took me a day and a half to read it but I had no choice.  I had cakes to make!

Sooo… what to read for June?

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Time for dreaming.  Summer is ’round the corner, after all.  Having read the first two “Tuscany” books by Frances Mayes, I know I am totally going to love Every Day in Tuscany.  Between her lovely prose and her wonderful recipes, I’ll just imagine myself there – until I get there for “realz”!

The Year in Books – September 2014

I have been like a chicken with her head cut off in the past two weeks!  Read?  What’s that? Who has time for it besides a page or three before bed?  That is NOT how you read a book per month!  I’ve been making salsas, jams, canning said salsa, jams, painting my dining room…. I’ve been going to bed totally pooped every night and can only manage a page or so… I fear the month of September will bring me more stuff to do… (like fulfill an order for 36 gift baskets, meaning more salsas, jams, etc… NOT that I’m complaining!)

I am still not finished “Bella Tuscany”, though I will be before week’s end – for sure!  It has been such a delight of the senses to read.  The descriptions of the countryside, the art, the food… all must be savoured quietly, comtemplatively, joyously.  I find myself dreaming half-way through each paragraph.  Frances Mayes’ descriptions enforce my NEED to go to Tuscany and feel, smell, live the same things she has (well… minus the troubles she has with her house… and then again, maybe not!)

Such a lovely read.

I will be doing a total about-face with my next read.  I went for dinner with a friend and she gave me an armful of books.  I had a couple on my bookshelves awaiting my attention but I decided to choose one of hers!  Normally, I prefer to read the book before watching the movie and it just so happens I have yet to watch “Philomena” soooo…. This will be my September selection!  I have been wanting to read this story since I heard about the movie.  These types of stories truly inspire me.  I figure if they made the movie, the book can’t be too bad, eh?

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The Year In Books – August 2014

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Back from vacation and trying to get back into a groove (but not yet trying that hard)!  As predicted, I took the time to read whilst on the Jersey Shore.  Now… did I read what I said I’d read? Not exactly!  Yes, I did officially finish As Always, Julia (there were a mere 20 pages left) and it just made me want to start cooking à la Julia but I was camping so I had to improvise!  (Not too many have duck breasts and cedar-plank salmon when camping…)  And, I knew there would be quite a few shows taped of The French Chef  waiting for me when I got home. (Isn’t the Universe grand?  Here I am all in love with Julia Child and Gusto TV decides to air old ’60’s episodes!  So fun to watch these old black and white shows with Julia often out of breath….

O.K… got off track there for a second!  My first official book for July was Jodi Picoult’s Change of Heart. As per usual, Ms. Picoult draws you into a difficult situation, shows you both sides (or more) to the story and makes you think.  As she has done for several of her books, each chapter is one person’s voice (and written in a different font).  This story is about a death-row inmate (first in 69 years) who wishes to donate his heart to his victim’s sister.  It’s told in the voices of June, mother of the victim; Michael, a Catholic priest; Lucius, a fellow inmate and Maggie, his lawyer; all woven together to tell this difficult story.

Death penalty, human rights, religion, organ donation:  these are some serious subjects that can cause heated discussions.  Picoult never preaches when each one is brought forth.  I am amased at the amount of research she puts into each and every book she writes, this one included.  I won’t say more as I would hate to divulge anything inadvertently! Definitely worth the read.

After about an hour to mourn the end of my book, my sister handed me the one she had just finished.  I had not thought to bring a second book so I figured pourquoi pas?  This particular one falls in the category we like to call:  historical smut book!  Which was exactly what I needed after the emotional roller coaster ride I had just been on!  This was a no-brain-required-yet-enjoyable-romp-kind of book called A Rogue By Any Other Name20140731_154209 by Sarah MacLean.  You know how these go: boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy ravishes girl and all ends well… Sometimes that just hits to spot!

It’s just as well I hadn’t brought my second book to the beach:  Every Day in Tuscany – turns out it comes AFTER this month’s selection!  Funny how that works, eh?

 

The Year in Books – July

After a most beautiful June (okay, the last part of the month anyway!) we now find ourselves in July, which for us, means vacation time!  This year we are actually doing two trips:  next week, a five-day/four-night trip to New Hampshire which will include climbing Mount Washington.  Weather permitting, of course.  It if is as hot as the last week of July, I am NOT going to climb!  No way, José!  That said, we’ll see once there.  The second trip will be a return to Cape May, New Jersey.  We so enjoy going there with my sister and her family and whichever friends also choose to join us.

What does all this mean?  Time to READ!  Without guilt!  Without worrying that the house needs to be cleaned!  I will be able to finally finish June’s choice, “As Always, Julia”.  Though I am enjoying this book, I must take breaks.  Most of the letters between Julia Child and Avis DeVoto  are fun to read.  Those ladies wrote (typed) some really long letters!  The reason I need to take breaks is because both of the ladies were very political.  This book covers the letters between 1952 to 1961 which is also the during the time Julia was creating “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. (It was a loooooong process!) I’m not American so when it comes to the political scene during the McCarthy era, they kinda lose me!  That said, I’ve a good 100 or so pages to go and then I will start my July selections!

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I dream of going to Tuscany one day (and regularly threaten my family that once I go, I’ll not come back!) and I loved the original book Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and, though they changed some of the story line, I loved the movie too!  When I saw this book, I just grabbed it with the intention of reading it when I felt like pretending I lived there…. That time has come.  I’m counting on Every Day in Tuscany to be just as wonderful as the first and just as loaded in fantastic recipes.  Talk about combining two of my loves:  cooking and reading!

I chose a second book this time because we will be on vacation and I end up reading LOTS.  I am a big fan of Jodi Picoult, though I don’t like to read two of her books in a row – usually too heartbreaking and oft times her endings are not overly happy.   Change of Heart has been on my shelf for a good while (borrowed from my sister as I do for all of Picoult’s books!) because I was waiting for a time to be in the mood for her style.  The way she presents more than one side to a story is amasing.  She is a pro at it.  Must spend hours and hours researching and she remains quite objective throughout.  Looking forward to sinking into a comfy chair with a nice glass of wine or a Caesar or a beer!