December 9 The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck This book was odd. I am a huge fan of Oregon Trail history, and was so excited to read this account of real, modern day people crossing the Trail in recent times. What I got however, was a history of a man and his father, some interesting tales about pioneers on the Trail, some anecdotes of the two Mr Bucks making their way across most of the trail, and a fair amount of bad language, which in my humble opinion was mostly unnecessary. I also got way more than I wanted of the author’s personal opinions about religions (he thinks they are “all made up” and a crock of crap), RV’ers (annoying old people), Cops (NOT his favorite people), and people who watch Fox News (essentially brain dead). I’m paraphrasing, these are not exact quotes. Despite all this, I truly enjoyed the history of the Oregon Trail that was brought up here, some of which was new to me. I was rather disappointed that the author got to eastern Oregon with his wagon and mules, and then quit. Call me crazy, but I thought it was a little lame that he didn’t even attempt to get to the END of the trail.
I have read a few books of similar ilk, and frankly, I’d choose Bill Bryson over this author any day. At least he knows how to inject humor into his travel tales.
November 14 An Irish Country Practice by Patrick Taylor Ahhhhh another satisfying Irish Country Doctor novel by Dr Patrick Taylor – both and Irishman AND a doctor, who lives not far as the crow flies on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed every single one of the Irish Country Doctor series, and this was number 13! This one takes place in 1967, in our fictional town in Northern Ireland, Ballybucklebo. If you are interested in Ireland, history, or medicine, you will love this series! Normally I listen to these books on audio, and HIGHLY recommend the audible version if you can get your hands on it. The accents are done perfectly by the narrator. This time I actually read the book because the wait to get the audible book from the library was insanely long. It was still wonderful, even in print form. Can’t wait for the next one!
October 19 The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman I’ve now read all of Ms Harman’s books, and have enjoyed them all. A couple of her first books were more autobiographical and her last 3 have been fiction, with midwifery thrown in. I do enjoy books about birthin’ babies, since I was involved in that for so many years – and I like to play a “game” with myself by discerning whether the birth itself is realistically described or not. I was eagerly looking forward to doing just that with this book, but then it took a different turn. If you are hoping for a book about births and birthing, this is NOT it. This was instead about a woman (I’m guessing she’s in her mid 40’s) who just happens to be a midwife who runs away from her real life in West Virginia for a variety of reasons. She ends up on a small Canadian island in the middle of Lake Erie, in the winter without a passport and without knowing a soul on this small, 6 mile long island. How she begins to know a few of the folks on this island, and how she lives in this small lakeside cabin becomes the story. Had I known it was NOT about midwifery, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, but I’m SO glad I did. This is a very good book, a very good book. And yeah, it’s a little bit in the genre of “chick lit” (which is rarely my personal choice of a novel) but it’s not just fluff and silliness. This one has some substance. Definitely recommend!
August 30 The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory I’ve read LOTS of Ms Gregory’s Tudor novels and have enjoyed them all. I marvel at the research she puts into her books and how she makes the plot easy to follow and understand. This book is primarily about the Grey sisters, Lady Jane; Lady Katherine; Lady Mary. Luckily there was a “family tree” printed in the front that I was able to flip back to on occasion to figure out how how Queen Elizabeth the first was related to the Grey’s as well as others. That’s one reason I honestly prefer reading REAL books over e-books. I can flip around whenever I want to the front or the back or re-read whatever I like without getting all befuddled on my Kindle. I don’t want to say too much about this book and give away all my thoughts/feelings about it…. so I will say that the book is quite long (518 pages) and could possibly have been a bit shorter, maybe 50 pages or so. Also, by the end of it, I was pretty darn mad with QEI. She did some pretty selfish stuff. Bottom line: If you like the Tudor period, you’ll enjoy this book. It wasn’t full of roses and butterflies, but I think it was probably quite historically correct, and heck, real life is not always full of daisies and marshmallows. I might add that the author says at the end of this book that this is her final foray into the Tudors. So maybe that’s what she meant by the title of this novel.
August 17 The Shift, One Nurse, 12 Hours, 4 Patient’s Lives by Theresa Brown RN You know, it probably will not come as a surprise that I sure enjoyed this book. In fact I could barely lay it down. Now I’m not saying that everyone will love this book like I did… in fact, I actually believe that you may need to be a nurse (or at least a health care worker in a hospital) to truly appreciate how good and true and honest this book is. Ms Brown is a nurse on an Oncology ward in a big, teaching hospital. She realistically depicts what a day on her ward is like, from start to finish. Her interactions are chronicled with patients, families, and other people on the health care team, as well as showing quite honestly how nurses have to make constant decisions based on groups of facts – triaging, prioritizing, using critical thinking. She sure made me remember my busy 12 hour days at work, leaving home before daybreak, returning home completely exhausted. I don’t miss it, but I’m glad I did it. I had a wonderful career. I made a difference in people’s lives. When I stop to think about it, it was an honor to be an RN for 35 years…. and a sacrifice in many ways. If you’re a bedside nurse, you’ll enjoy and relate to this great book! If you’re not, you will get an accurate account of what it’s like to be “the patient’s advocate”.
August 10 Making Rounds With Oscar by Dr David Dosa MD This book gets 3 stars simply because I love cats — and I love medicine. I’m also interested in Dementia in older adults (actually, “frightened to death” is more like it)….. so it was no surprise that I picked up this book. I can’t pinpoint it, but it never struck the right cord for me, whether it was the writing, or the content, I’m not sure. It wasn’t as engaging as I hoped it would be, however learning about Oscar the nursing home cat, who sat with people when they died was rather heartwarming.
Two of my recent reads: The Virgin’s Lover by Philippa Gregory and The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck I finished The Virgin’s Lover last week and REALLY enjoyed it. It is another of Philippa Gregory’s Tudor novels, based on fact, but of course a bit of embellishment thrown in. This time, the subject was all about the first few years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Much of it was about her supposed affair with Sir Robert Dudley, a married man who wanted to be King, next to Elizabeth. I never truly figured out if he honestly loved Elizabeth, or just used her affection as a means to an end – the end being King. The big roadblock to their love of course was Robert’s wife, Amy. I won’t give away anything, but be sure to know that if you are interested in the Tudor era at all, you won’t be disappointed by this book. I have but one book left in Ms Gregory’s Tudor series, “The Constant Princess” which is all about Catherine of Aragon, Henry the VIII’s first (and longest) wife. I will be reading that later this year, I’m sure. Well, that’s not quite true. I understand that a recent novel of hers, Three Sisters, Three Queens is also set in the Tudor era. So yes, that’s on the to-read list as well.
The Women in the Castle is a book by an author I’d never heard of, but was getting great reviews and of course is set in my favorite time period, WWII. I waited several weeks before getting this one from our local library. This novel is from a different perspective than my normal WWII books, this one takes place before, during, and after WWII in Germany. The women in the Castle are three widows with children who are involved (via their men) in the resistance to Hitler effort. The story does a fair amount of jumping around, not only between the time periods of before, during, and after – but also between the women, each of which has a unique situation. At first I’ll admit I had a bit of trouble keeping everything and everyone straight, but I’m so glad I persevered. Normally if a book is not grabbing me by 50 or so pages in, I quit. After all, too many good books, so little time! But I hung in there, and by 100 pages I was hooked. Some of this book was hard for me to read, but I know that these disturbing things DID happen, and if we stick our heads in the sand, we’ll never understand what it was like in those days, to be a German during WWII (and after), particularly if you were not on the side of the Nazis. Let’s be honest: there was nothing happy about this book. It was what one might call “rather dark”…. yes, gloomy, maybe even depressing – and despite that, I’m really glad I read it. It was interesting and informative and while it wasn’t my favorite WWII book ever, I did enjoy it and would most definitely recommend it to anyone who loves this era.
July 10 Dead to Me by Lesley Pearse I knew the minute this book showed up on one of my favorite book websites, Lovereading.co.UK that I’d HAVE to read it. Set in England during World War II, well it was a given for me. I HAD to get my hands on it, and ended up ordering it from a bookseller in England, via Amazon. Sometimes I get books either on my kindle, or from Paperbackswap.com, or just from Amazon – and I put them on my bookshelf or onto my ever-growing pile of “to-read”. Not this one. I started it right away! It didn’t have time to collect any dust whatsoever! It started in 1935 and was essentially the progressive story of two girls who were from totally different backgrounds, but became friends anyway. They of course face all sorts of hardships along the way, and yes, there is a bit of romance thrown in, although it isn’t the main focus of the story. I have read several books by Lesley Pearse and have truly enjoyed them all. I didn’t “love” this book, but I liked it A LOT. What I didn’t like was: The Cover. It poorly depicts the two girls in the book. One was a blonde, one a flaming redhead and neither of the cover girls fit that bill. I wasn’t too keen on the title either. Made it sound like a murder mystery which is not what it was and not something that I am usually interested in. I also did not like the size of the book – it was enormous and that was totally unnecessary as the pages were thick and the typeface large. Okay, with all the bits I didn’t like out of the way, I really did like the plot and the development of the two main characters. I enjoy most any historical fiction surrounding WWII and this was no exception. I will continue to read more by this excellent English author!
June 14 The Indifferent Stars Above by Daniel James Brown Sometimes I just need to read me some NON-fiction!! 🙂 This was a gripping account of the Donner Party from the start of their overland trip in Missouri — to their unfortunate end, the winter of 1846-47 in California. Everybody has heard about the Donner Party, but I learned a lot about not only the Donners, but also many other families that were part of the group, and the folks that made rescue attempts as well. I had no knowledge of the “Hastings Cutoff” which veered away from the proven road to California…. a road which the Donner group unfortunately decided to take. It became their undoing. Very well researched and very well written, this book kept my attention to the bitter end. And bitter it was.
May 10 Dancing in the Dark by Maureen Lee I haven’t read anyone else’s review on this book, so as not to be influenced by other’s opinions. I have read MANY books by Maureen Lee and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. This was no exception. In this one we travel between 1939 and 1999. Millie of 1999 is given the task to go through the things in her late Aunt Flo’s flat in Liverpool. She discovers all sorts of interesting things – this book premise is used all too often these days, but Maureen Lee wrote this many years ago, so I can’t fault her for that. We learn all about the Cameron, Clancy, and O’Mara families and how they intermingled over the course of 60 years. I love these “family saga” novels! My only complaint is that the ending is about 30 pages too long. It could have been wrapped up nicely, not abruptly, much earlier than it was. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will continue to read more and more by Ms Lee. If you are a person seeking a great novel with WWII details set on the Homefront in Liverpool England, you may be disappointed… there’s honestly not much about the war years in here – which sort of surprised me as this author is known for her great detailed WWII stories. Still, a lovely read!
April 8 The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth
I loved this book! In fact, I could barely lay it down and finished it in about 3 days. I knew I’d like it as I’ve read Ms Hepworth’s other two novels and enjoyed them both thoroughly. I even sent her an email after reading her book The Secrets of Midwives and told her how impressed I was at the accuracy of the descriptions of the medical/birthing scenes — and she wrote back! WOW! Anyway, this one is about a 40 year old single mother with a 15 year old daughter. The daughter has severe social anxiety disorder. The mom discovers that she has ovarian cancer. Again, this author did a fantastic job at making all of the medical bits of this book seem extremely realistic. I’ve never been a chemo nurse, so I can’t attest to everything, but it all sounded totally plausible to me. We learn about our main character Alice, her daughter Zoe, a chemo nurse Kate, and a social worker Sonja. How their lives become interwoven made this into a wonderful, engaging book. Definitely one that makes your emotions run the gamut. I don’t give many 5 star reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, but this deserves definitely deserves it!
April 8 Ellie Pride and Connie’s Courage by Annie Groves
I’ve read both these books over the past month or so and totally enjoyed them both. But then, it’s no surprise that I really sink my teeth into anything by the real Annie Groves. I say “the real” because other women have recently assumed her pen name. I’m not sure how good they are, but the REAL Annie Groves was wonderful. She died in 2011. These great books were each over 500 pages, so they kept me going for awhile. Ellie Pride is the name of the main character – and to be honest, that sort of threw me off. I think the dearly departed Ms Groves should have chosen Ellie’s “strength” or something like that, to go along with the “courage” of her sister, Connie. Anyway, Ellie Pride was first in a series of three. It was set prior to WWI in northern England and was about how the clash of classes in a family turned their world upside down. The plot was well thought out and accurate for the times, even addressing the women’s suffrage movement. Connie’s Courage takes up where Ellie leaves off and continues through the “Great War”. After some serious family issues, Connie ends up becoming a nurse, working in a large “infirmary” in Liverpool. I think our author did some well thought out research as to the lives of the nurses and the conditions they worked in during those times. I love reading these family saga novels…I feel like I should also say that while there is a small amount of romance in there, these two books (just like all the others by this wonderful author) tell stories of families and communities and are historically correct. There is one more in the series, and yep, it’s on my to-read pile!
I got this book for free, or nearly so on my Kindle. Since I love to travel, and particularly to national parks, I thought this would be of great interest to me. It turned out to be mildly interesting, not exactly what I hoped it might be, but a decent enough read to finish it. It’s about a couple in their early 50’s who quit their jobs with the intent on visiting every single National Park in the US. They wrote this book in “letter form” as if they were emailing friends back home. I thought this format was very cheesy, and totally unnecessary. Anyway, they accomplish their goal of visiting all the parks, eventually. These folks live in Seattle and for the most part, visits to the parks include flights to and from Seattle. I know if it had been me, and I’d quit my job, I would have purchased an RV and made my way via the open road to all the parks that I could in the lower 48. They kept flying back and forth to/from Seattle which I thought was silly, considering they didn’t have jobs to get back to, OR kids. I also was somewhat disappointed that they went into great detail about some parks, and others were more like: we went, we walked around, took a few pics, and left – next! That said, I had never even heard of a bunch of these parks, and actually learned a few things…. like “never run away from bears, they WILL catch you!” Some people have complained about the “disparaging” remarks bantered between the husband and wife. Heck, that wasn’t a concern to me – if you can’t joke around with your spouse, you’re in deep trouble! You’ve gotta be able to give it and take it as well…. that’s how it works in my house anyway.
February 21 An Irish Country Love Story by Patrick Taylor (audio version read by John Keating)
Just finished the latest book in the Irish Country Doctor series – I think this may be number twelve! I’ve enjoyed each and every one, and this was no exception. This time we follow the love story of the younger doctor Laverty and his fiance` Sue Nolan — as well as more from all the regular townspeople of Ballybucklebo that we know and love so well. Plenty happens in this book, but in a way, I would love to see more in the way of medical goings on – after all this series is about a group of rural Irish doctors, set in 1967. Yes, there was some medical stuff, but maybe it’s just me, I eat that up and would love to read about more. When someone presents with an ailment of sorts, I love trying to diagnose the problem before the doctors do. I hope this book series keeps on going and going – it’s great escapism from our world – back to a time when life was simpler. As I always try to do, I listened to this book on audio, thanks to our local library. The narrator is impeccable and it makes the story even more fun. Love those Irish accents. Funny, I learned about 10 months ago that my great, great, great grandmother was from County Down in Northern Ireland. Right where this book is set. Gotta love it.
February 8 Our Own Country by Jodi Daynard This was book number two in what the author calls “The Midwife Series”. Book number one was The Midwife’s Revolt which I read well over a year ago and really enjoyed. In my review of the first book I mentioned that it was a rather poor/misleading title because there was next to zero mention of midwifery, and I’d reiterate that again for this book. At any rate, this book was odd. It rehashed many, many events of the previous book, but from a different character’s perspective. It was not a bad book, or a boring book, but it was somewhat off-putting because I pretty much already knew most everything that was going to happen, before it happened. There were some parts, particularly the end of this one that had some interesting, different events in it. Like the other book, this was set in revolutionary war times, in Massachusetts. Some of the characters were real (John and Abigail Adams make appearances) but most were not. This time the main character was the sister in law of the main character of the previous book. I think the struggles of that time were depicted accurately and it was interesting, but not riveting. There is a 3rd book in the series that has very recently been published, and while I’m sort of tempted to see how it all pans out, there are so many other great books to read, that it will not be tops on my list. The really cool thing about this book is that I borrowed it from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library – which is awesome. There are NO return times, the only caveat is that you can’t borrow another book until you return this one (one book at a time, in essence).
February 3 Homestead by Rosina Lippi Picked this book up some time ago at a thrift store and thought it sounded good. It even won some literary award so I figured it would be well worth a read. I was SO disappointed. I’ve got to say that I really struggled to get thru this one. Have you ever read a book where each chapter was a “short story” but all the short stories (chapters) had a common theme and intertwined in an interesting way? I have, and I loved it! It was called “Olive Kitteridge” and actually won the Pulitzer prize for fiction one year. I also read one years ago by Maeve Binchy that had this premise and I really enjoyed it. This book was the same type of format, but oh my, it just didn’t click with me. It was set in Austria during the very early 1900’s and worked it’s way up to the 1970’s. While the writing took on the style of the times, it was confusing. All the people in this town had very confusing names and backgrounds, and I honestly couldn’t keep them straight. I’ve read a lot of family sagas with many characters and have NEVER had problems knowing who-was-who until this book. I give it 2 stars at most and cannot recommend. I Googled the author and see that she’s written several very successful historical novels under the name Sara Donati. That name rang a bell, and I now remember trying to read her first novel (under that name) called Into the Wilderness and couldn’t follow that one either! It was well received, so maybe it’s just me. What I DO know is that I’m done with Rosina Lippi AND Sara Donati. Oh well.
January 12 The Last Midwife by Sandra Dallas Less about midwifery, more about life in a small mining town in Colorado in the late 1800’s, this book was just SO good (in my opinion). I thought it was quite realistic in describing how life actually was back then – including the sometimes sordid, covert human elements. We follow the life of the one and only local midwife who has delivered most of the babies in the region. Then one day she is accused of murdering an infant. I’m not a big fan of mysteries or “whodunits”, but this sure kept me intrigued. I really, REALLY like this author, have read lots of her her books and will continue to do so in the future.
January 9 Teacher Man by Frank McCourt First off, I listened to this book, read by the author with his great Irish accent, on my old fashioned cassette tape player! I get the tapes from Paperbackswap.com and while it IS old fashioned to listen to cassettes, I find it actually easier to stop and start listening to them over CD’s. I listen while I’m having a shower…. I listen while I’m folding laundry…. I listen while I’m getting ready to go out – what a great way to “read” a book while doing something else! Anyway, I have now read all of Mr McCourt’s books and have enjoyed them all. I like biographies and this was a good one, describing McCourt’s life as a high school teacher in New York City. I’m actually sad that this is the last book he wrote before he passed on. I HIGHLY recommend reading Angela’s Ashes – the story of his childhood, growing up in Ireland. Fantastic reading. Totally deserving of the Pulitzer Prize it won.
January 3 Baby Catcher by Peggy Vincent Chronicles of a Modern Midwife I enjoy books about midwives and midwifery, so it should come as no surprise that I enjoyed this book, written by a Certified Nurse Midwife. It was published in 2002 and I do think that times have changed for midwives considerably since then. This book actually ended in about 1993, when the author quit her private practice and went into hospital midwifery. Nowadays, many midwives practice outside the hospital in their own “birthing centers” – we even have one in our small town. I believe they are held in greater regard and with higher respect these days as well. Anyway, on to the book. It was good, but not great. I did enjoy all the descriptions of memorable births she attended, but 99% of them turned out with happy, pink, squealing babies, and mothers who, after their home birth, would never do it another way. I know from personal experience that 99% of births, home or otherwise, do not turn perfect without a bit of some sort of intervention. This author never mentioned needing to be certified in NRP (neonatal resuscitation), which I am sure was in widespread use at least through some of her career. While I feel like she painted a very rosy picture of birthing, I still enjoyed it and must keep in mind that midwives can really only see the lowest risk patients – and these patients often have the best outcomes. In my career, I really enjoyed attending deliveries, where I was responsible for the immediate care of the infant. It was fun and nerve wracking, stressful and even sad sometimes. Things are not always as rosy as an evening sunset – and that’s how I felt this book portrayed childbirth. It was worth the read, however.