June 2 The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth First off, let me say that I intend on keeping up better with chronicling my reading here on the blog! I’ve read a LOT of books between this one and the previous group of books I posted about – so anyway, here goes about my latest read…. Clearly I’m in the minority as most folks have given this book a 4 or higher star rating. It was just okay for me, hence my 3 star rating. In a nutshell, this book deals with the “behind closed doors” lives of several families living in an urban Melbourne neighborhood. There are plenty of secrets in each family, none of them pleasant. I do understand why this book about a neighborhood’s private lives would be appealing to many people, but I didn’t love it. It was, for the most part, a dark book with very little happiness in any way seeping out. The problems that each of the neighbors had were BIG and TOUGH, and while I did feel the need to finish it, it depressed me. I love this author and have thoroughly enjoyed all of her previous books, and will continue to read her work, but this was my least favorite – by a long shot.
Here are three books I’ve recently finished: Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown This story of Colonial America was set in 1676 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony and is loosely based on true events. I enjoyed this book a lot, although the author admits she took some literary license in amending feelings & attitudes. Mary Rowlandson and her children are taken captive by Native Americans after a massacre in her village. The book is definitely interesting and I learned about what early colonial life was like, what being a Puritan may have been like, as well as everyday life at that time with a New England Indian tribe. Yes, I would read more by this author. As an aside, I do understand why she titled it the way she did, but can’t help but wonder if a different title might have drawn in more readers? I learned about this book initially by watching the Book Tube community on YouTube.
The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew I listened to this book on audio and the narration was very good. I’m really not sure what to say about the book itself. Some very important and difficult subjects were broached, particularly about what life was like for African-Americans in the south, in the 1950’s. They also touched on spousal abuse and child abuse, as well as alcoholism. Let’s just say there was very little that was positive or pleasant in this novel. That said, sometimes real life isn’t very positive or pleasant. The book was good, but not “riveting” as was described in the synopsis on the Amazon website. Riveting means (to me) “on the edge of your seat; can’t wait to see what happens next”. It was a slow moving, sad, and yes, poignant story.
Turn Left at the Daffodils by Elizabeth Elgin Set in England, 1941, 3 young women join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service – the women’s branch of the British Army). This book is mostly fluff, but I honestly enjoyed it. Yes, there is a lot of romance in here – enough that would make a person start to believe that it was a “romantic” time period in which to live, despite the fears, bombings, loss, and rationing. What I truly wish I could do, is ask my husband’s mother (long deceased now, before I came on the scene, sadly) what it REALLY was like to be a young woman during WWII in England. Maybe in Heaven I’ll get the chance to question her about it 🙂 If you love the time period, and can tolerate a fair bit of romance, you’ll like the book. Only problem I had was the constant description and mention of buying tea, drinking tea, boiling water for tea, putting saccharin in tea, filling a pot with tea….. etc etc etc. TOO much about tea!!!! haha
January 31 The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas This was a quick read, only about 200 pages, but I loved it! This was set in the early-mid 1930’s in Kansas, during the “dust bowl” era. Times were simpler (and harder) back then. The Persian Pickle Club is a group of women who live in the same small town and get together weekly to quilt. We get to know most of the members very well, and when a death takes place, rumors begin about it being a murder. I couldn’t help but enjoy the descriptions of the quilts, the relationships between the women – all without the intrusion of today’s electronic gadgetry. Definitely recommend for an escape to small-town life during the depression. I actually began to think it would be fun to start quilting (I’ve never really gotten into that art), and it also sort of made me crave the camaraderie that these women of all ages shared. I have read five or six of Ms Dallas’ books and have honestly enjoyed them all. This one had been on my TBR bookshelf for literally years. Glad I finally got to it!
January 27 Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk Oh my gosh, where to begin on this one?? So this year (2018) I’ve made myself a list of reading challenges, and one was to read a best seller from the year I was born. Lord knows that was a long time ago, but I thought it sounded like a bit of a venture, so I chose Marjorie Morningstar by the great Herman Wouk. Back in the 80’s I read The Winds of War and War and Remembrance and enjoyed them very much. I honestly had no idea that he was an accomplished author even before I was born — OR —that he is still alive at the time I am writing this (age 104) and living in the Palm Springs area! Another funny coincidence is that hubby and I were having lunch with a friend who is also a realtor, and he was telling us about having recently toured Mr Wouk’s home that is currently up for sale! So, on to the book. It was a biggie -757 pages of small print! I do think that about 100 pages could have been cut out as it did get rather wordy at times, but for the vast majority of the time I enjoyed it. Marjorie Morgenstern is a young Jewish girl in the mid 1930’s, living in New York City. She desperately wants to become an actress and gives herself the stage name of “Morningstar”. The book is about life in NYC in the 30’s, about Jewish customs and traditions, about Marjories’s ambitions and of course her love life too. It covers the span of about 7 years, so Marjorie is 24 by the end of the book. I’ll admit I’m fascinated by Jewish culture, and while there is not a lot of that in here, I still found it quite interesting. The descriptions of the food and the gatherings were great. There was one character that I tried to like but just couldn’t – yet Marjorie was desperately in love with him! This novel may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” but I sure enjoyed it. Funny thing: I just discovered that this book was made into a movie in 1959 starring Natalie Wood as Marjorie and Gene Kelly as her love interest! Somehow I’ve got to get my hands on that DVD! 🙂
January 4 The Two-Family House by Lynda Cohen Loigman I thoroughly enjoyed this family saga tale, starting in 1947 and going until 1969. Two brothers move their respective families into a home in Brooklyn with two apartments, one up, one down. It’s a story of a secret that happens one day during a January blizzard and how this secret affects the lives of both families over the years. This wasn’t exactly a “happy, feel good” novel, but it sure kept my interest from page one till the end. This is Ms Loigman’s first novel and I’ll be at the head of the line to read her next book