The Great Alone – one fantastic book!

greatalone

Just finished reading this amazing book and decided I needed to do a review on my blog, ASAP!  I waited seven weeks to receive this one from the library, and whoa buddy, this was SO WORTH THE WAIT!  It’s not often I get so engaged with characters in a book, but this one grabbed me from page one, and would not let me go.  Starting in 1974, we follow the lives of Ernt, Cora, and Leni Allbright. Ernt is a Vietnam veteran and spent several years in a POW camp – and no surprise, the camp had big time ill effects.  Ernt can’t hold a job, so as a last ditch effort to find happiness and stability, the family move from Seattle up to Alaska {dubbed “the Great Alone” by poet Robert Service, many years ago} to a remote, sparsely populated village on the Kenai peninsula. As a Northwest native, I thought that all the descriptions of Alaska would be “ho-hum…. been there done that”, but oh my goodness – Kristin Hannah the author brought that state alive!  She made me think how cool it could be to live up there in the wilderness, without all the pressures of daily life in a city. The sights, sounds, smells, and traditions of our beautiful 49th state really come to life in this book – and I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch there will be an influx of folks heading north in the near future – looking for one heck of an adventure. Anyway, we quickly discover that Ernt Allbright has a serious anger and jealousy problem and becomes very abusive towards his wife, Cora. Cora blames it on the long winters, the POW camp, and also herself. Leni, their daughter, is witness to the violence and is horrified to see her mom harmed…. and as Leni becomes a teenager, she’s horrified that Cora “loves” Ernt too much to leave him.  Now here is where some people say that the story is flawed.  They say that any woman who was being hurt by her husband repeatedly would never stick around and believe the promises that “it’ll never happen again”.  The sad truth is that MANY women do stay, even in today’s world – believing that it was their fault or that he is ‘so very sorry’.  So yes, there were parts of this book that made me mad – REALLY mad.  But what a read.  Oh my goodness, a wonderfully woven tale of love, anger, adventure, resilience, hope, and perseverance. Of raw nature and raw emotion.  I’m happy to say that Ms Hannah weaves this story in a VERY realistic way, without the use of profanity, which is something that I personally admire.  We get the drift of Ernt’s anger and foul moods without having to hear all the cursing that a guy like him would probably spout off.      This book is a definite 5 star read for me.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s raw, realistic, and remarkable. Read it.

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Random “book” questions answered

pexels-photo-247644.jpegI’ve recently discovered “Book Tube” – a community of folks who love reading and are on YouTube making videos about their books.  I saw a thing they called “The Book Tag” and thought I’d randomly answer some of the same questions that were going around BookTube last summer.  So, here goes!

  1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  Not really.  I enjoy reading in bed at night and in the summer, I love to sit out on our back deck with a book.  I also love reading when we are on RV trips, and will even curl up on our couch and read during the daytime.
  2. Bookmark? Or a random piece of paper?  Definitely bookmark.  I collect bookmarks whenever we go to a National Park. I like to stamp the back with the rubber stamp date thing that they have in all the visitor centers – to remember the day we were there.  I also have bookmarks from fun trips and still use the ones I picked up on our wonderful trip to Australia, years ago. My most recent National Park bookmark is from Volcanoes on the big island of Hawaii.
  3. Can you just stop reading or do you need to read a certain number of pages or quit at the end of a chapter?  I like to stop reading at the end of a chapter, but I rarely give myself a certain number of pages to read….although, thinking of it, sometimes when I’ve borrowed a library book and therefore have a deadline to return it, I do sometimes divide up the pages with the number of days I have left.  Usually, I just stop whenever I want to or need to.
  4. Do you eat or drink while reading?  I don’t usually eat while reading, but will often pair a hot mug of tea in the winter or an icy glass of tea in the summer with my book.
  5. Music or TV while reading?  Preferably, no. I love to read in silence. BUT… I do live with a certain someone who has been known to watch soccer for hours on end, and I can tune it out pretty well these days if I’m into a good book.
  6. One book at a time, or several at once?  Often, I’ll have two, sometimes three books going at the same time. One physical book, one e-book, and once in a while, an audio book also.
  7. Do you prefer E-readers or physical books?  I like them both, but honestly, I prefer a physical book. I also love audio books, but only if the narrator/reader is good at what they do. I’ve listened to horrible narrators, and wonderful narrators, and the difference is monstrous. One reason I prefer a “real” book is because it’s nearly impossible to share an ebook with another person. When I find a gem of a book, I love to pass it around.
  8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?  No. That would spoil things!  I have been known to skip over a paragraph or two for various reasons, but not pages.
  9. Do you break the spine of a book, or try to keep it like new?  Just depends on the book. If I feel like I have to keep “prying” it open to read it, I’ll break the spine.  Of course this is not an issue with hardbacks.
  10. Once you start a book, do you force yourself to finish it?  Oh my goodness, NO!  If I can’t get into a book after about 50-60 pages, I will call it quits. Too many good books, too little time!

So there you have it, my answers to “the Book Tag”. I am just about done with my first book of 2018 – one I’d never even heard of before watching some of the BookTube/YouTube videos.  Be watching for my review to appear soon under the tab “Books 2018”.  Time for me to go finish book #1 for the year!  🙂

Reading goals for 2018

books1

This year, 2017, I set myself a reading goal of finishing 25 books.  I think I’ve completed about 35 books so far, and I’m pleased about that.  Today I watched a vlog from a woman who completed the PopSugar Reading challenge for 2017. I’d never heard of that and was intrigued. So I looked over the categories for both 2017 and 2018, and picked 12 (and added a couple of my own categories) that I thought might not be TOO difficult to complete, yet stretch my normal reading boundaries a bit. Some things I refuse to compromise, however. I simply won’t read a book that is riddled with foul language, or anything in the horror genre. Just isn’t my thing – at all.  I’m also not “into” sci-fi but did read The Hunger Games years ago and liked it, so who knows?  So anyway, here is my list for next year:

    • A True Crime book
    • A book set in a place that I normally do not read about
    • A bestseller from the year I was born
    • A book by an author with different ethnicity than me
    • A childhood classic I’ve never read
    • A bestseller from the year I graduated high school
    • A book that’s been on my TBR pile way too long
    • A book about food (cookbooks don’t count!)
    • A book with a month or day of the week in the title
    • A book from a genre that I don’t normally read
    • A book with more than 500 pages
    • A book by a first time author
    • A Classic novel I’ve never read
    • Re-read one book I once loved, do I still love it?

This shouldn’t be too hard…. I mean, I’m retired and I love to read…. so lets see how it goes!!!  I’ll be reporting back here often. Happy reading everyone!

Just a book reminder

Hello everyone!  Just wanted to remind you all that I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year and I’ve reviewed quite a few of the books that I have finished right here on the blog!  Just click the header up near the top of the page that says “Books 2016”.  I finished another one today, so I’ll post my latest review here as well as above just for the fun of it.  According to Goodreads, I’ve read 29 books so far this year!!  Woo-Hoo! I’m pretty happy about that, and needless to say, there’ll be more to come.  I have not reviewed every single book above on my Books 2016 tab, but a majority are on there.  I hope you’ll find one or two that may pique your interest 🙂

painted-house

September 9    A Painted House  by John Grisham            I went into “retro” mode with this book as I listened to it on audio cassette  over the period of a few weeks. I enjoyed it a lot and think it’s probably worth 4 stars – but I think I’d actually give it 4.5 stars, with the extra half-star simply for the awesome narrator in this audio book! I like John Grisham but have not read any of his work for a very long time. This one was published a long time ago (2001) and didn’t contain one word about lawyers – which may have been one reason why I was attracted to it. The story takes place in about 1952 in rural Arkansas, on a cotton farm. Life on a farm back then was pretty rough, and this novel does not sugarcoat it. I truly enjoyed listening to this book and the narrator did a fine, fine job depicting the southern accents, as well as different verbalization for each character. A lot happens in this rural community during the course of one cotton picking season… lots of things that little Luke (our 7 year old main character) hears and witnesses. It’s a good story, but I think I enjoyed it even more because it was an audio edition.

Two more book reviews

HenriettaLacks

Last month I finished The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, an amazing non-fiction book about how the cells from one woman’s malignant tumor went on to be used in a thousand (if not more) labs across the world, helping discover treatments for many diseases, including cancer.  The author meticulously researched this book and portrayed what I believe to be an honest account of Henrietta herself, as well as the family that survived her. You do need to have some interest I think, in medicine or science to truly enjoy this book.  I thought it was fascinating and would most definitely recommend it to others who share my interest in science/medicine.  There was some banter about the movie rights to this book being purchased by Oprah.  So far, I haven’t heard about a movie in the works. Yet.

reluctant midwife

This month I read The Reluctant Midwife by Patricia Harman. Wow. This was a book that I hated to see end!  Ms Harman is a CNM (Certified Nurse Midwife) with many years of practice under her belt… this is important to me because, after spending 35 years myself “in the baby business” (NICU) and attending hundreds (and very possibly more than hundreds) of deliveries, I’m going to close any book that doesn’t keep it real.  I liken it to my friend Lue Shetler, who cringes when she reads some of the “Amish” novels that are out there these days.  Lue was Amish and lived the life well into adulthood, so she recognizes a poorly written, fake “Amish” story in a heartbeat.  By the way, she’s working on a book of her own – and you know when it comes out, it will be true to the real Amish lifestyle. Okay, I digress…. this book was more about general nursing, not very much in the way of midwifery, but it was all totally believable and SO SO good.  Set during the depression in the mid 1930’s West Virginia, Nurse Becky returns to Hope River, looking for work. This is the second in the “Hope River” novels and I sure hope there are plenty more to follow.  Great book. Period.

Book: Fire by Night

firebynight

I recently finished reading this historical novel by Christian author, Lynn Austin.  This one was set during the American Civil War, and is book number two in her “Refiner’s Fire” series.  I really enjoyed this novel and even learned some new facts about the Civil War in the process.  It follows the stories of two young women – both doing what they can to help the war effort.  One ignores her “society” upbringing in Pennsylvania and becomes a nurse, one follows what she knows she can do best, and joins the Union Army disguised as a man.  One might think this premise sounds a little “corny”, but trust me, it’s not.  Lynn Austin is my favorite Christian author for a reason.  Her novels are not sugarcoated and shallow.  This was a very interesting and realistic book that entirely kept my attention. If you like historical fiction, with a twist of Christianity (not shoved down your throat, but brought up at appropriate, thoughtful times), then I guarantee you’ll enjoy this book.  I also very much enjoyed book one in this series, Candle in the Darkness.  At some point, I’ll have to read book three,  A Light to my Path. 

Two book reviews

Since I finished reading two books within a week or so of each other, I thought I’d review them both in one post.  So here goes….

First up –

becareful

I saw this paperback at Costco, and knew it was going to jump into my cart, so I did nothing to try and stop it!  This is the fourth installment of “The Clifton Chronicles” and yes, I’ve read them all.  This one was, to me, more of a mystery novel than the previous three.  As you may (or may not) know, I’m not usually into mysteries at all… I normally leave those to the hubby, who eats them up like good Cadbury chocolate 🙂  However the story started out three books ago, as more of a family saga type book.  From Archer’s website: This series is a thrilling episodic saga of love, loss, betrayal, and ambition from the #1 worldwide bestselling author and master storyteller, Jeffrey Archer.  I enjoyed catching up with the Clifton and Barrington families, but I still do not feel a strong propensity for mysteries.  I’m pretty sure the fifth in the series Mightier Than The Sword (which came out in hardback at the end of Feb) will again lean towards the mystery side, and I probably won’t be purchasing it.  I might try and nab it from the library, though. I’ve read other books by Jeffrey Archer and have honestly enjoyed them all – the man can certainly weave a tale!

Next up –

shipbrides

I saw this book on the news stand at the Palm Springs airport recently. I picked it up and looked it over thoroughly before reluctantly putting it back on the shelf. I think it was $14 and I knew I wasn’t going to spend that much on a book I didn’t “need”.  Lucky for me, I was able to check this out from our local library, right on to my kindle!  Yay!  I have read several of JoJo Moyes’ novels and so far have loved them all.  This one was so good and so entertaining and beautifully written.  Set in the summer of 1946, we follow four of the 650 Australian brides that were placed on a British aircraft carrier and taken to their English husbands.  Oh how I love a good piece of historical fiction that is based on fact!!!  You might think that the real story would commence after the ship of brides arrived and began their lives anew in a foreign land…. but no.  This book encompasses only the journey, which took 6 weeks from Sydney Australia to Plymouth England.  The four brides we follow most closely come from completely different walks of life. They were thrown together as bunk mates, and it was quite an adjustment. While I know this book is fiction, I believe it probably holds very true to the conditions on board, as well as the strained (in some cases) interpersonal relationships, and the fears of the unknown that lay ahead of them.  Highly recommend this one if you like historical fiction, particularly set in the 1940’s like I do.  I also highly recommend JoJo Moyes as an author! She wrote another book I absolutely loved, Me Before You.  Without a doubt I’ll be reading more by this talented English author!