Sunday, July 9, 2017

June Reads

There is something about summer which turns on the "reading bug" in me.  I feel like I should be reading all the time.  This past month I read some great books and it helped that I traveled which gave me ample reading time.  Here are my June Reads in no particular order...

Paper and Fire (The Great Library, #2)
Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
The Great Library #2
I loved the first book in this series "Ink and Bone".  Once I was finished with it I rushed out to library to borrow the next one only to find out it wasn't published yet.  Then time went by and I kind of forgot about this series and so at the end of this school year when the kids and I were perusing the shelves of the Young Adult reading area at our local library I came across the 2nd in the series.  I was very excited to read this book, but alas the first one I enjoyed much more than the second.  Jess Brightwell, the main character in both books, comes from a family of book thieves.  The Alexandria Library is not like the libraries we know and love.  In the first book you learn about the library's control on books and who has access to them.  In this second book Jess is part of the library's army and he endures some major stresses- loss of his best friend (Supposedly dead), loss of his love (she is being held in the Iron Tower due to her special abilities), and loss of family.  For some reason I just really struggled with the story line and the pace of the story- I felt like it was on "slow-mo" in comparison to the first book's fast pace, easy and quick read.  I will likely read the next one to see if Rachel redeems herself.  Also of interest the author- Rachel Caine is really Roxanne Longstreet Conrad.  Rachel Caine is just one of a handful of pen names.  I found this interesting.  I wonder why someone uses a pen name, let along numerous pen names. 

The Hidden Letters of Velta B.
The Hidden Letters of Velta B
by Gina Ochsner
When I read the following excerpt I thought this sounded like the perfect audiobook for June...

From a critically acclaimed fiction writer comes the moving story of a boy with extraordinary ears who — with the help of a cache of his great-grandmother’s letters — brings healing to a town burdened by the sins of its past.~ Good Reads

However, it was my least favorite book from June.  I just couldn't get into the story line.  I normally don't mind and actually really enjoy books that go back and forth from present to past multiple times, but this book's time travel bothered me for some reason.  I just didn't really like any of the characters nor felt the "audioversion"  was enjoyable.  I felt ready to give up about half-way, but didn't give up in hopes of redemption, but alas none was had. I gave this book only 2 stars per the 5 star Good Reads rating scale.  To my surprise the average stars for this book based on reading patrons of Good Reads was 3 and 1/2- so other readers saw or read something I didn't into this story.  So reminder that my views on these books are my views and maybe you might get a whole different reading experience out of reading or listening to these stories.  That said, Velta B's letters just weren't interesting enough for me. 

                                                             The Nest
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
This was the Bookie's June read. First off whomever designed the cover did a spot on job.  It is so easily visible and for those who haven't heard of the book just by describing the cover one would say "Oh yeah I know that book".  Bravo cover book person! This book stimulated some great discussion about dysfunctional families and how money can play into family's dysfunction.  Prior to reading this book I had heard a podcast discussing how this book was one of the very few books which looked specifically at how money can be so rooted in dysfunctional families.  The book's main premise is about four siblings who are all relying on money from a trust fund or "the nest" as they all call it.  As one can imagine counting on inheritance money is not always the smart way to bet on sound financial status.  I found this book irritatingly honest, so honest and ugly is the story that it made me somewhat want to stop reading.  However, this book is a great reminder of why one should read on.  I loved the last 1/3 of the book and in that last 1/3 redemption occurred and I really ended up enjoying the story.  The story was packed with many more separate stories and themes/topics than just "the nest".  Themes such as infidelity, single parenting, questioning your sexual identity, 9/11, stolen art, and amputees learning to survive without their limbs (Bet you didn't see that one coming).  I recommend reading this book as it is a great reminder to all of us who live in dysfunctional families (which is likely anyone reading this post) how the importance is really being family.  This book is also a great reminder on how sometimes family grows and builds without blood ties and through friendship. 

                                                             Letters from Paris
Letters From Paris
By Juliet Blackwell
I was trying to pick up nonfiction or fiction books based in or on Paris over the last several months as a lead up to my trip in Paris.  I found this book early in June at a used book store and couldn't pass it up.  This fiction story which takes place partially in Paris and partially in New Orleans, LA was a beautiful story.  The main character Claire travels to Paris in search of information regarding some letters found in her grandmother's attic.  Of interest, and added liking from this reader, part of the story takes place during WWII with Claire's great grandfather being an American army officer in Paris acquiring some Parisian goods (think soldier's souvenirs from abroad).  He had acquired a death mask of "L'inconnue" the unknown woman. He has it shipped back to the states and with the letters Claire finds in her grandmother's attic trunk she also finds this mask.  The rest of the story is her search for answers to who "L'inconnue" is and what the letters mean.  I loved this book and plan to read other books by this author. 

The Red Notebook
The Red Notebook
by Antoine Laurain
I bought this book awhile ago and have been waiting to read it until my Paris trip.  The story takes place in Paris.  The main characters are a bookseller, Laurent Letellier, and a young lady who has lost her red handbag.  The plot is a simple one Laurent spending time on finding the young lady with the red handbag, which just happens to have in it a red notebook telling many of the young lady's thoughts and dreams.  However, simple the plot the writing is quite clean, and beautiful.  I read this book quickly and was sad to see the story come to an end.  He also has written other books, one called "The President's Hat" which I plan to pick up very soon.  What a marvelous addition to my trip in Paris to read such a wonderful story which takes place in Paris written by a Parisian author. 

Invincible Summer
Invincible Summer
by Alice Adams
I won this book.  Yep, you read right, I won this book from Good Reads a couple of months ago.  Good Reads has giveaways.  If you mark a book as "want to read" and it comes up as a giveaway they will contact you and you can enter to win.  Well low and behold I actually won something- a book even better.  I also had held onto this book to read during my Paris trip as I was only bringing used or owned books with me just in case I lost them.  So this lovely book, isn't the cover beautiful, traveled with me to Paris.  It was a good summer read.  This story was not overly heavy in topic/theme, but wasn't total fluff. It is a real coming of age story of four friends (two girls and two guys).  The chapters all started with a certain date and the following chapters were dated several months or even a year(s) or so from the previous chapter's date.  I liked the way this progressed the story line.  I also thought the time this book spanned showed how friendships can real morph and change over time.  It wasn't a total feel good story and brought out many true topics that friendships sometimes end over: alcoholism, success of one friend professionally while another just can't catch a break and is pretty much unemployed, marriages, divorce, wanting more than just friendship, and again how friends can be like family to those who don't have family.  I'm so glad I won this book and was able to pack it on my travels to Paris.  Great Travel Reading!

Dark Places
Dark Places
by Gillian Flynn
Last but not least I listened to Dark Places this month.  I was hoping it would redeem my love of audiobooks, since I really didn't enjoy Velta B.  It did redeem that love and it also reminded me to read more of Gillian Flynn's books.  I first fell in love with Gillian Flynn's stories when I read "Gone Girl".  That book and story line was amazing and so real it was disturbing.  One of my coworkers said he liked this book the best of hers so I gave it a try.  I did enjoy, but still think "Gone Girl" is my favorite work of hers I've thus read.  However, Dark Places again brings out Gillian Flynn's ability to take a gruesome story (The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas).  This horrific murder of a mother and two daughters leaving one surviving daughter and one son- who is found guilty of the murders, is an amazing story.  What is more amazing is the story that comes after and before these murders.  Gillian does a great job of flashing back and forwards with the countdown to the exact date and time of the murder.  She really had me guessing up until the very end.  It is realistic murder mystery at its best.  Gillian Flynn knows how to write about "gone girls" and "dark places" and I can't wait to read what else she can write about!

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