Another reading month has come to an end and, for the most part, it was a really good one. A lot of the books I listen to now come from the library so I tend to read whatever comes off hold whenever a book is available. Where I use to kind of purposely rotate genres, now I read what I'm given. I don't mind either way, but this month it meant fewer non-fiction books.
Yinka, Where is Your Huzband?
By Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Read By Ronke Adékoluejo
Yinka is a 30+ single woman in a Nigerian community in the UK. Her mother and aunties constantly pray for her to find a husband. She's still grieving over a recent breakup when she loses her job and has to get involved in planning her cousin's wedding. Each bridesmaid sets a "wedding goal" and Yinka's is to find a date for the wedding. With spreadsheets and Post-It notes, she marches toward a plan.
Some reviewers see this book as a statement on misogyny and colorism in traditional cultures. I'm not in that camp. I don't see transgressions everywhere I look. I see the human condition and this is just a really good coming-of-age story as a young woman figures out what she truly wants in life. The story could have been told with a backdrop of any culture. These characters aren't necessarily uniquely Nigerian but the language and traditions of Nigerian culture adds richness to the story. Also, the narration is spot on.
By Charles Frazier, Read By Will Patton
I have read 3 of Frazier's books now. I loved Cold Mountain and thought Varina was disjointed. This one falls somewhere in the middle.
It's the height of the Great Depression and Val Welch (a man) has been hired to paint a mural at a post office in remote Wyoming. A local rancher and art lover, John Long, has offered to host Val at the ranch. Everything is going fine until John's wife, Eve, leaves home with a valuable Renoir painting. Long convinces Val to search for Eve and so begins a journey to Seattle, Florida and San Francisco.
It's not a bad book but it also wasn't riveting. I felt that the characters were a little flat although the prose is lovely.
By Oliver Sacks
I like to sit outside and get a little sun and grounding in every day so I keep a "real" book around to read and it's usually a non-fiction book. I'm pretty sure I picked this one up at a used book sale. If you are generally interested in the topic, you would find this book interesting.
It's basically a survey of different kinds of hallucinations, delusions and deliriums and the point of the book is to explain the different manifestations and causes. It covers Parkinsonian hallucinations, visual migraines, narcolepsy, sensory deprivation and much more.
I learned that my aunt with macular degeneration had Charles Bonnet syndrome in the last year of her life when her blindness was almost 100%. I think the best thing about the book is that it helps people understand what the hallucinating person is experiencing through a lot of personal stories.
By Ian McEwan, Read By Jill Tanner
I almost gave up on this book but I read some reviews that said to hang on until Chapter 10 where it makes a strong turn for the better. I stuck with it until the end and I'm still not sure what the point was.
Briony Tallis is an extremely annoying teenager when this book opens in 1935. Her family is quite dysfunctional and during a gathering of family and friends, Briony sees some events that she shouldn't and it leads her to accuse someone of a crime they didn't commit. That's what happens in Chapter 10 and it changes everyone's lives.
In part 3 we see what happened to everyone during the war and in the last part we visit with Briony again in 1999.
I know there was a movie made from this book. Did you see it? I sure hope it was better than this book. I found the characters flat and unsympathetic. Much of the story also just didn't seem all that relevant to the original crime. The book gets rave reviews so take my criticism with a grain of salt. If you have read it and have a different opinion please leave it in the comments.
The Island of Sea Women
By Lisa See, Read by Jennifer Lim
This was a very interesting book. Through the fictional story of two women, it tells the story of the Haenyeo divers of the island of Jeju, off South Korea. The tradition of female divers dates back to the 17th century. They can dive up to 98 feet deep and hold their breath up to 3 minutes. They have an incredible tolerance for hypothermia.
The story is told over decades through the lives of Mi-ja and Young-sook. They were very best friends at a young age when they started diving, but, as they grew older and political issues overwhelmed the culture, they grew apart and became enemies. It's a lovely story and could have done with a better narrator. Jennifer Lim got better as the characters aged but it was a rough start. I had to slow down the speed a bit.
The Girl in the Glass
By James Hayman, Read by Stephen Mendel
This is #4 in the McCabe and Savage series. Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage are detectives in Portland, ME and are called to investigate the murder of Veronica Aimee Whitby, daughter of one of the wealthiest people in Maine. Her murder is eerily similar to that of her Great-Grandmother (also named Aimee) in 1904. Both had the letter "A" cut into their chests.
There's only one more book in this series and I'm sorry to know that. I enjoy these characters and the stories are fast paced and "realistic" enough. His writing style reminds me a lot of early John Sandford.
The Heart's Invisible Furies
By John Boyne, Read By Stephen Hogan
Oh my, this has to be one of my favorite books ever. This is the second book I've read by John Boyne and he's officially one of my favorite writers, right up there with William Kent Krueger.
Cyril Avery was born out of wedlock to a teenager mother in Catholic Ireland, just after WWII. His mother was creuely kicked out of her community and finds a new life and creates a new family support in Dublin. She puts her baby up for an adoption coordinated by a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun. He's adopted by the Averys and it's made clear from the beginning that he's "not a real Avery".
This is a beautiful 21 hour coming of age saga about a young boy coping with being gay in Catholic Ireland and living with adoptive parents that treat him as if he's another status acquisition.
While his sexuality is an integral part of him and his story, that's not really what the book is about. It's about finding yourself, forgiveness, survival, creating family.....everything.
I loved All The Broken Places and I loved this book even more. The character development is flawless to the point that you can believe that all of these characters exist in the real world. The story is told in 7 year increments creating a perfect cadence to the story development.
The House Is On Fire
By Rachel Beanland, Read by a cast
This is one of the most popular books in my region at the moment and it was worth the long library wait.
On December 26, 1811 , almost 600 people were attending a theater production at the Richmond Theater at today's 12th and College streets. The chandelier stage prop caught scenery backdrops on fire creating an event so bad that even international newspapers carried it. The fire killed 72 people, including the sitting Governor.
In this book, Beanland, tracks the fate of 4 people during the fire and it's immediate aftermath. All of the characters are based on real people but they aren't necessarily real stories. But each story is certainly possible. The story only covers 4 days, from the fire to the mass burial and memorial service. The inquest was completed in 3 days, totally unheard of today.
If you like historical fiction, it's a really good book on it's own. But if you are a Virginian, it's even more interesting because the descriptions of Richmond and surrounding areas at that time.
Never Far Away
By Michael Koryta, Read By Robert Petcoff
This book got me through the last 2 days of piecing the Goldfinch quilt and I'm grateful for it! Lots of action and twists kept me diverted from the tedium.
Leah Trenton was once a wife and mother of 2 young children. But she had to leave that all behind and enter the witness protection program. She left her family and relocated to the rural Maine Highlands (where we spend 2 weeks each summer). One day her former husband unexpectedly dies in a car accident and her daughter calls the emergency number that she's been taught. Leah has to come out of hiding to adopt her children as Aunt Leah.
But the man who wanted her dead, still wants her dead. There are definitely some roll-your-eye moments, but it was a fun read.
The Brighter the Light
By Mary Ellen Taylor, Read By Megan Tusing
I finished off the month with a light beach read, this one set in Nags Head, NC. Ivy Neale inherits her grandmother's home on Nags Head, where Ivy grew up. She's coming home from NYC to clear out the house and get it ready to sell.
During her stay she has to deal with the abruptness of her departure from Nags Head 10 years earlier and as she sorts through her Grandmother's things she starts to uncover things that she did no know about her family history. The story is set in 2 time periods: 1950 and 2022.
It was a nice read. One thing Taylor did that I thought was very smart was to not reference COVID at all in the 2022 time period. When I started reading books that were set in 2020 and 2021 I felt that authors that incorporated the COVID storyline were making a mistake. No one is going to want to read a COVID story. We're over it. But we would be happy to read a book set fictionally in that time that didn't address any of the stuff that was happening then. This was jut a good beach escapist story and I enjoyed it.
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I'm Vicki Welsh and I've been making things as long as I can remember. I used to be a garment maker but transitioned to quilts about 20 years ago. Currently I'm into fabric dyeing, quilting, Zentangle, fabric postcards, fused glass and mosaic. I document my adventures here.