Tuesday, April 28, 2015

'Circling the Sun' by Paula McLain

Circling the SunCircling the Sun by Paula McLain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Paula McLain has done it again, channeled an amazing women from the early 20th century to create a lovely and affecting historical novel. Beryl Markham grew up motherless and wild in colonial Africa, was the first woman to train racehorses there, and then became the first woman to fly solo east-to-west across the Atlantic. The novel, beautifully written and thoughtfully observed, follows Beryl from girlhood through learning to fly and is framed by her record-setting flight. To me it felt like it ended a little abruptly; Markham had a long life afterward, marrying again and not dying until the age of 83. I suppose had become fond of Beryl and would have followed her story to the end. Even so, I believe admirers of McLain’s popular work The Paris Wife will also enjoy this book, as will readers of Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa, as Blixen appears as a character in Circling the Sun.

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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Latest Books

I have been remiss in posting what I think of some of the books I've reading! Here are some thoughts from the last six months:

We Were Liars

Loved it. Did not guess the ending. YA.

Station Eleven

A FAVORITE book of 2014!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Can't believe it took me so long to get around to reading this book. So worth it.

Gun Street Girl (Sean Duffy, #4)

My man! So, so good. I donated it to my library so I could share it Adrian McKinty with more people!

American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus

A favorite so far for 2015! Going to try to get my book group to read it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mini mini-review: 'All The Light We Cannot See'

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful. Wonderful. Poignant. Worthy of all the accolades it has received.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mini review: 'The Hawley Book of the Dead'

The Hawley Book of the Dead: A NovelThe Hawley Book of the Dead: A Novel by Chrysler Szarlan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A fine magical mystery steeped in Irish myth. I really enjoyed the back story of the Dyer women -- that was the real mystery here. My quibbles: I figured out a couple of plot points long before the heroine did, and the characters and relationships are rather two-dimensional. That doesn't mean I wasn't drawn in to the story and eager to see where it went. Very cool for me, as well, that it is set not far from the part of New England where I live.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

'The Secret Place' by Tana French

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Tana French. Her intimate portraits of crime in Dublin, primarily of those who solve it but also of those who commit it, are finely wrought, engrossing, and compelling. In The Secret Place, she focuses on teen-aged girls in Catholic boarding school and a cop hoping to angle himself onto the homicide squad with his performance on an unsolved murder on the school grounds.

Having once been a teen-aged girl myself, I found the behavior of the girls a little unbelievable. They stick together in the face of authority and try to manipulate the situation to get at each other. Really? Kids act like that even when the stakes are so high as to include murder and they are being interrogated by the police? Perhaps I reveal myself as naive. Or perhaps the girls' behavior is dictated by their culture and it is too different from my experience--private Irish boarding school vs. suburban NJ public school.

Aside from that misgiving, I did love The Secret Place. In addition to it being a fine psychological study of the characters, it was an excellent mystery that kept me guessing. It also had elements of magical realism that I found really intriguing. I wish I could give it 4 1/2 stars.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mini review: 'How We Learn'

How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It HappensHow We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens by Benedict Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Interesting, approachable, and best of all, useful. Throwing some cherished ideas about studying, testing, and learning on their heads, this highly-readable book summarizes and puts into context important research on learning. As a long-ago psych major, I found Carey's work both in concert with what I learned and giving me a helpful update. I will recommend that my public library order a copy.