Fall 2018 Book Review


Well, here it is almost the middle of January and I’ve just gotten here to post my Fall book review. Part of me wanted to just skip it and move on but the other side of my brain shouted “wait, even though it was a short stack they were really good so you must share.” I listened to that side of my brain and I’m glad I did. It was a short stack for sure but delightful everyone of them. I feel like my entire Fall was off schedule and the only thing I can blame that on is too much travel. Life at my age is just full of so many surprises though, and I’m better able to go with the flow and so when someone wants to take me somewhere the rest of my chores are on hold.

So here I am in 2019 finally getting a grip on myself and clearing out the cobwebs of the holiday season. I have also, once again, made a long list of things that I would like to accomplish this year but like last year, if opportunities arise, that list most likely won’t get completed. As long as I make the list and read it and work on it, I’m doing o.k. That my dear friends is the beauty of being a “senior.”

Now let’s begin. First up is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. A wonderful, rich story. Part of my only doing so few books in the Fall was because two of my books were long and detailed. This was one of them. Perhaps most of you have already read Pachinko. It came out in 2017 with great reviews and it was a National Book Award Finalist. If you have not had the pleasure of reading it, I hope you take a look at it. It’s the story of four generations of a poor, proud immigrant family’s fight to control their destinies, exiled from a homeland that they never knew. Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. It takes you through the bustling street markets to the hall’s of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld. So much rich history and a striking family story. I give it 5 Stars..a joy to read even though sometimes it was hard..

My next book was a bit lighter although the subject matter was though. The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan was humorous and exuberant. I met Kelly when I went to the Random House event over a year ago now. She was such a delight to talk with and her writing, no matter how hard the subject matter, is always a bit uplifting. She tackles life head on. This is a memoir of her life and her family. She wrote this book when she was 36, part of the sandwich generation. She was living deep in what she called The Middle Place, that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap, wedged between her adult duties and her parents care. Then she finds a lump in her breast and gets the cancer diagnosis no one wants to hear. At nearly the same time her Father learns that he has late-stage cancer. Now it’s her turn to take care of the one person who has always taken care of her. I love this quote by the San Francisco Chronicle “Come for the writing, stay for the drama. Or vise-versa. Either way you won’t regret it.” I stayed and no regrets. I couldn’t put this one down…5 Stars for a super Daughter, a Mother and just a lovely person.

My home town, the history of where I came from and the place I still love is the book I choose to read next. The Witches by Stacy Schiff. My son gave me this for Christmas… honestly, he gives me the best books. I had not heard of this but he knew it would be one I would want to read. I grew up with the history of the Salem Witch Trials on my doorstep. It was taught to us in school and we would joke about whose family had the most witches in it. We took it for granted I think, but we never had witch hysteria like you hear now. So, because I am from Salem I did not ever read any books about the witches except the required reading in school, which to my knowledge was not very much. I sank my teeth into this book. Names that I know, houses that I have been to, now took on more meaning. A real sense of some crazy stuff that had happened in my hometown. Men were as crazy as the woman. Children spoke out against members of their family or their caregivers and were believed. The panic began in 1692, over a raw Massachusetts winter. We still have those raw winters here. A minister’s niece began to writhe and roar. It spread quickly, as neighbors accused neighbors, husbands accused wives, parents and children one another. It ended less than a year later but not before nineteen men and woman had been hanged. There were some parts of the book that got a bit redundant but I skipped over those and stayed with the meat of the story. It was the second long book of the Fall reading group. The other thing that I loved about this book was that it had illustrations from those days of the people, places, brooms (they called them flying sticks) that were really amazing. I swear I saw a few of my relatives in there. So if you love history and you think the world is a mess today, go back a few centuries to a time that really was surreal and you shake your head saying “how could this have happened”. On a side note, it was only in 2018 that whoever is in charge of such things, actually found as best as can be determined, the location of where the witches were hung. They have now put up a memorial wall with all the names and dates on it. I went there recently as I’m working on a Salem Project of my childhood, and saw that wall. I was surprised at how sobering it was to stand there and take notice of such a turbulent time in history and in my birth city. If ever the expression “may you rest in peace” have meaning, it was at that wall. For me this was a 5 star book and beyond. I don’t know if all would rate it that high but it is certainly worth the read just for the history.

Sundays* In Paris by Yasmin Zeinab This was my favorite of all the books I read this fall. By now you all know how much I love Paris and this book was such a joy to read. There was a time when many of the shops and restaurants in Europe were not open on Sundays, hence the title of this book…the sub title is “and every other day of the week.” When we first started traveling to Europe many years ago we would have to plan our meals around the time that some places would be open Sundays. Many didn’t open at all but some, like the Pubs in London, would open just for a few hours. That is no longer true today. Most every European city now has many shops and restaurants open all day long although there are a scattered few that still follow the old rules. They have learned that tourist do not like spending the day in their hotel room or on a park bench. This book though, is much more than a book about Sundays…it’s about everyday happenings and restaurants, shopping, bakery’s , bars and cafe’s. It is also a feast for the eyes with it’s beautiful photography. Nothing photographs better than Paris. If you love Still Life, Food, Street Photography and Architecture, this book is for you. So get a fire going, grab a cup of tea or for me it would be a glass of wine and a macaron. Spend a few hours doing an arm chair tour of Paris. I’m giving this book 5 Croissants.

Becoming by Michelle Obama…I almost feel like I don’t even have to say anything about this wonderful book. The title speaks to the subject matter and her beauty both inside and out shines on the cover. Still I read it slowly and learned so much. She talked freely about her life as a young child and then as a student in college, moving on to meeting the love of her life and finishing up as our First Lady. I learned that she has much to teach and so i got both my daughter and my sons girlfriend copies for Christmas gifts. This book speaks about life and its hardships and joys to all ages. I admire her for being real and for not putting herself above others There was also much to learn about our government and how it is run. The details of living daily in the White House and in the spotlight were fascinating and revealing. She is the kind of woman that you feel like you could sit at the kitchen table with and enjoy a cup of tea and a chat. “Becoming takes us through the modest Iowa kitchens and the ballrooms at Buckingham Palace, through moments of heart-stopping grief and profound resilience, bringing us into the soul of a singular, groundbreaking figure in history as she strives to live authentically, marshaling her personal strength and voice in service of a set of higher ideals. In telling her story with honesty and boldness, she issues a challenge to the rest of us: Who are we and who do we want to become?” From there inside flap of the book. There is always room for change. It was a wonderful book with a lot of grit and history. 5 Perfect star.

Time was running short, Fall was on its way out. December had arrived. I saved two Christmas books to read in December. I love reading about Christmas while it is actually happening and this year my pre- Christmas books were both wonderful. Here we go again. Christmas In Paris by Anita Hughes…This was just a fun, easy Christmas read. Isabel Lawson was suppose to be getting married but at the last minute she called the wedding off. Her husband to be left town so Isabel decided to go to Paris on her own. This was suppose to be her honeymoon destination. Well, she gets to the hotel room and immediately goes to her balcony to take in the view of the Champs-Elysees and accidentally locks herself out on her balcony in the middle of winter. Her neighbor, Alex, comes to her rescue. He too is nursing a broken heart at the Crillon over the holidays. With Alex by her side she begins to enjoy Paris at Christmas. You can guess the rest of the story. What I loved was the writing and all the details of Paris in the winter. It is the only season that we have not done. I think it would be delightful. It was a perfect book to be reading during the Christmas season. It was festive, descriptive and just plain fun. For me and the spirit it brought to the season I would give this lovely little book 4 stars.

Last, but not least at all, a stunner in Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva…This book was so charming. I am a huge Dickens fan and I loved this book. I read it right though Christmas and it was delightful First, the writing was crazy good. This was a novel but Samantha Silva wrote as if she lived in Dickens time. So very English but so understandable which the real Dickens sometimes was not. The story goes like this…Charles Dickens should be looking forward to Christmas. But when his latest book, Martin Chuzzlewit, is a flop, his publishers give him an ultimatum. Either he writes a Christmas book in a month or they will call in his debts and he will loose everything. Dickens has no choice but to grudgingly accept. Yet inspiration is slow to strike, Dickens becomes increasingly distant from his own family as his fascination with a mysterious woman and her young son develops. But all is not as it seems…In true Dickens style, this is a tale of ghosts and secrets, set in the heart of Victorian London. This note taken from the back of the book. Lots of twists and turns. Lots of memories from all the books Dickens wrote are woven in and out of this book. I felt like I was there. This is a Christmas book that could be read every year. I marked the inside cover of my copy about how much I loved it. It’s a keeper to be read over and over each Christmas just like his story of the Christmas Carol. If you have never read Dickens this would be a great book to pick up and if you are a Dickens fan…you are going to love this. This was the authors first novel..I sure hope she writes more…5 large pieces of coal for Mr. Dickens.

Although my pile was small for the Fall, it was rich in words and photos. I think it is rare to read so many good books, one right after the other, but this is exactly what happened this time. I hope you find a few in here that you can curl up with. Winter reading is wonderful. Warm quilts, fire’s in the grate and long, snowy, bleak days…grab a cup of grog and enjoy.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.
Charles Dickens from the Christmas Carol

“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The photo of the books were taken with the Canon 5DMk111 and the Canon 50mm lens.

Your visits are appreciated. I answered each comment that is left here and thank you for your visit. Happy 2019 to all who visit.