Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Summertime Favorite - Reading

by Deanna

It’s that time of year when the garden has been cleaned out, the annual flowers have been planted, mulch has been spread and now it’s time to relax and begin my summer reading.  If asked what I consider a perfect day, that’s an easy one for me….coffee and morning newspaper, followed by a good book, followed by a few rounds of digital solitaire, followed by a meal or two all while enjoying my favorite chair in my favorite spot on the back screen porch.  Reading a good book is simply an escape from reality, a respite from worldly events, a  transference of time and space. A quote from Beverly Cleary pretty much sums up how my reading habit began. “ My mother always kept library books in the house, and one rainy Sunday afternoon - this was before television, and we didn't even have a radio - I picked up a book to look at the pictures and discovered I was reading and enjoying what I read.That discovery of reading has stayed with me thru out my entire life. My children are good readers, my grandchildren enjoy reading, and now my great grandchild is in love with her books.

I have a whole stack of books ready to provide me with hours of back-porch entertainment this summer along with sharing my latest reads with you, that is assuming of course that you enjoy the written word as much as I do.  Arthur Helps says that “reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.” And that’s exactly what I enjoy the most, Listed below, in no particular order are the books I have read lately and would recommend each of them for different reasons. I’m not a big fan of “romance” novels or “historical romance novels” so you won’t find any of these on my lists although I do enjoy a good “chick lit” ever once in awhile. Ie: “Me Before You” “Big Little Lies” I like any read that holds my interest, a page turner, a book I can’t wait to return to.  I like books to be anywhere from 275 to 350 pages long, and it seems to me that lately writers feel the need to write 400 + pages. Very, very, very rarely do I chose a book that long, too many books to read, too little time.

1)      The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith - In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke's in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. Three hundred years later, only one work attributed to de Vos is known to remain--a haunting winter scene, At the Edge of a Wood, which hangs over the bed of a wealthy descendant of the original owner. An Australian grad student, Ellie Shipley, struggling to stay afloat in New York, agrees to paint a forgery of the landscape, a decision that will haunt her. Because now, half a century later, she's curating an exhibit of female Dutch painters, and both versions threaten to arrive. As the three threads intersect, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos mesmerizes while it grapples with the demands of the artistic life, showing how the deceits of the past can forge the present.

2)      The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window by Jonas Jonasson – It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century.  It’s a fun-filled book

3)      Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf - Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. Thus begins their friendship that grows into a sweet love story for the seasoned citizens. I’ve read that Netflix has made a movie starring Robert Redford and Jane Fonda from the book.

4)     A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles - A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose. Absolutely a wonderfully written book.

5)     Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult - Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn't offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game. Simply an amazing story of the depths that African Americans endure.

6)     The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan - As England enters World War II's dark early days, spirited music professor Primrose Trent, recently arrived to the village of Chilbury, emboldens the women of the town to defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to shutter the church's choir in the absence of men and instead 'carry on singing'. Resurrecting themselves as "The Chilbury Ladies' Choir", the women of this small village soon use their joint song to lift up themselves, and the community, as the war tears through their lives.  Told through letters and journals, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir moves seamlessly from budding romances to village intrigues to heartbreaking matters of life and death. 

"I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."  ~  J.K. Rowling


Sarah Huizenga said...

I loved Our Souls at Night - We read that for book club. I have A Gentleman in Moscow and Small Great Things on Audible to listen to, but listening to Mercury right now for book club. Listening while I walk or mow the grass has added one more way to get books done. I agree about the 400+ page books, and those seem to be the ones we always pick for book club.

Carol said...

The Hundred Year Old Man.... is also a great movie. My son and I read that it was a cult favorite for the last several years in Sweden, so we found it -and. I loved it. Ill have to check out the book.
I love your reading list posts, Deanna and look forward to them. Lots of good sounding ones here again -Thanks and happy reading!

Dotti said...

I've read some of these. Love Chilbury Choir. Loved Summer Before the War. Lilac Girls is on my to read list. I tried really hard to get into A Gentleman in Moscow and just could not stick with it. I love the mystery genre for mindless evening reading before bed, to help me wind down and sleep. As I've said many a time, Louise Penny is my favorite contemporary author. Oh, yes! You'll find me on my back porch reading on my Kindle this summer, too! (Yes, I've gone over to the dark side - but if I bought all the books I've read on my Kindle, where in the world would I put them????)

terriporter said...

I always love your book reviews and have read some great books based on your recommendations. I've been reading a lot this summer too. What else can you do when it's 106 out? A while back, you recommended The Nightingale which I absolutely loved and then I read another one by Kristin Hannah called Winter Garden which I loved just as much. It was one of those books you keep thinking about long after you have finished it. Right now I'm reading Small Great Things and really enjoying it. When I'm through with it, I'll come back here for a suggestion on what to read next!

Carol said...

I loved winter garden also!

Jeanne said...

At the airport leaving on our 3 week trip, so perfect timing for good book reviews and just downloaded 2 of them. THANK YOU! Your little great grand just gets cuter and cuter and is growing so fast.

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