The month of January has been rainy here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, which has made for a good month of reading. I shared last week that I finally have a library card so I have a fat stack of books from the library just waiting to be read. I went a little crazy with putting books on hold and have forbidden myself from requesting more until I have worked my way through the ones I already have. This month I have an eclectic bunch of books for you, so let’s get started!
1. Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist
This book. It had everything I love: endearing stories about real life and food. The idea of a food memoir has been around for awhile but I had heard that Niequist’s take was great so I bought it on my kindle when it was on sale a few months back. The stories in it were touching, sad, funny and moving. The way the Niequist’s stories often had food at the heart of them made me think about my relationship with food and family. Niequist discusses that bread and wine are important in the Christian tradition and that food is often the way that Christ brought people together and it still brings people together today. Also, Niequist and her friends have a supper club. I love that idea! I was impressed with the way she wove her faith and favorite recipes into this unforgettable book. You could tell her words were genuine. I will definitely be buying the hardback and definitely try making a risotto after reading this book. Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
2. Still Life with Murder (Nell Sweeney Historical Mysteries #1) by P.B. Ryan
If you have read my Book Banter post before you know I read at least one mystery per month. The more I think about why I like mysteries so much, the more I think it is because, if they are well written, the give us an insight into one of the most scary parts of being human: curiosity. A well written mystery will help you take a peek into the human psyche and examines the choices people make, whether it be the person trying to solve the mystery or the killer/thief/kidnapper themselves. This mystery series intrigued me because it was labeled as a “historical mystery series” and I love history! It takes place in Boston right after the Civil War and while setting plays a small role, the characters really shone in this mystery. Nell Sweeney, the main character, is a governess for a wealthy family that finds themselves in the center of a surprising mystery. While this story was predictable at times, it was a fun read for the end my honeymoon as there was a little romance in it. Goodreads rating: 4 Stars (I’d give it 3.5 if I could)
3. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
I am slowly reading my way through the Outlander series. This is book is number 3 in the series and was probably my favorite so far. I am, by no means, giving this series rave reviews. I find the books to be longer than they need to be with adult content that is not necessary to advance the story line. I mean really, we get it Claire and Jamie can’t keep their hands off of each other. This book was no exception, but I love a good setting and this one had a few: Scotland, The Atlantic Ocean, The Caribbean Islands and finally the American Colonies. Add time travel and a few well written interesting characters and I will read 870 pages. There was also a kidnapping that added an element of mystery and fun to this book that I enjoyed. I am intrigued by what will happen now that the characters are in the American Colonies right before the Revolutionary War. So I will continue my plod through the series. Goodreads rating: 3 stars
4. Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
I have never read any of the books after Anne of Green Gables but bought the complete set for my kindle and thought it was time to read further. Anne is such a fun character because she is constantly examining the world around her. She relishes in discovering beauty and in this story she finds beauty in people that have forgotten that they have it inside themselves. This book also follows Anne’s first year as a teacher in the local school on Prince Edward Island. The lessons the students taught her on growing up and being the right teacher for different students really spoke to me. I loved this part of the book. Since I am a teacher, many of Anne’s experiences and observations were similar to my own and reminded me of lessons learned that needed to be remembered. This passage in particular stuck out me:
For two years she had worked earnestly and faithfully , making many mistakes and learning from them. She had had her reward. She had taught her scholars something, but she felt that they had taught her much more…lessons of tenderness, self-control, innocent wisdom, lore of childish hearts. Perhaps she had not succeeded in “inspiring” any wonderful ambitions in her pupils, but she had taught them, more by her own sweet personality than by all her careful precepts, that it was good and necessary in the years that were before them to live their lives finely and graciously, holding fast to truth and courtesy and kindness, keeping aloof from all that savored of falsehood and meaness and vulgarity. They were, perhaps, all unconscious of having learned such lessons; but they would remember and practice them long after they had forgotten the capital of Afghanistan and the dates of the Wars of the Roses.
This passage reminded me of exactly why I love teaching and what type of teacher I aspire to be every day. This book is full of so much wisdom being discovered by Anne. It is beautiful. Goodreads rating: 5 Stars
5. One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
I enjoyed “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes so I decided to try another book by Moyes. I saw this on the shelf at the library and took it home. This book was very different from the first I read by this author but it is apparent she is a good storyteller. She writes characters that are very real and does an good job with emotions. This book is the story of a single mom trying hard to get the money her youngest, a gifted student, needs to get into a private school by taking her to a math competition with a big cash prize. Of course, this plan is complicated when their car is impounded and a handsome tech mogul offers to give them a ride. I’m sure you can see where this is going, but it is a heartwarming, well written story. It didn’t move me like “Me Before You” but it was a fun read for a Saturday. Goodreads rating: 3 Stars
6. The Firebird By Susanna Kearsley
I listened to this on audiobook and loved the reader Katherine Kellgren. She does accents very well and kept me very engaged. This book has an element of the supernatural as the main character can see the past when she touches an object or piece of art from a certain time period. The kicker is, that she doesn’t really like using her gift but when she accidentally touches a Russian firebird figurine she feels compelled to find out the story behind it. Apparently this is the second book in a series, but I felt like I had sufficient backstory from the author to know exactly what was going on in this book. I loved the historical flashbacks and the development of the main character was interesting. I definitely enjoyed the story and loved listening to it on audiobook, I think it was made better by listening to someone else tell it. I will be looking for more by this author.
7. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
I picked up with book from the library based on the title and the cover. As I started reading it I loved that the main character owned a floating bookshop called “Literary Apothecary” and that he believed books help us to heal. I mean, let’s be honest, learning about human emotion is one of the reasons I read, so this really resonated with me. The main character is too busy helping others find books for their healing to realize he has healing of his own to do. When he finally has to confront his past he unites his book barge and sets off on an adventure. While this was an exciting premise and the characters were engaging in the beginning I felt the book did not live up to its potential. There were so many bright spots, good bookish qualities, good quotes, great setting, but something just felt like it was lacking. I think for a book about grief and rediscovering yourself it was too sappy and I found myself disengaging from the characters. I absolutely loved the setting but felt it could have been used better to help with the transformation of the characters. Goodreads rating: 3 stars (I’d give it 2.5 if I could)
8. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
I didn’t know J.K. Rowling had been doing more writing under a pen name, but she has! Enter the Comoran Strike series. I heard about these books on a podcast I listen to and decided to pick the first one up from the library. I read “A Casual Vacancy” by Rowling and did not like it, so I was curious to see how I felt about these, written under a pen name. These books are about a private detective named Cormoran Strike. He is like a cross between Hagrid and Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter series, but with military training, and maybe not as crazy as Mad-Eye. I like a good private eye story and this one was very well written. I enjoyed the characters, Strike’s secretary is intriguing and his client was complicated, and was surprised with the outcome. I am excited to read the next book in the series. Goodreads rating: 4 stars (I’d give is 3.75 is I could)
9. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling
What’s this? Another book by Rowling? Yes it is. Rowling has written a few of the textbooks mentioned in the students’ studies at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. This is the first one I have read but I will continue to read them all because it was a lot of fun. This book is a collection of descriptions of magical beasts and their characteristics. There is not a plot line, but Rowling added some notes in the margins made by Harry Potter and that was fun, especially since he and his friends had their share of run-ins with beasts during their time at school. This book has inspired a screen-play for a movie coming out later this year which is what motivated me to finally to read it. I am so excited to watch the movie, based on the fictitious author’s travels to research the beasts for his books. Rowling wrote the screenplay so I am sure it will be entertaining! (Goodreads Rating: 4 stars, just for the fun, creative nature of the book!)
So that is it for January! I’m hoping to read some literary hard-hitters next month and probably more detective stories because I can’t seem to get enough of those.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Please let me know in the comments as I am dying to talk books.
Until Next Time,
I love you more than private eyes and floating bookshops,