Good-bye 2016!

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There were so many good books that I read this year, and I know that there will be many more good books to read next year.  I’m not going to write a review this week, instead I’d like to let you know about some of the good books that I read this year, but didn’t review.  There are so many books, and I’ve got so little time to devote to reading them.  It’s really sad, actually.  I wish there was a job where all you had to do was curl up in a comfy chair, drink tea and read all day.  And, that someone would pay you for that.  How great would that be?  However, that’s a fantasy job, and unfortunately, I live in reality – except of course, when I’m reading.  Here are some of the more notable books that I’ve come across this year.

Rasputin’s Daughter by Robert Alexander – This one is really good, and the Russian history is interesting, not to mention the information on Rasputin and his family.

Friday on My Mind by Nicci French – I love this mystery series.  You can read them in order, or they also work as a stand-alone novel.

Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen – Simply insane, after all, it’s Carl Hiaasen

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – It’s Margaret Atwood and a layered re-telling of The Tempest, how can you go wrong?

Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen – This is the last in a trilogy.  Fantasy at its best, and I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of fantasy.

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            The Last Execution by Jesper Wung-Sung – How do I describe this novel?  It’s the fictional story of the real last execution that took place in Denmark in 1853.  This book was extremely hard to read, as the real crime was poverty.  I didn’t review this, although it was the most deserving of a review of all the books that I read this year.  I’m still processing this novel, even though I read it months ago, and if you do read it, let me know what you think.

These were a disparate group of books, however, I really liked them all.  Books serve such a fabulous function in the world today.  They open our minds to other times, places and cultures. And, in doing so, make us more understanding and tolerant of all the different people who live on this planet with us.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful New Year!  And, just keep on reading.

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This is me realizing that I’ll never ever read all the books in the library!

 

 

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue – Book Review

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 Lib Wright, a nurse trained by Florence Nightingale in the Crimea, has been hired to “watch” Anna O’Donnell, an eleven-year-old who lives in the middle of Ireland in a tiny “village”.  Anna has been on a fast for four months, taking no nourishment other than water, yet she is not wasting away.  Lib’s “watch” along with a Nun (also a nurse), takes place in the hut of Anna’s family.  Lib begins her new job with the single reason of catching out Anna’s fakery.  In fact, I had a hard time even liking, much less sympathizing with Lib in the beginning of the novel.  However, Donoghues’ plot was so compelling that I simply had to keep on reading.

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Over the course of the two weeks that Lib’s watch is to take, she not only changes her opinion of Anna herself, but also undergoes a change within herself.  After all, Anna is an eleven-year-old girl with no guile in her heart, a true devotion to Mary, and a strong belief in the Catholic church.

This novel is a testament to what faith, and the need to preserve a good family name will do to some people. It deals with the effects of the Potato Famine in Ireland, how society breaks down, and the mind-numbing poverty these people lived with.  I truly found this to be both disturbing and a “wonder” in more than one way.  I highly recommend this book.  Well done, Donoghue!

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Emma Donoghue

News of the World by Paulette Jiles – Book Review

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This was an excellent novel.  Jiles tells the story of Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a former printer who now makes his living as a news reader in Texas.  He is paid to bring a newly “released” ten-year-old white girl who had been taken from her murdered family by the Kiokwa Tribe at the age of six.  Johanna, who like the majority of stolen white children did not want to be returned to the white world, is wild with grief, has lost her knowledge of both white language and customs, and has previously tried to run back to her tribe.  When Captain Kidd agrees to take her to her aunt and uncle, he does so as a favor to a friend.

The novel concerns this long and dangerous trip across a Texas where there is no government and therefore no law.  Captain Kidd had resigned himself to a lonely existence bringing news of the world to the far-flung towns of the Texas outback, and even though he has helped raise two daughters of his own, has no idea how to connect with Johanna.  Their relationship is both interesting and touching.  I love how Jiles tells us of the white children who were taken and then returned, how they suffered instead of being relieved at being brought back to their remaining families.  We get a story told from one of these children’s point of view.

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Not only is there the relationship between the two, but we also get history of America in these years.  Captain Kidd is a survivor of three wars, the Union is undergoing extensive changes in 1870, and Texas is always a hot-bed of intrigue and lawlessness.  This was a many layered novel, and I highly recommend it.  Well done, Jiles!

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Paulette Jiles

The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks – Book Review

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I loved this novel.  It was such a wonderful portrayal of a recently freed slave, her hopes for the future and the society that she lived in.  This book is set in Reconstruction era Tennessee, with the newly freed Mariah Reddick a midwife who has birthed the majority of people in her town as the main character.  I loved Mariah.  Her ability to make a new life for herself after slavery has ended is remarkable.  Although she is a newly freed slave, Mariah is someone of note in her town, and has the respect of both whites and blacks.

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I really felt as though I was in the world of this book.  Mariah was such a relatable character to me personally that I regarded her as a friend.  When Mariahs’ son, Theopolis, the local cobbler is murdered, Mariah funnels her grief into finding out who the murderer is.

Muddying the waters is Tole, a newly arrived sharpshooter from New York.  He not only befriends Mariah, but he also has much to hide, and much to reveal.  I love how Mariah considered herself an orphan mother, for what else is a woman who has lost every member of her family but an orphan.  Although this is a novel of great loss, it is also a novel of great gain.  It left me with the feeling that these newly freed slaves really need to have their voices heard.  They went from living highly circumscribed lives to having to make a living, make decisions and be responsible for themselves.  Not only that, but they also had to walk a path that was dangerous, and any misstep could cost their life.  This is one novel that gives voice to a people who have not really been heard loud and clear.  I highly recommend this novel!  Well done, Robert Hicks.

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Robert Hicks