Monday, December 23, 2013

Annette's Book Club Ratings for 2013

Annette's Book Club Winners and Losers  (2013 Book Lists)

If you’ve read a few of my blog posts, you may know that I belong to a small book club. We don’t always plow through a regimented list of a book a month. People get busy. The short summer months are usually calling us to do other things like make dates with the sunshine, while December is busy with Christmas activities.  This year between the sun and snow, work and family, and our own selection of books, we managed to squeeze in eight book club selections.  I have reviewed all but one of them in the blog.  Click on the titles to see the full reviews.

Here are our book club members’ average ratings of those books on a scale of 1-5 with five being the best rating.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser by Sandra Dallas |||| (4.5)
A woman marries a man she barely knows and moves to the Colorado Territory where she faces adversity on the new frontier and in her home. Mattie is an optimistic breath of fresh air even through her trying times.

A Good American by Alex George  |||(4.4)
This is the story of a German couple who immigrates to the United States in the early 1900s and settles in Beatrice, Missouri.  The book lyrically dances through three generations of the Meisenheimers and their experience in what started as a strange and foreign land and becomes home.  It is at times funny and sad, filled with colorful and memorable characters, all expressed in a luring voice that kept us turning the pages. A Good American is  A Good Book!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern  |||| (4.25)
An unusual magical circus set in tones of black and white opens only at night. The spectacular circus itself is only a sideshow to the main storyline, where a wager involves the lives of two people who eventually become attractions in the circus. Imaginative and interesting!

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns  
After his wife passes away cantankerous, old Rucker Blakeslee marries a much younger woman to the dismay of his family. This book is a humorous ride back to the South in the early 1900s.

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson  ||| (3.8)
A man blinded at the age of three regains his sight as an adult in his forties. Read about the challenges he faced growing up blind and new obstacles that his sighted world brings him.  A true and amazing story.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty  ||(3.6)
A woman gets a bump on the head while working out in the gym and wakes up with ten years of her life completely wiped out of her memory.  Slowly she tries to piece together what happened in that decade in which she had three kids with the man she loves and is now inexplicably divorcing. 

A Dark Dividing by Sarah Rayne  
A dark story of two sets of conjoined twins born 80 years apart. Slowly their mysterious stories unwind in an eerie tale that’s disturbing, intriguing, and suspenseful.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind 
Set in eighteenth century France a baby is born with an unusual sense of smell that eventually leads him to murder. This is not an action-packed murder thriller. It’s a thought-provoking book about a man with an unusual talent that is also a curse. 

Don’t belong to a book club of your own?  Join ours by reading along with our book selections that are posted on the home page side panel of this blog.  Send me your comments before the review date and I’ll include them in the blog post.

While we all enjoy discussing our book club selections, most of the members try to find time to read our own book choices.  Below are other books members have read and enjoyed in 2013.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Spanning four decades, this is the story of a slave and a man who runs a plantation on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarite. It’s a saga of love, loss, determination, and traditions in the late 1700s.

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings
While a man’s wife lies in a coma, he must deal with his unruly teenage daughter, relatives who control a large portion of Hawaii's pristine real estate, and the revelations of his wife’s infidelity.  (The book club member read this book after she watched the movie, and found that while the movie was good, the book was better.)

Trilogy: Fever Dream, Cold Vengence, & Two Graves by Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston (Pendergast Series)
In Fever Dream, Special Agent Pendergast discovers his wife was murdered. A decade after her death he learns about her guarded secrets. In Cold Vengeance he seeks revenge, which is not as easy as he thought. The third book, Two Graves, offers another twist in this trilogy, which I will not give away here. 

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
The first book in a fantasy epic where summers last decades, winters can last a lifetime, and a struggle for the Iron Throne has begun. 

City of Thieves by David Benioff
A novel about two men who are sentenced to death in Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Russia during WWII.  They are given a one chance for survival:  get a dozen eggs for a Soviet officer for his daughter’s wedding.  It’s an almost impossible request that leads the two into heartbreaking and dangerous adventures. 

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel  

A fascinating read about Henry VIII and two of the women in his life:  Catherine and Anne Boleyn. Strife, power, murder, ambition, and passion all play into this 1500s historical fiction.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
On  their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy mysteriously disappears. Her husband, Nick, is a suspect, but did he really do it?  “A nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.” 

One more thing—
I hope you have enjoyed the 100+ book reviews and recommendations I have posted in 2013.  While I have had great fun in sharing my love of books, I will be slowing down on my posts.  I will still pass on my book suggestions, just at a much more relaxed and sporadic pace. An easy way to learn of my new reviews is to follow me by email where you will automatically be sent my posts as they are released. You can sign up on the side panel of the home page. 

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas with a stocking full of books and a happy, healthy new year!

Happy Reading! 

Did you read any of these books and if so, what did you think of them? Post a comment or email:

Monday, December 9, 2013

Top Ten Fiction Books of 2013

Top Ten Fiction Books of 2013   (2013 Book Lists)

Today, I thought it would be fun to see what I’ve been missing this year.  Below are the top ten lists for fiction this year from various sources.  It seems I have a lot of catching up to do. Which ones did you read?

Good Reads Best Books of 2013 Choice Awards

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
A look into the lives of a brother and sister and their families in Afghanistan, 1952.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
An unlikely friendship between a young woman who lost her mother and an elderly man who later confesses a long-buried and shameful secret.

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
A love story of an ordinary girl who tries to help a wheelchair bound ex-Master of the Universe.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
After surviving a crash, a young boy is taken in by a friend’s family. He clings to a small painting from his mother and eventually is drawn into the art underworld.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (Also author of What Alice Forgot)
Cecilia has the perfect marriage until she finds a letter from her husband meant to be opened in the event of his death.

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
A young girl helps an older woman clean out her home and discovers her history as a young Irish immigrant orphaned in New York City.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
A scientist, who designs a scientifically valid survey to find the perfect wife for him, encounters Rosie who meets his criteria yet he disqualifies her as a candidate and helps her in her quest to identify her biological father.  

The House Girl by Tara Conklin
The story of an escaped slave in the pre-war South, a determined young lawyer, and a woman seeking compensation for families of slaves.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A sixteen-year-old girl plans to document the life of her great-grandmother before taking her own life in Japan. Across the Pacific a novelist finds a collection of artifacts washed ashore from the 2011 tsunami that connects to the girl in Tokyo.  

Tenth of December by George Saunders
A collection of short stories about class, love, sex, loss, work, despair and war.

New York Times 2013 Best Seller in Fiction (Hardcover)

Cross My Heart by James Patterson
A man uses Detective Alex Cross’ family against him in a page-turning thriller. (Alex Cross Series)

Sycamore Row by John Grisham
A man commits suicide leaving a will that upturns the lives of his adult children, his black maid, and Jake. (2nd book in the Jake Brigance Series)

Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich
Stephanie sets her sights on catching a notorious mob boss. (Stephanie Plum Series)

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom
A small town on Lake Michigan gets worldwide attention when its citizens start receiving phone calls from the afterlife.

King and Maxwell by David Baldacci
Former secret service agents turned investigators look into the mysterious death of a soldier in Afghanistan only to realize they’ve stumbled onto something bigger and more treacherous than anyone could have imagined.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
A tribe of seemingly innocent people are quasi-immortal living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death—an epic war between good and evil.

S. by Doug Dorst
A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger and finds notes from the previous owner in the margin. She responds with notes of her own and the book is left for another stranger.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
After surviving a crash, a young boy is taken in by a friend’s family. He clings to a small painting from his mother and eventually is drawn into the art underworld.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
A remarkable story of two couples whose parallel love stories intersect in profound and surprising ways.

The Supreme Macaroni Company by  Adriana Trigiani
A heartbreaking story that begins on the eve of a wedding in New York and travels to New Orleans, and culminates in Tuscany.

Amazon’s 2013 Best Selling Women’s Literature & Fiction (Minus the Christmas books, as of 12/8/13)

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty (Also author of What Alice Forgot)
Cecilia has the perfect marriage until she finds a letter from her husband meant to be opened in the event of his death.

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kristen Chen
A woman leaves her floundering marriage and moves back to Singapore and faces her mother’s drinking problem and the machinations of her father’s soy sauce business.

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
A remarkable story of two couples whose parallel love stories intersect in profound and surprising ways.

Sweet Nothings (A Sugar Springs Novel) by Kim Law
Free spirited Joanie Bigbee, who sells cupcakes out of a converted Volkswagen van, meets Nick Dalton who wants more than just a fling

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
A look into the lives of a brother and sister and their families in Afghanistan, 1952.

The Second Chance Café (A Hope Springs Novel) by Alison Kent
A woman runs a café in a Victorian home while she tries to uncover the truth about her birth parents, but is distracted by a handsome carpenter.   

Things We Set on Fire by Deborah Reed
A series of tragedies brings Vivvie's young grandchildren into her custody, and her two estranged daughters back under one roof in this deeply personal, hauntingly melancholy look at the damages families inflict on each other—and the healing that only they can provide.

The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (Who also wrote A Redbird Christmas)
An impressionable woman named Fritzi takes over the running of her family’s filling station in the 1940s during the war and sees an opportunity for an even more ground-breaking adventure.

The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
A sweeping family saga of Ciro and Enza who immigrated from Italy to the United States separately in the early 1900s, built their lives in their new homeland, and later reconnect.

It Must Be Love by Bella Andre
The passion from an unforgettable fling five years ago reignites when rock star Ford Vincent vows to do anything to win back the heart of successful real estate agent, Mia Sullivan.

What book tops your reading list in 2013? 

Happy Reading! 

Post a comment or email:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson

Seeing Through Mike May’s World (Courage Week)

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson is a true account of Mike May’s journey from being blind to gaining his sight as an adult in his forties. Blinded at age three when a jar of chemicals exploded in Mike’s face, he remembered little of the sighted world. But that didn’t stop him from living in it.  With encouragement from his mother Mike experienced life more than some sighted people. He grew into a daredevil and tried everything from soccer, to bike riding, and driving his sister’s car. He was even a downhill speed skier!  

Then one day his world was turned upside down when a doctor told Mike that he may be a candidate for stem cell surgery that could restore his vision.  The risks associated with it were enormous, both physical and emotional, both equally as dangerous.  Many things could go wrong. One of the greatest dangers of the operation was the potent immunosuppressive drugs he would have to take afterwards, drugs whose side effects included cancer.

In an impressive act of courage, Mike once more faced his fears and took a chance. And the operation was successful. A touching moment in the book was when he finally got to see his sons and realized one of them had freckles, something that was never mentioned to him, something he didn’t know about his own son. His vision wasn’t perfect though. His new sighted world brought him a whole new set of challenges.

What an amazing man.  What an amazing story. There were times my heart actually skipped a beat when reading about his blind adventures and the struggles with his new vision.  His story and courage are truly inspiring and with Thanksgiving this week, I know one more thing I’ll be thankful for, something I’ve always taken for granted—my vision.   

As for my book club—most liked it but thought it was too in-depth, too lengthy. It was even suggested that it could have been a long magazine article instead of a book.  In this case, I have to disagree.  I found the few technical portions in the book interesting and necessary to grasp Mike’s experience.  We talked about this book longer than we did most, going over Mike’s determination, his positive spirit, as well as his extraordinary mother who encouraged him in all things, even risky choices that would make any other mother cringe. I think it’s a great candidate for a book club selection. It stirred up more conversation and observations than usual—good and bad.  

Find out more about Mike and his company, Sendero, which offers GPS-based systems that provide blind people access to detailed street and business location information.

Happy Reading, Happy Thanksgiving!  


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email: