10 July 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Best Reading Week of 2017

6 short book book reviewsWhat is the huge benefit of working ahead so one gets a full four days off for the holiday last week? Lots and lots of reading and listening time. Especially listening time, because cooking and cleaning were in order to prepare for our annual July 4 party.

Even better is that I'm back to a normal work schedule, so my evenings have been relaxing and I even stayed out of my office this past weekend. I know the easy life won't last, but I am making the most of it while I can.

The icing on the cake has been the mild weather. I don't even mind the bouts of gentle summer rain because the windows are open and the house is cool and comfortable. This is what summer is all about, isn't it?

What I Read

6 short book book reviews
  • The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories by Penelope Lively (Viking, May 9): I wasn't quite sure what I was going to think about this collection because the opening (and title) story was told from the viewpoint of a swamp hen in Pompeii, just before the volcano erupts. I'm glad I stuck it out though, because I was soon giving my full attention to the remaining stories, which take place in a variety of more contemporary time periods and focus on different kinds of relationships and how well we really know the people in our lives. The audiobook (Recorded Books, 7 hr, 6 min) was read by Davina Porter, one of my favorite narrators. She was expressive and teased the right emotional level out of the short pieces, though sometimes I had difficulty telling male from female voices. My full audio review will be available from AudioFile magazine.
  • A Different Pond by Bao Phi (Capstone Young Readers, August 1): This short graphic novel is written for a young middle grade reader and tells the story of a young Vietnamese American boy who goes fishing with his father in the wee hours of the morning. While at the water's edge, his father tells him about his boyhood across the ocean. The messages in this comic have cross-over appeal and can sow the seeds for a larger discussion on immigration, family, and people who are different from ourselves. The illustrations by Thi Bui are rendered in a beautiful range of predawn colors, and although fairly simple in detail, the panels add to the emotional impact of the book. Highly recommended.
  • Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave (Simon & Schuster, July 11): I reviewed this fun escape novel on Saturday for my Weekend Cooking post.
6 short book book reviews
  • Walking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy (Nancy Paulsen, July 4): I made the mistake of finishing this audiobook right before my guests were due to arrive on the Fourth. I sure hope I didn't look like I had been crying! Alice, 11 years old, is upset when her mother moves the family from Columbus, Ohio, to small-town Georgia to take care of her own aging mother. When Alice is asked to do their elderly neighbor a favor, she obeys, not realizing that she was going to make a new friend. This is a delightful and heartfelt coming-of-age story with themes of family, disability, racism, friendship, and more. I fell in love with Alice and her brother and found it difficult to stop listening to the book. Don't be thrown by the middle grade rating, you won't soon forget Alice's story. The audiobook (Listening Library, 4 hr, 39 min) was read by Catherine Taber who was fantastic. Her voice sounded authentically preteen to me, and I loved the way she picked up on the characters' personalities. A fantastic listen.
  • Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane (Ecco, April 26): I'm normally a big fan of Lehane, so I started his newest thriller with very high expectations. This novel, set in the Boston area, is kind of three books in one: it starts out focusing on a damaged young woman who looks for love in all the wrong places, moves into a story of her healing under the care of her husband, and then turns into a psychological thriller. There are a lot of twists, though some of them are heavily signaled. I'm not sorry I read the book, but this wasn't Lehane's strongest entry. Credibility was stretched thin in places, and the plot took too many sharp turns. I'd give it a solid 3 stars. The audiobook (Harper Audio, 12 hr, 2 min) was nicely read by Julia Whelan, who clearly distinguished among the characters and kept me listening, even though the book itself wasn't a favorite.
  • The Painted Queen by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess (William Morrow, July 5): It was bittersweet to have had a chance to return to one of my favorite series ever. This novel was left unfinished at Peters's death, and Hess was given the difficult chore of filling in the blanks of Peters's work. See tomorrow's post for details.
What I'm Reading Now

  • Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (Henry Holt, July 11): I am thoroughly drawn in by this novel about a women caught in that transition from being cared for by her parents to being the person doing the care giving. So far, the book is well written and easy to relate to.
  • The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase (Putnam, July 25): I started this audiobook about 15 minutes before I sat down to finish this post last night (Sunday). I have high hopes.
  • Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry (Custom House, June 6): I put this novel aside while I was buzzing through all.the.books last week, but that's no reflection on the story. I just needed something a little more contemporary for my down time.


Tina 7/10/17, 6:35 AM  

I put Hello Sunshine in my list. Too bad the Lehane book didn't pan out, I like his writing style.
Glad to hear your weather had been decent, so hot here.

JoAnn 7/10/17, 7:41 AM  

Goodbye, Vitamin is getting lots of positive buzz... will look forward to your final opinion.

rhapsodyinbooks 7/10/17, 7:41 AM  

It always amazes me how fast you can listen. Or maybe you spend a lot of hours at it. I only listen in the car, so it takes me forever. But once I listened to a book in the house and it still took forever - at least, way longer than reading. (which probably means I skim more with a book....)

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 7/10/17, 7:42 AM  

Glad you're loving Goodbye Vitamin! I did too! And I liked Since We Fell more than you did...this is the first time I've read Lehane, but I liked how it was kind of a thriller that didn't really read like one for much of it.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 7/10/17, 7:57 AM  

Am I going to have to buy Hello Vitamin? Can't wait to hear what you think of it!

bermudaonion 7/10/17, 8:53 AM  

Wow, you did get a lot of reading in! I'm disappointed to see the Lehane wasn't up to his normal standard.

It's hotter than heck here this week!

Susie | Novel Visits 7/10/17, 9:50 AM  

I listened to Since We Fell, too, but liked it more than you. I haven't read Lehane before, so had no expectations going in and I loved the narration. I'll be curious to hear how The Wilding Sisters turns out for you. It's one I keep looking at, but am on the fence about.

Vicki 7/10/17, 9:59 AM  

I have the audio of Walking with Miss Millie and I'm thinking about buying Hello, Sunshine and Goodbye, Vitamin.

Mystica 7/10/17, 10:30 AM  

Glad you enjoyed the holidays. Enjoy all the reads.

Laurel-Rain Snow 7/10/17, 10:32 AM  

I enjoyed The Wildling Sisters...and I've been eyeing Hello Sunshine. I've enjoyed other books by Laura Dave.

Enjoy your week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 7/10/17, 10:42 AM  

I've already ordered my copy of The Painted Queen. I agree that the reading experience will be bittersweet. I may have to go back and read some of my favorites in the series again. All of the books are on my keeper shelves. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf 7/10/17, 2:01 PM  

The Purple Swamp Hen sounds like a great surprise and I have The Wildling Sisters on my wishlist.

Yvonne 7/10/17, 3:19 PM  

I'm loving this summer and having the windows open, too. It's the perfect reading weather. I, also, love long holiday weekends :) Enjoy your books. They look good.

Greg 7/10/17, 4:35 PM  

I like a little summer rain especially when it brings cooler temps! I'm glad to hear Hello Sunshine was good, and I've never read a Peters book although I've wanted to! One of these days...

(Diane) bookchickdi 7/10/17, 5:43 PM  

I liked the twists and turns of Since We Fell, although I agree it did stretch the credibility a bit. I have The Essex Serpent and do want to read it, so many of my friends have said good things.

pussreboots 7/10/17, 6:09 PM  

I'm adding a Different Pond to my wishlist.

We're in the last few days in our current place. It seems like the work to move will never end. Come see what I'm reading when I'm not packing.

TP 7/10/17, 7:37 PM  

I ended up passing on Lehane's book when I had the chance to read a few weeks ago. Since then, I haven't seen many +ve reviews, so glad I didn't spend too much time on it.

Tanya Patrice

Daryl 7/11/17, 12:12 PM  

another terrific list of books .... thank you ...

Katherine P 7/12/17, 4:29 PM  

Hello Sunshine has been calling me and I just read an article about the Elizabeth Peters book. I loved the series but didn't plan on reading that one because she hadn't finished it. However, when I read what a labor of love it was for Hess there's no way I can resist it. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on The Wilding Sisters. I read her previous book, Black Rabbit Hall, and really liked it.

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