25 September 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Fall Book and Television Recommendations

Fall Book and Television RecommendationsWhat a crazy week. I thought for sure we were beginning to ease on into fall but those cool nights now seem like only a dream. We're back to record highs, though the leaves have started to show some color and the birds are fattening up for their migration south.

Just a couple of heads-up on movies. Last week I reviewed Loving Vincent, a gorgeous movie you must add to your list. Later this week I'm reviewing The Wizard of Lies (starring Robert De Niro) complete with a giveaway (USA mailing address only) of the DVD/digital download plus movie-tie in paperback. (Thanks HBO!)

What I Read Last Week

Review: The Summer before the War by Helen SimonsonThe Summer before the War by Helen Simonson (Random House Audio; 15 hr, 47 min): In the months leading up to World War I, the village of Rye hires its first female Latin teacher, takes in Belgium refugees, contends with local gossip, and fosters budding romances. Full of charm and great characters, The Summer before the War captures the waning innocence of Britain's privileged gentry and the waxing opportunities of its unwashed masses. I loved the characters and the bittersweet choices the young adults make while weighing their personal desires against cultural expectations. The plot is realistic enough to keep the novel from being sappy, and humor helps mitigate the tougher issues. I can clearly see why many reviewers compare the novel to Downton Abbey, because they cover similar issues and time periods. Narrator Fiona Hardingham's lively performance is engaging, setting the perfect emotional atmosphere for Simonson's novel. Although her male characterizations are less distinct than her female voices, I never felt lost. Recommended in print or audio. (I also recommend Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.) Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Caroline by Sarah MillerCaroline by Sarah Miller (William Morrow): If you're a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan than you must read Miller's new novel, which tells some of the Little House story from Ma's perspective. I recognized many of the episodes from the original story and loved how the meaning and significance shifted as we move from a little girl's viewpoint to that of an educated woman who not only has her own opinions but must must weigh her reactions against her roles as wife and mother. I've read quite a few diaries and other firsthand accounts of what it was like for women pioneers, and Miller presents these issues realistically without taking away from the magic of the Little House series. In an insightful author's note, Miller discusses how and why she strays from Wilder's novels. The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 13 hr, 35 min) was read by Elizabeth Marvel. Her performance was solid with good pacing and consistent characterizations. Pa's fiddle music was one of the Ingalls family's joys, and it was lovely to hear Marvel sing the hymns and other songs that kept Caroline grounded in times of trouble. I alternated reading and listening to Caroline and can recommend both media. I bought the hardback, but the audiobook was provided by the publisher.

Review: The Child Finder by Rene DenfeldThe Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (Harper): The premise of Denfeld's mixed-genre novel is that a survivor of a child abduction grows up to become an expert in finding other lost children. Part thriller, part mystery, and part fairy tale retelling ("The Snow Child"), the novel explores Naomi's strategies as she agrees to take on the case of Madison Culver, who disappeared in the snowy Oregon woods three years earlier, when she was only 5 years old. Although law enforcement believes the girl died of exposure within days of wandering off, Naomi is undeterred because she sees her job as tracking down the child, dead or alive. Interwoven into the investigation, we learn Naomi's backstory and hear from Madison herself. The novel pulls you in gently, as you piece together the different plot lines and get to know the people involved. As with her The Enchanted, Denfeld doesn't hesitate to reveal what can and does happen to children in the bad, bad world. Although some of the subject matter may be disturbing, The Child Finder should have a place on your reading list. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Review: Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie SpenceDear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence (Flatiron): The subtitle to Spence's book is it's best description: "A Librarian's Love Letters and Breakup Notes to the Books in Her Life." Written with sharp wit and intelligence, the dozens of letters included in this collection are fun to read. I like the way Spence's reactions to The Time Traveler's Wife changed on a reread. I loved her impassioned letter to Misery (including the use of her name for the main character). I laughed at her start and stop and start reading of The Hobbit (she finished because she was supposed to be buddy reading with her nephew). The second part of the book consists of several short essays that focus on what it means to be a reader. I loved "I'd Rather Be Reading," which provides a series of excuses you can use to turn down social invitations when all you want to do is stay home and read. Among the other pieces are annotated lists, such as "Blind Date: Good Books with Bad Covers" and "Readin' Nerdy: Books About Librarians." Although I didn't read every one of Spence's letters, I enjoyed my time with her. I recommend borrowing Dear Fahrenheit 451  from the library, although it would make a great gift or stocking stuffer.

What's on Television?

We started HBO's new series The Deuce. I'm reserving judgment and will give the show a couple more episodes. I know it's been getting decent reviews, but so far it's not clicking with me. Set in the 1970s in Times Square, the show follows twin brothers who become involved in the very lucrative porn business. It is supposed to be based on true stories, although not every event is real.

I can't remember which of my Twitter friends told me about Mozart in the Jungle but I am so grateful. It's been really difficult not to simply binge watch all available seasons in one sitting. The show explores the behind-the-scenes world of the New York Symphony, including musicians, musician wannabes, administrators, fund-raising, conductors, drugs, sex, and more. I was quickly invested in the characters and love the music too.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 9/25/17, 7:00 AM  

I had to add Dear Fahrenheit 451 to my wishlist. It sounds like a perfect read for me. Thank you for sharing it!


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 9/25/17, 7:12 AM  

Fahrenheit 451 sounds cute! May check that out for my Holiday Gift Guide!

Amanda 9/25/17, 7:27 AM  

I've got The Child Finder on the hold list at the library to try. I didn't make it through The Enchanted but I think mostly I tried to read it at the wrong time. (Like, I didn't make it through more than a page - my brain needed something less heavy at that moment.) Denfeld is definitely on my radar and if The Child Finder works out well I'd like to go back to her first.

rhapsodyinbooks 9/25/17, 8:40 AM  

I really liked The Child Finder. I was certainly kept wondering how it would turn out right to the very end!

Susie | Novel Visits 9/25/17, 8:58 AM  

I have Fahrenheit 451 coming up and am looking forward to something a little different so am happy to hear you liked it. I'd already been thinking what a great gift it would be for book lovers.

I keep hearing good things about The Child Finder and since my October is looking light, may pick it up.

Have a great week!

JoAnn 9/25/17, 9:12 AM  

The Summer Before the War has been on my list since it was published... really need to make time for it!

Vicki 9/25/17, 9:28 AM  

All those shows and books are new to me.

Daryl 9/25/17, 10:35 AM  

the next season of Mozart is set in Japan ...

and the Deuce's first episode was the pilot and tired to stuff too much into one episode .. the second is far better .. how bad can something with David Simon and Richard Price involved be bad?

Kathy Martin 9/25/17, 10:47 AM  

Dear Fahrenheit 451 and The Child Finder caught my attention. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 9/25/17, 11:12 AM  

I enjoyed Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, so I'm eager to add The Summer Before the War to my list. The Child Finder is another book that grabs me. So does Dear Fahrenheit 451.

I loved The Wizard of Lies...and now I must look for Mozart in the Jungle.

Enjoy your week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

sherry fundin 9/25/17, 12:37 PM  

Child Finder sounds really good. We have been having some fabulous weather, sunny and hot. My favorite.
sherry @ fundinmental Sunday memes

bermudaonion 9/25/17, 6:54 PM  

It looks like you had a great week in books! I really want to get to Caroline soon.

Greg 9/25/17, 8:04 PM  

We got super hot here last week, and it's still pretty warm (low 90's), but the cooloff is supposed to happen on Wednesday. And the leaves are really falling here now.

Caroline sounds like a nice read, I remember Little House fondly . And The child Finder looks gripping. I might need to look at that one closer.

Hope you have a nice week.

Heidenkind 9/26/17, 1:57 AM  

I looooooooove Mozart in the Jungle. Love love love. It is so binge worthy! I find myself waiting for the end of December in anticipation of the new season

Bryan G. Robinson 9/26/17, 9:56 AM  

I think it was Michelle Erin...on Twitter who I saw mention it. We can't wait to see the next season, whenever it is.

Girl Who Reads 9/28/17, 1:59 PM  

I'm on the waitlist for the audiobook of The Summer Before the War. I'm looking forward to it. Girl Who Reads

UplayOnline 10/9/17, 12:42 PM  

I was certainly kept wondering how it would turn out right to the very end!


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