Archive | December, 2014

Reading into 2015

29 Dec

Now that December is almost over and 2015 is just around the corner, I’m starting to poke around and see what lies ahead. I thought 2014 was a really great year for books, it felt like I read one great one after another all year long. I’ve found a lot of debut titles that sound like winners (maybe another post later on), but some pretty exciting forthcoming titles from old favorites. Here they are:

Gone Walking.

20 Dec

etta-and-otto-and-russell-and-james-9781476755670_lg

There are a handful of novels that I think of as falling into the category “fit for most women readers.” This genre would include things like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Jim the Boy. The everywoman’s novel, perhaps, that is touching and deep and full of characters that hit home. Heartfelt. Tender. Funny. Easy-to-sell. Ones that I enjoy right along side of my mother and grandmother. Initially in my mind, I put Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James into this category. Partly because the copy on the book jacket makes it sound like the twin novel of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. Partly because the story starts out sweet and heartfelt and feel-good. And although I normally love these easy reads I feel ashamed to have lumped Etta and Otto in with them. Etta and Otto is something wonderful and rare.

The novel opens with a note to Otto, from Etta. Gone to see the ocean, it says. And Otto knows that she will have taken off on foot, and that she will have taken the longest route (can you see why it reminded me of Harold Fry?) What follows is the perfect story. Maybe it is just perfect for me, for my tastes, but it has everything I love to read: small farm town with a one-room schoolhouse, families bursting with brothers and sisters and work to be done. Best friends (Otto and Russell), love stories, a war story, whimsy and art and nature. I was expecting this tale of a woman who walks out of town to be sentimental, rewarding, ending in a happy bow. It was SO MUCH MORE. Every few pages I would find myself thinking “I love Otto best.” And then a few short pages later, “No, Russell is my favorite. I love Russell.” Again, but with Etta and then back to Otto and so on. James, the coyote that accompanies Etta on her journey, was perfect for what he was (a coyote, only mildly loveable).

That is how I feel, but it doesn’t really tell you anything about the story. So here is what I’d say: Etta has gone walking to see the ocean. She is old and maybe ill prepared. She leaves Otto behind at home with a box full of recipes and a promise that she’ll return. Russell, Otto’s best friend, has spent his lifetime loving Etta from the farm next door. As Etta walks, we get the story of their youths – Etta and Otto and Russell – from their childhoods through the war and back again to poor farmsteads. There was WAY more in this novel that I expected to find, I was blown away and think that most readers will be too. Plainsong meets Jim the Boy meets Mutant Message Down Under.

Danger in the Flock

10 Dec

Never in a million years did I expect to be talking about a Mormon mystery. If I hadn’t been so attracted to the book jacket, I probably would have missed out on this entertaining read.

TheBishop's Wife

Isn’t it a wonderful cover? I don’t read a ton of mysteries, but I ended up liking The Bishop’s Wife because it is full of really well-developed characters. Think Gone Girl if the characters had all been incredibly Mormon (not as well written or as thrilling, but close enough to be good). Linda, the narrator, is mother to five boys and wife to Kurt, the bishop. The story opens with a young man named Jared Helm knocking on their door late at night with his five year old daughter Kelly. Apparently in the Mormon religion, the bishop is on call all the time and counsels members of the ward in his home no matter the time. Jared is distraught because his wife, Carrie, has abandoned the family. Shortly after, Linda becomes convinced that Carrie hasn’t left town on her own volition. In fact, Linda quickly comes to believe that Jared has killed her. I ended up giving this 3.75 stars – it was good, but the religiousness was a little over the top.

Turn the page, turn it fast!

8 Dec

A solid twenty-four hours after finishing Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train my heart is still racing and I have the nervous sweats. I think I can count on one hand the number of thrillers I’ve read, and I don’t really want to call this a “thriller” because I liked it so, so, much and thrillers just aren’t my thing.

girl on the train

To start with, isn’t the cover so great? SO GREAT. To follow the cover, one of the blurbs on the jacket calls The Girl “Hitchcockian,” a phrase I both love and find incredibly appropriate. If Hitchcock were still around, he’d have optioned this novel before it ever hit the shelves. I can just picture one (or two) of his blondes in the leading roles. Here is the set up: Rachel, an alcoholic, divorced, unemployed frump of a woman rides the train into and out of London every morning/evening. On her way to and from, the train she takes usually comes to a stop at a certain bend in the track and if she looks out of her window, she can see a row of houses. One of those houses she used to live in with her husband, Tom (and he lives there still, with his new wife and baby), and four or so houses down from her old home, live an attractive young couple whom she’s named (in her head) Jess and Jason. She loves watching them, seeks them out every time the train stops at this certain bend, often with a pre-mixed gin and tonic or a few mini bottles of wine. And then one day, “Jess” disappears. And drunk, drunk Rachel butts herself right into the investigation. OH MY GOSH. At the end I felt like I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t and it was wonderful. If you are in a reading slump, read this one. It comes out 1/13/15, but I thought I’d post this now so you can reserve it at the library. 4.5 stars.