Thursday, March 22, 2012

Recent Reads

Lately it seems that for every book I read, I add about five more to my "to-read" list. I guess this is a good "problem" to have and I have really enjoyed getting back into reading. Bo has been pleasantly surprised, since he thought it would be another one of my short-lived hobbies, but I'm going over a year strong now. Not gonna lie, has added a lot of fuel to the fire! And since my hobby was becoming a little expensive, I joined the local library. I am not a fan of libraries. I remember going when I was a kid, but hated the smell of the library and the crinkly coverings on all the books. I also did not like having my name stamped on the card (weird, I know). But since the library is literally walking distance from our house, I figured it was worth a shot. It still smells bad and the books still have the crinkly coverings, but at least the cards have been removed since it's all done electronically now. Plus I can put books on hold through their website, so they are ready when I drop off my previous book - no searching around the smelly library! Bo is happy that my "girly" books that I now get from the library will no longer waste valuable space on our bookshelf. We'll see how it goes. And as always, book suggestions are welcome :)

In the Garden of Beasts, by Erik Larson
Rating: 3 stars

This was our February book club selection. Otherwise, definitely not a book I would have normally chosen to read. When it comes to history, I prefer biographies rather than pure historical fact, and this book was a decent mix of those. It's about an American family, the Dodds, who are sent to Berlin in 1933 as Mr. Dodd takes on the role of America's first ambassador in Germany. It focuses on the year that Hitler rises to power and how it all unfolds.  My biggest question regarding this time period is always how on earth does something like this happen? And I thought this book did a pretty great job of showing the outsider perspective and how Hitler and the Nazi party managed to get away with so much under the radar. At our book club meeting, we all agreed that our favorite character was Mr. Dodd's rather promiscuous daughter, Martha. If the book had been told by her, we might have given it a higher rating. ;) I will say that even though I trudged through it pretty slowly and thought it was boring at times, I was glad to have read it, and it sparked an interest into some other similar books that I will attempt to read sometime. Bo also plans to read it at some point, and since he loves history so much he suggested a few other books I might like. I don't think we have similar taste in books so this could be interesting.

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
Rating: 4.5 stars

Loved this book! Thanks to several of you for the recommendation. The story revolves around Tita, who is the youngest daughter in her family. Her father passed away soon after she was born, and family tradition forbids the youngest daughter from marrying and requires her to instead stay at home and take care of her mother until she too passes. I thought this was so tragic and somewhat horrifying/depressing. At a young age, Tita falls in love with Pedro, who wants to marry her. Instead, her mom offers Pedro her other daughter, Rosaura, which he accepts so that he can be close to Tita. As punishment for her willfulness to marry Pedro, Tita's mom forces her to make their wedding cake. She pours her emotions into her cooking and discovers her true talent in the kitchen. Each chapter starts with a recipe and details a roller coaster of emotions throughout the story. Bo had seen the movie on a flight, and actually really enjoyed it as well. From what he said, the movie seems to stick pretty close to the book otherwise he might have read it too. Also, this was my first library book in probably 15 years!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Rating: 3.5 stars

This was our March book club choice. Such a light, fun read about unexpected friendships. Juliet receives a letter from Dawsey, who came across a book with her name and address in it. He tells her about his book club, its strange mix of members, the even stranger name of their club, and how they were formed. Intrigued, she corresponds with him and eventually the other members of the society until she pays them a visit...permanently. The entire book is comprised of letters written to/from each of the book's characters, so there aren't any chapters. It was hard to ever find a good stopping point because I would just read "one more letter", and then another...and another. It was set in Guernsey in 1946, so it was really interesting to see their perspective during the German occupation since it's not one you usually hear about. (Not in purpose that we picked two Nazi-related books in a row..taking a break on that for a while!)

A Reliable Wife, by Robert Goolrick
Rating: 2.5 stars 

I read the back cover of this book and thought it was pretty intriguing: Ralph Truitt places an ad in the paper for a "reliable wife", Catherine responds saying she is a "simple, honest woman". They both have pretty messed up pasts, and though he struggles to eventually tell her about his former life, she is anything but "honest" with him about hers, and is certainly not a "simple" woman. He unexpectedly sends her on a mission that interferes with her true intention of killing him off for his money. Most surprisingly to both of them is that they end up falling in love with each other, which ironically was not either of their intention when they married. There are a lot of twists and turns that I don't want to spoil - I actually liked the story but knocked it down in the rating because it was extremely raunchy. I am no prude but it was a bit much for me throughout the entire book. Glad I borrowed this one from the library!

Sarah's Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay
Rating: 5 stars

Oddly this was the third book of the last five I've read that had to do with the war and was yet another, different perspective of the events. So many people had recommended it and I wanted to finish it before my next trip home so I could return it to my mom who let me borrow it! This one is set in Paris, and tells the story of two girls. First is Sarah, ten years old, who is taken away from her home by the Vichy police during the Vel d'Hiv' round up in July 1942. Sarah thinks they will be coming back soon, since she's going with the French police and not the German Nazis - so she locks her four year old brother in their secret cupboard. The second story is of Julia, 60 years later, also in Paris.  Julia is a journalist and her newest assignment is to write a piece on the Vel d'Hiv' round up for the 60th anniversary. She takes a personal interest in the events that ends up changing her life (and several others) forever, when she finds out how she and her family are connected to Sarah. Of the three Nazi-related books I read in the past two months, this one by far demonstrated more of the horror that people lived through during that period. At times it was extremely sad and horrifying, but it was a really compelling story that I could not put down - and I definitely cried at several points throughout the book. I also found it interesting that Julia specifically points out how so many people don't know about the round up in Paris, she (and me!) being one of them, and how several characters went to such extremes to ensure the story is not forgotten - and through this book it surely isn't.


  1. I love your reviews and look forward to reading some of these books. Hope you're bringing some of these home next month! I'm sorry I passed down my distaste of library smells to you. I don't like thinking about the other hands (and what might have been on them) that have touched the pages of the books.

  2. I have heard about Sarah's Key, now I"ll have to check it out, yes, from the library.


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