In Love of Books and Friendship

I am a passionate reader and hopeless bibliophile.  When I am not reading I am quite often shopping for more books. Nothing makes me happier than when someone asks me to recommend a good book . . . so you've come to the right place.  Let's talk about books. Tell me, what are you reading?

The Fiery Cross

The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon

I began the fifth book in the Outlander series after watching Season one of the televised version on Starz.  It has been a few years since reading Drums of Autumn/Book 4 but I had no difficulty getting back into the story.


The main characters are Claire Randall, the nurse gone back in time and her husband Jaime Mackenzie Fraser the Scottish Highlander as well as Claire's daughter Briana and her husband Roger. We are now in the year 1771 and Jaime has been warned by Claire the war is approaching.  Set in South Carolina we are witness to history unfolding and wonder whether it will be changed with the gift of foresight. 


While anticipating this oncoming war we spend days at Fraser's Ridge doing routine chores such as making candles, hunting squirrels, and jarring honey.  This proved to be quite interesting as the lack of technology and limited resources in this era made such tasks tedious but yet a way of life. The most fascinating  is when we witness Claire performing autopsies and amputations as she makes due MacGyver style with whatever she has on hand in addition to a wing and a prayer. I mostly enjoyed the character development of Roger.  I feel like he "came of age" in this story.  On the other hand I felt Bree whined endlessly and had a rather chilly personality.  The scenes with her were the ones that seemed to drag for me


Spanning 979 pages this book is rich in detail to say the least. Diana Gabaldon's books are easy to read but the sheer length can be wearisome at times. Trying to summarize the story would be rather difficult so I'm keeping this rather brief as I suppose that unless you've began the series you wouldn't read this installment. I would say to anyone who hasn't read the series, you are missing something spectacular.  This saga is storytelling at it's finest and not books to rush through.  You must devote the time in order to appreciate it.  I have 3 books to go in the series and while I may not pick up A Breath of Snow and Ashes/Book 6 tomorrow I have every intention of reading it and the remainder of the collection.


How I acquired this book:  A Christmas gift from my son several years ago.

Shelf Life:  More than 5 years







The Obituary Writer

The Obituary Writer - Ann Hood

Ann Hood's novel of two women from different era's each tells a story of life from their perspective. As Vivien and Claire's stories unfolds they eventually convene together in a way that displays women of their time in history.


Vivien is the obituary writer and lives in Napa in 1919. A survivor of the San Francisco earthquake she continues to search for her lost love who was believed to have died in the disaster yet she continues to hold onto the hope he may still be alive.


Claire is suburban housewife and mother in 1961.  We see her life revealed on the brink of Kennedy's Presidential Inauguration. Unhappy and unsure of the decision she made to marry the man she did and what her future holds.


Both the stories within this book were interesting glimpses into the lives of women during these different times in history.  Life after the 1906 earthquake and a week after the one centered in Napa was a timely coincidence. Anything to do with the Kennedy's is always a thumb's up from me.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.


How I acquired this book:  Gift from my sister last Christmas.

Shelf life:  8 months

The Book Borrower

The Book Borrower - Alice Mattison

The story is set in Boston and begins in the 1970's. Toby and Elizabeth meet at the park while there with their children and form a lifetime friendship.  Toby who is an avid reader is given a book by Elizabeth called "Trolley Girl" and hence begins the "bookception" if you will, a book-within-a-book.


"Trolley Girl" is made to believe it's based on a true account of a union activist in the 1920's in Boston.  It tells her story of tragic events that changes the lives her she and her family.


I felt the character development in this story was superb.  Toby and Elizabeth's friendship spans the decades from when their children are infants until they are grown.  Definitely one of the best books I've read about a friendship.  It was believable and palpable.


As I began this book I found it difficult to follow due to the unusual dialogue construction. Fighting it at first it was beyond frustrating but once I grew accustomed to this style it became easier to follow. I would recommend this a book to a true reader.  Someone who loves reading simply for the sake of reading.


How I acquired this book:  Half-price books

Shelf life:  Guessing more than 4 years

Orphan Train

Orphan Train - Christina Baker Kline

I rated this with 5 stars because while it might not someday be claimed as a work of art, for me it was a perfect read. The reason being it was based on historical events of which I had no previous knowledge. When I learn about something that was never known to me, in addition to being completely fascinated by the subject, that for me is the perfect read.


This book was based on the history of the orphan trains that carried orphaned and homeless children from eastern states to the Midwest with the intention of finding homes for them to live. From 1853 to 1929 sponsored by the Children's Aid Society and the Catholic New York Foundling Hospital they relocated 250,000 children. Signs were posted in various cities notifying people of the children that needed homes.


This all serves as the backdrop to this story of an elderly woman Vivian and teenager Molly. Vivian hires Molly to help her organize all the items in her attic. Accumulated over Vivian's lifetime she begins to share snippets of her past and in doing so the two discover how much they have in common.


Anyone who likes historical fiction would enjoy this book. I will be sharing this book with everyone.


How I acquired this book: On honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine purchased at Sherman's Books*

Shelf Life:  Ten Months

*Bookception: Sherman's Books was mentioned in this book



An Unexpected Guest

An Unexpected Guest - Anne Korkeakivi

This story is a day in the life of Clare Moorehouse, an American wife to a British diplomat posted in Paris. On this day she is organizing a dinner with dignitaries and she is seeing to every detail to make the evening successful.


Throughout the 24-hour period we learn of Clare's life before she met her diplomat husband and how her past could jeopardize his position.  We go with her through the streets of Paris on her every errand before her dinner party. When her son is suspended from his boarding school we are in her head rationalizing how she will handle explaining to her husband.


Reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway this book also dragged for me.  While I/m usually one to love detail and description I felt this got bogged down with them.  The main character was described to wear beige, a neutral tone and it was also in line with her rather boring personality.  She lacked depth and being that she was the character that the story was focused on made this book average.


How I acquired this book:  On a visit to Half Price Books with my son.

Shelf life: 8 months



Slaughterhouse Five

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

I put this book on my Classics list because I've never read anything written by Vonnegut. How do I begin to describe this book? It's about war. It's about mental illness. Its about death. It's about aliens.


This story toggles back and forth between the character Billy Pilgrim's experience of World War II as a prisoner of war and forward to 1960 as his life as a family man and optometrist. As one of the few survivors of the Dresden fire Billy wants to write a book about the war but struggles how best to put the events on paper. He visits his war buddy to help him and his wife, rather appalled at the idea, tells him not to glorify the war. Billy promises not to and in doing so dedicates the book in her name.


While Billy lives his life in what seems like an average and normal way he then reveals he's been abducted by aliens which resemble upside down toilet plungers. When this happens he is able to see into the future and knows how and when he'll die. The aliens don't dwell on death as humans do because they are able to time travel within their life thus view death as rather mundane.  Throughout the book the phrase "and so it goes" is repeated after every mention of death to emphasize this point. Once his concept of time changes and is no longer linear one might think this is his battle with post traumatic stress disorder.


This was a very bizarre and disjointed read as well as one outside my normal realm and liking, however, there is a reason why we read the Classics. There are important messages and themes to ponder, reflect upon and thus learn. I would recommend this book to someone looking for an interesting and thought-provoking read or to anyone studying the after effects of war.


This is book #4 read in my Classics Club Book Challenge Classics Club Page


How I acquired this book: Husband bought this book for me on Mother's Day on our visit to Moe's Books in Berkeley, California.

Shelf life:  3 months


Up at the Villa

Up at the Villa - W. Somerset Maugham

A charming novella about a widowed socialite on holiday at her friend's villa in Florence, Italy. Not widowed for long Mary Panton has another potential husband on the horizon.  Edgar Swift a life long friend of the family and quite the older man visits Mary at the villa to propose marriage before heading off on a business trip. Mary tells him she will give him an answer when he returns. Before he goes he leaves his revolver with her "just in case" she needs it for protection.  Would you call that foreshadowing?  I think I would.


Mary dines out with some friends at a restaurant where they listen to an untalented musician that plays folk music for them. Her friend tries to set her up and so introduces her to Rowley Flint a single man with a rowdy reputation. She offers to drive him to his hotel. While on the way he makes a pass and proposes to her.  She rejects him and laughs about it but says goodnight.  Along her drive home she runs into the violinist from the restaurant and they get to talking and she invites him back to the villa to look at the artwork.  Oh Mary what have you done?  You might say things don't go so well.


I read this book earlier this year for Dewey's Read-A-Thon but just now posting a review.  A good choice since it was short and read in one sitting.


 This is book #2 in my Classics Club Book Challenge. Classics Club Page


How this book was acquired:  Purchased earlier this year while visiting Monterey, California at Old Capitol Books bookstore.

Shelf Life: 8 months

A Hundred Foot Journey

The Hundred-Foot Journey - Richard C. Morais

I chose to read this book solely on the fact that members of my book club suggested we read it "on the side" of our current selection so as to see the movie together.  I think thus far I'm the only one who has read it.


Beginning in Mumbai this is far more than a hundred foot journey. After the Haji family experience a tragic event they decide to move to London first to start over but end up settling in the small village of Lumiere nestled in the French Alps where they open an Indian restaurant.  Across the street is long time resident and favorite local chef Madame Mallory and her beautifully esteemed hotel and restaurant. Not welcoming the competition nor flamboyant style of these foreigners she sets out to ruin them in what becomes a battle of wills between she and the Haji's. After some clashing Madame Mallory agrees to mentor Hassan, the son of Haji who she suspects holds great potential as a future chef.


Richard Morias is skilled in his description from the picturesque countryside to the mouth-watering creations the chefs in this story create. I truly appreciate the details an author uses to paint a scene where the result is my wanting to visit a place I've never been, taste a food I've never tried or make a dish I've never cooked. This was a most pleasant read and definitely one I recommend. Any foodie would adore this novel.  I expect it will be a great movie.


How I acquired this book: Sent my son on an errand to purchase for me.

Shelf life: None, read immediately

The Last Letter from your Lover

The Last Letter from Your Lover - Jojo Moyes

This is the second novel I've read by JoJo Moyes.  While it was a good read it didn't compare with Me Before You.


In 1964 Jennifer wakes up in a hospital bed to find out she's married to Lawrence Stirling, a wealthy powerful businessman and is told she lives life in the circles of the social elite and wants for nothing.  At first she has no memory but she comes across a love letter she hid previously and remembers she was deeply in love but not with her husband.  As she finds more letters and clues she slowly puts together pieces of her past and longs for the man she once loved.


Fast forward forty years to Ellie, a journalist at The Nation finds a love letter in the library archives.  Intrigued she may have a fantastic story she does further research and tries to locate the owner of the letter. Dealing with her own unfulfilling love triangle she pursues this story hoping for a happy ending.


I thought Jennifer was a bit shallow and found it difficult to like and connect with her and so as a result it felt like the beginning of the book dragged a bit. The twists and turns in the story kept my attention. I always enjoy past/present timelines and any mention of a library. I'd recommend this as a good beach read.


How I acquired this book:  I think I bought this book at Barnes & Noble. I'll admit it was because I like the cover.

Shelf life: 2+ years

Me Before You

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes

This is the first novel I've read by JoJo Moyes after hearing positive reviews by members of my book club. This title actually being voted on and rejected by our book club, I wish it had been chosen as I know it would have made for a great discussion.


Louisa Clark is the main character, 26 and still living at home in a small English tourist-spot-of-a-town she loses her longtime job at The Butterbun Café. Desperate to help out her family, she is given but a few lousy choices from the unemployment office for a new position. Somewhat reluctantly, she decides to be a full time caregiver to Will Traynor who is wheelchair bound and angry after a horrific accident.


While the author mostly focuses on Louisa, the challenges of her new job and the romance with her fitness fanatic boyfriend, her family drama is also entwined in this story making for a perfect balance of humor and despair.  This book held onto my heart and didn't let go. A most unique love story and by far one of the most emotional and heartfelt books I've ever read. I would definitely read anything and everything by this author.  For some reason I have an affinity for books taking place in England so that's a bonus too. After beginning this book I realized I had a previous title by her (The Last Letter From Your Lover) on my shelf and have since purchased another (The Girl You Left Behind). 


How I acquired this book: Gift from sister last Christmas

Shelf life: 7 months




Swimming to Elba

Swimming to Elba: A Novel - Silvia Avallone

Swimming to Elba is the story of Anna and Francesca, two beautiful teenagers living in Piombino, Italy.  They are lifelong friends growing up in the miserable surroundings of a desolate city with a failing steel mill. It is here where they dream of someday escaping their depressing lives to swim across the sea to Elba.


Both girls live in tiny apartments of a housing project and their environment is rough.  Anna's father is a chronic gambler and rarely makes an appearance at home.  Francesca's father beats her regularly.  The girls have been close their entire lives until Anna takes up with her brother's older friend Mattia and Francesca is jealous.  Francesca then befriends Lisa, a homely classmate most consider an outcast.  While the girls are separated tragic events ensue that they are forced to face without the support of each other.


I found this to be a difficult read because of the dismal and gritty subject matter.  Adolescent girls flaunting their sexuality and pushed into adult situations is stomach-churning for me. This book is not for the faint of heart.


How this book was acquired: Gift from my son last Christmas

Shelf life: 7 months

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

Equal to a typical definition of true Englishman this book is of similar fashion: calm, reserved and dignified. A story of a refined butler Stevens and the house he served in for most of his life named Darlington Hall.


Stevens is all about decorum, orderliness and standards. So much so that personal feelings, opinions and his own life are disconnected if present at all. Told in the first person himself, Stevens reflects on his life and analyzes his past behavior as he reacted to specific situations and how if done differently his life may have played out.


Some may say this was a slow moving book but I think the unhurried pace was necessary and accurate in authentic English style as each layer of the character was unravelled for us to see. Brilliantly written and absorbing.


This is book #3 in my Classics Club Book Challenge. Classics Club Page


How this book was acquired: Purchased from

The Orchardist

The Orchardist - Amanda Coplin

This debut novel from Amanda Chopin takes place at the turn of the century in the early 1900's in rural Washington state. A lone orchard farmer named Talmadge whose lived an isolated life after his sister mysteriously disappeared some years ago. He is a quiet, committed, hard worker devoting his life to his orchard.


One day two runaway sisters arrive and steal the fruit off Talmadge's trees and when he doesn't object they hesitantly begin to trust him. Once he has earned their trust he discovers they are both pregnant and they cannot go back to their previous home. This slowly begins their relationship as they decide to stay with him. The neighbor medicine woman, Talmadge's friend Caroline delivers the babies. While one baby dies in birth the other sister dies in childbirth leaving Della and her niece Angelene.


Della has a restless spirit and sets out on her own first wrangling horses and then whatever else she can find to occupy herself to keep from returning home. Eventually Talmadge sets out  to find her thinking she should be home caring for her niece. Angelene is the opposite of her aunt and is serenely grounded and very similar to Talmadge, the man who has raised her. 


While this story was mostly peacefully reflective it completely lured me to the end. This book came highly recommended and I am of the same opinion.


How this book was acquired: Bought brand new from Barnes & Noble on Aunt Erika's recommendation.

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife - Paula McLain

I've always thought to live a life like Ernest Hemingway would be a dream. Living a life full of adventure with a carefree attitude, writing a book about it and having it published would be quite like heaven. In A Paris Wife, a fictional account of Hemingway's  first wife Hadley Richardson we learn that his life was not always blissful.


In 1920 Hadley Richardson is 28 years old and she is close to giving up on love. Enter young Ernest Hemingway who proceeds to sweep her off her feet. After a whirlwind courtship they marry and set sail for Paris.


Once they set up residence in Paris and settled into their new life they met all the great names, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald and as such defined as the Lost Generation. It's the Jazz Age and there is no better time to be in Paris. Although deeply in love, parties and drinking is the mainstay of their lives. In the midst of all this distraction Hemingway struggles to write and get published and will do anything to achieve this goal. Hadley is the traditional wife living then a very modern and untraditional kind of life.  She is supportive and understanding to the extreme while Hemingway, self-absorbed and callous is her opposite.


This was a very different kind of romance, while the kind of life the Hemingway's lived might be unattainable to most it had very real elements which successfully allures one into their story.


How this book was acquired: Bought for my mother-in-law as a personal shopper for my father-in-law. Loaned to me by my mother-in-law.

The Little Friend

The Little Friend - Donna Tartt

I was beginning to think I'd never see the end of this book. This is the third book I've read by Donna Tartt and I'm sad to say it's my least favorite. Definitely not up to par with The Secret History and The Goldfinch both of which I thought were excellent. 


This story takes place in Mississippi in the 70's a decade after Harriet's older brother Robin was found hanged in their yard. His death remains an unexplained mystery for the family as well as the small town where they live. Although only twelve years old Harriet realizes the impact her brother's death has had on her family. Raised predominantly by her grandmother, Harriet and her sister know their mother has not been well since that eventful day. Their father no longer lives at home but lives near his work in Nashville and only shows up on the rare occasion. 


Frustrated and consumed by unanswered questions, Harriet sets out to find her brother's killer and punish him. Enlisting her friend Hely they pursue the man she thinks killed her brother and in doing so risk their own lives repeatedly. 


I enjoyed the sections about Harriet and her family but not so much the parallel story of "the killer" and his family. I grew weary of the ceaseless chronicles of their unfortunate lives. It felt like it was just a lot of the same repeating itself and thus the pages never seem to end.


 How this book was acquired: Purchased from whilst reading The Goldfinch. I wanted EVERYTHING by this author.

Dewey's Read-A-Thon Wrap-up




Yesterday I participated in the annual Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon. This is my second time participating.  It was such 
a fun day between the tweeting and the fabulous cheering section I know I'll be back for more fun next year.

My apologies for not truly following the read-a-thon format but I just kinda wanan knock this out.

i read a total of three books which I was hoping to get through four but there is is always next year. I did feel like this year I was
able to devote more of the day to just reading whereas last year I had a baby shower to attend. I did take time to eat 3 meals with my
family since my very supportive husband did all the cooking yesterday. I also showered and took an hour's nap which still didn't help
me last past 10:30 p.m. when I decided to call it a night.

The books I read as follows:

Books, Baguettes, & Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer, 260 pages


Up up at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham, 209 pages



The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister, 255 pages


Unfortunately I think I read the best book of the three first which probably had been best if I read it last. I had some difficulty keeping a steady pace because it was too fun reading the updates on Twitter. Next year I need to make a point of distancing myself from distractions a bit better. Thank you to Andi @ and Heather @ for hosting and organizing. Superb job ladies!


Currently reading

The Widow of the South
Robert Hicks