Wednesday, December 09, 2009

a book report, just in time for your Christmas list

Did I tell you that Mike and I finished Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving this year? It was the best thing we've done in a long time. Also, it's really cold here in Arizona. Well, as cold as it gets, anyway. I am happy to report that we have yet to use our heater. After months and months of unbearable heat, I just can't bring myself to pump hot air into the house on purpose. Instead, I've been enjoying some good books on the couch snuggled under a blanket. Here they are, in no particular order:

The Forgotten Garden. This book reads like a mystery. It is the story of a woman who is searching for her grandmother's unknown past. It goes between Australia and England, the turn of the 1900s to nearly present day. It was unexpected and enjoyable.

Peace Like a River. This one reminds me of the kind of book you have to read in High School, but that doesn't mean I didn't like it. It is narrated by an 11 year old boy, who, along with his miracle-working dad and tough younger sister, is searching for his older brother who is on the run from the law. I didn't think the story was particularly appealing, but it is told so well.

Rebecca. This book was first published in 1938, and was later made into an Alfred Hitchcock film, if that gives you any indication of what kind of story it is. It is kind of creepy, kind of sad, but very well written and interesting. The young, inexperienced, and new Mrs. DeWinter comes to live at Manderley, her husband's huge estate. The impressive house is still under the shadow of the previous Mrs. DeWinter, who met a rather tragic end. I found myself rooting for the new Mrs. DeWinter (her first name is never mentioned) and hoping for a happy ending. I've never seen the movie, but I certainly enjoyed the book.

Stealing Athena. While a work of fiction, this book is based on the exploits of Lord Elgin, a British Earl who took vast amounts of Greek sculpture and art from sites like the Parthenon and transported them to England at the turn of the 19th century, as told by his young wife. It also jumps back to the time of Pericles, the man behind the building of the Parthenon. I wish I had read it before I went to Greece or saw the works mentioned in the book in the British Museum in London. It doesn't have the happiest ending, but I believe it stays true to the historical facts.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. This was by far my favorite of the bunch. You must read this book. It was wonderful. Written as a series of letters between the main character, an author named Juliet, and her friends, publisher, and members of a literary society on Guernsey, it tells the story of the German Occupation on the island during WWII. It was touching and sweet and funny and sad and happy all at the same time. Also, it made me want to jump on a plane to Guernsey immediately.

. Before I read the books pictured above, I labored over the Outlander series (7 books, in all). Let me tell you, it was an accomplishment. Those books are long. I should have stopped after the first two (Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber). They were by far the best. The rest were rather mediocre and sort of ridiculous, but I had to see the story to the end (even though I am sure Diana Gabaldon has a few more books up her sleeve, and I am sure I will feel compelled to read those as well, darnit). The series starts in England in the 1940s. The main character, Claire, finds herself tumbling back in time almost 200 years, where she must make a new life for herself. The first two books are intense-- like I had to take a mid-paragraph break and walk around the living room for a minute on a few occasions, and they aren't for the faint of heart. There is quite a bit of romance (i.e. sex), some violence, and a little bit of gore. But if you want a page turner, the first two books in the series are for you.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?


  1. The movie based on Rebecca is very good as well.

    Also our book club wants to have a girls' trip to Gurnsey now.

    I've heard Outlander is good but was worried because of the sex. Is it PG-13 or R? (Not that there's much of a difference anymore.)

  2. Thanks! The only one I've ever read from your list is Rebecca and I adored it. I will have to get a few of these for Christmas vacation. Last book I read: "A Fortunate Life" by A B Facey. I think you would like incredible story, well told.

  3. Through one blog, I found another one, and then I found yours and am so glad I did! I've read Guernsey--and loved it! Read Peace Like a River and enjoyed it (you are right, it reminds me of high school) and will be starting Forgotten Garden as soon as my sister is done reading it.

    I'll take you up on the other suggestions!

  4. i have read 4 of the 5 (and 2 outlanders) as you know. peace like a river and guernsey are must reads in my book! in my book, haha. :)

    we read all the same books, so i can't think of one i've read that you haven't off the top of my head. ask me again in a couple of weeks when i unpack my books into my new, on back order, bookshelves!

  5. Thanks for the book reviews. I love to read--but with 5 boys I don't have a lot of time to read--so it has to be worth it! My sisters loved the Outlander series, but warned me about the "romance". I loved Rebecca and the Guernesey book is next on my list! Are you a member of Goodreads? I love that site! i also love Swaptree--have you heard of that? The site will match up trades for you(just the cost of shipping)of books you have and want to get rid of, for books you want. It is great! Anyway-thanks for the ideas!

  6. Haven't read any of those but that potato book has been on my to-read list for awhile...just got bumped up. But mostly I'm just obsessed with that picture. It's beautiful...I've never loved a picture of books so much before!

  7. I have read outlander and now I need #2. Maybe I'll take it on Christmas to my inlaws. Goodness knows I need some solace there. This will give them a reason to let me be!

  8. I loved Guernsey too, and I love your recommendations. Last time you recommended books I read almost all of them. Thanks!
    And I also would like to request your recipe for those yummy treats you brought to the piano recital. Holy cow... those were delicious! I didn't find out until after you left that they were your contribution. YUM!

  9. Rebecca is a long time favorite of mine, and the movie is worth seeing...although very creepy in a Hitchcock sort of way! The others I am adding to my book list...My mothers favorite series are the Outlander books...I have only read Dragonfly in Amber, but I loved it. I could do without the sex...but the story is so good! Thanks a million for the suggestions...Based on what you like you should read The Time Traveler's Wife. It was very good...but a little out a good way!

  10. You always write such great book reviews! Thanks.

  11. Oh I loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society! It is in my top 5 favorites.

  12. Thanks for all the good suggestions! I've read some and the rest will make it to my good reads list. Congrats on the new babe & merry christmas!

  13. I remember reading Rebecca when I was in either junior high or high school. The movie is very good as well!

    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society sound wonderful, I've added it to my Amazon wish list to read.

  14. I read Rebecca and the first 2 Outlander books years ago. Loved both...good to know not to continue on with the Outlander series.)

    I have Guernsey out from the library right now!

  15. "Rebecca" is one of my favorite books (along with "Pride & Prejudice" and "Jane Eyre")! I think I have a thing for period romance books . . .

    And I too have read all the "Outlander" books, one right after the other. I'm a quick reader, but it still took me like 4 months to finish them all. Love it, love it, love it!

    I may have to give your other books a try since we seem to have similar taste in reading material! :o)

  16. Guernsey is on my top ten of all time list, right next to Life of Pi.


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