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These are my challenge selections:
And the alternates:
1. Among Schoolchildren - by Tracy Kidder
2012 books read:
(challenge selections will be indicated as "**")
**An Echo In The Bone - by Diana Gabladon...(finished January of 2013) Though I finished this after the end of the year, I'm tacking it on to the tail end of 2012 since it was one of the challenge alternates. (I feel its 800+ pages more than made up for the two selections I gave up on.) I pretty much hated this book, and do not plan to read any other books by this author. Though I thought her first books were quite good, the writing has just gone too far down hill for me.
**The One Year Bible...(finished 12/31/2012) Very proud of myself for reading this through again. Having the entire Bible broken into daily readings makes it manageable for me. This time through, I read it on my Kindle, and I missed being able to underline and scribble in the margins and be able to thumb back over easily to find something. On the other hand, having it on my Kindle made it more portable, as I usually have my Kindle in my purse with me.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey...(finished 12/09/2012) An update of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, moving it into the mid-20th century. It was pretty good. Not as good as the original, but an interesting concept. The catalyst that led to the heroine leaving the hero, seemed very lame in comparison to the original, but I enjoyed the time she spent away and the people she met and befriended. The ending seemed rushed and anticlimactic. I'd hate to see a lot of these blatant makeovers, but I'm glad I gave this one a read.
Splendour Falls by Susanna Kearsley...(finished 11/24/2012) This isn't my favorite by this author. I really liked the setting, and the descriptions thereof. And I can't say why I didn't enjoy it as much as her others. Maybe because it was a departure from her formula.
A Leap of Faith by Irina Shapiro...(finished 11/11/2012) Another time-travel romance which was the sequel to one I read this past summer. It was okay, as escapism goes, but I doubt I will read the next installment.
So Far Away by Meg Mitchell Moore...(finished 11/10/2012) Kind of an odd book about a lonely woman who becomes involved in the life of a lonely child who is the victim of cyber bullying. It wasn't very well written, and it bounced around so much as to make me feel vaguely off balance. I hated the way the author presented the adult main character as much too aged for her stated years. The author must be very young, very shallow, or very immature.
Nothing But Time by Angeline Fortin...(finished 11/08/2012) Time-travel romance time waster. Note to self: skip this author in future...or past or present, for that matter.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker...(finished 11/03/2012) I heard the author interviewed on NPR several months ago, and have wanted to read the book ever since. It is beautifully written. A story about the world suffering an inexplicable slow down, and the effects on the physical world and psyche. It is told from the viewpoint of an eleven-year-old girl, which I thought was really interestingly done. It is definitely not a light (if you've read it, please pardon the pun) read. When I finished, I found myself wanting to call a friend just to talk...after running through my mental list of friends, I realized the one I wanted to talk to is one who died over a decade ago...I cried for the missing of her all over again.
When It Happens To You by Molly Ringwald...(finished 10/26/2012) I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this book of short stories. Each separate, but connected somehow to the others. It is an interesting idea. It has current as well as timeless subjects. And it is beautifully written.
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan...(finished 09/10/2012) I checked this ebook out from my library...love that we can do that now. It was quite good. Futuristic take on The Scarlet Letter. What happens when we run out of room in our prisons? Perhaps we will keep only the most violent locked up...everybody else gets a treatment so that their skin is now a color (temporarily to last the length of sentence) to describe their crime to the public at large, and then turn them loose to cope with suspicion, prejudice, vigilante groups, etc. The main character is 'a red' convicted of murder, because she had an abortion...with extra time added to her sentence for not naming her abortionist or the father of the baby.
Gertruda's Oath by Ram Oren...(finished 09/01/2012) I could not put this one down. I read till 5:00am one morning...of course, I don't think I went to bed till 2:00am, but still. :) True story of a Catholic nanny devoted to the Jewish family she worked for in Poland as Hitler came to power. When the father goes on a business trip and is barred from reentering the country, his wife, child and nanny must evacuate on their own. I loved the photos of the actual subjects which the author included.
**Ladies With Options by Cynthia Hartwick... (finished 08/25/2012) Light entertainment. Sometimes the humor seemed to be a little heavy handed, but it was still a fun read.
Precious Bones by Irina Shapiro...(finished 08/19/2012) This one was somewhat better than the other one I read by this author. Not great, but better. Sixteenth century skeletal remains are found inside the walls of an old house. When the story hits the news, a viewer is overcome with the sense that she knows whose they were and how they got there.
All My Love, Samples Later by Craig Vetter...(finished 08/18/2012) This was an amazing book, based on the WWII letters of the author's parents. Right from the beginning, the reader knows that the author's father never made it home...that he is sharing the journey of acquainting himself with the father he never knew. Another reminder of the importance of the handwritten letter...an art form that we are rapidly turning our back on.
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson...(finished 08/16/2012) It was okay...not what I expected...but okay. Widower returns to England. His success as a composer allows him to purchase a large, old estate. After moving in, the new owner finds out that a previous owner was hanged for poisoning her husband, and he becomes somewhat obsessed with finding out the details of the incident and about the people involved.
Through the Door (The Thin Veil) by Jodi McIsaac...(finished 08/10/2012) I'm not into the mythological fantasy genre, so I didn't love it. But it was well written and interesting. A single mother's child begins exhibiting supernatural talents. Mother tracks down family of the child's father hoping to figure out what might be going on. Then child disappears. Father, who never knew of the child's existense, re-enters the picture to help rescue child.
**An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor...(finished 07/28/2012) I really liked this one. Reminds me a lot of James Herriot's work. Very relaxing escapism. Likable characters. Will definitely read more of his work.
The Hands of Time by Irina Shapiro...(finished 07/25/2012) The author chose to take some artistic license with dates and facts, which I guess is a little picky to complain about when you're reading something like time travel. But still, it's easier to get into the fantasy of possibility when there are no glaring discrepancies. It was also a little implicit on...ahem...certain acts, and too lite on character development for my liking. But its premise of accidentally travelling back in time, and finding a way to get a clue to a loved one in present day was interesting, and I'm looking forward to the yet-to-be-published sequel to see what action the present-day loved one takes.
The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale...(finished 07/21/2012) Interesting, but very dry. At times it seemed to be a recounting of facts. It did give a pretty clear picture of Victorian England...from the new 'science' of criminal detection, to the new art of the mystery novel, the annual salaries of the middle class, and the household process of sending the laundry out.
Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith...(finished 07/13/2012) Bought this one purely because I liked the cover art and the idea that a cute little terrier was a main character. It was the light entertainment I was looking for...not great, but I enjoyed it. An easy read...I didn't have to invest too much thought or emotion.
War Brides by Helen Bryan...(finished 06/26/2012) I opted for an early Kindle version that turned out to have a lot of editing errors. But the story was quite good, and I was able to glance over the errors. Some of the coincidences were a bit harder to overlook. But the descriptions of digging victims out of bombed buildings, sharing rationing coupons, mending and revamping clothing, the difficulties of billeting with incompatible housemates, and other details of the hardships rang so true. Really interesting look into WWII England. Wow. I've grown a little tired of the fad version of the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' posters that are everywhere, but I think I may never look at them the same way again.
Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland...(finished 06/15/2012) The story is about the women who worked for the Tiffany Studio making stained glass panels, windows, and lamps. Based on the actual letters of Clara Driscoll who was the head of the department. Well written and researched. Great feel for the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the twentieth century in New York City.
The Good Sisters by Joyce Maynard...(finished 05/13/2012) I really liked this one. The story is told...from the viewpoints of two girls who were switched-at-birth...in alternating chapters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, and yes there are a lot of coincidences, but it was well written, and just a good read.
The Postmistress by Sara Blake...(finished 5/8/2012) I liked this story and the writing. The description of life during the London Blitz and of the journalist's interaction with Jewish refugees were gripping. But after I finished the book, I found myself dissatisfied with how the ending just left the characters hanging. And I feel a little strung along, because in the beginning of the book the implication is that the postmistress didn't deliver a letter...but as best as I can make out, the only non-delivery of a letter was by the person making that implication.
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman...(finished 05/04/2012) This is really beautifully written. Set in 70 CE in Judaea...the Romans were attacking and destroying towns, sending those who survived searching for refuge. This is the story of the rebels and those who found their way to the Masada. The story is told in four parts...each in the voice of one of the Masada's dovekeepers. I do love a book that can teach me and entertain me at the same time.
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka...(finished 04/28/2012) I loved this book. It was very different in that it was all told in third person plural, which I thought was really well done. It begins when a group of 'picture brides' leave Japan to come to America to meet the husbands who sent for them. By telling it in the third person plural, it follows the entire group with an occasional individual quote set apart only in italics not quotations. Somehow it is very broad and yet very intimate at the same time. Now I want to read her first novel When the Emporer Was Divine.
Out of Time by Deborah Truscott...(finished 4/23/2012) While preparing to sell an inherited house, a woman has an unexpected visitor from the eighteenth century. Started out a little weak, but I was hooked into it very soon. It is a Kindle only book, and it had some pretty glaring editing errors, but they didn't distract from the story for me, and I thought the story was very good...a bit different from other time travel books I've read. The end seemed a little hurried, but okay. It made a VERY long car ride go by very quickly!
Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich...(finished 4/21/2012) Jewish midwife from sixteenth-century Venice ghetto delivers Christian baby of a countess miraculously saving baby and mother. Grateful count pays her enough to ransom her kidnapped and enslaved husband. This was another one that was just merely okay.
Game of Secrets by Dawn Tripp...(finished 4/16/2012) I like good poetry, and I like good mysteries. Apparently I do not like them combined. I think the author is very talented, and yet I was somewhat bored by a cast of characters that could never just come out and say what they mean.
**The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver...(finished 4/11/2012) I found this one really difficult. Each chapter was told in the voice of one of the daughters, and occasionally by the mother. I can understand why the author chose to do that, but I didn't think she did it very well. It was really, REALLY wordy, and it took me a long time to be interested enough to want to know how things turned out for them. The author was somewhat preachy politically...I'm not saying she was wrong, I just didn't particularly like her methods. Basically, I didn't much care for the book.
**Firebird by Janice Graham...(finished 3/31/2012) Mixed feelings on this one. I read the majority of it in one day, so I can't say it wasn't interesting, but it was pretty far fetched. For over half of the book I figured it would take a miracle to redeem most of the characters, and I was right...though it wasn't very satisfying.
Poison by Sara Poole...(finished 3/27/2012) I hated this book. I didn't like any of the characters, and I thought the writing was poor. Set in the Renaissance in the Borgia household, it could have been very interesting...but it wasn't. I struggled through to the end, but I shouldn't have.
Runner by Thomas Perry...(finished 3/7/2012) I love the books in Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield series. Jane is a strong and intelligent Native American woman who helps people 'disappear.' This one was really interesting since there was a rather long break since the last book, and with the rapid progress that digital tracking the world has seen, Jane has had to adapt her methods. Makes me want to start at the beginning and read the whole series again!
**Almost There by Nuala O'Faolain...(finished 3/2/2012) The memoir of an Irish woman in her late 50s / early 60s. She reflects and examines her life thus far as a single, childless, writer. I found it painfully honest, and I couldn't decide if writing that honestly for publication proved that she was exceptionally brave or foolish. The open ending seemed filled with possibilities for old and new bonds and healing. Then I Googled her and found that she died just five years after this book was published. I hope they were happy years.
**Mariana by Susanna Kearsley...(finished 2/23/2012) Illustrator comes into an inheritance and spends it on a house that she feels an attraction to. Fun read, but not as good as Kearsley's The Winter Sea and The Rose Garden.
**Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo...(finished 2/18/2012) Road trip turns spiritual journey. I loved this one. It took me awhile to get into it, but I think that was because I had a lot of other things on my plate and not much time to read. Once I had a quiet afternoon, I couldn't put it down, and finished it all in one sitting.
Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon...(finished 2/7/2012) Light romance. Forty-year-old single woman leaves old life behind in the city and starts over in a small town dog shelter left to her by an aunt. Kind of formulaic, but I needed an easy read, and I enjoyed it.
**Snow Mountain Passage by James D. Houston...(finished 1/31/2012) Interesting history of early California and the overland movement of settlers to the western United States. Rather dry.
Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan...(finished 1/18/2012) First book in a trilogy about childhood sweethearts in early 20th century rural Ireland. They eventually marry, and immediately have to deal with family conflict, political conflict, serious injury, and poverty. Ellie immigrates to the US to earn money to send home and grows to love the modernity and opportunities. The themes of obligation, temptation, and ambition were very well presented. Looking forward to the second book in the trilogy City of Hope.
**Sarah by Marek Halter...(finished 1/12/2012) Novel based on biblical Abraham and Sarah. Interesting read. Very imaginative fleshing out of the limited information in Scripture.
The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna...(finished 1/8/2012) I was expecting a story of two people who met through a Lonely Hearts newspaper ad, but it was much more. There were flashbacks on severe abuse in an orphanage, but there were also parts that brought uncontainable laughs. And though the ending isn't what I expected either, it was absolutely right for the characters.