Reading Roundup…Q4 2016

So, the lack of book posts during the last part of 2016 does not mean that there wasn’t reading happening – in fact, there was plenty of reading happening. Since my last book update, there were 14 flight segments and some vacation time in the midst of work to finish out the year – all of which meant reading time. Before 2017 gets too far underway, a quick check-in on what books filled my time as 2016 ran towards completion.

  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein was a fun young audience read that requires the characters to call upon children’s books and games to solve clues to win the great prize as a new library is being opened in town.
  • Books 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 in the James Rollins Sigma Force series – I’m enjoying this series…but to continue reading I will need to switch to picking up the actual book from the library for at least number 8. Really? Why aren’t full series available in the same format?
  • A return to Three Pines in A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny was a good way to pass the time and I continue to work my way through the series as books are available via Overdrive. This is a series where I tend to agree with the buzz in the blogsphere – there’s substance and not just hype.
  • I picked up Hillbilly Elegy: A Memory of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance in October and read it just before the election. It was one of my favorite reads of the year.
  • The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett was a fun combination of a modern day mystery about the provenance of Shakespearean works and flashbacks to what happened in the days of Shakespeare.
  • A modern day retelling of Sense & Sensibility by Joanne Trollope that had sat on my nightstand for far too long was finally finished. I first learned of this book in 2014 when I met up with a book club friend for dinner while I was in London for work – this series of modern day best selling authors taking on the Jane stories in The Austen Project is something I will continue to read along the way. I do wonder if this would be better just as a modern movie remake.
  • The Mackinac Incident was a “deal buy” – a so-so thriller about a terrorist plot to blow up the Mackinac bridge and an unlikely hero trying to thwart the attack; but I picked it up because it was set in the Michigan Upper Peninsula and I enjoyed the descriptions of the area in the story.
  • The Secret to Hummingbird Cake was a nice read focused on 3 friends in a small southern town and how life may not turn out as you plan but friends and cake can help the journey.
  • Hamilton: The Revolution was a good audio read and continued my appreciation of the Hamilton musical phenom.
  • Christmas on Jane Street: A True Story was a quick read to start the Christmas season. When I lived in Chicago, there were several years when I bought my tree from a corner lot similar to the one this author runs in NYC – it was fun to hear about life on the lot.
  • Meet Me at the Cupcake Café was a sweet story by Jenny Colgan – in a similar vein to her Little Street Bakery. The seasonally appropriate sequel Christmas at the Cupcake Café wasn’t quite as flavorful.
  • Letters from Santa was a free novella set in the cold war that was a cute read in the days leading up to Christmas.
  • In the days right after Christmas I finished my first “under the tree” read – The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Turner. As a cat family, Artisan Dad picked it out as a book for us all. In 9 chapters, it was a clever and fact filled read about cats and so much more. An engaging read and along the way there were quite a few tidbits to file away for trivia.

As 2016 reading came to a close, the Goodreads “your year in books” was a fun snapshot of my reading. I had set a challenge to read 44 books during the year and ended with 63 books complete. Of course, who knew that I would end up with so much travel time this year providing so much prime reading time. This is a fun snapshot of my 2016 in reading:

As I turn the page on the 2016 reading, a few observations: it was a year of several series and they will continue into 2017 as they are available via Overdrive; I need to continue to do a better job of balancing fiction with non-fiction as I read; once again, there were several “must read” books that I finally read in 2016 where I definitely felt like the hype wasn’t there for me.

What are you reading these days?
What are your reading goals for 2017? 

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy for QuickLit.

Recently Read…the Summer & September List 

As fall is in full swing, it is time for a long overdue reading roundup. By Labor Day I reached my summer reading goal – 12 books. Between work travel on planes & a book filled September, I’ve now surpassed my reading challenge for 2016 – of course that doesn’t mean that my reading comes to a halt. Here, some brief reviews of the pages that filled my July and August and September reading moments.

Reading in Transit

July Reads
  • Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – A summer read that has generated a lot of buzz and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. While I’ve seen a lot of comments about not reading this while flying, most of this was read on a plane for me.
  • The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr – A good narrative non-fiction that focuses on the journey to discover a long lost Caravaggio – The Taking of Christ. From dusty archives in a family compound in Italy to an art restorer in Ireland, a fascinating tale is told as clues come together to reveal the painting.
  • Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough – From under the Christmas tree. A fantastic look into the family life that shaped a young Teddy Roosevelt.
  • The 14th Colony by Steve Berry – The latest from a favorite action/thriller series. The premise this time involves a flaw in the Constitution and presidential succession act, an upcoming Inauguration Day, a Cold War era weapon and ex-KGB agents.
  • Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – One that had been on my to read list for a while – I finally snapped it up – a fast & quirky read.
  • In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume – Just meh.
August Reads
  • Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan – The second in a sweet series that chronicles a remote beach town in Wales through the life of a young baker.
  • Still Life by Louise Penny – Finally starting into this mystery series that seems to be mentioned a lot. I enjoyed the story and the characters being developed – I’m next in line for book 2 on my library Overdrive – I look forward to working through this series as they are available for checkout.
  • The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald – Just meh. Another in the genre of stories that use a litany of books to help the cast of characters navigate through life.
September Reads
  • When Breathe Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi – Wow! From the first I read of this in The NY Times I was looking forward to reading this one. I waited through a long library overdrive list for this. It was a quick read for me – it grabbed me from the beginning and by the time I read his widows afterward the Kleenex were at hand.
  • I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh – I’m wary of the “for fans of Gone Girl or Girl on a Train” tag for books – but the synopsis of this overrode the tag for me. And from the beginning this story drew me in. On a rainy street, a young boy is hit and killed by a speeding car that flees the scene. The story of who did it unfolds through the stories of several involved in the incident and the police who won’t let the case go.
  • The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by LeVar Burton – a children’s Kindle freebie on 9/11, this is a short & clever story with a cast of animal characters to help children navigate through when bad things happen to see that there are plenty of people who care.
  • Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart – A fun tale (based on history) of a women in New Jersey that doesn’t fit the expected mold for who and how she should be in the early 1900s – a horse & buggy vs. car mashup in town leads her on an adventure as she seeks restitution for the damage to the family buggy. Before long she is roped into unofficial detective work by the local sheriff. This is turning into a series and I look forward to continuing the read.
  • Books 1 & 2 in the Sigma Force series by James Rollins: Sandstorm and Map of Bones -A new to me series in the action thriller genre that I enjoy. This time, the main characters are members of a covert team within the U.S. Defense Department – former special forces with advances studies and knowledge across a breadth of scientific topics. The stories involve international locals, history and science blended with myth to deliver the fast paced “can the world be saved” stories that remind me of the adventures found in the Cotton Malone, Dirk Pitt and Robert Langdon series.
  • Books 1 & 2 of the Her Royal Spyness series by Rhys Bowen: Her Royal Spyness and A Royal Pain – Pure fluff wrapped in an amateur detective who is the 34th in line to the crown (a penniless cousin of King George V) who stumbles into mysteries as she tries to make it on her own in 1930s London. I think I’ll work my way through this series via Overdrive when I need a quick and non-taxing read.

What are you reading these days?

Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for the monthly QuickLit roundup.

Recently Read…the June List

As the summer continues to roll along, I continue to seek out reading time – when and where I can. My summer reading goal is 15 books over the 3 months…as June turned to July, I managed to complete 5 books…so, will I be able to meet the goal? These are the pages that filled my June reading moments.

Slower Reading

  • The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichart – A quick & delightful read set in Milwaukee; appropriately, it was a plane read whilst on a trip to Milwaukee; reading this story set in Milwaukee & its restaurant scene has prompted another blog post, stay tuned…”A fog of comforting had perpetually blanketed her kitchen – an expression of her love so strong you could taste it.
  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate – The new story by the author of The One and Only Ivan. This one tells the story of a young boy who’s family has fallen on hard times – as he enters this phase of difficulty, a long lost imaginary friend reappears to help him through it by focusing on family, friends and the resilience within. “Imaginary friends are like books. We’re created, we’re enjoyed, we’re dog-eared and creased, and then we’re tucked away until we’re needed again.
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes – I think I might be one of the last people to read this story & honestly I almost abandoned it.I pushed through it and honestly…it was just meh. A good reminder that just because everyone hypes a book that doesn’t mean it works for everyone.
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – A new, sweeping WWII drama focused around 3 young Brits and their search for belonging in the midst of the chaos of war. An engaging story that brings you in and keeps you through to the very last page. “Grief was contagious, and Mary would no more speak of her own than she would cough, in a crowded train carriage, without putting her hand to her mouth.
  • Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson – Actually, my first Bryson read, I started this when Rebecca & I “sat in salt” in May. It was a fun trek through Europe and I especially enjoyed his descriptions of places that I have traveled. In Rome: “St. Peter’s is a marvel, so vast and beautiful and cool and filled with treasures and airy heights and pale beams of heavenly light that you don’t know where to place your gaze.

So far, my July reading pace is a bit slower but I’m currently enjoying a Teddy Roosevelt bio “in my hands” at home & have some fun reads on the kindle as I’m on the road.

What are you reading these days?

Connecting with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for the monthly QuickLit round-up.

Recently Read…April & May

Since I last shared a reading round-up, I have had several work trips (& associated airplane time) and other opportunities to just sit and read.

Plane Reading

Looking at Goodreads, these are the books that I read throughout April & May.

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – A wonderful WWII story that deserves the accolades it has received. A richly woven tale that had me longing for an evening with my Chicago book club to discuss the story and life in the way that this sort of story would spark.
  • The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim – After wanting to read this for so long, it was a good April read this spring. Filled with wit and charm and the lush Italian countryside, I greatly enjoyed this tale.
  • The Travelers by Chris Pavone – The latest thriller from this author – a so-so read for me. I think I need to realize that this author isn’t one I need to prioritize in my unending list of books to read.
  • The One in a Million Boy by Monica Wood – A new release getting a lot of buzz. A thoughtful story of “those left behind” when a young boy suddenly dies – his absent father, his struggling mother, the elderly lady whose yard he was working in for a series of Saturdays.
  • Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung – Indeed, a short and quick read on the busyness that consumes us all. It paired well with the next read from the Kindle…
  • The Sound of Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey – An interesting reflection on nature, sparked by the authors confinement to bed with a health issue and the world she discovered when a friend brought her a wild violet plant which housed a common woodland snail. As the snail explores her confined room, she becomes wrapped up in the observation of the snail and his world. This book is a tale of resilience & survival wrapped up in a treaty on the common snail that we all have seen (& probably ignored) many a time.
  • Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home by Charles Martin – Another good Martin story of self discovery and family secrets and redemption set in a vibrantly described Southern landscape.
  • The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society by Darien Gee – A cute story in the vein of The Friday Night Knitting Club set in small town Illinois. Scrap booking is “the thing” that anchors these stories of women. In a similar vein to “The Friday Night Knitting Club,” it was a charming escape into the world of these women. My scrap booking activity is non existent these days & the book had me fondly remembering scrapbook times with friends in Chicago.
  • Blindsighted by Karin Slaughter – A crime thriller set in a small Georgia town where the coroner is also the local pediatrician. It was an ok read – nothing compelling enough to make me seek out the rest of this series.
  • Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave – A quick chick-lit of a young woman on the verge of a wedding and moving halfway around the world who flees home to the family winery when she discovers her fiances “betrayal.” Once home, her world continues to be turned upside down by her parents and their decision to sell the winery after the harvest. It read like a movie – a fluffy diversion.

So far, June has yielded 4 complete reads & 1 should be finished this evening. As the summer reading season kicks into gear, I’ve challenged myself to read 15 books – and I want to focus on books I already have on my shelves, including several “heftier” reads.

Linking up with QuickLit hosted by Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

What are you reading these days? 

Recently Read…April 2016

As 2016 more than a quarter complete and work has recently been busy at a whole new level, I’m still finding reading moments and as I look at my Goodreads 2016 challenge it is nice to see that I’m continuing to remain on track towards completing 48 books this year. These are the books that have recently moved from “currently reading” to “read” in my long, long reading list.

In flight reading
In flight reading

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure -The story of an architect in Paris in WWII who, in an effort to survive when work isn’t coming in takes on a risky job of building an undetectable hiding spot for Jews in an apartment because of the promise of bigger projects tied to the Nazi war machine. As he continues to take on hiding projects and more and bigger war projects he finds it more and more difficult to separate his personal view on the world around him from the work and it becomes increasingly personal in ways that he could never imagine.

Temple Mount by Keith Raffel – A thriller that combines a splintered family history with religious history and geo-political implications. While not quite as engaging as the Cotton Malone series that has been a recent favorite, this still was worth the time.

Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry – A Kindle deal that I picked up after seeing a blog friend rave about his work. This is his story of a year in his life told through the restoration of his beloved old pickup truck. With all the time I’ve spent in Wisconsin, some of his descriptions of life there through the seasons really seemed familiar and brought many a chuckle or smile. I think I’ll read more of his work. Among my highlights from this: “I think it is not insignificant to be present the moment a child discovers that a word—and therefore the world—has more than one meaning.

The Word in the Wilderness by Malcolm Guite – This was my daily reading during the Lenten season leading up to Easter. It was an enjoyable daily moment to read a poem and insightful commentary to prepare for Easter. I think I will return to this each Lenten season.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – When this book was released last year it was surrounded by a lot of buzz and comparisons to “Gone Girl” – as I was traveling I saw lots of people reading it on the plane & was hearing good things from reading friends. I got on the waiting list for the e-version at the library and after months when my number came up, I wasn’t able to find the time to read it before it was returned & so back on the list I went. In March my renewal became active again & carved out the time to read it. In the end, I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads: “Meh. Maybe it was a case of not living up to the hype – I contemplated not finishing it. Some of the back & forth timeline of characters telling the story seemed reminiscent of “The Expats.” At time it felt like it was trying too hard.

The Accident by Chris Pavone – Speaking of The Expats author, I recently finished his second book. A fast read – it was so-so – I figured out “the twist” way early in the story.

On the work front, I’m starting on a new project that looks like it could involve a fair amount of travel in the weeks and months ahead. I plan to maximize moments in transit for reading.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy‘s monthly QuickLit round-up.

What are you reading these days?