Amy Artisan

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Category: QuickLit (page 1 of 3)

Quicklit: 3 May Fiction Reads

Since May was such a prolific reading month, I’ve split the reading lists across a couple of posts. For this edition of QuickLit, I’m highlighting three fiction finds that made for enjoyable May reading.

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library by Sue Halpern – I picked this up while browsing the new releases at the local library. This is a quiet and character driven story set in a Carnegie Library in a small New Hampshire town that is sputtering along in spite of local manufacturing drying up. Over the course of a summer, a librarian fleeing her past, a home-schooled teen girl forced to work in the library when caught stealing a dictionary and a former wall street banker are drawn together as they each are recovering from their own trauma and looking for new life and opportunity. I’ll admit that the first chapter had me wondering if I was going to continue reading because it didn’t seem to be tied to the book jacket description – but continuing on revealed a worthwhile read.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon – It’s safe to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed each book by this author. She has a great way with taking historical stories and creating an engaging and complete fictional tale around the facts. In this new release, the heart of the story is how Anna Anderson spent 50 years battling to be recognized as the Russian Grand Duchess, Anastasia Romanov. This well crafted story was told in a most unique format – chapters from Anastasia (pre-Romanov execution) are told in 1st person chronological order and chapters from Anna are told in 3rd person reverse chronology. Well worth the time to dive into this Romanov read.

Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict – An engaging story of a young Irish woman who assumes a different identity enroute to the US and end up being placed as the lady’s maid for Andrew Carnegie’s mother. As Clara navigates learning the ways of being a lady’s maid she realizes that Mrs. Carnegie is still figuring out her place in society as the family has ascended from working class into the upper echelons of Pittsburgh society. Clara and Andrew form a forbidden friendship over a shared love of books and reading – as their relationship turns into more, Clara vanishes. As Andrew Carnegie hunts for her, the foundations for his charitable legacy & Carnegie Libraries are being established in his thinking and planning. An engaging “what if” story set against a well know figure of American industry whose philanthropy continues to this day.

What are you reading these days?

More May reading is found in my “Show Us Your Books” post and these 3 food reads.

Linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy’s QuickLit. Also, joining in with Three on Thursday, hosted by Carole.

Recently Read…catching up on 2018

A long overdue reading update…according to Goodreads I’ve been running behind schedule on my 2018 reading goals  – but there are still plenty of days in the year & I’m confident that I’ll reach my goal before the end of the year. Evidently I haven’t shared any reads in this “new” year. Looking over the first quarter of this year, these are the highlights of my bookshelf:

  • The Great Halifax Explosion by John U. Bacon –  I first heard about this last fall on NPR while driving to work one morning. This falls into my excellent narrative nonfiction bucket – I learned so much while reading this – both about the history/evolution of Halifax and then the improbable events that brought about the epic explosion in the harbor in 1917 & the disaster relief & rebuilding. So many things that I had never heard about before.
  • Doc by Mary Doria Russell – A “what if…” story about Doc Holiday that shows how the friendship with Wyatt Earp came to be. This was a fun read – the Holiday House in the Ville is tied to Doc’s family and there were some local Georgia references in his childhood story.
  • Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon – A “what if…” story about the final voyage of the Hindenburg dirigible – imagining storylines of the passengers and crew on that trip that came together to the moment that the blimp exploded as it was preparing to land in New Jersey.
  • The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone –  The fascinating story of Elizebeth Friedman – who was instrumental in developing the cryptology field in the US with her husband – and a woman whose code-breaking work largely went unrecognized for decades. Another well written narrative nonfiction – filled with so many details about the works she did and the lasting impacts that work has on the country.
  • The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine – A fast paced read that tells the story of a woman coveting a wealthy wife/mother and the scheme that she undertakes to move into that woman’s life…and of course there are some secrets that could ruin the plan. A popcorn read that has been getting a lot of social media play – but worth a read.
  • The Café by the Sea by Jenny Colgan –  I find that Jenny Colgan books are a “go to” for me when I want fun reads that are just a bit light but not too fluffy. A far northern Scottish isle is the setting for this story about a woman who is forced to return home to this isolated island to help her law firm’s big American client. Along the way, she takes stock of her life and why she left and how she can help the locals find a solution for the American client seeming to take over the island. A cute story and I’ll look to read the next story in the series once it is available.
  • The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen – A “back and forth” story set in WWII Italy and England/Italy in the 1970s. A woman chooses to go to Italy to track down the story of her father’s time there when his plane was shot down during the war. A good story by the author of last year’s WWII tale, In Farleigh Field.

My reading game is strong in April and there will be plenty of reads to share next month. What are you reading these days? 


Linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy for Quick Lit and Show Us Your Books hosted by Stephanie & Jana.

A Year in Books…2017

Somehow 2017 escaped from me without spending time here on the blog recounting my reads. A lot of my reading occurred while on the road (or more accurately in the air) – I was blazing through books until August – and well, everything has been different since then – including reading. I set a goal of 60 books for the Goodreads Reading Challenge and I just barely managed to reach the goal before the calendar switched to 2018. The stats that Goodreads provides are always fun to look at.

(After these screen grabs, some highlights from the year.)

Looking through the eclectic assortment of reads, there are some themes and some definite highlights.

  • Thoughtful police detectives are a good read- I continue making my way through the Inspector Gamanche series set in Quebec (books 3/4/5/6/7/8 this year). Additionally, I started into the Commissario Brunetti series set in Venice and my first visit with Bruno, Chief of Police in a small French town has me wanting more visits. These series are all library loan reads – I need to get my queue setup to keep moving through them in the new year.
  • finally started into the Anne of Green Gables series ahead of our road trip to Prince Edward Island – these reads will continue, for sure.
  • I continue to work through a couple of fun “thriller/history/elite agencies/fate of the world in the balance” series by Steve Berry (Cotton Malone) and James Rollins (Sigma Force)
  • Charles Martin books always seem to be read at just the right time for me – this year, I enjoyed 2 more from his collection: Long Way Gone and Thunder and Rain.
  • Becoming Bonnie was a fun debut novel from a colleague’s wife. This take of Bonnie before she became “Bonnie & Clyde” is a nice addition to the “fiction inspired by real women of the early 20th” genre – together with The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhorn and Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.
  • I enjoyed several memoirs throughout the year.
  • The Secret Wife was a sweeping fiction read that came highly recommended by my best friend. I was immediately pulled into the stories from the last days of the Romanovs connected to a modern day women in transition.
  • While I haven’t read many short story collections to date, I enjoyed the Uncommon Type collection by Tom Hanks and want to read more collections in the new year.
  • During the Christmas season, I seek out fun and sweet Christmas stories. In 2017 I enjoyed several, including: A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg; Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan and Dear Santa: Children’s Christmas Letters and Wishes, 1870-1920. A couple more Christmas stories were picked up via Kindle deals and filed away for next Christmas,
  • My under the tree fiction gifts were just right! The last week home in the Ville was filled with lots of reading time for all of us and my varied fiction stack was very enjoyable. I started with The Austen Escape – then onto Sourdough – and my last night in the Ville included staying up till 1:00 AM to finish Manhattan Beach. Once I got to the gate for my flight home, I started into The Simplicity of Cider and it was finished before bedtime back home in PA that evening.

For 2018, I’ve kept the same goal of 60 books to read. Along the way, I plan to be involved in a couple of book related blog connections to help ensure I’m sharing books here along the way.

What were your best reads from 2017?
What are your reading goals for 2018? 

Finally connecting up with Stephanie & Jana for the monthly Show Us Your Books link-up. Also joining in the Modern Mrs. Darcy QuickLit roundup

Recently Read…January 2016

As 2015 started, I set a goal on Goodreads to read 40 books during the year. Somehow, I managed to complete 49 books by the time the year ended. It was interesting to look at the stats compiled in that reading. For 2016, I have set a goal of 44 books – when I look at several of the titles on my bookshelf that I want to complete this year, I know that they will take some time to devour.

A good book made the flight delay after Christmas more manageable...

A good book made the flight delay after Christmas more manageable…

For this first 2016 connection with Quick Lit at Modern Mrs. Darcy, the list is a combo of some obvious December reads as well as reads from under the Christmas tree.

A few quick Christmas stories:

The Christmas Pearl by Dorthea Benton Frank is the tale of a Southern family that has drifted into chaos and the magic that ensues when a favorite, departed cook appears at the front door on Christmas Eve and mixes up some mystical menu items en route to bringing the family back together.

The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado is the tale of an English village and the candlemaker’s family that is visited throughout the generations by an angel on Christmas Eve who blesses “one” candle that will answer the prayers of the recipient.

If He Had Not Come by David Nicholson is a thought provoking illustrated children’s story from the 1930s about what the world would be like if Jesus had not come on Christmas morning.

A fantastic read!

A fantastic read!

As I played Santa on Christmas Eve and was stacking presents under the tree, Mom brought out 1 bag and said “these are all the books, put them at the bottom of all the gifts” because she knew as they were unwrapped we would all begin to dive into them. Among the books under the tree, some great reads so far:

Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World by Rachel Swaby: The first read from under the tree and one that I have been sharing with so many friends. In 3-5 page vignettes, 52 women from so many facets of science, medicine, math and engineering are profiled. Those profiled are beyond the “standard” list – some of these women I was familiar with and others were new to me. I have been recommending it to friends with daughters as a way to expose their girls to women in STEM. Within the pages of this book are endless research subjects for girls and boys of all ages.

Bad Luck, Hot Rocks: Conscience Letters and Photographs from the Petrified Forest by Ryan Thompson: I saw a write-up of this book around Thanksgiving and knew it would be perfect for Rebecca…she has a history of testing the limits of “do not touch” when in museums and around antiquities and we had visited the Petrified Forest in 1985 on our family move from California to Kansas…so this was under the tree for her but I read it while in the ‘Ville, too. A fun and quick read from the archives of letters at the Petrified Forest National Park – people who illegally took pieces of the forest away have returned them with tales of bad luck and misfortune while they possessed the rocks.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell: This is the first book I’ve read by this author but I will definitely read more of her American history narratives. When I read about this book releasing last year, I knew it was one that I needed to check out. Growing up in one of the myriad “Fayetteville” towns across the country (where our high school marching band hosted the LaFayette Classic competition) and now living in the Philadelphia area (just down the road from Valley Forge and where Washington crossed the Delaware) it was a great read to learn more about the Marquis LaFayette whose name is so ingrained in our history and lexicon.

Every Crooked Path (The Patrick Bowers Files #8) by Steven James: A just published prequel to a favorite series. It provides more detail to the back story of Patrick Bowers and also delves into the world of child exploitation. It was a good read – a bit intense – but I was also impressed with how the author didn’t overwhelm with details of the “underworld” that was at the crux of the story.

Rounding out this month’s round-up is a cute fiction read that was my airplane reading on the way home to the ‘Ville for Christmas: Vintage by Susan Gloss. I picked this up through a Kindle deal and chuckled at the praise that compared it to The Friday Night Knitting Club since I had ties to that book launch (and others from Kate Jacobs). Centered around a vintage clothing shop in the Madison, WI, the story of the shop owner who is working hard to give her new life “a go” after escaping an abusive marriage – entwined with a cast of characters including with a recently orphaned high-school senior who finds herself alone & pregnant, a Indian women trying to figure out “where to go from here” as her marriage dissolves and her daughter has married, a doyenne of town and many more. Each chapter starts with the description of a vintage item in the shoppe and the item is woven into the “action” within that chapter.

As January keeps marching forward, I’ve got several Christmas books in rotation, including When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II and 7 Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness. So far this year I am making a more concerted effort to end each day with some reading before turning out the light.

What are you reading these days?
What reading goals do you have for 2016?

Recently Read…December 2015

It is time for another round-up of recent reads. As I approached my Thanksgiving break at home in the ‘Ville, I was looking forward to some reading time and I definitely found it. This list could also be subtitled “The Thanksgiving Edition” because everything on this list “devoured” during my Thanksgiving break.

When all the reads are on the kindle, there are limited photo ops for this post...

When all the reads are on the kindle, there are limited photo ops for this post…

  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Upon first description, I wasn’t sure if I would like it – but it quickly became a favorite read of the year and I have recommended it to several friends. Set in the semi-near future, the “real” world has been reduced to chaos and people choose to live in a universal virtual reality game. Since the death of the virtual world creator, many are on a quest to unlock the keys the creator left behind so that they can obtain ownership of the world. The quest is filled with so much pop culture from the 70s-90s – including video games, movies, music and more.
    “That was when I realized, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.”   
  • The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin – A cute read about a cranky bookseller – clever use of “his” book reviews to introduce each chapter. While not the key point, I enjoyed the “conflict” about printed books versus e-readers.
    “Remember, Maya: the things we respond to at twenty are not necessarily the same things we will respond to at forty and vice versa. This is true in books and also in life.”   
  • The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay – The latest from a new favorite author – this time set in both Chicago and the UK. A young rare book seller, Lucy, is caught in a lie a looses many relationships dear to her in the process. Through helping the grandmother of her ex-boyfriend travel to London to “right a wrong,” Lucy undertakes her own journey through her past in order to move forward.
    “The room was only half-filled, but the air buzzed with excitement as if diners were munching on history and remembrance as well as fish and chips.”  
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – A quick children’s read, told from the perspective of a silverback gorilla that lives behind the glass in an aging roadside zoo/circus attraction.
    “Memories are precious,” Stella adds. “They help tell us who we are.”
  • The Butterfly and the Violin & A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron – The first two books in a series – each of these books could also be enjoyed as standalone stories. Both stories weave the tale of a modern gallery owner and searching for a piece from World War II – specifically tied to the concentration camps. In the search through history there is also the search through current self and history for the modern day characters.
    “The ability to perfectly time when to react and when to remain silent; it was an admirable quality in a friend.”   
  • Water from my Heart by Charles Martin – I’ve read several books from this author and have enjoyed each. This is the story of a wayward drug runner, tragedy and redemption.
    “Funny how there’s so little difference between “prodigy” and “prodigal.”  
  • Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann – I picked this one up on a Kindle deal. It was “meh” at best and felt like it was trying too hard. While I did finish it, really this is an example of where I should leave a book unfinished when I’m not enjoying it.

What have you been reading lately?

After all this fiction, I’m ready to focus more on the non-fiction list. (Although currently there has been a quick detour into some holiday-themed reads.) The Christmas wish list is filled with several books and the thought of Christmas break and uninterrupted reading time is quite lovely…

Linking up with Anne @ Modern Mrs. Darcy for the latest round of Quick Lit.

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