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At Long Last – Recommended Reading

Books I’ve Liked

I’ve decided to only share my recommended reading since it’s been almost two complete (weather-related) seasons since the last reading report.  EGADS!!!

I have been reading up a storm.  I’ve checked out many books that were not memorable, or that I did not get through the first chapter or so.  I’m sorry to all the authors who take awhile to get to the action.  I do not have the stamina nor the interest to suffer through interminable pages before my interest is captured.  I’ve left all those experiences off this post!

The books listed below were all enjoyable in one sense or another. Some were lighthearted romances, while others just blew me away.

Recommended Reading

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a historical novel intertwined with a modern story that conveys the story of the removal of the Chinese from California in the late 1800’s.  Given today’s political turmoil about allowing or removing refugees from our country, it was timely to be reading about a situation that might be repeating itself shortly.  This is a well written story, with great detail, emotion, and character development.  I read it in a few days or so.  Too busy reading to write any posts!

Recommended Reading

Jodi Picoult writes good stories.  However, I still object to her tendency to bring in a new detail to end the story.  With Small Great Things, this was also the case.  Yes, it’s worth reading. It’s thought provoking, good for discussions, believable, and well written.  However, the little detail she throws in at the end would have been so much more interesting if she had incorporated it into the actual story.

Recommended Reading

LaRose tells a story of a man who accidentally kills his neighbor’s son, and his own son’s best friend, while deer hunting.  To make up for this terrible mistake, he and his wife give their son to the other family.  This is an amazing story about each member of both families and how they cope.  It’s an entirely new story line that’s fascinating, well written, and believable.

Recommended Reading

Yes, a cookbook has made it to the Recommended Reading report.  Anthony Bourdain wrote Appetite: A Cookbook for his daughter, and it’s a conversational account of how to make the recipes they enjoy together. It’s well written, and easy to grasp and follow. I will admit that I did not finish reading all the recipes, but I fell in love with the book nonetheless.

Recommended Reading

This Jewelry Making book is very helpful in breaking down different techniques, at a high level, but still with enough detail.  The topics I knew a little bit about were explained well.  That led to my comfort level in understanding techniques that I have not tried yet. I checked this out from the library, but may actually buy a copy later.

Recommended Reading

The Story of Beautiful Girl had been recommended for our now defunct book club over and over again, and we kept rejecting it. The story description was just not appealing: two runaways from a mental institution leave a baby in the hands of an older woman before they are taken away.

Yes, that’s the basis of the story, but it is so much more.  I will admit that there are some details where I felt I had to suspend reality, but then again, life is often stranger than fiction, so I need to give those parts of the story room to be possible.  I know I am not giving you more incentive to read it, but I think you just need to go with blind faith, like I finally did, to give this book your attention.

There are more comments in the complete list below.

All these books were good.  No bad reviews this time!

Recommended Books Since September 2016

Love and TreasureAyelet WaldmanGood story, well written, B+
Elizabeth is MissingEmma HealeyEnjoyed it
The Ladies RoomCarolyn BrownVery light-hearted story, but still enjoyed it
The DressmakerKate AlcottGood
Everyone is BeautifulKatherine CenterGood writer
The City Baker's Guide to Country LivingLouise MillerEnjoyed it
Appetites: A CookbookAnthony BourdainExcellent - written the way you would share recipes. Good recipes. Good instructions. What else do you need?
Small Great ThingsJodi PicoultVery good - but the usual twist at the end (not a fan of that tendency)
The Invention of WingsSue Monk KiddVery good. Well written. Good story.
LaRoseLouise EdrichVery good. Good story, good characters. All believable. New subject matter and story line for me. Would recommend it.
The House on Main StreetShirlee McCoyLight romance but enough of a story to keep me interested & read the 2nd in the series!
The Forgotten GardenKate MortonB+ worthy. Good story, believable. I think I read this one pretty quickly.
The Girl Who Wrote in SilkKelli EstesCaptivating.
I think I devoured this in a couple of days.
Recommend it!
The Complete Photo Guide to Jewelry MakingTammy PowleyGreat reference & explanations for different types of jewelry making. I got this from the library, but may actually buy it too.
The Cottage on the CornerShirlee McCoyThe 2nd book of the Apply Valley trilogy. Still good. Nothing serious or thought provoking, but enjoyable.
The Story of Beautiful GirlRachel SimonVery good book. Different kind of story, new story line. Kept me reading and reading. Finished quickly.


August & September Reading

The August & September reading report is a little short, especially considering that it represents two months.  I just finished a book that I really enjoyed – A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding – but will adhere to my rules and not talk about it till the next reading post.

August & September Reading

I currently have three books that I am reading among any others that grab my attention:

Whenever I pick up the How to Bake Pi book, I almost feel my children (who both are very good at math) rolling their eyes. I happen to like baking and other activities that are mathematical (like knitting and beading), but I am truly math-phobic. I am hoping that this book removes some of that inner belief that I am not good at math.

The writing style and the story of The Door remind me of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Both are about a woman who does not share herself with the public, and keeps secrets about who she is and what she thinks. I’m not that far into The Door yet, but so far so good!

I’m really just in the second chapter of S.P.Q.R., having read about it in a NY Times book review. I visited the Roman Forum ruins in Rome a couple of years ago, and then saw J.M.W. Turner’s painting of it at an exhibit in the Getty. What struck me was that Turner had visited it about a century before I did, yet it looked exactly the same! How old was this setting that it was actually a ruin over 100 years ago?

August & September Reading

S.P.Q.R. is a difficult read because it’s almost like reading a research paper and the author tries to be fair and bring in many historians’ perspectives, but it’s still fascinating. And it is still relevant to today’s world as I’ve already had the chance to use some of the material in everyday conversation!

But all 3 of these books take concentration, so I do get distracted by lighter books.

Books Read August & September 2016

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Book 1) Carlos Ruiz ZafonNot interested after the first few chapters
The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg Book 1)Lene KaaberbolGood
Before the FallNoah HawleyGood
I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a TwistBetty HalbreichQuite good
SweetbitterStephanie DanlerDidn't make it very far
Eight Hundred GrapesLaura DaveHo hum
I'll Take You ThereJoyce Carol OatesCould not get very far
Dear Committee MembersJulie SchumacherCould not get very far
How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of MathematicsEugenia ChengEnjoying it
S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient RomeMary BeardA little hard to read so far, but still fascinating
The DoorProfessor Magda Szabo, Professor Stefan Draughon (Translator)Liking it so far

Because my reading pleasure was a bit lackluster, I am happy to report I did not buy many of them!

Books Bought August & September 2016

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Book 1) Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Boy in the Suitcase (Nina Borg Book 1)Lene Kaaberbol
I'll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a TwistBetty Halbreich
How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of MathematicsEugenia Cheng
S.P.Q.R: A History of Ancient RomeMary Beard
The DoorProfessor Magda Szabo, Professor Stefan Draughon (Translator)
When in French: Love in a Second LanguageLauren Collins

I had downloaded a sample of I’ll Drink to That: A Life in Style, with a Twist and liked it so much that I bought it, and then sent it to a friend when I was done. I enjoyed Betty Halbreich’s sharing of her personal story – the memories, the recounting of a childhood, her growing up and young adult life, as well as the inside story of the fashion industry.

When in French: Love in a Second Language was a gift for a friend who is kvelling that her son is learning French in high school.  Les Français est vraiment coule on her Facebook page and text messages! (Mes excuses à toute personne d’expression française lecture de ce post.)

Finally, I just have to share about The Boy in the Suitcase because I had that book on my wish list for the longest time and finally read it. I also like to read books that are part of a series, so if I like it, I know there are more to read. This Nina Borg series is not on that list. The book was well written and believable. The ending was a bit of a surprise, but not in a “that author just threw that in there” kind of way. The reason I won’t be reading any more is that Nina Borg is a narcissistic, unthinking character. She makes choices that are not in the best interest of her family or herself. I had to push myself to finish the book because I did not want to share my spare time with a woman who made poor choices. The story line, save for the main character, was good. Don’t you hate that?

4 Month Reading Report

Egads! A 4 month reading report? My heavy workload really took away my capacity to read, and then when it was over I felt like I had PTSD to struggle back to normalcy.

Now, it’s mid-August and I am able to focus again. I did a major Kindle-library trip earlier this week and have already finished one book! Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s what I did manage to read these past 4 months.

Books Read April through July 2016

The Japanese Lover
Isabel AllendeGood
The Stranger
Harlan CobenGood
The Rent Collector
Camron WrightLOVED
Marilynne RobinsonDid not get far
The Boys in the BoatDaniel James BrownCould not get into it
Bead Royale: Elegance in Bead WeavingCristie PrinceGood designs
Beading with Shaped Beads (video)Melinda BartaHelpful
How to Create Professional Finishes for Jewelry (video)Chloe ChateneverBasic
Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass JewelryKerry BogertGood ideas
The Life We BuryAllen EskensBelievable, held my interest
The SelloutPaul BeattyUGH

My all-time favorite was The Rent Collector.

4 Month Reading Report

The description does NOT do it any justice at all.

Sang Ly struggles to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia’s largest municipal dump. Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailing son from a life of ignorance and poverty.

The story starts out as a simple premise of a poor family reliant upon the task of picking and selling garbage but then expands its horizons. It examines relationships, circumstances, healthcare, literature, intuition, friendship, marriage, and more. It is totally captivating and enchanting.

I also enjoyed two bestseller mysteries: The Stranger by Harlan Coben and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. I often sneer at the bestseller lists – because who says that the people buying the books share my taste in books? But I really wanted to see what Harlan Coben’s writing was like after I read a book review where he was quoted on how he puts together his stories.  All the pieces were presented in a timely manner before the mystery was solved, the relationships and characters’ behavior were believable. I would definitely read another of his books after reading The Stranger.

Allen Esken’s book, The Life We Bury, was also believable and drew me in. It was one of those books that I had to put down at certain times because I just knew that the main character was going to do something stupid. Believable, especially given his age, but still stupid.

I could not omit talking about The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende.  My journey started as a library book, but I ended up buying it when it was unavailable for renewal.  It’s only rated as Good because it did not draw me back anxious to know what happens to the characters. It was good enough to read to the end, though (somewhat Spoiler Alert) the end was extremely disappointing to me.  I would still recommend it because I flew through some of the chapters, while others…not so much.

Books Bought April through July 2016

The Japanese Lover
Isabel Allende
Blood Defense
Marcia Clark
The Stranger
Harlan Coben
The Rent Collector
Camron Wright
Marilynne Robinson
The Boys in the BoatDaniel James Brown
Bead Royale: Elegance in Bead WeavingCristie Prince
Beading with Shaped Beads (video)Melinda Barta
How to Create Professional Finishes for Jewelry (video)Chloe Chatenever
Totally Twisted: Innovative Wirework & Art Glass JewelryKerry Bogert
Beadweaving Beyond the BasicsKassie Shaw
Bead MetamorphosisLisa Kan
The Life We BuryAllen Eskens
The SelloutPaul Beatty

So this “month” or time period, I bought more books than I read.  I was taken in by two sales at the Interweave Store and took full advantage of the low prices!  I just noticed that Cristie Prince delivers designs like royalty would wear in Bead Royale, which is only fitting!  Although you’d think she’d change her name to Princess to really make it simpatico.

I’ve enjoyed most of the beading books and videos I’ve perused thus far.  What I’m really getting from all this reference material is that (1) anything goes, (2) I’m more knowledgeable than I give myself credit, and (3) anyone can be an expert.  Also, I like to see what people have to say or what they’ve done and then just mull over their ideas and subconsciously incorporate them into my work.  As Norah Gaughan said at one of the Vogue Knitting Live lectures,  there is nothing truly original anymore.

4 Month Reading Report

There may be new ideas or ways of doing things, but they originate from prior knowledge or experiences.

There! Now I’ve done it! I’ve transformed my Reading Report to include the other ways I’ve spent my time (except for golfing) – knitting and beading. Funny how well that worked out!

More Reading

I had this nagging feeling that I had done more reading in the past two months and that I was forgetting some books when I wrote my February/March recap.  It only took an afternoon of diverted thinking to remember where I put the receipts so that I would remember to include them in the post!

more reading

  • The Debt to Pleasure by John Lanchester was published in 2001 but seems like it is much older. I really thought I would like this book of a man’s autobiography through his experiences with food – it sounded somewhat similar to Muriel Barbery’s Gourmet Rhapsody (which I did not finish – it was not as good as The Elegance of the Hedgehog) and I had high hopes.  Alas, I could not make it very far.  I never got to the part about “murder and art” that was supposed to make it even more intriguing than food.
  • Beaded Chains & Ropes by Karin Van Voorhees looks rather simplistic from its cover, but it has a lot of interesting patterns and ideas.
  • Bead Play Every Day by Beth Stone, on the other hand, has a very compelling cover, but I like the ideas in Beaded Chains & Ropes better!  (You really can’t tell a book by its cover!)

Book Report – February & March 2016

The procrastination period is over.  Here is my book report for the last two months!

Books Bought February & March 2016

Maggie Meister's Classical Elegance: 20 Beaded Jewelry DesignsMaggie Meister
What Knot?Geoffrey Budworth, Richard Hopkins
One Big Beautiful BeadSarah McConnell
Jill Wiseman's Beautiful Beaded Ropes: 300 Quick & Easy DesignsJill Wiseman
Nothing to Tell: Extraordinary Stories of Montana Ranch WomenDonna Gray
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessCharles Duhigg
Home to ItalyPeter Pezzelli
The Girl in the GlassJeffrey Ford
Every Day is a HolidayGeorge Mahood
The Sound of LanguageAmulya Malladi

The book worth noting here is the Nothing to Tell: Extraordinary Stories of Montana Ranch Women.  These are collected oral histories of women who moved to Montana in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.  It’s better than any historical novel.

I’m also enjoying the beading books, but will report more specifically on those in another post.

Books Read February & March 2016

Maggie Meister's Classical Elegance: 20 Beaded Jewelry DesignsMaggie MeisterHaven't read yet
What Knot?Geoffrey Budworth, Richard HopkinsInteresting
One Big Beautiful BeadSarah McConnellInteresting
Jill Wiseman's Beautiful Beaded RopesJill WisemanThumbs up
Nothing to Tell: Extraordinary Stories of Montana Ranch WomenDonna GrayEnjoying
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessCharles DuhiggGood
Home to ItalyPeter PezzelliThumbs down
The Girl in the GlassJeffrey FordInteresting
Every Day is a HolidayGeorge MahoodThumbs down
The Sound of LanguageAmulya MalladiInteresting
Shopaholic to the RescueSophie KinsellaAwful
The Flood GirlsRichard FifieldThumbs down
The Good LiarNicholas SearleInteresting
The Empty HouseRosamunde PilcherGood
The GilderKathryn KayEnjoyed what I read
ManhuntingJennifer CruisieThumbs down

This looks like a long list, but everything book rated with a Thumbs Down or Awful lasted one chapter or less.  I find it very difficult to plow through a book if it doesn’t grab my interest right away.

The caveat to my selections this month is that I was lucky enough to go on sunny vacations in February and March. I was looking for lighthearted, not too deep books.  The Girl in the Glass, The Good Liar and The Sound of Language all fell into that category.  Nothing too absorbing, but managed to keep my attention throughout – and to the end – of the story.  I was enjoying The Gilder, but didn’t finish before my library checkout expired.

The Girl in the Glass is about a con man and his crew who put on fake seances for wealthy clients in Long Island during the Depression.  It reminded me a little bit of a Donald Westlake story – the characters were real characters, but believable at the same time.

The Good Liar, surprising to me as I write this, is also about a con man who uses dating sites to sponge off of women.  The backstory included in the blurb mentions that the woman in the story may also be up to something other than dating. It’s this piece of information that kept me reading to the end…and I actually was not disappointed.  (Yes, that might be construed as words of praise.)


The Sound of Language is about an Afghan refugee who settles in Denmark, and how she and her family adjust to their new home.  This particular woman gets an internship with a beekeeper who is adjusting to being a widower.  I have been very interested in today’s refugee situation, and this was an interesting perspective that can be applied to Europe.  It may be written as a  Young Adult book. I found the writing to be simplistic, but the overall concept was compelling to keep me interested through to the end.

December 2015 Reading Report – Books Read

December is a good month for reading.  For those of us not preoccupied with holiday activities, there is plenty of time to read (bead, knit, etc.) and bookstore sales to help feed the hunger.

The second half of December is very quiet in my office.  A lot of people take this time off, which provides those of us still at work the opportunity to catch up on the little tasks that just never get done.  However, enough is enough, and I only worked two days this week.  I would love that to be my new norm. 2 work days each week, but full time pay.  That would be nice!!

I think a lot of people were reading this month because I received 5 books from my library holds list.  The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman didn’t even make it to this month’s Reading list. I just knew I wouldn’t get through the other books, so I re-entered its Hold line.

Slade House by David Mitchell had been on my To Read list, and LD gave it to me as a holiday gift.  Its reviews referred to it as a haunted house story, so I did not want to read it before bed!  I spent two hours one afternoon to read it.  Among the many reviews –

“An eerie haunted house tale that takes as much from quantum mechanics as from traditional supernatural lore.”

Dean Koontz, #1 New York Times bestselling author

I read it in one sitting because I knew if I put it down, it would be unlikely that I would pick it up again.  The characters were not really developed, except perhaps the Slade House inhabitants; I would not recommend it, but I’m glad I read it so I can take it off my list!

Books Read December 2015

Stringing, Winter 2016
Betsy BeadsBetsy HershbergThumbs Up
How to be BothAli SmithSo far so good
Black Box Thinking: Why Most People Never Learn from Their Mistakes--But Some DoMatthew SyedOnly a little way in
Slade HouseDavid Mitchell2 stars
1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover's Life ListMimi SheratonDownloaded a Sample - on the fence about next step
Season of Salt and HoneyHannah TunnicliffeNot for me (see below)
Four Funerals and a WeddingJill SmoloweWhat was I thinking?
The Rosie ProjectGraeme SimsionUgh
100 Days of HappinessFausto BrizziNot for me (see below)
The Improbability of LoveHannah Rothschild3 stars

The Improbability of Love was my primary read this month. I give it 3 stars because I skipped a lot of pages that just seemed to be extraneous story telling, but there were 2 primary concepts that kept me engaged. The main character, Annie,  is recovering from divorce and restarting her life. She buys a painting in a thrift shop on a lark, and part of the story that was interesting is about discovering its origins and artist. The other portion of the story that really fascinated me was about her work as a cook for large dinner parties that were based on certain paintings. She would research the food, decor, etiquette and customs of the time of the painting, as well as the painter’s and the painting subject’s lives, and then create a meal and decorations around it. The author should have done more writing in this vein, rather than some of the other avenues she chose.

December 2015 Reading

I’ve really just started How to Be Both, but it seems to be somewhat similar in taking an older painting and seeing how it re-introduces itself in modern life: “How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real – and all life’s givens get given a second chance.”

December 2015 Reading

I believe I was undergoing some unconscious need for grief counseling or moving on or something this month, when I selected Season of Salt and Honey, Four Funerals and a Wedding, and 100 Days of Happiness. Okay, yes for this theory with Four Funerals and a Wedding which is blatantly described as “With humor and quiet wisdom, and with a lens firmly trained on what helped her tolerate and rebound from so much sorrow, she offers answers to questions we all confront in the face of loss, and reminds us that grief is not only about endings it’s about new beginnings.” I only got this as a sample, because I hate trite sentimentality like “not only about endings it’s about new beginnings.” I think I knew I wouldn’t like it, but somehow couldn’t resist. Then, Season of Salt and Honey was from my library’s Holds list. By the time the book’s in my queue, I’ve forgotten what it’s about or why I wanted to read it. Given my recent trip to Italy, I can see why I might have been attracted to this novel: “A NOVEL OF LOVE, GRIEF AND ANTIPASTI.” However, it starts out at the Italian equivalent of a shiva for the main character’s fiance. That was enough for me. Done. Book over. Finally, I don’t know what I was thinking when I put 100 Days of Happiness on my account as a Hold. “What would you do if you knew you only had 100 days left to live? For Lucio Battistini, it’s a chance to spend the rest of his life the way he always should have—by making every moment count” drew me in for some reason. When DDSO was undergoing chemotherapy, he sent emails to his friends about his experiences. This book reminded me of that. I definitively closed the book and said if I wanted to read this, I would look for those emails. Enough said. No thanks.

December 2015 Reading

I downloaded a sample of Mimi Sheraton’s 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die: A Food Lover’s Life List. (I like using the word “sample” with this book because it always makes me smile thinking about getting a sample of each food!) I perused the first chapter, which is centered on English and Scottish food. As one of my friends said, English food is not even supposed to be good – why is that included?! Maybe the author was starting off with the simpler foods in life – like cheddar cheese and clotted cream. Anyway, I think it might be fun to have this book and check off foods as I have them. I haven’t quite decided if this is what I want to do. Maybe a library book version next?


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