08 January 2014

Pieces of 2013 - September and October Book Report

Here we are, a week into the new year, and I have some housekeeping left from 2013!  As in, I haven't posted about anything I've read since August!!  How have all of you managed to continue with your lives, I don't know, but I admire your ability to push through difficulty in your lives.  :-)

So, I will now share my reads for September and October.  Just so you know, I do have two other "Pieces of 2013" to share - another couple of months of book reports, and and my wrap-up regarding my knitting.  So please indulge me in finishing out last year before completely diving in to this one.

Anyway, here are the September and October 2013 reads for your edification.

The Daughters of Mars, by Thomas Keneally.  This is the story of two sisters, Naomi and Sally Durance, who are both nurses, from rural Australia.  World War I is taking place, and they both apply to volunteer their services.  Both are accepted, and neither knows what to expect.  They are not close, and they share a secret that causes them to avoid each other for a while.

Their first experience is with casualties from the Battle of Gallipoli, and the stories go from there, through the duration of the war.  They work on hospital ships, at base camp hospitals, and in the case of Naomi, at a private hospital founded by a society matron.  As the years go by, they become close, and their secret no longer separates them.  Their father remarries a woman from the small town where they live.  Each of them find friendship and love, in spite of the continued fighting and wear and tear of the war.

I really liked this book.  At points it seemed too long, but then, so was the war.  Naomi and Sally grow as characters and there are some funny moments based on their provincial upbringing and introduction to the larger world.  It's one of those stories that span not just a lifetime, but a time when the modern world was inching its way forward everywhere.  I think it falls into the category known as "a sweeping saga."

If you are interested in World War I, and stories of everyday heroism I think you would like this book.

Decaffeinated Corpse, by Cleo Coyle.  A good book to pick up after reading something rather serious and intense!   Clare Cosi, owner of the Village Blend coffee shop in Greenwich Village, again becomes involved in a murder case.  The story revolves around a mutual friend of Clare and her ex-husband, who has developed a hybrid coffee plant that makes decaffeinated coffee that actually tastes good.  Even her extremely skeptical staff is won over.

The story takes place when the International Federation of Coffee Growers is meeting in New York, where their friend will debut his new discovery.  Things of course get complicated, and there is a chance that Clare's business will become part of a fraud investigation and that her friend will be accused of the murder of a government minister from a South American country.

This was a quick read, and a good enough story.  I do however, now wish I had one of Clare's Cappuccino Muffins, as they sound pretty yummy ...

Home is the Sailor : An Irish Country Doctor Story, by Patrick Taylor.  I saw this, available only as an e-book on the Nook.  Since I truly enjoy this series, I went ahead and got it.  The author describes it as a "long short story."

It's actually the tale of Dr. Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly's return to Ballybucklebo after his stint in the Navy during World War II.  He has managed to purchase the practice of his mentor, and is anxious to start his medical career, in charge of his own practice. It's very enjoyable, with Kinky Kincaid already being in place as the housekeeper, and it offers the chance to see the very beginnings of O'Reilly's relationships with the people in the town.

This was fun, and a good "fix" for me until I get to read the next book.

Quiet : The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.  This was such an interesting book.  I wish more people would read it, or at least parts of it, so that they would understand that introverts are not necessarily only people who are shy.  The author does a good job of explaining and illustrating the difference between introversion and extroversion in terms that are understandable and relatable.

As an introvert who grew up with extremely extroverted parents, an older sister who is also extremely extroverted, and one who is extremely introverted, it was nice to have examples and reasoning as to the hows, whys, and ways of interacting that were part of my life, and still are.

This book took me a long time to read, and I think it's mainly because it was non-fiction, and though I found it interesting, I didn't want to sit and read it in big chunks all at once.

If you wonder about personality differences, and the whole nature/nurture aspect of them, you'll probably also like this book.

Tales of Men and Ghosts, by Edith Wharton.  I've been saving this one to read during October, the time of ghosts and odd happenings.  Being a big Edith Wharton fan, I was really looking forward to reading these stories.

I liked them well enough.  Some more than others, as is usually the case for me whenever I read short stories.  For the most part, they were just tales of the frailties of the human condition - conceit, ignorance to name a couple - and what happened to the people who experienced these events or were the victims of them.  Some were actually ghost stories, and were genuinely creepy.

Not my favorite Edith Wharton, but worth reading.

Mrs. Poe, by Lynn Cullen.  I heard about this book from a blogger's review, and that person thought it was amazing, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Everyone pretty much knows the story of Edgar Allan Poe, and that he married his cousin, Virginia Clemm, when she was thirteen and he was twenty-six.  In this story, the author takes the rumored relationship between Poe and Frances Osgood, a poet who was known but not famous, and makes it real.  Frances Osgood was born into Boston society, and married Samuel Osgood, a portrait painter of society women.  Though they had two children, Samuel was known as a ladies man, and would often carry on affairs with his subjects.  Frances and the children were more or less abandoned, and were living in New York City in the 1840s with her friends, the Barrett's (of Barrett's American Dictionary fame).  As part of the literary society and circle of New York at the time, they were friends and acquaintances of many of the most well-known Americans of letters of the time.

Poe and Frances carry on an affair that begins as just a mutual attraction, and becomes a somewhat obsessive relationship down the road.  In the beginning, Mrs. Poe also befriends Frances, and is eager to have a friendship with her.  Towards the end of the book, her feelings become somewhat twisted.

Though I enjoyed some of the characters in the book because I knew who they were, and loved the setting - 19th century New York, one of my favorite times and places - the story itself left me feeling kind of annoyed and uninterested.  Frances seemed to see herself as such a victim and so abandoned most of the time, and though she claimed to hate it when people were too eager to be friendly, seemed to think Poe was the exception.  I found their relationship in the book to be a little to melodramatic for my tastes, and just really felt that  the characterizations of the two of them, and some of their circle were simplistic and somewhat expected.

It's not that I think Edgar Allan Poe could not have been like he was portrayed in the book; I've read enough about him to know he was a mercurial man.  But I felt that he was made out to be extremely weak-willed and manipulative at the same time in this story.  And maybe he actually was.  But Poe and Frances together simply bored me.

If you enjoy historical fiction, and like reading about American writers, there are some excellent parts of the story; but frankly, it wasn't enough for me to feel like the book was something that I would tell anyone to go out of their way to read.

Cocaine Blues, by Kerry Greenwood.  I don't remember how I came across this book, but it seemed like it would be an interesting read, so I gave it a try.

Phryne Fisher is a young woman who loves adventure, but is of an age where she should be thinking of getting married.  The thing is, she is not really interested, preferring to decide things for herself.  Through an acquaintance at a party given by her family, she takes on a job for a well-to-do family, trying to discover what is wrong with their daughter, who is married and lives with her husband in Melbourne.

Phryne spent time in Melbourne as a child, before her father inherited the family money in England, so she is curious to see it as an adult.  The case she takes on involves trying to find out why the daughter of the wealthy family is always seeming to be sick.  It leads Phryne to the underworld of cocaine and abortion in Melbourne in the 1920s.

She resolves the issue, always while dressing fabulously, and having the adventures that she so craves.

This book was fun to read, and I liked it well enough that I want to try the next one in the series.


Unfortunately at the moment, I have none of these books to offer.  A few I read on my Nook a couple were library books, and the only one that was a print Advanced Readers' Copy - The Daughters of Mars - is no where that I can locate at the moment.  If/when I come across it, I'll let you know.  But in the meantime, let me know what you've read lately, and what you thought about it.

P.S. Reading is an excellent way to spend your time when you are too cold and snowed in ... in case you hadn't figured that out for yourself. ;-)


Bonny said...

You've read some interesting and varied books! I've tried to start the Irish Country Doctor series with the first book in audio, but it just wasn't the right book at the right time for me. Based on your recommendation, I may give the series another try, but start with Home is the Sailor. I also loved Quiet, and it also took me a long time to read. As an introvert myself, I wanted to really understand and digest it.

I don't know if it is your cup of tea, but I just finished Ann Patchett's This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and loved it. It's a well-written and varied collection of her essays that I enjoyed even more than her novels. I'm on my way to the library this morning to pick up Adventures in Yarn Farming, Hit by a Farm, and Sheepish. I'm semi-seriously thinking about the possibility of raising sheep with the help of my son who is attending an agricultural college, so I need a dose of reality. I have high hopes for these books, so we shall see.

I'm looking forward to the rest of your 2013 book reports!

Marie said...

I'm going to have to put several of those books on my reading list. Thanks! I'm looking forward to seeing what else you've read.

kathy b said...

Thank you for the reviews. My daughter read QUIET and said I would love it , too. My son is a quiet man so I'd like to read it at that level….

I just read Jim Gaffigan's book and it made me laugh aloud many times. DAD IS FAT

KSD said...

I want to read the book on introverts; I am most decidedly one.

I was at Barnes & Noble this afternoon, and thought of you. Not just because of the books, but because a car in the parking lot had a bumper sticker that said, "Pro Tim."


Mereknits said...

Great books to read, I will look them up. Reading and knitting are perfect to do when snowed in.