Wednesday, September 7, 2022

August Books

Hi everyone.

Happy first full week of September. The hubby and I left yesterday for a 12 day trip so I am away the rest of this week and most of the next, but I do have a few  posts scheduled. I'm not sure how good I will be visiting blogs while we're gone  because we will be rather remote on some parts of this trip, and I know at a couple of places where we'll be staying they say the wi-fi is sketchy.  I will definitely try to get by and leave comments , but  please don't think I'm ignoring you if  my visit comes a little bit later than  you posted.  A break is always a good thing. Smile.

We're doing some National Parks. One is in western Nevada; one is in central Utah,  and a couple are in western Wyoming. We're  mostly skipping  parks we've already visited and sticking to some we haven't done, except we are going to end the trip  at Yellowstone (or at least the parts open after the flooding last spring). This will be our second trip to Yellowstone, and we figured at least this time we won't have a cranky 10 year old with us, which is what we had last time. The cranky 10 year old is now 30 years old and is house sitting for us and taking care of the pups. Which is much appreciated by us.

This hiatus away from home sounded like a good time  to schedule my book post with my August books. As I repeat every month, I write this list so when I look back I can see what I read. I love to read about books, and if you do also, feel free to read on.  And if you don't, that's OK too.

August was a good reading month as I read some books that I very much enjoyed. 

My first listen for August was this historical and art based novel by B.A. Shapiro called The Muralist

This story is about  2 women. One woman is Alizee Benoit, a fictional young Jewish American painter who was part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), one of Franklin Roosevelt's programs during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Alizee was a mural painter, and  she was friends with some of the early abstract artists like Mark Rothko, Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollack. This part of the story is set just as World War 2 was beginning, and besides the art connection, Alizee is trying to get some of her family members travel visas to leave France and come to the US so they avoid being taken to concentration camps by the Germans.

The other woman in this story is Alizee's grand-niece, Danielle (Dani) Abrams, who is a painter and art cataloguer in modern times.   Dani receives some unsigned paintings she needs to research, and that information triggers her in search of her great aunt, who besides being a painter and trying to save her Jewish family still in Europe,  also disappeared in late 1940 or early 1941.

I enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about the beginnings of abstract art and enjoyed the connection to World War 2. I even learned a few new things in Roosevelt’s government.  I also like how the author incorporated Eleanor Roosevelt into this fictional story, and even though that part might be a bit of a stretch on the believability scale, it did make the story more interesting. I didn't read this book because of the World War 2 connection, but it was another interesting take on the war, this time from how things were in the US. before we entered the conflict.

Joyce, Elizabeth, Ron and Ibrahim are back in book 2 of this mystery series by Richard Osman. 

The Thursday Murder Club is made up of 4 older folks who live in a British senior living apartment complex. They like to try to figure out crimes, and this time those crimes involve stolen diamonds and who attacked Ibrahim. They also work with 2 police officers  they have befriended named  Chris and Donna.

I love these characters, and I liked this book as much or maybe even better than book 1. These characters made me smile. This book has plenty of twists and turns, and it is hard to put down. I'm glad I was able to get my hands on a copy to read, as book 3 is being released sometime in September (I believe). I think this book would be hard to listen to, just because the chapters are short, and they jump around between all of the main characters. Yet it is worth reading if you like mysteries, books with interesting characters and  stories that give seniors their well deserved due. In fact, you've got to love all the main characters in this series.

FYI: If you haven't read book 1 (The Thursday Murder Club),  it helps to read it before  book 2 since there is some back stories to not only the 4 main characters, but also the back stories about Chris and Donna too.


If Walls Could Talk was my next listen. 
This book takes us through 4 rooms in a house from medieval times to the present. Lucy Worsley, the author, focuses on the bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen.  I was curious how this book would compare to Bill Bryson's book (At Home) which I read several years ago and very much enjoyed. I found that these 2 books are  different enough that it is hard to compare them, and I very much liked this non-fiction book.

Worsley takes the reader on an intimate look at the home.  She talks about closets, beds and bedding, bathing, stoves, iceboxes, meal times, foods, even using laxatives. Plus many many others items and activities that relate to those 4 rooms. No subject is too risque for her. Although the big picture is the room, most of the story revolves around things that have to do with the particular room that section of the book is about. 

And like most books of this type, some things really surprise you. And some things you remember more than others once you've finished the story. 

In some ways I wish I had actually bought/borrowed and read the book  over listening to it because if I ever want to go back to any of the information, it would be hard to find from listening. But this story was a very good listen and a very informative one. I will definitely read more by this author. Should I ever need to look something up, I guess I will just have to go find the actual book. Grin.

My next book was a big one and took me a couple weeks to get through. The Drifters, by James Michener, is set in the late 1960's and the anti-war, youthful counterculture of the time. 

I'd actually read this book back as a teenager. My Mom was a huge Michener fan.  I used to read the books my mom had on her bookshelf, and we'd talk about them. This was one of the many books by Michener that I read at that time.  Since my teenage years were long ago however,  I don't remember much about this particular book except that the story was about several 20 year olds traveling around some far away places. And of course, I remember that I enjoyed the book also.

Unlike many Michener books, where the author starts with the book's local geology and tells stories of the place through time, this book started right in with college student Joe and his draft card in the fall of 1968. The first several chapters introduce us to the characters who all meet in Torremolinos, Spain, and then we get to follow their lives and to travel with them to places like Pamplona, Marrakech. and Mocambique. 

Because this book was published in 1971, bits of the story are dated, such as the fact that the author makes it clear women are not "liberated" and need to be looked after, but he also does a wonderful job describing the times that are now history. It is a little confusing why a 61 year old man (who is the narrator of the story) would be hanging out with six 20 somethings traveling in (mostly) Europe; well maybe  it would be better to say why would the 20 somethings want to hang out so much with a 61 year old man, even if he knew 4 of them before meeting up with them in Europe. It was a good way to write the novel though. At a little over 700 pages, this book was still a good and thought provoking read. At times Michener is a bit wordy, but he does have something to say. Michener's writing was not hard to get through, and it was an interesting time and place to be transported to, even if it did take awhile to get through.

I  still have my Mother's Michener novels, so reading this book connected me to her. One of these days I am going to read her favorite Michener (that I have never read) novel.  That one is Hawaii.

The Kitchen Front  by Jennifer Ryan is a World War 2 novel with a different twist. Instead of dealing with spies, saving paintings or decoding secret messages, this book is about the women who weren't doing anything excitingly unique for the war effort other than staying home, raising families or working, taking in evacuees,  trying to live normal lives as well as coping with the war.

The main characters in this book are 4 women. These 4 characters lives connect because the BBC is sponsoring a contest to pick someone to be the voice of a radio show about cooking using war time rations. 

Audrey and Gwendoline are 2 sisters. Audrey is struggling to keep life afloat for herself and her 3 sons by baking with fruits and veggies from her garden and selling them. Gwendoline married into money and wants to prove to the world she is the better of the 2 sisters. Her marriage isn't a happy one. Then there's   Gwendoline's "kitchen and all around maid" Nell,  who is young, very shy, and isn't sure about entering the contest, especially since Gwendoline is pressuring her to do poorly so she (Gwendoline) can win the competition.  The fourth woman is Zelda, a professional chef who lost her job when the London restaurant she worked at was bombed and she was moved to the "country".

I very much enjoyed this novel. It is a feel good story even though the women struggle  with  bombing raids and life's challenges.  I knew there were rations during the war, but I never realized how tough it was to live on them. And the connections between these 4 women  become more than one cooking contest would ever make them. If you need an enjoyable read, like food and don't want anything too heavy, then I definitely recommend this book.

Last month I read Lucy Foley's novel The Guest List. I did and didn't like that book, but I thought it would be a good suggestion for my book group. One of the other members mentioned this book, The Hunting Party, by the same author. It was decided we would cover both books, since they are fairly quick reads/listens. 

Even though I'm not sure I wanted to listen to such a similar book as The Guest List quite so soon, I did listen to this one. At least this time I knew the characters were going to be flawed, and in relative terms, I found them more likable than the ones in The Guest List. Some old college friends, who are now in their 30's, have gathered at a remote lodge in Scotland for New Years. Someone is found dead  after a huge snowstorm  leaves everyone stranded at the lodge. Yet it takes you awhile to figure out who that person is and who killed them also. Foley is good at setting the scene and dropping lots of hints, but nothing to  give away the ending.

The ending of this book wasn't quite as explosive of a surprise as the ending of The Guest List was, but it still ended with some unexpected twists.  All in all, it had the same format as The Guest List, alternating between characters, slowly exposing little flaws. Did I like this book? As I liked the characters a bit better, yes, I did enjoy this book. And if you're looking for a mystery that really looks into people's characters, then I would recommend this read, or maybe suggest The Guest List as the 2 are so similar. 

My last book for August is this book that was recommended to me by the gift shop clerk when I visited the Mount in western Massachusetts. I like exploring historic homes, and I like gardens too. This book is perfect for some future roadtrip planning, and I really like the historic background info that goes with each place. And recently I read up on places I have already visited too.

That's my August book list. Thanks for reading this far, and I always appreciate some good "name" or title suggestions. I hope you are enjoying your week too.


pearshapedcrafting said...

I've bookmarked your page again as a couple definitely caught my eye. I just finished The Man Who Died Twice- most of my reading is done in bed before I go to sleep - some nights I used to wake up wondering what was going to happen next! I love Lucy Worsley and this is a book I want to read along with the first on your list. Hope you're having a great time, hugs, Chrisx

CJ Kennedy said...

You always have such and eclectic reading list. Safe travels and enjoy your trip

Iris Flavia said...

Wow, have fun a nice 30-year-old guarding your house! ;-)
Hrgh. "If Walls Could Talk" and "The Kitchen Front" are on my kindle now - and I just found 4 books in the street!

Happy traveling and hugs!

Divers and Sundry said...

Sounds like such an enjoyable trip! I look forward to seeing photos :)

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

As much as I enjoy reading about your mysteries (my favorite genre), I absolutely LOVE Lucy Worsley. She is the grand dame of anything British. She is the curator of all the royal British palaces, so she has insight we mere mortals will never be allowed to see unless we watch her PBS tv shows or buy her books. She is a great historian and did a series on Henry VIII's wives I loved.

Of course, I really want to find the Thursday Murder Club and The Kitchen Front.

R's Rue said...

I need that last book. Enjoy.

Valerie-Jael said...

The books all sound really good. Have a wonderful vacation trip, enjoy! Hugs, Valerie

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Sounds like you and your husband will have a fun road trip, Erika, and I am sure you will update when you return home. I enjoyed this book review post as I have read several of those listed, The Muralist and Shapiro’s latest, Metropolis. I enjoyed Osman’s second book better than the first and am waiting for the third one in this series. The Kitchen Front was wonderful as is Ryan’s current book, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle and a previous one, The Chilbury Womens Choir. I have always enjoyed Lucy Worsley on PBS so will see if the local library has her book.

And, if course, blogging posting and reading always take a back seat to new and fun adventures and vacations😀

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

FYI, Erika, I check the local library here in Nashua and several of Lucy Worsley’s books are available as audio books. Also found out she has a new one, a biography of Agatha Christie, which Is on order, so I placed a hold😀

Jeanie said...

Hi Erika! I'll never (ever!) catch up after two weeks gone but I'm glad I found this one. I love Lucy Worsley and her TV specials but I've never read one of her books. This one is now on my list as are the two WWII ones, especially the kitchen one. My dad loved Michener too but Hawaii is the only one I've read. (I need to read Chesapeake; it was his favorite). It sounds like all were pretty darned good. My list always gets longer when I visit you.

Have fun on your trip. I saw the photos scrolling down to this and was going to comment but will say here it looks like a fascinating trip. Have fun1