Monday, June 13, 2016

Middle Aged Lady Summer Reading List

Okay, you don't have to be a middle aged lady to enjoy these books. But I am a middle aged lady (truthfully, I am on the shady side of middle age by now!) and I loved these. They are my favorite "adult" reads of the past year. I pasted my goodreads reviews when I have them or put a little blurb.

The RocksThis book moves backwards. Some old people you don't care about fall off a cliff and die. Then at the end, two people who have made it through world war two fall in love, marry and split up all in a short time, and you care deeply.
In between, their children's lives are interspersed and the island of Mallorca, where they live, becomes a character in itself. Which I usually hate. But not here.
Damn, this was good!

The Guest Cottage This is a feel good, Natucket-y "yeah, maybe my husband left me for another woman, but I've still got it" kind of book.

I Am Pilgrim (Pilgrim, #1)Dang! I usually hate this sort of book, the Bourne Colonoscopy and what have you. If I am going to be subjected to some confused white fella with mysterious secret organization ties fighting bad guys, it better be on screen with Matt Damon or someone of that ilk.
But I was pleasantly surprised by this. It cranks along, there aren't any gaping plot holes and all the characters are well drawn and realistic, even the completely indestructible bad guy. I could not put this thing down.

A God in Ruins This was wonderful. I loved LIFE AFTER LIFE so much and it took me awhile to appreciate the very different feel here. I loved the main character right out of the gate, but I found his daughter so insufferable I could barely read her parts. I should have trusted Atkinson, she wove the story together so beautifully, I want to start over and read it again. And while I am at it, pick up LIFE AFTER LIFE again, just for the hell of it. Not to be missed!

 American Gods There is a certain type of librarian who worships at the alter of Neal Gaiman. I am not that librarian. I usually have little patience for them. I liked CORALINE and THE GRAVEYARD BOOK just fine. He seems a likable sort. I just never understood the high fangirl index rating of the guy. Then I read AMERICAN GODS. Holy cow. This was brilliant. I laughed out loud, I read some passages over and over. I sat and stared into space thinking about possibilities in this world. The story is the buildup to a war and a man on a quest and a marriage that death can't quite split up and a million other details that just pulled me in. I loved this book.

In the Unlikely Event Well, she can still write! This is a great story, set in the 1950s, that feels fresh and of-the-time all at once. Planes fall from the sky, first love blooms, families fall apart, little girls get possessed by dead dancer - there's something for everyone.  

The Lake House  Kate Morton is pretty much a sure thing on several fronts. England between the wars, parallel time lines, different points of view - all things I love. This one is no exception. A little boy goes missing on midsummer's eve and everyone feels the ripples even 70 years later. Sure, you will probably figure it out a little early, but that doesn't take away from the pleasure of reading the details. And, as always, Morton's details are what make her books so appealing. There are three sisters, a police inspector who has made a lapse in judgement, an elderly writer with a secret, war, infidelity, first love and a lot of coincidences. A fun read that will make you neglect whatever you are supposed to be doing until you're finished!

Modern Romance This book was as fun to read as it was enlightening. I have been married since Hector was a pup. There wasn't internet when I got hitched! Ansari and his pal, sociologist Eric Klinenberg, take the reader through the maze that is modern dating They discuss the idea of soulmates vs. settling, cheating and snooping, and how technology has changed the way that single people looking for love or a reasonable facsimile thereof go about it.  

The War that Saved My Life  Full disclosure, this is actually a children's book. But it is so good, I think anyone with a soul would love it.  
All the reviews say the same thing - you have read this sort of thing before. Abused girl finds a parent-substitute in childless adult who has a private pain of their own. It is the details that make this so splendid.
It is set in the early days of WWII when Ada and her brother have been evacuated from their horrible life in London to Kent. Susan, who is mourning her partner (a sweet detail that is there for those who will see it and will be over the head of those who don't), has no intention of taking in evacuees, especially these two very damaged souls. Guess what?? They end up saving each other! Did you see that coming? Of course you did!
The writing is so so so so good. And all the characters, even the old fellow who takes care of the horses at the manor house, are fleshed out without that feeling of the writer trying too hard.
At the end of the book, there is enough left unresolved that I would love to follow these characters, well, for the rest of their lives!

After You (Me Before You, #2)Well, there's nothing so close to a sure thing as Jojo Moyes. She hits the funny bone and heart strings in equal measure with equal skill. This is the sequel to ME BEFORE YOU and I actually liked it better than its precursor. Which is crazy, because I really liked that one, too. There was one point where a "wacky misunderstanding" threatened to derail the whole relationship aspect and it was headed towards four-star territory (I HATE a wacky misunderstanding where simply uttering one honest phrase could make everything better, but no one is willing to utter it. Good grief, sack up...) but it was remedied fairly quickly. And the rest of the book was a treat. Yes, everything ends up fine. And Moyes doesn't wimp out at making her characters make hard choices. Very gratifying read.

We Should All Be Feminists  Damn right we should. This brief book, adapted from a TED talk, gives some pretty great reasoning on the topic. 

Elizabeth Is Missing This was a grippy little mystery. It was nearly a 5 star because it did keep my interest, but something about the way it went back and forth in time kept me from reading it obsessively. I loved the parallel stories and I particularly loved how Maud was shown to be declining as the book progressed. I don't know how accurate this look at Alzheimer's is, but it was very interesting. 

Be Frank With Me  Oh I just loved this one! It is funny, because it is a character driven books with some very irritating characters. But Johnson is magic in that she creates these kind of aggressively unpleasant characters and makes you fall in love with them anyway. M.M. Somebody or other is this reclusive writer who wrote one Harper-Lee-Salinger-esque book that everyone loves and thinks of as a touchstone of their lives and then she stopped writing. Well, she has lost all her money and must produce work again so her publisher sends his assistant out to L.A. to help her. The assistant, Alice, our first person narrator, is tasked mostly with taking care of Frank, Mimi's 10 year old son. There is something very off about Frank. He spouts facts and dresses like it is 1927, he loves movies and sometimes lies down on the ground completely stiff when life becomes too much for him. He is a royal pain in the ass, but he is unique and charming and Alice loves him. Then there is Xandar, super-hot handyman. Mimi is HORRIBLE. Truly a wretched person to deal with (unless you are Frank) and yet Johnson makes me care about even her.

The NestI haven't reviewed this yet, but I did like it a lot. There are 4 siblings who have been counting on an inheritance to fix the messes that they have made of their lives. Well, one of them screws it up for everyone and all hell breaks loose. I love a book where initially unappealing characters begin to show more depth and worm their way into my heart. This is just that sort of book. Did you like Downton Abbey? Well, you'll love this story of a independent minded school teacher who moves to a small English town the summer before...well, you know when...