"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Ends and December Books

I don't think I'll finish another book before this month - this year - ends so I'll go ahead and post this today. 

 2021 has been quite the year with a lot of good times, but also some losses in recent months.  August and September were terrible for covid losses. At one time I counted about ten or twelve people I either knew, knew of, or there was just one degree of separation between me and them (meaning, for instance, a cousin's friend who died in South Carolina.)  By far the greatest, most personal loss for us was my mom's middle brother in September. He spent his 65th birthday in the ICU, and died fifteen days later. Some days it's hard knowing that he's no longer here (though the thought of him in heaven with Mema and Pop and his cousin Shayne, who died earlier in the year from his heart, makes us joyful.)   In early December this same uncle's daughter died, not from covid, but related to issues she had had for a couple of decades. She was only 35.


In much better news, I got a new nephew, Jonathan, just days after my uncle died. He's a real sweetie!


And now for the December books...


The Words I Never Wrote by Jane Thynne -- An interesting look at World War II through the eyes of two English sisters: Irene, who marries a German man and member of the Nazi party, and Cordelia who travels to Paris and later helps the Allies. Pretty good story.

Such a Quiet Place by Megan Miranda -- After Harper's former roommate is let out of prison after serving just 14 months of a 20-year term for murdering two neighbors, Ruby shows up unnannouced ready to live in Harper's house again. Harper and her neighbors aren't so sure about that, and vow to keep watch on Ruby's whereabouts. A pretty good mystery/suspense-type book from an author I've not read before.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah -- An interesting look at life in Texas during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression through the eyes of Elsa who lives with her husband, Rafe, and his parents, and their children, Loreda and Anthony. Later some of them travel to California for a better life...only that's not so great either.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides -- This author really likes psychotherapists. I think the last book I read by him - which was his first book - also featured a psychotherapist as the one telling the story. Only last time it was a man, and this time, a woman. Anyway Mariana travels to Cambridge to visit her niece Zoe at a tough time. Her best friend Tara was found murdered. This author also likes to throw in a lot of Greek references.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell -- This book reminded me of a Liane Moriarty-type book with the eccentric mother and four children: Megan, Bethan, Rory, and Rhys. Mom (Lorelei) recently died, and some of the family returns to clear out her house which is so cluttered with stuff that there is only a narrow tunnel through it to the place where Lorelei actually lived her latter days. Pretty interesting story.

Friends Like These by Kimberly McCreight -- Several college friends travel to the Catskills Mountains for a supposed bachelor party which is really an intervention to get one of their own,Keith, into rehab. Unfortunately Finch, who wants to be in this group of friends, tags along with Derrick which makes the intervention that much harder. Then some locals come around demanding money for work done on the house, and it winds up that one of their own is possibly murdered (or was it an accident?), and another is missing. Pretty good story.

Lost by Joy Fielding -- I wasn't a big fan of the main character, Cindy, whose twenty-one-year-old daughter just disappeared one afternoon. The book was about their search for Julia. A pretty good book. Not my favorite by this author.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley -- Jules and Will are the perfect power couple, and their destination wedding is on a small, mostly-abandoned island off the coast of Ireland. What could go wrong?   Alternating timelines and the telling of events between the voices of Hannah (the plus-one to Julia's best friend, Charlie), Olivia (Julia's half sister), Will, Jules, Johnno (a mate from school), and Aoife (the wedding planner), this mystery was pretty good.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: Family, Friendships, and Faith in Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende -- I read her first book earlier this year, and had her name on my To Read Later list because I saw she had a couple more books. While I was ordering a few books last week from the library, I decided to read her second book which was published in 2010. I enjoyed learning more about her life in Alaska, including the terrible event that happened to her in early April one year (bike accident). In this book she talks about that plus her mom's death (the title of the book is a quote from her mom), and other incidents. This book has a more spiritual feel to it, and some of her writing challenged me (in a good way.) I was telling Andrew about her life, and now I've ordered the first book for him to read. Hopefully, he will enjoy her tales from Alaska, too! (He did.) And I just followed her on Facebook so I can see pictures from that lovely area - Haines, Alaska.

The Children's Train by Viola Ardone -- When he was just 7 years old, Amerigo Speranza was sent from his home in Naples "to the north" although rumors were flying that the Communists were taking these children from poor families to Russia, and might cut off their tongues and feed their hands to their fires. Thankfully, the northern Italians did no such thing, and most of Amerigo's peers found loving families to feed and clothe and care for them for several months. When Amerigo returns to his single mother (his father was unknown to him though Amerigo made up stories about his father seeking a better life in America), he finds his hometown wanting. His shoes no longer fit again, and the usual meal of stale bread and milk seems dire after all the good stuff he had in the north. Pretty good story translated from Italian by Clarissa Botsford.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams -- Bridget liked this book so I decided to get it for some light reading. Gavin and Thea's marriage is on the rocks so Gavin's friends come to the rescue in the form of a book club. Because why not get tips from romance novels, right?  I didn't like this book well enough to continue the series.

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas -- Jess is a reporter for a twice-weekly paper in a small town in England, and when a double murder happens, she is not totally surprised, but saddened to learn that her former best friend, Heather, is the main suspect. The book alternates between the voices of Jess; Heather's mom, Margot; Heather; and going back a couple decades to when Heather's sister Flora disappeared. Pretty good book. 

Beneath the Skin by Nicci French -- Zoe, Jennifer, and Nadia are all targeted by the same person: a creepy guy who writes letters to them, acting as if he's in love with them, but also promising them death. Pretty good thriller type of book. I'm trying to read the rest of the books by this author that my library has so this was next on the list.

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda -- As a year-round resident of Littleport, Maine, Avery is the property manager for Loman Properties, and best friend to Sadie, the daughter who goes missing from the Plus-One Party. When Sadie's body washes ashore, the police are quick to call it a suicide, but Avery is not convinced, and she's determined to solve the mystery.

Find the Good by Heather Lende -- "Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer" ; I decided I needed to finish her books so this was next in line. This was about 2/3 or smaller the size of the first two books, and had easy-to-read chapters full of tidbits and lessons from Heather's life in Haines, Alaska.  (Oh, since I wrote the book review above, I sent Heather a note via her website's contact page, and she sent me an email a couple of days later! It was nice to hear from her!  In her second book which was published in 2010, her one daughter (second born) was just getting married. Then I saw somewhere she had 8 grandchildren now. When I mentioned feeling so far behind in my message to Heather, she wrote back that she actually had 9 now and one on the way in April. She even told me their names which, being a name nerd, I loved!)

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley -- This book had the same vibe as the earlier book of hers that I read, but I didn't mind. A group of friends from Oxford get together every New Year's Eve and spend a holiday together. This year it's a remote lodge in the Scottish Highlands, and someone winds up missing. This book is told with alternating timelines, and through the voices of the caretaker, the huntsman, and three of the ladies on the trip. Pretty good book.

The Women of Chateau Lafayette by Stephanie Dray -- My goal was to finish this book before Monday the 27th, and I finished it the evening of the 23rd so I did well. This was a heavy book, or awkward to read since it was well over 500 pages (565 to be exact; my wrists got tired sometimes). I've read longer books before, but most of the books here lately are between 250 and 325 pages. Anyway, this book dealt with Gilbert and Adrienne Lafayette, he of fame in the US for helping us in the American Revolution despite being a Frenchman. I've never heard anything about his wife so this was an interesting story looking from her perspective.  This book had three storylines with the Lafayettes in the 1770s and beyond, and more recently: Beatrice Chanler's work during World War I, and the more fictitious character Marthe in the World War II era. Interesting book and a nice break from the thriller/suspense books I've read more recently.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave -- After a twelve-year-old girl delivers a message from her husband and then he disappears, Hannah, and her stepdaughter Bailey, travel from their house boat in California to Austin, Texas, searching for clues about what happened to him - and who he really is. Pretty good book.

Everything Sad Is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri -- I saw Myrna mention this book earlier this year so I put it on my To Read list, but never ordered it from the library until a few days ago. It was at another branch so I couldn't as easily just get it off the shelf. Anyway...what an interesting story told from the perspective of the author as a young refugee who landed in Oklahoma after living a nice life in Iran. His mom and sister came with him, but his dad stayed behind. I enjoyed his comparisons about food and accents and hospitality and such. The reason his family left Iran was super-interesting to me as well.

Finding Freedom by Erin French -- I believe my mom read this book earlier in the year and recommended it. It's a memoir of a cook in Maine. I admire how she worked hard to redeem her life after going through some big problems. I was often amazed at how she got in there and just did things. And also I admired her vision for how things could be. I don't have that dreamer quality about me so it's interesting to see that in others.