Saturday, January 8, 2022

The Last Mona Lisa - Jonathan Santlofer

This book would be a great beach read. It's a fast-paced thriller in the style of Dan Brown. I'm not a fan of his, but if you are, you will probably like this book. I enjoyed the art history and travel aspects of the story - the author is an artist, and his knowledge shines through. The writing is also better than Dan Brown, albeit with some clunky bits, things that left me with questions, etc. It would make a decent movie too. All in all it was a decent choice for book club in January, if a little too "bestseller" for my taste. 

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 - The Year in Reading

My intention for 2021 was to get more reading in, but my stated goal was 1 book per month, and I think I managed that (except for February somehow - ??). All told I read 18 books in 2021, which is ..... underwhelming, especially for the 10th anniversary. This blog began in 2011 and that year I managed 166 books; 10 years later I am barely scraping up 10% of that. Yikes. 

Well, I guess new years are times for new beginnings, so I will again state a goal of at least 1 book per month, while hoping to do at least 2. This year I don't think I will do any challenges; I think just reading my goal amount will do. (I might change my mind though so don't hold me to that, ha ha.)

As always, I want to wish my reader(s) a 2022 that is a major improvement in every way. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Touching from a Distance: Ian Curtis & Joy Division - Deborah Curtis

Why are so many talented people so troubled? As I have mentioned in this blog before, I am a huge fan of Joy Division, but until now I hadn't read this harrowing book originally written by Ian Curtis' widow in 1995 (15 years after he committed suicide in 1980). Fortunately I don't look up to musicians, actors, etc. as "heroes," so despite loving Ian Curtis' lyrics and Joy Division's musical output, this book didn't shatter my image of him or anything. He sounds like he was really difficult to live with as a boyfriend/husband, and I feel terrible that the author had to deal with that at a young age, and had to raise their daughter alone once he was gone. I won't lie, though, part of me kept thinking "this is why you don't get married at age 19" too. I wouldn't say I'm super wise now, but I shudder to think of the dumb decisions 19 year old me made, and so I do kind of get it. Very interesting to get this inside perspective from the person who probably knew Ian Curtis best. 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Moving Pictures - Erika Maren Steiger

What a fun cozy mystery! I really enjoyed this book. The main character was really relatable, and I found myself wishing I knew her in real life so we could do genealogical research together. Apparently there will be at least 2 more books in the series, and I am looking forward to reading the next adventures of the main character. Recommended. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Woman before Wallis - Bryn Turnbull

Mixed reviews for this book - the subject matter was interesting but the writing was sort of clunky for my taste. Fans of The Crown, The King's Speech, or Downton Abbey might enjoy this book, as it's set in that sort of milieu and in the case of the former two, has many of the same characters. This book did make me want to learn more about the titular woman - maybe I will search out a biography. 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Revisioners - Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

 This was a great book club choice. It's actually our book for November, and I am looking forward to the discussion. The writing was top notch and the story was both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It's really a kind of tribute to women, and to mothers, and to how women can help support each other through generations. I'd definitely read more by this author. Recommended. 

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Violette Nozière - Sarah Maza

Time for another library confession! Way back in 2019, I stumbled on this book in the library and the subtitle: "A Story of Murder in 1930s Paris" really sold me (I like 30s music/movies/fashion, I love Paris, and I enjoy true crime stories). I checked it out, started to read it and - I don't know what happened, but I somehow ran out of time to finish and had to return the book (I suspect some work travel got in the way). All this time has passed and I have thought about this book from time to time ever since, feeling guilty for not finishing it, and wanting to know how the story ended of course, so I finally checked it out again 2+ years later. 

This is a meticulously researched nonfiction book about a young woman who poisoned her parents. The author, who is evidently a history professor, sets the scene with a lot of detail about life in Paris in the 30s, particularly for working class/bourgeois people, as well as getting into detail about how this sensational case impacted popular culture. I appreciated the overall tone of the book being more academic, rather than sensational or "trashy" like some true crime writing can get. I won't go into detail, but the case is fascinating for many reasons and there are still unanswered questions the world will never know the truth of. Recommended. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Me - Elton John

Stumbled across this book in the library and thought it looked interesting. As you may have surmised from the title, this is the autobiography of one of the most prolific and popular singer-songwriters in the world. His music has been around for so long that I don't remember a time when it wasn't played on the radio back when I was a kid, and even though I'm not a super fan or anything, I can name a bunch of his hits off the top of my head without trying. This book is incredibly well written - it's like having a comfortable conversation with the pop legend, who comes off as very funny, witty, smart, outrageous, and honest. If you've seen the film Rocketman (which was entertaining and well done), many of the events in the book will seem very familiar - and probably the reverse is true. This was a really fast and entertaining read. Recommended. 

Sunday, October 3, 2021

The Henna Artist - Alka Joshi

 This book was another good choice for the virtual book club. It's a page turner - while reading, I really wanted to see what happened next, and I liked the main character a lot. The writing is heavy on the telling rather than showing, but the story carries you along and it's an enjoyable read. Evidently, there is a sequel that's been published, and I would definitely read it to get more of the story and of the main character (some of the side characters I could do without, ha ha). All in all a recommended read. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

The Poison Squad - Deborah Blum

You know the French saying "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (the more things change, the more they stay the same)? This nonfiction book is a case in point. Subtitled "One Chemist's Single-minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century" this book shows that the current issues our entire planet seems to be having with a small group of wealthy people doing everything in their power, including deliberately inflicting harm on people, so they can get even richer, is an apparently eternal conflict. That it seems to play out day after day after day, year after year after year, century after century after century, is, frankly, infuriating and disgusting. 

When we apply Mr. Rogers' wonderful "look for the helpers" principle we find people like the subject of this book, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, who spent decades fighting for basic food safety legislation. Of course, he was fought tooth and nail by the creeps that profit on literally poisoning humans to make a buck, and their idiotic arguments were pretty much exactly the same idiotic arguments these creeps make today to get away with their numerous misdeeds. I'm just glad that we have had (and still have) people like Dr. Wiley on the side of what's right.