Book Reviews: July – December 2022

The Saints of Swallow Hill

Donna Everhart

I wanted to like this book, but it had some really unpleasant events. It takes place on a turpentine camp in Georgia during the depression. The story focuses on two white protagonists who endure terrible abuse, while the black workers are treated far worse. There is good historical research and some redemption, but not an enjoyable read.

The Lincoln Highway

Amor Towles

After reading A Gentleman in Moscow and The Age of Civility, I thought I’d love this too. And I did. It just got off to a slow start. A beautiful homage to the Road Trip genre, it’s part Huck Finn and part Odyssey. Set in the early 50s with a cast of interesting characters, it is beautifully written and such a fun ride.

 

Plainsong

Kent Haruf

My favorite book this year. It follows a collection of lost and unlucky characters who find friendship and meaningful connections with each other. But the best thing about this book is the writing. Every word is perfect, every phrase is lyric and profound. So simple and so perfect.

 

Living Untethered

Michael A. Singer

I read this non-fiction book on a recommendation of a friend. I chose to listen to it on audio and I think, no, I know I would have enjoyed it more if I read it. But, it was so, so good. Deep existentialist pondering! What could be better? Just the explanation of the creation of the universe will put your whole life into perspective.

The Sympathizer

Viet Thanh Nguyen

I am very proud of myself for reading this Pulitzer Prize-winning book. It’s obvious why it got such high praise. The writing is amazing. At times it felt too intellectual but I’m not mad about it. I would not normally chose a book about the Vietnam war, but this isn’t necessarily about that. It starts at the end of the war and follows the path of a double agent living as an immigrant in America. Not only is it an unflinching look at the relationship between Vietnamese and Americans, it’s unapologetically angry. I learned so much and am changed by it.

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel

I’m finally getting around to reading this. I’d heard it was really good but also fairly dark. It describes a deadly flu pandemic and a troupe of traveling actors through a devastated dystopia world, written before it actually happened. Doesn’t sound like a fun read, does it? But I am enjoying it.

Book Reviews: January – June 2022

Piranesi
Susanna Clarke

This was such an enjoyable read. It was so different from what I usually choose. From the beginning, I was immersed into a world that didn’t make sense. I’d loved how the author set the mood and tone of the place. For the rest of the story, I was just trying to figure out, “How?” and “Why?” By the time I came back to reality I missed being there.

 

Evvie Drake Starts Over
Linda Holmes

Evvie, rhymes with Chevy. How do I keep choosing Romance novels? It wasn’t my thing really but I did enjoy it. Light, relatable, sweet. The kind of book to read when your brain needs a break. 

Fifty Words for Rain
Asha Lemmie

I enjoyed this book a lot. It had some similarities with Pachinko. At one point I thought I’d have to stop reading it. It veered into the area of sex trafficking and I can’t go there. (It’s why I abandoned Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement)

Fifty Words follows a little girl, Japanese, and how she survives an abusive family of aristocrats. Her love of her half brother and their shared love of music help her endure.

 

Rules of Civility
Amor Towles

This might be my favorite book of the year. Not surprising since I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. I love the writing, especially the witty repartee, which seems typical of the 1930s. Towles really does a great job of transporting you to the time and place (NYC) without it feeling redone. Really lovely. Really enjoyable.

What Are You Going Through
Sigrid Nunez

Everyone is going through something. As much as I love a good escape, sometimes a relatable, real story makes life feel less lonely. Because we’re all experiencing heavy stuff. It wasn’t my favorite book, but pretty solid.

The Island of Sea Women
by Lisa See

I loved that this book took me somewhere so interesting, so different from what I’ve experienced. A small island off of Korea where women make the money to support their families by diving for sea urchin, abalone, octopus and other delicacies. I learned about this rich tradition in such beautiful detail. The story time jumps from present day back to the 1930s as it tells about the life of Young-sook and her best friend Mi-ja. We move through the decades and learn about the history of the region. Some of the events are so harrowing, so unthinkable, I wish I hadn’t read about them. But it was very educational and worth it.

 

28 Summers
Elin Hilderbrand

While I was vacationing at the beach, I took a break from The Island of Sea Women and picked up 28 Summers. I’ve never read anything by this quintessential beach-read author. It was the break I was looking for. Why don’t we all live on Nantucket?

the beach. day seven.

friday was our last full day. it was sunny with a high of 90! we went to breakfast at uncle bill’s then packed up for the beach.

since it was the last day, i swore i’d dive in the ocean, go ‘all the way in’. it didn’t feel too cold once you got in. i love the way the sun and ocean air feels after you’ve been in the water. it’s amazing.

i played catch with jack with cheap mini lacrosse sticks. i was terrible. i have played so many ball games this week. golf, paddle ball, football, foosball, volleyball… which tells you how much i love my kids since i have no hand eye coordination for these things and they are not fun for me.

we finally went to the arcade in stone harbor. then, the kids and i snuck off to get tim his father’s day gift. i can’t tell you what we got. not until after sunday.

i continued reading 28 summers. now i’m halfway through but have to leave it behind. it belongs to the the beach house. i’ll have to find a copy at home. the plot started in 2020, flashed back to 1993 and now it’s the year 2000. 7 summers down and 21 to go! oh, mallory, what are you and jake going to do??

for dinner we got hoagies at wawa and rode bikes to the beach. it was a stunning evening. then we finished the day by eating entirely too much ice cream at the buccaneer.

and that’s one week at the jersey shore. can’t wait to come back next year!

the beach. day six.

thursday started out very rainy but ended up sunny and breezy. we squeezed in a lot.

first, nora and i rode bikes —in the rain — to playa bowls and brought back smoothie bowls. next we all went to the arcade. it was closed. so we drove out to avalon to the other arcade. it wasn’t as nice but i enjoyed skeeball and air hockey. the kids picked out a whoopie cushion and skittles as their prizes.

we got pizza a nemo’s then shopped in avalon. didn’t buy anything though. i read, took a nap. tim and the kids went to the beach for a little while. i went for a run. then we all tried a new restaurant, surfside rooftop grill which was as good as the reviews say.

back home we played balderdash which always cracks us up. the kids are quite good at inventing fake definitions for words. we quit before anyone officially won but tim was ahead of me by one space.