Sunday, November 16, 2014

Book Reviews!

Hello Friends:

Believe it or not, I haven't blogged since March of this year (2014). Mostly, I just didn't feel like I had anything entertaining to say. But now I do. Or, at least, I hope I do!

I love to read and always have. I taught myself to read at the age of four, which, back in 1962, was a BIG DEAL, but today, let's face it, kids are coming out of the womb knowing how to read. 

I realized, as I recently perused my Goodreads lists, that I have read some FANTASTIC novels over the years, and decided that I might use my blog informatively to share these discovered gems with you, in hope that you might also find a novel or two from my picks that you will enjoy. I read a lot of everything with a few exceptions, but you will mostly find here fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction and non-fiction, biographies of all sorts, and the classics and contemporary novels.  

So, without further ado, I'll begin to share some of the more recent reads I've enjoyed. I will limit each blog to about five novels (non-genre specific) so as not to overwhelm.  I would love to hear from you if you read, or have read, these novels, and perhaps we can start our own little blog book group!  At some point later,  I'll also talk about some books I didn't care for, but for now, let's just stick with the positive!

These first five books I read throughout 2014 and have awarded five out of five stars on Goodreads. (Narratives of books are also lifted from Goodreads; my personal comments follow.)

1.  (Fiction) "The Husband's Secret" by Liane Moriarty - Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

2. (Fiction)  "The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike #1)" by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)  -
After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
(A note from Linda:  I haven't read any of Ms. Rowling's Harry Potter books, but have read both "adult contemporary" books she's written. Consider me a fan!)

3.  (Non-Fiction) "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief" by Lawrence Wright -
We learn about Scientology's esoteric cosmology; about the auditing process that determines an inductee's state of being; about the Bridge to Total Freedom, through which members gain eternal life. We see the ways in which the church pursues celebrities, such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta, and how young idealists who joined the Sea Org, the church's clergy, whose members often enter as children, signing up with a billion-year contract and working with little pay in poor conditions. We meet men and women "disconnected" from friends and family by the church's policy of shunning critical voices. And we discover, through many firsthand stories, the violence that has long permeated the inner sanctum of the church.In Going Clear, Wright examines what fundamentally makes a religion a religion, and whether Scientology is, in fact, deserving of the constitutional protections achieved in its victory over the IRS. Employing all his exceptional journalistic skills of observations, understanding, and synthesis, and his ability to shape a story into a compelling narrative, Lawrence Wright has given us an evenhanded yet keenly incisive book that goes far beyond an immediate exposé and uncovers the very essence of what makes Scientology the institution it is.
(A note from Linda:  If you're even flirting with the idea of giving Scientology a try, this book will scare you straight out of that idea and most likely with good reason.)

4. (Historical Fiction): "Queen's Gambit" by Elizabeth Freemantle -
 Widowed for the second time at age thirty-one Katherine Parr falls deeply for the dashing courtier Thomas Seymour and hopes at last to marry for love. However, obliged to return to court, she attracts the attentions of the ailing, egotistical, and dangerously powerful Henry VIII, who dispatches his love rival, Seymour, to the Continent. No one is in a position to refuse a royal proposal so, haunted by the fates of his previous wives' two executions, two annulments, one death in childbirth, Katherine must wed Henry and become his sixth queen. Katherine has to employ all her instincts to navigate the treachery of the court, drawing a tight circle of women around her, including her stepdaughter, Meg, traumatized by events from their past that are shrouded in secrecy, and their loyal servant Dot, who knows and sees more than she understands. With the Catholic faction on the rise once more, reformers being burned for heresy, and those close to the king vying for position, Katherine's survival seems unlikely. Yet as she treads the razor's edge of court intrigue, she never quite gives up on love.

5.  (Non-Fiction) "Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala -
On the morning of December 26, 2004, on the southern coast of Sri Lanka, Sonali Deraniyagala lost her parents, her husband, and her two young sons in the tsunami she miraculously survived. In this brave and searingly frank memoir, she describes those first horrifying moments and her long journey since. She has written an engrossing, unsentimental, beautifully poised account: as she struggles through the first months following the tragedy, furiously clenched against a reality that she cannot face and cannot deny; and then, over the ensuing years, as she emerges reluctantly, slowly allowing her memory to take her back through the rich and joyous life she’s mourning, from her family’s home in London, to the birth of her children, to the year she met her English husband at Cambridge, to her childhood in Colombo; all the while learning the difficult balance between the almost unbearable reminders of her loss and the need to keep her family, somehow, still alive within her.
(A note from Linda: This was one of the most heartbreaking but bravest books written that I've ever read. I  wish Ms. Deranivagala many blessings in her future.)

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