January Books

Reading over the past month has been an eclectic mix of fiction and non-fiction. A couple of things I can really recommend, a couple of meh novels, two non-fiction page turners and a few more. Links are provided to Amazon for all the books, thank you for using my links when you can as it helps to support the costs of the blog. So, starting out with the one I enjoyed the most!

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman – This story of a cantankerous old man, Ove (pronounced oh-vay), trying to navigate his life after the death of his wife is funny and heartwarming. New neighbors turn his well ordered life upside down, and the voice of his inner self to “do what is right” keeps sending him out to engage with other people, in spite of his not-so-serious wish to end it all. He can’t bring himself to turn away from one who needs help, as he feels he cannot show up in heaven with that on his record, as his wife wouldn’t be happy with him. Well written and difficult to put down, funny and heartwarming, highly recommend.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Barbieri – I wanted to like this book, I really did, but overall it came off a bit flat. I have a problem with unrealistic and stupid decisions by a main character. This one began with Kate making a decision to flee her life after a series of disappointments and go backpacking alone across the countryside of Ireland. Really? A woman alone on the road hitchhiking in this day and time? I don’t think so. Anyway, she wanders aimlessly until she comes into a small town where she is immediately taken in by one of the villagers. Again, not believable. Then she sleeps with a guy after spending one afternoon with him, another stupid decision. Oh, but wait, she is a struggling fashion designer and the town’s women make lace. Maybe they could put the lace on lingerie!! That’s never been done before! (heavy sarcasm here). I just kept rolling my eyes. Can’t really recommend, but not as terrible as others in this post.

Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz – Picked this one up in an effort to read outside my usual genres. The story went along with the usual roller coaster of peril and escape, more peril and another escape, over and over, but the end was so preachy it was a letdown. Some parts were really gory, and I had to skip over a paragraph here and there as I really don’t need those images in my head. Overall, wish I hadn’t wasted my reading time. But fans of this kind of thing may like this book.

Love Letters from Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball – Another delightful installment in the Ladybug Farm series as the ladies bite off way more than they can chew. Agreeing to host a wedding with a bridezilla and her overbearing mother, along with madcap adventures as things go terribly wrong, it is a fun and easy read. The storm that comes the day before the wedding was a bit much, though. Still, it is a pleasant diversion and an enjoyable series. Looking forward to reading the next in the series.

Ladder of Years by Ann Tyler – I had a difficult time deciding on a rating for this book, in some ways it is a compelling story, but in other ways just too stupid and unbelievable. Many women fantasize from time to time about leaving their situations and starting something new. The protagonist here is in that position, but acts on vacating her life on a spur of the moment whim, allowing herself to just follow her nose, leaving her family without a thought as to how it would affect them. What seems to be a trip down depression lane comes off as simply dumb. While her journey is somewhat interesting in the characters she meets, she doesn’t seem to care about her own children and their response to her decisions. It isn’t until the end of the story that she seems to see how the family fell apart without her, yet she does the same thing again to the young man who had come to depend on her while she was wallowing in self pity and self imposed exile. Overall, OK, some may enjoy it. I wish I’d spent my time on something else.

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by Fiona Canarvon – A fascinating account of the real 5th Countess of Carnarvon and her impact on advances in her time. She was interested in nursing, and was instrumental in founding a hospital at the estate for soldiers of WWI. Her employment of Dr Jones, who was a pioneer in orthopedic surgery, helped prove that setting bones after fractures would decrease the mortality rate by 80%. Being in the medical field, this was one of the most interesting parts of the book. As the illegitimate daughter of wealthy Alfred Rothschild (who settled a fortune on her), she was able to marry into nobility to infuse money into an estate with crushing debt. Young and intelligent, she was interested in modernizing and brought electricity to Highclere greatly decreasing the fire danger that claimed other estates at the time. Packed full of interesting facts, the writing is not the most interesting, but the story transcends the prose. Much of her life story and the people she knew are represented in Downton Abby, and faithful fans will see those parallels.

Lastly, I am reading the next book in the collection of published works by MFK Fisher, the grand dame of food writing, in the volume The Art of Eating. Born in 1908 in Michigan, she moved to California as a child. She lived in France after she was married where she learned to cook, moving back to California and back to France again. She survived the Great Depression publishing her first book Serve It Forth in 1938, a collection of essays. She published her second book in 1942, at the height of rationing of the war years. She was friends with Julia and Paul Child, and at one point rented a house from them to write a cookbook on French recipes. This volume contains five of her published books on food, and I take it off the shelf to read one now and then. Her views on sustainability and using ingredients with not only thrift, but flair are timeless.

I hope you enjoy some of my picks. What is on your reading list?

26 thoughts on “January Books

  1. Cathie J

    Thanks for the reviews. Only the first book interested me on your list. I had been interested in The Lacemakers of Glengarra, but your review along with others has convinced me to give it a pass.

  2. Linda B

    I have enjoyed listening to the audiobook version of a series by Gail Carriger …series about Alexia Tarabotti…set in a parallel universe in England. Very entertaining. That is what I have been needing…entertaining and diverting.

  3. Fun to read your book reviews. A Man Called Ove was made into a movie too. Very good one too. Haven’t read the book, just seen the movie several times (yes, it is worth multiple views).

  4. Sylvia Anderson

    Good morning Carole. I read A Man called Ove, about 5 or 6 years ago, and think it might be time to read it again. I so thoroughly enjoyed the book when I initially read it, and know that it’s the type of book that I will appreciate even more, the second time around. A book like that, will never grow old, definitely withstanding the passage of time. Hope you are both doing well, and thanks for the reviews.

  5. Rheanna

    I read A Man Called Ove last year and it was one of my top 3 books (along with A Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom and Where the Crawdads Sing).
    In January I have read A Gentleman in Moscow, The Rosie Project and its sequel The Rosie Effect. I liked the Rosie Project but the sequel annoyed me quite a bit I. I found that one of the main character’s reactions were over dramatic.
    On my list for this upcoming month are The Secret Life of Bees and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

  6. I loved A Man Called Ove, especially after reading just a little and wondering, why I would want to read about a man who wanted to kill himself? The book definitely surpassed my initial expectations! I just read My Grandmother Asked Me to tell you She’s Sorry, by the same author, and loved it, too – definitely recommend! I’m not familiar with the Ladybug Farm series, so will be putting those on my list.

  7. Loris Mills

    I had to laugh reading your review of Anne Tyler. I think she is kind of either “you love her writing or not”. Ladder of Years was my favorite for many years probably because I have dreamed of ‘running away’ from time to time….not seriously but I’m kind of an intense personality and sometimes would like to be something else. HA! But then she wrote Clock Dance and that competed with it. I have all her books and offered some to my sister who mostly reads espionage intrigue. She didn’t read but a few pages. Definitely not for her!
    I started reading Anne Tyler when I was working about 70 hours a week and was fascinated with her quirky characters in many of her books who seemed to be living life without so much activity. Not sure why that appealed to me.so much, perhaps just vicarious living.
    Thank you so much for your book reviews. I enjoy reading them and finding books I’m interested in. A Man Called Ove sounds great.

  8. Jo Anne Seccurra

    I’m an audiobookaholic! I love to listen and quilt! Thank you for your reviews! Priceless!

    The audio book of A Man Called Ove was extraordinary. I just finished Backman’s Anxious People and the author does a superb job on character development. Anxious People is not as deep or absorbing as A Man Called Ove but quite good.

    Agree that Dean Kootz is extremely intense and graphic. One and done for me.

    A compelling listen is Fair Warning by Michael Connelly…although fiction…. turns out there really is a consumer report type publication called Fair Warning and Connelly is on the board.

  9. 99% of what I read is nonfiction. So I just put The Art of Eating on hold at the library. But I did just finish a book of fiction that was good…You Should Have Known by Jean Korelitz. It’s the book The Undoing on HBO was based on.

  10. Connie Wolfe

    Your book reviews have been a reliable source for reading material. A Man Called Ove was so captivating that I read it in just a few days. I also read the Ladybug Farm series based upon your recommendation. Like you, I enjoyed the first book and found the following ones okay but not as good as the first one
    Thanks so much for sharing on this topic.
    Connie

  11. Martha Franks

    Thank you for your frank reviews of the books you read! I love the Ladybug Farm books. I have 3 of them. Is that all of them? Are you familiar with other books by this author? I have a bunch of books on order at the library, so I am re-reading some of the books I own. Just finished Ladies Night by Mary Kay Andrews, which was as funny and satisfying as it was the first time. Am starting Seven Year Switch by Claire Cook now. I love both of these authors and read and re-read their books often.

  12. Nanci Cartwright

    I love your book reviews and have purchased several books based on your reviews and have been very happy with them. I’ve read a Man Called Ove and loved it as well as another of his books, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry. I also have the large MFK Fisher, The Art of Eating on my Shelf, but haven’t really delved into it yet so I think I’ll set it out to remind me that I have it.

    I just purchased a used copy of The Last Days of Night, an historical thriller fiction book about Tesla and Edison that was recommended by my local quilt shop actually. And I recently purchased Quilting With Liberty: 14 Quilts Celebrating 140 years of Fabric. That one is just a beauty to look at; bonus are the quilt patterns. I’m making an English Paper Pieced quilt in the evenings while watching TV with my husband, and it’s made of Liberty of London Tana Lawn. But recently I’ve been reading Melanie Foster’s “Seasons” books that I get free on my Kindle Unlimited subscription that I accidentally signed up for and runs through March. I don’t know if they were suggested from other books I’ve read or if I got wind of them from one of your reviews. I believe that they are self-published. They are about an almost 40 year old woman who loses her job in the marketing field in Minneapolis and ends up going home to Iowa to visit family and ends up renting a small farm for the summer and working part time in a family owned hardware store in a small town. As someone who used to have a small flock of wool breed (vs. meat breed) sheep and angora goats, with 2 dogs and 3 cats, on a 4 acre hobby farm in Michigan for several years, it’s like visiting “home” for me. I loved my sheep and goats and loved the farm even though I worked days at a “real” job. I was in my 40’s then too. The small novels are written well enough to be engaging. Challenges arise and good neighbors prevail. Lessons are learned. Nothing is too schmaltzy and I’ve become interested on the ongoing characters. So I’m mostly reading my way through however many “Seasons” are left in this series before my subscription rounds out because I don’t plan to renew it.

    It’s too bad that some of the books in your January review turned out to be duds but I definitely appreciate the heads up on those!

  13. Sherrill

    I started A Man Called Ove quite some time ago but couldn’t stick with it. I’d read Bear Town and LOVED it but the 2nd one didn’t grip me and I have to be gripped..HA! The Sole Survivor sounds like more my cuppa tea..action, zip, zoom! The way I like my movies too, LOL. Don’t do sappy, romance, that kinda stuff.

  14. Laura Puckett

    I am very interested in the books you chose. I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz and Steven King, but Sole Survivor is not his best work. When you feel like another of his I highly recommend Watchers. It is a roller coaster, but ends well. Also any of the Odd Thomas books are excellent. I too recently read a book that the entire premise was insane. When I finished it I just shook my head and said that was a stupid waste of time, not that reading is ever a waste of time. LOL I really enjoy your blog and often share the pictures from “home.”

  15. reading ‘troubled blood’ another book by robert galbraith (aka jk rowling) featuring her detective cormoran strike….it is a very big book, 950 pages, but her character development skills are impeccable and not a wizard in sight….yet!

  16. Susan Nixon

    I have looked at the Ove book, but not picked it up yet. I always appreciate hearing what you think. I just finished an interesting 2-book historical novel based on something the King of France did in the late 1600s to keep Canada a French territory. (Promised to the Crown is number 1)

    He sent women there, to be brides and have children, to encourage farming instead of so much trapping, and people interested in keeping their land against the English possibility of invasion. We know how that all turned out, but it was an interesting look at Quebec in those times and we still see that influence today.

    I read them free from Kindle Unlimited, but they aren’t that expensive. The author, Aimee K. Runyon, is the kind who pulls you right in. I read t hem after reading Across the Winding River, which is a contemporary story she wrote. They are all good and held my interest. I’ve put 2 more of her books on my Kindle now.

  17. I love MFK Fisher. Sorry your effort to read beyond your typical genres didn’t work out. I hope you keep trying. If you want a thriller that isn’t too gory and doesn’t wrap up preachy you might try one of the Temprance Brennan books by Kathy Reichs. I liked Cross Bones in particular. If you like to start a series at the beginning Deja Dead is the one, but I haven’t read it yet as I have been reading these as I happen upon them.

  18. A Man Called Ove is on my list. I appreciate hearing about the books you would pass on too! I just finished the last book in Lisa Wingate’s Carolina Heirlooms series, The Sea Keeper’s Daughter. I enjoyed them all. They are loosely connected, and all take place on the Souter Banks.

  19. Susan Shamekh

    I love reading book reviews so thanks for sharing. I just read The Life We Bury – the setting is MN the state I was born and raised in. Interesting story.

  20. Susan

    I read “A Man called Ove,” this past Spring. A friend loaned it to us along with the movie. As usual, the movie took liberties and didn’t follow the book exactly. I liked the book version better. I recently read, “What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism,” by Dan Rather & Elliot Kirschner. A wonderful book. I am currently reading, “Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies,” by J. B. West with Mary Lynn Kotz. It is also a wonderful read.

  21. Thank you for your book reviews. I’ve added several to my reading list. I’m not currently reading anything, as I tend to do most of my reading while travel, especially during the summer.

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