November With Plenty of Time to Read

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr 
Marie-Laure lives with her lock smith father, in Paris. When Marie-Laure goes blind her father builds a model of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and find her way around the town. When the Nazis occupy Paris they flee to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a large house by the sea. At the same time, Werner, an orphan in Germany is growing up and falls in with the Hitler Youth. His assignment takes him to Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Finalist for the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction

Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones 
I listened to this book on my Kindle while driving to Portland, and I highly recommend that delivery. The writing is poem-like and listening lets you take the time needed to visualize the beautiful landscape that is the Fog Island and the mountains that figure so heavily in the book. The story is a brief moment of time— the island is in the path of a typhoon, the main character has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and his wife has seemingly disappeared — just as he needs her the most.

In This Hospitable Land by Lynmar Brock Jr.
What is home? This is a question that I have been struggling with and this book explores that question, so it spoke to me on many different levels. The true story of the Sauverin family and their escape from Belgium during the Nazi occupation. They find many homes —  and how they transform their life and the village residents during these many years is an inspiration.

The Painter by Peter Heller
I just LOVE stories about artists and artist Jim Stegner is a doozy. He’s famous and divorced and he shot a man. Now living in rural Colorado, he tries to keep his nose clean but when he comes across a man beating a small horse, things get crazy. This is a raw, savage novel about a man who wants to have a meaningful life, but shit, life keeps getting in the way.

50 Children by Steven Pressman
In early 1939, an ordinary American couple, the Krauses, decided that something had to be done to save Jewish children. During the entire Holocaust, fewer than 1,200 unaccompanied children were allowed into the United States. 1.5 million children perished. The fifty children saved by the Krauses turned out to be the single largest group of unaccompanied children brought to America. True and powerful.

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner
The Kings family has lived on Loosewood Island for three hundred years, and in exchange for a bountiful life, they’ve had to endure the curse: the loss of every firstborn son. Part mythology and supposedly inspired by King Lear, The Lobster Kings is the story of their struggle to maintain the island’s way of life and break the cycle of death.

The Bees by Laline Paull
This is an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.
The story follows Flora 717, a lowly sanitation worker, who mysteriously is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then becomes a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. Much too long, but an interesting story.

The Brothers K by David James Duncan
Every so often you must re-read a book that you read (and loved) years ago. This is one such book for me. Duncan also wrote The River Why so you get an idea of his powerfully hypnotic style. The story spans decades in the lives of the Chance family. Funny, sad, and so beautifully crafted. Baseball glory, baseball dreams shattered; four brothers who choose their own way during the tumultuous sixties and all are swept up in the tragedy that binds them. An all-time favorite.


October -- Some Falltabulous Books!

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Jenna’s mom Alice disappeared a decade ago from the elephant sanctuary where she worked as a researcher; and Jenna is bent on finding out what happened. She contacts a psychic and a private detective to help in her hunt and after reading her mother’s research journals begins to piece together the likely story. Great book!!

The Big Tiny by Dee Williams
I’ve always been intrigued by tiny houses — you know, the ones built on wheels that are SO adorable, and people actually live in them. The Big Tiny is a study in the benefits of scaling back, way back. What prompted Williams abode turn-around, was her near-death experience. She decided to concentrate on things that matter - and the expensive and up-keep of a big house was stopping her from many of those things. She built an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up. You may not be a candidate for a tiny house but the writing is great and hey, you may even look around at all your random ‘stuff’ that’s never used. That’s a start. 

The Moonlight Palace by Liz Rosenberg
Agnes Hussein, the last surviving member of the last sultan of Singapore, has grown up in the old Kampong Glam palace, a once-beautiful residence given to her family in exchange for handing over Singapore to the British.This is a coming-of-age story with dazzling historical detail and a great cast of characters, set against the backdrop of 1920s Singapore. Loved this book.


A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger
Lucy’s best friend thirty-three year old Harlan dies from cancer and she is devastated. Like any 30-some woman would do — she decides to adopt a baby from Russia. And as she goes forward with her plan e-mails start arriving from Harlan that he arranged to be sent after he died. Lucy travels to Russia where she has the usual struggles and finally takes four year old Mat to America. Not really a watershed book for me but a nice easy feel-good book, and no, I don’t understand how I selected so many Schoenburger books the past few months.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
The same author wrote The Husband’s Secret, which i really enjoyed, and this book was right on par. Start with a strong group of women with secrets, add some humor and stir with a crazy spoon. Set in and around Pirriwee Public's school, the book revolves around Madeline, Celeste, and Jane and the famous annual Trivia Night where this year, one parent ends up dead. Touches on just about everything — parenting, ex-wives, ex-husbands, second wives, bullying, domestic abuse, violence, politics, and dysfunctional families. Makes you feel normal compared to these looney tunes. Recommended!!

The Glassblower by Petra Durst-Benning
Set in the village of Lauscha, Germany, a story of how things have been done for centuries and how change sneeks in when you least expect it. In Lauscha the men blow the glass, and the women decorate and pack it. But Joost Steinmann’s three daughters are left with difficult decisions when he dies suddenly leaving them alone. An interesting book with a few nice twists and turns.

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert
This is a great book and I highly recommend it. Set in 1965, it's Naomi’s last night at the Blue Angel, the once iconic jazz club in the hub of Chicago. Awesome characters including: Ten-year-old Sophia who idolizes her mom —even though it’s obvious Naomi would rather sing than be a Mom. Jim is a photographer wanna-be boyfriend and a father figure to Sophia. Jim was inspired by noted photographer Richard Nickel—a talented photographer on a mission to capture the essence of the many iconic landmarks of Chicago before they met their fateful destruction in the1960’s. This is an exquisite account of the 1960’s jazz scene in downtown Chicago, and wonderful historical details.


A Widows Walk Off-Grid by Anne Dodds
A true, mostly inspiring story of Anne Dodds journey to self-reliance and healing when her husband passed away after a long, trying illness. She was forced to sell almost everything to settle his estate, and now homeless, with little money, she decided to pursue a dream of living a quiet, self-sufficient life alone, off-grid. She found an old house on fifty acres and started her new life. As proud as I was of her accomplishments, I was shaking my head at the end and felling like she hadn’t really learned anything…

The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau
Daniel is in a psychiatric ward for murdering his fiancée. He reveals the story bit by bit using fragments of fables, novels, and historical allusions, to his friend Gustavo. Dark clues from their college days exploring dust-filled libraries and exotic brothels to Daniel’s intimate attachment to his sickly younger sister and his dealings as a book collector. Like walking into a dark labyrinthine, it’s a twisting haunting tale.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde
August is a teacher on summer break, on his way to Yellowstone to spread his son’s ashes. But his RV breaks down and he needs repairs, stranded in a small desert town. As Wes, the mechanic works on the vehicle, August realizes the engine repairs will eat up most of his cash. Then Wes asks him to take his two boys on the trip in exchange for the cost of repairs — otherwise they’ll go into the foster system since Wes must serve 90 days in jail. I know, I know, what are the chances -- but it's a feel-good pretty believable story.


Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
Pete’s own family is spinning out of control, but he concentrates on helping other disturbed families in the middle nowhere Montana. His eye is on Benjamin Pearl, a feral eleven-year-old boy living in the wilderness with his very disturbed father, Jeremiah. It doesn’t help that Pearl's weird activities have caught the attention of the FBI, putting Pete in the middle of a massive manhunt. A sad, but iconic American novel.

Funerals For Horses by Catherine Ryan Hyde
By the author of Pay It Forward, Funerals for Horses is a heartbreaking story. Ella’s brother Simon has disappeared. His possessions found abandoned near a freight line track in Central California. Ella takes off on foot across California and Arizona, thinking she can find Simon. She is befriended by three Native Americans and an aged paint horse named Yozzie.

Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
Brought together by death and weird relations, Iris, the star and Eva the sidekick, set off on their own through 1940s America. Iris’s ambitions take them across America in a stolen station wagon, from Ohio to Hollywood, and to the jazz clubs of Long Island. A novel about success and failure, good luck and bad, and the creation of a family from bits and pieces. The characters are lovable and sad, you cheer for them and then you want to slug them in the face.

The Virtues of Oxygen by Susan Schoenberger
Inspired by the true story of Martha Mason, a young woman who spent the majority of her life confined within an iron lung that would breathe for her when polio robbed her of that ability to do so for herself. Schoenberger invents Vivian Markham, a sixty three year old woman who has spent her entire life since the age of six living in an iron lung. Even though advancements were made in the medical field, they would pass her by, because after so many years her body had atrophied and she would not be able to breathe on her own. Looking at the world horizontally and making the best of her life and the lives of those in the small town who vowed to care for her, is inspiring -- and one can only hope that a magical town like that would actually exist.

June Books

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Since the nuclear meltdown that killed both her parents, Emily Shepard finds herself living in an igloo made of ice and trash bags filled with frozen leaves. Unfortunately her father was not only a drunk, but in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault. And oh, how people would like to get their hands on Emily. 

Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown
This historical novel based on the life of Mary Rowlandson is an authentic drama of Indian captivity. In 1676 Mary was captured from her Puritan community and 
sold into the service of a powerful tribal leader. She witnesses the expected brutality, but also unexpected kindness. Based on the true narrative of Mary Rowlandson.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Island Books owner A.J. Fikry is a grumpy guy who has a good reason to be — recently widowed and his prize rare book missing! Little did he know that a strange package and unlikely friendship would save him. Romance, humor and a touch suspense - this little book is a nice read and delightful story. 

The Beautiful American by Jeanne Mackin
This novel covers Paris in the 1920s to London after the Blitz, and follows two women that discover they share a secret from their past. American Nora Tours travels from her home in southern France to London in search of her missing sixteen-year-old daughter, where she unexpectedly meets up with an old acquaintance, famous model-turned-photographer Lee Miller. Lee became the celebrated mistress of the artist Man Ray. Lee Miller is a real person, but Nora is created to narrate her life from an outsider position. Great book.


Maybe You'll Like One of These. Get it, MAYbe.

Cathedral of the Wild by Boyd Varty
Boyd Varty grew up on Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa where along with his adventurous sister learned to track animals, raised leopard and lion cubs, and followed their uncle on his many filming adventures. Founded eighty years ago as a hunting ground, Londolozi was transformed into a nature reserve beginning in 1973 by Varty’s father and uncle. If only I could afford to stay there life would be complete.

Letters Form Berlin by Kerstin Lieff
Margarete Dos was abused by her violent stepfather and her adolescence and young adulthood coincided with the Nazi regime. Talk about bad luck. Transcribed and translated from Lieff’s interviews with her mother, Margarete,  its an incredibly heartbreaking story complete with awesome photos. ♥♥♥

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
Louisa is 26, and lives with her parents in a small English town. When the cafe closes, she is hired to care for Will Traynor, a former world traveler, ladies' man and successful businessman who's been a quadriplegic since a traffic accident two years ago.


Queen of Sugar by Natalie Baszile
Charley Bordelon’s father left her eight hundred acres of sugarcane in rural Louisiana so she and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, head on over from LA.

Saint Monkey by Jacinda Townsend
Fourteen-year-old Audrey Martin, wants to get out of Kentucky and her piano playing fingers may be the ticket. Honestly about half this book was unnecessary. The other half was really great. My favorite part was the peek into the booming jazz scene in Harlem.

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
A comic look at futuristic America – life, work and improbable love. ♥♥

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in early nineteenth century Charleston, Sarah’s eleventh birthday present is ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow them over the next thirty five years, as they find their way in the world. Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke. ♥♥♥

The Map of Enough by Molly Caro May
Molly Caro’s family never settled in one place for long. She kept the tradition alive and moved from foreign country to another, but shy of thirty years old, everything changed when she and her fiancé move to 107 acres in Montana. ♥♥

The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout’s
AhhHaa. Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Tommy Lee Jones. This story of early pioneers in 1850s American West puts us inside the sod huts and hardship that the women had to endure. It seems after each harsh, endless winter there are several wives gone crazy and a “homesman” must be found to escort  them back East, to a sanitarium. ♥♥♥♥

March Madness

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Boy Novak runs away and lands in a small Massachusetts town. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his daughter, Snow. After the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, she becomes a wicked step-mother. I can’t say I loved this book, but it was weirdly enchanting. ♥♥

Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates
The Mayfield’s missing 19-year-old daughter, Cressida, is feared dead in the Adirondack woods. Most people in the town of Carthage suspect she was beaten to death and dumped in the Black River by her older sister’s ex-fiancé, Brett Kincaid, a decorated Iraqi War vet. The case spans nearly seven years, and Joyce Carol Oates make it seem like nearly everyone in the town could have been responsible for the crime. ♥♥♥

Mermaid by Eileen Cronin
Eileen Cronin’s memoir is pretty incredible – she was born without legs. Her Catholic family accepts it as “God’s will,” and she “squiddled” through their 1960s Cincinnati home. As she grew older, Cronin wondered if her mother had taken the drug thalidomide.

The Bear by Claire Cameron
Five-year-old Anna manages to get her brother into the family’s canoe and away from the three hundred pound Black Bear that attacked and killed her parents. Out in the middle of nowhere, they must battle hunger, and a wilderness full of danger.

The Anatomy Lesson by Nina Siegal
Set in 1632, the story is about an anatomy lesson given in Amsterdam with the historical fiction take on Rembrandt's first great work of art. Told by many characters, from a curio dealer who collects bodies for medical dissection, to Rembrandt, and finally the lover of the man who is to be dissected. ♥♥

The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard
This memoir received much acclaim. I liked it, but without much acclaim.


Hollow City
The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
I really enjoyed the first book installment, published in 2011, not because the writing was terribly good, but I adore vintage photographs and use them in my art. The photographs that go along with the story-line are the glue holding the whole thing together. This second novel begins in 1940, immediately after the first book ended. O.K. not great.

Out of the Woods by Lynn Darling
Lynn Darling, long ago widowed, is currently really alone. To find herself she leaves New York and starts life in rural Vermont. Her new companions are a dog and a compass. ♥♥

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Rebecca Winter is a photographer whose most well-known work is about dirty kitchens. Now she’s getting older and her career is in another room most notably the toilet. She takes a risk, moves to the middle of nowhere and amazingly enough, because this, is after all fiction,  meets and falls in love with a hunky roofer.

The Misremembered Man by Christina McKenna
A sad and slapstick story of Jamie McCloone, a middle-aged Irish farmer and Lydia Devine, an unmarried schoolteacher still living with her mother. An upcoming wedding motivates her to put an ad in the paper to find a date so she won’t have to take her mother.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The true story of Louis Zamperini, a very talented runner who went all the way to the Berlin Olympics. But on a May afternoon in 1943, his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Louis and his mates drift in the ocean on a journey that is unbelievable. Another strong candidate for movie-dom. ♥♥♥♥

What She Left Behind by Ellen Wiseman
Izzy Stone's mother fatally shot her father and as an orphan of sorts, is. passed among foster families until she lands in the home of a couple who work at the local museum. They entice Izzy to help catalog items at a long-shuttered state asylum where she finds evidence of a woman who had a more heartbreaking life than her own. ♥♥♥


January AKA Inversion Hell

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
This is the true story of a very inspiring and brave girl: Amanda Lindhout. Like Amanda, I read National Geographic as a child, determined to see the world. Unlike Amanda I didn’t have the nerve to actually DO it. She visited Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, India, Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. But it was in war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she created a career as a television reporter. In August 2008, she traveled to Somalia and was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.

Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
Kim Miller lives in a very clean and organized apartment in Brooklyn. She grew up in Long Island amid boxes of junk and garbage so much that sleeping on the bed was never really an option. Her memoir brings to life the reality of growing up in a rat-infested home, hiding her father’s hoarding from the world.

The Art of Purring by David Michie
What is the true cause of happiness? The Dalai Lama’s cat is back to help shed (no pun intended) light on one of the most asked questions of all time. Experiencing the perils of self-obsession, and exploring where science and Buddhism meet, HHC finds the secret. Filled with wisdom, warmth, and mischief only a cat can find -- The Dalai Lama’s Cat and the Art of Purring is a purrfect little read. ♥♥

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold by Daniel James Brown
Spoiler alert! This is the best book I have read in years! It’s the TRUE story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their journey to the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936. It’s told from the perspective of one rower -- Joe Rantz, who had never rowed a stroke in his life but needed the scholarship money to stay in school. Add a visionary coach, an eccentric British boat builder and the rag-tag row team made up of farm boys, logger’s sons and misfits. Read it before it’s a movie. Because it will be a movie.♥♥♥♥♥♥

The Cowboy and the Cossack by Claire Huffaker
Note: Book Lust Rediscoveries is a series devoted to reprinting some of the best (and now out of print) novels originally published from 1960 to 2000. This is one of them.
Five hundred longhorn cows and fifteen Montana cowboys travel to Siberia where the clash of cultures between East and West begins. Once safely on shore, the Cossacks arrive to escort the cowboys to their destination even though the cowboys don’t want the company. Funny, sad, not PC and a really-really good book.♥♥

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
William Talmadge, is a gentle man who endured a tragic childhood but takes solace in tending to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. His world is changed the day two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit at the market. They are both pregnant and Talmadge opens his heart and his home.

The Son by Philipp Meyer
In the Spring of 1849 Eli McCullough is thirteen years old when a band of Comanche murders his mother and sister, taking him captive. He quickly adapts to Comanche life, carving out a place as the chief's adopted son and waging war against their enemies, including white men. Intertwined with Eli's story are those of his son, Peter, a man who has about 6 tons of emotional baggage thanks to his father's drive for power, and Eli's great-granddaughter, Jeannie, a woman who fights to succeed in a man's world.