Friday, November 23, 2012

Thankfully Reading Weekend

I've been on a reading hiatus for the past month or so and I decided that I would use the Thankfully Reading Weekend as a way to jump start my reading again.

I'm not sure how much I'll be reading for the rest of the weekend, but before jumping into book #1 I thought I would write up a kick off post.

Kick Off

How did you celebrate Thanksgiving? Normally, we celebrate with either my family or my husband's family.  But this year with the birth of our twins, we stayed in town and had a celebration with some good friends.

What’s in your TBR pile for the weekend? 3 books I picked up from the library over a week ago, plus maybe a book or two from my bookshelves as well.

How much time do you think you’ll have for reading? Probably 2-4 hours each day over the weekend.

What book are you starting out with? The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Update - Thursday
We spent the day cooking, visiting our girls in the NICU and celebrating Thanksgiving with friends.  The only "reading" I did was recipes :)

Update - Friday
I had every intention of starting a book last night but I got distracted by watching My Fair Lady with my husband.

Update - Saturday
Started The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry during the afternoon and will continue tonight.

Wrap Up
Well, I didn't finish any books, but I made good progress on The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and NutureShock.  I feel that this weekend helped me break out of my reading hiatus.

CBR4 #63 Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
It took me a while, but I finally got a chance to read this book.  I was impressed how Hillenbrand's book read like a fiction book even though it was non-fiction. I was captivated with this book and I think my nurses could tell as I would rush right back to the book as soon as my testing was over. The chapters about his time in the prison camp did drag a bit for me.  I was amazed how he dealt with his POW days when getting back home and how he had an interest in returning back to Japan.

I appreciate learning about a different front of World War II. It is clear that Hillenbrand's seven years of research paid off in helping the reader experience the trials and joys that Louis did.  This book is definitely one that you should not miss out on.

CBR4 #62 The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. Such as, why did Dulcie Shelby leave her hometown so suddenly? And why did she vow never to return? But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew—a reclusive, real-life gentle giant—she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor bakes hope in the form of cakes. Everyone in Mullaby adores Julia Winterson’s cakes—which is a good thing, because Julia can’t seem to stop baking them. She offers them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth but also in the hope of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Flour, eggs, milk, and sugar . . . Baking is the only language the proud but vulnerable Julia has to communicate what is truly in her heart. But is it enough to call back to her those she’s hurt in the past?  Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.
My husband is from North Carolina, so anytime I see a book set there I add it to my TBR.  This book is the second one by Sarah Addison Allen that I've read.  I liked this book better than The Peach Keeper.

Allen writes touching love stories which are intertwined with a good mystery/fantasy plot.  The small town vibe draws the reader in and Allen focuses on how past generations actions can impact future generations actions. Overall this book is quaint and a good read that you'll find it hard to leave the characters and the town of Mullaby behind.

CBR4 #61 In The Woods by Tana French

As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
I read Broken Harbour a few months ago and didn't really enjoy it, but I got recommendations to read this book before giving up on Tana French.  I'm glad I followed those recommendations, because I enjoyed this book much better. The characters were more likeable or maybe there was less "backstory" to understand.

Overall this book was an excellent mystery and kept me on the edge of my seat.  I wish there was more discovered about the older case, but perhaps that is a future book for French.  The local town atmosphere played into the plot well. There was good dynamics between the main characters as well.  French's writing style is similar between the two books.

CBR4 #60 A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood.  Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach.  It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer.  When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car. Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash.  Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death.  Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.  Trapped in the wake of a shocking family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children.  How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself?  Suddenly fragile on all fronts as a son, a husband, a brother and a father, Antoine Rey will learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way. By turns thrilling, seductive and destructive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family, the invisible ties that hold it together, and the impact it has throughout life.
I haven't read Sarah's Key, but the cover of this book really drew me in.  I loved the way the book was setup, drawing the reader in with the "event" that started everything and then working up to and past that "event".

I was surprised by the plot had so much push and pull about life and death as well as how family members survive and move on after death. I definitely didn't expect the characters to face more death throughout the book.  In a way, I could see similar plot structures to a crime drama series - just as the characters figure some part of the puzzle out a whole another twist of fate happens.

I enjoyed watching Antoine grow as a character from the beginning to the end.  This book is full of mystery and intrigue as well a heartwarming family centered story.

CBR4 #59 Small Wars - Sadie Jones

Sadie Jones, the award-winning and internationally bestselling author of The Outcast, returns with an ambitious, richly imagined novel that confirms her place in the literary firmament. A passionate and beautifully written tale of personal loss in the midst of war in late 1950s Cyprus, Small Wars raises important questions that are just as relevant today. What happens when everything a man believes in — the army, his country, his marriage — begins to crumble? Hal Treherne is a young British soldier on the brink of a brilliant career. Transferred to Cyprus to defend the colony, Hal takes his wife, Clara, and their daughters with him. But Hal is pulled into atrocities that take him further from Clara, a betrayal that is only one part of a shocking personal crisis to come. 
I read Jones' latest Uninvited Guests earlier this year and I wasn't thrilled over the story, but I had put this book on my TBR based on a recommendation from another book blogger.  I'm glad I gave Jones' another chance, because I enjoyed this book more.

I didn't know much about England's "war" in Cypress/Greece in the 1950s so I enjoyed the historical aspects of the book.  The relationship between Clara and Hal is sweet and timeless.  Jones' paints a good portrait of how war impacts more than the soldiers, but their families as well.

Jones' is a good storyteller and left me as the reader invested in the characters, even though some of the minor characters that were part of the base in Cypress disappear in the later half of the book. I was frustrated at times with Hal because of his hot and cold emotions towards Claire.  Overall I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it.

CBR4 #58 The Jewel of St Petersburg by Kate Furnivall

Russia, 1910. Valentina Ivanova is the darling of St. Petersburg's elite aristocracy-until her romance with a Danish engineer creates a terrible scandal and her parents push her into a loveless engagement with a Russian count.  Meanwhile, Russia itself is bound for rebellion. With the Tsar and the Duma at each other's throats, and the Bolsheviks drawing their battle lines, the elegance and opulence of Tsarist rule are in their last days. And Valentina will be forced to make a choice that will change not only her own life, but the lives of those around her forever...

I appreciated the way Valentina was a rebel within her own family and how she looked for a way to better herself even if that wasn't expected of her.  Furnivall writes a lovely love story intertwined with the story of the revolution.  She challenges the characters to make decisions they never thought they would have to make.

I was impressed with how now matter what was going on with Valentina she kept going back to the one family that she met during one of the worker's strikes.  I like to think that unlikely meeting that morning, grew Valentina as a character and opened her eyes to much more.

Even though the ending of the book left the reader wanting more (and in turn this book is a prequel to one Furnivall's other books), the plot wasn't left hanging.