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Monday, March 30, 2020

March Reading

**** I began this post at the beginning of the month, when I had no idea we'd be dealing with social distancing due to the coronavirus. As you might be able to tell, I spent quite a bit of time reading this month.

These are my March reads:

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. I am reading this for my regular bookclub, but this fits my Keyword Reading Challenge for the word "House" too. Some of the women at book club are really raving about this book and really love it. I liked it but I don't love it. Maybe sometimes I am a little less forgiving than others? I'll be curious to hear more from the women at book club about why they all loved it.
Einstein's Beach House by Jacob M Appel- I don't often read short stories. This has been sitting on my shelf for a few years and I'm glad I finally picked it up. You know stories that are so odd that you feel, "Yeah, totally unrealistic," but then you meet a weird character and think to yourself "I know that person...." Well, this book was like that for me. The stories were weirdly amusing. My favorite one was about a depressed hedgehog. Maybe I'll try to read more short stories.
Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier. I got this advanced reader copy from Netgalley.  Thank you!  This book was about an affluent couple whose 4 year old son goes missing while the mother is answering the father's text while Christmas shopping. Despite the best effort of mall security, police, FBI and a private investigator, there have never really been any true hints about what happened after the boy left the mall. Eighteen months have passed and life has changed- the wife has joined a support group of people with missing children while her life seems to be getting away from her a bit. The husband keeps working in hopes that he can move on.Without giving away a bunch of spoilers, the wife gets a call from the PI asking her to meet. At the meeting she learns that her husband has been having an affair with a younger woman.Chaos ensues.
         To be really honest, I wasn't sure I'd like this book- 1)I'm a teacher and a mom of boys- so, missing kids is not usually an entertaining subject for me. 2) I don't read romance so I'm not used to steamy scenes... there were a few in here. 3) I felt the beginning was predictable and at the start, I wasn't really liking the characters. One night, I went to bed early but work up a little before 11. I thought I'd read a chapter and go back to bed. Well, I ended up reading for a few hours until I finished the book. Then I e-mailed the author to tell her how surprised I was to have liked it. (She responded and seems super cool.)

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, J.K. Rowling.  This is another "shelf-dweller" that I'm glad I picked up. (Y'all- I might have only one "to read" bookshelf by the summer instead of a bookshelf with a giant pile next to it.) This is a play that opened in London in July of 2016. I'm delighted that I had no idea about the story. This is a play about what happens years after the Harry Potter series had ended. Harry, Ron and Hermione have grown up and have jobs and families of their own. One of the main themes of the play is growing up with a legacy that you did not ask for- growing up the son of the famous Harry Potter. Of course, anyone who has read the series will know that Harry also had a legacy he did not ask for, as "The Boy Who Lived." I let both of my sons read this before I did and it was fun to discuss the book with them. I also enjoyed this one a lot. 
What It Means To Be a Teacher  by Jenn Larson.   This was another Netgalley Advanced Reader Copy. Thanks!  This book made me laugh. Sometimes books that are written "to celebrate" a classroom are obviously written by people who have not been in a classroom for many, many years. This book made me feel like others totally get what I do. I'm writing this post on 3/30- about 2 weeks into our social distancing from school. There are a lot of little moments in my day that I really miss- a check in with kids in the hallway who "accidentally" pass me at the same time every day, the weird responses I get to questions on a test, the cute doodle I find in the corner of an assignment... it's these kinds of things that I miss. This book has mentions of those types of things along with with everyday teaching issues. I related to this book a lot.
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The Life We Bury- Allen Eskens- I read this for my Book Hive book club. Joe Talbert is a student who is assigned to interview a stranger to write a biography for a class at university. He goes to a nursing home to see if he can find someone to connect with and a nurse points him in the direction of Carl Iverson, who is a Vietnam vet but also a convicted murdered who is only out of jail because of his life-threatening medical problems. While he is trying to learn about Carl, he is also forced to deal with his dysfunctional mother whose drinking and selfishness put him in a caretaker position to his younger brother who is autistic.
       I liked this book. The characters are relatable and many of the backstories make you look at their situation and wonder what you would do in a similar position. I might check out the other books in this series.
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The Garden of Lost Memories- by Ruby Hummingbird- I received this from NetGalley as an ARC. This was a delightful surprise to me. Elsie is an older woman who is set in her ways and in her routine until she meets a new neighbor who has left her abusive husband and is trying to support her 10 year old son, Billy. Billy doesn't quite understand why he is living in a new place or why he is stuck being babysat by Elsie, but he starts to feel more comfortable when Elsie teaches him how to work in her garden and he discovers a box that has been hidden for years. I thought this would be a little too light for me at first, but I liked how the characters developed throughout the story and the relationship between Elsie and Billy. It was a nice feel good story to read, even though not all of parts of the story are happy.
 Only Daughter- Anna Snoekstra-    It's 2014 and a young woman is caught shoplifting in a supermarket. Being a person who is somewhat used to manipulating others to get what she wants, she tries all of her normal routines until she realizes that she may not get out of this situation. So, she decides to try a new approach, to claim to be a child named Rebecca Winters, who went missing 11 years before. Rebecca's (called Bec) parents are called and the girl is welcomed back home into the family. She originally expected to leave the family, but as she settles into her new life, she discovers that she might actually be able to pull this off and might not decide to leave since things aren't so bad. Then things start unraveling and she feels like she has to figure out what is really going on. This book alternates between the girl in 2014 and Bec from 2003. It kept my interest and there were a few plot twists I didn't see coming.
Secret Prey- John Sandford- I started this one but did get very far. It was on my "to read" shelf but I'm not enjoying books that I'm feeling are overtly sexual, violent or gross just for the sake of trying to be entertaining to someone.
A Family of Strangers by Emilie Richards- This is another book for my Book Hive club. One thing I love about this club is that every person picks a book that they'd like and everybody else reads it. I have read lots of books that I wouldn't normally have read.  This book seemed like it might be a little light for me. It's about a woman named Ryan, who is called by her (considerably) older sister who has gotten in some sort of trouble and needs Ryan to help out by taking care of her nieces. Ryan, who is a crime podcaster, is extremely uncomfortable with the whole situation, but drops everything to try to help. When Ryan arrives at Wendy's house and begins spending more time with her nieces, she starts to realize that things don't seem to be as they seem.
       I liked this book too. I especially enjoyed the relationships between Ryan and her ex-boyfriend Teo as well as Ryan's relationship with her nieces. There were a few characters I spent a lot of time being annoyed by, but I think the author may have done some of that on purpose.
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Personal by Lee Child-       I enjoy the Jack Reacher books. In this particular book, Jack is asked to track down (really, to bait) a sniper named John Kott, who is believed to have tried to shoot the French president. Kott and Reacher have history, as Reacher is the person who got Kott convicted and put into prison. Reacher is teamed up with a woman named Casey Nice and challenged to find Kott before the G8 summit, where they are worried he might strike again.
American Blonde by Jennifer Niven- I have no idea where I got this book. I think it's been on my "to read" shelf for a long time. I also had no idea that this is the 4th book in a series. With that being said, it was fine as a stand alone book. It's a piece of historical fiction (regular fiction with historical pieces?) that takes place during the Golden Age of MGM pictures. Velva Jean Hart is a girl who is "discovered" after she is caught on a newsreel during her return to America after the war. She is invited to Hollywood to audition for the pictures and is given a contract and a new identity. She leaves most of her old life behind to experience what it's like to be a star while she still tries to hold onto her personal identity. This is another book I'm glad I gave a chance to. I'm not sure if I will go back to read the other three Velva Jean books, but I'm glad I read this one. 

Goodreads Reading Challenge:19/60

Keyword Reading Challenge: 3/12