Saturday, June 2, 2018

What's Val Reading? (May 2018)

Happy June! This post is a few days late because I was actually with Val (and without my laptop) at the end of the month. She and her husband moved to Florida last fall, and our parents and I flew down to visit last week. It was rainy, humid, and wonderful.

I'll have more to say later, but for now, here's a pic of us on Sanibel Beach.

Anyway, here's what Val read last month. I do spy a few books I'd love to get my hands on!

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (Goodreads)

This is the story of a neighborhood brought together by tragedy one summer.  The book follows four characters – Bryte, Jencey, Zell, and Cailey, as they work through their own issues related to family.  I really enjoyed this book. The writing was great and the plot was interesting.  There’s an element of suspense, but nothing scary. 4-1/2 stars.

Content: No language (that I recall); there was a sexual relationship but nothing descriptive.

Note: This book is a Kindle Unlimited title, so you can read it if you have KU, or you can borrow it free with your monthly Kindle Owner's Lending Library pick.

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell (Goodreads)

This story is set in post-WWII New York City.  Evelyn Spooner is a shy, awkward almost-16-year old.  She and her mother, Beverly, spent the war living with her stepfather’s mother, battle axe Grandma Glad. Now that Joe is home, their lives can return to normal…or not.  Joe impulsively decides that he, Beverly, and Evelyn should go on vacation in Florida, so they road trip all the way down the coast, eventually stopping in Palm Beach, which is virtually deserted because most tourists arrive in the winter, not fall. While there, they meet Peter, a handsome 23-year-old who served under Joe overseas.  Oddly, Joe doesn’t seem happy to see him.  Evie is falling for Peter, even as things surrounding her family grow stranger.  She may need to rethink everything she once believed.

I didn’t know anything about this book before I started reading it – only that Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel) had recommended it.  For me, that’s typically all I need to decide a book is worth reading.  I enjoyed the way the story unfolded.  I had certain things figured out before Evie did, but that felt right to me, since she is only 15 and in love for the first time.  I thought the story was well-told and engaging. 4 stars.

Content: I can’t remember if there was language or not.  There was a scene where heavy kissing started to turn into something more, but was then interrupted.  Although it abruptly ends, it may have been too descriptive for some readers, so once you hit that paragraph, just skip ahead if you want.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Jeremy McCarter, Lin-Manuel Miranda; narrated by Lin-manuel Miranda, Jeremy McCarter, and Mariska Hargitay (Goodreads)

I LOVED this book.  I listened to it on audiobook, and I think that was the way to go. It was narrated primarily by Mariska Hargitay, and she does a great job.  The book pulls back the curtain to show the behind-the-scenes of the making of Hamilton.  First off, if you haven’t either seen Hamilton (I wish!) or listened to the cast album, you’re not going to fully appreciate this book.  I would even suggest it’s helpful to have watched either the PBS special about Hamilton, or at the very least, google the cast, so you can put faces to the names the book throws around. 

I think the most interesting part to me was to hear how the creative process evolved to eventually birth the final product. 

Also, I’ve never done any theater other than a 6th grade play, so it was fascinating to me to learn what all goes into creating a behemoth like Hamilton – the choreography, the stage design, etc. It was all SO carefully crafted and thought out.  It became obvious that Lin-Manuel Miranda was not the only extremely talented person working on Hamilton, and it was so interesting to hear the stories of what each contributor brought to the project. 5 stars.

Content:  The “f” word is used a few times (3-5ish if I’m remembering correctly) throughout the book.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon (Goodreads)

This historical fiction novel follows dual timelines. The first timeline is told from Anastasia Romanov’s point of view from 1917-1918 during the imprisonment of the Romanov family as revolution engulfs Russia and the Tsar is removed from power. The other timeline begins in 1970 as a woman named Anna awaits a verdict from a German court as to whether they will legitimize her claim that she is, in fact, Anastasia Romanov, making her the only Romanov to survive the mass execution of her family in 1918. She has been fighting to prove her identity since 1920.

I loved this book.  I cared for the characters and was deeply invested in the outcome. At the end of the novel, I was basically in awe of Lawhon’s talents as a writer, because the structure of the novel probably made it very difficult to write, but for the reader, it was both a puzzle and a pleasure. 5 enthusiastic stars!

Content: There is an element of violence (including sexual violence) throughout since the one timeline involves a revolution and hostile soldiers. Nothing is explicit, but it still may be difficult for some sensitive readers. I can’t recall any language, but it’s possible that there was some.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate (Goodreads)

This historical fiction novel follows dual timelines.  One timeline follows Rill Foss, a poor but happy 12-year-old, and her siblings in Memphis 1939, as they are kidnapped and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society to be placed for adoption as part of the horrific for-profit adoption scheme run by Georgia Tann in the 1930’s-1950’s. The other timeline follows Avery Stafford, a 30-year-old attorney in present day South Carolina who is being groomed to take her father’s Senate seat when he eventually retires from politics.  Avery meets May, an elderly but feisty woman who claims to know Avery’s grandmother, Judy.  As Avery begins to investigate, she realizes there’s much about her grandmother that no one in the family knows.

Before reading this book, I had never heard of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society or the horrors that happened there.  The injustice and cruelty with which the children were treated made it hard to read the book at times, but the compelling story and lovable characters made it worth pushing through. 5 stars.

Content: Nothing objectionable. Some references are made to a sexual assault, but it happens off the page.

Have you read any of these books? For the first time since we've been doing this, I think I would enjoy all of Val's reads. I already own The Things We Wish Were True, and I'm on my library's wait list (#96!!!) for Before We Were Yours. Now to find the time to read them!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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