Six in Six–2019 Edition

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“The idea being that as the end of June approaches and we are then halfway through the year,  let us share the books we have read in those first 6 months. In fact let’s share 6 books in 6 categories, or if time is of the essence then simply share just 6 books. Whatever combination works for you as long as it involves 6 books. Of course the same book can obviously feature in more than one category.” Six in Six is hosted by The Book Jotter. You can read more about it here.

 

This week’s posts may seem a bit repetitive. Sorry!

First the Bad

 

Six Books I Abandoned (DNF)

 

 

Now The Good

All have reviews published on this blog.

Six Historical Novels I Enjoyed

 

 

Six From the Non-Fiction Shelf

 

 

Six Books Related to The Great War or Second World War (Nonfiction)

 

Six books I must mention that don’t fit nicely into any category

 

 

Six About Women or Girls (Fiction)

 

Past Six in Six

Six in Six for 2017

Six in Six for 2016

 

Have you done the Six in Six? Leave your link!

My favorite books read in the first half of 2019–Fiction

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My Choices

 

My Reviews

With The Fire On High and  The Poet X-two “bests” from one new author!

The Editor

Meet Me in Monaco

The Gown

Daisy Jones and the Six-I hope this wins a Audio Publishers Award, aka “Audie” for best audio this year. It deserves it.

Meet Me at the Museum

Convenience Store Woman

Next Year in Havana

Quintland Sisters

Girlchild

 

What were your favorites these past six months? Have you done a similar post? Leave me comments or leave me a link–I’d love to see your choices.

Top-Ten Tuesday: Auto-READ Authors

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This Week’s Topic

Well,  the topic really is Auto-Buy Authors, but I’m a librarian (albeit in a university library) and my budget allows for few purchases. I read almost exclusively from my public library (and our state’s regional system). So, I tweeked the topic to be “auto-read” authors.

My Authors

Series:

Alexander McCall Smith

Both of these series release dates are on my calendar!  I enjoy both of these series and have enjoyed a few of his other books as well. Start with Book One in each series or you’ll be lost. To The Land of Long Lost Friends and The Peppermint Tea Chronicles by Alexander McCall Smith.

Louise Penny

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All the denizens of Three Pines are like old friends at this point. The end of August is when this one comes out and I’m counting the days. A Better Man by Louise Penny.

Vive Gamache!

Other Authors

Debuting this year on my Must Read list…

Elizabeth Acevedo

I fell in love with her almost on the first word of her first book, The Poet X and then went completely to head-over-heels listening to With the Fire On High. What a superb voice! No one, I repeat no one, can perform her books except her!

JoJo Moyes

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I will be interested to read a British author’s take on Appalachia in the Great Depression–The Giver of Stars. I follow her Twitter and found her tweets during her research trip to the region interesting.

I did not get to finish The Peacock Emporium, her last book, as there were holds at the library on it. I need to get back to it before I read Giver of Stars. I am working through her backlist as well.

Barbara Kingsolver

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I’ve loved her books, all except The Lacuna. I did give the audiobook of Unsheltered back to the library without finishing it. Some authors should not perform their own books. Sadly, Barbara is of them. I will read this in print. I still have a couple from her backlist to read, too.

Julie Murphy

Any author who writes a book where the fat girl gets the hot guy has my vote. It gives hope and a better idea of how good boys CAN be. I love her books! I have not seen the Dumplin’ movie yet, but would like to Ramona Blue Dumplin’, and Puddin’ by Julie Murphy. I have not started reading her backlist yet.

Jessica Brockmole

I did find parts of Letters From Skye to be far fetched (how to keep getting all those letters in a small place, but no gossip??) but I still love her books. I have one or two more of hers to read yet. I love, too, that she writes in…wait for it!….INDIANA and not NYC. Woman Enters Left by Jessica Brockmole and Fall of Poppies with story by Jessica Brockmole.

Amy Belding Brown

Amy’s historical fiction is brilliant! I have not read her early novels, just the two pictured above. I would gladly re-read them annually–they are that good. Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown.

Review of Mr. Emerson’s Wife from my old blog:
My only question about Amy Belding Brown’s Mr. Emerson’s Wife is WHY did I leave it on my to-read list so long! This was superb! It’s one of those books I wish I had written–it’s that “real” and that moving. These are not cardboard cutouts of famous men and women. These are REAL people and they come alive on Ms. Brown’s pages. The passion, grief, longing, heartache, joy, lust, ennui, fickleness, commitment, and endurance of a deeply-felt marriage is all right here in one book. These are not mere “pages” of a story but a canvas ripe in emotional detail–another of those “inner” books I love. Ms. Brown writes possibly the most amazing line ever penned to describe an act of physical love:

“And how, when he was finished, he displayed such astounding gratitude, as if what I had given him was not my body, but a miracle.” (p. 69)

Another line that lept off the page and straight into my heart was this, written about a passionate friendship that may or may not have become physical:
“…she’d given him his most profound experience of the divine…” (p. 304)
This book is so amazing! Three words: Just Read It!
There are others, but my list changes with my mood!

 

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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First, thank you to Books, Libraries. Also, cats for convincing me to read this one.

 

Every year there are a few novels that do a great job of living up to their hype. This year, I’d cite Daisy Jones and The Six, The Editor, and With Fire On High, Meet Me in Monaco, and now, The Unhoneymooners as being among those august publications for 2019.

The Story

A disastrous wedding leaves Olive having to take her twin sister’s free, luxurious honeymoon with the groom’s brother, Ethan. One problem: they hate each other. How will this play out?

What I Loved

I loved the chemistry between Olive and Ethan! Where has this guy been all my life?? Lucky Ollie! Overcoming looking like a green Skittle with an awesome rack takes work, but Olive achieves it. Everything about this relationship, the snark, the bickering, the [no spoilers] works so well I felt I was reading about real people. Real people, I knew, loved, and cheered for.

As a “lone” twin I really enjoyed the twin sisters–their differences as well as the “pull” that keeps them close. Olive wanting to protect Amy [no spoilers] went on beyond that disastrous wedding. That was so real! Ethan, too, had a protective streak with Dane, just as real brothers often have. I loved this.

I could so relate to Ollie and her ability to find the negatives and to be snarky too often. I was the same at her age and still struggle with it today.

The twists and turns in the story were as exciting as that drive on the Maui cost in the lime green Mustang! I didn’t see some of it coming. Ok, there were a few helpful coincidences, but, that’s just part of the fun in this book. Heck, even the occasional sex scene was fun and not gross!

What I Didn’t Like

There is a conversation late in the book about an object and its use [no spoilers] that I felt was crammed into the story to check some box on content seemingly required today for publication. That one should have been left out as it did nothing for the story. Minor, minor, minor though in the grand scheme of this book.

My Verdict?

3.75

A super beach, deck, patio, or pool read. Mix a Mai-Tai and enjoy the whole thing! I listened to the audio which was well done though I wasn’t thrilled with how Ethan was voiced at the end. I found it a bit too wimpy for the character I’d come to know and love (well, major book boyfriend crush if you must know). This will make a superb rom-com.

Real Simple.com : Mai Tai

Image: Real Simple

Top Ten Tuesday: Character Freebie : Fictional Ladies I’d Like as Friends

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I didn’t go for Auntie Mame or Molly Wesely or anyone very fictional this time. I’ve included them in past lists on similar topics. These are all women I thought I could truly know.

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Hester Latterly of Anne Perry’s William Monk series. Hester was a nurse with Florence Nightingale in the Crimea and later runs a clinic, mostly for prostitutes, in hand-to-mouth area of Victorian London.  I like her because she does what she belives she must do in life, yet she ends up with two fine suitors who see her for the amazing woman she is!

 

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The Wednesday Sisters Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally would be ladies I’d love to have in my life. There weekly writing group is a catalyst for personal growth and more. I wasn’t found of their daughter’s book though, but this first generation–yes!

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Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood fled their stuffy world of teas and socials and calling cards and all that and went west to teach school in Colorado. I admire their courage, pluck and innate common sense to escape the stifling life of Auburn, NY in 1916. Unlike the others in this list, these two were real. Nothing Daunted…

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Angeline West, reporter covering Grace Kelly’s engagement and wedding in Meet Me In Monaco. We both have a knack for getting stuck as the “buddy” to the fabulous guy. We’d have so much to talk about!

 

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Reine-Marie Gamache, wife of Chief Inspector Armand Gamach of Louise Penny’s book series, would make a great friend. She’s a librarian and not one stuck in the bun & shush sterotype. That’s good. She’s got a husband with a stressful job, grandkids she rarely sees over in Paris and a wacky bunch of neighbors now that she’s retired to Three Pines. She’d understand my hellish trips to Wal-mart due to living in Nowhereville as well as understanding my job–i.e. a perfect friend.

 

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Check out the rules at That Artsy Reader Girl and join in next week!

 

 

Review: Southern Lady Code by Helen Ellis

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My Interest

Say the word “essays” and normally my eyes glaze over. Happily these days there are humorous essays that live up to their billings. Essays such as those Helen Ellis [“Helen Michelle”] writes.

So imagine my surprise whent he first essay was the “clean table” thing I’d heard or read and LOVED! I told my Mom about it. I cleaned my own table. The husband in the piece [by the then unknown-to-me-author] didn’t want a divorce, he simply wanted the dining room table free of crap!  When I wen home that night, my crap-strewn dining room table really hurt me. See? Essays can help! (You can read the clean table essay here in the Amazon book preview).

The Story

After writing a novel, Eating the Chesire Cat, Helen turned to social media and found her audience by tweeting daily life as @WhatIDoAllDayShe has also hosted a podcast called The Southern Lady Code.

“‘Put together’ is Southern Lady Code for: you can take me to Church or Red Lobster.”

I enjoyed every minute of this collection. The audio version, performed by the author, was like talking to her over a salady at Applebees–it was that real. Her humor, her humanity and her good manners all shine through. If you love Steel Magnolias as much I do, then you’ll appreciate that she’s part M’lynn, part Truuvy, part Shelby, part Claree and, yes, even part Weezer! As a Southern transplant to Manhattan, she dares to serve Lipton Onion Soup Dip and Ruffles for Christmas parties alongside Nutter Butter Snowmen. My kind of gal!

Cardigans: “which we Southern ladies consider active wear.” 

The collection does contain one essay that might be difficult for some, but stay with it, it has a serious purpose. Yes, she does reveal just a touch of TMI in it (a touch–a tiny touch) but detailing the extent porn has corroded social media is something that cannot be done too often. That is the one essay that has a truly serious message. She also drops one bit of personal information that left me speechless and wanting to hug her. The Southern Lady Code of good manners in action kept her from revealing more than just that one momentous word.

My only complaint? The collection was too short! Barely 3.5 hours on audio. Helen Michelle? Bring on more, please. Love you! And, ladies? Get the audio. It’s worth it. I’ll be looking for your Thank You note (you’ll understand after you listen to the collection).

Southern Lady Code: Essays by Helen Ellis

Fourth of July Book Tag

 

 

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4th of July Book Tag

 

 

Image by Charles Schulz

Thanks to Madame Writer for making me aware of this idea!

 

Show 3 Books You’ve Already Read With a Red, a White & a Blue Cover

 

 

 

A books about members of  your favorite “rag-tag” band of revolutionaries.

 

Show a book that takes place in one of the original 13 colonies.

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Show a book that takes place in England.

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Time for Fireworks! What book would you say ends with a bang?

 

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Show three books you would like to read, one red, one white and one blue.

 

Review: White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll by James Fox

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My Interest

Say British in Kenya and you either think of the Mau Mau uprising or of the fabled, if louche, Happy Valley Set. I’ve long been fascinated by the British Aristocracy, even while grateful as an American to be done with it, so this book was just my thing!

The Story

It sounds like an Agatha Christie, doesn’t it: Murder at the Muthaiga Club!  Well, it gets better than that. The main men are named “Delves” and “Josslyn,” if you please! The cast of characters includes a woman compared to Wallis Simpson (and neither one is seen in a good light), the uncle of the then Duchess of Gloucester (sister-in-law to King George VI, married to the Prince [Henry] Harry of the WWI generation) and lost of waste-space ne’er-do-well chinless wonders who couldn’t stand the idea of getting a job back in England.  Many of the men were second, third, or even fourth sons who would never inherit a Pound Sterling or a parcel of land unless left to them by a Godfather. And, with England at war again, who wanted to be shot at? They hid in Kenya.

So while this crew was drinking themselves slowly to death and engaging in yet another hilariously funny round of “Are You There, Moriarty?” after a nice slap and tickle with each others’ spouses, someone murdered old Joss who was carrying on with Delves’ much younger wife, named…what else?….Diana! (A wife he’d promised to release from matrimony if she fell for a young man–I told you they were an odd bunch, didn’t I).

The second half of the book is a years-later examination of the trial and the verdict and all the evidence. Oh, and Cyril Connolly is involved. Yes. Indeed. People get tracked down in their dotage and asked about what went on back in the day at the Club and all. Most have destroyed too many brain cells to remember so trot it out the way they’ve told it at dinner parties for the last few decades, truth be damned.

white mischief 'Jock' Delves Broughton and diana

Sir Jock Delves Broughton and Lady Broughton, the former Diana Caldwell

Photo Credit

My Verdict

This was not nearly as interesting as I had hoped it would be. It wasn’t boring or bad, just not that exciting. I haven’t seen the movie, but I think, for once, I’d recommend just watching it and reading the Wipidedia entries on the famous faces. (See below for the movie link on youtube.)

3.0

White Mischief: The Murder of Lord Erroll by James Fox

For more on the Happy Valley Set:

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The Bolter by Frances Osborne

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The Ghost of Happy Valley: Searching for the Lost World of Africa’s Infamous Aristocrats by Juliet Barnes

The Movie White Mischief

Altitude, Alcohol and Adultery About the book, the story, the movie–all of it.

Top Ten Tuesday: My Favorite Books From My Childhood

Hopewell's Public Library of Life

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Note: This post was orginally published here in July 2015.

Little HorsemanAs a child I was a horse fanatic! When an unpleasant trip to the dentist led my Mom to offer a well-earned reward of a grocery store story book, I choose this gem–The Little Horsemanby Mable Watts. “Alan loved horses very much….” I could probably recite the rest of it–that’s how much I loved this book! I collected (and still have) Breyer horses, picture books of horses, loved to watch the Kentucky Derby and the other Triple Crown races and jumped at any opportunity to ride. We had our own horses until I was in first grade. From second thru fourth grade we had friends in town who let us ride any time we wanted. I dreamed of taking riding lessons like Alan in this story. In sixth grade a friend got to take such lessons and…

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Review: Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

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Thank you to Sarah, at Sarah’s Book Shelves for bringing this book to my attention!

My Interest

I love cooking, I’m a foodie as much as possible where I am stuck living, and enjoy travel and trying new things, so this book checked every one of those boxes. I used to love Gourmet before I became a parent and lost the disposable income to enjoy such publications! I had not heard of Ruth though, she took over at a rough time in my life in which I had my head down surviving the demise of a law firm and transitioning to another that was a terrible fit. That survived, my kids arrived. And by then (2003) the internet was taking over life.

The Story

Ruth Reichl began cooking life in Berkley before becoming the restaurant critic at first the L.A. Times and then the N.Y. Times before being asked to become the editor of Gourmet for it’s final decade or so. She is now very well known (to all, but me!) as a chef, editor, foodie.

Her book tells of the process and ideas that went into modernizing Gourmet in 2000s. Her personal approach to running the magazine, the creative cast of characters on the staff, the eccentric Conde-Nast owner, and all the rest that went into the “book” in those years are covered in a fun, fly-on-the-wall style that I enjoyed greatly. It made me sad I had missed those years of the magazine for the most part (I did find a 200X issue with pizza as the cover story in my cookbook shelves!).

I loved hearing about how they worked at Gourmet. I also enjoyed hearing about her life in New York–something almost unimaginable to me! I found her personality appealing and liked the sound of her husband and son as well. I envied her trying all of those amazing restaurants over the years and then landing in a job with an on-site test kitchen with a staff harboring perfectionist-tendencies! A dream!

I remember working with technology in those years and being so unsure of what to invest in and what to skip in my job, that I felt it wasn’t at all surprising that a traditional magazine would struggle here and there with the same choices. It was at that time, too, that lavish lunches, expense accounts and all the other trappings of office began to be nickled and dimed out of existence–taking the fun out of many jobs, including, eventually, Ruth’s.  I was especially sad, reading the story of the Christmas issue that never would be, that we were denied the opportunity to see all the creativity that went into that superb-sounding 5-layer cover with all those great cookies on it!

Recipes

This was not a cookbook, but a few recipes were given–you can find them here. Over the weekend, I made the Spicy Noodles and, though they required a trip to the fabulous Jungle Jim’s for some of the ingredients, they are a keeper! I plan to make the chili soon, in spite of the 90-degree heat here.

My Verdict

4.5 Stars

I will be reading more of her books and trying out more of her recipes!

Save Me The Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

I listened to the audiobook.