Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Alaska’

Ivey book slippers twinkle lights

January has been unpredictable, weather-wise: frigid, icy, blustery, mild, wet, sunshiny. As always, the books are getting me through. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Island of Sea Women, Lisa See
The women of Jeju, an island off the south coast of Korea, traditionally made their living as haenyeo, deep-sea divers. See explores the island’s matriarchal culture and the powerful changes wrought by the 20th century (wars, occupation, new technologies) through the story of two haenyeo, Kim Young-sook and Han Mi-ja. Young-sook recounts their childhood friendship, their years of diving together and the heart-wrenching losses they suffered. Really well done; See is prolific but I hadn’t read her before. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 5).

Christmas on the Island, Jenny Colgan
Colgan returns to the Scottish island of Mure for a Christmas-themed novel. I find Flora and Joel (the main couple) frustrating, but I like Flora’s family, her teacher friend Lorna, and Saif, the Syrian refugee doctor. Entertaining, though not my favorite Colgan.

The Bumblebee Flies Anyway: A Year of Gardening and (Wild)Life, Kate Bradbury
The tiny back garden of Kate Bradbury’s flat in Brighton, England, was covered in decking when she bought it. She set out to revive it: ripping up the decking, planting ground cover and shrubs, finding flowers to attract bees and birds. She writes movingly about her childhood garden memories, the loss of habitat for wildlife in the UK, and her mother’s illness. Keenly observed; slow in places. Took me weeks, but it was lovely. Found, as so many good things are, at Three Lives (in December).

To the Bright Edge of the World, Eowyn Ivey
In 1885, Colonel Allen Forrester heads out into the (mostly) unmapped Alaska Territory with two men, while his wife Sophie must stay behind. Ivey tells their story, and that of the Colonel’s encounters with Alaska and its people, through journal entries and letters. I loved Ivey’s debut, The Snow Child, but loved this one even more. Ivey’s writing is stunning, and I adored Sophie (bright, curious, determined and so human) and the Colonel’s keen eye and compassion.

Mistletoe and Murder, Robin Stevens
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending Christmas (1935) in Cambridge, where, predictably, a murder finds them. Hazel narrates their fifth adventure in this fun British middle-grade series. I find Daisy a bit irritating, but I like Hazel and the mysteries are always good fun. I also liked the deft handling here of race and immigration in the UK – not a new issue but an important one.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II, Sonia Purnell
Losing her leg in a hunting accident didn’t slow Virginia Hall down: she would go on to become a key force for the Allies in World War II, working undercover in France to coordinate and support the Resistance. Purnell delves deeply into Virginia’s (formerly classified) story to weave a gripping tale of an extraordinary woman. Fascinating, well-researched and cinematic at times. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 9).

This Much Country, Kristin Knight Pace
Reeling from a broken heart, Kristin Knight agreed to spend a winter in Alaska caring for a team of sled dogs. To her own surprise, she fell in love with the dogs and the place, becoming a dog musher and eventually opening her own kennel. She found romantic love again, too. Her memoir is a bit uneven, but the setting is captivating, and there are some wonderful lines. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 5).

Becoming, Michelle Obama
This memoir was on so many “best of 2018” lists (and broke all kinds of publishing records). It’s a wise, warm, thoughtful account of Obama’s childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her experiences at Princeton and beyond, and life as the First Lady. But it’s also more than that: a graceful meditation on how we become ourselves, a plainspoken tribute to all the folks who have supported her, and a call for all of us to keep investing in children who need it. Well written and just so good.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

libros viajes casa del libro sevilla

Hello, friends. I’m back from a glorious 10-day vacation in Spain, which included (among other things) lots of librerías.

I’m not fluent in Spanish, so I couldn’t read most of the books, but I loved seeing foreign editions of books I know and new-to-me libros in Spanish. This shot is from Casa del Libro in Sevilla.

I brought along a pile of English-language books to read, and here they are:

My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan
Roxanne sent me a link to this book and of course I had to pick it up: a young American woman who’s always dreamed of Oxford goes there as a Rhodes scholar, and falls in love with the city (and more). A little frothy, but with surprising depth, an engaging cast of characters and so many wonderful details about my favorite city.

It Happened Like This: A Life in Alaska, Adrienne Lindholm
Lindholm has always had a taste for wildness and open space – so she moved to Alaska in her twenties, chasing both. She chronicles her journey in an honest, luminous memoir of her years working for the National Park Service and building a life in the backcountry. Thoughtful and compelling and lovely. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 21).

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Barcelona, 1945: Daniel Sempere visits the Cemetery of Forgotten Books with his father and discovers a novel by an obscure author called Julián Carax. As Daniel digs into Carax’s life story, he gets caught up in a twisting narrative of love, revenge and family secrets. An absolutely fantastic, dark, witty, absorbing novel – reading it on bus rides between Spanish cities was just perfect.

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions, Mario Giordano
When she turns sixty, Auntie Poldi retires to Sicily, intending to drink herself peacefully to death. To her surprise, she finds herself enjoying her new hometown. And when her young handyman is murdered, she tries her hand at a bit of amateur sleuthing. A witty, vividly described, slightly madcap mystery romp full of colorful characters. First in a new series. Recommended by Anne (it’s in her Summer Reading Guide).

Jolly Foul Play, Robin Stevens
When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong return to their boarding school, an unpopular fellow student is murdered right under their noses. But who killed her, and why? Who is spreading rumors and secrets around the school? And can Daisy swallow her pride and let a few other friends help with the detecting? Stevens’ fourth mystery had both an excellent plot and some keen insight from Hazel about how people treat one another.

The Secret Ways of Perfume, Cristina Caboti
Elena Rossini comes from a long line of female perfumiers, but she’s fought against making perfume her career and life. At a crossroads, though, she moves to Paris and begins to embrace perfume. This novel started strong (and the scent descriptions are wonderful) but fell a bit flat toward the end. Still fun. Found at Librería Reguera in Sevilla.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

library book stack tulips

Several extra-long commutes recently mean I’m getting through a lot of (short!) books. Here’s the latest roundup:

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, Sarah Bessey
Sarah is a wise, thoughtful blog-friend, and her first memoir is a clarion call for the equal participation of women in the work of God’s kingdom. There is a lot of blog content here, and not much “meaty” theology, but sound ideas and lovely metaphors. (I’m curious to read her new book, Out of Sorts.)

A Mind of Winter: Poems for a Snowy Season, ed. Robert Atwan
Winter is a tough season for me, but it has inspired some wonderful poetry. This collection contains gems from Frost, Dickinson, Whittier, Marge Piercy, Mary Oliver and more. Gorgeous and quiet. Found at The Bookstore in Lenox, MA.

Prudence, Gail Carriger
Lady Prudence Akeldama (“Rue” to her friends) embarks on a secret mission to India in her new dirigible, The Spotted Custard. Tea, espionage, werewolves and other supernatural creatures abound in this steampunk fantasy novel. Not my usual thing at all – which might be why I found it confusing at times – but witty, snarky and fun.

The Beautiful Possible, Amy Gottlieb
Sol Kerem is a serious rabbinical student, engaged to the beautiful, whip-smart Rosalie, when he meets Walter, a German Jewish refugee and agnostic. Their three lives become braided together in complicated ways. Sol and Rosalie raise their children and lead a suburban synagogue, while Walter explores art and mysticism. Luminous and thought-provoking, though the characters sometimes feel distant. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 16).

A Lady of Good Family, Jeanne Mackin
Beatrix Jones Farrand made a name for herself as a pioneering female landscape designer in the Gilded Age. But as a young woman, she also experienced heartbreak. Mackin takes us on a lushly described tour of Europe with Beatrix and her mother. I liked the premise, but it dragged a bit. Found at The Bookstore in Lenox.

Sapphire Blue, Kerstin Gier
As Gwyneth Shepherd adjusts to her new status as a time-traveler, things get even more confusing: whom can she trust? What is the “ultimate secret” that will be revealed? And does her handsome time-traveling partner, Gideon, really like her – or not? Gwyneth is funny and appealing, and I like watching her gain a bit of confidence in this book.

Window Left Open, Jennifer Grotz
I’d never heard of Grotz’s poetry, but am glad this collection came across my desk. Some lovely, vivid lines. I particularly liked “They Come the Way Flowers Do,” “Apricots,” “Poppies” and “Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City.” (Out Feb. 2.)

Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George
Orphaned and unhappily married, Eskimo teenager Miyax (“Julie” to her pen pal) flees into the Alaskan tundra. She befriends a wolf pack and learns to survive on her own, but must decide whether to return to civilization. I read this as a child but had forgotten a lot of the details. An enthralling survival story. (For the Reading Together Family Exploration Book Club.)

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »

I know we’re only a week into February. But I’ve already read several great books and wanted to share them with you.

february books penumbra snow child

Speaking from Among the Bones, Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce, diabolical chemist and 11-year-old amateur sleuth, returns for a fifth adventure. As the village of Bishop’s Lacey prepares to disinter the bones of its patron saint for a celebration, they find a surprise in the crypt: the body of the church organist, wearing a gas mask. Who killed him and left him there, and why? Flavia, Inspector Hewitt, and a new detective/horticulturalist are on the case. Witty and fun, with plenty of sarcastic asides from Flavia, a few hilarious misunderstandings, and a cliffhanger ending.

The Silver Ghost, Charlotte MacLeod
The eighth Sarah Kelling mystery, involving another old, eccentric Boston family (Rolls-Royces and Renaissance music), bees, and murder. This one dragged, and I spotted the solution long before the detectives did. Definitely a lackluster entry in the series.

The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh
When Frances Irvine’s father dies, she is left penniless, forced to leave London and emigrate to South Africa to marry a doctor she barely knows. Unnerved by the harsh landscape of the Karoo, Frances slowly adjusts to her new life, till a smallpox epidemic breaks out in the diamond mines. Fighting to save those who are suffering, her husband finds himself pitted against the men in power who will do anything to protect their investments. A powerful story of loss and reinvention, and being shaped by a brutal but rich new landscape. Sweeping and beautifully written. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 4).

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon, unemployed web designer, takes a clerking job at a strange bookstore in San Francisco. Most of the customers are odd types who never buy books: they simply check out books, one at a time, from the stacks in the back. Suspecting (rightly) that the bookstore is a front for something else, Clay investigates with the help of a few friends, including a young venture capitalist, a special-effects artist and a sharp, pretty girl who works at Google. Such a fun ride of tech geekery, typography, puzzles, and a deep respect for how books are bound up with life. Loved it.

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
I loved this beautiful, evocative book – part pioneering story, part love story, part fairy tale. Jack and Mabel, childless and sad, leave their families “back east” to start a new life in Alaska. One night, they fashion a child out of snow, and the next day a girl appears out of the wilderness, wearing the mittens and scarf they put on the snow child. Mabel and Jack love her instantly, but they cannot tame her – and for a while they’re not even sure if she is real. Ivey lives in Alaska, and her deep love for the landscape thrums through every line. There is sadness here, and heartbreak, but also so much beauty.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

What are you reading?

Read Full Post »