Mid-Winter Book Review Time

On December 28th, Joyce Poggi Hager who writes Musing Off the Mat posted a list of her favorite books of 2015. I have tremendous respect for Joyce’s writing and assumed her taste in literature would be just as impressive. It is a wonderfully eclectic catalog of titles from Historical fiction to humor, mystery to memoir. With the printed post in hand, I started working my way through her suggestions.

When she published the list I was wading into The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I downloaded it in desperation for something to read one night. But when Annie’s Mom sent me a hard copy saying it was too depressing for her taste, I gladly switched. Hardcover books are treasures to me.  The story was tough. I fought my way through it not liking any of the characters and despairing of ever being surprised by the story line. That said, many friends loved it so to each his own.

Grasping from something that would “take me away”, I downloaded All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and instantly regretted it. Such a fascinating tale and so gripping, I wished I had bought the real tome so I could pass it on. The e-book is just not as friendly to my imagination, wished I could turn the pages and smell the ink.  I loved the twisted and turns, the connections, all the characters and hated for it to end.

In Mid-January, Lauren and I went to lunch at a café in the local bookstore. I had Joyce’s recommendations and the used section had just gotten in an unblemished hardcover of Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Joyce’s review noted sticking with it through the Las Vegas scenes as they are important later in the story. I honestly had no trouble sticking through any of this story. Though the subject is tough and the main character’s life is fraught with sadness, the author’s ability to get inside the mind of the boy is uncanny. I’ve no doubt it will someday be a blockbuster major movie on the strength and ingenuity of all the players in this tale, but a movie can never capture Tartt’s depth of writing when she takes us on this bumpy ride.  The end may disappoint some, as Theo, the main character addresses the reader, but I saw such wisdom and commentary of life in his thoughts. Best of all? An almost new hardcover edition with creamy, thick pages.

My most recent visit to the bookstore yielded two more titles from the list; One Plus One by JoJo Moyes and David Benioff’s City of Thieves.  Both are paperback versions but fairly new and printed well enough for me to curl up in bed with at the end of the day. Moyes didn’t captivate me quickly enough so I’ve jumped into the City of Thieves.


I could go to the library. My work-study scholarship money for college required hours in the library. I know the dewy decimal system, though I doubt that is even still in use, same outdated learning as cursive writing. But books are like food to me. I want to own it, hold it, mold my mind around it with no time limits.

Thanks again for the list Joyce, I am having a great time indulging my love of inspiring writing.

What are you reading?

19 thoughts on “Mid-Winter Book Review Time

  1. I admire your pursuit of great books… I too love and protect my moments of free reading… usually on the local Metro to work or the plane each week (one place for no phones or need for engaging conversation) I hoard that time and protect it fiercely. I tried girl on the train myself, but couldn’t finish it either. I too didn’t care for the characters enough. I admit that with the stress of commuting, work in general and the daily news, I search for written entertainment that is funny, educational and generally happy in some way. I cant deal with the sad or depressing, no matter how well written. I am sure I am shortchanging myself, but, I cant help it!

    • I agree you have to guard your time carefully. Why spend it wading through something you don’t enjoy? I don’t think you are shortchanging yourself Dopp, there are too many good books out there to slog through one you don’t enjoy!

  2. I loved “The Goldfinch” – every moment of it. I also really enjoyed “City of Thieves” which I stumbled upon quite by chance. (Sometimes those are the best treasures, aren’t they?) I liked “One Plus One” well enough, but my favourite Jojo Moyes is “The Girl You Left Behind” which I think you might enjoy, especially since you enjoyed “The Goldfinch.” It’s also about a painting. Happy reading!

    • Thanks Susan. I will give Jojo another try with “the girl you left behind” just couldn’t get into the characters/predictability of “one plus one” but maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance. Any other suggestions?

  3. Joyce and I worked together at NetScout Systems but I don’t remember ever talking about books. I didn’t like Girl on a Train for the exact same reasons and have avoided All The Light We Cannot See because the idea of being blind terrifies me. I loved Moyes’s The Girl He Left Behind and Me Before You. I’m looking forward to After You. I have also avoided The Goldfinch because everyone in my book club hated it. For something completely different, try Wool by Hugh Howey. I’m currently listening to The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman, the third book in a series that is currently on TV on the SyFy channel. I loved them all. My husband, not so much. But then he loved Seveneves by Neil Stephenson and I hated all 800+ pages.

    • Great suggestion Aline. I will look for Wool. As to The Goldfinch, the writing is truly exceptional in my opinion but what do I know? Strange so many didn’t like it in your book club. I would be interested to hear their reasons. No doubt The Girl On The Train will be out as a thriller before Goldfinch makes it to the screen…

  4. Like you, I have a hard time enjoying a good book without turning the actual page, something about swiping one’s finger across the screen just isn’t the same. I just finished Flight of the Intruder by Coonst. It was a great book until the last chapter. Too much left untold.

  5. Thank you, Martha, for this post. You flatter me. I, too, much prefer holding a book to an e-reader. I usually borrow books from the library unless I think I’ll want to own them. I appreciate that every reader has their own tastes. I’ve abandoned several books that others have raved about (and even wrote a blog post on the topic). City of Thieves is depressing, too, but the story and the writing captivated me. Right now I’m on the 2nd book of Elena Ferrante’s Neopolitan novels (there are four). The first, My Brilliant Friend, I enjoyed very much. Also reading Presence by Amy Cuddy.

  6. I love reading but, of late, I’ve been too busy to read more than blogs. I start a book and by the time I pick it up again I’ve forgotten what came before so can’t get into anything. The last time I read a book was in Canada and I got through two then. One was The Secret Life of Bees. I’d started it months before and got no further than the first chapter before life took over. This time I read to the end and loved it. The second was your book believe it or not. I downloaded it ages ago but had never had time to read. I loved it too, especially as I feel I know you so it was like reading your back story. I really should make the effort to read more. There was a time when I always had a book in my hand.

    • Oh Marie! I am honored you took time on your vacation for my book!! Secret Life of Bees is one of my favorites and I have read it twice. Like you, my reading ebbs and flows depending on what is going on in my life. Right now, I seem to have lots of time to “escape” into a good book. Thank You!!

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