Tuesday, January 23, 2024

2024 Reads and Reviews

1.  A Silken Thread by Kim Vogel Sawyer 

Completed:  January 16, 2024

Rating:  9.5/10

Review:  Laurel Millard is the youngest sibling in her family. Her father passed away when she was three and her Mom had never remarried. All her siblings are married with families of their own but Laurel still lives with her Mom (who is in her forties). Unbeknownst to their mother the siblings issue Laurel an ultimatum that as the youngest without a family of her own she must forgo her dream of one day marrying and having that family in order to take care of their Mother. In shock that they would expect that of her, Laurel holds out hope that she can actually find a good man who would not only love her but would also take her Mother under his household also. When the Atlanta Cotton Exposition of 1885 comes to town, Laurel's mother encourages her to apply to work there in the hopes that maybe she can meet a suitor. Laurel does meet a very wealthy Langdon Rochester who is heir apparent to his father's steam engine business. He is charming and wealthy and sets his sights on Laurel in order to appease his own mother who is pushing him to get married. Laurel also meets a young security guard named Willie who may not have two cents to rub together but has a good and kind heart. In becoming friends with Willie and his black friend Quincey who is a groundskeeper at the exposition, Laurel starts to see first hand the the division of class and education and racism that is prevalent in her city. As the exposition contends with some disasters the two young men Laurel has gotten to know are pitted against one another.

 I really enjoyed this Christian fiction from a favorite author. Under the historical setting of the exposition the author explores themes of racism and bigotry, the have vs the have nots, friendship and integrity, the desire in all humans to be loved and to belong, injustice and standing up for what is right. The characters were interesting and though sometimes Laurel might have seemed a tad naive and therefore frustrating, it would come from her sheltered life as a younger sibling in those times. Willie and Quincey's friendship was beautifully written, I thought, and the struggle, misunderstandings and turmoil that the situation they found themselves in really brought out what it might have been like back in that time. The love to hate character did his job well, I loved to hate the character. And though the ending was not a surprise the journey to get there was moving and thoroughly kept my attention.

2.  On the Cliffs of Foxglove Manor by Jaime Jo Wright (audiobook)

Completed:  January 23, 2024

Rating:  7.5/10


3.  The Last Exchange by Charles Martin

Completed:  February 10, 2024

Rating:  9/10


4.  Becoming Free Indeed by Jinger Dugger Vuolo (audiobook)

Completed:  February 15, 2024

Rating:  9/10


5.  Universe of Two by Stephen P. Kiernan

Completed:  March 5, 2024

Rating:  9.5/10


6.  Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Completed:  March 23, 2024

Rating:  9.5/10


7.  The Women by Kristin Hannah

Completed:  March 30, 2024

Rating:  9/10

Review:  Frankie McGrath is a young woman barely out of her teens from a well to do California family where they live a typical all American lifestyle. Image is everything in their circles and the men in the family serving their country are upheld highly. Women go to school and then marry and become mothers. That is the way of things. For various reason her father never did serve but has a family wall of heroes in his study of all the men in the family who served. When her brother Finley gets drafted to the Vietnam war everyone is very proud and throws him a huge going away party. But once he is gone, Frankie is at loose ends without her beloved brother and so she makes a rash decision to take her nursing degree and sign up with the Army Nurse Corp hoping to see her brother in Vietnam. Thinking her family would be proud, she is shocked when her father is angry and her mother is devastated. When she arrives in Vietnam she is immediately thrown into the middle of the destruction and horror of what the war really is. Nothing like the upbeat letters her brother had sent home. When she finally comes home she does not find the rest and peace she hoped for or deserved for her 2 years of service on the front. She comes home to a country divided, full of protests and is spat on when in uniform. Her parents refuse to talk about Vietnam and what she experienced. In fact, wherever she turns, people deny that women were even over in 'Nam. As the anger in her builds, Frankie fights a whole other battle within herself away from Vietnam that has everything to do with being in Vietnam. 

 This is the most talked about book at the moment in any of the fb book groups that I am a part of. The author first conceived of it more than 20 years ago but felt she wasn't, at that point in her writing, to do it justice. She finally wrote it now. It is intense. Very, very intense. So many trigger warnings but a story that must be told. I was just a child when this war was being fought and I really had no idea. The story for me had 3 parts: The first being the background of Frankie's life growing up in the idyllic American dream. Then her two tours in Vietnam as a combat nurse. And the last part being her experiences returning to a divided America who's government had been lying to them about the war. The author does not hold back on the horrors experienced by the soldiers or the medical teams that tried to save their lives. There is lots of descriptions of the combat and the injuries that came into medical units and what they had to do to save the men's lives. The author did a good job in telling the story of the women who were over in Vietnam helping to save lives and the strong friendships that were formed amongst the nurses and the medical teams and other relationships that were formed. She also did a really good job of relaying the experience of PTSD, from what I can tell as I've never had it or known anyone who did. But she was able to bring in my emotions as the characters experienced it in the story. It certainly opened my eyes to how easy it is to make wrong choices and decisions when experiencing and reliving the horrors that someone in combat does. I learned a lot about a war I really knew nothing of. The only thing that kept this from a 10 star read for me was I felt there was some repetition of things. I especially remember one specific paragraph that jumped out at me because I felt it was literally copied and pasted from an earlier part in the story. But that being said, it is an important book that finally tells the heartbreaking story of the women and and men who fought in an un-win-able, awful war and who for years to come were certainly not held as heroes.

The Little Old Lady Behaving Badly by Catherina Ingelman-Sundberg 

DNF'd at page 75

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

2024 Reading Challenge and Goals

New Year, time for a new reading challenge.  How did 2023 go in the reading department you ask?  Not too bad. I missed my Good Reads goal of 40 books by two, but I did get a lot of the other goals accomplished. So onto a new year.  In looking back over what I did read last year, even though I did manage 15 of the books off my own shelves a lot of those were books that I got a Free Little Libraries or I found at library sales for a couple of bucks.  I only read 5 of the books I actually purchased either full price or discounted price at BookOutlet.  This kind of really surprised me.  That's why I kind of like setting goals because then I can see what's happening with the books I actually shell out hard earned cash for.  Though one look at my overflowing new purchase book bag should have been a major clue!!

And believe it or not, I actually forgot two books that were sitting in my non-fiction stacks.  These books have all been purchased over the last 4 - 5 years.  So this is going to be my goal for this year.  There are 26 books total and my goal is to read them to zero.  Meaning reading this stack is going to be first priority before I put any more books on library hold or reach for ones that are second hand that I've gotten for free.  I'll put a goal of at least 2 per month from this pile before I can get a library book or another from my free books pile.  That way it will still let me get to some of those throughout  the year.  I may surprise myself and chug right through this stack without looking elsewhere.  We'll see how it plays out.  Now the bigger trick is going to be not purchasing anymore this year.  Yikes.