Sweet readers, thank you for joining me for another edition of Title Talk. While I have been reading rather voraciously (for me, anyway), I have failed to share those books on my blog. That disappointments me because one of the reasons I began to blog was in hopes of sharing the books I read in this season of life. At one point, I had also hoped to share lesson plans and activities for some of my favorite children’s books from my days as an elementary school librarian. While I have done a little bit of both, I haven’t written Title Talk posts like I had hoped to. Here’s the link to my last one from the beginning of the season, way back in June.
Joining all the girls for the “What’s on Your Bookshelf?” this month: Deb from Deb’s World, Sue from Women Living Well After 50, Donna from Retirement Reflections and Jo from And Anyways. But as per my usual, coming in fashionably late with my post.
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TITLE TALK 09.2023
You might remember I host an online book club called “Come Read with Me” on Facebook with whom I read at least 1 book a month. At the end of each month, I email the members summaries for about 8 books and a voting link on Survey Monkey. They have about 4 days to vote before I announce the winning title in our Facebook group. I very rarely vote because I don’t want to sway things. And the group has selected some books that might not have been my first choice but I am never disappointed. We are reading Tom Lake by Ann Patchett. So enjoying this beautifully written story.
These are the titles we voted from for our September read. Are you familiar with any of them?
Aside from those ‘reads’, I try to keep up with nonfiction books that cross my path, some of the books recommended by bloggers I follow and the children’s books recognized by the Texas Library Association. Seeing recommendations for Homecoming by Kate Morton. Have bumped that up on my Goodreads to-read list. Are we Goodreads friends, yet?
Books I am Currently Reading
Other than the books I use for my devotionals, these are the 4 books I am working through right now. And a stack of children’s picture books. I am listening to Tom Lake by Ann Patchett and The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard on Audible. Let me share a little bit about them first.
by Ann Patchett
4.40 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.30 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
In the spring of 2020, Lara’s three daughters return to the family’s orchard in Northern Michigan. While picking cherries, they beg their mother to tell them the story of Peter Duke, a famous actor with whom she shared both a stage and a romance years before at a theater company called Tom Lake. As Lara recalls the past, her daughters examine their own lives and relationship with their mother and are forced to reconsider the world and everything they thought they knew. ~ Goodreads
Meryl Streep narrates the audio version of Tom Lake. So, as you can imagine, listening to the book unfold has been like having a personal play performed right inside my ear. The language of the book is lovely. More like good literature than just a good book. The main character, Lara, loves her dependable husband, her 3 adult daughters, and her quiet life on a Michigan cherry orchard fiercely. And because the family is so closeknit they can often seemingly read each other’s minds, or at least very accurately predict their feelings, reactions to life’s events. The relationships are so well developed that the characters feel 3 dimensional rather than flat shapes formed by words on a page. As Lara recounts (again) for her daughters the stories of her life before the family, I am recalling how I was fascinated by the few stories my mom shared about her adult life before our dad, before US. Holding my breath that this story remains a sweet story of family, young love and old all the way through to the end.
by Joyce Maynard
4.80 out of 5 stars on Amazon
3.86 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
They were born on the same day, in the same small New Hampshire hospital, into families that could hardly have been less alike….Told in the alternating voices of Ruth and Dana, The Good Daughters follows these “birthday sisters” as they make their way from the 1950s to the present. Master storyteller Joyce Maynard chronicles the unlikely ways the two women’s lives parallel and intersect—from childhood and adolescence to first loves, first sex, marriage, and parenthood; from the deaths of parents to divorce, the loss of home, and the loss of a beloved partner—until past secrets and forgotten memories unexpectedly come to light, forcing them to reevaluate themselves and each other. ~ Goodreads
I haven’t gotten very far in this book. Inhaled my first Joyce Maynard novel in August. When I purchased this book, I broke my own rule about rarely/reluctantly reading a second book by an author after really liking the first book I read by them. I am always disappointed. This book has started kind of slow. Will be finished with Tom Lake in a few days and then I can focus on The Good Daughters. Still hopeful this book will be a good read. Like my first Maynard book, this one, too, is narrated by the author. Her voice is kind of scratchy or raspy, perhaps keeping it from being the ideal voice for audio narration. But who better than the author to breathe life into her own words?
by Ann Napolitano
4.40 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.23 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
William Waters grew up in a house silenced by tragedy, where his parents could hardly bear to look at him, much less love him. So it’s a relief when his skill on the basketball court earns him a scholarship to college, far away from his childhood home. He soon meets Julia Padavano, a spirited and ambitious young woman who surprises William with her appreciation of his quiet steadiness. With Julia comes her family; she is inseparable from her three younger sisters: Sylvie, the dreamer, is happiest with her nose in a book and imagines a future different from the expected path of wife and mother; Cecelia, the family’s artist; and Emeline, who patiently takes care of all of them. Happily, the Padavanos fold Julia’s new boyfriend into their loving, chaotic household.
But then darkness from William’s past surfaces, jeopardizing not only Julia’s carefully orchestrated plans for their future, but the sisters’ unshakeable loyalty to one another. The result is a catastrophic family rift that changes their lives for generations. Will the loyalty that once rooted them be strong enough to draw them back together when it matters most? ~ Goodreads
I am actually reading this book with my eyes rather than my ears. But it has been slow going. Read positive reviews of Hello Beautiful on several blogs and from a few of my book club members. Had even put it on the consideration list for the book club earlier in the summer but it wasn’t selected by the members. Decided to give it a go but I am struggling with it, girls. It is a whole lot of talking, lots of dialogue and not a lot of action. The storyline reminds me of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott in that the main characters are 4 sisters who all seem to develop a connection to the same fellow. We will see how it all comes together.
by Hadley Freeman
4.50 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.00 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
From the ages of fourteen to seventeen, Freeman lived in psychiatric wards after developing anorexia nervosa. Her doctors informed her that her body was cannibalizing her muscles and heart for nutrition, but they could tell her little why she had it, what it felt like, what recovery looked like. For the next twenty years, Freeman lived as a “functioning anorexic,” grappling with new forms of self-destructive behavior as the anorexia mutated and persisted.
Anorexia is one of the most widely discussed but least understood mental illnesses. Through “sharp storytelling, solid research and gentle humor” (“The Wall Street Journal”), Freeman delivers an incisive and bracing work that details her experiences with anorexia—the shame, fear, loneliness, and rage—and how she overcame it. She interviews doctors to learn how treatment for the illness has changed since she was hospitalized and what new discoveries have been made about the illness, including its connection to autism, OCD, and metabolic rate. She learns why the illness always begins during adolescence and how this reveals the difficulties for girls to come of age. Freeman tracks down the women with whom she was hospitalized and reports on how their recovery has progressed over decades. ~ Goodreads
I was on the waiting list at the library for months for this new book. Finally got the call that it was processed and on the shelf waiting for me. But I was in the middle of reading a half-dozen other books so I’ve had to renew this once already in hopes of getting it finished.
In my senior year of high school, I became anorexic. All these years, I have tried to understand what happened that caused me to stop eating. This book has shone a light on the probable triggers that caused my anorexia. And now I understand a correlation between OCD and anorexia.
Good Girls follows the author’s decades-long battle with this illness. But the book is supported by much research into anorexia and its causes. It offers much good information presented more like an autobiography than a work of nonfiction. I have a new-found peace with this chapter of my life just in the 50% of the book I have read. Wish my mom was still alive so I could share my better understanding of anorexia that played out like a battle between her and I in my childhood home for several years.
These are the books I have read since my last post back in June. The first being the best of all. My new favorite book!!
by Joyce Maynard
4.60 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.32 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
As I mentioned in June, this book caught my attention because I am (still) taking a CreativeLive course taught by the author, Joyce Maynard. I read a memoir by Maynard earlier this spring, At Home in the World. As a freshman in college, she pen paled with renowned writer JD Salinger, more than 30 years her senior, and wound up dropping out to move in with him. Certainly a crazy chapter in her young life.
I didn’t realize Maynard was so prolific until I discovered she had a new bestseller earlier this spring. Having enjoyed the writing course and At Home in the World, I added The Bird Hotel to a consideration list for my book club. I was pulling for the book to win but it didn’t so I decided to read it on my own. Oh, my goodness, so glad I did. Like Tom Lake, The Bird Hotel is an example of beautiful writing. In the case of this book, the author’s well-chosen words create a vision of the imaginary world of the village of Esperanza (Spanish for hope), Guatemala situated on the banks of the Lago de Paz (Peace Lake). An almost magical location where broken hearts can be mended, and lives can be changed. All of the characters are so real you can almost touch them. A story filled with love, heartache, reunion, and dreams realized. Move over, Lilac Girls, I have a new favorite book. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
by Hazel Gaynor
4.70 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.39 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
This was the second best read of the summer. Historical fiction is my favorite genre and this book is based on the incredible true story of a young teacher charged with evacuating children during WWII from London to safety overseas. The story unfolds between the points of view of Lily, a mother whose children are being evacuating and the main character, Alice, who is longing to find a way to be helpful, useful as her country faces impending German invasion. I was not familiar with these evacuations and wondered, if faced with a similar situation, would I have chosen to evacuate my daughters to apparent safety or keep them with me at home? The narration of this audio book is very well done and the story kept me holding my breath to the very end. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
by Colleen Oakley
4.40 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.13 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
This book was a welcome change from the heavier books my book club tends to vote for and read. It features a kind of a Thelma & Louise-flavored adventure with clever dialogue between the 2 main characters, a cross-country road trip, a possible jewelry heist all peppered with a little romance. It is fast-paced and fun even if the ending seems a little far-fetched. Fasten your seatbelt and hold on tight through this one. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
by Lisa Jewell
4.40 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.13 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Because it is told through the POV of 3 characters, this book was a bit difficult for my ADD brain to follow. Readers also bounce back and forth in time, and I often had to stop, think!! and reread a passage to figure out where I was in the story, past or present. It is the story of a young girl/teen mom and her boyfriend/teen dad who go missing after a rare night out with friends. As a mom, one of my greatest fears was that my daughters would be ‘disappeared’ or kidnapped so this was another story that tore at my heart strings. I found some of the story unlikely or unplausible – a hidden passage in one of the very old houses that is accessed by a key inserted into old stone steps (I think I have that right). Maybe that was a ‘thing’ in old English manors? But it seems a little far-fetched to me. Kind of made me think of a Nancy Drew mystery… hmmm…”Nancy Drew and the Case of the Missing Key and the Lock on the Old Stone Stairs.” Still found this an engaging read and so did the members of my book club. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
by Jeneva Rose
4.30 out of 5 stars on Amazon
3.99 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
Just noticing for the first time the complete title of this book. The subtitle almost seems to boast. But is it just me or is that subtitle grammatically incorrect…or maybe not grammatically but syntactically awkward?
I think a lot of the suspense in this book comes from the mystery as to why any woman would provide legal representation for her husband accused of the murder of his mistress. But that is the premise of The Perfect Marriage. It seems that either you like this book or you really don’t, and my book club members opinions were the same way. The book is heavily seasoned with assorted curse words. Words that aren’t unfamiliar to me, and are even in my vocabulary, but the author’s usage was extreme and unnecessary. Midway through the book, it becomes evident that there is more to this apparent murder than readers are initially led to believe. And by the story’s end everything we thought we ‘knew’ had been turned upside down then quickly explained away so we could wind things up.
At the time that I finished reading this book, I was also watching the trial of Ronald Anthony Burgos-Aviles, here in Texas, on Court TV. Aviles. a Border Patrol Supervisor, was charged with killing his mistress and their infant. This defendant was found guilty and sentenced to life without parole. And the whole trial had me questioning the use of capital punishment – that’s a whole other nut roll, I know. But the ending of The Perfect Marriage left me disturbed and nauseous. ⭐⭐⭐
by Colleen Hoover
4.60 out of 5 stars on Amazon
4.34 out of 5 stars on Goodreads
I am late to the party on this one. It was all the buzz about a year or so ago. My niece Shelby had just finished it we were all together in Kentucky August 2022 when Mom died. So, she loaned it to me. I got started on it but was reminded of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. It left me feeling like I needed a shower – not necessarily in a good way, not necessarily a cold shower. Just left me feeling sleezy.
Anyway, I set the book down but when Shelby asked me about it recently, I was encouraged to give it a second try. Like The Perfect Marriage, it is saturated with foul language and curse words. But I kept going. And the story certainly wound about all over with lots of twists and turns until it concluded with a very unexpected ending. When I reported back to Shelby that I had finished the book, she posed questions that I hadn’t considered. I love talking books for that reason. Even my elementary school students used to point out things that I hadn’t noticed or put together when reading the simplest picture book aloud to them!! Verity and The Perfect Marriage are not my favorite books but they kept me going to the end, however implausible, disappointing or puzzling that ending might have been. ⭐⭐⭐
This week Joyce featured bookish hodgepodge questions. How timely!! It has been a while since I’ve played along with her and the other gals but always enjoying participating in this Wednesday series. If I don’t hurry and this post posted, Joyce will have up a new set of Hodgepodge questions.
National Read-a-Book Day
1. It’s National Read A Book Day…whatcha’ reading? What’s a book you want to read? I keep hearing mention of Homecoming by Kate Morton. I think I need to bump it up on my to-read list. Also want to finish the books I am in the middle of currently.
High or Low
2. Which is better…having high expectations or low expectations? Explain why. I think high expectations. And I do have high expectations for most things. But then again, my expectations often go unmet or unrealized. Hmmm. So maybe they aren’t serving me well. But I feel like if we expect only so much from people, in general, that’s all they will give us!! And the same with expectations for myself. If I set the bar so low I can easily pop over it, what really has been gained?
3. Serenity is________________________. Floating on my raft in my pool, silently moving in and out of the shade created by our canvas sail suspended above.
4. What’s the most interesting thing in your purse or pocket right now? I did a quick inventory of the small cross body I have been using this summer. There’s not a lot of room for my keepsakes that usually make it into larger bags but I found 2 items of interest. A quote from Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady herself.
You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
~ Margaret Thatcher
And my mother’s name tag for her door at the last assisted living apartment, 104 at Cedarhurst of Beaumont Assisted Living Community she called home.
5. What helps you calm down? My anxiety meds have helped and I have gotten to where I don’t need them hardly ever. Just needed to get over the hump of those stressful days earlier in the summer waiting to know if PC was cancer-free. Exercise calms me down naturally. Wine works well, too.
6. Insert your own random thought here. Life has been quiet this week. PC came home from Ohio with Covid. And I have been doing my best to keep from getting sick. He has been holed up in our bedroom, only coming out to eat meals on the patio with me or to take a very quick walk in the sunshine. It has been 4 days since he got home and I am not sick yet, so I might be out of the woods. I hope!! Paul is feeling better but his cough still shakes the house and he is achy and weak. Poor fella has had a time.
What are you reading these days? Do you have a favorite place to read? A favorite time of day to curl up with that book? Hope you will share in a comment below. I am always looking for great book suggestions. As well as recommendations on titles to avoid!! Ain’t nobody got time for a bad book.
Before you go, are we friends on Goodreads? If not, let’s remedy that right away. You can find me here. And you can find my Pinterest book boards here and here. And if you would like to join our LOW-pressure/NO-pressure online book club, please holler!!
Finally finished with this post!! Woohoo!! It has taken me days. Why is that?
Thanks for spending a bit of your day here with me. Off to iron…I am always saying that.
Hugs and kisses,