This will be a short review. I didn’t like this book. Yawn… here is my book review of The Choice by Nicholas Sparks.
Usually I would put down a book like this, or more likely never start it. But I needed a read and this was all I had at the moment. I know Nicholas Sparks is beloved by many readers, but for me, this is not my kind of book.
Predictable to peril, sappy and silly, the story of two neighbors who fall in love, marry, have kids, endure a tragedy but live happily ever after was boring. I knew at every page what was going to happen next.
My apologies to all those Sparks lovers…I know he has millions of fans. But I need a more challenging read and don’t plan to read anymore by this author.
Chilling and a page turning, Lisa Jewell had me riveted to this book. Creepy yet not horror, and mostly quite believable. Here is my book review of The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell.
A few times in reading this book I was reminded of The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. It’s not exactly the same, but there were a few similarities. Mostly the fact that a stranger comes and literally takes over the house and family, eventually to peril.
Libby Jones, adopted as a baby, finally learns at 25 years old that she has inherited a house. The sole heir of a mysterious house that has witnessed murder, disappearance and intrigue.
Libby befriends a local journalist and together they begin to unravel the incredible tale of Cheyne Walk, a long abandoned mansion in the fashionable Chelsie neighborhood of London.
But Libby will be astonished to learn who her birth parents were, how they were manipulated by an unusual family who moved in upstairs and that she has a brother and sister she has never known. Her parents were murdered, no one was ever convicted and the siblings were never found. Are they dead? Where are they?
The Family Upstairs brings together three families, their lives and loves, their insanity and dark secrets.
****Four stars for The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Holy Cow this book taught me so much. And the biggest thing it taught me is how important telling the truth in the beginning is. How important it is for government and science to gain and retain the public’s trust and be truthful. The truth was held back in the 1918 Influenza and it certainly was held back in 2020.
Fascinating in scope and presentation, Barry manages to present a hugely difficult topic in a way that any lay person can understand. The vast research done for this book, the amount of detail and insight is truly remarkable. Barry starts at the beginning and takes the reader (or listener in my case as I did this one on Audible) week by week as the virus spread from the United States around the world. Killing in the end at least 100 million people.
The 1918 epidemic was the first clash of science and a virus, at a time of war, a time of burgeoning medical science and a time of very poor leadership in the Whitehouse.
The what ifs are in the hundreds. But did we learn anything from this fatal time in our history? Apparently not.
Read it. It will truly help you understand what we are dealing with in the world today. Five stars for John Barry’s The Great Influenza.
A year end review of reading. I did it. I set a goal last July to read 75 books in a year. And I did it, I read 83 books. Nearly all these books I read on Kindle while we were traveling. A couple were on Audible and a few were good old fashioned paperbacks. I enjoy books in all three applications.
Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve found it a bit difficult to stay focused on a book. My mind wanders a lot. But I still was able to meet my goal, and I also wrote one book review blog a week over the past year.
I don’t think I’ll set a goal for next year. I’m just gonna read for the love of reading. We can see a year from now how that turned out.
I love that our Reading Wednesday feature on this blog is one of the most popular things about My Fab Fifties Life. If I can inspire you to get lost in a book, my job is done here. And hopefully a year end review of reading can do just that.
Although I gave five stars to many of the books I read, below is a list of my most favorite of the 83. In fact in the list below are five that I can say are some of the best books I have ever read…and that is saying a lot.
For a year end review of reading I’ve put those five at the top, and then below that the rest are listed randomly. I hope you can find a favorite of your own amongst this list and I thank you for your continuing support of Reading Wednesday and My Fab Fifties Life.
The Immoralists by Chloe Benjamen – if you were told when you were a child the exact day you would die, how might it affect everything about your life? So is the question Benjamen explores in the brilliant and unique novel The Immoralists. I loved this story.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn – Just after the end of WWII a young, unmarried and pregnant Charlie goes in search of her missing cousin in Europe. Her search will lead her to horror stories of the war and eventually to her true family and friends. I loved this book.
11/22/63 by Stephen King – I never read Stephen King so I was shocked to find that this story became one of my favorite reads ever. Not just about the assassination of JFK on 11/22/63, but an unequaled time travel book about the choices we might consider if we could go back and change history – would we do it and what would the consequences be. I loved this book.
The Testaments – by Margaret Atwood – Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale continues to rank as one of my favorite books of all time, even after 30 years. So it was with both excitement and trepidation that I waited for the release of the sequel (finally). It was worth the wait. Every bit as compelling and incomparable, even pulling in some subtle nods to the politics of the USA in 2020. I loved this book.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd – Kidd’s bold re-telling of the story of Jesus once again shows her chutzpa as a writer, her creative ability and incomparable talent to take the reader on a well-worn journey with an absolutely fascinating new twist. I love Kidd’s work and The Book of Longings did not dissapoint. I loved this book.
It was hard for me to only choose five for the list above. Because there were so many good ones this year. Here are 14 more of the very best from the 83 books I finished this year.
I have read dozens, perhaps hundreds of World War II stories. I thought I had heard it all. But my book review A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell captures a remarkable tale. A story of an amazing, brave and determined American woman, who has gotten lost in history, despite the very important role she played.
I have never heard the name Virginia Hall. And yet thousands owe her their lives. And countries owe her their freedom. American Virginia Hall was the most unlikely of heroines and spies. The most unlikely of people to lead the French resistance against the Gestapo and live to tell about.
It’s almost like a dime store novel – a one legged beautiful woman who nearly single handedly takes down a regime. But it’s not a dime store novel. It’s a true story of a significant hero whose story has been left untold until now.
The odds were against her. She was gorgeous, smart and brave. But she also was a woman, with a disability. Somehow she percivered and changed the course of history.
My only complaint about this book is it was a bit dry…lots of detail. I wish it could have been written less in a chronological historic tone and more in a spy novel thriller tone…because it was all of that, but some readers might find it too detailed.
I enjoyed learning about this amazing woman, and wish she could have been recognized more publicly before her death.
****Four stars for A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell.
Absolutely astonishing. I loved this non-fiction book about mental illness in America. I listened to this one on Audible, it was brilliantly read, but I suspect reading it would be just as compelling as Kolker’s empathy towards the material and the family was first rate.
Hidden Valley Road is the story of the Galvin Family of Colorado Springs Colorado and begins when Don and Mimi Galvin are teens in the 1950’s and continues through 2017. During this span of time, Don and Mimi Galvin will have 12 children and become important in genetic research due to the fact that six of those children will be diagnosed with schizophrenia.
The book includes a great deal of medical detail and information, but Kolker’s writing makes it very easy for the lay person to understand. Combined with his brilliant approach to telling the story of this remarkable American family, the complicated relationships between each of them, as well as the astounding family history, Kolker creates an unforgettable read.
The book has received critcal acclaim and has been “praised for it’s astounding depth and empathy”. It was highly commended by Ophra’s Book Club and debuted number one on the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction.
Few American’s have not been touched in some way by mental illness in their families or their acquaintances, and I believe anyone can identify and appreciate this memorable multigenerational story of one American families heartbreak.
*****Five Stars for Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
I wasn’t sure I liked this book in the beginning. In fact I put it aside to read another book and eventually came back to it and started again. And I am glad I did. I really did enjoy this story.
We are introduced to Vale, a young woman living in New Orleans but raised in Vermont. Vale is estranged from her mother, but when her mom Bonnie goes missing during the 2011 Tropical Storm Irene, Vale returns to Vermont and her roots.
Returning home for the first time in eight years, Vale rediscovers the poverty stricken region of Heart Spring Mountain, home to three generations of women before her. Through her search for her mother, Vale will find lost family history and secrets, understanding of pain and love from the past, and a love of her own. Vale will see for the first time the connection her ancestors have with the mountain, how it shaped them and thus her own life and the life of her missing mother.
Beautifully written story of family ties, fractures small and deep, and healing.
****Four stars for Heart Spring Mountain by Robin MacArthur
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