Holy cramoly, y’all. It’s almost February. I cannot even begin to wrap my head around that realization. Maybe it’s because I as off for a chunk of the month, but it feels like this month has flown by. Most definitely because I had quite a bit of time off, this month is my best in a while for number of books read. As far as whether it set a record for number of books I liked? Well, let’s find out!
Dead Wake by Erik Larson “On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.
Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.”
This one was a random last minute airport grab when I was traveling to and from Nashville. I’ve read other books by Erik Larson and really enjoy his writing style. This one was no exception. Even something as mundane as the functioning of a submarine had a page-turner style to it. I finished this one within two flights and one *really long* layover. Definitely recommend!
The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman “An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path.”
What was most fascinating to me was that this was based on a true story! I definitely found Solange’s story more compelling than Marthe’s but both narrators had really interesting backgrounds. The story took a few chapters to really get going, but once it did, it was a really enjoyable read. Don’t rush out to get this one, but if you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially from WWII, add it to your list.
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines “The Magnolia Story is the first book from Chip and Joanna, offering their fans a detailed look at their life together. From the very first renovation project they ever tackled together, to the project that nearly cost them everything; from the childhood memories that shaped them, to the twists and turns that led them to the life they share on the farm today.”
To be completely honest, I haven’t finished this one yet, although by this time tomorrow that may have changed. I love Fixer Upper and this book is really an extension of the show. Both of them have really engaging and personal writing styles; it’s almost like they are sitting there with you having a conversation. If you’re a fan of the show, I highly recommend picking this one up!
The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot “Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, ten years ago to become rich and famous on the professional golf circuit. Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return . . . with a vengeance. Becky Flowers has worked hard to build her successful senior relocation business, but she’s worked even harder to forget Reed Stewart ever existed. She has absolutely no intention of seeing him when he returns—until his family hires her to save his parents. Now Reed and Becky can’t avoid one another—or the memories of that one fateful night.”
Maybe it’s because I grew up in the era of The Princes Diaries, but I will always read a book that has Meg Cabot as the author. I may not love the book, but I will read it. This was the case with The Boy is Back. It was a fluffy love story with very predictable plot points, but enjoyable all the same. The one thing I didn’t love was the way the story was told; everything is text messages, emails and so on. I like something a little meatier to sink my teeth into.
Cavendon Hall by Barbara Taylor Bradford “Cavendon Hall is home to two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them. For centuries, these two families have lived side-by-side, beneath the backdrop of the imposing Yorkshire manor. Lady Daphne, the most beautiful of the Earl’s daughters, is about to be presented at court when a devastating event changes her life and threatens the Ingham name. With World War I looming, both families will find themselves tested in ways they never thought possible. Loyalties will be challenged and betrayals will be set into motion. In this time of uncertainty, one thing is sure: these two families will never be the same again.”
Y’all. This is essentially Downton Abbey as a book. It’s set in the same timeframe, deals with a very similar situation (upstairs and downstairs life) and has a similar plot. Once I accepted that and stopped wanting it to be different (just for the sake of being different), I really liked it! Time flies in this book so you have to pay careful attention to the dates in order to get a feel for the pace of the story. But I liked it so much that I already have the other two books in the trilogy sitting on my bedside table.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith “Two brown girls dream of being dancers—but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.”
This was a hard one for me. I wanted to like it, to get it, to see what all the critics saw, but I just couldn’t. Or at least, not for the entire book. I had a hard time with how much the narrator skipped around, sometimes between topics that didn’t seem to have a connection. It took me forever to get through, I didn’t really enjoy it and wouldn’t recommend it.
What have you read lately?