What’s On The Bookshelf Pt. 2

Hello there, I hope you have been having a lovely spring. It’s it the triple digits just this week. I have been making yummy smoothies in the mornings and taking the dogs on long evening walks. I think mango, papaya, pineapple, strawberry and ginger with OJ and coconut milk has been the recipe winner if you were wondering. I also recently dined in a restaurant for the first time in ages, and a future life goal is to dine al fresco more often. Finally, I plan to get vaccinated this week!

I’ve got some more titles for you to add to your reading list! Did you enjoy any from my post back in January? I was pretty pleased with each of these new novels. As the days warm up and its safe to take a stroll around the park, why not grab a lemonade and take a book with you and enjoy a sunny, breezy afternoon. I think my fellow readers would appreciate any of these tales and I hope my reviews can peak your interest. Of course, feel free to leave your own thoughts on these picks or another good option in comments.

Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

I love a good spy novel and that this one was based on a true story had me giddy with every turning page. It almost made becoming a communist sound fun, that’s how inspiring agent Sonya was. This one was about Ursula Kuczynski Burton, who actually worked with Richard Sorge in her early spy days. He was the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Travel around the world, from Shanghai to Switzerland, and dive into the spy network of World War 2. Make radio transmitters and cakes with Ursula while dodging MI6 and getting the kids ready for school. This is a thrilling tale and history lesson all in one that won’t disappoint. Macintyre penned a masterpiece here.

Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance

Hillbilly elegy an interesting perspective that hit close to home since I grew up in the Rust belt.
While some experiences were familiar, others were foreign. An insight to Americas working class, voicing concern at the community level over blaming the government seemed like a reasonable argument. I didn’t think it was a culture in crisis, however, it seemed more like a shift in attitude was necessary. But upward mobility requires delicacy, as it isn’t as simple as it seems, often coming at a steep cost, financial and emotional. I appreciated a young writer’s perspective, in sharing life experience, particularly the impact of his adolescence, then in obtaining a career. Final thought, grandparents rule.

The History of Love by Nicole Kraus

The History of Love was a short tale about Leo, who survived a Nazi invasion of his childhood town in Poland. After surviving in the woods for 2 years, he went to New York City to work with his cousin. He wrote a novel that he thought never got published, but 1000 copies were printed, inspiring a young couple. They named their daughter after the main character, Alma. She wants to find her mother a new boyfriend after her father passes, and makes a discovery after her mom is hired to translate the history of love. Leo and Alma slowly work towards meeting to fulfill their goals. I enjoyed each characters point of view, especially Alma’s little brother. It was a cute story, though a little heartbreaking at the end. And yet. Left me hopeful.

Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor

Hurricane season was a tough novel to work through. Everyone wants to know who murdered the witch. Secrets, poverty and hopelessness are only a few adversities the characters face, but handle it with resilience. Broken into eight parts, I was actually surprised this took me awhile to work through. It was worth the read, but this wasn’t a book you could read a chapter here or there. An entire page might be one sentence and its packed with information you will want to know.
Lastly, I’m not one to scoff at strong language, but combined with the rough topics it emphasizes, it got downright brutal. I had to put the book down a number of times through Norma’s story. After exploring the violence in this community it was almost numbing to make it to the last few pages where the only escape is death.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Artist way is a book of daily affirmations broken into monthly sections for one inspirational message everyday. Some really hit home for me while others fell flat. November held the most moving words personally! This wasn’t a book to curl up with and dive into, either. I tried to read it by month, and my head was spinning by the time I got to March. There are enough pearls of wisdom that make it worth perusing, just make sure you take your time.

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

I was very excited for this new novel from Elena Ferrante because I was completely captivated with the Neopolitan Novels. The Lying Life of Adults had a much slower pace to it, but still carried plenty of intrigue. It took awhile to read, only because I found it hard to concentrate through almost every chapter. The relatability would remind me or trigger memories from when I was 12 and I’d get distracted from my reading. Turns out teenage angst is universal. Haha. But I did enjoy Giovanna’s coming of age story, the domestic background of drama and the way it was shaping her opinions. I felt her frustration, isolation, disgust and hope. I especially got a kick from the twist ending that offered her total control and the promise she made to herself as she left home. Lies are an art form in this story but what the lies were tended to be less important as to how the lies were told. Each character had their own reasons and purposes, but I felt like it impacted Giovanna greatly as she grew up and had to decide for herself whether or not to follow a pattern of behavior she saw in her parents and her aunt, even her friends.
I was also relieved that the bracelet’s symbolism was explained more plainly than the dolls from My Brilliant Friend. It was passed from character to character, gifted, taken or traded until it did finally wind up again with whom I believe was the rightful owner. If the origin story is correct that is, and it might not be, since there are lots of lies attached to it. Ferrante rips apart idyllic life and still finds a way to inspire hope, and I love her for that.

The accuracy

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Someone needs to rob a bank and then takes hostages across the street at an apartment viewing. Then the police have to call Stockholm because they aren’t used to such crimes being committed. A rational person doesn’t rob a bank. But if they needed to you might be able to understand. They certainly shouldn’t take hostages, but you can understand from the events how it came about. Or maybe you won’t understand. Life is like that. This is an odd hostage situation anyway. Also you should know I’m not doing a great job writing my review using the authors prose, but it’s been fun. My favorite line in this novel was, ‘you don’t fall in love with gender, you fall in love with an idiot’. There were lots of idioms like that throughout the story, but I made sure to write that one down.
It was 340 pages and took me about 2 weeks to read. My goal was to read 20-ish pages a day and though I wasn’t totally invested at first, but the chapters peel back layers like an onion. Before I knew it I was 100 pages in and couldn’t wait to find out what happened. This is a great title choice to add to your reading list!

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