Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Jess Reads November

Life's been crazy busy so no blogging recently....

Books for November:

1.  The Bad Ass Librarians of Timbuktu

This is a true story about saving priceless writings from Timbuktu in Africa.  The story focuses on the fact that most people think Africa was a continent of completely uneducated losers.  Contrary to this, there are manuscripts illuminated to the best of them, early Islamic teachings of equality and a woman's right to refuse how things have changed.  The story is interesting, especially because it brought to light how naive I personally am about early 14-17th century writings in Africa, but it ends up mostly being about radical Islam and how it has affected so many places and the desire to not let people be educated and do anything contrary to extremist teachings.  You will end the book seriously irritated about radical Islam and wishing it would all just stop.  Fascinating and sad all at the same time.

2.  Rooms

Rooms is a Christian fiction book.  It focuses on a young man who inherits an amazing house from a rich uncle he's never really been in contact with.  Then the house starts changing as he starts having to deal with issues from his past.  I've never been crazy about Christian fiction in general, and this book is no exception.  It's okay, but that's about it.  The story is okay and I like how he interacts with another main character, but it's utterly predictable which I think is my biggest beef against this genre.I probably wouldn't have finished it but I was sitting in a deer stand with literally nothing else to do. Pass.

3.  The Forgotten Sister

This is one of many Pride and Prejudice continuations.  The Forgotten Sister focuses on Mary and her story mostly during the time that Pride and Prejudice takes place.  P&P stories can be infuriatingly bad, but not this one.  I love Mary's story, her history that is given, and how her life plays out.  It's a fresh take on a character that wasn't exactly charming in the original.  She's slightly irritating here too, but it's how the book pulls everything together.  Read it, you'll be glad you did.

4.  The Monstrous Regiment of  Women

This is the second book in the Mary Russell series which follows Mary with her mentor and partner  Sherlock Holmes as she goes to college at Oxford and solves crime in her spare time.  It's an interesting take on Holmesian thinking from a woman's perspective, one which I love and appreciate it.  If you've read any Sherlock Holmes and enjoyed it, then you'll love this one too.  I am half way through the third one as well and they just don't disappoint.  They might not be serious reading but they sure are fun.

5.  The Bookshop on the Corner

A charming, and very quick read.  It focuses on a young English librarian named Nina who loses her job because her library is closing.  All she's ever wanted to do was help people find good books. Faced with no job and needing to pay the bills she buys a food truck style van and moves to Scotland to sell books to the masses in rural areas.  One caveat, the book lost some of its charm as the story progressed and Nina started making some not great choices.  Mostly having sex and getting slightly vulgar as the story goes on.  I felt like in the beginning I would have recommended this book to everyone, but the change in tone in the latter half of the book makes me think twice.  I so appreciate a story that has a character who loves books, that alone sold me on the first half, but wish the author would have left her just a little bit more carefree, sweet and dare I say it purer and wholesome.  Nina's not by any means outrageously vulgar, but I feel like somehow her personality didn't match who she was at the beginning.  Still a good book and probably worth your time.

6.  Rules of Civility

I read this after reading A Gentleman in Moscow, one of my favorite books of this year.  I figured Amor Towles' first novel must be just as good.  Boy was I wrong.  This book takes place in 1938, a decade I really dislike reading about.  That should have tipped me off but it didn't.  It's basically the story of a woman and her close friend and a man that they both liked and what happens among them after an automobile accident seriously injures one of them.  But really all you need to know is that this book is terrible.  There is none of the charm like Gentleman, and I don't really even feel like it seems like it's from the same author.  It's a good thing I read this second because had I read it first I never would have given Gentleman the time of day.  Skip it, not worth your time, which is a shame because clearly the author is capable of some amazing work.

7.  Valley of the Moon

Single mother Lux goes on a camping trip when her son is visiting his grandparents.  She wakes up in the middle of the night and has to go to the bathroom and finds herself surrounded by fog,  She follows a light and ends up back in time.  Lux finds rest and simplicity in 1906 in a community called Greengage but knows that she must go back to her own time in 1975 where her son is.  There she faces a tenuous and stressful relationship with her father, and her finances aren't all that great.  As the months go on she continues to travel back in time to Greengage for rest on weekends but comes to the realization that she needs to decide if she will stay forever or not.  This book has a great concept and it was executed fairly well.  I appreciated an ending that had a little bit more surprise in store than what I was thinking even if I guessed right for part of it.  This is a simple tale, simply wrote, but I appreciate it even more for that.  The author didn't try to overachieve or make the story more complicated then it needed to be.  A very quick read, even if you don't totally love it it's so quick I don't think you'll feel like you wasted your time.

8.  The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

This was a super charming book about 69 year old Arthur Pepper and the mysterious charm bracelet he finds on the first anniversary of his wife's death.  It's a bracelet he's never seen before and on one of the charms he finds a phone number to India.  He makes a call which sets Arthur off on a journey to discover who his wife was before they were married and why she never talked about it.  I feel like the author was probably heavily influenced by the book Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, of which I also loved.  Arthur's journey is filled with both charm and chutzpah (for lack of a better word!) as he finds himself challenged by his situations and growing out of his widow mode and into what can only be described as him finally living his life after a year of moping for Miriam.  The only one thing I couldn't quite get on board with was the fact that Miriam hid so much stuff from him.  Turns out the reason is perhaps quite charming, but I am not sure I can believe it.  I would want to talk about all the things that happened in my past with my husband.  Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book. Definitely read it.

9.  Sahara

I have to admit it, Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt series of which this is one, feels like old man reading.  I mean that in the best of ways, really I do.  It's adventure reading for the pleasure of adventure reading, something that I feel like older retired men would do.  Cussler wrote a whole series focusing on Dirk Pitt- an underwater researcher, who happens to be dashing with the ladies, can always get himself out of near-death experiences along with his best friend Al Giordino, and somehow always has the perfect one liner to say.  I love it.  And I'm not even a little bit ashamed.  Sahara focuses on Dirk Pitt in Mali looking for the source of a toxin that is headed towards killing all plant life in the entire world.  At the same time Dr. Eva Rojas is in Mali also looking for a toxin that is resulting in a plague affecting people and making them insane.  Sounds like Pulitzer prize winning stuff, huh!?  Add a tyrannical dictator and a billionaire suave Frenchman and you have yourself quite a story.  I love the Dirk Pitt series, every single one of them.  I read them whenever I want a literal escape from anything serious including reading.  One note, Cussler is a prolific writer, often teaming up with other authors to do writing for him.  I'd say stay away from those and only focus on books where Cussler is the only author.  This book was also made into a movie starring Matthew Mcconaughey as Dirk Pitt and Steve Zahn as Al Giordino.  It was considered a flop in terms of revenue, but I actually loved it.  It does swerve from the book a fair amount, but just like the book, it's adventure for the sake of adventure and sometimes a girl needs that!


  1. I've seen Valley of the Moon in a few places this week. I can't wait to read it.

  2. Thanks for the honest review of The Bookshop on the Corner. I had it queued up for my next read but I don't think I want to read it now that I know about the second half of the book. Not so excited about it now and I think I will pass because I try to avoid books with sex or vulgar scenes.

    Here are my November reads:

    1. It's not super excessive or vulgar, but just enough to make it turn a little for me. I did still enjoy the book though.

  3. I agree about Arthur Pepper. I guess that was the plot device but it was unlikely

  4. I was not a huge fan of Bookshop on the Corner either but also loved the Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper!!