Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Jess Reads October

1.  The Traitor's Wife

The Traitor's Wife follows a woman named Martha who goes to help a family where the wife is getting close to having a baby because the husband travels a lot; and where she proceeds to fall in love with a man named Thomas who has a secretive past in England.  This sounded like such a good book- using the history of the English Civil War to shape the characters and drive the story line. Except Martha is really hard to like and not a whole lot happens.  Honestly, when it came time to come back and do my books read for October I realized this book was completely forgettable.  Like literally.  I had to jump onto Amazon and remind myself what it was about because none of it stayed with me.  Skip it.

2.  Madame Curie

I'm going to be super honest here.  I don't love biographies.  They usually bore me to tears, and as a general rule I tend to stay away from them.  But I came across an old copy (not this one pictured here) for a dollar at a sale, and I have a soft spot for Marie Curie.  This book was amazing.  Written by her youngest daughter Eve, it goes through her life in Russia occupied Poland with her family, all of them also extremely intelligent, follows her into college in France where she meets Pierre, their courtship, struggle to find physics positions for both of them, their marriage and work (they discovered radiation along with several elements, naming one Polonium after her original country of Poland), and her incredible volunteer work in the first World War. There was so many amazing things about her that I had no clue of.  What a remarkable woman in so many ways.  And for most of her career, extremely undervalued.  They did their biggest discoveries in France in a shed with almost no heat.  It wasn't until after Pierre died only 8 years into their marriage where Marie took over his position as the first female ever allowed to work at the college, before she was essentially given the status that her incredible mind and research should have been given to the Curies years before.  She was also the first woman to win the Nobel Prize.  Marie and Pierre could have patented their research on radiation and become exceedingly wealthy, but decided that radiation was for everyone, and to make money off of it was "contrary to the scientific spirit".  An attitude you will almost never find today.  If you are even slightly science minded you should read this book. You should read it even if you hate science.  Madame Curie is 100% worthy of your time.

3, 4, 5.  The Eye of the World,  The Great Hunt,  The Dragon Reborn

When I was a senior in high school a friend of mine recommended The Wheel of Time series.  It was pretty much my first foray into fantasy writing and I loved it.  There are 14 books in this series, all of them in the 500+ pages category, so if you start them it is a commitment.  When I first was introduced to this series in 1999 there were already several in paper back but the series wasn't complete, and I was devoted.  I would read the new one every few years as they were released feeling like 2-4 years was such a long time to wait for the next book.  Sometimes forgetting stuff that would happen because they are so long and it had been such a long time since I read the last one.  And then the author died in 2007 before the series was ended.  You know how you become emotionally invested in something? Yep, that happened,  But Robert Jordan knew he was sick and took many notes and long talks with his wife led him to pick Brandon Sanderson as the author to help write the final books after his death. The final book was released in January of 2013.

All that info. stuff to say that I have decided to reread the series for the first time since the last book was completed almost 4 years ago.  It's been 18 years since I read the first book and I am excited to give it a go again.  It's kind of hard to describe the books because there are a lot of characters, and a lot of stuff going on.  Jordan can be wordy, and repeats background information a lot, but I guess when you write a series over an extremely extended period you need to do that.  My advice to you is just to read the first one and see if you like it.  You can google stuff about it, but all the summaries that I read make it sound kind of ridiculous and not anywhere near as good as it really is.  If you like fantasy, then this series is it.  He's widely recognized as one of of the best fantasy writers of all time. Just be prepared to get sucked down the Robert Jordan hole and not come out for a very long time.....

6.  The Beekeeper's Apprentice

A friend of mine recommended this to me quite a while ago, and I just finally got around to reading it.  It's about an extremely intelligent young girl named Mary Russell who happens upon Sherlock Holmes in the English countryside after he has retired.  They have a verbal exchange which leads to him realizing that an apprentice for himself has quite literally stumbled upon him.  The book moves forward from there as he trains her and follows her story at Oxford.  This is not just another Holmes book, although if you love Sherlock Holmes you definitely will not be disappointed in this.  It's a fresh way to experience "Holmes like" reasoning from a woman's perspective, which truly changes a lot.  This is the first in a series, and the only one that I have read so far.  I definitely will be continuing through them.  Read it.

7.  The One in A Million Boy

This book is very hyped in the blogging world.  It follows a young boy's relationship with a 104 year old woman until he unexpectedly dies and then his father who hasn't been around, vows to finish his son's obligations with the elderly lady.  Boring sounding, I know.  But this book deserves the hype that has been generated around it.  The interactions of the father with Ona (the old lady) throughout the book are incredible, and the pain that you read about through both parents seems genuine.  I feel like this book gave me a fresh perspective on people who are nearing the end of their life. Ona's thoughts on her life are a gentle reminder that you can't just write off people in society because they are old.  So obvious, I know, but something that I think our society forgets. Ona is by far my favorite character, full of spice and one liners, and I love that through the book you get clips of an interview that the boy did with her from just her side.  Read it.

8.  A Gentleman in Moscow

Another much-hyped book.  I loved it.  I loved it so much I am buying a copy.   And that is a rare thing indeed.  This book follows Count Alexander Rostov, an aristocrat who ends up getting house arrest in the Moscow hotel after the Bolsheviks come to power.  It follows his 30 odd years in the hotel and the relationships he forms with the patrons as Russia changes around him.  Alexander brings us back to a time when flowers were sent to someone based on what the flower said.  A time when wines were picked out specifically to complement flavors.  Rostov is a gentleman and while the Bolsheviks may not have appreciated it, you certainly will.  I already have a proclivity for Russian history and took Russian in college, so that may have swung me in favor of this book from the get go, but you will be charmed by this book.

9.  Commonwealth

For my third much-hyped book of the month, this one by far fell the flattest.  It follows the kids of two families who have become stepsiblings after an affair.  Commonwealth was super hard to follow as it jumped back and forth between time and people, and try as I could I just couldn't get into it. I didn't care one lick about what happened to anyone in any of the families.  About the only thing that I could appreciate was the stories of the dumb things the kids did when they were young and thinking about all the stupid things I did.  The rest of this book was a wash.  Not that interesting, not that thought provoking, and not worth your time.


  1. I've been wanting to reread the WoT series since the last book was published, but I haven't been willing to commit the time. Maybe this winter is the time to do it!

    1. It's a great winter read when all you want to do is cuddle and stay inside from the cold!

  2. Taking some of your suggestions to heart and have added them to my book cart. I know if I read the first book in the Wheel of Time series one of my sons - or both - will pick it up too and that'll give us something to share. The Beekeepers Apprentice looks good too

  3. I really liked One-In-A-Million-Boy. So unique and sweet but also gritty too. I have A Gentleman in Moscow on hold on Overdrive and so excited to listen to it!

    Here are my October reads: https://elle-alice.blogspot.ca/2016/10/october-book-reviews.html