Hello, friends. Hard to believe it's mid-April already... Easter has come and gone. Here on the island "season" is over, but back in central New York winter just won't let go. A high school prom was even postponed last weekend due to the ice storm. Isn't that crazy? Needless to say, we won't be leaving Florida just yet.
I've had plenty of reading time over the past couple of weeks, primarily due to a back injury which limited my activity. I'm much better now and slowly resuming my regular routine.
The Gunners by Rebecca Kauffman
My favorite book so far this year... and I even wrote a review! Find it here.
Forty Autumns: A Family's Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner, narrated by Cassandra Campbell
What a moving memoir! I learned about this book last year during Nonfiction November and it's easily my favorite audio of the year so far. There are plenty of accounts about life after WWII, but this is a new angle for me. I don't think I've ever read about East Germany after the country was divided.
The author, Nina Willner, was the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead intelligence operations in East Berlin during the the Cold War. This book tells the story of her mother, Hanna, who escaped at age twenty from East to West Germany, leaving behind her parents, grandparents, and eight siblings.
The story is positively riveting. From Hanna's amazing escape to the daily lives of the family left behind and their eventual reunion decades later, I could not stop listening. Reading about control imposed by a communist regime always gives me pause, but the propaganda and suppression of news seemed especially chilling in light of the relationship between our current administration and the press.
Cassandra Campbell's narration is, as always, pitch-perfect. Read or listen, do not miss this book!
Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
In a style reminiscent of Henry James, though more readable, John Banville imagines Isabel Archer's life after The Portrait of a Lady. In essence, Mrs. Osmond is a sequel to Henry James masterpiece.
This novel was actually more enjoyable than expected. I enjoyed seeing Isabel mature, Pansy grow into adulthood, and Osmond and Madame Merle become more their true selves. I also loved how Banville left the ending somewhat ambiguous in true Jamesian style.
I approached this novel as a read/listen combination. Amy Finegan is a new-to-me narrator and her performance definitely enhanced my reading experience.
Bottom line: A nice romp for fans of The Portrait of a Lady, but I can't imagine why anyone not familiar with James's novel would want to read it.
by Kate Andersen Brower, narrated by Karen White
First Women is an interesting, slightly gossipy account of America's modern first ladies. It's a quick, informative read told in a style similar to Brower's previous book, The Residence. I had two minor complaints. First, the book jumped around a lot...it was structured based on topic (the political wife, motherhood, bad blood, etc.) rather than chronology. There also seemed to be a lot of repetition but, to be fair, it may have been anecdotes and facts I remembered from her earlier book. When this book was written, Brower fully expected Hillary Clinton to win the 2016 presidential election. An afterward about Melania Trump has since been added. This was a read/listen combination for me.
Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen
When Anna Quindlen writes a new book, I read it. I've read most of her nonfiction and all but one of her novels. I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Random House event several years ago... if we lived on the same street, she could easily be my BFF. So I really hate to admit that her latest novel is not a favorite. It's quiet, character-driven, and very New York City - all factors which generally appeal to me. Unfortunately, Alternate Side turned out to be just a good read when I was expecting a great one.
Possibly Up Next//
The News from Paraguay by Lily TuckI discovered Lily Tuck through her new novel, Sisters, earlier this year. After musing that I'd like to read some of her backlist, a friend mailed me one she enjoyed. Thanks, Judy!
That's a lot of books, so I'll end here.
How was your week? What are you reading?