80. In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Richard is a sixty something widower who rents a downstairs apartment in his house to Evelyn, a divorced Chilean professor. During a snowstorm Richard has a fender bender with a young undocumented Guatemalan woman named Evelyn. He thinks nothing of it at the time until Evelyn shows up on his doorstep looking for help. At a loss for what to do with her Richard seeks out Lucia’s assistance sending the three of the on an unlikely journey together.
This book took a real turn about a third of the way in and didn’t wind up being the book I thought I was reading when I started it. I don’t really want to say much else about it because I don’t want to give anything away. I give it a 7 out of 10.
79. We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories by Gabrielle Union
It seems like celebrity memoir essay books have become a dime a dozen in the last few years. Gabrielle Union’s book takes this genre to a new level though. She gets deeply honest about both her life and uses her own experiences to address very real issues existing in our world today. In addition to her career, she talks about her rape as a teenager, miscarriages, a failed marriage, feminism, and racism.
Even though Union tackles some really hard subjects in this book she does it in a positive way trying to look forward and think about what she can do to make help make the world a better place while encouraging others to do likewise. I really enjoyed this book and found it a nice variation on the normal humorous essay celebrity memoir. I give it an 8 out of 10.
78. The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian
Cassie is a flight attendant with a drinking problem who works a lot of international routes. Her hard partying ways turn into a living nightmare when she wakes up one morning in Dubai lying in bed next to a man who has obviously been murdered. Her drunken memories are devoid of anything that can help her piece together what happened. She even begins to wonder if there is any way she might have killed him.
She leaves the scene of the crime and returns to the United States hoping to put the whole event behind her, but when the FBI begins asking questions she knows her time is probably limited, and starts to do whatever she can to figure out what happened that night on her own.
I usually enjoy Chris Bohjalian’s books, but I didn’t really connect with this one. I got really tired of spending so much time with an alcoholic character constantly working against her best interests. Also I couldn’t stop comparing this book to his previous book in which a character also becomes caught up in some crazy international conspiracy through no fault of their own, but can’t remember what happened because they were blackout drunk. I give this a 6 out of 10.
77. The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers, and Life by Richard Russo
As the title suggests this is a book essays written by Richard Russo on the topices of writing and his life. I don’t care much for reading about people’s thoughts on writing, so I didn’t care much for those essays. I generally enjoyed the ones he just wrote about his life in general though. I give it a 6 out of 10.
76. Sunburn by Laura Lippman
It’s the summer of 1995 and instead of heading home from the beach with her family, Polly decides to leave her husband and young daughter. She winds up hiding out in a small town in Delaware where she gets a job as a waitress in a bar. Little does show know that Adam, a man she meets there who eventually becomes the bar’s cook, is actually a private investigator hired by someone in her past to find her.
As the fall in love the secrets of their pasts and a mysterious death in the small town raise questions about who Polly and Adam really are and what they’re really up to. This wasn’t one of my favorite Laura Lippman books. I’m very much over the Gone Girl sort of character set up. This book isn’t exactly like that, but it definitely has that influence. I give it a 6 out of 10.
75. Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Kafka is a teenage boy living in Japan who runs away from home to search for his long lost missing sister and mother as well as to avoid fulfilling an Oedipal prophecy that he would kill his father and sleep with his mother. Along the way he is picked up an old man named Nakata, who suffered some mystery affliction during World War II that now allows him to talk to cats among other things.
I really could not explain to you exactly what this novel is about. It mostly made no sense to me. Even talking about it at book club didn’t help me understand it anymore. I did not really care for it. I give it a 3 out of 10.
74. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fifteen year old Kambili lives in Nigeria under the stern and often abusive rule of her father, who is a powerful man in the local Catholic church. When political turmoil in Nigeria puts her family in danger, she and her older brother are sent to live for a time with her aunt and cousins in another part of the country. There they escape the iron fist of their father and begin to learn there is another way to live before they are abruptly yanked back into the turmoil of their life at home.
This was a really good book that brings up a lot of interesting questions about faith, family, and what it means to be a good person. It definitely left me with a lot to think about and gave a lot of fodder for our book club conversation. I give it a 7 out of 10.
73. The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Fifty-something Hanna’s life has not turned out the way she planned. She’s returned to the small town in Ireland where she grew up to live with the mother she doesn’t get along with after her husband leaves her for his long time mistress. Now she’s stuck working at the tiny library instead of the once more promising career she had in London and even the library is in danger of closing unless she can figure out a way to save it.
This was an okay book for these type of cozy little stories set in small Irish towns. I just couldn’t stop thinking about what a terrible librarian Hanna is the whole time I was reading it. That might not bother anyone who isn’t a librarian, for someone who is like me, it annoyed me. I give it a 5 out of 10.
72. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
This is a collection of short stories by Tom Hanks. The common thread amongst them is that they all feature a type writer of some sort. Sometimes the typewriter figures prominently in the story and sometimes there is just a typewriter mentioned in passing. This book fell prey to my general feelings about short stories, which is that I don’t love them, and the general rule of compilations of works like short stories, which is that they rarely all can reach a level of greatness. There’s usually some winners and a lot of so-so or not-so-great stories. That was pretty much the case here. There were a couple that I found completely lovely, but for the most part they okay, and there were one or two that I didn’t really care for at all. I give it a 5 out of 10.
71. What We Lose By Zenzi Clemmons
I can’t really tell you what this book was about. It’s been a little while since I read it, and all I can recall about it is that it is a very bizarre combination of stream of consciousness, vignettes, articles. It also moved back in time, which confused things even more. I didn’t really care for it. I give it 3 out of 10.