My Recent Reading, Part I

There are many things on my to-blog-about list, like multi-tasking, cat videos, and food expiration dates. But you read my blogs because you read my books, and right now, in the thick of the summer reading season, I need to blog about books – specifically the ones I’ve read.

Summer is a great reading time for me. Last weekend being a quiet one, no guests, just DH and me, I read all day Saturday and Sunday, AND continued listening to an audiobook for six hours, back and forth to the lake.

I’m lucky. I know that. Some of you have to work weekends, others have family commitments, and few have a lake house with a husband who spends hours out on his boat, leaving me (think: golf widow) time to read. So I do count my blessings. That said, I don’t like reading bad books.  I’ve begun putting those aside without finishing them, something I never used to do.  How about you?  Do you always finish the books you start?

Thankfully, the books I’ve recently read have been terrific.  Here are my book reviews.

First, “Eight Hundred Grapes,” by Laura Dave.

Eight Hundred Grapes

This is an easy read, with witty dialogue and likeable characters. I enjoyed learning more about growing grapes and making wine; the author either knows her vineyards or fooled me completely. There’s nothing heavy here, nothing requiring work, which makes it a good summer read.

Next comes “H is for Hawk,” by Helen Macdonald.

H Is For Hawk

I don’t often read memoirs, much less wildlife books, but when I heard that this book was about dealing with grief by raising a hawk, I was intrigued. I remained intrigued intermittently as I read, most enjoying (to my surprise) the specifics about the hawk. I kept waiting for the grief-handling part to resonate – how raising Mabel helped Macdonald come to terms with her father’s death – and it never did. But the writing is excellent. And I did love reading about Mabel.

“Go Set A Watchman,” Harper Lee’s newly discovered piece, is a treat.

Go Set A Watchman

It started so slowly that I was fearful those critics who said it should never have been published were right. Once past my expectation that it would be another courthouse drama, aka “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I was completely sucked in. This new book is a period piece that focuses on a young woman’s relationship with her father – a young woman who has idolized her father so thoroughly that she is unable to form an identity separate from his. “Go Set A Watchman” describes her very necessary, very healthy separation from him.

Early critics have been fixated on the issue of Atticus being racist. I saw him more as a product of time and place and, even more important, as a man who encouraged his daughter to disagree with him and to fight for her beliefs. The climactic discussions between Jean Louise and Atticus, and then between Jean Louise and her Uncle Jack, are remarkable. They are also timely, given recent issues with the Confederate flag.

I can’t imagine that those who actually do read this book cover-to-cover will find that it tarnishes “To Kill A Mockingbird.” In its own way, “Go Set A Watchman” is every bit as brilliant.

BTW, and I’m sorry, but I have to make this analogy, I watched the first episode of “I Am Cait” last night. It was very touching at times and certainly convinced me that Caitlyn Jenner has wanted to be female since childhood. Was it riveting TV? Would it have ever seen the light of day without the Kardashian connection? Perhaps not.

Likewise, would “Go Set A Watchman” have ever been published without the ‘To Kill A Mockingbird” connection? Perhaps not. Like “I Am Cait,” though, there is enough to appreciate in it – more for some people, less for others – to warrant its showing. Lord knows, both are more substantial than some of the fare out there.

Anyway, regarding summer reading, that’s it for now. Do you have a favorite book to recommend?  I have four more for you, but I’m saving them for “My Recent Reading, Part 2,” coming in another week or so.

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  1. Marie Brophy Logie on August 9, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Just wanting to wish Barbara a very “Happy Birthday” (August 9th). Hope you have a most wonderful day. Wishing you much love and happiness and thanking you for making my life so happy with the wonderful books you write. You are very loved and appreciated! <3 Marie, a very devoted fan! <3

  2. Eileen Keane on August 12, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve been reading the Cotton Malone series of books by Steve Berry. I forget how I heard about them but I’ve already read nine of them! Mr. Berry mixes true history with twists that are just improbable enough for the reader to wonder if they’re true or not. I highly recommend them!

  3. virginia arrington on August 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Just read “Flirting with Pete” I am a new reader – a year younger than you. It kept me captivated. Now I’m looking to read more of your stuff — “While My Sister Sleeps” has been recommended.

  4. Lana Thoma on August 18, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I have begun just this past year to do as you are. No longer will I plod through a dull, uninteresting book to the end.. Even if the book has received great reviews, if I am bored by it, it’s gone. Life is too short for tedium! Therefore, I never finished 50 Shades of Grey. Plot was repetitive, heroine unbelievably dumb (to me) and I’ve never been into S and M.

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