What I've Read Lately (March 2016)

 Saturday morning browsing at our neighborhood bookstore, Rainy Day Books

Saturday morning browsing at our neighborhood bookstore, Rainy Day Books

Does anyone else have the chronic problem of starting way too many books at the same time - then slowly plodding through them, only getting in a few chapters a week, and feeling like you'll never finish? I know people say reading multiple books at the same time helps you read more, but I think there's a point where the effectiveness of that strategy plummets. 

Anyway - what I'm trying to say is that I'm currently deep in several books, and it's encouraging to remember that I actually did finish a few this past month. 

As always, I'd love to connect with you over at Goodreads (my profile here) and get even more recommendations for books I may or may not finish...


Orphan Train tells the parallel stories of a young Irish girl sent by train to western United States in the early twentieth century after her family dies, and a Native American teenager in foster care on the brink of adulthood in current times. The two meet through unlikely circumstances and slowly realize the similarity of their stories. I haven't read anything about the orphan trains that took children from the overcrowded streets of New York City and other large Eastern cities and sent them west to families who wanted children, for altruistic reasons or otherwise.

Both stories were heartbreaking, in how vulnerable the girls were to the wishes of the adults around them. It's a strong reminder for me, as I work with youth in similar situations, of the power dynamics in our relationships and to not use my authority to ever push them or take advantage of them, even unknowingly.


I'm always looking for a new mystery series, and Deborah Crombie's Kincaid/James series hits all the right notes for me. I started with one of her most recent novels, Necessary As Blood, in which a young mother disappears in the East End of London. Shortly afterwards, her husband is murdered. The investigation leads the detectives through Bangladeshi restaurants, questionable high-class gentleman's clubs, art galleries, and immigrant homes as they realize the key to solving the mystery lies in horrific places.

I liked the characters immediately, and the storyline is stimulating and kept my interest. I also appreciated the description of immigrant life in East End of London and the existence of human trafficking in seemingly unlikely places. I've now gone back to book 1 to read more about the main characters Duncan and Gemma, and to see how they ended up together.


I actually tried reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society about a year ago, and I just couldn't get into the characters or the story told through letters. But I gave it a second try on audiobook and loved it. Different actors read the letters, which made it engaging, funny, and personable.

It tells the story of a friendship struck up between a young female author living in post-WWII London and a man living on the Channel Islands. What brings them together? A book - which always makes for a good start. I haven't read anything about the Channel Islands, especially their German occupation during World War II, and so enjoyed the stories told. 


As mentioned before, I went back and listened to the first book in the Kincaid and James series by Deborah Crombie. A Share in Death has the classic frame of a good novel - guests on a resort in rural England are shocked when one of them is found electrocuted in the hot tub. On the surface, no one seems a likely suspect. But the detectives keep digging, and secrets surface for everyone. All the clues were laid out in the story, but I didn't pick up on the common thread til the end of the book, when the killer is finally revealed.


Bill Bryson, one of my favorite travel writers, just released a new book on England (perfect pre-travel research). Twenty years ago, he wrote about traveling through England in Notes From A Small Island. In The Road to Little Dribblinghe revisits some of the old haunts and sees a great deal of new places, too, all described in his dry wit and fascinating historical background.

I do wish Bryson had spent less time lamenting over the decline of British courtesy and cultural heritage, and more time just describing what it's like today. I suppose it's to be expected when a sixty-something American travels around England, after living there for more than twenty years, often discovering his favorite places are no longer there or as attractive. 


What books did you enjoy this month?

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