Since March is National Reading Month, I’m going to try something different. Instead of one long book review every so often, I’ll provide a wrap-up of all the books I read in a given month. For those with visual or other limitations, these are available in accessible formats from Audible, Bookshare, and the National Library Service. They can also be found in print and eBook formats from Amazon and other online retailers. Happy reading.
Hope Flames by Jaci Burton Copyright 2014 by the Berkley Publishing Group, a Division of Penguin Group U.S.A. LLC
Set in the fictional town of Hope, Oklahoma, this romance is about a veterinarian and a policeman who fall for each other, despite painful past relationships and their resolves never to love again. It’s funny how these two pretend not to have a relationship, although they become involved in a full-fledged affair with lots of sex. I like the way the characters and their dogs interact with each other. Close to the end, I found this book hard to put down.
This author does a pretty good job of depicting domestic abuse and other crimes. I also like the ways she promotes responsible behavior. Condoms are always handy when the urge arises. At the scene of an accident the policeman is working, a teen-aged girl who caused the collision by texting and driving is forced to turn over her car keys and cell phone to her father. I recommend this book to anyone who likes romances and dogs. There’s a sequel, Hope Ignites, and I’m looking forward to reading this.
The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Maurina Keegan Copyright 2014 by Traci and Kevin Keegan
This collection was published posthumously. The author was killed in a car accident after graduating from Yale in 2012. The title essay appeared in the college newspaper soon after her death and went viral on the Internet. Other essay topics include her grandmother’s car, whales, and how she and her mother dealt with her Celiac’s disease.
After reading her first two stories, I thought they would all be about college students which would have made sense since she was in college when she wrote them, and that was what she knew. However, she surprised me by writing outside her comfort zone. In one tale, a woman in her mid-60’s reads to a blind man while stripping. In another, a submarine crew deals with being stranded on the ocean floor due to technical difficulties.
This book starts with an introduction by one of Keegan’s professors. It’s a shame this author died so young. I’m glad her work was published. It would have made great material for literary magazines.
Nora Webster by Colm Toiben Copyright 2014
This was a good book to read around St. Patrick’s Day during the month when our old, faithful Irish setter Clancy was born. May he rest in peace. The story spans several years and takes place in Ireland during, I presume, the 1960’s, but no exact date is given. Nora Webster is a widowed mother of four children, two boys and two girls, left to cope with her husband’s death from an unexpected illness. When money becomes a problem, she is compelled to return to work at an office where she was employed before she was married. There, she is bullied by a sadistic office manager and ignored by most co-workers until a nun intervenes on her behalf, and she joins a labor union.
After a spontaneous vocal performance at a pub, she takes voice lessons, joins a gramophone society, and buys her own phonograph and records. In the end, she is asked to join a choir that will perform the Brahms German Requiem.
I didn’t like the fact that no exact date was provided. At first, I thought it was set in the present, but when the characters didn’t appear to be using cell phones or the Internet, I realized it had to take place during the mid-20th century. The fact that everyone drove cars and Nora Webster had a television but no phone and a reference to Elvis and the moon landing by American astronauts helped me pinpoint the decade. If I were more familiar with Irish history, news events mentioned in the novel would have given me more of a clue as to the time. Still, it would have been helpful if the author inserted a year at the beginning of the book, i.e. “It was a cold October afternoon in 1961.” Also, I was never sure of the children’s exact ages, although it was said later in the book that the older son was fifteen.
Being a devotee of classical music and having been a registered music therapist, I was intrigued by how music affects the main character. It takes her away from life stresses: her older son’s speech impediment and inability to concentrate in school, her younger son’s being moved to a lower class without warning or explanation, her younger daughter’s involvement in political activities, her older daughter’s requests for money, friends and relatives interfering in her life and that of her children. In one fascinating scene after she has been unable to sleep for weeks, she dozes off downstairs in her sitting room during the day while listening to a recording of a Beethoven trio. In a dream, she hears noises upstairs, though no one else is home. She makes her way to the second floor, wanders into her bedroom, and finds her late husband in a rocking chair and has a conversation with him. When she wakes up, she’s sprawled across her bed and convinced it wasn’t a dream. I recommend this book to anyone who likes classical music and all things Irish.
Not Quite Mine by Catherine Bybee Copyright 2013 by Catherine Bybee
Catelyn Morrison is a twenty-something reality TV star who finds a baby on the doorstep of her Texas penthouse apartment after her brother’s wedding. Fearing her wealthy family’s and the public’s reaction, she flees to California with the infant where she volunteers to design the interior of her brother’s hotel, though she knows little about interior design. In the process of trying to keep the baby a secret while attempting to find out the mother’s identity, she finds herself reconnecting with a boyfriend she broke up with earlier and her mother who abandoned her years ago. The ending is predictable.
At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this, especially when I got to the point where Catelyn finds the baby with an unsigned note from the mother and a fabricated adoption paper listing Caitlin as the adoptive mother. In the note, the mother claims to know a lot about Caitlin including the fact that she’s unable to have children. This sounds like something straight out of a soap opera or gothic novel, but I was curious so I soldiered on and am glad I did. I had an idea who the baby’s mother and father were and was glad to learn my suspicion was correct. That’s all I’m going to say about this heartwarming tale.