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posted my 2015 book review on my old site.  come visit at:  http://ayearofbooksblog.com

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20. love anthony (Lisa Genova)

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Thanks to Laura, who recommended this book!  It was a great read for the long weekend.  It combined the story of a mother (Olivia) grieving the loss of her son who had autism and the tale of a wife (Beth) grieving the separation from her husband following an illicit affair.  The stories intertwine in the beautiful Nantucket setting as the characters struggle with their problems on the beautiful beach island.

Olivia has exiled herself to the solitude of Nantucket Island in the winter, trying to come to terms with her son’s death and the failure of her marriage.  As the winter changes to spring, the desolation of the island changes to its frenetic summer pace and Olivia begins life anew, noticing the daffodils and starting a photography business.   She reflects on  her son and her marriage which succumbed to the the stress of caring for a child with special needs seeking to understand  the meaning of her son’s short life.

Beth has been frustrated with her marriage.  She is annoyed by all the little habits of her husband (even the ones that she had found endearing when she met him) as she tries to maintain a nice home for their three daughters.  When she receives a card in the mail announcing her husband’s infidelity her life dramatically changes.  She realizes that she is missing herself and rediscovers her creativity as she begins writing a novel.

Olivia and Beth’s paths cross during a photo shoot on the beach.  Beth learns that Olivia had been an editor and eagerly asks her to review her novel when it is finished.  The two become friends, learning about themselves and unconditional love through the writing and editing process.  They discover their similarities and gain understanding of their own situations.

The author Lisa Genova is also the author of Still Alice (early-onset Alzheimers) and Left Neglected (acquired brain injury) who has a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University.  She combines her scientific knowledge with beautiful stories increasing the readers understanding of these health concerns.  Genova’s fourth book, Meet the O’Brien’s is being released this week and is about the devastating genetic disease, Huntington’s.  Look for a review of this during the month of April as it is my May book club read.

This was a great book!  Genova does a wonderful job weaving fiction with the challenges of autism.  I hope that her writing helps create understanding and compassion for individuals and families living with the autism spectrum.  I would highly recommend all three of her books and can’t wait to read Meeting the O’Briens.

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New Blog site for 2015

Don’t forget to switch over to http://ayearofbooksblog.com for 2015 book reviews!

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New Site: AYearofBooksBlog.com

Since my inaugural blog was titled 2014bookblog, I have started a new site.  Please continue follow me at:

http://ayearofbooksblog.com

My first post of 2014:  The Lost wife is linked below:

http://ayearofbooksblog.com/2015/01/03/1-the-lost-wife-alyson-richman/

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79. Forever (Judy Blume)

Unknown-1After finding out the Judy Blume is writing a new book (for adults) to be published this year, I thought that I would reread Forever.  This was the book that everyone wanted to read when I was a teenager.  It was passed around and it was a source of information for many teens.  I was surprised to learn that it was first published in 1975 but not that some schools and libraries had tried to ban it.

It is a story of a teenage girl and her first love.  It deals with sex, pregnancy, possibly homosexuality and death.  Although it is almost 40 years old, the content is current today and the parents in the novel were very open and honest.  It was fairly explicit and descriptive but identifies issues that would be good for discussion.

I enjoyed reading many of Judy Blume’s novels so am keen to read her newest novel, made for the adults who had enjoyed her books as teens!

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78. All My Puny Sorrows (Miriam Toews)

9780345808028After hearing many positive reviews (Globe Books and CBC Books), i thought that I would give this Canadian author another read.  Reading about the challenges growing up in a Mennonite community in A Complicated Kindness was not the most engaging read but with all the positive reviews, i picked up All My Puny Sorrows.  This book was not an uplifting choice to ring out 2014.  Although it is a fictional story, the author is said to have based much of the materials on her own experience of losing both her father and her beloved sister to suicide.  The topic is very serious in a time when mental health is a prime focus in health care.

The story is narrated by Yolanda (Yoli) and shares her experience growing up with her sister Elfrieda (Elf) in a Mennonite town in the Canadian prairie province of Manitoba.  Elf is the elder sibling, a talented pianist who struggled with happiness and was striving to end her suffering by ending her life.  After dealing with multiple hospitalizations and unsuccessful suicide attempts, Yoli took responsibility to try and keep Elf alive – flying back and forth from Toronto to Manitoba and trying to convince Elf that life was worth living.  While she acted as caregiver, Yoli struggled with her own life, leaving two teenage children at home, dealing with her divorce and sleeping with a man in each province.  It seemed that each family member in the story was dealing with their own challenges.

In the end, Elf was successful in her quest and the family had to learn to deal with her decisions and heal.  The book was serious and melancholic but not my best choice to end out the year.  It was a powerful and honest account of mental illness and the struggles that some families deal with but it was not inspiring and was not a book that I struggled to put down.  My heart goes out to the author who has clearly struggled with her own loss and hope that help is available for others going through similar situations.

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77. Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy

UnknownI hate to end the year on a negative note so I will frame this comment in a positive way and say that I am very glad that I have finally finished this book.  It is a book that you are intended to read a few pages each day of the year, helping to reader to appreciate and express gratitude.  I am just grateful that it is over!  I strive to finish each book that I start and this was a tedious task.  I have to admit that I did not keep all year long and had to catch up numerous times.  I did like the concept of reading a book, a few pages at a time, over a year but did not enjoy the content.

I understand that this book got a lot of attention from Oprah which may reflect its’ “success”.  I am all for reflecting and appreciating life but think that this book may have been more appropriate for a 1950s housewife.  I struggled to find the relevance for a modern, independent, educated woman, wife, or mother.  I grew very tired of hearing the advice such as making your own potpourri, dressing in your favourite flowered gown or how important it is to make meals and keep house for your spouse.

What was I looking for?  How about how to work together as a family to keep life organized?  How to find quick meals that everyone likes and are ready after sports?  How to find some time to relax?  What are some ideas of fun things to do as a family?

If you have read this and have a different opinion, please feel free to share your thoughts and what you liked…

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Best book of 2014??

Looking back over 2014, what was the best book that you read?  What could you not put down?  What might you read again?

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76. The Marrying of Chani Kaufman (Eve Harris)

chani-kaufman-can The Marrying of Chani Kaufman was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and tells the tale of a curious Orthodox Jewish girl who is next to be married.  Although the story is a bit slow at times, it is very interesting to learn about the mores and customs experienced by this religious group.  The story blends the lives of Chani,  her parents, Baruch (her husband to be) and the Rabbi and his wife, Rivka, ending on the wedding night.

Chani grew up as one of eight daughters in a very busy, devout and poor household.  She was spirited and at times found herself in trouble at school.  She had met and turned down a number of suitors before meeting Baruch.  Once engaged, she met with the Rabbi’s wife to prepare for her marriage and had many questions that both her mother and the Rabbi’s wife could not (or would not) answer.

Baruch, saw Chani at a wedding and was very keen to meet her despite the disapproval from his own mother.  Through a matchmaker, the couple met although his mother tried to discourage their relationship due to the differences in social status.  Baruch was persistent and after four dates asked Chani to marry him.  The groom to be was also very curious about the wedding night but the young couple were left to discover each other without any guidance or education.

The Rabbi and Rivka had met in Jerusalem during a time when neither was orthodox.  The Rabbi grew into the devout religion and his wife chose to follow, giving up freedom of dress, diet and accepting Orthodox ways or life, marriage and child rearing.  After dealing with loss, her own son’s challenges and a feelings of unhappiness in her marriage and lifestyle, the Rabbi’s wife struggled with her own choices.

As the characters struggle with their commitment to their faith balanced with their duties and their strong sense of communities they learn more about their own strengths.  The novel is interesting and educates the reader about the Orthodox faith.  It gives a perspective of other’s religion balancing faith, community and choice.

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