The After-Room by Maile Meloy

afterroomI wasn’t expecting a follow up to The Apothecary and The Apprentices, so it was a real delight to see that there was this. Although I didn’t remember too much about Janie and Benjamin’s adventures in the last book, I remembered the important stuff-the avian elixir that allows them to become birds and that they are trying to stop the use of nuclear warfare. In this conclusion Janie and Benjamin meet someone new who also has unusual powers and wind up in Rome. Benjamin, who is grieving for his father, discovers that due to the powder they had drunk before he died are able to connect in an “after-room”-a sort of waiting area for the dead. Of course this has issues of its own, and added to that they are trying to assist Jin Lo, who is in China searching for a nuclear warhead.  I thought the focus on the afterlife and those who have died and our communications with them was a wonderful part of this story.  And, as I felt with the other two books, I really liked this whole concept and time period, which I think is a bit unusual in kids’ stories. A great conclusion to a unique story.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

anneFor Christmas I received a beautiful set of a new edition of Anne of Green Gables (the first four books.) They are paperback with a beautiful cover that shows paper cutting of key elements of each of the stories. It had been quite a while since I had read an Anne book (despite my devotion to her) and now that I had these lovely new books I decided to make good on my re-reading goals. And, oh! How wonderful to return to a beloved story. To one I knew so well. To thrill at certain sentences, and be delightfully reminded of episodes I’d forgotten. It was gloriously comforting and familiar and wonderful. It was so vivid in my head and I realized that I must have watched the movie many more times recently than read the books (I know I watched it last winter while quilting.) So as I read I pictured the movie in my mind and I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much of the dialogue is lifted straight from the book. Matthew’s death was quite a bit different in the book and I found I didn’t cry nearly as much as I do when I watch the movie of it.  I’m excited to move on to Anne of Avonlea, which one chapter in I’m realizing I’d forgotten so much of and it’s all coming back to me.

p.s. obviously these books are very old and the style of writing is already somewhat flower, and then of course Anne is super prone to romantic flowery statements. It always seemed unbelievable that people would really talk like that but recently I’ve been reading my great-grandmother’s correspondence and guess what? They really did talk like that!

All the Stars in Heaven by Adriana Trigiani

starsThis was such an interesting story. I really wasn’t sure which elements were 100% true, and what was completely made up. The author’s note tells us to read it as straight up fiction about some real people, but I had a hard time not just believing it all as 100% real.
The story is about Loretta Young and Clark Gable and their love affair. It’s also about the movie industry in the 1930s and Loretta’s acting career. Such a neat inside look at what movie productions were like then. My favorite part of the whole thing was when Clark and Loretta were filling together in snowy, remote Washington state. All the actors and crew together, eating and living together in a lodge, Clark pitching in chopping wood. It was hard to imagine movie stars of today ever acting like that.
I really enjoyed this as a love story, historical fiction, and nice long saga over time.

The Lake House by Kate Morton

lakehouseI’ll just paste what I wrote on Goodreads at the time of finishing this book because it was my immediate response: “What a fully satisfying book and a great way to wrap up the year. Holy cow was this great. My mind is satisfied by a neat and clever puzzle, my heart is full of warm feelings, my eyes had a couple tears, and my pocket is a little poorer because it was overdue and I couldn’t renew it but wouldn’t it bring it back until I finished it.
As with her other novels, Morton has crafted a rich complex story with many layers, and characters who have a depth not immediately recognizable to either the reader, or the other characters. I loved the Cornwall setting, the parallel stories, the mystery, and the skipping around in time.
A beautiful big story. Wonderful!”

What else can I say? This was a great story. Similar in style to Morton’s other novels where there is a family secret hidden and it turns out to be more than anyone realized. In this case in the glamorous (uh-oh, time period? 1930s?20s?)past, a beautiful family has a tragedy occur when their beloved little son goes missing. The case was never solved, a body never found, a murderer never charged. The family leaves their estate, which was of course completely enchanting and secluded with a lake.  Many years later (current time) a police detective is taking a break from work and comes across the abandoned estate. Her curiosity is piqued and the mystery begins.  This was a wonderfully absorbing big fat story that I just really loved.

Calling Dr. Laura: a Graphic Memoir by Nicole Georges

lauraThis book had been on my radar for so long that it was rather built up in my head. For the longest time I wasn’t able to get it and finally my library had it and I was so excited to receive it. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t quite live up to what I had it built up to be. That said, this was a fine graphic memoir and I did enjoy it.  I liked the illustration style. The story itself is a memoir, all about Nicole’s family secrets (her family told her her father was dead-he wasn’t) and coming out to her family. The Dr. Laura part was smaller than I thought it would be (again, built up in my head.) Overall, this was good but not the best I’d ever read.

Postcards from the Past by Marcia Willett

ostcardsIn my reading funk last November finding a Marcia Willett that I hadn’t read was just what I needed. Cozy and old-fashioned (even though it was contemporary), and rather predicatable. Evenly paced with a slight mystery with sinister overtones-why is this terrible step-sibling from long ago resurfacing and threatening?? I thought it all ended a bit anticlimactically, but I did enjoy this. And there’s really not much more to say about this!

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingaleThis was one of my top ten favorite books of 2015. This was a heartbreaking, sad, emotional, and intense read. I knew all that going in because I knew it was about a woman in France in WWII whose husband goes off to the war and the Nazis come to her village. Nazis, French Resistance, concentration camps–I just knew characters were going to die, there would be horrible actions, and it would make me question humanity. Because that’s what any WWII book does to me. But I keep reading them and with every one there is something new I learn, some new viewpoint or facet to the war that I hadn’t thought/learned about. In this case it was the French village and what it was like when it became occupied.

I thought this was a wonderful story. Yes, very sad, but warm moments of hope too. In fact, the structure of the book-beginning with a contemporary situation-lets you know that clearly not everyone is going to die. I actually didn’t think this structure added much and was slightly distracting to me.
So much to think about and talk about, it’s no wonder this was so popular last year and a popular book discussion book.