My goal when October started was to read five books. When the month began, I had fifteen left to reach my goal for the year. I knew going in that this would be a tough goal to meet, and I was right. I managed to get through three of the five, and about halfway through a fourth (but that one doesn’t count since I haven’t finished it yet!).
The first book I read was The Fountains of Silence, by Ruth Sepetys. I was introduced to Sepetys by a friend who also happens to be the librarian at work. I quickly read and enjoyed Out of the Easy, but hadn’t had a chance to return to the author until Fountains of Silence came out this year. Last month it was one of the Book of the Month club selections, and I wanted to give it a try.
I was not disappointed. I often forget how much I like to read historical fiction sometimes. I really enjoy a well-researched book that places a fictional story within a historical context. I like to look up details about the event and find pictures of the real places the stories are about. This particular tale took place in a dark spot of Barcelona’s history under the rule of Francisco Franco, and largely explored a corrupt adoption ring in which parents (generally declared unfit because they disagreed with Franco’s ideals) were told their children had died, and they were sold off to more “suitable” parents. However, the main plot was a love story between Daniel (an American) and Ana (a Spaniard), and how this ultimately gets them into trouble.
The book was longer than my normal reads, but it was a fast read. I loved the characters and the backdrop, and I was fascinated by the mystery surrounding everything. Sepetys tells a good story, revealing what needs to be revealed when you need to see it, but also managing to keep an important detail a complete surprise until the end. I highly recommend this one.
The book I can’t recommend as much it City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. However, I wouldn’t say that I don’t recommend it either. It was okay, and a lot of people love Gilbert’s writing (she is the author of Eat, Pray, Love). I initially picked up the book because of the sewing connection: the main character is a costume designer who ultimately designs and makes wedding dresses. Sounded like my kind of book. And I did enjoy the parts of the story in which the main character was working on her craft. But I found I was not even remotely interested in anything else going on in the story, nor did I feel like really anything happened.
The story is essentially a letter written by Vivian, an older woman to Angela, a young woman who wants to know what Vivian’s connection to her father was. She begins telling the story, and then the father doesn’t appear until the very end of the book, though the claim is you need to know everything else that led up to it. I don’t know. It just felt like a lot nothing was happening at various intervals of the book, but according to Goodreads reviews, a lot of people disagree with me!
However, I can still recommend City of Girls more than I can recommend The Cactus, the third book of the month. The book, written by Sarah Haywood, was just not my cup of tea. I kept wanting it to get more interesting, so I stuck with it and then found myself disappointed when not much happened. The story revolved around Susan, who is experiencing the aftermath of the death of her mother and having to navigate her estranged brother as well as dealing with an unexpected pregnancy at 45.
The funny thing is, I should’ve related to Susan, but I didn’t like her. She’s kind of socially awkward and set in her ways. She’s stubborn and when she comes to a conclusion she believes herself to be right. She doesn’t change her mind about people easily. These are all things that I feel could be said about me at various times in my life. Perhaps that why I wasn’t crazy about the book as it kind of made me look at my myself and say “Do I do that?” However, that aside, I just wasn’t crazy about the storyline. I believe the storyline was ultimately about Susan learning to open up more, but it was a hard sell for me. You can’t win ’em all with reading (and pretty much everything else!), and this one was not a win.
At this point in time, I don’t have high hopes that I’m going to make it through the thirteen books I need to read to ready my goal of fifty for the year, but I made a valiant attempt and I’m sure I’ll get at least a few more in before the end of the year!