BOOK EIGHTEEN: 11.22.63 by Stephen King. For years, I have seen Stephen King's books at the bookstore and mistakenly thought, Ugh, trashy literature. I think I assumed that because the man had written so many books, they must be equivalent to romance books sold by the newspapers at Publix, churned out one after another with little substance. But how wrong I was, because he is a great writer. I flew through this book in a week and had a hard time putting it down. It deals with time travel related to the shooting of J.F.K., and poses questions about how we could change the past for the better--or the worse--by going back in time. Favorite quote: "For a moment everything was clear, and when that happens you see that the world is barely there at all. Don't we all secretly know this? It's a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamlike chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark." (Not sure how much I agree with the theology of that statement, but it's beautifully written, is it not?!)
BOOK NINETEEN: Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver. A nice collection of short stories, which again confirmed how much I love Kingsolver's voice, wit, and writing style. If you like Kingsolver and want something shorter to read, go grab a copy of Homeland. I promise you won't be disappointed.
BOOK TWENTY: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. I've always wanted to read something by Waugh, as his last name was my maiden name. (And therefore, I think I'll just go ahead and claim kinship because I'd like to have even an ounce of his mad writing skillz...skills.) This book is a little Downton Abbey-esque because of its setting and characters. OK, it actually bears a good bit of resemblance to DA because there's a lot of drama in this novel. It's sad but comments a lot on society inbetween WWI and WWII in England, and there's a fascinating second ending to the story that Waugh once published (which was also included in the version that I bought). I'd love to read more of his writing!
BOOK TWENTY-ONE: Bury Me Standing by Isabel Fonseca. I found this book in Prague while wandering through (yet another) English bookstore. This particular shop had a really wide variety of literature and non-fiction that piqued my interest and was a little off-beat. Take Bury Me Standing, for example, a book on the history and social norms of the Gypsies. After several different short stints living in Europe, I've come into contact with Gypsies in different settings (there's one woman here who loves to whack me with a rosemary branch every single time I wander into the train station) and have been curious about their culture. Fonseca goes pretty in-depth and this book was obviously very well researched; she went to live amongst different Gypsy groups and has travelled extensively all over the world to study their language, history, and cultural and social norms. While I got a little bogged down in it, BMS was super interesting and though I still feel a little (or a lot) mystified about Gypsy culture, it was fascinatingly informative.
BOOK TWENTY-TWO: Camilla by Madeleine L'Engle. I picked this one up on a bookshelf of used books in Valencia. It's a beautiful and tragic coming of age story set in New York City. I loved L'Engle's reference to Holst's "The Planets." Short but very sweet and memorable.
BOOK TWENTY-THREE: Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. John bought this one recently in Amsterdam, and recommended it to me. Elizabeth is Missing is gripping; I didn't want to put it down. Written from the perspective of a woman with increasingly severe stages of Alzheimer's, I was rooting Elizabeth on as she tried to solve a life-long mystery in the ever more difficult and confusing world of her mind. (Even though it isn't light material, it would make a great beach read because it's a page turner!)