Recent Reads VI: Recommendations

Thursday 20 February 2014

One of the best parts of having a blog is connecting with others and ever since I started this regular Recent Reads series, my readers have been sharing all sorts of fantastic books with me.  The only thing that rivals a good book is sharing a good book with fellow lovers of the written word.

A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Sara from Le Petit Village sent along this recommendation.  She had read it after it had been recommended to her as she was moving to her very own 'Le Petit Village' in Provence and remarked at how she could see many of the characters in Mayle's book in her own experiences.  The book itself is a memoir of Englishman Peter Mayle and his wife's first year in Provence having bought an old, rural house in the South of France.  His account follows the calendar year and chronicles settling into Provence, the forever on-going renovations of his 200 year old house, his eccentric neighbours, the tourists, the food and the towns.  The characters are endearing and one really feels like they might be a few steps behind, listening and looking in on life in the French countryside.

What I really loved about this book was Mayle's ability to talk about the eccentricities of Proven├žal life he encountered as a Brit abroad, frustrations and celebrations, without a hint of judgement or negativity.  In fact, as an expat myself, I found his writing and attitude inspiring.

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Jr Newell
Gesci passed along this recommendation and I'm so glad she did.  It tells the true story of Huguette Clark, an heir to a grand American fortune.  It begins by tracing her father's path to wealth in the settlement days of the United States to building one of the most expensive mansions known to New York City to naming Las Vegas as well as some controversial roles in the US Senate.  Eventually, Huguette inherited this wealth yet despite her easy access to the NYC social scene, she remained reclusive, locked away (by her own will) in her sprawling, Fifth Avenue apartment with her dolls and her art.  While shunning society, Huguette remained a very generous woman, sharing her wealth with the few close to her and when her health began to fail, she checked into a hospital only to stay there for 20 years despite her many multimillion dollar properties and her ability to hire as many staff as required.

While we aren't privy to Huguette's personal thoughts, we do get a very good sense of the woman she was and the motivations behind her life choices.  At times, the novel dragged a bit for me but the story was intriguing and it certainly started discussions of the effect of wealth and what people will do to dip their hands in the bucket. Upon finishing the novel, I was sad to see that Huguette's inheritance is still in the news.  It's disturbing, although not altogether surprising, who comes out of the woodwork when there are millions of dollars at hand.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Jess from The Stroke featured this novel on her blog and I figured it would make the perfect beach-read while on our trip to Mexico.  In actuality, it was such an easy read, I finished it on the plane over.  Attachments tells the story of Lincoln, a smart, almost overeducated guy in a bit of a slump, who takes on a job  as an internet security officer at a newspaper.  Part of his responsibilities include monitoring staff emails and by doing so, he becomes rather involved (at a distance) in the going-ons between two best friends.  While he knows what he is doing is wrong, he can't help but be drawn into their stories.

While the book itself is a tad predictable, the characters are relatable and it's light and fun - perfect for the beach… or the airplane.  Also, because the book takes place in 1999, there's the whole Y2K thing happening which is quite funny to look back on.

Currently reading...
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
This one was passed along to me on Twitter and was highly recommended by a couple of people so after finishing Attachments prior to landing on the beach, I commenced this epic novel.  I say epic because it's long.  It tells the story of a young boy who somehow manages to survive a terrorist attack that kills his mother sending his childhood into a mix of homes of varying degrees as he grapples with the loss of the only person he felt ever cared about him.  Theo struggles with practically everything in his life: his past, his choices, alcohol, drugs, relationships - but, he's one of those characters that despite his many flaws, you really want him to succeed.

I'm about 75% of the way through and yes, it's long but it's also rewarding.

What are you reading?

{Full Disclosure: On a whim, I decided to try out the Amazon Affiliate program which essentially means if you happen to purchase one of the books I linked to from my page, I will earn a very minimal commission.  Up until this point, I have never made a dime on From There To Here and all past Recent Reads posts were linked without having any connection to me.  As for content, nothing changes and I'm not getting paid in advance to write about anything that I haven't already purchased on my own.  Should you choose to purchase a book from my page, I thank you for your support.}


  1. I always love your recent reads posts - having just come out of masters, I now have time to start reading for fun myself :)

  2. my mom promised I can have her copy of The Goldfinch when she's finished! I'm not reading anything at the moment, which is sad, but I'm about to start A Guide to the Perplexed by Dara Horn :)

  3. I visit my Goodreads page to add to my "to read" list every time you recommend a book! So far you've steered me right, so I'm glad I could return the favor. I agree on your Empty Mansions review- it was slow at points, but given the biographical nature and the authors' delicate handling of not projecting their thoughts into Huguette's mind had me more forgiving than I would have been for a novel with slow bits. The book is worth it alone just for the inner and outer discussions it inspires- what would I do if I were Huguette? Who was a sincere friend/actually cared for her, and not her money? etc. I still think of it at times, and it's been months since I finished it.
    Adding the other three to my list now! Thanks!

  4. Definitely some must-reads there on your list! Thanks for the tip! In my book-club we are reading The Great Gatsby now. Just finished A Walk Across The Sun - Corban Adisson...

  5. Interesting - I was put off The Goldfinch after reading The Secret History, which I did not get on with at all, but it sounds as though it's quite different, so I might give Donna Tartt a second go!

  6. Oh, I love this list! I have nearly reached the bottom of my book list and have been spending the last few weeks trying to fill it back up. I'm adding these pronto! I am especially excited for A Year in Provence.

    Amy | Club Narwhal

    1. You'll have to let me know what you think!

  7. I have The Goldfinch sitting in my amazon wishlist at the moment. but right now I'm reading Into Thin Air (to nurture my bizarre obsession with Mt Everest) and am absolutely loving it.

  8. Ohh Empty Mansions is on my list to read and I downloaded the Goldfinch a while back and haven't started it yet! I'm currently finishing up Harry Potter :)

  9. how are you already 75% on goldfinch! i've been reading for like a month and am only 25%!!

    1. I'm at 90-something now ;) A long plane journey, some jet lagged nights and not working helps!

  10. Hello from Earth to Jade's blog - saw you through her series "Blogging Beauties' and thought I would say hi!

    I'm currently reading 'Bingo's Run' by James A. Levine!

  11. Great recommendations. I'm adding these to my train list. :)

  12. You hit the nail on the head about Mayle... his observations are hysterical, but never demeaning or condescending. I love him for that :)


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