Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

I am not sure why I picked this book up. I have read other books by this same author and they are alright, but not really my thing. Basically a woman, Lara, attends her great aunt Sadie's funeral only to become haunted by the Sadie's ghost.

Sadie wants Lara to find her lost necklace and to lighten up and have some fun. Various hi-jinx occur. Oh the fun.

Boring. Not much to talk about. Good vacation book.

the Law of Love by Laura Esquivel

I could not get through this book. It was just too odd. I did love Like Water for Chocolate, but saw it first in movie form. Maybe that helped?

Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke

Do not read this if you are dieting. This is from a series of books that revolve around the owner of a bakery. At the end of every chapter there is a recipe for cookies, cake, pie, etc. Not only does the owner of the bakery make each of this desserts and describe them in detail but she also solves crimes. The book was alright, nothing that will change your life (except that you might gain five pounds). I think this would be a perfect book to read around the holidays where you want something fun and are looking for some great things to bake.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Glass Castle: A Memoir by Jeanette Walls

Jeanette Walls' parents shouldn't have had children.
This book is horrifying in its details of her childhood. Her parents could at best be described as mentally unstable, completely self-absorbed and immature. There were images and stories in this book that I will never forget and will never be able to get out of my head. I hated this book and wish I could erase it from my mind. It was good for discussion, but it is kind of like seeing a car crash, you can't look away but wish you hadn't seen it.

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg

This is one of my favorite books of all times. I looooooove this book.
The story is simple and homey and comforting. The main charecter is a 10-year old boy. His mom is the local radio personality, Neighbor Dorothy. She broadcasts a daily radio show from their front room with the help of her mother-in-law, local celebrities and neighbors who just stop by. The story takes place over time as all kinds of change come to the tiny town of Elmwood Springs, MO.
LOVE THIS BOOK. It's like chicken noodle soup. :)

A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg

I love Fannie Flagg. She is like fried chicken and gravy....pure comfort reading. The story is centered on a town in Alabama. Oswald, from Chicago, is told he has one year to live so he packs up his bags and ends up in Lost River. He wants to die in peace, but the people of Lost River won't let him. It is a sweet, heart-warming story.

Rebecca's Promise, etc. (Adam County Trilogy) by Jerry S. Eiche

An interesting fact about Ohio...there are a lot of Amish and Mennonite people living here. AND there is a whole genre of Amish/Mennonite fiction. This is not the best example of Amish fiction, but it is a sweet, peaceful romance trilogy. If you are looking for something that is comforting, this would be a good choice. However, you should check first to see if any Beverly Lewis or Wanda Brunstetter books are available.

Mr and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One by Sharon Lathan

I should have known I would hate this book after reading the introduction. The author starts off by saying she had never read any Jane Austen before she went to see the MOVIE Pride and Prejudice. So then she loved the movie, read the books and decided she was qualified to continue the stories of the brilliant Austen. NO THANK YOU, Ma'am.
As a person who has read every Jane Austen book a million times (starting from when I was 12) I feel a bit possessive of Miss Austen and don't think it's okay for any old movie loving person to presume to write books in her voice. I got about 10 pages into this book and did in no way find any of these characters familiar. For all that is holy in the world, at one point she refers to Darcy as WILLIAM!!!! (which is apparently what her Lizzie calls him as a shortening of Fitzwilliam). DEAR LORD WOMAN!
I had to put this down and walk away.
Oh the sacrilege.

Did I mention there are MORE of these?

Dune Road by Jane Green

I HATED every character in this book. HATED THEM.

The main character is the mother of 2 who got a divorce because she and her husband grew apart and she just didn't know who she was anymore. So she gets her life back together, moves into a smaller house and becomes the assistant to a famous writer who is some 20 years older than her. She becomes friends with a gorgeous yoga teacher but then gets really bitchy when the yoga teacher starts to date her boss. Is she interested in her boss? No. Apparently she just doesn't want her friend to date him. Then her half sister who she has no idea exists shows up and there is all kinds of drama there. She has constant run-ins with her ex-husband and always thinks, now why did we get a divorce? UGH. I hate this woman. In the end, everything works out with not a single loose thread. I know this is a book that the masses will love. So not for me. Which I can only blame myself for as I have read other books by this author and didn't like them either. (Swapping Lives)

Virgina Woolf A Writer's Diary

I thought this book was a diary of Virgina Woolf (who I have never read anything by) but it's more of a diary of HOW she wrote, her 'process'. I just couldn't get into and was so disappointed. I also picked up a couple of her novels and found that I just couldn't get into them. So sad. I still no absolutely nothing about Virginia Woolf who has been called one of America's best novelists.

Overview from Amazon: An invaluable guide to the art and mind of Virginia Woolf, drawn by her husband from the personal record she kept over a period of twenty-seven years. Included are entries that refer to her own writing, others that are clearly writing exercises; accounts of people and scenes relevant to the raw material of her work; and comments on books she was reading. Edited and with a Preface by Leonard Woolf; Indices

The Odds by Kathleen George

This was a good book. There are a couple of overlapping stories. I guess this is part of a series of detective stories featuring homicide chief Richard Christie and his team of detectives but they were merely a sideline to the main characters. The storyline that was of most interest to me was that of 4 siblings who have just been abandoned by their losery step-mom. Determined not to end up in foster care, the kids decide to tell no one and to fend for themselves. In the process they meet the man who runs the pizza shop across the road who gives them a free pizza when they can't afford to pay for it. Later, one of the kids finds the pizza guy near death lying in an abandoned building with another man dead beside him. The kids adopt him as a project and nurse him back to health. All this runs concurrently with a story of a drug dealing ring, lots of hodlums and the police seeking to figure out just what is going on. It was an interesting story, very well written and an easy read.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Serena by Ron Rash

I LOVED this book. Others in book club did not. It is really creepy. The main characters are so troubled and interesting.

Here's the overview:

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains--but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber

This is the 5th book in the Blossom Street Series (The Shop on Blossom Street, A Good Yarn, Back on Blossom Street, 20 Wishes). The series is centered on the activities of A Good Yarn which is a yarn shop on Blossom Street. These books are like comfort food. Nice people, good stories. I could read them over and over and still enjoy them. Perfect for a cozy fall day of curling up with a good book.
In this installment, the owner of the yarn store has taken in a 12 year old girl as a foster child while waiting to adopt an infant (she can't have children because of an earlier bout with cancer as a teen). She has also started a new knitting class to help people quit bad behaviors. This class introduces a couple of new characters: a young woman trying to quit a bad fiance, a man trying to become less stressed. Old friends are here too with their own problems.
I love these books!

The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman

This is the story of three sisters and their divorced mother. After a horrible crime, the eldest of the sisters creates a fantasy world of escape. What makes this different, is that she brings her sisters along with her. Their mother, who is in the midst of a divorce, doesn't seem to notice what is going on with her children and so the crime is never uncovered. The rest of the book is written like a fairy tale with all sorts of horrors visited upon the sisters. If it wasn't for the 'lyrical' nature of the story telling, this book would be to dark to read. It was interesting but a tragedy without much of a happy ending. It probably should have been an Oprah book, which is no compliment in my mind. I did like this book, but it was dark and heavy and depressing.

Plenty Enough Suck to Go Around by Cheryl Wagner

This book is a memoir of the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. It was really interesting and gave such insight into the people and lifestyle that existed before the hurricane. The author was fortunate to be a free-lance worker so she and her partner were able to dedicate the time it took to rebuild their home. There are numerous heart-breaking stories interspersed with the details of dealing with mold, the influx of drug dealers and the trash left behind by the flood. Fascinating read.

I spend my honeymoon in New Orleans in the French Quarter and I look forward to going back one day. I wonder if I, as an outsider, will notice a difference?

The Survivor's Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood

I first heard about this book on the radio and then didn't think much about it. When I saw it at the library, I thought what the heck, and checked it out. I am SO glad I did. The author interviews survivors of all types of horrible things to figure out why they survived when others did not. It is kind of a scary book in some ways, but really provided some valuable information. I would HIGHLY recommend this book!

How do I love Thee? by Nancy Moser

I loved this book. It was very dark but fascinating. Elizabeth Barret Browning was a famous poet in England but lived a very strange life. Her father had decided that none of his children (8 in total, I think) should get married. Elizabeth, or Ba, was a recluse and rarely went out of her home. She became acquainted with Robert Browning through letters and finally agreed to meet him (after 3 years). They quickly fell in love and Browning finally convinced her to flee from her father and marry him. Most known for her love sonnets to Browning, Elizabeth wrote these for herself and never intended them to be shown to anyone. A beautiful story. It is a fictionalized biography of the famous poet and really really interesting.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Father's Day by Keith Gilman

This book was the Winner of the PWA Best First Private Eye Novel Competition. I thought it was clumsily written and not that interesting of a story. The main character, a former cop and PI is asked to track down the missing daughter of his old friend who killed himself (or was he murdered?) The rest of the story is pretty boring.

Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb

Subtitle: How a Band of Survivors and a Young Spy Agency Chased Down the World's Most Notorious Nazi.

I LOVED this book but it was a hard read. It is all about how the young Israeli intelligence office captured Adolf Eichmann. The most interesting part of this book to me was the realization by the Israelis about how ordinary evil can be. Here was a man who masterminded the transportation of MILLIONS of people to be exterminated and he was just a sad, little, ordinary man.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

The interwoven TRUE stories of Marconi (the inventor of the wireless telegraph) and Crippen a very 'unlikely' murderer. Marconi is obsessed with his invention and stops at nothing to see it implemented. Crippen is a very ordinary man who probably (but maybe not) killed his wife, dressed his mistress as a boy and then fled with her across the ocean to America. Marconi's invention helped catch him. This book was good but a hard read. It took me forever to get through it. It was very educational and parts of it will really stick with me but it dragged in parts.

My Name is Falon by Kim Wiese

I copied this from the author's website: "Falon Macvail is barely fourteen years old when her family isforced to flee their home in Scotland, leaving behind everythingshe’s ever known in the hands of greedy landowners. As theirbeloved country struggles through a time of great civil unrestand class upheaval, Falon and her family travel to a raw wildernesscalled Texas. Far from the threat of their murderous evictors,the Macvail family must carve out a new life amidst the dangersof a new frontier.When the rumblings of a war with Mexico begin and an implacableenemy invades from the south, ravaging the countryside andleaving a trail of death and destruction behind them, Falon musttake a stand once more and find the courage to protect those inher care from the enemy crouching on her doorstep."

A lot happens in this book but so much doesn't. It covers about 20 years in minutes and parts of the book were really inplausible to me. It was interesting and would make for a good discussion, mostly about how unbelievable some of the main character's choices were. Gosh that was bad grammer!

Miracle Ball: My Hunt for the Shot Heard 'Round the World by Brian Biegel

LOVED this book. "On October 3, 1951 Giants 3rd Baseman Bobby Thomson hit the most dramatic home run in the history of baseball". The ball itself went missing. Who had it? Why did they never come forward? FASCINATING.

The author starts this book in a deep depression. His father's interest in the missing ball, which may be in his possession, fuels his interest. In a quest to prove his father has (or doesn't have) the ball, he starts a search. This search takes him across the country and ends with an unlikely solution. I really liked this book.

The Killer in the Attic by John Stark Bellamy II

The is short crime stories which take place around the Cleveland area. It was interesting to see that the world has always been as crazy as it is now. He choses really odd words to prove how smart he is (or something). This book was alright...probably not worth your time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Cheater by Nancy Taylor Rosenberg

Boring! This book is part of a series about a judge who has numerous horrible things happen to her. According to the flyleaf she is the author's 'most beloved charecter'. I hated her. Skip this book. You have read this story a million times in books much better than this one.

I'll give you the synopsis anyway. A woman is going around killing men who cheat on their wives. You meet the murderer, an FBI agent and the judge. They interact. It should be shocking, it's not. There is no mystery, no surprise reveal and no one that interesting.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Absolute Gentleman by R. M. Kinder


It is spooky and macabre (just looking for an excuse to use this word) but not really scary. It's haunting though and stays with you. It makes you look at people around you quite a bit differently.

The author of this book was the neighbor to convicted murder Robert Weeks. In 1987, Weeks was convicted of killing 2 women but suspected in the deaths of several other acquantences who vanished after meeting him for dinner. The author met with Weeks in prison as part of a plan to write a book about him but couldn't bring herself to serve his need for fame. Instead, she used the information from the interviews to write a fictional story as told by a killer. It is narrated by Arthur Blume and is completely chilling. He alludes to his murders as well as gives heartbreaking stories from his childhood. It was completely fascinating. Did I mention I LOVED THIS BOOK. It reminded me of another book I loved We have always lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. I will review that book another day when I start reviewing some of my favorite all time books.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Italian Shoes by Henning Mankell

Off the coast of Sweden is a tiny island. Living alone on this island in a delapadated house is retired physician Fredrik Welin. To say Fredrik is a hermit or a recluse would be grossly understating the situation. He has chosen to live alone with only an aging dog and cat (and an ant hill which is taking over his living room). His only contact with the outside world are the semi-frequent visits from the postman who services his island.

His world is shattered when his lost love who he abandoned years earlier shows up on the frozen ice. She requests that he fufill the promise he made to her those many years ago.

I liked this book. There were beautiful descriptions of the frozen country side. The charecters were interesting and true to life. It was quirky which I chalk up to the fact that it is a book written in Swedish and translated into english.

Henning Mankell is a Swedish author best known for his mystery series featuring Kurt Wallander.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Atlas of Unknowns by Tania James

Atlas of Unknowns is the story of two sisters. Anju is very bright, Linno is a brilliant artist. In order to win a scholarship (and more importantly, a visa to the US) Anju takes credit for Linno's artwork. She is off to New York and the opportunity to grow on her own away from her family. Back in India, Linno is also growing and learning more about her past.

I liked this book quite a bit but found myself more interested in the details of the story than in the story itself. The author touches on subjects and then moves on and I found myself wanting more on those tiny details and not that interested in the big 'mysteries' of the novel (which I found neither big or mysterious). I would have loved to hear more about what it was like to be a Christian in a Hindi/Muslim country as one example.

Overall, I would say this is a very good (but not great) book with all kinds of interesting facts about India and immigration in a post 9-11 world.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The main characters in this book are Minny, Abilene and Skeeter. Skeeter is a young white woman who has just graduated from college with a journalism degree. She comes home to Jackson, Mississippi to discover that the woman who raised her is gone. On her quest to find out what happened to Constantine, Skeeter starts talking to "the help", the maids of her friends. As Skeeter gets to know "the help" as people, she decides that their stories would be the perfect thing to write about.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. It is homey and comforting yet full of uncomfortable historical facts that really make you understand what the south was like in the 1950s. It is full of fun, tears and cruelty. Did I mention I LOVED THIS BOOK?!

Get it and read it and pass it on...and think how lucky you are that YOU didn't come of age in the 1950s.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The glister by John Burnside

A main character in this story is the town of Innertown. Innertown was once home to 'The Plant' which is now closed and become a wasteland. No one is sure what was manufactured there, maybe harmless agricultural chemicals, maybe chemical weapons. Nevertheless there are constant stories about mutant creatures who wander in the night as well as clusters of odd illness among the people of Innertown. Seemingly very few ever escape from the horrors of Innertown. The few that do include five young teen boys who vanish without a trace. The cast of characters include the somewhat slow police officer of the town, a gang of young teens who come straight out of Lord of the Flies and the mysterious Moth Man.

This book is certainly dark and spooky. It has some fairly graphic sex scenes between young teens. However, I was completely lost. Certain characters are never developed, questions are half asked then never answered. The ending was more a disappointment than a revelation. Maybe I just was not smart enough for this book.

The glister (228pgs) was written by John Burnside who has also written The Devil's Footprints and the memoir A Lie about My Father. In reading the review of A Lie about My Father, it seems that some of The glister comes directly from Burnside's own childhood. "(H)e lost himself in more adult versions of the wild - binge-drinking, sex, hallucinogenic drugs, week-long parties. He first took LSD, he says, with a sense of sacrament (as a Catholic, he knew the sensation of a wafer on the tongue) and because the adult world seemed to be a web of untruths".

This statement could easily apply to Leonard, one of the main charecters in The glister.

Final Review: Too smart for me, I am interested in checking out the memoir A Lie about My Father.