Monday, November 29, 2010

Saving Ceecee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel
This is about twelve year-old Cecelia Rose Honeycutt's recovery from a childhood with her crazy mother, Camille, and cantankerous father, Carl, in 1960s Willoughby, Ohio. After former Southern beauty queen Camille is struck and killed by an ice cream truck, Carl hands over Cecelia to her Great-Aunt Tootie. Whisked off to a life of privilege in Savannah, Ga., Cecelia makes fast friends with Tootie's cook, Oletta, and gets to know the eccentric women who flit in and out of Tootie's house, among them racist town gossip Violene Hobbs and worldly, duplicitous Thelma Rae Goodpepper.

Aunt Tootie is the epitome of goodness, and Oletta is a sage black woman. Cecelia takes it all in and you are glad after her upbringing with her crazy mother that she has landed in Aunt Tootie's life to see normalcy and good things. This is a sweet novel that is very light but still an extremely enjoyable read.

Rating: 3.9 Good

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

The prologue of this novel absolutely captured me. Then I realized that, although connected, each chapter was a "short story" which I do not care for.  Echo Park is the Los Angeles neighborhood and is the setting for this novel-in-stories—a portrayal of the lives of Mexican Americans who live and work there.
Madonnas of Echo Park, The

Skyhorse (Mexican himself, but given his stepfather’s last name) weaves his characters—migrant farm workers, gardeners, dishwashers, bus drivers, house cleaners, gang members—in and out of his stories in various time frames. Felicia, the cleaning woman for a wealthy couple who becomes the wife’s only real friend, and Felicia’s mother, who sent Felicia away when she was four. And Efren, a bus driver whose strict adherence to the rules of the Los Angeles MTA insulates him from feeling remorse over a preventable tragedy, and his brother Juan, a gang member who escapes by joining the army. Each is trying to make a life where “everything is paid for in cash and sweat.”

Despite not caring for short stories, I found this book intriguing enough to keep me reading.  If someone likes short stories, then I think they would really like this book as it is well written and weaves the stories together very well.

Rating: 4 Good

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I StayThe last normal moment that Mia, a talented cellist, can remember is being in the car with her family. Then she is standing outside her body beside their mangled Buick and her parents' corpses, watching herself and her little brother being tended by paramedics. As she ponders her state (Am I dead? I actually have to ask myself this), Mia is whisked away to a hospital, where, her body in a coma, she reflects on the past and tries to decide whether to fight to live.

Despite the heavy storyline, this seems very fluffy.  The story doesn't seem cohesive and at times, is boring and simple.  Laurie Halse Anderson is a much better quality YA book.

Rating: 3 Just OK

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Room by Emma Donoghue

I enjoyed this book a lot more than I anticipated and I have even gone so far as to include it in my "Best of" for this year.  I don't typically enjoy books in the vernacular Room: A Noveland Room is written completely from 5 year old Jack's perspective.  Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary.  Don't read too much else about this book or it will spoil it for you.

Rating:  4.7 Recommend

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Father of the Rain by Lily King

Father of the Rain
This novel captured me and held me right from the start.  I love Lily King's writing style and the effortless way she brings the characters to life where you know and care about them.  Daley is an acute and attentive witness to her parents' divorce.  Daley's father, Gardiner, is a jovial but an alcoholic whose behavior is increasingly erratic and punishing to the point that Daley finally breaks away--in spite of how much she loves him--for much of her adult life. She is resilient, a woman you can respect but also challenge, and her love is (ultimately, amazingly) uncomplicated and true.  She makes some very difficult decisions.  Lily unfolds the story so effortlessly and draws you in.  An extremely enjoyable read.

Rating: 4.8  Recommend

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief
Twelve-year-old Ren, named after the initials R.E.N. which were in the collar of the clothes he was wearing when he was abandoned at St. Anthony's Catholic orphanage, has always wondered how he lost his right hand and who his parents were. Other boys get adopted, not Ren, for who, after all, wants a deformed boy in New England at a time sometime between the wars, Revolutionary and Civil.

Then one day out of the blue Benjamin Nab shows up claiming to be Ren's brother. The monks let the lad go and all of a sudden Ren's life takes an adventurous turn, for "brother" Ben is a con man, thief, grave robber who will do anything to turn a buck, including exploiting a one handed boy.

I will watch for other books by this author and hope that their plot is more believable and appealing as her writing is wonderful.

Rating: 3.4 Good

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Friend of the Family by Laura Grodstein

A Friend of the Family
Peter Dizinoff, a successful New Jersey doctor, is struggling to adjust to the aftermath of his actions as the foundation of his personal and professional life crack beneath his feet. At the center of his troubles is his beloved son Alec, who deflates his father's high expectations when he drops out of college after just three semesters and moves into the apartment above their garage. And when his son begins seeing Laura, the troubled daughter of Peter's best friend who is ten years older than Alec and lives in the tainted shadow of being acquitted for an unspeakable crime when she was 17, Alec's ambivalence to his father's hopes in living a good life turn into a simmering rage. Dizinoff, a man with a clear definition of right and wrong, flips back and forth in time as he narrates the history of events that build their way to a layered, emotionally wrenching climax.

This story is laid out extremely well.  It weaves the complex layers of the two families so you understand their history together and feel the emotions.  She does all of this effortlessly so it feels like a light easy read.

Rating: 4.8  Recommend