Sunday, June 26, 2011

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for AlaskaThis is the story of Miles (Pudge) who goes off to Boarding school in Alabama and quickly joins a tight knit group of friends - his roomate Chip (The Colonel), a Japanese boy Takumi, and Alaska a smart impulsive girl who loves to read.  The chapters of the novel are headed by a number of days "before" and "after" so you know that an "event" is coming when you are in the 'before' section.  This is an outstanding coming-of-age novel

Rating:  4.4 Recommend

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout

Amy and Isabelle: A NovelThe novel unfolds in a small town in New England of a mother/daughter both alike in so many facets and yet neither wanting to be like the other.   It is about the secrets we keep from ourselves and others, about the fictions we create and believe, sincerely or otherwise, to protect our images and illusions in others' eyes. In quiet, lucid prose, Strout captures the hesitating, awkward moments of friendship, crushes, life at work and at home.

 I didn't care for how insecure most of these women were but, did care about them and how they evolved.

This is a subtle book with a slow plot line.  While the writing and the story were good, it was not a light or overly enjoyable read.  That being said, I am glad I read it and I will read other works by this author.

Rating:  3.2 OK

Monday, June 20, 2011

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost
Samara Taylor is a small town pastor's kid and all the other kids think she has the perfect family.  Then, one summer, everything changes, her mother ends up in rehab, her father is always too busy for Sam and then Jody, a 13-year-old girl, a member of their church, disappears. This is a summer of a lot of changes for Sam and this book examines the effects on an impressionable teenager.  A bittersweet coming of age novel.

Rating:  4.0  Recommend

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Let me preface this review by saying I do not care for mystery thrillers or books about ghosts.  I also am one of the heathens that didn't care for East of Eden and, this book had quite a few similarities in my mind to the characters of East of Eden.  The fact that I loved this book and was able to get past all of those things is a testament to the expertise of the author.

This mystery thriller is about Vida Winter, a famous author, whose life story is coming to an end, and Margaret Lea, a young, unworldly, bookish girl who is a bookseller in her father's shop. Vida has a reputation of giving everybody a different version of her life, each time swearing it's the truth. Vida now swears she wants Margaret to write "the truth".

The writing is excellent and the story unfolds in such a way that I couldn't wait to read what would happen next.  Just when I would piece two things together and would think "Oh"  And then "Oh!"  And then "OH!", Margaret Lea would also put those two things together and Setterfield would lead me further in to the story to discover the next two inter-connecting pieces right before Margaret Lea did.  I realized the author was skillfully leading me into the forest as I happily followed the crumb trail.  Only at the end did Margaret Lea go "Oh"  And then "Oh!"  And then OH!", while I sat reading going "What?!?" and the author skillfully led me to the final unfolding of the story.

Setterfield does so many beautiful things that I can not do justice to her writing by trying to capture it here.  Read the book and discover it for yourself.

I can't wait for Miss Setterfield's next book which, unfortunately isn't due till July 2012.

Rating: 4.8 Excellent

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zeitoun by Dave Eggers

Zeitoun tells the story of a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, Abdulrahman Zeitoun,and his family who live in New Orleans.  Zeitoun decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees.

This story was interesting and the author portrayed the Zeitoun family as very likeable, trust-worthy and hard working so you sympathized with them, particularly about the Muslim piece but, it was far too slow in unfolding for my taste..

Rating: 2.8 Do Not Recommend

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Like Mandarin by Kristin Hubbard

This takes place in the badlands of Washokey, Wyoming, around 14-year-old Grace Carpenter who does not share her mother's pageant obsessions, or the cowboy dances adored by her small-town classmates. She is intrigued by wild-girl Mandarin Ramey: 17, shameless and utterly carefree. Grace would give anything to be like Mandarin. 
Like Mandarin
When Grace and Mandarin are united for a project, they form an unlikely, explosive friendship.  This is a light easy read with enjoyable quirky characters and a good plot that has a steady pace.

Rating: 4.4 Recommend

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris

The Unnamed
"It's back."  With those words Tim and Jane Farnsworth reenter a nightmare they know so intimately it needs no other description.  I have barely started this book but from, the beginning, I was hooked.  I love how the book unfolds slowly letting you in on what "It's back." means.  It did lose me a bit about 3/4 of the way through but, overall it held my interest.

Rating: 3.5  Good