Monday, October 29, 2012

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House
My rating: 4.7 of 5 stars

This is the story at the turn of the century 1800’s, of a little seven year old white Irish girl, Lavinia, who is brought to a plantation house to work with the slaves in the kitchen house. It captures so many layers in the plantation life – well developed characters that, white or black, you can empathize with their plight; Laudanum/Opium addiction; Rape; Discrimination; and obviously, slavery. This book enthralled me. Every night, I would go to sleep and, as I drifted off, I found myself thinking of “Abinia”, “Belle” and their families.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald

The Irresistible Henry HouseMy rating: 2 out of 5

I really wanted to like this book and, for the first couple of chapters, I did.  In the 50’s, there were Practice Houses with Practice Babies.  This story is about one particular baby – Henry – and follows his life as he grows up.  This was a very intriguing plot that didn't deliver.  It had many plot lines went nowhere.  Although the writing was good, I didn't find any of the characters likable which meant that I didn't feel a burning desire to pick up the book again.  This same reason is why it felt the book was way too long and meandering.  It is too bad as it had so much potential but simply didn't come through.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

My rating:  4.7 of 5 stars

Wow. Talk about a myriad of emotions. I absolutely LOVED the portions of the story in 1962 Italy with the sweet Italian owner of the Villa Pasquel and the young class. Then it would flash forward and introduce new characters and have such a different feel to the writing that I wasn’t sure if I should stick with it. Then it would flash back again and I would fall in love with Pasquel and the actress Dee Moray all over again.
Beautiful Ruins

I quickly realized that I was reading something amazing that I needed to stick with it. That is was stories within stories and would all come together. The same way when you watch a really different but great movie – you just have to stick with it and at the end, you are in total awe of the writer and the story line. This book is not for everyone as it is so unique but, I think I loved it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love
My rating: 4.4 of 5 stars

From the tips of my manicured nails down to my high heels, I am a city girl through and through. I could never do what Kristin Kimball chose to do and yet, I loved this story. Kimball is a wonderful author and made me understand her choices and respect and even envy her for it. I laughed at her withdrawals from city life and loved her adjustment to farm life. She captured her process of falling in love, with the farm, the way of life and with her husband, so well. Warning, do not read this book if you are hungry as her descriptions of the textures, colors and flavors of the food will leave you drooling.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Book of Jonas by Stephen Dau

The Book of Jonas
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is quiet and told through flashbacks. It has some wonderfully vivid descriptions in its sparse prose. It is about 15 yo Jonas who’s family is killed during a U.S. military operation in an unnamed Muslim country. He comes to America and struggles to assimilate-foster family, school, a first love. Through a counselor and therapist we find out about his past, including, Christopher Henderson, the U.S. soldier responsible for saving his life. The Book of Jonas is about memory, about the terrible choices made during war.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Glaciers by Alexis M. Smith

GlaciersGlaciers by Alexis M. Smith
My rating: 3.7 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this easy little read. It had an ethereal quality to the clean prose. I look forward to reading more by this author.

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy
My rating: 3.2 of 5 stars

JK Rowling has wonderful writing but, IMO, the story line was not great. It is a British soap opera and doesn't have any redeeming characters - although I did find myself turning the pages wanting to know what depths each character could sink to (like a guilty little pleasure of watching some trashy show). The ending felt like she was trying for a movie with all the characters having some calamity. I was waiting for a big car chase where the cars flip and set the whole town on fire and, I don't know that I would care. I admire her that she would cross genres with an adult non-fiction book but, the story-line just fell short and didn't leave me caring.

For anyone who is interested, I did up my own character list as I couldn't find one on the web. Once I did this up, this book is very simple and easy to follow. I hope that it helps others as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Casual Vacancy Character List

There are only 7 families and, once you have them straight, they are easy to follow.  Hopefully my list below helps you to enjoy the book.  The bold characters are the main characters.

The Fairbrothers
Barry Fairbrother
Died. Member of the Pagford Parish Council
Mary Fairbrother
Oldest Son

Niamh & Siobhan
Twin daughters

Youngest Son

The Mollisons
Howard Mollison
Bakery owner
Bakery partner is Maureen. Member of the Pagford Parish Council
Shirley Mollison
Member of the Pagford Parish Council and administrator of the website
Patricia Mollison
Lives in London
Miles Mollison
Son of Howard & Shirley
Samantha Mollison
Wife of Miles. Owns a lingerie shop in Yarvil

Lexie & Libby
Daughters of Miles & Sam

The Prices
Simon Price

Ruth Price
Friends with Shirley Mollison
Andrew (Arf)
Older Son
Has a crush on Gaia
Younger son

The Bawdens
Kay Bawden
Social Worker
Relocated to Pagford from London to pursue her relationship with Gavin
Gaia Bawden
Resentful of her mother
Gavin Hughes
Close friend and squash partner of Barry. Dating Kay

The Weedons
Terri Weedon
Mother, heroin addict in the Fields addiction clinic. Has had children taken away from her before
Krystal Weedon
Troubled teen from the Fields. Bussed in to attend school at Winterdown. Was close to Barry, her rowing coach. Gets counseling from Tessa
Robbie Weedon
3 yo half brother to Krystal who cares for him so he doesn't go to foster care
Catherine Weedon (Nan Cath)
Krystal's Great-Grandmother and occasional guardian

Krystal's half-sister
Older, taken from the home when she was younger. Krystal has fantasies of her swooping in and rescuing her and they would be close
The Walls
Colin (Cubby) Wall
Deputy Headmaster at Winterdown.
Close friends with the Fairbrothers
Tessa Wall
Guidance Counselor at Winterdown

Stuart (Fats) Wall
Best friends with Andrew Price
The Jawandas
Vikram Jawanda
Thoracic surgeon
Very good looking
Parminder Jawanda
Member of the Pagford Parish Council. Close friends with the Fairbrothers.
Oldest Daughter

Middle Daughter
Unpopular but friends with Gaia. Was on the rowing team.
Youngest son

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Prince of Tides: A Novel by Pat Conroy

My rating:  4.9 out of 5

This beautiful epic novel took my breath away.  It is the story of three kids, Luke, Tom and Savanaah Wingo, being raised in South Carolina in a dysfunctional abusive family.  It is told through the eyes of Tom Wingo, with his wit and sarcasm and heavily infused with his belief that South Carolina is one of the most beautiful and nurturing places on earth.

This book is told in combination of present day with the kids as adults and flashbacks to their childhood which is captured as both idyllic and extremely dysfunctional.  It is awe inspiring in the images that it paints of both their shrimping life in the Carolinas as well as that of New York City.  It goes from these beautiful images to capturing some horrid scenes of carnage – all in vivid detail.  This is definitely among my top rated books.