Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Bells by Richard Harvell

My rating:  4.8

Moses is born in a belfry and raised by his deaf mute mother who rings the bells in the bell tower.  Contrary to expectations, this doesn't make him deaf but rather he develops a sensitive ear and an exquisite singing voice.  This historical fiction is based on the 18th century Opera Singer and the struggles he went through in his life.  Not only is the story awe inspiring but, the writing makes Moses, and all the characters, come to life.  Very well told and such an enjoyable read/listen.

 

I never would have read this book were it not for Marlene's recommendation so, thank you so much!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes

My rating:  4.8

From the opening chapter, this book grabbed me.  It flashes between 2007 and 2003 with Catherine Bailey as the central character.   In 2003 she was in a relationship with Lee.  In 2008 she is living on her own with an upstairs flatmate named Stuart.  These two men are very different - and so is Catherine.  In the 4 years Haynes unfolds what happened to make her such a different person and you completely understand how she got to where she is. I can see why this was UK's Best Book of the Year in 2011 and the film rights have already been sold.  It is harsh and gripping and worth the read.  Warning, this book captures violent abuse, extreme OCD will have you on the edge of your seat.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Bride's Farewell by Meg Rosoff

My Rating: 3.3

Where to start. This is a mid-19th century novel that, on first glance, doesn't warrant your time.   Then, as you read further, you discover that Pel is more than a run-away bride that you can slot into the conventional format.  Yes, at times this feels formula but, it is so much more than that.  It has depth and so much more than a typical romance.  If you like young adult novels, there are a lot of layers here.  Not Rosoff's best work but still entertaining.
 

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell

My rating: 4.2 

How to capture my feelings about this book. Yowza. Uncomfortable. Dysfunctional. Awkward. Disturbing. Those things are true but, that also makes me realize that this is an amazing bit of writing. I felt for the characters and got pulled into their lives. Wow. To make me squirm and feel so uncomfortable takes a very talented author. I can't recommend such an uncomfortable book so, you will have to decide if this is right for you.
 

Incantation by Alice Hoffman

My Rating:  3.8


Incantation is the story of Spanish Jews having to lead double lives as Catholics during the Spanish Inquisition. When Estrella discovers that her family, whom she thought was Catholic, are truly Jews she confronts a world she never imagined. This is a beautiful poetic telling of a horrific story.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden



My Rating:  4.8

This book is about a Cree boy who is raised by his Auntie in the wilderness and taught to live off the land.  He develops a close friendship with another Cree boy.  When they are of age, the two of them enlist and become snipers in the killing fields of Ypres in WWI.  This is a brutal yet beautifully well told story.  This captures so much - the brutality of war, the beauty of the wilderness, the Native American life and so much more that I am not eloquent enough to capture.  AMAZING writing and this will be in my 'best of' for this year.

Friday, November 8, 2013

When & Where Do You Read?

I rarely sit down for long periods of time to read.  A 'long time' for me would be 30 minutes.  I typically sit down for 10 minutes and then get up and do dishes or some other task, then sit and read again for a few more minutes before I am off doing something else.  This may come from the fact that, as a child, most of my reading was done while I walked home from school - I would take a few steps, stop and read, take a few more steps.  My mother always wondered why it took me so long to walk home those couple of blocks!

At night, I do enjoy curling up with my book in bed and reading for 10 or 20 minutes before I fall asleep.  I also get in a lot of reading on planes.  Recently, a girlfriend shared that she used to read ALL day from when she got up until she went to bed.  How decadent!  It is rare that I sit and read for much more than 10 or 15 minutes at one time.  How about you?  Comment below and let me know where you like to read and for how long.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Silver Lining Playbook by Matthew Quick

My Rating:  4.0

After a lengthy stay in a mental institution (the bad place), Pat People's returns home ready to resume his life.  This is a quirky, funny (in a black humor) and yet it is also touching and sad.  This is a light easy read that really touched me.  I will never look at Kenny G the same way again.

Monday, October 28, 2013

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

 My rating:  2.4

This storyline sounds intriguing *spoiler alert* about a family of a brother and the girl Rosemary who tells the story and her 'sister' Fern.  Rosemary and Fern are like twin sisters until Fern disappears when Rosemary is 5.  Fern is a chimpanzee.  Rosemary's brother, Lowell, goes missing a few years later.  The story of love, loss and animal cruelty is told in flashbacks that are very choppy and disjointed and Rosemary's voice is very whiney and grating.  I just didn't connect with any of the characters and felt disappointed that, despite the promising storyline, this book fell flat for me.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

My rating:  3.3

This book is primarily about Achilles and Petroclus and teenage love but it also somewhat about the Iliad.  It is written in modern easy to read style and actually has some beautiful clean writing at times but, at other times, it really drags and drones on.  Also, the characterization was so extreme (Achilles is so handsome and Petroclus was weak and feminized).  I wanted to like this book more than I did as Miller is a gifted writer and I would definitely read more by her.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating:  4.7

A man returns to his childhood home and is drawn to the house at the end of the lane where, when he was 7, he had a childhood friend.  Lettie and he spent time at the pond (that she claimed was an ocean).

The writing is brilliant.  There are so many great quotes such as:


Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences.

 “Nobody actually looks like what they really are on the inside. You don’t. I don’t. People are much more complicated than that. It’s true of everybody.”


There is gorgeous imagery, magical realism and will remind you of what it was like to be a child.  Enchanting.  If this an example of Gaiman's writing, I want to devour everything he writes.  For me, this was bordering on 5 stars for the enjoyment value.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

My rating: 4.6

Kate and her identical twin sister, Vi, were born with 'senses'.  This book isn't earth shattering or really about anything but, it is immensely enjoyable.  There were so many layers to this story and so many things that were captured so well that I still find myself reflecting on it.  Sittenfeld is a fabulous author and I will definitely pick up more by him.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

My Rating: 4.8
NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense.  This is not a genre I would ever normally read.....and I loved it.  Yowsa!  Does Joe Hill know how to write!  I guess, this isn't surprising considering who his father is.  Keep in mind with my rating that this isn't normally my genre so I don't have a lot to compare it to but, I thought it was superb.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Noa is on death row and has a chance at clemency.  This book is her flashing back and recounting the crime.  For quite a while, you don't know what she was accused of and, for even longer, you don't know if she is guilty or innocent.  Perhaps that is what kept me reading.  I didn't find any of the characters appealing and it seemed to drag at times but, I did enjoy the writing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

My rating: 3.4

This book is about the 3 wives of Mr. Kimble.  I think that this will make an excellent book club discussion on why women marry men that they barely know.  While I really enjoyed the writing style the reason I am only giving this 3 stars is that despite having some empathy for some of the characters, I didn't like any of them.  Still, an enjoyable read and I will definitely read more by this author.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Reconstruction Amelia

My rating:  3.2
A single mother reconstructs her teenaged daughter's life, sifting through her emails, texts, and social media to piece together the shocking truth about the last days of her life. This was a compelling story that got into the minutia of a teenage girl's life. At times, it did seem far fetched and drawn out but, it still held me until the end.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman


My Rating: 1.0
I was mildly entertained by this book and got 40% of the way through.  I had met Spider and all his glorious god antics and met Daisy and Graham Coats and all of their antics

I think there were too many elements that Gaiman was trying to juggle -I normally like mythology but, right about the time that Fat Charlie checked out, so did I.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp


The Spectacular Now

My rating: 1.2 

Sutter is an arrogant alcoholic partying loser.  He was entertaining, for the first chapter.  The description of this book makes it sound like he will change but....he doesn't.  Just more and more of the same of his wasted arrogant wise ass behavior which gets very old and tiring.  I can't believe I read the whole thing.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty


My rating:  4.6

A hit-and-run car crash claims Laura’s daughter Betty, and her whole world is turned upside down. You feel Laura's grief come out and take hold of you in the pit of your stomach. Wow can Doughty write. Powerless stuff. The first 2/3rds of the book deals with the grief and the reeling and fall-out and the last 1/3 is about revenge. This book was one that I couldn't wait to get back to and thoroughly enjoyed.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker

My rating:  4.9

The Golem and the Jinni is an amazingly crafted magical fairy tale that weaves history, magic and religion together. The description of this book captures it better than I ever could:

In The Golem and the Jinni, a chance meeting between mythical beings takes readers on a dazzling journey through cultures in turn-of-the-century New York.

 Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life to by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic and dies at sea on the voyage from Poland. Chava is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York harbor in 1899. 

Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask, and released in New York City, though still not entirely free 

Ahmad and Chava become unlikely friends and soul mates with a mystical connection. Marvelous and compulsively readable, Helene Wecker's debut novel The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature, historical fiction and magical fable, into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.. 

The only thing I didn't like about this novel is that it is Helene Wecker's first novel. I can only say that I hope she writes quickly!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Everlost by Nick Shusterman

Everlost by Neal ShustermanMy rating:  3.2

Nick and Allie don't survive the crash, and now their souls are stuck halfway between life and death in a sort of limbo called Everlost.  Everlost is very magical, entertaining, a unique plot and a very good ending and yet, for me, it didn't quite hit the mark.  I much preferred Divergent or Unwind.  That being said, I could see this being a big hit with young adults.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Blue NightsMy rating:  1.0

I wanted to like this book but have to agree with the other readers that the name dropping is nauseating, the book is written in a convoluted meandering style and so much of it is insecure neurosis that it is uncomfortable to read.  Besides all of that, we all know how difficult grief is.  After I went through dealing with a death and dealing with my grief, I wrote it all down.  Granted I am not a writer but, I quickly realized that what may have been a catharsis for myself was definitely not anything I should subject anyone else to.  Writer or not, if only Joan Didion had the same realization.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen



My rating:  2.8

As a boy Trond spent his summers in the country, where he became friends with the adventurous Jon. Now older, and with his days of adventure well behind him, Trond relives one particular summer, a summer that forever shaped his life and Jon's.
Out Stealing Horses
This is a quiet book, which I enjoyed.  I like quiet books.  I enjoyed hearing about Trond's days in the cold with his dog.  Still, this plot just felt thin and some of the content later in the book felt like filler.  Maybe the book should have been shorter?

The Lost Husband by Katherine Center

My rating:  4.8

Are you in the mood for a light, fun, beach read?  Then this is the book for you!

After the sudden death of her husband, Libby gets a welcomed letter from her 'crazy Aunt Jean' offering her an escape from living with her critical mother.  Libby grabs her bags and her two kids and escaped to Aunt Jean's goat farm.

This was the most delicious beach-read I have indulged in for a long time.  What a decadent little read.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty



My Rating:  4.3

Smithy Ide is a simple 43 year old Vietnam vet who eats and drinks most of his day.  A week after his parent's die in a car accident, overweight Smithy Ide goes for a bike ride.....and keeps on going.  On this wonderful grief stricken journey, we learn so much about Smithy, his long lost sister Bethany, his neighbor Norma and so much else.
The Memory of Running
This is a cross between Flowers for Algenon and Forrest Gump - you just have to go with it.  I thoroughly enjoyed this sweet book.  The only criticism I would have is that the author went into excruciating detail of EVERY thing - from the backgroun of every person that Smithy met on his journey to the book that Smithy read every evening.  If you can overlook that, then this book will warm your heart.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lost In Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff


My rating:  3.0

Lost in Shangri-la by Mitchell Zuckoff

The story of the soldiers and WACS that crashed on the island in New Guinea and what happens with the three survivors.

While I found the story of Shangri-La very interesting but there seemed to be lots of filler and fluff.  Not sure that I would recomm.end this

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai


The Borrower

My rating: 4.6

Lucy Hull, a young children's librarian in Hannibal, Missouri, finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, ten- year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home.
 This was a wonderful, quirky, funny and a little far-fetched novel that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved both the characters but especially Ian! Lucy made me want to be a children's librarian. You just have to go with this story line, not object with too much logic, and enjoy the ride.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennet


The Uncommon Reader

My Rating:  2.5

This somewhat witty mockery of the Queen taking up reading was mildly entertaining.  I think the only reason this little book has gotten so much notice is that it was mentioned in The End of Your Life Book Club.... which is how it ended up in my queue.  I wouldn't recommend that you rush out to get this as there are so many other books that would be more worthwhile.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie



My rating:  4.7

Ifemelu leaves Nigeria and her boyfriend Obinze, for life in America and discovers 'race' for the first time.  She starts a blog about 'race' and all of her perceptions in America.  More than all of this though, this book is about love.  A VERY good read.  I will be checking out more books by Adichie.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson


A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Bryson had me literally laughing out loud at times with the tales of him and his friend hiking the A.T.  At other times, I felt that it was a droning lecturing monologue but, thankfully even those were informative and didn't last too long before he got back to the adventures of him and Katz on the trail and totally cracking me up.  Enjoyable read that left me wanting to walk!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks



My rating:  2.6

Brooks takes a shred of historical fact - the first native American Indian graduating from Harvard in the 1600's - and weaves this fictional novel about a young girl and the friendship she develops with a this boy, a Chieftain's son, who goes on to Harvard.  I had two large problems with this novel.
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

1) The narration on the audio version was deplorable!  The speech was so slow and E.N.U.N.C.I.A.T.E.D. I do understand this was supposed to be effecting 17th century speech but, were they slow and stupid or did the narrator assume that the listeners would be?  Many times in listening to this book, I could envision reading the same passage and it would have been much more palatable instead of objectionable.

2) I didn't care about any of the characters.  Bethia is supposed to be a spunky young heroine who's pluck helps her triumph in overwhelming odds.....instead, she is just cliche and tiresome.  I won't go on about the stereotyping of her brother, Caleb or the other characters but, none of them had any depth to draw me in.

Brooks writing is wonderful but, this novel definitely fell short for me.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende


Maya's Notebook

My rating:  3.8

19 year old Maya escapes her foray into a life of drugs, crime and prostitution by going into hiding on a remote island off the coast of Chile.  This story is told in flashbacks from Maya's writings in her notebook.

Allende is an amazing author that made this book come to life.  I loved so many of the characters - eccentric Nini cracked me up, Popo was so wonderful and I wanted to be wrapped up in his arms, my heart broke for Freddy.  This book was a blend of light and fun and some VERY intense and heavy scenes.  There were times that this was too far fetched and the book also seemed to drag but, the great writing made me.  This is not Allende's best work but, still a good read.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

My rating:  2.8

The InterestingsThis novel is about six friends who meet as teenagers at summer camp and their lives covering the 40 years thereafter.

You know that hyper A.D.D. friend we all have that we enjoy but get worn out by and, after spending too much time with them you start to tune out?  That is how this novel was for me.  Very witty and creative and hyper A.D.D. with way too much subject matter attempted.  It was lacking a good editor that should have honed this book into something less meandering and chopped at least 200 [ages from it.  The message that life is full of twists and turns and you don't know where it will lead is only profound to a 20 year old.  For everyone else, this book is more hype than substance.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

My rating: 3.4

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope by Rhonda RileyThis is taken directly from the publisher's description:  During WWII, teenager Evelyn Roe is sent to manage the family farm in rural North Carolina, where she finds what she takes to be a badly burned soldier on their property. The rescued body recovers at an unnatural speed, and just as fast, the two of them fall deeply in love.  Rhonda Riley reveals the exhilarating, terrifying mystery inherent in all relationships: No matter how deeply we love someone, and no matter how much we will sacrifice for them, we can only know them so well…

This book is going to be so hard to capture as it dragged a lot and at some points, almost lost me. That being said, it has also stayed with me and haunted me.  .  It was entertaining and fabulous writing.  For the most part, I enjoyed the storyline although it did drag in some parts. It captured farm life so very well.  I felt the author nailed the last two sentences of the paragraph above.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult



My Rating:  3.8

I was disappointed when my bookclub selected this out of pure preconceived notions that I wouldn't like it (based on the book and the author).  I thought I would give it a try but, don't believe in reading books I don't enjoy, even if they are for book club.  Well, I was very pleasantly surprised!

Cara and Edward's parents, Luke and Georgie, are divorced.  Luke, a renowned wolf expert, frequently lives with wolves.  Cara adores her father and  doesn't feel she fits with her mother, Georgie's new family.  Edward has had a falling out with his father and lives in Thailand.  An car accident brings this estranged family back together  
Lone Wolf

Lots of secrets are revealed in this intriguing story.  The character development and plot kept me interested all the way through.  It is not a 'deep' book and will definitely not make my 'best of' list but, it was a very entertaining read and I am sure it will make a good book club discussion.

Wool by Hugh Howey


Wool (Wool, #1)

My rating:  4.8

I kept hearing about this very short (<50 pages) story.  It is a dystopian sci-fi so I didn't think it would appeal to me.  I was wrong.  This was a fabulous novel.  I can see why Amazon is giving it away for free as they want to hook you to buy the rest of the books!  <grin>   Well, it worked.  I have to find out what happens so, I bought the Omnibus Series which is books 1 to 5 of the 9 book series.  Do not read too much about this book as it is better to just let it unfold.  Very enjoyable little read.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

My rating:  5.0

War-torn Chechnya, 4 families and their intertwined lives and the most gifted author.  Read it.  That is all you need to know.

This book unfolds in the most amazing poetic and beautiful way.  From the very first pages, you will know that you are in the hands of a gifted writer.  This novel is told in flashbacks so PAY ATTENTION TO THE DATES that, on the kindle, are in teeny tiny letters at the beginning of each chapter.



I believe this is the best book I have ever read.  Yes, ever. I will reread it again to be sure it is as amazing as I think it is....maybe I will have to reread it two or three time just to be absolutely sure.  Anthony Marra I want to know, when is your next book coming out? No pressure but, I eagerly anticipate it and will be waiting with baited breath.

Here are the characters in their households/groupings
Akhmed -a failed physician
Ula - his bed-ridden wife

Dokka - Father of Havaa.  Finger-less arborist.
Havaa - Eight year old daughter

Khassan - Father, writer.
Ramzan - Informant son

Sonja - Doctor and sister of Natasha
Natasha - Sister to Sonja
Deshi - Nurse and sister to Maali
Maali - Nurse and sister to Deshi


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki


A Tale for the Time Being

My Rating:  3.2

This is the story of 16 yo Nao who is the victim of bullying, a loving but dysfunctional home and is the great granddaughter of a very cool 104 year old Buddhist Nun.  On a British Columbia island is Ruth, who finds Nao's diary which pulls Ruth into the past and interesting plays on time.

There were so many things to love about this book...great writing, a unique storyland, settings in Japan and Vancouver Island (both of which have been my stomping grounds and it felt like she NAILED both places way of life) and playing with Nao/Now....or even "now!"

On one hand, Ozeki's novel is full of multi-faceted layers upon layers that were very compelling (loved the play on Nao/now).  She is a gifted writer and she had an extremely unique story line that came so close to grabbing me but, in the end, it was a miss.  It felt overly long and I didn't like Nao for the greater portion of the book and the time play was implausible (maybe I am too practical and only believe in the here and now).  I have great admiration for Ozeki and will definitely be checking out more of her brilliant writings and storylines as this one still is being turned over in my mind so, that says something.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messue


The Woman Upstairs

My rating:  3.7

This is the story of Nora, an elementary school teacher, and her relationship with her new student Reeza and his parents Sirena and Skandar. It is also about friendship, art, growing old, your purpose and outlook on life.

I started off completely dazzled by this book - both the story line and the prose....then it waned. The ending pulled me back in a bit. This felt like a short story stretched out to be a novel. Messud is an extremely talented writer with great character development and delicious prose but the pacing of this book needed some work.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Dance of Fear by Harriet Lerner

The Dance of Fear by Harriet  LernerMy rating:  5.0

Harriet Lerner really is one of the best in her field.  So calm, rational and clear.  Her books are easy to digest and really resonate.  I always learn something from her books no matter how many times I reread them.....they are gold.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini


My rating:  5.0

This is about how the choices we make echo through many generations.  Each section switched voices and it took me a while to place how the new character(s) intersected with the previous character(s).  I also missed the voice from each section until I got wrapped up in the new voice, only to have it happen again and again - the sign of a great storyteller.  This beautiful book held so much and I am still reflecting on it.  I want to reread it again, this time keeping track of the characters.  IMO, this is his best book yet.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ask Me Why I Hurt by Randy Christensen


Ask Me Why I Hurt

My rating:  3.6

Dr Randy Christensen and his 38 ft Winnebago go around the streets of Phoenix to provide medical care to the homeless youth.  I am in awe of his energy and passion to not only pursue this dream but, to do it day after day, week after week and year after year.

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell

The Vanishing Act of Esme LennoxMy rating:  4.4

Iris gets a call that she has a great Aunt, Esme, that she never knew about who is about to be released from the asylum.  Iris visits her Alzheimer inflicted grandmother, Kitty, to ask her about her never before mentioned sister.  O'Farrell spins a wonderful tale told by Iris, Esme and Kitty.  Kitty and Esme's portions are told in unfinished thoughts/sentences that capture their befuddled metal states so well and, in the process, reveal history in dribs and drabs until you piece together what happened.  A very enjoyable read.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Books.....

I loved this.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud


The Woman Upstairs
My rating:  3.8

This is the story of Nora, an elementary school teacher, and her relationship with her new student Reeza and his parents Sirena and Skandar.  It is also about friendship, art, growing old, your purpose and outlook on life.

I started of completely dazzled by this book - both the story line and the prose....then it waned.  The ending pulled me back in a bit.  This felt like a short story stretched out to be a novel.  Messud is an extremely talented writer with great character development and delicious prose but the pacing of this book needed some work.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

My rating:  4.7

If Gwynne had been my history teacher, I would have loved history!  At the center of the story is the kidnapping of 9 yo Cynthia Ann Parker by the Comanches but Gwynne masterfully weaves together a variety of diverse events about the Americans and the Comanches in the 1800's.

 This shows that the Comanches were the most powerful tribe in American history, due to their equestrian skills that they gained from observing the Spaniards, and details the harrowing violence of their attacks.  I highly recommend the audio version as the narration added so much to this book for me. This felt like an impartial telling with the strengths and flaws of both sides laid out in the telling of this fascinating piece of history.

Friday, May 10, 2013

We The Animals by Justin Torres

We the AnimalsMy rating:  2.5

This is about three Puerto Rican boys coming of age - or more aptly, about poverty, sex and violence which felt very stereotypical.  I felt that the story was weak with overly melodramatic moments and it was a struggle to get through this book.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Celestial Navigation by Anne Tyler



My rating:  3.4

Jeremy lives with his mother.  Jeremy has never left home.  Jeremy's mother dies.  This is about Jeremy and his social phobias and his take on the world.  At times, I felt like his sister Amanda and wanted to hit Jeremy to break him out of his passive daze but, true to form, Tyler got me to feel compassion for someone so different from me.
Celestial Navigation

This is uncomfortable and awkward and a journey into the struggles that were taking place inside the characters as they tried to define their lives in terms of social relationships and artistic vision.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne

My Rating:  4.1
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
This was a light enjoyable read that definitely smacked of Justin Bieber's life.  I felt the prose hit the perfect note between being very sophisticated when it came to the music world when he talked about his target demographic and re-branding and ratings, but still had the realism of an eleven year old boy.  So sad the responsibility so many child stars have on their shoulders but I felt the author did a fabulous job of blending his complete world of also being a child with the video game.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks


Lost Memory of Skin


My rating:  2.8

Interesting speculation on the impact of our actions vs. intentions but felt like the plot line failed to deliver.

Monday, April 29, 2013

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga


The White Tiger

My rating:  3.4

While this book captures India, has beautiful prose and flows effortlessly, I didn't feel any empathy at all for the main character Balram.  I think without knowing it, I must have expected too much due to it being a Booker Prize winner and all the hype.  Still, an enjoyable read that I am glad I read.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott



My rating:  4.6

This is the fascinating story of the survivors of the Titanic.  There are rumors swirling and a media frenzy about the questionable behaviors of some of the survivors and the trial that unfolds,  This wonderful story is all brought together through the eyes of Tess Collins, a determined girl who is hired prior to the crossing as a maid/seamstress by Lady Duff Gordon.

I found myself the people and googling events mentioned to find out which were fact and which were fiction - and I was amazed not only at how much was fact but, at the authors incredible research and ability to tie the story and tell it in a way that was completely new.  It is hard to believe that this is Alcott's debut novel but, I for one hope it isn't her last.  I really enjoyed the audio version

Monday, April 22, 2013

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

My rating: 5.0


Louisa Clark has lived all her life in the same small town, she lives at home and has worked in the Butter Bun for many years but, when she finds herself redundant, she takes a job as a caregiver to a quadriplegic man.  This honest, real, funny novel captured me from the beginning (ok, the prologue felt like a fluffy romance novel but, from the beginning of Chapter 1) and I couldn't put it down the whole weekend until I had finished it.  I loved every page and was so sad when it ended.  This is on my Best Of List for 2013 and if I had free copies, I would be handing them out to every stranger who was remotely interested in reading.

Don't read too much about this book - just pick it up and read it.  You won't be sorry.  I absolutely LOVED LOVED LOVED this book and think you will as well.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Island by Victoria Hislop

My rating:  4.5

This is the wonderful story of the Petrakis family history.  It also was fascinating to read about life on the Greek Island Spinalonga when it was used as a leper colony and how their life was not the horrific lives associated with lepers but rather, a fairly regular life.

This is also about people, love, loss, choices as well as WWII.  It is all that and more, brought together in such a wonderfully woven story.  I will definitely be reading more by this fabulous author.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian


The Sandcastle Girls

My rating:  1.8

This was a fascinating topic I knew nothing about - the Armenian Genocide - but it fell flat for so many reasons.  There are authors who, through what they don't say, make you feel so much of the horrors.  Bohjalian is not one of those.  He likes to rub your nose in the atrocities until you start skimming to get past all those gory details that feel like they were written for a movie.  It was a genocide....we get it.  The characters didn't feel well developed.  Normally I really enjoy story lines that flash back and forth from present to past but, somehow this didn't work for me.  I recognize he was trying to use the present to lighten up all the heavy details we were just subjected to but, the contrast was so pronounced that the current day felt fluffy and light. I wanted to like this book but, didn't.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler


The Beginner's Goodbye

My rating:  4.3

Anne Tyler is the author I go to when I am busy, scattered, need a good book but nothing too heavy and am tired of being in book limbo.  I always know she will fill the void.  She writes about the quiet lives of ordinary people and this book is no exception.  She elegantly captures how it is to be the surviving spouse, trying to return to the ever orbiting world of your ordinary life.  This explores, loss, healing, wisdom, growth, reflection and ....well, life.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Insurgent by Veronica Roth


My rating: 4.8

This second book in the series didn't disappoint.  The characters continued to develop, the story line kept me intrigued and had me on the edge of me seat till the end.  The only complaint I have is, why isn't the 3rd book published yet???!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth


Divergent by Veronica Roth

My rating: 5.0

This dystopian society is divided into five Factions. The various factions show how different rules make people act differently to fit in each cultivating a particular virtue - Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). &nbsp;All 16 year olds must pick which Faction they wish to belong to for the rest of their lives.

This book is being compared to Hunger Games and, I can see why. A dystopian society that has to fight, a female protagonist that is very compelling being among two of the most obvious parallels. Still, this book is different and worth the read.  If you have children, I would think they would really be enthralled with this read but, there is some violence (no not as bad as The Maze Runner). A very enjoyable fun read and I am definitely going to check out the sequel.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

My rating:  4.8

Wonderfully developed characters and writing and a story line to match.  This book is told by two women ....two women who are the best of friends.  One woman is a secret agent and the other is a pilot.  It all takes place in war time Nazi-occupied France.  The secret agent is captured and interrogated.  Her written confessions weave the history of a beautiful friendship between herself and her pilot Maddie.

This beautiful piece of historical fiction captures war-time from women's perspective  but, so much more.  It is about friendship and an incredible believable story that unfolds so beautifully and magically.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials (Maze Runner, #2)My rating:  2.0

I loved the Maze Runner but was very disappointed my this sequel.  With the Maze Runner there was a plot and a puzzle of trying figure things out with the Maze.  With this book, it just dragged on and on.  I don't think I will be reading the third book in the series.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The DescendantsMy Rating: 4.45 

The descendants are The King family and are of Hawaiian royalty and one of the state’s largest landowners. Matthew King and his wife and daughters—Scottie, a feisty ten-year-old, and Alex, a seventeen-year-old recovering drug addict—are out of control. This is a touching story of family and connections. This journey leads to unforeseen humor, growth, and profound revelations and is one worth taking.  A very enjoyable read and one of the many reasons I am grateful for my bookclub.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

My rating:  4.8

Thomas wakes up in an elevator with no memory and is welcomed to "The Glade" by a group of boys. Every morning the stone walls surround The Glade open to the Maze which, overnight has changed it's pattern

I wasn't surprised to discover that this is going to be made in to a movie.  I am so glad that I am late to the party  so I don't have to wait to start reading the next book in this series.  This is  written, wonderful characters and fabulously imaginative and suspenseful story.  Highly recommend!

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

My rating:  1.0

Shades of Grey by Jasper FfordeWhile this was an extremely clever premise of a societal hierarchy based on the colors that people can see , it just didn't grab me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens


Mortality

My rating: 3.5

This is the 18 month story, from diagnosis to death, of Christopher Hitchens' battle with esophageal cancer.  His career and his personality were so incredibly powerful.  Like others, I am wowed and still absorbing this book.  Raw, honest, open and most amazing of all, objective.  How he talks about the "victimhood" that he would blame others who would say things that were true but felt he had the ownership on it.  So real.

I wish I could have known him.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson


Case Histories (Jackson Brodie, #1)
My Rating:  3.4

Three separate crimes are brought together 30 years later by PI Jackson Brodie.

This is my first Kate Atkinson book - and I loved her writing style but really wish that some of the characters could have been more likable....or even likable. The only likable characters were the ones who were dead or minor players (I did like Theo).  That being said, Atkinson does a wonderful job of telling her story through skipping around in between each of the three crimes (sometimes a fourth was thrown in) and also skipping around chronologically and, it all unfolds beautifully.  I will be reading more by her and just hope she throws in a more appealing character here or there.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Last Night At The Lobster by Stuart O'Nan

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'NanRating:  3.8
This is about the last night of a Red Lobster in Connecticut or, more accurately, about the Staff.  A snowstorm hits on this last night as Manny, the manager, is figuring out how to make things go as smoothly as possible.  If you have ever worked in a restaurant, or wondered how things work behind the scenes, this book nails it.  O'Nan is pitch perfect in capturing the whole scene of the food industry and it's crew.

Firebird by Mark Doty


My rating:  2.8
Firebird by Mark DotyThis memoir is poetically written.  He captures the dysfunction, the isolation and the struggles.  That being said, the book felt disjointed and choppy to me.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Expats by Chris Pavone


My rating:  4.6

Kate is a soon to be ex-CIA agent who is giving it all up to move with her husband Dexter and their two boys to Luxembourg.  As Kate is struggling with her new roles as a SAHM/Ex-Pat, she meets another couple who raise her suspicions that they are not who they seem to be.
The Expats

The more I got in to this story, the higher my rating went,  I thought the ending was amazing and the Pavone walked us through everything so well.  I LOVE this author and will be checking out more by him in the future.  This is a great entertaining spy thriller that had me on the edge of my seat.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Unwind by Neil Shusterman

My rating: 5.0 

Absolutely brilliant! This is the kind of book that makes you want to recommend it to everyone....including complete strangers.    In this dystopian novel,between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, is a ward of the state without enough to warrant being kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. This is about their intertwined fates.

Shusterman is a master at having the story unfold, wrap around you and pull you in.  So many controversial issues that impact you and yet, the story feels light and you can't wait to turn the next page.  I am so glad that I am late to the game in discovering him as I won't have to wait for the sequel. The only question I have is, why is this book only getting 5 stars?  I want to give it 10!

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan



My rating:  4.8

Picture Harry Potter with Greek mythology. Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect. This book was a fun easy read and Percy is a likable character.  Perfect book for young teens.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Beautiful Joe by Marshall Saunders


Beautiful Joe
My rating:  2.6


I read this book as a child and, unfortunately, I picked it to read again with my niece.  I forgot how long winded the author is and this was a struggle for both of us to finish.  In fact, were it not for her having to do a book report on it, I don't think I would have completed it.

The violence is very brutal and graphic and the rest of the book is very sugary sweet and long winded.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamed


My rating: 4.8

A young Pakistani, Changez, has Western yearnings, is educated at Princeton, employed by a top american valuation firm and falls in love with an American girl when 9/11 occurs.

This was a STRONG 4.8 for me.  Yes, parts of it made me uncomfortable but I enjoy a book that makes me think of other people's perspective, even if I don't agree with them.  I loved the author's approach of having the narrator tell the whole story and really enjoyed the voice of the narrator.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

My rating  4.2

This is about 16 yo Hazel with Stage IV thyroid cancer and hottie Augustus, who is in remission.  As others have said, some of this felt emotionally manipulative but, it was still an enjoyable read.
The Fault in Our Stars

I really l wish that John Green would learn how to write age appropriate characters instead of 17 yo's that talk like they are 50.  That was really hard to get past.  I was glad that Hazel wasn't Alaska and, despite being horridly pretentious, both Hazel and Gus were endearing characters and, as always, Green's writing is beautiful.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain


The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain

My Rating: 5

The 5 stars is for rating of a diet book - which is completely different than rating a fiction book.  This was a well written book that gave me the information that I needed to understand how the Paleo Diet came about, why people believe it works and what you should eat and avoid.  It also has a lot of recipes at the back which, although I won't use, gave me ideas.  I really liked the generic ideas it gives you of how to order at various restaurants to stay on this diet.

My favorite part is that this isn't really a 'diet'.  Yes, you avoid sugars, wheat, dairy and primarily eat vegetables, fruit, fish and meats but, since you can have all you want, you are never hungry.  I also like that this isn't fanatical or extreme and you can even take days off.  Best of all I feel so much healthier following this.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro

The Art ForgerMy Rating:  4.6

On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art today worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.  This is a mystery with a dash of love story and it all revolves around the art world.  I loved the blend of fact and fiction as well as the language and learning of the art world.  All of the techniques of stripping the painting to the canvas, layering the painting, drying the glazes by baking them and so many other wonderful descriptions had me not only fascinated but, wishing that I painted.

 If the prose and characters were stronger, this could easily have been a 5 star book as it was such an enjoyable read
.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life of Pi by Yann Martel



My rating:  4.4

I enjoyed this wonderful wild ride of a young boy who survives a ship going down and spends many months on a lifeboat.  I admit that the beginning and his quest into religions was a little tedious but, once I got past that, it was very enjoyable.  I am amazed that, instead of tedious, this author could make this book about almost the same subject for the entire book to be so delightful.  I am curious to know if the movie measures up.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Monsters of Templeton by Laura Groff

Product DetailsMy Rating:  3.7

It takes a talented author to pull of such a complex novel....Understanding the history of the town, flashbacks to the founder of a town and extremely complex and constantly changing family trees, a wonderful relationship between the daughter ,Willie, her hippie mother Vi and their friend Cassandra who is sick with lupis, the Running Buds and, if all of that isn't enough, throw in a dead monster in the town lake.  Although there were a few too many characters in the flashbacks for me, this was a wonderful novel where the author brought it all together in the end.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

My rating:  3.0
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
This mystery unfolds in an intriguing way, continually building the suspense and yet all the while, you feel that you know what is going on.  An enjoyable read.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri


Unaccustomed EarthMy rating:  4.5

I typically don't care for short stories but I really enjoyed Unaccustomed Earth.  It may have been due to the delightful capturing of the cultures, the way that each story feels 'completed' at the end (even if I didn't want it to end) or just due to Lahiri's exquisite writing style.
I particularly enjoyed the stories of the generational/cultural differences and the last 'novella' of the trio of stories.  So well done.

I agree with other's that Lahiri's style is so similar that you don't want to read her books back-to-back but, I plan on reading all of them and would definitely recommend this one.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobsen

My rating: 4.7

This wonderful little novel is about Jack, who is camping with his mom and he wakes up to find her gone.  You soon realize that the mother has some type of mental illness and this isn't the first time there has been erratic behavior.  It is about Jack's quest to find her and then get back home.  He is quite resourceful and encounters a lot of things.

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
This is an easy read with a lot of depth to it. It is recommended for ages 9 and up although I think the subject matter is pretty advanced.  This is very well written and emotionally compelling.  It will be interesting to see what my niece thinks of it as this is a book we are reading together.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson


Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir

My rating: 4.5 

 There were parts of this book that made me that crazy lady in the car next to you laughing so hard. Other parts of it, were mildly amusing and some parts felt long and rambling. Do not get this book if you are easily offended or if you are put off my cursing.

 It is worth checking out to see if any of it hits your funny bone. I would definitely recommend the audio version as I think that really enhanced it to hear the author reading it and it wouldn’t have been near as funny and more rambling if I had read it.

The Round House by Louise Erdich


My rating:  4.4
The Round House by Louise ErdrichI enjoyed this story of a woman living on a reservation who was attacked.  The story is told through her son Joe’s eyes.  While there are definitely enjoyable comedic moments that are reminiscent of Sherman Alexie, it also captures the impact and ripple effects of an attack.  Very well told.