Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

My rating: 4.6

This is the charming story of Budo, Max's imaginary friend. Though only Max can see him, he is real. He and the other imaginary friends watch over their children until the day comes that the child stops imagining them. And then they're gone. Budo has lasted a lot longer than most imaginary friends - four years - because Max needs him more as Max is autistic.

Budo helps Max to cope with the world. His parents argue about sending him to a special school but Max is perfectly happy if everything is just kept the way it is, and nothing out of the ordinary happens. Unfortunately, something out of the ordinary is going to happen - and then he'll need Budo more than ever.

 I completely let go and enjoyed every minute I spent with Budo. Budo WAS real. I think the audio narration was absolutely perfect for this book.

Monday, December 21, 2015

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My rating: 4.2

Warning:  deals with suicide and not recommended for anyone prone to depression

Sixteen-year-old physics nerd Aysel is obsessed with plotting her own death. There’s only one problem: she’s not sure she has the courage to do it alone. But once she discovers a website with a section called Suicide Partners, Aysel’s convinced she’s found her solution: a teen boy with the username FrozenRobot (aka Roman) who’s haunted by a family tragedy is looking for a partner.

This was an honest moving book that I can see a lot of Young Adults really enjoying.  It was similar to The Fault in Our Stars and All The Bright Places but not quite as good.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

My rating: 4.6

A lonely old man is found murdered in his Reykjavík flat, the only clues are a cryptic note left by the killer and a photograph of a young girl’s grave. Inspector Erlendur, who heads the investigation team, discovers that many years ago the victim was accused, though not convicted, of an unsolved crime.

The Icelandic names - of people and places - could be confusing but just sit back and enjoy the story. I am not a huge fan of mysteries but I will definitely be reading more by this author.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 2.1

Georgie's marriage to Neal is in trouble. She is a tv writer and stays to work on her show while Neal takes their two daughters to visit his parents in Omaha for Christmas. Georgie calls Neal from her childhood room at her mother's house using the same rotary dial phone. She gets the "Neal from the past" when they first started dating.

This should have been much shorter. It came across as a gimicky teenage romance/drama that just didn't work for me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

My Bookmark Picks Jan/Feb Edition

I just got my latest Bookmarks Magazine - I always get so excited! Here are the reads that are jumping out at me that I am going to put in my queue: Let me know what books you have in your queue (whether from Bookmarks or some other source) (all book covers are clickable and take you to Amazon....but I found all the books at my online library)



I haven't had good luck with David Mitchell novels in the past so am cautiously adding this one to my queue:

These are the reads that jump out at me at first glance. I will be taking it with us this weekend on the plane and browsing further. Let me know your picks or any good books that you are reading.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

My rating: 4.8

Arn is a kid doing normal kid things like selling ice cream with his brother, enjoying music and playing games. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.  He is separated from his family, sees so much death, works in a labor camp and is eventually recruited by the Khmer Rouge. 

I listened to this book on my iPod from the library and think that the voice really added to it's authenticity. This amazing true story tells of how Arn defies the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps to now be a Human Rights Activist.

Thank you Jeana for recommending this book to me - thoroughly enjoyable!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton

My rating: 5.0

Wow.  After his 3 year old brother's death, 14 year old Kevin and his grieving mother go to live with his grandfather in the Appalachian mountains for the summer.  Kevin is introduced to new friends, good books, being an assistant veterinarian to his Grandpop and immersion in the slow life of this Kentucky town.

This is all set against the backdrop of mountain top removal for mining that is blowing up the hills of the mountain heritage. 

Almost from the very beginning, this was a book that I couldn't wait to return to and very soon, I found myself thinking of it during the day. This is well written, with marvelous character development.  I am still stunned by this amazing story and cannot believe that this is this author's first book. I hope it isn't his last.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradel

My rating: 4.7

This book starts out with Eva as a baby and follows her, and the people in her life as she grows up. Each chapter feels like a short story.  I don't like short stories but this was such an enjoyable read. This is very original in how it is written and hits so many great notes - funny, touching and includes a lot of appreciation of food.

You learn about Eva from all different people's perspective. Sometimes you can tell the connection to Eva and sometimes you can't.  Hang in there and it all comes together.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner

My rating: 2.0

This is the story of two sisters in WWII England. It includes some flashbacks.  Typically, these are the ingredients for a book that I would enjoy but, unfortunately not with this book.

Not only was this supposedly British book written with American terms but, there was very little character development and at times, it felt very hokey/cheesey. If all of that wasn't bad enough, the pace was all wrong and that really made it fall apart for me. I read "A Fall of Marigolds" by this author which was mediocre.  I don't know that I will read any more by her as this one fell so far short of it's potential.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

My rating: 3.7

Maddy has a rare disease where she can get sick from almost anything in the world.  She hasn't left her house in seventeen years and, the only people she sees are her mom and her nurse, Carla.  When a moving truck pulls up next door and she sees Olly, her whole world changes.

This was a cute young adult book.  I thought I had it figured out and was a bit annoyed at the bait and switch they did but, overall I thought it was very well done.  I could see my niece loving this book.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

My rating: 4.3

On the eve of her daughter’s wedding, June Reid’s life is completely devastated when a shocking disaster takes the lives of her daughter, her daughter’s fiancé, her ex-husband, and her boyfriend, Luke—her entire family, all gone in a moment. And June is the only survivor. June flees on a road trip.

This is well written, and is told in a very compelling way in flashing back and forth in time and from different narrators perspectives. It has many moments where I gasped as things unfolded. All of these things I loved.  What I didn't care for was the myriad of characters and storylines. There were so many that I started to detach from the story which is sad as it was very worthwhile and I do understand why many have rated this book higher.

This is dark and deep but it isn't maudlin or wallowing.  It is almost matter of fact in the unfolding. This was both good and bad - good in that it didn't get too dark in the face of such tragic events but bad in that I didn't feel much for the characters.

Clegg is a fabulous story teller and I would read more by him.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

My rating: 4.4

After reading "The Kind Worth Killing" and finding out it was based on this book, I moved it to the top of my queue. Guy Haines and Charles Bruno are passengers on the same train. Guy is a successful architect in the midst of a divorce and Bruno is a sadistic psychopath who manipulates Guy into swapping murders with him.

I wasn't sure if I liked this book as it felt very 'dated' to me. We recently got stuck for 3 hours on a tarmac with a delayed flight, so that got me more immersed in the story line.  It is well written for a first novel and like The Kind Worth Killing, none of the characters are particuarly likable. For me, I had to give it leeway for being written in 1950 and the dated feel to the characters but, I did enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin

My rating: 4.8

I typically don't like biographies even when written as historical fiction so I am really surprised I loved this book so much.  I learned so much about the Lindberghs and a lot of it was not complimentary. This starts with Anne Morrow being courted by and then marrying Charles Lindbergh and covers their lives together.

I have heard people criticize how subservient Anne was to Charles and that she was constantly looking up to him even as she saw many traits she didn't care for. Since they met and married in the 1920's, this did not seem incongruous to me. I have also heard people criticize how they were portrayed and the accuracy of private conversations. Since this is historical fiction, I also didn't have a problem with that.

I thought that this was very well researched, written and informative. I had no idea of Anne's many accomplishments and thought the author did a fabulous job. Very enjoyable read.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Life We Bury by Allen Eskins

My rating: 3.9

College student Joe Talbert has a dysfunctional life with an alcoholic bipolar mother and an autistic brother. He has to complete a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam veteran--and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home, after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder. Joe rushes to get Carl's story amidst dealing with his own life.

The story line enthralled me more than the writing but even then, the story was very predictable. I definitely didn't like that it was all wrapped up with a neat little bow at the end. This was a good debut and I would hope for fabulous things in future novels.

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

My Rating: 4.8

Wow. I just finished this for my bookclub next week.  I thoroughly enjoyed this well researched piece of historical fiction. This is the story of Rachel growing up on the risland of St. Thomas along with her friend Jestine.  This is about friendships, love, prejudice and life in the Caribbean.

It is also about the painter Camille Pissarro, the father of Impressionism but, I found the story of his mother Rachel to be much more fascinating. For myself, the part about Camille seemed to drag a bit but it was all worthwhile in the end.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Bookmarks Magazine for Nov/Dec 2015

I just got my latest Bookmarks Magazine - WOOHOO! Here are the reads that are jumping out at me that I am going to put in my queue: Let me know what books you have in your queue (whether from Bookmarks or some other source)


I am almost finished reading this book for my book club and agree with their fabulous reviews:

I already have this on my kindle and iPod so I need to prioritize it.

This month's Bookmarks featured the 4th Ferrante novel.  It reminded me that I want to read this series and I have My Brilliant Friend, the first in this series on my kindle.

To get 11 Book recommendations at only first glance - I love this magazine! :-) BTW, my library had all of the above books available on kindle/overdrive...gotta love the library. Maybe that should be in my favorites next month!

I don't typically like short stories but there were a few in there that I may consider. This was definitely a great month. I would love to hear any books that are on your radar. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

When the Moon is Low by Nadia Hashimi

My rating: 3.0

After a woman's husband is murdered in Kabul, she is forced to take her 3 children and flee the country.  While this was a well written book that captured the plight of refugees / immigrants, I didn't feel connected to any of the characters.

I felt the story was worthwhile but could have been much shorter.The first half of the book told in the mother's voice, worked better for me than the second half where the narrative switched between the mother and the son. Maybe it was my lack of connection to the characters that made this feel very long and drawn out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

My Rating: 5.0

I have had girlfriends recommending this book to me for years. I knew two things about it, neither of which were selling points: 1) It is a Western 2) It is long.  When I started it, it seemed very slow and rambling and I thought "I don't think this book is for me". My girlfriend made me promise to read 100 pages before I gave up on it.  By about page 50 I was hooked.

Wow.  I loved it.  I loved all the characters but especially Gus (my gf is going to call her next dog Gus!). This is about a cattle drive from Texas to Montana.  I 'felt' what it was like to live in those times.  This is amongst my all time favorite books. Did I say 'wow' already?  Amazing! Read it.  You won't be sorry.

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Art of Communicating byThích Nhất Hạnh

I have been wanting to read more self-help books and so glad that I picked this gem to revisit. This is short, simple and powerful. Some of the way things are expressed sound 'clunky' or 'out dated', but the examples given flow smoother and all of the advice is applicable.

This is one for the night stand that is good to ponder and revisit in order to get the most out of it.  I will continue to re-read this book over time and glean additional thoughts from it every time.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Sweetness In The Belly by Camilla Gibb

Rating: 4.3

After her hippie British parents are murdered, Lilly is raised at a Sufi shrine in Morocco. As a young woman she goes on pilgrimage to Harar, Ethiopia, where she teaches Qur'an to children and falls in love with an idealistic doctor. But even swathed in a traditional headscarf, Lilly can't escape being marked as a foreigner. 

Forced to flee Ethiopia for England, she must once again confront the riddle of who she is and where she belongs. identity, life choices and travels (although I cringed at some of her choices), 

The juxtaposition of Lilly's life in the 70's in Ethiopia and her life in the 80's in London was beautifully done.

This is part education on Ethiopa, politics, Muslim, prejudice and love story. While this is not entirely an accurate portrayal of Muslimism, This was a quiet, well written book. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Divers Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida

Rating: 3.8

A woman travels to Casablance, is robbed of her backpack which contains her identity. This captures identity, life choices and travels (although I cringed at some of her choices), 

For "The Famous American Actress" was anyone else picturing Angelina? lol! I also laughed at some of the descriptions of Morocco.  I have been in places with no street signs and directed to "go to the shop by the KFC/Pizza Hut intersection" only to find more than one place matching that description.

The entire novel is written in the second person. You will either love or hate this. You will either see the character as immature or go with the story and enjoy it's unfolding. I loved the second person narrative so much that I was able to overlook the character not being particularly likable. This is not a must read or even a recommend but it was entertaining, especially on audio.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma

Rating: 4.8

I read this as it is on the long list for the Man Booker PrizeThis is about a close-knit family in 1990's Nigeria. It is told by 9 year old Benjamin. This large family consists of the strict father, loving mother and Ben's 3 older brothers and his younger brother and sister.

This book is about this family's spiral into ruins after a madman's prophesy drives one brother to be plagued with fear. The first part had me laughing out loud with the wonderful stories that capture African families their story-telling and beliefs, the last half had me clutching my heart and wishing I could help the characters. This is a dark, haunting, tragic story that will stay with me. So sad.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Dark Tide by Elizabeth Haynes

Rating: 3.1

I was on a psychological thriller kick while I was in Maui. This was a perfect beach read being light and easy.  Genevieve wants to starts life over again but needs money to buy her dream - a boat.  She takes a weekend job as a pole dancer/stripper.  When she is able to buy her boat she quits her job and leaves London but, she doesn't leave everything behind.

I was a bit disappointed in this book.  It had poor character development and the ending felt rushed and then too 'wrapped up with a bow' for my liking. Definitely not the same caliber as Into The Darkest Corner which I really enjoyed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Rating: 1.5

I really enjoyed Mary Kubica's book The Good Girl so was excited when she came out with a new book.  Unfortunately, I wasn't very far in before I realized that  

The Story:  Heidi sees a homeless teenage girl holding her infant baby and can't get them out of her head.

This book is very slow paced but I could have handled that if the character development was plausible. All of the characters had flaws and pain. I felt that the author was relying on hooking the reader for their sad circumstances, rather than doing proper character development with depth. Here are some things that I just couldn't overlook:

Heidi - Unrealistic and unbelievable behavior.  Doing things we all know not to do, no matter how much your heart is in the right place....and then things go downhill from there
Heidi's husband Chris - I don't know one man who would just go along with his wife's behavior
Willow - One minute Willow is acting like the 8 year old child she was when her family dissolved and the next she is acting like a 17 year old. I don't think the author knew what this girl's personality was supposed to be.  I understand abuse and her character was not realistic. She would revert to being 8 years old at all different tims (not just trigger moments) and her speech was sometimes very simplistic and other times very mature
Zoe - the 12 year old daughter was the most plausible character showing upset and frustration for her mother's unacceptable behavior and being a normal 12 year old

This whole plot line felt so contrived and did not have any twists. Definitely not anywhere near as good as her original book.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Rating: 4.9

Completely deranged psychopaths with murder on their minds. This one is twisted and unpredictable with characters you can lovingly loathe. The chapters shift in point of view as the narrative unfolds -- teasing the reader to stick glued to the pages. 

Ted Severson, married man, meets Lily Kintner late one night in an airport bar. That's when the trouble begins... Alcohol consumed, secrets spilled, plans made. But all of the players in this complicated scheme have not been entirely truthful, and things fall apart for them in completely unexpected ways.  I devoured this book in two days.  It was so good and kept me on the edge of my seat.  Such a guilty pleasure beach read.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

Rating: 4.6

Elliot Rosenzweig, a respected civic leader and wealthy philanthropist, is attending a fundraiser when he is suddenly accosted and accused of being a former Nazi SS officer named Otto Piatek, the Butcher of Zamosc. Although the charges are denounced as preposterous, his accuser Ben Solomon is convinced he is right and engages attorney Catherine Lockhart to bring Rosenzweig to justice. 

Ben insists that he can't be rushed and has to tell his story so that Catherine can understand all the background to decide if she will take the case.  As his story unfolds, he draws in Catherine as well as the reader.  I found this was mesmerizing and heartbreaking.  I agree that I could see this becoming a movie.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Benedication by Kent Haruf

Rating: 3.8

The last in the trilogy with three completely new storylines: Dad Lewis dying of cancer, the little girl next door living with her grandmother is reminded of her own mother's death from cancer and a preacher who has moved to town with his wife and son.

This continues with Haruf's beautiful slow writing style but didn't grab me as much as his previous books.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

Rating: 4.9

Sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

IMO, this is better than Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Good Girl and all similar types of books. This beautifully well written book is intense, suspenseful and flows. I love the moving back in forth in time and having to piece it all together. I didn't have it figured out at all. If you like psychological thrillers, this is a definite recommend.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Eventide by Kent Haruf

Rating: 4.6

This is the 2nd book in the Kent Haruf's Trilogy. Just like the 1st book, Plainsong, I loved the Rancher brothers characters. I felt for  the mentally handicapped couple, Luther & Betty Wallace, but was equally frustrated as I was sad.

George Hearn was the perfect narrator for this book with his relaxed, throaty voice and slow pace, he captures every character perfectly with only the slightest of alterations.

I have already started the 3rd book in this series, Benediction. So far, I think that his last book, Our Souls at Night, was his best but I think Haruf's calm peaceful writing that captures the folksy lifestyle is so beautiful.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

Rating: 2.8

This is about a girl who is an Italian cello player who joins the resistance movement during WWII.  I enjoyed the first portion of the book but then it incorporated a lot of romance and it felt like typical chick lit.  It is too bad as it had potential.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

After Her by Joyce Maynard

My Rating: 4.4

So enjoyable. This book captures two young sisters, Rachel and Patty, and their relationship.  It is a coming of age story that captures the quirkiness of being a young girl, their adoration of their police detective father, life in the late 70's and growing up in California. Despite their father pursuing a serial killer in the mountains of Marin County, right in the family's back yard, this is not a mystery (that confusion/expectation accounts for almost all of the lower ratings you see on any site).  

I listened to this book and thoroughly enjoyed the voice of Rachel and how Maynard captured her and Patty. I have enjoyed other books of Maynard's and this definitely won't be my last.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Future Reads from Bookmarks Magazine for Sept/Oct

I just got my latest Bookmarks Magazine - WOOHOO!  If you aren't familiar with Bookmarks, I consider it a "must have" magazine for any reader (and I don't like magazines).  If you are interested, I did a video on it:

This is perfect timing as I will take the magazine with me to the beach in Maui and comb through it some more but, right now, here are the reads that really jump out at me:


I already have these on my kindle:

These are only the books at first glance....now you see why I love Bookmarks!  What books are on your radar?  Also, let me know if you want me to do these posts when I get my bi-monhtly Bookmarks magazine.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante

Rating: 4.9

Wow. Uncomfortable, distasteful, gritty and raw. After being left by her husband, this is Olga's descent into madness.  This got so dark and uncomfortable that 60% of the way through (during the scene where she can't focus on her dog or her children), I was going to stop reading. I am glad I didn't but this was not a fun or easy read. 

Watching someone's life fall apart is never easy but, feeling it with such powerful force is extremely uncomfortable. Olga came completely undone when her husband left her and you feel it. Ferrante is a writing force that doesn't pull any punches. 

This is definitely not for everyone. I am not rating it this high due to the story or even saying I recommend it but you have to give kudoes to Ferrante for being able to write so impactfully.

Warning: extreme raw graphic language

Monday, August 17, 2015

Little Black Lies by Sharon Bolton

Rating: 4.6

I don't generally read mystery books so am not sure how this ended up on my Kindle but, if you were the person who recommended it to me then, 'thank you!'.  This story revolves around the central characters, Catrin, Callum and Rachel, all living on the Falkland Islands. Each character tells one of the three sections.  

Bolton does a fabulous job of capturing the Falklands and Island life as well as making each of the characters come alive.  I had no idea of who did it until the very last page.  If you like mysteries, I am sure you will enjoy this well written book.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

Rating: 1.5

This is the first and only Sandra Brown book I have read.  It was very flat with one dimensional characters and absolutely no depth. Maybe it was the audio version that made it horridly flat but, I couldn't get past the flat characters to even give the horrific plot line a chance (predictable, cheating husband, recluse who comes out to find her, yadda yadda yadda).  Definitely not my cup of tea.

As another reviewer said "the only suspense was in when to stop reading".

Friday, August 14, 2015

The Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Rating: 4.4

Another one that was very difficult for me to rate/review. A huge part of me loved this book.  It was so unique and unlike anything else I have ever read. For most of it, I felt like I was in a dream and wasn't sure what was real and what was the dream. 

This book was about so many things but, the general story line is that after being abandoned by their mother young Sean O'Sullivan is taking care of his teenage brother Finn when a beautiful girl Roza shows up in their barn. Roza is kidnapped away from them and young Finn sees it happen but no one believes him.

Beyond this surface storyline is how women are perceived in the world, how you have to deal with men...their looks at your looks, having your guard up, love and so many other layers that I probably didn't grasp.

I don't generally care for magical realism so I wasn't thrilled with the ending but I have to give the author huge kudos for such an original piece of work told in such an ingenious way. If you care for magical realism at all, I bet you would love this book even more than I did.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Plainsong by Kent Haruf

Rating: 4.8

I had to noodle on this one for a few days to decide how I felt. It was beautiful writing that flowed so easily. It was sparse and yet captured so much.  

The conflict was that I didn't realize how much I cared about the characters until some of the twists and turns unfolded that I really didn't like. I found myself reading in a frenzy to find out how it unfolds and getting very upset at some of their choices. Haruf seamlessly weaves together three stories:
  • Two little boys whose mother leaves them to be raised by their father
  • Two old crusty bachelor brothers who are farmers
  • A young girl finds herself pregnant 
This book is about these storylines and yet more than that, it is about a place, life and choices.

Easy to read in the writing style but not easy from an emotional perspective. This one will stay with me for a while. What an amazing author.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Re Jane by Patricia Park

Rating: 3.0

Half Korean and half American, Jane was shuttled off to her uncle in the States after her mother died and her grandfather refused her. This supposedly is a cultural retelling of Jane Eyre but it is fluffy and definitely isn't worthy of the comparison. That being said, it was still enjoyable as a beach read. I found two things very annoying:

  1. when she would break the third wall "Reader, let me tell you...."
  2. that whether Jane was speaking English or Korean, her grammar was 'very not good'. I could understand her Korean not being perfect but I didn't think she would speak in broken English (and that wasn't just when she was angry).
I did enjoy the capturing of her cultural challenges in both America and Korea as well as the many Korean foods, phrases that the author included.d It was entertaining but not a must read.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Death's Head Chess Club by John Donoghue

Rating: 2.5

I have to be one of the few people who didn't care for this book. It has an interesting premise:  In the past, a prisoner Jew who played chess for survival at Auschwitz against SS chess players.  In the present, as a grandmaster playing in an Amsterdam tournament that who happens upon the Nazi official that oversaw the Auschwitz tournaments. 

It was wordy and drawn out and seemed to be missing substance. Maybe it was the audio version but, I didn't feel for any of the characters.  I know many people are saying this was their favorite book for this year and I wish I felt that way but it just didn't grab me and I was very glad to be done with it.  If you read it (instead of the audio version) let me know if you felt that was more enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Rating: 2.5

I read this for book club otherwise I probably would have stopped reading it 1/4 of the way in (still wishing that I would have).  Picoult tried to do too much and it just didn't work.  A drunk ex-detective haunted by his choices, a psychic who has a comic flare to her, a biologist studying elephants with lots of interesting elephant behavior thrown in...just too many threads that didn't mesh.

The whole thing felt cheezy with an ending that, IMO, you can only pull off if you have a great story line and characters that you are bought in to 100%, which this definitely did not. I am only rating it as high as I did as I really enjoyed the parts on the elephants.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Rating: 4.9

Despite enjoying McLain's previous book, The Paris Wife, having read Beryl Markham's original book West With The Night, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this book for two reasons:
1. West With the Night was so poetic
2. The Paris Wife (McLain's previous novel) was so well written

Both of the above made me wonder how McLain could possibly top that. Well, she did it phenomenally well.  

This was poetic without being over the top and she captured Africa and the amazing adventure that was Markham's life so well. I was riveted and didn't want it to end.  Markham was an amazing women and even more so for having lived her life in the early 1900's - definitely a woman before her time. I think Paula McLain did amazing justice in capturing all of it.  Strongly recommend.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Our Souls At Night by Kent Haruf

Rating: 4.8

This is a beautiful novella that I loved from the opening page until the last page.  Addie Moore pays an unexpected visit to a neighbor, Louis Waters. Her husband died years ago, as did his wife, and in such a small town they naturally have known of each other for decades; in fact, Addie was quite fond of Louis’s wife. His daughter lives hours away in Colorado Springs, her son even farther away in Grand Junction, and Addie and Louis have long been living alone in houses now empty of family, the nights so terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk with. Addie is about to change all that.

This quiet, thought provoking story touched me. I could see this making a very interesting discussion at a book club. So sad that this is the last of Haruf's works as he is such a beautiful writer. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

Rating: 2.5

After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook).  Off they go to Scotland in the middle of WWII.

I think listening to the audiobook helped with the character development but they still all felt very spoiled.  It was obvious that the author was trying to garner sympathy for Maddie but I didn't feel anything for any of the characters.  The Loch Ness twist was just weird.  I think she was trying to channel "Outlander" and definitely missed the mark.  Very disappointing and definitely not anywhere near as good as Water for Elephants. I kept reading this book hoping it would improve. I have read other books by Gruen and so far, in my opinion, she was a one hit wonder.

Friday, July 10, 2015

West With The Night by Beryl Markham

Rating: 3.2

I am reading another book based on Beryl Markham's life and I realized, that I never rated this book. This book of Beryl Markham's life is like poetry and a beautiful read, regardless of who wrote it (it is disputed if it was written by Markham or not but, Hemingway loved it). She had such an interesting life but, is also verbose and drawn out. I did enjoy the portions in Africa (what an incredible childhood..having a cheetah jump in her bedroom window to attack her dog!) but I found myself skimming the later sections as I was bored. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

Raring: 2.0

Set in the 30's and 40's, this is the story of a housewife's life of raising three children, a workaholic husband.  This is told in vignettes and while it does do a wonderful job of capturing suburban housewives lives, it vacillates between being boring and depressing.

I hung in there as this was a recommended book but, it just wasn't for me and I regret finishing it.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

Raring: 1.0

This is written from the perspective of the SS Officers in Auschwitz. This is a dark comedy about their lives and how they viewed the camp. I 'get' what the author was trying to show but found it too distasteful to be able to read. This author is known for controversial books and this definitely fits the bill. I guess I am naive enough to think that the Germans saw that it was 'people' in the camp and hopefully had a difficult time executing their orders rather than laughing and joking around.

I only got 18% of the way in but that was enough for me to know this book is not for me.