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.