Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

The Mystery of Hollow PlacesThe Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The subject matter is a good one - mental health or, in this case, mental unhealth. Imogene has a dad and stepmom. She also has half of geode and a story about her mother that her father told her. Then one day her father disappears. Imogene believes it is her duty to find him.

The book has a few side stories happening. Some that are pertinent. Others that don't really seem to tie in so well. The basic concept of separating what you know from what you don't, challenging yourself how you know it is true, and above all, appreciating what you do have, are the strongest parts of the book.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Longest Night by Andria Williams

The Longest NightThe Longest Night by Andria Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the book is historical in nature, the story is much more than an education in nuclear energy post Korean War. It's a quiet book that examines relationships between couples in different stages, as well as pressure that can impact marriage from superiors within and without the military. Abuses of power that threaten families and safety of others. There is also the quiet, seemingly innocent friendships that blossom that, innocent or not, damage trust within marriages.

The book is much more literary than action packed. The author brings up images of a different time where women's roles were much more clearly defined, smoking inside was the norm, and one car per family was enough. Nuances of childlike behavior are described, even the look and feel of contractions are vividly reminiscent of any woman who has had them. There are rules of propriety and the crossing of those rules was a serious infraction. I appreciated the character who befriended Nat and her reaction to her friendship between Nat and Esrom. Although her reaction seemed harsh, I remember vividly a similar experience from my past. A young husband bought an expensive gift for a woman, not his wife, in the presence of a young man that he had befriended. Knowing that the friend knew of the infidelity made him somehow complicit when husband's actions came out in my mind. The author did a wonderful job of expressing why I could never look at the young friend with any degree of respect after that.

I really enjoyed reading this book. The only reason it isn't getting five stars is because I'm particular about a few inaccuracies that few people would catch. The geography of Utah, the small misperceptions of Mormon people bothered me. Yet Esrom was remarkably accurate in most accounts of what a good Mormon boy might do for sense of duty.

What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

What Was MineWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This would be a challenging book to write. The story has many voices but predominantly focuses on Lucy, Marilyn, then Mia at 21. The story is written in retrospect as the characters recount events. Lucy and her husband, a power couple in Manhattan deal with infertility and the impact this has on both Lucy and her husband are different and told through their points of view. Marilyn and her husband are also successful and perhaps a little distracted yet not negligent by any stretch when Lucy steals the baby girl who seems to have been left unattended. Although she didn't really intend to steal a baby. It was just circumstantial and opportunistic and she justifies it early on. Yet she never forgets that she irreparably wounded a mother as she raises and loves Mia.

Meanwhile, we follow Marilyn through her journey for the next 21 years. The repercussions are enormous yet Marilyn finds a semblance of peace and new life. I think that Marilyn's life takes a completely different turn with the loss of her baby.

The interesting part is that the reader is often sympathetic to every character at one point or another. I was never sympathetic for Lucy's reasons for taking the baby yet I understood, to some degree, how she had often to the point she had in her crazy thinking. Her justifications were flimsy, yet I considered her state of mind.

There are subtle side stories that could be compared and contrasted within a book group. Wendy, the Chinese nanny has a couple of storylines that could be contrasted. Cheryl's attitude would be an interesting topic, as well.

There are other topics that I'd add but any more would be spoilers.

Really, well written book with very clear different points of view.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea by Jonathan Franklin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't help but compare this book with Unbroken. Unbroken is an undoubtedly 5 star book. This one is maybe a hair short. Possibly because this story is still being written. The protagonist is still under construction. Undaunted is an incredible story of survival and faith. It is a story of forgiveness and of a changed heart and soul in spite of incredible suffering. This book is about never giving up, no matter how bleak it looks. Never, ever give up.

I haven't been able to stop talking about this book. The story is corroborated by scientists, specialists, and academics to explain weather and wind patterns, physical exhaustion, starvation, and dehydration, cravings, migratory patterns, and psychological distress of solitude, etc. it is fascinating what a determined person will do to survive. How he will intuit what parts of an animal's body he needs for nutrients, how he will pass the time.

It is an incredible and true account of a man who gets caught in a storm while fishing with a companion. With a wet and useless GPS, he throws out a last call for help before his engine dies. He has no oars, nearly all provisions are washed away. There are lessons to be learned in his attitude and that of his partner. The difference between living and dying is often holding on to that hope. I would love this book in a book club and discuss what previous experiences may have inspired resilience, how he survived alone, and so many other questions that I can't articulate because they contain spoilers.

Very worth reading.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4)Winter by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My birthday present from my daughter. A satisfying ending to a series that began strong with Cinder, introduced new characters who stayed true and steady throughout. I take that back. I didn't care much for Cress. She grew into her character this book. Captain Thorne stayed true to himself with some slight altruistic growth. He is still my favorite. And Iko.

If you've been reading the series, you will be satisfied with the ending, I think. It's not necessarily fairy tale quality but very satisfying. True to the original fairy tales, however, there is blood and gore. No surprise that the power struggles lead to a war-ish.

I definitely enjoyed Winter. She was a pleasant addition to the crew. Best love story still goes to Scarlet and Wolf.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey

The Sister PactThe Sister Pact by Stacie Ramey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Big time warning lights for parents and librarians screening books to put on shelves. Every character lacks a solid moral compass. Allie is a blank slate when it comes to morality. If someone passes her a joint, she'll smoke it. Hands her a pill, she'll take it. Ask her for sex, she'll give it. Some play the game of having one - they only smoke weed and drink alcohol. Uh, still illegal in most states and for minors. Want smoke weed but will drink and have sex on the first date. Even Allie's parents are messed up,

On the up side, the book illustrates the struggles of the sister that survives a suicide pact. Friends come out of the woodwork and admit their own feelings of guilt for possibly causing Leah to take her life, her parents reveal things, Allie remembers things. But in the end I didn't feel like anything was really resolved except that Allie had a better picture of what Leah was struggling with. She started making better choices for a few days but then it ends. The book paints the picture of a pathologically mentally ill teenager who has a brief intervention then ... Nothing. I thought it was incomplete.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House by Kate Morton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Kate Morton's writing! She is masterful in pacing, story telling, and word choice. Although written in plain English, this book is wonderful to read on a Kindle with the dictionary option. Words not normally used pop up frequently. Contextual clues are enough to understand the meaning yet the dictionary feature makes it more delicious. Reading is not hampered by the use of words. Morton has a crisp, clear writing style and paints beautiful pictures with her words.

There are, essentially, two distinct conflicts and mysteries to be solved. The present day protagonist, Sadie, has had trouble at work and retreats to her grandfather's country home to regroup. On a hard run with his dogs, she stumbles upon the Lake House, abandoned decades before and shrouded with the mysterious disappearance of a baby boy named Theo. what happened to Theo?

I partially guessed the correct answer to what happened to Theo early in the book. I admit that with reticence because there was much, much more going on beneath the surface. As details emerged regarding the family, dynamics, and secrets, I admittedly wavered on my resolution. In order to understand what happened to Theo, it was necessary for Morton to slowly unspool the history in the many perspectives and possible culpabilities. Many carried guilt and believed to be at least partially responsible.

The heart of the stories have to do with family connections and the separation of child from mother as well as carrying the secrets and weights of decisions made long ago. If I am being cryptic, it is because I mean to be. The stories are intriguing and enjoyable journeys that eventually tie together to give the reader a bigger picture, answers, and even a moral to the story.

Book club worthy.