Friday, February 12, 2016

Proof of Angels

Proof of Angels: The Definitive Book on the Reality of Angels and the Surprising Role They Play in Each of Our LivesProof of Angels: The Definitive Book on the Reality of Angels and the Surprising Role They Play in Each of Our Lives by Ptolemy Tompkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this book not only because it played out a little bit down the road from me but because the author wove other facets of proof of angels throughout the book. He is very well versed in his beliefs and, frankly, they mirror my own. I loved the way he describes angels as "messengers." They show up to pass something important on to those who are living. They can be seen or heard or felt or smelled. They are not a replacement for God. They are messengers.

I also liked the officer that collaborated with the author. He experienced this Angel manifestation along with three or four others, in the Spanish Fork River. What I liked about this officer is that he is not an active member of the LDS church yet grew up in the church and was very respectful of the beliefs and lifestyle. He was careful in the way he answered questions (the main author later hypothesized that he may have been seeking his own guardian angel for help in answering) and seems to be a very humble, down to earth man that, at the time of this experience, was suffering from a bout of depression. The job was getting to him. He'd seen things that had shaken him. When the call came in, he was off-duty but close to the river and went. Because of that decision, his perspective changed and he sees a much bigger picture.

I also applaud Ptolemy Tompkins in writing this book. Living in Utah, particularly in a small town, is a very unique experience. The LDS Church is strong but it is also in the community. It becomes a part of the way a person talks and acts, and words used. Tompkins nailed it.

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates and FuriesFates and Furies by Lauren Groff
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There were some things I liked but a lot that made me very uncomfortable. The biggest seller of this book is that it is the story of a marriage and the author tells it in two parts. It's wonderfully written in that way. I loved the way both parties tell their stories (in third person). I also really liked that the author did not write either character as good or bad. They are both human and both insecure yet their insecurities play out a little differently. They definitely have different childhoods.

What I didn't like about this book is more extensive. I thought it was a lot pretentious. There was a lot of reference to a lot of literature. With a Master's degree in Fine Arts - writing, I'm sure I would have been privy to the subtle ironies and metaphors. Without that degree, I missed a lot. I was glad I was reading on a Kindle so I could look up some of the stories, artists, legends, etc. But that got exhausting so I missed much of that.

Even so, I really did like the take on Antigone best. It was a different telling of Antigone on stage and the reader immediately sees the analogy of the current story. Later, the Antigone story takes on a much more interesting shade as more details emerge on the other side of the marriage.

My other beef with the book is that these two characters seem to completely lack a moral compass. Everything is solved with sex. All their problems and woes are addressed with some form of sex. And there are a lot of forms of sex. It could be said that they were loyal to one another which shows a moral compass but I am holding strong to my stance that sex is what both characters turn to when they are struggling. It was uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

Be prepared for way more sex than literary enlightenment.

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.