Sunday, December 29, 2013

White Dog Fell from the Sky: A Novel by Eleanor Morse Review

White Dog Fell from the Sky: A NovelWhite Dog Fell from the Sky: A Novel by Eleanor Morse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An extraordinary novel of love, friendship, and betrayal for admirers of Abraham Verghese and Edwidge Danticat

Eleanor Morse’s rich and intimate portrait of Botswana, and of three people whose intertwined lives are at once tragic and remarkable, is an absorbing and deeply moving story.

In apartheid South Africa in 1976, medical student Isaac Muthethe is forced to flee his country after witnessing a friend murdered by white members of the South African Defense Force. He is smuggled into Botswana, where he is hired as a gardener by a young American woman, Alice Mendelssohn, who has abandoned her Ph.D. studies to follow her husband to Africa. When Isaac goes missing and Alice goes searching for him, what she finds will change her life and inextricably bind her to this sunburned, beautiful land.

Like the African terrain that Alice loves, Morse’s novel is alternately austere and lush, spare and lyrical. She is a writer of great and wide-ranging gifts.

My thoughts: The book begins in Botswana as Isaac Muthethe, a black South African 27 year old man, is unceremoniously dumped on the ground after being smuggled out of his home country under a coffin in a hearse. As Isaac gains consciousness, he realizes he has nothing but the clothes on his back and memories of those he loves, and the sudden acquisition of a white dog who simply attaches herself to Isaac and adopts him or he her.

Isaac's skills consist of what he can no longer claim nor use. He was a medical student in South Africa but now he is suspected of belonging to the South Africa Defense Force, an underground rebellion against apartheid. The year is 1976. Apartheid is alive and well in South Africa and although not actively practiced in Botswana, apartheid's echo can still be heard and felt.

Isaac finds himself hired as a gardener, having absolutely no experience whatsoever, for an American woman named Alice who is at the beginning of her own journey of coming into her own. Both characters take different journeys but both encounter different prisons, literal and figurative. They both find grief and death then circle back around to rediscover humanity and the anchors of keeping the memories alive of those they've met, loved, and connected with.

There is simply far too much to summarize or discuss in a book review. This would be an excellent choice for a book club book because of the parallels and symbolism which were subtle and would need a good discussion to tease them all out. On the other hand, taken at face value, the book is an excellent education in apartheid and politics in South Africa and Botswana.

Excellent book.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: The critically-acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins

When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a town not far from the Appalachian mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex-minor league baseball player whom they haven't seen in years, suddenly appears and wants to spend more time with them. Unfortunately, Wade has signed away legal rights to his daughters, and the only way he can get Easter and Ruby back is to steal them away in the middle of the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn't the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

My thoughts: I could summarize the story for you but that is not why I loved the book. It's the same reason I loved his first book. It's the way the author writes. I can't pinpoint it but I think he writes the way he thinks which is as natural to him as breathing. It's not contrived or pompous. It's an interesting story that is told through the perspective of a 12 year old girl named Easter, a cold blooded ex con named Pruitt, and a middle aged guardian ad lidem with personal regrets who takes a personal approach to keeping Easter and Ruby safe.

Each perspective is told with distinction and believability. When Easter is talking to the reader, I believe I am listening to a 12 year old girl's thoughts. Same with the other two but particularly Easter. The book was as easy to read and follow as watching a movie. The author does not try to impress by throwing in poetry or referring to Faust or Byron. He uses baseball and the Maguire/Sosa summer as the setting. The story tells itself by easily getting into the thoughts and observations of the characters. It simply flowed just right.

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra

Etched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long IslandEtched in Sand: A True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island by Regina Calcaterra
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Description: Regina’s Calcaterra memoir, Etched in Sand, is an inspiring and triumphant coming-of-age story of tenacity and hope.

Regina Calcaterra is a successful lawyer, New York State official, and activist. Her painful early life, however, was quite different. Regina and her four siblings survived an abusive and painful childhood only to find themselves faced with the challenges of the foster-care system and intermittent homelessness in the shadows of Manhattan and the Hamptons.

A true-life rags-to-riches story, Etched in Sand chronicles Regina’s rising above her past, while fighting to keep her brother and three sisters together through it all.

Beautifully written, with heartbreaking honesty, Etched in Sand is an unforgettable reminder that regardless of social status, the American Dream is still within reach for those who have the desire and the determination to succeed.

My thoughts: Regina is the middle child of a mentally ill and abusive woman. Each child has a different father. The oldest three do not know who their biological fathers are. They are often homeless, living out of a car, or unattended in a house without food, heat, electricity or water. When their mother is at home, they are beaten ruthlessly, physically and emotionally.

The oldest three children try to protect the younger two from their mothers' rampages and moods. They have discovered that life in foster care is not easier nor better. They are split up and exposed to physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and generally not often taken care of. The goal is to stay together and protect each other. The problem is that they are still children. Their voices lack volume and power. They often feel helpless, hopeless, and powerless. Do they try to keep together by keeping the secrets of the crazy mother or do they trust a social service worker to keep them safe?

We know that Regina grows up to get a law degree. We know she works in the public sector that write policy. She is deeply involved in protecting children and families. We know she works for the state of New York. Hers is one voice and one story. It is a compelling story because we want to hear success stories. We want to hear how we are doing a good job in this country. But Regina's story is bitter sweet. It is a courageous act to openly disclose her past. She is courageous in describing how she was brutalized, victimized, powerless, and feeling weak and unworthy. It's not so much overcoming her past but embracing it, keeping what was good (her siblings and the experiences she had to make her who she is today), and healing her wounds. She is an amazing woman who took her experiences and integrated them into her strong drive to make a better future for other foster kids.

Regina details not only the way the system broke down and damaged her and her siblings, but also the way it succeeded. There were holes in the net that Regina and especially her sister, Rosie, fell through but sometimes Regina was caught. I think Rosie eventually found a community that held her up but not until she was grown. It is difficult to read Regina's story. Regina tells her history honestly, includes interpretations and how she was feeling but does not mire the book up with justifications for herself. She allows the reader to conclude how to interpret her mother's actions (she's a nut job).

This is one story with four others possible. Each child in the family has a different experience. Celia marries young and has her own struggles. Camille marries young but chooses a husband that is completely foreign to Regina. He loves Camille and their children with devotion and affection. Regina's story is this book. Norm is somewhat a mystery, and Rosie's experiences included years of isolation when her sisters could no longer protect her and social services did not intervene.

This is not a book that slams social services or Child and Family Protective Services. Regina, herself, spends years in foster care. Some placements were horrendous. Others were not so bad. She does build an affectionate relationship with at least one set of foster parents that continues to this day. The fact is that these five children survived a horrible childhood and are contributing members of society today and are raising a new generation of children who will never know the horrors of abuse and foster care is nothing short of miraculous. Regina even hints at this fact, acknowledging that she believed she had these experiences for a reason. She was committed to using her knowledge to make the world a better place. Although not expressly written, it is clear that Regina has a strong connection with God and believes He had a hand in her life by strategically placing her and others on the same path.

I am in awe at Regina's perseverance and perspective. I really want to give it to a 14 year old girl I know that is struggling in foster care. It may not have appropriate language for a 14 year old but it is definitely a genuine recounting of an adult child that survived foster care, homelessness, and crazy experiences. Not only did she survive, but she brought her siblings with her.

Highly recommend.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash

This Dark Road to MercyThis Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: The critically-acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller A Land More Kind Than Home returns with a resonant novel of love and atonement, blood and vengeance, involving two young sisters, a wayward father, and an enemy determined to see him pay for his sins

When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a town not far from the Appalachian mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex-minor league baseball player whom they haven't seen in years, suddenly appears and wants to spend more time with them. Unfortunately, Wade has signed away legal rights to his daughters, and the only way he can get Easter and Ruby back is to steal them away in the middle of the night.

Brady Weller, the girls' court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn't the only one hunting the desperate father. Robert Pruitt, a shady and mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, is also determined to find Wade and claim his due.

My thoughts: I could summarize the story for you but that is not why I loved the book. It's the same reason I loved his first book. It's the way the author writes. I can't pinpoint it but I think he writes the way he thinks which is as natural to him as breathing. It's not contrived or pompous. It's an interesting story that is told through the perspective of a 12 year old girl named Easter, a cold blooded ex con named Pruitt, and a middle aged guardian ad lidem with personal regrets who takes a personal approach to keeping Easter and Ruby safe.

Each perspective is told with distinction and believability. When Easter is talking to the reader, I believe I am listening to a 12 year old girl's thoughts. Same with the other two but particularly Easter. The book was as easy to read and follow as watching a movie. The author does not try to impress by throwing in poetry or referring to Faust or Byron. He uses baseball and the Maguire/Sosa summer as the setting. The story tells itself by easily getting into the thoughts and observations of the characters. It simply flowed just right.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman GIVEAWAY

Just in case you've missed the memo, I love Alice Hoffman's books, writing style, perspectives, and epiphany moments. 

In case you've missed it, The Dovekeepers was my first introduction to Hoffman. It was a big WOW. Upcoming is Museum of Extraordinary Things. Where do these ideas come from?

Survival Lessons is a collection of essays Hoffman wrote when diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent hours and hours with nothing to do during her treatments. So she wrote books inside her head. She prioritized her life and articulated stunning essays that whittle what's really important into chapters that strike that soft spot inside your heart when you read them. That one spot that yells, "Yes!"

I'm certain she still has much wisdom to share and probably has learned a few lessons since she wrote this book. But I think you'll love the wisdom she invokes. She wants you to have a copy. I know she does. Here's your chance for a signed copy by a New York Times Best Selling Author:

Fill out the form below.

That's it. Wasn't that fun? Ends December 15th.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Survival Lessons by Alice Hoffman

One of America's most beloved writers shares her suggestions for finding beauty in the world even during the toughest times.

Survival Lessons provides a road map of how to reclaim your life from this day forward, with ways to re-envision everything—from relationships with friends and family to the way you see yourself. As Alice Hoffman says, “In many ways I wrote Survival Lessons to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts of sorrow and joy, and that it is impossible to have one without the other. I wrote to remind myself that despite everything that was happening to me, there were still choices I could make.”

Wise, gentle, and wry, Alice Hoffman teaches all of us how to choose what matters most.

Read an excerpt here.

My thoughts: I love Alice Hoffman's work. I've read two historical novels by her, both vastly different and both incredibly well written; The Dovekeeper and Museum of Extraordinary Things. She exhibits her craft by enchanting me. Completely.

Apparently, Hoffman is also the author of Young Adult books, along with her women's fiction and historical fiction. Survival Lessons is a short, easy-to-read book that begins with her own breast cancer diagnosis. There are no how-to books on surviving breast cancer treatments. Or maybe there are but not what she was looking for. So she wrote a series of essays that encompass a way of thinking and looking at life. The overall theme is choose the way you spend your life, live in the moment, and enjoy. There are also underlying lessons, barely concealed and symbolic.

"I know why my grandmother always told me to bring along a sweater on cold nights. She was telling me I had to take care of myself, to watch out for chills and pneumonia. But she was also telling me that life if worth fighting for. I have every blanket she ever made for me even though they are heavy as armor. My grandmother's spirit is in every stitch, and her love for me is there as well."
She provides a brief history of her friend, Maclin, then Macklin's perfect brownie recipe. An epilogue on the recipe says,  "Maclin's brownies will not appear to be perfect. They will sink in the middle. The top will crack. You'll want to throw them out. Don't. They will be everything they should be and more." Isn't that the way we should look at ourselves? At others? At our life? It doesn't look perfect but it is everything it should be and more.

I love Alice Hoffman's writing. I love essays. I couldn't be more happy with Survival Lessons.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford

Songs of Willow FrostSongs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Twelve-year-old William Eng, a Chinese-American boy, has lived at Seattle’s Sacred Heart Orphanage ever since his mother’s listless body was carried away from their small apartment five years ago. On his birthday—or rather, the day the nuns designate as his birthday—William and the other orphans are taken to the historical Moore Theatre, where William glimpses an actress on the silver screen who goes by the name of Willow Frost. Struck by her features, William is convinced that the movie star is his mother, Liu Song.

Determined to find Willow, and prove his mother is still alive, William escapes from Sacred Heart with his friend Charlotte. The pair navigates the streets of Seattle, where they must not only survive, but confront the mysteries of William’s past and his connection to the exotic film star. The story of Willow Frost, however, is far more complicated than the Hollywood fantasy William sees onscreen.

Shifting between the Great Depression and the 1920s, Songs of Willow Frost takes readers on an emotional journey of discovery. Jamie Ford’s sweeping book will resonate with anyone who has ever longed for the comforts of family and a place to call home.

My thoughts: Jamie Ford writes an engaging historical novel on engaging and less known aspects about history. His first novel detailed the Japanese Internment camps. His protagonist was a Chinese American boy. This has worked for him since one of the protagonists is again a Chinese American boy.

This book is set in the Great Depression with the supporting story set in the same place but before the Crash. The pivotal point occurs right after the Crash. The premise is that William is now 12 years old and living in an orphanage when he recognizes that a beautiful actress is his mother. He runs away with his best friend, Charlotte, and tracks her down to find out why she abandoned him.

The story is a tragic one that encompasses the realities of women and children at this time period. Although William is at an orphanage, his life is not horrible, just not pleasant except for his friends, Sunny and Charlotte. There is also a contrast story with Charlotte and Liu Song. Both are heart breaking.

The reader quickly understands Liu Song's cage and her choices. The bright hope is only Colin who sweeps her off her feet and will someday offer to save her. I applaud that scene with a standing ovation. I won't say anything more about this but you will know it when you read it.

The book offers a snapshot of the times and the birth of the silver screen. The book is not as striking as his first novel but it is not a sophomore slump. It is a much darker reality and the reading is heavier. The ending is full of hope yet the story will continue. Not a second book but like life.

*I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Name Used to Be Muhammad by Tito Momen

My Name Used to Be Muhammad: A True Story of a Muslim Who Became a ChristianMy Name Used to Be Muhammad: A True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian by Tito Momen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a frank and honest description of a very intriguing yet incredibly difficult paradigm shift; Islam to Christianity. Momen had an interesting and unique upbringing in Nigeria which is an integral part of his story. He was raised to be far more observant than the rest of Muslims his age, not only within the religion but also in his village. He was curious and intelligent which put him on the path for a colorful ride.

What I appreciated about the book was that Momen does not belabor his own sins, faults, or experiences yet he does not hide them. He goes from nearly militant Muslim who has simple questions, to rebellious and acting out, to Christian to imprisoned. He shares his experience factually including his darkest moments of discouragement and the turning of tides when the miracles occur that strengthen his resolve and testimony.

I like the way he tells his story as it does not feel forced or contrived. He is honest, sincere and open. He clearly explains how Jesus is the literal Son of God and how the atonement makes sense in his understanding of sacrifice. It's so simple and beautiful as he explains it. It is also one of the most difficult accounts to read due to the politics of Nigeria and Cairo. Also a very touching relationship shift at the end.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great WarSomewhere in France: A Novel of the Great War by Jennifer Robson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lily from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lily is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lily’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lily is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

In a world divided by class, filled with uncertainty and death, can their hope for love survive. . . or will it become another casualty of this tragic war?

If you like romance novels, this will be an appealing book. I like historical fiction and non-fiction so I read the book. I have no real complaints about the book except that it is a romance novel. Of course I like a good romance woven between the pages of a good book with a strong primary story. The Great War and making something of oneself regardless of social and economic origin is a good primary story. I've read other books on this war with a little romance sprinkled in that I liked better. This book gives a good description of the horrors of war and working in a triage hospital. It also provides plenty of description of a romance that leaves very little to the imagination.

I'm not criticizing, I'm just saying that I don't purposely pursue romance novels. If you like romance novels, the historical fiction aspect will add interest. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

The Rent CollectorThe Rent Collector by Camron Wright
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money--a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman's journey to save her son and another woman's chance at redemption.

The Rent Collector belongs to many genres. The story gives the reader a basic history of Cambodia and life under the dictatorship of Pol Pot. What the reader needs to know is that Cambodia has been a country void of hope and joy for a very long time. When the Khmer Rouge declared victory, the country welcomed the end of civil war, not understanding the cost of peace. Although the book does not mention it, Pol Pot is viewed by many to be the Cambodian equivalent of Hitler. His reign lasted four years. Estimates vary, but at least 2.2 million people died in Cambodia, including intellectuals, teachers, and anyone that could be found to be literate.

It is not common to find a literate adult Cambodia today. Living conditions are often dangerous and disease and malnutrition rampant. Even knowing these things about Cambodia, I still struggled with the idea of living in a dump. I think the story is in the strength of the people who live day to day in Cambodia. I struggled with the literature part of the story. It was an interesting concept to add but it felt contrived. The last story didn't pack the punch to end it.

The real story was how to find happiness and joy wherever you are. The secondary story of literacy, although relevant, didn't do much for me. The other secondary story of the book - redemption, forgiveness, and survival carried me through to the end. I am deeply interested in viewing the author's son's documentary on living in a Cambodia Dump.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle Review

The Whole Golden WorldThe Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: An astonlshing novel from the acclaimed author of Keepsake that pushes the boundaries of storytelling. At turns shocking, provocative, and heart-wrenching, and inspired by a true story The Whole Golden World forces us to ask the question "How well do we really know our children?"

To the outside Diana and Joe have a perfect family-three lovely children, a beautiful home, and a café that's finally taking off. But their world is rocked when it's discovered that their oldest daughter, 17-year-old Morgan is having an affair with her married teacher, TJ Hill.

Their town rocks with the scandal. When the case goes to trial, the family is torn further apart when Morgan sides not with her parents-as a manipulated teenage girl; but with TJ himself-as a woman who loves a 30-year-old man.

Told from the perspectives of Morgan, Diana, and TJ's wife, Rain, this is an unforgettable story that fully explores the surprising, even shocking, events that change the lives of two families.

My thoughts: This is not a comfortable book to read but I found it relevant and intriguing. The story centers around Morgan, an honor student who feels stifled by the responsibilities of being a back-up mother to her 14 year old brothers who were born premature and fraternal twins. Morgan's mother has never recovered from the scare of almost losing them and may be a little on the hovering side. She expects Morgan to do the same when she (Dinah) can not be around at school.

Meanwhile, Dinah's husband, Joe, is an assistant principal at the high school. He is the eyes and ears at the school. Imagine his chagrin when his children get in trouble. But not Morgan. She's the one people forget about because she has so much good sense. She is wise beyond her years.

You can see where this is going, can't you?

TJ is a young teacher carrying his own baggage. He lives in the shadow of his successful brother who married a beautiful Italian woman, went to medical school, became a doctor, and lives in a beautiful house. He's bitter and obsessed with his lack. TJ is married to Rain, a woman who is his educational and intellectual inferior. She came from a trashy home but she was loved. She feels lucky to have TJ. TJ feels lucky to have her. But Rain wants a baby. It eats away at their relationship.

Morgan and TJ become friends at school. And then more. The opening scene is a court room. TJ has allegedly had a sexual relationship with a student, Morgan. Morgan's parents support the prosecution. Morgan is on the side of the defendant. She is livid at her parents. The story then flashes back to the beginning of the school year and how the situation evolved.

The author does an extraordinary job developing the relationships between the characters. The reader is not force fed the dynamics but left with enough detail to understand how each character might have the interpretations he or she has. It also underlines the culpability of all of the players in the story with the bolded context that the age difference is not as much the issue as the covert exploitation of power. Make no mistake that you will feel empathy for TJ. He feels greatly victimized and in some ways he is. But the bottom line is that he is held to a higher standard because of his position as a teacher and Morgan as a student.

The author explores all of the feelings of the characters as they are conflicting and understandable. It is a well written book with an ending that is natural yet somewhat heartbreaking. I liked the ending, just to clarify. It's a good book. Just not comfortable to consider.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

Unravel Me (Shatter Me, #2)Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Conceptually, I liked the story line. Juliette returns after the first book with a new home; a literal and metaphorical group of rebels who are readying to take down a corrupt government. They are in a safe training center where they each learn to harness their Energy, a natural gift they have that tends to manifest in different ways. Juliette happens to have two very strong manifestations of Energy. One is that nobody has ever been able to touch her without suffering death or severe bodily damage. Until she met Adam. That's Book 1. Also Book 1 is the accidental discovery that one other person can touch her. Someone who is clearly very evil. Or maybe he's just misunderstood and has daddy issues.

So Book 2 begins with Juliette frustrated because she can't seem to control her energy and she and Adam never have time alone. When they do have time alone, the time is spent with very few uttered words, sensual descriptions (not sexual) and I can appreciate how well written these first encounters are worded. I felt the sexual tension and only vaguely recognized afterward that they were clean. I'm not suggesting you hand this book over to 12 year old girl but it is descriptively inoffensive. One scene pushes the line, but still well written.

My problem with the book is the way it is written. It's all through Juliette's tortured and slightly OCD and tangential mind. She has diarrhea of her thoughts and nothing is filtered. It analyzes and over-analyzes every little thing, repeating words and phrases and it just. Moves. So. Slowly. A question is asked. The reader has to wade through 3 or 4 pages of tangential thought, some not even connected, then maybe the answer will be given. There is no rhyme nor reason to Juliette's thoughts and I felt ambivalence for both her and Adam. And, Adam? Written far too angsty. Not even realistic. I found I much preferred Warner for his pragmatism. Some angst but he is written to believe himself to be damaged and heartless. Yes, we realize he's human too, but there are much fewer wasted words surrounding him.

Have a story to tell? Tell it. Use words judiciously. There were times the author was masterful at using words. Other times it felt contrived just to keep the reader hanging on for the answer to a question by filling pages and pages of a confused, innocent teenage girl's mind in free association.

There is a good story here. When action happens, it happens fast and without many words. The majority of the book is free association. I just found myself irritated with the writing style.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All ThingsThe Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Gilbert is an incredibly talented author who writes beautiful prose and provides pondering points in human history. I love a good novel that incorporates history and intellect while maintaining the integrity of the writing process. Gilbert does this and ties many but not all of the themes together. I understand why readers have rated this book so highly. It is difficult to summarize the huge task of Gilbert's novel. Yet for all the positive points I've listed, it simply failed to engage me. The story does not gallop or trot. It spreads as slowly as Alma's moss. Moss does not fascinate me. Ambrose's orchids did not fascinate me. I drew the conclusion of the symbolism and appreciated it but I found the story far too slow and inclusive of every thought that crosses Alma's brilliant mind, every sexual fantasy of Alma's frustrated "quim" and frankly, I completely missed the point of those interludes.

I don't know why I don't stop reading a book after the first 50 pages or so if it hasn't grabbed my attention. For this I apologize. This novel has received rave reviews. Besides a few a-ha moments, I thought the story was pointless and somewhat redundant.

View all my reviews

Fields of Grace by Hannah Luce

Fields of Grace: Faith, Friendship, and the Day I Nearly Lost EverythingFields of Grace: Faith, Friendship, and the Day I Nearly Lost Everything by Hannah Luce
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've said this often and I'll say it again, I'm always hesitant to read memoirs and I really have to want to read about the person or the subject matter. I'd never heard of Hannah Luce but I have been following another airplane crash survivor, Stephanie Nielsen, as she has healed physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I wanted to hear Hannah's story.

Hannah is young and there are times in the book that her perspective reflects her inexperience. Yet the final product of Hannah Luce is a young woman with a lot of life still to live, experiences to have, made up of the experiences she's already had and learned from and she is, in some respects, more mature in her evolution of growth. I am, no way, disrespecting her as I give the forewarning to not expect a finished product of a mature woman who has lived decades and spent those decades reflecting. She is young woman who articulately expresses herself and her spiritual growth. It's a personal story with many nuggets of truth.

I found her experience in San Francisco particularly poignant as she describes what I have been unable to articulate myself. Her father is an evangelical minister with charisma and a pure heart. He made his opinion known regarding gay marriage then went to preach in San Francisco. The group was met with a mob full of malevolence and spewing hatred. They were angry that the minister was against same sex marriage and accused him of hatred while yelling vile insults and threatening violence. Hannah wanted to understand and quietly crossed the line to gain understanding. These were the outcasts, those who are different and on the fringe. Hannah, like many people, felt an affinity for them because she felt different and on the fringe. They have something in common. But the truth was that they were not truly victims but bullies who fight on pure emotion of hatred. They turned on her. It shocked her.

I found her frank description very well written and resonating. What was a physical battle line is my own metaphorical stance. She didn't agree with her father's belief on gays. On the other hand, she couldn't align herself with a group full of hatred and hypocrisy. Her reaction solidified my own stance on the subject.

I am ambivalent. My church took an active part in the fight for defining marriage as one man and one woman. I applaud their commitment. Had I been asked to help with battle, I would have respectfully declined. Fundamentally, I agree that, in order for society to propagate, marriage needs that definition.

I also know of people in my profession, in the community, and even the neighborhood who are in a same sex relationship. I respect their commitment to each other, particularly those who have been together for so very long. We like each other. We respect each other. We help each other. Their sexual orientation does not define them and what they stand for. They are each persons that I seek out for different reasons at different times and never for questions regarding their sexual orientation. I would not want to stand in their way of continuing their personal lives and happiness.

I resent the battle line that has been drawn. I resent the pressure by both sides to stand on either side. I love people on both sides. So Hannah's reaction to the pressure she felt to choose was perfect. I would have done the same thing.

I didn't mean this to be a political post, I simply found Hannah's questions provoked my own thoughts and clarity. Hannah sees herself as rebellious since she doesn't accept doctrine on faith and dogma like she did as a child. She questions her father's teachings and allowed resentment to build. The accident gave her a beautiful moment of clarity which she extends to her view of God. Her parents are black and white when it comes to being "saved." There is heaven and hell. Yet Hannah never turns her book into a parent-bashing soapbox. She loves them. They adore her. Their hearts are pure. She believes they are misguided. They believe she is misguided. Yet there is still a deep, resonating love and acceptance of one another that never falters.

Hannah's conclusion of her current belief in who God is closely mirrors the feelings between herself and her parents. It is her personal journey and so the reader might or might not agree with her. I did. She is a spiritually gifted woman who did not allow the plane crash to define her but to enrich her. It's well written and I look forward to seeing Hannah's growth in the upcoming years.

View all my reviews

Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams

Forgiving Lies (Forgiving Lies, #1)Forgiving Lies by Molly McAdams
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A matter of secrets...
Undercover cop Logan "Kash" Ryan can't afford a distraction like his new neighbor Rachel Masters, even if she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. To catch a serial killer, he needs to stay focused, yet all he can think about is the feisty, long-legged coed whose guarded nature intrigues him

A matter of lies...
Deceived and hurt before, Rachel would rather be a single, crazy cat lady than trust another guy, especially a gorgeous, tattooed bad boy with a Harley, like Kash. But when his liquid-steel eyes meet hers, it takes all of Rachel's will-power to stop herself from exploring his hot body with her own.

A matter of love...
As much as they try to keep it platonic, the friction between them sparks an irresistible heat that soon consumes them. Can Kash keep Rachel's heart and her life safe even as he risks his own? Will she be able to forgive his lies ... or will she run when she discovers the dangerous truth?

Why only 2 stars? Obviously it is a popular book and a popular author. It has steamy sex scenes. The story is filled with tension and jump scenes. The truth is, it lacked depth, was very predictable (except the last humdinger), and I thought the writing style was sophomoric. True, one of the protagonists was only 21 but the author isn't. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a teenager's diary. Repetitive visions in the mind that spilled out on the page and poor use of language. I'm not even talking about the swearing, although the language is much more harsh than usual. Like I said, it read like a teenager's diary. When I say diary, I kind of man fantasy world.

I'm making it sounds worse than it is. it's a fine way to spend an evening. I did find myself skimming repetitive ruminations. There is a psychological Ted Bundy aspect but too many people involved in such an elaborate ruse to get the girl. Too many loose ends for it to be even slightly believable. It was just dumb.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

How To Be a Good WifeHow To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman
My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Description: In the tradition of Emma Donoghue's Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows

Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.

But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.

My thoughts: The mystery of Marta and what is happening to her is well paced. An astute reader may recognize her diagnosis and past quicker than I did. I kept my mind open for all possibilities until the evidence seemed irrefutable.

It is a dark psychological thriller and I did not enjoy being in Marta's head. On the other hand, it seemed necessary in order to solve the mystery of the possible apparitions, Marta saw. Much happens even though it seems to happen quietly. I liked it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

Where the Stars Still ShineWhere the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Stolen as a child from her large and loving family, and on the run with her mom for more than ten years, Callie has only the barest idea of what normal life might be like. She's never had a home, never gone to school, and has gotten most of her meals from laundromat vending machines. Her dreams are haunted by memories she’d like to forget completely. But when Callie’s mom is finally arrested for kidnapping her, and Callie’s real dad whisks her back to what would have been her life, in a small town in Florida, Callie must find a way to leave the past behind. She must learn to be part of a family. And she must believe that love--even with someone who seems an improbable choice--is more than just a possibility.

Trish Doller writes incredibly real teens, and this searing story of love, betrayal, and how not to lose your mind will resonate with readers who want their stories gritty and utterly true.

Well written book about that reminded me a bit of "If You Find Me." This one is written more toward the YA reader but much grittier. Callie was kidnapped by her mentally ill mother and kept on the run for 12 years. When she is discovered and returned to her father and his new family, she is also accepted into an entire big, fat Greek family. Callie struggles with fitting in but immediately is smitten by the Greek god, Alexandros, the sponge fisherman. And he with her.

It's a good book and leaves you with a "feel good" feeling.

Solid 3.5 stars.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and RedemptionUnbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood.  Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared.  It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard.  So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini.  In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails.  As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile.  But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater.  Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion.  His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit.  Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

My thoughts: The easiest way to summarize this book is simply state that I am disappointed in myself for not reading it earlier and this is a book I will purchase and keep forever. Much more than that detracts from this book.

Not only is it an incredible story of unbreakable spirit and survival in every aspect, the way the story is told is beautiful and timely. The lessons that could be learned, so powerful and personal are interspersed throughout the book. The description of the flashbacks, particularly the last one is incredibly poignant.

I am not quoting because I don't have the book right here with me, but Louie suffered a particularly cruel prisoner of war commandant who sought him out daily to beat him on his head and face. I had some psychological thoughts and epiphanies as I read these experiences having to do with how people in a position of power; at work, at war, or starting a war, are insecure adolescents who have had a few decades to stew over their feelings of powerlessness thus act out in an attempt to feel powerful, superior, and to compensate for that adolescence. That was my epiphany.

Louie's and/or Laura's epiphany was much more poignant. While this guard clung to Louie, sought him out, chased him and beat him down during his years in the prison camp, Louie's obsession with the guard/commandant and his hatred tied him to this monster, keeping him in a self-imposed prison. How often do we do that? Do we have the courage to unconditionally love and forgive? Could we pour the poison down the drain and never look back? Could we metaphorically embrace our enemies and pray for the best for them?

That is only one aspect of this non-fiction novel. This man survived some incredible experiences.

Well researched, written, paced, and I am completely enamored by Louie. Particularly after seeing the photos of him in his sixties plus. The book could just as easily be called "Indomitable." I will not lie. What mended Louie, the scene he described with his last flashback and what he did when he got home brought me to tears.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description: NOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

My thoughts: I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this book. Once I started, I felt like I was reading a Stephen King book. So I did a little research and realized I was reading a novel by his son which then made so much sense. It's nice that Mr. King has someone to share his weird little world that horrifies and fascinates us. Of course, that is the premise of this book; our two worlds. We have real life then we have our imagination. Some people have strong inscapes and can mix the two worlds like Vic and Mr. Manx.

Mr. Hill is not getting by riding his father's coattails. He is a creative storyteller and writer in his own right. The guy can write a fantastical and detailed horror story. There were also possible echos of his dad's work but nothing so blatant as to seem out of place.

If you like Stephen King, you'll love this book. My problems with the book were personal. There was more detail than I needed and the language is filthy. Not only is it full of cursing but uses gynecological and phallic terms often. I get that Vic is a tough chick. I loved Lou and Mr. Manx sounded and looked like Mr. Burns from The Simpson's inside my head. The language was distracting and detracting. It wasn't clever and witty, simply crass and unimaginative. For all that raw and refined talent, that kind of language was unnecessary and distracting.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Home Again by Kristin Hannah

Home AgainHome Again by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good, cozy book. One of Kristin Hannah's earlier books. Predictable and not as well crafted as some of her more recent books. If you don't mind cliches and predictability, it's an enjoyable book.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Not a Drop to Drink Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description: Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water. 

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

My thoughts: It is an apocalyptic world where chaos is guaranteed. Using spare language, Lynn's world is revealed in a drab color built on hard work and discipline. Lynne and her mother are alone. They protect what they have with everything they can and don't ask questions before squeezing the trigger. One exception is a man named Stebbs, a neighbor.

The story played out in my head as a movie at times and the humor caught me off guard. New characters make their way into the story which is surprising given how Lynn is raised to treat strangers and the unknown. Each character brought a new perspective and more than a few times, there is an ironic twist of fate and they have to make ethical decisions that seem different than what they have done or been taught. They discover later that sometimes there were lessons learned via quiet example even as one loudly protests.

I actually would give this a full four star rating except that I am experiencing my own temper tantrum regarding one character. This is my protest. Aside from the cavalier event that wronged my expectations, I recommend it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Tilted World: A Novel by Tom Franklin

The Tilted World: A NovelThe Tilted World: A Novel by Tom Franklin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set against the backdrop of the historic 1927 Mississippi Flood, a story of murder and moonshine, sandbagging and saboteurs, dynamite and deluge-and a man and a woman who find unexpected love-from Tom Franklin, author of the bestselling Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, and his wife, Pushcart Prize-winning poet Beth Ann Fennelly

The year is 1927. As rains swell the Mississippi, the mighty river threatens to burst its banks and engulf all in its path, including federal revenue agent Ted Ingersoll and his partner, Ham Johnson. Arriving in the tiny hamlet of Hobnob, Mississippi, to investigate the disappearance of two fellow agents on the trail of a local bootlegger, they unexpectedly find an abandoned baby boy at a crime scene.

An orphan raised by nuns, Ingersoll is determined to find the infant a home, a search that leads him to Dixie Clay Holliver. A lonely woman married too young to a charming and sometimes violent philanderer, Dixie Clay has lost her only child to illness and is powerless to resist this second chance at motherhood. From the moment they meet, Ingersoll and Dixie Clay are drawn to each other. He has no idea that she's the best bootlegger in the county and may be connected to the missing agents. And while he seems kind and gentle, Dixie Clay knows he is the enemy and must not be trusted.

Then a deadly new peril arises, endangering them all. A saboteur, hired by rich New Orleans bankers eager to protect their city, is planning to dynamite the levee and flood Hobnob, where the river bends precariously. Now, with time running out, Ingersoll, Ham, and Dixie Clay must make desperate choices, choices that will radically transform their lives-if they survive.

My thoughts: The details of the story includes incredible imagery so the reader is transported to this small town and, more specifically, to 1927. The talk is accurately written in 1927 style which makes it authentic but a little more challenging to understand.

The book is an excellent summary of the way of life in small town Mississippi where the floods are threatening all the people have ever known, the respectable men have served in the Great War and still dream of it, Hoover is coming into his own power, Prohibition is a reality but often ignored if the right bribe is offered, and orphanages littered the country.

I liked the book but I found myself struggling to get through it until about the halfway point where it picked up a bit on the action and relationships. It is authentically written and gives a realistic snapshot of life in a small town along the Mississippi where folks are divided over Prohibition and whether or not to take the payout to straighten out the river and flood the town or not.

Blackout by Robison Wells

BlackoutBlackout by Robison Wells
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Description: Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all.

My thoughts: Robison Wells is a master storyteller, particularly catering to the adolescent reader and science fiction. I immensely enjoyed Variant and look forward to reading Feedback.

Blackout is a little X-Men Ninja Teenager. The protagonist, Aubrey, living in little Mount Pleasant, Utah, has been keeping a secret from everybody but Nicole, popular and beautiful best friend. Although Nicole plays a minimal part in the story, the story line exists because of Nicole's encouragement of Aubrey's secret. Aubrey can disappear. Not literally go invisible but those around her tune her out when she goes black. She can spy, listen into private conversations, even steal. And so while Aubrey has disappeared at her high school prom, the excitement begins. The entire school is rounded up and each student is tested for a virus that mutates the carrier into a super powered humanoid.

The virus manifests itself differently with each teen but the virus only impacts a person within a certain time frame due to the growth spurts and patterns of a teenager. Interesting.

So there are a bunch of teenagers with the virus wreaking havoc and mahem around the country. Their movements are somewhat organized and unpredictable. Enter the armed forces who proactively "recruit" those who test positively for the virus.

So it's an interesting premise with a lot of promise. And yet.

The reader has no idea who the terrorists are or what they are terrorizing against. What is the objective and who is the enemy? More personally, how does the government get clearance to kidnap all the children in an entire nation and test them for a virus? How do they get the green light to keep the citizens detained for an extended period of time? And how is it morally or ethically correct practice to, not only kidnap and detain, but also do what they do to them?

I had a lot of problems with the story. I know that times of war breed a different thought process but it seemed a little too foreign and extreme. I'm not saying it can't happen nor am I saying that fiction is factual. I'm simply saying that it stretched my imagination a little too far.

That said, it's a great premise with super powered teenagers power housing the and dominating world leadership. Of course, we haven't really gotten to world leadership but it is escalating in that direction. Even causing enough chaos in the United States in order to take control is intriguing. And terrifying.

Worthwhile read but be prepared to stretch your imagination in more ways than science fiction.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie ProjectThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My thoughts: This is so delightfully written! I am so disappointed in myself for not writing a review immediately upon finishing this book! I have to remember why I loved it so much but I know that the author does an exceptional job with capturing the mind of a brilliant man with Asperger's Syndrome. He is literal, lacks insight to sarcasm, guileless and honest to a fault, and sees absolutely no irony in the fact that he is begins the book by stepping in for a friend to give a lecture on Asperger's. Remind you of anybody you know, he was later asked. No.

The book is about how Don eventually finds someone that can appreciate his quirkiness. It is also about how love and commitment are a choice. When push comes to shove, Don is uses his strengths of analysis to call out his best (only?) friend and tell him what he sees. We all have blind spots. Don is included. This is a book about choosing to look at our blind spots and address them.

This is a clever, wonderful book. I loved it.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

The Bride Wore Size 12  (Heather Wells #5)The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About the Book: Heather Wells is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.

With her upcoming nuptials to PI Cooper Cartwright only weeks away, Heather's already stressed. And when a pretty junior turns up dead, Heather's sure things can't get worse—until every student in the dorm where she works is a possible suspect, and Heather's long-lost mother shows up.

Heather has no time for a tearful mother and bride reunion. She has a wedding to pull off and a murder to solve. Instead of wedding bells, she might be hearing wedding bullets, but she's determined to bring the bad guys to justice if it's the last thing she does . . . and this time, it just might be.

My thoughts: I've grown quite fond of Heather Wells and the people in her circle. This is a cozy read featuring the fictional ex-popstar, Heather Wells, who was big in her teenage years but grew bigger after she was a star; a healthy size 12. THAT, I like. So her dad when to prison for tax fraud and her mom ran off with her manager and all of her money leaving Heather broke. So she starts college on work study at a college dorm. Now she's 30 years old, going to college, and engaged to her ex-boyfriend's brother, Cooper who I love but didn't get enough page space in this one.

The new mystery is a dead Resident Assistant and a very important resident on fifteenth floor. They might be related and Heather feels compelled to find out. She puts herself in mortal danger, there's a surprise cameo by her mother who has returned after the statute of limitations has run out, her dad is out of prison and her wedding is in one month. But she has a life to live and a murder to solve.

It's all good fun. It didn't knock my socks off but it was an enjoyable book.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson

The Not Even Once ClubThe Not Even Once Club by Wendy Watson Nelson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description: The Not Even Once Club is an adorable and appealing way to engage children in a story that will help them choose for themselves to keep the commandments and to never break them. Not even once.
Children will meet Tyler, an energetic boy who is excited to make new friends in his Primary class. They have invited Tyler to join their special club, but first he has to pass the test and keep the club promise.
With illustrations from bestselling illustrator Brandon Dorman, The Not Even Once Club is a fun and engaging way for parents to help teach their children the importance of keeping the commandments. Included in the back of the book are additional teaching helps for parents and leaders.
My thoughts: This is a great and conceptually easy book for kids. My 8 year old son got a hold of it first so he told me about it. When I read it, I liked it. It is simple with beautiful illustrations.

The story is about a group of kids that start a club called "Not Even Once." They make a commitment to never break the Word of Wisdom. The reader is given easy to comprehend examples and the book ends with the main character carrying his commitment outside the clubhouse.

The story, itself is a good Family Home Evening on its own with small children. What I liked best about it, though, is the appendix that includes more resources and more teaching ideas. There are downloads for posters to print for children and ideas for teaching about repentance and incorporating the Atonement and Christ's mission.

This is one simple concept that can open a number of avenues for communication between parents and children.

Additional resources can be accessed HERE.

Discussion questions for Family Home Evening are HERE.

Certificates are HERE.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Rose Under FireRose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

My thoughts: This is not an easy read. The author takes real experiences from reports of Ravenbruck concentration camp and builds a story based on a fictional character. The story is not easy to read but it is also an important part of history. This is the same camp that Corrie ten Boom was sent. While her story told some of the horrors, she concentrated on what her sister taught her and the power of forgiving others. This book concentrates on one group of prisoners called Rabbits. They are a group of Polish women that were used for unethical surgical experiments. Rose is adopted by the group. Through caring for one another the best they could in unimaginable conditions, Rose survives.

What stands out about this book is the little things. Rose writes her story in a notebook after she is free. She admits that there are times in her memory because of things she saw, endured, or did that she cannot cognitively handle. Also, how certain situations that are common for us in everyday life need to be handled differently in camp.

The poetry is beautiful and resounding. Sometimes that is the only way to communicate. A must-read but with caution. The reader is not spared the horrific details of cruelty or humanity. Strong language which is the least of the content. I would recommend to read in an older grade English class. Possibly psychology or history. The book is rich with insight.