Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

I bought this book because my friend recommended it so highly and she thought it would be “right up your alley”. She was wrong.

The book was a massive disappointment. The story was okay, but lacked the detail and depth of good character development. I am not a fan of the first person, present tense style of writing that also threw me off.

The book really left me wanting better character expansion, a deeper dialogue and overall it needed a total rewrite.

2 Stars

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater by Marc Acito

The frantic actions Edward Zanni takes to get tuition for Julliard could only be dramatized by a drama queen...which Edward is. Anyone who's spent any time with the drama elite will share in a laugh about this story of a group of actor/friends who join forces to get their friend in college. Hilarious dialogue, acerbic, cheerful and a pleasurable read.

Not it does indeed include sex, theft, drugs and blackmail which is probably why I liked it so much. This book is outrageous, and I loved every word of it. It may be too in-depth for anyone under 18 as there is a great deal of sex of all types.

5 Stars

Mort by Terry Pratchett

If Death could be considered amusing, then this is it. Prachett's depiction of Death as just someone that is doing his job, nothing is distinctive. Mort's growth from a bumbling, inept boy to Death's apprentice is traced through this witty spoof. I recommend any of Prachett's books to people who take life and this world too seriously.

5 Stars

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz

This is the genuine chronicle of a Polish man who escaped from a Russian work camp. This novel is a poignant work of art. The writing style is stunning and prosaic. The writer is very talented and I would definitely not hesitate to read something else written by him.

4 Stars

Monday, May 30, 2011

1984 by George Orwell

I picked the classic 1984 from the Goodreads best books of teh 20th century. 1984 is a dystopia novel about what might be true in a society that is entirely totalitarian. However, this novel gets bogged down in the unnecessary male viewing of romance with the female character in the novel. For that, this book seemed to lose quite a bit of its effect for me. I guess I simply wanted an interesting point to be made without making a woman into a symbol of sex.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

How To Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

As everyone know by now I love books that give a peek into a different culture than my own and since this book had a way of merging the Japanese and American culture together, it was right up my alley. The first half of the book is told through Shoko's eyes as she grows up in Japan and eventually becomes a war bride and lives her adult life in the United States Shoko is elderly and has a heart problems she wants to go back to Japan to make amends with her brother. Due to an her illness she can no longer travel, so in her place she sends her daughter, Sue and granddaughter, Helena.

The second part of the book is told through Sue's point of view as she travels to Japan with her daughter, Helena in search of Shoko's estranged brother, Taro. When Sue gets to Japan and meets her Japanese family members for the first time, she finds herself gaining not only a deeper appreciation for her birthright, but also for the life that her mother has led and the choices her mother has made. Although this trip was an act of kindness made for her mother to mend her family relationships and have closure in her life, Sue stumbles upon a brand new course for her life.

I actually enjoyed this book as it essentially threw me into a mother/daughter relationship that did not contain common women. It also contained historical essentials, such as the bombing of Nakasaki, which is one of the final acts of WWII in Japan. In the beginning of each chapter is a little quote from an imaginary book called How To Be An American Housewife which was based on a book she found that her father had gifted to her mother entitled The American Way of Housekeeping. I found these imaginary quotes humorous and a great way to introduce each chapter.

5 Stars

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Lily comes from a humble Chinese family in an average village, but soon after her feet are bound at the age of seven, the local matchmaker sees the possibility to arrange a marriage into a prosperous family. In preparation, Lily is bound in official friendship to Snow Flower, and the story tells the multifaceted account of their childhood, adolescence and adult years, until a series of cataclysmic events turn their lives upside down.

I found the friendship between the two girls touching from the start, and as they grew older, their bond just grew stronger and deeper than the bonds they had with their individual husbands. The character of Lily was credible, amiable, and sympathetic, even though she caused some of her own problems.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Wild Swans (One of my favorites from college).

5 Stars

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg

This book was written with genuineness and the book had moments of true and total exquisiteness. I read these parts in awe of his fervent surveillance and capability to weave a story.
The book is in three pieces. The first piece provided background information and an introduction to his life, the middle read like an essay and echoed his investigation skill, but the final part revealed the story of a inexperienced, advantaged studious man who struggles between fitting into the convict society and the security way of life.

With one of my degrees being in Criminal Justice I feel that the Boston penal system is partly to blame for his failure as a prison librarian. Even though he originally should not have been hired due to his greenness and his own deviant behavior, the system did not provide sufficient training in working with convicts or with individuals who have mental issues. I hope that his tenure there simply embellished an already assumed distrust of intellectuals among the security staff of that particular prison and did not affect someone personally in their life.

4 Stars

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

I picked this book because of the title, and when I read the story description I knew I had to read it. Changing back & forth in time from the 1940's during WWII and then the1980's near Seattle, Washington, the story main character is Henry, a Chinese-American boy who meets Keiko, a Japanese-American girl. Living on the west coast during the War, Keiko and her family are relocated to an interment camp further inland. Upon finding of some of the Japanese families' belongings in the cellar of the Panama Hotel in the 1980's, Henry remembers a time when he & Keiko did not live so far apart. It's a story of camaraderie, of adoration, & of belonging. I loved that the piece that was found in the hotel basement was what kept this story together, making it complete. A very pleasurable read.

4 Stars

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks has written a stiff and improbable account of the life of Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, the first Native American to graduate from Harvard. Brooks stumbles with the era and presents the reader with an insipid key character in Bethia, and a relationship between Bethia and Caleb that wanes under the plot points that strive to keep them together. Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck, as a historical character, must certainly have had a very remarkable life for his times and it is a ignominy that the account does not reflect that.

2 Stars

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

I completed Cutting For Stone in a two hour reading frenzy. I loved every page, from the captivating story line, to the collection of participants, and the demonstration of medical familiarity.

This book was on display at Borders and while working I passed it many times and I tried to resist but resistance turned out to be futile and I decided to get it. I'm glad I broke down, because now I can't wait to read more of Verghese's work.

5 Stars

22 Britannia Road: A Novel by Amanda Hodgkinson

Within this book you find an amazing story that helps you realize how much wartime incident can change the path of someone life. This book is a must read. The author, Amanda Hodkinson is very gifted and is a delight to read. All the main characters were brilliantly composed and the scenes in Poland and England were luminously descriptive. You will forget that you are reading and will feel that you are there. By the time you are finished reading this book you will be amazed at the feelings that are pulled from within.

5 Stars

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson

This true-life novel about William Dodd, the US ambassador to Germany from 1933-1937, and his family is my least preferred of Larson's books. (Well of the ones I have read anyway). It focuses wholly on Dodd, a representative of morals but inadequate ability, and his daughter Martha, whose poor decision making, leads her to have concurrent liaisons with a French diplomat, an agent posing as a Soviet diplomat, and the head of the German Gestapo. The account of the Night of the Long Knives is intense, but the rest of the book doesn’t even come close to his other works.

2 Stars

Friday, May 20, 2011

Columbine by Dave Cullen

I lived through Columbine. Not literally of course but figuratively. Columbine dominated the airways and print for the better part of the year. I was glued to the TV, newspapers and magazines the entire time of the event. Well, this book re-educated me completely about what happened at Columbine. The suggestion that goths in the Trench Coat Mafia struck back against jocks that terrorized and hassled them is no longer credible. The book contained exceptional investigation, superb writing, and an eagerness to debunk what the media created just to make reporting easier and more glamorized.

5 Stars

A Free Man of Color by Barbara Hambly

Set in the 1830's in New Orleans,Benjamin January has returned home from France after the demise of his spouse. Regrettably he has forgotten how very diverse feelings toward blacks are in the Americas. Hambly describes the general social group structure that had developed from interracial relations with great understanding and detail. I was impressed by her descriptive images of New Orleans and Louisiana within this period. At times I could about sense as if I was walking the streets. The intrigue is well written involving dishonesty, and murder with a twist at the end.

3 Stars

Girlbomb: A Halfway Homeless Memoir by Janice Erlbaum

I picked this up because I love memoirs, I was a teen in the 80’s and I did spend some time in NYC. Girlbomb is a true story of a teenager in 1980s NYC that leaves home because her mother takes back her violently abuse spouse. The author recreates that hectic life she has experienced in her mother's home while living in shelters and group homes. It was fun to read, but I did have a problem with how her one-night stands and serious drug abuse were basically revered. There is no salvation at the end and I'm left to wonder if the author has ever found a place that she belongs.

3 Stars

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One is a book that efficiently defines the time before and after without spending much time on the fluff between the two. There is before, when it's all suburban and family happiness, but with infuriated under currents. On the surface, it's all ideal, but underneath, things are a lot more sinister. Then there is after, when it's all about healing from heartache and recovery.

I respected how understated this book was there is no dwelling on the horrible effects, but rather a silent acceptance of events and about how events transform lives. This is not an easy read, but I do recommend it.

4 Stars

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

I am awed with Alice Munro’s ability to make the unfeasible and misinterpreted choices of her characters seem almost relevant. We all tend to make parallel decisions in our lives that seem like lunacy to those not involved in the situations. Alice Munro has a tendency for plunging into the sordid underbelly of a person with her writing. She explores our addictions to love, to cruelty, to our anxieties and to parts of life that seem inconsequential to those around us. I thoroughly loved this book and all the stories. I did not get a few parts having not been in the situations or not being able to imagine myself in the situations but the book was still enjoyable.

3 Stars

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

The Butterfly’s Daughter is a breathtaking story of family, friendship and the love and power that they encourage within us.

Just as a butterfly goes through a life changing metamorphosis, so does the main character, Luz, as she travels south, along the Monarch Butterfly’s migration path, accompanied by her grandmother’s ashes. Luz makes it to her family’s homeland and meets the relatives she never knew. The finding of her real history is life altering and the last stage of her transformation.

Magnificently written by Mary Alice Monroe, this book has an extraordinary feel to it. The characters are authentic, the settings are evocative and the dialog is realistic. This is a perfect beach read.

5 Stars

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This novel deserves its place on the best of lists. It is an extensive set of interconnected stories that loop around an aging rock-and-roll producer, his assistant, and an unconventional cast of characters on various continents and over many decades.

Aging plays a role in many of the stories, usually in a brusque way, often in a few compacted sections at the end of a chapter that often contain a postscript that looks into the future.

3 Stars

Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel, by Talia Carner.

I received an advance copy of Jerusalem Maiden: A Novel, by Talia Carner.

The story is about a young ultra-orthodox Jewish woman, Esther, at the beginning of the 20th century and I was unsure if I would like the book.

Esther is born into poverty and turmoil in Jerusalem. She struggles with her religion and her family responsibilities as a female in this era. I struggled with the beliveability of some the events in the book. For example: in spite of the traditional customs within the family, Esther is permitted to run around the city unsupervised quite a lot. The fact that she was given a more advanced education than most Jewish girl also doesn’t sit well. I have read many books about Orthodox Judaism and the culture surrounding the faith so it seemed a little far fetched to me.

However with that said I thought it was an attractive read, and while I doubt it is a correct manifestation of the life of your average Jewish girl, it did make me think.

3 Stars

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is one of the most paramount books I have read this year so far. Larry Ott is introverted, unhealthy, ungainly, studious, and just never fit in with the other kids. At age 14 he discovers a woman and her son squatting in the cabin on their land. Silas and Larry become companions, but since they are of different races and with the prejudice of the times they can't continue their association at school. A few years later, Larry is mixed up in a girl's disappearance and hypothetical homicide. He is rejected in his small town, although never confirmed responsible. Silas on the other hand goes to college on a baseball scholarship and returns to Larry's home town 25 years later as the local constable. When the daughter of the wealthy man suddenly goes missing, Larry become the main suspect yet again, but Silas believes that Larry is guiltless in both cases and sets out to prove it once and for all.

A great page turner, I will definitely recommend Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter.

5 Stars

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is a fascinating story with an appealing choice of storyline technique. I was dubious at first, but I the story grabbed me from the first page. Being a mother of a teen I have difficulty with a book for teens that could be viewed as opting to commit suicide is something other people have power over. Many of the characters in this story are vicious people. However, having a bad reputation and an undeserved low standing on the social status whether or not it's undeserved happens all the time in high school and I would rather see teens encouraged to get help than take their own lives.

3 Stars

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel by Kathleen Kent

Based on the true story of Martha Carrier, the story is about Sarah Carrier who is 10 years old when her mother is accused of being a witch. Martha Carrier is a resolute woman who speaks her mind. This characteristic was not preferential of females during the 17th century and it caused many problems for the Carriers. Martha Carrier refused to lie to save her own life; in fact, she instructs and even pleads with Sarah to tell the judges anything they want to hear to save her own life. Martha also pleads with Sarah to persuade her brothers to do the same thing.

This book is the point of view of Sarah Carrier it takes you through her memories of that time and all that the family suffered because of fallacy and religious fanaticism. This book is brilliantly written. The plot moves promptly and does not have a lot of superfluous information. It is about a family and their fortitude, devotion, family love and discrimination.

5 Stars

Madness: A Bipolar Life by Marya Hornbacher

This book is a real life story chronicling Marya Hornbacher's obstacles she has to overcome while being bipolar. She details her mania, her negative behavior and the effects of her actions on herself and her family.

Her writing is powerful and evocative; you feel that you know what she is going through when she is in a manic state. Her struggles eating disorders, alcoholism, and her medications are constant. She is honest and it feels like she really brings you into her world so you can get an idea of what being bipolar is like.

4 Stars!

Manic: A Memoir by Terri Cheney

Terri Cheney details her fight with manic depression through a sequence of non-chronological chapters. She makes it clear at the beginning that this book reflects her life as she has experienced it. It does, on the other hand, result in some doubling-up in the chapters that maybe a part of the mania itself. For example, in quite a few chapters, Cheney describes how sharp each sense develops into during manic episode. The descriptions are the same from chapter to chapter although the circumstances are different.

I will say that it's intriguing to read about a person's experience of mental illness and how it traverses their entire life. While each memoir I have read that encompasses mental illness are distinctive, Cheney's memoir sheds light on the personal affect it has had on her life.

Manic is a fascinating and sincere read.

4 Stars

Driving with Dead People: A Memoir by Monica Holloway

You don’t have to read for long to see that the Holloways have some severe troubles. Monica might recognize her father's fixation with filming roadside accidents as bizarre but his problematic is the physical and emotional abuse that he heaves upon his family. Monica grows up in a family where everyone walks on eggshells in terror of being screamed at or humiliated in public. When her parents divorce, her father refuses to be involved in anything more than the divorce decree and custody agreement require of him and her mother goes back to school, leaving her two daughters at home alone where they learn to take care of themselves. The two girls manage to hide their parents abandonment from most of the town.. Monica, comes into her own as an adult and gathers her strength from inside. She helps her older sister through a suicidal time and realizes the harm her father did to them all. She later comes to terms with her father’s abuse even though she knows that it may break the relationship she had built with him

I thought this book brilliantly written and heartrending. How Monica is able to overcome her family’s dysfunction and sexual abuse is truly remarkable.

4 Stars

Friday, May 13, 2011

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

Hand Me Down World is about Ines, an African woman working in Tunisia who goes to incredible lengths to find her son who has been abducted by his father. The first half of the story is told by the people she meets on route to Germany where her son is being held.
The format is unique and very thought provoking and I was shocked by the turn in events. In fact the different points of views have me wanting to reread this book.

5 Stars

Solomon's Oak: A Novel by Jo-Ann Mapson

Solomon’s Oak by Jo-Ann Mapson is a conventional story told through the voices of three core characters. Gloria, a widow, is learning how to steer through life without her spouse. The second is Juniper, a teenage girl who due to family problems, has been thrown into foster care and comes to live with Gloria. Lastly there is Joseph, is a former cop who is recovering both physically and mentally from a work-related injury and tragic occurrence that killed his friend and co-worker. All of these characters are broken and lost but they come together they find the love and approval that they each need and want.

The story is told at a nice speed and is easy to read. This could be a definitely afternoon at the beach book.

3 Stars

Boxer, Beetle by Ned Beauman

Boxer, Beetle has two stories on two different timelines that are linked by accident: one story is about Fishy, named so because of his affliction, trimethylaminuria, which makes him reek of fish. He finds Nazi memorabilia for paying costumers. One day he stumbles across a dead body and in the apartment of corpse he finds correspondence from Adolf Hitler to a Doctor Erskine. The second story is the story of Erskine and a Jewish boxer - and gradually those two stories unite. The writing style is easy to read, and the story grasps you and draws you in.

3 Stars

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

Dava Sobel successfully wove this tale of a courageous, clever, quick-witted young woman, who had a mastermind for a father and how both of them relied on each other to live in complex times. Galileo’s daughter, Maria Celeste, was a nun but that did not prevent her from being her father’s strength. Her ongoing letters with Galileo is the main factor used to describe the dynamics of this exceptional father-daughter relationship. It was as though she lived and took care of him. Distance was not a obstacle to their connection.

The historical description in this book, describing the actions and people in the Renaissance era, is actually gripping. The dealings between the states and duchies, the politics inside the Papal court and even the bubonic plague present an awe-inspiring read.

5 Stars

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows

I think that 'memoir' might not actually be the most accurate description of Dreaming in Chinese and in fact I think the book is better described as an anthology of essays about studying Mandarin, and the insight one might gain into the Chinese way of life by doing so. This is not to be meant as a disparagement; the book was enthralling. The book is quite understandable and not scholarly study in linguistics.

Having studied Anthropology language and culture is interesting to me anyway but if the book was described as a collection of essays as opposed to memoir it would make it an easier find to readers with a similar background as mine. Someone looking for a story would be let down, I think a person who is interested in different languages and cultures would be captivated.

4 Stars

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lost in Shangri La by Mitchell Zuckof

Readers who liked Lauren Hillenbrand's "Unbroken" will also like this survival account from WWII, focusing on three survivors of a plane crash in the mountains of New Guinea. "Lost in Shangri-La" looks at aviation in WWII, life in armed forces stations in the South Pacific, the incredible story of survival and rescue, and, the bonds the survivors and rescuers created with the tribe that lived in the unknown valley.

The story itself is an unbelievable one. When you take into account all of the actions leading up to the ultimate rescue of the three survivors, it is hard to believe that everything went so easily. The courageousness of the individuals involved amazed me.

Scattered through the book are pictures, allowing the reader to put a face to the name making the characters come alive.

I cannot say enough about this story.

5 Stars

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Thirty-three year old adopted child Sara Gallagher can see her life falling into place. She has her own business, a six year old daughter, and she is about to marry the love of her life. When she decides it’s time to find her birth mother her life starts to crumble around her. Finding her birth mother is a disappointment but finding her birth father, who never knew he had a daughter and is a well-known serial killer, her life is like a thriller movie. As she struggles to keep her father from getting to her and her family; she also struggles with her own emotions of feeling abandoned by her adoptive father.

The story is told through therapy sessions causing the book to be a cyclone of emotions but the little laughs thrown in, the unique love story, and the tears made it genuine for me. The characters could easily be the neighbors

I did not want to put this book down for a second.. I found a lot of similarities in the emotions of the book and myself. This one is also one that I am going to be recommending to co-workers, friends, family and even strangers; I might even plead with people to buy it just so I can discuss it.

5 Stars

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews

In my childhood taking a house-rental at the beach included fun in the sun and time spent with family. On the downside there was no TV, no AC, no telephone and no videogames.

Such are the long-gone surroundings in which three best friends from school days find themselves on a month long reunion on the beach at Nags Head, North Carolina.

Ellis, the hyper-organized planner, has been downsized from a large-bank in Philadelphia. Married briefly and unsuccessfully, fresh out of college, Elly threw herself into her job and has substituted spreadsheets for fun on the sheets.

Julia, the worldly, and outspoken friend has realized that her modeling career is over, having been consigned to catalog shots for J.C. Penney's. However, she does have a long-term boyfriend, recently relocated from London to D.C., but she's terribly undecided about long term commitment that her boyfriend is seeking.

Dorrie is sweet, vivacious, and an incurable flirt of the three and she has been dealt two marital surprises and she must call upon the means to ride out the repercussions.

Ebbtide, the house they've rented at Nags Head is a dump. Then, the fourth member of the rental party decides at the last minute not to come, leaving Dorrie to find a renter in order to ease the financial burden. Then, the ladies are unsettled about the guy who lives in the garage apartment.

Mary Kay Andrews, who has set many a novel in the south has become one of my favorite authors with her southern style and easy reads.
5 Stars

Monday, May 9, 2011

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman is a great collection with a excellent mix of ghost stories, sci fi, mthyology & horror, each story is diverse, dramatic & just brilliant. The Sunbird, Closing time, Instructions, are just a few of my favorites, there were a few that were very unpleasant, but even so, nearly all had a glow or an scheme that made them an interesting read. I'm so envious of the talent!

5 Stars

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman is a great collection with a excellent mix of ghost stories, sci fi, mthyology & horror, each story is diverse, dramatic & just brilliant. The Sunbird, Closing time, Instructions, are just a few of my favorites, there were a few that were very unpleasant, but even so, nearly all had a glow or an scheme that made them an interesting read. I'm so envious of the talent!

5 Stars

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Winner of the Newberry The Graveyard Book is a remarkable story about a boy that lives in a cemetery. He came to the cemetery as a baby when his family was murdered. The residents of the cemetery, who of course are all ghosts, let him have the run of the place and decide to raise him, naming him Nobody Owens. Bod, short for Nobody, found a girl named Scarlett and they become friends, but Scarlett leaves. When Bod is older Scarlett comes back and makes friends with a Mr. Frost who is a local historian. Bod asks Scarlett if she could help investigate his family’s murder by asking the historian questions. Mr. Frost also known as Jack Frost tries to kill Bod. Bod and Scarlett go to the graveyard where Bod battles the Jacks of All Trades. Bod wins but after a year of living in peace gets old enough that he has to leave the cemetery and leave his ghost family.

This is one of the best books for young adults of all time and should be required reading.

5 Stars!!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I’m ashamed to say I knew nothing about this subject until I read the book and now that I do I am thoroughly disgusted with the medical research field.

There is a huge contrast between Henrietta Lacks' life and that of her family, with their poverty, lack of schooling and medical problems and the fact that her stolen cells have had a flourishing vocation with contributions to so many aspects of biological advances that has helped to generate millions in revenue for the thieves.

This is a thoughtfully written account showing us Henrietta's family's befuddled detection of what happened to her cells as well as the wider and on-going debate about the ethical use of people's tissues and the financial benefits that can evolve as well as the legal framework that has been put in place since.

I enjoyed but was somewhat horrified by the contents of the book and the implications behind the story.

3 Stars

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Liar’s Club a Memoir by Mary Karr

Growing up in a poor small town in Texas, Mary Karr's family life was flawed by alcoholism, violence, and mental illness. But you don't pity her, and she doesn't pity herself either. A ferocious adoration for her family comes through strongly. The most stunning parts of the book are the situations surrounding her mother's mental illness and the insanity and manic depressive episodes that go along with it. You can feel the child's confusion and love for a mother as she goes on a rampage that she just doesn’t understand. The parents are tremendously self-centered but, in the end you know they love their kids. It is a tribute to Mary Karr and her siblings that they survived and prospered into well adjusted adults with their upbringing.

5 Stars

Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr

In the early 1970s, Deerhorn, Wisconsin, was very uniform. It caused quite a stir when 9 year old, half Japanese, Michelle, known as Mikey, went to live with her grandparents. She was bullied by her schoolmates who didn't care that her grandfather, Charlie, was one of the most respected men in town. And then a young professional black couple, a nurse and a teacher, moved to town, and folks kind of forgot about Michelle. Mikey treasured the moments she spent with her grandfather. She felt safe in his love and she knew that in spite of his prejudices, when he looked at her, he saw only his beloved granddaughter.
Then the situation begins to spin out of control, and Mikey, Charlie, and the black couple are caught up in a tempest of hate. This is a great story of determination and how to persevere.

3 Stars

The Lost Library: The Autobiography of a Culture by Walter Mehring

“A man can become addicted to reading as to any other intoxicant.” After Walter Mehring’s father dies in his arms he inherits a library containing thousands of volumes and his father’s love of literature.

Merhing tells the tale of burning his own books, his interment by the Nazi’s and his eventual exile to Vienna. I have always been interested in this time period and to read a first account which was not focused just on the Holocaust was a treat. Mehring goes through many “jaunts” and describes second hand book stores with such alliterations I feel like I am there.

After reading this book I feel I have found a comrade in arms as Mehring and I have the same philosophy. I am addicted to reading.

4 Stars

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Super Sad True Love Story is set years about a half century in the future. The world is a intense adaptation of aspects of the world today. America has been condensed to three industries (Credit -- where men aspire to work, Retail -- where women aspire to work, and Media -- which is largely reality TV). Everyone carries around a social networking device and spends most of their time social networking, ranking each other, shopping on line, etc. Occasionally they take a break from this to actually verbally talk with a friend.

Set against this background, the novel tells a love story in chapters that swap between Lenny Abramov, a Jewish scholar, and emails and chats from his Korean girlfriend, Eunice Park. Both narrators are rather unreliable and the story moves along believably, as the world around them falls to pieces and the expected triangle in their relationship forms.

The writing is amusing and astoundingly inventive the plot is respectably sufficient that keeps you interested from beginning to end.

3 Stars

Rat Girl: A Memoir

I was instantaneously caught up in Kristin’s story even though I had never heard of her band Throwing Muses. The product of hippies, Kristin is a bashful, yet exceptionally intelligent, teenager. She feels music within her very soul and the music comes to her, playing constantly in her head until she puts down the notes and writes the song. As her band starts to become well-liked, Kristin is diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Hersh’s writing about being bipolar is exceedingly heartrending. Through her words, the reader experiences what it feels like for her during her controlling frenzied states. After reading this book I feel as if I know Kristin and she is in fact a friend.

4 Stars

The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman

Tom Rachman's debut novel is one of the top books I have read this year. Each of his chapters can be read alone but works wonderfully when put together.

He tells the story of an English newspaper established in Rome. The story intertwines the past with the present effortlessly. Each character has their own section for their story. By the end of the novel the reader will have a glimpse of the toll it takes on a person’s life when they are running a newspaper in the twentieth century, including all the ups and downs changes in management can cause.

This is such an enthralling narrative that putting it down is near impossible and I finished the book in an hour and a half.

5 Stars

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Southland by Nina Revoyr

When Jackie’s grandfather dies, her aunt finds a box of cash from the sale of his old store in his closet, along with an old will leaving the money to someone they've never heard of. Jackie agrees to help find this person, only to find out was murdered along with three other boys, in her grandfather's store during the Watts riots in 1965. As she and James, a cousin of the boy, investigate the murders, Jackie learns more than she expected to about her grandfather and the difficulties associated with living at that period of time.

This book invokes feelings of questions of what I don’t know about my grandparents and what it was like before my time.
Definitely 5 STARS !!

You Believers by Jane Bradley

A story of a girl missing, a girl saved and numerous who plummet someplace in between. All the characters are damaged and because of this, sympathetic. The characters pose the question when you become a victim, is it better to be killed or be a survivor. It examines what happens after a horrifying incident, how we are changed how we move on or why we don’t.

I found myself unable to put this book down. It is not possible to disengage from what is happening to all the characters psychologically, and because of this, it is an exhausting read. For those who have never experienced anything similar to the situation told in the story, hold on, because you are about to. For survivors of events, I warn the pages may contain a great deal of triggers that will be hard to get through. For example, there is a rape scene that is viewed from the perspective of the victim. Not a read to be considered lightly, but worthwhile to examine if you have the strength to face human helplessness and the grace to rise above it.

5 Stars

Reading Lips by Claudia Sternbach

I am over run with memoirs and I still picked this one up but I am glad that I did. Claudia Sternbach’s memoir Reading Lips was a sweet, enjoyable read that takes an exceptional look at how life stories can be told.

Reading Lips is told mostly in sequential order, and Sternbach expertly changes her voice defining each time period accurately. In the early moments I was reminded of the voice used in Room (which is one of my favorites), and I loved to see the understated changes she made throughout the chapters to show her age and the time period as well.

The point of this memoir was not that Sternbach is a successful writerbut instead that there are moments that change us, all of us and kisses, from parents and loves, exist in these moments.

4 Stars

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern

The Book of Tomorrow is a journal which reveals the future. The entry that is going to be written tomorrow appears the day before. Tamara finds the book after her dad dies and she has to move, with her mom, to her aunt and uncle's house. Although her Aunt Rosaleen has an extremely peculiar way about her a deeper mystery unfolds and Tamara decides to solve it.

This book reads more as a YA than Adult Fiction. Tamara is a teenager with some typical smart-ass teen remarks that were amusing and delightful but they borderline on irritating and overdone. I had the same problem with the repetitive phrases that she was continuously pointing out. They were, at first, funny and added to her personality but I eventually just got sick of reading them.

The book had a bit of a slow pace throughout and I have to say, overall, it was good, not great.

3 Stars

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon is an amazing anthology of short stories about soldiers and their families living on the base at Fort Hood. Each story depicts a snapshot of home life with or without the man of the family present. Some of the men are in Iraq while others are on base or returning to base after their tour is completed.

The most touching story for me was Remission. Ellen Roddy's teenage daughter Delia has been acting out because of her mother's illness. While Dad, has stayed on base to help his family; he has been more caught up with the military than his family. I was in tears by the time I finished.

I highly recommend this book because it is a great read and because it will raise the level of awareness regarding the sacrifices soldiers and families are making to ensure our freedoms. I won’t take this for granted any longer.

5 Stars

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Cypress House by Michael Kortya

Very seldom does a book with strong authentic characters, an action-packed plot, and conversation so rich that you can submerge yourself inside it come along, well, The Cypress House is such a book.

Arlen Wagner is a man with a gift, he can see impending death. Having seen death reflected on the passengers of a train, he gets off with his travel companion and urges others to do the same. He and his younger friend, Paul, are the only passengers to get off and the only passengers that survive after the train heads straight into a hurricane.

Because of their change in plans, Arlen and Paul ultimately land at Cypress House, an isolated boardinghouse on the gulf where they meet Rebecca and enter a world ruled by Solomon Wade and filled with corruption and murder.

Michael Koryta is to be applauded on such an exceptional book!

5 Stars!!!

The Poison Tree by Erin Kelly

The Poison tree is well-written, psychological thriller, one that just cries out to be read and discussed. Although I found it a bit disconcerting with early chapters switching between two time periods, it is really essential in the storyline. This ploy simply increases the building suspense as the story unfolds.

An unusual storyline from the voice of the protagonist, Karen Clarke, a young normal girl who just happens to be fluent in several languages, and throw her suddenly into a completely different culture and what is she to do? She meets the most eccentric person she can. Her meeting with Biba opens a whole new world to her, one she is not only introduced to, but embraces wholeheartedly. In 1990s London, the beautiful and bubbly Biba lives her life fully and dramatically, essentially the actress she wants to be. When she meets Karen, she brings her to her house, which is a domicile of many characters, some of whom live there with Biba and her brother Rex. Soon Karen is a constant visitor.

The book begins near the end, and then switches back to this carefree and exciting life, time and time again. We learn of old secrets that have a distinct effect on the brother and sister, and later newer secrets come between them. Karen can not tell her story alone without telling the story of Rex and Biba. Their lives and stories are tangled as one. These three are the main characters, but there are more roles to be played by lesser players. Still, they are all bigger than life and all play their parts boldly. The story unfolds between this wild beginning, fraught with suspense and lies, racing toward an unknown and unexpected tragedy. Clues and portents are sprinkled between these carefree days of one summer, building and building to an excruciating level. Murder, prison, life, loss, all wrapped up in one great read. Descriptive, alluring, and definitely atmospheric, characteristics run the range from innocence and trust to parties, drugs, drama, sex and lies. This is an extraordinary start to what I believe will be the first of many great reads from this author.
4 Stars

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Following the conclusion of the Hunger Games in the second book of Suzanne Collins series, Katniss and Peeta think that they're finally out of harm's way. Things may not be exactly as they would have expected but at least they're home. Little do they know however that their stunt in the arena in having a domino effect across the Districts. People are beginning to question the authority of the Capitol and President Snow isn't pleased. When the time comes for the next Hunger Games he has a surprise for them: the tributes for this years games will be made up of past winners. Since District 12 only has three living winners the odds are definitely not in their favor.

It's not very often that the sequel is better than the first but in the case of Catching Fire I definitely think this is the case. We know more about Katniss and Peeta now and we have watched them grow from the children they were in the first book to the strong leading characters they are now. The story is now even more tragic as the pair are faced with even more challenges and difficult choices. Just like the first one the pacing is perfect, it's action packed and keeps you interested.

Finally, I like this book better because the story, though still reminiscent of Running Man, was filled with benevolence and passion. It pulled at your spirit in away the first one didn't and gave you a lot to think about in regards to human compassion and selflessness. All in all a great sequel, that doesn't disappoint. On to Mockingjay.

5 Stars