Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Geographer's Library by Jon Fasman

Paul Tomm is an intelligent but directionless college graduate who accepts a job as a reporter at a weekly newspaper in the small town of Lincoln, Connecticut. When a professor from his college dies, he is assigned to write the obituary, but soon finds that the professor is not as quiet and calm as he seemed. Soon Paul is involved in an extraordinary account of murder. The story itself was a very pleasurable read, what really drew me in was my understanding of Paul because his observations and reactions are so real. I will definitely read more from this author in the future.

4 Stars

Paranormal State: My Journey into the Unknown by Ryan Buell

Ryan Buell is the lead investigator and founder of the Paranormal Research Society, a student organization of ghost hunters out of Penn State. Buell goes into detail on what went into creating the show as well as the challenge of not losing the paranormal integrity that the research society has worked hard to achieve

This book is written for supporters of the TV show Paranormal State. A reader with no familiarity with the show will get very little from the book but as a follower of the show, I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to others who also watch it.

4 Stars

Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

After their son dies in the war, The Quangel’s begin their own acts of resistance. Over the years, they leave hundreds of unsigned postcards in public places all over Berlin. Unknown to them the cards end up with the Gestapo almost immediately, and one policeman is obsessed in discovering who is behind the cards.

This book is slow to get off the ground, the first half was hard, but the second half was outstanding and the ending was magnificent.

5 Stars

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Shapeshifter by Tony Hillerman

Newly retired Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn is bored stiff until he receives a message from an old friend that rears questions about one of Leaphorns early cold cases. An old Navajo weaving, infamous because of its rejection of much of the Navajo Way, that was thought to have been destroyed years ago in a fire that killed one of the FBI's most wanted has suddenly resurfaced. When Leaphorn's friend dissappears Leaphorn begins to probe in earnest, and the case leads him from robberies all the way back to the Vietnam War. The narration is clear and compelling, and the main characters figure out puzzles at the same rate as the reader. This is one of Hillerman’s better Leaphorn books.
4 Stars

The Skeleton Man by Tony Hillerman

Navajo County Deputy Sheriff Cowboy Dashee’s cousin is accused of pilfering and pawning a hefty diamond. Sargent Jim Chee, Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn (ret.) and Chee’s fiancĂ©e, Bernie Manuelito, work together on this case, and prove that the diamond is connected to a plane crash that took place in the Grand Canyon area fifty years ago. Leaphorn was the narrator of this story and he did not play a large role in the story line itself however, he visited his old friend, McGinnis, at the trading post which had been a center of activity for years, but has since become abandoned. Leaphorn lamented about the loss of old friends and how things had changed. I have read many other of the Hillerman books and I will be reviewing them a few at a time.
3 Stars

The Romance of Atlantis by Taylor Caldwell

The Romance of Atlantis is a work of Fantasy or Science Fiction and as the preface states, Ms. Caldwell wrote this novel when she was twelve years of age. Her family ran a publishing company but they wouldn’t publish this novel. Instead, they accused the twelve year old of plagiarism, unconvinced that a girl could write a complete book including realistic adult situations

After reading this story I was impressed that a twelve year old could have the knowledge in her time period to write so well. This is my first reading of anything by Caldwell and her Atlantis is well envisaged however, I really didn’t like the characters much. Since this book is written by a twelve year old who deserves credit where credit is due I give it 5 stars !!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Do Not Pass Go: From the Old Kent Road to Mayfair by Tim Moore

I saw this and I just had to have it. Do Not Pas Go is based on traveling around the places on the Monopoly board. I quite enjoyed it as it is a unique way to find somewhere to travel but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I knew London.

The book was a real innovative point of view on a typical segment of London's history. I like Moore's sense of humor. I really wonder what I can find to help me with some original traveling of my own.

4 Stars

The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose

This book is the third in a series written by M.J. Rose but I didn’t know that when I picked it up. So I have not read the first two books and since they were not in my home library I decided to start reading this one hoping it would work stand alone.

What struck me was the lyrical language. The descriptions are lyrically poetic. The story itself could not quite grip me but for some reason I did keep on reading because anyone who knows me knows that I must finish a book no matter what I think of it. I have to approve of the way past and present in the story interweave. Would I read it again? Probably not due to the story line.

3 Stars

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins

Kirial is a high-spirited Fallen Angel who gets tired of his ceaseless penance of managing souls down in Hell, so he takes over the body of teenager Shaun, who is just about to get hit by a car. After blissing out with the five senses for a while he gets down to the business of trying to improve the attitude and viewpoints of numerous people. In some ways, his outlook makes him much more open-minded than the normal teenager, but his understanding is also severely incomplete in others. Light, enjoyable, and even moving.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

The unusual arrangement of this book instantly drew me in as I wondered what event was coming. The adventures of the teenagers in Looking for Alaska were authentic, permitting some readers to relate to them, while others will simply wish they had the courageousness of Alaska and her school comrades. Teen-age anguish, friendship and coming of age are all party of this great story !!
4 Stars

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

In the town of Bascom, North Carolina every family has its very own forte. The Waverly's role was one that even the residents believed was strange. Claire Waverly has taken over for their using her talents with the plants of her garden to encourage people to behave in a specific manner.
This story brings us two alienated sisters who have taken very diverse ways through life. I thought that the story was well written; it didn't grind but also didn't make me feel I had to hurry to finish it. It has an goodness about it which attracted me. I definitely saw a lot of the movie Practical Magic in the book. That is not to say that she based the book off the movie but there are certain similarities.
4 Stars

The Girls from Ames: A Story of Women and a Forty-Year Friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

I really liked this book. BUT the book confused me and I didn't really understand it. Is Zaslow trying to tell a story about 11 girls and the 10 women they became, or is he trying to establish the importance of relationships in women's lives. The book reads like a sociological study about what holds women's relationships together and why they matter so much. At times, I felt like I was reading one of my college anthropology text books however they are still some of my favorite reads so this book was up my alley.
3 Stars

Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster

In Pretty in Plaid, Jen Lancaster reveals some flashes, from growing up in Cow Town, Indiana, to her time as a sorority girl during her eleven years of college, to her first profession post-college. Like her previous books, Pretty in Plaid is written as a series of essays, all of which are connected by the theme of clothing. From her Girl Scout uniform, covered in (I wish I thought of this when I was a girl scout) illegally earned patches, to her first job interview ensemble, Jen explains how clothes shape the way she interprets the world.

I was exceptionally amused by this book. Jen Lancaster definitely has a distinctive voice that’s very clever. No matter what situation Jen finds herself in, she is always optimistic. It’s a nice, light read that’s perfect for a Sunday Summer day of relaxing in the cool grass under a tree.
4 Stars

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

This book was chic, humorous, thrilling, and well thought out. This is exactly how I like my summer reads to be. Alice forgets the last 10 years of her life after a head injury in her spinning class and she becomes faced with the fact that she's divorcing her husband, but does not know the reason. It is an exceptionally well written novel about getting second chances and a fresh outlook on life.

The finale was enjoyable, I actually stopped to think about how I take care of and treat my family, and the impact that will have on my life 10 years from now.

5 Stars

A Small Hotel: A Novel by Robert Olen Butler

A Small Hotel is the story of how of Michael and Kelly Hays fell in love, got married, lived their lives and then fell apart.

Michael is a lawyer who has been raised to believe that simply by "being there" he has expressed his emotions therefore creating a very isolated adult. He is a product of an emotionally distant father who taught him that words are just words with no meaning behind them.

Kelly is a woman who has an emotional intensity that needs to hear the words from her husband but she never pushes him to say those three little words. This is also a product of an emotionally distant father and mental problems that she experienced during her early days.

Through flashbacks we learn much about the couple only to have it end up in a small hotel is where Kelly and Michael spent their first night together and over the course of their relationship they returned numerous times. Michael and Kelly consider room 303 to be their room, and it is here she has decided she will end her life without Michael.
Michael on the other hand is in torment from his own personal problems as he reflects on his life. The paradox is that both Michael and Kelly are more equal than they may know.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I will definitely purchase it in July 2011.

5 Stars

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman

The Red Garden is the story of the town of Blackwell, Massachusetts, populated by charming and memorable characters. A series of short stories (which is becoming a favorite arrangement of mine)the book has the feel of a novel because of the even current of the stories through history. It starts with the story of the town’s founder, Hallie Brady and continues through several of Hallie’s descendents or the descendents of the other original townspeople, and the way their lives crisscross throughout the years.

The writing is characteristically Alice Hoffman with an allusion of the unexplained and the supernatural slipped in. There are spirits, lucky trees, and a garden in which only red plants grow. Blackwell is obviously a extraordinary place and the people who visit and those who reside there never really leave, even though they may journey elsewhere.

Once I started the book it was impossible to put down

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

After reading The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet I really wanted to read more by David Mitchell. I picked Cloud Atlas because it was just sitting there looking all lonely on my bookshelf.

The book is a collection of six interconnected stories; each story is cut in half and interrupted by the next story. They are all set in diverse time periods, two of which are in the future. They all deal with the same sort of characters, with strong hints that they are reincarnations of each other (I envision Quantum Leap, the TV show starring Scott Bakula). I liked the stories and the way they tied together.

5 Stars

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns is the story of Jacob de Zoet, a Dutch clerk, in 1799 Nagasaki Japan . David Mitchell has written a complex story that deals with the political, trade and societal practices at that time in Japan. The characters are remarkable. Jacob must deal with his sincerity and truthfulness which is not appreciated for the most part by his betters and the Japanese officials. There is also Jacob's love for a Japanese girl and her uncontrolled obligation to a Convent that exists for the creation of "gifts". A terrific book.

4 Stars

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr

I don’t like Sherlock Holmes stories and honestly I have only ever read them when forced too (such as in school but this one is a great. I was expecting a demonstration of Holmes's power of deduction but the way he's always restrained on things when he knows the answers is constant. There were a few parts of the stories that lagged and I sometimes wondered how the scenes connected but in the end, every incident would lead to an answer.

3 Stars

The Angel of Darkness by Caleb Carr

In this sequel to The Alienists Caleb Carr has created an exceptional, fantastic book that has the same focus on plot and character. It’s brilliantly done, and it made this book a pleasure to read. I am glad it took them so long to being the criminal to justice. I never wanted the story to end. This was an incredible book.

4 Stars

Killing Time by Caleb Carr

Read The Alienist. Read the Angel of Darkness. Read The Italian Secretary. Read any one of Caleb Carr's historical novels with confidence, because he is an amazing historian and novelist. Do not read Killing Time, unless you are a huge fan and feel that your life would not be complete without reading a terrible book.. This is an obsolete science fiction novel that will frustrate you.

1 Star

Friday, June 10, 2011

The World According to Garp by John Irving

Garp was born by a self expressed asexual mother who does not want a husband. The details of his conception are only the beginning of his bizarre and action-packed life. This book spans Garp's entire life, and is splendidly comprehensive. The story has many wild plots, but they all have some truth that the reader can really connect with. The reader can truly see that Irving's frequent themes are used with his characters.

PS I have not seen the movie…..

4 Stars

Summer Pleasures [Second Nature|One Summer] by Nora Roberts

Both these stories were written with travel in mind.

SECOND NATURE. This is rather a long-winded tale of a magazine reporter trying to get into the mind of a odd best selling novelist while on a camping expedition. Sluggish, heavy, but I did have to finish it.

3 Stars

ONE SUMMER. A romance that could have been a pleasant cheerful travelogue that rambles all over parts of the U.S. capturing events and characters with a camera. Well written and thoroughly enjoyable.

3 Stars

Summer Blowout by Claire Cook

This is a cheery summer read. The kind of book that doesn't require you to devote a lot of time, or plot following.

Bella is having a hard time. Recently divorced from her husband, he is now going out with her younger sister. Upset to no end about this, Bella is ready to abandon any relationship plans for awhile.

Working in one of her Fathers hair salons at all times, she is a wonder at cutting hair and while there she meets a charming entrepreneur & even though they don't get along all that well to begin with they end up in love.

A fun little read that has some laughs, some arguments, and love. A great summer read.

4 Stars

The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

I have re-read this book because I picked it up at a book sale just so I could have it in my library. I think that I first read it in second grade. Summer of the Swans is what I consider realistic fiction for intermediate grade levels. This book is about Sara and her family and a very important summer for Sara. We get to know Sara very well as we see almost every aspect of her life and get to see her grow up a lot through the book. When summer starts she dislikes her brother due to the constant babysitting and the stigma. Her brother has autism and their relationship changes a lot especially when her brother gets lost in the woods looking for the swans. Sara comes to be more accepting and appreciative of her brother and the challenges he faces as well as the love and adoration he has in his heart.

5 Stars

Monday, June 6, 2011

Obama's BlackBerry by Kasper Hauser

My sixteen year old son gave me this book and I loved it. It was a hilarious break from my usual biographies I love to read. I loved the thought of Obama being a Trekkie and Renaissance faire devotee who dresses in chain mail. There were times where Obama was depicted as an egotistical jerk but truthfully if you had to deal with the group of jerks (sorry I mean politicians) he does in this book you might be a little egotistical too.

5 Stars

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life by Frances Mayes

Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life is a complete guide to Italian food and culture, but pretty tedious when it comes to Frances Mayes' life in Italy. Every boy she sees is described as someone who walked directly out of an Italian renaissance painting. All and all this book is just a romantic rendering of Italy.

2 Stars

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

This is the true story of a family unit that found a way to continue to exist and thrive under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The author records the development of their in-home business which is sewing, and in particular the determination of one of the sisters to work in spite of the threat her work creates. If you were not already familiar with the limitations placed on women during that time, you will be surprised at the barriers these women faced and overcame. Their willpower to thrive and help not only themselves but their community is inspirational.

5 Stars

The Civilized World: A Novel in Stories by Susi Wyss

Susi Wyss unites a great collection of stories with varying perspectives. As an American, it was very fascinating to read the rational depictions of foreign aid workers and how they are perceived by African citizens. These stories present Africa without the sensationalism, offering stories of day by day living. Even the writing itself is modest, attempting to simply describe what is, allowing the reader to fill in the blank spaces. These women feel very real and natural and I can picture them now, living their lives in Africa. The differences in culture between the Author and the women are evident but not as acute as some reviewers have made them out to be. I enjoyed these stories and thought they were wonderful.

4 Stars

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

Girl in Translation is the story of eleven year old Kimberly, and her mother, Ma, who emigrate from China only to live in a vacant; rat infested apartment building in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. Ma works an exhausting job earning measly pennies in her sister’s sweatshop. At first Kimberly is misplaced in the American school, but in time her brilliance shines through and she is sent to a private school for gifted students. During her school years, she hides the true depression that is her home life. Kimberly falls in love with Matt, another Chinese immigrant who works at the sweatshop, only to be separated by heartbreaking circumstances. It is a compelling coming of age story with credible characters and many heart-wrenching moments.

4 Stars

Friday, June 3, 2011

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

This was a swift and magnificently mouth-watering book. The characters were all very pleasant. Lillian's back story was presented in the first chapter, but then her character took the back seat to each of the other characters' stories but yet she was interwoven into each story. Each of the characters had a brilliantly created and multifaceted life.
The School of Essential Ingredients is a good book that shows how people can change your life.

Five Stars

A Turn in the Road by Debbie Macomber

This is the story of a road trip taken by a grandmother, an ex-daughter-in-law and granddaughter. The daughter-in-law has been trying to make a choice to reconcile or not to reconcile with her ex-husband. Her ex-husband has been adulterous, remarried and then divorced, and now wants to reconcile with his ex-wife because she has become successful on her own. I found the book monotonous and at time I felt I should just put it down (for those of you that know me you know that I never put a book down before I am done no matter how bad it is.) I was very disappointed and this is very unusual for me with anything by Debbie Macomber.

2 Stars

The Beach Trees by Karen White

The Beach Trees is a captivating and charming read. The family history that Julie investigates is a very intense mystery. Miss Aimee's story is gripping. The depiction of the Gulf Coast is extraordinary. I have always wondered why people chose to build, and rebuild, in the areas overcome by hurricane forces and now I recognize and understand the motivation. Karen White does a magnificent job in detailing the sights, sounds, and emotions of Gulf Coast life. I highly recommend this book for the beach and the pool.

5 Stars

World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

This book is geared towards children (ages 9 and up) but it just as touching for adults. It examines what will very likely happen if we continue over fishing and polluting our atmosphere. The writing is appealing and they even use comic strips to keep it light.

Not only does this book inform and keep a child’s attention but it gives direction of what we can do to turn things around and it really lets kids know that they can be the ones that make the most difference.

4 Stars

The Jefferson Key by Steve Berry

This book was very pleasurable. I personally loved the mystery and for the most part loved the history. I also enjoyed the geography. I found places in The Jefferson Key, where I have never visited, such as the pirates’ secluded coastal vicinity in North Carolina.

When I read a book, I usually finish within a few hours of starting therefore, I like a story to be fast-paced and this one hit the mark. In addition I learned a small amount of history and I was motivated to do some exploration of the area and plan a trip of my own after reading the book.
4 Stars

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

This book is one of the finest illustrations of real research and fictional story integration I have ever read. Usually when a writer has to do extensive investigation for a work of fiction, the book becomes bogged down with general facts that you do not really care about. Not so in this one... the plot was so enthralling I read it the entire book in two hours. The writer was very proficient at changing the point of view and using different voices for the characters. This book is more a multi-genre work as it uses prose, letters, essays, and poems to tell the tale of Brigham Young's 19th wife in the late 1800s and a modern-day murder mystery involving a 19th wife.

5 Stars

Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer

Heinrich Herrer steals into Tibet over the Himalayas after becoming bored and restless in an Indian Prisoner of War camp but instead of focusing on the suffering of his nearly-barefoot passage over the mountains in the winter, he instead focuses on fascinating descriptions of Tibet. Herrer was one of few European explorers not to come close to a developing country from an advanced position when he arrived in Lhasa, he had nothing but the clothes he wore, and his firsthand knowledge of the Tibetan people's kindness means his writing does not have the cultural typecasts common in the travel prose written at that time. His description of Tibetan people in its last days before the Chinese assault had me in tears.

5 Stars