Rainer Maria Rilke

"Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid you a thousand and a thousand times, and however your life may turn,-it will, I am certain of it, run through the fabric of your growth as one of the most important threads among all the threads of your experiences, disappointments, and joys."--Rainer Maia Rilke


Follow by Email

Pages

Friday, August 31, 2012

Little Pockets of Genius

Ford County:  Stories by John Grisham

Adult Fiction

This is a collection of short stories that revisits some of Grisham's best loved settings.  There is something for everyone in this book--humor, tragedy and lots of legalisity lawyering(what Grisham does best!)  This book is just as amazing as a 'regular' novel.  Grisham is one of those rare authors whose voice caresses in your ear as you read.  You can't help but hear his Southernness and trueness.  He has a way of making me believe each story really happened in real life, just as he saw it.  My husband listened to the audiotape and said it was absolutely amazing.  Since it was read by the author, that is easy to believe. 

Every story in this book is a work of the master.  You won't be disappointed if you're a Grisham fan.  The most affecting story is one about a lawyer.  He's just a regular guy with a job, a wife, and aq couple of kids.  Life is going fine until he is kidnapped ad forced to the face the reality of one of the cases he has argued against.  It's tragic and haunting and just so darned good!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

All's Foul in Love

Foul Play by Janet Evanovitch

Adult Romance

I chose this book because it was written by Janet Evanovitch and I love her Stephanie Plum series.  This, folks, ain't no Plum!  This was an early Evanovitch and it clearly shows (I believe it was originally written under another name).  The book doesn't have the hallmarks of her masterful writing skill, but it was still a fun read.  I found it inspiring, as an author, that great writers can show such growth and not come out of the womb a master author! 

The plot is rather convoluted:  Amy loves her job working in children's TV and is crushed when her show is replaced by a fortune-telling chicken.  Jake runs into Amy at the grocery story and is immediately smitten.  Before he even realizes what he's done, he's invited himself over to her house, paid for her grocery bill and given her another job!  The chicken comes to Jake's vet practice and is then chicken-napped. Naturally, everyone suspects Amy and it's up to the two love birds to clear her name.

The book was clearly a mixture of romance (mostly) with a little bit of mystery (very little) and a huge helping of pure silliness.  It was funny and fluffy and a good beach read because it didn't really require too much work or attention.  A cotton candy read!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pulling at the Heart Strings

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Adult Fiction

Charlie is an adult male with learning disabilities, perhaps mild or moderately retarded.  His burning desire in life is to learn and read.  He hears of a research experiment surgery that could possibly make him smarter.  Even knowing it might kill him, Charlie does it anyway.  The reader follows Charlie's struggles by watching Algernon, the mouse who had the surgery first.  Charlie uses him as a measure of his own success and possible outcome.  There is lots of symbolism if you're in to that sort of thing.

This book reminded me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just a bit. Two people circling around one another, prevented from making a true connection by circumstance, almost able to line up, but in fleeting moments..........The tone and voice of the book was masterful.  How the author switches from speaking as a mentally disabled adult to a near genius and then making it all sound so natural was incredible. It was a sad, but sweet, story. 

Warning:  This book comes with a sad ending, but of course the reader experts is all along.  It deserves the classic rating.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ghost Story Deluxe

44 by Jools Sinclair

Teen Ghost Story

With as many books as I've read, it's really hard to surprise me but I was absolutely floored in this one!  I thought I knew what was going to happen but I never expected the twist of the plot.

Abby Craig died in a frozen lake a year ago.  Then, she was saved.  Since then, her life has been different--she doesn't have all her memories, she can no longer see things in color and her former friends avoid her like the plague. 

Except for Jesse.  Jesse is still her best friend. 

Except now Abby wants more than a friendship.  And, Jesse doesn't.

Abby can handle all that drama but what's she really having trouble with is the visions of a serial killer that keep flashing in her mind.  When her visions start coming true, Abby knows she has to act before anyone else is killed.  But, how do you catch a killer you can only see in your dreams?

I loved this first book in the series and cannot wait to read the others.  The plot was full of twists and turns and I had a hard time putting the book down until I finished it.  It had the perfect amount of drama, romance and creepy--not too much on any one side and just enough of all three to keep it interesting. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

For Younger Readers

First Aid for Faeries and Other Fabled Beasts by Lari Don

Adolescent Fantasy

Helen's first love is music and she has little time or attention for her mother's veterinary skills until the night a centaur crashes into her life.  The centaur needs lots of help, and not just the medical kind.  He reluctantly enlists Helen to help him correct a mistake he made.  Helen teams up with the centaur, a shape-shifting selkie, a cranky dragon and a very Tinkerbell-like fairy to fix their mistake, the theft of an important book, before their parents find out, and before it falls into some very wrong hands.

This was a very clean book, absolutely nothing inappropriate in it so parents could hand it to a young reader with no fear.  It is probably best for elementary readers and would probably not be of interest to teens.  The British, or Welsh, setting was very new to me and enjoyable.  It seemed to be one of those books that could be read in any time---just a good, old-fashioned fantasy adventure story.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

He Never Disappoints

A Painted House by John Grisham

Adult Fiction

This is not a typical Grisham--not a law thriller or even a murder mystery.  Instead, it was my favorite type of book and a genre I'd not read from Grisham before--a dark family history.

The setting is rural Arkansas, 1952.  Seven-year old Luke Chandler has just one thing on his mind--baseball.  The only thing that stands in the way of his summer fun is the harvesting of the family's cotton crop, which means weeks of 18-hour backbreaking labor.   The family can't do the job alone and enlists the help of a migrant farm family and some Mexican immigrants.  This dynamic combination of personalities conflict almost immediately and soon one of them is dead and Luke is the sole witness.

Grisham's slow Southern drawl is evident here and reading this book is like meandering down a back country road.  Told from the point of view of the young boy Luke, that innocence makes the events of the story more horrifying.

Another classic from the master!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pirates of the Caribbean, Redux

Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton

Adult Fiction

Reading the first chapter called to mind the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.  And, it didn't really move much from there.  It is as fun a read as the movie but no better.  The novel is just a rollicking, fun romp, not too heavy on the demands of the reader.  Minus Johnny Depp, who I think we can all agree is really the best part.

And, that's what made it so darned disappointing.  This is just not Crichton's usual style.  Normally, I am hanging off the edge of each page, yearning to find out what happened next.   Not so in this one.

The setting is Jamaica during times of pirates and full of swash-buckling adventure (anyone know what a swash is and how it buckles--just curious).  Captain Edward Hunter, a little too similar to Captain Jack Sparrow without the black humor and oozy sex appeal, thinks he can pull off the perfect heist.  He enlists a crew's worth of misfits and bad guys and, well, pirates, and sets off to rob the most notorious pirate of all time of a prize that is almost unstealable.

This is just a complete beach read--total adventure, no mystery, no thrills, no real meat.  Sigh.  I miss Crichton and his classics.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome Back, Old Friend

Old Town in the Green Groves:  Laura Ingalls Wilder's Lost Little House Years by Cynthia Rylant

A Modern Classic

I can think of no better author than Cynthia Rylant to take on this daunting task: to write the story that is missing from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House Series.  There is some part of her life that Wilder never wrote about and Rylant tackles it here, fitting this story between On the Banks of Plum Creek and By the Shores of Silver Lake.  Rylant and Wilder have such similar writing styles that it felt as if I were reading Wilder again, visiting a long lost, but reclaimed, old friend.

The story concerns the missing years when the Ingalls family lost their farm and had to move around, finally landing in a town at a hotel as workers.  It was a dark time for the family, a time they all hated, which is perhaps by Wilder never chose to write about it.  The story also covers the death of Wilder's only brother, Micheal, who died as a baby and is scarcely mentioned elsewhere.

It was a bittersweet read for me.  So sweet because it called to mind reading that favorite series as a girl, and yet sad, too, to know this wasn't my familiar friend.  Sad, also, to see how the Ingalls family suffered so.  Reading this book was really like pulling a favorite old sweater around me, wrapping up and snuggling down for a quick, warm read.  It is wonderful, but short, and fully deserving to sit on the bookshelf between the other Little House classics.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Who Knew?

Abraham Lincoln:  Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

Adult Horror

Agatha Christie once said something to the effect that we are not what we seem.  That quote certainly applies here.  Who would have thought Abe Lincoln would have a dark side, a side so secretive that it has remained such a history mystery for all these years?  According to Grahame-Smith, Abe Lincoln was not the do-gooder prez we all thought but rather a cold-blooded vampire killer.

As a young boy, the death of Lincoln's mother affected him deeply.  When he witnesses her death by vampire, he makes it his life's work to kill every vampire he can. 

This book is such a hilarious concept and so clever!  I loved the way that real historical facts were written about but slanted in such a way as to make it seem totally believable that vamps were involved.  Who knows?  Maybe they were.  The appeal in this story is for the action and violence and uniqueness only--don't read if you want to know more about Lincoln.  I do wish a little more attention would have been given to the Civil War and Lincoln's relationship with his wife--those two events seem to call out for a connection that never happens.  In all, I thought the story was totally genius and I can't wait to see the movie--the trailers look creepy and vampy.  My husband is reading the audio-version and comes home every night telling me how amazing it is, so.......good read all the way around!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Not Quite 101

101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic......But Didn't by Tim Maltin and Eloise Aston

Trivia

I've been reading a lot of Titanic books this year due to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of that great ship so the title of this one really intrigued me.  Can there really be 101 things still unpublished, 101 things I still not might know?  Turns out, there can.  Well, close to 101 if not that exact number!

Keep in mind I am in no way a Titanic scholar but just a casual reader.  Even so , many of the myths in this book were well-known to me.  A serious Titanic-phile would probably know most of the content but for a casual trivia reader, there is enough to keep and capture your interest.  Many parts of the book were fascinating, casting new insight into the actual sinking.

The format of the book was interesting as well:  a common myth is shared and then the truth is revealed, with accompanying data to verify the authors' statements.  A lot of the data comes from first person accounts and reports and  this adds a unique perspective to the read.  If you like narrative stories, stay clear of this one.  This is strictly for trivia-lovers.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Third Time's a Charm

C is For Corpse by Sue Grafton

Adult Murder Mystery

Kinsey Milhone's third case is 23-year old Bobby, a young man she meets working out and has tremendous respect for.  He is obviously in great physical pain and recovering from a disfiguring accident, yet works through his pain.  Milhone is impressed and strikes up a friendship with the boy.

Bobby explains that he has amnesia and can't recall much of what led up to the accident, but he feels as if maybe it weren't an accident at all.  Was it an attempted murder or is Bobby still suffering some lingering mental affects?  Or, was Bobby right and a target for that someone to try and strike again?  Kinsey takes his case, more out of respect and growing romantic feelings for him as opposed to any real thought she might try and solve a case.

Except that just what she has to do-solve a murder.

Kinsey is a different egg and takes some getting used to. She isn't your typical PI or even your typical woman.  However, her obvious charms are growing on me and I look forward to each new letter of the alphabet.  I very much like this series and like that you can read them out of order.  The focus is on the crime and not so much on a continuing storyline involving the detective--a nice change of pace.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Not a Favorite by My Favorite Author

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Dytopian/Futuristic Adult Fiction

At first, it seemed as if the book were taking place far into the future but the truth (and plot line) was so strange that it made perfect, horrifying sense.

'The Snowman', or Jimmy as he used to be called, is serving as some sort of prophet for an indigenous people who seem to have a completely different reality than he does, almost as if they are from different planets.  Jimmy also seems to know the indigenous tribe's gods....like, personally.  It is these two gods, Oryx and Crake, and their history with Jimmy, that is the story here.  I know that is a bit confusing but, well, so was the book and to give more away would be to give too much away.  I did enjoy Crake's role in the destruction and resurrection of the book's society but that part comes so late, it doesn't save the read for me.

Atwood is one of my favorite authors and I was sad that I didn't enjoy this book one little iota.  I found it to be laborious and I was creeped out by Snowman.  It's hard for me to read a book when the narrator is so sleazy--I just couldn't identify with him at all.  The book was extremely lengthy and detailed and I have no plans of reading the others in the trilogy. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pretty is in the Eyes of the Beholder

Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shephard

Teen Fiction

Once upon a time, five little girls decided to play a big girl's game and one of them ended up the ultimate loser.  Hanna, Aria, Spencer, Emily and Alison are best friends and the worst kind of enemy--one who knows all your secrets.

At first, the book reminded me of the Clique series except every third word wasn't a brand name.  And, these pretty little liars play for keeps.  This is a story of bullying gone extreme, a Queen Bee (Alison) who pushes her BFF's until one snaps and the Queen winds up dead. But which of them is guilty of the deed?  All are too scared to say and all are secretly a little glad the Queen Bee, Alison, disappeared.  And, yet, if they had to be honest......their lives are not better for her death.

This mystery is so addictive!  The plot line develops slowly and had me guessing which of the other teens could be the guilty one (still haven't decided!) and what exactly happened to Alison on that fateful night and why!  In the end, everyone is a suspect-a move that would make even Agatha Christie proud.

I literally could not stop reading it once I started.  It is full of juicy gossip, teen naughtiness and unexpected plot turns.  In my opinion, completely inappropriate for anyone younger than a teen, I (as an adult) was enchanted and rushed straight to the second one in the series.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Geek Freak Fun

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

Adult Literature

Oly Binewski is a geek and a freak, by any one's definition.  (No, I'm not being politically incorrect.  Well, only as politically incorrect as the Binewski's are.)  Oly's parents engineered their children by partaking of a drug cocktail, all in order to keep the family carnival full of attractions and bringing in ticket money.  As part of the family tree, there's Arty, the flipper boy (born with flippers instead of limbs); Elly and Iphy, the Siamese twins; Chick, who can move things with his mind but who looks embarrassingly normal; and Oly, an albino, hunchbacked dwarf. 

Oly's biggest concern is that she isn't quite freak enough for her family and she spends most of her time ingratiating herself to everyone around her.  Her other time-consuming task is her dangerous hero worship of her brother, Arty.  While much of the book is a flashback, the other adult version of Oly is fixated on her daughter, whom she gave up for adoption and now stalks.

If you think this description is horrific, that's nothing compared to what actually happens in the story.  I enjoyed it but feel that isn't the right word.  Many parts are awkward and uncomfortable; much is hilarious and much is just tragic.  Don't get me wrong--I never feel sorry for any character as they never bemoan their own circumstances.  All boiled down, it is a tragedy as old as story-telling:  just a family drama with people we can't help being related to and whom we love both too much, and too little.

A weird, clever and creative read.

Monday, August 6, 2012

A Gift to Readers

Gift by Andrea J. Buchanan

Paranormal Teen

Daisy was born with a 'gift' that she's spent her whole life trying to hide--the manipulation of electricity.  Sounds cools?  Not when she is responsible for painfully shocking her loved ones and causing power outages all over town.

When Daisy saves a fellow student from a suicide attempt, even more strange things begin happening to her and Daisy has to figure out what connection these new paranormal events might have to her own freaky gift.  To make her life a little more difficult, an adorable boy named Kevin seems to really like her and she might just reciprocate--if she can avoid killing him first!

I really liked this book.  Of course, I'm a sucker for any paranormal tale, but this one captured my interest right away and kept it all the way to the very end.  (The end, by the way, has some very cool graphic elements via the voice of other characters from the book.)  This first one was definitely good enough to develop into a series.  The paranormal element is unique but  also crossed over into creepy and malevolent in places.  The plot was also quite original, no mean feat in today's overcrowded paranormal genre.

Truly, a gift to readers who like both the traditional and modern ghost story.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Best of the Summer!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Literature

I often get asked about the best book I've read lately, this summer, this year--this book fits all those categories!  I absolutely loved it.  It captured me from the very first page and never let me go.

The entire book is written in the format of a series of letters (how very Jane Austen!) but was written about the World War II time period.  Juliet is a writer who is looking for her next subject when she receives a random letter in the mail from a man in Guernsey who found one of her books.  He asks her for a simple favor and a long correspondence springs up between them.  Juliet is smitten with the story of the German occupation of this small island and the delightful people who endured through the war.

The books was so charming, so witty, so packed with the full range of what makes humanity so utterly delightful.  The sense of humor and warmth of the authors was woven into a masterful writing style and a beautifully crafted story that made for an incredible read!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

For Adults Only

The Girl Who Was on Fire:  Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games Trilogy edited by Leah Wilson

Collected Essays

One of my middle school student brought this book to me, absolutely disgusted with it.  "It's not about anything," he said.  While I don't agree with his statement, I do agree with his premise==it is not a book than an adolescent would enjoy, no matter how many Mockingbird pins they have have.  This is for an older reader, adults only.

It isn't that it's inappropriate, only not very interesting for your average 12-year old.  The book is a series of random essays written by other authors on various aspects of the Hunger Games trilogy story.  many of the essays are on expected topics like the love triangle of Gale, Peeta and Katniss; the governmental aspect and even how reality TV is warping out children.  From the list of titles, I thought the fashion essay looked ridiculous when compared to the other topics, yet I found it to be one of the most fascinating. 

The lesson here is two-fold:  don't judge an essay by it's topic and don't judge a book by the cover, especially when it is trying to capitalize on a popular series and movie!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Horror-Filled, Necessary Read

Auschwitz:  A Doctor's Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli

Memoir

Truly, a horror-filled read.

Nyiszli and his family were one of countless families who were bundled onto trains and shipped to Auschwitz for 'processing'.  He is separated from them, as it was the custom to remove the men from the women, the young from the old.  A split-second decision as he was disembarking likely saved his entire family from immediate death in the gas chamber.

And, yet, his story was not a happy ending.  Nyiszli had some pre-war medical experience and it is because of this he was saved.  He spent the remainder of the war doing autopsies of gas chamber victims and failed bizarre Nazi experiments. 

I've read many Holocaust survival books and stories but never one quite like this.  While he certainly had it a lot better than most, his tale was still an unbelievable and chilling read.  I was probably most disturbed by the clinical emotionless tone of the book.  His seemingly total lack of concern for the final outcome of his immediate family continues to puzzle me--one more senseless act of atrocity that can never be fully explained.