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


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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gifted

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

Adult Classic Fiction

Sometimes, rarely, you read a book and you know the author isn't skilled or masterful but gifted. Gifted in a way a virtuoso is, gifted in a way that can't be taught or bought, but only received through some divine blessing.  Such is Hurston and this book.  I have never read Hurston before and am so delighted to have discovered her.  What an absolute literary treasure.  It is a pity there are so few of her works.  I'll have to space them out so I don't exhaust them too soon. 

Janie marries first to escape from home to man picked out for her by her grandmother.  He was so much older and she found she had traded one kind of servitude for another.  It must be better to marry for love, she resolves.  Longing for that, Janie walks away from her marriage into the arms of a man who makes her a great many promises which he keeps.  She is a fine lady with nice things, held up on a  pedestal.  But still, Janie longs for love.  Finally, she takes for a lover a man twenty years younger who makes her wildly happy, wildy angry, and wildy sad.  Which of these choices is right?  Which is love?

Hurston is a true master of human emotions and can express in a few words oceans of what is unsaid and still understood by the human heart.  This is a book on women's right--and the unfairness of being a female in her time period.  I love that Hurston stays true to her voice, to the story, even though Janie's action are so difficult, so controversial, and yet, ultimately, so true.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More a Fizzle than a Spark

The Choice by Nicholas Sparks

Adult Romance

I am not a huge Nicholas Sparks fan so my review might not be to your liking if you enjoy his work.  I've read one book of this that I've loved, 2 or 3 that I've liked a lot and then the rest are kind of like this one-just okay. 

Travis and Gabby have absolutely nothing in common.  Travis is a good-natured goof, into sports and hanging out.  Gabby is focused on her life plan of career+marriage+family=happy.  Gabby's dilemma?  Stick with her boring boyfriend of several years or take a chance on love.  This book is about them before their courtship and then shoots straight to a decade in the future.  Travis has to face a major decision about their relationship.  That was a bit of a jump for me and really had me struggling to figure out what the heck happened and what is Travis so undecided about.  And, quite frankly, why does he even want to get mixed with up Gabby in the first place?  She's stuffy and demanding and irritating.  I was kind of hoping he found someone better.

It seemed liked Sparks was trying to make some grand statement about life, but I'll be darned if I could figure it out.  I do like the romance part--warm and fuzzy with a nice dash of sexy.  Overall, the book just fizzled for me with no Sparks.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Just Don't Get All the Fuss

The Maze Runner by James Daschner

Adolescent Dystopian

I really wanted to love this series.  I mean, it was on the NY Times Bestseller list, for Pete's sake!  But, I didn't love it.  I didn't even like it.  I kept waiting and waiting for the book to live up to its reputation, but it never did.  It started out weird and boring and stayed that way.

When Thomas wakes up, the only thing he can remember is his name.  He doesn't know where he is or who he is.  All he knows is that he has to escape.  The entire book had one setting and I found myself wanting to escape it, too.  Thomas has landed in the Glade, a sort of perpetually moving bush maze with flesh-eating monsters.  The why of this is never really explained.  It's not very clear why this manic need to escape is in the story or why they have to desperately search the maze every day or, well, the 'why' of hardly anything is explained.  What is the point here?  Is it in the second book?

It mostly reminded me of a modern day Lord of the Flies, another book I didn't love.  I just don't know if I have the gumption to sit through another book....I hope a lover of this series will step forward and tell me what I'm missing. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It Gets Better and Better

Blood Bound:  Mercy Thompson #2 by Patricia Briggs

Paranormal Romance

This is a very unique paranormal tale-not just another story where the main character falls in love with a vampire or werewolf.  In this book, the main character is ALSO a paranormal (a shape-shifting coyote) and falls is love with BOTH a vampire and a werewolf, or two.

In this second installment of the series, Stefan, Mercy's vampire friend asks her for a favor-to accompany him to the master vampire's house.  Stefan gets more than he bargained for and now he isn't safe, and neither is Mercy.  The paranormal aspects of this book get really deep as a demonic possessed vampire goes up against Mercy's werewolf neighbors. 

I really like this series.  It is the perfect amount of paranormal, adventure, mystery and romance.  My favorite part, though, is the romance with next-door neighbor Alpha-wolf Adam, who is competing with Mercy's feelings for her first love, werewolf Samuel.  The cheesy covers don't do the story justice as this series continues to get better and better.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Waverly Hills TB Hospital

With Their Dying Breaths: A History of Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium by CC Thomas

History
With Their Dying Breaths: A History of Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Sanatorium
The book I'm reviewing today is my own.  This story, the story of Waverly Hills, is one that has haunted me for years.  Not because of the haunted history of the place, but because the history is one that stays with you. 

When I first learned of the hospital, I was writing for a local newspaper and just went to do a piece on the infamous haunted house.  But, something about the place stayed with me and I wanted to learn more.  I started to do research and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  Kentucky's history with tuberculosis was so fascinating that I just couldn't get enough.  So much suffering and it wasn't so long ago---yet, hardly anyone remembered how tuberculosis devastated entire communities.  I read what I could get my hands one, which wasn't much.

And, that's how the book came to be.  It isn't so much a story of the haunted-ness of the hospital as it is about the lives that lived through it.  I tried to be as comprehensive as I could, which makes some of it a bit dry, but I thought it was important to include it all.

Now that I've written it, I find the story still isn't finished.  I have so many people telling me about other stories out there, waiting for me.  Stories from beloved parents, grandparents--many of whom were touched by the hospital and by tuberculosis.  I hope to tell their stories, too.  So, contact me if you have a story to share or know someone who does.  It's the only way that history will stay alive--if we keep the stories alive.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not My Favorite Plums

Plum Lovin': A Stephanie Plum Between the Numbers Novel by Janet Evanovitch

Paranormal Mystery

This is not the usual Stephanie Plum books I have come to love; it isn't a hard-hitting quirky who-dun-it.  As a 12.5 in the series of Plum books, it veers off the course into some type of quirky paranormal who-dun-it.  And, I just don't like these at all.

It isn't a bad series, but get a new main character, Evanovitch.  Make a new series and leave my series alone!  This series is taken.  Why doesn't the author just start something new instead of horning in on a series I already love and one that isn't paranormal in any way?

A strange man named Diesel shows up at Stephanie's apartment and he needs detective help.  Stephanie is kind of busy on a case so they trade favors:  he'll find her bounty if she plays Cupid.  The literal Cupid, who appears to be missing.  Stephanie is really having a hard time wrapping her mind around this new reality and I can't blame her--as a reader, I feel a bit that way too.

The only real similarity with the regular Plum novels is Stephanie's bumbling attempts to solve a crime, which is always a hilarious delight.  But, without Ranger or Morelli, a really important piece of the Plum pie is missing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My First Picoult, but Not My Last

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Adult Fiction

I really like this author's writing style.  It's my first book by her but won't be my last.

Ellie is a high-powered Philadelphia attorney who is having some personal issues and a professional crisis.  She heads to her aunt's home in Pennsylvania Amish country for some R&R.  Her vacation is interrupted when her aunt begs her to take on a new case--her niece and Ellie's cousin by marriage.  The cousin is an unmarried Amish teen accused of giving birth secretly and then killing the baby.

Their clash is apparent in every way-philosophical, cultural, religious, their views of women.  Their situations force them to face some hard truths about themselves.

You just don't know what going to happen or how it's going to end.  How can there be a happy ending to such a sad story and why did I even expect one?  This one is a mystery that keeps you gripped and, even though you know what's going on, you don't really know what's going to happen.  I hope all her other books are this good!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Historical Adventure!

Lost Rights:  The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic by David Howard

Nonfiction, History

The introduction to this book was so captivating, so masterful, so story-like, it's hard to believe such a tale actually happened!  Who says great adventures only happen in the movies?  I find the best ones are the ones from real life and this proves my point.

This is the story of one of the fourteen original  Bill of Rights.  There was one made for each of the thirteen colonies and one for the federal government.  The one for North Carolina was apparently stolen during the sacking of Raleigh at the end of the Civil War and was discovered/revealed decades later in Indianapolis hanging on the wall of a modest home.  Let the bidding begin!  But, who owns it?  The homeowner from Indianapolis or the State of North Carolina?  Or is it really the missing document from another state?

A cast of characters-both villains and heroes-inhabit these pages and are fit for any Hollywood screen.  The convoluted workings of tracing the who/where/what and why of this is so interesting and underling it all is patriotism and greed.  I love how a story such as this is so full of scandal and intrigue.  So much fuss for such a tiny scrap of paper!  This was a very interesting read with a very sobering ending.  I have definitely never read a book like this one.  If you like mysteries from history, be sure to check it out!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

An Appalachian Charles Dickens

The Legend of Tyoga Weathersby by H.L. Grandin

Adult Fiction

This author is an Appalachian Charles Dickens and that isn't necessarily meant as a compliment.  His command of the English language is masterful.  His descriptions are lush and effusive.  Yet, what the heck does he mean by it all?  I sometimes got so lost in the rocking, rolling cadence of Grandin's words that I forgot there was even a story going on.  It is more like a narrative poem than a piece of traditional fiction.

Tyoga is a boy/man walking between many worlds, most notably that of the white man and Indians of the Indiana and western territory.  The frontier is just starting to expand and open up and Tyoga is caught between these two very different societies.  Tyoga is a pioneer, raised as a neighbor and adopted son of a local Native American tribe.  One would expect social and cultural problems and there are many, but mostly with his adopted brethren as opposed to his white family that are never introduced or even referenced beyond the first chapter.  If this were such a struggle for Tyoga, wouldn't he mention his family at least once?  Tyoga also has a very strange encounter with a wolf and somehow their two souls merge together.  It isn't explained in the book much better than that.  There are the hints of a kind of love story, well two love stories, but Tyoga is so wishy-washy, he pretty much cheats on both of them, leaving a very bad taste in the reader's mouth.

The book was extremely sensuous and sexual in weirdly inappropriate ways.  I most certainly didn't love the story and found it extremely hard to connect with Tyoga or even relate to him as a human being.  In the end, I just didn't care about him and was hoping he would get eaten by some type of wild critter so a more reasonable/rational main character could take over.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Not What I Expected

God Is Not Great:  How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

Nonfiction

This was not the book I thought it was going to be.  I suppose I expected an atheistic rant against Christendom but it wasn't that at all.  And, I expected that because many of my Christian friends warned me not to read it.......which, naturally made me want to read it more as I am something of a rebel and don't like to follow any one's lead.  I like to check things out for myself and then decide. 

I'm glad I did.  The author does not specifically pick one religion but fairly discusses many different religions and some things they all have in common:  subjugation of women, wars fought on supposed religious grounds, ridiculousness of food practices (i.e. pork, 'Fish Friday', etc.).

I really liked this book.  It caused me to examine my own prejudices and long-held beliefs and ask myself the Why's of what I believe and practice.  There is a danger with this book--it will cause you to think and probably re-evaluate your own world views on religions that are different than your own.  You might be surprised to find how many commonalities there are more so than differences.

I sincerely believe this will cause no one to become an atheist but probably rather become a stronger proponent of their faith.  Any faith that cannot stand up to some examination isn't much of a faith, I find.  And, really, I believe that society focuses too much on things about religion that just isn't very important in the long run (example--month long Facebook rants about 'X-mas' takes the Christ out of Christmas, which of course is ridiculous as a learned Christian knows that the X is actually another marker, or symbol, of Christ from long ago).

It was very interesting but would probably be offensive to some ultra-conservatives.  Of course,they wouldn't go near it with a ten foot pole anyway just based on the title.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dame of Spooky

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

Adolescent Ghost Story

Hahn is the best adolescent ghost writer there is, and maybe ever was!  Her stories are always creepy, spooky and spine-chilling.  In other words, near perfect.

Florence is an orphan and is being sent to a new home, the house of a distant relative--her great uncle and aunt at Crutchfield Hall.  She hopes to find a better home or at least a small bit of affection but finds neither.  Instead she finds an emotionally distant but pleasant uncle, a hateful scolding aunt and an invalid cousin.  All of them seem to revolve around the absence of Sophia, a cousin who resembles Florence and who died a very grisly death.  Sophia was the center of the family before her death and she tries to use Florence to regain that power.

I am a huge Hahn fan this one certainly didn't disappoint.  It was very creepy and thrilling and made me want to sleep with my night light on.  Which I did.  And, I'm 42 years old if that tells you how creepy her stories are.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Movie Was Better

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Classic Fiction

I don't think I've ever said this before, but........the movie version was so much better than the story!  (I'm scowling as I type because I never thought such words would come out of me.)

Here's why the movie was better:  it actually explored the characters and invested in them as real people.  This short story only had caricatures of people at different ages in their lives.  At the time, the idea was perhaps clever in its focus on exaggeration but is so overdone now.  It does help to know that Fitzgerald himself was not overly pleased with the story, lamenting it was little more than an idea he roughed out. 

The main character, Benjamin, was loathsome to me.  He was not sensitive to anything in his life or even aware of his plight so much as just self-involved and willing to exploit those around him for his own personal amusement. 

The most affective characters were the minor ones--the poor, socialite wife who fell in love with an older man, sacrificed her whole life for him and then was abandoned with SHE got old.  Discarded like a scruffy pair of old slippers. 

While I tremendously admire and respect and love Fitzgerald's work, I will attempt to remember this story as the movie version rather than this rough sketch of an ugly life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

More Wicked than Lovely

Ink Exchange:  Wicked Lovely #2 by Melissa Marr

Fantasy

This is the second book in the Wicked Lovely series but there are new main characters and everything is so different that it probably wouldn't matter if you read this one first.  Which, is a problem for me since I liked the first one so much.  This one, not so much.

For those who are reading these in order, Summer King and Winter Queen are still around, but only as secondary characters.  Winter Queen's best friend is the main character in this installment (Leslie).  Leslie is a much more tragic character than Aislynn was.  Leslie's home life is full of alcoholism, abuse and even a rape by her brother who sold her for drugs.  She is on a spiral and sees getting inked as a way to salvage her sanity and control her own life.  A fey of the court, Irial, falls for her her and she can't escape his evil clutches, especially since her new ink ties to his emotional psyche.

I liked this one, just not as much as the first in the series.  It's darker and, well, a bit weird.  Kind of like an inked acid trip (I'm guessing this as I have never been inked nor on acid.) The book is very sensual and seductive but not really in a good way.  While the first in the series was more 'Lovely', this one was more 'Wicked'.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Forgettable

Intruders by Olive Peart

Adolescent Dystopian Fiction

Six teens in NYC decide to explore a cave in their neighborhood (there are caves in NYC--who knew?) and, upon entering find themselves transported in time to a future city.  When they get to the future, they can't figure out how to get back.

That's pretty much it for plot.  I honestly can't even remember the names of one of the characters.

This is a forgettable book, thankfully.  I really didn't like anything about the book.  It felt like an amateurish effort.  The apocalyptic future is never explained.  None of the characters seemed real, very cardboard attempts.  Their motivations and actions seemed stiff.  Their reactions and speech bordered on the absurd.  This was a book I couldn't wait to have finished.  It didn't even feel like a 'real' book to me, more like a rough draft. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

James Bond, In Training

Crocodile Tears: Alex Rider #8  by Anthony Horowitz

Spy/Thriller

Alex is growing up, getting both wiser and more cynical.  This book starts the same way they all start-Alex is hopeful that MI6 won't use him anymore and he can finally be a normal teenager.  After all, they promised.  Again!  This time around, though, Alex has to seek their help when an over-zealous reporter threatens to blow his cover as super-spy.  Alex is turning into a young man and his relationships are growing and changing and seeing this new aspect of him is a great lead into the next book in the series.

This book starts with a bang in the very first chapter.  It grabs you and doesn't let you go until the very last chapter.  I love this series!  I have since the very first one and I'm so glad I've stuck around because they keep getting better and better.  While you don't have to read these books in order, you don't want to start with this one.  There's too much water under the bridge so to truly appreciate the story and Alex's reactions, go back to the first one and start a new adventure.  You wont' be sorry.

These book aren't 'kiddie' in any way.  They have very mature plots, situations, decision and yet they are not inappropriate for younger readers.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Short Interlude in a Great Series

Billy the Kid and the Vampyres of Vegas:  A Lost Story from the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott

Fantasy

This is a short read in the series Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, a series that must be read in order.  Don't start with this one--it just won't make sense!

This series is one of my very favorites and these small snippets are so delightful.  They keep me sated whilst impatiently waiting for the next full installment.  Of course, there's that other part of me that wants to yell at Scott to quit teasing me with this stuff and get back to work on the full series!

Scathach, an ancient creature, and Billy the Kid, an immortal, team up, very reluctantly, to deliver Pandora's box to Scatty's arch enemy.  This enemy is also her greatest love lost--and the leader of the succubuths in Las Vegas.  Billy the Kid and Scathach are my favorite characters and watching them together in this story was a real hoot.  Sparks were definitely flying.  I loved the tension bwetween these two and see so many possibilities.....

Although it was very short, it was full of the very best of the series and good enough to be its own full-lenght story.