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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Friday, February 27, 2015

A Tepid Romance, At Best: Dark Side of the Moon by Sherilyn Kenyon

Dark Hunter #10:  Dark Side of the Moon by Sherilyn Kenyon

Paranormal Romance

I am reading this series on the recommendation of my neighbor, who keeps me fed with each new book in the series.  This is a good thing as I most certainly wouldn't buy them on my own.

In the beginning, I really liked the series.  It was fresh and funny, if a bit silly.  However, I am always one for a good story no matter the genre, so I hung on.  At first, I was disappointed.  The series continued to throw good plots and interesting characters my way, drawing me deeper into the fantasy world Kenyon has created with paranormal creatures in New Orleans.  After about the fifth book, though, the sparkle started to fizzle for me.  This book is definitely a limp fizzle.

The main character, Ravyn, is a shape-shifting cat who was adopted and rescued by Susan, a defunct journalistic reporter. She soon learns his secret and the two are on the run from creatures who want Ravyn dead and don't care who they kill to achieve their goal.

The story on this one was just okay.  The characters never really developed beyond the stock, cardboard characters and I found myself really not caring if one, or both, of them were casualties in the dark war in the book.  The romance between the two was tepid at best and I really couldn't wait for it to be over. 

I really hope my neighbor doesn't bring anymore of these to me.  I'm ready to move on.  Kenyon has lost her spell over me.  I'm looking for a new author to claim me.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Safe Read for Young Readers: Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman

Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman

Humor/Adolescent

If you're looking for a squeaky clean read for a youngster, look no further.  Radio Fifth Grade is a book that should highly appeal to boys in grades 4 or 5.  It's got humor, but not potty humor.  The kids are in control of the plot the whole time with no outside interference from adults.  There is a "bad guy" of a new teacher (who can't relate to that) and three protagonists who remind me a bit of Hermione, Ron, and Harry Potter.

One is a genius, one is a smarty (the girl, like Hermione), and one is a comic relief.  The three friends run a student radio show.  Their sponsor is the local pet shop and they have been given the task of "selling" a mascot on their show each week.  However, the non-talking parrot is giving them a bit of trouble so they are determined to teach him to talk.  Misadventures ensue and the trio has to keep their radio show afloat whilst dealing with a new teacher who's a bit crazy and a schoolyard bully who's a whole lot of crazy.

I didn't love this book, but wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to young readers, especially those who are bit immature.  It has some great messages and there's nothing in it that would cause alarm for any parents.  Even the bullying is handled is in a productive way.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Great Read for Any Age: The Badger Knight by Kathryn Erskine

The Badger Knight by Kathryn Erskine

Historical Fiction/Adventure/Coming of Age

I just loved this book!  Everything about it was delightful.  The book itself was an art form--the cover was captivating and I would flip to it often, mesmerized by the play of colors on the pale cheeks of the boy.  The pages had that deckled edge that I love.  The front page of each chapter was unique and designed in such a way as to feel old and put the reader under a spell.

Lest you think I am shallow and only look at the outer appearances, I will also say the inward guts was might fine as well. The writing was funny, so funny. The historical time period was fascinating and one I wasn't necessarily familiar with.  I had to run to my computer often to check out references.  It had a smattering of history, adventure, morality, and love.

Adrian is an albino living during a time when such things are considered the work of the devil.  He has a father who dotes over him to the point of being overprotective; a family that sneers at him; and a best friend who defends him against the town bullies.  Although he's small for his size, he's big in spirit and wants to go and fight in the war against the Scots.  His father nixes the idea but that doesn't stop Adrian.  Away he goes on an adventure that is rife with scuffles and near misses and sweetness and heartache.

I see the book has already won some awards and rightly so! A great read for any age!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Not Mull's Best Work: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Spirit Animals #1: Wild Born by Brandon Mull

Young Adult Fantasy

I really wanted to like this series.  I loved Brandon Mull and read anything and everything he's written since falling in love with his Fablehaven series years ago.  Alas, this was no Fablehaven.

In this book, four unsuspecting young people drink a magical elixir when they turn 11 years old.  Some lucky kids will have a reaction to the drink and a mythical creature, a spirit animal, will appear.  For the four main characters in the book, the spirit animals that have bonded with them are actually ancient legends who once defeated a great enemy named "The Destroyer" and they are back to smack him down in round 2.  (Sorry, but the whole plot just sounds a little silly so I lapsed off in WWF speak.)

I suspected before I read it that I might not like it.  I don't like the new Scholastic bent towards having a series of authors write in a series.  While it worked in the beginning for 39 Clues, all the other series have been pale in comparison.  Rather, they feel like a marketing attempt with no real attempt to write a good book for young people.

This book is just very okay.  There are too many characters in too short a space to care about any of them very much.  We don't learn their back stories or motivations in enough degree to follow or care about them.  I can't get a good picture of their enemy or his motivation or even the land they live in.  And, I suspect if Mull can't pull it off, none of the other authors in the series will be able to either.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Quirky Travelogue: Fugitives and Refugees by Chuck Palahnuik

Fugitives and Refugees:  A Walk in Portland, Oregon by Chuck Palahnuik

Travelogue

This is, by far, by favorite book by Palahniuk.  I've read several of his other books and they mostly confound and confuse me with some amazing literary skill creeping in at the edges of the weirdness.

This book is just straight up weird and doesn't pretend to be anything else.  It doesn't pretend to be high literature.  It's just an incredibly strange man writing about his love affair with an incredible strange city, Portland.  Because I write travel books and blogs and articles myself, I am always interested to read the travelogues of others.  While I wouldn't visit most of the places in the book, I found it to be a very interesting and funny read.  Most of the book focuses on gay bars and drug hangouts, which is maybe not the way to promote tourism but that isn't really the author's intention.  His intention is just to give a shout out to the uniqueness and quirkiness of Portland.  If you like smatterings of history thrown in with smatterings of fact and travel, you'll probably like this.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Sweet Story: The Ghost in My Pocket by Kevin Lee

The Ghost in My Pocket by Kevin Lee

Children's Ghost Story/Friendship/Bullying

Let me start off by saying I absolutely hate the front cover of this book.  Yes, I know the old saying and I know that makes me shallow but I find it to be off-putting.  It looks a bit childish and unprofessional.

Okay, I just had to get that off my chest because it was the thing that bothered me every time I picked up this book to read it.  However, once I got past the front cover, I found it to be a sweet, hear-warming story.

It's about a girl named Casey who has to move to another town so that her mother can receive medical care for some type of disease she has.  (I'm guess cancer although the book never says and I don't know why.)  Casey is awkward and shy, a bit chubby and had trouble making friends. Naturally, the transition won't be easy for her.  Those fears prove correct when she is the target of bullying at school.  She keeps a stiff upper lip and hope that someone will take a chance and befriend her.  While she's exploring her new home's attic, she finds a locket and discovers a ghost that is attached to the locket.  Casey's ghost becomes her new best friend.

This book isn't going to win any awards, but I found parts of it to be quite delightful.  I very much liked how the author put the young people's feelings front and center.  Because I read so much YA fiction, I find a lot of authors gloss over the small, daily disturbances of kids that can completely ruin their day or week.  It doesn't have to be one big incident where a kid gets shoved into the toilet.  The daily acts of being ignored cause a lot more damage and the author treats Casey with respect. I liked the relationship between Casey and the ghost and even her friendship with the class bully.  I did find parts of the book and dialogue to be a bit stilted and hated the ending.  It was just too unrealistic and a bit weird.  Overall, though, I think young girls would probably like the story and would like the main character.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Strange, and Not Pleasant, Read: A Good Man by Vanessa Morgan

A Good Man by Vanessa Morgan

Horror/Screenplay

I'm not quite sure what I was expecting with this.  It sounded interesting enough:  a vampire who is a vegetarian.  Hmmm.  How's that going to work?

The problem is, I didn't really find out.  The screenplay didn't really focus on the vegetarianism aspect of the main character.  Except he threw up every time he drank someone's blood.  While I normally read novels and knew there wouldn't be a lot of explanation involved, some type of dialogue would have been nice for the reader, or viewer, to know why he was so grossed out by his nature.  The main crux of the play really seemed to be the main character's betrayal of his best friends.  If the writer had stuck to that, it would have been a much better read.

If this were to be performed as an actual play, don't bother taking your coat off.  It couldn't last more than 15 minutes.  A strange, and not pleasant, read

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Disturbing Memoir: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Memoir

This memoir was quite a surprise for me.  I had read another of Walls's book and expected this one to be another light-hearted romp through the West.  What I found instead was a tragic tale of child abuse, neglect, and dismal poverty.

These aren't normally the types of books I like and I usually avoid them completely.  Generally, I find survivor memoirs to be full of pithy advice and sentimental inspiration.  This, though, was far different.  Walls makes no accusations against her parents, an alcoholic and a mentally disturbed mother.  Instead, she simply relates her experiences as they occurred and lets the reader gets furious and heart-broken for her.  I especially liked the section on her West Virginia childhood.  With family near that area, I can confirm the unbelievable poverty and I like that Walls treated the hill people with respect, rather than ridicule as so often happens lately.

If you like memoirs, you're sure to like this one.  There is no advice, but one is sure to get plenty of inspiration from hearing her tale.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

History and Hauntings Combine in a Perfect Mix: Ghosts of Old Louisville by David Domine

Ghosts of Old Louisville:  True Tales of Hauntings in America's Largest Victorian Neighborhood by David Domine

Nonfiction/Ghosts

I picked up this book to read because it had a section in it about Waverly Hills TB Hospital and, since I've written a book about that subject myself, I wanted to read more about it.  The section on Waverly wasn't all that great, but I'm probably a bit biased.

The rest of the book, though, was really quite good and I've had a great snow day sitting curled up by my fireplace reading about these beautiful and creepy haunted homes in Louisville.  Old Louisville and the Millionaire's Row is a favorite of mine.  I've attended several events there--gardening, art shows, parks, a Christmas tour--have eaten there and even stayed at a bed and breakfast there.  For Halloween, we once went on a haunted tour.  So, I was a fan before I even started reading.  And, the book didn't disappoint.

These are my very favorite kinds of books--ones that involve a healthy dose of history with a fun dose of paranormal.  I very much liked the author's writing style.  I like that he didn't get so bogged down in research and fact that he passed up good old gossip and hearsay.  In my opinion, those are where the best stories come from.

It is a book I can recommend to those interested in Louisville history, either for first timers or those who fell under the spell long ago.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Appeals to My Sweet Tooth: Taking the Cake by Lisa Papametriou

Confectionately Yours #2:  Taking the Cake by Lisa Papametriou

Adolescent Coming of Age

This YA series is really quite adorable.

The covers are fantastic and eye-catching.  The titles are peppy and upbeat.  The formatting of the book, with a recipes for unique cupcake at the end of each chapter, is fun.  What really sets this apart, though, is the solid storyline and plot.

Hayley and her family live above a tea and cake shop, the result of her parent's recent divorce.  In this installment, she is trying, unsuccessfully, to deal with her father dating a much younger woman.  And, her mother dating a man.  And, her ex-best friend who is purposely flaunting her burgeoning romance with Hayley's crush.  And, her guilt over letting Marco, an ex-best friend recently gained, copy off her math.  And, a stomach virus.  The stomach virus is the least of her problems.

The series if fun, light-hearted, but takes the serious moments seriously.  I love how it deals with adolescent woes and turmoils in a respectful fashion.  This series really appeals to my sweet tooth and I'll be coming back for more!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Blech!: Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Requiem for a Dream by Hubert Selby, Jr.

Fiction

I can hon
estly say this is the worst book I've ever read in my life.  Since I've read thousands of books, that is quite an insult, and one that is deserved.

I cannot fathom what other people see in this book to give it a higher rating than a one star and, honestly, I feel that's a bit high.

The plot:  four people who are addicted to drugs and the ensuing chaos and horror their addiction brings.

The formatting of the book drove me insane.  There aren't paragraphs or punctuation and the slang was so heavy and overdone, it made parts of it illegible.  If this is considered an art form, then my middle school students are all hugely gifted because none of them paragraph or punctuate either. 

Blech!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I'm Addicted: Ceremony in Death by J.D. Robb

In Death #5:  Ceremony in Death by JD Robb

Dystopian Mystery Thriller

Warning:  All book snobs need not apply. 

Recently, I was talking about this book series and a web acquaintance made a very disparaging remark about the quality of its artistic merits.  If you're one of "those people", stop reading now.  If, instead, you are a reader who loves a great read, full of action and adventure no matter the author or genre, welcome to my review.

I am a big fan of this series.  No, it may not have a lot of high-falutin' artistic merits, but it is one heck of a read.  It's imaginative and creative and the mysteries are really well done.  Since it takes place in a futuristic world, the normal realistic rules are discarded.  That makes it so much more fun!  I like the gadgets and gimmicks Robb has invented; I like this alternate world and these alternate characters; I like the space travel--I like it all.  The hot romance doesn't hurt either.

In this installment, Eve, newly married to Rourke, has been assigned to investigate a fellow cop, a veteran she knew who taught her much of what she knows.  She isn't keen on the case since it might mean implicating one of her own, but she has a duty to do.  And, Eve is nothing if not the dutiful cop.  Mix in the mystery with some witchcraft and Satanism and you get a dark, twisted read that will leave you on the edge of your seat to the last page.

Sometimes, as a reader, you don't have to live on a diet of vegetable of tofu.  This book is more like a piece of dark chocolate, unhealthy at best and sinful at worse.  I don't mind admitting I'm addicted.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Worthy of More Than 5 Stars: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's Key by Tatiana do Rosnay

Historical Fiction/Drama

This is one of those books that grabs you by the collar and adamantly insists that you shall have neither rest or slumber nor converse until you read every last tragic word.  So, unable to resist, I complied.  Happily.

This is the story of a reporter, mildly unhappy with her current life in Paris with a charming Parisian husband and precocious daughter. When she is assigned to write a story for an upcoming memorial event, though, her future unravels when she delves too deeply into the past of her husband's family.  Short summary, but I don't want to give any detail away.  It's one of those books where the plot leads you through it like the witch passing out candy bits to Hansel and Gretel in a dark forest.

There is everything to love about this book and about this story.  First, the history and historical characters brought to life.  While I like to consider myself something of an armchair historian, I had never heard of the historical event discussed in the book, the Vel d'Hiv round-up of Jewish family in France for deportation to extermination camps.  I love to read about World War II and Holocaust stories (that isn't as dismal as it sounds) and this book was unlike any I had read about this topic before.  I also loved the main characters.  Pure genius to tell one side of the story through the eyes of a child affected by the tragedy.  It made the writing so much more intense and personal.  I also really liked the other main character, the reported researching the story who goes through something of a mid-life crisis.

This was my first book by this author and I can't wait to go and see what else she has written!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Writing Was Scary, But Not the Story: Sarcophagus by Anthony Williams

Sarcophagus by Anthony Williams

Teen Horror

Usually, this is my favorite kind of book.  Action, adventure, a creepy monster, an enigmatic and historical artifact recently unearthed, a secret that didn't go the grave. These are my favorite kinds of books--I don't care if they're written for adults or young adults. If it's creepy with cool monsters, I'll read it.  And, this one had everything!  It had all the ingredients for success.

In the book, Jeremy has moved to a new house and new town during the summer. On his first day, he hooks up with the neighborhood weirdo and the two soon discover an unknown key in a clock and a mystery from a recently dead archeologist-type dude.  When they use the key to unlock the sarcophagus, the result is deadly and, if not stopped, capable of destroying life as we know it!

With all that set-up, what could have gone wrong? In this case, it was mediocre writing.  While the plot ideas were fantastic, the follow-up left a lot to be desired.  The characters were cardboard and barely likeable; the descriptions not nearly long enough tell me what I needed to know; the dialogue was stilted and often ridiculous.  It's in dire need of an editor...or a better editor.  With a bit more work, it could cross the line from mediocre to edge-of-your-seat thrilling.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Reading Stalker: Jack Reacher #4 Running Blind by Lee Childs

Jack Reacher #4:  Running Blind by Lee Child

Mystery/Thriller

For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Hollywood filmmakers decided to start the Jack Reacher series so far in (the movie was book #9, I believe).  This installment, book #4 was the best one yet and was definitely worthy of a film make.

I love the Jack Reacher series and my love for him (I mean the book!) just grows and grows with each new book I read.  Jack is a perfect main character--enigmatic, tall, handsome, free of troublesome baggage from his past, and a genius.  Real swoon-worthy material.  (Again, I am clearly speaking of the character.  I know Jack is not a real man.  I cannot be in love with him because that would be weird.  Because he isn't real.  Right?)

In this installment, Jack has been arrested for the serial killing of several women who he had once helped as an MP.  Not far into the nightmare, he discovers the FBI has no real interest in tagging the killings on him.  Instead, they want to use him to find out who the real killer is.  This is, by far, the best Reacher yet and one of the best mysteries I've ever read.  Reacher is one step behind the killer all the way to the end of the book and almost doesn't get his man. (See, I'm not in fictional love because if I were I would wax on and on about how great he is.) I loved watching him stumble and falter; I loved that he was wrong; and, I loved following the train of his thoughts because, even though flawed, they were so much more quick and clever than mine.  This book is a roller-coaster of suspense and intrigue all the way through.

Okay, I admit it.  I'm definitely smitten with Reacher.  He is one detective I can't figure out.  I don't feel comfortable with him telling the story because he is so emotionally unattached to everything going on.  It drives me crazy!  But, the right kind of crazy because I'm definitely coming back for more.  I know I can expect Reacher to blow apart my expectations each time I pick him up.  That's the only way this guy is ever going to be predictable!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Better Than the First in the Series: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave #2:  The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Dystopian Thriller

I was so delightfully surprised by this book!  I read the first one a while back and didn't love it.  I liked it well enough to continue reading and I am so glad I did.

This series takes place on a future earth where an alien species has targeted humans for extinction in a series of "waves" which includes disease, natural disaster, etc.  The main character, Cassie Sullivan, is a survivor and has unwittingly fallen for one of the aliens, Evan Walker who saved her life in the last book and is determined to save her life in this one.

If this were a simple love story about two different, star-crossed species, I would be hesitant to give it such a good review.  And, honestly, that's what the first book felt like.  But this one fractures into the storylines of many minor characters in the last book.  There's Ringer, Zombie, and more.  Each story is told with heartbreak and focus as if the series is about them instead of Cassie.  Maybe it is...there's one more to go, I think.

The writing is taut with tension and the story is told with a sense of tragedy and sympathy and pain.  This book really captured me in a way the first one didn't and I decided to blow off my Sunday plans in order to sit and read the whole book the whole way through.  It's a rare book that has that affect.  I'm looking forward to the next one and hope that Yancey can sustain his magic for one more ride.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just Solidly Okay: The Woman Who Loved Jesse James by Cindi Myers

The Woman Who Loved Jesse James by Cindi Myers

Historical Fiction

I originally got this book because I have always been fascinated by the story of Jesse James and that lawless time period in history.  My fascination wasn't a morbid one--I don't relish reading about the men he killed or banks he robbed.  Rather, I'm fascinated by a time period when such things were not only possible, but probable to men who perhaps saw no other way to live.

The character of Zee Mimms has always been interesting to me and I hoped to learn more about this "first family" of crime.  Unfortunately, I don't feel I have any better idea of who this woman was than before I started reading the book.  Granted, this was fiction, not a true story and little exists that might have told her motivations for waiting so long to marry Jesse and why in the world she would have chosen the life she did. Still, I felt very disconnected from the main character.  She didn't seem to understand her motivations any better than I did.  I have a problem with characters who just can't help themselves, characters who seem powerless to react in their own lives.  Since she understood herself so little, there was no way for me to understand her at all.

If you've never read a book about Jesse James before, this would be a good, soft place to start.  Most of the factual accounts you could probably read online, though.  My review perhaps lead you to believe it's a bad book.  It isn't--it stay solidly mired in the "just okay" category throughout.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Not the Gripping Adventure I Wanted: The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding

The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding

Historical Fiction/Realistic Fiction

I will start with what I loved about this book.  I loved the way it was written.  The words are measured and flowing and easy.  Reading it was no hardship and the prose seems to just take the reader like a stream carrying a leaf, bobbing along easily.  It felt as if this book were written decades ago and reminded me of my favorite classic authors, like Dickens. I loved the subject of whaling and the Arctic and eagerly gobble up any books on this topic.  It's such an alien, foreign adventure and I always love to see how people might have survived.

Now, for what I didn't like about this book which, unfortunately, is a longer list.  I wanted to read more about Cave's survival in the Arctic winter.  While there were a few harrowing descriptions, it wasn't enough for me to understand what he went through and what changed him so profoundly.  I also wanted more of a description of Cave's earlier tragedy, for the same reason.  I felt this area of the book existed solely in hints rather than enough detail to help me understand his motivations.  I also really, really didn't like the paranormal aspect of the book, although it was explained at the end.  I felt this cheapened the story and was an unwelcome intrusion on what should have been a quietly moving existence.

Overall, this book was never better than just okay for me.  I will say, though, that I thought the author wrote in a masterful way and I will be searching out other books by her.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Best in the Series So Far: Voodoo River by Robert Crais

Elvis Cole #5:  Voodoo River by Robert Crais

Mystery

I am a huge Elvis Cole fan.  I think he is probably my favorite detective and this is my favorite series, so perhaps I am a bit biased with this review.

But, WOW!  This is, by far the best one in the series so far.  I love it when a series gets better and better rather than petering out like a limp firework.

Elvis has been hired by a superstar who wants to know the truth about her biological family.  What Elvis uncovers is a multi-generational tragedy filled with racism.  I was just expecting your typical mystery--detective does a little sleuthing, a few surprises, a life-and-death struggle or car race, a neat and happy ending.  That was not the case here.  This mystery has more layers than an onion and each one gets more stinky and eye-watering. Elvis's skills and ethics are tested in ways he never dreamed of.  A love interesting complicates his tidy life and he walks into several situations certain he's going to his death.  Even the infallible Joe Pike was pushed to his limits in this one.

I cannot say enough about this series and, most particularly, this book in the series.  This is mystery writing at its very best, its very finest.  Cannot wait to read the next one!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Dashed Expectations: The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen

Realistic Fiction

Dash it all!

When I first read of this book, I could not wait to get it and read it.  I imagined myself spellbound, held captive by this fascinating period in American history.  I just knew I wouldn't be able to part with it and, after reading it, I would race to the library to continue reading about this fascinating subject.

The topic of the Spanish flu has fascinated since I wrote an article about it for our local paper, following a season of particularly virulent flu in our area.  I became fascinated with the topic and was shocked to learn how close this hit to my own family when my mother-in-law told me much of her own family had been taken as victims in the strain.  It isn't a topic that most people want to talk about and it was a topic that was very hard to research.  When I found a fiction book about it, I knew I would love it!

Rather what I got with this book was a big dose of World War I history with a smidgen of the flu thrown in.  The book is not poorly written or awful; it's just okay.  What makes my review so low is my dashed expectations after reading teasing trailers.  This is not a story of the flu--the flu epidemic isn't really discussed in detail until more than halfway in.  Rather this is a story about a lot of other things--socialist created utopian towns, labor and union violence, World War I draft and conscientious objector viewpoints, loyalists and patriots, German prejudice, etc., etc., etc.  There was so much going on in the book that it just became distracting and I started to care very little about what happened to any of them.  It isn't one tragedy but rather dozens of little backstories that didn't take me very far as a reader.  Most of the book felt like a dogpaddle in a flat pond--no real excitement.  This easily could be have a better book if the author had focused on one moment in time, one character, rather than a retelling of the whole scope of the era.

Dash it all!  I am still on the look for a good book about the Spanish flu...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Beautiful Gem of a Book: Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Historical Fiction/Realistic Fiction

It isn't often that I give a book the full "5 star" review, because I can't often find books that deserve it.  For me, a "5 star" book is one that changes me in some way, a book that causes me to think of the world and myself differently, a book that grabs me and won't let me go until I've read the last page.  This is one of those rare books.

Mudbound is the story of a family of characters in the 1940's.  Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters, and while the book starts off as the story of one character, it clearly and quickly becomes the story of a family and community coming to grips with a war at home and a war in their own community.  Laura is an aging spinster who feels her biological alarm ringing in full mode.  When she marries Henry, she is disturbed to discover her new wifely duties involve moving to a farm in the backwoods of Mississippi.  Soon, children follow and her in-laws invade.  Woven throughout is also the story of her neighbors, black sharecroppers who labor under the persecution of racism. 

The book was so beautifully written, each character so fully developed.  It seemed more as if I were watching their story unfold rather than reading a fiction account of one woman's imagination.  I can still hardly believe these people aren't, weren't, real.  It was a tragic story, as all good stories of the South are, and the ending will leave you both hopeless and hopeful.  A beautiful gem of a book!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Enough with This Woman!: A Catskill Eagle by Robert Parker

Spenser #12:  A Catskill Eagle by Robert Parker

Mystery

This was my least favorite Spenser yet.

It wasn't that the writing was subpar (which occasionally happens when successful authors rest on their laurels).  As always, Parker is a master with words and plot twists and characterization.  It wasn't that the story was boring or uneventful.  This one had me on the edge of my seat, just like all the others.  My major problem with this book is that I am starting to really dislike a minor character.  Seems petty, I know.

Yet...where is the Spenser I know and love?  He's yearning and hankering after Susan, again.  Wasn't it enough he tried to commit suicide in the last book by being shot, intentionally?  I can forgive that--who hasn't had a terrible heartbreak?  But, come one.  This time, he sacrificed his morals, his own life, and the life of Hawk (and others) to rescue this whiny, self-absorbed love interest.  Seriously,  I hope Parker kills her off soon.  I was so distracted by my growing dislike of her that it distracted from the book.

Regardless, I am addicted to Spenser so I will carry on.  (But, seriously, does she die or dump Spenser soon because that would really motivate me to read the series faster??)

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Color Me Purple with Embarrassment: Save the Cupcake by Lisa Papametriou

Confectionately Yours:  Save the Cupcake by Lisa Papametriou

Young adult/Coming of Age/Realistic Fiction

I really don't think of myself as a book snob but I did not have high expectations for this book.  Maybe because of the cover (adorable, but kind of juvenile and garishly purple)?  Maybe because I had acquired it so cheaply (a sale on Amazon for less than $3)?  Maybe because of the overall theme (while I am a foodie, really good foodie books are rare)?

Regardless, I was delighted to find that all of prejudices were wrong.  This was quite a good book, even for me, far outside the intended young teen audience.

The plot centers around, Hayley, a young girl whose life has been turned upside down recently.  After her parent's divorce, she has to move into her grandmother's apartment, which is just over the family tea room and bakery. Her mother is out of work; her father is dating a much younger woman; her friendship with her BFF's are crashing for various reasons.  What I really liked is that the author didn't handle these subjects in a condescending way, as some authors do with young adult fiction.  These problems were dealt with in a very realistic, but tender way.  I also loved how the ending just solved the major plot problem.  It didn't wrap all Hayley's problems up in a cute purple bow.  Certainly, there's enough left over for me to read book #2 in the series, which I already bought.  And, the chapters with recipes for cupcakes really didn't hurt.  I even plan on making some of them.

Overall, a good solid read.  Color me purple with embarrassment.