Lest anyone make any mistakes, this is pop fiction, or chicklit with a brain. A huge brain, yes, which made it an enjoyable Saturday-morning curl-up-a...moreLest anyone make any mistakes, this is pop fiction, or chicklit with a brain. A huge brain, yes, which made it an enjoyable Saturday-morning curl-up-and-read book. But it's NOT Harry Potter, despite what everyone says; I will be honest and admit that neither is it Twilight, though it's much, much closer to the latter than to the former. It's fun, but it's brain candy, and the fiction writing feels amateur (the first paragraph of the book almost made me stop right there).
I'm not sure about this one. The stories are almost plodding, hugely unpoetic (which Nin herself comments in the preface), and rather disturbing. I th...moreI'm not sure about this one. The stories are almost plodding, hugely unpoetic (which Nin herself comments in the preface), and rather disturbing. I think I'm glad to chalk it up to experience.(less)
Let's be clear: Ulysses, this is not. But holy cow, The Fallen a fast-paced action-thriller, sort of an erudite (and written) Die Hard. Brains, brawn,...moreLet's be clear: Ulysses, this is not. But holy cow, The Fallen a fast-paced action-thriller, sort of an erudite (and written) Die Hard. Brains, brawn, blood, and a couple of babes who totally hold their own with the boys. Loved this.(less)
When a very old body and an even older gem surface in a bog in northern Germany, persons worldwide realize...moreFIRST LINE: "There's a dead guy out there."
When a very old body and an even older gem surface in a bog in northern Germany, persons worldwide realize they're the missing clues to the Tavernier stones, a lost cache of legendary jewels. Amish-born cartographer John Graf throws in his lot with scholar-turned-thief David Freeman in this modern-day treasure hunt. Together with David's gorgeous partner-in-crime Sarah, they race around the world. They don't know it, but they're up against a German Kommissar, a rival crook, and a penurious gentlewoman who bears a striking resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West.
MIDLINE You know when you find the perfect pair of jeans? It's when you try them on in the fitting room, checking from all angles, and realize, "Wow, these make my butt look amazing." That's how you'll feel about Tavernier Stones (more or less). Reading this book makes you look - and feel - amazing.
Let's be honest. I wouldn't have picked up Tavernier Stones on my own. I'd read the first chapter at Book Roast (RIP), and I'd ordered a copy in support of Stephen, a friend in our 100+ person writing circle. Still, considering I'm named after a YA fantasy heroine, I didn't expect to adore this one quite so much as I did. I inhaled it - reading time: 2 hours, 47 minutes.
Stephen Parrish, much like a snake charmer, coaxed me out of literary complacency with a novel of intelligence and wit (o, the wit; the startling humor!) As a lover of YA, I'm suspect of harsh, bitter writing. Parrish's writing can be mellifluous, almost poetic. He's not permanently jaded about the human condition, as evidenced by this early, poetic statement about John Graf:
His eyes stared frankly and uncritically, and if he made people feel transparent, he compensated by finding no flaws in their vitreous souls.
Of course, as a theologian, I'm suspect when religion garners mention on the book jacket. Parrish, however, dealt justly with the Amish faith and culture. As an intellectual, I'm suspect when mathematics code takes an entire chapter. Parrish keeps the pace going. The plot doesn't lag even in the chapters featuring pigpen cipher. Plus, I congratulated myself after I puzzled my way through the clues (with Parrish's omnipresent guidance).
I'm afraid one particular strength of this novel will be overlooked, because it's so seamlessly and naturally assumed in Parrish's writing: its organic feminism. For example, Parrish could have flattened Sarah (Smith) Sainte-James into a caricature pancake. (And the one character who is flattened - literally - defies gender stereotypes.) Instead we see, as Graf does, through to Sarah's potential. As she develops her own strength, she realizes this is who she could have been all along. I liked Sarah, by the end (despite the fact that she's responsible for the worst romantic choice since Jo picked Dr. Baer over Laurie.)
BOTTOM LINE If your favorite authors include Danielle Steele, Stephanie Meyer or Sarah Dessen, this is not a book you'd love. Everyone else will enjoy, if not devour, this fast-paced, carefully crafted treasure hunt. It's certainly gift-worthy, an absolutely perfect Father's Day gift, right down to the dedication Parrish makes to his daughter.(less)
Mina - Wilhemina - is a young, single mother who works at the Sheffield call center for car insurance. P...moreFirst Line: "Autocare Direct Motor Insurance."
Mina - Wilhemina - is a young, single mother who works at the Sheffield call center for car insurance. Peter is a Cambridge geography professor who's just crashed his car into a tree stump. They're both single, both parents. In America, this would be a definite One Fine Day type of hit. But they're not in America; they're in England. And the class difference between them is palpable, pronounced. Throw in Peter's colorful next door neighbors, Mina's deadbeat little sister, and three of the most fun children in literature, and you've got a full-on MIAM (Make It A Movie).
I almost hate to recommend Crossed Wires as a MIAM, so read it first before Thornton sells a screenplay. Thornton's writing is so cozy - the written equivalent of a roaring fire and the perfect pot of tea. She's speaks directly to those of us who grew up and/or raised children during Harry Potter. She makes Dr. Seuss references. She speaks directly to so many experiences - male couples who have lived together their whole lives but never clarified their relationship; parenting twins; scraping by on just enough money; reading in a university library. Your feeling is that she must have snuck into your brain and shared your experiences, so keen are her portrayals.
I waited to review this novel until the leaves started changing here in Colorado. Crossed Wires involves bonfires and New Year's and coats and boots, so it's not the best summertime read. As a fall read, it's excellent. Buy it if you're a romance (but not erotic romance) fan, or check it out if you're not - though you'll probably end up buying it anyway.
FIRST LINE: "There was snow on the ground when my time came"
Susan Rose is a lower-class maid in Victorian England. When she becomes pregnant by the lo...more FIRST LINE: "There was snow on the ground when my time came"
Susan Rose is a lower-class maid in Victorian England. When she becomes pregnant by the lord's son, she escapes to London where she finds work as a wet nurse, as her mother had done before her. She moves from job to job, as she's needed, all the while commenting to the reader in dry tones about the scandals of the higher classes. When tragedy strikes, Susan has to decide if she can continue the life she's chosen, or if she must return and do her duty by her family.
Erica Eisdorfer is a fellow Duke grad, yet she works for the trade bookstore on the campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. Just as Eisdorfer's loyalties are a little mixed up (ahem, Blue Devils vs. Tar Heels), so Wet Nurse's Tale, her first novel, is a mixture of well done and poorly done. In fact, the well done is so well done, it accentuates the poorly done piece all the more.
Susan is a lower class, illiterate character. She has to hire someone to write letters for her. And yet, the tone of this first person protagonist is that of an educated gentlewoman of poor means - a slightly randy Jane Eyre, if you will. To have Susan address us as "Dear Reader" completely throws us out of the comfortable rhythm of Eisdorfer's otherwise spot-on writing.
For any mom's group who's had the breast v. bottle debate, this is fun with an open perspective that won't invalidate either side; you'll want to buy it so you can underline the bits you like. For any mom who has breastfed, this is a humorous journey into nursing during another era. And for everyone else, it's a bouncy, well-researched piece of historical fiction that's neither sentimental nor hard-nosed. Check it out from the library, especially if you're a fan of Jane Eyre. (less)
In 1692, amid the Salem witch trial frenzy, Livvy Dane stands among the women accused of practicing witchcraft.
Three hundred years later, PhD candida...moreIn 1692, amid the Salem witch trial frenzy, Livvy Dane stands among the women accused of practicing witchcraft.
Three hundred years later, PhD candidate Connie Goodwin spends her summer in a small town near Salem, cleaning up and clearing out the rustic house that belonged to her mother’s mother. Along with overgrown belladonna and actual mandrake root, Connie discovers a key and a slip of paper bearing the name “Deliverance Dane.”
It’s coincidentally fortuitous that just as Connie needs a dissertation topic with a newly discovered primary source, her grandmother’s ancient belongings suggest that Deliverance passed down an original book of spells. It’s also coincidentally fortuitous that the first and only man she meets in Marblehead is a hunky steeplejack with intellect to match Connie’s own.
There seem to be a lot of coincidentally fortuitous happenings in Physick Book. I won’t go so far as to claim deus ex machina, but neither would I argue if someone else wanted to suggest it. If there are coincidences, Howe weaves them deftly into the story so that they (almost) seem natural. Other details are more forced, such as a reference to a huge cellular phone to emphasize the 1991 setting.
And while the plot machinations can be easily absorbed, less comfortable are the chapters in which, jumping back in time to the events of 1692, Howe writes in the dialectical speech of Puritan New England. Unlike, say, Jim’s speech in Huckleberry Finn, the Nor’easter dialect Howe depicts is confusing, gawky, and jars the reader out of the story.
Despite its foibles, I would call Physick Book a solid first novel. Howe’s own academic proweress (and snobbery) is evident (there’s a recurring joke about Cornell not being an Ivy League school.) And the thorough research is crafted into the fantastically accessible history lessons. The pacing is remarkable – 400 pages, flipping periodically back to 17th century Salem, and there was never a time I felt as though I could skip ahead, nor did I want to.
What strikes me most about the book, however, beyond its technical merit, is that it’s got a lot of heart. Not the mushy-gushy kind, but the subtle intimacies shared among women, between mothers and daughters, close friends, mentors and their students, and even women separated by centuries. Howe’s female characters are empowered and conscious of their voices (or lack thereof). This is feminism at its best, comfortable and in a natural, organically occurring state.(less)
I've decided not to write a review of The Red Tent because Dinah was (by choice) the topic of nearly every paper I wrote in seminary. My take on this...moreI've decided not to write a review of The Red Tent because Dinah was (by choice) the topic of nearly every paper I wrote in seminary. My take on this book is therefore way too multi-layered and complex for me to do a brief blog review. But - for everyone who's said to me "You haven't readThe Red Tent????" - now I have.(less)
I came across this book during a grab-Starbucks-browse-Barnes&Noble getaway from my children. An hour of drifting through the aisles, jotting titl...moreI came across this book during a grab-Starbucks-browse-Barnes&Noble getaway from my children. An hour of drifting through the aisles, jotting titles to add to my Paperback Swap wishlist, sipping a hot espresso truffle – heaven.
St. Lucy’s was sitting face-out on the shelf, and for better or for worse, I am drawn to books that I judge by their covers. This one features the illustration of a little girl in a white and red pinafore riding the back of a shaggy brown wolf. The girl’s pudgy pink hands pull at her short, unkempt hair. I knew how she felt.
The author of the collection of short stories is the rather beautiful wunderkind Karen Russell, who was 25 years old at the time of printing. I didn’t expect much, but having recently entered a short story contest, I realized how little I knew about crafting a short story. And how I really don't like short stories. With a penitent heart, I took the book home and began to read.
In the ten stories, Russell whisks us away to the darker side of the Florida Everglades and to the plains of the Old West and to an Eskimo ice cap. She lovingly presents characters grotesque and disturbing, who act in grotesque and disturbing ways. Families run theme parks for wrestling alligators or exploiting Giant Conch shells, brothers seek their sister’s ghost in underwater caves, orangutans perform at an ice rink, and, yes, wolf-like girls are reformed by nuns.
These stories may be surreal, but what’s far more astonishing is Russell’s magic with words. Russell unabashedly expects the best of the English language and refuses to settle for less. Her phrasing is orgasmic.
Now the thunder makes the thin window glass ripple like wax paper. Summer rain is still the most comforting sounds I know. I like to pretend that it’s our dead mother’s fingers, drumming on the ceiling above us.
I shadow the spirit manatees, their backs scored with keloid stars from motorboat propellers. I somersault through stingrays. Bonefish flicker around me like mute banshees.
Somewhere, an Avalanche is about to happen without us. Rangi must know this before I do, and the dead bear in eyes comes racing towards us across old snow.
And sometimes, if she sits long enough, it happens. Beneath the hum of her own blood, beneath the hum of the world itself, she thinks she can hear the faint strains of another song. It’s a red spark of sound, just enough to cast acoustic shadows of the older song that she has forgotten.
Words fail me to describe this book. I grasp at adjectives like “satisfying,” “complex,” “ bizarre.” Russell’s book is the reason the word “phantasmagorical” exists. I think about sucking your own blood from a paper cut or pouring salt on a slug. Reading St. Lucy’s is like drinking a glass of thick, perfectly aged red wine and being fully sated in both hunger and thirst.
This is a book writers should read, readers should read, adventurers should read. It’s not for the timid, but neither is it for the fearless. It’s for all of us who are in between.
SUMMARY (from BN.com) "Noe says, -I must build a boat. -A boat, she says. -A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought. -We'...moreSUMMARY (from BN.com) "Noe says, -I must build a boat. -A boat, she says. -A ship, more like. I'll need the boys to help, he adds as an afterthought. -We're leagues from the sea, she says, or any river big enough to warrant a boat. This conversation is making Noe impatient. -I've no need to explain myself to you. -And when you're done, she says carefully, we'll be taking this ship to the sea somehow? As usual, Noe's impatience fades quickly. -We'll not be going to the sea. The sea will be coming to us."
In this brilliant debut novel, Noah's family (or Noe as he's called here)-his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law-tell what it's like to live with a man touched by God, while struggling against events that cannot be controlled or explained. When Noe orders his sons to build an ark, he can't tell them where the wood will come from. When he sends his daughters-in-law out to gather animals, he can offer no directions, money, or protection. And once the rain starts, they all realize that the true test of their faith is just beginning. Because the family is trapped on the ark with thousands of animals-with no experience feeding or caring for them, and no idea of when the waters will recede. What emerges is a family caught in the midst of an extraordinary Biblical event, with all the tension, humanity-even humor-that implies.
MY OPINION CAUTION: SPOILER ALERT and PG-13 LANGUAGE ALERT I got this book from Paperback Swap several months ago and kept putting off because (I told myself) I had better things to read. Then, I accidentally listed on bookmooch as up for grabs. A very nice person in Israel wrote to me asking for it, and then when I ignored her (yes, I was hoping it would go away - sue me), she wrote a very nice letter explaining how badly she wanted this book.
So I scooped it up and thought I'd read it a little each night, and mail it to her within a week or so I expected it to be overly intellectual or to make fun of biblical stories or to simply be dull. Surprise.
This book is fantastic.
I finished it in about an hour and a half. I immediately regretted and didn't regret promising the book to the bookmooch person, and then I found it in overstock at Barnes & Noble for $4. So, yes, I'm buying her her own copy.
David Maine's voice is rich and vivid and honest and - how do I say this - embodies the feminist idea that God equally values both genders. The feats of imagination do nothing to dilute the tradition of the biblical story of Noah nor to take away from the meaning it holds for people who accept that faith as their own.
The chapters go back and forth between different characters (maybe Paolini took a note from Maine) without ever causing the reader to falter. Truly. The transitions are seamless, the plot intriguing, and then, all of the sudden, you're near the end of the book and you're crying.
Well, maybe you're not crying, but.....I am. Oh shut up.
The only downside to this story, I think, is there's a lot of "rutting" (a euphemism for "fucking") The reason I think that's a downside is that I think otherwise this would be a book that sophisticated middle-grade readers would enjoy, though it's obviously a book written for adults. It's one I highly recommend(less)