I hated to see this one end as I fell in love with the characters. In the first chapters you follow Fidelis Waldvogel from the World War I German battI hated to see this one end as I fell in love with the characters. In the first chapters you follow Fidelis Waldvogel from the World War I German battlefields, to his journey to America with only a suitcase of sausages and his master butcher knives. He lands in Argus, North Dakota, works for a time for Pete Kozka, always letting him know his intention to strike out on his own. This he does and the ensuing rivalry between the two is a story in itself. Enter two more well fleshed characters, Delphine Watzka , with the rock hard flat stomach that is used as a table by her friend and odd lover, Cyprian, a balancing expert with a traveling act. Add Ron , Delphine's hard drinking, poor excuse of a father with his own dark secrets, Step-and-a-half, the local rag picker, love, friendship, murder, and small town life as our nation recovers from one war only to lead into another, making this a story that is hard to put down. Erdrich blends her love of history and Ojibwa heritage yet again, in this saga. A bit long, perhaps, maybe too much story for one book, but still, the characters absolutely shine. A good choice for book groups. I haven't read an Erdrich book in a long time and was quite entertained by this one. ...more
Delightful book but couldn't imagine living with all these animals. Bob and his wife Linda bring new meaning to pet owners. Rabbits, ducks, geese, parDelightful book but couldn't imagine living with all these animals. Bob and his wife Linda bring new meaning to pet owners. Rabbits, ducks, geese, parrots, doves, turkeys; a whole gaggle of all god's creatures share a home with this couple. Great book to savor on one's own, not certain how it will fare for book discussion....more
Reading a Nevada Barr mystery is like coming home for me. It's comforting, you know what to expect and you're not disappointed. Endangered Species isReading a Nevada Barr mystery is like coming home for me. It's comforting, you know what to expect and you're not disappointed. Endangered Species is Barr all the way, National Park setting, murder mystery, a bit of romance, and a smart, strong, character in Park Ranger Anna Pigeon. This time round you'll find Anna in Cumberland National Park, Georgia. She's on a 21 day fire watch, hot, and bored. The boredom is short-lived when a plane crashes in the palmetto thickets and leaves the two person crew dead. Initial investigation points to murder and Anna's off and running once again to solve the crime.
Since the first Nevada Barr/Anna Pigeon mystery I read, Blind Descent, the series has become one of my favorites. I find no need to read them in order, choosing whichever park I'd like to visit through the eyes of the author. I can usually figure out the mystery but that doesn't make the read any less exciting for me. It's the location and what I learn about nature that make the book for me. When I get to visit Cumberland Island, I'll be on the lookout for alligators, chiggers, feral pigs, but most of all loggerhead turtles. ...more
I love reading a debut novel. I'm always hoping to find a new voice that I want to follow or a new author I can recommend to someone. Bill Floyd wroteI love reading a debut novel. I'm always hoping to find a new voice that I want to follow or a new author I can recommend to someone. Bill Floyd wrote Killer's Wife with the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader in mind. Floyd, like many others, pondered the question of how a person who appears to be an upright citizen, community member, and family man, turns out to be a serial killer who leaves death, despair and broken lives in his wake. Floyd's story gives us an inside look at what it would be like to be the wife of the killer, the woman sleeping beside him, the father of her child, the woman who only discovers his horrible secret when it's far too late. When Leigh Wren does find out what her husband Randall Roberts Mosley has done, she turns him into police and testifies at his trial. She and her young son flee their home on the west coast, adopting a new identity and new home in North Carolina. She is just beginning to put the past to rest when Charles Pritchett, the father of one of her husband's victims, finds her and blows her new life apart. Pritchett clearly blames Leigh as well as Mosley for his daughter's death and makes her life miserable by outing her in her new community and threatening her son. Add a copy-cat killer on the loose and you have a first rate thriller. I really like the way Floyd tells the tale. He does this in a series of flashbacks which give insight to the lives of Wren and Mosley, how they met, the early days of their marriage, the beginning of Leigh's doubts about Randall, revealing bits and pieces of each personality until we have a full picture in the end. Floyd nails Leigh's character right too. He does a good job of portraying Leigh's emotions, her sensitivity, and her voice, something not easy for a male author to do well. I particularly liked this passage: "Randy's name was all over the national media when the story first broke. Yes, he was that Randall Roberts Mosley. The papers always use the full name for assholes like him, a respect you never see granted to the victims. No, assassins and psychos are worth knowing by their full titles, but not the dead." Some critics feel the book's potential fell short. They saw the shifting back and forth in Leigh's story confusing and awkward. I do not agree. I found it very easy to flow with the story. A good read for true crime buffs, it explores the criminal mind almost too well. You can read an excerpt at http://us.macmillan.com/BookCustomPag......more
This book reminded me a bit of Atonement, different narrators telling the story and who knows where the truth really lies. Sally Beuman is an excellenThis book reminded me a bit of Atonement, different narrators telling the story and who knows where the truth really lies. Sally Beuman is an excellent story-teller and her use of the tarot to flesh this novel out was intriguing. Her descriptions of the abbey and Suffolk, England are very precise. A bit long, a bit confusing but all in all a good read. I definetly will go back and read another of Ms. Beuman's books....more
In the opening chapter of City of Thieves we meet David, who lives in Los Angeles and writes screenplays about superheroes. Realizing his life and wriIn the opening chapter of City of Thieves we meet David, who lives in Los Angeles and writes screenplays about superheroes. Realizing his life and writing career borders on dull, he decides to write a story about his grandfather's experiences living during the Siege of Leningrad in World War II. He flies off to Florida to interview his grandfather and here the story begins. David Benioff’s debut novel takes us on quite an adventure. The story's main focus is on two young men, Lev (David's grandfather) and Koyla, doing their darnedest to survive the coming siege. On New Year's Eve, Lev and his friends loot the dead body of a German paratrooper. Caught in the act by soldiers, only Lev is actually captured and imprisoned. Here he meets the wise-cracking Koyla. Both are certain their fate will be death. Enter The Colonel, the only one who can pardon them. He offers a reprieve if they can supply a dozen eggs which will be used to bake his daughter’s wedding cake. If they bring the eggs within the week, they will get back their ration cards. Without these, death is certain to follow. The quest for eggs is no easy task in Piter, where little food is available and the hungry are forced to boil the glue from books (library candy) or even worse, resort to cannibalism for sustenance. Koyla and Lev’s quest to procure the eggs is reminiscent of many a boyhood adventure. Think Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn or the young men in Richard Bachman's The Body. It even reminds me a bit of Street Boys by Carcaterra, in it’s depiction of the common people just trying to stay alive during war. Benioff’s writing is stronger, and the overall story is superior. It does not give the a detailed view of the siege but a fairly good picture of what it would be like to live in the future Saint Petersburg. Some of the violence made me cringe but this was redeemed by the humor and love in the story. I'm certain some readers will think parts of the plot improbable but that doesn't bother me; it's fiction, right? In fact, just that, the improbability, makes the story for me. David, while interviewing his grandfather,notes "A couple of things still don't make sense to me.” His grandfather's answer, "David," he said. "You're a writer. Make it up.” I had the pleasure to visit Russia this past June and recognized many of the places that were part of Lev's and Koyla's journey. The bitter cold of Benioff’s story reminded me why I didn’t visit in January. It always fun to read a debut novel. You get a hint of a promise of a writer’s worth and if the story’s good you eagerly await the next outing. I’m hoping David Benioff doesn’t keep me waiting too long....more
This is one you need to read for yourself. The story is narrated by Enzo, a lab-terrier mix and is delightful. It's not all happy but the overall effeThis is one you need to read for yourself. The story is narrated by Enzo, a lab-terrier mix and is delightful. It's not all happy but the overall effect is a feel good, imaginative novel. Don't miss it!...more
Our book group discussed this last evening. We felt Edward Ball was brave to tackle this topic, despite his unpopularity with his family and some readOur book group discussed this last evening. We felt Edward Ball was brave to tackle this topic, despite his unpopularity with his family and some readers. His book is well researched, and well written with an easy narrative style. Our group, very yankee and very white wondered how our discussion would have been different if we had a representative from the south and/or a Black American. The subject of slavery is never an easy one, bringing many emotions and unspoken, unresolved issues to the forefront. Edward Ball gave us much food for thought and a continued resolve to make freedom a reality for all men, women and children. We look forward to another book by this author. ...more
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was a book that always frightened me. I couldn't tell you why exactly, I just knew it did. It might have been somethiAlice's Adventures in Wonderland was a book that always frightened me. I couldn't tell you why exactly, I just knew it did. It might have been something about falling down the hole and not knowing what to expect and perhaps the fear of loosing control of my life. In Lisa Genova's Still Alice, this Alice begins an adventure she never planned on taking. Alice Holland, Harvard Professor, finds herself forgetting words, loosing snippets of time, etc. Initially it's possible it's just stress. After all she has a full schedule, teaching and presenting lectures. When the lapses continue, medical exams confirm a grim diagnosis, early onset Alzheimer's. Alice is in her early 50's. It's a story that made me squirm with uneasiness. It paralleled that feeling of falling down the rabbit hole; falling, falling, with no end in sight. Once I started it I couldn't put it down. What made the book for me is that it is told from Alice's point of view, much more poignant this way. It will make a great discussion book and is bound to be hand sold by its readers. I know I'm going to recommend it to a few friends....more
Some books are hard to talk about with giving away too much. Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care is one of these. Anyone reading a summary will get a feelSome books are hard to talk about with giving away too much. Jodi Picoult's Handle With Care is one of these. Anyone reading a summary will get a feel for the plot. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe have two daughters, Amelia and Willow and could be the picture of the average American family. But average they are not as Willow suffers from a rare, disfiguring disease, osteogenesis imperfecta, a disorder which causes bones to break easily. The story beings with Charlotte as narrator. “Things break all the time. Glass, and dishes, and fingernails. Cars and contracts and potato chips. You can break a record, a horse, a dollar. You can break the ice. There are coffee breaks and lunch breaks and prison breaks. Day breaks, waves break, voices break. Chains can be broken So can silence , and fever.” Picoult is the queen of metaphor and references to break and broken are peppered throught the book. As Willow grows and medical costs rise the O'Keefe's must find a way to foot the bill. If she files a wrongful birth lawsuit against her ob/gyn who did not tell her that her child would be severely disabled, and if they win the lawsuit, the resulting compensation would ensure Willow would get the care she deserves. It also means that Charlotte must say that she would have terminated the pregnancy if she’d known about the disability in advance. To add another element to her dilemma, the ob/gyn is not only her physician but her friend. Picoult twists this story every which way and that, almost too much for me. She puts the whole family, Charlotte, Sean, Amelia, the family of Piper (ob/gyn), the lawyers, both sides, plaintiff and defendant, the community, the whole lot, under a very powerful microscope and dissects them piece by piece. It can be painful to read. Jodi Picoult is my adopted author. This means I sponsor her books at my public library. I do this as I have been a fan since I read Plain Truth many years ago. Though in all I learned a great deal from reading Handle With Care, I wouldn't say it is Picoult's best effort. Without spoiling the story for others here are my complaints. First, I believe the use of single narration, each character, telling their story in solo chapters, has been overdone by Picoult. I want something new. There's way too much use of, for a lack of better word, gimmick. I didn't think I'd ever say that but for me, this tactic makes the whole less believable and satisfying. Her characters are well developed, almost too much so. And the plot twists; well, twists too much. Saying this I'll still give it a four out of a five star. I cared about the characters, some made me angry, some made me cry. I learned a great deal. The exploration of relationships is Picoult at her best. In the end I was left with lots to think about. The story will stay with me and I would like to discuss it with friends. So what's my problem? Perhaps my overall pique is is just being plain picky. What more do I want from a book? Perhaps you can tell, I'm compromised in my opinion, on the one hand this, on the other, that; left a bit unbalanced in the end. As I hold Jodi Picoult in high esteem, I want a little less gimmick a bit less analyzing of every angle with the end result being the sum of the fine storyteller Picoult is. Read Handle with Care for yourself and see what you think. ...more
Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches? by Mike O'Connor is one fun book. If you're a bird lover, it's a must. Since 1983, O'Connor has been the owner ofWhy Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches? by Mike O'Connor is one fun book. If you're a bird lover, it's a must. Since 1983, O'Connor has been the owner of Bird Watcher's General Store on Cape Cod and though I've been there I never realized he wrote. He really knows his birds and has answered thousands of questions about our feathered friends Cape Codder column "Ask the Bird Folks" What makes his answers shine is his unbeatable sense of humor and an all out passion for all things bird.
I pride myself on my bird savvy but Mike has me beat by a mile. Take for instance my belief, one shared by many, that baby birds that have fallen from a nest should not be touched by human hands in the belief the mother will abandon the baby. O'Connor maintains songbirds aren't in the habit of sniffing their nestling's. As for the one that cardinals mate for life, he dispels this myth, stating they might spend a year with the same partner, but life, this "gives us the impression that they spend years of bliss together until they retire to a cardinal condo in Ft. Lauderdale" (pg. 53).
I've got to give Mike credit as he defends some birds like the Blue Jay, who tend to get a bad, undeserved, he feels, rap. Complaints about them heard are that they are pigs at the feeder, they scare the cute little birds away, and that they eat other bird's eggs. Mike comes to their defense with lots of facts, and a laugh with this line "apparently some other birds have better PR agents".
From feed to feeder, birdhouses, birdbaths, and binoculars, identification, migration, fact and myth, this gem of a book will brighten any back yard birders' day. Read it and cheep!...more
I savored this one to the very end. It is one of my all-time favorite Chicken Soup's, a tie for first place along with Chicken Soup for the Couple's SI savored this one to the very end. It is one of my all-time favorite Chicken Soup's, a tie for first place along with Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul. Nature Lover's Soul has some wonderful stories, Goose Island in which Tom Lusk helps with the birth of a gosling, a really funny story about Abraham Lincoln's Birthplace, a poignant story by Heather Trexler Remoff about what makes Grace run. There's the story of Lee and her dying wish to swim with dolphins and a mom who lets the chores go to have a picnic lunch with her kids. Like the cover says there are stories here to inspire, stories of joy, insight and adventure in the great outdoors. I so much loved the story by Linda M. Hasselstrom from the book Land Circle called Bells in the Night that I bought two copies of Land Circle and have contacted her via email and made a new acquaintance. Frequently when I'm done with a Chicken Soup I'll either give it away or swap it on paperbackswap.com but not this time. It's a keeper!...more