This book starts out in Africa with Agent Pendergast and his beloved wife, Helen, on a mini-safari. A German photographer is killed by a lion at a nea...moreThis book starts out in Africa with Agent Pendergast and his beloved wife, Helen, on a mini-safari. A German photographer is killed by a lion at a nearby lodge, and Agent Pendergast is called to the scene.
Pendergast, Helen, and a native guide go through the stand of Fever trees to hunt the lion down, as Helen is herself a formidable force with a gun. When the lion attacks, both Pendergast and their guide are injured, and Helen is dragged off after shooting at the attacker and apparently missing her target. Pendergast later finds what remains of her body and, in turn, shoots and kills the lion that attacked them.
Cue to 12 years later. Agent Pendergast is still mourning the loss of his wife when he sees that her gun, which he has kept meticulously preserved in a display case, has a spot of rust showing on it. As he takes it down to clean it, he opens the barrels and finds wadding inside: wadding that shouldn't be there. This means that she didn't miss her target when she shot at it - the gun was purposely rigged to shoot a blank round. Up to this point, Agent Pendergast seemed to have come to a sort of peace with his loss, but finding that his wife's gun was deliberately sabotaged shatters that illusion of peace. He then embarks on a cross-continent quest to find his wife's murderer.
Here is where I wish I had true writing skills. This book is a work of art, with evocative imagery and description that paints a true picture in one's mind of each setting and of all of the action therein. It is multi-faceted and multi-layered, with even side characters fully fleshed-out and brought to life. It is superbly read by Rene Auberjonois, who skillfully allows the listener to know exactly which character is speaking with his many voices. Even the side storylines are interesting and informative. I was especially intrigued with the storyline about Pendergast's ward, Constance, who is accused of tossing her child overboard on a sea voyage. If I could get more fully in-depth without spoilers, I would. This book provides everything that a literary hound looks for.
By the end of the book, we know that there will be another, hopefully equally as enjoyable, book to follow. Bravo to Child and Preston for a book that offers so much more than a mundane murder mystery.(less)
Some books just make you happy that you know how to read - this is one of them. From the op...moreThis review first appeared on my blog Knitting and Sundries
Some books just make you happy that you know how to read - this is one of them. From the opening paragraph:
***Until Miss Debbie, I'd never spoke to no white woman before. Just answered a few questions, maybe-it wadn't really speakin. And to me, even that was mighty risky since the last time I was fool enough to open my mouth to a white woman, I wound up half-dead and nearly blind.***
the reader is drawn in to the story of Denver, who grew up to become a sharecropper in Louisiana, hopped the rails, then ended up homeless in the streets of Texas.
"Miss Debbie" is the wife of Ron Hall, an international art dealer who grew up somewhat middle-class, with rural roots of his own. She is a good, Godly woman, married to her only love for almost 30 years, who does what she can to brighten the world around her.
Ron is just a normal guy (albeit pretty darn rich), who lets his wife 'drag' him into volunteering with her at a local food pantry/homeless shelter/mission. HE thinks that all he'll have to do is show up once a week, ladle out some food, and go home, feeling that his good deeds are done.
HER mission, however, is somewhat more complex. In the world of the homeless, she wants to bring friendship and light, not charity, and she is determined that her husband will do the same.
The two very different worlds of Denver Moore and the Halls intersect at this place, and the lessons in faith .. and friendship ... and loss .. and hardship .. all combine to create a story that will leave you emotionally drained at the end.
I must admit, however, that there is a section of this book where I found myself wiping away tears for many pages in order to continue reading.
This one is going on my keeper shelf. If you see it in the store, pick it up - you won't regret it.
But secretly, I hoped that once she actually rubbed shoulders with the kind of scuzzy derelicts that had robbed my gallery, Deborah would find it too scary, too real, to volunteer on East Lancaster. Then we could revert to doing our part by dropping off some old clothes or funiture - or, if she really found it tough to tear herself away, more money.
The campfires and camaraderie worked magic on Denver as he began to know what it was like to be accepted and loved by a group of white guys on horseback with ropes in their hands. Exactly the kind of people he had feared all his life.
"You was the onlyest person that looked past my skin and past my meanness and saw that there was somebody on the inside worth savin. I don't know how, but you knowed that most a' the time when I acted like a bad fella, it was just so folks wouldn't get too close." (less)
Having read and reviewed Gillian Flynn's "Sharp Objects", I was happy to receive this latest work from the author. I like dark fiction, mystery, and the odd bit of creepiness, and this newest title definitely fits the bill.
This novel is told in the first-person POV of Nick Dunne, interspersed with diary entries from Amy, his wife.
Nick was a successful magazine writer and his wife Amy wrote quizzes for magazines in New York. Life was good, especially because Amy also had a decent trust fund from her parents, two psychologists who are the writers of the "Amazing Amy" series of children's books, based loosely on their daughter's life.
Shortly after Nick loses his job, closely followed by Amy losing hers, Nick receives a call from his twin sister Margo "Go". Their well-loved mother is dying of cancer, and Nick decides, without consulting his wife beforehand, that they will move back to his hometown of North Cartage, Missouri to help Margo take care of her. Nick and Margo had always talked about opening a bar, so they borrow from Amy to do so, while Amy ends up being the one sitting with their mother during her treatments, with nothing to do and no friends.
On the morning of their fifth wedding anniversary, Nick receives a call from his neighbor. His door is wide open and their cat is sitting on the porch. Nick arrives to find a scene of disorder, with a heavy ottoman overturned and other signs of violent struggle throughout the house. Worst of all, his wife is missing.
This is a story of the dark side of marriage and humanity. Ms. Flynn is a talented writer, expert at drawing a mental picture that so perfectly chills the reader: "There's something disturbing about recalling a warm memory and feeling utterly cold."
With most missing-person cases, close family are the immediate suspects, and Nick finds himself followed closely by the two detectives assigned to the case. Following the clues left by his wife's anniversary "treasure hunt", we also suspect Nick, even while he voices his innocence. Amy's diary entries only add to our suspicions, as we follow the trail of a marriage gone cold, filled with dark bursts and suspicions.
When I wasn't reading this book, I was thinking about it. When I was reading it, it was difficult to put down. I was drawn in from the first page, and totally transfixed thereafter. This is a brilliant piece of psychological writing that will have lovers of dark fiction wishing there were more pages.
This one will definitely be on my "Best Reads" of 2012 list. Pick it up; you won't regret it.
I simply assumed that I would bundle up my New York wife with her New York interests, her New York pride, and remove her from her New York parents - leave the frantic,thrilling futureland of Manhattan behind - and transplant her to a little town on the river in Missouri, and all would be fine. I did not yet understand how foolish, how optimistic, how, yes, just like Nick I was for thinking this. The misery it would lead to.
These messages and orders brought to you by my father, a mid-level phone-company manager who treated my mother at best like an incompetent employee. At worst? He never beat her, but his pur, inarticlate fury would fill the house for days, weeks, at a time, making the air humid, hard to breathe, my father stalking around with his lower jaw jutting out, giving him the look of a wounded, vengeful boxer, grinding his teeth so loud you could hear it across the room. Throwing things near her but not exactly at her. I'm sure he told himself: I never hit her. I'm sure because of this technicality he never saw himself as an abuser. But he turned our family life into an endless road trip with bad directions and a rage-clenched driver, a vacation that never got a chance to be fun. Don't make me turn this car around. Please, really, turn it around.
He came home from work and kissed me full on the lips, and he touched me as if I were really there. I almost cried, I'd been so lonely. To be kissed on the lips by your husband is the most decadent thing.
In the videos, I wore clothes Amy had bought me, and I brushed my hair the way she liked, and I tried to read her mind. My anger toward her was like heated wire.
"...why are you so wonderful to me?" He was supposed to say: You deserve it. I love you. But he said, "Because I feel sorry for you." "Why?" "Because every morning you have to wake up and be you."
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 5 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: Some profanity
Book Clubs: Definitely a great pick - there will be lots to discuss as you move through the book and the direction of the story and the feel for the characters change.(less)
Phoenix Island is billed as young adult, but this cross-over debut novel is one for any reader who loves action, nuance, a character-driven plot (yes, in SPITE of all the action) and rooting for the underdog in the face of overwhelming odds.
Carl is the orphaned son of a police officer, a championship boxer who finds himself in a string of foster homes, moved from state to state, until, at 16, he once again beats up a gang of bullies and faces the end of the line - a stay until he is 18 years old - at Phoenix Island, a seemingly military-style boot camp for troubled teens.
Once Carl arrives at Phoenix Island, he finds that it is an isolated place outside of the United States, surrounded by a forest populated by wild pigs and shark-infested ocean waters. In spite of his resolution to remain "invisible" and to stay out of trouble, he manages to catch the ire of a particularly vicious "drill sergeant" named Parker as well as a group of gangbangers. Eventually, he runs across a secret journal written by a former teen "soldier" that makes him realize that the suffering he has experienced and seen done to others is only the tip of the iceberg.
If, as a reader, you think to yourself, "Well, thrillers and action aren't really my cup of tea", think again when it comes to this book. As I read, I experienced so many emotions - the enjoyment of a story well-told, agony at the unfairness of the situation Carl and his new friends find themselves in, knowing that some of the things portrayed really happen and not being able to hop into the pages to make it stop. Your heart will absolutely drop in places. When you meet the Old Man, Commander Stark, you want to like him, and blame everything else on some misunderstanding, just like Carl does, but as a reader, there is foreboding in these pages - you just know with a sinking, creeping feeling that all is not as it seems.
I fairly FLEW through these pages, filled with a moving motion picture in my brain of the island, the kids, the sergeants, the commander, and the mysterious doctor at the "Chop Shop". The book is totally engrossing, rolling along at a clip that had me looking at how many pages were left and regretting that I was so close to the end.
I've seen this one compared to Lord of the Flies and to The Hunger Games by some. For me it brought to mind the horrors of The Island of Dr. Moreau totally revamped with modern technology and world domination fanatics.
This is an absolutely stunning debut novel - one that would be a fabulous ride for almost every reader. With room left for a new installment, I sincerely hope to see more of Carl, his friends, and even creepy Commander Stark.
You are all orphans. Why had they taken only orphans? He thought of the kick he had received, the rough handling of Davis. He glanced around. Here they were, on Phoenix Island, somewhere outside of the United States and its laws. We're as dead to the world as our parents, Carl thought. These people can do anything to us.
. . . teachers told you bullies were insecure and cowardly, and, sure, some were. But guys like Decker, guys who got that look in their eyes, were neither insecure nor cowardly, and they weren't acting out for attention. Guys like Decker were confident and tough and mean to the core, and they hurt people because they liked causing pain.
"He considers himself a musician of pain. A maestro. Pain is his piano, and the victim's nerves are his piano strings." Great, Carl thought. I threatened to break his nose.
Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4.75 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: Probably not for you; portrayals of violence and implied violence.
Book Club Recommendation: Yes; depending on whether all book club members can take a grim and gritty portrayal of a camp filled with teens subject to horrid conditions (less)
In real life, Emilie du Chatelet, married to one man, long-time mistress and friend of Voltaire, gave birth to Stanislas Adelaide (Lili), child of yet another of her affairs, at the age of 43 and died 6 days later from a sudden illness. Lili died before her second birthday.
This novel is a fictionalized account of Lili's life had she lived, growing up with her godmother Julie de Bercy, who was in the house when Emilie died, pregnant with her own daughter Delphine. Her father pays a living stipend, but never visits, and her progress is monitored by her father's sister-in-law, Baronne Lomont, a strict adherent to society's protocols.
Lili is loyal, questing, and intelligent in an age when female intelligence and knowledge is still an affront to a proper society - a society where only the working class, not nobles, pay taxes, and she is shielded from the knowledge of her true parentage and her mother's scandalous life.
Lili's scientific mind and refusal to simply "be satisfied with being ordinary" are at the center of this novel. In her search to find her mother's story, she finds herself as well.
QUOTE: "I've tried to explain to her that her intelligence was charming on a girl, but not in a young lady. I've told her more than once that no man of quality will choose to marry someone whose head is buried in a book all day and every time she insists she'd rather have the book than the man"(less)
Tara, whose husband Sam recently died in a car accident, teaches at Hunter High School, where her daughter Grace is also a student. Her best friends are Noelle, a midwife who also runs a babies-in-need program, and Emerson, whose daughter Jenny is also Grace's best friend.
The three women have been besties since college, and Noelle delivered Tara's baby. When Noelle commits suicide in the cottage she rents from Emerson, she leaves many more questions than answers. When Tara finds a box with thank you notes and baby pictures, she also finds an unfinished letter of apology with a shocking written confession. As she and Emerson try to puzzle out who the letter was meant for, more secrets will be revealed, and they find out that they didn't know their friend as well as they thought they did. Her secrets lead to an explosive and heartbreaking discovery, and the power of friendship and the idea of family is tested.
I was drawn in to the unraveling mysteries in this novel. Written around the themes of motherhood, friends, family, and loss, the multiple POV's and flashbacks help us unravel the story of Noelle, who for me was the most interesting character in the book. Even though what Noelle did was something that every mother fears, her reasons for it are complex and driven, and we find that she has lived with this guilt for so long because of the love she felt. Nothing can excuse what she's done, but as a reader, I could feel the pain that caused her to do so, and actually felt a few twists of my heart as I read about it.
A solid and intriguing read that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning, The Midwife's Confession is perfect for the reader who enjoys mystery, family drama, and friendship.
If you have a friend, I pondered, a good friend, a woman you love, and you learn she's done something abominable, do you stop loving her?
It was good she had done this, she thought. Yes, she'd betrayed on of her closest friends and she knew that would haunt her, but she'd needed to do it to let Sam go.(less)
In 1994, nine Honors Literature students were chosen to attend the class "Unraveling a Literary Mystery" at Jasper College. The class was to be distance-taught by Dr. Richard Aldiss from his home at the Rock Mountain Correctional Facility, where he is serving time for the 1982 murders of two female Dumant University graduate students. There was no pre-published syllabus, and no one, outside of Aldiss himself, knows what the class will entail.
Paul Fallows is a reclusive novelist. No one knows his identity, and his books have spawned an intellectual game called "The Procedure", where the players must reenact scenes from Fallows' novels perfectly. The Procedure can happen anywhere, at any time, without any warning.
The class assignment: Find Fallow's identity to find the REAL killer.
Alex Shipley, a former student in the class, one who was instrumental in freeing Aldiss from prison, is now a well-known Harvard professor, involved in a ho-hum relationship. Another former student, Dr. Michael Tanner, who became the Jasper College resident modernist, is found dead in an apparent copycat of the Dumant murders. Alex is called in by the interim dean at Jasper, Dr. Anthony Rice, who asks her to talk to Aldiss. Is she to talk to him simply to get his take? Or is he the killer? If he IS the killer, was he actually really innocent of the previous murders? Did she help free a killer to kill again?
As the 7 remaining students (another former student apparently killed himself a few years ago - or did he?) gather for Michael's memorial service, Alex finds herself suspicious of all of them. Could one of them be the person who murdered Michael?
Dominance fluctuates between past and present, with many mysterious references to The Procedure long before this reader could figure out what The Procedure actually was - this is not a bad thing, as it was a sort of quest to figure it out. Aldiss - what an interesting character to read - he reads like Hannibal Lector (only without the "ummm ... brain is tasty" part). He is very intelligent, and very creepy. The book itself is rather a puzzle or even a maze - with many doors to open and corners to turn while reading. It will keep you on your toes, and both past and present are equally interesting.
From what I've read, Mr. Lavender calls his novels "puzzle thrillers" - not quite thrillers OR mysteries, but a blend of both. I would say that this description is very appropriate. I was totally drawn in to this story (although frustrated a bit at not knowing for a while what The Procedure was), flipping pages almost as fast as I could read, wanting to know what happened next or who the killer was in each case. Were they the same person? THEN, towards the end, it started reading and feeling almost like Friday the 13th or Scream (the original ones where the tension is so high and you have no idea what's going to happen next, but without the blood and gore) - the bad guy/girl keeps popping up - but is it the same villain or different ones or is is more than one working together? - just a nail-biting type of read.
This title was my "Fave of the Week" when I read it. If you like thrillers, mysteries, intellectual mysteries ... if you like a book that makes you feel as though you're solving a puzzle - this is the one for you.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy): You have to believe that I had nothing to do with what is happening now in that house. And also know this - Alex's eyes ran over the rest of the notes, and when she saw what Aldiss had written next, her breach caught in her throat. -the Procedure has begun. Everything they say, everything you hear could be part of the game. Trust no one.
Alex opened her mouth, wanted to say something, to tell her mother that this morning she would go off to a place she had never been, would board an airplane for only the third time in her life with someone who was still a stranger to her, and together the two of them would try to solve a twenty-year-old mystery.
"Is there any way Aldiss is innocent of the Dumant murders, Dr. Locke?" Locke laughed. "Impossible," he said. "That man killed those two girls."
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 4 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4.75 out 5 stars
The Knights Templar, thought to have been disbanded in the 14th century, are alive and well - reborn with a military hierarchy as an arm of the Vatica...moreThe Knights Templar, thought to have been disbanded in the 14th century, are alive and well - reborn with a military hierarchy as an arm of the Vatican. Their new mission is to defend mankind from supernatural threats and enemies.
Knight Commander Cade Williams, known as "The Heretic", is head of the Echo Team, a highly specialized unit whose members each have unique "gifts". Cade had been a highly-decorated Massachusetts police officer and a member of Special Tactics. An attack that left Cade disfigured and his new wife dead changed the course of his life and left him with the gift of psychometry (divining facts through physical contact). His personal mission is to locate and destroy the entity he calls "The Adversary".
When a Templar commandery is attacked, leaving all of the Templars there dead but without bullet wounds, Joshua Michaels, the Preceptor for the North Atlantic region, put Echo Team in charge of the investigation.
As one, then another, commandery is attacked, it is up to Cade and his team to find out who and why and to put a stop to it.
This novel is billed as "urban fantasy", which kind of had me knitting my brows. It is a rather unique blend of fantasy, horror, and even paranormal. For those who aren't familiar with the Templars, the author quite nicely takes the time to briefly but thoroughly explain their history and hierarchy near the beginning of the novel. It is rather fascinating, and, if you're like me, you'll be online Googling for more information.
The bad: There is a prologue that isn't fully explained in the novel. I "kind of" think I know who is involved, but at the end of the novel, I still wasn't certain. There also could be a bit more character-building (but that's just me; most of the book is centered on action, which usually doesn't leave a lot of time for character-building).
The good: Everything else. There is a lot of action, some surprises, a group of evil sorcerers, corpse hounds, revenants, mystery, and wonderful tension-building scenes. I fairly flew through the book, and, in many places, had no idea what the next turn of the page would bring. Unlike many first-in-series, the ending is a satisfying one - it closes up many important threads of the story while still leaving room for more to come. Cade is an unlikely protagonist, wrestling with his own demons while attempting to fulfill his Templar duties, and when the two lines cross, watch out!
If you like a touch of horror and paranormal, mixed with fantasy and adventure, pick this one up; you won't regret it.
Cade thought about his impulsive decision to use his Sight while in the Preceptor’s office and of the resulting flash of Power it had shown centered around the new man’s hands. It would be interesting to see how the other men in the unit reacted to Duncan’s unique gift when they learned about it.
The air is heavy with impending rain and the electrical tension of the coming storm. In the slowly fading afternoon light the shadows around him stretch and move. He learned early on that they can have a life of their own. He avoids them now.
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 3.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: There is a blood sacrifice scene. (less)
Laney looks 16, but is quite a bit older .. you see, she does not age normally. She also has remarkable abilities - the ability to heal and the abilit...moreLaney looks 16, but is quite a bit older .. you see, she does not age normally. She also has remarkable abilities - the ability to heal and the ability to foresee numbers. The latter ability makes her very valuable to the men who forcibly took her from her father at a young age and have held her ever since.
Now she has escaped them, and in her new life as Julie Miller, an 18-year-old, she finds herself in Marion, Virginia, where she meets a boy named Austin Dorsett, and gets a volunteer position at a local hospital.
Can she keep the men who are after her from finding her? Why is she so attracted to Eli Ellsworth, a senior doctor at the hospital? What are the hazy memories of when she was first abducted trying to tell her? Are there others like her?
As Laney tries to live her new, normal life, is her past is catching up to her? Will she be able to outrun it, or is she placing her new friends in danger as well?
There were some editing issues, although, as a whole, they didn't take too much away from the story. As this is a YA book, I was somewhat taken aback at the physical relationships that seemed to move far too quickly for me. Although an explanation for this eventually appears, I would have felt more comfortable if it had appeared earlier.
I loved this plot concept, and Laney's character (known as Julie through most of the narrative) was compelling. I loved her instinct for healing, even though it meant that she had to take the pain of the sickness she was healing inside of her for a while; the selflessness she showed in doing so was wonderful and endearing. As this is the first in a planned trilogy, I think we will see a bit more character development in the secondary characters; I never really understood how the "bad guys" came to meet Laney or her father or how they knew of her abilities - these are two things I'm looking forward to finding out.
All in all, I liked this read; although it didn't grab me from the start, I eventually found myself pulled into the plot and felt so much sympathy for Laney and for the life she had been forced to lead.
As with all of the YA books that come in for review, I gave this one to Not-So-Bebe-Girl Autumn to read, and she blew through it in less than a day. She said, "Well, she's a pretty fast girl" (speaking of the physicality), but she also said, "I understood more later, and I really liked it ... can I loan it to Jasmine (her bf) to read?", which is high praise, since she only wants her friends to read the books that she really likes.
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Not-So-Bebe-Girl Autumn's Rating: 4 out of 5 stars(less)
I have a rather testy relationship with memoirs. Most I find to be either a flagrant lapse into "other-blame" (my mom was horrible to me; thereby I did coke) or a dry recounting of events that don't feel as though they actually happened to ANYone. Other times, the "self-promotion" factor becomes too much for me - I feel that if you're really THAT great, you don't have to toot your own horn - others will do it for you.
So why read a memoir about a weight-lifting, steroid-shooting hulk of a guy that I have nothing in common with? I read other good reviews ... I'm still trying to get over my love/hate relationship with memoirs, and I figured, "why not?"
For the first few pages, I asked myself, "why", as I plunged right into the middle of a scene with no prelude and a dizzying march of events. Then I got past that first section.
This is an extremely well-written account of a dorky, bookish Jewish guy from Prospect Park stumbling into a college just to do "something", seeing an Apollo of a dorm-mate who offered to show him how to bench, and finding out that simply pumping iron wasn't enough to get him the kind of body that would get the girls.
Another lifter introduces him to 'roids, and the bulk starts to pile on. His taste in steroid cocktails is further refined when he meets Angel, a caramel god who carries a boatload of cash and has girls falling all over themselves to get to him.
We are participants in a spiral and can easily see how slippery a slope it becomes once you allow yourself to be caught up in the false glam and admiration that money and muscles get you. Especially when your father has been both physically and seemingly emotionally absent, and you have a mother that could have used the benefit of today's illuminating grasp of the nature of bipolar disorder.
I've never been a hormonally-addled, skinny Jewish kid who girls never take a second look at, but the writing in this book makes even ME see how that kid felt.
Is it a guy book? Definitely, BUT it also gives us women insight into the male psyche that we might be lacking. After reading this, we might just understand what happened with that 'first, crazy love' that went off the rails. If you are a parent, it might help you understand the kind of thinking that makes your young adult veer off the rails, no matter how well-raised.
Would I recommend it? Yes; I definitely would.
As a kid long used to the quirks of his own company, I never fully grasped how the experience of reading Dickens was enhanced by playing "Free Bird" at jet-plane volume, or how a nap before dinner was much facilitated by the clangor of Molly Hatchet. As near as I could figure, the purpose of such behavior was to prevent anyone else from doing his work, such that all grades would suffer and flatten the curve, raising a C-minus paper to a C plus.
It's hard when you've had so little of it in life, to place much stock in joy: the giving, and getting, of route-going pleasure and a sudden, home sense of connection. But you wake up one morning with a woman lying next to you who, even in the dishevelment of sleep and sweat, causes your heart to hump, and you lay back down and, for the first time ever, think those tall words I'm happy.
,,,cocaine plus steroids equals crazy. Not goofy ha-ha-crazy or Syd-Barett-on-acid crazy, but crazy as in fight four cops barehanded - a black-diamond run to deep dementia.
Book Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sensitive Reader: Although there are few GRAPHIC sexual scenes contained in the book, there are rather vivid descriptions of debauchery and sexual content that might disturb you.(less)
Meet Cora Crowden, NOT so full of the Christmas spirit, who lives with her cat Skippy. She's worked at Sorenby's for the past five years, and is in se...moreMeet Cora Crowden, NOT so full of the Christmas spirit, who lives with her cat Skippy. She's worked at Sorenby's for the past five years, and is in search of a suitable present for her uncle. She walks into the Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad bookstore, where the gentleman behind the counter seems to mysteriously know exactly which book will fit the bill; he has it in his hands when she walks in. At the bookstore, she also runs into Simon Derrick "Serious Simon", her boss's boss. also there to purchase a book for a family member. Like Cora (even more so), Simon never socializes with his co-workers, and leaves directly after work, never having attended a single office Christmas party in Cora's recollection.
As each return home, they find tickets to "The Wizards' Christmas Ball" in their respective purchases. There's no contact information, but the ticket does state that it is sponsored by the shops on Sage Street, a street that almost no one seems to know of. Cora definitely isn't going, but Simon's sister Sandy, a sweet almost-24-year-old with Down's Syndrome, sees HIS ticket, with a picture of people dressed in 'princess' dresses and wizardly outfits, and convinces Simon to take her.
Cora finds out that her cat Skippy, who is never outside alone, has unexpectedly given birth to kittens. When Sandy visits Simon at work, Cora meets her and a new home for at least one of the kittens is guaranteed. As Sandy visits the kittens with Simon and other family members, a tentative friendship is formed.
Cora, who is a Christian, has a horrid family that she is lucky enough to have gotten away from. Simon, also a Christian, took over as "man of the house" after the death of his father, and lives with his extended family, including his Grandpa John, Aunt Mae (John's sister), his own sister Sandy, and his mother. Can two people from such divergent backgrounds find something in common? Will Cora make it to the ball after all?
This is a sweet tale with hints of magic - perfect for a light, romantic Christmas read. For those who don't think magical elements belong in a Christian story, the book itself provides an explanation that works well.
"Simon's never mean now. He grew up." Sandy paused, and with concentrated effort, winked her right eye. "I won't grow up. It's an advantage I cherish. A gift from Jesus."
"Oh yes, I know. You're too kind and generous and forgiving to actually say something negative to your mother. But you don't fool me, sister. You got too holy to say those things, but you still think them. And don't think I don't know enough about the Bible and God to know you're still guilty. If you even think something bad, you're crispy critters. Guilty as charged - thinking nasty things about your mother and your sister and the rest of your family. You might as well give it up, Cora Belle Crowder. You're no better than the rest of us once the paint peels off the banister. "
Originally posted on my blog, Knitting and Sundries (although this review has an addendum):
I was immediately drawn in by the picture of Alice being hu...moreOriginally posted on my blog, Knitting and Sundries (although this review has an addendum):
I was immediately drawn in by the picture of Alice being hustled through the airport and into the sweltering Indian heat on her first visit to meet her new Indian relatives-by-marriage. Most of us have or know someone with an overbearing mother-in-law, and I think those issues are doubled, if not tripled, when you add in the cultural differences between groups like Americans and Indians.
As I read, I could feel Alice's frustration, her husband Ram's ambivalence and all of the interplay that exists when two women each want to run things. Amma's visits to her son's house in America are fraught with tension, although there are some close moments with Amma and Alice throughout the book where you think that all things are now settled and they've become at least contented with each other.
I enjoyed this book, although there were some rather abrupt transitions throughout. My fondest wish would have been to see the characters come to life in full flesh a bit sooner and to have more background info on the major players. This is a debut novel following some extremely well-received volumes of poetry, so I kept that in mind as I read, as the flow of poetry is often a bit fractured for effect.
All in all, it is well worth a read, as it reads quickly and is light enough (even with the subject matter) to make for a good summer reads book. I did, however, feel a need to take points off for the abrupt transitions and sometimes surface sketches of the characters and action.
Addendum: After I read my own review (which was written without much sleep), I realized that it did not fully convey what I felt about this book. I do not want this review to read as though the book is not well-written; the abruptness I reference only appears in the first half of the book; after that, the book flows smoothly and the story and characters come more fully to life. I could not have enjoyed it otherwise. (less)
It actually took almost a month for me to finish this book. That is a VERY long time for me .. but it wasn't because I didn't love it. Other review commitments with firm dates kept dodging in; it's a pretty big book; and .. well, it's the type of book you don't rush through.
It's not a complicated read. It's a book that you want to savor. I found myself thinking once, "It's like dipping your finger into a chocolate fondue made of words."
Even though I kept getting sidetracked, I kept this on my living room table (the home of THE book I most want to read at the time), and every time I opened it, it was like meeting an old friend. As I slipped right back into the river of it's softly flowing pages, it was as though I'd never left. There's a classic writing style at play here (think Jane Eyre) that makes you feel almost as though you should be reading a great historical fiction novel, even though it's in a contemporary setting.
It begins and ends with The Mud Man.
Raymond Blythe is the tragically deceased owner of Milderhurst Castle, He was also the author of The Mud Man, a favored children's story. We start the novel with an excerpt.
Edie is the main protagonist, very literary, who works for an indie publisher. Her love of books began with The Mud Man.
Edie's mother, Meredith, receives a letter from a bag of mail that a postal worker failed to deliver 50 years ago. Her reaction to the letter, even though she attempts to cover it up, isn't lost on her daughter. When Edie finds out that her mother was one of the English children sent to live in the countryside with strangers at the beginning of the war, she resolves to find out more.
Enter Milderhurst castle, where the three Sisters Blythe still reside.
Persephone (Percy): There was something fundamentally broken at the heart of Percy Blythe, something queer and defective and utterly unlikable. That she should contemplate, even for a second, the ease with which she might deprive her sister, her infuriating, beloved twin, of happiness.
Seraphina (Saffy) and her dreams: The wireless would be her only companion, and she'd pause in her typing throughout the day to listen to the weather reports, leaving briefly the world she was creating on the page to gaze through the window at the clear, smokeless London sky.
And poor, doomed Juniper, the youngest: Away from the castle, away from the world of Raymond Blythe, the terrible things he'd told her, his seeping guilt and sadness, she was free. There'd been none of her visitors in London, there'd been no lost time. And although her great fear had followed her, the fear that she was capable of harming others, it was different here.
There's mystery, and madness. Suicides, murder and secrets. There are surprises, both good and bad, and betrayals, and seeming-betrayals. There are lost loves, and graspingly mad possession. When you think you have a mystery figured out, it turns on you. When you say to yourself, "Ah! NOW I have it!", you find out that you don't. And you won't ... almost to the very end.
This book was so wonderfully-written that I don't have the words or the space to do it justice. Buy it and read it.
I was sunk then by the sense that I knew everything and nothing of the person sitting next to me. The woman in whose body I had grown and whose house I'd been raised was in some vital ways a stranger to me; I'd gone thirty years without ascribing her any more dimension than the paper dollies I'd played with as a girl, with the pasted-on smiles and the folding tab dresses.
Juniper understood why people referred to it as a fall. The brilliant, swooping sensation, the diving imprudence, the complete loss of will. It had been just like that for her, but it had also been much more. After a lifetime spent shrinking away from physical contact, Junper had finally connected.
Percy's chest ached. She steeled herself against the pull of sentiment. She didn't want to remember the girl her twin had been, back before Daddy broke her, when she'd had talent and dreams and every chance of fulfilling them.(less)
First sentence: I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid.
August (Auggie) is 10-year-old born with a cranio-facial abnormality that, in spite of who he is inside, makes him stand out in a crowd.
This is the story of his first year in school, told in the first person through various viewpoints - Auggie, his sister Olivia(Via), her boyfriend Justin, her friend Miranda, and Auggie's friends Jack and Summer.
I love how this story is told in a realistic, "that's just the way it is" fashion - even Via, who is a teenager, pretty much rolls with the fact that most of the attention goes to Auggie - with all of the surgeries that he has had, that's just to be expected. She's always stuck up for him, and never, until this first year of her going to a new high school, felt at all ashamed of his appearance.
Auggie? Well, he's just a great kid - a Star Wars fan, an XBox-playing, joke-making, pretty smart little dude who loves his family and their dog Daisy, bought off of a homeless guy for $20 by Auggie's father. He has a loving and imperfect family, he doesn't feel sorry for himself (much), and seeing the world through his eyes made this reader even more grateful and appreciative.
Of course we run into the casually (and not so casually) cruel kids and adults, but Auggie, who wasn't too keen on the idea of going to school, manages to make some friends, and, if he doesn't blend in, at least people get used to him. Then a boy he thought was his friend seems to turn against him, and we all feel the hurt. Another boy starts a bullying campaign, and here is where we see Auggie's true strength come to the fore. His friendships are tested, and his friends make the reader proud.
At the end of this book, and throughout the last pages, I was wiping away tears, the kind of tears inspired by hope and a touch of the happy.
This book is geared to middle readers (8-12 years old), but is definitely one that everyone should read. Teachers, homeschoolers, parents, and even adults - pick this one up - you will love it as much as I did.
And you will LOVE Auggie! This one will definitely be showing up on my "Best of" list for 2012; it's a winner all around.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
Auggie: I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kid run away screaming in playgrounds.
Auggie: I think it's like the Cheese Touch in "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". The kids in that story were afraid they'd catch the cooties if they touched the old moldy cheese on the basketball court. At Beecher Prep, I'm the old moldy cheese.
Summer: So I just went over and sat with him. Not a biggie. I wish people would stop trying to turn it into something major. He's just a kid. The weirdest-looking kid I've ever seen, yes. But just a kid.
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
AND I wish there were a 1/2 star designation on Good Reads, as I gave it 4.5 out of...moreThis review was initially posted on my blog: Knitting and Sundries
AND I wish there were a 1/2 star designation on Good Reads, as I gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars! :)
In this book, you are taken into a world of privilege and serenity through the voices of 4 women:
* Sophie - mother to Adora and Sebastian * Adora - married to Oliver * Miranda - married to James who is a good friend of Oliver's, mother of Genevieve * Genevieve (Gigi) - who reveres Adora and thinks more of her than of her own mother
We are aware of the life-shaping tragedy in Adora and Sophie's background: a tragedy that still affects them both years later - the drowning death of Sebastian at a young age.
In a lyrical fashion, we are slowly pulled into the charmed and privileged world of Adora and Oliver, the beautiful couple, who live on a Mediterranean island in the beautiful home where Adora and Sebastian grew up. They fill this home with guests and laughter. Always at the center of this universe, Adora, whose name means "adored" - and she was, indeed.
As I read, I felt ... not jealous .. but ENvious. "Wouldn't this type of life be great to live? So serene, so care-free?" Even though Adora and Oliver aren't able to have their own children, their love for each other is so obvious and profound that it almost seems to make up for it.
But all is not as it seems. Sophie blames Adora for Sebastian's death and avoids seeing her as much as possible. Her tale is full of bittersweet regret and sorrow.
Miranda has a daughter, Gigi, who spends her summers with Adora and Oliver. Miranda feels almost as though Adora has 'stolen' her daughter from her, which we find is somewhat true. She is also in a marriage that lacks even the most basic intimacy, so her daughter is all that she has to hold on to.
As the book comes out, betrayals, lies, deceit and more of the life-shaping story of Sebastian are artfully woven into each chapter. In a couple of places, I felt my mouth open in an "Oh!' of astonishment. "Didn't see THAT coming".
I have a difficult time really describing the flow of this book. It's sort of like a warm, slow-flowing river. You are floating along on your back with your eyes closed, enjoying the ebb and flow, when an undertow grips you and pulls you down a bit. As you open your eyes, the undertow eases, and you are again floating along on a river of words. You close your eyes once again, and then the undertow hits once more. As more and more of the intricate connections in this book are revealed, the curtain is slowly pulled aside, and the illusions of both the reader and the characters are slowly ground underfoot.
Go along for the ride and watch out for the undertow. This book is well-worth the read.
Genevieve: No, your friends saw only the incomparable beauty of a woman who had lost practically everything, yet beamed graciously through it all. In all honesty, I don't think they cared to look much deeper than the image you projected or the magnificent generosity you displayed. They were too busy reveling at the lavish parties you held or taking siestas in the exclusive hotels you pulled strings for them to stay in, during their sojourns on your island in the Mediterranean Sea.
Sophie: It is a dark thing for a mother to admit, but I couldn't bear to think of him being alone. I never escaped the feeling that Adora failed him by living only to serve his memory. Indeed, by continuing to live.
Adora: It is a dull sensation, your heart breaking, like the sound of a pebble dropping on the sand. Not a shattering, not a tearing apart, there is nothing shrill or grandiose about the sensation.
Miranda: I've often considered what might have been if I'd simply turned the other way, welcomed life instead of steeling myself against it. And yet I did know once what it was to yearn for the days of happiness, each one better than the last. I learned my lesson when they all ended.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher to objectively review.(less)
This book is written as sort of a handbook for the Christian woman at work. With the use of real-life modern parables and examples, it serves as a gui...moreThis book is written as sort of a handbook for the Christian woman at work. With the use of real-life modern parables and examples, it serves as a guide for bettering your attitude towards the workplace as well as your relationships within the workplace.
Esther is used as a Biblical example of a woman who showed humility and patience in her role and ended up triumphing.
There are good pointers here: Do not compromise your values; don't make assumptions, don't try to change others-change your reaction to them, and others.
At the end of each chapter, there are included verses to study and reflective questions.
I personally didn't take away a lot from the book, as I'm not humble enough to let others take credit for my work without complaint, and I'm pretty much not going to be uber-nice to someone who treats me and others horribly. I just don't have it in me. Many of the other pointers I've picked up on my own through years of work experience and just experience in dealing with many different types of people. I don't gossip; I don't toot my own horn; I don't treat people badly (and I don't let them get away clean with treating ME badly either); and I'm never really envious of other people, so many of the situations that are described simply don't apply to me.
For other types of women, though, especially those who are just starting out or who are striving to find a way to not let their troubles at work intrude into their overall feeling of well-being, I think it would be a good book to have.
Pray? Can I pray that she gets hit by a bus? Okay-maybe that's a bit extreme. Christ tells us to pray for those who desire to do us harm. ....if we can pray for others, we'll be much less likely to slander or gossip about them.
When given a chance to say something unkind about someone, especially someone we know has been spreading slander about us, we can choose to find something good to say about him or her, or we follow or mother's adage "If you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all." Reviewer note: I'm pretty much the "I'm not saying anything at all" type.(less)
This review first appeared on my blog Knitting and Sundries
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I love reading about other cultures, other times, and...moreThis review first appeared on my blog Knitting and Sundries
I'm a huge fan of historical fiction. I love reading about other cultures, other times, and learning more about periods that I may only have a fleeting knowledge of.
This book is a gem; meticulously researched, but written in such a fashion that you are drawn in almost from the first.
Conversos were Jewish people who converted to Christianity; however, they were all looked at with suspicion by those aligned with the Spanish Inquisition. It was basically a crime to have any Jewish artifacts if you called yourself Christian, and being overly familiar with those of the Jewish faith was also a reason for suspicion. You could be tortured until you confessed, or tortured until you refused to confess and died in your squalid cell.
Luis de Santangel, in spite of being a converso, was the chancellor of Aragon and a close confederate of King Ferdinand. This story is about events surrounding Luis and the larger events that he played a part in. We see a man troubled by the inequities of events, who, as part of the power structure, is facing a larger struggle of conscience. He loses a close friend in a horrible fashion, and exacts his revenge in an equally unexpected fashion. He then suffers through additional losses which would have crippled a lesser man. Thsi is not a 'feel good' book, but then how can we feel good when reading about such horrid happenings, especially in the name of God? It IS, however, an "oh, gosh, I really really need to get some sleep instead of reading this" type of book!
Judith is a wonderful character, and we feel as though we are walking beside her in her struggles to get by in a world where Jewish people are second-class citizens at best. Most telling is a phrase I read spoken by a Jewish character: "I heard that they treat their Jews well" in speaking of a Muslim city.
With the current strife between Israel and many of those in the Muslim community, it was eye-opening to me to read about a period where Muslims sheltered Jews and protected them (but only to an extent, as we find out).
There are wonderful side characters, and supposed Christians who commit unspeakable acts, and tragedy, and love, and love lost, and .. well, everything that makes a book worth reading.
I would recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction, to anyone who loves to read about historical events, to anyone who loves a family story, a love story, a story of conflict .. I think that covers about all of us.
Oh! and did I mention? This is a DEBUT novel - and a glorious one. I am so thankful that people with wonderful talents like to share!
(I was provided with a copy of this title by the author to objectively review)(less)
When I initially started reading this novel, I ended up a bit dizzy from the array of characters who were introduced. At first, it was difficult for m...moreWhen I initially started reading this novel, I ended up a bit dizzy from the array of characters who were introduced. At first, it was difficult for me to keep straight in my head who was who. There's Ridley Fox, a CIA agent haunted by the death of his fiancee Jessica at the hands of a Russian terrorist group called The Arms of Ares. There are Ridley's fellow operatives, General Downing, Hiller, Walsh, Dobbs. There is Valerik, a former KGB operative now working with Ares. There's Dr. Tabitha Marx, who found out that her father had been a CIA agent and that her mother was a KGB agent.
Ares is perfecting a deadly bio-terrorist agent called Pandora. Pandora eats it's victims from the inside and can't be controlled once it is released. It is up to Fox to locate and procure or destroy all of the Pandora samples, and we start out with the lab in Chechnya. After THAT adventure, Fox ends up in Africa, where he quickly figures out that there must be a mole within the agency, as he ends up losing some of his colleagues to treachery and to a release of Pandora. Luckily, the area which it had been released in had previously been cleared of all lifeforms (which Pandora needs to repopulate itself), so once the human casualties were taken, the agent died off.
We travel to Japan, where Dr. Nita Parris, a bio-chemist working for the CIA, is employed by Hashimoto, the CEO of the pharmaceutical company Hexagon. Hashimoto is an expert at brainwashing and has developed a brainwashing drug called Clarity which Dr. Parris is testing on human subjects. Hashimoto also seems to be the head of a group of devoted disciples called The Promise.
In this book, we learn that not everyone is who they appear to be. Who is The Undertaker calling the shots for Hashimoto? Who is the mole within the CIA? Why is Fox told not to trust the Boeisho as he arrives in Japan?
There's a lot going on in this book, complete with tough, macho-guy talk and lots of shooting action. There are a few places where the writing 'hitches', and we see some rough-edged transitions, a phrase or two that seem to come from nowhere, and a love interest that, in my opinion, appears to develop too quickly. That being said, it's a pretty cool espionage thriller with a few surprises tossed into the mix. It's not a study in character development; it's more like an action/adventure movie where the action speaks for itself and the bad guys want to take over the planet. I liked it.
"Over the years, I've dealt with all types of threats to our country while you were doing the Moonwalk in elementary school."
Dewan looked over at the table before he looked back at Parris. "They all acto so happy, like they've all been visited by Mary Poppins or something. And also this 'end of the world' thing they keep talking about. That it's coming and that they'll all be saved."(less)
(Mini-review and series introduction) - In which we meet Meghan Chase on her 16th birthday. She lives in the Louisiana bayou with her mom Melissa, her...more(Mini-review and series introduction) - In which we meet Meghan Chase on her 16th birthday. She lives in the Louisiana bayou with her mom Melissa, her stepdad Luke (who seems to forget she is there most of the time), and her 4-year-old brother Ethan. Her father disappeared when she was 6 on a trip together to the park, and her best and only friend is her nearest neighbor of 2 miles away, Robbie, her confidante and protector. After a particularly cruel trick played on her by Scott Waldron, the crush of hers that she is tutoring, she glimpses a supernaturally handsome cloaked guy on a horse out of her school bus window and thinks she must be going a little crazy. When she comes in to find her mother hurt and Ethan changed into something of a demonic little personality, she KNOWS she is going crazy. Wit a little bit (well, a LOT) of help from Robbie (who turns out to be Robbie Goodfell/Puck/Robin Goodfellow of the Seelie Court where King Oberon and Queen Titania rule), Meghan ventures into the land of Nevernever, into a world of faeries, nixies, goblins, redcaps and other creatures of fantasy, to find her real brother Ethan. Bringing him back will chase the doppelganger back to his own world, and then her mission would be complete. It's not that simple. Meghan is Oberon's daughter; Queen Titania hates her, and Queen Mab of the Unseelie court, along with her sons Ash, Rowan, and Sage, don't have a lot of love for her either. Oh, and let's not forget; there is a threat to the entire Nevernever looming - a new Iron Court is encroaching on the land, shriveling the trees and turning all into iron as it creeps along - a deadly threat to fey who can easily be killed by iron and even by it's presence.
What a fun story! Meghan rocks; she's not some wimpy little cowering girl who expects everyone to protect her. She's smart, sassy, and she holds her own throughout. There's adventure and new discovery at every turn, and even a bit of romance creeping in from an unlikely source. If you like fantasy and strong heroines, this is the book for you.(less)
FIRST SENTENCE: Here's how I knew something about my life had to change.
Kelly is 39 years old, and for those of us who have been there (or may still be there), her "restless" feeling may be familiar. She's not UNhappy .. she just wants something "more". She left a successful career in PR when she decided to be a stay-at-home mother, and she's been happy with that decision. Her two boys, however, are 12 and 14, and they don't need her constant attention any longer. Her husband Patrick, is warm, loving, and understanding. They live in an upscale neighborhood, have a wonderful home, and life is good. A breast cancer scare before Christmas caused her to stop and take stock of her life, but NOW is the time for her to put something in motion.
She starts with a Things 2 Change list (T2C for short). She adds things to the list as she thinks of them (#10 - keep self-deprecation to self, at night, while wearing both mouthguards). When her beautiful friend Charlotte, a real estate agent, asks her to help her out by "staging" a sale property (making it look more appealing for potential buyers), she agrees, and she does so well at it and feels so good about it that she decides to start her own business.
As she's doing so, she's reconnecting with friends, including Kathryn, another beauty, and a friend from college who shows up crying in her driveway. Kathryn's daughter Melanie is anorexic, and her marriage is in trouble. Together they agree to concentrate first on Melanie, and Kelly agrees to spend time with the teenager.
As Kelly works on her T2C list, starts seeing a counselor to help define her restless feelings, and gets her new business up and running, friends' and neighbors' marriages all around her are floundering and falling apart, and Kelly is unwittingly brought into the drama when she and Patrick find one wife in bed with someone else's husband.
Yay! A women's fiction book where the main character isn't neurotic, unfaithful, or a bad mother! :) Seriously, those are the reasons I don't really read "chick lit". Kelly is a wonderful person, not perfect, but well aware that she has been fortunate in her life. As the novel takes you through her transition into something "more", we see a woman grow into realizing that not everything in other people's lives are as wonderful as they appear (T2C #4 - Don't compare yourself to others). She's a wonderful friend, and tries her best not to judge the actions of those around her (but again, she's not a saint, and she can't help but do so here and there as well as having some times where she should say more but doesn't).
I was totally caught up in seeing where Kelly would go, and in how all of the drama surrounding her would play out. A witty, great warm-weather, feel-good-at-the-end, read, Here, Home, Hope is definitely a story that most of us will be able to relate to.
It was like having an exchange student from the country of Thin. Perhaps I could learn from her and show her some of the customs of the country of Fat.
Did I just take a job? Jeez. All I did was decide my life had to change and now it was, faster than I could've imagined. I'm a believer in tossing thoughts out into the universe; I just didn't know the answer would be tossed back so quickly, via cell phone. I needed a new dress.
"Look, Rachel, it's all very sad, yes, and I don't even know how you found out about it all. But instead of talking about them to me, why don't you do something productive with your - uh - grief. Plant a tree. Pray. Just don't meddle and gossip," I said. I was mad, but I wasn't crying (Wow! #19). "Really, you need a life. Your own."
Writing: 4.5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 4.25 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4.5 out 5 stars
In 1934 San Francisco, William Eng is 12 years old, the only Chinese boy left at the Sacred Heart Orphanage after the other runs away. He is treated shabbily by the sisters (as are all of the "orphans"), but he knows in his heart that his mother isn't dead. Even after five years, he still believes in her and knows she will come back for him.
I really can't go much into the storyline without spoilers, because most of what happens will take the reader by surprise. When William teams up with a blind girl named Charlotte, his one true friend from the orphanage, to search out a woman he saw on screen on one of the children's rare outings, we cross our fingers and hope. We feel dashed the ground at the obstacles and rejection he receives, but we still hope.
As the story of Liu Song, William's mother, comes to us in flashbacks of time, we find ourselves almost moaning aloud at her struggles and sacrifice.
This is not a "feel-good" novel - it is superbly written and drags the reader in, down to the depths and the heartache and the injustice. It perfectly captures the pathos of the Depression Era as well as the plight of Chinese immigrants who faced bigotry at every turn from their fellow Americans.
I highly recommend this one.
William had been to the public library only once before, on a field trip, and even though he wasn't allowed to check out anything, he never forgot how it felt to wander in and see books on shelves as high as the ceiling. The library is like a candy store where everything is free.
Liu Song's smile vanished. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. She'd known of parents who sold off their extra sons to families that needed the help, but rarely had a daughter changed families - at least in America and not in her neighborhood. Except in arranged marriages. (less)
Omar wants to eventually be a published horror writer, and for now, he posts his stories on his Facebook page, where he receives positive feedback fro...moreOmar wants to eventually be a published horror writer, and for now, he posts his stories on his Facebook page, where he receives positive feedback from his friends. When a former friend is found murdered in the same fashion as the story he recently posted on Facebook, her father, a police officer, zeroes in on Omar as a suspect. Then a horrible ferry accident occurs .. one that mirrors a story Omar posted the day before. As Omar's visions begin to occur more frequently, and a voice dictates to him what to write, he tries to keep himself from chronicling what he know feels will come true if he actually writes it down.
Sophie is a Goth girl from his school who tells him that she is the same as he is; that her art used to have the same consequences. She promises to show him how to put an end to the visions, but will the cure be worse than the curse? Will she be able to help him or will she only hurt him more?
This is a short, novella-type of read, so there isn't a whole lot of room for character development; however, it is written in simple and clear prose that is perfect for the target audience of middle school to high school students. As an adult reader, this one gave me what all good stories should give: the "what comes next?" feeling. Although it is a horror story, it is not a gruesome, graphic one, and I don't think that most parents would have any objection to the content. The first quote below lists what I feel to be the most graphic scene, so as a parent, you can be the judge.
I would recommend this one for middle readers, and especially for reluctant boy readers.
She pointed at the far side of the boulder. On the ground was a clump of human hair.
"You're in deep, deep trouble." "I know." "I mean, like Biblical trouble, Omar. Like the-devil-wants-your-soul trouble."
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 4 out of 5 stars Characters: 3 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4 out 5 stars
Two men think they've found the perfect opportunity--a chance to rob the stash house of Simon Shuller, one of Philadelphia's biggest drug lords. But their plans are spoiled when one of Shuller's men catches them as they break into the stash house. Temperatures flare as the men capture Shuller's worker, Poncho, and force him to show them the goods. What they didn't expect was for Poncho's partner to be armed and very dangerous. An altercation breaks out and when the smoke clears, Nard, Poncho's accomplice, is the only one left standing.
My take: And thus begins a journey into the bottomless pit that is nitty gritty urban street life.
I found this book to be a well-timed study of how one person can easily get caught up in something bigger than themselves, especially when life hasn't been good to them and they don't know any better.
Nard is an 18-year-old drug runner for Simon Shuller, and Poncho is his partner. Sticks is part of Shuller's team, and was supposed to be the lookout on the day that two young street thugs decide that they can make a quick buck by robbing the two drug runners as they sit in the stash house. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out very well for them, and now Nard needs an alibi.
Enter Daisy Fothergill, a 22-year-old stripper who is one of Stick's "girlfriends". Stick offers her money to provide Nard with an alibi for the day in question and she willingly accepts, even though she's not a very good liar. She thinks, "I'll just tell this to the investigator, and that will be that."
Bodies start piling up and Daisy realizes that she is in a world of deep trouble. When she comes across an unexpected windfall, she uses it to leave both Philadelphia and city life. The FBI, the police, and Shuller are all after her. The question now is, "Who will find her first?"
The story ends up being a page-turner, and really pulls you into the thoughts of people whose lives are nothing like the "norm". You quickly understand, however, that the events depicted are the "norm" for many of the people living them, and, while you may not condone the actions that the characters take, you get some sort of understanding of why they take them. I will state that for me, this was with the exception of Sticks, who has no moral compass whatsoever.
This book would make an excellent book club selection, as there are so many points of discussion that you will probably need more than one book club meeting to get through them all. The first few pages will have you shaking your head, but push past them, and the story is well worth reading.
Sensitive reader: This book is not for you, based on the strong language and sexual content.
Quotes (also not for the sensitive reader):
"Mommy, no. Don't hurt my mommy." The young fellow charged the dark figure after seeing his mother gunned down and ran into him, almost knocking him down.
Even though abortions were frowned upon, Dr. Vistane felt he was actually saving poor, black souls. Dr. Vistane believed that blacks were the lower class, not just financially, but all of the way around the board, and to help rid the world of another black bastard baby was something that needed to be done.
Daisy would starve on the street before she would sell her body away. No, not her, not no more. She'd never be sacrificed that way ever again, a naked, lost soul on display for men to lust after, pay, have their way with, then walk away from, still a man.(less)
This is a sweet short book perfect for a bedtime story or story time at school or the library.
As Marco gets ready to go to bed, his mother comes in and they have a conversation:
"Mama, what's this patch that's red, white and blue" he wanted to know. "That's my American flag," she replied. "Oh. What does it mean?" asked Marco. "This is the symbol of our nation, the U.S.A. I serve in our military to protect our country and to keep you safe," she replied.
Note to the grammarians among us - notice that there are no paragraphs. I read an eGalley, so I would assume that proper spacing will be in the final copy.
It serves as a pretty rounded explanation of what military parents do and the best thing about it is that it is bilingual, with each page having both the English story and the Spanish story - probably a great book for homeschoolers who are teaching their children both languages as well.
Best of all, a portion of the proceeds are dedicated to a group that runs a training/mentoring program for women veterans! (less)
Well, this was a refreshing look at women, friendship, mentoring, and sisterhood. In my women's group, we just finished studying a book on the friendships of women, and here is yet another.
We need each other, we women. Women's friendships are about more than simple companionship - having great friends or even one great friend makes us healthier and happier.
In this collection of essays, we read about women and their differing friendships, whether a third-party friendship (mothers and their friends), to mentor/mentee-type friendships, to plain and simple "Oh my gosh, I MUST call my bff to tell her about THIS!" type of friendship.
There's the girl from an abusive home whose teacher invites her to come live with her and points her on the right path, guiding her through to college.
There's the young girl who, in 2nd grade, went from shy to almost mute after her parent's divorce. HER tough-cookie friend helped her open up and kept her out of the counselor's office.
There is the screenwriter who almost lost a friend due to unspoken trivialities, but she gives us a lesson in salvaging an important friendship.
Every woman can read one or more of these essays and totally relate. For me, it was an affirmation of the fact that I've let my friendships languish on the vine, and I really need to step up. Your girlfriends and comadres can make you laugh, they can be your shoulder, they can prop you up.
I really enjoyed this collection and will be passing it on to my daughters. It's important for all of us to stop and realize how very valuable and life-affirming a good friend is.
She sounded so sure. She looked so ill. And yet, if she had told me, in that tone, that purple dragons were going to fly down from the moon that every evening, I would have joyously believed her.
I didn't know that other friends wouldn't tell you exactly what was on their minds, all the time. I didn't know that women didn't just naturally forgive everything of each other, that not everyone felt that no offense merited the silent treatment. That I would never feel another connection that I could depend upon so fully, one that needed no explanation.
I was lucky enough to win this book as part of a children's book prize package from Debbie's World of Books. Before I could get the books catalogued and put away for Christmas presents for the Grandbebes, Bebe Boy James saw them. AND he took two of them for himself, including this one!
BUT the grandbebes were all visiting yesterday, and they wanted Gigi Storytime, so James brought this book out for us. Grandbebes' ages: 5, 4, 3, and 1. The older girls oohed and aahed over the cover ("It has sparklies on it, Gigi!") and they kept feeling it up (because it's textured too). Grandbebe Girl Makayla thought it tasted pretty good, as she kept trying to chew on the corner of the cover, and Grandbebe Boy JoJo: "Cool pictures, Gigi!". That was all before I even got to open the book!
Finally, after a number of ominous threats about them NOT being able to see the INSIDE of the book, I was able to get the grandbebes all to sit down in a floor circle (well, arc), while I, Queen Gigi Storyteller, FINALLY opened the book.
The book opening caused all of my storytelling planning to go out the window, as four little ones scrambled up so they could touch the book again. "Pretty pretty pictures, Gigi!" As the older tots pushed in, Grandbebe Girl Makayla was once again able to get a good taste, since she was in the front and her face was kinda squished against the cover of the book.
It took a while to get through this one. "OOH, look at that bird!" "THAT'S not how you say that rhyme; HERE'S how you say it!" "Look at what they're doing to that shoe!" ... but I think they liked it, as they wanted me to read it AGAIN.
THEN their moms started in. "Mom, why don't you give ME that book?" "NO! I asked first!" "No; your brother saw it and claimed it already" .. and ... sigh ... well, I live in a real house, with real bebes and grandbebes. I always have this wonderful, serene picture in my head of quietly attentive grandbebes sitting in a circle and pointing from afar at the pictures while I read. Wouldn't THAT be lovely?
So, anyway, this book is gorgeous. The illustrations are lavish and richly colored and just plain awesome. The rhymes are indeed re-mastered, and I'm not really certain that the grandbebes understood all of them, but it's big and it's pretty and they all want it, which means that I have to buy at least two more copies for Christmas (one for each household).
I think you should buy it too.
Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (only because some of the rhymes were 'over the heads' of the grandbebes)(less)
Judging by the comments I've read when I mentioned reading this one, it has LOTS of buzz! Since I try my darndest not to read other reviews before I'VE had a chance to read a review book, I can only go my own feeling on this one and say, "Well deserved!".
I read this in one LONG sitting (which left me very tired the next day - I should learn not to start a new book for my nightly read).
Linh Cinder is a 16-year-old mechanic at New Beijing's weekly market. Her guardian, Adri, relies on Cinder's income to pay her own bills and those of her own two daughters, Peony (14) and Pearl (17). Adri's husband Garan adopted the orphan Cinder when she was five and soon after contracted letumosis, a deadly "plague" for which there is no cure. Adri resents Cinder and, as in the old fairy tale, finds reasons NOT to allow her to go to the royal ball. Peony is Cinder's only human friend, but she also has a great sidekick named Iko, a witty android/
Kaito (Kai), the Crown Prince of the Eastern Commonwealth, the heartthrob of many a teenage girl, comes incognito to Cinder's market stall to ask her to fix his android Nainsi. Kai's mother died of the plague, and now his father, the Imperial Majesty Emperor Rikan, has contracted the disease. Cinder is not starstruck like most girls, and Kai takes a liking to her. Cinder knows it would never work, because she is a cyborg as a result of the hovercraft accident that killed her parents. Cyborgs are considered less than human, treated as property, and there is even a draft for cyborgs for testing for a plague antidote.
Then comes a tale that mixes a bit of steampunk with a bit of dystopia and science fiction. A kick-butt heroine, a handsome prince, an abusive adoptive mother, a doctor determined to find a cure for the plague, villains in the form of "Lunars" who evolved from an Earthen moon colony centuries ago and now have the power to manipulate people's minds - all combine to create this wonderful roller coaster of a ride through a wonderfully-drawn, realistic world.
I seriously wanted to SLAP Adri in so many places throughout this book.
I figured out a central theme early on, but that didn't stop me from reading on.
The villain, the Lunar Queen Levana, is spot-on creepy and manipulative.
The romantic aspects are appropriately timed, which, sadly, doesn't happen in a lot of YA.
Cinder is a girl that will make you root for her. You'll smile at Iko's sarcasm, gnash your teeth at Adri's actions, hope against hope that Cinder will be on time for ... (oops, can't tell you, THAT would be a spoiler for sure).
In short, even if you're not a YA/sci-fi/steampunk reader, you'll still like this book, because it's a story about a girl who doesn't fit in, but has not let her spirit be broken. She has dreams and the will to make them happen, as well as the smarts to figure out how to do it.
This is the first in a series by a debut author, and will likely be on my list of 2012 faves at the end of the year. Buy it, borrow it, definitely read it.
QUOTES (from an ARC; may be different in final copy):
And the prince did know her now, sort of. He had been kind to her at the market. Perhaps he would ask her to dance. Out of politeness. Out of chivalry when he saw her standing alone. The precarious fantasy crashed down around her as quickly as it had begun. It was impossible. Not worth thinking about. She was cyborg, and she would never to the ball.
They said she'd murdered her older sister, Queen Channary, so that she could take the throne from her. They said she'd had her own husband killed too so that she would be free to make a more advantageous match. They said she had forced her stepdaughter to mutilate her own face because, at the sweet age of thirteen, she had become more beautiful than the jealous queen could stand.
Cinder stared at the holograph and imagined watching herself die. In real time. "How many different batches of antibodies have you gone through?" "Med?" "Twenty-seven," said the med-droid. "But," said the foreign voice, "they die a little slower each time."
Writing: 4 out of 5 stars Plot: 5 out of 5 stars Characters: 5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 5 out 5 stars
I downloaded this book some time ago and only just now read it because, well, I'm ashamed to say .. I don't have a reader .. and I spend so much time in front of the computer already that I almost shun reading eBooks on the PC.
But since I downloaded some new titles from Galley Grab, I remembered that I had THIS one to read. So I read it.
And it was good .. really good. This novella packs quite a punch in it's 175 pages. The description gives you a breakdown of what it's about, but here's a bit more:
When Henry was 5, something so traumatizing happened that as an adult, he can't remember what it was. He DOES remember his father telling him to draw and paint against the darkness.
Now Henry is married to Sarah and has a 3-year-old son named Dillon. They live in an old farmhouse, and Henry spends much of his time in the attic ... painting. When Henry paints, everything else disappears. Sometimes he paints a picture without recalling anything he painted.
When he and Sarah have a disagreement, she leaves to visit relatives, taking Dillon with her. Henry finds himself snowed in at the farmhouse, where the old-fashioned boiler in the cellar demands 5 maintenance steps twice a day. Without them, in a worst case scenario, the boiler might blow, taking the house with it.
As the author weaves between the tale of Henry's solo experience at the farmhouse (during which we'll see him cowering in the attic and trying to convince himself that he's a grownup, so of course that WASN'T a monster he saw; just his over-active imagination) and the tale of what happened to 5-year-old Henry (where we find him chasing a pack of rabbits that leave bloody footprints), the reader is totally absorbed. For myself, when the dual storylines intersect and Henry really remembers what happened was a gasper .. with a twist.
This is a very well-written, absorbing read. I was so caught up in it that I breezed through it in two sittings (it would have been one, but life interrupted).
If you like a rather dark, character-driven novel, with a little of the monster thrown, and an unexpected twist or two a la Stephen King, you will like this one.
This book tells the story of two women living in two continents with lives that at times parallel each other and later intersect. The first, Elsa, grows up in the rough neighborhood of Dorchester with a mother who works two jobs just to give them sustenance. She works at the library after school to help with family expenses and then runs home to take care of Diana, her 4-year-old disabled niece, just in time for her mother to go to her second job.
The second, Parween, grows up in Afghanistan. After losing their father to war, her mother moved with her and her two older brothers to Bamiyan. It is Afghan custom for the brother of a widow to marry her to keep the family cared for, Parween's father didn't have a brother, so they move in with Parween's uncle Abdullah. They are fortunate, because Abdullah is rather liberal, and the women of the house are allowed much freedom.
Both women lose childhood friends: Elsa's only friend, Annie, moves away, and Parween's best friend Mariam, is married off to an old man as his third wife at the age of fifteen, and moves to a village an hour's drive away.
Both women have an adoration for lipstick. Although Parween is not allowed to wear lipstick in public (other than for special celebrations), she loves the life it brings to her face. For Elsa, lipstick always lifts her spirits.
Elsa, after being mentored by a hospital nurse who took care of her niece Diana, becomes a nurse. She has always been determined to help those in need, so after a year as an ER nurse, she volunteers as an aide worker with Aide du Monde, a French aid organization based in New York. Five months after 9/11, she takes a position in Bamiyan, the home of the Buddhas. ********************************** From About.com:
Bamyan (or Bamiyan), situated 240 kms northwest of Kabul between the snow-covered ranges of Koh-i Baba and Hindu Kush, is a small city lying in a beautiful valley containing the remarkable statues of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. The kingdom of Bamiyan was a Buddhist state positioned at a strategic location along the silk road betwenn China and Europe.
The construction of the two statues was begun in the second century A.D. under the patronage of Emperor Kanishka and probably finished around the fifth century A.D. The height of the Small Buddha was 38 m, that of the Large Buddha 55 m. The figures of the two Buddhas were decorated with gold and fine jewels. Many caves were carved in the Bamiyan's cliffs in the same periods as the Buddhas. They were used as chapels and many monks lived there. ********************************* From the UMW blog:
In March of 2001, the Taliban’s Mullah Omar reversed his former edict on Bamiyan’s famous colossal Buddha statues, calling now for total destruction. Calling them religious objects of idol worhipers, of which radical Islam believes must be destroyed at all costs, in the name of Allah, the Taliban shelled the Bamiyan cliffs for days with artillery. They finally managed to finish the Buddhas off with large amounts of dynamite. The cliffs, a famous tourist attraction and arguably Afghanistan’s most popular tourist destination, house not only the two largest statues of the Buddha in the world, but are also home to hundreds of caves. The caves once housed Buddhist monks, the very monks who spent centuries building the Buddhas in the cliff face. The interior of the caves are adorned with beautiful frescoes, now vandalized with Taliban shoe marks and covered in tar. Many of these caves were destroyed with the Buddhas.
The Hazara people of the Bamiyan Valley have long been persecuted by the Taliban because of their history of Taliban opposition. They do not see the attacks on the Buddhas as a religious conflict at all. To them it is a matter of cultural terrorism. The Taliban are set on humiliating them and destroying their cultural heritage. The Buddhas have been a part of their identity for centuries (even though the area is now Islamic) and the cornerstone of the local economy (stimulating tourism, bringing up to 100,000 tourists a year) so what better way to devastate the Hazara than blow up their statues? **************************************** We read the story of Parween's marriage and her life, and we read of Elsa's transition to a life working at a clinic in a foreign country with few supplies, living in a house with no running water or electricity. Parween's story also tells us of the freedoms and lives lost when the Taliban descend on Bamiyan, and we learn more about how most Afghanis really feel about the Taliban.
There is so much wrapped up in this novel: romance, and loss, and friendship. For a while, I lived with both Elsa and Parween. At the end, I was wiping away tears. This is a well-written, fictionalized account of two strong women and what happens when they come together. Although the story's protagonists are women, this is a story that is gender-neutral. I think any person who loves to read a good book will love this one.
She paused at a shiny picture of a nurse cradling a baby. The nurse seemed to be crying. The caption explained that the baby was dead and the nurse was looking for his mother. A nurse, she thought, doing something that matters.
Fortunately, the workload was relatively light, and she rushed through the rest of her day. Then she hurried home to take a bath even though it had been only three days since her last one. She hadn't been this clean since she'd arrived in Bamiyan
Finally, the plane appeared, slipping through the mountaintops and flying in low to land. Just then, an errant cow wandered onto the runway and the small plane was forced back into the sky. Villagers ran to the cow and coaxed him back off the dirt landing strip. Several minutes later, the plane finally landed, and the irate pilot jumped out to scream at the villagers about the cow.
(I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher to facilitate my review)(less)
I purchased A Winter Haunting not realizing that it was the second in Simmons' Seasons of Horror series. I realized as I read that it was a continuation of Summer of Night. I bought it because I like Simmons' writing style - creepy, but not too :) Honestly, you don't need to have read Summer of Night to enjoy this book - any background you need is supplied in the story.
Simmons delivers again!
Dale is a college professor in Wyoming who takes a one-year sabbatical and decides to return to his hometown of Elk Haven, Illinois to get his head together and to work on his latest novel. The home he stays in was the former home of a childhood friend who was killed at a very young age. Menacing black dogs, strange messages on his computer, a sheriff who used to be the town bully, and a pack of skinheads who menace and threaten him due to some anti-militia articles he wrote are all part and parcel of a strange unfolding of creepy terror. As you read, you'll wonder if Dale is simply going crazy (and he wonders the same thing).
Told in alternating first- and third- person POV, the novel progresses slowly, building up the anticipation and questions nicely, until ... BAM! Then there are surprises at every turn of the page. Just when you think it's over, the ending gives another surprise. There is only one unanswered question, but that question is not pivotal to the elemental story and leaves room for the next-in-series.
If you like creepy stories and good character development, this is the tale for you.
But I'm digressing even before I begin the story. I always hated writers who did that. I still have no powerful opening line. I'll just begin again. Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter.
Dale had first visited the psychiatrist two days after he had set the muzzle of the loaded Savage over-and-under shotgun against his temple and pulled the trigger.
Kneeling there, hearing the punks shout and howl off to his right, knowing that he was no hero but just an injured and terrified middle-aged man unused to violence and afraid to die, Dale still wished that he could become a wolf. If he became a wolf, he would rip the throat out of the nearest skinhead before the others killed him. If he became a wolf, he would taste their warm blood even as they killed him.
Writing: 5 out of 5 stars Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars Characters: 4.5 out of 5 stars Reading Immersion: 4.5 out 5 stars