One of my favorite books a few years ago was A Girl Named Zippy, the prequel to this book, Haven “Zippy” Kimmel’s follow up memoir. I am delighted to...moreOne of my favorite books a few years ago was A Girl Named Zippy, the prequel to this book, Haven “Zippy” Kimmel’s follow up memoir. I am delighted to say that this book is equally as funny and touching, but also a little deeper in its examination of the some of the fallout of a mother struggling to find herself in the women’s movement of the early 70’s.
When last we left Delonda Kimmel she was riding a bicycle, her first step off the couch where she had spent the last twenty years of her life, reading, watching TV and gaining a lot of weight. This book picks up right from that point, as Delonda takes a competency exam and gets into Ball College, where she graduates in two years, loses one hundred pounds, gets a Master’s Degree and becomes a teacher- all without any emotional support from her husband. Zippy manages to go through life, if not oblivious to the turmoil in her family, definitely with an optimistic and quirky view of her unconventional upbringing. Despite living in poverty and often neglected by both her parents Zippy found safe haven with the families of her friends and her older sister, all pitching in to help raise this child. Not once does she offer a word of recrimination towards her mother and father, but imbues this story with all the love a child feels for her parents.
As Zippy begins to understand that her parents’ marriage is slowly unraveling she again expertly portrays the feelings of anxiety and bewilderment a young teen feels as her home life slowly comes apart, but also opens as she realizes all the possibilities there are in the world as she begins to understand what it took for her mother to reinvent herself. Delonda also begins to open Zippy’s eyes to the opportunities there were available outside of their small town. The ending of the book brought tears to my eyes as Zippy comes to understand that even those you love most in life can disappoint you. A lovely memoir that doesn’t cast the people around her as cruel but as what we all are, flawed, despite our very best intentions.
The town of Bedford, Maine is dying, little by little. The paper mill is closed; families are leaving looking for better lives; the kids that live the...moreThe town of Bedford, Maine is dying, little by little. The paper mill is closed; families are leaving looking for better lives; the kids that live there cannot wait to graduate high school and get out. Liz Marley is one of those girls hoping to leave behind her family and sister Susan. Susan is the specter of the town; wandering around, not speaking to anyone and somehow invading the thoughts of all the people in the town. When Susan falls to her death in a terrible accident all the dark secrets of Bedford and its inhabitants begin to come out; the dead start to rise and madness is taking over little by little.
I don’t read much horror anymore, but The Keeper sounded promising and it was a freebie for Kindle. It actually started out quite well, reminiscent of Stephen King’s early novels set in small town Maine; unfortunately somewhere about halfway through the storyline became too violent, too choppy and at times in the midst of all that too boring with a lot of repetition and far too much detail. The biggest problem for me is that I didn’t care about most of the people in the book, whenever I felt a connection is was too fleeting and soon I just wanted to get to the end, which unsurprisingly was anti-climatic. I rated it two stars because it did start out well and since it is a debut maybe future books will be better; I like to give new authors the benefit of a doubt.
Stephen King’s latest tome starts off with a literal bang and takes off into one of the author’s favorite themes of ‘good vs. evil’. The premise is fa...moreStephen King’s latest tome starts off with a literal bang and takes off into one of the author’s favorite themes of ‘good vs. evil’. The premise is fairly simple; what happens to a town when inexplicably a Dome envelops it, cutting the people off from the outside world- they cannot leave, no one can get it in.
This book is huge, 1000+ pages, yet it was an amazingly fast read, I literally could not stop reading it, a testament to King’s ability to spin a rip-roaring story. The story isn’t without flaws but it still made for a great vacation book, and brings to mind several of King’s earlier books in its style and content.
In true King style this book is loaded with characters, in fact so many that I sometimes had a hard time keeping them straight. My biggest complaint about the book is that for the most part the bad guys were really, really bad and the good guys were really, really good with very few shades of gray. Big Jim Rennie, the selectman with the megalomaniac complex is bad to the bone as are almost all his cohorts, they are all also right-wing Christians, most likely a commentary on politicians who present one face to the world and live a completely different life in private. The ‘good’ band is lead primarily by Dale Barbara, a former Iraq veteran with some secrets of his own and Julia Shumway, editor of the local paper. By far my favorite characters were those of the young group of skateboarding kids and self proclaimed nerds who were smarter than all the good guys put together.
King does a good job of depicting the sort of herd mentality that could occur within the Dome, but it just seemed that most people were far too easily swayed to do the wrong thing, I like to believe that most people are basically good but this story depicted the majority as basically spineless and selfish; I like to think better of the world. He also does a great job in explaining the science of what would happen to an enclosed environment in a very short period of time. Although the explanation for the dome was pretty far-fetched, it was the only almost plausible explanation. The ending was a bit anti-climatic and the final comeuppance of several of the bad guys fell a little short.
Be advised that there is a lot of gore in this book, from the first casualty of the Dome, through gruesome violence, a vicious rape and more than a little touch of necrophilia- just your average run of the mill little New England town ;o) (less)
Flavia de Luce is back. After solving a murder in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie the precocious eleven year old is once again caught up in a m...moreFlavia de Luce is back. After solving a murder in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie the precocious eleven year old is once again caught up in a mystery when a traveling puppet show comes to the town of Bishop’s Lacey and the master puppeteer is electrocuted during the show. Everyone believes it to be an accident; everyone that is except Flavia.
While I was absolutely enchanted with the first book in the series, this one was a little bit uneven. I still love the character of Flavia, she is so well written and her observations are so sharp I just love reading her. What I really found bothersome was the two sisters, Daphne and Ophelia who are inexplicably cruel to Flavia, I found that storyline to be very annoying, although I do enjoy Flavia’s careful planning of revenge (warning- should you ever encounter Flavia do not accept her offer of an almond nougat)
I did enjoy the introduction of a few new characters, the formidable Aunt Felicity and the possible love interest for Daphne, the mysterious WWII pilot Dieter. I also liked revisiting with a few characters from book one and learning a little more about them – including Inspector Hewitt and his very exotic wife.
The mystery in this was rather interesting; especially in the way it tied into another mystery in the village from several years earlier. Several red herrings and a few plot twists that come together in the end made for a fairly engrossing and entertaining read. By far my favorite part is the opening graveyard/funeral scene, where Flavia contemplates her death and her family’s reaction; it was very amusing. So I will definitely read book three, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I just hope the sisters stop torturing Flavia.(less)
This book started out pretty fast, and I enjoyed the author's storytelling technique. However the unrelenting bleakness of the story just wore me down...moreThis book started out pretty fast, and I enjoyed the author's storytelling technique. However the unrelenting bleakness of the story just wore me down. One of the reviews on the cover said : "A page turner, gritty...funny,... sexy,. It was a definite page turner, but it was like watching a train wreck and not being able to turn away. It was gritty enough for me to feel like I needed to bathe after reading it. I do not find anything funny or sexy about murder, sexual and physical abuse, not to mention incest and insanity. If you enjoy reading books that are bleak, sad, sorrowful and with no happy ending in sight, this is the book for you. Although I don't believe every book should have a happy ending, I read mostly for entertainment, and this book was not at all enjoyable for me.(less)
I recently read Tracy Chevalier’s newest book Remarkable Creatures, the story of Mary Anning, a woman I had never heard of but is getting the attentio...moreI recently read Tracy Chevalier’s newest book Remarkable Creatures, the story of Mary Anning, a woman I had never heard of but is getting the attention she so richly deserved. I enjoyed Remarkable Creatures so much I was very happy to learn of this biography of her life. For anyone who doesn’t normally like nonfiction I would recommend this book, it is written in a very accessible style and the story is so astonishing it reads like fiction. Emling has written a book that I found easy to read and hard to put down.
Mary Anning was born in 1799 and lived in the Lyme Regis area of England her entire life; she learned to fossil hunt as a small child, at that time a fossil was anything dug out of the ground, most of Mary’s fossils finds were ammonites. Living on the very edge of poverty and barely literate she became one of the most renowned paleontologists of her time. At the age of 11 she found the first entire fossil skeleton of an ichthyosaur; a fossil that is still on display in the Natural History Museum in London. This find was the first step in the eventual theory of evolution by Darwin, who used Mary’s finds and works extensively in his Origin of the Species.
The fact that Mary found this one specimen would be pretty astonishing, but she also discovered the first complete plesiosaurus, the first pterosaur (pterodactyl), a new fossil fish (Squaloraja), along with many other smaller finds. With all this she is barely known today and was often overlooked or not credited during her lifetime – most likely because she was a woman and the scientific community at that time was male dominated. Although she had many well known friends in the geological world during her lifetime she was never accorded the accolades, respect or monetary earnings these men achieved. She died at the age of 48, from breast cancer, and is largely unknown today. Although most of us have recited the ‘She sells sea shells on the seashore’ tongue twister how many of us knew it was written about this amazing woman? A very good read and one I would recommend to anyone wishing to learn about the first baby steps of understanding evolution.
Flavia de Luce is back in this third installment of the series by author Bradley.
Once again our precocious scientist and budding detective finds hers...moreFlavia de Luce is back in this third installment of the series by author Bradley.
Once again our precocious scientist and budding detective finds herself entangled in yet another murder mystery.
I enjoyed this book a bit more than the last, The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. The mystery here was actually not quite as interesting; however we do learn a bit more about our intrepid heroine and her beloved mother Harriet. While the relationship between Flavia and her older sisters is still one of torture and retaliation there are little tiny glimmers of genuine feeling for each other peeking through, although I still don’t understand why they treat her so poorly. There are also signs that Flavia’s dad is not totally oblivious to his youngest child but actually may be just a tiny bit proud of her. It is also abundantly clear that Flavia is desperately lonely and longing for a friend. The scene in the book with Flavia talking to Gladys, her bike, almost brought me to tears. The final scene in the laboratory also got me a little choked up. Here’s hoping that we see a little more growth in Flavia’s relationship with her family, especially with her father. I would also like to see more interaction between Flavia and Inspector Hewitt, I love the repartee between the two and as often as he is exasperated with her I think he actually admires her.
Good entry in the series, I’m looking forward to ‘I Am Half Sick of Shadows” due this November 2011. (less)
I approached this book with a bit of trepidation; I enjoy non-fiction books but I am not very keen on science books. Since this book involved a lot of...moreI approached this book with a bit of trepidation; I enjoy non-fiction books but I am not very keen on science books. Since this book involved a lot of scientific information I thought it might be dry and boring. I do however trust the opinions of several people who know my reading taste and they all assured me that this book was a must read. So I put aside my fear and started reading. I read almost non-stop for two days because this book was impossible to put down; the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family was well done and the science was explained in a clear and easy to understand manner. It is a book that proves the axiom “truth is stranger than fiction”.
In the early 50’s Henrietta Lacks was a poor black woman living in the south; she was a wife, mother, sister and friend. When she was diagnosed with cervical cancer she was treated at the Johns Hopkins Center in the free clinic. While there some of her cells were removed for medical research, this was done without her knowledge. This was in the beginning days of cell research; Henrietta’s cells had a unique ability to keep replicating, unlike other cells that would die off after a few days. These cells became known as HeLa cells and form the backbone of much biomedical research around the world since the time they were first taken some 60 years ago. Almost every single medical advance is in some way connected to HeLa cells.
Henrietta died from the cancer that ravaged her body. Her family never knew about the cells that were taken from her and did not learn about it until the early 70’s. Rebecca Skloot became interested in the story of the woman behind the cells while in school; it took her ten years to bring all the parts of this story together in this remarkable book she has written about this woman who unwittingly has done so much for medical research.
Aside from the scientific story there is the story of the Lacks family; a family that for the most part never rose out of the abject poverty they had been living in for decades. Despite the fact the Hela sells have made millions of dollars by being sold millions of times over the Lacks family never received any compensation. Skloot reports the families story objectively, not making any comment on the ethics of the situation, leaving everyone to decide for themselves. She makes it pretty clear that none of us have any idea what is done with any of the cells that are taken in the course of any medical testing that we have. Many of the medical waivers we sign basically relinquish our rights to the cells. This is a moral and ethical question that will be debated for years to come.
This book has haunted my thoughts since they day I read it, I recommend it to anyone who is looking for a remarkable story of a woman that everyone of us should be thankful to every day of our lives. (less)
A book that has a reference to Shakespeare in the title; how does a reader resist the urge to pick it up? This reader did not and I am glad I gave in...moreA book that has a reference to Shakespeare in the title; how does a reader resist the urge to pick it up? This reader did not and I am glad I gave in to my impulse.
Books about sisters, how many do you think are published in any given year? There is something about that bond that seems to attract authors and readers alike; there are so many tangled webs in these complicated relationships, women who are more than friends yet just as often enemies. They love each other but often don’t like each other; sharing memories but each having their own take on the memory. Eleanor Brown brings us the story of three sisters who come home after many years and try to learn to like the sisters they love.
Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia Andreas, named after Shakespearean characters by their father a professor at the local college and a renowned expert on the Bard of Avon. Rose, the eldest, is the responsible one; Bean the middle sister is the beauty who lives her life according to her own rules and Cordy is the young irresponsible free spirit. Each comes together in their childhood home to help care for their cancer stricken mother; each comes home carrying the baggage of secrets and dreams unfulfilled.
I really enjoyed this book although I found the structure a little off-putting. They story is told in a third person plural, much of the tale is narrated as “we”. It took a while to adjust to that but once I settled in I really related to a lot of the interaction between the sisters as they try to shake off their childhood roles and try to make sense of their jumbled feelings for each other. The constant interjection of Shakespearean quotes added to my enjoyment. I also liked that the ending wasn’t completely predictable. A nice, light and very pleasant read, perfect for a day at the beach. (less)
During World War II when the men went off to war the women went to work, many took on jobs as welders. This book follows the story of three of those w...moreDuring World War II when the men went off to war the women went to work, many took on jobs as welders. This book follows the story of three of those women, Violet, Grace and Lena. Alongside the story of these friends we also have a present day story, that of Julia, granddaughter of one of the women. She has returned to the family farm to nurse a broken heart. While there she begins to unravel some long held family secrets.
This book started off pretty well, I enjoy stories set during the war and especially when they focus on the women on the home front. Unfortunately this book was full of so much foreshadowing and far too many coincidences to sustain believability. There was just too much going on, too many elements. Mysterious pictures, possible murder, a missing pilot, unfinished letters, long lost lovers, the list goes on and on. Instead of being a book focusing on the three women it became a soap opera with behaviors that defied logic.
The only reason it gets 3 stars is because until it slid into the odd mystery at the core of the story it was an intriguing read that I was enjoying; it just went over the top with the completely inexplicable behavior of some people, and the almost perfect resolution of the mystery which caused me to roll my eyes more than once. (less)
In this sequel to Fragile we are once again in The Hollows, a small town in the suburbs of NYC. It’s a nice town, but it’s harboring some unsavory sec...moreIn this sequel to Fragile we are once again in The Hollows, a small town in the suburbs of NYC. It’s a nice town, but it’s harboring some unsavory secrets.
Jones Cooper has retired from the police force and slowly becomes enmeshed in the case of a woman who disappeared twenty years earlier. Michael Holt is the adult son of the missing woman, he is obsessed with learning what happened to her. Jones’ wife Maggie is the therapist to a troubled teen newly relocated to The Hollows with her mother who is recovering from a bitter divorce. And then there is the young wife who is keeping secret the fact that her husband is abusing her. All of these storylines become entwined and at the center of them all is Jones and Eloise Montgomery, a woman who has psychic visions.
I really enjoyed this book, more than I liked the first book in the series. This book was much more of a mystery and I enjoyed the pacing of the book, the way the tension ratchets up and a sense of impending disaster hangs over it all. The last few chapters just fly by.
I’ve read all of Lisa Unger’s books, starting with Beautiful Lies. I enjoyed the earlier books but it seemed like the plots were becoming very similar in tone, so I am glad that with Fragile and now Darkness, My Old Friend she is moving in a different direction and I am enjoying the change of pace. (less)
I love a good ghost story and The Night Strangers seemed like a good bet for one of those curl up and be scared tales. On some levels this book did de...more I love a good ghost story and The Night Strangers seemed like a good bet for one of those curl up and be scared tales. On some levels this book did deliver on the creepy story but on a number of other levels it didn’t work.
The opening pages of this book are the most realistic descriptions of a plane crash I have ever read, and the most terrifying. When Chip Linton survives the crash of the plane he piloted and 39 passengers die he sinks into PTSD. As an effort to rebuild their life Chip, his wife and two daughters move to an old house in New Hampshire, a house that has a mysterious door that is securely closed with 39 bolts. And so the hauntings begin.
After this rich and dramatic opening the book goes astray. The house has a very sad history and the residents are eccentric in the extreme. This is where the story seems to go off the tracks. Rather than focus on Chip and weather or not the ghosts that haunt him are real or an offshoot of his PTSD the tale veers into a story of possible witches and covens with a very unhealthy interest in Chip’s two daughters. They also seem to be harboring a number of secrets about the family that lived in the hosue previously. Emily, Chip’s wife, despite uneasy feelings begins to trust these distinctly bizarre people taking the easiest path rather than cope with what is going on with her marriage and her children. So while the first storyline about a man being haunted by his past and/or ghosts the second storyline is about vaguely sinister herbalists. Chip’s story was often mesmerizing, the story of Emily and the townspeople was often boring, repetitive and these characters had no depth and were often laughable. In addition Emily was a supposed business powerhouse, yet as a mother I found her naïve beyond belief and often far too trusting of people she barely new taking over the care and upbringing of her daughters.
The final denouement was such a let down and so unsatisfying it actually made me angry. It’s not a good sign when I want to throw my Kindle against the wall. (I refrained)
This was my first book by Bohjalian, an author that I know is extremely popular. I will probably try another book by him, there were enough flashes of depth in Chip’s story and the opening sequence had me completely drawn in and horrified at the same time. I do think that I will read the reviews of these books very carefully before choosing. (less)
The Baker’s Daughter is a time-shift novel, alternating between Germany during the waning days of World War II and El Paso, Texas 2007. It tells the s...moreThe Baker’s Daughter is a time-shift novel, alternating between Germany during the waning days of World War II and El Paso, Texas 2007. It tells the story of Elsie Schmidt who was 17 years old and living in Germany with her family who owned a bakery; in 2007 it’s the tale of Elsie and her daughter Jane who have a bakery in El Paso. Although there are two baker’s daughters in the book, Elsie is the baker’s daughter of the title and is the heart and soul of the book. In the present time the focus is on Reba, a reporter at a local magazine who becomes friends with the women after interviewing them for an article on Christmas traditions around the world.
I like time-shift novels, but I frequently have issues with them; I often find myself far more interested in one time frame over another and that is what happened with this book. Elsie’s story during the war was far more interesting than the modern day El Paso narrative; although Elsie is a part of the events in 2007, the focus on Reba was far less engaging. Elsie’s story is compelling and she is such a likeable character you are hoping everything will work out for her; Reba, on the other hand was just irritating and every time she showed up on the page I was aching to get back to Elsie’s story. Even the older Elsie was less interesting, mostly because she plays a minor part in the modern day storyline. Reba’s problems seem so minor when compared to those endured by the Schmidt family it was hard to muster any sympathy for her.
Most of the books I have read set in Germany during the war focus on the Holocaust; the focus here is on a typical German family caught up in the horrors of war and the reality of life with the Nazi Party in charge. That is not to say the horror of death camps is not a part of the story, it is, but there is an emphasis here on day to day struggles and some of the horrors inflicted upon Germans who were deemed perfect specimen’s of the Aryan race, as well as those perceived as traitors. It was quite fascinating to read about the Lebensborn project, where Elsie’s sister had been placed as a ‘companion’ to high-ranking Nazi’s; it is a subject I know little about and this just opened my eyes to how determined the Nazi’s were to create a master race.
Had Reba’s story been left out of the book this would have been a five star read; I think the author did a wonderful job is depicting the end days of the war, but was far less successful in contrasting that with of the self-absorbed and miserable Reba. (less)