The amount of research that went into this book is staggering, but Giles Milton manages to tell the story in a way that's fresh, approachable, and sus...moreThe amount of research that went into this book is staggering, but Giles Milton manages to tell the story in a way that's fresh, approachable, and suspenseful. I devoured this 350 page book in two days, sitting on pins and needles to learn the fate of the early colonists. These people had a suicidal sense of adventure, or nothing to lose (but their lives). The mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke still tugs at the heartstrings 400+ years later. I also liked how the author presented the Native American side of the story from a very human perspective. The etchings, maps, and portraits (especially those of the Algonquins) leap from the pages.(less)
4/5 Stars for “The Art of Fielding”. Set against the backdrop of fictional Westish College in Wisconsin, all eyes are on Henry Skrimshander as America...more4/5 Stars for “The Art of Fielding”. Set against the backdrop of fictional Westish College in Wisconsin, all eyes are on Henry Skrimshander as America’s next greatest shortstop until one disastrous pitch entwines the destinies of five people. The author wove a suspenseful tale that kept me reading several nights until the wee hours. I became emotionally vested in the characters and fretted about them. Will Henry ever get his edge back to make it to the Big Leagues? What will happen to Affenlight (the Westish College president) if his affair with Owen is discovered? Will Affenlight’s estranged daughter Pella overcome her bad choices? Can Schwartz defeat his demons to lead the baseball team to victory in the nationals? Sometimes, the prolonged conflict became almost unbearable, forcing me to set the book aside for short spells, but I still wondered about the characters and how the story would play out. Plus I was crushing on “Scwartzy.” I highly recommend “The Art of Fielding”. A love of baseball is not required to enjoy this debut novel by Chad Harbach. (less)
Thoroughly enjoyed bouncing around Botswana in Mma Ramotswe's little white van while she solved mysteries in clever and unorthodox ways. And the names...moreThoroughly enjoyed bouncing around Botswana in Mma Ramotswe's little white van while she solved mysteries in clever and unorthodox ways. And the names of the characters are fantastic. You can't help but love Happy Bapetsi, Mma Makutsi, and J.L.B Matekoni. I would have liked to see more of a scary chase scene with the witchdoctor at the end, but overall, this is a terrific read with a charming feminist bent.(less)
In "She's Come Undone", Author Wally Lamb delivers Delores Price, a sassy, obnoxious protagonist from a broken home in New England. At 13 years of age...moreIn "She's Come Undone", Author Wally Lamb delivers Delores Price, a sassy, obnoxious protagonist from a broken home in New England. At 13 years of age, Delores suffers a traumatic rape that sends her spiraling in disequilibrium. Throughout her teens, she balloons to 260 lbs and takes her anger out on the world and herself. Society is cruel to fat girls, and Delores is spared none of the hard knocks. During her freshman year at college, she ends up in a mental institution where, under the care of the unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Shaw, she begins to shed weight. The psychological baggage, however, is much harder to lose. At twenty-five, a stronger and thinner Delores launches herself into society, but bad decisions tied to her past, land her in an abusive marriage. Four years later, Delores finally faces her demons, boots the crappy husband out of her life, and THEN begins the final road to recovery.
I'll admit I was curious (and sexist): could a male author convincingly write Women's Fiction? Mr. Lamb gave Delores Price an authentic female voice without sounding whiny or cliche. The story is well-written with good pacing and no loose ends. He juggles the main plot and subplots effectively and introduces a cast of lovable kooky characters. Kudos for all of that. However, I REALLY disliked Delores Price for 7/8 of this book. She's foul-mouthed, cruel, dishonest and selfish. I came to like her only in the last 1/8 of the book, and then I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to see Delores succeed.
To me, the real heroes of "She's Come Undone" were her champions; the ones who stuck with Delores along the journey: Mr. Pucci (the gay high school guidance counselor), Roberta the Polka Princess (her crazy, chain-smoking neighbor), the goofball psychiatrist Dr. Shaw, and lastly, her rosary-wielding, grumpy Grandma. (less)
The best part of this book was sharing it with my son when he was in elementary school. We giggled and heehawed through the entire thing. The pictures...moreThe best part of this book was sharing it with my son when he was in elementary school. We giggled and heehawed through the entire thing. The pictures and commentary are hilarious. A great bonding experience for parents and kids.(less)
In “Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories,” author Mike Kalmbach has crafted a guide chock full of humor, practical examples, and useful exercise...moreIn “Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories,” author Mike Kalmbach has crafted a guide chock full of humor, practical examples, and useful exercises. Its goal is to give teens the tools they need to tap into their creativity, get their ideas on paper, and flesh them out. His approach isn’t preachy or dry; it feels more like a casual, friendly conversation. There are precious few guides like this for the teen audience, so Mr. Kalmbach’s latest book represents a godsend for kids with the writing bug. His advice will catapult them past a quagmire of typical early writing mistakes. Luckily, he plans a series of books, from editing tips to building a writing community to publishing advice. While geared for teens, his advice is applicable to new and intermediate adult writers as well.(less)
As autobiography/memoirs go, "Bossypants" by Tina Fey was a fast, fun read. I award the SNL alum 5 stars for wit, humor, and photos that will make you...moreAs autobiography/memoirs go, "Bossypants" by Tina Fey was a fast, fun read. I award the SNL alum 5 stars for wit, humor, and photos that will make you laugh out loud. I give 4 stars for collective wisdom; Ms. Fey shares her formative relationships (both personal and professional) and the life-lessons she took from them. Kudos for her deadpan delivery and non-preachy style. I award 3 stars for organization. Terrific book choice if you're in need a good belly laugh.(less)
I finally got around to reading this book and was very impressed. "White Oleander" is the story of Astrid, a 12 year-old girl thrown into the foster c...moreI finally got around to reading this book and was very impressed. "White Oleander" is the story of Astrid, a 12 year-old girl thrown into the foster care system of Los Angeles after her artistic/elitist mother is incarcerated for the murder of a cheating boyfriend. We follow Astrid's journey through five homes and six years of foster hell. She's a survivor who learns a painful life-lesson from each foster situation. At the same time Astrid works to free herself from the toxic psychological stranglehold of her selfish mother who constantly writes from prison. "White Oleander" is a veritable floribunda of flowery prose. Ms. Fitch similes are spot-on and her descriptions evoke rich, poignant images. It was gratifying to see how the author brought so many complex characters to life--the foster moms especially. I sat up late three nights in a row devouring this book and was able to turn my editing glasses "off" for a change. Kudos to Ms. Fitch.(less)
Suffice it to say, this jewel of a book made me whip out a pencil, underline passages, dog-ear pages, and scribble notes in the margins. A simple Span...moreSuffice it to say, this jewel of a book made me whip out a pencil, underline passages, dog-ear pages, and scribble notes in the margins. A simple Spanish shepherd sets out on a journey that leads him to Africa and the Alchemist, a man who teaches the boy the importance of following his heart. A stunningly beautiful allegory about what's important in the journey of life. Ranks right up there with Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince" and Constantine Cavafy's, poem "Ithaca". Mystical and powerful. Loved it.(less)
Lyrical and tender, this memoir unveils the reciprocal artist/muse relationship between poet/singer Patti Smith and the controversial photographer Rob...moreLyrical and tender, this memoir unveils the reciprocal artist/muse relationship between poet/singer Patti Smith and the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. "Just Kids" is their bittersweet journey through the gritty art scene of NYC in the 60s and 70s. They SUFFERED for the sake of art: poverty, grifting, hunger, not to mention a few rounds of lice. These bohemians rubbed elbows with the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and the Warhol gang in a pool of creativity that ultimately rocketed Patti into music and Robert into photography. Their friendship lasted through obscurity and stardom, until Robert's untimely death in 1989. Patti's writing is poetic and sublime. Her ability to succinctly capture beautiful moments in words will make the reader weep. I'm in awe of her talent and envious at the same time. The extensive collection of photographs in this book makes their story shine.(less)
Thirty pages into this book, I was ready to cast it aside, but I forced myself to finish because it was written by the iconoclast, Hunter S. Thompson....moreThirty pages into this book, I was ready to cast it aside, but I forced myself to finish because it was written by the iconoclast, Hunter S. Thompson. “The Rum Diary” has plenty of humor and snappy dialogue, but that wasn’t enough to maintain my interest. While Thompson's descriptions, similes, and metaphors are beautiful and worthy of study, the story lacks a cohesive gripping plot. Paul Kemp is a jaded journalist who flies to San Juan in the late 1950's to work for a second-rate gringo newspaper. He hangs with a pack of other crabby dysfunctional journalists. They berate the locals, write little, and drink a lot. Kemp lusts after his coworker's ditzy Anglo girlfriend. Toward the end, he uncovers a corrupt plot to develop some beach property. His crush disappears in some Carnival lunacy, but soon resurfaces. They hook up. She leaves. The newspaper folds. Kemp flees Puerto Rico, not much wiser than when he arrived. Yep. Just the kind of book that you want to toss across the room when you finish. Additionally, women in the story are portrayed as hags, harlots, or air-headed broads. Sorry, HST fans, but I really don’t understand the appeal of this book.(less)
Imagine waking up to find that you have grown a pair of demon horns...ones that make others spill their deepest, darkest secrets at the sight of them....moreImagine waking up to find that you have grown a pair of demon horns...ones that make others spill their deepest, darkest secrets at the sight of them. Thus begins "Horns", Joe Hill's tale of bedevilment and revenge. Ig Perrish uses his terrifying new "gift" to find the murderer of his beloved girlfriend. Ig had been blamed (but never convicted) for her violent death, and socially ostracized for a year. "Horns" is a roller coaster ride of thrills, chills, and twists as Ig unearths the ugly truth and metes out justice. Along the way he determines the devil is more human than he ever imagined. Hill's pacing, character development, and imagery are masterful. He really knows how to flesh out a paragraph without it feeling like a concrete block. The premise of "Horns" is gripping, and although horror isn't my usual genre, I thoroughly enjoyed every devilish minute of Hill's imaginative tale, especially the snake groupies and theological discussions. (less)