Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, 265 pages

Bear with me for this review.  It took me 3 1/2 months to read this book.  Not because I didn't enjoy it!  I did.  There was just a new small person in my house that kept me from reading as often as I would have liked.  :)  That said, I didn't want to miss the opportunity to review it for the blog.

Stella Bain is an American woman who served as a British nurse's aid in World War I.  She is suffering from amnesia.  She goes to London  because she knows she needs to get to the Admiralty.   After being found at a park in London and rather ill, she is taken in by Dr. Bridge and his wife, Lily. While she recovers from her illness, Dr. Bridge tries to help her overcome her amnesia through talk therapy.  

After several visits to the Admiralty, Stella finally has a breakthrough.  Someone recognizes her and says her real name, Etna Bliss.  The first thing Etna remembers is that she has children.  

The story unfolds from there as Etna returns to America to face her abusive husband and try to regain custody of her children.  It also flashes back to the time Etna spent serving in the war.  A custody hearing and more therapy after being diagnosed with "shell shock" ensue before Etna finally has her children back.

Deadline by John Sandford 388 pages

I love John Sandford’s Davenport and Flowers books and look forward to each new publication.  Deadline, the newest Virgil Flowers book, however, is not what one is used to in either of these series.  Instead of the fast pace and constant action in a usual Sandford book, the plot of this book is pretty much not a mystery, the conclusions are not surpising.

Even the subject matter is toned down: dognapping in a rural community and, in the same community, a school board whose members are embezzling large sums of money (hmmmm….).  There is very little interaction between Davenport in St. Paul and Virgil in the boonies.  About halfway through the book old regulars Jenkins and Shrake show up to help Virgil out and the humorous dialogue we have come to expect in Sandford’s writing starts to appear.

Even with the slower pace and calmer plot I enjoyed the book.  Fans of Virgil’s nickname will get a belly laugh at the end when Virgil is talking of his new sidekick, a yellow dog.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Deadline by John Sandford 388 pages

This novel by John Sandford is the latest in his Virgil Flowers series.  I always enjoy Sandford's books and this one was especially good.  Why?  Well, because it was about dogs, of course!  The school board of a small Minnesota town has been skimming funds for years!  Then a local reporter starts sniffing around.  He may be one of the down and our town drunks now, but in his day he was a great investigative reporter and the school board decides he must be silenced.  Meanwhile, one of Flowers' good buddies asks for his help.  Local dogs are disappearing, stolen from their owners.  Small dogs, big dogs, expensive hunting dogs, family pets are being round up and sold to medical labs.  Virgil gets drawn in to both dramas, but never fear!  There is a happy ending and Virgil goes home with a dog!

Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich 305 pages

What can I say? This is a typical Stephanie Plum novel. Stephanie and her cohort Lula are tasked with saving short, little, Randy Briggs. Randy is (was) the accountant/bookkeeper for Jimmy Poletti. Poletti was caught running a human trafficking ring out of his car dealership. Now someone is using a rocket launcher to try and get rid of Randy. Add to this the fact that something awful has happened over at Rangeman and there is a pack of feral Chihuahuas on the loose and Stephanie really has her hands full! The best part of this story was Grandma Mazur's bucket list. Among her goals are getting revenge on Joe Morelli's Grandma Bella and seeing Ranger naked! You will just have to read the book to see how she accomplishes these 2 goals!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, 352 pages

Set in Australia in the 1920s, this is the story of Tom Sherbourne and his wife Isabel.  Tom is a lighthouse keeper on a remote island.  Isabel happily goes to the island but after she suffers three miscarriages, life is not as happy as it once was.  Soon after the third miscarriage a boat washes ashore with a dead man and a live baby.

Isabel convinces Tom they should keep the baby because God obviously brought them the baby and the story that follows is the consequences of that decision.  This is one of those books where I thought, how can this turn out okay?  But I found the ending satisfying and truly enjoyed the book.  This is a book I will recommend to others.  We'll be discussing it soon at the library book club and I'm looking forward to hearing what other book club members thought of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Italian Wife by Ann Hood 283 pages

The Italian Wife is a book written in chapters and sections that might well be read independent of each other and they would still make sense.

In Italy in 1889, Josephine is married at the age of fifteen to a man who is eleven years older than she is, a marriage that the families have arranged.  After moving to America the couple have seven children and the book follows these children as they grow up, marry and have children.

Josephine is a practicing Catholic and is true to her Italian heritage.  Her children drift from her traditions.  Her grandchildren are even further removed than her children. Many of the struggles the characters face are related to their sexuality.

I really liked this book and would recommend it.  I believe it would be a good book club book as well.

2 A.M at The Cat's Pajama's by Marie-Helene Bertino 272 pages

How can a book about a legendary jazz club in Philadelphia remind me of The Milagro Beanfield War?  The answer is, it just did, and I am not sure how.  Maybe it was the part about all the characters having hope, despite the odds being stacked against them.

This is a book that begins at 7 a.m. on Christmas Eve and ends twenty-four hours later.  The story revolves around Madeleine, who is almost ten years old,and who aspires to be a jazz singer.  She attends a Catholic school, has lost her mother to cancer, and lives with her father, who is so bereft he hardly notices that she exists.

The host of characters in the book include Madeleine’s school teacher, principal and acquaintances.  The owner of the Cat’s Pajamas is named Lorca and his band and compadres at the club make up the rest of the colorful characters.

The story moves quickly, a lot of history is packed into the pages.  Everyone has dreams and aspirations and, some are realized and some are not, by the end of the book.  There is a little magic, but not enough to put the readers off (like myself) who do not want a book to be all about magic.

I would recommend this book.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

we were liars by e.lockhart 225 pages

I could not wait to finish this book, Sorry, that is not a good thing. This is the story of a perfect family that is not so perfect. They are wealthy, privileged, own their own island and have wonderful mansions full of wonderful things, over which they all fight. The grandfather rules all and is not above threatening to disinherit if someone makes him mad. This story is told by Cadence "Cady", the first grandchild. She tells about idling away the summers on the island, being bored, etc. All the hype talks about the surprising ending, and yes, it does have a twist, but believe me, it is not worth slogging thru the rest of the book to get to the end. This book was a waste of my time and I do not see my teens identifying with or enjoying this book.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the Woods by Tana French 429 pages

I can't help it!  The song that runs through my head when I think of this book is "What a long, strange trip it's been.."  Don't get me wrong, there were lots of things I liked about this book.  It will freak you out, for sure!  Rob Ryan is a detective in Dublin.  He and his partner, Cassie, are investigating the murder of a young girl whose body was left on a sacrificial altar in an archeological site.  The thing is, Detecitve Ryan is the only survivor of an attack in the same area 20 years ago.  His two friends were never found and he was discovered clutching a tree for dear life with scratches on his back and blood in his shoes, his memory wiped clean. 

This book is a great detective story, but do not expect a quick read.  Tana French weaves a tapestry with words.  This book has been descirbed as "richly atmospheric and utterly convincing" and I could not say it better. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, 752 pages

Things are heating up for Harry Potter.  He's in his 4th year at Hogwarts School and though only 14, is mysteriously entered and chosen to be a participant in the Triwizard Tournament.  Who could have entered his name?  Who indeed?

Another rousing adventure brought to us by J.K. Rowling.  These books never get old and tired for me.  Hence, the repeated listenings.

I hope to get to #5 soon, but other reading calls first.