Thursday, October 30, 2014

Zealot: The Life and Times of of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan, 336 pages

"Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth" is a biography of Jesus.  Yep, him.

I found this book fascinating.  The author, Reza Aslan, who is a scholar of religion, did not rely on the bible as his source material.  He studied historical writings about first century Palestine and Roman documents.

Jesus is such a black and white figure for so many of us, I enjoyed this more historical look at his background and the early church after his death.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult 398 pages

Truthfully, I do not know where to begin in telling you about this book. I had heard subtle rumors that the book was hard to read, so I expected an emotional, gut-wrenching story from Jodi. Typical, in other words. This story did not pull me in like some of her other novels. Alice is a scientist, she researches elephants in the wilds of Africa. Then she starts to notice how they mourn. She meets Thomas, who runs an elephant sanctuary in the US and when Alice realizes she is pregnant, leaves Africa to marry Thomas, have a family, and continue her research. Things start to unravel, though, ending with a murder, a missing person, and Thomas in an institution. But remember, this is a Jodi Picoult novel and things are not always as they seem. There is lots of interesting information in this book about elephant society. They are very matriarchal, they love their babies, value friendships and suffer grief. Sorry, I cannot put my finger on why I did not love this book. I am not sorry I read it, but it will not be included on any favorites list.


Monday, October 27, 2014

The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty 318 pages

I have mixed feelings about this book.  It was recommended to me by a patron and is the 1st in a trilogy.  Sean Duffy is a Catholic detective working in Northern  Ireland during the "troubles".  A body is found in a burned out car and at first glance, it appears a paramilitary informer has been killed.  Aw, but things are rarely as they seem in a murder mystery!  The informer is gay and in Northern Ireland in the early 80's it is illegal to be homosexual.  This death if followed by other gay deaths.  Detective Duffy has his work cut out for him.  Imagine, trying to investigate a death in the middle of a war, because that is truly what is going on in Northern Ireland.  In Belfast, there are nightly bombings, the Hunger Strike is going on, the economy has tanked and policeman must check under their cars continuously for bombs!  This book really brought home how terrible it was to live in Belfast at that time!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child 353 pages

This is another great Jack Reacher tale by Lee Child and this time, it is indeed personal.  John Kott is a sniper.  He is also someone Jack Reacher put behind bars 16 years ago.  But now Kott if free and one of only a handful of men in the world capable of making a shot from over 1400 feet away.  Reacher is called upon to find Kott and prevent the assassination of a world leader at the G8 summit. But is Reacher really being used as an investigator, or as bait?  Hang on!  This fast read takes you from Virginia, to France, to England, dodging a Serbian gang, English thugs, double crosses and close calls. Well worth the short time it takes to read.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, 870 pages

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is book 5 in the wildly popular seven book series by J.K. Rowling.

In this volume Harry is a full-blown 15 year old teenager with an attitude.  The Ministry of Magic is trying to discredit him because they don't want to face that Lord Voldemort is back.  It seems to Harry that Professor Dumbledore can not be bothered to talk to him, let alone look at him this year.  And to top it all off the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, Dolores Umbridge, is a Ministry plant who is determined to keep the Hogwarts students from learning any defensive magic.

Not a happy time for our hero, Harry.  However, it is a rollicking good time for those of us lucky enough to read or listen to the story.

My Wish List by Gregoire Delacourt 163 pages

What would you do if you won over twenty-three million dollars in the lottery?  My Wish List is about Jocelyn, middle class shop owner in Arras, France, who does win the lottery in that amount.  She has two grown children who live in Grenoble and England and her husband who works in a factory.

Jocelyn makes the decision to keep her winnings a secret although she does collect the check and hides it in her closet.  What happens to the check and to her and her family makes for a very good read.

When Jocelyn is in the gaming headquarters she is told she must meet their psychologist.  This woman’s job is to put the fear of god (or money) into the owner of the jackpot.  The psychologist recites all the bad things that happen to winners, the leeches and swindlers and family members who will attempt to share the money at any expense.

Through the book Jocelyn makes lists of how she will spend the money and on whom she will bestow gifts.

I enjoyed this book but I did not understand the blurb on the back of the book that said “one feels unbelievably happy reading this”.  That was false advertising, if you ask me.

Florence Gordon by Brian Morton 306 pages

I really enjoyed reading Florence Gordon by Brian Morton.  The story begins with Florence setting out to write her memoirs, at the age of seventy-five, in New York City where she has lived all her life.  Her daughter-in-law, Janine, and her granddaughter, Emily, have been in NYC for several months.  Her son, Daniel, a Seattle policeman joins his family for a vacation.

Florence is a published essayist and has been a force in the feminist movement for years.  The character of Florence Gordon is outspoken, opinionated and brusque.  I really enjoyed her.  She decides at one point that she needs an assistant and employs Emily to do her research for her.  This interaction gives us a chance to learn more about each of these characters and what limits they will enforce in relationships.

Emily has a needy and troubled boyfriend, named Justin and Janine starts a flirtation with a fellow researcher named Lev.  All the characters are well developed and the writing is excellent.  As I said earlier, I enjoyed this book but I had some problems with the ending.

What did Janine decide?  What about Daniel?  What happened to Justin?  We do learn what becomes of Florence but I still had questions as to the details of her fate.

I would still recommend this book, regardless of the questions I had at the end.  I think it would be a good book club book.

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 out 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!