Friday, September 19, 2014

All I Have In This World by Michael Parker

The premise of this novel is preposterous.  Two strangers meet on a used car lot in Pinto Canyon, Texas, as they are both consider the purchase of a Buick Electra and within a few minutes have made the decision to jointly purchase the vehicle.  However, this interaction takes place well into the first part of the book so there is a lot of story before this happens and by the time the decision to purchase is made, I found myself liking both buyers, Marcus and Maria, and really liking the book.  And I bought the premise and wanted to read more.

Maria left Pinto Canyon after disappointing herself, her parents, her boyfriend, and his family when she was a teenager.  She has not been back for 10 years.  Marcus has made some poor financial decisions and is on the move from the east coast to Mexico, where he hopes to hide out and figure out his life.  The story follows the two as they both face their past mistakes and consider the future. 

At one point Maria thinks of Marcus “he was passing through, slower than a train, faster than a drought”.  Neither of them is in a hurry to make a decision, and that makes the story even better.

Every once in a while the author inserts a chapter detailing the path that the car has taken from its first owner to the present day.

There are lots of lists and charts and there is humor as well as lots of sadness in this story.   I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tell It Like Tupper by J. Mark Powell 265 pages

J. Phillip Granby is hoping to secure the Republican nomination for the presidency and is in Iowa preparing for the state caucus.  His car breaks down and he is picked up by Glenn Tupper and given a ride to his destination.  They become acquaintances and, eventually, friends.  Soon Granby is quoting Tupper in his speeches and referencing his friend’s common sense and, as a result he is gaining ground in the polls.

What happens to slow down the momentum and threaten Tupper’s family and Granby’s future is not hard to predict but the story is a good one, nonetheless.  With references to Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Ottumwa, Mason City, Osceola, and even Trenton, Missouri, at one point, this was a fun book to read.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Matilda by Roald Dahl 232 pages

How had I made it to adulthood without having read this book?  Dahl never disappoints, I should have read this years ago.  I found myself laughing out loud at this book.  Matilda is a brilliant little girl who is thoroughly neglected by her parents.  Her teacher, Miss Honey, recognizes her genius, but is powerless to move her ahead in the school to the class where she belongs.  The school Matilda attends is ruled by a cruel tyrant, Miss Trunchbull, who frequently assaults children she feels step out of line.  In the end, Matilda (with her sense of justice quite well rounded) makes sure that the Trunchbull gets hers.  It is a very silly and perfect example of a Dahl book.  I highly recommend this one to children of all ages and to anyone who loves that British sense of humor!  As a side note, I really love the movie that was made from this book, too.  I don't often say that!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker, 284 pages

I read this book for the library's book club.  I would not have finished it if it was not required reading for the book club.

Karen Thompson Walker is a great writer but the story was depressing.  The rotation of the earth is slowing and the planet is dying, along with all its inhabitants.  The protagonist is Julia, who is now 23 and is writing her account of what happened when the "slowing" started when she was 11.

No hope here folks.  That's it, this is the end.  Um. . . no thanks.  I'm cleansing my bruised literary soul with a Fannie Flagg pick-me-up now, thank you very much.

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You by Courtney Maum 331 pages

I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You is the story of what happens when a man cheats on his wife.  The man, Englishman Richard Haddon, is married to beautiful Frenchwoman, Anne-Laure, with whom they have one daughter.  Richard has an affair, which he blames partly on the fact that “I married my lover, time turned her into my sister.”  In other words, the thrill is gone.

Richard’s wife finds out about the affair after the mistress, Lisa, has broken it off.  Richard is banished and comes to learn that he values his wife and his family and wants to mend things. In some ways it is just another story about a cheating husband, but there are pitfalls and humor in some of the husband's antics as he tries to win his wife back. 

I enjoyed the book, the writing is good, and there are some good laughs in the story.  In some ways I was reminded of Jonathan Tropper’s writing.  The story is told by Richard and the book is written by a woman.  I thought she did an excellent job of writing in Richard’s voice.  I look forward to more books by this author.

One Plus One by Jo Jo Moyes 384 pages

The only other book I have ready by Jo Jo Moyes is Me Before You, which I really enjoyed.  One Plus One is another good book, fast paced, with lots of twists and turns.  Jess is a single mother struggling to make ends meet while raising a ten year old daughter, Tanzie, who is a math genius, and a teen age stepson, Nicky.  Nicky is being bullied for being different, hints point to a Goth style of dressing and makeup wearing. 

The fourth main character in the book is Ed, who is well off and successful until he commits the crime of insider trading, at which point he is in danger of losing everything and going to jail.  Ed meets Jess and her tribe (she also owns a big smelly dog), and the story takes off from there.

This is one of those books where just when you think things cannot get worse, they do get worse.  However, things always seem to sort out and the story is a good one throughout.  The four characters alternate telling the story, and it makes for a really good read.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, 496 pages

The book opens with Alice waking up after she hit her head in a step aerobics class.  Alice thinks it's 1998 and she is pregnant with her first child and madly in love with her husband Nick.  It is actually 2008, Alice is the mother of three very busy children, she and Nick are divorcing and Alice has a new boyfriend.

The book was in turns laugh out loud funny and sad and bittersweet.  The story is told through three major characters.   Alice's story is told through a narrative.  Elisabeth, Alice's older sister, who has been struggling with infertility for six years tells her story through the journal entries she has been requested to write by her psychiatrist.  And then there's Frannie,  Alice and Elisabeth's grandmother whose story we get through her blog entries.

Alice struggles for about a week living this strange life with the children she doesn't know but instantly loves.  We get the aftermath too of what happens when Alice remembers.  This book was recommended to me and I recommend it to others.  I really enjoyed it.

The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams 432 pages

The Secret Life of Violet Grant is written about two very independent women at two very different times in history.  Violet Grant is a scientist, in 1914 in England and later in Germany, who marries another scientist, who is many years her senior.  He turns out to be something of a sex fiend, not just with her but with other participants.  She stays, uncomplaining, in the union until she meets Lionel Richardson and her whole life changes.

Violet’s niece, Vivian Schuyler, lives in NYC in the 60s and has chosen a life as a writer over the traditional role of women at that time as wife/mother.  Vivian receives a suitcase in the mail which belonged to Violet and she then begins an investigation into what became of her aunt.

The writing is very good in this book, there is no way to confuse the stories of the two women.  Those stories are told in alternate chapters and it is a page turner, to say the least.

Beatriz Williams wrote A Hundred Summers, which was another excellent read.  A couple characters from that book reappear in Violet Grant, but they do not play important roles in the stories of Violet and Vivian so it is by no means a sequel, or series, which I appreciated.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Sea Garden by Marcia Willet 302 pages

Some will point out the Marcia Willet’s books tend to be formulaic and I will not argue that, but I still enjoy her writing enough to read most of what she writes.  I especially like the idioms and diction of her English characters and in that respect, The Sea Garden does not disappoint.

The beginning of this book introduces a huge cast of men and women. The periods of time spanned in the story and sheer number of names put me off a bit.  However, sorting out the characters was not too difficult and I enjoyed the story, even though it was a simple one.

For fans of Willet, this will be another good read.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher 180 pages

Dear Committee Members is a book made up of letters of recommendations (LOR) written by Jason Fitger, a professor of English at a college in the Midwest.  His private life and his relationship with his colleagues, his ex-wife and an ex-lover are in a shambles and he laments his situation in many of these LOR.

The LOR include descriptions of the decrepit state of the building on campus that the English department occupies and discussions about Fitger’s book “Transfer of Affection”.  Fitger also spends a large amount of time touting the writing of one of his students, who may or may not have written a masterpiece.

The letters are entertaining and the concept is interesting.  I would recommend this book.

This book’s author, Julie Schumacher, wrote Black Box, which is one of the best teen novels I have read.