Thursday, October 30, 2014
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.
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
Saturday, October 25, 2014
Friday, October 24, 2014
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.
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 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 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.
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
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
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 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.
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
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
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
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.
Friday, October 10, 2014
Horton Halfpott, or, The fiendish mystery of Smugwick Manor, or, The loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's corset by Tom Angleberger 206 pgs
This was a very well written and thought provoking book. The story of Clara, a nurse on Ellis Island in the early 1900's is book ended by the story of Taryn, the widow of a man who was killed in the collapse of the World Trade towers. Clara is working on Ellis Island to be in “an in between” place, to allow time to pass because she has suffered a great loss.
Both women need to come to terms with their losses and their past before they can move forward. This book does a lot to discuss that old phrase “everything happens for a reason”.
The author writes so well, and the description of the life on Ellis Island is so interesting, I was sorry to see this book come to an end. I loved this book and would highly recommend it. I believe it would be a good book club selection.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Overall, I liked this book but I read some reviews after I had finished it and was surprised to see that so many previous readers thought this was “a love story”. The book is separated into five chapters which follow the five years in a couple’s relationship. The book is told by an “I” character who describes his actions and his point of view. He refers to a “you” character as he chronicles his lover’s movements and her reactions to his behaviors.
The lovers each have a child from previous relationships. They move in together, then move the two children in with them, then they split up and live apart, all the while trying to figure out the boundaries of their relationship.
What confused me about calling this a love story is that both the man and woman see other people, cheat on each other, deceive each other, and question their commitment to each other, throughout the story. I guess that is “love” if it is defined as a work in progress, however, it seems to me that all that would take place before a couple described themselves as being in love.
The writing is great, however, and while the time line skips around somewhat, it is not enough to lose the reader. I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
Biddy and Quimby are both graduates of their high school's special ed program. They are speddies. Both have been neglected and/or abused. Now they are 18 and are partnered together in an independent living situation. Biddy is given the job of caring for an older, wealthy lady on whose property they live, and Quimby works in the bakery of the local grocery store. They each find they both have natural talents well suited to their positions. As they become more independent, they begin to rely on each other, both facing past challenges and an unexpected trauma.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Friday, October 3, 2014
Marine Behavioral Biologist, Nate Quinn has spent his career trying to figure out why male humpback whales sing. He finds that out and more in this novel that includes a cast of zany characters.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
The first thing I have to say about this book is: it weighs a TON! Seriously, this is one heavy book!
This third installment in the trilogy takes us from the early sixties, JFK, the Cuban Missile Crisis, civil rights, Rock and Roll, to the dismantlement of the Eastern Bloc of communist countries. It ends with the falling Berlin Wall. Each historical event is told thru the eyes of members of 5 entwined families: American, German, English, Welsh and Russian. This is a fictional tale, of course, but it made you think about each event, the political nonsense behind it and the affect it had on real people and families.
The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals by Wendy Jones 235 pages
I loved this book. I think because I have read quite a few books about the raw and raunchy side of life lately, this especially appealed to me.
The story is a simple one, Wilfred Price asks Grace Reece to marry him and not soon afterwards, realizes he has made a mistake. Not only is he not in love with Grace, he finds himself to be infatuated with another woman, Flora Edwards.
The story is set in a small village in Wales in the 1920s and is a wonderful depiction of life in that day. Wilfred’s mother died when he was born and he has lived with his father for his twenty-seven years. Wilfred is an undertaker by trade and throughout the book he remembers advice and wisdom from his apprentice-master, Ogmore Auden. Auden’s voice gives Wilfred courage and strength to pursue his heart’s desire.
The bond between Wilfred and his father is a strong one and is enjoyable to read about. The unfolding of Grace’s tale and the consequences of Wilfred’s proposal to her are also interesting. I enjoyed the descriptions of Narberth, Wales. I would highly recommend this book.