My Own Little Book Corner

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

2017 Books Read - February

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

This is a book that has been on my TBR list for a while and I'm glad I finally got it.   The story started out a little slow for me, but picked up as I got to know the characters.   There are 2 parallel stories - one in France and one in Germany - during World War II.   One is the story of a family trying to survive the occupation and the other is a story of an orphan who is part of Hitler's Youth Movement.   Each story in itself is a good read and it's interesting how they intersect.  Marie-Laure is a smart French girl who has lost her sight.   Warner is a blonde headed German boy who is also very smart.   They both do what they can to help their side in the war - but Warner, unlike Marie-Laure, internally questions if what he is doing is right. The other characters in the story are interesting and add layers. It is a beautifully written story of love, morality, war, loss, friendship and life.   (Whew - that's a lot!)  I like reading historical fiction from WWII.  It is often sad, but a part of history that we can learn from.   A good book!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

Another kidnapping story.  8 year old Ben disappears from the park after he runs ahead of his mom.  There are several people both primary and secondary characters that are in and out of the suspect category.   It is a well written story and interesting, except for one part that just didn't seem to fit or flow well for me.  That part involves a "secret" reveled by her sister.   It's not even so much the secret as it was the way it was written.   It just didn't seem to fit the characters.  Otherwise, I liked the story and the writing style.

The Quiet Game by Greg Iles

My first Greg Iles book.  This is a Penn Cage book set in Natchez.   The story revolves around a killing of a black man in the 60's.   Penn Cage sets out to solve the murder.  There are many reasons he gets pulled into this - all personal - some righteous and some revengeful. I found the story to be a little slow developing at first, but as I got into it, it flowed well.   Mr Iles story brought John Grisham to mind.   Not the same style, but the type story that Mr Grisham writes.   It was interesting and I plan on reading book 2 in the series.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simison

The 2nd story in the Don Tillman series.  I found it harder to get into this one for some reason, but once I did I enjoyed it.   Rosie is pregnant which presents all kind of issues for Don.   These stories, while are somewhat light reading, also make you think.  We all know a Don to some extent - some more "normal" and some less "normal" than him.   The thing that comes through these stories is that Don is a good person who really does want to do what is right. While appearing unemotional and devoid of empathy, he is really the opposite of that.   An entertaining book.

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I have this as a re-read, but I honestly can barely remember reading it before.   I don't hate this story, but I don't know why it is a classic.  I can understand why in the 1950's it was considered revolutionary, profane and different.   I just don't see how it translates to the same level now.  That being said, it is a little depressing book.  Holden is an immature, depressed character dealing with a sort of coming of age.   He is being kicked out of another school and decides he might as well leave early - but not let his parents know.   So he spends a couple of nights in NYC on his own.   I've read that this story is a metaphor for war - but I guess I'm too shallow to get it.   I didn't like the writing style and the story is nothing special.   Not one I plan on reading again - but I know some people love it.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I liked this book about twin sisters who have "the sense."   It is told by one of the sisters - Daisy aka Kate.   Kate is the more "normal" sister - married, 2 kids and no longer in tune with the sense.   Violet - aka Vi - is the hippier/dippier one - earns a living as a medium, afraid to drive, single, unkept.  They live in St Louis - which I admit was part of the appeal to me since we enjoy going up there and have been several times.  In 2009, a small eathquake hit St Louis.  Vi has a premonition that there is going to be another one hit and Kate gts the sense of the date in Oct.  It is an interesting story about family, growing up, adulthood, a type of fame, expectations, temptation, love and forgiveness.   Some of it is told in present tense, with flashbacks that give background to the story.   I thought it was well written and even thought I was not surprised with where the story went, I enjoyed the trip.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 Books Read - January

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
This is a story that took inspiration from a Russian folk tale about a snow girl who came to life.  Jack and Mabel Childress moved to Alaska and claimed land.   They are a childless couple who had lost a baby and were looking for a new start.   One night they build a snow girl.   The next morning it is gone,but a little girl, Faina appears.   She is a child of the woods.   The question that is always in the background is whether Faina is a human or a snow child.   This is a very interesting read on many levels.  A book I recommend.

The Book of Someday by Dianne Dixon
A sort of love story.   The Book of Someday was begun by Livvi Gray when she was a young child living in what appears to be a loveless family.   As an adult, her book gets published.   That is where the main story begins.   The story involves 3 women who don't realize they are connected but different events draw them together.   Livvi, Micah, a well known photographer, and the woman in the silver dress and pearl button shoes.   This could have been a really good story, but as I was reading it all I could think of is "made for TV movie."   It lacked depth of character and just did not grab me.  I did finish it so it wasn't all bad, but not one that I would put at the top of a list.

Small Great Things by Jodi Piccoult
It's been 8 years since I read a Jodi Piccoult book.   I kind of got Piccoult fatigue - much like I did with John Grishom - and had not really considered any of her books.   The subject of this one and a recommendation by a friend, drew me in. This is a story of a black labor and delivery nurse, Ruth Jackson, a white supremacist couple, Turk and Brittany, a lawyer, Kennedy and how racism is part of our everyday life.  Ruth is a great L & D nurse but she is forbidden to care for Turk and Brittany's son because of her skin color.   The rub comes when she is left in the nursery with him as the only nurse and he stops breathing.   The baby dies and Turk and Brittany demand justice.   This is a good story and it will make you think.   I did feel while reading it there were some contrived situations.  It's not that I don't believe that people are treated the way that Ruth was, it just seemed a little over the top at times.  It became a very preachy book and I think it could have gotten the point across without going so over the top.   I almost hate putting it that way because I do not want to minimize what I know some people live through only because of their skin color.   It did make me think and is well worth the read.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors.  He has a way with words and the style he writes draws me in.  This story was no different - I was hooked and read it in 2 days.  (It is a relative short book.)  The story is about a family left behind when their sleepwalking mom disappears.   All things point to her drowning, but no body can be found.  The main character is the daughter, Lianna, who is keeping the family functioning while trying to piece together not only what happened to her mom, but also learning some things about her mom and dad that she didn't know.  There is always a sense that there is more to the story than an accident while sleepwalking and Lianna is trying to get some closure in this area. How everything plays out and fits together is very interesting,  

 There is great character development and I loved all of the people in this story.   There is a narrative before each chapter that it is not clear until the end whose story it is.  All of these are things I like about Bohjalian's  books.  My one complaint about this one is the ending.  Not so much what the ending is, but it just felt a little bit like there should have been a little more to the story,   But even with that, I recommend this book.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

2016 Book Reviews - September

Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
I don't know why I give author's second chances sometimes, but l'm a sucker.   Actually I will try again when it is an author that other's seem to like.  So I gave Ms Shriver another shot.

The main plot of the story is an older brother whom was always idolized by his younger sister.  He shows up at her house weighing as much as a house.  The long stay is taxing enough on the sisters family, but add his weight issue and things are really heated up.  The sister has to make a decision on how best to help her brother and what she is willing to pay to help her brother.  The story, even with a plot twist that left me rolling my eyes, was not a bad story.  I just don't like Ms Shriver's writing style.  She inserts too many "facts" about diet, America;'s views of obesity, types of diets, etc.   I just wanted a story - not a research paper or sermon.

Lies Your Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson
I liked this book.  I didn't like all the characters, but I liked the book.   The story revolves around Lucy, Matt and their children.   It's a one-sided marriage when it comes to love with an old boyfriend, Griffin always lurking it seems.  I didn't like Lucy, but did come to empathize with her a bit.   Matt had flaws of his own, but overall, he was a likable guy.   I don't think I even need to tell you how I felt about Griffin.

The one thing I didn't like about the book was the ending.  In fact most of Part Three seemed a little off to me.   It almost read like Mr. Thomson knew it was time to wrap things up, so that's what he did.   Because of a lapse in time, it was hard to understand some of the choices made at the end.  I would have liked to have known a little more about the children.   I also lost a lot of the empathy I had for Lucy, which as a mother is hard to understand why.   And at the end, I wasn't too sure if I liked Matt or not.   I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just leave it at that.

Overall a good read.

Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard
Another good read.   There's nothing new in this book and really is more about the Kennedy's than the motive behind the killing of John F Kennedy. I enjoyed reading the book.   Well written.

Chance Developments by Alexander McCall Smith
This is a book of short stories based on old photographs.   Mr. Smith used 5 old photographs that he knew nothing about and used those as inspiration for each story.   I generally am not a good short story book reader.   I will read one or two and then move on to a novel and never pick the book back up.   I know that short story books can be good ones to keep around for filling in when you just have a few minutes or between novels, but for some reason, I seem to forget about them.  All that to say that I enjoyed this collection.   His stories behind the pictures were not what my stories would have been, which makes it more interesting.   How we can all see the same thing but have a different interpretation of it is a good lesson.   This was a nice little find at our library.

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
I like Ms Baker's writing style and liked this story.  It is a moral story of sorts that at times leaned towards a night time soap opera feel (think Dallas).  At times I found myself thinking that some of the characters were too cliche, but I kept reading and am glad I did.   The main storyline is about a family in a small town who are the undesirables.   So of course when anything goes wrong, they are the ones that everyone suspects.   However they are really kind and good people who have been given a hard hand in life.  There are a few interesting turns in the story - some I liked and some I didn't.  But it left me thinking and applying things to life.   That to me is always a good thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

2016 Book Reviews - August

After a 2 year hiatus, I think I will try doing short reviews of books again. I find even if nobody else reads it, it helps me to go back and see my impression of a book to then decide what to read in the future. August 2016 was not one of my better months in reading both in number of books and enjoyment. I would say for the most part, the books I read were ok, but none stood out. So here goes -
Freeman by Leonard Pitts
This is a good story that will make you think.   It weaves the tale of people from different areas of life and the country after the abolishment of slavery.  We are introduced to those who have lived the life in slavery and those who have not, but sympathize with those who have.   We see idealist, realist and those who have no hope.  The stories are compelling. The reason I did not rate this book higher is that the entire time I was reading it, I read it as a TV script.   This is not Mr. Pitt's fault, it was just in my head that way.   Since it was, the story did not affect me the same way as if I had pictured real people instead of actors.

Carrying Albert Home by Homer Hickman
So I went from a serious book to a fun, easy reader.   Barnes and Nobles describes this as "Big Fish" meets "The Notebook."   It is more "Big Fish" than "The Notebook" though.   This is the story of Elise and Homer and their trip to Florida to take Albert the alligator back to where he can be released in the wild.  Albert was a wedding gift from Buddy Ebsen - yes THE Buddy Ebsen.  Albert and Homer were no longer able to co-exist so the journey began.  The journey begins in 1935 - no maps or well marked roads and a couple with not much money.   There are many adventures along the way and ups and downs with Elisa and Homer's relationship.  This is a fun book written by Elise and Homer's son.  Told by a storyteller who comes from storyteller parents.  My favorite of the month.

Frank Lloyd Wright:A Biography by Meryle Secrest
I appreciate the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.   I understand that FLW was not a nice person and I would not want to be his friend.   Knowing that I thought a biography would be interesting as I expected a few insights into his buildings and how it all fit together in his life.   All I can say about this book is UGH!  Dry reading and a lot of information that I really didn't read - just scanned.  Not what I wanted or expected.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
This is a book that I have picked up several times and thought about reading, but never did until this month.   This is not an easy read and has some pretty brutal scenes.   At the same time it has some very touching scenes of family - and I'm not talking DNA family.   The issue I had with this book is that I knew where it was headed.   There was really no suspense.   And knowing that it wasn't necessarily going to be a happy story, I sometimes dreaded picking it up to read.   If the plot had been a little less predictable, I would have really liked this book.   I can't decide if I am going to read the sequel or not.

Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
This was a disappointing book.   I had read and enjoyed "The Cuckoo's Calling" and was looking forward to another Comoran Strike novel.   This one seemed disjointed and wandering.  It did take some turns and while I wouldn't say it was easy to solve as far as motive, it had no surprises in the end.

Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Another book that I had wanted to read for a while, but this one was a disappointment.   The story is about a woman who is kidnapped and held against her will.  It was a well planned out situation that seemed to have no way out.   She finds a way out and the story is in the form of her visits to a therapist.   I could buy into the story even though at times it was a little stretch.   But the plot took a turn that just seemed beyond ridiculous to me and it totally lost me.   I wasn't a big fan of the writing style either.

Here's to September being a better month!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

2014 Book Reviews - October

Another month - another round of reviews.  These are more my impressions than reviews as I really don't want to give much away.  I've included links in case you are interested in knowing more about the plot.

I love books and love that there are so many out there.  I'm always looking for new books to read, so send me your suggestions please.

Unbroken by Laura Hildenbrand

I feel unAmerican and heartless saying this, but this was not one of my favorite books.  If you don't know about this book, it is the story of Louis Zamperini - a Olympic athlete, turned Air Force member, Japanese POW, returning veteran, husband.  It is a story of survival, resilience and redemption as it says in the title, which I expected to result in a lot of emotion.  Instead, I felt detached throughout the book and I had a hard time reading it.   The main reason being that to me it read too much like a history book.  I just didn't connect with the writing style of Ms Hillenbrand (author of "Seabiscuit").   As a side note - with all the horrific things that happen in this book, it is probably better that it didn't take me there, but I still wanted some connection.

The cruelty of some people was almost unbelievable - or maybe I should say - I really wanted it to be fiction, though I knew it wasn't.  It is amazing that the men that went through the things mentioned in this book were able to function at all.  It is a story that will make you appreciate the many sacrifices that have been made for our country.  It's one of those books that I'm glad I read because it is an eye-opener, but at the same time it was almost a chore to get through.  If you are a fan of history, then you will probably love it.   To the rest of us - it is worth the read.   Just know what you're getting into before you start.

Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson

I next went for a "lighter" read.   I have read 3 other books by Joshilyn Jackson and enjoyed them all. This one did not disappoint.  In this story we meet Shandi, a 21 year old single mother who falls for a man she sees in a convenience store.  There's a robbery, injury, other friends, family and past experiences all involved in the story.   I'd love to tell you all about it, but feel it's best if you discover it on your own.  Being older, at times I had a hard time relating to the 21 year old main character, but before long I felt like I knew her and could have given her some of my mature advice.  :)  Ms Jackson did not disappoint with this story.

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is one of my favorite authors.   Most of his books are home runs in my eyes.  This one was not one of those - but it was still a good one.  Emily's parents both work at the nuclear power plant.   When there is a melt down, Emily finds her world turned upside down.  She becomes a runaway, street person and this is her story, told by her.  It's hard to say you liked a story when it's a tragic one, but I did like the story.  I think my problem with the book is that it is told by Emily who is very disconnected emotionally.   It is not the history book type of writing but almost a clinical style.   Mr. Bohjalian has a way of writing about hard topics without beating you over the head.   His books always make me think and I finish them feeling as if I know his characters.  So while this is not my favorite of his, I'm still glad I read it.

Take This Cup by Bodie and Brock Thoene

I enjoy historical fiction.   Having said that, I always hesitate a little to read  historical fiction based on the Bible.  It's so easy to get sucked up into any historical fiction and forget it's fiction - not a true accounting.  I enjoyed this book though and didn't have the problem of forgetting it was fiction.   I don't know why - perhaps because the people from the Bible are one's I know a lot about for the most part.   There is a lot of scripture thrown in and I will say I found myself from time to time thinking," I don't think that's when Jesus said that."   And I really didn't like the portrayal of Peter at times.  But in the big scheme of things, those are minor details.   Overall, it was a good read.

Have No Shame by Melissa Foster

Another book that I feel bad saying I didn't like - but overall I was disappointed in this book.   The story is set in the 60's in a small Arkansas town and deals with prejudice.  The problem I had with the book is that it seemed to lack depth.  It felt like Ms Foster had a main story to tell, but just didn't fit the pieces around it.  I needed to know the background of the characters to help me understand some of the choices they made.   Overall it just seemed a little contrived to me.

One thing I found interesting is that there are 2 versions of the book under one cover.   One has the Southern dialect completely - the other has "proper" English for the narrative and the Southern dialect for the characters.   Maybe that should have been a red flag for me.  :)

Defending Jacob by William Landay

My October favorite.   Another moral dilemma type book.  In this one, the 1st Assistant DA's 14 year old son is charged with murdering a classmate.  The narrative is told by the father, Andy.   It is interesting being in his mind and trying to determine what is the truth and what is his skewed view. There's a few twists and turns and some things I'm still not sure about - though others I have no doubt.  This will make you think about what you would do and how you view your kids.  Well written with great character development.   Read this one!      

Friday, October 17, 2014

2014 Book Reviews - September

Reconstructing Amelia by Kinberly McCreight

This was an OK book - not nearly as good as it could have been.  Amelia is a high school girl with all the peer pressure that goes along with it.  She is raised by a single mother with whom she appears to have a good relationship.   The mother is beyond puzzled when Amelia is found after she apparently jumped from the roof of the school.   The story goes back and forth between current and past times painting the picture of what was going on in Amelia's life before that day and what her mom is going through to try to prove that Amelia did not commit suicide.  I liked the plot, just not into the writing style or how the story developed.  At times I felt like I was reading a Young Adult book, but then again, it wasn't.   Some of the story was unbelievable too and some I couldn't understand how they fit.   Not one of my favorites, but I did read it all.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

This is the story of a woman who makes an error in judgement as a young lady and the consequences that occur to her later in life. I found that I wanted a little more character development to back up her poor choice - which was to help someone kidnap the governors wife in an act of blackmail CeeCee is a young, naive girl, but at the same time it just seems so out there to think that someone who is an otherwise smart, honest person would be suckered into helping.   It ends up the governor's wife is pregnant, gives birth, dies and CeeCee keeps the baby and raises her as her own.  It is an interesting story, but at times I found the writing a little shallow.  Last month I read Necessary Lies by Ms Chamberlain. It was written after this book and I could see an improvement in her writing. I will read more of her books.

The Birth House by Ami McKay

"The Birth House" is a different story from the ones I've been reading.  It is set in the early 1900's in Nova Scotia.  The main story line is about a younger woman who "inherits" being the town's midwife. It is interesting reading about the different natural remedies and methods that were used.   Outside of the main story line is a story of the town and the people, woman's health issues and how ignorant the medical field was about them, and a little bit of the war thrown in.  I enjoyed the story and the characters.   The only reason I didn't love this book is that I really did not like the writing style at times.   It was hard for me to always know how some paragraphs fit in the story - was it memory, reflection, history, current, etc.   But a good story overall.

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

Another one that I feel mixed about.   I have read 2 other books by Ms de los Santos.  The other two were a mini series I guess - just the 2 books about the same characters.   This book is about 3 good friends from college, 10 years later reuniting.   Maybe because I'm old, but I found Penn and Will (Penn especially) to seem really immature for a 30 something - especially one that has a 5 year old kid.   It was an entertaining enough read - I finished it - but not very deep, a few unbelievable moments in the story line and overall just OK.

When the World Was Young by Elizabeth Gaffney

I enjoyed this book, but wasn't overwhelmed by it.   I would rate it an average read.   The story starts on V-J Day.  It covers all sorts of topics - marriage, class, race, loss.   There were no real surprises and really no deep thoughts.   Just a story told through a young girl who grows up during it.  It was well written and I would read another of Ms Gaffney's books.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

"The Husband's Secret" was my favorite book of the month.  What would you do when you discover a horrible secret about your spouse - who has been a wonderful husband and father?   How do you continue to live and interact with people who were affected by what your spouse had done?   If you are one of the people who has lived for years with the consequences of his actions - how do you handle it when you discover the truth?   It was often predictable but that was ok with me because I really liked the story and the way it was written.   I highly recommend this one.

The Walk Series by Richard Paul Evans

This month I finished this series.   I enjoyed the books, but must admit that they weren't exactly what I expected.   This is a series about healing, forgiveness, kindness and love.   All of this while telling the story of a walking journey from Seattle to Key West after Alan Christoffersen lost his wife, his business, his house....basically his life.  It was interesting reading about different places in this wonderful country, the people he met and the situations.  I honestly expected a "deeper" story and while there were a lot of things covered, I feel like it was more of a surface read.   Each book is fairly short and they are easy to read and enjoyable.

Flying Shoes by Lisa Howorth

For the first time in a while, I stopped reading a book.   I made it a little over half way through this book and reached a point where I told myself that if I didn't stop then, I was committed to finishing.   I wanted to read this book because it was inspired by a true event - the author's brother being sexually abused and murdered when he was 9 years old.   This story is 30 years later and I thought was going to be more of a mystery story with the cold case being re-opened.   Instead it was about very dysfunctional people - most of who had no connection with the case.  It is pretty much a character driven book and I could never really figure out the plot.   I scanned the pages I hadn't read and could not see a plot developing.   So at about page 200 I decided that I had spent enough time with those people and were sick of them.   Closed the book, set it aside and picked up one of the many other books in my TBR pile.