My Own Little Book Corner

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 Book Reviews - August

The Arsonist by Sue Miller

A disappointing book. By the title and summary, I expected the story line to center more on the arsonist that is leaving the community of Pomeroy on edge. The main story line revolves around a woman who has worked overseas doing aid work all of her adult life and has popped in and out of the states.  She is struggling with the need to stay in the states to help her family or the pull of leaving.  This is a somewhat sad tale of family dynamics, community and life. I never felt connected to any of the characters, who for the most part were self-centered. The most encouraging part of the book was the ending, but even that had depressing tones to it. I wanted to like this book, but just could never get there. 

The Shortest Way Home by Juliette Fay

I almost waited to read this book because there is a lot of similarities in the plot line to "The Arsonist".  The main character is a man that has worked overseas doing aid work for his entire adult life.   He comes home and discovers that things have not stood still while he was gone and that he is needed there too.   The struggle is the pull to leave vs the pull to stay.   I really enjoyed this book.   The characters, while having faults, are basically good people who are working hard to balance their needs and the needs of others.  They are not the self absorbed people that I met in "The Arsonist".  I felt like these were people I would like to know.   A wonderfully written story that I enjoyed.  

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

This is an interesting story based on facts.   It is set in the 1800's in Iceland -not a time or place that I read about a lot.   Agnes has been convicted of murder and is sent to an isolated farm to be held in custody until her time of execution.  It is a story of how Agnes got to this point, of the family that is forced to house her, and of the priest that is assigned to make sure she repents and is saved.  As I learned Agnes' story and as I came to know her while she was in custody, I wanted her to be able to go back in time and to have a different life.   It definitely makes you think about the circumstances of life and the choices we make and why.   It was a little hard to get started on this one - I think because of the Icelandic names and just the dark feeling at times of the story.  It quickly drew me in and I am glad that it did.   A story that stayed with me.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

This is based on the girl for which "Alice in Wonderland" was written.   It covers her life from a young girl to an elderly woman.   I enjoy historical fiction - but I have mixed feelings about books like this that are a type of historical fiction biography.   It's easy to take the more controversial seeming events and twist them.  One thing that books like this do though is make me look further into those lives to try to determine what is true and what is fiction.  If you are a really big "Alice" fan then I could see you either loving this book or hating it.  For those of us that just know the story and have mainly seen the Disney film, it is all in all just an average read.

Identical by Scott Turow

I like Scott Turow novels.   You know there is always going to be a twist, and this story is no different. There's the  identical twins, one who had pled guilty to murder and is just finished serving his time and one with political aspirations.  They are trying to defend themselves against the brother of the murdered woman who thinks that both brothers had a hand in his sisters death and is set on justice. Added to the mix are the family connections that go way back.  I figured most of it out fairly quickly, but there were a few twists that I didn't expect.  A typical Scott Turow book that explores relationships as much as solves mysteries.

Good Graces by Lesley Kagen

This is a sequel to Whistling in the Dark - a book I read 4 years ago.   It is told by an 11 year old girl, Sally, and is set in 1959.  The summer adventures of Sally, her sister Troo and friends are different than any summer experience I ever had.   For some reason these books remind me of the Nancy Drew series of my youth, but with a twist.   The main characters are not only involved in solving crime, they are also involved in the crimes.  These also are not young readers, but adult books.   Having said that, you have to accept some things that as an adult, I have a hard time accepting.   The ending is not very realistic in my mind, even in 1959.   I do like the narrative and the voice of Sally.   Not an intense mystery, just an entertaining story.   Which is something I like in a book.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

I am not a Harry Potter fan which probably led me to liking this book more than some who are.  I really liked the style of Robert Galbraith aka J K Rowling in telling this story.  It had enough twists to it to keep me wondering.   There were some dead end clues and some things that seemed a little bit on the unbelievable side, but overall I liked the characters and the plot.   

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

I enjoy Joshilyn Jackson books and this one did not disappoint.   She is a great storyteller.   "A Grown Up Kind of Pretty" covers 3 generations of single women - all living together.  There's crisis, men, deception, and love.   It's a southern story of love and family.   Dysfunctional, but unshaken.  It all starts when Big decides to have a swimming pool put in.   The discovery of a box with a baby skeleton sets things off on a trail that Big and Mosey try to figure out with the help of Lisa - Mosey's mother who has limited communication skills due to a stroke.   Another good one.

Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Another book that I'd recommend.  Jane is a newlywed in 1960, married to a doctor.   She goes against the norm and works outside the home as a social worker in North Carolina.   I know that 1960 was a lifetime ago for a lot of people, including me, but it is amazing to me where our country was in some aspects such a "short" time ago.  There were still tenant farms and eugenics.   Jane didn't really know either existed, but in her row as a social worker, she was soon in the middle of both.  This novel explores eugenics more than anything and the moral dilemma that goes along with it.  What would you do as a social worker if you found that you were expected to support eugenics?  That's what Jane faces as she becomes emotionally invested in one of her families.  The result is an interesting tale.  A book that will make you think.

Hugh and Bess by Susan Higginbotham

I decided that I was in the mood for a good old fashion love story set in the 1300's.   I like historical fiction and while "Necessary Lies" is a type of that, I really like to go back further in time occasionally.   This is the story of the marriage of Hugh le Despenser and Bess de Montacute.   It has no deep moral - just a good old fashion story of a good old fashion marriage.   (Maybe too old fashion since it is an arranged one.)  If you like this kind of story, then check out this book.   An entertaining read.

Run by Ann Patchett

The first book I read by Ann Patchett was Bel Canto. I enjoyed that book so decided to read
The Patron Saint of Liars. Another good story that I really liked - as much or maybe more that Bel Canto. I was excited to read The Magician's Assistant but didn't enjoy it quite as much. It wasn't so big of a disappointment that I didn't want to read any more of Ms Patchett's books, so was excited to read "Run." This book was a disappointment.  There were so many issues covered in this book - rich/poor, black/white, access to a top notch education/at the mercy of the system, strong belief in God/agnostic, adoption/birth son, right wing politics/left wing politics.  I really wanted to like this book but at the end of it I felt cheated in a way.   Instead of the story I expected, I felt like it was more of a p.c. made for tv movie that wrapped up nicely in the end.   The only thing that made me think a little was that in the end, the Doyle's were deceived, but I don't think that would have made a difference in what they did.  I'm not giving up on Ms Patchett, but I hope her next book has a little more substance.  

That's it for August.   A few good ones in there and none that were horrible.