Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Firefly Dance

The Firefly Dance
Various Authors

I picked this one up specifically for the Sarah Addison Allen story since I was needing a "Sarah fix."  But like most compilations I was a bit disappointed.  I don't know if it's that the stories are too short to get into or just not entertaining enough... or perhaps I was rushing through them trying to get to Sarah's selection.  Yes, I think that's more probable now that I think about it.

Each story is about childhood and the sometimes painful path leading out of it into adulthood.  

Sarah's work was several little vignettes that followed a family through 3 or 4 phases of their lives.  Each could stand alone and together were interesting but almost like reading a diary of someone's "every day life."  I missed her usual touch of magic.

My favorite was the selection by Phyllis Schieber that was a portion of her novel, The Manicurist.  I found myself ready to read more after the three chapters included in this book and I am sure I'll do so eventually.  The author grabbed me with the exchange between a manicurist and her odd customer, followed by her husband's aversion to her intuition. There is so much more I want to know about the story.

Don't you hate it when authors end one book with the "free peek" at their next?  In the form of the first couple of chapters?  Um, yeah, that's what happened here.

I'm giving this three and a half shots of five.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Firefly Lane

Firefly Lane
Kristin Hannah

I read this book some time ago and recently found that I had shared my review on a friend's Facebook page.  My original review was on Visual Bookshelf which was an app that no longer exists.  I'm taking advantage of finding this copy to add it to my book blog where all my reviews are written now days.  Please read on:

(Date of original review unknown)
I immediately had a connection with this book. It starts in the 70's in Washington State with the two main characters just a few years younger than I was at that same time. Their girlhood experiences were similar to mine, in practically the same setting, and in this book we grew up together into the present day.

The story began to pull away from my interest in the adult years. I had problems finding Tully to be a completely believeable character and wanted to slap Kate for her lack of spine. Eventually I did get pulled back into the story as their lives continued to mature.

Despite Tully's ambition and singlemindedness I did find her involvement in Kate's family to be honest and well written. Again, Kate's lack of spine annoyed me in that she never drew a clear line between her daughter and her friend, nor did Tully ever try to understand Kate, but fed into Kate's daughter's teen angst and nourished it.

Finally, this is the 2nd book within a month that dealt with the horror of breast cancer. A subject that is just a little too close to home for me, but in the end a very important part of this story.

I recommend this story. It's good chic-lit and should be ingested with a box of tissues handy.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mocking Jay

Mocking Jay
by Suzanne Collins

Again, I am not going to give you much of a review of this book.  Being number three in the trilogy, I will refer you back to number one (The Hunger Games) to start there.  If you enjoy that one, and then Catching Fire you won't even need my review to know you must read Mocking Jay. 

Suzanne Collins keeps the action and tension going strong in book three.  The relationships of the main characters changes somewhat as their situations change, but we adapt to the changes just as they must.  More twists and turns and surprises await you. 

And of course the end of Mocking Jay also means the end of the trilogy.  I had my preferred outcome from the beginning of the first book and continued to hope I'd see it.  Although I must admit my preferences were pulled in opposite directions more than once.  As for the ending...  was it what I hoped for?  Yes and no.  It's one of those happy/sad endings that you know you can't avoid because it's right.  It's the way things had to end... or to continue on.

There was just a tad bit of feeling "I'm tired of writing, this story must end" near the last of the story.  Immediately after the climatic event the book leads up to, Katniss is confined to her "quarters" for a fair period of time, not knowing what is going on or what is real or not.  Eventually we find out in very simple terms what has happened and I felt it was more than a little implausible.  In order to make a believer of me, I really needed to know how the story played out to it's conclusion.

If I haven't mentioned it before, you may want to keep a box of tissues nearby when reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  Although an action packed adventure story, there are many times I found myself choking back tears.

Again, five of five shots for Ms. Collins and her Hunger Games trilogy.  Now, I must see the movie.  (I don't do movie reviews - sorry). 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Catching Fire

Catching Fire
 by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire is book two of the Hunger Games trilogy.  Every bit as good as book one, I don't know what more to say.  What comes to mind that I could write would give away parts of the book I am reluctant to give away. I will say that not long into the book, Katniss and Peeta find themselves fighting for their lives, once again. And this time the results are devastating. 

Guess you'll just have to read it yourself. 

Book two starts off immediately where book one ends and Katniss and Peeta are starting on their victory tour of the Districts.  I wondered how this is done because being a victor means you have killed off the teams from every district but your own.  So it doesn't seem to me that each district would be too excited about seeing the winners visit their district. 

However, I suggest you read book two after you've finished book one to find out how the victory tour goes and....


I'm not giving anything up.  But I do give this book five shots of five, just like book one.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins

I'm beginning to feel that the best books are being written for young adults.  Perhaps I just don't know where to look for the best books, but I seem to find very good ones in the Young Adult section. 

The Hunger Games falls into this category - one of the best books and written for Young Adults.

Far into the future our country is broken into 13 Districts and the Capitol which are all very distinct and separate from each other.  District 13 has been obliterated and only 12 remain.  Our heroine and hero are from District 12 which is the coal mining district and perhaps one of the poorest.  Katniss is a hunter/gatherer roaming illegally outside the confines of the district, risking her freedom daily to bring food to her family and to trade for other goods.  Peeta is the son of the baker.

The Hunger Game is an annual event created by the Capitol in which two children from each district, a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18, are all placed in an arena to fight to the death.  Katniss and Peeta are the selected from District 12.  The winner will be set for life with a new home and wealth when returned to his or her district.

We follow Katniss and Peeta from their selection through the pomp and circumstance of their preparation and presentation for the Games.  The story is well written and imaginative.  The "arena" is set around a lake, forested on one side with the terrain of the other side dropping out of view and is not described until much later in the story.  The Capitol is capable of recording the combatants in all areas and controlling the environment at will. If the Games are to become boring they can crank it up to keep it moving by changing the weather or creating hardship. 

The characters are well developed and we care about them, crying when we should, becoming anxious in tense situations and cheering when appropriate.  But we don't forget that this is an incredibly awful "game" and to win is only to survive, because in a game requiring the death of all opponents, how can one really "win?"

Definitely five of five shots!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Heretic's Daughter

The Heretic's Daughter
by Kathleen Kent

Taking place in the late 1600's this is the story of a young girl's experience as her mother becomes a victim of the Salem witch hunts.  The author is a descendant of the Carrier family portrayed in the book, although I don't know what her resources are for the story she writes.

The young Carrier girl is the older daughter in a family of sons and one younger sister.  She finds her parents to be cold and distant and yearns for the gentleness and closeness she feels from her cousin's family or her grandmother.  She spends her days helping the family on their farm doing chores appropriate for her age and helping care for her younger sister.

Much of the story describes her life and hardships up to the time her mother is tried and incarcerated as a witch.  In the course of time she and her brothers are also sent to prison and required to testify against their mother.

I think the meat of this story is in the description of life at that time complicated by the church and clergy and the improbability of so many innocent people suddenly finding themselves accused of supernatural powers.  There are no big surprises nor unexpected twists or turns.  The telling of the trial and the hanging of Goodwife Carrier are all pretty much told from the perspective of a young child and not very in depth.

I found this book an enjoyable read and educational in its regard to American life in the 1600's, but somewhat disappointing.  Only three shots of five from me.