Friday, November 7, 2014

Gone Girl

Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn

I'm about a 14 months late in reviewing this one. It seemed to be on everyone's must read list for a long time and then a movie made of it...  It wasn't until I saw the movie trailers that I really wanted to read it. The movie looked really good and of course we all know that the book is almost always better than the movie.  

I really enjoyed this book.  Like so many that I know have a twist or two in them, I suspected the ending before I was through, but it seemed so unlikely.  I was still anxious to know the how and why. 

Gone Girl is a murder mystery in which a man is accused of killing his missing wife. All the evidence is there except for her body.  Easy to get swept away with the story, you'll want to finish the book before you put it down. 

4 of 5 shots from me.  But just to let you know, I didn't make it all the way through the movie. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

My Literary Pet Peeve

I stopped by Joseph Beth Booksellers yesterday to pick up a copy of Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  The movie trailer has been all over TV-land and it appears to be such a good thriller I knew it had to be my next read.  

Upon arriving at JoBeth I was greeted with a hug by Eric, my second favorite bookseller (my daughter being my first favorite, of course) and taken to the section where we would find my book.  

Of course he had to suggest that they may be sold out due to the upcoming movie release.

Oh, Eric, don't teeeeeeeease me about books!!  

So there we are looking at the book and he suggesting, ever so gently, that I might prefer the mass market version because the print is larger...  Really Eric?  I love you, but really???  I inform him I am a book snob and only read trade paper or hard cover. So there! 

Now we are joined by my darlin' Krissy who exclaims, "Mom!  You can't buy that one, that's the movie cover!"  Oh.My.Goodness, she's right!  Being the book snob I am and the appreciation I have for cover art, there is no way I'll be buying a book with the movie characters on the cover.  Fortunately for me, there was a copy with the original cover. 

So my pet peeve is this - book covers which portray the movie that was made based on the book. Why? Why can't the publishers and the powers that be leave the original cover art alone?  I don't' want shelves of books covered with photos of famous, has-been, and/or wanna be actors.  I want the original art.  Please, leave my book art alone!

Saving Grace

Saving Grace
by Jane Green

I've really been enjoying reading pre-release books my daughter brings home for me.  It makes me almost feel like I am a legit book reviewer.  Yes, it is appropriate to laugh here.  I'm writing a blog with only 8 (or is it less?) followers and only had five hits on my last review.  This has always been for myself.  

Saving Grace is another ARC that is scheduled to release on December 30th of this year.  It's the third or fourth book I've read by Jane Green and I've become a fan of her writing. 

Grace is the beautiful compassionate half of a literary power couple, married to Ted, a popular and in-demand author. She comes from a background she is ashamed of and has kept secret: a mentally ill mother who mentally abused and terrified her. Although she is happy in her marriage and loves her life, it takes no time at all for the reader to see that in her marriage she is repeating her past.  

The couple hire Beth, an assistant for Ted who quickly makes herself indispensable to both of them.  She is better than perfect.  But soon Grace finds herself becoming forgetful and things happen that make her feel she's not quite right.  Ted urges her to see a psychiatrist who begins pharmaceutical therapies and Grace continues to spiral downwards.  As this is happening, Beth is there to step in for her and keep things running smoothly.  Or so it seems.  

I was running out of pages to read as I thought the story was coming to the ending that seemed certain.  How was Jane going to pull this off?  There was a bit of a twist at the end, a different happy ending than what I was expecting.  Even so, there was no justice in the end, only another beginning. 

Jane Green writes about women my age with similar issues.  Although I am far from the glamorous Grace, I see that she just another woman with friends that could be mine and concerns that I also find in my life.  The stories are not about young assistants or shop-a-holics.  Maybe I'll call it senior chic-lit? I'll continue to seek out her stories.  For me, this was a good book that kept me entertained and wanting to know more.  Four of five shots!

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Sudden Light

A Sudden Light
by Garth Stein

I've read three books by Garth Stein now and The Art of Racing in the Rain remains my favorite.  He is a northwest author who lives in Seattle.  Being a Seattlite transplanted to the Bluegrass Commonwealth of Kentucky, I really enjoy the snippets I come across in his books that take me right back to my old neighborhoods.  

In the very beginning of the book he drives us past Las Margaritas... oh, what yummy Mexican food we used to get there... on our way to the Riddell House, the dilapidated mansion from Seattle's glory days of logging, where the story takes place.  

Riddell House sits on 200 acres of undeveloped land overlooking Puget Sound.  How hard my brain worked to locate the probable but fictitious site.  Was it Carkeek Park?  I decided the park's location is too southern, but it's size of 220 acres is about right.  Since the Seattle Golf club abruptly stops the flow of 3rd Ave NW where 145th comes into it, I've made that my final guess.  This is, of course,based on the location of Las Margaritas at 145th & Aurora.  This location is also much closer to the "Old Sears Store" mentioned later in the book. Was it ever known as the "New Sears Store"?  Not in my lifetime, but I did chuckle at the reference. As well as references to Ernst Hardware and Pay N Pack (both long defunct), Aurora Rents and the #5 bus into Seattle along Phinney Ridge.  Please forgive my transgressions - I do miss my 'hometown.' 

This story centers around the Riddell family in the 1990's and their ancestors who built the mansion several generations back.  A promise had been made to return the land to it's natural state, but to date the property had only been passed down. The second generation's hands were tied by a trust and the third generation just not willing to move on.  This would be the elderly Samuel Riddell, suffering from dementia and unwilling to leave the estate where his beloved wife died, yet still dances for him during his sleepless nights.

Samuel's son and daughter reunite after more than 20 years to declare the old man incompetent and move him off the estate so they can cash in on it.  With them is his teenage grandson whom he'd never met. 

Samuel's daughter Serena, is an odd character.  She speaks oddly and I had a difficult time trying to figure her out.  This is, of course, by design.  She has lived with and cared for her father since her mother's passing, 23 years earlier. Her older brother, Jones, was sent away to school immediately after their mother's death and had never returned.  He's a sad, somewhat pathetic figure, dealing with his own bankruptcy and failing marriage. His son, Trevor comes to Seattle with him hoping somehow he can fix his parents' broken marriage by fixing his dad.  The answer to everyone's problems seems to be in selling the estate and cashing in. 

The history of Riddell House and it's many mysteries is told through journals, letters, some memories and of course the ghosts who live there, wanting the land returned to nature.  But what of the ghosts?  Are they real or not?  

A sudden light is a ghost story and sometimes I felt it was a bit of a cliche as far as ghost stories go.  One realizes from the beginning that the story is being told in present day by Samuel's grandson, Trevor, but at times I wondered if he was now the ghost that haunts the mansion.  The answer to that question remains within the book.  No spoilers from me.  

This book is released to the public tomorrow, September 30, 2014.  I was delighted to read it before publication. I give it four of five shots. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Leaving Time

Leaving Time
by Jodi Picoult

When your mother "disappears" and leaves you behind at age three, your entire life is a mystery.  The obvious one is, "where did she go?" followed by, "why didn't she take me with her?" and, "didn't she love me?"

These are the questions that haunt Jenna, the child left behind after a terrible "accident" at the elephant sanctuary her parents ran.  Her father fell from reality and was institutionalized at that same time. Jenna pretty much faces her future alone, living with her grandmother who is somewhat emotionally detached. By the age of 13 she has acquired the skills and ability to attempt searching for her mother on her own.

In the Jodi Picoult fashion this story is told by several voices.  First, the voice of Jenna which drives the search for her mother. Only three when her mother left, she relies on dim memories and her mother's journals to connect with her.  She desparately needs to find the truth of her disappearance. 

Next is the voice of Serenity, a has-been "psychic" that Jenna finds and enlists her help.  Serenity had once been very good at what she does, working with police departments to find missing individuals or elusive leads on stalled cases, putting her in the public eye and garnering her some fame.  Unfortunately, she hit hard times when her spirit guides leave her and she fails without their help. She is careful not to reveal that she is now a hack. 

Another voice is that of Virgil, the once police detective, now private investigator, that worked on the original case. What he believed to be murder was eventually ruled an accidental death and no attention was given to the missing person, Jenna's mother.  He blames himself for the poor investigation and is haunted by the disappearance of Jenna's mother.  When Jenna comes to him, his demons convince him to help her, although reluctantly.  

I was a bit surprised to have narrative by Alice, the mother who has gone missing.  An elephant researcher, much of her narrative involves elephant behavior, particularly grieving.  The research for this part of the book is very good and fascinating.  

Having just finished The Storyteller by Picoult before picking up this book, I was primed to look for the twist.  Jodi did not disappoint, and she caught me totally off guard.  This mystery doesn't slowly unfold as we investigate it.  There are some moments when I thought, "Oh.My.God - how did that happen?!?"  but the real mystery is solved very near the end of the book.  Despite where I was looking, it snuck up on me and slapped me across the back of the head.  

So satisfying!  

I wholeheartedly give this book a five shot rating! It called me back each time I had to put it down. Around 50 pages from the end I could not put it down.  And, very unexpectedly, tears rolled down my face.  The only disappointment was one tiny little section near the end, maybe a page or two in length.  I just didn't quite buy it.  But I will not tell you more than that, no spoilers from me today. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Storyteller

The Storyteller
by Jodi Picoult

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I started this book.  I just knew that it was time for me to start a book that I couldn't put down.  I don't know if it was karma or what, but this was that book. 

Jodi tells a holocaust story through several different voices.  The first is the voice of Sage, an emotionally damaged and scarred baker.  She's a young woman alive in the present day and full of insecurities and doubts about who she really is.  She comes by baking naturally, but takes the career as a way to work solo at night and seclude herself from the perceived stares of strangers.  She's aware that her grandmother is a holocaust survivor.  Because her grandmother never talked about it, that knowledge has never really impacted her. 

Another voice of the story is a man named Josef who befriends Sage.  He is in his 90's and ultimately wants Sage to help him die.  He is a Nazi war criminal who's past has never been discovered.  He feels he is cursed to live forever with his unfathomable past.  He needs Sage to assist in his death.  He tells her what he's done, but somewhat "gently" until she forces him to admit that his atrocities are greater and demanding specifics.  

Sage's grandmother adds the voice of a holocaust survivor to the story.  Not wanting to go back to that time, she is eventually persuaded to tell her story to Sage and the Nazi hunter that Sage has contacted.  The Storyteller is the grandmother.  Once an aspiring author in her pre-war youth, she used her stories as distraction in the concentration camp. 

Through these voices, and the voice of the Nazi hunter, the holocaust is brought to life for the reader, from the perspectives of holocaust victim and Nazi.   The subject of forgiveness is discussed as a Jew, who believe that only the person harmed can offer forgiveness, therefore, Sage cannot forgive Josef because she was never one of his victims.  His victims are dead so he cannot be forgiven. Forgiveness is discussed from a Christian perspective; forgiveness is given not to wipe away or deny the act, but to allow the forgiver to move on by leaving the negative feelings that destroy you behind. 

Closing the back cover of this book didn't take me away from the story.  It continues to swirl around in my mind, demanding that I revisit the issues and consider the outcome.  There is a twist to the tale (ha- I figured it out before I got there, will you?) that makes Sage's final decision perhaps a bit regretful. 

Five of five shots.  Long live Picoult!

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Dog's Journey

A Dog's Journey
by W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Journey is apparently book #2 of A Dog's Purpose series.  I did not read book one, but found this could stand alone. 

I've read some animal books (cat or dog) that I have considered very good but I didn't feel this story measured up. 

The story involves the reincarnation of the main dog character over the lifetime of the human he/she is meant to be for.  It's an interesting concept but it didn't quite work for me.  While Molly/Max/Toby is returning to find or be found by his/her human, the other puppies in the litter don't seem to have the same mission or goal. This leaves me to wonder if this dog is unique rather than the norm. 

The story is told by the dog and therefore does not get very deep into the human issues that make up the book. This leaves me a little wanting for a "meatier" story.  

The main human character of the story is a woman named CJ, picking up when she is a teen living with her narcissistic single mother. The dog at this point is Molly.  CJ's mother is not a dog person and makes life miserable for Molly and CJ in her attempts to remove Molly from their lives. 

Molly next comes back as Max and finds CJ as a twenty-something adult living in New York City. CJ's life is still less than enviable.  Although I am not entirely sure how Max's presence influences CJ's life, CJ does begin to recognize what is good in her life and things begin to turn around. 

Another gap in time and Max returns as Toby.  CJ is approaching the twilight of her life and we find more about how CJ's life has turned out. 

Although the story wasn't as flushed out as I would have liked it did make me emotional in the appropriate places and laugh when the story or dialog called for it.  All in all I give A Dog's Journey 3 of 5 shots.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire is a memoir of the author's descent into madness as a result of an unidentified condition.  As her rare illness is finally diagnosed and treated she has a long road ahead to recovery and hopefully return to normal. 

Ms. Cahalan found no explanation for the brain infection that caused her madness, nor was she ever sure that she would recover completely, a process that took nearly a year or more.  In this case, recovery not only refers to the physical issues that she endured but also the return of her former personality and ability to do her job as a journalist.

The disease she eventually was diagnosed with was very rare and the cause unknown.  When she was well on her way to recovering she accepted a work assignment to do an article about her experience.  As a result she brought the condition to the attention of physicians and patients alike, perhaps saving many people, certainly educating and giving hope to more.  Because of the seizures and irrational behaviors, many with the same illness could easily be diagnosed with various psychosis. 

I enjoyed Ms. Cahalan's story although I expected to find her "madness" more horrifying.  Perhaps because she herself could not recall that time and wrote from what she was told, or maybe because it's impossible to know the horror without the experience. 

I think this book is important for it's impact on the medical community and the people who have been or will be affected by this illness.  As a casual read, it's definitely not for everyone.  I give it 3 of 5 shots.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope
by Rhonda Riley

I thought the synopsis of this book was intriguing and was ready for a mystical read.  It was mystical, alright, and maybe the strangest book I've ever read. 

As the Caffeinated Reader I am going to do something I've not done before, I'm going to use a latte as my alliteration for this book.

I've ordered an iced vanilla latte.  Just the thought of drinking it makes me smile with anticipation.  But when I take my first sip it's just not quite right.  I don't taste the sweet smooth vanilla flavor I was expecting.  But the milk and coffee are good and cold and I keep drinking, hoping maybe the vanilla is at the bottom and I'll reach that flavor I'm looking for.  Unfortunately, it never materializes.  I've had my iced latte, good rich coffee and ice cold milk, but it never gave me what it promised, what I really wanted when I ordered it.  In the end it was just a latte.  I am disappointed and let down.

I was disappointed when I came to the end of this story.  The writing was good, but the story alone wasn't enough to keep enthralled.  What kept me returning to the book was my desire to know who Adam was and where he came from.  

**Spoiler Alert** 
The reader never finds out. 

The synopsis of the book referred also to Adams daughters possessing some of his supernatural gifts. Up until very nearly the end of the book, there wasn't anything about the daughters having any unusual gifts.  Another synopsis compares the writing/story to The Time Travelers Wife and the Story of Edgar Sawtelle.  I find this funny because I loved The Time Travelers Wife but hated Edgar Sawtelle. My dislike of Edgar Sawtelle somewhat mirrors what I feel about Adam Hope. The ending was such a let down it over shadowed whatever redeeming qualities the story had along the way.

I won't suggest you overlook this book and move on. I've read a few reviews since completing it and many more loved the book than felt the way I do.  So it's one I have to say you must read for yourself and come to your own decision.  

The story begins shortly after WWII in a southern state where a young girl has taken on the responsibility of running her deceased aunt's farm. During a severe storm she discovers a naked man submerged in the mud.  His features are distorted and vague, his skin appears scarred, discolored and lumpy.  She believes he is a returned wounded soldier, wondering how he came to be where she found him.  

She takes the man into her home and nurses him to health, all the while wondering how he is healing and changing so fast, until she realizes 'he' is now a 'she' and looks identical to her.  

The story is of their life together as two women and then after he changes back into a man and marries her.  They have children and seem to be a normal couple.  But his strange past haunts her.  She does what she must to protect him and her family from questioning eyes. 

I can't give the story more than 3 of 5 shots.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tempting Fate

Tempting Fate
by Jane Green

Unfortunately I wasn't feeling like blogging when I finished this book and put it off far too long.  When I noticed it on my nightstand the other day I wasn't even sure if I'd read it or not.

Yes, it's true. The memory is getting that bad. 

I headed over to to read the synopsis and give myself a little help in the memory department.  At this time I won't try to review the book but I can say I did enjoy it.  The story felt believable and had me thinking about mid-life crisis and how easy it could be to have one's head turned.  

I gave it 4 of 5 shots. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Half Broke Horses

"Half Broke Horses"(Audio)
by Jeannette Walls

I read the Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls many years ago and loved it.  Sadly I wasn't writing about the books I was reading at that time.  It was a memoir of growing up with parents who were dreamers and drifters.  Parts of it romanticizing (my take on it) the childhood of living without boundaries and much of it horrific, living homeless, cold, and hungry. 

This prequel delves into the history of Ms. Walls' family, through the life of her maternal grandmother.  Ms. Walls calls it a "True Life Novel" as she has filled in and embellished, as a writer, the stories passed down in her family.  I don't believe she has embellished on facts, so much, as taken liberties with conversation and such, as the story is told through the voice of her grandmother.

Ms. Walls tells the story of this remarkable woman, her grandmother, Lily, starting with a time in our history where cars were just a vision of the future and families struggled daily to make a living off the land.  Lily was a bright, courageous and adventurous woman.  As a teen she rode by horse alone for days to take a job teaching a couple of states away.  She later moved to a big city to find work just to end up as a maid. She fell in love with and married a man who already had a wife and children, unbeknown to her.  

She left the city and returned to teaching when teachers were scarce due to the war. She married, raised a family, eventually got her college degree, helped run a ranch, learned to fly a plane, continued teaching school and more.  A true pioneer coming into the industrial age.  

Walls also tells of the life of Lily's daughter Rosemary, who was to become her mother.  Initially she wanted to tell Rosemary's story, but her mother insisted the real story was about Lily.  It's hard to believe the book could be as entertaining without Lily.  

I enjoyed this story very much and I'm now inspired to re-read The Glass Castle, something I rarely do.  

Four of Five Shots by me.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Time is Not Always Right

In a Facebook conversation the other day a friend commented regarding a book we had both started a long time ago,  She said, "Sometimes, the timing isn't right, but the book is always there when it is."  

Such a simple statement but so profound.  

Her comment was in regard to "The Hour I First Believed" by Wally Lamb. Mr. Lamb is a very engaging writer but his subjects tend to be very deep and emotional.  For the comment to be made about such a book is completely understandable. 

But I find that simple sentence floating through my mind as I avoid returning to the book I've been "reading" (not) each night.  It's good.  I really engage when I pick it up. But I just don't feel drawn back.  

Perhaps the timing just isn't right.  

Which brings me to book clubs.  I love the idea of book clubs and have joined more than one.  I've been attending one recently but guess what.... 

I have yet to read a book they've selected.  

I think I'm not cut out for book clubs.  They pick a book and I either don't read it or force myself into it. It seems more often than not, the timing just isn't right. 

I need a book club, but mine will have to be different.  I want to meet on that once a month schedule and just talk about books.  Any books.  What you've read, what I've read, what we want to read.  That's a book club I could get into and I only have to read books for which the timing is right.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Recipe Club

The Recipe Club
by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel

I should have reviewed this book right when I read it, rather than five months later.  I can't give you the details of my experience, but I do recall my thoughts. 

I picked this book up as a bargain book while waiting for my daughter to get her hair done.  I finished it the same day.  It was an easy read, the story being presented by letters and then emails, each containing a recipe.  

It's the story of two girls who begin a recipe club as children that continues into adulthood.  At some point, they relationship falls apart and they are estranged for many years.  I believe it was the death of one woman's father that inspires the women to reconnect.  Their emails reveal their past and a few twists that brought the women to this point, and still sending recipes.  

I didn't find the recipes worth the time to read them.  As children I more or less expected that, but as adults they didn't seem to get any better.  The book was a quick read but I felt the main controversy, without the details they didn't yet know, worthy of the chasm it caused. 

I gave the story 3 of 5 shots.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Hypnotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love Story
by Liane Moriarty

I have a very hard time going into a book store and not making a purchase.  This wouldn't be such a bad affliction if I didn't have a daughter who works in a book store.  Because she works there, I can't just not go there.  You see?

One day when I was running errands with my daughter she needed to stop by work.  Lo & behold, I had to make a purchase so I scanned the shelves to satisfy my need.  I happened upon this book by Liane Moriarty.  I had previously read and loved What Alice Forgot which LM had written so I thought why not?

Liane Moriarty has now joined my list of favorite or "go-to" authors.  Welcome Liane!

I was enjoying this book very much when I went to Goodreads to update my progress.  There I made the mistake of looking at reader reviews.  While many if not most of them were very good, a few gave this book low marks.  What I recall about those marks is people not liking the characters or not finding a climatic event which they felt the book was leading to.

I disagree with both those opinions.

While the book is a love story in which a female stalker quite prominently and sometimes scarily inserts herself, it is ultimately a book about relationships.  It's not a mystery or thriller so don't be looking for someone to be pushed off a cliff, drowned or beaten to death.  As the story is told in two voices, it's easy to see how different one might feel on the inside compared to how she may be viewed from the outside. I found the characters to be very real and dimensional.

The hypnotist is Ellen, a hypnotherapist. She meets and falls in love with Patrick, a widower with a young son.  Patrick dated and lived with Saskia for three years after his wife's death.  Saskia has been stalking Patrick since he broke it off with her three years prior.  An unusual love triangle to say the least. Ellen is more intrigued than frightened by Saskia's obsession with her fiance. She feels her relationship with Patrick is more threatened by his dead wife than his stalker.  Through her voice we see her insecurities and frustrations. Saskia thinks she might actually like Ellen if they had met in other circumstances. Her relationship with Patrick included mothering his son in his earliest years. Through her voice we try to understand her obsession with the man and his son after she is stripped of the roles of partner and mother. 

I think Liane Moriarty did a fine job of exploring relationships fraught with more obstacles than most.  While at one point I thought Ellen and Patrick were definitely on the rocks, she writes a monologue for Patrick that made me want to cheer. 

I give The Hypnotist's Love Story five shots.

Monday, March 10, 2014

I Love A Good List

This blog is stealing a page from another blog I follow.  I'm about to share with you a list from the Listopia section of Goodreads.

Have I mentioned how much I love Goodreads?  It's my couch potato equivalent of going to the bookstore.  Don't get me wrong, nothing could compare with actually being inside a bookstore, but when I can't leave home, Goodreads it is!

Goodreads holds my lists of what I've read and what I want to read.  That "want to read" list grows exponentially faster than the "read" list, but I push on.  Other features that I adore are the "giveaway" books.  There are literally hundreds of books being given away by the authors and publishers.  I've won a few in my time. It's fun. Who can resist a free book?  Then there is the Listopia feature.

You would think that loving to read as much as I do and having hundreds of unread books right here in my home that I would have a "next in line" stack of books that I automatically pick the next one from.  Not so.  I never know what kind of book I'm going to want to read next so I don't even try.  But  Listopia has every kind of list imaginable and it's an awesome way to discover what's next.

It's also a place to find if I measure up.  Okay, I admit it - I have no idea who's standard I am measuring up to or why I even care, but it's kind of fun.  I suspect that this list of 100 Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once is a compilation made by popular vote.  Let's see how I fare.

Again, drawing my inspiration from that other blogger, I will draw a line through the books I have read.  An asterisk indicates it's on my "want to read" list.

 100 Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once (according to Goodreads Listopia)
  1. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
  2.  1984 by George Orwell
  3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen*
  4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
  5. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  7. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (I have no intention of ever reading this)
  8. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger*
  9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  10. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald*
  11. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  12. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte*
  13. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  14. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (I have no intention of ever reading this)
  15. Lord of the Flies by William Golding* (This was assigned reading in HS but I don't think I ever finished it.  I want to go back and read it)
  16. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury*
  17. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
  18. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
  19. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  20. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  22. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  23. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  24. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (I probably have read at least Wonderland)
  25. Night by Elie Wiesel
  26. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  27. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  28. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte*
  29. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  30. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell*
  31. Holy Bible: King James Version
  32. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (I'm sure we read at least parts of this in school)
  33. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  34. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde*
  35. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
  36. Brave New World/Brave New World Revisited by Aldous Huxley
  37. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  38. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (I have no intention of ever reading this)
  39. The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
  40. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
  41. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
  42. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  43. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  44. The Odyssey by Homer
  45. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  46. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  47. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  48. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  49. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  50. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  51. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (I'm sure we read at least parts of this in school)
  52. Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss
  53. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck*
  54. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery*
  55. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  56. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
  57. Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A.Milne (I still have my mother's book given to her in 1927)
  58. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
  59. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  60. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  61. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini*
  62. Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
  63. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  64. Life of Pi by Yann Martel*
  65. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  66. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  67. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  68. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  69. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne*
  70. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  71. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  72. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  73. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  74. The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R.Tolkien (I have no intention of ever reading this)
  75. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  76. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  77. Macbeth by William Shakespeare
  78. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  79. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  80. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  81. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  82. The Little House Collection (1-9) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  83. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  84. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith*
  85. Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  86. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  87. The Book of Mormon: Another testament of Jesus Christ by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  88. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  89. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  90. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  91. The Stand by Stephen King
  92. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  93. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  94. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver*
  95. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
  96. The Quran
  97. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  98. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  99. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom*
  100. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Now that I've copied the first 100 books of this list onto my blog I see that it was created in 2008. Not that it matters as it appears that it's being added to and voted on still to date.   

36 of 100 is my count of the books I have read.  18 more are already on my list of "to read."  You may have noticed that I marked a couple as NEVER!  This is because I've tried to read Tolkien and just couldn't get into it.  And Les Miserables?  Not a chance.  There are definitely others that I'm sure will never be on my list but those just are so far off the radar for me, I had to note it. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Beach Trees

The Beach Trees
by Karen White

The story presented in The Beach Trees is a murder mystery reaching back several generations.  Revealed in two voices, the first Julie, who learns through her current situation that it is possible to build your future on the foundation of the past although it may not seem stable to do so.  The second voice is Aimee who tells her story of the past hoping it will provide clues for mysteries in the present.

I found the story slow to get into.  Too much unnecessary detail for me.  However, the references and descriptions of post Katrina New Orleans and Biloxi was very interesting and enlightening.  Julie didn't understand why so many people would rebuild after such devastation and as one who doesn't live there, I understand that.  But as the stories unfold and we meet more people who chose to stay and rebuild it begins to make sense.

The current day mystery is why Monica, a woman who is deceased when the story begins, left New Orleans, her childhood home, and her family and never made contact with them again.  Therein lies my main criticism of the story.  Because she is dead when the story begins it's unlikely that we'll ever uncover her reason, but when it's finally revealed I found the motivation lacking in believability.

Lastly when we get to the point of tying it all up in a pretty pink mystery solved ribbon I was confused.  I'm still not sure exactly who did what, but it could be because I was reading the end in the wee hours of the morning.  Unfortunately, I don't care enough to go back and re-read it.

The beach trees, for which the title of the book comes, are trees that were killed by hurricane Katrina and yet remain standing.  An artist was commissioned to turn the dead trees into sculptures. Another artist donated his time and talents to carve more trees.  Out of the devastation comes beauty.  You can learn about and see the sculptures here.

I give Beach Trees 3 of 5 shots.  It was good but I'm ready to move on.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Maybe This Time

Maybe This Time
by Jennifer Crusie

Jennifer Crusie is another Chic Lit author that I enjoy.  I saw this book at a Big Lots, or one of those overstock type stores, marked way down and couldn't resist buying it without even reading jacket. It turned out to be a fun read, but certainly not what I was expecting from Crusie.

Maybe This Time is a ghost story.  It is Chic Lit, too, but definitely revolves around the ghosts.

I wasn't expecting that.

For a large sum of money Andie agrees to care for the orphaned charges of her ex-husband.  An arrangement meant to last only 30 days in another part of the state.  She arrives at the crusty old mansion the children live in to be received by a bossy housekeeper and two young children, all of whom seem to want to make her life miserable. Determined to earn the large sum money offered her for caring for the children she wins them over but still has not convinced them to move from the castle.

Twists and turns abound as a disbeliever becomes attuned to her sensitivity of the spirit world.  Some twists are the usual ones you expect pretty much from the beginning of the book and others surprise you.  And there are the ones that make you laugh out loud.

I give Ms. Crusie a rating of 4 of 5 shots for another fun read.

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Chaperone

The Chaperone
Laura Moriarty

Set in the early days of silent movies, the story follows a married woman, Cora Carlisle, who impulsively decides to hire herself out as a chaperone for a quite bold young woman who wants to study dance in New York.  Cora's charge, Louise Brooks, is destined to become a silent film star in just a few years.  While she is a handful and already worldly beyond her years, Cora does her best to keep her in line and out of trouble while at the same time pursuing her own reasons for going to New York City.

I found this to be a well told story uncovering Cora's past as she looked for answers to her heritage in New York.  While trying to control her charge and keep her reputation intact she finds time to uncover the secrets of her own past, although not finding the satisfaction she was hoping for in the answers.

When Cora returns to Kansas, where the two began their journey, the author more or less speeds through the rest of the story.  We learn more about her handsome successful husband and the life they lead and their twin sons' lives as adults.  There are more twists and turns, but I felt like I was reading a somewhat detailed epilogue requiring as many pages as the chaperone story. 

I was interested to discover that Louise Brooks was a real person/silent film star. I don't know how much, if any of her story is accurate but since she did live and perform in silent movies I am labeling this book as historical fiction.  The relationship between Cora and Louise wasn't as big of a part or as significant to the book as I expected it to be based on the title. 

I give The Chaperone 4 of 5 shots as a good story about a woman of those times.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Lost Lake

Lost Lake
by Sarah Addison Allen

Let me start by saying that Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors.  I discovered her while working at Barnes & Noble in Utah and since reading her first book have always looked forward to everything she's published.

What draws me back to S.A.A. time and again?  Her magic.  Everything she writes has a hint of magic in it.  Not slap you in the face magic, but a subtle magic that I always look forward to.

What will you find at Lost Lake?  An alligator, Cypress knees, a mute French cook, a floozy, a nightly lakeside barbecue, an odd assortment of guests, a lost soul redeemed, a new love sparked, a past love reignited, vengeance, an unexpected opportunity, a new life and second chance.  Or just maybe your own sanity.

Never a major resort, Lost Lake has been run for many years by a couple who's own love story was magical.  But only Eby Prim, one half of that couple, still lives and the resort has been overshadowed by water parks and theme parks. The resort is tired and a bit neglected and the time has come to sell.  The few faithful guests who return to Lost Lake each year decide to make this last summer their best.

Kate Pheris finds herself agreeing to move into her mother-in-law's home a year after her husband has died.  While packing for the move she discovers a letter from her great aunt Eby that was never delivered to her years before. Impulsively she makes the long drive to Lost Lake with her daughter and she decides to stay a while, remembering fondly the summer weeks she spent there when 12 years old.

Sarah Addison Allen reveals the truths and secrets of each guest and employee staying at the resort, intertwining their pasts with their present.  The residents of the small nearby town have their own stories that tie them to Lost Lake and the land it occupies.  And with a little magic Sarah brings all the stories together in a completely engaging way.  Some secrets revealed are heartbreaking and turn out to have been not so secret at all.  But this small town community watches after it's own in the best way it can and makes Kate's impulsive trip her fate, the act that ultimately decides her future.

I give Lost Lake five of five shots.  I continue to adore Sarah and her characters.