Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Jack and Mabel felt unwelcome back east in Pennsylvania.  Childless, they didn't fit in so they headed to Alaska to homestead and start a new life.  The cold and unforgiving territory tested everything they knew and handed then far more than they ever expected.

What they never lost however, was their love for each other.  One night as they frolicked in the snow, building a snow child, complete with a scarf and mittens, they laughed and kissed and forgot their worries in that moment.  And that is when the girl appeared.

At first Jack and Mabel thought she was an illusion, popping up for a minute or only an instant, out of the corner of an eye.  Little by little she shared meals at their table, stole a quick hug or brought an animal pelt.  But when the snow disappeared so did Faina, only to return again in winter after the first snow.

I loved this magical, mystical story.  Jack and Mabel were such kind and lovable characters.  Esther and George were loud, and messy, the opposite of Jack and Mabel, who became the dearest of friends.  The Snow Child paints a wonderful picture of how hard life was in the 1920's for the inhabitants of Alaska along the Wolverine River.  Their life was simple, filled with hard work just to survive the long, dark winter, but it was also a place of love, where neighbors helped neighbors no matter what they needed.

The Snow Child will leave you guessing and wondering. And it will leave your heart filled with the warmth of loving what you can't always hold in your hand.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

The Wonder of All Things by Jason Mott

When things go terribly wrong at the local air show, Ava miraculously heals the mortal wounds of her best friend, Wash.  And then her life is never the same.  Everyone in the world it seems wants and expects the healing services of the young Ava.

The tiny town of Stone Temple becomes overrun with people wanting to catch a glimpse of Ava.  Her father, Macon, the town sheriff, does his best to protect her as does her best friend, Wash.  But using her gift of healing is killing her.  No one seems to know how to help her.

Ava and Wash are two of the cutest and most lovable characters I've run across in a long time.  They are young and sometimes naive, sweet and kind.  I loved them.  And I hated all the people who came to exploit them for their own personal gains.  I did a lot of yelling at this book because of their selfishness.  For me, if I feel emotional reading a book, it's a pretty good book.

The ending left me hanging and I wasn't crazy about that.  I wanted Ava and Wash to go back to their young lives of reading books, hiking through the North Carolina woods and just being kids exploring life.  I wanted all the heartache in their lives to be healed.  Because they deserved it.

The Wonder of All Things checked a lot of my boxes in reviewing a book.  Lovable characters, check.  Creating emotions, check.   Great prose, check.  A memorable story, check. An author I will read again, check.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul

I really, really, really wanted to love this book.  Just based on the title, I should have been able to read one paragraph and be hooked on every word until the end.  Bob, is the author's Book of Books, a carefully guarded and respected listing of every book she's read since being a teenager.

I know plenty of people who keep this kind of a list.  I consider this blog my list of books and maybe I should start referring to it as my "Blob", a blog of books.  Since I took over leading my book club, I also have a rather long list of books the group should consider reading and I find myself adding to it regularly.  I've become obsessed with finding the perfect book for us to discuss.

Bob appears to be a very well rounded collection of books, about three quarters of which, I had never heard of.  And I read a lot.  Her choice of books were more obscure, and very few contemporary titles of which I am fond.  Book selection is highly personal.  But when she tried to relate her book choices to what was happening in her life, I got lost.  One minute she was living in Thailand and the next, she was married and had moved to London.  The books she read in the throws of divorce seemed to me like all the other books she read.  Suddenly she's reading The Hunger Games while breast feeding her third child.  When did she get married again and give birth to the first two children?  The story lacked consistency and cohesion.

When she absolutely had to read Les Miserables after the Paris terror attacks, I felt I'd had enough.  In trying to make connections of books to living real life, she was grasping at straws.  She did say however, that there is not another book list in the world exactly like hers, in the order she read them.  I can relate to that and I hope my Blob is conveying my feelings of my book choices in a manner that makes sense to me and entertains you.  If it isn't will you please let me know before I fall into a trap like My Life With Bob?

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Mary North lives a life a privilege in London as the Germans are approaching during WWII.  Being young and desperate not to repeat her mother's unfulfilled existence, she signs up to volunteer at the War Office.  She's sent to teach, but when the children are sent to the countryside and the other teachers dismiss Mary's unconventional style, she finds herself without a purpose once again.

She meets Tom Shaw, the school's superintendent and their love affair immediately begins.  Tom's roommate, Alistair Heath enlists and the war suddenly becomes all too real.  This is a story of war, raw and painful, emotionally as well as physically.  Chris Cleave leaves it all on the table.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a realistic tale of the pain and heartbreak of war.  Mary and Tom and Alistair are wonderful characters that a reader can't help but care for.  How each of them deals with the obstacles they are facing leaves us deeply entrenched in their bomb riddled world.  

Lately I've been fascinated with stories of World War II.  So if I've been reading too many of them for your taste, please forgive me.  I'm hooked.  Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a well written love story set in the confines of war.  But it's one you will never forget for it's portrayal of a perilous time and for it's rendering of love of all kinds.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

For every book I want to read on my Kindle, I've decided to read one that's been sitting out there for awhile, skipped over and unread.  I don't want any of the books I've selected to feel unwanted.

All of the Above was one of those that I'd ignored.  I've read other titles by Shelly Pearsall and have always enjoyed them.  Yes, I know they are middle grade books aimed at middle schoolers.  But that has never stopped me from enjoying a good book.

Mr. Collins struggles to spark some interest in math in his students.  He comes up with the idea of constructing a tetrahedron (whatever that is, I had to look it up, so see I learned something already).  The students feign disinterest at first.  James Harris III is an artistic tough guy who puts himself in charge of color coordinating the triangular pieces.  Marcel helps his father at his barbecue restaurant when he would rather be building the tetrahedron. Rhondell is quietly and systematically headed to college.  And Sharice is the neglected foster child who sees the project as a safe warm, place to stay when the current foster mother locks her out of the house each night.

Pearsall is a wonderful writer with diverse characters who have depth.  Their stories are real.  So if you're looking for a change of pace, don't shy away stories that are classified as middle grade or young adult.  You may find a hidden gem and learn about something new.  All of the Above checked all the boxes for me.  

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Anyone who has ever loved a dog will fall for Lily and the Octopus.  Lily is a dachshund who has an octopus living on the top of her head.  When her owner, Ted, discovers the sea creature, he sets out on a mission to purge the octopus from their lives.  The pair have a special bond.  They play monopoly, talk about cute boys, and sleep cuddled up together.  Ted will not let go of his precious Lily.

Let's face it, the octopus as Ted calls it, is a brain tumor. While I didn't give Ginger's tumor in her mouth a name, I did ask her if she'd gotten that fat lip going 10 rounds in a boxing match.  We so love our dogs and the unconditional love they give us, it's easy to be in a state of denial.  We want to believe they will never get sick and leave our loving embrace.

Ted made a list of all his names for Lily.  It's several pages long. I decided to make my own list of names I call Ginger just for comparison sake.
Sweet Pea
Baby Girl
Little Munchkin
Ginger Snap and I could go on.

Ted and Lily spoke to me.  I loved all their crazy adventures imagining Ginger and I following along. You see Ginger has her own kind of octopus and I will do anything to help her fight it.

I read Lily and the Octopus in a day. Lily grabbed my heart and Ted's quest to save her was my own.  Lily had the ability to teach us about love, life and moving forward in time.  The octopus will never win.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

In my ongoing search for a great book, I found You Will Know Me on a list called "Books I Couldn't Put Down".  The list contained several other books I had already read and enjoyed so I trusted that the rest of the titles would live up to the name of the list.

You Will Know Me is the story of Devon Knox, a 15 year old, highly talented gymnast at the BelStars gym.  Her parents have devoted their existence to making sure she someday lands an Olympic gold.  The path however, is long, hard and very expensive.  Her little brother, Drew, goes along without ever complaining about all the attention paid to Devon. Katie and Eric drive worn out cars and max out their credit cards to follow the dream they have for Devon.

The story plunges the reader deep into the word of gymnastics to the degree that nothing else interesting ever seems to happen.  I'd read 50 % of the book, skimming as I went, before the inciting incident occurred.  Frankly, I'm not all that interested in rich and entitled parents pushing their children to the limits that will impact the child's health and well being for the rest of their lives.  And the more I read the less interest I had in the million minute details on how to stick the perfect vault.

And then there was the writing itself.  Most of it was not even complete sentences, the author choosing to use fragments most of the time.  The story lacked cohesion, jumping from one point of view to another so often that I struggled to know who was speaking or where the character was and who they were with.  Anytime I read a book that forces me to go back before going forward to figure out where I am, there's trouble.  I suffered through to the end and I still can't tell you who did it.  Don't be fooled by this one.  I definitely don't need to know you and I'm crossing you off my list.  

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey Jack and Mabel felt unwelcome back east in Pennsylvania.  Childless, they didn't fit in so they headed ...