Monday, May 27, 2013

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Teenagers, Sahar and Nasrin have been best friends since they were six.  They are also in love with each other, but Iran is a dangerous place for two women to be romantically linked.  When Nasrin's parents announce her impending marriage, Sahar sets herself on a different path hoping it will mean she can be together with her one true love, forever.

Nasrin is a spoiled, wealthy, brat and Sahar comes from a working class family.  Nasrin's domineering and controlling mother calls all the shots in her life.  Sahar's mother died several years earlier and her father is still grieving.  Whatever advice she gets about life comes from her free wheeling, drug dealing cousin, Ari.

I believe that homosexuality is an important topic that needs to be discussed among young people.  That this story is set in Iran succeeds in adding to the tension.  These two girls faced a crossroad in a culture that could offer little in the way of options. But I felt that none of the characters were very likeable and that the girl's relationship was very one sided toward Sahar.  Both of them were very immature.  By the end I still didn't see that they had changed in any measurable way.  I don't want to give anything away, but story's ending didn't fit with the characters that had been presented to the reader in the rest of the story.

If You Could Be Mine is an thought provoking story for young people who are struggling to find themselves and their own sexuality.  For me as a reader, the characters themselves were not believable in their actions.  But maybe that's because I am sure of who I am and I live in a country where there is not a complete acceptance of this lifestyle but there is an open and ongoing discussion.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall

Crooked River by Shelley Pearsall

My sister who lives in Cleveland told me about Shelley Pearsall after she met her at an elementary school presentation where Shelley talked to the kids about her books.  She showed the kids all of her rejection letters as she tried to get her work published.  Shelley writes about Ohio, a state which I am nuts about. As a writer too, I'm always happy to know I am not alone in my struggle to be published. What better reason than those to read a book.

Crooked River is a young adult novel set in 1812 in a settlement in Ohio.  The story is told through the eyes of thirteen year old, Rebecca and Indian John who is shackled in the loft of the family's cabin.  Her angry and demanding father, Major Carver has charge of the Indian accused of murdering a trapper, while awaiting trial. Her mother died in childbirth.  She and her sister, Laura keep the household running and care for their little sister, Mercy.  Rebecca is described as the one in the family with the soft heart and without a common language, she befriends Indian John by bringing him small gifts of a feather or acorn along with a bowl of food.

This is a beautifully written story.  It is a story of injustice but also one of love and the strength of the human spirit.  In each chapter the reader first hears Rebecca's point of view.  And then Indian John tells his side of story through gorgeous poetry. The prose and the poetry compliment each other perfectly. 

The author has done extensive research which she details at the end of the story.  Her dedication to the historical side of this story is what brought it to life.  I became a pioneer in Ohio in 1812, alongside Rebecca, gathering eggs, washing clothes, sweeping the dirt floors.  Shelley Pearsall has a gift as a writer. 

As a reviewer, I never like to reveal too much of the storyline.  As a reader, I like the element of surprise.  I like to tell a reader about the writing style and if the story is interesting and engaging.  Crooked River is full of history and set in a time of change and struggle. And the story is full of emotion that will tug at your heartstrings.  You won't want to put it down. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

Thank you to Netgalley for my advance reading copy.  Release date February 11, 2014.

I have to admit, I didn't look closely enough at the cover of this book before I selected it.  The cover is a big draw for me so that would be highly unusual.  Based on the title, I figured this was a story about sisters and I like to read about sisters, since I have two of my own.  Family dynamics can be interesting.

I started to read and thought,  "What did I get myself in to?'  But then I couldn't stop reading.  Amity and Sorrow are sisters raised in a religious cult.  Their father, Zachariah, and leader of the cult has proclaimed himself "God".  Amaranth, the children's mother, leashed the girls together at the wrist, packed them in a stolen car and started driving in order to escape, .  They end up on Bradley's failing farm somewhere in Oklahoma when she crashes the vehicle into a tree. A new world they have been sheltered from opens up in different ways for each of them.

I don't want to reveal any more of this story because I love to read a book that surprises me.  Amity & Sorrow revealed something unexpected on each turn of the page.  The author tells this emotional story by moving from the present to the past and back again. The characters were full of emotion, each having processed life in the cult in a different way.  Riley expertly broke down the rules followed in the restricted cult by exposing the sisters to books, television, and a way of life they knew nothing about.

Amity & Sorrow pulled me in and never let go.  I was so invested in this story, I didn't want it to end.  This is not the kind of storyline I would choose to read but the author brought it to life for me in a highly creative way.  Brilliant.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Old Mermaid's Tale by Kathleen Valentine

The Old Mermaid's Tale by Kathleen Valentine

I'm a nut about all things about Cleveland, the State of Ohio and the Great Lakes.  Don't ask me why.  I grew up in Cleveland and could have cared less while I lived there.  Now that I've moved elsewhere, I'm fascinated by the rich history and culture of the area. 

I believe I downloaded this book onto my Kindle some time ago.  It was on sale and the mermaids called to me.  Like my book shelves, titles also sit in the virtual world of my Kindle.  A hard habit to break.  The other night I was looking for something to read and for the first time noticed the subtitle.  The Old Mermaid's Tale A Romance of the Great Lakes.  That's all it took.  I searched no further and began to read.

Clair has grown up on a farm in Ohio.  She longs for something more from life. When she heads to a small private college on the shores of Lake Erie, her world suddenly expands beyond anything she has ever known.  I liked Clair.  She had a good solid head on her shoulders that became clouded by love as any college girl would.  She makes friends and finds lovers in the less desirable neighborhoods along the shores of the lake.  Clair loves the stories they can tell of life and loss at the hands of the powerful water comparing them to the yarns she heard as a child that the farmers spin.

The author did a wonderful job of setting the scenery in this novel.  The characters were rich and believable. I wanted to know them.  The only thing that didn't resonate with me was the relationship between Clair and Baptiste, the older French musician she cherished as her soul mate. Their story was the bulk of the novel.  Their lovemaking over powered their relationship for me as a reader.  Maybe that was just my interpretation since I wanted to read about the call of the lake just as the mermaid calls to a sailor.  Often the sex took over and that wasn't what I was looking for when I chose to read The Old Mermaid's Tale.  

If you long for romance, this tale has plenty. If you are being called to the power of the water, the mermaid had only a small role.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle

Life After Life: A Novel by Jill McCorkle

I picked up this book for no other reason than I read an article about it in USA Today.  Another book by the same name but a different author was released on the same day.  It's highly unusual to have two books by the same title and then to have them both released on the same day must have had both of the authors in a tizzy. 

I am reviewing Life After Life by Jill McCorkle.  I plan to review Life After Life by Kate Atkinson at a another time.  Even I couldn't resist downloading them both at the same time. 

I chose to read Jill McCorkle's version first since it had to do with people living and dying in a retirement home.  I've always had an affinity to old people, striking up conversations with them in stores and doctor's offices.  With plenty of good stories to tell, I have ears to listen. 

So did Joanna, the hospice volunteer who held their hands and wrote down their stories in her journal.  A journal she kept that served to heal her own heart, her own life in her own way.  The residents of Pine Haven have been drawn together by their old age.  Sadie takes pictures of the residents, adds scenery of a place of they wanted to visit, creating a manufactured memory.  Stanley fakes his dementia and a love of professional wrestling believing it will help his son move on from a troubled past.  Rachel, from Massachusetts, comes to Pine Haven in North Carolina to be closer to a lover, whose memory she holds close. CJ is a young tattooed single mother, who washes the residents hair and polishes their nails.  And then there is Abby, a young girl who walks from her house, through a cemetery to Pine Haven where she finds sanctuary from the constant arguments between her magician father and self centered mother. 

McCorkle does a brilliant job of telling the story character by character, entwining each story together with a subtle thread, emphasis on the word 'subtle'.  I love a book that I can't figure out.  I never saw what was coming, letting out a gasp so loud the dog began to bark as if an intruder had burst through the front door. 

Life After Life is a story of life, the good along with bad, touching followed by hurtful, laughter and tears.  In other words, it has it all.

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...