Friday, September 28, 2012

Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

The Breeze Inn is a place where very classy Southern belle BeBe Loudermilk normally wouldn't be caught dead. But a brief, disastrous relationship with gorgeous "investment counselor" con man Reddy has costs her nearly all her worldly possessions. All that's left is the ramshackle 1950s motel on Tybee Island, "a drinking village with a fishing problem." Moving into the manager's unit, BeBe vows to make magic out of mud, and with the help of the Inn's cantankerous caretaker, Harry, and her junking friend, Weezie, she soon has the motel spiffed up and attracting paying guests.

But all it takes is one Reddy sighting in Fort Lauderdale for BeBe to drop everything and haul her hastily assembled posse south to participate in a somewhat outside-the-law sting. With a little luck, BeBe might get her fortune back, Harry (who's looking hunkier every day) might get his boat back, and Reddy might get the prison stripes he so richly deserves.

While certainly not ‘great literature’, this chick-lit book is thoroughly enjoyable for what it is. 

4 stars (Rated PG-13, some language and sex)

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

What fun this book is! I think it might be more fun as an adult than as a child!  It is the quintessential book for boys.  Every young man should read it.

I loved all the stories; it seemed to speed from one story to another.  From Tom convincing the other boys to pay him for the opportunity to paint the fence, to attending their own funeral, to pulling the wig off the schoolmaster, to his sweet relationship with Becky Thatcher, the reader is amused and entertained and swept along with Tom through a most enjoyable vision of a young man’s adventures.

I was filled with nostalgia for my childhood; while not as adventurous as Tom’s, it was nevertheless filled much outdoor exploration and imaginative play. I also felt bad for the youth of today whose lives are filled with video games and television that will never know this kind of enjoyment.

5 stars (Rated G)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors

It’s WWII and the US hospital ship Benevolence has just been bombed and torn in two.  Nurses (and sisters) Annie and Isabelle are helped out of the ship by an injured Japanese soldier Akira.  They swim to a nearby deserted island find themselves joined by six others from the ship, one of whom (unbeknownst to the others) is the traitor who informed Japan and caused the attack.

What ensues during the next eighteen days, as they learn to live on the island and plan for an inevitable invasion by the Japanese makes for a fast paced, engrossing read.  Shors is a master storyteller, penning breathless action scenes equally as well as incredible breath-taking romance.  The characters are authentic and endearing.  I find myself continuing to think of them even after finishing the book. There is something in this book for everyone.  I loved it.  And I must say a word about the gorgeous cover, somehow, having such a beautiful cover makes the book that much better.

I don’t hand out 5 stars easily, but this book earns every one of them.

5 stars (Rated PG-13 for mild sex and violence)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell

This book tells two seemingly separate stories.  Lexie Sinclair is a young woman making her way in the magazine industry in London in the 1950’s.  She is bright, independent, and a colorful individual. 

Fast forward 50 years and we have the story of Elina and Ted, who have just had their first child and both have an affliction of memory. Elina’s comes from a gruesome birth where she lost copious amounts and blood and seem to remember nothing of it. Ted is beginning to have flickers of his early childhood which seem to contradict everything he knows about himself.

I was more than half way through the book before I began to see where their stories would meld.  Ms. O’Farrell does an excellent job of spinning a tale and keeping you reading. Sometime when one reads a book like this you find yourself caring more about one story than the other; not so with this book…I was just as invested in Lexie as I was Elina and Ted.

4 stars (Rated PG – very mild and brief sex scenes, maybe a few obscenities)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Law of Similars by Chris Bohjalian

This is riveting medical thriller about a lawyer, a homeopath, and a tragic death.  When one of homeopath Carissa Lake's patients falls into an allergy-induced coma, possibly due to her prescribed remedy, Leland Fowler's office starts investigating the case. 

But Leland is also one of Carissa's patients, and he is beginning to realize that he has fallen in love with her.  As love and legal obligations collide, Leland comes face-to-face with an ethical dilemma of enormous proportions. 

Done in Bohjalian’s typical manner the book is fast-paced and riveting. I love everything of his that I have read.

4 stars (Rated R for brief but explicit sex)

Life is So Good by George Dawson & Richard Glaubman

This book was published in 2001 when George Dawson was 103.  Born in 1898 to an extremely poor black family, Dawson tells the story of his life to Mr. Glaubman who does an excellent job of capturing his voice and personality.  As Dawson reflects on his life (he learns to read at the age of 98) he gives us a fascinating view of America in the twentieth century and bring to the forefront some quite interesting differences between his life and the life that most of us experience.  One that I particularly enjoyed was a point when Richard said some was as easy as learning to ride a bike to which George responds, “I rode a mule.”

George Dawson lends his bright outlook and incredible work ethics to this narrative.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and found George to be someone with whom I would enjoy talking.

5 stars (Rated G)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Children's Blizzard by David Laskin

Thousands of impoverished Northern European immigrants were promised that the prairie offered "land, freedom, and hope." The disastrous blizzard of 1888 revealed that their free homestead was not a paradise but a hard, unforgiving place governed by natural forces they neither understood nor controlled, and America's heartland would never be the same.

This is a well-written and well-researched account of a blizzard that came upon the people of the northern plains so quickly; most were caught in it without recourse.  It is known as ‘The Children’s Blizzard’ because a lot of school children were sent home at the first signs and never made it to safety. 

Included are meteorological (I’ll admit, I skipped most of these) and medical details (which I found fascinating). 

4 stars (PG-13 for disturbing details of children’s suffering)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan

I will admit that I am a sucker for a book that takes place in New England, especially if the word ‘lobster’ (one of my favorite things in the world) is in the title.  The ‘lobster’ referred to in the title of this book is “Red Lobster”. 

The book concerns the closing of a Red Lobster in a strip mall in a sleepy New England town. It is four days before Christmas and the last day of service for this location.  Manny is the manager and he takes us through the day from the time he enters the parking lot in the morning.  On one level it seems a bit mundane but there is something about it that keeps you reading.  Mr. O’Nan has been called “the Bard of the Working Class” and I think that is pretty accurate.  He has a way of turning normal ‘work-a-day’ situations into moving prose. 

4 Stars (Rated PG-13 for a few F-bombs)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

5 Book in One Review

I’m doing this just to catch up.  I’ll give you the summary from Goodreads and then my rating.

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Novel About Marriage, Motherhood and Mayhem by Sonja Sones

Celebrated YA novelist Sones delivers her first adult novel, weaving together a seamless narrative in free verse--a funny, fierce, and piercingly honest coming-of-middle-age story about falling apart and being put back together.

I love book that are in an innovative format. This one was extra-fun and a very quick read as it is all told in free verse.

4 stars (Can’t remember anything too objectionable.)

The Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague by Geraldine Brooks

When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. Through Anna's eyes we follow the story of the fateful year of 1666, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles to survive and grow, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a "year of wonders."

Awesome book. Geraldine Brooks is a master!

5 Stars (PG-13 for gruesomeness)

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Winner of the 1933 Femina Vie Heureuse Prize, COLD COMFORT FARM is a wickedly funny portrait of British rural life in the 1930s. Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right.

Funny, funny, funny book!  When you read it, print out the family tree on WikiPedia it will help you keep the characters straight.  Then, after (and only AFTER) you read the book, watch the movie on streaming Netflix. You’ll love it!

4 Stars (Rated PG)

Marshmallows for Breakfast by Dorothy Koomson
Kendra Tamale is looking for a fresh start and a simple life when she rents a room from Kyle Gadsborough. But against her better judgment Kendra soon finds herself drawn into her new landlord’s household: a young father in way over his head, a beautiful mother out the door, and six-year-old twins, Summer and Jaxon, with hearts full of hurt. Kendra has plenty of issues of her own, but this family seems to need her so desperately that she’s soon falling in love—with Summer’s constant chatter, Jaxon’s soulful eyes, and the sugar-laden Saturday breakfasts she invents. But when a secret from Kendra’s past resurfaces and the children are taken away by their mother, the only way to fix things is to confess to the terrible mistake she made many years ago—and the choice she makes now could break more than one person’s heart.
Nice chick-lit book with a good message.
3 Stars (Rated PG-13, some mild sex)

In the Shadow of the Ark by Anne Provoost
Re Jana and her family are driven from the marshes that were their homeland by rising waters and follow other fleeing refugees towards the desert. There, a boat of unprecedented proportions is being constructed to save a select few from the coming flood that will drown out the rest of humanity.
And as the rain shows no sign of subsiding, Re Jana falls in love with the builder's son, presenting her with an opportunity to save her family-but in the end, she will have to act to save herself.

Interesting re-telling of Noah’s Ark.  Brings up some issues I hadn’t thought of; however, I did not feel it was reverent enough.  Being a Christian I believe Noah was a Prophet of God and was a good man and his son’s were just as good as he was.  I enjoyed it until at the end where it takes a very odd and unnecessary turn.
3 stars (PG-13)