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Becky1

Books, Books and More Books

Stop by and read a few sentences about the books I love and the books I hated. Leave a comment or two. I am a former librarian and a voracious reader.

Irish Eyes by Mary Kay Andrews

Irish Eyes: A Callahan Garrity Mystery (Callahan Garrity Mysteries) - Mary Kay Andrews

IRISH EYES by Mary Kay Andrews

 

Callahan Garrity, private eye and cleaning lady, loses a former partner and good friend when he makes a quick stop at a convenience store. Callahan, even after being warned off, tries to find the bad guys involved.

 

The writing is tightly plotted, the story line will keep you guessing, the characters are likeable – except of course, for the sleazy ones. Andrews has another winner in her Garrity series of mysteries. Her fans will love it and new readers, who need not have read any others in series, will find a new author to seek out.

 

4 of 5 stars

NORA BONESTEEL’S CHRISTMAS PAST by Sharyn McCrumb

Nora Bonesteel's Christmas Past: A Ballad Novella - Sharyn McCrumb

 

Two separate Christmas stories that take place in McCrumb’s Appalachia are intertwined in this cozy novel. Although the stories never link they are both lyrical and atmospheric.

 

McCrumb’s characters are fully developed even though the two stories are individually quite short – novella length. Both combine comic scenes with pathos. I enjoyed the jumps from story to story as the chapters alternate stories. Some may find this disconcerting.

 

4 of 5 stars

The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion - Fannie Flagg

THE ALL-GIRL FILLING STATION’S LAST REUNION by Fannie Flagg Flagg has moved from the South to Pulaski, Wisconsin for her tale of an immigrant family and the four daughters who take it upon themselves to run the family filling station and take up flying fighter planes during World War II. But never fear, Sookie, a Southern bell who isn’t quite up to snuff according to her domineering mother, discovers she is not a SIMMONS, but was adopted (horrors!) is also a main character. How these facts intertwine is the story that will hold your attention. The four Polish sisters are based on the actual women who flew airplanes from factory to airfield (and sometimes further) to relieve the “real pilots” for combat duty. Their story makes up the bulk of The All-Girl Filling Station. Flagg wrote the book to honor the women who sacrificed as much as the men, but until recently were denied the right to military honor and benefits. Their story is compelling. Sookie’s part of the story offers humorous relief and ties all the loose ends together. You will learn an important part of WWII history and be greatly entertained at the same time. A great story well told. 5 of 5 stars

In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa

In Praise of Hatred - Khaled Khalifa, Leri Price

I tried really hard to like this book, but the bad translation stymied me. I made it through 75 pages before giving up. It badly needs some explanation of the many Islamic/Turkish/Arabic words and phrases used.

ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS by Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors - Nayomi Munaweera

 I enjoyed the writing which was clear and moving. The descriptions of the island were wonderful, not just the physical beauty but the smells of food, people and nature. I felt like I really knew the characters. I hope the final edition has a “cast of characters” as it was difficult to keep the various families and generations straight, especially as they were seemingly unrelated as the narrative moved from generation to generation and Sinhala to Tamil and back again.

I learned a vast amount about the Sri Lankan history of civil violence. Book groups will find themselves discussing discrimination, arranged marriage, ethnic differences, education, parental desires for their children, the life of the immigrant in a new land, jealousy between siblings, soldier versus terrorist, the effect of violence on people and culture, and the sense of smell.

Some groups may find the descriptions of sexuality (including violent rape) disturbing.

4 of 5 stars

In Praise of Hatred by Khaled Khalifa

In Praise of Hatred - Khaled Khalifa, Leri Price

I tried really hard to like this book, but the bad translation stymied me. I made it through 75 pages before giving up. It badly needs some explanation of the many Islamic/Turkish/Arabic words and phrases used.

THE FORTUNE HUNTER by Daisy Goodwin

The Fortune Hunter - Daisy Goodwin

THE FORTUNE HUNTER by Daisy Goodwin

The Empress Elizabeth of Austria is a leading character in this historical romance that has many historical persons in both major and minor roles. I would have appreciated an epilogue telling what were actual events and which were made up as well as what happened to each of the characters later.

The writing was clear and the story line easy to follow. The characters were true as they were written. I liked learning so much about royal morals and manners and the early method of photography. The horse race and hunting were detailed so you understood what was important even if you knew nothing about either. Queen Victoria actually added some humorous elements.

Altogether an interesting and likeable read. Book groups would enjoy discussing the differences between “now and then,” clothing as it has changed for both men and women, and the changes in photography.

4 stars of 5

FROM BOMBOLONI TO BAGEL: A Story of Two Worlds by Jacqueline Semha Gmach and H S Liber

From Bomboloni to Bagel: A Story of Two Worlds - Jacqueline Semha Gmach

This interesting and informative book detailing the life of a Jewish woman born and raised in Tunisia and finally living in America is written in a series of vignettes. The order of the vignettes wanders from Tunisia to France to Canada to Israel and America and back again. The reader often wishes the order were more chronological, but the tales are interesting and follow a thematic message.

The structured life of a very sheltered and privileged family is detailed although the effect of WWII is glossed over initially. When the author moves to France for university we learn more of her life and the life of her future husband as the Shoah (Holocaust) shatters Jewish life in Europe and North Africa. The structured life of observant Jews is detailed and made interesting for the general reader.

Finally the author lives out the advice of her first “real” teacher – If you want to succeed, you can – and finds a fulfilling and very successful life in America, the land of the bagel.

4 of 5 stars

THE EXECUTION by Dick Wolf

The Execution: A Jeremy Fisk Novel (Jeremy Fisk Novels) - Dick Wolf

A great thriller with good characterization and tight plotting. The characters are "real" with back stories that support their actions. The plot is believable and moves along quickly without feeling rushed. The final twist is realistic and right for the characters. 4 of 5 stars

TOMORROW THERE WILL BE APRICOTS by Jessica Soffer

Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots - Jessica Soffer

Lorca, Victoria and Blot, three damaged people, populate this novel that touches on Iraq, cutting and drug addiction leavened by lies, secrets and poor parenting. Ultimately hopeful, the book drags a bit after many chapters of discouraged, depressed people. I was happy to see the end. The three main characters, Lorca’s mother and Victoria’s “best friend” Dottie are all clearly drawn. Each is likeable except for Lorca’s mother who is clearly the villain. Joseph, the only other character, is not so well developed and plays an important, though minor, role. Cutting and food are also main characters. I learned much about the whys of cutting, coming away with a very sympathetic and empathetic view of those who suffer from this scary disease. Food offers the much needed lightness. Iraqi dishes are presented and prepared by Lorca and Victoria. One recipe is given. I would have liked to have others – the descriptions had my mouth watering! Because I feel the book is too long, only 3 of 5 stars.

ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS by Nayomi Munaweera

Island of a Thousand Mirrors - Nayomi Munaweera

ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS by Nayomi Munaweera I enjoyed the writing which was clear and moving. The descriptions of the island were wonderful, not just the physical beauty but the smells of food, people and nature. I felt like I really knew the characters. I hope the final edition has a “cast of characters” as it was difficult to keep the various families and generations straight, especially as they were seemingly unrelated as the narrative moved from generation to generation and Sinhala to Tamil and back again. I learned a vast amount about the Sri Lankan history of civil violence. Book groups will find themselves discussing discrimination, arranged marriage, ethnic differences, education, parental desires for their children, the life of the immigrant in a new land, jealousy between siblings, soldier versus terrorist, the effect of violence on people and culture, and the sense of smell. Some groups may find the descriptions of sexuality (including violent rape) disturbing. 4 of 5 stars

MERCY FALLS by William Kent Krueger

Mercy Falls (Cork O'Connor, #5) - William Kent Krueger

MERCY FALLS is the 5th in the Cork O’Connor series of mystery/thrillers written by William Kent Krueger. The author’s descriptions of the North Woods area of Minnesota are excellent and add greatly to the story giving it a sense of place usually lacking in this genre. Krueger is also careful to detail his characters as real, living, breathing persons instead of the stereotypes and stock characters so often found in mysteries. The tempo and pacing of the novel give the reader (and the characters) a chance to breathe after thrilling and terrorizing scenes. I liked the way reservation life was detailed – accurate but not condescending or demeaning. In short, Krueger is an excellent writer with an engaging and compelling story. So, why am I only giving this book 3 stars. Because of the loose ends! One of the main “mysteries” isn’t solved! Is this the first of a series inside a series? Does the next book (Copper River) answer the questions that are left dangling? Are we never to know the answers? I am bummed! If there had been a “read the next book” epilogue I would be happier. Instead I feel FORCED to buy and read the next book hoping to find answers that may or may not be there. 3 of 5 stars

12 YEARS A SLAVE by Solomon Northup

12 Years a Slave - Solomon Northup

I never thought I would say this but …. Go see the movie.

 

The story is important but the book is ponderous. The writing is old fashioned enough to make it difficult for the modern reader. I was glad I read this on my e-reader so I could easily look up all the many “archaic” words. The punctuation also forces the reader to slow down and re-read portions to understand what is being said in this autobiography.

 

The book relates the experiences of a free black man who is kidnapped by slavers in Washington, DC and taken to Louisiana where he is sold into slavery. It takes 12 long years for him to be found, released from bondage and returned to wife and children. He suffers under both cruel and mild masters as he shares life with other bound persons. Northup also relates the stories of other persons he suffers with. You will feel Patsey’s pain as she is whipped into submission and suffer with Elisa as her small children are wrenched from her and sold away never to be seen again.

 

This biography needs to be told. Perhaps another writer will make the story come alive for the modern reader. 3 of 5 stars

TRICKSTER’S POINT by William Kent Krueger

Trickster's Point - William Kent Krueger

If you are looking for a literate mystery with well-developed characters and a convincing, challenging plot, this is the book for you. Krueger’s latest chapter in the life of his Cork O’Conner character will have you guessing until the last pages.

 

 

Several characters from Cork’s past have reason to kill off Cork’s childhood friend, rising politician Jubal Little. When Little’s life is cut short in the middle of his gubernatorial campaign, Cork is the prime suspect until others reveal their animosity. Cork’s family and friends, as well as a few enemies, all come under suspicion in this tightly plotted mystery leavened with near poetic descriptions of the area around Trickster’s Point. The many layers to the mystery of Jubal’s death are only revealed in the final pages.

 

An excellent way to spend some time with a fine author, Native American traditions and the northern reaches of Minnesota.

5 of 5 stars

THE WORKHOUSE GIRL by Dilly Court

The Workhouse Girl - Dilly Court

Sarah, the workhouse girl of the title, is followed from age 6 to about age 20 in this young adult novel. Poor Sarah rockets from one dismal situation after another, extricating herself (or being extricated) only to fall into another awful mess. Along the way we meet several villains and a few heroes and heroines. The characters are stock characters with one “noble rascal” to relieve the standardization. This is a quick read that moves from one unlikely situation to another, but does eventually reach a not quite foregone conclusion. The writing is okay, the dialogue pedestrian, but the tempo is non-stop. Tweens will love it. Teens will enjoy the action and like the very mild romance. Parents have nothing to fear beyond a few somewhat “bad” words, a few kisses along with some mild innuendo and lots of outright cruelty. Adults will likely find the believable factor too implausible to read past the middle of the book and may just skip to the conclusion. Then they will discover they have missed several plot points. 3 of 5 stars

THE ROMANOV SISTERS; The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra - Helen Rappaport

History and Russian buffs will love this history of the last Tsar and his family. Although the title seems to indicate the book will revolve around the four Romanov daughters more than half of the book is spent with their mother Alexandra and her ills, their brother Alexie who suffers from Hemophilia and the influence of Rasputin. Perhaps because the girls were so sheltered from the public little actual “news” is available to write about them, their lives, their schooling and private lives. The book reads quickly and is interesting, especially as it relates the family to their English and German relatives. If you are hoping to read the bloody details of the family’s end, you will need to find another book as this one ends with their banishment from public and royal life. You will, however, discover a family that cherishes normality and each other. 4 of 5 stars