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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.

DUMPLIN' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' - Julie Murphy
DUMPLIN’ by Judy Murphy
This book is not PC. A teenage girl is called Dumplin’ by her mother who constantly reminds her how fat she is and how pretty she would be if she just lost some weight.
Dumplin’ and her friends decide to enter the beauty contest Dumplin’s mother runs and had won many years before. Hilarity runs rampant as the young women (one fat, one disabled, one perhaps autistic and one gay) prepare their talent acts and wardrobes.
This could have been awful. It was not. It becomes a sensitive and empathetic tale of young women learning to love themselves and accept others. Oh, and there is also a gentle love story.
This would be great book for a mother/parent book club.
4 of 5 stars



THIS TENDER LAND  - William Kent Krueger
THIS TENDER LAND by William Kent Krueger
If you loved Ordinary Grace you will love this new stand alone from the author of the Cork O’Connor mystery series. Three orphaned boys and a broken-hearted little girl run away from misery and beatings at a School for Indian Children during the Great Depression.
The school is run by a tyrant and her subservient but cruel husband. When one child disappears after a tornado kills the one person who actually cared for the children, the four decide disappearing themselves is the only way to escape the merciless animosity. Floating and paddling down the rivers to their goal of St. Louis is fraught with danger from nature and those who are searching for them.
Upon reaching their goal, they discover secrets aplenty had been strewn throughout their short lives.
5 of 5 stars



This was a delightful book. A conservative Indian lady seeks closure with her son’s death by taking a guided tour of America.
Pival hires an Indian (she thinks) tour company that is really Bengali. Her “companion” is an erstwhile actress who is tired of life. Her tour guide has never led a tour before. These three mismatched characters, each with their own set of opinions and expectations find themselves and America as they travel.
Pival’s son, his chosen lifestyle, his companion, and his life’s work become clear as the tour progresses.
By turns hilarious and heartrending, America for Beginners presents an America like no other. The characters are interesting and well developed. The story line has great depth and insight. While reading, you might consider a tour of America you might arrange – especially the meals along the way.
5 of 5 stars



YOU WERE THERE TOO - Colleen Oakley
YOU WERE THERE TOO by Colleen Oakley
This was a different kind of love story. A happily married woman dreams about a man, not her husband, for years. Then she discovers he is a real person who has been dreaming about her! Love, desire, confusion, humor, guilt, forgiveness, and just plain weirdness ensues.
I liked it. Not the best book ever, but definitely an interesting take on human emotions. Well written, likeable characters who show real emotions, who grow and change in the development of the story.
You will wonder while reading where this is all going and you will be surprised. Taken all together, this is a good read. I’m glad I read it.
4 of 5 stars


CHEROKEE AMERICA - Margaret Verble
CHEROKEE AMERICA by Margaret Verble
Verble beautifully creates atmosphere in both culture and land in this prequel to her first (Pulitzer Prize nominated) novel, MAUD’S LINE. Cherokee America, known to all as Check, is the matriarch of a family still remembering the horrors of the Trail of Tears and now facing increasing pressure from Whites to sell, give or abandon their Cherokee Nation land.
Family is paramount to this extended family facing the death of Check’s husband, culture clashes with their white neighbors, disapproval of their employment of a former slave, their friendships across culture lines and family ties and, finally, the betrayal of family members by whites. The first half of the novel introduces the various family, friends and enemies and establishes the ethnic and “national” background and clash points. The second half deals with the aftermath of betrayal and reads like an engrossing mystery.
The cast of characters at the front is extremely helpful in keeping all of the players in this drama straight. The conflict and resolution are satisfying if unconventional.
My one hesitancy in highly recommending this novel is the emphasis on sexual behavior that pervades the entire book.
5 of 5 stars


India Gray

India Gray: Historical Fiction - Sujata Massey
INDIA GRAY by Sujata Massey
This collection consists of two novellas and two short stories. Both novellas, Outnumbered at Oxford and The Ayah’s Tale are peopled by well formed characters and have detailed and nuanced plots with introduction, plot development and conclusion. Outnumbered at Oxford introduces characters found in the full length novel, THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL. The two short stories are quite brief and include only one incident with little characterization. India Gray is the much more satisfying story for both character and plot. Bitter Tea simply leaves one wanting more.
Outnumbered at Oxford gives the reader of MALABAR HILL the back story of what transpired during Perveen’s banishment to England and introduces Alice, Perveen’s good friend, who has a role in MALABAR HILL. Both women find themselves bending the strict rules at St. Hilda’s College to solve the disappearance of a mathematical paper and a young man.
The Ayah’s Tale is a treatise on social class, including the vast social differences between Indians (in their own country) and English colonists during a time of growing desire for Indian independence. It leaves the reader wanting another tale to fill in the gap between the story and the epilogue.
The writing and research involved for all four tales is detailed and gives depth and interest to each story. A good introduction to an excellent writer.
5 of 5 stars


Things You Save in a Fire - Katherine Center
THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE by Katherine Center
THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE is the first book I have read by Katherine Center. It wasn’t exactly what I assumed it would be, but was an interesting read even though it turned out to be a romance rather than a firefighter story. The tension author Center creates around Cassie’s determined “aloneness” is palpable from the very first lines. Cassie, Diana, the other firefighters and Diana’s friend Josie all speak and act like normal people. The two “villains” are known pretty quickly.
The romantic story line is actually quite interesting (this said by a person who doesn’t usually read romance novels). The pranking escalates rather quickly into real fright producing torment. That resolution is the weakest part of the novel. Cassie turns around socially because of fear for her mother and over a period of time – understandable.
The resolution of the out of control pranking is not so understandable, especially on the part of the villain who changes too quickly and too completely to be believable.
(No vulgar language except for a few damns, one sex scene, one alluded to violent sex scene, I received this book free from St Martin’s Press for my honest review)
4 of 5 stars


Two heroines

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter - Hazel Gaynor
Combining two stories to tell the life of lighthouse keeping and coming of age make this a charming and intelligent read of historical fiction. Grace Darling was also known as the Heroine of the Farne Isles because of her actions during the wreck of the Forfarshire where many lives were lost, but, because of Grace and her father, nine lives were saved. The companion story tells of Matilda Emmerson, a “disgraced” Irish nineteen year old escaping her family’s judgement to spend time with a distant relative who is a lighthouse keeper in America.
Well researched and written, both tales tell the hardships and joys of “keeping” over the space of a hundred years. Gaynor’s characters come to life as she exposes their lives and work. The terror and beauty of the raw power of the sea tell its own story in masterful hands. The dynamics of family and friendship are exposed as each woman’s story is revealed.
Book groups will enjoy the tales and learn a great deal about “keeping” and also the natural beauty and power of living seaside.
5 of 5 stars


Southern Charm and Skulduggery

I Still Dream About You - Fannie Flagg
This fun read still has an emotional punch. Flagg is an expert at creating characters one cares about – even the ones that are not very nice! In this outing Flagg joins a “fat” African American, a midget, an ex-beauty queen, and a thoroughly detestable real estate agent to tell a tale of what might have been, what is and what may yet be.
Pathos and hilarity join forces for a romp in Southern charm and dirty deals. Flagg manages to tell a good story without stooping to vulgar language or explicit sex. Written for the adult female audience I STILL DREAM can be enjoyed by all audiences including teens.
There is enough here for an interesting book group discussion that might cover family dynamics, faith, integrity, racial harmony, interpersonal relations and much more. Similar in feel to FRIED GREEN TOMATOES, this book would also make a good movie.
5 of 5 stars


Death of a New American by Mariah Fredericks

Death of a New American - Mariah Fredericks
DEATH OF A NEW AMERICAN by Mariah Fredericks
Jane Prescott, lady’s maid and mystery solver, becomes embroiled in labor disputes, the Black Hand and murder in this entertaining novel set in 1912 New York. Louise, Jane’s lady, is about to marry the son of a prestigious family.
When the Tyler’s nursemaid is murdered and notes are found threatening the infant child of Louise’s soon to be in laws, Jane and newspaperman Michael Behan spring into action. Between love and the criminal underworld, the tension is palpable.
Well written, with interesting situation and characters, this novel will be a welcome addition to book groups and individual readers alike.
4 of 5 stars


Murder with tea and jewels

The Satapur Moonstone - Sujata Massey
This the second mystery starring Purveen Mistry, a female Indian lawyer practicing in Bombay in 1921. (If you have not read the first, you might want to check it out first, so you know the backstory.) Purveen has been asked to determine if the children of a deceased Maharajah in princely India are being properly cared for and educated, and the royal succession maintained while the two remaining maharanis remain in purdah (seclusion).
Several mysterious incidents come to light as Purveen and an agent for the British Empire join forces to untangle the intricacies of Satapur’s royal aristocracy. Several deaths and more than several possible culprits appear along the way.
Massey’s care with the cultural differences observed by the various religions, political entities, and Indian versus British desires become part of the mystery. A bit of romance may even be hinted at if this entertaining series continues – and I hope it does.
Well written with strong characters and intricate plotting make this novel a great addition to the genre.
4 of 5 stars


Ultimately unsatisfying

Turbulence - David Szalay
TURBULENCE by David Szalay
This very short book is a collection of very loosely connected vignettes. Each tells of an incident in the life of the “main” character, a person who has interacted in some way with the main character of the preceding story. Although each vignette poses a problem or life changing incident,, there are no conclusions and there is no background information.
While each story is compelling in the moment, each is also dissatisfying in the lack of resolution. The writing is clear, the characters are distinct, the stories disparate.
Ultimately, the novel is unsatisfying. It would serve a literature class well, but as a read for enjoyment – choose something else.
3 of 5 stars



The Book Woman Of Troublesome Creek (Unabridged edition) - Katie Schorr, Kim Michele Richardson
In the depths of the depression and hidden in the deep mountains of Kentucky was Troublesome Creek. The people were starving for both and learning. The WPA hired women to ride packhorses or mules and take “learning” in the form of books to the cabins hidden in the hills and hollows. Also hidden in those hollows were the “Blue’ people. Blues suffered from a genetic abnormality that caused their skin to range from pale blue to deep indigo. They were feared and ostracized even more than “normal” black skinned people. Cussy is both Blue and a Book Woman.
This is her story. Based on the real blue Fugate family of Kentucky, this novel ranges from terrifying to humorous to touching.
The writing paints the forests and hills in all their awe inspiring glory and all their fearful terrain. The closed away feeling of the miners and dirt farmers is clarified by the prose. The plot is engrossing. The people are sympathetic and haunting.
Readers will learn more than they anticipated and enjoy it. An excellent book for book groups. Appropriate for parent/middle ager (and up) groups
5 of 5 stars


Beirut Hellfire Society - Rawi Hage
This tale presents the raw outrage, fear, misery, and indelible sadness of a country at war. The writing is excellent. Unfortunately, it is so filled with sex and depravity that I can not recommend this book.
After having to force myself to read past the first few chapters, the book did offer some moments of humor (of the black variety) and the final pages did offer some version of hope after the devastation of hopelessness that war engenders. The feelings of the outcast (religion, societal, employment, mental illness, etc) are clearly shown.
I had hoped for a better read.
2 of 5 stars


Heart stopping finish

Blood Oath (Alexandra Cooper #20) - Linda Fairstein
BLOOD OATH by Linda Fairstein
This thriller by a master of the art starts a bit slow but by the time you get all the players straight the thrills a minute lead to a heart pounding conclusion.
Alexandra Cooper, back from a leave of absence, is the heroine of the tale. Lucy, a troubled young woman is the object of concern. Along the way a wide cast of characters, some good, some evil, come into play.
Tightly plotted and unerringly fleshed out, Fairstein’s novel is one of the best of the genre.
4 of 5 stars


A Death of No importance by Mariah Fredericks

A Death of No Importance - Mariah Fredericks
DEATH OF NO IMPORTANCE by Mariah Fredericks
The backstairs folk always see more than the upper class folks think. Lady’s maid Jane sees and thinks. The writing is good with great characterization, good atmosphere, a realistic portrayal of time and place.
Fredericks throws in some real people and real incidents to give breadth to her story. This is the first of a series with Jane as the sleuth in a tightly crafted mystery. The death is pretty gruesome but, for the squeamish, not dwelled upon. Also, no foul language or steamy sex, just a really good mystery with fully fleshed out characters.
5 of 5 stars