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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.

HOT MESS

HOT MESS - Emily Belden
HOT MESS by Emily Belden
Well, the title is correct – this book is a hot mess. If you can get past the f bombs and constant sex, one dimensional characters and thin plot, there might be a half way decent short story good for an hour or two on a long plane ride.
So, what is good about this book. There are complete sentences. There is a plot with a beginning, middle and, thankfully, a conclusion. Once Benji is out of the picture so to speak, the book improves.
The story concerning the restaurant is not half bad. The love story is juvenile and unbelievable. So – if you don’t mind the language, the immaturity of all the characters and the constant focus on sex, this book might, repeat, might, be worth spending an otherwise boring afternoon with it.
By the way, even though this book is about food and cooking and restaurants , there are NO recipes or even lucid discussions about actual food.
1 of 5 stars

 

MUSIC of the GHOSTS by Vaddey Ratner

Music of the Ghosts - Vaddey Ratner

MUSIC OF THE GHOSTS BY Vaddey Ratner 

 Oh my goodness! What to say about this book. First the good. The writing is lyrical. Some phrases are exquisite. The word usage is wonderful. Then there is the story. I am SOOOOO confused. I tried very hard to like this book, but just couldn’t do it. The Old Musician and his reminisces wander all over-- future, past, present -- all in present tense.

 

Somewhere around page 200, the story began to make sense. If you can make that far -- this tale of Cambodia and Khmer Rouge, death, love, life, hate, perseverance, family, faith -- becomes full of life and forces one to engage its loveliness and its heartbreak. Teera and the Old Musician enter your heart and mind and take up residence. They stay with you long after you have read the last page.

 

Still, only 3 of 5 stars for the slow start, the initial confusion, the ethereal sentences.

This is a good one!

Small Great Things - Jodi Picoult
GREAT SMALL THINGS by Jodi Piccoult
I haven’t read any Piccoult for a while (a little tired of the “disease of the month” rut she seemed to be in), so I had avoided this book also. But I kept hearing really good things about it. People who didn’t read Piccoult LOVED it. So, I gave it a shot.
All those good things I heard were true. This is a good book! The tale revolves around an African-American nurse. She is a good nurse with a sterling reputation until she is Labor and Delivery nurse to the wife of a white supremacist. This IS a Piccoult book, so, of course, something terrible happens to the baby. Now the tale becomes sympathetic (yes, sympathetic) portrayals of a white, racist, perfectly awful man, his white racist, perfectly awful wife and a here-to-for unbiased, wonderful person African-American nurse and her honor roll student , off to Yale son.
You will learn more medical jargon than you ever wanted to know and, maybe, discover a few of your own biases and prejudices. This is a good story, well told, that will keep you wondering about yourself until the final pages.
5 of 5 stars

 

TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER by Tamora Pierce

Tempests and Slaughter (The Numair Chronicles, Book One) - Tamora Pierce
TEMPESTS AND SLAUGHTER (Book One in The Numair Chronicles) by Tamora Pierce
 
Pierce is one of my favorite authors for young adult fantasy and this outing is one of her best. She has created a world that is fully populated and nuanced with peoples, animals, gods and Gods, as well as climate, flora, and laws of both nature and man.
 
Her main character this time is male, unusual for Pierce who is a creator of strong females. Arram is an eleven year old mage student when the book opens, and is joined by Ozorne, a Prince of the Realm, and Varice, a female kitchenwitch, both also mage students. There are plenty of fully realized supporting characters including teachers, gods and Gods, gladiators and other students.
 
This first book in the new series covers the lower and upper years of The Imperial University of Carthak (The School for Mages) and sets up the themes for the following books. Themes indicated are friendship, use of power, loyalty, the role of government, slavery and gladiators, justice and revenge, and kindness.
 
One item that shows Pierce’s attention to detail is the use of Arram’s class schedules to introduce each new season. Each schedule shows us the progress of Arram’s studies, introduces faculty members and details the breadth of Arram’s Gift. Each also reinforces the sense of reality Pierce creates in her Tortall World.
 
Several interweaving plots carry the reader quickly through the more than 400 pages. A glossary at the end is helpful for newcomers to the Tortall World. You will be sorry this book has ended and be anxious for the next to be published.
 
5 of 5 stars

 

TAKE OUT by Margaret Maron

Take Out - Margaret Maron

TAKE OUT by Margaret Maron

 

I love Maron’s Deborah Knott books. This is only the second Sigrid Harald novel I have read. I was unfamiliar with the recurring characters, so I was often to turning back to see “who is this”, especially considering there are three separate plots and three sets of characters to keep straight.

 

 

Once I got familiar with them, all the plot(s) moved along quickly.

 

 

The New York setting was on point with a number of neighborhood businesses and interest points used. Lt. Harold’s relationship with artist Oscar Nauman is part of the plotting along with a gallery, a mobster’s family and an aging opera star. The plots are intriguing and keep you guessing (I did quickly figure out one point, yea, me) with enough ambiguity to keep you reading.

 

Good reading, but I still like the Deborah Knott books better.

4 of 5 stars

Hope in the Holler

Hope in The Holler - Lisa Lewis Tyre

HOPE IN THE HOLLER by Lisa Lewis Tyre This delightful middle grade novel features a plucky 5th grader who has just lost her mother to cancer. Wavie is sent to live in a tiny Appalachian hamlet with an aunt she didn’t know existed. Wavie acts and speaks like a real 5th grader. So, too, do the other young people in her new town. Her aunt, Samantha Rose, is a horror and her cousin isn’t much better. An uncle and a weird old man make up the rest of the main characters in this lively novel. A mystery and secrets lead to the plot which moves along quickly. Middle graders will love this book that emphasizes honesty, pluck, determination, kindness, friendship and bravery. This would be a good book for a parent/child book club or an all student book group. Even boys would like it as there are several interesting boy characters in the plot. 5 of 5 stars

NEED TO KNOW by Karen Cleveland

Need to Know: A Novel - Karen Cleveland
NEED TO KNOW by Karen Cleveland
 
WOW, this book takes you for a ride with the FBI, CIA and Russian spies. Cleveland has written a page turner that will keep you wondering how Vivian, a CIA analyst, and Matt, her husband and possible Russian sleeper spy, will keep the Russians and the Americans at bay AND keep their family intact (and out of jail)!
 
The fast moving plot will keep you on the edge of your seat and those pages turning. Vivian is a bit naive and one wonders how she became so trusted with so much top secret information. Her husband starts as a mild mannered house husband and good as gold Dad – and maybe he is… or maybe he is a Russian spy. Someone is.
 
Discovering who is the spy and who are the good guys has this book littered with red herrings, threats, secret identities, plain black cars and more.
 
4 of 5 stars

 

French Exit by Patrick DeWitt

French Exit - Patrick deWitt
FRENCH EXIT by Patrick DeWitt
I just couldn’t get interested in this book or the characters in it; Frances, a middle aged widow, and her son, Malcolm. While clearly drawn, neither was likeable or very interesting.
 
Their situation (about to become bankrupt) and their reactions were also not interesting. I finished the book all the while wondering why I kept reading. I can’t in good conscience recommend this book.
 
Frances is a snide, snobbish and selfish person. Malcolm is a man/child who has no ambition and no desire to do anything including attend to his long suffering fiancé. The entourage they acquire is made up of misfits and ne’er-do-wells.
 
The conclusion is a relief.
2 of 5 stars

 

The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio G. Iturbe, Lilit Zekulin Thwaites
THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ by Antonio Iturbe, translation by Lilit Thwaites
 
I wanted to love this book. It is the true story of a 13 year old girl, imprisoned at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, who protects the few books that have been smuggled into the camp.
 
The infamous Doctor Mengle and other well-known Nazis and Resistance workers play supporting roles in what should have been a fascinating and terrifying look at man’s inhumanity to man. Instead it is almost boring.
The writing is flat, perhaps a problem with the translation. The characters have no life to them and so the reader is not engaged. Well researched, with a postscript and “what happened to them” appendix that gives the reader the results of the bravery of the resistance workers and prisoners and the cruelty of the Nazis, the book could be a source for history buffs and casual readers.
However, as it intended for young adults, the book simply cannot be recommended because of the uninteresting writing.
 
2 of 5 stars

 

Come Sundown - Nora Roberts
COME SUNDOWN by Nora Roberts
The only other Nora Roberts (J D Robb) book I have read is her dystopian YEAR ONE. This is a stand-alone thriller.
The Bodine Ranch and Resort are both run by a close knit family. Bodine Longbow, the eldest daughter is the focus of the book and the COO of the family enterprise. She is clearly drawn and multidimensional as is Callen Skinner, a new hire and old acquaintance. Alice, Bodine’s aunt, who has been missing for years is an integral part of the plot as is Sundown, a highly trained and intelligent horse.
When young women start disappearing and then are found murdered in the close vicinity of the ranch, the plot becomes apparent. There are plenty of red herrings, plot twists, love interests and Ranch/Resort complications to keep the reader interested in this 450 page novel. Roberts is a master of the thriller/love story genre and it shows in this outing.
 
5 of 5 stars for a convincing thriller with likeable characters, interesting locale and pleasing secondary plots.

 

It could have been so fascinating

The Librarian of Auschwitz - Antonio G. Iturbe, Lilit Zekulin Thwaites

THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ by Antonio Iturbe, translation by Lilit Thwaites I wanted to love this book. It is the true story of a 13 year old girl, imprisoned at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, who protects the few books that have been smuggled into the camp. The infamous Doctor Mengle and other well-known Nazis and Resistance workers play supporting roles in what should have been a fascinating and terrifying look at man’s inhumanity to man. Instead it is almost boring. The writing is flat, perhaps a problem with the translation. The characters have no life to them and so the reader is not engaged. Well researched, with a postscript and “what happened to them” appendix that gives the reader the results of the bravery of the resistance workers and prisoners and the cruelty of the Nazis, the book could be a source for history buffs and casual readers. However, as it intended for young adults, the book simply cannot be recommended because of the uninteresting writing. 2 of 5 stars

Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

Come Sundown - Nora Roberts

COME SUNDOWN   by Nora Roberts

The only other Nora Roberts (J D Robb) book I have read is her dystopian YEAR ONE.  This is a stand-alone thriller. 

The Bodine Ranch and Resort are both run by a close knit family. Bodine Longbow, the eldest daughter is the focus of the book and the COO of the family enterprise. She is clearly drawn and multidimensional as is Callen Skinner, a new hire and old acquaintance.  Alice, Bodine’s aunt, who has been missing for years is an integral part of the plot as is Sundown, a highly trained and intelligent horse.

When young women start disappearing and then are found murdered in the close vicinity of the ranch, the plot becomes apparent. There are plenty of red herrings, plot twists, love interests and Ranch/Resort complications to keep the reader interested in this 450 page novel. Roberts is a master of the thriller/love story genre and it shows in this outing.

5 of 5 stars for a convincing thriller with likeable characters, interesting locale and pleasing secondary plots.

THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL by Nadia Hashimi

The Pearl That Broke Its Shell - Nadia Hashimi

THE PEARL THAT BROKE ITS SHELL by Nadia Hashimi

Two women who were “bocha posh” in their youth are the two heroines of this double story. Rahima is the modern girl who is turned into a boy in order for her family to survive in a patriarchal society where girls/women are forced into the extreme background of life. Shekiba (the great-great-grandmother of Rahima) becomes “bacha posh” because of the deaths of her immediate family and the shunning of her extended family.

Both women live in a very structured Aghan society that does not permit females to participate in society. The intertwined tales follow the women throughout their lives as they transition from girl to “boy” and then back to girl. The second transition is the most difficult as they must adjust from relative freedom to a rigidly obedient life under the complete domination of both males and the older women who can make their lives miserable or pleasant.

Traditional Afghan society is made very clear as we learn the intimate details of Rahima and Shekiba’s lives. Both women make choices that determine their fates as well as the fates of those they love or simply grow to know.

The character who connects the two women is Shaima, Rahima’s aunt, who tells the story of Shekiba in order to encourage Rahima to live her life as fully as possible.

Book groups will ponder the fate of the many women who people the book and find much to discuss – husbands, education, the position of women, ethical behavior, the importance of family and, of course, the oddity of “bacha posh” itself.

5 of 5 stars

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

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

APPALACHIAN SERENADE by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Appalachian Serenade: A Novella (Appalachian Blessings) - Sarah Loudin Thomas

This novella introduces you to some of the characters in MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON. Delilah. the main character here is also a character in Miracle. Charlotte, her sister, and Charlotte’s husband Ed and daughter Perla, also appear. The other major character is shop owner Robert . APPALACHIAN SERENADE tells the love story of Delilah and Robert. The tale is pretty straight forward and the end of the love story ambles to its natural conclusion. The real purpose of the novella is to give you the back story of the characters in MIRACLE. It does the job very nicely with a tiny bit of foreshadowing of a main conflict in MIRACLE. A quick read that will entice you to read MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON. 4 of 5 stars