I am a self-professed Francophile, and I always welcome the opportunity to learn more about the country, and especially Paris. This book, written by an English expatriot, is a comical look about day to day living in Paris. It's a very funny book, and terrific to read just prior to a trip to France. Tres bien!
Steeped in historical facts, biblical passages and mythology, this twist on history will have you reevaluating what you know about angels and again (a la Divinci Code) questioning whether we are revisionists of history and religious belief. According to Trussoni's book, angels are no longer are they sweet and compassionate, but have the ability, desire and sinister ways to kill with no remorse. Which is just what the Angelologist are fighting against. Spanning generations, Angelology follows the lives and quest of several existing, and two possible new, Angelologists. The fight between the Angel Niphilim and the Angologists gets heated up as, innocent bystander, Verlaine, offers the Nephilim a key piece of information over looked by both parties for years. That is all that is needed to endanger his life and throw him into the search for the Lyre with the all important Evangeline, a young Franciscan sister, who's family ties put her in the center of it all the mystery and intrigue. The Lyre that could save the Nephilim and possibly alter the world as we know it. Despite a slightly predictable ending with no closure (I smell sequel), the book is sure to capture your attention and provide several good discussion points.
Ok, I'll admit it. Once in a while I like to indulge in an ultra-girly, romantic novel, preferably one that requires little brain power, and predictably ends happily. Don’t judge me – it’s a harmless guilty pleasure. April and Oliver kind of calmed that desire for a bit. While it was a little darker than some of the chick lit I’ve read, it is chick lit nonetheless. The heated relationship between the two title characters is muddied by molestation, abuse, and nearly incestuous associations. Trust me; there is no shortage of crisis here. If you like your romance novels a little crooked and chock full of bad decisions, then give April and Oliver a shot. I won’t promise that it ends happily. I’m not even sure what “happy” means after finishing this book.
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
If you've ever wondered about the creative writing process, check out this book. LaMott, a best-selling author and professor, hilariously describes what writers go through when trying to make a story come to life. You'll laugh over and over again. It's a great read, even if you never intend to write fiction.
Through its controversial plot line and completely intriguing characters, Blonde Roots forces its readers to look at the world of slavery at a 180° angle. Imagine that it all happened differently. What if Africans had enslaved Anglo Saxons instead of the other way around? What kind of longstanding cultural impact would reverberate today? In Bernadine Evaristo’s novel, she fleshes out a world corrupt from the other side. Her fictional tale is heart wrenching, not just because of Doris’s (Omerenomwara) personal struggles and eventual redemption, but also because Blonde Roots reminds us that no culture, race, or gender should ever be subjected to a slavery system. Unleash this book immediately – you won’t regret it!
Cryptic Spaces: Book One: Foresight
I liked this book. It was a truly enjoyable read. I got lost (and by lost I don’t mean confused) I mean lost in the book because I love the brilliance of mathematical mind benders. The author does a great job of moving you through the puzzles and time corridors and fantasy with the reader’s understanding in mind. Ferrell is a very good writer and both young and adult can enjoy the writing, the adventure, the characters and the overarching plot. Even with the arch of the plot stretching to a second book. To uncover the truth of Nostradamus and the explosive secrets behind it is fun stuff. Especially with the different adventures and danger that has found the characters. How will they be saved? You will like this book too! .
Chuck Klosterman is a great writer. He has a knack for turning pop culture into comedy that everyone can relate to. Having read several of his nonfiction books, including the fantastic Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I was excited to read Downtown Owl, his first forray into fiction.
The story is set in Owl, a small sleepy farming town. In the middle of nowhere, the most important events are high school football games, and the main form of adult entertainment occurs in one of two towny bars. People rarely come to Owl, and the locals never leave.
There are three central characters in the story, and I think that most readers will easily identify with one of them. Mitch, a student of the local high school, is full of adolescent strife. Horace has lived in Owl his entire life, over 70 years. It's all he knows, and all he cares to know. Julia is new in town, fresh out of college with her first teaching gig. Owl is a far cry from Madison, WI, and she struggles to adapt to her newfound celebrity as the new single lady in town.
Mitch, Horace, and Julia go about their daily routines until tragedy strikes, proving that no matter how typical a small town is, anything can happen at any time.
This is a really entertaining story, chock full of early '80s rock and roll references (it wouldn't be a Klosterman book without them). The characters are believeable and likeable, and regardless of where you're from, you will form a definite image of Downtown Owl in your head. Don't bother questioning how the tragedy goes unseen, how no one predicts it. Just go with it. You'll enjoy the story.
I just wonder what happens to the Football Coach/English Teacher? His story never really finishes.
Farsighted is a refreshing and easy read with the added excitement of paranormal intrigue. Written for the YA crowd, you never quite know what you will get as an adult reader but this book was a great blend of mature themes of mystery, plot twists, cultural teachings along with the angst and right of passage in the high school years. The main character, Alex goes on a journey of discovery dealing with his blindness, denying/accepting his gifts and the all important first love experience. All of this while being a mostly likable but cynically absorbed character. His family and friends you meet along the way are intriguing and unique. The mystery could have spiked a little higher and I got a little lost in the “solving” of it but it was still very enjoyable. It is a great first effort for author Emlyn Chand’s debut novel in the Farsighted series. I mention that because I was startled when I hit the end of the book. I turned the page to see what was next for these characters and realized…sequel….I’ll have to read the second book for the continuing saga. A lot to talk about with this book.
On the surface, this book is a wonderful example of teenage angst and rebellion at its finest, and tween struggles of self discovery. But it does not stop there. It has characters portrayed in such way that you feel you not only know them, but in some ways are them. Each character is faced with their own obstacles and we are witnesses to not only their decisions, but their decision making process. The inner thoughts of all of the characters make you relate to their decision, even when you might not agree with them. The store lines: rebellious teen - tween torn with loyalties and "coolness" - mother & father trying to cope - mother battling her own demons and desires to emotionally flee - father temped, all lend themselves well to book club discussions. It is the underlying want of all of the characters to escape that really stood out to me as an interesting theme, and should lend itself to great discussions. Leah- into drugs and her boyfriend; Justine - to science, her friend's house and ultimately to "coolness"; Zoe - to painkillers and possibly another man; Will - to his work, anger, drinking, and possibly another woman; Jerry - to another life and wife… they all desire to escape, yet the bonds of family pull at them. It's an interesting dynamic that really pulls the book together for me.This book is a wonderful exploration of emotions that is sure to get any book club talking, sharing, crying and laughing.
Looks Easy Enough: A Joyful Memoir of Overcoming Disease, Divorce, and Disaster
This book was an enjoyable, nicely written, easy read with a heartfelt message of hope, optimism and perseverance in overcoming life‘s inevitable adversities. It was also way too long and often got lost in a version of “This Old House” amidst the narrative of building their dream house. This book is a nice look into the importance of the love of family, support of friends, spirituality, alternative and holistic approach to life and disease and survival. It was also a look into the depth or sometimes lack there of, of the author, Scott Stevenson’s, philosophy and process of life. Which surprisingly I found more evidence of with him helping his sister through divorce than I did with his wife’s battle with cancer. Although, I never doubted his love and support of his wife. Whether you are looking to read a book with a message for life or just like reading about people’s lives…this book has lots of room for discussion.
With rich character development and back stories we get to experience the intertwining of some fascinating individuals. Frazier paints a vivid picture of both the landscape of the area and the landscape of the psyches that make up this complex bunch. The most fascinating part of the book to me was how the back stories along with both the hope or dread of the future effected the present. Bud's past haunting him, paired with his dreading that the children might expose his secrets in the future. Stubblefield with his romantic memories and hope of a relationship. Luce's past creating her solitary life (now completely disrupted) and with her hopes to bring the children out of their shell…. but the kids - they seem to live for the present moment. A very interesting read.
Olive Kitteridge: Fiction
I would love to see Olive Kitteridge made into a movie. This story is full of unique characters, each with their own problems, who are all somehow tied to the title character. Olive is an ornery retiree in a small town in Maine. A former school teacher and long time resident, she has interacted with the majority of the townspeople in some way or another. She can rarely see past her own mood swings to the tribulations of others. Aging and increasingly alone, Olive deals with the “abandonment” of her only son, and the decline of her husband’s health. Ultimately, there is a transformation in Olive that sparks hope in the reader, but the real moments of enlightenment occur in the chapters that focus on people outside of Olive’s immediate family. Former students quote her with respect, a mistress depends on her company, and a widow confides in her. This book gives an excellent perspective of one person’s life, as seen through their own eyes as well as the eyes of others. It really made me think, how does my opinion of myself differ from that of others?
So Brave, Young, and Handsome: A Novel
So you think you’ve got it tough? Modern amenities like nonstop bicoastal flights and mega-mart grocery stores are not enough convenience? Travel back to days of the American Wild West, when bandits fled from the law on trains and horses, with nothing but the clothes on their back and their wits. After reading So Brave, Young, and Handsome, you’ll feel like you’ve got it easy.
The story is led by Monte Becket, a once-successful novelist with a serious case of writer’s block. He finds the opportunity for inspiration through a quiet but charming neighbor, Glendon Dobie, whose je ne sais quas turns out to be multiple outstanding felonies and a police record a mile long. The two gentlemen flee from the authorities, as Glendon searches for his estranged wife. Adventure ensues along the way. The men team up with an outlaw-in-the-making (Hood Roberts), dodge a swarthy old detective, sleep under the stars and in the back seats of cars, and forage for their next meals.
At its most basic, So Brave, Young, and Handsome is a story about how your viewpoint can change if you step outside of your own boundaries and experience the world through new eyes. Many of the characters in this book undergo tremendous transformation, especially Monte Becket, as they cross the country. Monte and Glendon both find what they are looking for, physically and emotionally. Have you ever taken a trip to a new place that changed you? Where did you go, and how were you changed?
Starvation Lake: A Mystery
I got to say this book is really paradoxical for me. Part of the time it felt predictable, then it had a good twist. Part of the time it felt too slow in getting any where, yet that felt completely appropriate at the same time with the setting. If I don't try to think about it so much - I liked it a lot. It was a fun read and at times I did not want to put it down. Great well developed characters, backstories and side stories! You were really able to get into the setting.
And you just can not have a book about Michigan with out the characters having a pastie at some point! Nice local foodie referrence. And Gus is correct, as a rule, pasties generally do need ketchup. However, when you start to get a little more creative with them, the right marinade can do wonders!
With practicality and logic as his weapons of choice, we bear witness to Holdsworth ghost busting late 1700's style. With mysteries and apparitions within mysteries and deceptions, this multiple plot line book will have you wondering until the end what is really going on in this crazy college town. Taylor's ability to capture the vernacular of the period was superb! It also had me glad to be reading it on a Kindle so I could easily look up what precisely some words meant. Overall an interesting read with a well developed story line… but not a book that you can't put down.
Based on a true story, we watch as Sari, a town healer and outcast (she could be a witch after all), takes turn after turn in her life. From daughter and apprentice, to engaged orphaned, to respected nurse and friend, to "lover," to abuse victim, to killer, to… the reluctant Angel Maker. There is a little bit of something for everyone in this book. And, even though the plot seems a bit predictable, you will enjoy watching her transform and grow. This is a great book club book pick.
Wait, wait, wait…what just happened? I’ve just finished The Angel’s Game, and I’m left scratching my head, and wondering where I lost track of what was going on in the story. It must have been some time after page 350. Up until then, I was very interested in the characters, particularly the leading man David Martin and his wealthy guardian, and completely engrossed in the plot. This book has a cast of thousands and multiple story lines, and at some point (some critical point), I lost all track of them. As I read the epilogue, I searched for the true meaning behind the book, or at least a glimpse of explanation of the events that had occurred, but I came up empty handed. Too many things were left hanging in The Angel’s Game. I loved the first half of the book, but found the second half to be very disappointing. Then again, maybe I just don’t get it? What’s your take on it? Who was David Martin, really?
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Loved, loved, loved the book. Though I did cry a lot, so make sure you have tissues handy. I really enjoyed that the story took place from the dog's point of view. As don't you just always wonder what they are thinking? I especially enjoyed when he had to recreate what he imagined about the events that took place when he was not present. I don't know why, but that really struck me as funny. And that darn Zebra! Sometimes there are things that just seem to haunt and taunt you, doesn't there? Overall, it's a very easy and enjoyable read.
The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart
Oooo, I know I love history, but the historical references were a lot of fun for me. It just leaves you wondering if it was a memoir or fiction. Definitely an interesting book.
Duped into kidnapping her favorite library patron, Lucy, still finds a way to entertain her boyfriend, visit with the family, and run errands for the Russian mafia… all while maintaining her innocence and keeping young Ian out of the hands of the evil Pastor Bob. Now that is a girl I want to know! Oh, and she encourages Ian to be himself, despite others trying to steer him "straight" AND comes up with an amazing book list of must reads for the "trying to be brainwashed"… yet she does it in a nonchalant water-rolling-off-a-ducks-back fashion. She is impressive - no doubt! But the real show stealer is Ian. Determined, not sneak around and be gay (as what 10 years old would?), Ian is determined to READ. Running away to the library! Now that is a fantasy life of a cool kid - to live in the library! (Seriously, how fun would that be?) But once he realizes the jig is up, he manipulates Lucy into kidnapping him. These two oh-so-smart and witty characters are off on a real life adventure. One that I am sure you will enjoy journeying on as much as I did. Wonderful prose, clever dialogue, and GREAT characters make this book a winner!
This book made me cry, made me smile and made me enter a world I have no experience in (thankfully). It was an engaging story which is a weird word to use with the subject matter of childhood cancer. But I loved the characters of Hazel, Augustus (superloved) and the love they found. And I loved Isaac too. They meet in a Cancer support group for kids and their relationships actually form very simply but yet have complications most people can’t imagine. To me how their relationships were written and what they had to go through was very real and raw even with the sophisticated language/talk that John Green gave them as characters. To me that just added to the likable nature of these characters and how they each handled what life had dealt and how they accepted each other. The story played out a bit differently than you may think it will from the beginning and packed a punch. The only oddity for me was the author of the book coming to visit and how it played out. That didn’t quite pan out but the book itself definitely did.
The Heretic's Daughter: A Novel
The Heretic's Daughter is the story of a family living in Puritan New England during the Salem Witch Trials. Engaging characters and vivid imagery made up for the somewhat predictable plot. Kathleen Kent, the author and a direct descendent of major character Martha Carrier, writes of slander, deceit, and the secrets that are often hidden from children to protect them.
I enjoyed the passages of the family pulling together to work the farm and run the household. The descriptions of their crops and meals, bountiful one year and barren the next, made me think of simpler times and how excessive modern American life can be.
Ultimately, it’s a book about family, and how the bond of blood grows stronger and stronger when needed. The plot won’t shock you; there are no strange twists or sudden revelations, but The Heretic’s Daughter is a good piece of historical fiction.
The Hierophant of 100th Street
I needed dictionary.com to figure out what the title meant, and some of the spiritual passages were a bit verbose, but wow! I loved this story from the very beginning. Admittedly, I am infatuated with stories that include drug addiction and people who are down-and-out. Maybe it is the constant hope that everyone can be resurrected, that they can overcome their afflictions. The Heirophant of 100th Street is that kind of story. A group of boys and girls grow up on the hard streets of Spanish Harlem. At one point or another, all of them falter. Some are able to pick themselves up and move forward, and some succumb to the harshness of their surroundings. The individual characters are woven together beautifully, with the story twisting and turning their lives together. The central character, Adam, is blessed with deep spirituality and a unique, intimate bond with theology. He spends a large part of his life figuring out what his path in life is, and in choosing that path, he is led safely away from 100th Street. Some of his friends are not as fortunate. Their story is emotional and real. I was riveted from page 1.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
"The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks " explores the life of Henrietta Lacks, her importance to science & society, and the tragic journey inflicted upon her family. My, what they went through to find the truth about what happened to Henreitta, the woman, and her immortal cells. They weren't even sure where she was buried. We watch (helplessly) as Henrietta's cells are taken without her consent and see the family's struggle to make sense of the bits and pieces of information they haphazardly have acquired. Rebecca Skloot, the author, becomes an integral part of the Lack's story as she aids Henrietta's daughter, Deborah, into greater understanding and helps to educate the world about important role Henrietta's life and disease has played in ALL of our lives. Exploited by the power of industry, and the result of poverty, racism, and the lack of regulations, the Lacks family had no real recourse. How much is different in today's society? I sincerely hope that Deborah and her family have been able to find some closure knowing now that the world knows how important Henrietta was and is in our medical research and discoveries.
The "sudden departure" (or is it the Rapture?) has left the survivors wondering, "What?" What happened to them? What does this mean? What was it about the departed? What is it about me, that keeps me here? What does it ALL mean? What are we here for anyway? What if this marks the end of the world? What do we do then? and most importantly… What do we do to move forward? We observe how the survivors in Mapleton try to rap their minds around these questions and figure out how to live again. These grieving leftovers take us in all manner of directions. All dealing with things their own way.
This SHOULD be a new book club classic. Though somehow I doubt many clubs will pick it up. Which is sad - they should. It's an emotional journey presented in a quite unemotional way that makes it all the more fascinating. You will leave the book appreciating what you have (the good, the bad and the ugly) yet questioning the it all… a must read for book clubs!
With several converging characters and story angles from both the present and the past we are really able to get a full and detailed look into the lives of the five young (and now 40ish) friends as well as their parents. We learn how the kid's friendships and self interests shape both their lives and the lives of their friends and family, and how one tragic event can change the course of of everyone's lives - or did it actually? One has to wonder if anything, for any of these characters, would have really changed had "the event" had not occurred. The more I think about it, I don't think so. I think this "transformative event" that is at the core of the story is actually irrelevant. This novel is, and pretty much only is, a novel that is a demonstration in character development.
Actually, after reading the first chapter my thought was, "Well I bet this story got the writer an A in their creative writing class in college." That same statement could probably be said about all of the chapters that followed. Interesting look at character development. PERIOD. So maybe it is a little "Olive Kitteridge" in that way. But Olive was soooo much more interesting as the common thread than this story line. If you are an aspiring novelist, pick up the book to learn about character development and backstory, but please, when you write your book - throw half of it out and find a better common thread!
The Other Boleyn Girl (Movie Tie-In)
I thought this book was very easy to read. I love history and this gave a great view into the world of Henry the VIII and the royal court he presided over and what a manipulative nut he was.
At first it was hard to find a way or even a word to describe my thoughts on this book. So I ended up with the word “fascinating” because I can’t say I liked it or didn’t like it…I just kept reading it because I was fascinated. So, I consider that a good thing. Normally it is a little more black or white for me of enjoying books that offer to make you think about life with their intended plots and characters, but this book had such a smorgasbord of human issues that I felt I was pinball. Not in a confused way (the story flowed along for me) but in a “get a grip” kind of way. And saying that is not intended to diminish the real life challenges in the book. Quinn, the main character was dealing with these very real human issues but I didn’t really feel for her because of the obvious nature of what she should choose. And sadly I was disturbed with the choice she made and disturbed that her mother (not my favorite) was the one who “remade the choice” that was right all along. Fascinating.
The Pursuit of Other Interests: A Novel
The Pursuit of Other Interests is particularly relevant to today’s American Economy. By this point, we all know someone who has lost their job. This book looks at the life of an aging executive who took his job and his pride too far, and who has little to fall back on when he’s axed at work. Despite the subject matter, the book is light-hearted and easy to read. Charlie Baker, the main character, is pretty detestable at times, but falling upon hard times in his career makes him reevaluate what is really important in his life. It’s a pretty predictable tale from the beginning, but those who find themselves related to Charlie in their work lives might find some peace through this one.
There were a lot of reasons that I disliked The Red Velvet Turnshoe, but all of them were personal. The story itself has great potential; Hildegard, an attractive and magnetic force of nature, braves a long and dangerous journey to retrieve a valuable religious relic. I can fully acknowledge that all of the elements of an interesting read are represented, and that it's my own distaste for midieval period pieces and murder who-dun-its that made it extremely difficult for me to finish out this book. Before beginning, I didn't know much about that time frame of English history, and I wasn't interested enough in the story to do additional research that would have led to a better understanding of this story. I tried to get past my personal preferences on this one, and I am sure that the conversations we have about Turnshoe at our book club meeting will be interesting, but I wouldn't recommend this book. It's just not my thing, even though I wouldn't mind being a modern-day Hildegard for a day or two!
The Sense of an Ending (Borzoi Books)
What starts out as school time reminiscing and flashbacks sets the foundation of the mystery to be solved by our retired protagonist. From his "man crushes" on his childhood friends to those oh so powerful dips into first love. The foundation of the story is interesting and oh so very real in its writing. Where "Twilight" may appeal to the inner teenage girl in you, this book will appeal to the teenage boy in you. As the relationships end we see how they still have a hold over Tony even in retirement, especially when they are plopped back in his lap with the mysterious death bed bequest from his former girlfriend's mother. Now Tony is forced to put back the pieces of his long ago past in order to make sense of it all. Tony's adult perspective on his younger self is both interesting to observe slightly painful. Painful in the sense as you can see the ending coming, it is just a question of how will he deal with it all. I only wish the writer had explored this part more with additional writing.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Ignore the adage; this book should be judged by its cover. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is a visually stunning hardcover book. It somehow looks brand new and ancient at the same time, and the story inside mimics its façade. A cold-blooded murder has been committed at Buckshaw, the old-money mansion-cum-chemistry lab of Flavia de Luce. When she discovers the victim, lying in the cucumber patch, her 11-year-old mind starts deducing, and it doesn’t stop until she’s solved the crime. This is certainly the most clever girl-sleuth since Nancy Drew, and readers will marvel at her book smarts, street sense, and quick wit. I found the plot of the crime a bit contrived, but the seeing through the eyes of a brilliant t’ween Flavia made it more interesting. Some of my favorite parts of the book involved Flavia and her interactions with her callous sisters – pure comic relief.
The Year of the Flood: A Novel
I wish I had one tenth of the imagination of Margaret Atwood. She's created a post-apocalyptic environment that covers all grounds, from microorganism to genetically superior humans, and the way she describes it is dismal and humorous at the same time. The story does not come in chronological order, so it doesn’t give anything away to those who haven’t yet read it to say that a waterless flood wipes out most of the world. That’s right, a WATERLESS flood. There’s an environmentally-friendly, vegetarian religious cult rebelling against a politically corrupt consumer world. There are animals that have been scientifically spliced together, like liobams and rackunks. There are all kinds of new plastic surgery available. In short, it’s the future you hope we won’t actually have to live. Atwood has developed a dialect that is reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. It’s easy to catch on to, and elevates the story to a new level. You can’t help but remember that the story takes place in the future, when neighborhoods are called “pleebs,” and riffraff from the pleebs are called “pleebrats.” I loved figuring out Atwood’s new terminology, and thought that it really completed the story. I loved this book, and really found myself rooting for Toby and Ren, the main characters. Regardless of their eccentricities, I wanted them to survive, and I couldn’t wait to see how the book would end. The Year of the Flood is a page turner for sure!
Walking to Gatlinburg: A Novel
Walking to Gatlinburg is a book along the lines of Twain's adventure classics and Hemingway's storytelling masterpieces. While it touches on both, it also leaves the reader in a whirlpool of the fantastical vs. the plot. The characters are a mixture of magical and intriguing...and the descriptions and depictions of the landscape are also a character unto itself. The suspense and entertainment of the plot is there , brother searching for brother in the gores of the civil war, the mystery of a stone and the part it plays(which is still a mystery to me), how the magical and creepy characters direct the path taken, the nod to the importance and danger of being a part of the Underground Railroad and the choices created by religion and war. However you sometimes get lost as to where you are in all of this...wondering which part should take a bigger role. Well written and open for discussion.