Monday, October 15, 2018

Sea Prayer; Khaled Hosseini

TITLE: Sea Prayer
AUTHOR: Khaled Hosseini
PUBLISHER: Riverhead Books
PUB. YEAR: 2018
SETTING:  Syria/Turkey
FORMAT:  - print
RATING: 3.5/5 stars

"Inspired by the story of Alan Kurdi , a 3 year old Syrian refugee, who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach safety in Europe in 2015.  In the year after Alan's death 4,176 others died or went missing attempting the same journey."

This was a very short story but powerful story. It's a message from a father to his young son on the eve before the two will attempt to free Syria's war zone for the hope of a better life.

This book is targeted for ages 7 and up.  The vivid watercolor images, the message emphasizing the refugee crisis are well done but, I thought the story may be difficult for some younger children to fully understand. The proceeds from the sale of this book will go to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Ten Horse Farm, a pop-up book by Robert Sabuda

AUTHOR: Robert Sabuda
PUBLISHER: Candlewick Press
PUB. YEAR: 2018
FORMAT:  - print
RATING: 5/5 stars

One of our granddaughters is crazy about horses and at age 4 has even begun riding lessons inside a local stable where she attended summer camp.  When I first learned Robert Sabuda, known for his outstanding pop-up books (we own several) had a new book about horses, I had to get. It's outstanding.

Just take a look at the 3-D, pop up illustrations (I've included pics of just a few) and how they come to life and pop off the pages. The quality of the book, the color combinations and the fine detail paid to every single page makes this book a winner and for sure a keeper.

If you have a horse lover in your family, be sure to buy a copy of this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - No Good Asking; Fran Kimmel

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read.

No Good Asking; Fran Kimmel
ECW Press - 2018


They All Come From Somewhere
Friday, December 20

"From a distance, it looked like a small smear of blood on a white blanket.  Perhaps a wounded coyote, staggering along the road in the relentless wind.  Eric drove on, a flurry of white surrounding his car, keeping to the faint tracks he'd made the day before.  As he drew nearer, the speck transformed into a withered old man, startling him with legs, arms, torso bent into a gale.  But it was worse yet.  He finally recognized the shape as a young girl.  People didn't walk along his road, not out here in the middle of nowhere.  Not a girl, certainly not in this weather."

Does this one appeal to you?  I'm looking forward to beginning this one soon.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

New Books

I've been a bit lax about updating new book received for review.  Here are the latest books that arrived by mail for review. Have you read any of these?

Saturday, October 6, 2018

After Anna; Lisa Scottoline

TITLE: After Anna
AUTHOR: Lisa Scotoline
PUBLISHER: Macmillan
PUB. YEAR: 2018
FORMAT:  - audio
RATING: 3/5 stars

Dr. Noah Alderman was a widower with a young son, Caleb. Now remarried to Maggie, life is good for the threesome. Caleb, 10, a boy with a communication disorder is really beginning to open up to Maggie.  Maggie was previously married, she has not seen her daughter, Anna, since she was an infant.  Maggie suffered from post-partum psychosis and her infant daughter was raised by her ex and his second wife.

When Maggie's ex and his new family is killed in a plane crash, Maggie receives an unexpected call from Anna, now 17, who had been at an elite boarding school in NH.  When mother and daughter meet, the two soon decide that Anna will come home to live with Maggie, Noah and Caleb.  It isn't long before trouble brews at the Alderman household and when tragedy strikes and Anna ends up dead, Noah is accused of her murder.

The story is told from the Before Anna and After Anna POV,  the After Anna, is a courtroom trial setting.  This is a story that started out strong even though the characters were not likable and one-dimensional.  The story then takes a strange twist and, although the twist deals with a very serious issue, it felt so rushed leaving me disappointed.  It's too bad as I've enjoyed this author in the past.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Trauma Cleaner; Sarah Krasnostein

AUTHOR: Sarah Krasnostein
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's Press
PUB. YEAR: 2018
SETTING:  Australia
FORMAT:  - print - library
RATING: 2.5/5 stars

When I first learned about this book, I thought it was a book of stories about a woman whose business, Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services (STC), did the specialized work, few people would ever want to do: cleaning up crime scenes, places where unattended deaths and suicides occurred, drug shooting galleries, hoarders houses etc. Those were the stories I was hoping to read about. The book is written by Sarah Krasnostein who followed Sandra P to at least 20 job sites around Melbourne, Australia over a period of about 4 years. The title, however, is very misleading.

The book is more of a memoir/biography. Yes, it does elaborate on the various jobs that Sandra Pankhurst has performed. She seemed to have a way of making her clients accept her, allowing her to do the work that needed to be done.   

In alternating chapters we read about some of her trauma cases, as well, as information about her horrible childhood, early marriage and fathering two sons (and abandoning them) all prior to her transgender surgery in the 1980s. We also read about her life as a prostitute and drag queen, life of abuse and violence and descent into drugs and alcohol.

Sandra Pankhurst is an unreliable narrator, now in her early 60s, who is losing her memory due to years of drug abuse and alcoholism. She is also is in need of a lung transplant and needs an oxygen tank to breath. Because of these serious health issues,  I really wasn't sure how much I was reading was accurate or what was embellished. I thought that the writing style was at times off putting - things that happened in the past were written in the 3rd person present, and, the author seemed to over do the praise, respect and compliments about Sandra.  For me this was more than a little disappointing.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Unsheltered; Barbara Kingsolver

TITLE: Unsheltered
AUTHOR: Barbara Kingsolver
PUB. YEAR: 2018
SETTING:  Vineland, New Jersey
FORMAT:  - eGalley & ARC
RATING: 3.5/5 stars

Unsheltered is a story about the loss of the American Dream. The novel tells two stories in two different time periods, both stories take place in the community of Vineland, New Jersey and even the same, somewhat run down house.  

The present story features Willa Knox, her husband Iano, a college professor,  and adult children Zeke and daughter Tig.  Nick, the cranky, racist, FIL is also in the picture.  He has a difficult personality and is also dying of cancer. Son Zeke, with an Ivy League education and $100,000 of debt, has been dealt yet another bad blow.  When his bread winner girlfriend commits suicide, Zeke is forced to return home to his parents with his infant son in tow. Added to their other challenges is daughter Tig,  free-spirited, argumentative and just plain exasperating at times.

So just when Willa and her husband should be at a point in their lives when they should be able to kick back a bit and begin to enjoy the fruits of their labors, they must deal with a house that is falling apart, job losses, additional mouths to feed and an uncertain financial future. 

The second story, set around 1871 involves Thatcher Greenwood, a new science teacher and Mary Treat, a lover and believer of science and plants. Thatcher is met with obstacles when he tries to promote the theories of Charles Darwin.

I really loved the present day story, but, found myself less than thrilled with the 150 year old storyline. The writing was good but, it felt like the author tried too hard to cover too many controversial, political issues: the living wage, healthcare rights, Obamacare, student loans etc., Even though I agree with many of these issues, it just seemed preachy and out of place at times.  I've enjoyed almost everything that Kingsolver has written, and although I'm glad I read this one, it just wasn't my favorite.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race; Debby Irving

Each Tuesday, Vicki, from I’d Rather Be At The Beach hosts First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where  readers post the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book that they are reading or plan to read.

Elephant Room Press - 2014

What Wasn't Said
"Lessons my mother couldn't teach me."

"WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALL THE INDIANS?" I asked my mother on a Friday morning ride home from the library. I was five years old.

The library's main draw for me had always been a large, colorful mural located high on the lobby wall.  It featured three feathered and fringed Indians standing with four colonial men on a lush, green lakeshore.  The colonists didn't hold much interest, perhaps because these were images familiar to me, a white New England girl with colonial ancestors.  The dark-skinned Indians and their "exotic" dress, on the other hand took my breath away.  The highlight of my library excursions was sitting in a chair and gazing up at the Indians on the wall while my mother chatted with the librarians checking out our family's weekly reading supply."

When I first read about this book on JoAnn's blog, I knew it was one I wanted to read. 

What do you think about the intro?

Monday, October 1, 2018

Severance, Ling Ma

TITLE: Severance
PUBLISHER: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
PUB. YEAR: 2018
FORMAT:  - eGalley
RATING: 4/5 stars

Candace Chen is a millennial daughter of Chinese immigrant parents who are recently deceased.  She spends her days in a NY office tower doing routine work at a publishing company that is producing the Gemstone Bibles which are manufactured in China to cut costs. She doesn't mind going to work, it fills her days since her parents have died and she looks forward to spending evenings with her boyfriend watching movies.

When Shen Fever, a plague of biblical proportions, hits NY from China, at first Candace barely notices. She soon becomes one of the last few employees as victims soon become zombie-like creatures as a result of their mundane jobs.  While survivors like Candace know they won't be able to make it on their own forever, she and others must decide whether "The Facility", a place to escape to and begin anew is the right thing for them.

First off, this book is not the kind of book I would normally be drawn to, but, I liked the premise and wanted to try it. The writing is excellent. The author does an amazing job of weaving the story of Candace's parents immigrant experience, their life and beliefs with what she is experiencing in the present.  The writing is so funny at times as well, from office satire to apocalyptic tale, it's a quirky look at alternatives to rote office jobs.  I thought the first person narrative worked well and fell in love with Candace and the social and political aspects of this story.  If you are up for something a bit different, be sure to try this one.