Monday, September 29, 2008

154 - Home; Marilynne Robinson

Home, by Marilynne Robinson is set in the same fictional Iowa town Gilead as (Robinson's last novel) . I really enjoyed the audio version of Gilead when I listened to it, and I also enjoyed her earlier book: Housekeeping.

In Home, Jack Boughton, is the prodigal son, one of the eight children of Robert Boughton, the former Gilead, Iowa, pastor, who now, in 1957, is a widowed and dying man. Jack returns home after a 20 year absence, shortly after his sister Glory, 38, the youngest of the children, moves in to nurse their father. It is through Glory's eyes that we see Jack's drama unfold. When Glory last saw Jack, she was 16, and he was leaving Gilead with a bad reputation, having gotten an underage girl pregnant. By his account, he'd since lived as a vagrant, drunk and jailbird until he met a woman named Della in St. Louis. Little by little throughout the book we see Jack and Glory bond while taking care of their father, but when Jack's letters to Della are returned unopened, Glory has to deal with Jack's relapse into bad habits and the effect it has on their father.

Although it is not necessary to read Gilead before reading Home, I would recommend it. Out of the (3) books by the author, Home was my least favorite. I found parts of it painfully slow, as I read page after page, in detail, of the family's daily activities: cooking, sitting on a porch, gardening etc. The one redeeming fact was that the author's writing was beautiful, so it made even the mundane a bit more interesting. One other point--- I would consider this book Christian Fiction. If this does not bother you then give this book a try.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/29/08

Saturday, September 27, 2008

153 - Fahrenheit 451; Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 was first published in 1953. It is one of those books that for some reason I was never required to read in high school or college. For that reason, I am trying to read a few of these classics each year. I was not sure what to expect as I am really not into futuristic books, however this book blew me away with its accuracy of predictions some 55+ years after it was first published.
Fahrenheit 451 details the eternal war between censorship and freedom of thought and continues to be relevant today more than ever. In Bradbury's future, books are illegal and happily so--citizens are too busy watching their wall-sized televisions and listening to their in-ear "seashell" radios to care about the loss of good literature. Guy Montag begins the novel as a fireman who enforces the temperature of the title--that at which books burn--but then transforms and tries to show his society the mistake of censorship. It's a treat to hear Bradbury read his own work, almost as if a wise elder were sharing a cautionary tale. Sometimes the slower pace seems awkward for a novel of such action, but overall the reading does justice to the timeless classic.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/27/06

Friday, September 26, 2008

Friday Finds

I came across this book by accident and had to order it. We are avid cat lovers and library lovers. Therefore, it was not hard to justify ordering this book. I can't wait for it to arrive.

From Publishers Weekly

One frigid Midwestern winter night in 1988, a ginger kitten was shoved into the after-hours book-return slot at the public library in Spencer, Iowa. And in this tender story, Myron, the library director, tells of the impact the cat, named DeweyReadmore Books, had on the library and its patrons, and on Myron herself. Through her developing relationship with the feline, Myron recounts the economic and social history of Spencer as well as her own success story—despite an alcoholic husband, living on welfare, and health problems ranging from the difficult birth of her daughter, Jodi, to breast cancer. After her divorce, Myron graduated college (the first in her family) and stumbled into a library job. She quickly rose to become director, realizing early on that this was a job I could love for the rest of my life. Dewey, meanwhile, brings disabled children out of their shells, invites businessmen to pet him with one hand while holding the Wall Street Journal with the other, eats rubber bands and becomes a media darling. The book is not only a tribute to a cat—anthropomorphized to a degree that can strain credulity (Dewey plays hide and seek with Myron, can read her thoughts, is mortified by his hair balls)—it's a love letter to libraries.

152 - Latte Trouble; Cleo Coyle

Latte Trouble, by Cleo Coyle is book #3 of the Coffeehouse Mystery Series. I have enjoyed the first two books in this series however, the ending to this book was similar to many cozy mysteries I have read before. I found that disappointing.

In this installment Clare Cosi and her staff are busy as The Blend is hosting a private party during Fall Fashion Week, featuring a new line of Java Jewelry. During the party one of the guests is poisoned and dies while drinking a Latte. Tucker, one the The Blend's Barista's is suspected. Clare investigates and hopes to find the real killer so that Tucker will be free.

One of the best things about this series are the recipes. If you are ready for a fun mindless read, the Coffeehouse Mysteries are recommended.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 9/26/08

Thursday, September 25, 2008

151 - Murder is Binding; Lorna Barrett

From time to time when I need some fluff, I enjoy a good cozy mystery. Loving books, bookstores and life in a sleepy New England town, Murder is Binding, by Lorna Barrett, seemed like the perfect book for me. It is the first book in Booktown Mystery Series. I was not disappointed.

Set in fictional Stoneham, N.H., the streets in this town are lined with bookstores (my dream town). Tricia Miles is a mystery bookshop owner, who soon becomes a suspect when a fellow bookstore owner, Doris Gleason is murdered---stabbed to death and a rare cookbook is missing. Determined to clear her name, Tricia, and some other locals help her to try and clear her name.

This was a really fun cozy mystery. The book had quirky characters, was plot driven, and had me anxious to turn the pages. I can't wait for the second installment: Bookmarked for Death, scheduled to be released in February of 2009.

RATING - 4/5 - Completed - 9/25/08

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

150 - The Toss of a Lemon; P. Viswanathan

The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan is a hefty epic novel about an Brahmin Indian family, spanning three generations---beginning in 1896. Although the book is fiction, the author's idea for the book was based on stories told to her by her grandmother over the years.

The novel follows Sivakami, from the time of her marriage in 1896 at the age of ten, to when she becomes a widow at age eighteen, left alone with two young children. The story continues as the reader watches the difficulties faced by her household and other family members during this period, up until her death. The family remained central to the story despite the political atmosphere at the time.

The book was an impressive work which I did enjoy. Having said that I need to add that there was far too much detail for my taste (the author could have easily eliminated 150 pages and still had a beautiful novel). In addition, I did find some difficulty with the writing style ( more annoyance ), as certain passages did not flow smoothly. Despite this the book is recommended for readers for enjoy a very good historical novel.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/24/08

149 - Breaking Dawn; Stephenie Meyer

Whew....I just finished listening to the audio version of Breaking Dawn (Book 4 of the Twilight Saga). I am a big fan of the audios for this series; the reader is terrific.

I'm not going to comment on anything specific in the book. I loved the way the book began, and I found some parts were pretty intense. I thought the author did a good job bringing the loose ends together at the end. There was no way that Meyer was going to please all her readers with this book.

Personally, I am happy that the series has ended, as after this one I feel pretty "vampired-out". If you were a fan of the first (3) books, and you have not yet read Breaking Dawn, I recommend you do so; I don't think you will be disappointed.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/24/08

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Into Reading Challenge - Sept 22, 2008 - Dec 20, 2008

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting colder and the leaves will soon be turning. It's also time for Fall Into Reading Challenge - 2008. The dates of this challenge are September 22, 2008 through December 20, 2008. It's simple: just read the books you want to read, have fun doing so, and share your lists and reviews with the group. Here is my list:
  1. Toss of a Lemon; P. Viswanathan - 4/5
  2. Hot Mahogany; Stuart Woods - 3/5
  3. Fractured; Karin Slaughter- 4/5 - audiobook
  4. The Numerati; Stephen Baker- 5/5
  5. Perfect Family; Pam Lewis - 4/5
  6. Breaking Dawn; S. Meyer - 4/5
  7. I See You Everywhere; J. Glass - 2/5
  8. The 19th Wife; D. Ebershoff
  9. When You Are Engulfed in Flame; D. Sedaris-3.5/5
  10. American Wife; C. Sittenfeld
  11. Death Angel; Linda Howard-4/5
  12. Fahrenheit 451; Ray Bradbury - 4/5
  13. Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World; Myron - 5/5
  14. Black Swan Green; David Mitchell
  15. The Virgin River; Robyn Carr-5/5
  16. The Keepsake; Tess Gerritsen
  17. The Necklace:Thirteen Women and the Experiment That Transformed Their Lives; C. Jarvis- 4/5
  18. Sweetheart; Chelsea Cain - 4/5
  19. Holidays on Ice: More Stories; David Sedaris- 4/5
  20. Grace; Richard Paul Evans-5/5
  21. Tis the Season; Lorna Landvik
  22. Gate House; Nelson DeMille-2.5/5
  23. Do Dead People Watch You Shower; Bertoldi-5/5
  24. Home; Marilynne Robinson - 4/5
  25. Goldengrove; Francine Prose - 4/5

Sunday, September 21, 2008

148 - Tethered; Amy MacKinnon

is a debut novel (just 257 pages) by Amy MacKinnon; it was released last month. The premise intrigued me:
Clara Marsh, is an emotionally fragile woman who works as an undertaker in Brockton, MA. She does not believe in God. When asked what she does believe, she responds by saying "I believe it is important to breathe". She spends her solitary life among the dead, preparing their last baths and bidding them farewell with a bouquet from her own garden. Her carefully structured life shifts when she discovers a neglected, possibly abused young girl playing in the funeral parlor, desperate for a friend. Clara's ordered life changes even more when a detective starts questioning her about a body she prepared three years earlier. The body was of an unidentified young girl found murdered in the woods nearby. Unclaimed by family, the community christened her Precious Doe. Is there a link between the young girl who seeks the funeral parlor as a sanctuary to the same people who killed Precious Doe? The best parts of this book for me were its fabulous cover art, and the detailed descriptions of life as an undertaker. I'm not disappointed that I read this book, however, the story itself I found boring. Perhaps it was because, I just finished another new debut novel that I totally loved: Tomato Girl; Jayne Pupek. RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 9/21/08

Saturday, September 20, 2008

147 - Tomato Girl; Jayne Pupek

I have been avoiding writing a review about the book Tomato Girl, by Jayne Pupek, because that would mean it was time for me to move on to something else. I did not want to move on. I love loved loved this book! I read it once (in one day), but then the following day I went back and placed sticky notes on at least 10 pages, so that I could reread some of the haunting passages again, and keep them for the future. Tomato Girl is about Ellie Sanders, an 11-year old girl growing up in a dysfunctional family. It is not an easy read, but I found myself anxiously waiting to turn each page. It is a heartbreaking account of mental illness and how it can tear apart a family. The prologue is only one page, and yet it made my jaw drop open. 

 FROM THE PROLOGUE.............Jars line my cellar shelves. Some are filled with fists of yellow-veined tomatoes. Others hold small onions and chopped leeks, white pearl onions floating in an opaque sea. Sometimes the light falls on a jar of boiled quail or the slick dark meat of a rabbit. There are unexpected moments when I see the slit of an infant's mouth, or the curl of a tiny fist behind the glass, and I run up the steps, back into the open light of sky...........I need to tell what I remember, I need to tell the story of a girl whose world unraveled like a torn scarf............. 

What I loved best about this book (well there are so many things to love), but especially that the story is told through 11-year old Ellie's eyes, and how she views the world she lives in. There are loads of clues the reader will pick up on, but naive Ellie does not (at least not initially). Ellie is so genuine; you just want to sweep her away to a normal childhood as she is faced with far too many difficult adult issues. The novel takes place in 1969 in a fictional town in Virginia, so there is a whole racial element to the story as well. I have read over 100 books in 2008 and this is my favorite so far. I thought it was brilliant how the heart of the story takes place during Easter week. There is a part when Ellie thinks about her "God Promises" touching. There are so many beautiful passages and analogies in this book. I do not want to quote any more as I don't want to spoil it for others. PLEASE read this book; it is one book that will resonate long after the final page has been turned. 

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/19/08

Thursday, September 18, 2008

146 - Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Artic Alaska; Seth Kantner

If you are looking for a beautifully written book with wonderful photographs of Alaska, I highly recommend: Shopping for Porcupine: A Life in Artic Alaska, by Seth Kantner.

This book is part autobiography and part a historical portrait of Alaska and its people. Seth Kantner was born in 1964 and spent most of his life in Northern Alaska. His story begins with the arrival of his father, Howard Kantner, to the remote Arctic of the 1950s and ends with him as a grown man settled in the same landscape. The story is told through a series of moving essays and vivid photographs. The subjects range from family histories to hunting stories and celebrations of people and places.

This book is # 2 for the author. His first book Ordinary Wolves received great reviews, and I look forward to reading this book as well in the near future.

RATING - 5/5 - Completed - 9/18/08

145 - Damage Control; J.A. Jance

Damage Control, by J.A. Jance is book # 13 in the Joanna Brady series. Although I have read a few of Jance's mysteries and enjoyed them, I have not read a lot of books in this series.

HarperCollins Short Review

An intruder is murdered. An elderly couple runs their car off a cliff while holding hands. A trailer fire kills a man. Skeletal remains are found in a plastic bag. A quiet weekend in Cochise County, Arizona is a thing of the past. “Damage Control” combines suicide, murder, and mayhem--with revelations concerning Sheriff Joanna Brady’s personal life--in a rousing mystery sure to keep you turning the pages far into the night.

Well, long story short, this book did not have me turning pages long into the night. I did enjoy parts of it very much, but after a great start, the book slowed to a turtle's pace, and I began to lose interest. I am glad I finished the book, but all in all I found this one to be just a so so read.

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 9/17/08

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Waiting on Wednesday - The Hour I First Believed; Wally Lamb

I have been a huge Wally Lamb fan and have been disappointed it has been so long since his last books: She's Come Undone and I Know This Much is True. "After a 10-year hiatus from fiction, on November 11, 2008, Wally Lamb returns with THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED, a sprawling, emotionally rich novel about two married high-school teachers who work at Columbine High School during the deadly shooting of 1999." "Lamb was a two-time Oprah Book Club author; his first two novels, SHE'S COME UNDONE and I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, have sold over six million copies as a result of his earnest depiction of physical and mental suffering, and for his compelling tales of redemption in the face of tragedy."

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

144 - Riding Lessons; Sara Gruen

I became a fan of Sara Gruen's after reading her wonderful novel, Water For Elephants, so I decided to try her first book Riding Lessons. This review is based on the audio version.

When Annemarie Zimmer was 18, she was a world class equestrian. One day during a competition, a tragic accident destroyed her riding career. Anne Marie was in a coma and her beloved horse Harry had to be put to death. Once she recovered she marries, has a bratty daughter, and eventually gets divorced. Now 20 years later she heads for her parents horse farm in New Hampshire when she learns that her father is dying. The story continues, and her life once again changes.

Here is what Publisher's Weekly says about the audio version of this book. I could not say it any better, and it is exactly how I feel about this audio book.

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. When the main character in a novel is as annoying as a boil, an audio performer must be thrilled at the chance to portray someone who isn't particularly nice or competent. Maggi-Meg Reed's Annemarie shouts, cries, whines, cajoles and lies her way through escalating crises. Reed is superb. She does an equally adept rendering of the other characters, including Annemarie's mother, with her thick Austrian accent and tight-lipped stoic voice. Eve, Annemarie's daughter, is a perfectly petulant teenager, speaking to her mother in a strident and querulous tone. A local policewoman has such a perfect New Hampshire accent that one wonders why the other locals don't. Despite the unsympathetic Annemarie, Reed's stellar performance makes Gruen's 2004 debut novel hard to turn off.

There were times when I was so sick on Anne Marie's whining, I wanted to end it all, but despite this, it was a sweet story so I had to continue. It is totally different than Water For Elephants, but none the less a good read.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/16/08

Monday, September 15, 2008

143 - The Gentleman's Guide To Graceful Living; Michael Dahlie

The Gentleman's Guide To Graceful Living, by Michael Dahlie, was a really fun read, and an impressive debut novel.

The reader is introduced to Arthur Camden, fifty-something, who lives on the upper East side of Manhattan. Arthur is a devoted husband and father who loves fly fishing and belongs to an elite club for fly-fisherman. Suddenly, Arthur's life is full of bad breaks: his wife leaves him for another man, his business fails due to his own incompetence, he has trouble making a good impression on dates, and he even burns down the beloved fly-fishing lodge in the Catskills.

Despite all of Arthur's short comings he is very introspective; he just has trouble getting out of his own way. I found myself rooting for Arthur all the way. If you need a book that will make you chuckle, try this one.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/15/08

Sunday, September 14, 2008

142 - Testimony; Anita Shreve

I have been an Anita Shreve fan for a long time, and have read all of her books. Yesterday I sat down with an ARC of Testimony, which is scheduled to be released on October 21st, and I was totally blown away. I was not able to go to bed without finishing it. The ARC was only 305 pages, written in short chapters with lots of white space left on the pages. I loved this book, and found it to be well written as well as a very quick read.

I am not going to give anything away other than to say that the book is about a Sex scandal at an elite prep school in Vermont. The book shows us how a single reckless moment can destroy the lives of so many people. One thing I really liked was that the characters were well developed and sympathetic (even the flawed ones).

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/13/08

Saturday, September 13, 2008

141 - Lethally Blond; Kate White

Lethally Blond by Kate White was a fun audio book to listen to. It took me a little longer to finish than I anticipated, and that was because some parts dragged a bit so it took my longer to get back to it. The readers voice/voices are were not annoying which is always a plus.

In this book Bailey Weggins, celebrity crime reporter of the BUZZ is back. Bailey gets a call from an old flame saying that his friend Tom is missing. Since Bailey has solved a few cases in the past, she agrees to help try to find him, and follows a few leads. Tom turns up dead and there is long list of suspects. Now Bailey begins her search for the murderer.

Since I do enjoy some "fluff" from time to time in a novel, this one fit the bill.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/12/08

Friday, September 12, 2008

140 - The Heretic's Daughter; Kathleen Kent

Having grown up in Massachusetts, the Salem Witch Trials have always been of interest to me. Although the subject of this novel is not a new one, The Heretic's Daughter, is by far one of the best fictional accounts of the period that I have read. I found it fascinating that the author is a direct descendant of one of the women hanged for witchcraft. This book is well researched and beautifully written, and it is just amazing to me that is a debut novel.

In some ways I saw the book as a coming of age story, and at first glance the reader might not think so, but it is also the story of a mother's love for her daughter and that special bond. Sarah Carrier is a young girl growing up in Andover, Massachusetts, a town near Salem in the late 1600's; a time when superstition and religious prejudice ran rampant. Her parents and brothers worked hard as farmers. Sarah was responsible for caring for her baby sister. After an outbreak of smallpox in the home, Sarah and her baby sister are forced to go live with her aunt and uncle. When Sarah returns home things are not the same. Nearby young girls begin accusing others of witchcraft. Her mother and a few relatives are accused, jailed and tried.

Kent did an excellent job portraying 17th century New England. I will be hoping for a sequel from the talented new author.

RATING - 5/5 - Completed - 9/11/08

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

139 - Say Goodbye; Lisa Gardner

I've always enjoyed Lisa Gardner's books ---some more than others. I almost passed on this one as I heard it was very creepy and that it involved child abuse, but I wanted to decide for myself. I am so glad that I did; Say Goodbye is one of Lisa Gardner's very best books.

In this story there is a serial killer at work who has a thing for spiders, and for prostitutes who will let his spiders crawl all over them. The prostitutes later go missing and eventually turn up dead. There are a lot of twists and turns and about midway through everything falls into place.

I don't want to give away any details so I will just say I LOVED this book. BEWARE, is not for the faint of heart, there is plenty of torture, creepy crawlers, and terrifying mind games. There were parts when I wanted to shut the book closed for the night, but instead I found myself turning page after page to see how it ended.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/9/08

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

138 - Goodnight Bush; Origen and Golan

“Goodnight Bush,” an unauthorized parody of the 1947 children’s bedtime classic “Goodnight Moon,” written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd.

Without giving a way too much so I will just comment on a few illustrations: In place of the bunny rabbit character in the children's book, a childlike George Bush is tucked safely in bed surrounded by toys I'm assuming are suppose to represent different facets of the Bush administration. A tiny Osama Bin Laden peeks out from many of the pages, and a shotgun-toting Dick Cheney whispers, "Hush." There is no bunny snuggling into bed, but rather, Bush smiling and wearing a “Mission Accomplished” flight suit.

There are so many other clever illustrations that you will find yourself looking over and over again at each page. This book is obviously a short read about the arrogance of the ego maniacs who destroyed this great country.

RATING - 5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/8/08

Monday, September 8, 2008

137 - Through the Grinder; Cleo Coyle

Through the Grinder by Cleo Coyle is the second Coffeehouse Mystery featuring Clare Cosi. I read the first book a few years back, and decided to try the rest for some quick easy reads. I like the fact that are some great coffee recipes are featured in these books.

In a nutshell, in book #2 we find The Village Blend has started offering a singles night with speed-dating, and one after another, women who frequent the blend are committing suicide soon after having a cup of the Blend's famous brews. What's up with that? We also see that Clare is terrified at the thought that her twenty year old daughter Joy is thinking about online dating. So she decides to try it for herself, and ends up finding someone perfect for her.

I guess I feel disappointed after reading this quick cozy mystery. It is not the author's fault, but I've just read several wonderful pieces of literature, so this book just seemed to be silly. I do plan on reading the rest of the series as I have them on my shelf. I promise to remind myself this is "just for fun".

RATING - 3/5 - COMPLETED - 9/8/08

136 - The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story; Diane Ackerman

Diane Ackerman tells the story of Jan Zabinski, the director of the Warsaw Zoo prior to World War II. When the Germans bombed Warsaw, much of their zoo was destroyed, and many of their animals killed. Yet, Jan and his wife Antonina struggled against Nazi occupation, using their house and the Zoo grounds as temporary shelter for over three hundred Jews smuggled out of the Warsaw ghetto, while trying to keep their family (human and animal) and their sanity together throughout the ravages and hardships of war. Even while watching their beloved animals taken away, killed by soldiers for rifle practice, the Zabinskis never stopped helping those in need. This sad book was a fascinating well researched account of WWII Warsaw. I loved how the author showed us the connection how humans, like animals, must adapt to survive. The book in parts was just far too detailed, and I would have preferred if it read more like a novel.  
RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/7/08

Saturday, September 6, 2008

135 - Out Stealing Horses; Per Petterson

Winner of the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, Out Stealing Horses is a magical novel that captivated me from the first few pages. It is one of those rare books that merits rereading. The story is set in Norway. It is the story of a 67 year old man named Trond Sander who, having suffered a terrible loss, retreats to an isolated forest cabin. The run down cabin needs lots of work and Trond is content to spend his time fixing it up. He has a few neighbors, his dog, and his Dickens novels. He is perfectly content with his life of routines spent in solitude. One night he encounters a close neighbor Lars, another loner, and he realizes that this man was a child he'd known during the last summer he spent with his own father at a similar cabin some 50 years earlier after the war. Old wounds are opened by this meeting.

The book alternates between the present, 1999 and then flashes back to the summer of 1948, when he was a teenager. It is a story of loss, betrayal. While I loved this book, there were some unanswered questions when I turned the final page. Despite this, I highly recommend this book to anyone who appreciates fine literature.

RATING - 5/5 - Completed - 9/6/08

134 - Half Assed: A Weight Loss Memoir; Jeanette Fulda

I found out about this memoir by accident, and decided to give it a try. It was a great memoir: a story about the real pain experienced by a morbidly obese person (360++ lbs ) before she began her weight loss journey and lost half her body weight. This book is not a story of her self loathing or self pity. It is a straight forward memoir where Jeanette shares her emotions, her successes and some failures along the way. This book is not an instruction manual as to how she lost the weight, but rather it's a very witty book about a mindset and the stick-to- it attitude required for success. Enjoyable.

RATING - 4/5 - COMPLETED - 9/5/08

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

133 - The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Shaffer and Barrows

At first glance I passed on reading this book until people began to rave about it. I think it was the title that made me think it might be silly; I'm glad I gave it a try. I loved the book but I do think it is the type of book that would not appeal to most men. I found this epistolary novel to be charming and sweet. It had me grabbing for the post it notes to jot down a passage or two along the way.

The novel unfolds in 1946 London. A writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next project after the war. Juliet lost her home and her possessions which included a cherished book collection. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey, named Dawsey Adams. Dawsey tells her that he owns a book by Charles Lamb that once belonged to Juliet. Although she is intrigued by this, it is his comments about a roast pig bringing about the start of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society that makes her want to learn more. Juliet begins to correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their love of literature, and the impact the war has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, an unforgettable island, and what she finds changes her forever.

I was touched by the charming inhabitants of this unforgettable island who turned to literature in terrible times. Animal lovers beware there are a few references in the book which really upset me. Despite this, I am still happy that I read this book.

RATING - 4.5/5 - COMPLETED - 9/3/08

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

132 - Faces of Fear; John Saul

R.I.P. Challenge III

Alison's world changes when her mother marries plastic surgeon Conrad Dunn. She moves into a huge mansion in the Hollywood Hills, leaves her public school behind for a prestigious prep school, and makes new friends. Her new friends have all had cosmetic work done on them by Alison's stepfather and give her suggestions on what she should have done.

Although the thought of it creeps her out at first, she agrees to accept breast augmentation as a 16th birthday present. Soon after, Alison discovers a picture of her stepfather's first wife. To Alison's horror, she notices a resemblance between the image in the photo and the work her stepfather is doing on her. Though her mother refuses to acknowledge the strange similarity, Alison becomes increasingly frightened. Digging further into her stepfather's murky past, Alison uncovers dark secrets-and even darker motives-and realizes that her worst fears are fast becoming her reality. At the same time, murders are being committed around L.A. by the so-called Frankenstein Killer.

I actually gave up reading John Saul a few years back but decided to give him a try one more time. Although this was a quick read (not a lot of thought goes into reading Saul's novels), I was less than thrilled with this book. It was pretty boring and predictable.

RATING - 2.5/5 - Completed - 9//1/08

Monday, September 1, 2008

131 - The Garden of Last Days; Andre Dubus III

This review is based on the audio version that came from the library. Fortunately, I did not pay good money for this book which was a disappointment. I also admit to having skipped (2) of the 12 discs, but honestly, I don't feel like I missed a thing. The outcome was predictable. The book takes place in Florida just days before 9/11. In this book of 500++ pages, or in my case (12) discs of approximately 60 minutes each, we hear the most detailed accounts of very boring minutia. If that isn't bad enough, there were too many characters and points of view. We are introduced to April, a stripper (Stripper name Spring, but who cares) forced by circumstance to bring her 3-year-old daughter Franny to work one night. Little Franny is kidnapped from the back office of the strip club where she is was suppose to be watching Disney movies. Who took her? For suspects we have A.J., a drunk and disorderly patron, Lonnie, the bouncer, Jean, April's lonely widowed landlord, and Bassam, a strange Middle Eastern guy with loads of cash. Throughout the chapters there are flashbacks of Bassam, a terrorist, his family and background; Bassam is drawn to April...AKA...Spring. For me, once the Franny mystery is resolved, there was just no one to root for or care about.

RATING - 2/5 - Completed - 9/1/08