The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

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Title: The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

Notable: Book #1 in the Mrs. Pollifax series

Premise:

Mrs. Pollifax is an older widowed woman whose children have left home.  She is feeling unfulfilled in her daily pursuits, so her doctor recommends that she try something out which she’s always wanted to do.  When she was younger, Mrs. Pollifax dreamt of being a spy.  You can see where this is leading, no?

My thoughts:

I was not expecting much of this book–just look at that cover!  When was the last time you saw a book cover quite so absurd?  This book surprised me so much with how well it was written, the charming heroine, and the crazy story line.

Through a happy accident Mrs. Pollifax is chosen for a simple mission, but she ends up getting dragged into a complex and dangerous web of intrigue.  Though she’s naive in the ways of secret agents, Mrs. Pollifax is experienced in life and human nature, and she has to employ all of her wiles and knowledge to make it through a truly harrowing ordeal.

I recommend The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax to those who enjoy an unconventional adventure story with a unique protagonist.  This was a completely unique and refreshing read!


Possible Objections:

  • Some of violence
  • A bit of adult language

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

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Title: The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Notable: Book #1 in The Heritage of Lancaster County series

Premise:

Katie Lapp is a young Amish woman who is set to marry Bishop John Beiler.  Her heart still belongs to her first love, Dan, who tragically drowned at sea.  She hopes that her marriage to John will give her a new start in life and restore some happiness that she’s been missing.  Just before Katie’s wedding, a family secret comes to light that tears her world apart and she must decide which path is the right one to take.

My thoughts:

This is not my normal reading material at all, so I had a bit of a tough time getting into it.  The book starts out fairly slow, so that contributed as well.  Once I got several chapters in, the action and intrigue picked up and then I couldn’t put it down!  The best way I can describe this story is to say that if a Hallmark movie were to become a book, this would be it.  If that’s too feel-good and emotional for you, you would have a tough time with this book.

There is a strong Christian element to the story, but it didn’t seem out of character, given that it’s about the Amish.  I appreciate all of the small details that the author included about the Amish way of life.  You can tell that she really did her homework.  The story itself is pretty good.  I wasn’t expecting rip-roaring suspense, but it kept my interest and made me want to read the next in the series.

I don’t want to give away the plot, but suffice it to say that Katie goes through an identity crisis of sorts.  She has to figure out what her future life will look like and deal with the consequences of her choice.  It’s rather heartbreaking, really.

I recommend The Shunning to those who enjoy tame romantic stories and reading about the Amish.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

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Title: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Premise:

Eugenia (Skeeter) Phelan is tired of the same old life in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.  She dreams of becoming a writer, but her only contact at the publishing company challenges her to write about something she cares about and submit it, before she will be considered for a job.  Skeeter decides she wants to explore what it’s like to live as a black maid in the South, and seeks maids to help her complete the project, but it’s very risky.  Will she ever get enough women to agree to be interviewed to complete the book? (This is a very abbreviated version of what the novel is about.  I didn’t want to ruin the plot line for you!)

My thoughts:

I picked this book up at Wal-mart some time ago, and just now got to reading it.  Once I started reading though, I could hardly put it down!  The story was engrossing and I enjoyed getting to know the characters, though some were not so nice.  I also appreciated that it was set in a particular historical period (the Civil Rights era) and alluded to those events and that cultural environment.

Aibileen was my favorite character because of her sweet spirit and determination to overcome life’s obstacles.  She was wise and patient, insightful and nurturing.  Minny was really fun to read about, too.  Her spunk and blunt honesty were refreshing.  I also liked Skeeter, who decided to buck tradition and think for herself.  She stuck with her convictions, even when they made her unpopular and the going got tough.

I do wish we could have seen a little more development with some of the characters.  I feel like Celia could have undergone a metamorphosis, and Skeeter would have been better served having had a grand epiphany, but I’m not the author.  Though I had hoped for just a smidge more from the characters, I enjoyed seeing their progression in their thinking, relationships with one another, and their commitment to their mutual project.

Once criticism that I’ve heard about this book is that it’s impossible for the author to truly know what it was like to be a black maid in the South during that era.  (The author is white, relatively young, and not poor.)  I knew that going into the book, so I wasn’t expecting this to be a historically accurate novel in terms of character portrayal.  I think  the author did a fair job of imagining what it would be like to be a black maid during that time, and really, that’s the most we can ask of her.  So just take her portrayals with a grain of salt and don’t get bent out of shape if it’s not 100% accurate.  This issue didn’t really bother me at all, but I know that it’s a hang-up for others.

There is one thing about the book which did bother me, though.  There’s a scene where Minny and Celia are accosted by another character, in a very objectionable and yucky way, and to me, it felt very out of character with the rest of the book.  I understand how it helped the plot progress by putting the characters in the situation they were in, but I feel like the same plot progression could have been achieved in a less disgusting way.  Notice I’m not giving too many details, but if you’ve read the book, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  It’s really not something I can discuss in polite company.

There’s another thing that happens in the novel which I don’t think is very realistic.  When Minny makes the pie for Miss Hilly, I don’t believe she would have done it as portrayed in the story.  It doesn’t jive with her character, plus people just don’t want to dabble with that stuff anyway.  Again, read the book and you’ll know what I’m referring to.

I recommend The Help to adults who enjoy period novels, particularly ones that take place during the Civil Rights era (with the caveat that there are two parts that you will probably dislike).  Though this is a fictitious account, the time period during which it takes place gives it an interesting cultural context, and helps us feel a little more about what it may have felt like to live in the South during that time.

A favorite quote:

“The next few weeks is real important for Mae Mobley.  You think on it, you probably don’t remember the first time you went to the bathroom in the toilet bowl stead of a diaper.  Probably don’t give no credit to who taught you, neither.  Never had a single baby I raise come up to me and say, Aibileen, why I sure do thank you for showing me how to go in the pot.”  (p. 126)

Possible Objections:

  • outdated and offensive racial language
  • some sexual stuff (one scene in particular is offensive)
  • some violence

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Shores of Tripoli: Lieutenant Putnam and the Barbary Pirates by James L. Haley

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I received an ARC of The Shores of Tripoli and just finished it the other day.  I was intrigued by this book because I didn’t know anything about the Barbary Wars, which took place in the early 1800’s.

Premise:

Readers are taken on a tour of life in the navy during the period of history when the U. S. engaged in the Barbary Wars.  We follow a fictitious main character through a setting, details and events which are accurate and historical.  Bliven Putnam begins his naval career as a midshipman and is promoted to Lieutenant Commodore by the end of the book.  He experiences many fantastic adventures in his time in the navy, which shape him into a man.  There is also commentary on the politics and political climate of the time throughout the story.  Many interesting supporting characters enter into The Shores of Tripoli, such as the rulers of the Barbary States, Commodore Preble, Mr. & Mrs. Barton, Tobias Lear, and Sam Bandy.  They all add considerably the narrative.

My thoughts:

By setting a fictitious character in the midst of history, the author managed to tell a story which was both captivating and informative.  I really enjoyed this story and feel like my understanding of early U. S. history has improved.  The narrative is quite descriptive and compelling, which should keep you reading at a good clip.  The end of the book leaves you hanging, but they might be setting it up for another installment.

The only issue I had was that I am unfamiliar with the parts of a ship.  The descriptions of what they were doing with sails, jibs, etc. went over my head.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy learning about history in an entertaining way.  By following Putnam’s journey through real-life events, you will get an insider’s look at the Barbary Wars of the early 1800’s.  It’s certainly an engaging way to learn history!

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Some sexual themes
  • A bit of foul language/crass words

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

*I received a free ARC of this book and have shared my honest opinion.

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Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Confessions Shopaholic

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Confessions of a Shopaholic is another book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge.  I had a false start with this book–originally starting a couple of weeks ago, but it just wasn’t clicking right away.  I set it aside and decided to come back to it at a later date.  This time I stuck with it, and thoroughly enjoyed the book!

Becky is a woman stuck in a career she doesn’t enjoy.  Both her hobby and therapy are shopping, which quickly spiral out of control.  She just can’t seem to curb her spending and ends up in deep trouble with her bank and credit card company.  Ever resourceful, Becky comes up with several schemes that will help her climb out of debt.  It isn’t until she seeks the good of others that she realizes that her own problems can be dealt with, too.

I like that this story has its hand in several pies, so to speak.  There is the story of Becky’s friendships; the story of her career; the story of her shopping; the story of her love life.  All of these facets seem to be melded and balanced quite well.  Throughout the story we get to see Becky’s truly dizzying logic, which tends to get her into hot water more often than not.  The ridiculous situations she finds herself in are hilarious and extremely cringe-worthy.  I feel like this is a great book for any woman who feels fed up with the daily grind from time to time.  Becky is a heroine you will be able to identify with!

Possible Objections:

  • A mild sexual scene
  • A sprinkling of obscenities

Rating: 4 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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The Death of Bees: A Novel by Lisa O’Donnell

Death of Bees - WM

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The Death of Bees is my next review from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge.  The cover makes it look kind of nice with the pretty blues and purples, but let me tell you–this is one macabre book!

Two sisters have suffered from their parents neglect and abuse throughout their young lives.  Until one day when their parents die and the girls must learn to fend for themselves.  Not wanting to be put into foster care, they bury their parents and try to get on with life as normal.

Their neighbor, a kindly but ostracized man, sees that the girls need help and he becomes like a grandfather to them.  However, people start asking questions about where their parents are and they are in danger of being separated from the only person who has ever truly nurtured them.

I really liked this book, though it is very macabre and quite raw.  The chapters alternate between being narrated by the sisters and their neighbor, which gives an interesting view of events.  The younger sister, Nelly, has a humorous way of talking which lightens the mood even when talking about horrible things.

A couple of favorite quotes:

“She’s a nasty b**** this Fiona Mullen and is unforgivably rude to Lennie, who quite rightly tells her to go f*** herself while reminding her there is no law prohibiting him from caring for two abandoned children, but this doesn’t matter to her.  He is deemed an inappropriate guardian, whereas my parents who neglected us every day of our waking lives were always deemed appropriate guardians on account of the DNA issue.  No one wants to separate children from their parents, even when their parents are f*****-up delinquents.” (p.256)

“Birds keep chirping and music keeps playing.  Life continues as another life ebbs away.

We have seen death before, Marnie and I, a mountain of ice melting over time, drops of water freezing at your core reminding you every day of that which has vanished, but the despair we know today is a sadness sailing sorrow through every bone and knuckle.” (p. 268)

This book is based in Ireland and has Irish slang and word usage.  That could be a challenge for those who are unused to it.  Also, it incorporates themes of drugs, violence, sex, and homosexuality.  If you’re very uncomfortable with those things, you might want to skip this book.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of bad language
  • Violence & gore
  • Sexual stuff

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Honeymoon by James Patterson & Howard Roughan

Honeymoon - WM

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Honeymoon is the next book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge.  I’m nearing the end!  This book was the one that I wasn’t sure about.  I had never read any James Patterson before, so I didn’t know what to expect.  Spoilers below!

This book is a mild thriller about a black widow type woman and the FBI agent who is trying to figure out whether or not she’s a killer.  Basically that is all that the story encompasses.  The woman, Nora, is virtually irresistible and has a knack for drawing men into her web before dispensing with them.  O’hara is the FBI agent who goes undercover to infiltrate Nora’s inner circle and ascertain her culpability.  The only problem–O’hara finds himself drawn into her web, just like the men before him.  Will O’hara escape Nora’s clutches?  Read the book to find out!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t crazy about this book.  I finished it because the story was brisk enough to keep my attention, but it won’t be getting any awards for quality literature.  The dialogue was often a series of witty rejoinders, sometimes entire conversations.  It seemed a bit fake to me.  Also, I found the premise unbelievable.  I understand that it’s a thriller and not meant to be very realistic, but could one woman really maintain how many different relationships and a busy career?  She was a bit too wonder-woman for me.  My last criticism might seem trivial, but if you read the book you will probably notice it, too.  There are a ton of product and brand mentions in this book.  As an example, these are the brand mentions and name drops from chapters 1 and 2: Dockers, Evian, Ferragamo, Eleish-Van Breems, New Canaan Antiques, the Silk Purse, the Cellar, Monet, Thomas Cole, Magritte, J. P. Morgan, Castro, Richard Nixon, New York School of Interior Design, Le Cordon Bleu, Polo, Amstel Light, Smith and Wollensky, Graeters, Tiffany, Dom Pérignon, Jack Daniel’s.  It’s like they’re trying to convince us of the awesomeness and wealth of these people by telling us about the brands they buy and whose furnishings they own.  (Or could they be paid product placements?) Sigh.

I don’t really recommend this book, but I suspect it might appeal more to the male population.

Possible Objections:

  • Bad language
  • Violence
  • Sexual scenes

Rating: 1 Star

 

Until next time…

Lori

Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave

Little Bee

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I finished Little Bee last night, another book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge.  This is the book that had a very non-specific blurb on the back, so I had no idea what to expect.  My review will give away some of the plot, so stop reading now if you’d rather not know before reading it for yourself.

How to start?  This story is about a married couple and how their lives intersect with that of a young Nigerian girl.  Something quite horrific happens on a Nigerian beach, and it changes the course of all of their lives.  Fast-forward a couple of years, and Little Bee, the Nigerian girl, finds her way into this family’s life once again.  Tragedy strikes again, and the two women must find a way to uphold and help one another.

Towards the end of the book things seem as if they will turn out alright, but we’re left with a sinking feeling at the end of the book.  I can’t give you a lot of details because that will totally ruin the plot line for you, even though I really do want to discuss it in more depth.

The characters in this story are great!  Just when you think you have somebody figured out, you find out that there is another facet to their personality.  It’s never a question of who is good and who is bad.  It’s a matter of which traits they are displaying at any given time.

The writing itself alternates between the two main female characters.  This is a really nice literary device that helps the reader see the story from different angles and gain understanding about what makes each character tick.

I also like how the story explores the theme of illegal immigration, refugees and detention centers in the UK.  The author stated that the inspiration for this novel came from the real-life story of an illegal immigrant from Angola.  When he and his son were going to be deported back to their country, the father hanged himself so that his son wouldn’t be sent back (according to a law in the UK, which prevents unaccompanied minors from being deported).

I had one nitpick about the story, when it comes to the part where they are driving around Nigeria.  (My husband lived there for several years and I visited there for about a month.) It says that the women would leave their hotel in the morning, drive into the south and return to their hotel at night.  First, driving in Nigeria is not that simple.  It might be okay in Abuja, but once you get outside of a large city, the roads can be quite treacherous and slow-going.  It’s also not feasible that they could simply drive around where ever they wanted.  They were not accompanied by a man (asking for trouble), and there are actually checkpoints along the roads which are manned by soldiers.  So, that part of the story wasn’t very accurate.  Not a major issue, but it just stood out to me.

A favorite quote:

“On the girl’s brown legs there were many small white scars.  I was thinking, Do those scars cover the whole of you, like the stars and the moons on your dress?  I thought that would be pretty too, and I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly.  That is what the scar maker wants us to think.  But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them.  We must see all scars as beauty.  Okay?  This will be our secret.  Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying.  A scar means, I survived.”  (p. 9)

I would recommend this book to adults who enjoy exploring social justice issues through the medium of a fictional work.  Sometimes that’s a good way to look at difficult issues. You know it isn’t a real person you have to pity, but you still get the underlying social message that the book is trying to convey.

Possible Objections:

  • Some violence
  • Some language
  • Some sexual themes

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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November 9: A Novel by Colleen Hoover

November 9

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November 9 is the second book I’ve read from my Friends & Family Top Picks – Reading Challenge.  I had never heard of Colleen Hoover and had no idea what to expect of this novel.  I’m not usually a fan of popular fiction, but was willing to give it a try for the sake of a friend.  You should know that I will give away some of the plot in my review.

Fallon is the female lead in the story.  She suffered major burns in a house fire when she was sixteen and bears the scars over a good portion of the left side of her body.  Her acting career went down the tubes when her good looks became marred, and now she is just trying to figure out how to get on with her life and career.  Fallon believes that Broadway might be her ticket, so she decides to move to New York.  She meets her father at a restaurant to tell him about this new plan, but he isn’t impressed and ridicules her idea.  A stranger (Ben) from the next booth over comes to Fallon’s aid when he acts like her boyfriend and defends her dreams.  This results in a blow-up with dad and the fake couple spending the day together because they just click.

I’ll start off by saying that the premise of the book is interesting.  The main characters have a seemingly chance meeting on November 9, really hit it off, and agree to meet on November 9 for the next five years.  Interesting.  Ben is a writer and they agree that this arrangement will help provide material for his first book.  As the years go by, things become more complicated.  Ben and Fallon fall in love with each other, but feel like they need to stick to the original plan so that Ben’s book can come to fruition.  That’s the story in a nutshell, but there is a lot more to it.  I just don’t want to share all the details.

There is another line to the plot that I’m hesitant to share with you because it really brings all of the pieces together.  Suffice it to say that there is something from their past which closely links the two main characters and makes their love story seem like it was meant to be.  You’ll have to read it to find out what that “something” is.

I enjoyed the book and it kept me interested (for the most part).  I wasn’t crazy about the abundance of talk about Fallon’s body.  Yes, I get it that Ben was attracted to her, but how many times do I have to hear about her anatomy?  Some of it was also a bit crass.  I also felt there was too much swearing and that it didn’t materially add anything to the narrative.

If you’re looking for a love story with a twist and aren’t highly offended by sex or language, you might just enjoy this book.  I wouldn’t recommend it to young people because I’m a bit of a prude, but it seems like a story that is aimed at them.

Possible Objections:

  • Foul language — a fair bit of it
  • Sexually explicit descriptions and language

 Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Push: A Novel by Sapphire

Push

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Here’s the first book from my Rainbow Cover Reading Challenge!

I feel like I just got run over by a semi.  Push is so intense that you will probably need some time to recover from the story, just like I did.  If you can make it through, you will find an amazing story of healing and restoration.

This is the story of a young girl named Precious, told as she attempts to cope with and eventually leave an extremely abusive home.  She has been horrifically abused by both her mother and father since she was a small child.  As she gets a bit older and gains some confidence from the moral support she receives in her alternative classroom, Precious begins to stand up for herself.  She is able to escape her abusive situation and begin to make a new life and future for her son and herself.

I’ve only scratched the surface of what this book is about, but I’ve said enough to give you the general idea.  I cannot fully describe the book because it is so uniquely its own.  If you want to know all the details, you’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Now that I’ve finished Push, I’m glad that I did.  It’s not a book that I will ever want to revisit, though.  As a foster mom, I feel like it’s given me some amazing insight into what foster children may have faced, where their thinking and reactions might come from, and how a messed up home environment can cripple a child in all areas of their life.  For anyone who has to deal with foster children or children who have been abused on a regular basis, this book would make a good case study.

As a side note, I went in search of more information about the author, wanting to know if this story was purely made up or if it had some basis in her past experiences.  It turns out that Sapphire had been a remedial reading teacher in Harlem and started writing this story back then.  She met young, overweight black women who felt awful about themselves; she had a student who admitted that she had had children by her father.  This isn’t all made up people–it’s based in somebody’s reality.

I would only recommend this book to adults who have a good reason to read it, because of the huge amount of inappropriate stuff it contains.  I told my husband that as soon as I finished the book it would be going right out the door.  I did not want my kids getting their hands on it.

Possible Objections:

  • A ton of swearing, racial epithets, derogatory terms
  • A lot of sexually explicit material and language
  • Violence
  • Adult themes

 Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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Prodigal Son by Danielle Steel

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I just got done reading another book that came off of the next-to-the-crossword-puzzle list, Prodigal Son.  I’ve never read any Danielle Steel books before, though I remember my grandma had a couple of her books lying around the house.  For some reason I thought she wrote romance novels.  Maybe she does, but this book is not one of them.

Firstly, the story is about a couple of twin brothers, Michael and Peter, and the enmity between them.  Peter, the “black sheep” decides to leave home and make a life for himself away from the slander of his brother and the disappointment of his parents.  Fast forward over a decade and the two brothers have found their niches–Michael has taken over his father’s small town medical practice, and Peter is a hot-shot on Wall Street.

With the Wall Street bust, Peter finds that he has lost everything.  To add insult to injury, his shallow wife decides to file for divorce.  At the end of his resources, Peter returns to his hometown to live in the outdated lake house that his parents left him when they died.

This is where the story starts to pick up, as Michael and Peter are thrown into the same social circles again.  At this point I could tell you how the story goes, but then I’d wreck it for you.  I won’t do that, and you’re welcome.  I’ll just say that the illness of Michael’s wife really brings the brothers’ issues to a head.  Their differences and family problems are finally resolved.  It’s not a feel-good book, even though my explanation kind of makes it sound that way.

The story plot was pretty good, but the execution was subpar.  I feel strange saying that about a book by such a popular author.  As I was reading it, it seemed like something was a little off.  As I got further into the book, I finally realized what it was.  The writing itself seemed like it wasn’t done by a professional.  If you read it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  This is just an example of some of the awkwardness that is present throughout the book:

“And the next day Peter and the boys left for Spain.  They went to Madrid and Seville and Toledo, and then lay on a beach on the Costa Brava, and they spent the last few days in Mallorca, and they all loved it.” (p. 263)

I’m not sure if the book wasn’t proofread well, or what.  Who knows.  Anyhow, I wouldn’t recommend the book.  It was painful trying to make it all the way through.  Maybe some of her older books are better.  I’ll have to check one of them out and see.

Possible Objections:

  • Some bad language.
  • Some violence.

 Rating: 2 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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I checked this book out on a whim.  Whenever I read the newspaper, I notice that list of popular books right next to the crossword puzzle.  I never have looked at any of those books–until now.  I thought it might be fun to see what’s so great about the current popular books out there.

I finished reading The Girl on the Train a couple of days ago.  It’s not the type of book that I normally pick up, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  It’s a little hard to classify.  I’d call it a cross between a psychological/crime thriller and peoples’ personal memoirs.  It sounds a bit strange, but the book focuses equally on events and peoples’ thought lives.

Each chapter focuses on an individual character and records their thoughts and actions in diary form.  The chapters jump around from one character to another, where we learn what happens in the story, the characters’ motives and thoughts, and what they think about one another.

This book is interesting in that you don’t really know who the “good guys” are until the end.  In the beginning you will probably think that you have it figured out, but as the story progresses and peoples’ thoughts are exposed, you will come to a new understanding.  The book really got me thinking about what makes a person good or bad.  Outward appearances can be deceiving.

I don’t want to tell you a lot about the plot because that will totally ruin the book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.  I will tell you that it’s about a woman named Rachel whose husband (Tom) divorced her for another woman.  Rachel can’t move on and she becomes an alcoholic.  While riding on the train past the row of houses where she used to live, she witnesses something that is seemingly inconsequential, but that has a major impact on the other characters in the story.  There are other characters who become entwined in the story–Anna (Tom’s new wife), Scott and Megan Hipwell (neighbors of Tom’s), Kamal (a therapist), Cathy (Rachel’s flatmate), etc.

I would recommend this book as an interesting and engrossing read.  It kept me guessing almost up to the end about who the “bad guy” was.  It’s also a good study on human nature and what makes people tick.  I would say that it’s appropriate for adults because of the language, sex, and violence.

Possible Objections:

  1. Bad language–quite a bit of it.
  2. Sexual themes.
  3. Violence.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

Azazel by Isaac Asimov

Azazel-w

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My husband is a fan of Isaac Asimov.  I was a bit dubious, especially considering there’s a demon on the front cover.  I don’t like horror-type anything, so I was fearful that this book would be scary.  (I guess watching horror movies as a child left some kind of permanent damage on my psyche.)  My fears could not have been further from the truth.  Azazel is not at all scary.  Not even a wee little bit.

The way the book is written is quite interesting.  The reader is essentially sitting in Asimov’s seat, hearing a series of short stories related by a friend of Mr. Asimov himself.  I use the term ‘friend’ loosely.  The friend in question is George, a man who has the ability to call forward a two-centimeter tall demon.  This demon, Azazel, lends assistance, not for George himself, but for those around him whom he sees fit to assist.  Unfortunately, George’s assistance is more like a curse, but it’s not for lack of good intentions.  It’s sort of a series of be-careful-what-you-wish-for cautionary tales.  Each chapter contains its own mini story, so it’s very good for light reading.  Or lite, if you prefer fewer calories.

Azazel is fairly brimming over with wit and dry humor.  The good-humored jabs that George and Asimov direct at one another are some of the best parts of the book.  Here’s one of my favorite lines, from page 60, “What kind of a harebrained, idiotic, malapropistic, omniklutzistic rear end of a diseased Bactrian camel are you?”

Conclusion: I’ll be reading more Asimov.  His writing is witty, entertaining, and it challenges me to go find a dictionary and expand my vocabulary.  It’s appropriate for adults, not so much kids.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber

Hard Times

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I’m not sure where I got My Life and Hard Times–perhaps at a library book sale.  (I love those!)  This is the only book by James Thurber that I own, but I will definitely be reading more of his works!

This book is a short collection of autobiographical stories about Thurber’s life in Ohio around the 1930’s.  The episodes he shares run the gamut–from a biting dog to crazy servants, from a broken dam to a car that had to be pushed.  I can’t do justice to the humor contained in this book.  You just have to trust me and read it for yourself.  The ludicrous situations are just right to make you chuckle, chortle and snort.

Also, Thurber included his simple illustrations throughout.  I think they add a nice touch to the stories.  I highly recommend this book as a fun, short read!

 

Possible Objections:

  1. The b-word makes an appearance.
  2. Thurber’s grandpa regularly takes God’s name in vain.
  3. There is some talk about a “yellow” gal and a “Negro”/”Negress” in the chapter about servants.

Rating: 5 Stars

 

Until next time…

Lori

Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness as told to Robert Specht

Tisha

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Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness is one of my all-time favorite books!  I was introduced to it when I was fairly young, perhaps in grade school.  I believe that I found it on my dad’s bookshelf.  In fact, I still have that very copy, though the binding has completely split by now.

Anyhow, this book is a little difficult to classify because it doesn’t stick to a single genre.  There’s some adventure, some romance, some social commentary, some history.  Since it’s a biography, it is a multi-faceted story.  That makes it especially interesting and entertaining.

The overarching story is about a young woman named Anne Hobbs who goes to Alaska in the 1920’s to teach in the tiny community of Chicken.  She is hoping for some adventure, and boy does she find it!  There is plenty of adventure and action throughout the story, no doubt because of the frontier conditions in Alaska at that time and the inhabitants’ ability to do as they please.  Anne doesn’t understand how things are done in her new community, so she ends up stepping on toes and voicing opinions that are not widely accepted.  Many in the community believe that the Native “Indians” are not as good as white people, and this is where Anne runs into a lot of trouble.  She decides that she will allow the native children to attend school with the white kids, and then she has the gall to fall in love with a man who is half Native American.  There are truly heartbreaking scenes throughout the book, but in the end love wins out.

This story is so charmingly told that you end up feeling like you are a part of Anne’s community.  I love all the details the book gives about what life was like in that small Alaskan town at that particular time in history.  You get a glimpse into history that is both informative and entertaining.  I would highly recommend this book to adults and possibly older teens, depending on their level of maturity.  As you’ll see from the section below, there is quite a bit of objectionable content in the book.

Possible Objections:

  1. There is a lot of racism in this book, whether it’s racial slurs or simply people voicing their prejudices.  Though those views are not advocated, they are presented without apology as the views of some of the significant characters.
  2. Racist terms–more than just against Native Americans.  There are also a few slurs against African Americans and others.  I would not want my children reading those words until they are older and better able to judge that they are inappropriate.
  3. There is mention of one man having tried to start a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the town he used to live in.
  4. A child whose father chooses not to acknowledge him is called a “bastard.”
  5. There is a passage where one of the characters beats the donkeys and horses in his pack train to make them continue.  It could be disturbing for some people.
  6. The squalor and disease that is detailed in the Native American community could be disturbing to some readers.
  7. There are some episodes of violence, with people physically fighting.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori