Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cautionary Tales for Children by Hilaire Belloc, 72 pages

I picked this up because Edward Gorey had illustrated it. A totally irreverent read, that was lots of fun.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, 362 pages

A young girl and her father are approached about the possibility of her marriage to the son of the wealthiest family in town. The only problem is that he's dead. This event starts off a journey filled with spirits, ancient grudges, possessions and love.

Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards -- 401 pages

It was a cold, snowy, blizzard-y night in 1964 when Norah, wife of Dr. David Henry, gives birth in her husband's clinic with only the clinic nurse, Caroline in attendance because of the weather.  Norah gives birth to twins, one perfect, the other with Downs syndrome.

Thinking to save his wife a lifetime of grief, while his wife is still unaware from anesthesia, the doctor instructs his nurse to take his tine Downs-syndrome daughter and deliver her to an institution hours away.

Caroline is unable to leave the baby at the institution and instead takes baby Phoebe as her own to raise, disappearing to another city.

This sets in motion a drama encompassing two families over the next quarter-century. 

I enjoyed the book.  The ending was so-so.  I like my endings a bit more "wrapped up and tied with a nice ribbon".  This one is left open for you to create the next years in your own imagination.

Victorian Murderesses by Mary S. Hartman, 318 pages

I was very excited to read this nonfiction look at thirteen French and English women who committed murder. The only problem is that the book read more like the author's thesis than a book. It was way too dry to be truly enjoyable, and serves best as a research tool. By the end I was really having to push myself to finish the book.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Shop on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber (344 pgs.)

Knowing that she is a very popular author, I have been figuring I should at least read one.  A book based in a yarn store seemed a safe bet.

I was reasonably surprised that it wasn't quite as sappy as Macomber's titles generally seem to imply. This story dealt with the real, tough life problems of 4 rather different women who are brought together in a knitting class.  Gradually they become friends and the problems are worked through.  Neat and tidy, but not without a bit of angst along the way some of which is more believable than other.

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn, 264 pages

Rebecca was telling me about this book that she'd heard about. It sounded really intriguing so I borrowed it from her after she was done. This was huge disappointment. It alternates between two stories, one girl in a asylum in current day and one in Victorian time, both committed after trying to commit suicide. The storyline based in Victorian time was a good read, I could have completely done without the modern day time.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Half Life of Molly Pierce (256 pages)

By Katrina Leno 

This book is the most accurate and moving portrayal of depression I've read since "the perks of being a wallflower". This is a really important book. I'd recommend it to anyone (especially teens) dealing with mental illness of the sad variety. Best book I've read all year, I think. I am simply speechless. 

Beyond Neutral - Quilts Inspired by Nature's Elements by John Q. Adams (80 pgs.)

The title of this book caught my eye because I am all about going beyond neutral when it comes to colour.  The patterns in this book tend to be more contemporary, but still have that classic pieced quilt look.  The modern look is somewhat in the block design, but more in the choices of fabric.  As the name implies, there is no white or cream for backgrounds.  The author explores using blues and reds and deep browns and so forth to accent his boldly patterned fabrics.

There were several designs in this book that I will add to my "want to try some day" file.

Loom Knit Hats and Scarves by Kathy Norris (48 pgs)

As a loom knitter, I am always on the lookout for new patterns.  There wasn't much new in this book; it is fairly basic.  However, I was please to see a project using "ruffle yarn", which I haven't yet used on a loom.  The rest are a nice, but basic variety of, well, various hats and scarves.

Not a bad book, but I won't need to add it to my craft library.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman (402 pgs.)

"Harry Potter for adults."  Well, sort of.  Clearly inspired by Harry Potter, but Brakebills is college age kids...many of whom seem to be alcoholics, floating through live, without purpose.  Kind of depressing, really.  And let's just say students go rather beyond "snogging" in empty classrooms. --  I was amused by the couple of references from these "real" magicians to being disappointed that the magic world was NOT like in Harry Potter.

There is also much of the story that is rather more than inspired by ("borrowed" from?) The Chronicles of Narnia...if Narnia were a much, much darker place.

The story moves well enough, and, though I was happy to read it just a chapter or 2 at a time, I did want to finish it.  Divided into 4 books, I didn't reach the "can't put it down" stage until Book IV.  At that point, the book finally left some depressing predictability behind and had a couple of interesting twists.

This was another book that, about a third of the way in, I realized that I really did not like the protagonist much at all.

This is book 1 of a trilogy.  I am not sure if I will read the other 2 books.  Probably eventually, but I am not dying to hunt them down.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Kabbalah by Lawrence Kushner, 194 pages

A Readers Without Borders book club book. Everyone else seemed to enjoy it a lot more than I did.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Queen of Hearts by Rhys Bowen, 295 pages

The latest Lady Georgie book has her traveling to America with her mother. Caught up in the bright lights of Hollywood, murder soon follows.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I, Emma Freke by Elizabeth Atkinson, 233 pages

There are many things for Emma Freke to ponder and come to terms with. Is her last name pronounced "Freak" or "Frecky?" What's up with her strange family (both sides)? How is she ever going to be comfortable in her "too big" body and brain? Where can she fit in? I quite enjoyed this book and absolutely adored the characters.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Kill Order -- James Dashner -- 329 pages

This is the prequel to the Maze Runner Trilogy.  Don't read it first though!  Read it AFTER number three.  It will fill you in on the background of the Flare and the spread of the virus.

This book takes place a year after the sun flares, yet alternates using dreams back to the time of the sun flares and the initial disaster that wipes out most of civilization.

Mark, and his girl Trina have formed an unlikely alliance with Alec and Lana and set out to make new lives for themselves in the Appalachian mountains, when aircraft find their settlement and shoot anyone they can find with darts full of the deadly virus.

Thus begins their run for survival.

While it was interesting, by the end I was sorely tired of the hand-to-hand combat scenes and fighting.  If Mark had been grabbed by the windpipe one more time and had the air squeezed out of him, I think I'd have screamed.

Dashner does eventually tie this prequel into the characters of the trilogy, but I had a better way in mind to do it -- and Dashner didn't do what I wanted him to.  *Sigh*.

The Death Cure -- by James Dashner -- 266 pages

The third book in the Maze Runner Trilogy tells of Thomas and his friends from the Glade.  The try to escape from WICKED, having had their memories (or at least some people had their memories restored) and trying to find out what is behind WICKED.  Is WICKED bad or is WICKED good?  Read the book to find out.

Scorch Trials -- James Dashner -- 361 pages

Having escaped from the maze, Thomas and the other Gladers believed they were safe, only having to proceed through another series of trials going through the area scorched by the sun's flares.

Book two of the Maze Runner trilogy.  I liked this one better than the first.

Cat Person by Seo Kim, 144 pages

This was a very difficult to follow graphic novel/comic collection. There were a few that were funny, but most just left me scratching my head and thinking "huh?"

Runaways: Parental Guidance, 152 pages

I'm totally addicted to this teen graphic novel series.

Runaways: Live Fast, 152 pages

The worst thing about this series is now waiting for the next book. Basically the plot follows some kids who discovered that their parents were supervillains and now the kids want to make up for their parents evil doings.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog by Delia Ephron (224 pgs.)

  This was an interesting book, autobiographical and conversational.  Basically, just a collection of stories with a bit of train of thought wandering.  I enjoyed reading it, but, oddly, I often found myself thinking that, even though I agreed with many of her observations, I just didn't like her.  I could probably carry on a conversation with Delia Ephron, but I don't think I would enjoy hanging out with her.  (I am sure this would make her so sad.  Or not.)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Heir Apparent by Jane Ridley, 726 pages

As a fan of anything historical and English, this was one the caught my attention. What little I knew of Edward the II consisted of him being a gadfly prince with an eye for the ladies. This was a wonderful resource, delving into his life from beginning to end, with a fresh look at this often overlooked royal figure. While this isn't a book for the faint of heart, I'm glad I picked it up, and I have a new appreciation for King Edward II.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Minding the Manor by Mollie Moran, 353 pages

I'd seen this checked out by a patron, and as a fan of Downton Abbey and anything English, historical, and/or nonfiction, this fit all those categories. She went to work in the early 1930s as a kitchen maid, aka, scullery maid, which was pretty much the lowest of the low on the servant caste system. She worked her way up to cook in just a decade, and her book reflects an interesting viewpoint of a changing system. Mollie's zest for life comes through, and this is a well written book, featuring tips each chapter, including quotes from the Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management. I finished this book wanting to set and have a cup of tea with this very feisty woman. This is a must read for anyone interested in this time period.

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (374 pgs.)

I picked this one up because Patty's review caught my interest.

Interesting story divided into 3 parts following several years of protagonist, Billie Breslin's, life.  We watch her personal mystery unfold as she comes to grips with her past and with who she really is with the help of friends who break through her wall.

There is also a story within the story that helps Billie in her growth as she brings the past into the present.

There is much in this novel to capture the attention of a foodie, but you don't have to be a foodie (which I most definitely am NOT) to enjoy the story.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Runaways: Escape to New York, 168 pages

This has been an outstanding series. While I'm not usually a fan of Marvel, this has been well-done and a lot of fun to read. I do recommend starting from the beginning though.

Terminal City by Linda Fairstein, 597 pages

I've read all of the Alex Cooper mysteries. These are not for the light of heart readers. I'm not a big of a fan of the later books as the early  ones, but I think that's more my changing tastes than the books themselves. Set in New York City, these give an indepth look at some of New York's most famous (and least known) landmarks.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Dearly Devoted Dexter (292 pages).

by Jeff Lindsay.

I'm enjoying the "Dexter" book series almost as much as I enjoy the TV series. The storylines are very different.  The writing and characterization is intriguing to me. The books are an easy read and having a book series of familiar characters is a comfort I enjoy from time to time. These aren't books I'll probably ever re-read or books I'd add to my collection or be in my top books lists, but they're well-written (language-wise, not necessarily for plot-loving folks) and enjoyable reads.

The Destruction of the Books by Mel Odom, 381 pages

This is the sequel to The Rover, it takes place a few decades later, and it feels like a book is missing. Very much Lord of the Rings though, with a book emphasis.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (396 pgs.)

It took several chapters for me to start getting into the book while the author introduced the main characters and several different story lines.  Once I got the people straight, I could see the stories gradually coming together.  One moment can change so many lives.

The characters are interesting and believable.  Their stories pull you in and I wanted to get to the resolution.  There was an intriguing epilogue.  Some folks find them annoying, but I enjoy them.

Friday, September 5, 2014

We Hear the Dead by Dianne K. Salerni, 425 pages

The title of this book grabbed my attention and I had to check it out after reading the description. The Fox sisters were famous in the years before the Civil War as mediums who spoke to the dead, basically starting the spiritualism movement. This book follows the sisters Maggie and Kate from their early days, playing a joke on a cousin, to their rise as mediums who consorted with some of the highest echelons of society. This teen fiction book is more historical fiction than fact, but by doing so the author has brought this period of history alive. I especially enjoyed how the story jumped between the two sisters' viewpoints, though at times I had to double check which sister was telling the story at the moment.

Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson, 287 pages

I love this Scottish based  mystery series set after WWI. It's perfect for any Anglophile who loves mysteries.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sadie Walker is Stranded by Madeleine Roux, 335 pages

Another zombie book. This was slightly disjointed and not one of the better zombie books I've read.

After the Fall by Victoria Roberts, 184 pages

A rich and quirky family loses all of its money, and the next morning they wake up with all of their belongings in Central Park. This was quirky and odd, and entertaining. I felt like it was closer to a New Yorker-ish graphic novel than a novel.

Bonhoeffer: pastor, martyr, prophet, spy : a Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reich / Eric Metaxas 591 pages

While I am not sorry I read this book (or rather listened to this book), it took For. Ev. Er.  The recording was 22 1/2 hours long.  I think I checked and rechecked this book out 4 times before I finished it.

this is a meticulously researched account of Bonhoeffer's life, imprisonment, and death at the hands of the Nazis.  For me, it was difficult to listen to because it dealt a lot with German history, German theology, and lots of names and places and historical events that I had no framework of reference to understand.  So, it was a lot of detail that I had issues grasping all of.

It was interesting to see how the Nazi regime infiltrated and coerced religious life and churches in Germany.  It outlawed many things of faith in the name of their "political correctness".  I could actually see some parallels in current US church life.

Glad I know more about this extraordinary man, but it was a long haul to "get 'er done"!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Wilder Rose by Susan Wittig Albert, 455 pages

A fictionalized look at the story behind The Little House on the Prairie books, and the mother/daughter relationship between Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose Wilder Lane who was the driving force behind the books. As a fan of the books, this was a really interesting look at the often strained relationship between the two women.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast, 228 pages

A very powerful graphic novel memoir about dealing with your elderly parents becoming feeble and incapacitated, and dealing with their death. Funny, sad, and very moving.

Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture by Shannon Hayes, 276 pages

Jill highly recommended this book to me. It's about a new wave of feminism and activism that begins in our homes. It's about quitting the corporate monster that keeps us dissatisfied and wanting more and more. I definitely saw myself and values reflected in this book. Granted, I have a long way to go to be free of consumerism entirely, but I'm getting there. I give away a lot more than I buy (in fact, I rarely buy anything at all these days if it isn't food, medicine, or absolutely necessary for my kids). I make my own household cleaners, try to support local business as often as possible, and make as much food from scratch as I'm able. I always read labels before choosing a necessary product/good. I killed my television years ago, and am working on building up my urban farm to supplement my family's food supply now. I loved this book and how it validated current homemakers in our society. Most of the people written about were highly educated and/or successful in the corporate world but who eventually chose to stay home to build up their families and communities as something more than mindless consumers who trash the planet with their unsustainable ways.