Sunday, November 8, 2009

In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke

I found this book on a display at Borders. I was drawn to it by the cover and it had some great comments by readers. I picked it up and read it in about a week's time. It was a different type of fiction story, but overall I enjoyed it. It is about a woman named Jiselle who marries Mark Dorn who is a single father of three. He is a pilot. The story is set in future years I believe and there is a flu that is spreading called the "Phoenix Flu". It is starting to kill people and the worry and panic is starting to spread throughout the United States. Mark gets stranded in Germany because of this "virus" which leaves Jiselle to raise and take care of his three children. As I read it, some parts to me seemed to be a bit like science fiction, but overall I would say this book is fiction. It was about the survival of people during a national crisis and the relationship that can build between people when then are doing everything they can to survive.

Say Your One of Them by Uwem Akpan

This was another book that I had seen written up in many different places. I wasn't sure I wanted to read it since it was a collection of short stories, but I decided to give it a try. I am glad I did. It really was like nothing else I had read. All of the stories are told from the view points of children in Africa. The first story is called "An Ex-Mas Feast" and is about a family trying to save enough money for Christmas. The second story is called "Fattening for Gabon" and is about two children that are being sold into slavery. The next story is called "What Language is That?" which is about two children from different worlds trying to be friends. "Luxurious Hearses" is about a boy on a bus trying to hide his identity during a crisis. The final story is called "My Parents' Bedroom" and is the powerful story about a girl and her family in Rwandan during an unspeakable time. This book is hard to read sometimes because of the names used, but I think worth it. It isn't easy subject matter to read about, but they are all things that are happening in our world and I think we need to know about them. Give it a try!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

You have to love MEA weekend. It is a time to get things done around the house and also to take some extra time and read a great book. I started The Weight of Silence on the Friday of MEA and finished it on Sunday morning. That is a lot of reading! This was a great book and I had a hard time putting it down when life interrupted my reading. The story revolves around two families and the morning that both of their daughters disappear. Martin is a college professor married to Fielda and they have a daughter named Petra. The neighbor family consists of Toni and her two children Ben and Calli. Their father Griff, is not always present and drinks too much which leads to a very mean side of the man. Both girls are in first grade and are best friends. Callie has not spoken since she was in four years old after a family tragedy. The book covers both what happens to the people looking for the two girls and what is happening to the girls in the woods. It is a face paced story and like I said I could not put it down. If you are looking for a great fall book to read, this is it!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

I, along with the rest of the country, picked up this book on the day it came out. I had read his previous books and had enjoyed them. I was looking forward to reading this new one and I was not disappointed. It is very similar to the first two books by Dan Brown, and just as entertaining. The book is a face paced adventure with Robert Langdon, Katherine Solomon, and Peter Solomon. At the beginning of the story Langdon is summoned to the Capital building by who he thinks is Peter Solomon. Once he arrives at the capital building the story takes off and doesn't stop until the last page. One crazy man with a motive and a mission turns the lives of Robert, Katherine, and Peter upside down. It was quite interesting to read about our Capital city and all the secrets, legends, and myths that surround this city. This book isn't earth shattering, but it sure is a fun and entertaining story.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blame by Michelle Huneven

As with many of the books I read, if I see it written up with a positive review in more than one place I will go and pick it up. This was a quick and enjoyable read. I read it in about a week. It is just under 300 pages. It is the story of a young college professor named Patsy who is an alcoholic. She is hanging out with a friend named Brice who also has issues with alcohol. She has been in a jail several times and just isn't making much of her life. One morning she awakes in jail only to find out she has hit a mother and daughter with her car and they are dead. She remembers nothing and ends up going to prison for this incredible crime. While in prison she changes her life for the better and learns she needs to get herself together. The story continues as she meets the husband of the woman she killed. Theirs is a story of forgiveness and understanding. Patsy continues her life as she is released from prison. She meets many interesting people and interesting things happen to Patsy. Years after the crimes, she learns a shocking truth about her past. Like I said, I enjoyed the story. I thought some parts in the middle went a bit slow for me, but then things sped up as you head toward the end of the story. Another great read!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon...

I had read one other book by this author called "Your Remind Me of Me" and remember liking it and that it was quite different. I would say the same thing about this book. It was good and interesting, but a bit different. The book has three different stories going on at the same time. As I read I wasn't sure how the three stories were connected, but I can guarantee you that they all come together at the end. In a BIG way! One story is about a brother looking for his brother who is ill. The second story is about a young girl that leaves town with her professor only to find out he might not appear to be what she thought. The third story is about a college boy who leaves school and hit the road with his uncle who he just found out was his father. The stories all relate to one's identity and how they fit into the world. Things can get complex at times so read carefully. He is a great writer and certainly has unique ideas.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha

As the title of this blog says, "One of the best books I've Read." So true about this one. This one kept me up until 2:20 AM last night/this morning and I'm dragging today, but what a great story. A family moves from Illinois to Oregon during the 1980's. For some reason Nate (the dad) wants to uproot his family and start over again. Once in Oregon, things go terribly wrong. Shep (their 15 year old son) is killed in their own home during a robbery. Irene (the mother) will never be the same after this horrific event. The killer is caught (19 year old Daniel) and put on death row. The family moves back to Illinois to be with family. After many years Irene writes to Daniel in prison and they begin a relationship of friendship (via mail). Nineteen years after the murder, the state of Oregon finalizes the execution of Daniel and nothing will ever be the same for Irene, Nate, or Daniel himself. This was such a well-written book and a heart-breaking story. For a first time author she really knocked it out of the park. I highly recommend this book. EXCELLENT!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

I have been hearing a lot about his book from Pat Conroy for the past several months. I guess it has been 14 years since his last book. I read both "Beach Music" and "Prince of Tides" and enjoyed them both. This book comes out on the 11th of August and I plan on reading it after the very funny "This Is Where I Leave You." Will post more later when I finish it.
Finished this book in a few days. I truly enjoyed the story. It is about Leo who has grown up in South Carolina. His older brother commits suicide and Leo ends up in an institution. When he gets out, he is destined to meet a group of friends that will take him through his lifetime. The book jumps to the 1980's when one of the high school friends returns to the group of Charleston friends in need of help to locate her brother who is dying. The adults rally and head to California to find their friend Trevor. It is a great story of friendship and overcoming the odds of hardship while growing up. I'm not sure this book is in the same category as Prince of Tides or Beach Music, but it was a enjoyable and entertaining read.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This was another book that I had read about in several different places and all of them gave it very positives reviews. I didn't know the author but thought I would give it a try. Boy am I glad I did. I just started the book and haven't finished but really enjoying it. It is pretty darn funny. Laugh out loud funny actually. It is about Judd who had recently left his wife because he caught her in bed with his boss. That scene was hysterical. Soon after his separation from this wife, his father dies and the family is called back home to spend the seven days of Shiva together. They are a Jewish family, but are pretty much non-participators. It is their dad's final wish that they spend the seven days together. There are 3 sons in the family and a daughter along with some spouses, some grandchildren, and a one of a kind mother who resides over the family. The interactions and conversations between the family members are so funny and so real. I will post more when I finish, but I think this is going to be a highlight of my summer reading.

The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson

Last summer I read the first book in this series which was called "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It was a complicated story, but I really enjoyed it. I had heard a lot of positive press about this second book in the trilogy so I picked it up when it came out this month. It is 500 pages and I finished it in about three days. I really couldn't put it down. It brings back the two main characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. I thought this was better than the first book. It was pretty much non-stop action from page 1 to page 500. Lisbeth gets herself in a lot of trouble when three people she is connected with are murdered. Mikael knows she couldn't have done it (although he has his doubts) and sets out to help her solve many mysteries that are going on in this story. It is kind of hard to describe the plot because there are so many twists and turns and different characters. I sometimes have a hard time keeping everyone straight because the story takes place in Sweden and Swedish names are used. This is a great mystery series and keep you guessing until the very last page. I look forward to the third book in the series called "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.

The Ravens by George Dawes Green

This book I literally pick up off the shelf based on the title and the cover. I read the book blurb and it sounded pretty good. Well, what a read it was. It was probably one of the most disturbing fiction books I've read in a long time. I'm not sure there was one redeeming character is this whole book, but like a car accident I couldn't stop looking/reading. I'm very curious to see what other readers think about this book? It begins with a family in the south who win a large lottery. A little over $300,000 million to be exact. They think they have hit the jackpot but little do they know their lives are about to take a turn. For the WORST of course. Two pretty bad guys hear about the win and decide they need to be a part of the winnings. Well, they take the family hostage and the rest of the story just spirals out of control from that point on. I really couldn't put this book down, but was also disturbed at the characters' actions and sometimes the story itself. It was definitely a page turner. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Last Child by John Hart

This was a lucky pick. I saw it at Barnes and Noble and bought it based on the cover and the title. That works out sometimes and at other times it doesn't. This was a great summer read. I read it in about 2-3 days. It was a great page turner and mystery, but also some good literature. It is about a 13 year old boy named Johnny. His twin sister disappeared a year ago and Johnny has been searching for clues as to what happened on the day she disappeared. There is also a detective Hunt who has been working on this case for the last year himself. So much so he loses his family because of his addiction to this case. When Johnny and Detective Hunt team up to finally put an to this mystery, they discover things that will shock them both. This book had me from the first page until the last page. I look forward to reading other books by this author.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was the summer book my book club read. We decided to read a classic. I can't remember if I read this book during high school or not, but there were parts that were familiar. Overall, I thought the book was OK, but not great. I can see why it was such a big deal for its time because of the language and some of the content. It is a kind of coming of age story about a young man that can't quite find his way in the world and doesn't quite know what to do with his life. There are a lot of pressures put on him both at home and at school and for a couple of days he escapes it all and spends time in New York City. I'm glad I read it, but was somewhat disappointed in it as a whole.

Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

I have had this book for quite awhile and finally got to it this summer. It is a pretty long book with a little over 500 pages. I enjoyed it and thought it was a pretty good story. It does move a little slow at times, but for the most part it held my interest which can be hard sometimes, so I don't think you would have a problem. It is the story about a family whose mother disappeared during a 1978 tornado in Nebraska. The youngest daughter in the family was with her, but survived. Years later the father dies which re-unites the three grown children. The book goes back and forth between the present time and their life growing up in Nebraska with their mother who has MS and their father who is a doctor. During different parts of the book you get to know all three children and how they are coping with both the loss (and unknown) of their mother and now their father. It isn't a page turner, but is very well written and a good story overall.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

This was the second book I read by this author. This was actually her first published book, but I read it after I read "Dark Places." I think "Dark Places" was a better book, but I did enjoy this story. Like "Dark Places" this is a pretty dark book with many characters that are pretty dysfunctional. This story is about a woman who is a reporter. She is sent to her hometown to investigate the murders of two young girls. When she arrives home her past and her present collide and she isn't sure if she can handle it. She had a pretty rough past in this town and not such a great relationship with her mother. Her sister died at a young age and now her mother has another daughter who is also having a rough time. The woman begins to look into the murders and she would never believe where that journey takes her. This is a pretty short book and reads quite quickly. I think you will enjoy it, but as I stated I thought her second book was better. Just remember if you read either book, both are definitely on the dark side!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

This is 544 pages of great story telling. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It took me longer to finish that I wanted it to, but I snuck a couple of "kid books" in while I read this. This book has it all. It has a great and interesting story line, great and interesting characters, and great and interesting twists and turns. The story begins with Jack who drops his seven year old daughter off at his family home and takes off. Annie is raised by Jack's sister Sam and her best friend Clark. Annie sees her dad twice over the next 20 years or so. Then one day she receives news that her dad is dying and needs her help to finish up his last con. He is the ultimate con man. This takes Annie on an adventure from North Carolina to St. Louis to Miami to Cuba and finally back home to North Carolina. It is a fun read and just an old fashion good story. There are times when I thought it went a bit far and was a bit unrealistic, but it didn't take away from the story itself. I think the many characters in this book were what I enjoyed most! This was a great way to start my June and I hope you enjoy it also.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

I ended the 2009 school year and kicked off summer with a great read. Her first book is called "Sharp Objects" which I haven't' read, but plan to this summer. This was a great read. It is a bit dark at times as far as theme goes, but I just remind myself that it is fiction. It is the story of Libby who is an adult dealing with a family tragedy the occurred when she was seven years old. Her older brother Ben is in prison for this tragedy, but Libby isn't so sure that he is responsible. She begins a quest to find out what truly happened that night in her family's home. The story takes her to many dark places, but she needs to go to these places in order to get to the bottom of what happened. The book alternates chapters between Libby as a grown woman and her family members on the days surrounding the tragedy. This type of format really worked well for this book. I don't think any reader will be disappointed in this story. Again, it is a little on the dark side with dysfunctional characters, but what good fiction book doesn't have that?

Push by Sapphire

I saw that this book "Push" was going to be a movie coming out in the fall of 2009. The movie version is called "Precious". The movie looked interesting so I decided to go and buy the book and see what it was about. I read the book during one Saturday afternoon. It is only about 139 pages. It is the story of Precious who is an overweight black girl that has everything against her. It was a tough read at times, but I did enjoy the story because it shows how one person can rise above hardships and be better for it in the end. Precious had one teacher in her life that believed in her and that is all she needed to pull herself out of a very bad situation, move forward, and make a better life for herself. This book is very real, very raw, and full of disturbing images. It is well written and I know everyone will be on Precious' side for her to dream bigger and be more than the people around her are treating her. It might be because I'm a teacher, but it was a motivating story despite all of the dysfunction and horrible things in her life. I look forward to the movie this fall.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This was on several different recommended book lists so I knew I wanted to give it a try. I'm glad I did. I enjoyed the story. It is interesting because the book jacket doesn't give much away as to what the story is about which of course perked my interest. It is about a young girl from Nigeria who encounters a British couple while they are on vacation in Nigeria. Something horrific happens on the beach in Nigeria and the lives of these three individuals will never be the same. Several years later the young girl makes her way to England and her life crosses paths with the British couple once again. This was an easy book to read and I found the story enjoyable. There were parts in the book when I didn't exactly like what the characters did, but I guess that is what happens with certain books. I think most readers would enjoy the story of Little Bee.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

The Woods by Harlan Coben

I took this book along on my spring break vacation because I wanted to have a good"beach" book for when I finished "Cutting for Stone." This was a perfect book to have while on my vacation to Mexico. I actually read it in about a day and a half. It is another quick read by Harlan Coben. This time the story is about a man who lost his sister to murder at a summer camp 20 years ago. Or did he? He starts getting clues that his sister may be alive. The events that occurred 20 years ago come back in full force which forces him to face his past. This is an easy and intriguing read. I literally could not put it down. It certainly isn't anything heavy, but a great book to read while on vacation or when you want something quick and a story that keeps you guessing until the very last page.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese

This was one of those books that kept appearing on many lists of books to read. It was featured in People, Entertainment Weekly, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I also saw it featured on the Amazon website and the Barnes and Noble website. I figured I'd better give it a try since it was on so many lists. I loved this book! It is not an easy read at about 500 pages, but well worth the time you will spend on it. I was disappointed when I was done and still think about the story and the characters. The story begins with the birth of twins to a nun and a surgeon who helps deliver the twins. The mother dies during child birth and the father leaves right after the birth. The twins are left to another doctor that works in the hospital where they are born. The book covers the lives of the twin boys as they grow up in the hospital and both eventually become doctors themselves. The story is very detailed, but quite interesting at the same time. It has a slow steady beginning, but builds page after page to an emotional and gut retching ending. I was pretty wiped out after closing this book. This is one of the best books I've read in several months. Please give it a try! I know you won't be disappointed.

Gone for Good by Harlan Coben

I read this book for my book club at work. It was a refreshing change of what we had recently been reading. This was a quick and "fun" read. I had read one of Coben's other books called "Tell No One." Coben writes a fast story that keeps you guessing until the very last page. This was a story about man and his family. His brother had been missing for many years and on the run after being accused of murdering his girl friend. Years after the murder the brother starts getting signs that his brother may be alive and may not be responsible for the murder. From there it is a roller coaster ride with many twists and turns. I enjoyed the story and I know other readers will also. It is especially fun when you get to the end of the story to see how it is actually going to end.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

In the Lake of the Woods by Tim O'Brien

I received this book as a gift and I'm glad I did. I really enjoyed it. This is a quick read. It is about a couple right after a political election that takes place in Minnesota. The candidate was caught up in a scandal and lost the election. He and his wife leave the city and go north to the Lake of the Woods. As you read about their time trying to get over the scandal you learn about the candidate's experiences in Vietnam. These experiences have a profound effect on the present day situation. The majority of the book focuses on when the candidate's wife disappears from the cabin and the search for her begins. Along the way, there are several chapters that deal with interviews and evidence of who could have been involved in the disappearance. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading other books by Tim O'Brien.

Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

I had seen this book in the bookstores for many years and finally bought it in January 2009 for my book club. I did enjoy the story, but found it a slow start with a great conclusion. It was an easy read and an intriguing mystery. A young women spends time with an elderly famous writer to write her biography. Ms. Winter (the writer) had a mysterious and eerie childhood and young adult life. As the story built, that is when it got interesting and at times confusing. There were many characters to keep straight and quite a few plot twists and turns. It was a satisfying read, but did take awhile to get going. Once you get going with this book it doesn't take long to finish. Enjoy!