Friday, September 26, 2014

Anansi BoysAnansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Recognizable Gaiman: weird, inventive, creepy, creative fantasy. This is an entertaining sequel to American Gods, which I thoroughly disliked, but I did not realize it until I was well into the audio version, performed by British stand-up comedian Lenny Henry whose deep rich voice and character comedy is absolutely perfect for this novel. It's clever, it's funny, it draws on a lot of African/Caribbean mythology, specifically that of the trickster spider god Anansi (introduced in American Gods). Henry's voices are brilliant (especially the old Caribbean women) and he had me literally smiling nearly all the way through the story. Actually, if it weren't for the audio I'd have to say that I probably would only give this novel 1 star. Book is way too long imho. Gaiman is a fine story teller, but his tales are all the same. I'd like to see him apply his talents to a new repertoire /genre of stories.

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The Rosie Project (Don Tillman #1)The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely loved this unique, delightfully sweet, face-paced novel! The author does an exceptional job of capturing the mind of a quirky, analytical, brilliant man with Asperger's Syndrome. He totally lacks insight to sarcasm, is literal, guileless, and honest to a fault. There are several screwball laugh-out-loud moments, as well as some touching, thought-provoking scenes. The book makes you feel like there is somebody out there for everybody, no matter how weird or different you are. This is a book about choosing to look at our blind spots and address them. It is also about how love and commitment are a choice. The author originally wrote this wonderfully clever novel as a screenplay and has sold the screen rights, so hopefully it will soon be made into a movie.

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The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a magically written, unusual, whimsical, and engrossing tale. I listened to the audio version and it is wonderful - made me feel like I was right there in the story. I was sorry when it was over and want to go back to that magic circus.

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Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story RediscoveredSome Girls, Some Hats and Hitler: A True Love Story Rediscovered by Trudi Kanter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting true account of a woman who escaped from Austria just after Hitler's invasion, but not particularly well written. I had to keep reminding myself that this was a memoir/journal, not written by an accomplished novelist. l found it difficult to really identify with the characters, especially the author who was a bit vain and too self congratulatory for my taste. I would like to have read more about the girls & the hat factory.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Case of the Missing Marquess (Enola Holmes Mysteries, #1)The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Interesting concept and character but predictable plot with poor resolution. This is recommended YA fiction, targeting middle school, but the vocabulary used is quite advanced and beginning on page 3 there are references to prostitution and alcoholism that don't seem to fit that reading level. Enola Holmes is not a Flavia de Luce.

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Devil's Food Cake Murder (Hannah Swensen, #14)Devil's Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Poor grammar. Boringly predictable plot. Unbelievable and annoying characters. Tedious detail with no imagination. Unnatural, repetitive dialogue. An unfinished ending in order to get you to read the next book in the series, which I will never do. Poor writing and story construction. Since this is on NY Times Bestseller list I'm really concerned about my fellow American readers. The book is a bust, but there are some good recipes.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

In Sunlight and in ShadowIn Sunlight and in Shadow by Mark Helprin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Helprin’s writing is lyrical, lush, metaphorical, and the imagery throughout is wonderful. The plot is strong, and it delivers the right level of emotional payoff at the end. But it gets bogged down with monologues that are inflated and unrealistic and there’s a whole looong interlude spent on Harry's flashbacks to his wartime experiences which was too much. If the 700 pages were edited to 500 I would give it 5 stars. Still, the story and the characters still remain with me 4 weeks after reading it and I'm hoping it will be made into a movie.

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Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this YA fiction about two 16 yr old misfits: Park, the weird, overly sensitive, slight Asian kid who is near bottom on the social ladder, and chubby Eleanor with red hair, glasses, & an appalling wardrobe, who is the new girl and thus the new target for ridicule and mean spirited jokes. Setting 1986, Nebraska. A wonderful cast of characters used to tell a compelling, emotionally charged story that. Genius writing, killer dialog. Rowell does an excellent job of being brutally honest with some delicate subjects with being explicit. Outstanding audio narration. Be prepared for some crude teen language in first chapter, but not representative of entire book and nothing you wouldn't hear at the back of any school bus.

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The All-Girl Filling Station's Last ReunionThe All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thoroughly delightful light reading with quirky, loveable characters! This was especially enjoyable because it is a tribute to the WASP of WWII, Women Airforce Service Pilots, first women in history to fly America's military aircraft.
Always an enjoyable read, Fanny Flagg is one of my favorite authors. I like how she subtly weaves personalities from her previous stories into each new book. I listened to audio book, narrated by author...very good.

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The DovekeepersThe Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An exceptional read. This is a masterpiece, a wonderful, mesmerizing book about the lives of four strong Jewish women, each with different backgrounds, powerful personalities, anddistinct stories of there own. Their histories collided when destiny/circumstances found them living at he Jewish stronghold, Masada, during the last and final siege by the Romans. According to the historian, Josephus, two of these women and five children survived the horrendous event.

I agree with Janet, a goodreads reviewer who said the following: Words can be spoken or written. This book did for me what I love about books---it used the written word to create a world for me as real as the one I'm living in now.

On Oct 03, 2011, Another goodreads reviewer, Jennifer Rayment, wrote such an excellent review that I am quoting it in entirety here:

The Good Stuff

* I wish I had the words to express how wonderful this book is. I will be honest if Simon and Schuster hadn't sent it to me for review, I probably wouldn't have picked it up and let me tell you that would have been a shame. This book is haunting and sad but yet so full of hope and of the resilience of the human spirit
* Beautiful raw and honest story and just so god-damned emotional to read
* Exceptionally real and strong female characters
* History written so it comes alive and you learn so much without feeling like you are getting a history lesson
* The faults/flaws of the characters are not hidden and you see how they change and grow over the course of the story
* Emotionally raw by the end of the story and had to go hug my children before I could go to bed
* Obviously thoroughly researched and you feel the authors passion for the subject matter as it never comes across as dull
* I would be shocked if this doesn't get made into a movie or a mini series
* Further Reading at the end of the book is appreciated for those like me who will want to find out more of the history
* Very wise and thought provoking
* A wonderful book for various discussions about faith, forgiveness, compassion, woman's rights etc
* Why are you still reading my review -- get thee to a book store now and buy it -- hello what are you waiting for

The Not so Good Stuff

* Could have been perfect with a some stronger editing. There is some obvious repetition that should have been caught and it would have made it a truly brilliant novel.
* I was forced to stay up till a 1am to finish this and the last 15 pages or so I could barely read with the tears falling down. Alice you owe me some coffee and Kleenex & an apology to my kids for mommy being cranky from lack of sleep

What I Learned

* Man it really sucked to be a women in ancient times, we are so lucky in this day and age to be treated, for the most part, as the equals that we are (still so far to go)
* Now I really already know this, but lets just put this out again -- the persecution of Jews over and over again just completely baffles me. They truly are one of the most formidable, strong and resilient race the world has ever seen.
* Tons of fascinating information about 70-75 CE

Who should/shouldn't read

* Will be buying a copy for my niece, sister and sister in laws for Christmas because I don't want to lend them MY copy and risk the chance of one of them --- "misplacing it" LOL
* Those who enjoy a nice light read, would probably not want to pick one up. It is quite intense and detailed
* Thinking those of Roman descent might be a little put off
* A must have for public libraries

I listened to the audio version, which is very well done with four different women doing the narrative reading of the four main characters. If it were possible I would give this book 6 stars. It is among the best books I've read in a long time and touched me deeply.

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