Saturday, November 14, 2015

My Brother Sam Is DeadMy Brother Sam Is Dead by James Lincoln Collier
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1.5 stars
Why you should not read this book:
1. Depiction of American patriots as immature and uninformed
2. Underlying innuendos of American Revolution being a pointless war
3. Colorless characters. As one reviewer said,“They were not loved and lost to me, just there and lost, or not…”
4. Unrealistic dialogue
5. Use of language and cursing inappropriate to time period (and inappropriate read for/to middle school and younger age kids.)
6. Story is just a series of disjointed events with no emotion
7. The ending is abrupt and poorly done. it left a feeling of, “and that’s it?”
8. It is a short box that dragged.
9. Poor writing
10. Audio version is just awful . . . narrator has unpleasant voice and speaks slooowly with looong pauses between events.

Not totally a lame book as it does give some important insights regarding the resulting devastations that war brings to communities and families. However an implication easily drawn from the story is that the American Revolution was a sad and unnecessary event. Seriously. Near the end of the book the family doesn't really care who wins . . . they just want the war to be over. It really bothers me this is on many 4th-9th grade required reading lists, not only because of the points listed above but because there are better books on the subject for children and young adults.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Later the Same Day Later the Same Day by Grace Paley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a small book of poignant short stories populated with independent strong women and their relationships. Her writing style is precise. She uses few words in a clever and effective way. She does not use conventional punctuation, which drove me crazy at first, but once I caught on to her style I found it fitting. Her characters are uniquely believable, the dialogues wonderful, and the subjects addressed important.
She is disdainfully humorous and there are some great one liners.

Here is a quote from GR reader Sarah Hilary that nicely sums up my feelings about Grace Paley (her complete review found here

"Skim-read Paley’s stories and you may end up trying to convince yourself she’s at fault for being too political, or for giving us only glimpses of her characters, or for flaunting the rules of story-telling. But if you’re prepared to meet the author midway, to revel in her mischievous sense of purpose, to take a dive face-first into real lives that may not be explained or described in any traditional manner – grab this collection. Chances are your brain will thank you for the spring-clean."

Grace Paley (1922-2007), a postmodernist writer, taught creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in New York.

I actually liked her writing so much I purchased the posthumous 1994 National Book Award Finalist for Fiction, The Collected Stories.
Highly recommend.

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Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Book Of Mormon: Another Testament Of Jesus Christ (Official Edition)The Book Of Mormon: Another Testament Of Jesus Christ by Joseph Smith Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've read this book cover to cover 4 times, and keep rereading and pondering it. The Old Testament and New Testament of the Holy Bible tesify of the divinity and earthly mission of Jesus Christ. This is another testament of Jesus Christ which tells of his visit to the peoples on the American Continent following his Crucifixion and Resurrection.

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” -Joseph Smith

Isaiah described it, a “marvelous work and a wonder.” (Isa. 29:13–14.)

It is a treasure in my life.

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The Shoemaker's WifeThe Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've read 5 of Trigiani's other books and enjoyed them immensely...was a bit disappointed wit this. Largely biographical (her family), this was too drawn out and would have benefited by a ruthless editing of a more objective person. There were ideas, and characters, and actions that did not move the story forward or enrich the act of reading in any way. Too many wasted words (470 pages) making the plot line seem secondary to the telling, i.e. too much telling and not enough showing. At least 150 pages too long. It was sweet and sad and somewhat predictable and I missed the humor found in her other books.
I listened to audio version and felt her choice, halfway into the novel, to divide the audio narration between Sciorra and herself was a mistake. Sciorra was a much better audio narrator. One of the problems was the difference in pronunciation of the same names, places & events between the 2 of them. It was confusing to an audio reader that may not have been a problem with the print version. Clean GP read.

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And Then There Were NoneAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well crafted and convincing characters with believable dialogue. Kept me guessing to the end and then pondering the moral dilemma after completion. This is Agatha Christie's best-selling murder mystery novel and I can understand why.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

1.5 stars
too, too much…
too slow getting into story…200 pages of back story--waay too slow
too many characters
too many characters who were tossed aside
too many dark, disturbing scenes
too many grotesque, revolting, sadistic sex crimes
too many didactic political ramblings
too many lame red herrings
too many mundane details
too many useless, boring scenes
too much violence
too much porn
too explicit
too many email passages/conversations
too many references to American pop culture
too many coffee stops
too many butt plugs
too many useless, meaningless, boring scenes
too much foul language
too much flat cliche-ridden prose
too, too many words
The author’s original title (in Sweden) was MEN WHO HATE WOMEN. I'm not kidding, that was the title. Would you have read it with that title? I wouldn't have, no matter the popular ratings...
I originally gave this 2 stars, but changed rating because there is

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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars
Jodi Picoult is a sure bet for a good read and this did not disappoint. I have continued to think about this book long after completing it, months ago. There are two heart wrenching story lines, both intricately connected, with finely balanced humor, science, and mystery that will definitely keep you turning pages until the twist ending that I didn't see coming. Although there is an explanation in the book about what "Leaving Time" means, when you get to the end, it takes on a whole new meaning. Her characters are wonderful and lovable and she skillfully handles first person voice for each of them. Her research on elephants is thorough and I learned much.
I want this to be a movie!!! Do yourself a favor & also listen to the audio version - SO beautiful!
For a very good complete review see

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Life After LifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

One star?? My goodreads friend, Elisa, commented on my rating, writing: "That bad? I tried a few times but could not get through the first few pages.... Maybe it's time to quit!" My response to her query follows:
For me, yes. I, too, struggled with it from the start but hung in there because several friends gave it 4-5 star ratings and it had been nominated for several awards, & even won a few. The "Ground Hog Day" multi-life premise was good, and often the prose was excellent but the multiple repetitious lives were tedious & boring. The main character never learns anything...her lives vary between better or worse, not based on insight acquired from her previous lives nor upon her conscious choices, but based primarily upon coincidences. I would put the 572 page book down and later have to force myself to pick it up again, hoping to find what all the critics' hype was about. I read this several months ago but was so tired of the thing & resentful of my time wasted that I just gave it 1 star at the time because I couldn't make myself waste another moment writing a review. Thanks Elisa, for your comment. Now I am posting my response as my review.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a sequel to Code Name Verity, one of my favorite books last year, but you don't have to read the first book in order to understand this one. The character development is incredible, and realistic. Elizabeth Wein is a capable, skilled wordsmith and author.

Rose Justice, a naive young woman who as a girl learned flying at the knee of her father, is an eager American pilot. She is the owner of a flight school in Pennsylvania and leaves to go to England in order to join the Air Transport Auxiliary and assist the Allied cause. On return to England from a flying assignment to France she disappears. She has been captured and taken to Germany and ends up in Ravensbruck, a women's concentration camp, with women prisoners from France, Poland, and Germany. This is the prison camp where Corrie Ten Boom was sent, and the experiences of the women there were so horrible and beyond imagination, it's no wonder that people at the time didn't believe the stories coming out of Europe. You want so desperately to believe it's all made up and stuff like this never happened. But it did. For that reason I think Rose Under Fire is important. We owe it to those people to never forget. "Tell the world." That's what the characters cry, over and over. "Tell the world." And I thought about that, over and over, throughout the whole book.

If the facts don't get to you, the characters will. While the characters are fictional, real women went through the events described. They are wonderful, strong and fierce and they look out for each other no matter the cost. They are believable, and I will not forget them, so desperate to live or at least to get their story out.

The author, Elizabeth Wein, is a poet and she skillfully uses that vehicle to record Rose's experiences and thoughts. Poetry is an escape and balm for Rose throughout the book. In prison she is changed into a ghost of her younger self. Yet the reader sees, through the lyrical, soaring words in the dozens of short lovely poems she writes and shares with her fellow inmates in the dark, that the young optimistic Rose is still there and that she will eventually heal. Those poems--their brightness of hope, their warmth, their clarity--are heartrendingly beautiful.

This is a story about real events. It is not a quick nor an easy read. It is a story about hope, when it's not the thing with feathers. “Hope is the most treacherous thing in the world. It lifts you and lets you plummet. But as long as you're being lifted you don't worry about plummeting. . . Hope is treacherous, but how can you live without it?” It is a story of friendship, and the camaraderie of women of all nationalities and walks of life, a story about the strength of humanity even as their humanity was stripped from them. It is brutally honest, but it has a perfect, powerful ending with closure and a bit of happiness.

The events and setting of this historical novel are incredibly well researched and are eloquently presented in a thought provoking way. To quote another reviewer, she "nicely gives you a little bit of a history lesson and you learn things without even realizing this. . . this is a true gift - education all wrapped up in a compelling story." From Rose Under Fire and Code Name Verity both, I learned a great deal of history, and gained a deeper awareness and appreciation of the largely unrecognized amazing women pilots of WWII and the incredible women prisoners of that war. Code Name Verity is my favorite of the 2 books, but I highly recommend both.

I really appreciate the factual information which follows the story.
Audio version, excellent.

“Hope has no feathers
Hope takes flight
tethered with twine
like a tattered kite,
slave to the wind's
capricious drift
eager to soar
but needing lift

Hope waits stubbornly
watching the sky
for turmoil, feeding on
things that fly:
crows, ashes, newspapers,
dry leaves in flight
all suggest wind
that could lift a kite

Hope sails and plunges
firmly caught
at the end of her string -
fallen slack, pulling taught,
ragged and featherless.
Hope never flies
but doggedly watches
for windy skies.”
― Elizabeth Wein, Rose Under Fire

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Double DutchDouble Dutch by Sharon M. Draper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another wholesome book that is probably a 5 star book for girls age 11-15, 3 stars for H.S. girls, and likely a 2 star book for boys. It's a clever little story about 8th graders, each of whom has an important secret he/she keeps to himself/herself out of fear of embarrassment and not fitting in with the theme of don't judge someone unless you really know them.

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