Thursday, July 19, 2012

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, and distinct stories of there own. Their histories collided when destiny/circumstances found them living at the 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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The Magician's AssistantThe Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ann Patchett excels at taking ordinary likable people and dropping them into unusual situations. The premise of the book was fascinating and the characters are multi-dimensional, compelling and so human that you forget you're reading fiction. Her writing is elegant but not flowery, insightful, clever, and sophisticated, but it never gets in the way of the story. I thought this was a sweet and perceptive story. The plot unfolded well, and I didn't want to put the book down because I wanted to see what was going to happen next. I thought the main character, Sabine, was the only character that was hard to understand and was disappointed with the sudden ending.

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Above Suspicion (Haggerty Mystery, #3)Above Suspicion by Betsy Brannon Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My 2nd book by Betsy Brannon Green and I will read more because they are just plain fun with the right combination of suspense and romance. The Southern Haggarty ladies are delightful, especially Miss Eugenia and the audio narrator is wonderful. Although a bit predictable, it was fun to see it all unravel and there were a few surprises. This book appeals to LDS audience especially, but I think the non LDS reader would enjoy it & be enriched. Again, this book reminded me of Miss Marple and also a little of Agatha Christie. Fun, fast paced, with extra kudos from me to the author for a squeaky clean read.

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Backtrack (Haggerty Mystery, #8)Backtrack by Betsy Brannon Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fun, easy read with well drawn lively & affectionate Southern characters, intriguing mystery plot with a "Miss Marple" flare and equally engaging subplot. There is also a tastefully handled romance. I listened to the audio version which is exceptionally well done. I've added an extra star for no vulgar language, and no gratuitous sex.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Across Five AprilsAcross Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an extensively well researched book, the author having woven the story primarily from her grandfather's journals but also from old newspaper clippings, letters, war journals, and stories he related to her and her parents. Her grandfather was 9 years old when the Civil War began and the story 11 year old Jethro chronicles is her grandfather's story. Jethro watches a war unfold around him and feels the effects of it on his community and on his own family.

Five men & boys, age 16 and over, join the forces, four with the Union, and one enlisting with the Confederates. Despite literature that ideallizes the simplicity of an agrarian life in the 1800's, the reality is life was hard, with or without war. Living in Southern Illinois, was a hotbed for conflicting feelings; there were cousins in the family who fought, & died, on both sides. The author gives readers compelling arguments on both sides and the emotions that went with that division, not only within the country but within communities and families. The book begins and ends in April, over a period of 5 years. During these 5 years we see the main character, Jethro, become a man as he takes on the responsibilities not only of the large family farm, but bring for other household duties and being a role model for his brother's sons who live with them. He finds himself in the middle of dangerous, even life threatening situations with some lowlife townspeople who persecute him & his family for having a son / brother considered a traitor for have having joined the Confederates.

I am so glad I read this book. I not only gained insights to the Civil War, but to the realities of life 150 years ago. This was a wonderful book---A good book for men and women, both, whether history lovers or readers who prefer human dramas. I would recommend only to young adults who are avid readers. It is another book I give an extra star to for no vulgar language, gratuitous sex, or descriptive violence. It does deal with some shady vile characters, and some heart wrenching situations in regard to the war, but does it in a tasteful, easy to read style and is a highly moral book with a realistic but satisfying conclusion. Considering the themes and subjects it deals with, it could be very dark, but it is not. I'm a better person for having read it.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

Girls Don't FlyGirls Don't Fly by Kristen Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Young Adult novel (I listened to audio version) that is absolutely captivating with charming believable characters who don't have a perfect life. I especially enjoyed it because of the main character, an 18 yr. old girl who is dependent, self effacing, selfless doormat to her family, employer, and boyfriend but who realizes her own self worth and evolves into a strong, confident young woman realizing that she is in control of the direction her own life can take.

The setting is a small town called Linden, Utah, near Salt Lake City. She's the 2nd of 5 children in a loving family that struggles financially. Mother works night shift and father days. Her older married sister is out of the home, temporarily--until a situation develops in which she returns home bedridden, and everyone, especially the 3 younger children, including 2 preschoolers, are all very dependent on her for both their physical and emotional needs. Life is hard and the financial struggle is ongoing. In addition to caring for them & keeping everything running smoothly (e.g. laundry & meals, etc) while her mother sleeps and while father is at work, she holds down a demanding part time job & manages to find time to do her school homework (last quarter senior year). Highly responsible, loving, thoughtful, and completely selfless, she does all this without complaining but also without recognizing the importance of caring for herself. But that changes as choices become more difficult, and painful.
The book deals with the usual teenage angst in a realistic and humorous way as she begins to discover not only who her "friends" really are, but who she, herself, is. I highly recommend this novel to YA girls & to parents. She deals with difficult topics such as teen pregnancy in a tasteful manner without inappropriate scenes or preaching. There is no bad language or sex which always earns an extra star in my ratings.

The prose is beautiful. Really. Her use of metaphor is outstanding and there is rich symbolism in almost everything that happens in the story. An easy, highly enjoyable read.

The audio version was well done & I had a hard time putting it down.

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