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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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Inés of My SoulInés of My Soul by Isabel Allende
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book did not captivate me the way Allende's other books did. Historically, very little is known about Inés Suarez, the lone woman who left Spain for Peru with the conquistadores in the 1500's, eventually becoming one of the conquerors of Chile and wife of the Royal Governor. Allende did a wonderful job of shaping Inés's voice; transforming her from the almost anonymous historical figure she is into a passionate, admirable woman whose words and actions matter in the grand scheme of things. Doña Inés played a major role in establishing Santiago, the first Chilean colony, while also ensuring the safety of its people during countless wars and skirmishes with the Mapuche Indians. A large portion of the book is one massacre after another including historically accurate details of the hideous dehumanizing tortures and terrible executions practiced by both the Mapuche and the Spaniards. It grew tedious.

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The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of LifeThe God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Terryl L. Givens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a highlighter, a book I will remember, quote, recommend, and reread. It is a rational theology, an ongoing narrative of logistical conclusions providing a concise explanation of how Mormonism's view of God and Jesus Christ differs from mainstream view . . . and why it matters.

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The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A very good book, with great writing and a gripping story line. The fairy tale quality makes it markedly different from so much of modern fiction. It gripped me from the start, BUT then I got bogged down and found myself skimming through about 300 pages which add nothing redeeming to this potential 5 star work. It would have benefited by having length and excess detail edited/removed. I was so happy to finally get to the conclusion. Result: 1 star docked from my rating. Another 1 star docked because it is dark and seedy...drugs, underworld, gambling, child neglect, violence, prostitution. The author is gifted, and she did not win the Pulitzer for nothing, however, I am surprised by it and all the rave reviews.

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We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't miss this fun, quirky, mysterious, intelligent, heart-wrenching and humane novel. It is captivating from beginning to end with intriguing characters, a clever plot full of continuous surprises, and beautiful prose. I believe I've read all of Fowler's works, including the science fiction short stories (next to dystopian, my least favorite genre), all of them good, with each new work even better than the last. I do hope she keeps writing! This is superb and among my favorite reads in past 12 months.

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