Monday, December 22, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I happily recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Told in a series of letters, it tells about the German occupation of Guernsey Island during World War II. The letter format takes a bit of getting used to, but I think it adds to the charm of the narrative. Pay attention to who is writing to whom, and you won't get lost. The story is sad and poignant, but also laugh out loud funny. I thought it was wonderful and would make a good book for discussion groups. Read it.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Charlemagne Pursuit by Steve Berry

The Charlemagne Pursuit continues the adventures of Cotton Malone, former Justice Department agent, although without some of his usual sidekicks. The basic plot is pretty intriguing as Malone seeks to find out what really happened to his father whose submarine was lost in 1971. There is a mystery that needs to be solved, a conspiracy that needs to be stopped, some dirty politicians who need to be exposed, some truly despicable folks who need to be, well, shot, and some wonders that are waiting to be discovered. All in all, it's a pretty fun read if you don't think too hard about the details. I must say I thought the whole Oberhauser family and their side-plot was a waste of my reading time. Puh-leez. If you like books like The DaVinci Code or have read Berry's previous works, you will enjoy this one.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Giver by Lois Lowry

This is a book written for young people. I recently read it because my son was reading it for school. It is the story of Jonas, a young boy who lives in a dystopia. It is a society in the future where people do not have individual choice. It was very interesting and I could see how it would make for good discussions. Jonas has special abilities that entitle him to do a special job for the community. He receives memories from the Giver, which enable him to know all of history. Members of the community use his wisdom to make big decisoins. Jonas realizes how unfair and bland life is for people in his society. He ultimately decides to risk his life to save Gabe (his adopted brother) and to make it possible for everyone to have memories. This was a great way to see what kids are reading for class. I enjoyed it and so did my 13 year old.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Lives They Left Behind by Darby Penney

This was a great non-fiction book about a psychiatric center in New York. After 125 years in service they were closing up in 1995. While cleaning out they found over 400 suitcases of past patients in the attic of the building containing what few and all of their belongings. This book has 10 stories about 10 of those almost forgotten people and their lives. It is a little sad and depressing to think of these lost souls not having a voice in life, but now in death we can read and learn from these interesting if not troubled people. I really enjoyed this book although sad we must remember it is still history and we can all learn from it.

A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade

I enjoyed reading this Christmas book. It is a continuation of books set in a town called Cape Light. This book mainly follows 2 families. The Morgans lose their house in a fire and the book profiles how they work through this loss. Jack Sawyer reluctantly helps out a woman and her child in need who end up helping him work through his grief and bitterness. The book has a Christian message and is especially enjoyable at this time of year.

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

I enjoyed this book very much. It started out almost immediately. However I still don't understand why the main character didn't fess up as soon as he was able. I would recommend this book to anyone.

From Dust and Ashes by Tricia Goyer

If you enjoy World War II history and Christian fiction this book is for you. Set in Austria in the Spring of 1945, from Dust to Ashes weaves several stories. Helene, the wife of an SS guard, Peter, an American Soldier and Michaela, a concentration camp survivor, are all trying to pick up the pieces of their lives. Goyer researches her stories with actual interviews of soldiers who liberated the Nazi death camps and with Holocaust survivors. From "dust to ashes" is the 4th book in the Liberator series.
Fast becoming one of my must read authors, I heartily recommend this book and the others in this series.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Keeping the World Away by Margaret Forster

The story is about the artist Gwen John and her painting The Attic. It is fascinating how the painting ended up in various people's hands and impacting their lives throughout the years.
Gwen's affair with the married and controlling Rodin gives her both joy, yearning, and persistence to capture the essence of The Attic. She is able to convey that a "tranquil golden place" does exist amid the chaos if we care to look for it. I enjoyed reading this book!

The Gate House by Nelson DeMille

The Gate House is a sequel to DeMille's 1990 best seller The Gold Coast, but can stand alone if you haven't read (or don't remember) The Gold Coast. John Sutter returns to Long Island for a funeral but gets caught up in the privileged world of his ex-wife, the ultra-rich and ultra-spoiled Susan Stanhope. There's also the matter of a little unfinished business with the son of the mafia don that Susan murdered. It's a long book and fairly predictable. But it's well written and the sarcastic humor of the narrator is worth the read. I enjoyed it.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz

Plot: Ryan Perry is 34 years old, wealthy and in love. His life is wonderful until he discovers he has heart disease and needs a transplant. His life spins out of control as he becomes suspicious of everyone around him and doesn't know what is real, what is paranoia, and what is a side effect of the regimen of drugs he must take. He undergoes a successful transplant, but strange occurrences continue.

I'm a big fan of Dean Koontz, but this is not one of his best. The characters are not as engaging and endearing as Koontz' characters usually are, and the plot is full of holes.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Bodies Left Behind by Jeffrey Deaver

Deaver is a master at suspenseful plotting and this book is no exception. Responding to an aborted 911 call, Deputy Brynn McKenzie walks into a murder scene. She loses her car and her weapon and must flee into the woods to escape the killers who are determined to leave no witnesses. It's an action-packed read with plenty of twists and surprises. If you like light-weight thrillers, you won't be disappointed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We Bought A Zoo by Benjamin Mee

Yes indeed, this is a book about an English family that bought a struggling zoo and worked to restore and re-open it. Although the blurbs on the book led me to believe there would be more anecdotes about the zoo animals, that's not what the book is about. It's very much one man's personal tale of the enormous job of buying and refurbishing a zoo; why they chose to do it, and why running a zoo means much more than putting some animals in cages and selling tickets. Apparently, there was a BBC production about this zoo, so many readers may already be familiar with this story. Although it wasn't what I was expecting, I enjoyed this very readable tale.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller (The Lincoln Lawyer) is back! When attorney Jerry Vincent is murdered, Haller inherits his caseload, including a high profile murder case. It's a good read, as I've come to expect from Michael Connelly, including a couple of twists. Harry Bosch appears as a secondary character, and I must say I prefer it when he's the main character! It looks like there may be more Haller/Bosch collaborations in the future...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dewey: a Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World

I had a feeling I was going to like this book. After all, I like libraries, I like cats, and I like Vicki Myron. Still, I was a little worried that it wouldn't live up to all the hype. But I did like it. I liked it alot! I think you will too.

Dewey is the story of a cat who was dropped in a library book drop in Spencer, Iowa. When the staff found him, they decided to keep him. He became a fixture at the library and eventually became famous. The book is about Dewey and what a great cat he was, but it is also about Spencer and about Iowa. It's a bit about libraries too, and why they are important. It's all told in the direct, no-nonsense style of Vicki Myron, the former director of the Spencer Public Library.

Cats, libraries, small town Iowa... you can't go wrong reading this book!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Brisingr is the third installment of the Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini. Originally intended to be a trilogy, the series will be expanded to four books. That's right! Despite the length of Brisingr, the story doesn't end.

I was disappointed by the lack of action in Brisingr. There is more back story, lots of rather boring politics, and several side plots in this installment of the series. Paolini spends lots of time describing details of the different races and cultures, and has certainly created an interesting and compelling world. Unfortunately, Eragon remains irritatingly immature, despite his increase in skills and the great confidence everyone else has in him.

I won't give away the plot details and the important revelations, I'll just say I have mixed feelings about this book. I'm hoping book four will justify all the side plots and many details of this book. And I can't wait to read more about Saphira.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a surprisingly touching story written from the perspective of a philosophical dog, named Enzo. Enzo realizes he is not an ordinary dog and longs to become fully human someday. While watching television, where he gains most of his knowledge, he discovers a documentary on Mongolia where he learns that once a dog’s life is over he becomes reincarnated as a man. But only if he is ready, and Enzo is ready. Enzo reflects back on his life with his master, Denny, a struggling professional race car driver, his wife, Eve, and their daughter, Zoe. Denny shares his passion of racing with Enzo and with that knowledge Enzo begins to unwrap the mysteries of life. There is tragedy, struggles, set-backs, and disappointments and Enzo walks us through it all. There is an especially funny but poignant scene when Enzo is unexpectedly left home alone for three days and has an unpleasant encounter with a Zebra. We come to learn that there is a little Zebra in all of us! Although I don’t think you have to own a dog to enjoy this book, I think those who do will find it especially warm and charming.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

I'm ambivalent about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the story and even stayed up late to finish it. On the other, I'm bothered by several ideas that Meyer seems to have lifted straight from other writers and the Stargate SG-1 TV series without giving proper credit. I'm also not sure why this title was marketed as an adult book, as it seems more suited to Meyer's established teen audience.

The basic plot is that parasitic aliens have invaded Earth. The centipede-like aliens are inserted into human hosts and take the minds and bodies as their own. One alien, known as Wanderer, has trouble subduing the mind of her human host, Melanie. They work together to find and join a small band of human survivors. I won't give away any more than that.

The characters are mostly one-dimensional; the dialog is pretty lame; the romance is completely predictable; and the plot is not very original. Nevertheless, I read this 600+ page book in one day. I'm just not sure why!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Waiting for White Horses by Nathan Jorgenson

I have to start with a disclaimer, this book is written by my dentist. For the past two years I have been asked every six months if I have read the book. In another 4 months I can proudly say, YES! This book is one of the best I have read in a long time. I laughed out loud, I cried a lot and I could not put the book down. The premise is simple; a man, his friendships, love and loss. Jorgenson’s character development was so realistic you began to know the characters, their emotions and reactions. Reading Waiting for White Horses, made me want to move to a lake in Northern Minnesota and wait for the white horses! I recommend this for any hunter, non-hunter and booklover of any age.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chateau Beyond Time by Michael Tobias

I read this book because I saw a review that said it was a "sophisticated thriller." The central premise is a little far-fetched for me: otherwise extinct creatures living at a remote chateau in France are protected by a secret society that dates back thousands of years. If you're willing to overlook this bit of improbability, the book is fast-paced and easy to read. There were some potentially interesting characters that the author did not develop nearly enough and I would have liked to have seen the ecology theme explored in more depth. Still, I enjoyed the book and would recommend it.
Wendy Street