Monday, December 21, 2009

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

In The School of Essential Ingredients, restaurant chef and owner Lillian offered cooking classes where eight students with different walks of life gathered on Monday nights to learn the essence of cooking. Through camaraderie and awakening of the senses under Lillian's guidance, hidden memories were evoked. The students began to reevaluate their lives and came to terms with the present. If you enjoy "playing" in the kitchen or experimenting with recipes, this book is for you. I could almost taste the Mexican hot chocolate that young Lillian was preparing for her mother. Although I have no desire to crack open a live crab, detailed in the first class, this novel is a delicious read to savor.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Under the Dome is classic Stephen King--long and suspenseful. An invisible barrier suddenly descends on the small town of Chester's Mill, cutting it off from the rest of the world. How the townspeople react to their enforced isolation and dwindling supplies is the heart of the novel. There are a lot of characters, and they are a little too neatly divided into "good" and "evil," but these are minor quibbles. The ending is a disappointment, but the build-up is worth the read. It's a page turner.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Year of Cats and Dogs by Margaret Hawkins

After Maryanne's boy friend left, she is surrounded by their dog Bob and the cat Clement. Her job at the figurine company seems trivial to her. She is looking for meaning in life and decides to quit her job. Maryanne discovers that she has a gift for communicating with animals when she "hears" her dog talk back to her. Her friend Donna gets her into volunteering dog-walking at the shelter which changes her life altogether.

This is an enjoyable book even though it deals with death and the conflicting feelings we have about the food chain. Hawkins titles each of the chapters in her novel from the chapters in I Ching based on the Taoist philosophy. I have to ponder on the meanings at times. The author weaves in Mary Oliver's poem When Death Comes in honor of Grace, the little dog who is about to be put to sleep, which I finds most poignant. She also has several interesting recipes in the book, such as Chili for Consolation, Potato Salad for Solace, and Dog Party Pasta.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

True Blue by David Baldacci

Baldacci introduces two new characters, sisters Beth and Mace Perry. Beth is the chief of police in Washington, DC and Mace is her disgraced younger sister. Mace is just out of prison and determined to prove she was framed. She also wants to solve a big case because she believes that is her ticket to being reinstated as a police officer, or "true blue." When a lawyer is found dead and stuffed in a refrigerator, Mace begins her own investigation. This is a Baldacci book, so nothing is simple, shadowy government agencies are involved, and someone powerful is corrupt. I'm sure this isn't the last we'll see of Beth and Mace Perry, and I'm glad.

Friday, October 30, 2009

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

This novel reads like a journal with a few short stories and poems throughout. The author writes with a Native perspective on life and philosophy. It is amazing how he can encompass so much in just 209 pages.
I enjoyed the short story Fearful Symmetry which alludes to William Blake's Tyger poem. Salt is another ironic and sad but comical story about an inexperienced newspaper intern taking over the deceased obituaries editor's responsibilities, and how he ends up taking a 'dip' in Soap Lake. If you crave for something different, this book is for you. The stories and poems offer a unique perspective on humanity.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Richard Castle is a character on the TV show Castle, played by actor Nathan Fillion. On that show, he is a best-selling author of detective stories, and his latest book is called Heat Wave. ABC apparently decided to actually publish such a book, and to credit Castle as its author, right down to the actor's picture on the back cover of the book. Who knows who actually wrote the book! I like the gimmick as it fits with the show--the characters in the show don't take themselves too seriously, and the producers obviously aren't above making fun of their own show. I like the crossover appeal that may actually spur some fans of the TV show to pick up the book and read it. As for the book itself, it's not bad. It reads like a book based on a script, but it has good pacing and dialogue. Since I have watched the TV show, I enjoyed reading the book and picturing the TV characters as the book characters, and trying to remember if the book scenes ever happened on the show. It all works and it's lots of fun.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie, translated by Adrianna Hunter

This is a fascinating novel about an ancient silk scroll with a mysterious Buddhist sutra written on it. The last Chinese Emperor Puyi has inherited the silk scroll centuries later but torn it in half under Japanese occupation. The obsession with finding the lost half and translating the unknown manuscript of the scroll has led to linguist Paul d Ampere's imprisonment. The narrator, a French student studying at Beijing University, determines to search for the history and meaning of the scroll. She falls in love with the street vendor Tumchooq, since he may provide her with the "link." Her life then takes an unexpected course...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Dan Brown has succeeded in writing another entertaining thriller. The Lost Symbol continues the adventures of Robert Langdon, the Harvard symbologist featured in The DaVinci Code and Angels and Demons. Brown sticks to the formula that worked in those two books, so The Lost Symbol is similarly fast-paced and action packed, and loaded with esoteric historical tidbits. The setting is Washington, DC this time and Langdon is once again racing against the clock to solve a mystery protected by a secret society. Yes, it's far-fetched, but it's still fun.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Only 127 Things You Need: A Guide to Life Essentials by Donna Wilkinson

The title of this book caught my attention. The mottoes of "Less is more" and "How to life simply" seem to have flooded book stores lately.
This informative book is comprised of 3 interlocking categories - Body, Mind and Spirit and how to attain them healthfully. Wilkinson has also included expert advice, further reading and website resources for the readers to explore. I especially appreciate the subject on "It's easy to be green" (p.235). It has a tip on "Don't buy so much stuff. Buy only what you need, and when you can, buy items that can be recycled..." (p.238).
This paperback is reader friendly and covers almost every aspect of life's essentials, from getting a good night sleep to "living consciously" to having a sense of awe and wonder. It is a good book!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy, author of Prince of Tides, has turned out a wonderful novel that is well worth the long wait. South of Broad is a beautifully written, moving story of friendship and love. Set in Charleston, it tells the story of a teen-aged boy and the high school friendships that changed his life. The prose is so lovely, I could have have enjoyed the book simply for the fine writing. Happily, the characters are also interesting and, well, characters. The vivid descriptions of Charleston make me want to visit there. Savor this book.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Seen the Glory by John Hough

This is a wonderful Civil War novel about two brothers from Martha's Vineyard who join the Union Army because they oppose slavery. Luke and Thomas quickly learn that their fellow soldiers have joined for varied and different reasons, and that army life is harder than they expected. It's a novel about brotherhood, love, fighting for what you believe in, and doing what's right. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Defector by Daniel Silva

Gabriel Allon is pulled out of semi-retirement when Russian defector Gregori Bulgavov disappears from his comfortable life in London. The British are willing to believe Bulganov re-defected, but Allon knows otherwise. Once again, Allon assembles a talented team to free a friend from a seemingly impossible situation. This book is a sequel to Moscow Rules, but can stand alone. I'd recommend reading Moscow Rules first, though. Daniel Silva is the master of the spy thriller, and this one is no exception. I like the earlier Gabriel Allon books best, but as long as Silva keeps writing them, I'll keep reading them.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wanting by Richard Flanagan

In Wanting, Flanagan draws the parallels in the lives of the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and writer Charles Dickens, illustrating that both reason and desire coexist in all humans.
Mathinna, the native Aboriginal girl from the Van Dieman's Land was "adopted" by the Franklins as Lady Jane, Sir John's wife, wished to transform her into a proper English woman, but her real intentions were questionable.
In 1854, when the Arctic Voyagers failed to return, Lady Jane asked Dickens to defend her husband by refuting notion of cannibalism. Dickens wrote a play about the doomed Northwest Passage, starring himself and in the process fell in love with a young actress, Ellen Ternan.
All the characters were torn between reason and desire, especially when Lady Jane visited the St. Joseph Orphanage. She could have "saved" Mathinna... There are some raw and heart-wrenching depictions in the novel that haunt me after reading it. However, Flanagan was excellent in exploring the ramifications of colonialism and the moral dilemmas we must face up to.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

An international best-seller, this book is set in Sweden. The main character is Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist who is at loose ends because he recently lost a libel case. He is hired by the elderly patriarch of the very wealthy Vanger family to look into the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. Harriet disappeared 40 years ago and is presumed to have been murdered, although her body has never been found. The book is primarily a murder mystery, and a pretty interesting one, but several other storylines are woven into the plot. The tension and complexity build as the novel progresses, and it all comes together quite nicely. The characters are varied, different and not always easy to like. Although there are a few inconsistencies in the plot, the fine writing and masterful pacing more than make up for these minor distractions.

This book is not for everyone, as there is graphic violence, language and sex scenes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley

You are going to love Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old narrator, aspiring chemist and heroine of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. She's plucky, quirky, smart and independent. She lends a fresh and interesting voice to this classic mystery story.

Could this be the first of a series? I hope so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Nothing Right by Antonya Nelson

Nothing Right consists of 11 engaging short stories, encompassing themes of love, loss, family, addiction, conflicts, affairs of the heart, and struggles in everyday life. It is reader friendly. If your time is limited, you can pick one story randomly and start reading. Once you begin, you will want to finish the whole book. Nelson has created some very believable characters. Sadness, hope and humor infiltrate each of the stories. In Shauntrelle, a hilarious divorcee who tries to reinvent herself found a temporary roommate in Houston. She reminded me of Dustin Hoffman in the movie Tootsie. Another one of my favorites was We and They, a mini family saga of the nontraditional Landers, told from the perspective of their teenager, whose language, world view and understanding of his adopted younger siblings, Otis and Angel, are astonishing. You will feel his joy and pain. I enjoyed this novel and hope to read more of Nelson's books.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Roadside Crosses by Jeffrey Deaver

California Bureau of Investigation agent and body language expert Kathryn Dance is hot on the trail of a killer who telegraphs his intent to kill by leaving roadside memorials before he takes a victim. Although I usually enjoy Jeffrey Deaver, I was disappointed by Roadside Crosses. The plot twists weren't very surprising, the romantic side plot wasn't very interesting, and I felt the book's momentum was slowed by the unnecessary explanations of blogging and gaming. Ho hum.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Relentless by Dean R. Koontz

Relentless is about author Cubby Greenwich, who has just published the latest in a string of successful novels. It gets panned by one particularly vicious critic, who turns out to be more than just a critic. Cubby and his family end up on the run, relentlessly pursued by the murderous critic.

I have been a fan of Dean Koontz for more than 20 years and I'm happy to say he just keeps getting better. Relentless is classic Koontz--a genuine thriller with quirky characters you care about (including a great dog), plenty of humor, and just a touch of science fiction. It's very well done.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Moment Between by Nicole Baart

The Moment Between is about the relationship between two sisters, one of whom is emotionally troubled. The novel opens with the older sister, Abigail, discovering the body of younger sister Hailey after she has committed suicide. The rest of the book follows Abigail as she searches for answers, reflects back on her family life, and struggles to come to terms with the loss of her sister. It's very well written, engrossing, and thought-provoking.

This is the third novel for Iowa writer Nicole Baart, and she just keeps getting better!

The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy gets downsized by his newspaper but is determined to end his career with a great story. He latches onto the story of a white girl killed in a black neighborhood, which turns out to be the work of a serial killer (or killers?). McEvoy teams up with FBI agent Rachel Walling to track down the killer--who turns out to have formidable resources and technical skills. The Scarecrow is a decent thriller and a good summer read.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas

Set in a Colorado mining town in 1936, Prayers For Sale is about two women who become friends while quilting and sharing stories. Hennie Comfort, an older woman and long-time resident, takes young Nit Spindle under her wing and teaches her the ways of the mining town. This is a character driven book--not a lot of action--and is sprinkled with bits of history and local color. If you're in the mood to "sit a spell" and enjoy a tale, you'll probably like this book. I did!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

Helen Ames is a successful Chicago novelist who lost her writing muse after her husband Dan dropped dead in the kitchen. Helen's life begins to unravel as she realizes how handy it was having Dan around. Tessa, their grownup daughter, is frustrated with Helen's neediness; Tessa helps around the house, but feels Helen infringing on her personal life. Helen also discovers that a huge sum of their retirement money was withdrawn by Dan just before his death. Was there an unspeakable secret?
Through grieving loss, Helen determines to find the truth and discovers her talent for teaching and that love remains, long after the departed. Home Safe is a good read, but it lacks the intensity of Berg's previous books.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

All Other Nights by Dara Horn

This is the story of Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War. Jacob joins the army to escape family expectations, but has to examine his beliefs and loyalties when he is recruited by the army to be an assassin and a spy. Although the book is fiction, it is based on real people and events. It's a very human story about love and family and betrayal, as well as the larger social issues that framed the Civil War. I recommend it.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hume's Fork by Ron Cooper

This novel started with a comic moment when philosophy professor Legare Hume was "plated" by his wife Tally as he announced his decision to attend the American Philosophical Association conference in Charleston, S. Carolina with his colleague Saul Grossman instead of her. The reason for Tally's lashing anger wasn't reveal until toward the end. The story revolved around the APA conference, the friendship between Hume and Grossman, and how ironically after years of avoiding his family in Carolina, Hume ended up staying and reconnecting with them and a menagerie of quirky and shady characters. The subplot brought out the tender side of Saul who fell head over heels for Hume's sister Willie.
Hume's Fork is an unexpected, entertaining and comical combination of philosophy professors, professional wrestlers and the meaning we attached to everyday life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

First Family by David Baldacci

Private investigators Sean King and Michelle Maxwell take on the job of finding a kidnapped girl. Since the girl is the niece of the President and First Lady, the pressure is on. First Family is a pretty good thriller. Although I like the King/Maxwell team, I don't find this series as riveting as the Camel Club books.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Mystery of Grace by Charles de Lint

Our heroine is Grace Quintero, a female auto mechanic who specializes in custom hot rods. When her local grocery store is robbed, she is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Killed by the robber, she finds herself in an odd afterlife. This book is a little difficult to categorize. It has elements of urban fantasy, magical realism, romance and mystery. It's a tender book, full of love, hope and Grace.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Look Again is a solid thriller from Lisa Scottoline. Journalist Ellen Gleeson catches a chance glimpse of a "missing child" postcard that looks startling like her adopted son, Will. Unable to dismiss the coincidence, Ellen risks her career and her family to dig up the truth. Scottoline's books are always very readable, and this one is no exception. It's got a mystery, a fast-paced plot, engaging characters, a moral dilemma, and even a little romance. Yes, things are tied up a little too neatly in the end, but this is popular fiction, not great literature. I finished it in a single sitting.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Food Matters by Mark Bittman

Bittman's book is about choosing food consciously, with both your own health and the health of our planet in mind. The themes and tone are similar to The Omnivore's Dilemma and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but this is a much shorter book. The last half is all recipes, to demonstrate that this way of eating is not about sacrificing taste. If you're interested in a brief overview of the advantages of eating minimally processed, locally grown food, this book is a good starting point. And the recipes look pretty yummy.

The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay

Private Investigator Mark Genevich knows he has a mystery to solve, but the problem is, he's not sure which clues are real. Genevich is narcoleptic and suffers from the most severe symptoms, including realistic dreams and hallucinations. He's not even sure who his client is. Or if he actually has one.

The Little Sleep is clever, original, and a great read. It's hard-boiled, funny, smart, and hard to put down. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dear Mom by Melody Carlson

The subtitle pretty much sums it up: "Everything Your Teenage Daughter Wants You to Know but Will Never Tell You." This book is full of tips for the mother of a teen daughter, as if told from the teen's point of view. Most of it is common sense (or as a daughter would say, "Duh!"), but it's told in a gentle, humorous way. Although it is sometimes repetitious, much of the advice bears repeating for those who are challenged with parenting a teenage girl! I enjoyed it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ms. Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum

This is a "memoir" of 7th grade English teacher Beatrice Hempel, who often doubted herself as she is new to teaching. However, from the performances and expressions of her students and colleagues, we see that Ms. Hempel is well-liked and clearly cares about her students. I admire her not dwelling on the fact that she has recently lost her father and broke up with her fiance.
Bynum's depiction of Ms. Hempel's experience with the students and her descriptive nuances of everyday life is so genuine that I wonder how much of the story is drawn from her life. Her imagery is astonishing, the part about the "monkeys in the peach" is layers upon layers of surprises, and the boy being buried in the sand on a class outing kept me on my toes! The story is full of gentle humor. What becomes of Ms. Hempel? Did she finally exit her profession? You'll have to read to find out. Reading this book makes me look back fondly on school days! It is a book that I wished never ended.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dead Silence by Randy Wayne White

Doc Ford is accepting assignments again and this one takes him to Washington, DC, far from his beloved Florida. A botched attempt to kidnap a senator results in a 14 year old boy being held hostage by ruthless Cuban thugs. Doc has to race against time to save the boy from a horrible death.

There's plenty of action in this book, and the characters are complex and interesting. I'm a huge fan of Randy Wayne White, and I love the Doc Ford novels. I have to say I liked Doc better when he was retired, and I think the novels set in Florida are superior to the ones that aren't.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

A quick easy read, Dog On It is a mystery for dog lovers. Bernie Little, a private eye, and his dog (and partner) Chet take on a missing persons case. The story is told from Chet's point of view, which is fun and quite funny. Chet's attention span is short, his appetite is big, and his admiration for his master is boundless. It's a fun, light-hearted read, and will make you want to hug your dog.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spiritual Guide to Health and Happiness by Kathy Freston

This is a very informative book on the holistic approach to physical and emotional well-being. Freston delves into the Eight Pillars of Wellness. I found the easiest meditation technique on page 23, incorporating visualization. I also appreciate the extensive vegetarian recipes in the appendix, plus further reading and website resources. This book offers a lot of valuable ideas!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In Shade and Shadow by Barb and J.C. Hendee

In Shade and Shadow is the start of a new dark fantasy series by the Barb and J.C. Hendee writing team. It features Wynn Hygeorht, a character from their Noble Dead series, and is a spinoff (of sorts) of that series. In this book, Wynn has returned to the Guild of Sagecraft, bearing ancient texts that she believes were written by vampires before the Great War and the Forgotten History. As it turns out, the texts are highly controversial and carefully guarded by the Guild, even from Wynn. When someone starts killing sages to steal the ancient writings, Wynn determines to find out who is behind the thefts and what is in the ancient texts. This book is not as action packed as the earlier Noble Dead books, but I hope the Hendees used this book to lay the groundwork for future books in the series. I was happy to see the return (and possible redemption?) of the vampire Chane. For those not familiar with Hendee writing team, start with Dhampir.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown

The Rope Walk is a coming of age story told from the point of view of a 10 year old girl who lives in a small town in Vermont. Over the course of a single summer, Alice grows wiser but also a bit sadder as she learns more about the adult world. The Rope Walk is a relatively easy read, full of lovingly descriptive language and charming characters. It's a bit slow starting, but stick with it, because it IS worth your time.

The Rope Walk is the 2009 All Iowa Reads selection. It will be a great discussion book!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Associate by John Grisham

The Associate is another solid legal thriller from John Grisham. Super student Kyle McAvoy is blackmailed into joining a huge legal firm after his graduation from Yale. McAvoy is expected to spy on his own firm, steal protected documents, and turn them over to his handlers. If it sounds a little familiar, there are some parallels to The Firm. I didn't find McAvoy nearly as interesting a character as Mitch McDeer, nor is this book as gripping. Unlike many of Grisham's novels, The Associate lacks an underlying theme, unless one considers "Huge law firms are bad" to be a message. Nonetheless, it's a well written book and Grisham's many fans will enjoy it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

This deeply moving but disturbing book was hard to put down This book centers around a Prussian mother, daughter and young son, the Emmerichs, who are fleeing Germany toward the end of WWII. The father and two sons are fighting for Germany
They are enduring many hardships and losses to escape the invading Russians. Hidden with them is a Scottish paratrooper who had been gunned down and had worked on their farm as a prisoner. A Jewish man hiding his identity by impersonating a German soldier becomes involved with them and protects them. A group of Jewish women from a concentration camp are being marched across the country. There are horrors but also hope and love. It is shocking to read of the brutal acts done to people, not just the Jews during WWII. This German family did not understand what was happening to the Jews-or should they have been more aware or questioning what was going on? This would be a great book for a discussion group. There are so many details to the characters and what was going on in the war

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Runner by Thomas Perry

Jane Whitefield is back! She's an expert at helping people disappear and start new lives with a different identity, but she's been out of the game for awhile. She comes out of self-imposed retirement to help a young pregnant girl escape the sinister operatives hired by her ex-boyfriend. Jane is out of practice and a little out of touch with the many ways a person can be tracked in our high tech world. The book bogs down a bit when the author delves into the family history of the ex-boyfriend and his motives for wanting the girl (and her baby) back. I found some of Jane's one-woman heroics a bit difficult to swallow, but this is fiction after all. Jane Whitefield is a complex and fascinating character, and I'm happy that Thomas Perry decided to bring her back.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

This is Lahiri's third book with a collection of eight stories about the lives of Bengali immigrants and their American born children.
Ruma's obligation and concerns for her recently widowed father prompted him to stay with her for a visit, but he was hiding a secret which she eventually discovered. She was unraveled by her father's behavior. This, in turn, made her reevaluate her own life.
Another story was about Suda dealing with her alcoholic brother Rahul, which evoked guilt and disappointment in both brother and sister.
The last trilogy of stories depicted the lives of Hema and Kaushik who had met briefly in their childhood. Years later their paths crossed again, and how fate brought them together and apart.
The stories in this novel are all linked by themes of love, loss, human struggle, cultural identity and conflicts, and the power of Mother Nature. I was looking forward to reading this book since I really enjoyed Lahiri's first one, The Interpreter of Maladies.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye by C.J. Box

Jack and Melissa are the adoptive parents of a beautiful baby girl. After nine months, they are contacted by the family of the birth father, who never signed away his parental rights. Jack and Melissa fight to keep their little girl, but they are up against a rich, powerful and ruthless judge. Three Weeks to Say Goodbye is a solid suspense novel. The premise is nightmarish and the reader is drawn into the helpless rage of Jack, the main character. Still, this is not C.J. Box's best. The characters are flat and not particularly interesting. I found the ending a bit too tidy and not very believable. It's not a bad book, but definitely not up to the standard I expect from C.J. Box.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich

I truly enjoyed this book. It goes right along with her other Stephanie Plum novels. It will have you laughing out loud. With this being a between the numbers novel Morelli and Ranger have a limited role. However Lula and now a monkey will be entertaining you once again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Road of Lost Innocence The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

Hello all my library book loving friends. I have decided to share a book review in my blog. Now I actually thought about not writing about this book, not because it was that badly written, but because of the content of the subject. This book is a biography of a poor Cambodian girl who never really belonged to anyone. She was sold into slavery by her village to an abusive older man who made her call him Grandfather. As she got older, like 11 or 12, he found a way to use her to pay his bills. In other words he forced her to prostitute herself. He then sold her to an actual house where she eventually found a way to escape by marriage to one of her clients. She then took it upon herself to help other less fortunate girls to escape this horrible life. It is a very well written account of the atrocities of third world countries and how backwards the world can still be. Just a warning though. This is not a jolly go lucky book about how a girl is saved from something horrible and lives happily ever after. The book is very graphic and I actually felt ill to think of what these innocent young girls have to go through. I would probably put it on the same scale as a Holocaust book for shock and depression value. There is always hope and you do get that from this book. It also makes you want to fight for the innocent and stop such backward atrocities. It is a very eye opening book and I wish I could recommend it to all but, I know some will have problems with its content. That is perfectly fine. I would be worried if people didn't show uneasiness while reading this book. Still I will recommend this book as a should read. Just because you don't read it does not mean it doesn't exist.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Anchors Aweigh! by Kathleen Bacus

Another fun entry in the Calamity Jayne series! This time Tressa Jayne Turner is on a cruise to celebrate Grammy and Joe's wedding. But wait, what kind of cruise is this? Exercise classes, diet food... this must be someone's idea of a joke. While Tressa pines for cheeseburgers, she overhears what sounds like a murder plot. Of course, she has to investigate and the investigation doesn't go smoothly. Tressa is amazed to find herself courted by the devilishly handsome Ranger Rick AND fake fiance Manny DeMarco. How is a girl to choose? Especially when she's light-headed from a lack of food...

Fans of the series will enjoy this book. It's an easy read and lots of fun. Author Kathleen Bacus is from Knoxville.