Monday, December 31, 2012

Becoming Sister Wives by The Brown Family

Book:  Becoming Sister Wives 

Author:  Kody, Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn Brown

Grade:  A solid B -/C+ 

Recommended To:  Fans of the show, polygamists. 

This is one of those books that I just felt compelled to read.  The Browns might say that I received a "testimony", and that I was "called" to read this book.  Ha!  Actually, I just watch the show on Sunday nights and wanted to see if they included any dirt that wasn't on the show in the book.

This book actually had a lot of detail that I was surprised to read.  These polygamists are refreshingly honest about their lives and relationships.  Kody, Meri, Janelle and Christine all tell the story of how they met Kody and how they all struggled with becoming a plural family when they initially got married.  I really liked how each wife told her own story of how she met Kody and how she became a part of the family.  Those are details that you never hear about on the show.

Robyn also tells her portion, which also includes some details not seen on TV, for example, the show makes it look like she met Kody while they were filming and that perhaps Robyn was even drawn to the Browns because she had seen them on TV.  Apparently this was not the case, and Robyn met Meri and Kody before the show was taped and then had to extend her own engagement to Kody in order to not be the focus of the first episode of the show.

If I have one complaint, it is that Kody comes off as somewhat preachy.  He's a twat on the show, so I expected some of this.  I buy that he had a calling to have a plural marriage (because seriously who would put up with all of these people, if not for a calling).  But, I don't buy that he had a calling to come out to the world on TV - I think TLC waived some flashy bucks and maybe a new sports car in his direction which enhanced his "calling" about going public.

Also, all of the wives frequently write about how great of a father Kody is and how they were all drawn to a plural marriage with Kody because of his attitude toward children.  They must all have missed the episode where Kody's daughter falls off a horse and on camera, after the incident, Kody says "My first priority is to get that horse calmed down, and make sure the horse is okay."  Yes, Wives.  That sounds just like a father-of-the-year award winner.

Either way, this book was worth it.  I liked reading about their lives before television and how they overcame  their differences.  I also liked that unlike Farrah Abraham's book, it was reasonably well written and clearly edited.

Happy Reading and Happy Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

Book:  A Dance with Dragons 

Author:  George R.R. Martin 

Grade:  B

Recommended to:  Everyone in the whole universe, especially my hubs, so I can talk about the plot with someone!  

I promise there won't be any spoilers in this review because this series is so good and so exciting and so many things happen (except in book four) that I would be wretchedly pissed if someone spoiled it for me.  So, I pledge that I won't spoil anything.

First, why is the projected release date for Winds of Winter (book 6) in the year 2014?  That is so far away it barely sounds like a year.  How could the projected release date of the paperback version of Dance with Dragons still be three months away?  Ughhhh.   I'm just generally pissed at George.  He leaves a few cliffhangers that are essentially the most massive cliffhangers of all time and then he won't get down to the business of writing fast enough, so I have to wait at least another year to read about my faves again.  It's like Harry Potter all over again, except Rowling had the good sense to finish it.

Second, the HBO series is only a small consolation.  Small.

Third, have you seen how old and decrepit-looking Georgie is?   He had better not conk-out and leave this series unfinished.  Allegedly he's told HBO how the whole things ends, so even if he can't finish the series, at least HBO will finish it.  Again, small consolation. Very small.

If you haven't jumped on this bandwagon yet, I suggest you do.  The HBO series is wonderful, the books are wonderful and apparently there are some good companion novels, which I never read, but if you are into that, then cool.

See, no spoilers.

Happy Reading and Happy Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Books!

Merry Christmas Eve!

At my parents house, we have our Christmas "morning" on Christmas Eve so that we can accommodate four Christmas celebrations in two days.  It is tiring, but wonderful.

So, this morning I was surprised with Kindle Books!  In my email! Hooray!  First, I'm excited about the books and second, I'm thrilled that my technologically challenged mother figured out how to send me digital books!

Here's what I got:

Hooray!  Now I just have to pick the book that I'm going to read first (probably Sister Wives.  Duh)

Merry Christmas!!

Happy Reading!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wired by Douglas E. Richards

Book:  Wired 

Author:  Douglas E. Richards

Grade:  C 

Recommended To:  People who will not be minding passive voice. 

Let me just say this, I'm glad I got Wired for free.  I just signed up for a super cool Amazon Prime membership and for 80 bucks a year, I get a free Kindle book per month, a TON of streaming movies and shows (like Varsity Blues, remember that movie?!), and free two day shipping.  With Christmas coming up, I've probably gotten my money's worth on the shipping alone.

Wired has potential.  The story is interesting, the action is quick without lapse and the characters, although basic and flat have interesting back stories.  But, Wired has a very serious problem:  the writing.  The writing is often basic, stream of conscious type writing.  And the author uses visual cues like exclamation points and italics to emphasize his point.  It is distracting!   This book makes me sad, because with the benefit of a good editor, some honest friends, and maybe a writing class or two, Wired could have been excellent.

This book is about a woman who has created some pills that enhance intelligence when she, or anyone else takes them, can solve pretty much any problem in the world.  She has used her enhanced intelligence to solve the problem of aging and of course the evil character has stolen her secrets and some of the pills in order to become powerful.   Of course she finds this hot ex-Delta Force man to come to her rescue and there are ridiculous twists and turns that kept me guessing, but also made me laugh out loud on occasion.  I don't believe the book was intended to be funny...

Either way, this book is a solid C, it gets some serious knocks for the crap writing style, but bonus points for the somewhat original plot.

Richards has another book called Amped that purports to be a sequel to Wired.  I will not be paying for that book, so unless Amazon gives it to me for free, or I find a copy on the ground, I will not be reading it.

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Book:  The Lotus Eaters 

Author:  Tatjana Soli 

Grade:  A 

Recommended To:  Vietnam enthusiasts, people who like strong female characters. 

The Lotus Eaters chronicles the life of Helen, a female war photographer who arrives in Vietnam in 1963 and who ends up staying the entire war.

I haven't read a book this well written in months, and this even surpasses J.K. Rowling's  A Casual Vacancy, in intensity and excellence.

The book begins at the end of the war, when Helen and her husband Linh are trying to escape Siagon with the last of the American soldiers and journalists.  Helen puts her seriously injured husband Linh onto a helicopter and decides to stay in Vietnam to "witness the end."   Then, the story backtracks to Helen's life in Vietnam, her dangerous missions taking photos of the war, her forays into the combat zones and her continuous uphill climb as one of the only female photojournalists in Vietnam.

The book has beautiful language and description.  You can feel the humidity, danger and tension, especially in the first scenes of the book when Helen is trying to get papers for her Vietnamese husband and escape to the American Embassy.  This book is alive in ways that I have not yet experienced this year.  It grips you and it drags you along until as a reader you are deeply immersed in the Vietnamese culture and the danger of the Vietnam war.

I thought this was an enormously beautiful novel that was fairly fast-paced.  Apparently this is Soli's first work of fiction and the notes at the end reference about a dozen books that she read and researched before writing the novel.  I don't typically read historical fiction about the Vietnam era, so I can't comment on the accuracy of this book, but I certainly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent read.

Happy Reading!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Waterproof: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Judith Redline Coopey

Book:  Waterproof: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood 

Author:  Judith Redline Coopey

Grade:  C+

Recommended To:  Historical Fiction Fans 

This is Judith Redline Coopey's second novel.  I reviewed her first book, Redfield Farm, back in February.  Unfortunately, her first book was her best book.  I find that this often happens with authors.  They get something published and then they rush to write the second book, per the orders of their agent, bookseller, whatever, and then the second book has gaps and issues that weren't present in the first.

That seemed to be the case with Waterproof.  It isn't to say that this book wasn't accurate or interesting, it was both.  But, the story line and the dialogue needed some work.   This book is about Pam an older woman who survived the Johnstown flood and relives the experience through her interviews for the town newspaper 50 years after the flood. The story has very little about the actual flood, but is really about the aftermath and how people dealt with the deaths, changed relationships, and the negligence of the South Fork Hunting Club.

 The historical bits were very good.  After reading this book, we caught something on the history channel about Rockefeller and the South Fork Hunting and Fishing Club which was then accused of negligently damming the river and lake that caused the Johnstown Flood, and I realized that the book was very accurate.  Of course, historical fiction writers take liberties with characters and dialogue, but the book came across as accurate to the time period, the reactions of the townspeople, and the facts about the flood.

The way the story was presented was dicey.  The author necessarily had to show the main character's reflections and memories but, the way this was done was very elementary.  For example the main character would drift off to sleep and have a dream about her brother dying in the Flood or whatever was supposed to happen next in the story.  This happened over and over again and became tedious and distracting.  There have to be other avenues to "go back in time" and show a character's memories.

This book was a very average C+.  It was interested because I've never read anything about the Johnstown Flood, but the choppy story structure and dialogue was a huge distraction.

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Twelve Months by Steven Manchester

Book: Twelve Months 

Author:  Steven Manchester 

Grade:   B

Recommended To:  Those who need a new outlook and a good cry. 

**This is the first book where an author has solicited me to read their book and write a review.  (What!) Even though that is the most mega-cool thing to happen to this blog since an author followed it, this review has not been influenced by that solicitation.   I've pledged to be honest about this book. **

Apparently my dry-spell of reading horrid books has ended.  I have had several really great books in a row and Twelve Months was one of the books that made it rain.

This is the story of 50-something Don who finds out, after a diagnosis of spreading cancer, that he has 12 months to live.  He does his share of initial moping and then decides to really live.  He makes a "bucket" list of five things that he never got to do and makes the last year of his life worthwhile.

This book made me cry during the first chapter and I alternatively found myself grinning and laughing because Don got to go on so many adventures and crying over the pain he kept hidden and his wife's continued reaction to his diagnosis.

One of the highest praises I can give a book is that it felt real.  For the few days that it took me to finish this book, I was inside Don's life.  His character had extreme depth.  He was both heartbroken and overjoyed.  He was loving and occasionally snappish.  He had regret and forgiveness.  Don's character was very beautifully done. One of the parts I loved best was that Don hid a lot of the pain and fear that he had about dying from his family.  It felt so accurate that a middle aged patriarch would close parts of himself off in order to spare his family.

This book really makes you think about the choices we make because of fear, time, family etc.  One of Don's bucket list dreams was to do stand-up comedy.  He tries and fails, but realizes that it isn't about the failure or humiliation, but about trying in the first place.   This of course made me want to relive college and take an improv class.

The only real criticism I have for this novel is that it occasionally dragged a bit.  It sped up and slowed down at infrequent intervals, which was distracting.  But, this wasn't enough to drag the book any lower than a "B" grade.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a very heartfelt novel about living and dying.

Happy Reading!!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Book:  The Casual Vacancy 

Author:  J.K. Rowling 

Grade:  A 

Recommended To:  Everyone, not just Harry Potter fans.   This book is NOT for kids! 

In case you didn't know, J.K. Rowling has a very prolific past as the author of the Harry Potter series.  I have only read through book five in that particular series, because the last two books came out when I was in college and who has time to read for fun in college?   So, I missed the ending.  One of my dear book club friends is slightly obsessed with HP and so she chose this book as the October book pick.

I could not have been happier with this book.  The Casual Vacancy is a gritty, in-your-face story that leaves you alternately wishing for more and hoping it would be over so you finally shake the uncomfortable feeling that this cast of characters gives you.  The book is about Pagford, a small town that wishes to eliminate the not so savory poverty and drug addicted citizens by eliminating the methodone clinic and by rezoning that area back to the town of Yarvil.  That way, the rich kids won't have to go to school with the poor kids and Pagford won't be polluted by poor.    This whole controversy comes to a point when Barry Fairbrother, the leader of the faction decidedly against rezoning, dies suddenly and the sides compete to determine who should fill his vacant council seat.

This book is so excellent because it is realistic.  This scenario could play out in any number of small towns across America.  It is particularly poignant because of the upcoming American elections and the polarized opinions surrounding assistance programs and the view that they are either a leg up or a hand out.

This book as some excellent character work.  The characters are developed quickly and many of them have deep layers and motivations for their actions.   Even Barry Fairbrother, deceased, is developed as a character through his relationships with others.  At the close of this book, you feel like you know Barry just as well or better than some of the others.

I cried at the end of this book.  The ending is incredibly well done and without spoiling anything, it wasn't a happy ending because it couldn't be.  The book would have lost some serious authenticity if everything had turned out roses and sunshine.  This book is about relationships and the bottom line is that not all relationships can have that somewhat unattainable silver lining.

I've read some of the recent views on this book and it seems like everyone just wanted Harry Potter the later years, or Hogwarts, books of spells.  Or whatever.  This public desire has generated some not-so-stellar reviews of this book, which honestly shocks me.  The Harry Potter series was no doubt wonderful, but can't Rowling get a break?  After the movies, the books, the supplemental reading, the publicity, I'm sure she just wanted to write something realistic and heartfelt.  And, that is exactly what The Casual Vacancy was.

I loved this book and I recommend it to everyone who is looking for a gritty, realistic, and heartfelt story.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis

Book:  The Boy in the Suitcase 

Authors:  Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis 

Grade:  B

Recommended To:  Steig Laarsen Fans, Mystery and Thriller Fans. 

I cannot rave enough about how much I like getting good books for 99 cents in the Kindle Daily Deal.  Seriously, if you haven't signed up for the KDD yet, now is the time to do it.  They send you an email every morning with one or two books for dirt cheap.  Initially, because the books were so cheap, I thought they would be terrible, the books that the publishers had to push on the Kindle World in order to generate some publicity.  But, I have had enormous success with these books and I definitely recommend The Boy in the Suitcase as one of those successes.

This book has a lot of characters and their names are Eastern European, so it took some time to get used to the language and characters in the book.  But, at itscore this book is about a stolen little boy, aged 3, who is found by a good Samaritan type named Nina Borg.  She unravels the clues in an attempt to discover the boy's mother and some very nasty characters along the way.

This mystery is very well done.  One of my more recent pet-peeves is when an author has no sense of dialogue and how to make dialogue work well.  These authors were excellent at creating meaningful dialogue and suspense without overdoing it.  I appreciate that and because of that skill, I recommend this book to pretty much everyone.

Turns out that I read this book just in time because Lene Kaaberbol has a new book called Invisible Murder coming out tomorrow!  That book also follows Nina Borg and I can only hope that it is as good as the first.  Plus, I think we all know by now how much I love series books that follow the same characters through different adventures.  Fave!

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Physician by Noah Gordon

Book:  The Physician 

Author:  Noah Gordon

Grade:  B+ 

Recommended To:  People who like epic novels 

The Physician was a beautiful find from the Amazon Kindle Daily Deal.  I got this for .99 cents and really enjoyed it.  I wrote that last post about hating everything I've read recently, but this book was the exception.

The Physician is an epic novel about the life of Rob Cole  in the middle ages.  The book starts in his childhood when Cole is orphaned and then becomes an apprentice to a barber-surgeon who teaches him how to deceive people for extra tips and how to  amputate fingers properly.  Cole eventually desires to become an actual physician and pretends to be Jewish in order to be accepted at the famous Muslim medical school in Persia.  Essentially, this book is about Cole's entire life, his encounters, studies, patients, and eventually his return to England.   It is an epic novel spanning 900+ pages and took me about two weeks to finish.

This book is also a beautiful study in the interplay between religious during this time period.  Rob must secretly study Jewish traditions and practices in order to pass as Jewish when he gets to Persia and the author does a lovely job of describing the Jewish faith.

This author must have put a tremendous amount of work into studying this time period and the very beginnings of medical study and it shows in his writing, his descriptions and the dialogue.  This is a very comprehensive read and I've discovered that Gordon wrote two other books in this "Cole Trilogy."  

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a very in depth historical fiction read about medicine, healing, and faith.  It was beautifully written and all-encompassing and I truly enjoyed reading it.

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Recommendations Needed!

Attention!  Attention!   I need some better book recommendations.  The crap I'm reading just isn't cutting it!

Goodreads tells me that I'm currently reading four books at a time. Technically, Goodreads is right.  These days, I pick something up, read it for a while, decide I don't like it, and then put it down. But, I feel like I'm cheating if I take it off my "currently reading" queue on Goodreads.

I used to subscribe to the theory that all books should be completed, no matter what.  And, I would slog through even the worst books just to say that I had finished them. That Jill is no more. I'm flying by the seat of my pants and subscribing to the theory that life is too short to read crappy books.

I get very limited reading time each day.  I get about 30 minutes of train time, home and back.  Some court reading and whatever I can get in before I fall asleep before bed.  It isn't enough and I am putting my foot down on these wretched books that are wasting my time.

For example:

Kindle Edition:  40% finished.

Omg Diana.  This is your worst yet.  I can't express to you how little I care about Brianna's breast milk.  It. Is. Too. Much. Information.  Period!

There has been one interesting scene in 40%, which for Diana is like 500 pages.  That's not good enough and that's not why I read you, Diana.  Fix it next time.  Srsly.

Paperback:  50% done ish.

Sigh.  A book about a 14 year old girl who has a fat cat.   Sigh, again.

I don't really care if she doesn't know how to kiss, how her friend hung up on her, or even if she is British.   I cannot abide by these teenagers.  I'm so not finishing this one.

Kindle Edition:  25%

Dear Daniel,

I'm disappointed in this one.  I don't like your books about art.  I know you've got this thing going where Gabriel Allon is getting older and can't do much except be a hot older man and restore great works, but damn it, I just don't care.

I hate to say it, but perhaps you should focus on another character and make them solve cool mysteries as an Israeli spy and toss this art-restorer stuff to the curb.

Sincerely,  a concerned reviewer and avid Allon fan.

This one takes the cake.  I actually finished it and all I really have to say is thank god I got it for 50 cents at The Brown Elephant Resale Shop.  I picked it up because fricken' Lee Child is on the cover saying how terrific it is.  

Well, lemme just tell you this.  If I was on the cover I would say "Slog Slog Slog" - Jill of ABOADC 

This book was like the movie Speed, because it just did not end.  They find the guy, they realize it is a different guy, they find the money, they lose the money, they lose a second set of money.  Lame-o.  Plus, the characters were ridiculously flat, even for an action book.  I do not recommend this book.  Even if you don't have anything else to read and live on a deserted island where you can't make a book out of sand. 

So, this is a call for help.  Is there anything out there that will keep my attention longer than 5 minutes?  Leave some recommendations in the comments so I stop wasting my time with these books! 

Happy Reading!! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

John Wayne Gacy: Defending a Monster by Sam Amirante

Book:  John Wayne Gacy:  Defending a Monster 

Author:  Sam Amirante and Danny Broderick

Grade:  C+ 

Recommended To:  Lawyers,  People who are full of themselves. 

I'm an attorney, so I occasionally (and I do mean very occasionally) like to read books about other lawyers and the work that they do.  So, I picked up this book at the library.  Free.

The book was average.  I expected the book to be more about John Wayne Gacy than about the attorney, but I suppose I should have read the title more clearly because it says : The true story of the lawyer who defended one of the most evil serial killers in history.  Okay, obviously I was just distracted by the huge print and I should have known that this wasn't going to be about Gacy's character.  But, that's what I wanted, so this book got a C+.  (I told you, its subjective...)

Also, this attorney is super full of himself.  Evidently he went on to become a judge in Cook County, which is pretty admirable.  But did he have to reprint his entire 10 hour closing argument in the book?  It's not like this is Barack Obama talking and the argument is quote worthy, it was just a very very long closing argument that I didn't want to read in full.  Sam Amirante is admirable because he truly believes that every single person is entitled to a defense.  I appreciate that and I appreciate that he was able to provide a defense even to this totally creepy, Chicago based killer.

I also liked that this book is based in Chicago.  WGN, the best new station in the universe, had a story just a few years back about how the police were still searching for bodies under Gacy's house.  That's crazy close to where I live (okay, not that close, but still crazy)!   So, the fact that this still has repercussions today is amazing and interesting.

I recommend this book to my attorney friends and anyone with a fascination in serial killers.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Teenage Dream Ended by Farrah Abraham

Book:  My Teenage Dream Ended 

Author:   Farrah Abraham 

Grade  D+/C- 

Recommended To:  Teen Mom Fans.  

I'm only slightly ashamed to say that I've read this book and that I've seen every single episode of Teem Mom and 16 and Pregnant.   Sometimes I even talk about the Teen Mom cast as thought they are acquaintances .  And, I definitely follow them on Twitter.  So, when I heard Farrah had a book coming out, I was excited for her to reveal some of the background on her relationship with her mother, her dead baby daddy, and her experience with the MTV crew.   I only got one of three.

This book reads like a bunch of teenage journal entries and they are ALL about Farrah's very rocky relationship with Derek, the father of Sophia.  The book reads like a journal because there are details in the book that no one should ever know about another person.  It is chock full of sexual escapades between Farrah and Derek and lots of TMI details that made me cringe.  Plus, the vast majority of the book is about Farrah's life pre-baby.  She doesn't even have Sophia until 80% (Kindle Edition) into the book.

The book is very lite on reflection and introspection and confirmed that Farrah was/is very selfish, out-of-control, and seeks attention.  She has long been one of my least favorite Teem Moms and I wish this book had cataloged some growth and change in Farrah instead of a documentation of how many times she and Derek did it in public.

What I really hoped for were some deets on Farrah's cray relationship with her mother.  That's Farrah speak, peeps.  Farrah's fuse has always been short with her mom and I'm sure it is because of some deep dark childhood secrets.  That's what I wanted to read about!

This is a fairly worthwhile read since MTV didn't get into Farrah's relationship with Derek at all.  She says in the book that she and her parents prevented MTV from filing any of her relationship with Derek, so the book was at least some insight into that debacle.

This book is a solid D+, but it was entertaining enough to warrant a C-.  I totes recommend it if you can have a few drinks beforehand and get past the irritating grammar.  Plus, my expectations were about an F, so this book actually exceeded my expectations.  That's a win, right?

Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Book:  Hoot 

Author:  Carl Hiaasen 

Grade:  A

Recommended to: adults, kids, environmentalists, people who like to laugh. 

This is probably the 10th Carl Hiaasen book that I've read.  It is a young adult/chapter book and it is a Newberry Honor Book, which brought back memories of reading chapter books in elementary school.  Apparently it was also made into a movie in 2006.

This book is about a new-in-town middle schooler who sees a barefoot boy, name: Mullet Fingers,  running away from the bus stop.  He follows the boy and a whole bunch of hilarity ensues when Roy, the new kid, finds out that the new Mother Paula's pancake restaurant is going to be built on a site with endangered burrowing owls.

I really enjoyed this book - to the point of laughing out loud on the Metra.  The main character Roy is extremely well written and very thoughtful and sensitive for a middle schooler.  The other main characters are a little one dimensional, but the book has an overall theme of environmentalism that is beautiful and refreshing.  It is also chock full of humor - if you've read other Hiaasen novels, you know that he often introduces a lot of characters and then puts them in completely ridiculous situations.  This book is written the same way and it is very well done.

Mullet Fingers is a younger Skink (the ex-Florida governor who wears a shower cap and lives in the wilderness) who fights against environmental abuses with outrageous acts of civil disobedience.  For example, he releases cotton mouth moccasins onto the Mother Paula's property, but not before gluing sequins all over their tails.   It is this attention to detail that drives Hiaasen's work above and beyond other works of comedic fiction.

I recommend this book to kids and adults alike.  It has a fabulous message and it is great for two days of laughs.

Happy Readings!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Even Silence Has An End by Ingrid Bentancourt

Book:  Even Silence Has An End/An aside on libraries.

Author:  Ingrid Bentancourt 

Grade:  B- 

Recommended To:  People who want to learn how not to escape guerrilla captivity. 

Even Silence Has An End is the story of Ingrid Bentancourt, the presidential candidate in Columbia who was captured and held hostage for 6 years in the jungle.  I first saw her interview with Oprah about the book and it has been on my to-read list ever since. I finally picked it up at the library this month.

An aside on libraries -  I'm a Kindle fanatic (I buy the daily deal almost every day), or I buy my books used at the Brown Elephant Resale Shop.  But, these places called libraries just give you books for free and all you need is a handy card that says you are allowed to check out books there.  Who knew!?  

I'm kidding, of course.  I got a library card at the age of five and would intentionally pick out the longest books I could find in hopes of them lasting longer than two days.  I blazed through the entire babysitter's club series, Anne of Green Gables, and Little House on the Prairie and then I read them again - over and over.

But, I've recently re-discovered the library and I've fallen in love again.  The only sort of stressful thing is that it really bumps around the books in your to-read queue.  These books have a due date so I couldn't just add them to my pile and pick them up again on a boring day.  I had to relive my days as a kid and read these books fast!   It has been great fun - I'd forgotten how lovely it is to hold a plastic bound book, turning real pages and seeing other people's fingerprints.  It really makes you think about where a book has been and where it will end up.

Phew. Silence was a solid read.  I took a class on the Columbian paramilitary, guerrilla and military forces in college and this book is probably now on that professor's reading list.  Bentancourt describes her time chained to a tree, her long marches through the jungle and her attempts at escape.  This woman sucks at escaping.  She writes very long passages about the preparation she put into the escape plans and she ultimately fails five times.  It is painful to see her go through these preparations over and over, only to know what is going to happen.

The most interesting parts are the bits about her relationships with her "companions." Many of them distrust her, but she does have a few close friends in captivity.  After finishing this book, I looked up some of the controversy surrounding Bentancourt's version of the events.  Many of the other captives have strong words of criticism for Bentancourt including her vice presidential running mate who was also captured with her.

Overall, this is a well written book with some very interesting passages and thoughts on the human experience in captivity.  I would recommend this as an honest, upfront nonfiction read.

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Book:  Bring up the Bodies 

Author:  Hilary Mantel 

Grade B 

Recommended To: People who just wished and wished Hilary would fix the second-person speech in her follow up. 

Bring up the Bodies is the second book in a trilogy written by Hilary Mantel.  Her first book Wolf Hall followed Thomas Cromwell on his rise to power as an adviser to King Henry VIII and his tireless efforts to put Anne Boleyn on the throne of England.

Book two is a bit different.  Cromwell must reverse his efforts and remove Anne from the throne in order to keep his ever demanding boss, the king, from blowing a royal gasket.

I really enjoyed this book from Cromwell's perspective.  One of my biggest complaints about Wolf Hall was that Mantel writes in second person.   Everything is: He this and He that.  She still writes in second person in Bring up the Bodies, but at least this time, she makes it more clear who she is talking about.  Now, the sentences read something like:  He, Cromwell, went to the market.    This got very repetitive, but at least the reader is aware that the person she's talking about is the main character and not some other male character in the book.

There are many books about Tudor England and the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, but of all the historical fiction I've read from this time period, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies are two of the most accurate and most compelling.  Mantel creates an urgency around the conviction and trial of Anne Boleyn that I haven't found in other books.  Her viewpoint on the speed of Anne's downfall is very interesting and I've never seen a Tudor author break down the investigation in the way that Mantel does.  Mantel describes King Henry's orders to Cromwell, the investigation into Anne's behavior, and her imprisonment and trial in a span of around 6 days. It is wildly fascinating to read about how Cromwell interrogated a mere singer in Queen Anne's retinue and from there indicted several of the King's closest friends and the Queen, particularly in such a short period of time.

I do recommend reading some lighter historical fiction (even wikipedia) about the time period before delving into these two books.  The writing is sometimes very tough and it helps to have a perspective on the way the history turns out before reading the books.  Not that we don't all know what happens to Anne Boleyn, but there is a host of other characters, who are just as important, and some quick background on those individuals is hugely helpful when reading this book.

I give this book a very solid B and I recommend it as an improvement on Wolf Hall.  I am very excited for the third book in the series, which I can only imagine takes Cromwell to new highs and lows.

Happy Reading!!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Fully Loaded Thrillers by Blake Crouch

Book:  Fully Loaded Thrillers. 

Author:  Blake Crouch 

Grade:  B

Recommended To:  Short story fans and horror/mystery fans. 

This was a collection of ten deliciously creepy short stories.  Some were so short that they were about a page long and the description before the book was at least triple the story itself.

I had never read anything by Blake Crouch before I picked up this book as an Amazon Daily Deal.  Crouch is a good author. He creates suspense with scenes and descriptions, which in this reviewer's opinion is the proper way to write good books.  Let me warn you, some of these stories were so creepy that I found myself thinking about them for days afterward.

For example, in one story a husband and wife get a pocket dial telephone call where they hear someone killing another person.   The story twists and turns and ends up with a very shocking ending.  It was deliciously and kept me on the edge of my seat.

Without giving too much away, there's also a very compelling story about a serial killer hitchhiker and serial killer ride-giver who meet.  The result is horrifying and definitely keeps you guessing.

I liked this book.  I liked being a little creeped out by the stories and the characters.  I also liked that these stories were so short, I could nearly get through one on my train ride to the city.

I definitely recommend this book to people looking for something well written and off the beaten path.

Happy Reading!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James

Book:  Fifty Shades of Grey 

Author:  EL James 

Grade:  D+ 

Recommended To:  People with red editing pens 

This book should be called "Fifty Shades of Red Editing Ink" or "Fifty Shades of Bad Grammar"  or "Fifty Shades of Abuse."   You choose.

I occasionally read books that get a lot of hype.  Part of me knew that this was going to be bad, especially when I heard there were hints of Twilight.  (Not sure how the vamp books relate, because there aren't any sparklers in this book, but I didn't read Twi, so who knows.) 

There are just so many issues in this book.  First, these two people meet and they are instantly attracted to each other.  He is described as basically the hottest man in the world, without much description at all.  The author says his "pants hang off his hips."   Which is...attractive? What does that even mean? Are they sweatpants?  Are they so loose that they actually HANG?  What terrible and unattractive imagery that sentence invokes.  The female lead is an innocent virgin who is in college in 2011, doesn't own a cell phone or a computer and apparently doesn't have an email address.  But!  She has an ipod.  Pretty sure her ipod has no music at all, since you need an itunes account and oh, a computer.  She's also 22 and has never been drunk.  These types of inconsistencies are irritating, to say the least. 

Either way, these two people are instantly attracted to each other.  You can't see me, but I'm rolling my eyes. Then, shit starts to get real.  Christian Grey, the man with the hanging pants, reveals that he's got this secret room with whips and chains.  Weird.  But, at least the story isn't so lame.  Until this idiot author ruins that too.  I highly doubt the obviously-pen-named-author has ever been in a BDSM relationship and  the book honestly feels like she googled some stuff, picked the most shocking things and then plopped them into the book.  This reviewer is not amused.

The author tries so hard to make these characters deep that eventually it just gets sad.  Ana is in such turmoil about being in a relationship with a man who actually wants to inflict physical punishment on her when she does follow his arbitrary rules.  Christian apparently has issues with food since he had a "crack whore" mother. These themes are not developed, they are only repeated over and over again.  It is exhausting.

Christian's character is also disgusting.  He's controlling, abusive and in general an unattractive asshole.  Ana is equally disgusting because she falls in love with him after five minutes and then puts up with literal physical beatings because he's the only person she's ever slept with. I simply cannot relate to these characters at all.  I do not know anyone that acts this way.   I'm dismayed that a book that is this poorly written and this poorly researched actually has such a following.  

If this is what Twilight is like then I'm so freakin' happy that I didn't read it. 

This is a lesson learned in following my book-instinct.  Popular opinion was seriously confused and wrong about this book.  The over the top sex scenes do not make this a literary miracle.  Save your money and save your time and do not read this trash.

Happy Reading, people. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

Book:  The Hangman's Daughter 

Author:  Oliver Potzsch

Grade:  D/two stars. 

Recommended To:  dead people. 

I had high hopes for this book club choice.  I read some sketchy reviews before hand, which warned me a little bit about the dialogue and the translation, but I wasn't aware that the dialogue was going to be quite as bad as it was.

The dialogue was like trying to run through waist deep water against a current.  I rolled my eyes multiple times whilst reading this book.  Either the author or the translator doesn't have a grasp on how people actually speak.  If a character is only speaking to the burghomaster, then it is unnecessary to write: No, I wasn't digging in that grave and what's it to you anyway, berghomaster?  Slog Slog Slog.

This book also had an unusual number of exclamation points.  Probably about 5 per page.  These are kindle pages, mind you, any my font was huge.  That's a lotta damn exclamation points!!!!!!!   The author used exclamation points instead of dialogue and narration to try to add emphasis.  The words may as well have been bolded, underlined and italicized for emphasis instead.  It was irritating.

I don't recommend this book.  The story wasn't compelling enough to make up for the dialogue issues and the punctuation problems.  In truth, I haven't even finished this book yet, but it has been so hard to get through, I just had to write this review to get out some of my frustration.

Happy Reading!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon

Book:  Lord John and the Private Matter 

Author:  Diana Gabaldon 

Grade:  C + 

Recommended To:  People who want to be disappointed in Diana. 

 I love Diana Gabaldon.  I think her Outlander series is fresh, interesting and very well written.  I do not feel the same about her Lord John spin-off series.

Do I think Lord John is interesting enough to have his own series?  Yes. Do I think that Lord John should be solving mysteries.  Absolutely not.  John is not a detective, he's a lord who is trying to find love and hope in an often cruel world.

Diana should have focused on Lord John's relationships and his work running Ardsmure prison.  Not his apparently terrible detective skills.  There was no hint of detective work in the Outlander series, so I'm not sure how Diana decided to run with that particular story line.

I'm much more interested in Lord John's love life,  his crush on Jamie, and how he gets blacklisted.  Or, just tell me about his life.  He doesn't have to have having an adventure all of the time, especially when some of these mysteries are just plain boring.

Of course this book is well written - because it is by Diana - but the plot was not interesting enough to make me want to keep reading the books in the Lord John series.  I'll probably just stick with Claire and Jamie from now on.

Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Game of Thrones by Geroge R.R. Martin

Book:  Game of Thrones - A Song of Fire and Ice: Book 1

Author: George R.R. Martin

Grade:  A

Recommended To:  Everyone.  This book should have a wide ranging audience, despite the fact that there are some dragons. 

I can't rave enough about this book and series.  The first book is over 700 pages and I finished it in 4 days.  This was after knowing almost everything that was going to happen because I watched the HBO series Season 1 right before starting the book.

I'm not sure where to start in describing what Game of Thones is about.  There's a super interesting dwarf character.  A bastard that decides to devote his life to protecting the kingdom from the White Walkers (basically zombies).  Lord Stark who despite his better judgment goes to the capital to be King Barathon's hand, and pays dearly.  An incestuous brother and sister.  A snotty child-king.  A braided Dothraki war lord and many many other compelling and interesting characters.   There's lots of sex, intrigue, back-stabbing and outright war.  It is an epic novel and an awful lot happens in a mere 700 pages.

Plus, there are four more books in the series with a sixth on the way.  Allegedly book three is the best one.  

There's not a lot of bad things to say about this book, except that there are an incredible amount of characters. It is often difficult to keep them straight because many of them have more than one name, or they have nicknames.  Fortunately, the author has included a handy guide in the back of the book to tell you who belongs to what family/house etc.  I've heard the other books add even more characters.  Yipee.

My one complaint is that I wish I had read the books before watching the show on HBO.  The problem with watching the show first is that now I have a fix on exactly what HBO wants each character to look like.  There's no imagination left since I watched the show first.  But, I likely would never have picked this up if HBO hadn't made the show.  Catch 22.

I finished book one over the weekend and raced out to the store to buy the rest.  I'm about 300 pages into the second one and it is just as spicy and delicious.

I bet you will enjoy these!

Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A is for Alibi

Book:  A is for Alibi

Author:  Sue Grafton 

Grade:  C 

Recommended To:  People who aren't as late to this series as I am. 

I'm late to this series.   So late in fact, that the series is completely outdated.  Particularly the first novel, A is for Alibi.  I'm not sure when Sue wrote this book, but Kinsey has such a tough time solving these mysteries because she doesn't have basic necessities like google, or a cell phone.

This book was okay.  Not great, just grade C okay.  Kinsey runs around trying to solve a case for a client and at the end ends up shooting some guy, in only three pages or so.  It turns out that in B for Burgular, which I am currently reading, that the shooting happened only two weeks prior in "A".  Shocking!

I'm not sure how the end came so fast.  That seems like a consistent criticism of this book (on Goodreads).  The ending was just too quick for all of the build up that Sue created during the other 300 pages of the novel.  She's running on a beach for about three pages, hides a a garbage can of all places, and then shoots some dude that she slept with in the book.  Strange.

I do like the character of Kinsey.  She's tough and she doesn't have many layers yet, but I expect here character to develop more fully, probably around book "E." 

I'm counting on this alphabet series to get better.  This book was an acceptable quick and dirty read that took me about 2 work days, but I hope that the books improve somewhat.

Happy Reading!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book:  Penumbra

Author:  Carolyn Haines 

Grade:  C- 

Recommended to:  People who want to be bored whilst reading. 

Oh Boy.  Prepare yourselves.  This review is going to be scathing.  I didn't like this book at all.  I was not impressed by the writing, the alleged "depth" of the characters, or the story.   It got a C- because it had potential, but this author in no way lived up to the potential of the story.

This story is about a little girl that gets kidnapped and her mother who is brutally beaten and raped.  The town sheriff has to solve the mystery.  Sounds good right?  Right, except for the writing and the dialogue, and all of the horrible distracting side stories.  That is why this story had potential. 

The dialogue was terrible. I didn't believe that any of the characters would make the statements they made.  This author suffered from a severe lack of perception about actual people, the people in the book made extremely unwieldy statements that were unrealistic. 

The author also chose to describe every detail of every person's thought process in short choppy sentences .  Ahhh, shoot me now.  I skimmed through large portions of this book because I just didn't care about any of the story line.  There was nothing compelling about a black woman who could have passed as white.   Again, potential. But, no delivery.

The full of potential story line I just described?  That became a side story to some weird sexual scenes and tension that was completely irrelevant.  gag.

It felt like this book was written by a 10th grader who got an assignment for class and was lucky enough to be published.  I will never again waste my time reading something my Haines.  This book fell flat,  I do not recommend it unless you just enjoy swiping your finger across your kindle without reading any of the words.

Happy Reading!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer

Book:  Three Cups of Deceit 

Author:  Jon Krakauer 

Grade:  B 

Recommended To: Krakauer fans, People who believe deceit is best served icy cold. 

Three Cups of Deceit is Jon Kraukauer's expose of The Central Asia Institute, a charitable institution that builds schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  

Some of the reveals in this book are shocking.  For example, the CAI rakes in millions of dollars in donations each year, but a small fraction of those donations are actually used to build schools.  Instead, the leader of the organization, Greg Mortensen, uses donated funds for private planes to his book signing and speaking events to the tune of several million dollars.  

Another shocker:  that none  of the profits from Greg Mortensen's extremely popular books are donated to the CAI, those royalties go straight into Greg's pocket.   

I've donated to the CAI and I raved about Greg Mortensen's book Three Cups of Tea  on this blog in early 2011.  (actually, almost a year ago today...interesting.)  The book is compelling and the stories told by Greg are uplifting.  I remember crying when finishing Three Cups and thinking that I had to do something, since a man from so humble beginnings was able to accomplish such extensive change.    Krakauer exposes many of the heartwarming stories in Three Cups, and Mortensen's follow up book Stones into Schools, as out right lies.  Many of the stories did not happen, or were seriously elaborated to make them sound better for publishing.

I trust Krakauer.  He has a reputation of thorough research that is easy to follow.  This is certainly not a heartwarming book, but, it is very interesting at a time when many charities are under scrutiny for exactly how donations are spent.

Happy Reading!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Book:  Mudbound 

Author:  Hillary Jordan

Grade: B+

Recommended To:  Sharecroppers, children who enjoy playing in the mud. 

 Mudbound is set in the Mississippi Delta in the 1950s.  The majority of the story takes place on a farm where the white landowners employ white and black sharecropping families to work the land.  The book is written as a serious of shorts told by six different characters.

Two of the characters fight in the Second World War and when they return, challenge the ideas of race in the extremely small town, and small minded, Delta.  The female voice of the story, Laura, is moved by her husband from the clean, bright city that she's familiar with to a muddy mess of a farm.  There, she has to learn how to work on a farm without any modern conveniences.  That sounds tacky, but its not.  Think how hard it would be to go from running water, to well water overnight.

This book is deeply layered and unspeakably intense.  There are many themes at work in Mudbound; race, emotional abuse, violence, adultery.  The tension in this book builds and finally comes to a breaking point about 3/4 of the way through the novel and it is a hell of a breaking point.  The characters in this book are not stereotypes, which seems to be an easy trap for authors of the sharecropping South, but instead are thought provoking and multi-faceted.  I kept thinking about this book for several days and that is certainly one of my criteria for a five star or a B+ book.

Apparently Hillary Jordan has written a second book called When She Woke, which according to her website is a play on The Scarlet Letter.  Reviews on Amazon lead me to believe that it is a little too close to The Scarlet Letter to be that good, but I will likely give it a shot.  This Kindle was the best thing I've bought in a long time.

Happy Reading!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Redfield Farm by Judith Redline Coopey

Book:  Redfield Farm 

Author:  Judith Redline Coopey

Grade:  A

Recommended To:  Railroad Conductors, Quakers, Everyone. 

Lemme just tell ya, I love finding new authors.  Especially authors that have talent.  In my experience, it is rare for a new author to create something genuinely magnificent with their first book.  Some authors never make it, but Coopey has created a meaningful and masterful novel on her first go.

This is a book about the Redfield family surviving in Pennsylvania in the 1860's.  They are Quakers who's farm serves as a station stop on the Underground Railroad.  They also experience a number of personal and family triumphs and obstacles throughout the novel.

The one thing that was so stunning about this book was the author's ability to create suspense.  Each time a family member moved a runaway slave to the next station stop, I held my breath and read faster.   That is a very very difficult thing to accomplish; Cooper has talent.   I was so engrossed in this book that I finished it in two days and then thought about it for the next two.

If I had any criticism for this book, it would be that the relationship between Pru Hartley and Ann, the main character was strained.  I wasn't sure why Pru's character was present for much of the novel and it didn't seem like the character added much to the story, or that Ann's interactions with Pru effected Ann's own character growth.

According to Cooper's website, she has a new book coming out in May 2012.  I will certainly be purchasing the e-copy of Waterproof A Novel of The Johnstown Flood when it is available in early May.

I would love to hear what you think of Redfield Farm!  

Happy Reading!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 - New Year, New Posts!

<-------pictures like THAT are the only things that come up in a google image search for 2012.  Happy New Year?

Happy 2012!  So, far this year has been pretty fantastic for reading and that is mostly due to my brand new Kindle Touch!  I love this thing.  I can download books in seconds and I'm finding a lot of fun new books because of the Kindle Daily Deal and the monthly book releases from Amazon that are $3.99 or less.  I think I've downloaded 10 books in the last week alone and only spent about 20 dollars.  That's a helluva deal.

The only complaint I have about the Kindle Touch is that literally anything that touches the screen will change the page.  My cat frequently changes the page unbeknownst to me.  It is also hard to find your place again in the event of a rogue cat turning.  Otherwise, I like it.  It is super lightweight, easy to use, and is small enough so that I don't even notice carrying it on my walk to the train.

2011 Reading Recap 

In 2011, I read a lot.  I didn't quite reach my goal of 75 books last year, but I was damn close with a total of 73 books.  That's over 28,000 pages in 12 short months.  I've set my goal at 75 again this year in hopes of cramming in those last two books.  Here are some stats about those 73 books:

The longest book:  Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon at a whopping 1,088 pages.  Whew.

The shortest book:  Freaks by Tess Gerritson.  This was really an Amazon short for my Kindle. 60 pages.

The 5 best books:  World War Z by Max Brooks; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; In Cold Blood by Truman Capote; Mudbound by Hillary Jordan;  and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The most disappointing book:  Sweet Valley Confidential: Ten Years Later by Francine Pascal

The most rewarding book: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The funniest book:  Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

It was a good year for books and a good year for reading.   I'm looking forward to more fascinating stories in 2012, especially with my fancy schmancy Kindle.

Happy Reading!!