What the Nanny Saw

What the Nanny Saw has all the components of a fun, light chick lit novel but surprises the reader with a semi-intelligent storyline that provides a well-depicted picture of the subprime mortgage crisis. After reading Fiona Neill’s fast paced, gossipy, scandal filled novel, I can’t believe I actually have a stronger grasp of what occurred during the 2008 financial crisis. This book is relevant taking on thought-provoking themes yet remains enjoyable without being too serious. Neill has done a good job of allowing the reader to indulge in the family and friends peculiar, secretive lives while infusing the tale with interesting, deeper layers. This book was a good way to say goodbye to 2012. I am looking forward to more wonderful reading in 2013!

The American Heiress


This historical, turn of the 20th century romance is not a genre I enjoy as it has too much annoying fluff of the period. I am easily bored by the lengthy descriptions of the gilded manors, upper crust sports, the uncomfortable dresses and priceless jewels. During this book I was forced to skim paragraphs to try to get to the story line. The pace was slow, especially being peppered by detailed description of the era. Daisy Goodwin’s plot was painstakingly predictable. Spoiler Alert. Rich young American marries an English Duke. The Duke cheats on his wife with a character the wife naively believes is her confidant. When the cheating is discovered and the wife has a chance to leave she instead remains. These types of stories are a dime a dozen.

What was interesting to learn was that during the America’s Golden Age American heiresses would go to Europe to spend their money buying into the titled gentry. I could have learned this by reading a blurb on Wikipedia, instead of a four hundred and fifty plus page novel. My last two reads have been disappointing. My colleague gave me, What the Nanny Saw. The reviews are positive, but my colleague voiced issues. Fingers crossed that I enjoy this next read. Onward and hopefully up!

The Casual Vacancy


I did not like Harry Potter. I only read about twenty pages as I did not like that poor Harry had to live under the staircase. Chris wanted me to try J.K. Rowling’s new adult fiction piece after Jon Stewart interviewed the acclaimed author and gave the book high praise. Since one of my colleagues let me borrow it, I was keen on giving it a go.

Rowling may be a good children’s writer, but fails miserably in creating a compelling adult read.  The book is far too long. The story, which is pretty dull, could have been wrapped up in under two hundred pages.  There are too many characters. Instead of exploring sub-stories that may have been more gribbing, Rowling skims over plot lines. For example, I would have enjoyed learning more of the mental illness that plagues Cubby. There was a grammatical mistake ten pages into the book. I found this inexcusable of Rowling and Little, Brown publishing. The social worker breaks confidentiality and it’s glossed over. My work friend and colleague did not finish the book. She disliked the language immensely. The language of the uneducated, poor villagers did not bother me as much as the lack of story and the hollowness of her characters.  I have to ask, if this had been Rowling’s first novel, would there have been more? I sincerely doubt it. 

The Rice Mother


There is nothing new about this storyline. Abuse, addictions, war, loss, nasty family dynamics are all portrayed in The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka. This is a story about four generations of a family in Malaysia with the matriarch at the center of the plot for the majority of the book. The narrator eventually switches to other members of the family. This is a very long book that unfortunately never grabbed me. Additionally, sadly the real action does not occur until seventy-five pages till the book's end. Many parts of this book were confusing and lacking the details to clarify the storyline. The author was too descriptive of the environment, hindering the plot advancement and again failing to illuminate the subtle details, which pulls together the mysteries of the story. I found the pace frustratingly slow. There were so many voices that it often felt disjointed. Finally, the characters were one-dimensional.  Better family sagas include, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Glass Castle, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Namesake, Dreams of Joy, Bastard Out of Carolina

My next book is J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy. Although the reviews have been poor and the friend that let me borrow her book only read the first few hundred pages, I am looking forward to diving in and seeing what I think. I will let you all know!  


 

The Sound of Butterflies

This book reminded me a bit of Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder, although unfortunately not as good. The mystery of why the main character returns home mute, unravels too late in the story and without enough detail. Most of the characters are flat. Characters that show promise are not developed. I would have loved to learn more of Agatha and her gypsy ways. 

The novel is very loosely based on a violent, South American rubber baron. Even with some historical accuracies I would not classify this book as historical fiction. The nasty, horrendously violent realities of the history are not sufficiently explored or divulged. The Sound of Butterflies is a throw away, forgettable read but was fine for my long weekend in the desert while visiting my grandfather.  If you are in the mood for a Victorian novel, which is peppered with sex, abuse, mystery and deceits check it out as it is marginally entertaining. 

The Samurai's Garden

Disease, love, commitment, betrayal, strength and war are just some of the themes you will experience in this beautiful and serene novel. As the Second World War is brewing between Japan and China the main character is sent to his family’s summer home to recuperate from TB. Gail Tsukiyama highlights the beauty of the human spirit as strong friendships develop between these current enemies in her slender yet, contemplative book. I enjoyed how Tsukiyama has organized The Samurai’s Garden into seasons rather than chapters. The book is very visual, slowly exposing the different characters emotions as the seasons change. With the intricacies that accompany leprosy, suicide, loss, devotion it is surprising that Tsukiyama was able to create such a peaceful story.  

The Sandcastle Girls


Chris Bohjalian has crafted a powerful historical novel that depicts the Armenian Genocide. Although the author’s descriptions of abduction, torture, massacre, rape, starvation and deportation are immensely disturbing he also created a beautiful love story.  I am so glad this author has shared the truths about this dark period in history as it needs to be better illuminated. Sadly, I am only aware of this horrendous history due to my Armenian friends. (Another strike against my public school education.) Just like other devastating periods in history, The Holocaust, the massacre of Cambodian’s by the Khmer Rouge or the Rwandan Genocide, if the horrors are not exposed, we cannot grow, learn and ensure they are never repeated. I am glad The Sandcastle Girls is a New York Times best seller and hence will get to the mainstream.
Be prepared, Bohjalian sets the book in two time frames, present and past. At times, I truly felt this was a family memoir rather then a fictional tale based on horrific facts. The author does a great job of fooling the reader to think this is actually his story. I had to keep reminding myself the author is a male while the narrator in the story is researching her grandparents' story.
Finally, I have to mention that Germany was an alley of Turkey during this period. Germany's pro-Turkish stance led to an official policy of "non-intervention" toward the Armenian genocide. Through further research, I learned Germany choose to cover up the genocide to minimize any suspicion of German involvement. Additionally, Germany embraced genocidal tactics toward the Armenians as well as policies that condoned it.  Learning that this was Germany’s first genocide was a great surprise. (Good grief, how much genocide can one country take part in?) Turkey was trying to rid the Ottoman Empire of the Christian Armenians. Turks were mostly Muslim. I am again very surprised Germany, especially with their later history, aligned with Muslims, accepting and even honoring the elimination of Christian Armenians. I would think this would have been the complete opposite choice for Germany. The whole thing is so disturbing! (I had another choice word in mind.) If you have some thoughts and a deeper understanding of this turbulent history I'd love to hear from you. Please make a comment. 
My final parting thoughts are people’s intolerance of others is disgusting and what occurs due to hate makes me sick. Elimination of a race, culture, religion is inexcusable. 

Bringing Up Bebe


This was both a fascinating and at times hilarious read. If you are not a parent, do not disregard this book. I am not a parent nor do I intend on becoming a parent but this was a great book regardless. Bringing Up Bebe provides a sociological perspective comparing the values of American and French parenting styles. I truly enjoyed this American expat's take on the study of French parenting and how she tried to integrate it into her children's lives while living in Paris. I found I agreed with much of what Pamela Druckerman described as the French style of firm rules, boundaries, your child joining your world, not the opposite of parents curtailing their lives that sadly seems to include a continuous need to entertain. Other strong tenets of French parenting are no hovering, over analyzing, over-stimulation, constant praise or intense paranoia. Children, even toddlers are expected to adapt, self-sooth, be polite and to participate as a full-fledged member of the family. French parents do not cater to every whim or impatient, bratty want as it causes unhappy children and only worsens the negative behavior. Quite an interesting philosophy to child rearing and in many of the situations described radically different from American parenting.
There were many parts of this book in which I insisted I read aloud to Chris, as they were too funny not to share. My most favorite part was the section when Druckerman observed toddlers eating lunch at the day care. The toddler’s embarked on a four-course meal that included the starter of a tomato salad in vinaigrette. This was followed by le poison (fish) in a light butter sauce and a side of peas, carrots, and onions. Next the two year olds enjoyed the cheese course of le blue and finally dessert of whole apples cut up by the teacher assigned to the tables consisting of four children each. First, the meals sound better then what I eat. Second, the teacher announcing aloud, le poison or le blue is hysterical. Finally, that toddlers have this capacity due to the daily routine and high expectation amazes me. 

Gentlemen and Players

About ninety pages into Gentlemen and Players, I realized I read and very much disliked Sleep, Pale Sister another Joanne Harris novel. I was extremely worried at this point, as the story was becoming quite confusing with the multitude of character as well as two narrators. Be patient and muddle through. Gentlemen and Players has so many interesting twists and turns that are completely unpredictable that the Harris' novel surprised me. The author does an excellent job of managing the complicated plot with impressive dexterity. This is a very clever and engaging book. 

The Bay of Foxes

The story line in The Bay of Foxes was very familiar and predictable.  Sadly, Sheila Kohler has not crafted an original tale. This book has been touted as exploring issues of sexual politics, colonialism and race. It did not go into great depth on any of these issues and hence does not deserve to be praised so highly. I wish the book had developed Dawit’s personal history more fully. These parts were very interesting, but they were just brief glimpses. Additionally, there are no shocks and thrills although the jacket promises, an erotic, compelling tale of passion, control and murder. I guess when the front cover alluded that this novel is similar in writing style to a Patricia Highsmith novel, I should have put the book back as I was very disappointed by Highsmith’s so-called psychological thriller titled The Cry of the Owl. I hope my next read is more engaging. 

Hiding in the Spotlight

Each time I dive into a well written personal account that explores tragic historical events I am shocked, disgusted, overwhelmed by the compassion displayed by heroic people and amazed by those that survive and go on to flourish. This is a fascinating true story of two Russian-Jewish, piano prodigy sisters surviving the horrific ethnic cleansing of WWII by assuming false identities and performing underneath the noses of Nazi officers. Hiding in the Spotlight should be suggested reading for teens as these incredible stories need continual exposure and sharing. Another interesting aspect of this book is that most Holocaust survivor stories involve Western Europeans. Gaining knowledge of the Ukraine during this time was enlightening as this is a historical context I was unfamiliar.  

Love You More


I am a bit of a book snob. I can admit it. My mom gave me Love You More with a few other reads. It’s the type of book sold at the market or CVS. I immediately commented, “I’ll take the others, but this one does not look like my type of book.” My mom told me it’s a crime read that I would enjoy. I am glad I caved and embraced the book. It took twenty pages to be fully engrossed. Again, don’t let the cover, trashy paper book grocery store read turn you away.  This is a well-crafted crime/mystery. I was second-guessing myself to the very end. Lisa Gardner you surprised me! 

The Sea

This is a well written but depressing story where every character is having difficult expressing and coping with their grief, losses and new identities. Samantha Hunt does a great job colliding fairytale with the stark reality of life after horrendous occurrences. Hunt’s creative approach is especially illuminated through the narrator’s weak grasp on reality when she is faced with multiple losses. The narrator is too afraid to face her story that she creates the mermaid narrative to give order to her chaotic grief. These types of stories are hard for me as I want to escape when I read, not dive into dealing with life after multiple suicides. Unfortunately, I know too well what can transpire in people dealing with the aftermath of a suicide. What occurs to this character, from my experience, is not far fetched. When there is a suicide you don’t just lose the person who commits the act, sadly you also lose parts of everyone around that person. The survivors are forever changed and often a part of them are lost. 

The Cry of the Owl

Patricia Highsmith’s story telling style in The Cry of the Owl is dated. It just was not thrilling, psychological or creepy enough.  Additionally I thought the mystery should have gone an entirely different direction with Jenny stalking Robert. That angle could have been far more interesting. Perhaps this crime thriller is not as strong as her other stories since I did enjoy the adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley. I am not ruling out reading another Highsmith novel. 

Gone

This is an English police procedural. Although I read this book quickly, I unfortunately have many issues with this acclaimed, so-called thriller. I did not find it gripping or for that matter very believable. The acronyms were confusing. The story line was too similar to The Other Woman's House, which unlike this book was well-crafted by another female, UK author. I disliked the non-ending. I felt Mo Hayder did a poor job connecting the perpetrator’s crimes to the families he attacked. Additionally, Hayder did not fully explain the perpetrator's rational, although I guess if you are crazy, you are crazy.  She failed to develop or solve an interesting, key story line. Perhaps she plans to do this in her next book or these characters continue on in her other stories. I will never know what transpires as I don’t plan on picking up another Mo Hayder mystery. Finally, the descriptions of the tunnels were unreadable and difficult to imagine. I definitely don’t think this should have won the 2012 Edgar Allan Poe Award.

International Book Week


According to many Facebook posts, it’s International Book Week. I could not find anything in depth about this dedicated week. But honestly, who cares. You love books, I love books and I love that Facebook has created a game that celebrates books. I’m moving the game to my blog! The rules are simple:

1)    Grab the closest book to you.
2)    Turn to page 52
3)     Post the 5th sentence as a comment on my blog! (Oh, and   don’t mention the title.)
Here's the excerpt from the closest book to me. 
You remember, the guy whose eye you shot out.

Night Circus


To grab my blog book images, I go to the goodreads site. I immediately could not help but notice that review after review were negative. I can’t believe the number of people who had such disdain for this book. A reviewer wrote, "How did this get published?" Another commented, "Shrug." The worst stated, "Has magic ever been less fun?" What is wrong with people? Could everyone be like my dear friend who hates magic, referring to it contemptuously as trickery? (You know who you are. This book would most likely put you over the edge. I definitely would not recommend this one for you.) 
In sharp contrast to the majority of readers, I immediately, thought while first embarking on this author’s debut tale how fortunate I am to be on such good book kick. Night Circus is delightful. I am captivated by stories such as these that forces the reader to entertain another reality. This story takes magic to an entirely new level. Morgenstern uses lush imagery of a mysterious circus that only operates at night to catapult the reader to a bizarre but beautiful place which I would be happy to explore and embrace.

The Other Woman's House

This is a suspenseful read with a complicated and provocative plot. Hannah does an excellent job of creating a intriguing novel. However, the story was not easy for me to get into and for the first five or six chapter’s I was having difficulty fully following what was going on. One reason for my confusion is Connie, one of the main narrators comes off as mentally unbalanced. I was frustrated, questioning was I reading the delusions of a mad woman. Additionally, there are a lot of characters some of whom are not very necessary and take away from the story. Since this is Hannah's sixth book featuring detectives Charlie and Simon, perhaps some of these other characters were more fully developed in her previous novels. Maybe Hannah is providing readers with a glimpse into how these other character's are managing. (This was my first Hannah book so I'm  just guessing.) Nevertheless once I was fully invested I did not want to put the book down. I wanted to find out what was really going on with these bizarre characters. I would recommend this book and look forward to reading other Sophie Hannah mysteries. 

Dreams of Joy


Lisa See does a fantastic job with this sequel to Shanghai Girls. Unfortunately I read Shanghai Girls so long ago, I could not remember all the details from the first book. Regardless, this is a fascinating read, drawing on life in communist China during Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The book is horrifying, yet captivating. By the end I was teary eyed.
I really enjoy reading historical fiction. Sadly my formative education was sub-standard. I would imagine many of you will think this is a strange comment from a girl who went to a public school with a strong reputation. For most of my friends Pali provided an excellent education. However, unlike my honor level friends, I was in mostly average classes due to my dyslexia diagnosis. Average classes were a joke. Teachers were locked in closets while classmates ran amuck. In one class a student stabbed another classmate with a pencil, all while the teacher sat at his desk doing the LA Times crossword puzzle. While my friends learned of the Vietnam War, I learned how not to cause waves with my fellow average level classmates. Now, I often find myself gravitating towards the historical fiction genre to expand my knowledge base of what I should have learned in school. Dreams of Joy provided me with history I had not known. 

See is an impeccable researcher, making her books incredibly informative. I particularly enjoyed that See shares her personal journey of writing this book with wonderful stories and photos from her trip to China in the Reader's Guide. See is compulsively readable. I highly recommend all her books, although I still need to read On Gold Mountain: The 100 Year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family.

The Buddha in the Attic

The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of Japanese woman brought over to San Francisco as mail-order brides before the second World War. This is a short, well-researched book in which Julie Otsuka uses a combination style of poetry and narration.  Although a svelte book, it is  strong and poignant. Don't be deceived by the larger text and short length as this book hits the reader over the head with the atrocity that the United Stated committed by interning the Japanese.

The House at Tyneford


The cover of the book states if you are a fan of Kate Morton you will love The House at Tyneford. I am a big Morton fan. This book was good, but is what one comes to expect of a World War II fictional read. Suffice to say, Morton’s stories are much more enthralling. Unfortunately, Natasha Solomons’ story was predictable with few surprises.

Probably the most interesting part of the book is the very last two pages, titled Author’s Note. Solomons informs the reader that this work was based on an actual village in the English countryside near the ocean. The village and Elizabethan manor was requisitioned for military occupation to be returned at the end of the war. The villagers left notes asking the soldiers to care for their magical town on the coast. The soldiers did not head the request and destroyed this charming village. Even worse, Churchill did not return the house or village after the war. In these two pages, the reader also learns that Elise is based on the author’s family. I had no idea that young bourgeois were allowed to leave their home of luxury and become servants. This was a new piece of history for me. 

Gone Girl


I went to Barnes and Noble to return a book. I couldn’t get into the story or style of the writer and luckily found the receipt hidden in the pages in the back. I was thrilled, as I never save receipts.  Unfortunately the bookseller informed me I was past my fourteen day return period. The sales woman apologized. I acknowledged her apology voicing it was not a big deal and then bombarded her with questions about where three or four books were kept. The woman gave me a strange look and asked if I would wait a minute. The sales woman pulled the another sales clerk aside, whispered something and kept turning to look at me. The sales person returned to me and stated that Barnes and Noble would return my book. I am happy to report this incident as Barnes and Noble, well this astute employee, recognized me as a book lover and hence wanted to do right by me and not loss an actually book buying customer. I ended up purchasing three books including Gone Girl, which is in hardback. Barnes and Noble did the right thing. Kudos to them!
So on to the review. Gone Girl is twisted, dark and extremely entertaining. The story goes in unthinkable directions. How can a sociopath, narcissist revengeful villain, not suck you in? In my opinion, the end (last about150 pages) of this thriller does not compare to the beginning. At the start of this book, Flynn had me questioning out loud, “What the hell is going on?” At night I didn’t want to stop reading, literally my eyes would be closing. I am supposed to be at work by 7:30 am. I kept reading and rolled in at 8:00 am. (Not to worry, I made up the half-hour.) Unfortunately, the last section of the story is not as strong as it’s start. I also found the ending frustrating. I don’t want to say more as I would not want to spoil it. Pick up this book. I can’t imagine not being enthralled by it. I provided Chris with a synopsis of the story over dinner. He was captured by my lousy description, voicing numerous times what a great story. Again, this is a must read. 

Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

A colleague has been sharing her adolescent fictional reads, which have been focusing on young women and their struggles in harsh physical and emotional environments. Shabanu provides an insightful perspective of modern day nomadic, Pakistani culture. Suzanne Fisher Staples actually lived in Pakistan and her experiences shaped this interesting read. It took a bit of time for me to get immersed in the story as I was waiting for the incident described on the back cover to take place. My advice while reading this book is to forget the incident and concentrate on appreciating the well-constructed characters, which include the animals. Staples does a terrific job of bringing the personalities of the animals to life. I wish I could nuzzle Mithoo’s neck!

Sold

This is a powerful, haunting story that sadly is the reality of too many women across this globe. I love how the author writes from the perspective of a thirteen year-old Nepalese girl, Lakshmi, in a free verse, poetic style. Patricia McCormack choice of style and vivid language made it a fast, easy and a more interesting read in my opinion. This is an important, compelling story yet I was surprised that this book is targeted towards adolescences. I felt it might be a little too disturbing. 

Midwife of Venice

Historical novels are not usually my thing. However, I was delighted to find that this historical novel moves quickly while not trying to recapture history. Roberta Rich crafts a fresh story with new and thoroughly captivating characterizations. I am definitely looking forward to Rich’s second book that continues the story of Hannah and Issac in Constantinople.

Commencement

The characters were one-dimensional. Sullivan’s prose is flat. The situation with April is unbelievable, actually laughable. I finished the book, but was not at all enthralled. Sullivan saved herself as an author in writing her second book, Maine.  In my opinion, Commencement can be removed from anyones must read list. 

Maine

The cover of this book does not fit the actual story. The cover makes this book seem like a throw away summer read. Instead it is a novel that portrays the lives of three generations of an Irish Catholic family. Sullivan highlights the lives of four women, the matriarch, a daughter, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. I found the stories of these women engrossing. I was sad when the book was coming to an end. I was so engaged that I wanted to know what else occurs for these women in their lives. I rushed out to pick up Commencement, Sullivan’s debut novel, hoping to be immediately captured like I was in Maine. In Sullivan’s case, the second time is the charm. 

Patron Saint of Liars

After State of Wonder,  I tired Patchett’s Bel Canto, which is award winning. I couldn’t get into it. Nothing seemed to happen. However, with Patron Saint of Liars I was immediately drawn in. This story is told from the point of view of each of the three members of the family. Be warned it is fantastic, yet a very sad novel. I was quite taken aback by the ending.

Garden Spells

I am so sad as I have now read all of Allen’s books. It’s been a long time since I have been this captured by an author. Her novels are engrossing. The magical aspects force me to finish a book in one sitting, failing to look up from the page, which Chris says is going to ruin my eyesight. I suppose I have to admit I am also a sucker for the cheesy romances embedded into all her books. I especially love how her stories weave in the powers of plants. Do violets really induce calm? Can snapdragons ward off the undue influence of others? What about anise hyssop, can it ease frustration and confusion? I would like to believe this is true. Maybe in my next life I’ll pursue eastern medicine or become a holistic apothecary. 

State of Wonder

Ann Patchett is very engaging. I am looking forward to reading more of her works. I was easily lost in the possibility of amazing, never before discovered medications in the Amazon. I enjoyed how the author depicted the thrills in the jungle while experiencing the personal journey of the main character. I love the idea of a foreign adventure, although I am pretty sure in reality the whole thing would stink. This book truly transports you. I guess that’s why I love a good story.   

The Girl Who Chased the Moon


Although I am thrilled to return to work at the Alzheimer’s Association, my book blog is really going to suffer. I have read so many books in the last two weeks. I’m averaging a book every other day. I guess the my Association friends can look forward to tons of new books to dive into. I'll be bringing a bunch for our lending library.
The Girl Who Chased the Moon is probably my favorite Allen book thus far. After State of Wonder I will be picking up Garden Spells. At that point I think I would have read all the books by this author. This book is not perfect. By now, I know that in each book the romances will always work out and usually there is a plot line that is too predictable. Nevertheless, this book contains lots of magic as well as mystery, which is expected from an Allen novel. Oh, be forewarned, if you are trying to diet this book may be difficult to read. The descriptions of  decadent southern cakes made me want to head to the nearest bakery.

The Sugar Queen

I like Sarah Addison Allen books. However this one is not as compelling as The Peach Keeper. While at Barnes & Noble's I picked up yet another Allen book. We will have to see which one is my favorite. 


The Sugar Queen has magical facets which seem to be a hallmark of Allen, yet also focuses on superstitions and natural remedies that cure a broken heart or keep evil away. Any book lover will be especially envious that books appear for one of The Sugar Queen's characters. Parts of this book are hooky, but it makes for a fun, sweet, endearing read. 

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

I really enjoyed this book, but again, I am drawn to stories that provide a different philosophy from mine. I also like tales that challenge my perspective. Chua writes a fascinating, often hilarious and very honest account of growing up under her regime. Chua’s portrayal of herself is often not very flattering. She describes herself as stubborn, mean spirited and demanding. I have to  commend her for being able to self reflect and for being so candid.  Chua approaches are anywhere from mainstream but I felt these methods are well intentioned as she wants what is best for both her children. Luckily her two girls were able to tolerate their mother’s strict processes and did not succumb to severe depression or worst suicide. 

Patterns in the Sand

My mom gave me this book. The story line is boring and predictable. The reason for one of the murders is not clearly defined and it is does not make sense that these woman would be allowed to solve these deaths. Canary Cove is a small seaside town where everyone is aware of everyone’s business. The story is just not plausible. This type of tale and the way it is written seems to be directed towards woman in their late eighties. I have to remember not to pick up another book by this author.

The Scent of Rain and Lightning

After reading The Peach Keeper it was nice to continue with Pickard’s cold-case mystery in a small, ranching town. I will definitely pick up The Virgin of Small Plains. My only complaint is the ridiculousness of Jody ending up with Colin. Really? Other then that aspect I could not put the book down. I was so curious to learn who murdered Jay and what exactly happened to Laurie. 

The Peach Keeper

Allen's style is similar to Kate Morton. The story is not ground-breaking but very enjoyable and makes for a quick read. I love the elements of magic and mystery in this book as well as the descriptions of Southern life. I was born in Los Angeles, but my great grandmother, grandmother and dad were born in the South. I still have family in Memphis. I think I gravitate towards these types of stories because I have this skewed idea that life in the South would be slower and even kinder. I can’t wait to pick up another Sarah Addison Allen book so that I can immerse myself in the fantasy of a life far away. 

Fifty Shades Freed


Finally, the last book in the series! I am still greatly perturbed by the immaturity of the couple as well as why Ana tolerates the controlling nature of Christian. To be fair, by the second and third book the punishments bestowed on by Christian have ended, but his need to control is ever present. Is this what women really want in a relationship? Are obscene amounts of wealth worth complete loss of independence?  I see the character of Ana as weak. She is so enamored by complicated sex and wealth that she jumps into this unhealthy relationship.
E L James ends the series, retelling parts of the book from Christian’s perspective. I felt this was unnecessary and boring. Ending this way further confirmed for me that these books were a waste of my time. 

Fifty Shades Darker


I had many issues with the first book as depicted in my review. However, I as I stated before, I am interested in what makes a story popular. The second book is as equally poorly written. The characters are flat. The story line is predictable and boring. The dialogue is repetitive and nauseating. The author tries to use big words. Sadly it is apparent that she is overusing the thesaurus tool to find a more attractive word. Here is a sample, minus the sex of what you are in for if you pick up this book:

            “I love you Christian,” whispered Anna.
            “You are mine, Christian growled.
            “I will always be yours and you are mine.”
    “Yours,” he responds with a smile. “I cannot resist you,    
    Anastasia. You have bewitched me.”
   “It is you Christian that have put a spell on me.”
  “I will die a thousand deaths if you ever leave me. I could  
   not tolerate the world without you, my beautiful Anastasia. I    
   love you.”
  “Christian, I could never leave you. You are mine forever.”
Yuck, yuck, yuck! This scenario has been repeated more then a dozen times! The immaturity of this fictitious couple is annoying. I hate to think that college age girls would strive for this type of relationship. Again, besides the descriptions of sex, I have no clue why these books are so appealing.

Fifty Shades of Grey


I read most genres. I particularly enjoy mysteries and thrillers such as In the Woods or House at Riverton. I also tend to gravitate towards stories from the east. I greatly enjoyed Shantarum and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. I love reading and learning about people and situations that are foreign to me such as in Moloka'i, The 19th Wife or Bastard Out of Carolina. I find David Sedaris hysterical. I think Jon Krakaue is brilliant. I will also read books that are popular. I like to see what has people buzzing.  Stieg Larsson and his trilogy captured me. After much convincing I finally picked up The Hunger Games. The first book was my favorite, but I enjoyed and recommend them all. The Twilight books were in my opinion horrendous although I can see the appeal for tweens. Fifty Shades of Grey torments me. Why are women enjoying this book? The protagonist Ana is taken advantage of by Christian. She has never been in love or had a sexual relationship. Her first love and sexual partner is abusive and manipulative, but she most likely will return to him in the second book because she is drawn to him sexually and believes like many women do that she can change him. (I have not finished the trilogy yet.) Christian is unable to have a healthy relationship due to the abuse he sustained as an adolescent. Additionally, although in therapy he cannot see that his violent nature is destructive and abusive.
The first book in the series perpetuates a problem I have seem many woman experience. Women adamantly believe they can change a man. If he loves me enough, he will change. If I show him the light, he will transform. I just have to train him. This does not work. People will change slightly, but not significantly. The author is enabling this destructive mindset. I mentioned greatly enjoying Stieg Larsson’s trilogy. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was incredibly violent. The book details a disturbingly, violent rape scene. Yet, Larsson’s books did not spark the type of reaction I experienced with Fifty Shades of Grey. The violence was necessary in Larsson’s first book. Eventually, Lisbeth’s situation is revealed and the perpetrators are punished. As I shared, I have not finished the E L James’ trilogy, however the first book ends with Ana leaving the relationship, yet the reader knows she will return to most likely accept more violent punishments.
This story reminds me of a friend who was raped during her first sexual experience. She reiterated the experience in tears. I told her I was there for her and that we needed to report this immediately. She would not allow me to report it. For this I carry immense guilt. She continued to see this person. She continued to be raped, although she described it to me as consensual and what the mainstream would describe as kinky and a bit too rough. What happened to my friend seems identical to what is occurring to this main character.
The description of sex is at times tantalizing, but for me also deeply disturbing. My partner and I watched The Hunger Games. He did not read the books. He was upset by the movie. He felt it was not a good message for children and teens. I too feel the subject matter is strange but feel the books are well written and am ultimately thrilled that children are reading. Fifty Shades of Grey alarms me. I am not a prude nor against alternative sexual appetites. As I stated before the accounts of the sex and the detailed pornographic nature were thrilling, but the violence in the form of abuse and this young woman’s wiliness to accept it is has me asking what is wrong with society that this book is flying off the shelves?

Shantaram


Fabulous! Robert's is an incredible story teller. This book is gigantic, but don't let that scare you away.  This autobiographical tale draws you in and frankly I was sad when I was coming to the end. Robert's does a terrific job of describing rich characters. Prabaker is my very favorite. This book is a true delight!

Night Train to Lisbon


A philosophical read. (Oh how I miss my college days of philosophy classes.)  Meaty  and  poetic. Elegantly written. I enjoyed, but did not find this a quick read.

The Makedown


Fun, quick, well-written chick lit! Similar to Jennifer Weiner. I went to the school with the author and her sister. Kudos to you Gitty for writing a novel. I am impressed!

The 19th Wife


Fabulous! A compliment to Under the Banner of Heaven. I highly recommend this book, especially if you are interested in Mormonism.

Skylight Confessions


Depressing, but good. I enjoyed the second half better then the first.  Parts hit too close to home. 

He Who Fears the Wolf


An quick, enjoyable, psychological read.