February 2015 archive

Review: Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home

Wrapped in Rain: A Novel of Coming Home by Charles Martin

From Goodreads:

“Tucker, I want to tell you a secret.” Miss Ella curled my hand into a fist and showed it to me.”

“”Life is a battle, but you can’t fight it with your fists. You got to fight it with your heart.””

An internationally famous photographer, Tucker Mason has traveled the world, capturing things other people don’t see. But what Tucker himself can’t see is how to let go of the past and forgive his father.

On a sprawling Southern estate, Tucker and his younger brother, Mutt, were raised by their housekeeper, Miss Ella Rain, who loved the motherless boys like her own. Hiring her to take care of Waverly Hall and the boys was the only good thing their father ever did.

When his brother escapes from a mental hospital and an old girlfriend appears with her son and a black eye, Tucker is forced to return home and face the agony of his own tragic past.

Though Miss Ella has been gone for many years, Tuck can still hear her voice–and her prayers. But finding peace and starting anew will take a measure of grace that Tucker scarcely believes in.

Andrea’s Review: I picked this book up at my library sale for like, $0.50 over the summer, but I just got around to reading it. It took me a minute to realize why it seemed familiar- this same time last year, I read When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. The two stories are not actually the same, or even similar, but Martin definitely has a distinctive voice when he writes. This was a quick, easy read of a book on my TBR shelf that earned itself two stars- it wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible. It wasn’t a waste of time, but I won’t recommend it like I did with the other novel by Martin.

Erin’s February Favorites

I’ve been missing in action around here for all of February.  Don’t worry, I’m still reading my little heart out, but work has been crazy and writing papers for class has led me to neglect posting!  I couldn’t decide on one title to share with you today, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites from February so far.

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Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi — So far 2015 has been a year of reading strange books, and this gem is certainly no exception.  I’m honestly not even sure how to describe the plot to you.  It’s one of those books you get swept up in, but also aren’t really sure which end is up.  The writing is gorgeous and the characters are fascinating.  It’s dark, lovely, gruesome at times, and completely strange.

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel — You might think you are getting tired of the post-apocalyptic craze, but this is one you don’t want to miss.  This book is just stunning, and the stories weave together beautifully.  I was in a happy book fog for days after reading it and didn’t want to pick up anything else.

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El Deafo by Cece Bell — This is a middle-grade graphic novel that I devoured in one sitting.  If you’ve never dipped into the graphic novel genre, this would be an awesome place to start.  It’s a genre that really taking off for kidlit. This is a sweet, funny, touching story about Cece’s real-life childhood experiences with hearing loss.  It does an amazing job of showing what it’s like to be a kid with hearing loss.  Loved this one.

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Always Emily by Michaela MacColl — While this fictional tale of Charlotte and Emily Bronte didn’t blow me away, it was quite charming and I enjoyed reading it.  MacColl did a nice job of weaving historical facts about the Bronte family in with her mysterious tale.  Lots of fun to read.

What have been some of your favorite reads this month?

 

Review: Eisenhower: The White House Years

Eisenhower: The White House Years by Jim Newton

From Goodreads: America’s thirty-fourth president was belittled by his critics as the babysitter-in-chief. This new look reveals how wrong they were. Dwight Eisenhower was bequeathed the atomic bomb and refused to use it. He ground down Joseph McCarthy and McCarthyism until both became, as he said, “McCarthywasm.” He stimulated the economy to lift it from recession, built an interstate highway system, turned an $8 billion deficit in 1953 into a $500 million surplus in 1960. (Ike was the last President until Bill Clinton to leave his country in the black.)

The President Eisenhower of popular imagination is a benign figure, armed with a putter, a winning smile, and little else. The Eisenhower of veteran journalist Jim Newton’s rendering is shrewd, sentimental, and tempestuous. He mourned the death of his first son and doted on his grandchildren but could, one aide recalled, “peel the varnish off a desk” with his temper. Mocked as shallow and inarticulate, he was in fact a meticulous manager. Admired as a general, he was a champion of peace. In Korea and Vietnam, in Quemoy and Berlin, his generals urged him to wage nuclear war. Time and again he considered the idea and rejected it. And it was Eisenhower who appointed the liberal justices Earl Warren and William Brennan and who then called in the military to enforce desegregation in the schools.

Rare interviews, newly discovered records, and fresh insights undergird this gripping and timely narrative.

Jennie’s Thoughts: Okay, I’ll admit that Eisenhower isn’t my favorite president. Not for anything he did specifically politically, but because upon winning the election, when Truman offered Ike the globe that Ike had given him as a gift during wartime, Ike refused it. That globe had brought Truman a lot of comfort during the War and he was doing it as a symbolical gesture of somewhat friendliness. But Ike refused. That gave me a sour taste. Yes, I’m certain it has a lot to do with my Missouri-girl-Truman-bias, but whatever.

I selected this book because it was a bargain book at B&N or HPB in the past year, so I snatched it up even though I was a ways off from needing it. I’m glad I read a smaller book for this president, because after the huge FDR and Truman biographies, I was needing a month with a slightly lighter reading challenge!

This biography had a few chapters of Ike’s early life and years climbing the military ladder, which was fascinating and heartbreaking. The sections of him losing his son made me cry, not only was the text written emotionally, but Ike’s response was a tear-jerker too. His time in the White House was fascinating, highlighting many situations I didn’t know had occurred.

I finished this one with a slightly better opinion of Ike than when I started. However, his legacy to me is still tainted by the globe incident. As far as writing, this book wasn’t dry or boring or even slanted. I felt it was a well-rounded look at Eisenhower’s presidency. I recommend it!

Review: The Moment by Douglas Kennedy

Goodreads synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of Leaving the World comes a tragic love story set in Cold War Berlin. Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine, in touch only with his daughter and still trying to recover from the end of a long marriage, his solitude is disrupted one wintry morning by the arrival of a box that is postmarked Berlin. The name on the box—Dussmann—unsettles him completely, for it belongs to the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin at a time when the city was cleaved in two and personal and political allegiances were frequently haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless is forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person and in the process relive those months in Berlin when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann, the woman to whom he lost his heart, was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow that gradually rewrote both their destinies.

Andrea’s Review: It’s no secret that I big-fat-pink-puffy-heart love Douglas Kennedy. I love how his novels are very realistic- there’s not a guaranteed happy ending or even a happy, perfect family involved. This wasn’t my most favorite of the novels I’ve read so far, but I gave it a solid three stars on Goodreads.

I really got interested in and researched more about the Cold War because of this book. That’s something that I don’t really remember a lot about from school and I’m still not well-versed in the history, but I enjoyed  learning the bit I did about it from and because of this book.

The Time I Started Reading Books With Twisted Female Protagonists… and Couldn’t Stop

Remember last month when I was all, “Look how fancy I am with all my  non-fiction!”  Well… then I read one book with a twisted female protagonist and the little thing on the library website was like, “if you liked that, you may like this…” and you guys… it got bad. Must. Read. A. Happy. Book. But first, for your reading pleasure, here is my binge:

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

This one is getting tons of buzz right now, so I’ll keep it short: I stayed up all night to finish this and was not at all disappointed. Compulsively readable, deliciously creepy, so, so good.

Her, by Harriet Lane

This one is great because it tells the story of two women who are in this innocent-by-the-looks-of-it friendship, but one of them is harboring a deep, dark secret. Eek! I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything, but the women in this book are indeed twisted. This one tips a bit more toward the literary- a little more prose, a little less action, but through subtle little shows of off-ness, the tension in this builds and builds. The payoff is… ahem… you know what? Just read it.

Before I Go To Sleep, by S.J. Watson

The main character in this book had an accident years ago and wakes up every day with her memory since then completely wiped clean. She starts keeping a journal and re-reading it each morning and through that, finds that there are some things about her life, particularly her husband, that are… off. She starts to get flashes of memory and realizes that she is not safe and not sure who to trust.

This is a page turner, that’s for sure, but there were several places where I had to be ok with suspending any kind of belief in what was happening. The author had to explain away some pretty big plot holes to get to a climax, but you know what? Sometimes that’s ok. Getting inside of this woman’s head and trying to imagine what that level of confusion would be like was really fun and I walked away feeling like I had read something different. This would be an excellent book to read on a plane or at the beach- not a masterpiece, but worth your time!

Dear Daughter, by Elizabeth Little

When I finished this book, I just wrote in for my Goodreads review, “This is not how people talk. This is not how people act. Bleh.” and I stand by that one hundred percent. The premise of this (girl’s mom is killed, girl is arrested for murder but doesn’t think she did it although her memory of the traumatic time is pretty blank, girl gets out on a technicality and tries to find the murderer, girl has an attitude problem) is pretty intriguing and fit exactly with the Twisted Women kick that I was on, but this fell so far from the mark. The main character wasn’t snarky, she was an idiot. I’m not a person who has to be in love with the main character, but the problem was that no one, not one character in the book, talked or acted like a real person. It was literally like Elizabeth Little had never had a conversation before. It was so bad. I can’t even say anything else, it was just… it was bad.

Looking at this now, I realize that as I read the books got worse and worse. I guess I should quit while I’m ahead 😉 Do you ever get on strange kicks and end up reading tons of books about the same thing?

Review: Throne of Glass series

Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas – Well, through Heir of Fire which is the most recently pubbed book in the series. There are still three more to come I think!

From Goodreads: After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another.

Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Jennie’s Thoughts: I read a lot of paranormal books when the genre dominated the book world, but I had never gotten too deep into full-on fantasy books. Had I known what I was missing, I would’ve jumped on board sooner!

Celaena is one bad-ass, ass-kicking, girl with a heart. I love her. No, seriously, I’m totally girl crushing all over her. And Captain Westfall. And another character that I can not name because they appear in the third book.

I started with the first book in the series and then put all the rest on hold at the library. The short story collection was the first to come available and I devoured it. WOW. It was such a great way to get inside Celaena prior to the first book. And then I used a B&N gift card to buy the rest of the series, I couldn’t wait for the library.

If you’re looking for a series (I LOVE series, the following of characters over time, swoon!) that features a girl who can hold her own but still has emotion, this book is written for you. I love the writing and the plot, even when it blossomed fully into the fantasy world. LOVED IT ALL.

So, read this! And then we can discuss! :)

Review: I Was Here


I Was Here by Gayle Forman

From Goodreads:  When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.

Jenny’s thoughts: Gayle Forman is just one of those authors I know I can count on for a great book. Her newest, I Was Here, is no exception.

This story is important. It talks about depression without really talking about depression while really talking about depression. If that makes any sense.

I really loved the relationships in this story – between Cody and her Meg’s parents, Cody and Meg’s little brother, post-high school Cody and high school Cody, Cody and Ben, Cody and Meg’s college roommates …

You get the point. Forman really develops the relationships Cody has and grows with as the story unfolds. Cody’s relationship with her own mother, while pretty nonexistent at the start, even becomes one to appreciate by the time all is said and done.

This story was heartbreaking. It’s hard to lose someone you’re close to. I’ve never lost someone to suicide, so I can only sympathize that loss and the mixed bag of feelings it must leave behind. Then the depression aspect and how that affects everyone in such different ways – from suffering from depression to knowing and trying to help to not knowing at all and being baffled by things that are somehow off.

This story takes a turn for the creepy and dangerous when it introduces the suicide support Meg found online – a community that helps people commit suicide. I don’t want to give away anything that would be a spoiler, so I’m just mentioning that tidbit to send chills down your spine. The Internet is a lovely place, but it’s also super scary.

No, this isn’t a story about depression. It’s a story about lives that are affected by depression. Basically, it’s everyday life. Unfortunately, many stories are like Meg’s and her mother’s depression is taboo, and it shouldn’t be. Stories like this that talk about depression without directly talk about depression while being directly affected by depression (and not talking about it) … that’s what makes this an important book.

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