Monday, December 11, 2017

The Pillars of the Earth

Fiction by Ken Follett

The Pillars of the Earth (Kingsbridge Series #1)

Set in Middle Ages and full of feudalism, war, and the plague, this book might be expected to be terrible.


This is a great book! It's long, but it is definitely worth reading the whole thing. I really loved the characters and the story.

(Although this is the sequel to The Pillars of the Earth, it could definitely be read independently of that novel, since it takes place a couple of hundred years later and, sadly, all the characters from Book One are dead.)

I'm getting the third book next. Squee!!!

I also read recently by this author: Whiteout 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Fiction by Roddy Doyle

The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Well, this was another book that depressed the heck out of me.

It's about an Irish woman with a drinking problem whose husband beats her. Yep, you guessed it! She didn't REALLY walk into doors. She just had a lot of black eyes and broken bones.

Although it's a well-written book I just didn't like it. I mean, does EVERYTHING have to be terrible in this lady's life? Jeez!

And, yes, I realize that sometimes life really is that terrible. But that is NOT why I read fiction. Novels are a place where all the terrible can be fixed with a stroke of the pen. (Or the tap of the computer keyboard, or whatever.) Bad things happen, but all is not lost! Good can triumph over evil!

Not in this book.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

My Sunshine Away

Fiction by M.O. Walsh

My Sunshine Away

In this story, the unnamed first-person narrator explains a terrible time in his early teens, when he was rather darkly obsessed with a neighbor girl, and may or may not have done something bad to her. The whole thing is kind of this guy explaining what happened and why he did things and what he's sorry about, in not-exactly-chronological order.

It was mostly interesting, and the characters were pretty good, but it was kind of depressing to read. It got very difficult to slog through the darkness of the story, but I did want to see what happened at the end. When I finally got there I found a little unexpectedness and some resolution, but it was not a satisfying conclusion to me. The author seemed to be trying to put in a happy ending that didn't seem to mesh well with the rest of the book.

I don't know about this one. I was too unhappy reading it to give it a thumbs-up though.

Friday, December 8, 2017

If I'm Found

Fiction by Terri Blackstock.

If I'm Found

This is the sequel to If I Run, which I read not too long ago.  Casey from the first book is still accused of a murder she didn't commit and she's STILL on the run form the police.

It's a good thriller, but it's part of a I have to wait for the NEXT book to find out what happens....

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Precious and Grace

Fiction by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #17)

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency Series #16)This is the latest book in the "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" series; it is number 17. So then I realized I hadn't yet read #16 in the series: The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine. I had to go to the library and check that one out as well! -->>

So this is actually TWO books I read here.

Both were good stories, engaging in a pleasantly low-key way as all the books of this series are. I think I liked The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine better, but maybe that's just because I'm starting to think that a series is a bit played out after sixteen books.

Still, if you start from Book #1, these characters are definitely worth reading about.

I also read recently by this author: The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe, The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection

Friday, December 1, 2017

Miss Holly is Too Jolly

Children's Fiction by Dan Gutman.

Miss Holly Is Too Jolly! (My Weird School Series #14)

My kids have read several of the books in this series, called the "My Weird School." I recently read this one aloud to my son and it's really funny.

These are good books for younger kids who like humorous stories.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Long Lost

Fiction by Harlan Coben

Long Lost (Myron Bolitar Series #9)

This was an exciting thriller, number nine from the Myron Bolitar series. Although it wasn't a great as some of the more recent ones I've read, it was still a good book.

I also read recently by this author: Tell No One

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Sunflower Forest

Fiction by Torey Hayden

In this story, a seventeen-year-old girl tries to cope with her mother's crazy mood swings, which may or may not be a dangerous mental illness. This was a really good book!

I also read recently by this author: Innocent Foxes

Thursday, November 23, 2017

If I Run

Fiction by Terri Blackstock

If I Run

This was an exciting thriller about a girl who goes on the run after being falsely accused of murder, and the man who is hired to hunt for her. It's the beginning of a series, though, so I need to get the next book right away...

I also read by this author: Twisted Innocence

Monday, November 20, 2017

Innocent Foxes

Fiction by Torey Hayden

Innocent Foxes

I read a rather scathing review on the b&n page (link above) of this book that pretty much gave away the whole plot, but in a bad way. The reviewer was angry that the book was not what it appeared from the front cover.

It's true that was more of a thriller-type novel than the heart-warming tale that the pretty-pretty cover picture, and indeed the synopsis, seems to indicate. I think the publishers are trying to make the book look like Torey Hayden's more popular books, which are nonfiction and are heart-warming. So that may be a mistake on the part of the marketing team, but that doesn't seem the author's fault. Also the title isn't quite right, but I'm not sure what I'd suggest instead.

I really enjoyed it, since I LOVE thrillers, and I like being surprised by plot twists. So don't read the review by anonymous, just read the book!

I also read recently by this author: Overheard in a Dream

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Wangs vs. the World

Fiction by Jade Chang.

The Wangs vs. the World

I just could not get into this book. I'm not sure why; I think it was that I didn't like the characters. And it's a library book, and I'm just going to give up and take it back....

Monday, November 13, 2017


Fiction by Jane Green.


This was a nice straight love story about an English girl who falls for her hunky American landlord in the predictable manner. But it has a little twist at the end so it doesn't quite go where you'd expect.

I also read by this author: Saving Grace, Tempting Fate 

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Secret Chord

Fiction by Geraldine Brooks.

The Secret Chord: A Novel

This is a fictionalized account of the life of King David of Israel, told from the point of view of the prophet Nathan.

It was interesting to read, and really seemed to bring the ancient people of the Bible to life, but it was not necessarily a flattering portrait of its subject. The author says it was her intent to neither laud nor denigrate King David, but rather to show him as the great but also flawed human being he really was. In this I think she succeeded, but her treatment of God's role in the man's life (He is shown as capricious, rather bloodthirsty, and possibly negligent of His people) is a bit difficult for believers to read. Still, it is certainly faithful to the Old Testament account of actual events.

I also read by this author: Caleb's Crossing

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Still Life With Elephant

Fiction by Judy Reene Singer.

Still Life with Elephant: A Novel

This was a cute little story about a girl who is a horse trainer who finds out that her husband, a veterinarian, has been having an affair with a coworker. Well, obviously THAT'S not the cute part. But that's the setup. The cute part is what she does later.

Image result for still life with elephantThere are some fun characters in the story and I enjoyed it.

But the copy I read had a better cover, in my opinion. --->>>>

Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Perfect Neighbors

Fiction by Sarah Pekkanan.

The Perfect Neighbors

In this group of neighbor ladies: one is still in love with her ex-husband, one is slightly bored with her current husband, one is helping her husband run for political office, and one is concealing a terrible secret...

This was a fun read!

I also read by this author: Catching Air

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Simon Vs the Homo Sapien's Agenda

Fiction by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

So...this was a young adult novel about a teenage boy who is afraid to tell his parents he is gay, and he is also trying to find true love.

The voice felt really authentic and the story was interesting. I am a little troubled by novels for teens with sex in them though, straight or gay....

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Killing Monica

Fiction by Candace Bushnell.

Killing Monica

I've read several novels by Candace Bushnell (her most famous is Sex and the City, which was a great book), and they are usually fun reads, but this one was a little disjointed. It's about a chick-lit author who is tired of writing about her glam-girl character and wants to kill her off. Hmmm... et tu, Candace?

It gets a single thumbs-up for holding my attention and having a killer title though.

BTW my seventeen-year-old daughter saw this book and thought it might be about murdering that character from Friends. It's not.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Fiction by Agatha Christie.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot Series)

I just read Agatha Christie's autobiography and she said this was her very first shot at a detective novel. It was rejected a few times and then finally published, gaining her a contract to write more books and not much money. She rather describes this book something she just dashed off and forgot about until they agreed to publish it, and sort of characterizes her other novels as books which she'd churn out with a few months' work when she needed a bit of cash.

This did not jibe with the intricately plotted stories I remembered reading, so I thought I'd look at her first book again with all that in mind.

I have to conclude that she was just being self-deprecating, or was in fact and incredible literary genius, or both. This book is still fabulous one hundred years later.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Seventh Mother

Fiction by Sherri Wood Emmons.

The Seventh Mother

Eleven-year-old Jenny moves from place to place while her dad finds seasonal jobs all over the country. Sometimes a woman joins them for a bit, giving a little love to motherless Jenny, but none of them seem to want to stay for long in the transient lifestyle Jenny's dad enjoys. Then Jenny and her dad meet Emma, and Jenny dares to hope that this "seventh mother" will be the one who stays...

This was a good character story that took some surprising twists. I definitely recommend it!

I also read by this author: Prayers and Lies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Imagine Me Gone

Fiction by Adam Haslett.

Imagine Me Gone

See all those little golden and black-and-white circles on the cover of this book? That means it's a Smart People Book. I've read a few of these, and some are better than others, but they often have a certain style that (I believe) is supposed to seem lofty and intellectual. So this novel was no exception; it had a few of the usual affectations of Smart People Books, things I'm supposed to be intellectual enough to roll with.
  1. The story jumps around in time without giving you any indication in the chapter headings of when it is taking place. As a Smart Person, I am supposed to take my cues from the text and discover if this is the past or present we are discussing, and how much time has elapsed since the last part.
  2.  Some parts of the story take place completely inside the mind of one of the characters. However, it is not necessary for the author to enlighten the Smart Reader about these things. It is up to him or her to simply figure out if events really happened or were just imagined.
  3. Quotation marks are optional. Smart People do not need such ridiculous grammatical conventions to know when someone is talking. Smart People can tell from the context if a character is speaking aloud or silently ruminating or whatever.
Unfortunately, I am not enough of a Smart Person and I find all this business a little exhausting.

All this being said, this was an interesting novel, albeit extremely dark in nature, which is also characteristic of a Smart Person book. Have you ever heard of HAPPY book winning an award? I think not. Still, the characters were believable and I wanted to know what happened to them.

I'm going to give this a tentative thumbs-up, but it's on the verge of a half up half down.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Talisman

Fiction by Stephen King and Peter Straub.

The Talisman

This was a long fantasy story. I enjoyed it, although it had some difficult parts. It was not nearly as bleak as the Gunslinger, and good did finally triumph over evil.

I also read recently by this (or rather, one of these) author(s): The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Underground Railroad

Fiction by Coltson Whitehead.

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club)

Did you think that the "Underground Railroad" was a metaphorical train? I did. In this book it's a literal locomotive engine under the earth. Now, I don't think that's an actual historical representation of the underground railroad, but it does make for an interesting story.

This book follows one slave in the early 19th century on her journey... not exactly to freedom, but to somewhere, anywhere outside slavery.

It's a truly thought-provoking book, both fascinating and terrible to read.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Double Bind

Fiction by Chris Bohjalian.

The Double Bind

Laurel, the main character in this story, is a crime victim who rebuilds her life as an advocate for the homeless and a social worker who ends up in the throes of an obsession with discovering the truth about the past of one of her clients. It seemed at first like a story like a woman with (what I call) hell-bent syndrome, but it turned out to be slightly different. There was a strange ending that I'm still slightly unsure about.

I'd say this book was good, but not nearly as good as others by Mr. Bohjalian I have read. (see below; also Midwives, which I read years ago was very very good.)

I also read recently by this author: The Guest Room , The Night Strangers

Monday, October 16, 2017

An Autobiography

Nonfiction by Agatha Christie.

An Autobiography

This was a long version of a celebrity-memoir type, by which I mean the story is only interesting if you are already interested in the person for another reason. Since I do really like Agatha Christie and her stories I did enjoy reading about her, but the book is not by any means as good a piece of writing as any of her novels, which are fabulously plotted.

Of course, that is not the intention of an autobiography, and in her defense I don't think Mrs.Christie ever intended this to be published and read in the form it's in. It's basically a collection of her musings about her life history complied and edited by her daughter after her death.

That being said, I was interested particularly in her relationship with her first husband (Mr. Christie, from whom she was divorced rather early in life) and where her writing ideas came from, so it was worth reading.

I also read recently by this author: Ordeal by Innocence