Monday, June 28, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

This was another Amazon Vine pick, Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie. a very different book than what I usually read, but just what I needed this weekend while battling a bad arthritis flare-up. For taking my mind off of my pain it gets five stars!

This was a very delightful, quirky book to read combining romance, ghosts and family dynamics. I would never normally read a ghost story and this one surprised me especially as it had not one but five ghosts by the end of the book. The ghost Dennis you almost felt sorry for as he was confined to the couch. But that is getting ahead of the story.

I knew this book was not based on true reality when the main character, Andie Miller, plopped herself down in her ex-husband’s law office determined to give him back 10 years worth of alimony checks that she had never cashed even though she was in debt herself. Who ever gives back alimony checks? In the midst of giving the checks back he convinces her to take a job to care for his wards living in southern Ohio. She arrives to take care of them to find a castle in total disrepair that had been brought over piece by piece from England and a moat surrounding it. The housekeeper was mean and crotchety and oozing booze fumes, the children, Carter and Alice, looking pale and silent until you tried to get Alice to do something she didn’t want to do and then she could scream louder and longer than anyone. And then the ghosts start coming out. A TV reporter shows up to film a story about ghosts along with a ghost expert who doesn’t believe in ghosts and someone to lead a séance. All show up without, of course, the benefit of having been invited.

In this fast paced book, the children learn to love Andie especially as she promises never to leave them. Andie’s ex-husband shows up and gets rid of the TV reporter and eventually all is settled with Andie getting back with her husband (of course). They and the children move to Columbus along with the couch and resident ghost only to find another ghost has been living in their house in Columbus for all this time. No matter how you describe the book, it sounds like a silly book but it is really a fun book to read especially when you need a ‘pick-me-up’ kind of book.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman

This is another Amazon Vine book review. I had rather skimpy pickings last week and this book looked to be one of the better bets. Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman was a lovely story that for the most part I enjoyed very much. I gave it four stars.


This was a story of two families thrown together due to their children’s marriage and then those children’s death one hour after their marriage. The story is set in Maine and is divided into four summers starting with the wedding and ending with the two families acceptance of each other and each other’s strong and weak points four years later. I felt that the story was well told and included many human emotions of sadness, grief, sorrow, love, happiness, beauty, musical appreciation. Every once in a while though, I felt I was hitting a jarring note in the book when I came across a crude word that did nothing for the story except make you wonder why that word had been included in this story in the first place. Yes I am a bit of a prude, but reading a book that is tender and lovely and then running into words that should only appear in sleazy novels was inappropriate and unnecessary. Other than that, I enjoyed reading this book and could also see that it would probably make a terrific movie with the family conflicts, the conflicts within the families, seeing the growth of a musical prodigy, it even had a lovely story setting which would make for great viewing.. It was an interesting and a bit different story.


The child prodigy was Samantha in the book, a young girl that at age three had been adopted from Cambodia and then due to unforseen circumstances wasn't living a life of the great American dream. At the time of the story her prowess at musicwas discovered and her violin playing became a theme throughout the book. Her story in itself would make a great novel.

Red Hook Road

Monday, June 21, 2010

No Hiding Place by Valerie Wilson Wesley

No Hiding Place by Valerie Wilson Wesley is in many regards your typical female detective mystery. The sleuth has her usual problems of not enough money, frustrated love life, and a small group of friends. Where this book differs though is that the author and the sleuth are African-American women. In all my reading of mystery books over the years, this is only the second time I have run into this theme. Eleanor Taylor Bland is the other author of this type of work that I have found and have been frustrated because I haven't been able to easily find more of her works. Both of these authors works are quite good for the type of book they are writing. Nor are they 'in your face' books about black women and the black culture. In No Hiding Place, the black culture comes out because that is the case that has presented itself to Tamara Hayle, the sleuth.

As it doesn't matter to me what color the skin of an author or fictional character may have, I only bring these two authors to you attention for those who are frustrated about not being able to find regular books with a black lead character.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti

This is another book I have read for the Amazon Vine Review Program.

Running Dark by Jamie Freveletti. I didn’t realize until I started to read this book that it was the second in a series. If at all possible, I would urge you to read the first book before reading this one as it should give you the background and foundation for understanding this book right from the beginning. I found myself a bit overwhelmed to encounter a bomb blast, a Senate hearing, a South American pipeline explosion, Somali pirates, a cruise ship being attacked, thugs, and I may have forgotten some others, all within the first few pages of this book. If I had had the opportunity to read the first book, I would have at least known who the characters were and had some understanding of what had gone on before to set the stage for this book. The author tried to clue us in, but with so many things going on all at once it was a difficult task.

Basically this is a suspense book with several different villains and several different evil agendas trying to be met. Of course, only one or two people in the world are capable of dealing with these problems and manage to do so without getting killed in the process. This book takes you into South Africa, Washington DC area, and off the coast of East Africa on a cruise ship that pirates are trying to take over. Apparently the author had already started this book prior to the capture of an actual cruise ship so in this instance life was imitating art. You can’t say that this type of thing couldn’t possibly happen, but it did give insights into how and why something like this could have happened.

All in all it was a fairly good suspense/thriller novel and I would be happy to read more of this series as it is published, only I need to track down the first book in the series, Running from the Devil, first if only to get some unanswered questions about the characters and their relationships answered.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

Here is a book I read for the Amazon Vine Review that I just loved and I think I was due one as I had a few lousy books that I just plowed through.

The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin. What an absolutely lovely book! In many ways this was a typical plane crash in the mountains and "how do we get rescued book?", but the author's deft writing technique made it into so much more. I loved being able to read a book where the man was honorable in spirit and in deed. I loved seeing how deep a love can grow between two people that isn’t necessarily a romantic or sensual type of love but one grounded in caring and gentleness and putting oneself out for the other. While I caught on to the ‘secret’ of Ben’s marriage fairly early, it made the book all that much better for his dedication to his wife.

I had trouble reading the last few pages of this book as I was weeping copiously. I might cry upon seeing the occasional good movie, but rarely have I ever cried when reading a book. This one touched me deeply and I look forward to many more books by this author. If I could, I would give him 10 stars. Besides writing a touching wonderful novel his has also proved that you don’t have to throw two people in bed together in the first 20 pages of the book to keep a person attention. Genuine love and caring in the characters will keep my attention much longer than anything. Thank you for a lovely book.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

20 Under 40 Writers

The New York Times June 2, 2010 Has chosen it’s ‘20 under 40’ writers for the first time since 1999. These are the writers to be watching for possible star quality writing in the future. This time the list is equally divided among men and women. Clicking on each of their names will take you to and one of their books. Links on Amazon should take you to others as you get to know some of the names that will be the brightest names in literature over the next few decades.
The list includes Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32; Chris Adrian, 39; Daniel Alarcón, 33; David Bezmozgis, 37; Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38; Joshua Ferris, 35; Jonathan Safran Foer, 33; Nell Freudenberger, 35; Rivka Galchen, 34; Nicole Krauss, 35; Yiyun Li, 37; Dinaw Mengestu, 31; Philipp Meyer, 36; C. E. Morgan, 33; Téa Obreht, 24; Z Z Packer, 37; Karen Russell, 28; Salvatore Scibona, 35; Gary Shteyngart, 37; and Wells Tower, 37.

I will be looking for these names on my Amazon Vine pick lists to see if I have a chance at seeing some of their work. I just hope it isn’t the kind of writing that I seriously hate! Let's hear what you think of these writers!

The Goddess Abides by Pearl S. Buck

From my many boxes of books to read, this is the latest that I pulled out. I have heard of Pearl S. Buck for many years, but can't recall ever reading one of her books. This needless to say, was a bit of a strange one in my opinion. Better known for her books about China, this one was about a woman in the USA living a life that most of us would never be able to relate to personally. But the writing was well done and you can see where the story is going.

Here is the review that I did for Amazon:

I believe The Goddess Abides is the first novel of Pearl Buck’s that I have ever read. Set apparently in the late 1960’s early 1970’s, an era I well remember, I had a hard time not thinking as I read that the book had taken place much earlier. If not for the references to the Viet Nam War, short skirts on women, etc. I would have thought that the book was taking place in the 1920 pre-depression as the main character of the book still lived with her butler, cook, gardener, and chauffer, a rather full house of servants for that time period.

As the book opens Edith Chardman, 43, is still recovering from the lose of her husband when she meets a young man, Jared, at her winter home in Vermont. He is old enough to be her son yet she feels strangely pulled to him. At the same time she is also having an intense relationship with a much older man who loves her and is near death. Throughout the course of the book, while the servants handle the realities of caring for multiple homes, etc., Edith spends her time having philosophical discussions with herself on the meaning of love and trying to figure out the appropriate way to have a relationship with Jared after her older friend dies. She is also dealing with great difficulty with her age in relation to Jared’s and eventually sends him off to marry a young lady in his own age range.

This book held many lovely pieces of prose, had a front, middle and beginning, and was fascinating in some ways. As someone more than a decade older than Edith though, I have great difficulty understanding why at her age in the end she felt that she would never love again or feel passion for someone. Perhaps she needs to find someone her own age? Why is her life basically over at age 43? Also her ability, due to her wealth, of being able to spend all her time pondering the mysteries of life is very hard for someone like me who has had to ponder the mysteries of life in the midst of working, keeping house, groceries, fighting health problems, raising children, etc. Her only difficulty in life seemed to be deciding whether to build herself another house and whether to give herself in love to this young man or pass him on, honorably, to someone more appropriate than him. Most of use would wish that those were our only difficulties in life. Her life sounded a bit boring to me even though her main activities seemed to be reading and playing her piano. But days on end with nothing significant to do while waiting for phone calls from Jared seems a waste of a healthy person's mind and body. Get out there and do something you want to shout at her.. Very hard to relate to especially for the time period.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Imposter? by Kip Kreiling

Several weeks ago I received an email from Kip Kreiling asking if I would read and review his book, The Imposter? for Amazon if he sent me a copy. After first checking to see that this was a real person and not a phishing scheme, I agreed to read his book. It arrived in the mail several days ago and I did read it and wrote my Amazon review. I appreciated the fact that he took the time to contact me and to send me his book.

I gave this book a 3 star review. The 3 stars was not due to content, but to the editing of the book. This book would have had a much greater impact if the editing was tighter. The story itself is one that many need to read.

The following is my Amazon Review:

This book shows that it is possible to grow up in miserable circumstances, lead a criminal life and manage eventually to put that life behind you and become an upright citizen. While I doubt that the author of this book will ever win prizes for his actual writing skills, what he has to say is profound and full of usable information in turning your life around. He pulls many of his examples, other than himself, from well known characters and how they handled life experiences. My favorite being Benjamin Franklin and his lists. His book is spot on that we have to want to change and we have to work at it every day. His was a life transformed and he wants the world to know so that others can also be transformed.

I think that the book needs some good editing to tighten up the story and remove some of the typos and hanging sentences, but then each and every prison and jail in out country needs to give a copy to each inmate that comes through the doors as a way of helping them cope with the changes that they need to make to become active contributing members of society.


In my prior life I worked for three years as a jail nurse as was greatly disturbed at the waste of lives of many of the young men and women that I saw at our county jail. Some had already given up on life but many others still seemed to be reachable and I think Mr. Kreiling has some of the words and background to get these people to listen. I hope he will take the time to revise and re-edit his book so that it will be a smoother and easier read. Even in The Imposter's? current state it does share lessons that many of us could learn from.

The Quickening maze by Adam Foulds

The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds was a book I got through the Amazon Vine program to review. this review was of the Advance Uncorrected Proof but I noted that it had a blurb on the front cover that it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. If I learned anything from this book, it was to avoid books that are shorlisted or have won the Man Booker prize as they are certainly not what I want to read!

The following is my 1 star review of the book:

The best thing I can say for this book is the author does have a way with words and writing very descriptive paragraphs using lots of words not in common usage. Unfortunately when it comes to stringing all those descriptive paragraphs together he fails in a big way. This book was a maze to read. Often you had no idea who was ‘speaking/thinking’ at any one time. The book seemed to have no beginning, end or even a middle. It was a very disconnected, boring book that I ended up putting down for several days to read several truly interesting books and then had to force myself to finish it.

Perhaps since the book was taking place at an insane asylum, the author felt it best to make everyone in the book have mental health troubles except for the gypsies that were occasionally mentioned in the book. Reading this book felt like being in a hallucination. Don’t waste your time. There are too many wonderful books in the world to read without wasting your time on this one.


If you like your reading to feel like you are taking Honors English and need to do a term paper of some sort, perhaps The Quickening Maze might do the trick for you, but for me, I have better things to do with my time.