Monday, October 21, 2013

The Truth About You by Susan Lewis

I wanted to like this book a whole lot more than I actually did. This author has been recommended to me as someone who has a good feel of the pulse of real life and issues of women today. Maybe so, but this novel didn't sell me. Perhaps the biggest disconnects for me were in two elements, rooted in today's world, that bug the bejiggers out of me. The first is that yes, we do have a lot of technology, with computers, email, texts, and skype, but I really don't like to have my reading world completely infiltrated by that as well as my real world. I'm one of the few people I know who sets a limit on personal computer use, and won't regularly use it after a certain time in the evening unless for a specific need. Phone goes off, too, at a regular time, only allowing emergency calls from family. Yet throughout this book, electronic communication, even when connections were bad, substituted for personal interactions.

The second plot device that really, really irritated me was the intrusion of something into the story that I have made a conscious decision to avoid: Fifty Shades of Gray. There was way more about a book I have no desire to read or talk about in this novel than I cared for. It was not a successful plot element for this reader, even though the author was using it in a particular manner to advance the story and define certain characters.

As to Julia, a whole lot could have been worked out much easier and earlier, if instead of insisting on talking, then storming off without really speaking, the characters actually talked. Now there's a novel idea.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and the publisher for sending me this book. I'm sorry I didn't like it.

Plot summary available here.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two more: Someone else's love story and the absent one

A thoughtful book, but mostly because Carl Mørck is a thoughtful man. Intuition plays a large part in his police work, examining the dead cases files, but so does intelligence, and observation. He thinks not just outside the box, but perhaps outside the entire room. In this second installment of the Department Q series, Mørck is still combating the elements that broke him just prior to solving the first dead case, still building his department, and still trying to regain his rhythm in life. His investigation of a 20 year old case of the murder of a brother and sister is complicated by several things. First of all, the case is not open -- there was a confession and conviction, and second, there are big players who do not want the investigation reexamined.

I'm liking this series a great deal.

Joshilyn Jackson seems to have a knack in drawing quirky, but realistic characters, in quirky, but realistic situations. This story of tangled lives that become even more entangled after a robbery at a Circle K, had a lot of the good stuff I look for in a book I read for relaxing. I'd just come off of two more serious (and for me sad/depressing) books so this was a welcome balm. Loved the love the characters have for others, as well as the hurt, mistrust, and misunderstandings they have as well. Set in Rural Georgia (and Atlanta), the area I was when reading the novel, was also a treat. Plot summary available elsewhere, but I think I shall always adore Shandi for recognizing the specialness of her son (who reminds me of a kid I know) and the wonderful way William has learned to deal with his world perceptions (his Au-tastic nature, as his best friend says.) The virgin birth (which was documented in a different way than the last virgin birth I read about in a book) was a really fine touch, too.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

I'm not normally a fan of Gothic-ghost story type stuff, but lately have found a taste for it in some of the recent YA lit coming out. I heard about this book from someone or other who read a review and heard an interview with the author, and then it popped up in my radar on the book sites as well.

I thought this tale was well crafted, dark, but with good depth. I'm making the mistake of writing the review a week after I finished the book, and don't have my copy in front of me to refer back to, so will rely on reviews of the plot already out there to give those details. From me, you'll get that I liked the characters, I liked the way the story unfolded, with present day and then back to the time before the murders of Sylvie and Rose's parents -- parents whose occupation was helping "haunted souls" find their peace. Family dynamics in the most normal of families can be twitchy when adolescence hits, and this family was not exempt. But unraveling all the other threads that braid together to tell this tale was a nice read, and a good reminder that things are not always what they seem.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys by Billy Crystal

Billy Crystal is a man I'd like to have as a friend. Unless he's really fooling lots of people, he's a real mensch. There's nothing to date in all that I know of him to give any other indication. Caring, funny, married to the same woman since he was 23, devoted to his friends and family, and able to make the world laugh.

A few things that stood out for me in this book: the people he calls close friends, who inhabit every walk of life, his love of baseball, his athleticism. There were some stories I'd heard before, others that were totally new to me. Some particularly resonated (his bar mitzvah, the passing of his mother, his interactions with Mohammed Ali, the show in Russia.

Good book. If I ever get to have that fantasy dinner, I hope I remember to invite Billy Crystal.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On the Road to Mr Mineo's by Barbara O'Connor

You won't find car chases or superheroes, but you'll find a gentle story of the dreams, worries, and hopes that Sherman, a homing pigeon who has wandered from his home evokes among the townsfolk of  Meadville, South Carolina. Stella wants him as a pet, and enlists her friend Gerald to help her, and a the same time thwart her brother Levi (and his scabby kneed, germ infested gang of friends) from getting him. Amos and Ethel Roper, the Meadville version of the Bickersons, argue about the one legged pigeon (and a little brown dog) who have invaded their barn and their lives. Mr Mineo and his dog Ernie spend their days searching for the wayward Sherman. Mutt Reynard, the Meadville boy who cried wolf, wants to catch the bird to prove to everyone he wasn't lying about a one legged pigeon landing on his head. And Luther and Edsel play checkers outside the Chinese restaurant, and watch the town children run around town on their hunt for the bird. The plot isn't complicated, but is told in such a droll, delightful way, with the characters all very real. I could see a teacher using this as a discussion book in a class. The descriptions, style of writing (with humorous descriptors repeating frequently in the text), and the winding threads of the story would be great to dissect and discuss.  Received an audio version of this book via the Early Reviewer program at Library thing.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Weker

What a scrumptious book! The Golem and the Jinni is a wonderful mix of fantasy, magic, history, romance, friendship and folklore. It also brings up some philosophical issues of various faiths, not hitting the reader in the face with "truisms", but leading along the path of examination and discovery.

This debut novel (which supposedly took 7 years in the making) is the story of Chava, a Golem, whose master died aboard a ship from Europe to New York, and Ahmad, a Jinni enslaved by a wizard centuries ago, released from his tin bottle prison in the Little Syria section of New York City.  Though New York of 1899 is big and bustling, it is inevitable that these two supernatural creatures, one forged of clay to serve the whim of a now dead master, the other a spirit of the desert winds and fire, bound to a master that he cannot remember, find each other.

The small details of this story delighted me. I read somewhere that the author incorporated the stories of her family to flesh out the tale. And in her writing, I felt that I was sometimes witnessing the world my grandmother told my mother about (at least relating to Chava. My experience with Arab-Americans came much later in life, in another city entirely.)

A friend recommended this book to me saying, "Just read it. I can't explain it. Just read it."  She was right.

For more plot details,etc, check out the New York Times review. I couldn't say it any better.

PS Thank you, Mary.