Monday, October 13, 2014

Dear Bookworms

If you're looking for some guidance in picking your next book to read, perhaps the following reviews will be of assistance.

The Girl Who Fell from the SkyThe Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a beautifully crafted tale by Heidi Durrow. It is about a girl who is haunted by events that shaped her destiny early on without her having much say in the matter. Events that are only vaguely remembered and yet continue to form the fabric of each passing day. A father who has vanished without a trace. A mother who left this world in the splashiest of ways, taking her own life along with those of her other children by leaping from the roof of a building. There is a witness and a survivor, and this book is the latter's story, as well as an examination of race. She is her father's black daughter and also her mother's white daughter. As result her racial identity is both and neither, dependent on how one sees her, or how she chooses to see herself on any given day. She is trapped in a past that won't let go, facing the future with much trepidation, because she already knows that if she takes a leap she will do so without wings. But that does not mean she won't survive, because along with her blackness and her whiteness and her status as one who has been taken in upon being abandoned, like a broken winged bird, she is also a proven survivor. The narrative moves back and forth in time and is told from multiple perspectives, revealing the back story to readers a layer at a time, in as random a manner as the markings of heredity. It is filled with tragedy and longing and loneliness and confusion. Good intentions and poor decisions do battle and cancel each other out. Yet beneath it all there is muted hope that wings may one day sprout.

View all my reviews Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2)Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stephen King hasn't lost a step. A major key to his success is that if you strip away all of the spooky supernatural stuff, you'll find well developed characters who are easy to relate to, expert pacing, and no shortage of intriguing background stories and subplots. The inhuman demons who torment his protagonists may be what King's faithful readers come for, but the terror only works if those being terrorized are likable, and their behavior plausible. That's why it's easy enough for King to take breathers from the creepy and crawly to pen equally engaging stories set completely in our real world. But when he's ready to return to the darkness that resides in his mind, nobody does it better, and nobody can keep up with his pace. Doctor Sleep is a worthy follow-up to the magnificent The Shining.

22 books recommended by Stephen King since he has joined Twitter -

View all my reviews Juliet, NakedJuliet, Naked by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my favorite of the Nick Hornby books I have read so far, though I should add that I have enjoyed the movie adaptations I've seen more than the books I've read. To date there has been no cross over of those two lists. I haven't read the book versions of the Hornby movies I've seen (High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch), and have not seen movie versions of the books I've read (How to be Good, A Long Way Down, and now, Juliet, Naked). Apparently A Long Way Down has been made into a movie, so upon seeing it, at last I'll be able to compare novel to movie. But you're reading this primarily because you're interested in my opinion of Juliet, Naked - so I should get to that. I'm giving it 3-1/2 stars on my personal ratings scale, but since GoodReads does not allow for half stars, I'm rounding down to 3 here. I could have been more generous and gone up to 4, but I've given 4 out of 5 stars to some very impressive literary efforts. 3 stars feels more appropriate for this one. Hornby likes to write about things that people are passionate about in addition to or instead of other people. The obsession could be sports, perhaps a particular team. Or music, perhaps a particular band or artist. That last one describes Juliet, Naked. It gives us the story of a man who is fanatical about a singer/songwriter who has not released an album in 20 years. The last album that Tucker Crowe did release is a musical holy grail to Duncan. He devotes countless hours sharing conspiracy theories about Crowe's life and music with fellow devotees on the internet. Duncan's long time girlfriend appreciates Tucker's music as well, but is more or less along for Duncan's single focus ride. Duncan and Annie are not particularly passionate about each other, and this has been the case since the beginning of their relationship rather than the result of affection dwindling over the ravages of time. They got together because in the small town they live in, they made more sense together than being with anyone else. Over the course of the book Tucker transitions from being a distant object of idolatry to a person that Annie corresponds with via email, and eventually, a flesh and blood person in their actual lives. Duncan has never had feelings for Annie comparable to his intensity of emotional reaction to Tucker's music. Nothing personal against her, as Duncan doesn't seem capable of feeling strongly towards anyone. By the story's end, Annie is perhaps finally ready to form a relationship based on desire rather than convenience of location. As for Tucker, he thinks primarily about himself and the mess he has made of his life while also managing to be a decent father to his youngest child. Towards the end of the book Tucker reflects that a considerable amount of significant events have taken place in a relatively short amount of time, yet he feels mostly unchanged by them. Likewise, I'm feeling unchanged by this book. Yet I have to say that it was an enjoyable and interesting read. Hornby characters think about themselves and others and their circumstances and their obsessions in entertaining fashion. It doesn't much matter what does or does not take place during your visit with them. Either way you're glad you stopped by.

View all my reviews Where Monsters DwellWhere Monsters Dwell by Jørgen Brekke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was underwhelmed. Perhaps something was lost in the translation but the writing in this book didn't strike me as good enough to make it past form rejection letters from agents/publishers. Yet this didn't stop it from being published and apparently becoming an international best seller. How that happened is a much bigger mystery to me than the one solved between the front and back covers.

President of the Whole Fifth GradePresident of the Whole Fifth Grade by Sherri Winston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is plenty in this book that I found to like. It features an ambitious African American girl who sets no limitations on her future. Those ambitions are not superficial things like being a movie star or pop star, or hoping to marry her favorite movie/pop star. Not only does she have serious entrepreneurial aspirations but also practical plans for how to begin moving towards them. It starts with becoming President of her grade at school. Enter a conniving rival who is willing to stoop as low as necessary to throw a monkey wrench in these plans. Enter an ally who encourages her to put ambition ahead of ethics. Eventually Brianna learns that ambition is as noble as the path one takes to to make their dreams come true. If success comes at the expense of losing loyal friends and losing respect for yourself, can it be considered true success? Brianna Justice's attitude towards education is refreshing. Learning is promoted as interesting and fun rather than imposed drudgery. This is a girl with a good head on her shoulders and eyes firmly set on the prize. I applaud the messages of this story but feel that the execution could have been a little tighter. There was also one too many easily found "deep dark secrets" lying around for convenient plot machination. I'm not the intended audience of this book though. My 8 year old daughter loved it from beginning to end. There's much to be said for satisfying your target reader above and beyond anyone else. #WeNeedDiverseBooks

View all my reviews

Care to enter a contest to win a book?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Patches Of Grey by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Patches Of Grey

by Roy L. Pickering Jr.

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Although a descendant of Christopher Columbus may attempt to take credit for this discovery, let it be known that I am the one who is informing you that the Kindle edition of PATCHES OF GREY is free at Amazon 10/24 -10-25.

I personally read books like the people depicted below.

And I enjoy reading with the mood set just right and essential props at my disposal.

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