Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Diviner's Tale - Bradford Morrow

Cassandra Brooks is already known as the local eccentric. In her 30's, she's the single mother of twin boys and a part time teacher. But it's her side job that has her neighbors watching her with suspicion. She has followed in her father's footsteps and is a diviner of water, a dowser as they are commonly known.

But Cassandra starts to wonder if water isn't the only thing she can divine. On a job for a developer, alone in the woods, Cassandra comes across the body of a girl hanging from a tree. But when we returns with the police, no sign of any thing she saw can be found. Later, a girl is found in the woods, alive, dirty, and lost.

And after that, her visions become darker, more frequent, and Cassandra is forced to confront a past she has tried to forget, and a real life killer who has haunted her since childhood.

This was one of my audio book selections. I enjoyed the story. There was just enough suspense to keep me on the edge of my seat without totally creeping me out. There were moments when Cassandra goes down "memory lane" and it can get a little too lengthy, but it all ties into the story eventually. Overall, I'd rate this one with 4 1/2 stars out of 5. The narrator did an excellent job and the author has produced a nice thriller that is suspensful, but not down right creepy, with  murder, but lacking the gore, and just a hint of romance thrown in for good measure.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Follow The River - James Alexander Thorn

On Wednesday this past week, I got online with the library and downloaded a book to my Kindle. The only thing on my wish list that was available for check out was Follow The River, by James Alexander Thorn. So I checked it out.
I finished it on Saturday, and not any sooner only because I absolutly had to stop reading because my eyes were hurting so badly on Friday. It was one of those troublesome books that won't let me put it away for long, and so I neglect things like sleeping and keeping my husband company.
The story interested me because it is based on real events and people, it's historical, and set in a period of history that interests me greatly. So it was nearly destined to be a winner with me. And about three paragraphs in, I was hooked.
The action starts off right away, and the descriptive writing along with the events of the story and the story telling itself make it a very captivating read.
Follow the River tells the story of Mary Draper Ingles. In 1755, Mary, along with her two children, her sister-in-law, and a neighbor, were taken prisoner during a Shawnee Indian raid of their Virginia settlement. They were taken on a trip of several hundred miles along the rivers and across the peaks of the the Allegheny mountains to the Shawnee town where they were split up and given to different tribal groups.
Mary, determined to get back to her husband and her home, made the heart rending decision to leave her infant daughter, which she'd given birth to on the trail, and slipping away one afternoon, begin the impossible 600 mile trek back home. A woman in the wilderness, where no settlers had ever ventured before, with just a blanket, a tomahawk, her wits and her determination to go home, facing 600 miles of mountain passes and river crossings at the onset of winter.
True story with a remarkable outcome, and now I'm itching to go see these places in Virginia and West Virginia. Just adding to a ridiculously long list of future road trips. My list of "places to go" is like my list of "books to read." Both will be impossible to finish.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Secret River - Kate Grenville

This was my most recent audio selection. I'd probably give it 3 1/2 or 4 stars. It was interesting and entertaining but it had it's slow moments. I also was frustrated with the main character for not having the morals I hoped he'd demonstrate towards the natives in the story. I wanted him the one voice of reason and kindness and....

Well for the period it's set in, the fact is that Thornhill is written as a real man, and acted exactly how he would have realistically acted at that time.

Which makes sense, since this novel is based on real people and real experiences.

The Secret River is set in and near Sidney, Australia, at it's beginning, when it was where Great Britain dumped it's convicts to rid the country of them.

It's a story of colonial settlement, of reaching beyond the circumstances life plants you in and making the most of them. It's a survival story. It is also an interesting little glimpse into Australia's history.

The Secret River is the first in a trilogy, based on the author's family. I'm not certain if I'll read the other two. I would possibly be interested in listening to them on audio, but my library doesn't always have all the books in a set available. If I can't get them from the library, I don't know if I'll pursue reading them or not. I'm curious to hear the rest of the story, but their are so many other books on my wish list, that if I can't get these for free, I probably won't spend money on them in order to finish the story.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Scent of Rain and Lightning - Nancy Pickard

Ventured forth from my historical novel norm to read a modern day murder mystery. Then again, I didn't get to far from my standard because it's set in a little farming town in Kansas. :) Can't help myself.

Really enjoyable read, just enough suspense and mystery to keep you attentive. About half way through I thought I had it figured out, only to have my theory totally blown out of the water at the end.

Really likable characters who seemed like real people, not so made up for a book. You know what I mean?

So here's the basic gist of the story and then you decide if you want to read it or not, but I really enjoyed it so I'd encourage you to go for it. I've got another of Pickard's mystery novels on my wish list now, another one set in Kansas.

Jody is suspicious of happiness because it always seems to deceive you so that the bad things that follow can sneak up on you. And the bad always follows. When she was three, life was good and happy and then one stormy night her father was murdered and her mother vanished, and she's never trusted happiness since.

Twenty-three years later, life is going well and Jody is happy and suspicious. She's landed a job teaching high school English in her home town, she's surrounded by her loving grandparents and uncles, and has been loved and cared for by the citizens of her home town. But happiness is deceiving and now her uncles are standing in her living room telling her that the man who killed her father is being released from prison and he's coming back home to Rose, KS. His son, Collin, now a lawyer and the one responsible for his father's early release is coming too, convinced his father is innocent of the murders, and determined that Jody is going to take a closer look at the events that happened that night so many years ago.

I checked this book out from the library for my Kindle so you can get it in that version if you want to.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Blind Contessa's New Machine - Carey Wallace

I loved this book! I would love for everyone to read it. The story is touching, the writing is beautiful, the characters are believable and loveable.  The Blind Contessa's New Machine is set in early 19th century Italy. It is fiction, but based on the invention of the typewriter.  
Carolina is a young woman who loves nature and beauty. Turri is her neighbor and friend, an eccentric inventor who the community accepts, but laughs at behind his back. No one understands him except for Carolina.
Carolina is slowly going blind. She's told her parents and her fiance, but no one believes her. No one except Turri. As her world closes in around her, and darkness claims all the beauty of the world and takes it from her, Turri becomes her closest confidant and friend...and more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Thirteen Moons - Charles Frazier

This is my third Charles Frazier book, the first two being Cold Mountain and Nightwoods. And once again Frazier took me back to my homeland in the Appalachian mountains with descriptions and voices that conjured up nostalgia in my heart.

Thirteen Moons tells the story of Will Cooper, a boy of twelve who finds himself indentured to a stranger. He's given a map and a key and told to go run the mans store out in the Cherokee Nation in the Appalachian mountains. He quickly develops a bond with the people of the region, adopted by Bear, a Cherokee chief, and warmly welcomed by the community.

Will's story is a story of the search for a home and belonging, fortune and adventure, friendship and loyalty. The adventures he leads and the love he pursues work together to build his character and future.

I really enjoyed this story, and the manner in which it was written. I guess Charles Frazier is just one of those writers who creates a success every time he puts pen to paper.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Next to Love - Ellen Feldman

This book seemed to have mixed reviews on Amazon, but I didn't read them until I was already caught up in the story. Seeing as how I was already caught up, I guess you can assume that I didn't agree with the negative reviews.

Seemed like the biggest complaint was that the story jumped around between character perspectives and went back and forth in time. But I kind of like books that tell you the story from every one's perspective. The time bouncing did get a little confusing, but it didn't disrupt the story, and it wasn't drastic. We're not talking like leaping forward or backward by decades. It would just let one woman tell her part, and then bounce back a year to pick up what someone else was experiencing during the same time and events.

I'm having trouble with words today, so I'm just going to share the synopsis from the author's web page. It describes the story to a 'T'.

"When their men go off to war, Babe, Millie, and Grace, three childhood friends in Massachusetts, live on letters, and in dread of telegrams that can bring only bad news. But as the war drags on, and when peace breaks out, they experience changes that move them in directions they never dreamed possible. The women lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places.
And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which women’s rights, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities and uncertainties.
Yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
A story of war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next To Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history."

This was a great story. I got very involved and attached to characters. I was a little disappointed in the ending. It kind of was anti-climatic, but overall, I'd recommend this book for anyone who is looking for a fulfilling read that they don't have to think too deeply on, but will still move them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

FInding Everett Ruess

- David Roberts

Weeks ago, a close friend and family member was telling Malcolm he should read Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. On a whim, I looked in my library's audio selection and found that it was available. So I checked it out and we ended up listening to it together. I remembered Chris McCandless being in the news, him missing and then his body found in Alaska. But I hadn't paid much attention to the story, which Krakauer goes into depth in telling within the pages of Into The Wild.
It was interesting listening to the story. I found myself, to some degrees, thinking his adventures sounded like experiences I wouldn't mind having for myself (I reiterate "to some degree") but for the most part I was kind of disgusted with him and his selfishness and disregard for people who cared for him.

Within the telling of McCandless' story, Krakauer devoted a few pages to a quick summary of another man's life, drawing a comparison between McCandless and a young man who disappeared into the Utah desert in the 1930's and was never heard from again. His name was Everett Ruess.

A few weeks later I was looking through the library audio selection again, and ran across a name that caught my eye. The title was Finding Everett Ruess. I wasn't intensely interested in another story like Into the Wild, but thought Malcolm might be interested, so I checked it out. Malcolm hasn't gotten to it yet, but the other night my audio book ended, and I was bored. So I flipped over to Finding Everett Ruess on the iPod and started listening.

I had never heard of Everett Ruess, though he apparently has acheived some fame in the art world, and also that of adventurers. I can't say why I was intrigued in his story, because there are characteristics about Everett that really bugged me, such as he was spoiled and seemed to have an attitude of entitlement which usually irritates me. But despite this, I was still drawn to him.  And though the book took a slow start to get going, 6 chapters in, it took off and captured me.

Everett was an aspiring writer, poet, and artist who, in his late teen years, enjoyed venturing out into the then frontier of southwestern Utah for months at a time. He was inspired by nature and the beauty of the world, and his love of these things found their way into his writing and paintings. Though I'd never heard of Ruess, I discovered that I was familiar with sayings that are apparently quotes from his journals, and also that I recognized some of his art work, though I never knew who the artist was when I had previously been exposed to his work.

In 1934, Everett, at the age of 20, walked into the Utah desert for another one of his stints in the wilderness, and was never heard from again.  Searchers found his 2 burros waiting in a canyon corral, but his gear and he were never seen again. There apparently was no trace of him ever discovered, though the searches were many and covered a vast territory. The only trace left of his being in the desert was his self-appointed nickname of "NEMO" graffitied on canyon walls in a handful of obscure, hard to reach places.

The book goes into details on searches, and hypothesis on his disappearance. And then goes into great detail on an event that occurred in 2008 that was ground shaking for the case.
I wouldn't have picked this book out of personal interest on a normal day. But after reading it (through audio) I came out of the last pages rather attached to Everett and interested in his work. It's an interesting story, and I would encourage anyone to read it. National Geographic backed a great deal of Roberts research, and feature the story with photographs on their website.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Divide by Nicholas Evans

I grabbed this one off my bookshelf while we were home and read it while lounging on my couch, a wonderful place to read!  This was a loaner from my mother-in-law. Isn't it wonderful to have close friends and relatives with libraries you can borrow from?

I really enjoyed the Horse Whisperer (another of Evan's books), and so I was interested to get into this one. It didn't disappoint me. In fact, it was pretty gripping from chapter one.

The story starts out in the pristine snowy mountains of Montana, a father and son on a enjoyable ski trip, one of the last of the season. Having a great time, but suddenly they make a grisly discovery, the body of a young woman buried in the snow and encased in ice.

The investigation ensues and the girl is quickly identified as Abbie Cooper, an eco-terrorist wanted for murder. But before Abbie took this dark path in life, she was the golden child of an upstanding family. The rest of the book spends it's pages exploring what brought about this change in Abbie and how and why her death occurred, delving into family dynamics and other relationships.

As I said, the story was pretty gripping and I enjoyed it. The characters were likable and believable. I liked it and I'd recommend it as a good read.

I had no quarrels with the story. My quarrels were were the author. Throughout the whole book there was something niggling at me that didn't sit right, and I finally figured out what. The whole thing was a little too close to the Horse Whisperer in that it's a  bitter New York bitch meets wholesome Montana cowboy thing. He wakes up her softer side and there are some warm tingles, etc etc. This story didn't focus on it, and really it was just hovering at the outskirts of the story, but it was still there, and really, I feel like if an author is truly a creative writer, they can avoid repeating things in unrelated stories. I mean, Montana's not the only state with snowy mountains and New York is not the only city with bitches! He could have changed the locations at the very least!

And then I found out that Evans lives in England! England???? Wow! I thought surely he must live in Montana, since he has used that state as the setting in the only two of his books I've read. Now I feel like I must read at least a third one, just to see if he continues his pattern.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Bean Trees - Barbara Kingsolver

I have enjoyed two other Barbara Kingsolver books. My first exposure to her was when I read Prodigal Summer, years ago when I was in college. My second experience was listening to The Poison Wood Bible on audio a couple years ago. I have since listened to it a second time and can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed it both times. I was looking for something at a bookstore many weeks ago and found The Bean Trees. Knowing I'd had such a grand experience with the author on two previous occasions, I decided it was worth purchasing the book and taking it home with me.
I was surprised to learn that The Bean Trees is actually Ms. Kingsolver's first book, written in 1988, and that it is frequently required reading in college lit courses. I had never heard of it, but I can see why it would be considered so popular a choice.

First, the story is captivating and entertaining. I was instantly attached to the characters and involved with them emotionally. But aside from it's entertainment appeal, there is a lot of discussion worthy material in the book.

In a nut shell, we have the main character, Taylor, who lives in a small Kentucky town where you have a good chance of ending up pregnant. Her biggest dream has been of getting away and discovering what the world holds. So when she saves up enough money, she buys a barely getting along old car and hits the road, no particular destination in mind.

By the time she gets to Tucson, she's been saddled with an abandoned baby and her car is on it's last leg. As one thing leads to another she must come to terms with her new role a mother and the need to put down roots and be responsible. As the author's website puts it, "Hers is a story about love and friendship, abandonment and belonging, and the discovery of surprising resources in apparently empty places."

I enjoyed this book so much and would strongly encourage all to read it. It was quick and light and fun to read, but also prompted some emotion and thinking.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Caleb's Crossing - Geraldine Brooks

This was an audio book selection that I enjoyed.

In 1665, a young man from Martha's Vineyard became the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. The story in Caleb's Crossing is based on this event. Geraldine Brooks weaves a beautiful story around the characters.

The story is told by Bethia Mayfield and begins when she is in her early teen years, still enjoying the freedom of youth before predictable life as a colonial wife begins. In her forest ramblings, she meets a young indian boy. They reach past the language barrier to become great friends, and rename each other. She becomes Storm Eyes, and he becomes Caleb.

A few years later, her father, a minister who's heart is in converting the local natives, takes in Caleb and another young native boy and begins to tutor and train them towards an acceptance to Harvard, where he hopes they will graduate as ministers to their people.

Through unexpected tragic events, Bethia finds herself indentured to the school master in Cambridge who has taken on the education of her brother, Make Peace, and Caleb. Life on the mainland is a vastly different world than the one they new in the island colony, and all three have much to learn about life and love.

I enjoyed the story, and the narrator's work. It's always interesting listening to audio books. Truly, the narrators can make or break a book for me. This was a pleasant story, and pleasant also to listen to. Not on of the "Oh my gosh you've got to read this" type, but still a good, solid, enjoyable story.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Between Georgia - Joshilyn Jackson

Really quick and fun read. The only thing I was dissappointed in was that it was over so quickly. I should have paced myself better.

You will be entertained, laugh, maybe tear up a little, and thuroughly enjoy the characters.

A picture perfect small southern town with your standard family fued and crazy characters.

Nonny Frett is born late one night when 15 year old Hazel Crabtree stumbles up onto the Frett's front porch at the end of a hidden pregnancy, asking for help and demanding secrecy. Stacia Frett, who has already lots her hearing, the man she loves, and is slowly loosing her eyesight as well, and has been questioning when God was going to work something in her favor, demands that her sisters let her keep the baby, while Hazel skips town.

Thirty years later, Nonny is a successful interpreter living in Athens, GA. She's lived her entire life stuck between a rock and a hard place, caught between her Crabtree genetics and her upbringing as a Frett. She has two mothers, one deaf and blind and the other nearly flat crazy. She has two men in her life; a husband who's been sneaking around on her and a best friend who's decided to lay seige to her heart. And she has a job that keeps her stuck in the city, while there's a little girl in her small country home town who owns her heart. She has to decide, but she's not good at choosing.

And then a random event sets things in motion, and Nonny finds herself in the position of having to choose, as her family and the little town of Between, GA are rocked by secrets revealed and the chaos they set in motion.

LOVED it! Nice, entertaining, make you smile kind of book. Check out the author's site for more information.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak

This was an interesting selection. I listened to it on audio. I chose it because the title caught my attention, and the setting of World War II Germany. I seem to be reading a lot of books set during that era lately. Kind of odd for me.

Anyway, I had a rather difficult time getting into this one, and really didnt' like it very much at all to begin with. I think mostly because I had a hard time following it, since it seemed to be hopping around a lot between characters and stories. But then it all fell together and after that, I was hooked.

Hooked, though it wasn't exactly a gripping, edge of your seat, tale. I was hooked because the telling of the story was kind of fascinating to me, and the story itself had become interesting.

A quick summary, as told from the authors website:
"It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul."

One of the things that intrigued me about the book, that I found completely novel and an interesting idea;
the story is told by one of the characters, but one who doesn't play a major role in the story, other than that of an observer and occasional participant in events. The narrator never officially identifies himself with a name, but he makes it clear from the beginning, through his description of his job and what we humans think of him, that he is Death. Yes, Death tells the story of Liesel and her family and friends. As I said, it was rather interesting.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Separate Country - Robert Hicks

A Separate Country is set post Civil War in New Orleans, Louisiana. General John Bell Hood was one of the more controversial figures of the Civil War, and after the war he became one of it's most tragic. Loosing a leg and the use of an arm during the war, he retreated to New Orleans after surrender, where he married Anna Marie Hennon and fathered 11 children. As good and decent a man as he was, he constantly struggled to overcome his misfortunes and admit to his failures. Haunted by war memories and hunted by financial ruin due to poor choices, his loved ones were the only ones who could eventually rescue him and show him how to love and how to be loved. If only his sense of love and freedom from  the ghosts had had longer to reighn in his life. Shortly after shaking off the chains of failure, he succumbed to yellow fever, along with his wife, and two children.

I selected this book for several reasons, but primarily because I enjoy Civil War history, and because I loved Robert Hicks previous novel, The Widow of the South.

While A Separate Country was well written and an interesting story, I had trouble staying in it and it was not the novel that The Widow of the South was for me! I much prefer that one to this most recent one. Overall, I was not thrilled with this book, and probably won't read it again or encourage others to read it. However, I am eager to learn more about Gen. John Hood and how much of the story was real and how much was fictionalized. And so now that I've finished the novel, and written my blog review, I'm off to do some internet research about the real man and see what I can learn.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Lady of Arlington - John Perry

This is a book I had read before, years ago, but had a hankering to read again. This is a biography about the wife of General Robert E. Lee.

Before I tell you about the book, I need to say that if you go searching for this book, as I did, there is some confusion. I can't find it under this exact title, or with this jacket cover. However, there is a very similar title by the same author, and I'm going to assume that it was re-published under the new, but very similar name of Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington.

Many of us have heard of Robert E. Lee, the great leader of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. If your from the southern states, I'll pretty much guarantee you've heard of him! But few of us know much about his wife, which is why I encourage history buffs, especially southern history buffs, to read this biography.

For over a century, Mary Anna Custis Lee has stood in the shadow of her husband, the great General Robert E. Lee. Many who did know of her, believed her to be a lazy, whining, difficult woman who was her husband's constant bother. These beliefs were based on snippets from letters exchanged between husband and wife, comments made by Robert to Mary and others about his wife's poor house keeping and such. What was overlooked in all these assumptions, was that Robert often used a tone of humor in his writing and was a known tease.

The truth about Mary Custis Lee is revealed in this book. The author, John Perry, did extensive research, digging up letters exchanged between Mary and Robert and their friends and family, as well as other documents in order to share with us the beautiful spirit of the woman, and the love shared between these two individuals.

Some know that Mary Lee was the great-granddaughter of Martha Washington, and that our Arlington National Cemetery spreads across the beautiful acreage of her family plantation, Arlington. (As a point of interest for those who don't know (and you will if you read the book), the Union government, after illegally seizing the property from Mary, began burying the soldiers there meaning to insult her and her husband.)

Mary was so much more than Robert Lee's wife. She was an artist
She was a strong Christian who leaned on her faith to carry her and her family through the long seperations from her husband during his military career and on through the Civil War. Plagued by illness and extremly painful and dibilitating arthritis, she very nearly singlehandedly raised seven children, while her husband was off building a great military career. She witnessed to Robert faithfully for years before his conversion, and played an active roll in erging their children towards the faith as well. During the War Between the States, she encouraged others who lost hope, held her family together as they were forced to move from place to place, and knitted socks and mittens constantly for her husband's men, even as her hands fought against her in their pain.

Far from being the thorn in Robert's side, as she's been portrayed in the past, Mary Custis Lee was his love and his strength, and eventually, the one to lead him to his salvation.

This is a great biography, really easy to read, captivating story, inspriring!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

City of Thieves - David Benioff

This is another of my random audio selections. I hadn't heard of the author or the book. I was just scrolling through my library's online audio selection trying to find something to entertain me while driving. I stumbled across this and downloaded it because I was running out of search time. I needed something to listen to right away and hoped this would keep me interested and awake.
And it did!
Between the author and the narrator, this book had me hooked from the beginning! I love it when completly random books turn out to be wonderful!

City of Thieves is set in Leningrad, Russia during WWII. Lev is a half Jewish boy of 17, too young to join the army, but still yearning to do something of importance. One night, while working with his team of volunteer fire fighters, they find a dead Nazi paratrooper. The city is starving, being bombed nightly, disintegrating around them, and so of course, even though it is forbidden, Lev and his friends search the body for anything they can use. But the authorities saw the paratrooper descending too, and when they arrive, the firefighters are able to escape. All of them that is, except for Lev.
He is taken to prison where he is sure he will be executed. But instead the next day he is taken to the commander's office, where he is introduced to Koyla, a deserter of the Russian army. Lev and Koyla are given a mission. The commander's daughter is getting married and wants a grand wedding with all the trimmings, especially a wedding cake. If Lev and Kolya can find a dozen eggs and get them to the commander, they will be allowed to live. Fail, and they will be hunted down and killed.
And so Lev and Koyla start out on their impossible mission, to find a dozen eggs in a city of starving people, where citizens are starting to eat sawdust and the frozen dead for lack of other options. Through their struggles to survive and adventures trying to obtain the impossible, grows the strong bond of friendship and so much more.

I really did like this book a lot! It's not the type of book I normally would have chosen, but I definitely recommend it for your reading list. The narrator did a superb job, accents and all, and I enjoyed the story enough to keep my eye open for more work from this author.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Wolves of Andover - Kathleen Kent

I'm behind in posting about my books. There's been so much going on lately. But we're stuck here in Dallas waiting for a part for the trailer that broke, and I decided to take the opportunity to get caught up on this blog.

I read the Heretic's Daughter last year and enjoyed it, so I was excited to stuble across this book by Kathleen Kent. The title gave me the shivers, and then the book description gave the setting as colonial Massachusetts, so I had to read it, or rather listen to it on audio.

First let me point out that this book was originally published under the name The Wolves of Andover. I recently found out that it's apparently being published now as The Traitor's Wife. This was a good move on the publishers part because, after reading it, I was baffled by the title. There are wolves in this book, but the literal ones only play a small and brief role in the story. And I was having trouble pinpointing who the figurative ones were, and how they were worthy of the title.

This book tells the story of Martha Allan, who goes to work in her cousin's household. Martha is a strong willed, independent thinking woman, not admirable qualities in a woman at that time. She immediately takes charge, and thus makes enemies within the household. Eventually, a strange courtship begins between Martha and Thomas Carrier, one of her cousin's farmhands. But Thomas has a strange mysterious past, one involving the English Civil War, and soon it's apparent that the wolves aren't the only ones hunting. There are others, the ones that want Thomas dead and silenced forever.

Overall, this was a good story, but it isn't one I can say "you have to read this" about. If you like the time period, or have enjoyed other books by Kathleen Kent, then go ahead and add this to your reading list. But it's not a grand must read. And truly, there are so many great books, that if your pressed for reading time, go ahead and skip over this one.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nightwoods and Dreams of Joy

I'm sharing two books today in an attempt to catch up with myself. I want to post about each book that I read (or listen to) in 2012, and I'm already behind.
This was my first audio book of the year. I listen to audio books while driving. They are very entertaining and also help to keep me awake and alert on those middle of the night driving shifts. I chose this book because I wanted to read more of Charles Frazier's work after falling in love with his other novel, Cold Mountain. Many may be familiar with that title as the movie was a bit of a hit. I, for one, loved the movie, and saw it first. Then read the book when I learned the movie was based on the book. The book...oh my gosh! It is so beautifully written, a piece of art where language is concerned, and he portrayed the Appalachian people during the Civil War so well! Also, the audio version (yes I read the book AND listened to it on audio AND saw the movie) was wonderful. Mr. Frazier narrates it himself and did a spectacular job!

Back to Nighwoods, which this post is supposed to be about anyway. This book is also set in the Appalachians during the 1960's/70's. It is a bit of a suspense novel, telling the story of a woman who has become a bit of a recluse after tragic events in her life. Suddenly she finds herself the guardian of her sister's young children, after her sister is murdered by the children's step-father. And in the midst of trying to help the children recover from their traumatic experience, the step-father shows up in town, determined to retrieve the money his wife had hidden from him, and convinced that the children know where it is hidden. In short, he comes after them and he's not planning on a happy family reunion.

This is the second book of Mr. Frazier's that I've read and I love the way he writes. His words on paper portray so well the speech of the Appalachian people. And his descriptions of the surroundings bring me home to east Tennessee, and western North Carolina. The narrator also did a good job on this book, though I preferred the author himself as he did so well in Cold Mountain.

Now for the second (really third) book for this post.
This book was well written and well narrated. A few words of advice on this one. If you have not yet read Shanghai Girls by the same author, then you need to read that first, as Dreams of Joy is pretty much a sequel to Shanghai Girls and I felt that a reader who had missed the first book would not be able to fully appreciate the story in this one. Shanghai Girls was very good and I would encourage you to read that one, and then come read Dreams of Joy.
Also, as I mentioned before, I use the audio books to help me stay alert while driving, and I was worried when I first started this one. I thought it dull and was having a hard time staying awake at the wheel during my first night of listening. Fortunately, I didn't give up on it and during my second night the story really took off and I was captured through to the end.
Dreams of Joy tells the story of Pearl's daughter, Joy. It picks the story up right where Shanghai Girls left off. Nineteen year old Joy, devastated by the death of her father, and of learning that he wasn't her father at all, makes a rash decision to leave America and return to China to help build the new People's Republic of China. Pearl, knowing what her daughter is walking into, goes after her. The story follows their experiences surviving in the communist country, their reunion and their attempt to escape back to the United States.
I really enjoyed it once it got going, and knowing that the author, who is descended from Chinese immigrants and has actually returned to China to visit her ancestral village and done tons of research, I felt that I could believe the characters experiences as being based on actual conditions and experiences of the Chinese people during those early years under communism. In that, I was fascinated by the historical lesson and glimpse into a culture and society totally foreign to me.
All in all, it was a good book and I'd recommend it as an audio or self-read book. But you really must read Shanghai Girls first.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rose in a Storm - Jon Katz

My first book this year, and what a wonderful choice! I was meandering through a book store in Reno back before Christmas, and the picture on the cover caught my eye. After reading the back of the book, I added it to my little stack, and then, when it was time to check out and go back to the truck, I had to choose from my stack what would come with me and what would stay at the store. I let myself choose two, and this one made the cut. As it turns out, I chose well!

I absolutely loved this story, from cover to finish! Rose is a Border Collie mix, a working farm dog, who knows she has a job and loves her job. Rose lives for her job. It's where her joy is, what her life is about. She has the farm to watch over, the sheep to take care of, and the farmer, Sam, to work with. She has a good life. And then one winter morning, as she and the farmer go to work early to help a ewe who is having trouble giving birth, Rose senses a change coming, a storm unlike any other.

As the storm progresses, the reader is carried along in Sam and Rose's struggle to keep the farm animals safe and survive the storm themselves. It is a gripping and emotional story of hardship, loss, devotion, and love.

I so enjoyed this book, I hated for it to end. In fact, it would be a short read, but I put it away for a couple of days because I realized it was going to end too soon, and I wasn't ready to let my relationship with Rose end.

The story is told from Rose's perspective. The way it is written is beautiful, and I formed such an attachment to Rose as the story progressed. I loved getting to see the events through Rose's eyes, to read her thought processes, to experience the storm and it's repercussions through her understanding. I loved reading her interpretations and understandings of things, and also her lack of comprehension.

For all the times I've looked at my girls and wondered what they are thinking, this book was like getting a little glimpse into their minds.

This was a wonderful start to my reading list for 2012! And even though it was a random choice from the bookstore shelf, when we get home, I'll be placing it on my "keep forever because it's a great book" shelf in my library.

If you want something a little different, something to stir your emotions, something to keep you involved, or just a quick light read, this would be a good choice!

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz