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.