Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Am Hutterite by Mary Ann Kirkby



I love reading books about different religions, cultures, and peoples. So when I saw a review for a book about the Hutterites in Canada I had to reserve it at my local library.

Mary Ann (or Anne-Marie as she called throughout her childhood) takes us through her life in a Hutterite community. She loves the feeling of family and togetherness as everything done in the community is done together. Women work for a week doing all of the cooking for the community and then they are off the next week. If you want a pie you just go to the community kitchen and pick one up for lunschen- the meal that family eats together at 3 in the afternoon.

She talks about happy carefree times with her young cousins between the hard work days and the church services every evening. She is happy.

But her father struggles with some of the rigid rules he faces from the preacher in charge. Not being allowed to own a vehicle, he must borrow one from his brother-in-law Jakob, the leader and preacher of Fairholme, their community near Portage La Prairie. Ann-Marie's sister is asthmatic and has to visit the doctor often. Jakob thinks it's just an excuse for using the Econoline van and starts to deny their requests. When a younger brother comes into Ann-Marie's family and has complications that require surgery their request for the van is again denied. This time with fatal results. The Dornn family decides to leave the community.

Ann-Marie and her family struggle in forging a new life on their own. All the work that was done with the help of a community must all now be done on their own. Her father has never had a real job, in the community he was in charge of the chicken barn. He has never had a bank account or a loan since in the community all the money earned from the sales of vegetables or farm animals was put into the community coffers. Their clothing is outdated and plain, not the mini skirts and nylons the others are wearing.

This part of the book was great. I got a real feel for life in a Hutterite community and the challenges faced when leaving one. Mary Ann Kirkby describes it vividly. However, the subtitle of the book "The fascinating true story of a young woman's journey to reclaim her heritage" hints at something more. I kept waiting for that journey, but I feel as if she missed the bus. She does go back- more for a visit than anything else. I didn't see the journey and I didn't see any heritage reclaiming and for this I feel the subtitle was misleading and should have been left off the book.

That being said, I did enjoy the book. And while it wasn't an exciting or great read I did like it and learned a lot about a group of people I knew nothing about. My rating? 3 out of 5 stars

Monday, August 30, 2010

Due to Temporary Insanity this Blog is Closed Until Further Notice


I love this book blog, I really do. I have had a ball reading, reviewing, and chatting with all of you. Book bloggers are such a great (and supportive) community. Thanks for that!

Life, however, is getting in the way. My son recently had some reconstructive surgery done to his knee and physical therapy will be a daily occurrence. Add to that- my grandma is in hospice care and I have been helping take care of her. Her health is to the point where I will be spending nights with her because my grandpa is not able to do it by himself. I hope to eventually get to the point where I can start this up again, but it's kind of hard to take care of a book blog when you haven't (gasp!) finished a book in over a month.

Until I meet with you again- happy page turning to you!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Flower Children by Maxine Swann *Review*


A swing hangs in the middle of the living room. The house was built by the parents. The children- two girls and two boys- run free all day, dance naked in the rain, climb apple tress, ride ponies, press their faces into showers of leaves, rub mud all over their bodies and sit out in the sun to let it dry. When their parents invite other adults for skinny-dipping in the creek, the children memorize all the body parts to discuss later among themselves.
Maxine Swann's Flower Children is the intimate, shocking, funny, heartrending, and exultant story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the offspring of devout hippies who turned their backs on Ivy League education in favor of experiments in communal living and a whole new world for their children. The children, in turn, find themselves impossibly at odds with their surroundings, both delighted and unnerved by a life without limits. But as the parents split, and puberty hits, the ground seems to shift. The children's freedoms have not come without a cost to their innocence
.
Based on the author's childhood, Flower Children was originally a short story. Now expanded to include many vignettes of the children's early life, we come to know the four siblings throughout their teen years as well.
What most kids these days would have thought of as an ideal childhood with no rules was at first a wonderful exploration period for Lu, Maeve, Tuck & Clyde. But upon entering school, the older children realize they know more then they should at such a tender age. They have been exposed to naked bodies being-allowed to take baths with their father and pot smoking parties. This embarasses them once they realize other children do not live like they do and they become shy and keep things to themselves.
Flower Children was an interesting account of an alternative lifestyle that I have not been exposed to before. That being said, I did not like the book. I can't give you a good reason why, it just was not what I thought it would be. 2/5 stars

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Boy on the Bus by Deborah Schupack *Review*



I wish I knew what to say about this book, but I don't. I wish the author knew where she was going with this story, but she didn't. I wish there had been a satisfying conclusion to the story, but there wasn't.


I was very disappointed in The Boy on the Bus. This short novel starts out with a mother who is waiting for her son to come home from school. But when the bus pulls up to her house, the boy on the bus is not her son. At least that's what the mother is sure of. He acts different, he seems strangely unfamiliar, and he even looks a bit older and more robust.
The author then takes us through a few days in their life as her and her partner Jeff and her daughter Katie try to know sort out what is going on. Jeff is away for months at a time at a job site in Canada- would he know if his son was acting different if he hasn't seen him in that long? Daughter Katie, away at boarding school gets called back for her opinion. She just thinks Charlie's acting weird.
Mother, Meg, left at home to shoulder the load of taking care of the household and her sickly, asthmatic eight-year-old is a little overwhelmed with life. She doesn't know what happened with her "real" son but she is determined to find out.
If this book would have been a mystery like it implied it could have made a good one. But the story went nowhere and with no resolution I was left hanging and a little stumped. Did I miss something? Did I not get it? More confused after I finished then when I started I would only give this 1/5 stars.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain *Review*


A few weeks ago when I was looking for a shorter books to read for an all day reading marathon I came across a classic called The Postman Always Rings Twice. Never having read it, watched the movie, or read anything by this author, I pulled it off the library shelf.
The back cover proclaims it was "banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism." Written in 1934, I was curious to see what made this book so controversial it had to be banned.
This short novel is about Frank, a bum who never stays in one place for long, and Cora, the wife of a Greek restaurant owner. The two fall in love and can't keep their hands off each other. Theirs is a violent love full of ripped blouses, bitten lips and deliberate punches. It's a love you know can only end the way it started.
Cora can't stand being married to Nick Papadakis, especially when Frank enters her life and she sees what passion is. Frank and Cora come up with a plan to murder Nick and make it look like an accident. But when their plans are foiled and a local cop gets suspicious, Frank decides the best thing for him to do is to leave town and try to get Cora out of his system for good. Unable to forget about her, he returns and the affair picks up again hotter and wilder than before.
Again they come up with a plan. This time it's foolproof. It's the perfect murder. The Postman Always Rings Twice is a dark book full of cheating, lies, passion, murder, blackmail and double crossing. The violent tendencies during their lovemaking scenes were disturbing and I can understand how, in 1934, this book would have shocked a lot of people. That being said- I can honestly say I enjoyed this classic and would even consider nominating it for our book club's classic read month in October. 3/5 stars

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Girl in the Photograph by Gabrielle Donnelly *Review*


To meet Allegra O'Riordan of Chicago, you'd think she was like anyone else- a modern single woman in her thirties; a more or less lapsed Catholic; more or less gainfully employed; urban, independent, irreverent, and smart. But there's a hole in her life, and it doesn't really show until, going through her late father's effects, she comes upon a photograph of her mother. Now, her mother was a prim, unsmiling woman who died when she was three. But this is something- someone- else, a laughing, beautiful, sexy girl, who inscribed the picture to someone Allegra's never heard of.
Astonished and intrigued, she returns to her hometown of Los Angeles to find out more about this mother of hers, only to be met with smiles and evasions and a definite sense that people are keeping something from her- and of course, that
only makes her more determined to find out what it is, even though she's beginning to suspect she's not going to like it one little bit...
Yes, Allegra O'Riordan sets off for Los Angeles to find out more about the mother she never knew. But what Aleegra doesn't count on is that nobody wants to talk about Theresa Higgins O' Riordan.
Certainly not her Uncle John and Aunt Katherine. Every time Allegra brings up the subject of her mother, Katherine clams up- not very talkative, is she- and herUncle John changes the subject. Allegra knows there's a story there somewhere and she's determined to find it.
With the help of a young, hot neighbor, Scott, and her cousin Jimmy they start to piece together a few clues but Allegra is frustrated to the point of giving up when she asks a kindly old priest at a family birthday party if he remembers Theresa Higgins and watches him turn cold at the sound of her mother's name.
"No one," said Father Carroll, "in the diocese of Los Angeles will forget
Theresa Higgins."

"A sin," said the priest, "is a sin."
Allegra shivers in the sunshine of the birthday party, and as the priest shuffles off she knows the answer she seeks might change her life forever. 3/5 stars


Monday, July 5, 2010

more than it hurts you by Darin Strauss

Josh Goldin was savoring a Friday afternoon break in the coffee room, harmlessly flirting with co-workers while anticipating the weekend at home where his wife, Dori, waited with their eight-month-old son, Zack. And then Josh's secretary rushed in, using words like intensive care, lost consciousness, blood...
That morning, Dori had walked into the emergency room with her son in severe distress. Enter Dr. Darlene Stokes, an African American physician and single mother whose life is dedicated both to her own son and navigating the tricky maze of modern-day medicine. But something about Dori stirred the doctor's suspicions. Darlene had heard of the sensational diagnosis of Munchhausen by proxy, where a mother intentionally harms her baby, but she had never come upon a case of it before. It's rarely diagnosed and extraordinarily controversial. Could it possibly have happened?
When these lives intersect with dramatic consequences, Darlene, Dori, and Josh are pushed to their breaking points as they confront the nightmare that has become their new reality
.


Emotions are churning within me of which I cannot even begin to describe. The characters- all so well drawn, so lifelike, each with a heaviness all their own...

Dori- the mother accused of Munchhausen by proxy syndrome- of hurting her baby for the attention it will create. Dori is galled that anyone would think she could hurt little Zackie. After all, no one could love him more than she does. And she does love him immensely. She is burdened by the investigation by Child Protective Services and the need to prove she is a good mother.


Josh- the sometimes inattentive, but still loving husband and father is saddled with feelings of not being competent enough. Of not knowing enough "medical speak" to understand what's going on. Josh blindly trusts in his wife and creates a united front against their accusers.


Dr. Darlene Stokes- a black doctor who worked her way up from a fatherless home to become a respected doctor and head of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of St Josephs hospital is targeted for reverse racism against this young Jewish family and is weighed down with the battle between hospital politics and the diagnosis she made without any proof but which she is sure is correct.

More than it hurts you is a thought provoking novel of right and wrong, good and bad, fair and unfair, conceptions and misconceptions. A novel that leaves you thinking about it long after you've put it down. 4/5 stars

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather *Review*


In 1851 Bishop Latour and his friend Father Vaillant are dispatched to New Mexico to reawaken its slumbering Catholicism. Moving along the endless prairies, Latour spreads his faith the only way he knows- gently, although he must contend with the unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. Over nearly forty years, the two friends leave converts and enemies, crosses and occasionally ecstasy in their wake. But it takes a death for them to make their mark on the landscape for ever...
I have been trying to add more classics to my reading list lately. Other than Pride & Prejudice which is one of my all-time favorite books I am not a big fan of the classics. When a friend of mine told me this was her favorite Willa Cather book I thought I would give it a try. I think one of my main objections to classics is I get too caught up in the language style they are written in and the antique quality of the words and it becomes too much of a distraction.
Willa Cather does not write like this. Written in 1927, this classic at no time feels like a book that was written over eighty years ago. The words and phrases she uses, while simplistic, are very relatable. But just because her writing style was very easy to read does not mean I enjoyed the book.
This book, I am sorry to say, was boring. I did learn a lot about the early Catholic Church and the French missionaries who helped to spread the faith in its infancy in New Mexico, the hospitality of the Mexican people and the way the Indian peoples were very devout to both God and their own superstitious pagan ceremonies.
The reason I did not like it was that nothing happened in the book. Each chapter within the nine books of the novel was about a different person or event that took place. It seemed more like "Do you remember when we did ________?" or "Did I ever tell you about_______?" There was no plot, no suspense, no storyline; nothing to keep you wanting to read on.
It wasn't a terrible book, just not one I would highly recommend. 2/5 stars

Monday, June 28, 2010

Blacklands by Belinda Bauer *Review*


Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered- after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village. Only Billy's mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.
But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle's corpse, he'll do it.
Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose.
Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration... Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.P."- William "Billy" Peters.
So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the grave site, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he's receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too. Although his is far more dangerous...
Blacklands was an interesting book in that it was written from a different point of view that most authors don't explore. In the author's note, Ms. Bauer explains about wondering how a murder impacts a family. Not just the victim's parents, but a whole generation of other victims, like in this novel- the grandson of a woman whose son Billy was murdered many years ago.
The loss of Uncle Billy, a boy Steven never knew is still a deep loss. The feelings of loneliness and pain that Steven feels are palpable. His life is always a shadow of what it could have been had his nan given him some attention rather than waiting at the window for Billy to come home from school, or if his own mother hadn't harbored such bitterness over feeling she was never cared for because nan neglected her childhood to wait by the window. All Steven wants is a happy, normal childhood. He longs for laughter, hugs, and approval.
That's why finding his Uncle Billy's body has become such an obsession. If Billy can finally be put to rest giving his nan some closure, maybe- just maybe- his family can move on.
The cat -and-mouse game that ensues as Steven starts writing letters, and letters from the prison start coming back is compelling. Steven is desperate to fulfill his mission and excited about figuring out the clues within them. Looking into the mind of a serial killer is always disturbing- particularly those of a sick and twisted rapist and murderer of children. But, I found Blacklands to be a book that made me look at things in a whole new light and any book that stretches my mind to wrap around a different image or feeling than one I'm used to conceiving is one I have to recommend. 4/5 stars

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman *Review*

Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes.
In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.


Armed only with the collected works of Nietsche, an astrological love guide, and an arsenal of bravado, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads. As they ventured off the map deep into Chinese territory, they were stripped of everything familiar and forced to confront their limitations amid culture shock and government surveillance. What began as a journey full of humor, eroticism and enlightenment grew increasingly sinister-becoming a real-life international thriller
that transformed them forever.

Backpacking is something I have always been interested in- although a world traveler I am not. I would rather live vicariously through someone elses exploits. This book allowed me to do that.

Traveling through China with Susie and Claire was thrilling, exciting, and at times very scary. Culture shock was something I experienced right along with them as the author described eastern hotels infested with cockroaches, hospitals with chickens running rampant amongst the patients, and public toilets consisting of only a trough to squat over.

Although I feel a couple of pictures would have added to the overall experience- as they do in any memoir- the duo's camera broke at the beginning of the trip, so I had no photos to relate to people's faces or famous Chinese locales, but Susan Jane Gilman's memory and powerful storyteller's "voice" helped flesh it out for me.

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is an incredible memoir of her harrowing ordeal in a country light years away. 4/5 stars

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Leisure Seeker by Michael Zadoorian *Review*


John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years. Now, in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment. John has Alzheimer's. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.
With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, a person can go back for seconds- sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more- even when everyone says you can't.
John and Ella have a beautiful and timeless love for each other. Even amid all John's confusion and Ella's "discomfort" they cling tightly to each other because they're all that they have.
Ella is determined to have one last vacation together while they can. Packing up their RV they head out on Route 66, a trip they have taken before in another lifetime. Determined to reach the end of the road, they plug on a few hours at a time before they get tired and have to stop for a rest.
John likes to stop at McDonalds. He loves burgers. But Ella, weak and nauseous from the cancer can't hardly stomach them anymore. Sandwiches and soup back at the campsite is more her thing.
When evening comes they drag out the old projector and watch slides of old trips on the side of the RV. John doesn't always remember his children's faces but he has to smile at the happiness of the family projected before him.
I recognized so much of my parents in this book, and sadly, even though my husband and I are in our early forties, much of ourselves too. This book tugged so tightly on my heartstrings I felt I was being pulled by some unseeable force.
Liberally sprinkled with humor over the many pratfalls, hijinks's, and mayhem they get into on the open road, The Leisure Seeker is a bittersweet love story of two wonderful people in the twilight of their lives. 5/5 stars

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Girl She Used to Be by David Cristofano *Review*



When Melody Grace McCartney was six-years-old, her parents walked in on a mafia hit and walked out as someone different. Entering the Witness Protection Program they left behind all they had- home, job, and normal lives for supposed security.

But a life on the lam is no life at all. Melody exists but is afraid to form bonds knowing that at any time those tenuous ties can be ripped away.

When she meets Johnny Bovaro, the son of the man she is hiding from and the one sent to kill her she is drawn to him and him to her. To him she is the girl who has dominated his family's every waking thought. To her, he is the man with whom she can finally be herself. And when he whispers her name- her real name- she falls in love.

The girl she used to be is a thought provoking novel about freedom and those who will reach for it at any cost. 4/5 stars

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Library Loot

Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:












Since their mother's death, Tip and Teddy Doyle have been raised by their loving, possessive, and ambitious father. As the former mayor of Boston, Bernard Doyle wants to see his sons in politics, a dream the boys have never shared. But when an argument in a blinding New England snowstorm inadvertently causes an accident that involves a stranger and her child, all Bernard Doyle cares about is his ability to keep his children- all his children- safe.




Set over a period of twenty-four hours, Run takes us from the museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard to a home for retired catholic priests in downtown Boston. It shows us how worlds of privilege and poverty can coexist only blocks apart from each other, and how family can include people you've never even met. As in her bestselling novel Bel Canto, Ann Patchett illustrates the humanity that connects disparate lives, weaving several stories into one surprising and endlessly moving narrative. Suspenseful and stunningly executed, Run is ultimately a novel about secrets, duty, responsibility, and the lengths we will go to protect our children.





Oil is king of East Texas during the darkest years of the Great Depression. The Stoddard girls-responsible Mayme, whip-smart tomboy Jeanine and bookish Bea- know no life but an itinerant one, trailing their father from town to town as he searches for work on the pipeline and derricks; that is, when he's not spending his meager earnings at gambling joints, race tracks, and dance halls. And in every small town in which the windblown family settles, mother Elizabeth does her level best to make each sparse, temporary house they inhabit a home.


But the fall of 1937 ushers in a year of devastating drought and dust storms, and the family's fortunes sink further than they ever anticipated when a questionable "accident" leaves Elizabeth and her girls alone to confront the cruelest hardships of these hardest of times. With no choice left to them, they return to the abandoned family farm.


It is Jeanine, proud and stubborn, who single-mindedly devotes herself to rebuilding the farm and their lives. But hard work and good intentions won't make ends meet or pay the back taxes they owe on their land. In desperation, the Stoddard women place their last hopes for salvation in a wildcat oil well that eats up what little they have left...and on the back of late patriarch Jack's one true legacy, a dangerous racehorse named Smoky Joe. And Jeanine, the fatherless "daddy's girl", must decide if she will gamble it all...on love.





TempleGrandin, Ph.D., is a gifted animal scientist who has designed one third of all the livestock-handling facilities in the Untied States. She also lectures widely on autism- because Temple Grandin is autistic, a woman who thinks, feels, and experiences the world in ways that are incomprehensible to the rest of us.

In this unprecedented book, Grandin delivers a report from the country of autism. Writing from the dual perspectives of a scientist and an autistic person, she tells us how that country is experienced by its inhabitants and how she managed to breach its boundaries to function in the outside world. What emerges in Thinking in Pictures is the document of an extraordinary human being, one who, in gracefully and lucidly bridging the gulf between her condition and our own, sheds light on the riddle of our common identity.

Which of these have you read and were they any good? Or, did I strike out in this library loot?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish *Review*

For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request–a traveling funeral–and she wants the most important women in her life as “pallbearers.”From Sonoma to Manhattan, Katherine, Laura, Rebecca, Jill, and Marie will carry Annie’s ashes to the special places in her life. At every stop there’s a surprise encounter and a small miracle waiting, and as they whoop it up across the country, attracting interest wherever they go, they share their deepest secrets–tales of broken hearts and second chances, missed opportunities and new beginnings. And as they grieve over what they’ve lost, they discover how much is still possible if only they can unravel the secret Annie left them....



The book sounded great. Fun. Great fun. Okay, it didn't get my vote at book club, but it did sound pretty good and had potential to be a good discussion book. So when I got the book I quickly finished up what I was reading and tore into the first 10 pages of the book...and stalled.


I really struggled with finishing this book. It was not my type of writing style and a little to far out for me. In fact, I finished the last 6 pages of the book only a few minutes before leaving for book club.


Our book did, as always, have a good discussion on traveling funerals, friends of ours as pallbearers, and important places in Annie's life that she wanted her friends to be a part of. The general consensus our the book club was that it was a less than average read.


I did like that the book made me explore my feelings of life and death, and brought to the surface many fond memories of my own good friend- a former member of our book club- who lost her battle with cancer 1 1/2 years ago. In fact, after Bookies a few of us walked to the nearby cemetary to vivit her place of rest.


Karen was as much a free spirit as the main character, Annie was. She touched my life deeply and is very much missed. Karen would have loved the idea of a traveling funeral- she may even have liked the book. 2/5 stars



Myself, Lori, Bernice, and (center front), Karen just 3 months before her death.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Where Hell Freezes Over by David A. Kearns *Review*



I love stories of adventure and survival. For some reason, even though I hate cold weather I also love stories of survival in Antarctica. That's why when I heard about this book I knew I had to reserve it.

After a plane crash strands the crew of the George 1, a plane on a mission to fly over the desolate white continent and take pictures and coordinates for mapping, the five surviving crew members have to get by on what they can salvage from the wreckage until they are rescued fourteen days later.

Lieutenant Bill Kearns, co-pilot and the man at the helm when the plane crashes, is ejected out of the windshield and lands head and shoulders in a snowbank. With a dislocated shoulder and his arm broke in three places he is better off then some of the others. Two crew members are killed instantly and one moans in pain until several hours later he mercifully dies.

Making his way back to the wreckage he hears screams of pain coming from the burning fuselage. Lieutenant Ralph "Frenchy" LeBlanc, pilot, is caught within the burning wreckage. Other surviving crew members help Kearns drag him to safety. Frenchy is severely burned and the others doubt he will live.

Kearns helps Frenchy along- melting snow for him to drink, mixing milk with sugar to give him strength, and staying by him night and day. Living off rations of canned Spam, canned peaches, peanut butter, bread and pemmican, they wonder how long it will be before they have to search, hunt and fish for their next meal.

Much credit is given to Captain Henry Howard Caldwell for keeping their spirits up and their faith alive. With a cracked vertebra in his neck, a sprained ankle and a broken foot, he takes a walk to try to get to a higher level to more correctly determine their location. But with no trees or other landmarks for a point of reference, what looks to be water only a short distance away is actually 20 miles across the barren landscape.

Filled with stories of playing Salvo, an early version of Battleship, telling stupid jokes to pass the time and daily journal writing, Where Hell Freezes Over is an amazing tale of bravery and survival. 3.5 stars

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Library Loot


Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:









A swing hangs in the middle of the living room. The house was built by the parents. The children- two girls and two boys- run free all day, dance naked in the rain, climb apple tress, ride ponies, press their faces into showers of leaves, rub mud all over their bodies and sit out in the sun to let it dry. When their parents invite other adults for skinny-dipping in the creek, the children memorize all the body parts to discuss later among themselves.



Maxine Swann's Flower Children is the intimate, shocking, funny, heartrending, and exultant story of four children growing up in rural Pennsylvania, the offspring of devout hippies who turned their backs on Ivy League education in favor of experiments in communal living and a whole new world for their children. The children, in turn, find themselves impossibly at odds with their surroundings, both delighted and unnerved by a life without limits. But as the parents split, and puberty hits, the ground seems to shift. The children's freedoms have not come without a cost to their innocence.



The story: Patsy MacLemoore, a history professor in her late twenties with a brand-new Ph.D from Berkeley and a wild streak, wakes up in jail- yet again- after another epic alcoholic blackout. "okay, what'd I do?" she asks her lawyer and jailers. "I really don;t remember." She adds, jokingly: "Did I kill someone?"


In fact, two Jehovah's Witnesses, a mother and a daughter, are dead, run over in Patsy's driveway. Patsy, who was driving with a revoked license, will spend the rest of her life- in prison, getting sober, finding a new community (and a husband) in AA- trying to atone for this unpardonable act.


Then, decades later, another unimaginable piece of information turns up. For the reader, it is an electrifying moment, a joyous, fall-off-the-couch-with-surprise moment. For Patsy, it is more complicated. Blame must be reapportioned, her life reassessed. What does it mean that her life has been based on wrong assumptions? What can she cleave to? What must be relinquished?





On July 24, 1984, a woman and her infant daughter were murdered by two brothers who believed they were ordered to kill by God. The roots of their crime lie deep in the history of an American religion practiced by millions...

At the core of this book is an appalling double murder committed by a pair of Mormon Fundamentalist brothers, Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a revelation from God commanding them to kill their blameless victims. beginning with a meticulously researched account of this crime, Krakauer constructs a multi layered, bone chilling narrative of messianic delusion, savage violence, and unyielding faith. In the process, he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America's fastest growing religion, analyzes the abduction of fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Smart (and her forced "marriage" to her polygamous kidnapper), and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Why does it seem like sometimes the books I choose have a common theme without me even trying to do it? (communal living, murdered Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormon violence...all religious in nature)

Anyhow, have you read any of these and if so what did you think of them? If you haven't read them, do any of them look interesting to you?

Monday, June 7, 2010

wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson *Review*






Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her stepmother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way- thin, thinner, thinnest- maybe she'll disappear altogether. In her most emotionally wrenching lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

095.00 094.00 093.00 Lia can see her weight going down on the scale. As she hits each new goal weight she feels stronger, hiding from the family her pain.

Lia has been in inpatient treatment before. She does not want to go back. So she hurries downstairs on Tuesday mornings- weigh in day- and sticks her head under the faucet and gulps water until her stomach bloats and sloshes around and adds extra weight to the scale.

She puts a blob of food on her plate, squeezes ketchup on top, and leaves it in the microwave long enough for the smell to waft through the house and the ketchup to splatter in the microwave before she dumps it down the garbage disposal.

Her family thinks she's making progress. They do not know she gets up in the middle of the night to spend 2 hours on the stair stepper hoping to burn off the apple she ate for lunch. Nor do they know she sees the ghost of her ex-best friend Cassie everywhere she looks.

Lia's haunted by the fact that on the night of her death, Cassie called Lia 33 times and Lia never answered the phone.

wintergirls is a distressing/sad/tragic/sob/heartbreaking//: story of two girls with eating disorders who couldn't fight the demons of body images and family relationships.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A.D. 62: Pompeii by Rebecca East *Review*



Miranda offers to be part of a time travel experiment. An expert in Greek history she is the perfect candidate to travel back in time and return with data from the past.

Implanted with a signaling device in her arm, she needs only to press on it to return to her own time. However, the signaling device malfunctions and she finds herself stuck in the past and sold as a slave to a wealthy family.

Losing her freedom and everything she always felt she was, she has to learn to exist in a time when slaves had no freedom or regard and women had just as little. She questions the rights she has and boldly starts to exert a little power when most have none.

In the process of finding out who she can be, she starts to fall in love with her master Marcus. Unwillingly to be just another concubine she sets out to make him fall in love with the person she really is- and under her terms.

Rebecca East- a pen name- is not an experienced author. I could tell as soon as I started reading, and I contemplated more than once in putting it down. But the premise of the story was interesting to me and I really wanted to know the choices Miranda makes and how she finds her way back

I'm glad I continued reading just for the historical aspect of it. Ms. East knows her history and the culture of ancient Pompeii which is so fascinating to me. While she repeats her motives and observations a little too much throughout the book making me feel like the author thought I was too dense to get it the first time, I did enjoy what I learned. I wish the author comtinued luck as she hones her craft.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Library Loot







Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:












In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me...





That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marraige in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped.





Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the east Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she had heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing.





Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the country. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ronald Ball, was sentenced for her murder.








The year is 1570, and in the convent of Santa Caterina, in the Italian city of Ferrar, noblewomen find space to pursue their lives under God's protection. but any community, however smoothly run, suffers tremors when it takes in someone by force. And the arrival of Santa Caterina's new novice sets in motion a chain of events that will shake the convent to the core.




Ripped by her family from an illicit love affair, sixteen-year-old Serafina is willful, emotional, sharp and defiant- young enough to have a life to look forward to and old enough to know when that life is being cut short. Her first night inside the walls is spent in an incandescent rage so violent that the dispensary mistress, Suora Zuana, is dispatched to the girls cell to sedate her. Thus begins a complex relationship of trust and betrayal between the young rebel and the clever, scholarly nun, for whom the girl becomes the daughter she will never have.






Hobbie, the narrator of this endearing debut novel, prefers the company of his beloved mutt, Terry, to the companionship of most humans. Hobbie, who has a blistering case of chronic acne, and Kari, his obese girlfriend of 20 years, continually aggravate their situations: Hobbie picks at and further inflames his bad skin while Kari eats in response to a shared tragedy from their youth. When the novel opens, Kari's ensconced at a weight-loss clinic hundreds of miles from their temporary north Georgia home, and Hobbie lives like a hermit until he's attacked by a bear. While recovering, he's sucked into the messy world of Kari's father, Roth, and slowly, clumsily becomes part of Roth's family once Kari goes missing from the clinic. (Publisher's Weekly)









The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never fully been told. Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survived- those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave- Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.



That's what I picked out this week. If you have read any of them what did you think? If you haven't which one sounds the most interesting?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf *Review*



Two parents in two separate households not that far apart wake up to find their seven-year-old daughters missing.

Calli is a selective mute. She stopped speaking at the age of four and no one knows why. Petra is her best friend and her voice. The friendship shouldn't work or be that close but it is. The girls spend most of their time with their heads bent together- Petra coming closer to hear, maybe, the thoughts in Calli's head. She seems to intuitively know Calli's likes and dislikes, feelings and fears better than most.

When it's discovered they're missing a police search is formed right away, a clue left behind suggesting that someone was involved- that the girls didn't just wander out to play.

When Calli runs out of the forest behind the girl's homes bruised and bleeding and clutching Petra's necklace she mutters just one word and the search picks up. Calli's mother can't get a hold of her father to tell him what's going on and he's not where he said he would be. Does he play some role in this taut mystery?

Calli is taken to the hospital to be checked out and the police desperately want to talk to her. But even though she has broken her three-year-silence to utter one word, she can not bring herself to push out more.

Recommended by my friend Lori from Books Are My Magical Escape The Weight of Silence is an excellently written book that is edge of your seat worthy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti *Review*


Twelve-year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is one of the mysteries that Ren has been trying to solve his entire life- as well as who his parents are and why he was abandoned as an infant at Saint Anthony's Orphanage for boys. When a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be Ren's long-lost brother, his convincing tale of how Ren lost his hand persuades the monks at the orphanage to release the boy and gives Ren some hope. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? As Ren is introduced to a life of hardscrabble adventure filled with outrageous scam artists, grave robbers, and petty thieves, he begins to suspect that Benjamin holds the key not only to his future but to his past as well.
The Good Thief was a dark and fantastical fireside tale. With similarities to the depressing elements of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett, the cold dreariness of this book makes you feel like it's one to be taken in by the hearth of a warm crackling fire just so the lack of warmth doesn't invade your bones.
But just because the book is not a happy one does not mean it's not a good one. Full of harelips, dwarves and a giant killer dug up from the dead this is a book you can really escape into. Ren does get his answers, and while I still don't know if it was the answers he seeked or if he welcomed them I do have to say I enjoyed this despairing, unfulfilling book.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Library Loot



Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:










On a property in western New South Wales a man named Holland lives with his daughter, Ellen. Over the years, as she grows into a beautiful young woman, he plants hundreds of different eucalyptus trees on his land, filling in the landscape, making a virtual outdoor museum of trees. When Ellen in nineteen, he announces his decision; she may marry only the man who can correctly name the species of each and every gum tree on his property.







Suitors emerge from all corners, including the straight-backed Mr. Cave, a world expert on these famous Australian trees. And then one day, walking down by the river where silver light slants into the motionless trunks, Ellen chances on a strange young man resting under the Coolibah tree. In the days that follow, he tells her dozens of stories-set in cities, deserts, and faraway countries







Eucalyptus is at once a modern fairy tale and a marvelously touching love story, played out against the spearing light and broken shadows of Australia- its land, its history, its people.



To meet Allegra O'Riordan of Chicago, you'd think she was like anyone else- a modern single woman in her thirties; a more or less lapsed Catholic; more or less gainfully employed; urban, independent, irreverent, and smart. But there's a hole in her life, and it doesn't really show until, going through her late father's effects, she comes upon a photograph of her mother. Now, her mother was a prim, unsmiling woman who died when she was three. But this is something- someone- else, a laughing, beautiful, sexy girl, who inscribed the picture to someone Allegra's never heard of.



Astonished and intrigued, she returns to her hometown of Los Angeles to find out more about this mother of hers, only to be met with smiles and evasions and a definite sense that people are keeping something from her- and of course, that only makes her more determined to find out what it is, even though she's beginning to suspect she's not going to like it one little bit...








Meg Landry expected it to be a day like any other- her asthmatic eight-year-old son would step off the bus home from school. But on this day, the boy on the bus doesn't seem to be Meg's son. Though he shares Charlie's copper hair, tea-brown eyes, and slight frame, there is something profoundly, if indefinably, different about him. In the wake of Meg's quiet alarm, her far-flung family returns home and unease sets in. Neither Charlie's father not Charlie's rebellious teenage sister can help Meg settle the question of the boy. They look to her for certainty- after all, shouldn't a mother know her child?








Julia and Valentina Poole are semi-normal American twenty-year-olds with seemingly little interest ion college or finding jobs. Their attachment to one another is intense. One morning the mailman delivers a thick envelope to their house in the suburbs of Chicago. From a London solicitor, the enclosed letter informs Valentina and Julia that their English aunt Elspeth Noblin, whom they never knew, has died of cancer and left them her London apartment. There are two conditions to this inheritance: that they live in it for a year before they sell it and that there parents not enter it. Julia and Valentina are twins. So were the estranged Elspeth and Edie, their mother.

The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders the vast and ornate Highgate cemetery, where Christina Rossetti, George Eliot, Radclyffe Hall, Stella Gibbons and Karl Marx are buried. Julia and Valentina come to know the living residents of their building. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword-puzzle setter suffering from crippling obsessive compulsive disorder; Marijke, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's illusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including- perhaps- their aunt.

What do you think of my loot this week? Anything you've read that you are raving about- or not? Or, does anything look interesting to you. Let me know what you think!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins *Review*


Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has won the annual Hunger Games with fellow district tribute Peeta Mellark. But it was a victory won by defiance of the Capitol and their harsh rules. Katniss and Peeta should be happy. After all, they have just won for themselves and their families a life of safety and plenty. But there are rumors of rebellion among the subjects, and Katniss and Peeta, to their horror, are the faces of that rebellion. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge.
The second book in The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire had a lot to live up to.
The Hunger Games was so thrilling what could Suzanne do in the second book to keep the momentum going? But keep the momentum going she did. This book was just as exciting as the first one.
As I waited for my son to finish the book so I could start it I kept saying "surely they wouldn't..." and "surely they wouldn't..." but he wouldn't breathe a word about it He kept me in suspense so I could experience it just like he did.
Again he urged me to hurry up and finish it so he could talk about it and enthusiastically I picked it up at every opportunity.
While not as heartstoppingly as good as the first (sequels never seem to be) I wouldn't rate it much lower. It kept my interest and the characters were as true as what they were in Hunger Games. You definitely do not want to miss this book nor, I suspect the next to come.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hunger Games By Suzanne Collins *Review*


In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the edges of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before- and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Katniss Everdeen is a fighter and a caretaker. Evident from the very beginning in the way she risks her life daily to sneak out of her fenced & controlled district to hunt for meat to feed her mother and her sister, it comes as no surprise when she volunteers to take her sister's place in the Hunger Games- an annual fight to the death survival game which is used to show the people in outlying districts the power of the Capitol to control their lives.
So not my type of book at all, I had resisted reading it even after reading numerous reviews telling me it was one I shouldn't miss.
I finally put it on reserve at the library, picking it up with about a dozen others and promptly placing it at the bottom of the stack as one to be read if I got around to it, so sure I was not going to like it.
Being a YA book, I suggested my son should give it a try one day when he was looking for something to do. My fifteen-year-old son Zachary, is not an avid reader. It's very hard to find a book that interests him. Many books are started and put down a chapter later never to be picked back up again. But when he does find one he likes he absorbs it voraciously. I knew the next day when he was 3/4 of the way through this book I needed to rethink my reading pile and the placement of this book.
Zach begged me to read it right away so he could talk to me about it. Being the type of mom who can't say no to their children I picked it up the minute he put it down and read it just as quickly.
I loved the fact that even though it was set in the future (a definite turn off for me in book genres) it never felt futuristic. A little fantastical yes, but never overtly science fictiony.
Katniss' strength and will to survive so she could continue to help those she held dear were uplifting at an age when so many are so egocentric. The characters were likable (even some of the unlikeable ones like Haymitch) and believable.
I loved this book and couldn't wait to get my hands on the second one which my son was already halfway through with.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Library Loot

Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures,

Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:







John and Ella Robina have shared a wonderful life for more than fifty years. Now in their eighties, Ella suffers from cancer and has chosen to stop treatment. John has Alzheimers. Yearning for one last adventure, the self-proclaimed "down-on-their-luck geezers" kidnap themselves from the adult children and doctors who seem to run their lives to steal away from their home in suburban Detroit on a forbidden vacation of rediscovery.


With Ella as his vigilant copilot, John steers their '78 Leisure Seeker RV along the forgotten roads of Route 66 toward Disneyland in search of a past they're having a damned hard time remembering. Yet Ella is determined to prove that, when it comes to life, a person can go back for seconds- sneak a little extra time, grab a small portion more- even when everyone says you can't.






Eighteen years ago, Billy Peters disappeared. Everyone in town believes Billy was murdered- after all, serial killer Arnold Avery later admitted killing six other children and burying them on the same desolate moor that surrounds their small English village. Only Billy's mother is convinced he is alive. She still stands lonely guard at the front window of her home, waiting for her son to return, while her remaining family fragments around her.


But her twelve-year-old grandson Steven is determined to heal the cracks that gape between his nan, his mother, his brother, and himself. Steven desperately wants to bring his family closure, and if that means personally finding his uncle's corpse, he'll do it.


Spending his spare time digging holes all over the moor in the hope of turning up a body is a long shot, but at least it gives his life purpose.


Then at school, when the lesson turns to letter writing, Steven has a flash of inspiration... Careful to hide his identity, he secretly pens a letter to Avery in jail asking for help in finding the body of "W.P."- William "Billy" Peters.


So begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game. Just as Steven tries to use Avery to pinpoint the grave site, so Avery misdirects and teases his mysterious correspondent in order to relive his heinous crimes. And when Avery finally realizes that the letters he's receiving are from a twelve-year-old boy, suddenly his life has purpose too. Although his is far more dangerous...





When Miranda first hears the warnings that a meteor is headed on a collision path with the moon, they just sound like an excuse for extra homework assignments. But her disbelief turns to fear in a split second as the entire world witnesses a lunar impact that knocks the moon closer in orbit, catastrophically altering the earth's climate.

Everything else in Miranda's life fades away as supermarkets run out of food, gas goes up to more than ten dollars a gallon, and school is closed indefinitely.

But what Miranda and her family don;t realize is that the worst is yet to come.

Which of these have you read- and did you like them? If not, which one looks the most interesting?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Blog Tour: Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer



Overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotional trauma, Kristen Anderson no longer wanted to live. One January night, determined to end her pain once and for all, the seventeen-year-old lay across train tracks not far from her home and waited to die.

Instead of peace, she found herself immersed in a whole new nightmare.

Before the engineer could bring the train to a stop, thirty-three freight cars passed over her at fifty-five miles per hour. After the train stopped and Kristen realized she was still alive, she looked around- and saw her legs ten feet away.

Surviving her suicide attempt but losing her legs launched Kristen into an even deeoer battle with depression and suicidal thoughts as well as unrelenting physical pain- all from the seat of a wheelchair.

But in the midst of her darkest days, Kristen discovered the way to real life and a purpose for living.

Life, In Spite of Me recounts in riveting detail the trauma of her suicide attempt, the miracle of her survival, and the life-tansforming power of hope in Christ.

Kristen should never have lived to tell her story. That much is evident from what the paramedic who was at the scene told her and what a train engineer explaining the physics of a train described.

But Kristen has done more than just live. She has fought, excelled, learned, inspired and reached out to others in similar situations- all with the help of God. I am reminded of one of my favorite sayings when I think of all Kristen has accomplished so far.

"You alone can do it, but you can't do it alone"

Kristen's story is an inspirational message of hope to those who suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide. There are people who love you and want to help. You don't have to travel the road alone. 3.5/5 stars

Suicide Warning Signs: (from Kristen's book)
  • appearing depressed or sad most of the time
  • having no hope for the future
  • feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless, or trapped in a situation, and having excessive guilt or shame
  • talking or writing about death or suicide
  • withdrawing from family or friends
  • acting recklessly or impulsively
  • a change in personality, sleeping or eating habits
  • decreased interest in most activities
  • dramatic mood changes
  • giving away prized possessions
  • writing a will
  • poor performance at work or in school
  • strong anger or rage
  • abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • self-harm
  • self hate

View the video of Kristen Jane Anderson on Life Today. Or, download the first chapter of her book here.

This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett *Review*

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.
In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't
.

Reserving a book at the library just because numerous book blogs rave about it is usually- for me- a recipe for disaster. The book gets set up in my head to be a fantastic life altering tome. reading it is usually deflating and disappointing.

While I wouldn't say The Help was disappointing, I would say it was not near what I hoped it would be, although I do think it would make an excellent choice for book clubs.

Prejudices. The Help is full of them. Set in the south in the 1960's, slavery is no longer permitted. But similar to slaves, the black servants and housekeepers of the well-to-do housewives who employ them are treated just as bleakly.

I was really naive to believe that in the 6o's- the decade of peace and love- the attitudes towards blacks were better then this. I knew blacks were still segregated to a certain extent but the ignorance and small mindedness of the families featured in this story was unbelievable.

Bathrooms being built in garages or outside for the help so diseases wouldn't be caught from them sickened me. These were the housekeepers who cleaned their homes and raised their children and yet were considered unclean themselves. How degrading it must have felt for them to be viewed as no better than animals.

And the prejudices didn't stop there. Minnie's white boss deals with prejudices of her own, being misjudged because of where she lived or what she wears.

Skeeter decided to take on prejudices by writing a book about it and opening the eyes of the town in which she lives.

The Help was an eye-opener for me, and for that it deserves a higher rating in my book then I would normally have given it. I didn't love-love it, but it was an excellent story and one worth my time as well as yours. 3/5 Stars

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blog Tour: Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann




An Inseparable Bond.
An Insatiable Force.
Battling his own personal demons, Police Chief Jonah Westfall has experienced the dark side of life and is committed to eradicating it. When a pair of raccoons are found mutilated in Redford, Colorado, Jonah investigates the gruesome act, seeking to unmask the perpetrator before the crime escalates and destroys the tranquility of his small mountain town. Jonah fights for answers- and his fragile sobriety- amid a rising drug threat and never-ending conflict with Tia Manning, a formidable childhood friend with whom he has more than a passing history.
But he can't penetrate every wound or secret- especially one fueled by love and guilt teetering on madness.
Jonah Westfall's pull to Tia is painful. He has loved this woman he can't have for many lonely years. He can't make himself move on- he really doesn't want to. Tia's loneliness is evident from the very beginning. Shunned from her family and townsfolk, it takes a leap of faith to form a friendship with Piper- the new girl in town with family problems of her own.
Tia's penance of running into Chief Westfall in the small town they both share is one her wounded heart must bear. They share a painful past with no hope for a future. Despair drains her. Enter Piper. Perky and enthusiastic she settles into her new life, makes friends and fills Tia's need for companionship. For Tia, life is working but it is not fulfilling nor is it her life- the one she would have chosen for herself- instead it's the life that was chosen for her.
Indivisible is a novel about relationships and ties that bind one person to another. From the back cover, the mystery that was written of is very secondary to the book and too hidden in its pages. I was hoping for more of a mystery then I got but I finished the book not disappointed from the lack of a more thrilling tale, but with the satisfaction of a well woven story or love, friendship, and taking risks to achieve what you really want.
Kristen's characters are familiar which is why I enjoy her writing. Piper feels like my best friend. What she says and does are familiar to me. I understand Tia's ache for Jonah and Jonah's loneliness, pain, and struggle to overcome his addiction.
I enjoyed Ms. Heitzmann's Diamond of the Rockies series more, but this novel stands on its own and is a well written addition to her bibliography. Download Chapter 1 for free by clicking here.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Library Loot



Hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair and Marg at ReadingAdventures, Library Loot is a fun weekly meme that allows others to peek in your bookbag to see what you came home from the Library with this week. Here's what's in my bag:













Josh Goldin was savoring a Friday afternoon break in the coffee room, harmlessly flirting with co-workers while anticipating the weekend at home where his wife, Dori, waited with their eight-month-old son, Zack. And then Josh's secretary rushed in, using words like intensive care, lost consciousness, blood...




That morning, Dori had walked into the emergency room with her son in severe distress. Enter Dr. Darlene Stokes, an African American physician and single mother whose life is dedicated both to her own son and navigating the tricky maze of modern-day medicine. But something about Dori stirred the doctor's suspicions. Darlene had heard of the sensational diagnosis of Munchhausen by proxy, where a mother intentionally harms her baby, but she had never come upon a case of it before. It's rarely diagnosed and extraordinarily controversial. Could it possibly have happened?




When these lives intersect with dramatic consequences, Darlene, Dori, and Josh are pushed to their breaking points as they confront the nightmare that has become their new reality.













Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's new memoir is a hilarious and harrowing journey, a modern heart of darkness filled with communist operatives, backpackers, and pancakes.



In 1986, fresh out of college, Gilman and her friend Claire yearned to do something daring and original that did not involve getting a job. Inspired by a place mat at the International House of Pancakes, they decided to embark on an ambitious trip around the globe, starting in the People's Republic of China. At that point, China had been open to independent travelers for roughly ten minutes.



Armed only with the collected works of Nietsche, an astrological love guide, and an arsenal of bravado, the two friends plunged into the dusty streets of Shanghai. Unsurprisingly, they quickly found themselves in over their heads. As they ventured off the map deep into Chinese territory, they were stripped of everything familiar and forced to confront their limitations amid culture shock and government surveillance. What began as a journey full of humor, eroticism and enlightenment grew increasingly sinister-becoming a real-life international thriller that transformed them forever.








At the tail end of 1946, the United States Navy sent an expedition into the stark cold of Antarctica to photograph the terrain from the air and lay claim to the huge continent at the bottom of the globe. Many of the navy's men on the expedition were fresh from service in the recently ended World War II. This is the story of nine of those men, facing an enemy of another kind.

As their plane flew above the most desolate part of that continent, the weather threw a "whiteout"- a combination of a slanting sheet of ice on the land and low clouds that makes it seem the air ahead is clear when it is not. The blinded plane slammed into a mountainside and exploded. Three men were killed; all the others were injured, most of them seriously. Their only shelter was the badly damaged fuselage. They had a food supply intended for a few day's trip, and no way to communicate with their would-be rescuers.

For thirteen days the men waited for discovery- or death. Even when they made contact with another seaplane, which led them from the air, they had to struggle, wounded, several miles through blizzard winds, snow, and ice to reach safety.

Still trying to keep my library books to a minimum so I can get through the pile before its due date. Have you read any of these and what did you think? If you haven't- which one sounds the most interesting?