Monday, September 27, 2010

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

As our narrator is entering a new stage in her life, she's feeling nostalgic. And so she begins her reminiscence: of her idyllic upbringing at Hailsham boarding school, of her friendships, and of her nearly-completed role as a "carer."

It's a quiet book, read with a genteel British lilt and literary diction. I found it easy to let my defenses down and allow my concentration to relax a bit ... to just pleasantly float along. Until I began to realize that many things don't add up in this story. Hey, does it seem like the book takes place in the 1950s, or today?

Hailsham students "know, and don't know" - and it turns out they aren't the only ones!

It's hard to characterize this story: It's literary and high-brow, with a somehow gentlemanly punch to the gut. "So sorry to have to dust you up this way, pip. But you'll be fine in a minute, old chap!"

The White Garden by Stephanie Barron

I've never been a Virginia Woolf fan, so I probably wouldn't have picked up this book myself - but it was the book club's choice this month. And actually, I quite enjoyed it!

An American landscape specialist visits England to view a famous garden in order to recreate it for a client. In researching the garden's history, she makes a shocking discovery - a diary that could be an unknown Virginia Woolf manuscript.

"The White Garden" then takes a cue from Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" by turning into a literary quest for answers that spans England: through university libraries, rare book collections, and even a secret society. The expert and the novice find there's a sexual tension between them, but can't be distracted until the answers are found ...

OK, so it's not really deep cloak-and-dagger adventure. But it was more fun and twisty than I'd expected. And they spend enough time "explaining things" for the "dumb American" that you don't have to be a Anglophile or Woolf scholar to understand and enjoy the tale.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Maybe this time

by Jennifer Crusie

Do you like ghost stories? How about romance? This one has them both. Andie stops by to tell her ex-husband that she's getting remarried. The next thing she knows, she is in charge of two very disturbed children that live in a haunted house. Can she get the kids up to grade level, and moved out before the ghosts kill again? Normally, I am not a fan of ghost stories. However, I was absolutely riveted. Just like Andie, I began to see more to the children and the haunting than previous characters were given credit for seeing. The twist at the end was also a nice touch.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Sometimes an "epic journey" takes place over just a few miles and in only a couple days. Especially in 1942 St. Petersburg, Russia, when war rages around you.

Two young men are given a reprieve from prison to perform a special errand for the colonel; it's an impossible mission, but failure means death. The unlikely pair sets out to try, and a friendship grows as the duo experience all the worst that wartime Piter has to offer.

This book takes a grim look at a painful war, but a delicate hand with the relationships that form in a time of distress.

Monday, September 20, 2010


by Ingrid Law

This sequel to Newbery Honor Book Savvy, continues the adventures of a family with extraordinary powers. It is now cousin Ledger's thirteenth birthday when he receives a savvy of his own. In the beginning, it seems that his savvy is to make things fall apart. From toasters to motorcycles, nothing is safe when Ledge is around. Can he learn to scumble his savvy before all the family secrets are told to the world by one blabbermouth girl he meets? Law has written another fun story chronicling the effects of turning thirteen in such an extraordinary family.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Veil of night

by Linda Howard

Wedding planner Jaclyn Wilde's life has gone into a tailspin. Uncharacteristically, she had a one-night stand. Less than twenty-four hours later, the same man turns up again - as a police officer investigating her for the murder of one of her clients. Jaclyn did have a dispute with the hateful bride shortly before the murder, and apparently was the last person to see her alive.

Howard keeps the mystery moving throughout. Even when the killer's identity is known, the mystery revolves around how to prove guilt and keep Jaclyn alive. Adding a little humor into the investigation is the detective's penchant for thwarting robberies in unconventional ways. Tag along for the ride as heat rises in this Atlanta murder investigation.

Drink Play Fuck by Andrew Gottlieb

This book is a satirical male response to that other famous book about a woman finding herself after the breakup of her marriage. Except this one is subtitled: "One man's search for anything across Ireland, Vegas, and Thailand."

When Bob's wife blindsides him with a divorce, he decides to take a year off. First, he goes to Ireland. In the airport he meets a guy who becomes his buddy and drinking tour guide. After four months, he decides that Lady Luck is calling by way of Vegas - where he meets a new life coach and friend who helps him gamble and golf away another four months. When he decides his next four months should be more, ahem, physical in nature ... his guru directs him to a remote resort in Thailand.

This book is light, comical, and could be enlightening if you were open to that sort of thing - or at least, it's as "life-changing" as I found the other book (ie: not at all). There is a point to the whole adventure, and it turns out that it's not anywhere near as debauched as it sounds.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wicked Girls

by Stephanie Hemphill

The Salem Witch Trials are my favorite part of history. I was first captivated by them when I read The Witch of Blackbird pond for a class assignment in 5th grade. Ms. Hemphill has brought them back with a new fictional perspective. This novel is written entirely in verse (read on fans of Ellen Hopkins) from the viewpoint of the accusing girls. Best of all, Hemphill suggests that the girls faked all the afflictions. This book is a fascinating account of the girls lives and reasons for seeking so much attention.

Too good to be true

by Kristin Higgins

Dumped by her fiance, Grace has enough on her plate. Add to that the fact that he chose her sister as the "better" option, and Grace is not only getting sympathy from the whole family, but also pity. Her solution? Make up a wonderful boyfriend and flaunt the fictitious man at every opportunity. This, of course, snowballs into a series of lies to nearly everyone she knows, including her unbelievably good looking neighbor. Callahan O'Shea just happens to be showing an interest in her as well, when she isn't causing him accidental bodily harm. What will it take to bring out Grace's honesty?

This book kept my attention when the story stayed in the present. Grace flitted back in her memory an awful lot as she worked to show the world that the time spent with her ex felt as though it had happened to a different person. I have to admit, there were times when I skipped a page or two to get to the next scene. However, those up to date scenes were a lot of fun. I will definitely not be giving up on Ms. Higgins anytime soon. Grace and Cal did hold my attention very nicely.

Blood Groove by Alex Bledso

Know what was missing in all the vampire books I've read lately? Sex. But not anymore! According to this book, vampires act as porters of two major things: death and orgasms. The big death, and the little death?

Joking aside, this was a pretty good book. A museum autopsy brings a long-dormant vampire back to action - in 1975 Memphis TN. He's certainly a victim of culture shock. But it turns out that his reanimation may not have been an accident, and all vampires could be in danger.

This was a fast read, and the cultural references are great.

Plus, there's lots of S-E-X.

Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage

While I enjoyed this book, it suffers a bit from identity crisis: is it a literary story of a father who gave up a child to adoption? Is it a coming-of-age story from behind the scenes at a private school? Or is it a dark mystery thriller? It's hard to be all those things, and leads to a story that's a bit scattered.

I would have liked a story told from Nate's point of view. He was unfit to be a father and knew it. Eventually his life turned around, and his losses haunt him.

I would have liked a story about privileged Willa and barely-getting by Teddy, high school teens finding themselves.

But the rest? Eh.