Monday, March 03, 2014

Thirty girls by Susan Minot

Africa, at war, rebels, brutality, and death.
Jane - an American writer comes to tell the story of Esther, one of a school full of children taken by the rebels in the middle of the night, 139 children, marched through the jungle, some raped, with no food, no proper clothes.  The rebel leader returns some of the children, keeping 30 girls.  The story concerns Esther, her very factual telling of what happened to her, and to her friends, those who were raped, had babies, died, or escaped.
The story of Jane and Esther crosses, and twines around each other like vines, revealing the strength that comes from the most horrid of experiences.
A very thought-making book, you will remember it for a while.

Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

this book is a novel, written in the 3rd person, and it is very compelling.
The story is told in sparse prose, almost like snapshots of conversation.
The lives they lived, the secrecy of where they were, and what they did, all for the war effort, all hidden from everyone they knew, and their families.
"We named them James, Patricia, Mary, Robert.  When we began there were twenty of us, then fifty, and in the first year alone we gave birth to eighty healthy children".
Friendship, suspicion, hardship, learning to love the desert.
A novel that gives a true impression of what it must have been like for those families moved to the desert, to make "the gadget" for the war effort.
totally worth reading!

Monday, February 10, 2014

The lovliest chocolate shop in Paris: a novel with recipes by Jenny Colgan

Since chocolate is my very favorite go-to day with stress snack, this book was a no-brainer.
Anna Trent works in a chocolate factory in England. She makes ordinary chocolate for the masses, enjoys her work, but .... she has an accident which opens up doors!  She gets the opportunity to work in Paris at Le Chapeau Chocolat.  This chocolate shop is the elite chocolatier, serving chocolate made fresh every day.  Lovely descriptions of paris, the light, the sound, the energy.  Describing  her roomates, falling in love, repairing old wounds.
A delightful book, and it does have recipes in the back of the book which sound amazing and definitely not diet food.
One thing - a specialty of Le Chapeau Chocolat - a sweet made with pepper - lots of pepper  --  who knew?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

It happens once and a while: you find a book that's completely absorbing. The Goldfinch is one of those books, in my opinion. It's a book that's hard to put down and when it's finished you want to tell everyone to read it.
The story centers around Theo Decker, a thirteen-year old and his mother who at the beginning of the novel are visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. A tragedy strikes (you'll have to read the book) and Theo is left to figure things out from then on. His father isn't in the picture, having left Theo and his mother years ago; so essentially Theo is an orphan. The rest of the novel deals with Theo moving from one strange environment to another, trying to cope with his loss and protect the artistic treasure that he "found" (once again I won't divulge).
There's action (though not non-stop), interesting characters and great descriptive passages. Overall, The Goldfinch is an absorbing read and highly recommended.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Still life with bread crumbs by Anna Quindlen

 The weather cooperated - a day of snow - too much to go to work.  Fortunately I had prepared with a book!
Rebecca Winter, a photographer, at the end of her agent's interest, has rented out her New York apartment so she can afford her Mother's nursing home fee, her Father's rent, her health insurance, and afford to rent a cottage in the country.
She meets Jim Bates, a roofer, who  removes a  raccoon  from her attic and repairs the damage.   He is much younger than she, but there is an attraction of sorts between them.
Rebecca begins hiking the woods and hills with her camera, enjoying the sounds and scents of the forest.  She discovers small tableaux of a cross and various items left randomly in the woods, and photographs every one she finds.
There are many levels in this book, unexpected love, spiritual growth, a career that was dying being re-kindled.  As usual Anna Quindlen has a great sense of place and  stories that connect in ways that she does so well.  A thoroughly satisfying day - except for the shoveling!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The kept by James Scott

the cover of the book  is bleak, a house or barn in a barren winter snow covered field, flames showing - what is going on?
For a first novel this is amazing.   1897 - Elspeth Howell is walking home from her latest midwife job, her money tucked in her shoe.  She is bringing gifts for her husband and children, when she sees her house in darkness and knows with a certainty that something is very wrong.
She finds all of them dead, except for Caleb who is 12 years old, and her odd child - he prefers to live in the barn with the animals rather than in the house (which on this occasion has saved his life)..
There is no explanation of Elspeth and how she became a midwife.  No explanation of why she occasionally brings home a child to be her own.  No explanation of why her husband is so strange.
The writing is compelling, dragging the reader along to find answers to all these questions.  During the journey this book takes, Elspeth masquerades as a man, so she and Caleb will not starve.  Caleb has a job in a bordello, he is definitely NOT today's average 12 year old.  The ending of the book is shocking, but I don't believe it could end any other way.  A wonderful first novel.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

This book introduces us to 1980's California punk rockers and their hangers-on. Flash forward to the year 2000+ and they are "grown ups" with varying issues. Though I lived in the Bay Area during the punk/new wave period and recognized some references Egan made, I found this book to be too scattered to enjoy fully. "....the Goon Squad" initially follows Sasha and Bennie, but the circle of characters keeps widening until it's almost six degrees of separation. Who can keep up or care about these extraneous people? Also, the Point of View and the time frame shifts back and forth throughout. And, to top it off, there's a section toward the end of the book which is laid out in Powerpoint format. Inventive, but annoying. (Perhaps, this is why it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2011?)
Overall, I wouldn't recommend this book unless you were in a punk band or you love disjointed, multiple-character novels.