Saturday, December 4, 2010

War in the Margins

This novel, by Libby Cone, more than The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, described what day to day life was like for the residents of the Channel Islands during the German Occupation in World War II. Especially for the Jersey Jews. I found it fascinating how the Germans passed laws culminating in complete control of the Jewish population one by one, first requiring registration then slowly taking all of their rights until there were none. I've heard about this in the past but reading this & feeling as if I were a part in this novel really brought it home & made it more for me.

I thought this seemed to start a little slowly, but once it took my attention it had it & drew me into this world, using excerpts from official German documents to tell the story, not merely supporting the story. Without these documents the story would have been untold. This made it so much more real to me. It's one thing to read how some change is enacted and yet another to read the actual documents that made this happen.

The stories of starvation, of the loss of trees for building for the Germans and firewood for warmth is something I have no concept of. I live in the United States & have never lived through a War that has affected my life on a day to day basis. I struggled to wrap my head around a world where there was no food, where I would have to live in hiding in my home land.

The author tied the characters together quite nicely, not necessarily pleasantly yet leaving a very realistic taste in my mouth. The ending is sweet but a bit of bitterness is there, too, most characters have some action to account for in themselves. Some bit of oversight or action caused by fear. The author created an opportunity for forgiveness and redemption between a group of people with little in common before the war but with so much in common after the war.

Please read this one, it is wonderfully written and will give a much more personal spin on life in the Channel Islands during World War II.

James and the Giant Peach

I have wanted to reread this book for quite a while, since I was a child. After reading it this time I believe I didn't finish it then. There are parts that I don't recall and I think there were parts that scared me then.

As a adult with a small child I was charmed by James and his story. I could see this novel being formed as a bedtime story and dreamed that one day, I, too, could create something so wonderful for my son.

I love how Roald Dahl creates a positive attachment to the bugs for a child. Giving them personalities and showing their otherwise negative characteristics as positive. This teaches the child that they gladly serve a purpose in our complex world and that they are kind and gentle in their own right, something to be treasured, not feared.

I especially loved the imagery of the cloud men, creating hail as we create snowballs, lightening and rainbows with paint pails. As they are to be treasured, too, for while they create weather that can harm, they also create the rainbows.

And who would have thought that dirty little seagulls could be given such a positive turn?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Cheese Monkeys

Chip Kidd's novel The Cheese Monkey's was soooo much fun! This crazy

anti conformist chickaroo is the central character as far as I am concerned,

even though she really isn't... I can totally relate to the main character's

blindly following her through his first year at art school., coming from a

sheltered existence he almost had to in order to grow in his creative endeavors. I feel you need the life experiences she provided for him in order to open his mind to create the art that he did.
I like the mystery of her character, too. Who is she, where did she come from? She seems to have come from a privileged life, to rebel society so much, you can't be such a rebel without something to rebel. I learned that when my last parent passed away & instantly matured because the object of me rebellion was gone with my last parent's passing.
So, I'm looking forward to reading more from Chip Kidd, I like the youthful energy of his writing, the words that come out of Himillsy's mouth, the intellect with which she tears her foes up. Her costumes! I can see why dude was in love with her!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society,Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrow

A member of my local book club suggested this book for our next book club and I am so grateful. She tends to offer up really great stories which I may enjoy because we are two of three girls in the club, we always have to be careful not to choose chick books. This one falls close to that category but not quite.

This is written in a new style for me. It is offered up in letter style, as if you are reading some one's personal correspondence without all the boring passages included. The story is of a successful city career woman who finds herself drawn to the Channel Islands to write a story of their occupation during World War II. While passing letters to & from the residents of the town of Guernsey she falls in love with them and their lifestyle although she doesn't quite realize it at the time. She moves there to research the story more and completely falls in love with the people, the place and the pace of the town.

There is a love story hidden in the midst of a mystery and drama. There is also humor in this drama as the town members share their stories of the German occupation and the terrors of it all. As in Zoo Station I was a affected by the stories of cruelty and the story of children being shipped from the islands for safety, but there was so much more to this one than Zoo Station that I was able to focus on the overall story more and enjoy it for what it was. A wonderful read, a heart rending love story of a woman and a tow.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oooo just Tigers.

Definitely Dead, Charlaine Harris. I am loving the new character, Quinn. I love the idea of the big bad Tiger and the chemistry between Sookie & Quinn.

Again, I enjoyed this one more than some of the previous ones. I liked the story lines, getting Sookie out of Bon Temp & I like getting her away from Bill. He's boring to me. I really enjoyed her involvement with the Queen of Louisiana, researching her cousins death and the realization that she has fairy blood. Finally a reason that these supernaturals all go gaga over her.

I wonder how I would feel about Sookie if I weren't already introduced to her from the HBO series True Blood, and Anna Paquin. I don't care for her in the role which I think affects how I take these novels. She gets on my nerves.

This novel doesn't though. Enjoy it!

Dead as a Doornail, really.

So now someone is singling out shifters in an attempt to rid the world of them one at a time. Of course Sookie gets involved and is there to help save the day.

This was the first Sookie Stackhouse novel I didn't cringe so much when I read references to the previous novels. Either there weren't many of them or they just didn't bother me too much. At any rate I enjoyed this one more than the others.

There were many layers & stories in this novel as well. Alcide needed Sookie's help with his fathers bid for pack leader, Sookie's house partially burnt down. There was much drama in Bon Temp.

Read it, it was a lot of fun!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Zoo Station, David Downing...The opening of this novel hurt my heart, I expect it would draw other readers in but with an 12 -18 month old son it tore at my heart and almost left a hole. The setting was a train station in Berlin, I assume it was Zoo Station but don't really remember. The scene was full of children and their parents, the children were being shipped out of the country because of the soon coming war. This is what hurt my heart, the thought of having to say goodbye to my son for his protection, not knowing if we would ever be together again, man, a kicker.
The setting of the story is Berlin Germany in the years before World War II, I found the changes in the city before the war, I think in my subconscious the war happened overnight & the people of Germany accepted it that way. This historical novel / mystery describes life for Germans before the war, the fear they lived with for breaking any laws, the arrogance and lawlessness of military personal. It is written in first person, the character can hold either British or US citizenship so is protected to a certain extent from the punishments passed on to German citizens. He's also a journalist and has the curiosity of a journalist. So when a suspicious death of an acquaintance happens, he can't avoid getting into the thick of it.
This novel didn't thrill me. The opening set the stage for me & where I am with my life, this wasn't a good thing. Five years ago it wouldn't have affected me the way it did, now, is a different story. Something seemed to run very slow for me as well. This may have been my inner apprehension because of the opening, or it may have been the writing itself. This was the first of a long series so many seem to like this but I'm not sure if I will read another in the series.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The cousin's war

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I'm not sure about this. Either I have read too many of these stories or this was simply not very good. I made something of a connection with the main character but after that connections was made & her husband died in the story, all I could think about was how tiring and trite this woman was, or became. I found it unappealing in how directly it was written & question if the author liked the character herself.

I also wonder if there was too little information about her husbands rise to power and all that surrounded that. Maybe the next novel will build on this one but I feel like this one was a little light and the main character got on my damn nerves.

Most likely I will make an attempt at the other books in this new series based in the cousin's war but I am not feeling very strongly that I will enjoy them. Again, maybe it is the genre, maybe I'm just done with these light hearted, romantic historic novels. We'll see.

Watch out, don't get stung!

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson.

Damn, yet another novel to make me grieve the loss of this fine storyteller. I love the continuation of the relationship between Lisbeth & Blomkvist, how it revolves and evolves. I especially enjoyed the continuation from The Girl Who Played With Fire, and the evolution of issues created in the novel. I hesitate to write too much in an effort to avoid giving the story away but there were several moments when I was cheering.

I am curious if another novel is to come out, I have read that there is another in the "Trilogy" series, that it was on Mr. Larsson's laptop at the time of his death but that his estate was being challenged yada yada yada.

So I'm curious if there will be another & overly curious about some of the characters and relationships that were created in this novel. For instance, Zalachenko had something like 9 children all together & we only know about three and one of them is still a mystery, Lisbeth's twin sister. I'm curious as to how Lisbeth may evolve, does she really have Asperger's Syndrome or has she been shit on so many times in life that she really did turn away from society & relationships within society in an effort to protect herself? What is going to happen to her relationship with Blomkvist & what's going to happen with his new relationship with Monica, I don't have a good feeling about this relationship by the way. She seems to have gotten caught up in him very quickly for a strong independent woman...somethings fishy.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Library post

Ooo oo oo. I went to the library & there were 5 books waiting for me. It was like Christmas!!!
What was I thinking to reserve all those books?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The God of the Hive, Laurie R. King

I don't believe I have written a review for all of the previous nine Mary Russell stories, but I know I have enjoyed them all. Some I have enjoyed more than others, some less. I remember when the last story ended it was not finished. This story finishes the last.
And I remember wishing that story had finished before it ended. So I was really looking forward to this new novel.
I think I enjoyed this as much as I did some of the early ones, better than some of the middle ones. I really enjoyed the character detail of Mycroft, this mysterious brother to Sherlock that has never really been delved into in the previous books. As in the last one I have enjoyed learning more about Sherlock & his son and the intricate details of his sons life and how it has evolved.

Telling Memories Among Southern Women, Susan Tucker

The Help brought me to this book. An edited collection of first person stories from both the black and white sides of the southern experience of life with domestic servants.

Like life in general this book was full of every imaginary take on domestic servility. Servants that hated white employers, were approached or molested by their white male employers, whites who didn't see anything wrong with the frighteningly low wages paid to servants, didn't see the truth that the servants felt obligated to agree to anything their white employers suggested, the trap that this whole position was. I find the explanations for the white employers ignorance of the black servants situations revealing and completely understandable. I can see how some white employers would have to live in ignorance, if only to be able to live with themselves.

This reminds me of the book American Pictures by Jacob Holdt. In his travels through the southern United States in the same time frame that these interviews were taken, Mr. Holdt found what he thought of as remnants of the Master/Slave environment. He found whites with serious alcohol problems and little soul, blacks with problems getting ahead, as if they didn't know how to grow or change with the times.

Both books wrote of changes and over twenty years has passed since both transpired, plus I lived in the deep south for ten years and witnessed a different world. I expect that times have changed for both groups by now but it is extremely interesting to read these edited first person accounts of life as they knew it. A little bit of history is always a good thing and so very important to our future as healthy human beings. I wish everyone could read both of these books and learn of a better way to live and think. I wish all of us could be forced to address our inner bigots.

The Help, Kathryn Stockett

This was recommended as a nice easy summer read and I have to say that it was. The story drew me in quickly. The personal account of domestic servants in the south was so moving. I have read similar stories in the past that touched on the lives that servants lived in the south but I don't think I have ever read one that seemed so complete.
It was heart renching to read of the love and caring that the servants had to supress for the children they raised, the hurt they had to live with when the children turned into bigoted tyrants like their parents.
I wanted more, I neede more. So I read the next....

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Alienist, Caleb Carr

This was first recommended to me a few years ago by my friend G, then I picked this up from a friend about six months ago. I really really enjoyed this novel. It seemed to be a mystery/historical novel. It covers the profiling and search for a serial murder around the turn of the century.
Theodore Roosevelt is police commissioner, trying to clean up New York City's polie regiments but with a mind that was open to trying new detective methodsHe allows a secret group to form a search for the killer of several children in New York City.
Reading this was like watching Law & Order, CSI or NCIS, of which I enjoy. I enjoy a story with twists and turns, that keeps my on my toes and keeps me questioning what is going on and when the various sub plots are going to come together.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hoarders among us.

Homer and Langley, E. L. Doctorow

A historical fiction of the infamously hoarding Collyer brothers of New york City, I found this story a bit melancholy in nature.

Based on the true story of Homer and Langley Collyer this gives a possible first person narrative of these men who were both found dead in their Harlem home, Langley after several days search.

In this story Homer speaks of his life and involvement with his collecting brother Langley. While both are described as anti social and anti establishment, Homer is presented as a follower in his brothers fancies.

This was beautifully, if not hauntingly written. I hurt for the blind Homer's being drawn along with and into his brother's madness. I found myself reminded of my maternal aunt's hoarding and fearful that I could become like a Collyer.

In life the character's were a bit different, I was compelled to find out more about the two & the true story as it is known is a bit different although no less moving or sad. Langley was found in a tunnel of his own making, having been crushed to death by his own created booby trap, 8 - 10 feet from where his brother was found, paralyzed, malnourished and dead. It took days for police and firemen to find Langley hidden underneath his own collections.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Voyeurism at it's best!

Why do I find myself attracted to the screwed up lives of celebrities, especially musicians? Fall to Pieces by Mary Forsberg-Weiland, helped me fulfill this sordid attraction to famous drug addicts. I suppose there's something to my attraction to the screwed up men, yes, I'm one of those which is why I married "out of type", I have at least acknowledged that my "type" is very, very bad for me.

I remember in the nineties when Stone Temple Pilots were recording in Atlanta. Many of my friends thought STP sucked but I have always liked Scott Weiland's voice & thought it was very cool that he was hanging out at my bar when they were in town. He was playing eye contact with my friend one night when he suddenly disappeared. Later she was waiting for the bathroom line, which was always a long wait on a busy night but was particularly long this night, when he came crashing out of the bathroom, pin holed eyes, crazy looking and grabbed at her. This was the last attraction for her, she was scared & left the bar shortly after.

This same week it turns out that he turned my friends sister onto shooting heroin. She had been snorting it but didn't shoot until he came to town. She's dead now, she ended her life with a shot to the head. My friend had to identify the body, a gruesome thing for him to do. He will always blame Scott Weiland for this, although I'm not sure he is entirely to blame.

So reading this autobiography was a step back in time in a way. It was also a filler for what I figured was happening in the life of this rock star. Mary Forsberg-Weiland had a love affair with Scott Weiland for years, whether consummated or not. Scott Weiland was married to someone else for many of these years yet Mary loved him anyway.

Like Scar Tissue, Anthony Kiedis' autobiography of his life with drugs, I believe this was written to set the record straight, for redemption & even for money I'm sure. For me it was just an easy read, fulfilling my voyeuristic tendencies reminding me that life could be so much worse and making me thankful that I can at least see now that my type is such a bad idea.

If you're into biographies I would recommend this as an easy read, simply written.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Very sweet.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

My second Lisa See novel, I am finding I like her writing. I believe this novel has more renown that Peony in Love, however, as sweet as this story is I think Peony in Love was a much more complicated, and for me, interesting story.

This story was a relatively simple one of great friends and a rift in the friendship. A classic betrayal and redemption tale. A heart wrenching story but one I've read before albeit with less beautiful detail.

Again I loved the detail into Chinese life and times, the foot binding was torturous to read. I still cannot figure out how or why this was such a common practice for so long. But that's just me not seeing history & being caught up in my own opinions and emotions

This was very nicely written, easy to follow, beautiful and sweet, I would recommend it to others.

Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.

My oh my. This non-fiction story of several interconnected Latin American young people growing up in the Bronx was at times frustrating and at other times so sad it made my heart hurt.

These young people lost their innocence at a very young age, most of the young women were sexually abused at a very young age, I counted 9 girls that were noted as having been sexually abused, some as early as 2 by family members such as their fathers. Most, if not all and including the young men, had lost their innocence even earlier by experiencing physical or mental abuse by their parents or loved ones, watching a parent be abused by a loved one or by living with a drug abusing loved one.

This is the second time I read this book. My thoughts are more clear about it this time around. Someone asked me why I chose this book for our book club and I couldn't answer. All I knew was that it moved me. This time around I put effort into answering that question.

There was something about these women, no girls, that moved me, I have decided it was the tradegy of their lives.

I found that the men, again change that to boys, in this story would train their daughters to expect men to hold the power in their relationships, in fact they trained them to accept powerlessness at a very young age. The fathers or male figures would give love with strings, handing out "I Love You's" after being unkind or even cruel. The father figures controlled the pleasure and pain in their relationships creating girls that were literally desperate for kindness, love and attention.

Women teach their daughters submissiveness by attaching themselves to their dreams of these cruel men, the dreams were often very different than the reality - often overlooking their cruelty, accepting humiliating circumstances out of a determination to win the battle of who would or could love more...between couples or between a woman and her rivals.

These women are desperate for attention which stems from their relationships with their own fathers. They are children without the skills or role models to become responsible adults or parents