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Showing posts from August, 2011

Catching Santa (The Kringle Chronicles, Book 1) by Marc Franco

Just to be up front, I got this as an advance reader copy to review from LibraryThing.Com.

This is the first in the Kringle series by Marc Franco and is a young adult novel.  In it, Jakob is an 11 year boy that is easily distracted, doesn't pay attention and can often be found doodling in class instead of listening to his teachers. On the last day before Christmas vacation, Jakob is teased mercilessly when his classmates steal some of his doodles (featuring Santa!) and pass them around to each other. Jakob, later that day, receives two mysterious emails from S.R. that essentially tell him that the best way to make people who don't believe in Santa actually believe in him is to catch Santa. Later on in the novel, we learn that the main antagonist from the day before break - Rick- is missing and actually makes a panicked call to Jakob, prompting Jakob to being his search for Rick and eventually, Santa himself.

The story itself was was a tremendous story. I enjoyed it and I thin…

Simple Justice by John Morgan Wilson

So, I had never heard of the Benjamin Justice mystery series and I'm not quite sure what led me to request this particular book from the library.  I was immediately drawn into this novel by John Morgan Wilson.

In the first of the series, a young man is murdered outside of a gay bar in Los Angeles.  A young Latino man is found kneeling over him and is arrested and charged with his murder. Perhaps most damning, he has has confessed to killing the young man that he has been found with.  The young man turns out to be related to a wealthy family and is also discovered to be a coke head. Benjamin Justice is a disgraced journalist - he had written a series for the LA Times that had won him prestigious awards and was soon discovered to have been completely made up - and also struggling with alcoholism and the loss of his partner.  He is asked by his former boss to look into the murder of the young man, so he does.

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book when I first started it …

Daughters of the Revolution by Carolyn Cooke

I was mesmerized by the review that I read of this book in the Times.   I tend to enjoy reading books about colleges and prep schools and the strife that often occurs between students and/or within the students that are the center of the novel. So that's why I was drawn to this novel.

The novel focuses, mainly, on a New England all-male prep school in the 60's.  The school, which is nearly all white and is all male, is struggling with issues of race and socioeconomic status and the headmaster is trying to decide if the school should go coed when the first female is accidentally admitted (her name is Carole, a name that the secretary mistakenly thinks is male).  Not only is Carole female, but she is black and from the lower middle class, so she makes everyone uncomfortable.

This book was a bit disconcerting to read, although it ended up being moderately enjoyable. It was disconcerting because it often jumped around from first person to third person and often dealt with many dif…

The Whore's Child and Other Stories by Richard Russo

I have loved Richard Russo ever since I read Empire Falls way back when.  So when I saw this book in the library I picked it up and brought it home.

This is a collection of short stories about mundane, ordinary lives.  But I was still enthralled and absolutely enamored nonetheless. Russo has a way of depicting such lives in a way that you absolutely can't rip your eyes away from, no matter how "boring" you would think that they would have been normally. Somehow, Russon manages to draw you into these lives and make them interesting.

Perhaps the best story in the book is the title story.  It is about a nun who was born out of wedlock to a woman that worked as a prostitute and who had, essentially, had her pimp drop her off at the school run by the nuns of the order when she was a young child.

All of the stories are a pleasure to read. As I say, Russo has a way with words and draws you into the lives of the characters so much so that you just can't rip your eyes away. A…

The Halfway House by Kathleen Noel

I was at the library one day picking up one of the multitude of books that I had requested (you know, because I had seen it on NPR or something) and I was walking by a book display and saw this novel in it.  I think the display was about summer reading or something like that - and I was intrigued, so I picked up the book and read the inside flap and decided that I would get the book.

Angie Voorster is 17 at the start of this novel and she is everything, seemingly, that you would want your daughter to be, at least on the outside. She is a star athlete - a swimmer that has broken, is breaking and continues to break records - and she has a future in swimming at a division one school. She is also a straight A student, making her a candidate for the Ivy League. She lives with her mom (Jordana), her dad (Pieter) and her younger brother, Luke, who is also a swimmer.  Things seem to be going well until, in the middle of the boys' race, she dives headlong into the pool and to the bottom, c…

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson

I picked this up because it looked intriguing to me and boy, was it fantastic.  In this novel, Christine is a middle-aged woman who has a bizarre form of amnesia.  She cannot remember anything from day to day and whenever she goes to sleep, her memory is wiped clean. Each morning, she wakes up and has no clue who she is, where she is, how old she is or any other bits of knowledge that we take for granted. Imagine having to re-create your entire life history each day that you wake up - that's what she has to go through. She lives with a man named Ben - her husband - and her only way to remember is by reading the journal that she keeps daily.

This is SJ Watson's first novel and I hope that he will continue to write more for us because it was fantastic - a good premise, wonderful writing and great characters. It was a page turner - I found myself constantly thinking about the novel, the characters and what would happen at inopportune moments. I also wondered when the next time th…

This Beautiful Life by Helen Schulman

Jake Bergamot is your typical, upper middle class New York City student - he is 15, goes to a prestigious school and likes to party with his friends. At a party, he rebuffs the advances of a pretty drunk eighth grader. But, in the early morning hours, he gets an email with a salacious video attached to it - one that the eighth grader made specifically for Jake and for Jake only. On some level, Jake was honored but on another level, he was absolutely horrified and shocked by the lewd and lascivious video that ended up in his email in box, so he forwarded it to his friend, in part an attempt to get rid of the hot potato. And you can see where this goes. Within a few hours, the video that was private initially has been posted everywhere on the internet and has thousands of hits. As a result of this video gone viral, Jake's and his family's lives are turned upside down.

Schulman's book raises a lot of good themes: privacy in the internet age, shame, gender roles, internet prot…

Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

This was hands down one of the best books that I have read this year.   Geraldine Brooks has absolutely outdone herself with this novel.

Caleb's Crossing mostly takes place in 17th Century Martha's Vineyard and 17th century Cambridge (most notably, Harvard Yard).  Bethia Mayfield is a teenage Puritan whose family is quite wealthy by colonial standards - her grandfather is the founder of the island itself and had emigrated there in order to establish a haven that was outside the purview of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bethia is an intelligent young woman, who learns Hebrew, Greek and Latin seemingly by osmosis - she listens in on the lessons given to her older brother and learns not only the ancient languages but the language of the native American tribe also inhabiting the island. Bethia also has an aptitude for wandering and, during her wanderings of the island, meets a young Native American man who is eventually adopted by her family and renamed Caleb. Caleb is tutored exte…

My Korean Deli by Ben Ryder Howe

This is a memoir by Ben Ryder Howe that follows his life as he works as an editor at The Paris Review while also buying and operating a deli with his wife and her mother. Howe and his wife, Gab, buy the deli as a last, Hail Mary, attempt to make enough money to move out of her parents' basement and into their own place. Howe hopes that the deli will make them enough money that they can either buy or rent their own space and begin their own family. Gab puts additional value on the deli - it's her way of giving something back to her mother, a Korean emigre who raised Gab and her siblings seemingly on her own in a foreign country.

The memoir follows the intense ups and downs and the trials and tribulations of owning a deli in New York City. The trials include a mugging, busts for selling cigarettes to underage customers, fines and massive tax bills in addition to being taken advantage of by vendors and the weather alike. During the same period, Howe works at his day job - as a se…

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon - contains spoilers

This book is the third book in the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon.  I read Outlander, the first book in the series, years ago and then Dragonfly in Amber in October right around the time that Gabby was born and the series will occasionally call to me. And call to me it did now, so I picked up the third book.

This book picks up where Dragonfly in Amber left off - Claire has returned to her own time.  Twenty years has passed by and it is 1967.  Clair is living in the United States with her daughter, Brianna and they are visiting in Scotland attempting to determine whether Jaime has survived the battle of Culloden.  Assisting them is Roger Wakefield, who maintains a consistent interest in Brianna romantically. Claire, Roger and Brianna must discover whether Jaime Fraser has survived and, if he has, whether any of them should go back in time to meet him. If she goes back, she must attempt to rekindle a romantic relationship with a man that she hasn't seen in 20 years and who could…