REVIEWS

THE BOOK THAT STARTED IT ALL!

This is the first book I read as an accomplished second-language learner in middle school. It was back in 7th grade, on a hot and humid day in Miami, while all my friends rushed outside to eat my lunch under the purple-y shade of a Jacaranda tree, that I decided to linger in the cool, air-conditioned library. That’s when I spotted a sale of old, tattered paperbacks. I read the back cover and was intrigued. I used my last quarter, dime and four pennies to pay the 39 cents the library was asking for. After inhaling the first page, I kept reading and never looked back! THANK YOU BEVERLY CLEARY! This is another one of those experiences I have to repeat. I am dying to know how different my journey will be through the pages of this novel. I was twelve when I last read it – I imagine it will be an insanely different experience to read it at forty-eight. Definitely, more on this book, as soon as I make the time to read it a second time. #THROWBACK #NOSTALGIA

ANOTHER AMAZING YA – FANTASY with nothing to envy the literary fiction world – too many think the genres can’t be “literary” – well they haven’t read these last two ladies and their lyrical and powerful YA works…

A FANTASTIC YA…

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Excited to start Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS:

I’ve always been a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale and taught it in high school for many years & recently discovered a new hunger for more Atwood’s genius – I’m onto the awaited THE TESTAMENTS & ALIAS GRACE – but I promised myself I wouldn’t watch the Netflix series until I’m done reading first!

Beyond excited to READ IT! 

REVIEW COMING SOON!

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

I started reading “The Age of Miracles” thinking at first, and prejudging as many of us do (despite the fact we should NOT) and questioned, given that it was her first baby, was she as lyrical, as powerful, and as precise and intimate with her words then?.

This debut would introduce us to a new fictional landscape; an apocalyptic end-of-the-world type of story with an inexperienced eleven-year-old as our central narrator. So, of course, I had my doubts…

…but then I opened the first page: “We did not sense at first the extra time, bulging from the smooth edge of each day like a tumor blooming beneath skin.”

WAIT, WHAT???? OMG! That is literally PURE POETRY: our days have smooth edges? And those edges were bulging? So much, they were like a tumor….but not any tumor…one that was “blooming beneath skin” – HOLY-MOTHER-OF-ALL-THINGS-LITERARY…..WALKER IS A GODDESS AMONG US ALL!

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

This is one of those literary journeys I would defy the ratings for. This one deserves a 10 out of 5 stars!!!! This writer is lyrical and powerful. A true storytelling voice, like that of the great classic authors that came before her. As she tells the story and events that changed and shook the characters’ world forever, she thrusts the reader into this same world. With every word, every detail, she makes you feel every step they take, every struggle, every confusion, every breath of dusty smoke they inhale. This is the kind of book that plants you right in the middle of the action, yet mystifies with a delicate, deliberate and masterful-crafted narrative.

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I gave this book 3 stars. It was well written but I am not sure it was quite my cup of tea. I can see how a teen reader could connect with this coming-of-age and the main characters’ journey as they discovered some of the answers to life’s little puzzles. As a multi-genre reader, it is always difficult to rate books. One, because I hate giving low ratings when a book could be good for a specific audience, just not me (like this one was). With that said, I always wonder if I should stick to reading books that are only in my preferred genre. But then I hear the wise words of the great Margaret Atwood reminding people that when you close yourself off from any genres, you are missing out on a world of incredible stories and amazing characters – that you may have otherwise not come across if you didn’t step outside your reading comfort-zone.

BOOK P-REVIEW & REVIEW:

Could “CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE” by Tomi Adeyemi, Do For Young Adult Fantasy, What “BLACK PANTHER” Is Doing For Film?

Published March 2018

ALL FINGERS CROSSED THAT IT IS! As her debut novel garnered more and more attention, I was beyond intrigued. After visiting her site and learning about her writing journey, it is exciting to see her enjoying such great success. I got my copy and have also bought copies for each of my girls – we are going to start reading it together really soon & very eager to do so! We plan to do a chapter-by-chapter discussion of this YA Fantasy, which I will condense into a more digestible book review on ce I have devour it. Don’t miss the final review. I also invite you to check out her site and learn more about the book and the author. Of late, we have been taken by the reception the world had given the blockbuster movie “Black Panther.” It’s all-black cast is historic and it seems this movement is also picking up momentum in the literary world. I will be keeping my eye out for YA literature that showcases a variety of cultures and protagonists that as “others’ have too often been marginalized and relegated to the background. More on this soon! 

I started reading it – I liked the beginning and then (SPOILER ALERT) the romance between the 4 main characters began to intensify and I had to put the book down. I understand the need to flood YA with romance, but it was not what I wanted for this story or the two young women in them. I wish, for once, we could write about a powerful female character that (though she might start to have feeling or an unexpected attraction for a male lead) decides she must sacrifice her romantic emotions in an attempt to focus fully on her world-saving task. I wish she did not need his help or was dependent on his love, skills or expertise. We must really start writing heroines that STAND APART & ON THEIR OWN TWO FEET – NO HELP – NO PARTNER – ONE WHO’S VULNERABILITY ISN’T LOVE. Though, I could see how millions of teens would love this adventure, the book was not for me.

BOOK REVIEW: ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan

I’ll preface this review by saving I am always hesitant to write reviews that are not completely and utterly positive – as you can see with other reviews on my Goodreads account, I only go on and on about the ones I loved. Therefore, I apologize in advance to the countless readers who have read and loved this book. Please, let us remember that our reviews, our take on the books we read, are not entirely a reflection of the book itself, but also a reflection of who we are. Because every reader brings something different to each story. There is a great quote by Edmund Wilson to this philosophy that states: “NO TWO PERSONS EVER READ THE SAME BOOK.” This is definitively the very best quote I have ever read with regards to how each of us reads. And with that, I would like to say, that perhaps because I have been very much into fantasy-fantasy type reads lately, “Echo” – though well written and well developed, especially the kids, who readers immediately care for – just didn’t have enough fantasy, enough magic. Spoiler alert: the three sisters in the forest, the witch and the spell and the magic harmonica were not enough for me. That was just a few pages in prologue and epilogue. 90% of the book read like a historical, coming-of-age story about nazi Germany, Philadelphia’s orphanage issues in the 30’s and migrant worker discrimination in early 40’s California – plus a sprinkle of the injustices the U.S. committed against the Japanese Americans post the Perl Harbor attack. This “fantasy” read more like a relatable history lesson and less like the fantastical world I wanted to escape to.

A 5-STAR REVIEW: “The Red Hunter” by Lisa Unger

Published January 2018

WOW!!! Just finished it, and though I’ve been kicking myself for letting the holidays and my recent move keep me from it…what an ending! I was afraid in a few spots that I may not be satisfied. After all, how was I going to be happy in the end when there seemed to be no clear ‘right’ choice or HEA for Zoey (which became the driving force for my emotional investment, despite the very compelling storyline of Claudia and Raven) – I don’t want to populate my review with spoilers so I will focus on the HOW rather than Lisa Unger’s WHAT…the most enjoyable part of this novel’s journey for me was the beautiful prose. It was my first real introduction to the thriller/suspense genre and I went into it with certain assumptions about thrillers being heavy on plot rather than character development or beautiful prose.

I am glad to report, Lisa Unger obliterated all my assumptions with masterful sentence after masterful paragraph after masterful chapter – one of my very first responses to this novel was that my favorite part was the narrative voice, the clever word choice that made me laugh out loud so often and the meticulous attention to every detail responsible for creating a strong emotional bond between the story and the reader! As a beginning writer, reading THE RED HUNTER was equivalent to taking a Master’s Class for the bargain price of $25.99 (plus tax). I expected at some point the masterpiece would give way to the mediocre and I would close the pages of the book asking myself the same question and feeling deflated like I have too often after reading critically-acclaimed books: what happened to the ending? But this was not the case with Lisa Unger. Her work is not plagued with this illness so many suffer. She maintains (and I dare say) improves the narrative from page 1 to the very last keystroke. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ ‘THE RED HUNTER’ DO IT…DO IT NOW!

A 5-STAR REVIEW: “GENESIS” By Bernard Beckett

This is one of those rare books that takes all your prejudices, all your assumptions, all your expectations and turns them on their heads! This was an enjoyably disturbing, enthralling and powerful social commentary about what it means to be human – what it TAKES to be human and earn the title of human. I would say so much more – so many great and wonderful things about this intriguing dystopia – but I won’t dare spoil it. “Genesis” is a MUST READ – and I am considering incorporating it into my middle school reading circle – very curious to see what these bright young minds have to say about the question of: WHAT MAKES US HUMAN?

“The Giver” SPOILER ALERT ahead: the ending of “GENESIS” is the equivalent of how I felt when I found out Jonas could see RED and all that that implied!

I was excited to find out that Beckett actually has a lot of other books. I am particularly interested in following this dystopia with his novel titled “AUGUST” which is more realistic fiction – but man oh man, what a premise!

BOOK REVIEW:  The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins 

This one got on my radar the way it did for most people, after it became an overnight sensation and #1 New York Times Bestseller. By the time I got to buying it, the movie was being released so I made a horrible mistake. One I don’t plan to repeat. I watched the movie before reading the book. I always watch the movies AFTER the books – something that is still not recommended as everyone knows, the movie is seldom an inspiring representation of the literature.

I hated the movie, I can’t even remember it, and I can’t figure out what I hate more, that I hated another so-called bestseller or that I couldn’t even remember the major conflict or ending of the movie.That was over four months ago, but the copy I bought, sitting dusty on one of my many bookshelves has recently called out to me. It whispers at night from its perch as I head to kitchen for my midnight glass of water. So, I answered its call. I dusted it off and started reading it and…W-O-W! It had me at “She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree” – the rest is history. Despite hating novels told in a diary-type day-by-day format and hating even more books that are told from different perspectives, I will say that it just doesn’t matter. Hawkins’s writing, her narrative voice and style make for perfect characterization – I felt Rachel was at once talking to just me, confessing as it were – the unburdening of one friend to another. I AM HOOKED!!! Started 34 min. ago and I’m 46 pages in (don’t judge my slow reading pace) – I only stopped for this quick update – the last time I was pulled in by a story like this, I stayed up and read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in one sitting. Hope to be back with a follow-up post (without spoilers) to confirm the ending is as enthralling as the beginning has been.

WANT TO GIVE THIS ONE 10 STARS!

Larsson hooked my with his first page! This was the second book in my life I was unable to put down. Read the entire thing cover to cover without stopping! I didn’t want to pee, eat, or sleep until I unlocked and unraveled the secrets behind this serial-killing mystery. What a rush! What a fantastic rollercoaster! I wish I could give this one more than 5 stars! I’m not one for book reviews that give away the plot – I certainly shouldn’t do it for this suspense thrill-of-a-ride, but I will say that despite being all about the “girl with the tattoo” and how she helps the detective on the case of the “missing” girl uncover the truth – this novel made me immediately sympathize for the main characters – they say readers love it when stories are relatable – the funny thing is that this novel was as far from being related to anything I have ever done and yet, I was rooting for the characters from page one – from the grandfather searching for answers, to Lisbeth getting her revenge. This is not just a thriller or suspense novel. To call it that, would be to discount the artful prose and attention to detail Larsson pours onto each page. The writing itself was beautiful. There were scenes in the cabin where they stood outside in the cold and I felt the numbness of the fingers and face that results from an unrelenting icy winter. I could see the breath in front of their faces as they spoke. I, too, felt the icy cold. And it is that which made it so relatable – that I could FEEL each movement, each scene, each sentence and word! I can’t say enough about this perfect journey into the mind of a serial killer – this book was so memorable for me, I’ve refused to continue the series for fear it will ruin my high. They also say the first in a series is best and beware of the 2nd or 3rd installments, so I’m playing it safe. This one novel is enough for me – the perfect ending for Lisbeth too. I wouldn’t want to change that or see her become anyone else – she got hers and that’s exactly how I want to leave it!!!

5-STAR REVIEW: Christopher Moore

Moore is a Shakespeare fan’s dream come true. I believe if The Bard was still alive he would seal this Moore reimagining with his stamp of approval. What a wonderful tale of Othello’s Iago and The Merchant of Venice’s very own Antonio. And the tile? WHAT A FANTASTIC PLAY ON WORDS! This is a terrific new adventure for Shakespeare lovers to explore. Just after we thought those chapters were closed to us, here is an author that reignites and reinvest with the best of them. Any author who can reimagine and resurrect classic characters like Moore does here, deserves a standing ovation! As if I didn’t hate Iago enough the first time around. Moore reminds us why Iago is a character we love to hate. This book is just what the doctor ordered for any Shakespeare fan because it delves deeper into the nooks and crannies of each of the Bard’s characters and villains, painting them in a brand new, light – more exposed, more raw, more (dare I say) entertaining – YES, yes it is!!! This is a must-read for any one who enjoys the whole Shakespeare thing!

5-STAR REVIEW: “The Venetian Bargain” by Marina Fiorato

WOW (and double WOW)! I am not much for a historical romance/fiction but this author, her voice, her use of exquisite language, her page-turning pace and tension build-up are IRRESISTIBLE. Period. I couldn’t put the book down. And because I have travelled to Venice and its famous Piazza San Marco, I could SEE the story unfolding through my minds eye – but for anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to visit this beautiful and mysterious city, Fiorato can take you there (no flight or luggage needed) just open to page one and viola! I have already bought her other titles and can’t wait to read the other European adventures. Again, it doesn’t matter what genre you prefer, if what you enjoy is the beauty of delicately written prose, this is an author not to be missed! Let’s throw in one last W O W for good measure!!!

A 5-STAR REVIEW: “The Five People You Meet in Heaven”

One of the best books of my life! Mitch Albom takes us on such a ride with Eddie at the helm that this is THE BOOK people can’t put down – I used it in my English classroom for over ten years and this is the only novel my students refused to put down – when the end of class bell rang they would moan and groan and some would even borrow the book (without permission) to continue reading at home (they always brought it back) but they just simply could NOT PUT IT DOWN. It’s an amazing read because we are all Eddie and must all learn the five lessons he learned in his travels. This is also the novel back in middle school, I truly believe sparked a true passion for reading in all three of my children – which despite my English literature background and extensive home library were not avid readers at the time. This is a must read, whether you are 12 or 92. This is a story and storyteller that will not disappoint – often most known for his novel, “Tuesdays with Morrie,” Mitch Albom is a masters of plot, character and theme.

BOOK REVIEW: THE BOOK I LOVE TO HATE, BUT LOVE!

The book I love to HATE. This was a beautifully written, suspenseful murder mystery that kills you slowly with excessive vivid details of her long silky black hair and the countless walks through the breath-taking strawberry fields of the Northwest – I don’t exaggerate when I say it was beautifully written. Every sentence was light having mouthfuls of delicious, velvety smooth chocolate that was too sweet for the palette. I loved every detail of it but was furious when he stopped to give me scenery and little nuggets because I really needed to find out what was happening with the murder trial and the investigation – granted I was a lot less patient in 2006 – I plan to reread it soon and see if I suffer the same anxiety attacks when Guterson does his “thing” – also just bough another of his books because well…I like a good slow death by narrative! I will add to this review after I give it a second try – I predict the second time will be a complete and utter love affair! More on this one soon.

BOOK REVIEW: Robert James Waller

This is the very BEST collections of short stories I’ve ever read. Waller sinks his teeth into reality, takes hold of your emotions and never lets go! This is one of the few books I DO NOT pack in boxes with my other 100’s when I move – I carry this one with me in my carry on – I’ve had it for over a decade. It’s pages are starting to show their age. The first short memoir in this masterpiece collection, “Excavating Rachel’s Room” makes me cry every time – it really does a job of pulling on my heart strings. Waller is a master of the emotional stuff. Period. My husband still thinks we went over to the pond at university to help rescue the ducks after reading, “Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend.” Masterful, I say, simply masterful! This is one of those rare books I am hesitant to pick up and read over and over, not because I don’t love it, but for fear I will end up crying again. Waller’s writing creates an immediate intimacy with the character that you feel their pain is your pain, their struggles, your own. These are stories that will have you believing, these things happened to you. I couldn’t recommend this author more. And it’s great he has so much to read, from his famed “Bridges of Madison County” to my my favorite, “Slow Waltz in Cedar Bend” and many many more.

ANOTHER GREAT ROBERT JAMES WALLER BOOK!

This is another of the great books of my life. I have never been to India but thanks to Robert James Waller, I’ve been to India. I have never seen a bengal tiger off a veranda in the thick landscape of India but thanks to waller, I have seen a Bengal tiger off a veranda. This man takes you on a journey and drops you right next to your favorite characters along for the ride. MY HUSBAND ONLY READ ONE CHAPTER AND SWEARS TO THIS DAY, WE WENT TO THE POND BEHIN OUR LOCAL COLLEGE AND RESCUED DUCKS DURING AN ENVIRONMENTAL EXCURSION. Truth – the descriptions were so vivid the scene became part of his memories. Ahhhhh, YES…the power of great writing!

BOOK REVIEW: “Odyssey in a Tea Cup” by Paula Houseman

Published October 2017

 

Finished reading “Odyssey in a Teacup” by Paula Houseman and I absolutely loved it!!! I loved the narrative voice right away – I felt she was like a friend confiding in me. I also enjoyed how she infused the entire journey with wonderful humor and personal moments that made me laugh out loud. One of my favorite parts was the timeline with the chain of events list on page 206. And of course, there was that “Bond, James Bond” intro from Brill that was hilarious & how Ralph always played Zorro. I know many people believe that chapter titles don’t carry much weight but I honestly enjoyed every single one of your chapter titles – the irony, the sheer humor in them was expectant – making want to dive into the chapter right away. It read like a wonderful coming-of-age and sexual liberation-type journey all in one – (SPOILER ALERT) and I didn’t even mind that they “didn’t” because it keeps me wondering; anticipating the next book to see if they will take their realization and confessions to the next level.

Onto book 2!
Also heard a little rumor, that book 3 is coming soon!

BOOK REVIEW: “GRAND OPENING” by John Hassler

This was a great introduction for me of a kind of powerful literature that doesn’t have to be plot-driven but rather focuses on the development of characters, so likable, so relatable, so damaged and so human, that they become ‘real’ to the reader – like following the story of a dear friend – someone you are rooting for. This is another one I read wayyyyyy too many years ago that deserves a second read – curious to see what the forty-something me will discover that the twenty-something me missed. Yet another, for my ever-growing Must-Read-Again List. More on this one later.