Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Manuscript Found in Accra - Beautiful!

I’ve been traveling and haven’t reviewed many books lately. But I’m still reading A LOT. I recently finished Paulo Coelho’s Manuscript Found in Accra and just had to say a few words about it. I loved Coelho’s The Alchemist and, although totally different reading, this new book is just as rewarding. Manuscript Found in Accra has been described by some reviewers as a “quietly beautiful book.” So true. It takes place in 1099 AD in the city of Jerusalem, which is about to be destroyed by Crusaders. People have gathered to listen to and ask questions of a man named Copt. The entire book is comprised of questions asked by the people and answered by this mysterious man. His answers are simple, truthful and loving. He’s a man of great wisdom and we can all get something out of these writings. The Bible comes through loud and clear but there’s no “preaching” as such. The bottom line is just pure and simple wisdom of old. And beautiful. This is not a book that will keep you up at night wondering what comes next, but it will keep you up at night reflecting. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s truly something for everyone in Manuscript Found in Accra. Read it!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Don't Waste Your Time With This Spice

I struggled through Just Add Spice by Carol E. Wyer. And I only finished it because I had to review it. This book is disgusting! Who really reads this garbage? A woman, done wrong, gets revenge in a brutal and demeaning way – over and over again. Many men will pay for their sins because of this one person who wants to put them all in their place – and not in a ladylike manner, I might add. Don’t waste your time! I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review. – again, the only reason I finished it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Jemay's Latest Travel Mystery Needs an Editor

J.A. Jemay is back with a new Ainsley Walker Gemstone Travel Mystery, this time set in Portugal. The Portugal Sapphire sees Ainsley taking a job in Portugal to find a stolen azulejos with a sapphire imbedded in it. The search takes her all over Portugal with some death-defying adventures, a friendship with a criminal, and a little romance to boot! The history, culture and port wine lessons are wonderful, but the story itself is a bit farfetched. I think I felt the same way about the last book she wrote (The Puerto Rico Pearl). Although a bit unrealistic, the story still kept my interest. One thing that really upset me with this book is that there were many grammatical errors. I think Jemay has a good thing going here with her travel mysteries, but she definitely needs a good editor. If errors don’t bother you, you may love this book. But they drive me nuts!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Burgess Boys is not Olive Kitteridge

Elizabeth Strout's The Burgess Boys is a novel centered around a dysfunctional family from Shirley Falls, Maine. The brothers have relocated to New York City while their sister remains in their old hometown. But each has its own issues and none of them get along so well. When their nephew gets in trouble for throwing a pig’s head into a mosque (yes, this is really in the story) for no apparent reason, the brothers are pulled back to town to help with legal issues. Slowly, their history from childhood is revealed and eventually we can understand why they are the people they have grown into. But, really, this story is not just about the boys. A great part of the story centers around the sister and her son and the wife and ex-wife of the brothers. It’s fragmented. A great deal of the book covers the immigrants that have taken up resident in Shirley Falls. I enjoyed learning about the Somalis, but I have to say the story seems to jump from one character to another. It is entertaining but it doesn’t come close to Strout’s previous book, Olive Kitteridge.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Starboard Sea - Too Little of Too Much

The Starboard Sea, by Amber Dermont, is a story told in the first person by Jason Prosper, a very well-to-do young man. Jason has been thrown out of his classy prep school and now attends another school for those preppies previously discarded from other prep schools. Of course, Jason’s father’s money helps get him in. Jason has no interest in his father’s money nor his father, for that matter. He befriends a young woman who has other serious problems. The novel talks about parties, about bullying and cruelty, and about the rich and spoiled rotten. The story tries to deal with issues such as being gay, bullying, suicide, and what’s behind a lot of this - the parents of these spoiled young people. I feel the story tries to touch on too many of these social issues and doesn’t really handle any one of them adequately. I also know there are folks like this out there, but the majority of the “rich and famous” young preppies do not fall into the stereotypes set up as the mainstream in this book. I have to say that Ms. Dermont tried but she may have done a much better job dealing with only one issue in this book. She’s a good writer but has to save some of the issues for another book. If you’re interested in a quick book to read, this is for you, but don’t look for much substance here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Round House

The Round House, by Louise Erdrich, was not an easy book to read. I must admit I was left cold for awhile, but as I neared the end of the book I began to understand the underlying messages. The story centers around a rape on a Native American reservation. It’s told by Joe, the son of the woman raped, and tells how it affects her, and his father, and of course, himself. His mother, the secret keeper of the reservation, is directed to the round house where she is raped. She escapes but is never the same. She doesn’t help the authorities for, in doing so, she would release secrets she’s sworn to keep. Her husband tries to help her return to life and also understand the mystery surrounding the rape. Joe has to deal with losing the mother he knew and trying to understand her reaction. Along the way, Joe is introduced to spirituality and at one point suspects the priest of the rape. As the story unravels we slowly learn who had committed the crime and the reasons behind it and behind the secrecy. But it does take time to get there and I think that’s why some folks may not care for this book. In the end, I feel The Round House was a good read but admit it took me awhile to get there. But learning the workings of the reservation and the justice system there was intriguing. I believe the book is definitely worth the time and hope others understand the underlying meanings instead of taking it all at face value.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The View from Penthouse B - Worth the Read

The View from Penthouse B, by Elinor Lipman, is a good quick read. Gwen is suddenly widowed and very much alone. Her older sister, Margot, is divorced from her husband, infertility physician and “victim” of a sex scandal. Margot also falls prey to the Bernie Madoff scam and loses most of her money. Hence, she is stuck in a beautiful penthouse she cannot afford. Solution – Gwen moves in and they share expenses. But the sharing of expenses is not adequate, so they add a boarder to the mix. Anthony is a young gay man who is a breath of sunshine and helps with a different perspective on the women’s troubles. After a trial Margot’s ex heads off to prison, but is released early and suddenly arrives at Margot’s doorstep. This is where the fun really begins. And we can’t forget Anthony’s sister who shows up after leaving her job as a nanny. I’ll let you read the book to learn about this part of the adventure. This story is full of humor and a very quick read. It’s well written but won’t become a modern-day classic. However, it’s definitely worth taking some time out of a rainy afternoon and to try The View from Penthouse B. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back with a Depressing but Beautifully Written Book

I’m back. Yes, I pretty much took the summer off but didn’t stop reading. In fact, I probably read more than normal. I enjoyed many of the books that have piled up on my nightstand. And many of the books in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I have a long way to go on those 1,001 books but I did make a dent, albeit very small, this summer. Well, I’ve returned with a depressing choice - Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Yes, it’s depressing but it’s also well written and very interesting. We all know about the poverty in third-world countries such as India. This book brings us right into one of those cardboard shack slums. Boo followed and interviewed the characters of this book over a long period of time. She put much work into this project and was able to show their life and emotions well. The overwhelming obstacles these people face are described well in Boo’s book. Intriguing, depressing, yet beautiful is how I’d describe this non-fiction piece of work. My biggest criticism would be that Boo did not go into much detail regarding the politics and corruption behind what these people face in their everyday life for survival. I would have liked to receive more factual information and the whys behind the corrupt system. But, needless to say, I still loved the book and its characters. It certainly brought out all kinds of emotions as I read it: sadness, depression, tears, anger and even laughter at times. Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a great book – read it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gone Girl - Me and the Book

Speaking of Gone Girl, I apologize for being absent for so long. Let me just say, it’s been a tough few months. But I’m back and I’m back with a cool mystery. Gillian Flynn’s latest book, Gone Girl, is intriguing and surprising. My biggest issue is I figured out the surprising part way too soon in the book. It’s about a young New York City couple who move to Missouri after the husband Nick’s mother takes ill. Transplanting is hard enough but going from the Big City to a tiny rural town with no friends is beyond difficult for Amy. The ideal marriage soon falls apart but when Amy goes missing and Nick is the main suspect in this possible homicide, the surprises start to pop up. Amy’s parents join him and stand behind him 100 percent, but how long can that last? Once the “affair” goes public, the parents are suddenly unavailable for Nick. His twin sister Go (short for Margo) is also behind him but has some doubts after awhile. Finally, Nick has to hire a big-time and sleazy lawyer. But we soon find out the twists in the story when “stuff” happens. I’ll not give anything else away. If you love a good mystery and a well-written story, you’ll love Gone Girl. However, if you’re really into mysteries you’ll probably figure it out before long. I did and that was the only disappointing part of the book.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Stockholm Octavo - Intriguing

The Stockholm Octavo: A Novel, by Karen Engelman is bassed on the 1792 assassination of King Gustav III. The novel centers around Emil Larsson, a bachelor and gambler, and Mrs. Sparrow, who owns a gambling venue. But the two become connected through Mrs. Sparrow’s ability to “read the cards” and her belief in each person’s Octavo. Although this is a novel, there is much history to be absorbed in this intriguing story. Of course, there is the problem of keeping fact and fiction in their right category. Emil needs to find a wife and completing his Octavo will supposedly help him find her. Mrs. Sparrow has to complete hers. All the while, the two are trying to prevent or at least warn Gustav of his future, which has been read in the cards. All of this is intertwined and interesting, albeit not necessarily true. Nonetheless, Ms. Engleman has written a very interesting story that should keep your interest.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chocolate for your Valentine

Chocolate Passion Dessert Recipes, by Lisa Joy Taylor is the perfect book for Valentine’s Day baking! It’s chockfull of recipes for cakes, pies, candies, cookies, brownies, mousse and ice cream – all chocolate, of course. It has something for everyone including vegans and those who like to bake with a touch of booze! But, beyond the recipes, you’ll learn some interesting facts about chocolate and why we all seem to love it. Chef Taylor teaches us about the history of chocolate and its benefits. Knowing its health benefits will alleviate guilt when consuming this heavenly food. Just like red wine, it’s GOOD for you! Who knew? Most of these recipes can be made with what you have in your pantry right now. But there are a few ingredients you may have to make a special trip to a gourmet store to find. For the most part, these recipes are easy and pure chocolate! Life is good. Treat your Valentine to something sweet this year. Make it chocolate!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Not Grisham's Best

John Grisham has done it again. That is, he’s written another book, but certainly not his best. The Racketeer isn’t even close to being his best, but it was enjoyable and a quick read. It’s about Malcolm (or Max, depending on where in the book you’re reading) who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. After five years and a lot of pre-planning, he manages to make a deal with the Feds when he claims to know the killer of a Federal judge. Oh, but it goes way beyond that and I can’t give away the ending. Max manages to lead a wild life for a few months and even escapes the witness protection program. But, in the end, he gets what he deserves – or not. No, this is definitely not one of Grisham’s better books but it’s quite entertaining. I think most Grisham fans will be disappointed but will also enjoy reading it. They just may soon forget it and hope his next book is back to the old Grisham style. Give me A Time to Kill or The Firm anytime.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - A Good Mystery

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal, is a mystery set in London during the Blitz. I first thought it was historical fiction and there are some good history lessons here, but it’s mainly a mystery so don’t expect to learn anything new about that time period. That said, it’s a good mystery and was fun to read and hard to put down. Maggie, born in Britain but raised in the U.S. by her aunt after her parents were killed in a car accident, returns to London to sell her grandmother’s house. She gets caught up in the events of the time. She gets a job as a typist in Churchill’s office even though she should be earning that graduate degree at MIT. But her math background helps solve some big time mysteries and helps save people and St. Paul’s. Bombs, murders, and spies fill this book although there’s a bit of romance thrown in too. This is a good book for a snowy afternoon by the fire. And you may pick up a few new historical facts along the way.