Source: purchased

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Mini-Book View: The Boston Girl

January 5, 2015 Book Review 8

Mini-Book View: The Boston GirlThe Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Published by Scribner on December 9th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: purchased
Goodreads

In a nutshell:  In which I just want to say, eh, it was ok; nothing spectacular.

Having read The Red Tent over ten years ago and recalling it to be an intense literary read, my expectations for The Boston Girl may have been a bit high.  Either my memory of The Red Tent is faulty or The Boston Girl just does not live up.  The premise is eighty-five year old, Addie, recounts her coming-of-age during the 1920’s to Ava, her 22-year-old granddaughter.  There are snippets of wisdom from Addie to Ava like You should always be kind to people, Ava. You never know what sorrows they’re carrying around. and You know Ava, it’s good to be smart, but kindness is more important.  The anecdotes, although a good message, had a way of repeating throughout the novel.

Touted to be a book of feminism, I found The Boston Girl to be more focused on female friendships. The life-long friendships between the women of the reading club where Addie found her voice was the shining star of the novel.  Diamant knows how to write female friendships like no other.  But hardcore feminism? Nope.

I enjoyed the title of the chapters like The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. in which Addie learned to type and I thought he was sweet and that I was sweet on him.  where Addie met a new beau. All of chapter titles felt like really good blog post titles. The various Jewish phrases interwoven gave some legitimacy to the culture in which Addie emerged.  

The Boston Girl is a genteel novel that reads like a lighter memoir.  According to Goodreads, many people have liked this novel.  I can’t say I didn’t like it, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.  I would recommend this novel for those who enjoy a lighter fare of women’s fiction.  Recommended with caution.

Have you read any of Anita Diamant’s books? Do you have a favorite?

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Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving Time

October 20, 2014 Book Review 4

Elephants, Psychics and Overcoming Grief in Leaving TimeLeaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Published by Ballantine Books on October 14th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 416
Source: purchased
Goodreads

 

Children are the anchors of a mother’s life.  

~Sophocles, Phaedra, fragment 612

Having read almost all of Jodi Picoult’s previous novels I knew I was settling in for a treat of a read.  Thirteen year old Jenna Metcalf enlists the help of two very unlikely sources ~ Serenity, a psychic with a load of baggage and Victor/Virgil the alcoholic detective turned P.I. who investigated a death at the elephant sanctuary Jenna’s parents owned 10 years prior.

Jodi Picoult has been labeled a master storyteller by Stephen King ~ in my opinion, Leaving Time is truly Picoult’s best novel to date.  Told in alternating voices we are given clues throughout of what happened the night Alice Metcalf disappeared and long-time elephant caregiver, Nevvie, was discovered trampled by one of the elephants.

When the plot lines intersect, cross over and under and around as they did in Leaving Time, it is not uncommon to discover a slip up somewhere.  Not so in this gem.  Every tendril of the story was wrapped up – not in a nice neat package, but rather in a manner that felt real.  The characters from thirteen year old Jenna, her mother Alice, Serenity and Virgil – each one is an individual fully fleshed out in their own right.  But the true beauty of the novel is reading about the elephants.  The research that went into this novel is so thorough – the plight of both wild elephants and those in captivity, the different challenges faced by each group and the grief and the “allomothering” – wow! I wanted to jump inside the novel and be Alice for a time.

Then the research into psychics and elephants – the way Picoult integrates her new-found knowledge into the novel without making it seem dusty and dry is so seamless.

Leaving Time is for anyone who loves animals, especially elephants.  It is for mothers of daughters and daughters of mothers; for those dealing with a mental illness – either personally or with a loved one.  It is for the man who sees no redemption for his actions and for the ones who have talked to the other side.  It will leave you feeling many emotions including sated and satisfied.  Highly, highly recommended.

[Tweet “Elephants, grief and psychics in #leavingtime”]

Jodi Picoult has also given us the novella Larger Than Life for those wanting to wade a bit deeper into the background of Alice Metcalf and her research with elephant grief.  It is just as fabulous as Leaving Time and will take you on roller coaster ride of emotions.

We also have Where There’s Smoke that introduces us to Serenity Jones, the psychic in Leaving Time.  I read this one several months ago and could not wait to get me hands on Leaving Time which had not been released at that time – do yourself a favor and get all three!  Set aside a weekend of Jodi Picoult reading and start with Where There’s Smoke and Larger Than Life prior to Leaving Time.  So so good!

*currently Where There’s Smoke is free for Kindle, Kobo, and Nook and Larger Than Life is $1.99.

I’d love to know  what was the last book you read that had you hungering for more, more, more from the author or the storyline?  Share in the comments 🙂

 

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A Coming-of-Age Novel Grappling with Death & Faith & “the awful grace of God”

September 20, 2014 Book Review 8

A Coming-of-Age Novel Grappling with Death & Faith & “the awful grace of God”Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Published by Atria on March 26th, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 307
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

 

Twelve-year old Frank and his younger brother, Jake, are on the cusp of adolescence in the summer of 1961 New Bremen, Minnesota.  Their adored older sister, Ariel, just finished her last year of high school and is preparing to enter Julliard in the Fall.  Their father is a much-loved Methodist minister who was going to be a hotshot lawyer until the war changed him.  Their mother married the hotshot attorney but ended up as a minister’s wife, something she didn’t sign up for and did not relish.

[Tweet “Coming-of-age novel for those who question ‘where is God’ when bad things happen”]

The summer begins and ends with death. A son’s curiosity matched with a well-informed minister father allows for ample opportunity to investigate the deaths.  Ordinary Grace is about growing up, miracles and tragedies and how God figures into one’s life.  There are those who rail at God, some who don’t believe and others who find the smallest miracles make the most difference.

There was a playwright, Son, a Greek by the name of Aeschylus. He wrote that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain, which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

More literary and character-driven as opposed to action-packed, though with four deaths that is pretty darn action-packed.  A coming-of-age novel for those who question where God is when bad things happen.  Ordinary Grace is mainstream fiction, not marketed as Christian Fiction and rightly so, but it IS a novel that grapples with faith in a very human way.  At times the description was so, well, descriptive, and I wanted to know what happened next, that I got a bit frustrated with the pacing.  Still, well worth the time to read and the strange stares of those on the plane!

Ordinary Grace spins us into the inner-workings and outward actions of man.

Will likely appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini.

Let’s Discuss!  Do you read more character-driven or plot-driven novels?

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Book Review: Marina

August 11, 2014 Book Review, reviews 3

Book Review: MarinaMarina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Published by Hachette Book Group on September 26th, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Thrillers, Young Adult
Pages: 299
Source: purchased
Amazon

 

Carlos Ruiz Zafon has been in my shortlist of favorites ever since I read Shadow of the Wind.  Ahhh, what an experience reading that book – I don’t believe I came up for breath, food nor water until the last line.  Zafon has such a gift of making his home of Barcelona sound so incredibly atmospheric.   Marina did not disappoint.

In the forward of Marina, Zafon explains that while this book was written before Shadow of the Wind, {published in Spain 1999} Marina is one of his favorites.  It is the story of Oscar Drai, a fifteen year old lad attending boarding school in Barcelona.  A chance meeting with the beautiful enigmatic Marina changes Oscar’s life forever and leads to his disappearance from his boarding school for seven days.  Marina is just a bit older than Oscar and lives with her father, Herman, in a crumbling mansion down a side alley.  Have you heard that saying “Curiosity killed the cat?” Well, Marina pulls Oscar into her curious-ness of a mysterious woman at a forgotten graveyard.  When they attempt to learn more about the woman in the black their lives and possible sanity are placed in danger.

Things I loved

  • There are so many elements included in Marina – is it a gothic horror? science-fiction? fantasy? young adult romance? Well, I’ll tell you – it’s a bit of all these and more, making Marina appealing to a wide audience.
  • There are no vampires. Whew!  Have I mentioned how much I dislike vampire novels?!?
  • The feeling of being immersed in the streets of Barcelona with its foggy, damp streets and hidden ancient cemeteries.
  • Listening to the audio.  Narrator Daniel Weyman had a wonderful accent lending credence to his characters.  The range of voices he used for the characters made each one come alive.
  • Although the novel takes place mostly in 1979 and 1980 there is a timelessness that pervades.
  • The creepiness and horror were enough to have me double and triple-checking the locks.  While scary for sure, it was more atmospheric scary, old black & white-movie-scary, Phantom of the Opera story-kind-of-horror . . .well, perhaps a bit more creepy than Phantom.

Things I didn’t like so much

  • I wanted to love the character Marina but she was never really fully developed.  Although the book is named after her and she plays a significant role, Marina as a character did not feel fully fleshed out.
  • The names of the locations got to be confusing but that’s probably because I don’t speak Spanish, I’m not familiar with locales in Spain and I was listening rather than reading {had I been reading it would have been easier to see that ‘oh yeah Oscar and Marina went here before.’

If you’re ready to get a jump-start on Fall and the creepy atmospheric Halloween-ish novels you can’t go too wrong with Marina, especially if you listen to the audio.   I swear I will never look at marionettes the same again!

As we get closer to the Fall and October do you find yourself seeking out more scary stories?

 

 

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Reading With YaYa: The Pout-Pout Fish

August 2, 2014 Book Review, reviews 2

Reading With YaYa: The Pout-Pout FishThe Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux on March 18th, 2008
Genres: Children, Picture Books
Pages: 32
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

 

My grandson and I had so much fun reading The Pout-Pout Fish.  The Little Monkey is just three so his attention span is as long as a gnats, but with The Pout-Pout Fish he stayed engaged and interested.  The illustrations are colorful in a muted way lending credence to the underwater scenario.  The characters in the book from the clam to the squid to the pout-pout fish himself were so easy to create different voices for as their characters had so much, well, character. 😉  When the pout-pout fish says “Blub, Bluuub, Bluuuub” TLM thought it was hilarious to say it in a deep, depressed-kind-of manner.

I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face,
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.

The rhyming story follows the pout-pout fish as all of his friends try to turn his frown upside down with their sage advice.  It’s not until a mysterious silver fish gives the pout-pout fish a giant smooch that the he figures out he’s not a pout-pout fish but instead a kissy-kissy fish!  It’s a great lesson about feelings and choosing to be happy rather than grumpy.

The Little Monkey

The Little Monkey

The Pout-Pout Fish picture book is perfect for ages 3 – 6/7.  It was really funny when TLM and I tried to make our own pout-pout faces.  Watching a three year old poke his lips out in a fake pout then breaking into peals of laughter will make the harshest pouty face go away, promise!  The ending is a little weak and stilted but the characterizations, theme and definitely the illustrations make up for that.

Extra Activities:  We made paper bag fish after reading the story and, TLM had so much fun making the fish we had to make three!  One for his mommy, his daddy and himself!  If you’re interested in more activities this Pinterest Board has several ideas for a variety of ages.  I especially like the pout-pout fish mask and the kissy-kissy fish mask to go along with “what makes me grumpy” and “what turns that frown upside down.”  The author Deborah Diesen has a thorough list of activities and additional recommendations.

Booking Mama shares Kid Lit ideas each Saturday through her Kid Konnection link up.  Be sure to check out the other recommendations from great bloggers!

 

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