Saturday, February 6, 2016

Already Home by Susan Mallery

I am not even going to try to be coy.  I loved this book!  I had never read a Susan Mallery book before this, but if her other books are this good, I will be reading more.  I saw this book at the library and it just intrigued me.  So I looked both ways to be sure nobody saw me take a romance book and then fled to the checkout.  It turns out I liked this book so much I just ordered a copy for my home library and I will read it again the moment I get it.  I'm not too proud to say I'm counting down the six days until it gets here!  I could have had it Monday, but I am just too cheap to pay the extra for two day shipping.  I'm sure that says something about me, but I won't think about that!

I enjoyed the author's writing style.  Of course, you never know what you're going to get when you pick up a romance.  Sometimes the writing is subpar and other times it's just ok-ish.  This author's writing style is simple yet not boring nor too elementary.  It certainly is not challenging, but neither did I feel the need to take out my red pen and mark all the mistakes.  Perhaps I didn't mind the simple writing style because I loved the plot.

As for the plot:  Already Home certainly held no surprises.  I figured out everything pretty quickly and knew exactly where we were headed.  Despite that, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey.  It was akin to going on a road trip.  I know exactly where I'm going, but I enjoy the drive to my destination nevertheless.  Susan Mallery made the trip to the end of this book just amazing.  I can't say what exactly it was that made me love it so, but I can't deny I truly did enjoy it.  I believe it was the author's ability to handle even very tough subject matter with kindness and avoid the pitfall of over sentiment.  I feel Ms. Mallery did a very good job of adequately addressing some incredibly tough subjects without being preachy, condescending or crass.  And trust me, those things could have easily happened. 

I also truly enjoyed the characters themselves.  Each character was pleasingly unique and wonderfully kind in his or her own fashion.  Ms. Mallery did a fantastic job of creating complex, yet easy to understand characters, and that made it so easy to appreciate each character's growth throughout the story.  I also was extremely happy that each character was well rounded and grew with the story.  Even the minor characters had a bit of growth.  However, the main characters especially grew within the story with grace, kindness and love.

What truly impressed me about this book however was the depth of the story.  Yes, it was a romance and there was certainly that aspect.  But the other issues explored throughout the story were deep and resonant.  None of them were easy issues.  And I would venture to say that most readers will have experienced at least some of these issues in their own lives.  The writer never made the story apologize for these issues.  Instead she wrote wonderful, strong characters that met their challenges and grew from them.  I absolutely loved the story's exploration of the most human of relationships -- the family. 

All things considered, I would highly recommend this book.  I would strongly encourage you to move it to the top of your reading list.  That being said, I will say the book deals with some very intense issues and some people may have a very hard time with that subject matter.  The author does not go into gross and gory detail, nor does she belabor the point.  However, if you are easily triggered, you may not want to read this book.  I will admit this book brought me to tears several times as most of the things dealt with in this book have been a part of my life.  However, don't let this scare you away.  I would say that anyone who reads this book will enjoy it and will be better for having read it.   

Thursday, December 31, 2015

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

I saw a picture of this book on Tumblr and the caption mentioned that the book would be released on November 10th.  That intrigued me, so I decided to find out what November 9 was about.  The description of the book intrigued me even more, so I bought the book as soon as I could get out to the bookstore.  I am very glad I did.  Having never read a book by Colleen Hoover, I wasn't really sure what to expect.  In all honesty, I had never heard of this author up until I saw the picture of November 9.  However, I do believe I will be reading more Colleen Hoover books now.

Overall Ms. Hoover's writing style is pleasing.  She uses a good mix of varied sentence structure and complexity to keep the reader from becoming bored and her vocabulary is satisfactory.  I found her writing easy to follow but thankfully not simplistic.  The only thing that I had to get used to was the story switching from one narrator to the other.  Thankfully it was easy enough to follow as each chapter had its own narrator and did not switch between narrators in the middle of a chapter.

I enjoyed the characters in this book.  They were well written and easy to identify with.  Even when I really wanted to dislike a character, in the end, I couldn't.  The characters were real.  In each character the reader can find a bit of themselves.  Even the most unlikeable character, Fallon's father, I ended up at least understanding and being able to peacefully coexist with. 

As far as the story goes... Wow.  That's really all I can say.  Just...wow!  The story explores so much and the characters grow so much!  This book beautifully illustrates the complex dynamics between individuals and family members.  Ms. Hoover does a great job of giving the characters a story that allows them to develop and learn about themselves.  And the plot?  Let's just say I never saw it coming.  I suppose perhaps I should have, but I didn't, and that made the end of the book have so much impact.

I really can't say enough good things about this book.  If you read no other book in the coming year, you must read this book.  My only caution is that this book does have certain topics that are not suitable for younger readers.  Nothing that is terrible or over the top, but nevertheless, I would not recommend this book for anyone under the age of a mature mid-teen reader.  But don't let this scare you off!  This book is amazing and should be one of the first books you read in 2016.  I enjoyed the book so much, I will likely read November 9 again in the new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Gift From Bob by James Bowen

Anybody who reads this blog regularly, or knows me even a tiny bit, knows I love reading Christmas books.  Nothing beats curling up with a seasonal book on a cold day.  I also enjoy books about animals.  A Gift From Bob fulfills both criteria.  I admit at first I was a little leery of a book about a man on the streets.  I wondered how on earth a book about a man who is one minuscule step above homeless could possibly make for good holiday reading.  I'm glad I took a chance on this book.  A Gift From Bob truly is one of the most uplifting books you could read this season.  And the best part?  It's non fiction!

I have to admit I like the author's writing style.  James Bowen's style is not pretentious nor is his style elementary.  I would say Mr. Bowen's style is simple but compelling.  At no time did I find myself distracted by the author's style.  I appreciated the fact that it felt as though he were sitting in front of me telling his story.  This conversational style pulled me in and really helped me enjoy the book.

I especially enjoyed how well he enabled me to know the other people populating his story.  Not only did he do a very good job of helping me visualize where this part of his life took place, he also made it very easy for me to make a connection with the people who were an integral part of his life. 

The story itself, if you will, had me completely engrossed.  I can't say that I know anything about the struggle of the homeless.  I certainly never gave much thought to how, or even if, they celebrate the holidays.  Neither have I considered how one goes from sleeping in the park to reintegrating into a more traditional mode of living.  Mr. Bowen's story gave me a glimpse into the life of the homeless and certainly made me far more aware of the role I can play in assisting those that I encounter.

Additionally, A Gift From Bob made me think about what "Christmas spirit" really means.  This book also helped me to refocus on the important things of the season.  It really is less about the price tag on the gift and much more about the thought that goes into it.  And truly, when things look as though they are at their worst, if you just slow down for a moment and refocus, it turns out things aren't ruined after all.  But most of all, this book helped me remember that the gifts really aren't that important.  It's all about who you spend your Christmas with.

All things considered, I would recommend this book to everyone.  There is nothing at all bad in this book.  In fact, I would encourage everyone to read this book regardless of the time of year.  Of course if you can read the book during the Christmas season, I would certainly encourage you to do so.  I will be reading this book again next Christmas and I will probably do so first thing in the season.  Just like A Christmas Carol, this book should be read every year and should kick off the beautiful season that is all about love, joy, peace and the greatest gift man has ever known.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

'Tis the season!  Well the season for reading Christmas books, that is.  And believe me, I have plenty in my stack to read!  Because I like Hallmark Christmas movies so much, I decided to start with a sappy sweet Hallmark-esque book.  As Trading Christmas had been made into a Hallmark movie, I figured this was a good one to start with.  Let me just say, the book and the movie only share very loose similarities.  Very loose similarities!

Overall the book was fine.  It really is only a short story, not even a full length novel.  The author's ability to write clear, concise sentences with acceptable vocabulary was about what I would have expected from a bestselling author in this genre.  Certainly, the writing isn't scholarly, but I don't expect scholarly from romance.  In fact, from a purely technical aspect, I find Debbie Macomber to be one of the better romance writers.  Her style isn't complex, but it is sound and enjoyable. 

Likewise, I found the characters in this book appealing.  Although this wasn't a full length novel, I had no problem enjoying the characters.  I found the characters to be real and easy to identify with.  The only character that wasn't as well developed was Heather, Emily's daughter.  Of course, she was a supporting character, but she was still flat and, frankly, not very likable at all.  I truly enjoyed the character of Bernice Brewster.  Although another supporting character, she was quite enjoyable and entertaining.  Flamboyant and dramatic, she was still lovable and made me smile every time she showed up in the story.  As Charles and Ray's mother, she brought fun and humor to a story that would otherwise have suffered from being too serious.

The story itself was also easy to identify with, in as much as, it is a story about the changes a family faces as a child grows up and Christmas traditions are turned upside down.  Now perhaps few people would have dealt with these changes quite on the level of trading residences, but that doesn't matter.  It does happen in "real life" so at least it is still believable.  And honestly, I enjoyed this perhaps unorthodox way of dealing with change.  It opened up a lot of avenues for the story to develop that otherwise simply wouldn't have been there.

Perhaps my only real complaint is that the story felt rushed.  I attribute this to the fact that this isn't a full length novel.  However, that does detract some from my enjoyment of the story.  I do believe the story would have been better served had it been written as a full length novel. 

All things considered, I do recommend this book as an enjoyable Christmas read.  Due to its abbreviated nature, it would be very easy to cozy up in a blanket and read this story in one sitting.  There really isn't anything objectionable in this book so I can safely say anybody could read Trading Christmas with no worries whatsoever.  However, that being said, I do believe this book will appeal mostly to the mid-30s and beyond set.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

At Home In Mitford by Jan Karon

Sometimes you just need a nice book.  A book that is sweet and serene without all the things that I don't like about this world.  There are plenty of things I do like, but it seems the entertainment industry, including books, focuses on nothing but meaningless sex, gratuitous violence and vulgar language.  My life is stressful and sometimes I just need to escape to a world that can simply be called "nice". 

And sometimes you miss the people who meant so much to you at one point in your life.  At Home In Mitford is of course the first book in the Mitford Series by Jan Karon.  My grandmother and her sister loved these books.  I'm fairly certain they both  had the complete set. (At least what had been published up to the point of their deaths.)  I now wish I had my grandmother's set.  I chose to read these books because I was missing my Granny and Aunt Elaine.

And sometimes you reread a book because it reminds you of a time in your life that was good.  A brief time in a very hard and hurtful time that was good and there seemed there might be hope for the future.  That is why I reread this first book.  I originally read this book when my son, who is now graduated and in the Army, was in the fourth grade.  We had no money back then.  And by no money, I mean no money.  I was checking books out at the library to feed my insatiable need to read.  My last $20 had gone to pay for my son's enrollment in a city flag football league.  I would take this book to his practices and read.  It was kind of nice really.  It was autumn and the evenings were pleasantly cool and I would read this book and watch practice.  Times were tough, I was still hiding from my son's father, money was tight, and I was deep in depression, but on the cool autumn nights of practice, with this book in my hands, things didn't seem so bad.

So it was with these thoughts and memories that I decided to read the Mitford Series.  I remembered a small amount from my first reading, but I must say I truly enjoyed this reread.  With about 10 years between my original reading and this reading, I of course, bring new understanding and a different outlook to this most recent reading.  Thankfully that did not change my enjoyment of the book.  I still appreciate the kindness of the book.  I love the simplicity and decentness of the book.  Although the author pretty much simply writes about the day to day life of a village priest, the book drew me in and lulled me into a nostalgic state of mind with the beauty of small town American life.

One thing I can say with certainty is that I truly do appreciate Jan Karon's writing style.  What I like about her writing style is that it's not boring.  And by this I mean she clearly has a strong grasp of proper grammar.  Likewise her writing is robust with varied sentence complexity and a good vocabulary.  I appreciate that she is not verbose and overwrought.  Her writing mirrors the dignity of the book she has written.

As for the mechanics of plot, pacing, etc, I find I am perfectly happy with this book.  While the book meanders calmly through every day life in a small North Carolina village, it doesn't lack for plot.  There is a plot, after all life has a plot, if you will.  We don't meander aimlessly through life.  As such, this book does not meander aimlessly along.  Things happen, there are some mysteries to be solved, and a few things from the past that need understanding.  So while the book is not fast paced, it still moves at the speed of village life and that suits this story just fine.

I can also say that the characters are all lovable.  Some, of course, more than others, but each character will endear itself to you in one way or another.  Just like the people you encounter in your own life.  I must admit though, my favorite character is very likely Miss Sadie.  Yes, I do thoroughly enjoy the main character, Father Tim.  He's wonderful and real and very likable.  But Miss Sadie.  She just gets into your heart and you can't help but appreciate the kind, genteel lady with a big generous heart.

All things considered, I can't recommend this book enough.  This book is a soothing balm to my soul once again in a trying time.  But what I like most is that I can recommend this book to anyone.  I can recommend this book to teens or adults and know that I'm not exposing anyone to anything offensive.  I would most certainly not relegate this book to only a beach read or a weekend read.  Certainly this book could be a quick read, but I find I enjoy reading this book bundled up under a blanket with a hot cup of tea.  I love to read this book slowly and just savor the tranquility of Mitford.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Anybody who knows me can attest to the fact that I am super excited about the Jurassic World release on 6/12/15.  In preparation for this, I've decided to read Jurassic Park and The Lost World before the movie opens.  I am also planning to watch the first three movies as well. 

Speaking of the movies...

When reading Jurassic Park, I was struck by how little the movie follows the book.  Now, I'll admit it's been decades (literally) since I saw the Jurassic Park movie, and perhaps I've forgotten some things, but honestly it seems the only things the book and movie share in common are the characters and the name.  Beyond that, there is so little that I find similar.  We'll see when I watch the movie again if I'm remembering correctly!

As for the book...

Frankly, I truly enjoyed the book.  This book appeals to me on my nerd level.  It just speaks to my nerdy little soul like few other books can.  There is no point in lying.  I love science.  And this book has just enough real science in it to tickle the fancy and make me think what if.  Of course, this book should not be read if you're looking for complete and accurate scientific detail.  Thankfully I am no paleontologist, nor am I a geneticist, so I am blissfully ignorant of what I am sure are the mangled finer points of each field of study.  For me, this book is just good entertainment.

Of course, I have nothing to complain about with Crichton's writing ability.  I find his writing easy to read.  His technique is varied enough to hold my attention and thankfully he employs a decent vocabulary.  I find his skills of description to be wonderful.  With his descriptions, he enabled me to envision Isla Nublar and all of its inhabitants quite well.  Especially my favorites -- the velociraptors!

Crichton also did a good job with the plotting and pacing of the book.  Although the start was a bit slow, once all the characters were introduced and the reader had all of the necessary background information, the story really kicked into high gear.  And I really enjoyed the last little part of the book that I don't remember from the movie at all.  Perhaps it was in the movie, but I certainly don't recall it.  I really liked how just when you thought it was all over, it was time to go find the wild velociraptors. 

The author also did a great job with his characters.  I feel as though Crichton knew his characters as well as one would know a long time friend.  He stayed true to the character throughout.  It's true you don't see a lot of character development in the classic sense, but I wouldn't expect to.  This book covers a time period of not even 48 hours.  The scope of this book doesn't allow for classic character development.  Rather, this book demands that characters be strong and engaging throughout and Crichton certainly delivered.  The only character I didn't like was Lex (the little girl).  I would have loved, and I do mean loved to have read the part where my true favorite characters, the velociraptors, had a snack of whiny, petulant, spoiled brat little girl.  And truly, not liking the character had nothing to do with the author's ability to create and bring to life a character.  It had everything to do with I just can't stand whiny, petulant, spoiled brat kids. 

And let's just take a moment to talk about the dinosaurs.  I loved them!  By now you know who my favorites are!  But really, I liked all of them.  Crichton just brought them to life with his well researched writing.  The whole idea of the theme park with dinosaurs was great.  And I appreciate the fact that he took the time to do research and make the dinosaurs as accurate as possible. 

All things considered, I really can't think of anything to complain about with this book.  I truly enjoyed the book.  Perhaps I would caution those who may be turned off by gore, but even then, this book wasn't really all that gory.  I just know that some of my regulars on this blog don't care for any description of gore, so I would say if you fall into that category you may want to skip this book.  After all, certain dinosaurs are carnivores and humans happen to be on their food chain thus one must expect a certain amount of the "circle of life" to take place.  Even so, it's not bad at all and I would recommend this book to everyone!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

I'm sure there isn't a person alive who hasn't heard of "If I Stay". I truly had high hopes for this book. I know a lot of this book's popularity stemmed from the movie hype. Despite that, I honestly thought maybe the book had merit on it's own. Imagine my disappointment when I learned how wrong that assumption was. I thought surely they wouldn't make a movie out of a mediocre book. Obviously I've learned nothing from the ''Twilight'' debacle.

Technically speaking, I had no real complaints with the book. The author's technical ability is about what I'd expect from your typical YA author today. It pains me to say that, but it's true. Although I don't agree with it, it seems the publishing powers that be don't expect much from their YA authors in terms of technicality. Truthfully, I believe the demand for quality writing has all but disappeared across all demographics. However, that is an entirely separate post.

Back to the technical aspects of this book. As previously stated, the author's writing was about on the level of what I expected. The prose was certainly not beautiful as in some books I've had the pleasure to read, but neither did I feel as though a child had written the book. The writing was easy enough to read although I would have preferred a bit more "grownup" writing. Thankfully the author was not a fan of endlessly using the same phrase and her vocabulary, though not scholarly, was sufficient. 

Perhaps the simplistic writing is why the characters felt very shallow and one dimensional. I truly did not connect emotionally with any of the characters. Yes, there were times throughout the book where certain situations made me tear up, but a book like this should have ripped my heart out and stomped on it. Instead I found myself responding emotionally to a line here or there that reminded me of something in my life. For example, at one point Mia states in her narration, ''I'm not sure this is a world I belong in anymore. I'm not sure that I want to wake up." While I understood why Mia was saying this, the tear in my eye was not for a character I really couldn't connect with, but for myself and all the times I've felt like that. 

The premise of this book was so incredibly promising. This book should have been an incredibly emotional read. Instead I was left feeling like that's it? By the end of the book I was completely unfulfilled and incredibly disappointed. I feel like the author really missed the mark. The length of the book seems too short as well, but I wonder if that may simply be a result of a completely unfulfilling read. In fact, I'm almost sure of it.

As for age appropriateness, there really isn't anything horrid in the book. My only caution would be to warn that there is considerable use of the "F-word". There is also mention of premarital sex, but no detail. Ultimately, I'd say this book is safe for its intended audience. 

All things considered, I truly believe there are better books out there that would be more fulfilling. However, if you're looking for a quick, easy read, this book will do.