Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 -- The Year Very Few Books Were Read


The year I read far fewer books than I planned and blogged very little about those few books.  It is not a literary year I'm proud of.

I took a lot of naps instead.

I did complete a 2014 Reading Bingo, published by RetreatbyRandomHouse.ca.  Both my daughter and I finished bingo cards.  That my friends, is an accomplishment.

Behold my completed reading bingo card:

A Book with more than 500 pages:  The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
A Forgotten Classic:  A Separate Peace by John Knowles
A Book that became a movie:  If I Stay by Gayle Forman
A Book Published This Year:  Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
A Book with a Number in the Title: Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
A Book Written by Someone Under 30:  Popular by Maya Van Wagenen
A Book with Non Human Characters:  Things Invisible to See by Nancy Willard
A Funny Book:  The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
A Book by a Female Author:  The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
A Book with a Mystery:  The Bookman's Tale by CharlieLovett
A Book with a One Word Title:  Landline by Rainbow Rowell
A Book of Short Stories:  I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan
A Book Set on a Different Continent: The Voices of  Heaven by Maija Rhee Devine
A Book of Non Fiction:  Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
The First Book by a Favorite Author:  I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
A Book You Heard About Online:  Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen*
A Best Selling Book:  Fault in Our Stars by John Green
A Book Based on a True Story:  Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
A Book at the Bottom of Your TBR Pile:  Change it Up by Amanda Dickson
A Book that Scares You:  Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson
A Book More than 10 Years Old:  The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Second Book in a Series:  Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
A Book with a Blue Cover:  The Time Between by Karen White
A Book your Friend Loves:  The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I hope your reading endeavors were far more accomplished than mine.

Here's to a new year and new books!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review -- Texts from Jane Eyre

Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters

My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  3 (I've re-read several "texts" since I finished the book)
Source:  ARC received from the publisher -- I was not compensated in any other way for my review.
Genre:  Humor non-fiction
Objectionable material: Multiple uses of the f-bomb

If your favorite literary characters (like Lizzie Bennett, Jane Eyre, Sherlock Holmes) could text -- what would their 21st century conversations sound/read like?

Fortunately, Mallory Ortberg has given us an extremely clever and humorous glimpse at the perceived texts of these classic, fictional icons.

Some of my favorite exchanges were:

Sherlock Holmes & Watson: "there's only one thing we're missing...only one thing we need that will help us solve this case...Cocaine, Watson....scads of it..."

Edgar Allan Poe: "...where do I even start...there's a heart in the floor and it will not shut upppp...but that's not the main thing, there's a cat with one eye that keeps calling me a murderer..."

The best sequences were Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre (duh!) and Gone With the Wind. (You'll have to read those for yourself).

Unfortunately, for me, nearly half of the texts/references were from literary works that I'd either not read or had long forgotten. So the text exchanges for Plato, Circe, Rene Descartes and others were totally and completely lost on me. A sad reflection of my feeble mind and education.

This is, however, a fun, quirky volume that will keep you highly entertained.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Book Review -- I Work at a Public Library

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks
I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks by Gina Sheridan
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4 (I've taken the book to the library -- my co-workers have enjoyed it as well)
Genre:  General non-fiction
Source:  Publisher (Other than a review copy, I was not compensated in any way for my review)
Objectionable material:  None

Life is never dull when you work in a public library.

It's the melting pot of humanity.

Gina Sheridan, in her blog inspired book, I Work at a Public Library, perfectly captures the crazy, humorous, odd, quirky, sometimes questionable scenarios one may encounter at the library.

As a library employee, I thoroughly related to this book. Library patrons seem to be the same regardless of where you live.

One of my favorites: Gina helps a patron indulge on Krispy Kreme donuts. It's precious. A must read.

It made me wish I'd chronicled all of my patron queries over the years.

It was delightful.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review -- What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 5 -- I really want to discuss this with someone!
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Literary fiction
Objectionable material: Honestly, I don't remember anything.

Who knew spin class could be so risky? But for Alice, a fall off her stationary bike and a "bonk" on the head, causes 10 years of memories to disappear.

I loved it. I loved it. I loved it. I loved reading about Alice's discovery that before her accident she was a suburban, overachieving mom with three kids with an estranged husband, to the realization that she was none of the above after her accident. I loved her family members -- especially her sister, Elisabeth, whose infertility woes and letters to her therapist are truly crushing. And Gina -- the friend that everyone knows, Alice most of all, but who can't remember the depth of their relationship.

I loved the author's writing style -- using glimpses of memory, epistles, and diary entries -- made this so interesting and unique and added necessary depth to all the characters.

This was such an enriching read and a brilliant look at the complications of a seemingly ordinary domestic family life.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review -- Landline

Landline by Rainbow Rowell
My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source: Goodreads and St Martin's Press (Other than a free review copy, I was not compensated in any way for my review).
Genre:  Fiction
Objectionable material:  Multiple Fbombs

Determined to meet her deadline, comedy writer Georgie McCool chooses a meeting with her sitcom co-creator, Seth and studio execs over Christmas with her husband, Neal, and children in Nebraska. The results of her decision lead to a personal downward spiral of doubts, reliving the past, and wondering if her marriage will survive the separation.

Rainbow Rowell is a master at writing relationships -- whether it's teenagers dating (Eleanor & Park), or Twentysomethings (Attachments), or in this case, a married couple experiencing a marital crisis AND a writing partnership on the brink of disaster. With every word and sentence I could totally relate to what the characters were experiencing. Her dialogue is equally outstanding: it's witty, honest, painful.

I also loved her use of the yellow trimline-landline phone that she uses to converse with Neal. So, so clever.

She had equally quirky characters to add to the mix: Georgie's sister Heather, her mother and step father, her mother-in-law and deceased (or is he?) father-in-law; even her mother's beloved pugs are necessary additions to the storyline.
And...for someone who is terrified of flying (me!), she absolutely NAILS the terror a person experiences on an airplane.  Just sayin...

I loved two of Rainbow Rowell's previous books, Eleanor & Park, and Attachments (I couldn't finish Fangirl) , and I liked this one too, although not as much as the others. She's very fond of the Fbomb, which felt so unnecessary in the book, almost distracting. And the ending seemed so abrupt. I liked the end...but I felt cheated. I wanted more.

Thanks to Goodreads and St Martin's Press for the preview copy.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book Review -- The French House

The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village That Restored Them All
The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village That Restored Them All by Don Wallace
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  4
Source:  A review copy provided by Sourcebooks (I was not compensated in any monetary way for my review)
Genre:  Memoir; Travel memoir
Objectionable material:  None

Buyer's remorse: a term used to describe the feeling of regret or change of heart when making a significant purchase, like a house.

What Don and Mindy Wallace experience isn't so much buyer's remorse as, buyer's "oh my g*% what the Hell have we done?"

Surveying the condition of their French island ruin cottage, the enormity of their decision comes crashing down -- almost literally: they own a house they can't afford, in a place they don't live, and with repairs/reconstruction that needs to be done that is beyond their skill level. Their efforts seem doomed from the beginning.

But over the course of 30 years (this wasn't a property "flip" project) Don and Mindy create a second home where they become ensconced within this special Belle Ile community.

I loved this book. It was charming and witty -- full of hope and despair about this crumbling structure they chose to inhabit and make a home. I loved the friends with whom they associated -- from local farmers to immediate neighbors to vacationers -- it was truly a sense of community. I loved the history of the island from the Druids, to the Romans to the Germans.
I think we all dream about having a second home -- to live in a faraway paradise and to become a "native." The beautiful thing about the Wallaces -- is over the course of 30 years -- they made their dream come true.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Little Rock's Listen To Your Mother!

I was honored to be cast as a participant in the Little Rock edition of the nationally syndicated group, Listen To Your Mother.

The video clips from the shows were posted today -- and here is mine!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review -- We Were Liars

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 5 (I want to re-read it to see what I missed!!)
Source: Library copy
Genre: YA
Objectionable material: multiple uses of the F-bomb


Summer vacations.

Private island.

Wealthy family power struggle.

Teen love.

Lives shattered.


Totally unexpected ending.

Loved every word.

Perfect pool/summer/beach read.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review -- Lost in Shangri-La

Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IILost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 3
Source:  Library copy
Genre:  Non-fiction; WWII
Objectionable material: None

Add this to one of the MANY survivor tales of WWII. 

I can't get enough of WWII fiction and non-fiction.
A harrowing tale of 3 lone plane crash survivors in the jungles of New Guinea and their quest for survival.

The first part and the last part of the book were engrossing...nail biting almost. The middle was a drudgery.

That being said -- another testament to the greatest generation of Americans. Who are now all gone.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Review -- Band of Brothers

Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's NestBand of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest by Stephen E. Ambrose
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars (5 stars for story -- 4 stars for storytelling)
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  Non-fiction; WWII history
Objectionable material: None.


All of them.

Men who changed the world.

Now they are all gone.

Their memories of what they did live on forever.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Review -- The Fortune Hunter

The Fortune Hunter: A NovelThe Fortune Hunter: A Novel by Daisy Goodwin
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source:  Book club kit (10 copies) provided by Reading Group Guides through a random drawing. I was not compensated in anyway for my review.
Genre:  Historical fiction
Objectionable material:  None

Steeped in the tradition of British and European royalty, entitled British landowners, summer estates and fox hunts, author Daisy Goodwin has created a fictional account of the lives of Sisi (Elizabeth), Empress of Austria, her "pilot" Bay Middleton, and Bay's "fiancée" Charlotte Baird. Generously mixed with other historical characters, like Queen Victoria and her companion, Mr. Brown -- the stage is set for a luscious, historical drama.

Ms Goodwin accurately portrays the historical facts of these individuals and subsequent love triangle -- Sisi is lonely, she's obsessed with her looks, she's an expert horsewoman; Bay is a well known Casanova (already alleged to have fathered an out of wedlock child), an expert horseman and British officers; Charlotte, the woman who would eventually marry Bay.

But the fictional story around these three seemed bogged down by the need to make sure it was historically accurate. The structure kept the story from feeling authentic -- just a repetition of known facts about their fox-hunting summer. The most "real" character was Caspar -- a fictional American character created to be Charlotte's friend and photography colleague. He truly was the most entertaining and fresh character in the book.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805–1873), Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich (Portrait of Elizabeth, Queen of Austria)I think in the end, both I and my book groupies would have preferred an autobiography of Sisi.

That being said -- the group loved being able to read the book club kit provided by Reading Group Guides in advance of the American release date. Thank you.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Book Review -- Jesus Feminist

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women by Sarah Bessey
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 5
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Non-fiction; Christian
Objectionable material: None

"The people of God have a unique and beautiful message for the women of the world: You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your Abba (Father) delights in you. You are equal. You are lovely. You are called; you are chosen; you are beloved. You are gifted. You belong. You have worth and value. You matter." ~Sarah Bessey, Jesus Feminist

I'm not an Evangelical Christian and don't really "speak" the evangelical vernacular, since I wasn't raised as an evangelical, so it took me a bit to get the feel of this book. But once I did, I was wrapped up in her stories and faith of the ministry of Christ.

It gave me hope as a woman in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The last chapter was profound and beautiful.   Dare I say, life changing?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Book Review -- The Cracks in the Kingdom

The Cracks in the Kingdom (The Colours of Madeleine, #2)
The Cracks in the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 4
Source: Library copy
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Objectionable material: None

Elliott is still fighting colors in the Kingdom of Cello; Madeleine is still hanging out in Cambridge, England. They are both still communicating via the crack in the universe that is housed in the parking meter at the end of Madeleine's street, and the search for the Royal Family of Cello continues.

Part II of Jaclyn Moriarty's The Colors of Madeleine series is just as whimsical, quirky, original, unique and fun as the first! This is the ONLY series I've continued since Harry Potter -- that's saying something!

There are some holes (pardon the pun) in the narrative -- links in the story that don't quite fit or work -- but I enjoyed both "worlds" so much and all the characters that I didn't really care.

If you are looking for a delightful and clever series, that doesn't involve dystopian death, depression, bleakness -- this should be next on your list.

Now...as with any series...I have to wait for the final book!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Listen to Your Mother

Picture by Kerri Case

I don't know why they picked me.
My essay was old.
My kids were grown (relatively speaking).
I'd seemingly recovered from that intensely bleak period of my life.
But they did. They picked me.
And 14 others like me.
14 others who participated in a nationally recognized public forum called Listen to Your Mother  -- to share our stories -- so fiercely & uniquely ours -- yet so universally shared among this tribe we call motherhood.  A tribe you belong to regardless of your "mother" status, because you simply inhabit Mother Earth and are loved by a Heavenly Mother.
14 others with stories of motherhood -- joyful, personal, emotional, painful, beautiful, hilarious, genuine, true -- a grand chorus of impassioned voices sharing their hearts.
I'm completely tethered to these 14 now -- some of whom I still barely know.
It was a sacred experience.  The stage...consecrated ground.
And I will be blessed by it forever.
Picture by Sarabeth Jones

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Book Review -- The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. FikryThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 1
Source:  Library copy
Genre: General fiction
Objectionable material: minor language

An homage to books, bookstores, book lovers, book readers, writers of words, seller of books; quaint, cute, charming; choppy narrative, odd-duck characters, abandoned baby, romantic coupling, all centered in a dusty bookstore.
Best quote, "You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question: What is your favorite book?”  

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review -- The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
My enjoyment rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  3
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Literary/general fiction
Objectionable material: mild sexual innuendo

Narrated by Victoria in flashbacks, this novel follows her life as she bounces from one foster situation to the next until she "ages out" from foster care at 18. Her most significant relationship is with Elizabeth, a gardener who grew up on a Northern California vineyard and is now estranged from her family. Elizabeth introduces her to the Victorian-era symbolism of flowers and their secret meanings, and Victoria embraces it as a way to express difficult emotions to the adults in her life. She describes the situations that led her to become an often abrasive young adult, the self-sabotage that left her homeless in a San Francisco park, and the twists of fate that lead to her work with a high-end city florist and her guarded relationship with a Napa Valley farmer who understands her secret language like no one else. Book Page

This was a rich novel full of beautiful prose -- both functional and floral. The author, who is a foster parent as well, seemed to nail the plight of an emancipated foster child and their difficulties assimilating themselves into society. Victoria's insecurity, fear, hunger and homelessness was heartbreaking. I loved how the author turned one of Victoria's few "talents" (her knowledge of the meaning of flowers) into her societal salvation. What a learning experience.

However, I felt Victoria, the character, was unevenly written -- as a 18 year old foster-releasee, she seemed much OLDER on the written page. Also, the latter half of the novel -- once it gravitated towards Victoria's personal life -- was awkward and overly complicated...and I would say more, but it would reveal too much.

That being said -- overall I enjoyed this novel and would read future works by Ms. Diffenbaugh.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Book Review -- Burial Rites

Burial Rites
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Source: Personal copy
Genre: Historical fiction
Objectionable material: Sexual innuendo, some violence.

Agnes Magnúsdóttir (that's the last time I spell out that name!) has been convicted of murdering her employer (and lover) and sentenced to death. Until the ruling monarch in Denmark can set an execution date, Agnes is sent to work and live on an isolated farm in northern Iceland. With rumors about her crime and guilt flourishing among the villagers, Agnes must maintain her privacy, dignity, and hope, all in the face of tremendous uncertainty.

Based on an historical event, author Hannah Kent has written a vivid atmospheric novel about the heartbreak of Anges' life: her pain, sorrow, her fleeting joy, and her ultimate demise.

Burial Rites was very reminiscent of another "Kent" author -- Kathleen Kent's The Heretic's Daughter -- a telling of the Salem witch trials. It had the same sense of place and foreboding, as well as the damnation of a woman accused of murder.

Hannah Kent wrote lyrically about the landscape and harshness of Iceland -- the severe weather, the farmlands, the seas, -- it was stunning and harsh. However, the overall narrative I found uneven. With a mix of characters all telling the story from different points of view, the last 1/3 of the book was told in Agnes' voice, in a long, drawn out account that seemed never-ending.

Overall an interesting, albeit bleak, re-telling of an Icelandic saga.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Review -- I'll Be There

I'll Be There
I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My enjoyment rating: 2 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 2
Genre: Young Adult
Source: Library
Objectionable material: None
After a chance meeting in a church sanctuary, Sam Border and Emily Bell knew instantly that each other was special. But Sam's family circumstances were mysterious -- he doesn't go to school, doesn't have a cell phone, and his little brother, Riddle, was always at his heel. After an act of vandalism at Emily's home, Sam and Riddle disappear. And Emily isn't sure she will ever see either one of them again.

After reading Holly Goldberg Sloan's 2nd novel, Counting by 7s, I knew I wanted to back track and read her first. It had great reviews -- I knew I'd love it...well...not so much.

And here's the thing -- has anyone read Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle? Well --for me -- that's what this book was -- a fictionalized, Young Adult, male version of her story. Sure there were differences: Sam was Jeannette, he only had one sibling, and there was a love story involving Emily and a happy family ending, but it was like the author decided, "wow -- what a great idea for a book!"

There were other issues -- weird characters, unbelievable coincidences, death defying injuries -- so for the most part, it just didn't work for me.

That being said, Sam and Riddle were the best parts of the book. I loved reading about their relationship and intimate bond. Beautifully done.

This was highly rated, so I'm in the minority. You may want to still give it a try.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review -- Counting by 7s

Counting by 7s
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4
Source:  Library
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Objectionable material: None
In honor of Willow Chance's affinity for the number 7, I offer 7 reasons why I liked Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan:

1. Being adopted is awesome.
2. You may find friends in the most unexpected places.
3. Do not take anything for granted -- tragedy may be hiding around the corner.
4. I learned more about botany and infectious diseases than I ever wanted too.
5. Families come in all sorts of shapes, colors and sizes. All that matters is that your are loved.
6. Be careful of your school counselor.
7. This book is the literary equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys(remember the Christmas animation movie?) -- the most oddly sorted collection of characters I've ever read about.

Truly a unique and tender reading experience.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review -- Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue
Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4
Source: Library
Genre: Memoir (mothers/daughters/relationships)
Objectionable material: One F-bomb, but it was so worth it.

"What is it about a living mother that makes her so hard to see, to feel, to want, to love, to like? What a colossal waste that we can only fully appreciate certain riches -- clean clothes, hot showers, good health, mothers -- in their absence."

Thus laments author Kelly Corrigan, while on an extended journey to the Outback, when she becomes a nanny to a recent motherless family (and who is also reflecting on the value of her own mother).

After reading and LOVING both The Middle Place and Lift, Ms. Corrigan's previous memoirs, I knew Glitter and Glue would be something special. And it was. Every word.

She has a keen ability to take the pedestrian-ness of life, the thoughts, feelings, the doubts that we all have (and are afraid to speak, in most cases) and turn them into a poetic and glorious reminder that life is damn good. Do not take it for granted. One second of it.

Like in her first two books, Ms. Corrigan has a theme: Mothers. Any mother daughter combination on the planet has issues. And the Corrigans are no different. What makes this book so special is just that: we are no different. We screw up, we yell, we regret, we say the wrong thing, and somehow, mothers and daughters all survive and end up normal (whatever that may be). The fact that Kelly Corrigan is "normal" gives me hope that my 13 year old daughter will survive me and turn out OK.

Now...I need to pick up the phone and tell my mom I love her. While I still can.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review -- Under the Jeweled Sky

Under the Jeweled Sky
Under the Jeweled Sky by Alison McQueen
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 4
Source:  Received review copy from publisher; was not compensated in any other way for my review.
Genre: Fiction; historical fiction; women's fiction
Objectionable material:  None

What would you do for love? To what lengths would you travel?

Sophie Schofield, a young British colonialist living with her parents in India after WWII, learns that true love knows no boundaries, even if it is love for a servant boy within the maharaja's palace, for whom she is forbidden to see.

Author Alison McQueen, in epic form, recreates the life of British colonialism in India with a story that is as vast as the country itself.

I was swept away by the love story of Sophie and Jag, the boy she loved and would spend her life yearning for.

I was transported back to a time, that I knew very little about, when India gained Independence from Britain and chaos and mayhem reined. I felt like I'd traveled the entire country with both Sophie and Jag as their lives transversed in unexpected, and sometimes very tragic ways.

But where the story (and author) truly shined, was when Sophie, in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy, expresses unyielding love and grief over a baby that would be taken away from her, for no other reason than she was unmarried and the child was of mix race. It was a beautiful, if not tragic scene that made this mother (and adoptee) weep.

In the tradition of The Thorn Birds, where characters, forbidden love, and a continent play such a vital role, Under the Jeweled Sky, was an unexpected, but treasured gem.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review -- The Voices of Heaven

The Voices of Heaven
The Voices of Heaven by Maija Rhee Devine
My enjoyment rating: 2 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 0
Source:  I received a FREE copy of this book, but no other compensation
Genre: Fiction; historical fiction
Objectionable material:  Sexual innuendo

A story of tradition, families and sacrifice, The Voices of Heaven by Maija Rhee Devine, was unlike any book I have ever read.

Unable to produce a male heir, Eum-chun and her husband Gui-yong, must welcome a "seed bearer" into their family in order to secure the continuation of their family through a son. Conflicted and hurt by this necessity, we learn through alternating narratives, the internal feelings of all three participants, including seed bearer, Soo-yang.

This was a unique book -- as I was totally unfamiliar with Korean culture. I was fascinated by their traditions, and how they lived their lives under Japanese occupation and through the Korean War.

That being said, I found the alternating narratives difficult to follow, if for no other reason than I had to spend a considerable amount of time trying to remember the names, and to whom they belonged. Also, and this is to no fault of the author --my expectation was a historical fiction look at the Korean War, not a family drama -- with a rather explicit look at their intimate relationships (a dildo made out of a dried eggplant? Who knew?). I guess producing an male heir required us knowing what went on in each pair's bedroom.

Ultimately, it was a book that didn't keep my interest. I would set it down and forget to pick it back up again, which required extensive re-reads to remember what happened.