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.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review -- Change It Up!

Change It Up!: Looking Differently at the Change You Want--And the Change You Don't
Change It Up!: Looking Differently at the Change You Want--And the Change You Don't by Amanda Dickson
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  3
Source:  Personal copy
Genre: Non-fiction; self help; inspiration
Objectionable material: None

Change is fun. Change is a dinner guest we didn't know was coming, a road closed that pushes us onto the loveliest side street we would never have discovered otherwise. Change is joy. Change is being and breath and vitality. ~ Amanda Dickson

A brief, but refreshing look at CHANGE -- it can happen unexpectedly, with planning, happily or sorrowfully, but certainly at some point in life, change will happen. An interesting reminder on how we need to adjust our reaction and attitude toward change.

View all my reviews

Friday, January 17, 2014

January Book Club -- The Snow Child

The Snow Child
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
My enjoyment rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Hangover rating:  4
Source:  Personal copy
Genre: Literary fiction
Objectionable material:  None

Is she real? Is she not? A child conceived of snow?

After creating a "snowman" on their Alaskan farm, Jack and Mable are left to wonder if the child they see on their frontier wearing Mabel's homemade clothing, is a blessing or a fantasy.

What a marvelous novel!

Steeped in glorious storytelling tradition author, Eowyn Ivey, has created an Alaska where only a special girl like Faina could exist.

It was a delight to read and I was completely immersed in the richness of the narrative and the descriptions of the hearty landscape, where families survived by trapping, farming and all manner of early frontier life.

The relationship between Jack and Mable was complex, yet tender. Two souls who longed for a family, and receive one in the end, but certainly not the way they expected.

And Faina -- she was everything you'd expect from a sprite, and more.

This was a special novel -- and one our book club adored.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Good and Bad of 2013

Always late.

2013 ended 7  days ago.

But here are my bookish reflections on the 49 books I read in 2013 (Goodreads says I read 52 -- my own list says only 49 -- not sure where I'm off -- oh well).

Favorite classic:  By default -- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier. unfortunate that I didn't read a single classic this year.  Shameful.  However, I love me some du Maurier. 4 stars

Favorite fairy tale:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman -- I was scared, I was mesmerized, I was anxious…and ultimately, I was completely satisfied with the unfolding fable. 5 stars

Favorite Mother/Daughter book group selection:  Alas...once the girls entered 7th grade, they called it quits on MDBG.  I am now admitting for the first time that I failed to keep it together.  3rd-6th grade has to account for something, right?

Made me laugh out loudElizabeth the First Wife by Lian Dolan --I loved the theatrical setting; I loved ALL the references to Shakespeare; I loved the comparisons between Shakespeare’s characters and their real life counterparts (Henry V & Katherine = Duke & Duchess of Cambridge); I loved that she had Team Romeo vs. Team Hamlet vs. Team Twilight (Edward doesn’t stand a chance!); it was witty, it was smart, it was clever – something I would never attribute to “chick lit.” Marred by errors -- but still funny. 3 stars.

Favorite book club pickWyrd Sisters  by Terry Pratchett -- The story is a clever lampoon of Shakespeare from the opening scene onwards. It's a fast-paced romp through a parody of scenes, themes, and lines from Macbeth, Hamlet, Richard III and many more. Pratchett also throws in references to Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty (not to mention others I have probably missed). Not only is it a spoof of Shakespeare – but also a mash up of Shakespeare in Love, The Princess Bride and Monty Python. 5 stars

Favorite juvenile fictionFortunately, the milk by Neil Gaiman. Only Neil Gaiman could send a father out for groceries and have him encounter aliens, pirates, dinosaurs, vampires, and a host of other creatures, only to return from his time travels with his necessary item -- milk -- for his children's breakfast cereal.  A rollicking adventure -- with amazing illustrations. 5 stars
Favorite YA fictionCorner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty -- This book was like nothing I've ever read: part fantasy, part time travel, part whimsy, part science lesson (be prepared for a primer on Sir Isaac Newton), part potential teen romance -- it was quite delightful! 4 stars

I hated but everyone else lovedThe Giver by Lois Lowry -- Not a current book (I guess this could qualify as a classic), but I read it for the first time this year.  It was creepy.  3 stars

Favorite memoirWild by Cheryl Strayed  -- This was an amazing adventure. 5 stars

Biggest let downLetters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole -- an Internet/blogging darling - I never felt any attachment to any of the characters. The letters’ prose seemed to be far too modern to be written at the earlier part of the 20th century. As chapters shifted between time periods – there was no distinct “voice” to differentiate between the letters. If it hadn't been for the chapter headings, one wouldn’t know if it was Elspeth or Margaret “writing” the prose. The plot was thin, and the ending contrived and predictable. I was emotionally detached throughout the entire novel. 2 stars

Overall favorites of 2013
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell -- A cross between Bridget Jones meets a Friends episode, I didn't know I was going to love everything about this book. Everything. 5 stars

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty -- I really enjoyed this book and how the author turned run of the mill families into an escalating moral dilemma. 4 stars
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton -- In vintage Kate Morton fashion, she weaves a story using mothers and daughters, past and present, mystery and secrets, to create an epic WWII historical drama that kept me reading every waking moment. 5 stars

So there you have it.  My winners and losers of 2013.

Goals for 2014

·        Just read.  No pressure.  No challenges.  Sometimes I'll write detailed reviews, sometimes I'll say, "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" and that will be OK.

Finally --

Keep calm and read a great book! 

Book Review -- The Time Between

The Time Between
The Time Between by Karen White
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hangover rating: 1
Source: Library
Genre: Literary fiction
Objectionable material: None

Seeking atonement over her guilt that she caused her sister's paralysis, Eleanor Murray takes a job caring for an elderly woman and becomes caught up in the woman's life of passion, danger, heartache, and deception in Hungary during World War II. 
Things I liked:

I love WWII survival tales. The escape by the Szarka sisters from Hungary was harrowing and dramatic.

The lush descriptions of the Carolina low country was exceptional.

Things I didn't:

Narrated from three different points of view (Eleanor, her sister Eve, and Aunt Helena) -- the alternating voices were far too similar. If it hadn't been for the chapter headers at the beginning, I would never have known which character was speaking.  It was very confusing and one deminsional.

Eleanor's two jobs for one boss was problematic: she never seems to be "at the office" -- which in real life would create many problems among co-workers.

I felt like the author was trying to manipulate my emotions -- I was not at all vested in the story and tried to push back against her literary motivations.

Details: and this totally bugged me -- library materials, not meant for her, were handed over without concern. Does. Not. Happen. Or shouldn't anyway (much like medical records).

This author's Tradd Street series is supposed to be very good. I'm still willing to give her another chance.