About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Brief Book Reviews

****Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
I liked this one even better than Lilac Girls. Somewhat a prequel, it is set a generation earlier and follows the mother, Eliza, of real-life character Caroline Ferriday from Lilac Girls. This one is centered on U. S. and Russian women during the Russian Revolution and WWI.

****Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly
If you liked The Nightingale, you will appreciate Lilac Girls. The book tells the story of the notorious Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp through the eyes of three women: an American, a German, and a Polish prisoner. This one will stick with me for a long while.

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*****The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
My favorite book of 2015. If you enjoy historical fiction, you will love this. Voted best historical fiction book of the year by the readers on GoodReads. Warning, you will need Kleenex by the end. Life in Nazi occupied France from the perspective of two sisters living through it, each with her own unique struggles.

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****Stormy Weather by Carl Hiaasen
This was my first Hiaasen novel, and I was delighted. Crooks, curiosity seekers, and would-be ripoff artists descend on south Florida after a massive hurricane with hilarious results. The honeymoon for a pair of newlyweds is ruined, dangerous animals escape from a wildlife sanctuary, and a former governor goes on a wild and crazy rampage. Hiaasen has a witty and entertaining writing style. I look forward to reading more of his work.

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*****The Stupidest Angel, A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror
by Christopher Moore
My first foray into the world of Christopher Moore, the book hooked me with the first sentence. It is laugh-out-loud funny and leaves me very much wanting to read more of Moore. In the days just before Christmas, some pretty strange things start happening in the small California town of Pine Cove. To say that a talking bat, a mistaken murder, and zombies are involved, would leave just too mundane an impression. This book is far from mundane. So I will quote the first sentence; it may hook you too:

"Christmas crept into Pine Cove like a creeping Christmas thing: dragging garland, ribbon, and sleigh bells, oozing eggnog, reeking of pine, and threatening festive doom like a cold sore under the mistletoe"



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****Moloka'i by Alan Brennert
James Michener fans, take note. If you enjoyed Hawaii like I did, you will enjoy Moloka'i as well, not the extremely detailed, centuries-encompassing tome that Hawaii is, but reminiscent of Michener's work in my mind, largely because of the setting and the sensitive treatment of the characters and their plight. Compared to Michener's work, the story depicted in Moloka'i, takes place in the blink of an eye, but what an engaging blink. The book tells the story of a young Hawaiian girl who, as the 20th century is about to unfold, contracts leprosy and is ripped away from her family and home and sent to live in a colony for other unfortunates such as herself. Her story is at once heart wrenching and stirring. The strength and resilience of Rachel, the pain she endures, and the sad way in which lepers were once treated brought tears to my eyes and inspiration to my heart.
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****Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
My first thought, "Do we really need another Holocaust novel? Enough already." But that was before I learned about the Vel' d'Hiv Roundup. In 1942 during the German occupation of France, over 13,000 French Jews were arrested, not by the Germans, but by French police. The ordeal inflicted upon these people is personified in the characters of ten-year-old Sarah and her family. Sixty years later Sarah's story is intertwined with that of an American journalist investigating the roundup. Filled with mystery, suspense, and tragedy, Sarah's Key will grab you and not let go.
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*****Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Okay For Now, sequel to The Wednesday Wars? Not really. But readers familiar with the latter will devour the story of its minor character, Doug Swieteck, who comes into his own as the star of Okay For Now. Haven't read The Wednesday Wars? No problem. Initially set in the same local, Okay For Now quickly moves, along with the Swieteck family, to Marysville, New York, a.k.a. "Stupid Marysville," where outside of the occasional baseball reference, the connection to The Wednesday Wars ends. Doug leads less than a charmed life--far less. With an abusive father, a sweet but ineffectual mother, one brother in Vietnam, and another brother who seemingly delights in bullying him, it's no wonder that Doug has a negative attitude toward the world. But things, and people, are not always what they seem. And life is about to change for Doug Swieteck in Stupid Marysville.

I loved Schmidt's Trouble and I adored The Wednesday Wars, but OK For Now is beyond fabulous. If it doesn't win the Newbery, I shall have to protest. The characters are interesting, and complex. The themes are many and varied. The plot is well constructed. I loved the development of the plot from Doug's point of view and the superb way in which the story elements are knit together. A touching, entertaining, and well-crafted book that will linger in your mind long after you have read the last page.
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*****Bliss Remembered by Frank Deford
You might be familiar with Frank Deford as a sportswriter, but if you are not familiar with him as a novelist, you should be. He is a master of character development, a trait fully exemplified in Bliss Remembered, the story of a young female swimmer who meets the man of her dreams at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Unfortunately, she is American and he is German. The turbulent tale is told from the perspective of Sydney, the young swimmer, as she relates the story to her son years later during the 1984 Olympics.

Bliss Remembered is what I would call a historical love story. While it is at its heart a beautiful and captivating love story, the setting amidst the troubled times directly prior to World War II when Hitler and the Nazis were just setting out on their path to destruction presents an interesting historical perspective and commentary as well. The backdrop of the Olympics, both 1936 and 1984, provides a striking contrast to the evil and devastation about to befall Europe and the World. Not wishing to be a spoiler, I will refrain from divulging too much of the plot, but will simply say that the ending is fabulous. This is definitely one of my favorite books and has cemented my appreciation for Deford as a novelist.

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