Thursday, October 27, 2011

60. When the Bough Breaks by Kay Lynn Mangum

Rachel Fletcher is fifteen, just entering high school and tired of being different.  Her father was killed four months earlier and her older brother comes home drunk every night.  And her mother is so depressed that she is unaware of the problems her children are facing.  Then the mother meets a man who lost his wife to breast cancer.  They get married and now Rachel has a stepfather and a stepbrother who also attends the same high school.  Rachel really struggles with all this complications and tragedies.  Things start to come together by the end of the book, but it is not a happily ever after type of story but an ongoing tale of facing life's challenges with courage and hope. 

I like this author.  She writes LDS fiction that is believable, deals with tough issues such as teen alcoholism, and presents a subdued picture of LDS faith that is refreshing.  Rating:  4.5

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

59. The Little Country by Charles de Lint

"When folk musician Janey Little finds a mysterious manuscript in an old trunk in her grandfather's cottage, she is swept into a dangerous realm both strange and familiar.  But true magic lurks within the pages of The Little Country, drawing genuine danger from across the oceans into Janey's life, impelling her --- armed only with her music --- towards a terrifying confrontation."  From back cover

I really like de Lint's books.  He writes dark, urban fantasies which are imaginative and clever.  The characters are complex and real.  This book differs from other de Lint books I 've read in that there is almost no reference to fairies and other magical creatures.  The story deal entirely with the use and misuse of magic.  There is a story within a story and the two intertwine in a creative way leading to a suspense-filled ending.  Just a tad-bit too much philosophizing for my taste, but overall a great read.  Rating:  4.25

58. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella (Audio)

"Lara has always had an overactive imagination. Now she wonders if she is losing her mind. Normal twenty-something girls just don’t get visited by ghosts! But inexplicably, the spirit of Lara’s great aunt Sadie – in the form of a bold, demanding Charleston-dancing girl – has appeared to make one last request: Lara must track down a missing necklace Sadie simply can’t rest without.

Lara’s got enough problems of her own. Her start-up company is floundering, her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, and she’s just been dumped by the love of her life.

But as Lara spends time with Sadie, life becomes more glamorous and their treasure hunt turns into something intriguing and romantic. Could Sadie’s ghost be the answer to Lara’s problems and can two girls from different times end up learning something special from each other?Random House review

Like all Kinsella books that I have read, there are parts in this book that made me wince because I can just see disaster coming for the main character.  Of course, things always work out for the best giving you a very predictable ending.  Still, it was a fun book to listen too with the narrator's English accent and Kinsella's irreverent humor. 

Rating:  3.5

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

57. The Book of Lights by Chaim Potok

This book took me forever to read.  Potok's books are quite dreary and this one is no exception.  The main character, Gershon Loran, takes the whole book trying to figure out his life and what to do with it.  He goes to rabbinical (sp) college and studies Kaballah.  But you never get the feeling that he is touched by anything he learns, just amassing knowledge.  After his degree, he becomes a chaplain assigned to Korea.  This is the most interesting part of the book as Gershon shows himself to be compassionate and approachable to the men he serves as well as astute about the best ways to do his work.  At college, Gershon rooms with Arthur Leiden whose father helped build the atomic bomb.  Arthur also becomes a chaplain in Korea and fights against the feelings he has about the destruction his father helped caused.  As always, Potok's books give the reader a view into the conflicts of Judaism, but it seems his other books offered comforts from that faith as well.  I didn't feel that with this book.  Plus, there never seemed to be any resolution to Gershon's inner search.  I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters and find some of the philosophy tiresome.  Rating:  3

Sunday, October 09, 2011

56. A Woman Named Smith by Marie Conway Oemler

"A Woman Named Smith is a delightful surprise. Originally published in 1919, the main character is Sophy Smith, a businesslike thirty-something New England bred spinster. Her staid world is turned upside down when she inherits a South Carolina mansion from her eccentric great-aunt by marriage. Heading south with her best friend, confidante, and protegee, the beautiful young Alicia, she turns the mansion into a winter retreat for wealthy clients. In the process, she acquires friends and cats, solves a mystery, and finds romance. The "down sides" to the book include occasionally archaic language, and an old-fashioned view of race relations. Otherwise, it's a fun if lightweight read." Diane Peabody Review on Amazon.

This book was a fun read.  Sophy is fantastic, matter-of-fact, smart and knows how to stick up for herself.  Not a stereotypical woman of the early 1900's.  My only complaint was the racial slurs which would never be published in this day and age.  It was a free download to my Kindle so I was pleasantly surprised.  Rating:   3.75

55. Blessed Are the Cheesemakers by Sarah-Kate Lynch

"Set on a small Irish dairy farm, this tender and funny debut novel follows two lost souls as they try to carve out new lives amid a colorful cast of characters reminiscent of those in the hit film Waking Ned Divine. Abby has been estranged from the family farm since her rebellious mother ran off with her when she was a small child. Kit is a burned out New York stockbroker who's down on his luck. But that's all about to change, now that he and Abby have converged on the farm just in time to help Corrie and Fee, two old cheesemakers in a time of need. Full of delightful and quirky characters--from dairy cows who only give their best product to pregnant, vegetarian teens to an odd collection of whiskey-soaked men and broken-hearted women who find refuge under Corrie and Fee's roof--BLESSED ARE THE CHEESEMAKERS is an irresistible tale about taking life's spilled milk and turning it into the best cheese in the world."  From back of book

I really liked this book.  Corrie and Fee are great characters and I really like Kit once he gets to Ireland.  The book is full of delightful characters and the story is funny with a touch of magic thrown in.
Rating:  4.25

54. To Have and to Hold by Josie Kilpack

Emma is twenty-one, newly divorced with a fifteen-month old daughter.  She moves back to Utah to rebuild her life and perhaps find her place in the LDS church.  But she struggles finding a job that will allow her to support her daughter.  In steps Andrew Davidson, a rich developer who lives in California and keeps a home in SLC.  He hires Emma to keep house for him and learns that she is also a fantastic cook.  Then he finds that he stands to inherit a fortune if he meets the stipulation that he geet married and stays married for a year.  He gets Emma to agree to marry him for part of the inheritance and the rest is pretty predictable.  Even if you know immediately how the story will turn out, Kilpack still tells a good tale.  There isn't a lot of deep thinking involved, but also no profanity or sex and an interesting look at a medical condition that I had never heard of before.  I like LDS romances and this book is a pretty good example.  Rating:  3.75

54. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

This book is a slow, easy story about the life of boy growing up in rural Kentucky.  He travels around a bit as a young man and learns the barber trade.  Finally, he ends up in Port William, Kentucky close to his boyhood home.  From the door of the his barbershop with an apartment above, he watches the goings-on in the small town and becomes friends with his customers.  He tells about his life and those of his neighbors in a straight forward manner with quite a bit of philosophy thrown in.  Some of the stories are funny and some heartbreaking.  The saddest story is how progress and growth changes the sleepy, easy going nature of the town.  I enjoyed reading about times back in the thirties and forties and about some of the great characters that Jayber comes to know.  There is a love story that is a bit weird but overall I liked the book.  Rating:  4