Thursday, December 29, 2011

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely fantastic!!!  Be prepared to be sucked in for a while with this one - it's long and involved, but well-worth the time.

Jake is shown a way to travel to the past and encouraged to do something huge - prevent Kennedy's assassination.  Since he can only travel back to 1958, he spends the time between then and 1963 building a life that has more value to him then the one he left.  But - here's the rub - he will HAVE to travel back to present time once he stops the assassination to make sure everything's ok.  Once he does that, he can't go back.

Stephen King is one of the best wordsmiths there is.  While some of his books are definitely better than others, they are all great, in my opinion.  This one stands at the top of the list though - one of my favorite King books has always been It (and yay! some It characters make a showing in this book!).  11/22/63 comes close to taking over the top spot (and only doesn't because I just LOVE when King gets truly creepy).

I give this one all 5 stars without hesitation.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Emory's Gift

Emory's GiftEmory's Gift by W. Bruce Cameron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is such a gem!!  It's heart-warming and thought-provoking.  Charlie is an 8th grade boy who has lost his mother, has trouble relating to his father, and is trying to find his social place at school.  Things are not happy for him, and then he sees a grizzly bear in the wild - and somehow they connect.  The grizzly comes home with him and stays in his barn - and apparently is a reincarnated Civil War soldier with a message.

Like his other book, A Dog's Purpose, Cameron has written a book with an animal as a main character - one who is more than "just" an animal.  Even though this book focuses mostly on Charlie, the magic of an animal being "more" is a big part of the novel, and is what makes both books so magical.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Hour I First Believed

The Hour I First BelievedThe Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is another wonderful book by Wally Lamb.  I absolutely loved "I Know This Much Is True" but for some reason, I held off reading this for a long time!  Finally, I picked it up and was immediately engrossed in it.

In a nutshell:

When high school teacher Caelum Quirk and his wife, Maureen, move to Littleton, Colorado, they both get jobs at Columbine High School. In April 1999, while Caelum is away, Maureen finds herself in the library at Columbine, cowering in a cabinet and expecting to be killed. Miraculously, she survives. But when Caelum and Maureen flee to an illusion of safety on the Quirk family's Connecticut farm, they discover that the effects of chaos are not easily put right.

While Maureen fights to regain her sanity, Caelum discovers five generations' worth of diaries, letters, and newspaper clippings in his family's house. As unimaginable secrets emerge, Caelum grapples with the past and struggles to fashion a future from the ashes of tragedy. His quest for meaning is at once mythic and contemporary, personal and quintessentially American.

Expect to fall in love with the characters, flawed as they are, and expect to cry when you close the book.

This one joins his other books on my keeper shelf!

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Monday, August 29, 2011

Hush by Eishes Chayil

HushHush by Eishes Chayil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a truly heart-rending story of a young girl living in a Chassidic Jewish community in New York who witnesses the molestation of her best friend at the hands of her friend's older brother. Gittel didn't understand what was happening, couldn't protect her friend, and when her friend, Devory, commits suicide, she is told to forget about her and everything that happened.

Told in alternating narratives from Gittel as a 9 year old and then as a young adult graduating high school and getting married, we see how the experience has haunted her and continues to affect her until she finally speaks out. Again and again and again until people finally start listening, believing, and acting on what she says.

Based on her own experiences, the author (who writes under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil) has shed light on an issue that has been so hushed up and ignored for so long in her community.

Highly recommend.

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum, #17)Smokin' Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this one!  I was disappointed with the last two books but I love Stephanie Plum so much, I read this as soon as I could get it - and it was so good!  Stephanie is cursed, her and Lula have the usual adventures, and there's still the Ranger/Morelli dilemma - but it seems a bit fresher than it has been in a while.  I hope this upswing continues with the next book!

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Delirium (Delirium, #1)Delirium by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

YA seems to be flooded with dystopian novels, just as they were with vampire novels not too long ago!  I've read several lately, this one being the latest.

In an undefined time, love is considered a disease, and a procedure exists to give everyone the "cure."  It's a mandatory procedure for everyone once they turn 18.  Lena is looking forward to it - her mother was never cured and that past haunts her.

As the day moves closer, Lena becomes more aware of the way things "really" are.  She discovers that her world may not be exactly what is presented, and as she begins to question her reality, she faces a life-changing dilemma.

This is a very well-written novel that is a definite page-turner, with characters that will stay with you for a while after the book ends.

Delirium is the first book in a planned trilogy, and I will definitely be looking for the next one!

Also... Look for a movie to come out based on this book! 

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

Where She Went (If I Stay, #2)Where She Went by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is the followup to If I Stay, and begins three years after Mia's accident.  Told from Adam's viewpoint, we find out what has happened with him over the years.

When the book starts, he and Mia are NOT together, and haven't been since shortly after she moved away to go to Julliard.  He has become a rock star, but isn't close to the rest of the band anymore.  He feels very isolated and depressed and is beginning to question whether he wants to continue playing with his band.

The break-up with Mia has left him feeling very lost, and even though he's tried to move on, he is finally realizing that's he's miserable.  As he nears the end of his rope, he runs into her - and begins to finally find a way to heal.

While not as good as If I Stay, Where She Went is still very well written and absorbing. 

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The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen HouseThe Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have such mixed feelings about this book.  The good:  It's an excellent read.  The writing is great and I loved the characters.  It was a can't-put-down read!

The bad, though:  I couldn't help but thinking OMG, how much more cr*p are these people going to have to deal with???  In one book, we have murders, rapes, incest, child molestation, alcoholism, drug abuse, adultery, insanity, stillbirths and miscarriages, and just plain old miscellaneous deaths.  It was just too much.  Way too much!  In fact, it was so much that after just the first quarter of the book, I didn't even feel that emotional about it anymore.  Parts of the book that should have been guaranteed tear-jerkers left me feeling emotionally void - I was on overload.

Now, all that said -- I also don't like other authors that are very popular, who I feel play deliberately on emotions (Jodi Picoult comes to mind).  So if you are a fan of that type of fiction, then by all means grab this one up - you'll love it! It really is well-written with great characters and a great story. 

But if you want more subtlety, you may want to skip this one.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First - this is the 2nd time I've read this book, and it was even better the second time around.  For those who don't know, this is a story of a young girl living in Nazi Germany, but it is Death who is telling the story.

This book is absolutely haunting.  From the first page to the last, you are drawn in to Death's story of Leisel.  He first sees her as a young girl on the way to her foster parents, and he tells her story over the next 4 years or so, as Germany is at war.

Be prepared to cry and laugh, and in some parts of the book, your heart will break.  This is not a quick, easy read but one that deserves an intense focus. 

By far, this is one of the best books I've ever read.

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Bought Some Books Yesterday!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Product Description

A  "heartbreakingly delicious" national bestseller about a chef, her students, and the evocative lessons that food teaches about life

Once a month, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect...

The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. And soon they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create.

This book is one of my absolute favorites - and even though I've read it before, when I saw it at the thrift store, I grabbed it to keep on my keeper shelf for a reread, and then I'll be sure to share it with someone.

  The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Book Description
The long-awaited new novel from Margaret Atwood.
The Year of the Flood is a dystopic masterpiece and a testament to her visionary power.

The times and species have been changing at a rapid rate, and the social compact is wearing as thin as environmental stability. Adam One, the kindly leader of the God's Gardeners--a religion devoted to the melding of science and religion, as well as the preservation of all plant and animal life--has long predicted a natural disaster that will alter Earth as we know it. Now it has occurred, obliterating most human life. Two women have survived: Ren, a young trapeze dancer locked inside the high-end sex club Scales and Tails, and Toby, a God's Gardener barricaded inside a luxurious spa where many of the treatments are edible.

Have others survived? Ren's bioartist friend Amanda? Zeb, her eco-fighter stepfather? Her onetime lover, Jimmy? Or the murderous Painballers, survivors of the mutual-elimination Painball prison? Not to mention the shadowy, corrupt policing force of the ruling powers...

Meanwhile, gene-spliced life forms are proliferating: the lion/lamb blends, the Mo'hair sheep with human hair, the pigs with human brain tissue. As Adam One and his intrepid hemp-clad band make their way through this strange new world, Ren and Toby will have to decide on their next move. They can't stay locked away...

By turns dark, tender, violent, thoughtful, and uneasily hilarious, The Year of the Flood is Atwood at her most brilliant and inventive.

I haven't read Oryx and Crake yet, but it's on my very short TBR pile.  Now that I have this follow-up, I think I'm going to set aside some time to dive in and then I can pass them both along.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

These Things HiddenThese Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As much as I loved Gudenkauf's first novel, The Weight of Silence, I think this one is so much better.

Told from the perspective of four women whose lives are interwoven. Allison, recently released from prison, is trying to build a life after serving 5 years for the murder of her newborn baby. Brianna, her sister, refuses to speak to her, and is dealing with serious issues of her own. Claire, the adoptive mother of Joshua, owns a bookstore and gives Allison a job there. And Charm, who has befriended Claire, but has ulterior motives for doing so.

As events unfold bringing these four women together, we see the events that led up to Allison's incarceration and the heartbreak that all four women have endured over the years.

The writing is wonderful, making this a book that was so hard to put down. I look forward to more books by this author!

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Monday, May 2, 2011

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay by Gayle Forman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very moving story about a young girl who is hovering on the edge of death, laying in the ICU following a horrible car accident.

As she watches from outside her body, she realizes that she must decide whether to stay or let go. Her family and friends are keeping watch, and praying, and hoping. She watches them, but doesn't know if she can come back to them.

The story goes from the present to the past, offering glimpses into her life with her parents and younger brother, and touching on various defining moments in her young life.

As she struggles with a literal life and death decision, the reader struggles along too. When she finally makes her choice, it is heart-wrenching, but absolutely the right choice for her.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Curse of the Spellmans (The Spellmans, #2)Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such a good series! After reading the first one in the series (The Spellman Files), I've been anxiously waiting to get a chance to read this one. I was NOT disappointed! In fact, I immediately picked up the 3rd one in the series and I'm reading it now.

In this one, Isabel is suspicious of a neighbor, realizes here romantic feelings for a surprising person, and makes a surprising career move. It's lots of fun, with plenty of laugh out loud moments.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Never Knowing by Chevy Stevens

Never KnowingNever Knowing by Chevy Stevens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What happens when you find your birth parents, and they aren't what you had hoped? In Sara's case, she discovers she's the result of a brutal rape - now, her birth mother wants nothing to do with her, and her father is a suspected serial killer.

And because of her search, her birth parents' identities are broadcast online and her birth father (John) contacts her. Working with the police, Sara tries to lure him in so that they can finally apprehend him.

Chevy Stevens writes so well, and the book is such a roller-coaster of a ride, that time just flies by while reading. This is another good one by Ms. Stevens, who also wrote "Still Missing" - another very good book that I highly recommend!

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Friday, April 15, 2011

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

The Peach KeeperThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of the things I loved most about Allen's earlier books was the beautiful magic qualities in them (changing wallpaper, trees that throw apples, books that show up out of nowhere, etc.). This book had touches of that magic, but much of it was mentioned briefly and then never explored. I would have loved to have more of that.

Still, this is a lovely book about friendship and learning to accept yourself. It centers around two women, Willa and Paxton. Paxton lives the life she thinks she is supposed to, while Willa lives a life she thinks she wants. They realize that they are missing quite a lot, and by exploring the past and learning about their grandmothers, they come to terms with who they really are and what they truly want.

Allen continues to be one of my favorite writers! Her books flow so well, the characters are just so wonderfully real. I love the world she creates, and am always a little sad when I turn that last page.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Reversal by Michael Connelly

The Reversal (Mickey Haller, #3)The Reversal by Michael Connelly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's so much to love about this book! I love Harry Bosch, always have! And after reading The Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller became another favorite character. And this book has them both.

Mickey takes on a case as an independent prosecutor, ex-wife Maggie assists him, and Bosch is their investigator. The case: A man (Jessup) wins an appeal to overturn a 24 year old murder and he's released from prison. The DA's office decides to retry him. They need a guilty verdict; otherwise, they'll be sued in civil court for millions for his imprisonment. Those stakes are high enough, but added to that is the absolute conviction that they all have that Jessup is truly guilty.

I hope that the release of the movie The Lincoln Lawyer will get more people reading these books. Michael Connelly has been a favorite author of mine for many years - since about the time his 3rd book was published! I have not yet been disappointed with any of his books!

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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lover Unleashed by J. R. Ward

Lover Unleashed (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #9)Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward

This was another great addition to the Black Dagger series!!

It picks up quickly after last one ended, with Payne paralyzed after a fight with Wrath. Jane's old boss Manny is brought in to consult and he quickly falls in love with Payne, and she falls right back in love with him.

There's also new players in town fighting the Lessers - Payne and Vischous's father (The Bloodletter) led a group of soldiers many years ago who have carried on after his murder. Now they are in Caldwell killing Lessers - but with ulterior motives! I can't wait for the next book to see how that all plays out.

I love how the books revolve around one couple overall, but still talk a lot about the others. Although I really miss hearing about some of them - so I hope she brings them back up in future books. This one didn't have much of the Brotherhood, and I missed that.

Overall, though, this is definitely a 4 1/2 stars, and it makes me really want to go back and read the series again - which I'm sure I will at some point, which is very unusual for me!

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Saturday, March 26, 2011

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Smith (as he's currently called) is Number Four, which is his place in line of the nine children sent to earth from an other planet. A charm in place protects him as long as One through Three are alive; unfortunately, Number Three has just been killed.

I actually really liked the premise - having to keep hiding from the enemy, trying to blend in but never being able to be a part of the community. I liked John and I adored Henri, and I'm intrigued by Six and Bernie.

I'm surprised at how many reviewers really didn't like this book - hated the writing, thought the plot was bad. I thought it was very good. I really liked the writing. It kept me interested, and everything flowed well. And while I admit that I don't read science fiction that much, I thought the plot was great! Now, maybe in the Sci-Fi world, it's overdone but to me, it was exciting.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but will definitely watch it soon! As for the book, I can't wait for the next installment.

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