Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Reviews - Fiction

Catching up with some book reviews today - an eclectic mix of fiction books I've completed over the last couple of months.
Back in October while we were visiting my sister & her family, the girls showed me some of the schoolwork and artwork they had completed this year. Pun'kin Natashia was going through the list of books she's reading for her literature/history and she mentioned that I might like a couple of her favorites, and she lent them to me to read.

Stink Alley by Jamie Gilson was a quick and enjoyable read. It's about a group of Englishmen who illegally left England for Leiden, Holland in 1614. The story centers around Lizzy (a fictional character) and Master William Brewster, who led the group out of England and eventually came to America on the Mayflower. (Spoiler ahead!!) Lizzy works for a family & becomes friends with their rather eccentric son who is always drawing pictures with his red chalk - turns out his name is Rembrandt.

Guests by Michael Dorris is about Moss & his family, who are Native Americans. Moss's father invites strangers to their harvest feast. Moss is not happy and wanders off to the edge of the forest where he encounters Trouble, a young girl struggling with an abusive family. This is a coming of age story about life and customs in an Indian village.

I listened to the audio book of Gossamer by Lois Lowry over the course of a week as I was out running errands around town. It's a lovely book about nighttime messengers that give dreams to humans. The story revolves around an old woman, a boy who's in foster care, and his mother who is working to put her life together so he can come home. The story is told from several perspectives and I highly recommend it.

I picked up The Upper Zoo from the New Books shelf at the library, not really knowing much about it. The story is about a 12-year-old Jewish boy who is placed in a class for underachievers (the upper zoo). It was hard to put this book down as it had lots of twists and turns involving several dysfunctional families, a young boy with autism, and a class bully. It also addresses issues such as religious stereotypes, racism, infidelity, and disappointment. However, I felt let down at the end of the book.

I downloaded A Tale of Two Sisters free to my Kindle after seeing it on a list of free books. This was a sibling rivalry story that was short and quick to read. It turns out the book was actually several stories about sisters, although they were unrelated stories. I'll just say I'm glad I didn't spend any money on this one.

The Silver Star was on my list of books to read when I picked it up at the library. This is the story of two girls who are left alone by their mother and take a cross country bus trip to visit their uncle in the small town where their mother grew up. In this small town, the girls find family they've never met and hear stories and rumors about their mother when she lived there. They take jobs to make money and learn a very difficult lesson about power and abuse. Honestly I didn't enjoy the book as much as I thought I would - I didn't like several of the characters and felt the ending wasn't well done at all.

Some of you may recognize Courtney Walsh's name as she has taught a few classes at BPC and she wrote the Scrapbooking Your Faith book I shared as part of Pass the Book: Year Two.  A Sweethaven Summer is her first fiction book and centers around an old scrapbook that Campbell Carter finds after her mother's death. Actually she only has some of the pages as the scrapbook was taken apart and the pages divided between a group of four girl friends, who her mother has not spoken to in many years. As Campbell reaches out to these women, she visits Sweethaven, the little town where her mother spent summers as a teenager. There she learns who her father is and forms new friendships. This was a great book and I'm hoping to read the others in the Sweethaven series soon.

Robbie read State of the Onion and added it to my pile of books to read because he thought I would enjoy it too. This is the first book in the White House Chef Mysteries series by Julie Hyzy. The story centers around one of the assistant chefs at the White House and is a mystery involving an elusive assassin, her secret Secret Service boyfriend, and a rival for the position of Executive Chef. I enjoyed this book - the mystery and the workings of the White House kitchen. We're both planning to read the additional books in this series (especially since Robbie has them on his Christmas Wish List!).

Out of My Mind is a children's book and was recommended by a friend after I mentioned how much I enjoyed the book The Story of Beautiful Girl. Out of My Mind is the story of Melody, a young girl born with cerebral palsy, which affects her ability to walk and talk and hold objects. Unable to communicate, Melody's thoughts are stuck in her mind, which is horribly frustrating to her as she is actually very intelligent. The story is told from her point of view and is a wonderful read about how she eventually finds a way to communicate and the difficulties that arise because of it. I highly recommend this book!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore was this month's read for the library book club. This book is a great read, a mystery with lots of books and strange characters mixed in. It's set in modern day California and New York and involves really old books and lots of new technology. I knew it was going to be a great read when I started marking quotes within the first four pages! I'll leave you with a couple of my favorites - When Clay first enters the bookstore, Mr. Penumbra greets him with this questions: What do you seek in these shelves? And Clay's description of the bookstore: His inventory is eclectic; there's no evidence of pattern or purpose other than, I suppose, his own personal taste. So, no teenage wizards or vampire police here. That's a shame, because this is exactly the kind of store that makes you want to buy a book about a teenage wizard. This is the kind of store that makes you want to be a teenage wizard.

If you've stayed with me through this long catch up post, I hope you've found a book to add to your to-read-soon list! Please let me know which one it is in the comments.


  1. Cool, thanks for the list! I am always looking for new reads. My library has a pretty extensive digital collection so I am able to borrow books directly to my Kindle or audio books to Overdrive to listen to. Adding some of these to the list! Thanks. :)

  2. I'm actually in a bit of a reading funk lately! not adding to my reading list right now but I always refer back to your lists!

  3. State of the Onion sounds as though it might be right up my alley, and I've read one of the Sweethaven stories too - might look for the Christmas one soon. Thanks for sharing your reads, I always enjoy learning about new books.

  4. I didn't read your review of Mr. Penumbra . . . because I've just started it myself. You did, however, read books by two of my favorite authors. Michael Dorris wrote A Yellow Raft in Blue Water---one of my all time favorite books, and Lois Lowry is also one of my faves. But I haven't read either of the books you've read. Added to my list.

  5. Well, I bought gossamer and put a couple of others on my wish list, I've always enjoyed your recommendations!

  6. This is great, I shall be adding some to my 'to read' list!

  7. Thanks for some suggestions to be added to my reading list.

  8. The Bookstore one! Definitely have to look out for that one. And I like the sound of the one about the Mayflower too. I was thinking the other day about the trip I made years ago to Plimoth Plantation and the replica Mayflower. Thanks Melissa

  9. Wow! That's a lot of books. The White House Chef series looks interesting to me. My book group read and really liked The Paris Wife about Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Our current choice is The Round House by Louise Erdrich, and I'm really looking forward to it.

  10. The bookstore one looks good, may have to look in the library for that one.


Thanks so much for your comment - it's like a ray of sunshine in my day!