Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dear Daughter

Dear Daughter
By Elizabeth Little
Viking, 2014. 384 pgs. Fiction.

This was another Gone Girl like, unreliable narrator that I had to try. Janie Jenkins is a former high society celebrity that likes to make a name for herself in not so positive ways. At the height of her fame she is arrested for the murder of her mother. When she is released ten years later on a technicality, she hides her true self and runs to her mother's hometown because Janie swears the killer can be found there. She uncovers her mother's past by talking to local townspeople and through clues left by her mom. Janie uncovers information about her past during her private investigating.

Through some twists and turns, Little has created a mystery worth reading. I was left thinking about whether the daughter actually murdered her mom or not. The characters were not likable in a good way since I couldn't trust anyone or believe their stories. The story was original enough to be exciting and Janie was a great, pushy protagonist.

EW

California

California 
By Edan Lepucki
Little, Brown, and Company, 400 pgs. 2014. Young adult.

Cal and Frida live in a small world of just them. They have left Los Angeles after the city has become a ruined, dangerous place to be. This book is post apocalyptic but there is no background to the how and why the world has been destroyed. There are hints to terrorist groups, electricity and internet becoming too expensive then unattainable, and natural disasters that kill entire cities of people. There is a lot going on, but at the same time the story is just about these two and how they survive. When Frida finds out she is pregnant, her view on their solitary life changes and she wants to know what is outside of their little homestead. They go on a journey to find a community they know little about.

I really enjoyed this book because it was different from other end of the world books. It was not about how the world loses the security that we have now, or a disease, or a war. It was about the after of all this. A lot of times in these post apocalyptic books, there is still struggle to survive. But this had a twist on having communities and groups that were doing just fine. There was a little mystery and some surprises and it actually ended well for the main characters.

EW

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Bargain From the Bazaar: A Family's Day of Reckoning in Lahore

The Bargain From the Bazaar: A Family's Day of Reckoning in Lahore
By Haroon K. Ullah
Public Affairs. 2014. 240 pgs. Nonfiction

Narrating the lives of the Reza family, author Haroon gives the reader a ring side seat to the chaotic conditions in Lahore, Pakistan.  Struggling to make a  living as a shopkeeper in the Anarkali Bazaar, Bangladesh war veteran Awais fathers three sons, works to provide for them and point them to worthwhile careers in such an unstable society, as mother Shez creates a loving home and works as a nurse. The three sons take different paths, but the one who follows his heart into radical Islam pulls the whole family into a tragedy that could destroy all of them.

This very readable book acquaints the reader with the historical background of the nation of Pakistan and current conditions there.  If many Pakistanis share the idealism that motivates the members of this family, we might dare dream of someday seeing a better and more stable Pakistan. SH



 


Monday, October 27, 2014

In a Handful of Dust

In a Handful of Dust
By Mindy McGinnis
Katherine Tegen Books, 2014. 384 pgs. Young adult.

Lucy has lived by a large, available body of water which is a luxury by a lot of people's standards. She has friends and family and the future of a home, husband and whatever else may come. Life is much simpler. When disease begins to ravage her small community, she sets out with her adoptive mother to find a desalinization plant. Their journey from Ohio to California is full of new dangers and is still filled with hope and determination to get to somewhere safe.

I had the opportunity to meet Mindy McGinnis recently because Provo City Library has amazing events. I loved the first book, Not a Drop to Drink, and recommend it to everyone. Even people that haven't asked for a book recommendation. McGinnis has created another page turning adventure with her second book. The best part is, the story line is realistic enough to think about what you would do to find water, shelter, food, and help. The need for simple supplies to survive creates tense interactions. If you like end of the world or survival books, you would definitely like this one.

EW

Summer House With Swimming Pool

Summer House with Swimming Pool
By Herman Koch
Hogarth, 2014. 400 pgs. Fiction



This book follows Dr. Marc Schlosser and his interactions with his rich and famous celebrity patients. He is cranky and bored and a little arrogant, and as he deals with the complaints and ailments during his day, his mind wanders. When Marc meets the wife of famous actor Ralph Meier, he hopes for a romantic fling. With these hopes in mind, he makes a pretty elaborate plan to "run in" to the Meier family near their summer home. They do end up spending some time at the nice summer home until something terrible happens. This one creates numerous questions, as I tried to figure out who did what. And during all this, a decision made by Marc, may directly kill Ralph.

The start of this book was not as quickly paced as Koch's previous book, The Dinner.  It took me a couple tries to get in to the story. Dr. Marc Schlosser was not interesting to me so it was hard to read this since he was he main narrator. However, after getting to the real tension and suspense that makes the story one of Koch's twisted tales, his character was exactly what it needed to be. It isn't a read for everyone as there is some dark and crass humor, and an uncomfortable event. The last half of the book was very quick, and very intriguing as the mystery unraveled.

EW

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Breathe, Annie, Breathe
By Miranda Kenneally
Sourcebooks Fire, 2014. 311 pages. Young adult fiction.

When Annie's boyfriend is killed in a tragic car accident, she decides to train to run the marathon he had been training for at the time of his death. She constantly reminds reminds herself to breathe, not only to pace her running but in order to get through every day. But things become complicated when her cute coach, Jeremiah, begins flirting with her, making her feel like she is betraying her boyfriend.

Kenneally has created some really interesting characters and I found Annie's grief very believable. I enjoyed watching her trying to make something meaningful out of the horrible loss of a loved one. The book gives great insight into dealing with grief and forgiving yourself. Be warned that it does have some sexual content and strong language.

JH

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2014. 460 pages. Mystery.

Who knew that kindergarten was so full of parent drama? While the children at Pirriwee School are learning their ABCs, the parents - especially good friends Madeline, Celeste, and Jane - find themselves embroiled in the politics and posturing of the parent groups. But when a school function suddenly turns deadly, the adults finally have to face the lies they've told themselves to feel secure.

This was a fabulous book that I just couldn't put down. Moriarty has created a wide array of interesting characters and situations that you want to know more about and she masterfully reveals layer upon layer of secrets until the truth is all revealed in the end. I think it was the styling of the book that really sold the whole story. The reader knows from the very beginning that someone has died and the narrative of events leading up to the fateful night is peppered with brief snippets of interviews from the time of the tragedy. Really well written and wholly enjoyable. Other than some strong language, the book was a clean read.

JH

Thursday, October 23, 2014

100 Sideways Miles

100 Sideways Miles
By Andrew Smith
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. 288 pgs. Young Adult.

Finn Easton was injured when a dead horse fell from a bridge and at the same time, killed his mother. No, really. He suffers from epilepsy because of the injury and throughout the book, the seizures he has are not only realistic, but I think an important part of who he is. His best friend, his family, and a new girl in town all are parts of his story. They are all endearing in their own way. The story follows Finn and Cade and Julia on their months together. The end has a heroic event for the boys, followed by a big romantic gesture.

If you need a quick, heartfelt read, this is a fantastic book. Finn thinks in miles, not time and that makes for a great new outlook on how you may perceive things. It was at times funny, at times a little sad, and more often it was just clever. If you like high school pranksters, want to read a story about a teen with a health issue that really messes with a person, or just need a nice story about friendship I would suggest this. So I would basically suggest this to anyone.

EW

The Book of Unknown Americans

The Book of Unknown Americans
By Cristina Henriquez
Knopf, 2014. 304 pgs. Fiction.

The book starts off with the Rivera family that has immigrated from Mexico when their fifteen year old daughter is in an accident. They hope by enrolling her in a special school she can heal some. She meets Mayor who falls in love with her, and then the families become friends. Then there are all the neighbors that develop relationships with each other and count on each other. The story is actually so simple in its design, as it represents just a part of every day lives for this group of people. However, the way they interact and help and care made it much more than that.

I thought this book was beautifully written and the characters, as the heart of the story, were all wonderful. There are multiple stories happening here and all of them tie in to living in the same apartment building. More importantly, they are all immigrants from Central and South America and have a rich, sometimes complex, history to share. They have all come to America for something they hope is better and something they want to accomplish. There was such strength in their passion for their families, their hopes, and the things they wanted. I really enjoyed the stories whether they were in the past or present.

EW

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

In Paradise

In Paradise
By Peter Matthiessen
Riverhead Books, 2014. 246 pages. Fiction. 

Clement Olin, a member of a group on a spiritual retreat in the famous death camp, Auschwitz, is on a personal journey to discover the Jewish mother his father abandoned at the height of World War II.

When I think of the Holocaust, my mind instantly goes to the black and white photographs that were taken of the misery and suffering the Allies took of the death camp survivors. This book, however, is not as black and white as those photographs. Like the cover of the book, the feeling from this book is a deep blue as the members of the retreat become mired in the emotions of having survived a horrific tragedy. This book does not look at the Holocaust itself, but, rather, at the way people who never experienced the Holocaust relate to it. It was a deep but beautiful book that really makes you think. There is a lot of intense language in the book.

JH

Painting Kisses

Painting Kisses
By Melanie Jacobson
Covenant Communications, 2014. 194 pages. Romance. 

When Lia Carswel flees a lucrative Manhattan art career, she determines to give up painting forever. Working in a diner and trying to support her sister through nursing school by caring for her young niece, Lia is suddenly given a commission for a series of paintings that will make all their financial troubles disappear. But is she willing to go back to a profession that hurt her so badly?

This is a fun book by Jacobson. I found it interesting that, while the book is published by an LDS book publisher, the characters are not LDS and there is no mention of the Mormon church anywhere. The characters are intriguing and she puts just enough mystery into Lia's flight from Manhattan to keep you reading to find out what really happened. This was a nice light read, something you'll enjoy on a Saturday afternoon, wrapped in a warm blanket and sipping a cup of hot chocolate.

JH

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Didn't Come Here to Make Friend: Confessions of a Reality Show Villan

Cover image for I didn't come here to make friends : confessions of a reality show villainI Didn't Come Here to Make Friend: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain
By Courtney Robertson
It Books, 2014. 272 pgs. Non-Fiction

I must first give the disclaimer that I am a) embarrassed I  read this book, and b) that I read this book because it is about a reality show I watch that I'm embarrassed to admit I watch . . . The Bachelor (and Bachelorette while I'm being honest). I am new to watching Bachelor franchise shows, so I did not see the season where Courtney Robertson earned the title of 'the Black Widow', and the most heinous villain of reality TV through her snarky comments and inability to get along with the other girls; but ultimately won the heart and proposal of bachelor Ben. But I still wanted to read it to get the inside scoop on how the process works, and if it's 'real' or not.

Courtney tells all, and gives details on the whole process and does ultimately confess that it was very real, and that she did fall in love. She also gives a lot of explanations for her actions during the show, the aftermath of said actions when the show aired, and all the gory details of her prolonged break up with Ben. All in all it was a quick, fluffy, guilty pleasure read that I tore through in one sitting. There is some mature content as Courtney does not spare any details on her relationship with Ben and previous boyfriends.

ZB

Little Blue Lies

Little Blue Lies
By Chris Lynch
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014. 240 pgs. Young adult.

This book was just simple and cute. It was funny and clever, and Lynch created two lovable characters in their frustration of being teenagers and apart. The writing was quickly paced and witty with a somewhat tense underlining story, but not too serious. Even the secondary characters are hilarious. The book ends with just a nice bit of hope and romance, so makes it different from a lot of sad and angst filled teen books.


Oliver and Junie Blue love each other and that is the only thing that is true. They are known for their lies and exaggerations. When Junie dumps Oliver, he becomes a miserable wreck and he swear Junie is still lying. There is an organized crime family, some dog walking, and enjoyable moments throughout. Junie wants her freedom, and Oliver wants her and you'll be happy in the end.

EW

Fiendish

Fiendish
By Brenna  Yovanoff
Razorbill, 2014. 352 pgs. Young adult.

Clementine was only a child when strange and sometimes dangerous things started happening in New South Bend. When her people (called the fiendish) were blamed for the new troubles, their houses were burned to the ground to kill or run off who they could. Somehow, Clementine survived with magic and she was walled in a cellar for ten years. Of course a cute boy saves her, and Fisher takes her to her aunt. The aunt doesn't remember her, the cousin does, and then starts the real trouble of the history of the fiendish, the magic in New South Bend, and the creepy and crazy creatures down in a place called the Hollow.

The concept was interesting, but I felt like there was too much in this book. It seemed like Clementine adapted so quickly and no one questioned that she was trapped by roots in a cellar. There was a lot of jumping around with evil witches and weird happenings and I never really felt like I was understanding what was happening. I really like the idea but the pacing was just off for me. The creepy level and icky factor were awesome though.

EW

The Queen Of the Tearling

The Queen of the Tearling
By Erika Johansen
Harper, 2014. 448 pgs. Fiction.

Erika Johansen has taken an interesting turn in end of the world fiction, as this book is very much written like a historical fiction. The few mentions of technology made me remember that this book takes place far in the future after the Crossing, where royalty has left the world that is falling apart and the three nations pay duties to a fourth that creates a life of fear. Kelsea Raleigh has been raised in hiding and on her 19th birthday is supposed to take over her kingdom. She has to take the worn out Queen's guard and travel to her kingdom, and develop authority and trust among her people.

The book was fascinating to me because it had the historical appeal of kingdoms and guards on horses and taxes paid to evil men with some sword fighting and magic. There are misfits and liars as Kelsea's guards and the mystical fear of the Mortmesne ruler made me nervous for her journey. There is a lot packed in to this book and the battles and trials were exciting. This has been picked up to be a movie with Emma Watson, so read it now! The audio was great, but be warned there is swearing.

EW

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wish You Happy Forever

Wish You Happy Forever: What China's Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains
By Jenny Bowen
HarperOne, 2014. 320 pages. Nonfiction.

Independent film maker Jenny Bowen saw a movie exposing the conditions in orphanages in China and made the decision, with her husband, to save one baby girl through adoption. That one decision led to the formation of the Half the Sky Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with Chinese government officials to improve the quality of care for institutionalized children throughout China, emphasizing play, nurture, and socialization. Under Bowen's leadership and working closely with local party leaders, orphanage directors, and ayis (orphanage caregivers, literally "aunties"), the organization became one of the first foreign NGOs recognized by the Chinese government and is respected for the good they do to increase the potential of some of China's most underserved populations.

This may be my favorite book that I've read this year. Bowen has an engaging writing style and is very passionate about her cause. But, at the same time, I never felt that her message was about her - the book was all about the children. Every time I picked this book up I wanted to run out and help her build orphanages in China. The stories were sometimes very sad (the tales from the 2008 earthquake actually had me crying at my desk on my lunch break), but Bowen is not focused on the sadness but on the ability of ordinary people to make a huge difference. This is a must read for anyone who wants to see the extraordinary power of good in the world. There may have been a few instances of strong language, but they were rare enough that I couldn't even point them out.

JH

Summer State of Mind

Summer State of Mind
By Jen Calonita
Poppy, Little, Brown, and Company, 2014. 248 pages. Young adult fiction.

Ever since Harper McAllister's dad became a big-time music video producer, Harper has become a shopping machine. But her most recent credit card statement sends her dad on a mission: to find the old down-too-earth Harper. Harper is sure that she'll hate the sleepaway camp her dad went to every summer. But as she starts to let down her Camper Barbie reserves, Harper learns a lot about friendship and the things that are most important in life.

This was just a fun book about summer camp that kind of made me wish it was summer again. Calonita has created great characters - Harper is annoyingly materialistic from the beginning, but obviously has a heart of gold that shines through by the end. There isn't anything deep or significant about the book - it's just an entertaining, uplifting read that makes you feel happy. And like maybe you need to go to sleepaway camp and see what you were missing.

JH

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rumble

Rumble
By Ellen Hopkins
Margaret K McElderry Books 2014. 560 pgs. Fiction.

 Matthew Turner has had a horrible year. After his younger brother is bullied after he questions his like or dislike for girls, he commits suicide. Matthew is dropped by the friends that bullied, his family is falling apart, and he misses his brother. While trying to handle all this and still be "normal" his girlfriend of over a year starts to pull away, and the after effects of multiple events, just break Matthew completely. His dad and his mom also are strong characters in this book as they deal with a son's death and the writing is truly so honest and raw that I could not put the book down. The book handles more than just the upsetting topics as it also touches on forgiveness and accepting yourself in a way that makes the entire book worth the heartache.

Ellen Hopkins has created an amazing, lyrical book that touches on multiple sensitive subjects. This book is about teens, but due to content has been placed in the fiction section at the Provo City Library.  I think adults an mature teens that have struggles with suicide in the family, general self loathing, or loss may find this book realistic, hopeful, and touching. There is language and some sexual content but the book takes a look at religion, bullying, and struggles of being a teen in a sensitive way. This book was a very fast read and the story has been on my mind for over a month because it was a wonderful, emotional read.

EW

The Museum of Extraordinary Things

The Museum of Extraordinary Things
By Alice Hoffman
Scribner 2014. 384 pgs. Fiction.

Alice Hoffman creates a creepy, mysterious world in this fairy tale combine with historical fiction. Professor Sardie is a a mad man with a museum of weird and freakish "living wonders". His own daughter Coralie has webbed fingers and swims in a tank, able to breathe through a tube only every now and then as she holds her breath to play the part of a mermaid. Ezekiel Cohen is a photographer that shot photos at a tragic factory fire and is trying to solve a mystery of a lost girl. The stories of their journeys intertwine in a facsinating way. The story is so solid in its characters and sad, yet romantic view of Coney Island in the early 1900s.

I was enthralled by all three narrators, which included a general observer, Coralie, and Ezekiel. There is mystery and some magic, and a love story that carries this wonderful book. I enjoy most of Hoffman's books but this one was so incredibly unique I would suggest it to anyone looking for something fresh to read.

EW

Landry Park

Landry Park 
By Bethany Hagen
Penguin Group, 2014. 385 pgs. Young adult.

The recent theme of the world, post-apocalypse, needing ranks and almost becoming historical again in mansions, balls, and regency like manners is used in this book to create a struggle for a teen debutante. Madeline Landry belongs to a family that is looked as royalty and she loves her easy, rich, and socially fulfilled life. She meets a handsome guy, that although a part of her world, shows her the less fortunate and her loyalties are questioned. She wants to help those dying in the poor cities outside of her perfectly manicured home and as rebellion grows, has to make a choice.

I really liked the main characters in this teen book. I thought they were unique and they had some depth to them. I was really interested in the story line because in this dystopian like book, there are still those who have money and leave the dangerous work to people of a lower rank. I liked the blend of the fantasy that made it feel like a historical fiction.

EW

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

#16thingsithoughtweretrue

#16thingsithoughtweretrue (16 Things I Thought Were True)
By Janet Gurtler
Sourcebooks Fire, 2014. 283 pages. Young adult fiction.

As you might imply from the title, Morgan has a Twitter addiction - and it has only intensified in the months since a video of her dancing in her underwear goes viral online, making her feel ostracized at work and at school. But when her mom suddenly has heart surgery and reveals to Morgan the name of her dad who she has never met, it will take two in-person friends to travel with her to Canada to meet him. Along the way, she comes to realize that a lot of the things she had thought were true about her life were not.

This was an interesting book and Gurtler does a good job of making the characters interesting and likeable. I think she takes on a few too many plot points for my taste, but the overall effect of seeing a teenage girl reexamine her life was enjoyable. The book does have some intense language and mild sexuality.

JH


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Scared Scriptless

Scared Scriptless
By Alison Sweeney
Hyperion, 2014. 309 pages. Fiction.

A script supervisor on the hit show The Wrong Doctor, Maddy is focused on the details. And when her maybe-boyfriend (who is also her boss) enlists her to help him pitch a new reality show featuring her hometown in the mountains in California, Maddy begins to have visions of moving up into the executive producer chair. Life is good - that is, until Maddy starts to suspect that Craig has ulterior motives in pitching the show. Now Maddy has to try to keep Craig from producing a show that will cast her family in a bad light. And what will she do about Adam - the handsome new cast member who is determined to make her break her hard-and-fast rule to never date actors?

Sweeney presents a fun book about the Hollywood lifestyle with entertaining characters and an interesting plot. The narrative does sometimes get a little bogged down with the intricate details of the daily workings of producing a television show (Sweeney has acted in numerous shows herself), but after the first 50 pages or so the pace of the plot begins to pick up. The only thing that really bothered me, strangely enough, was the font used in the printing of the book, which I found very unreadable. I know that they were trying to simulate television script booklet, but I would have preferred something a little easier on the eye (literally). Other than that, it was a nice light read. Does have some language and innuendo.

JH

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet
By Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Simon & Schuster, 2014. 380 pages. Fiction.

When Bernie Su and Hank Green decided to adapt Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice for a modern audience and present it online through video blogs, they had no idea how popular their show would become. Now a winner of numerous awards, including a Primetime Emmy (a first for a web-based series), The Lizzie Bennet Diaries tells the story of grad-student Lizzie Bennet, who starts a year-long vlog as part of her thesis project, capturing the stories of her sisters, Jane and Lydia, the wealthy Bing Lee and his sister Caroline, Ricky Collins and his company's investment partner, Catherine de Burgh, and, of course, the snobby William Darcy. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet is a companion to the web series, adding new detail that Lizzie didn't share with her online audience.

Even though the book is officially a companion to the web series, it does stand alone as a story in itself (although I highly recommend watching the web series - they did a phenomenal job on it with absolutely no budget). What I liked the most about it was the way they were able to stay very true to the books while making adaptations that make it true to modern life. This is probably not going to appeal to Austen purists (the ones who want everyone in a bonnet) and those who have only watched the full-length Austen features will probably be a little shocked at how blunt Lizzie can be at times. But over all, it was an entertaining book that had all the elements of an Austen novel in a modern setting. The book does have some language and some innuendo.

Be warned: if you watch the web series, it is very, very addictive.

JH

Monday, October 6, 2014

All the Light We Cannot See


Cover image for All the light we cannot see : a novel

All the Light We Cannot See
By Anthony Doerr
Scribner, 2014. 544 pgs. Historical Fiction

This book deserves all the herald and acclaim it has received since it's publication earlier this year. All the Light We Cannot See is a sublime novel, set in WWII primarily in Germany and France as it darts back and forth between the deep interior lives of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, and Werner, an orphaned boy with a genius for mechanics whose talent is employed at a brutal Hitler Youth school. The novel is structured in a staccato back and forth between these two characters in brief, perfect bites of chapters; and also weaves between two time periods, slowly bringing the characters closer and closer to the point of perfect meeting. There is a subplot of a rare gem, The Sea of Flames, that Marie-Laure's father has been charged with protecting; and a radio program that turns to a resistance tool, both of which serve to unearth both the animal and human in the characters.

Doerr infuses the novel with searching questions about what we all do in extreme situations, and how to interpret the atrocities of war against the background of the antiquity of the earth, without being overt or dogmatic at any point. The characters are so intricately drawn that you feel them at a gut almost visceral level. The writing is so well crafted and perfectly tempered that it completely immerses you and proves a powerful tool to convey deep meaning. This is a book that profoundly moved me, and one I feel I will return to again and again.

ZB

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Skink: No Surrender

Skink: No Surrender
by Carl Hiaasen
Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.  281 pgs. Young Adult

When Richard's wild cousin Malley doesn't show up for a beach rendezvous, he's a little worried.  And then even more when she doesn't answer her phone and he finds out she told her parents she was going to early orientation at  Twigg Academy, an all-girl's school in New Hampshire. But, it turns out Twigg has no early orientation, and that Malley has run off with a guy she met on the Internet, and that she's in real trouble. In the meantime, Richard discovers a soda straw sticking out of the sand where a turtle's nest should be.  On the other end of the straw is Skink, a former Florida governor who lies in wait for turtle egg thieves, and whom everyone thinks is dead.  Together they take off after Malley and her profoundly creepy "boyfriend." As is usual with Carl Hiaasen, Skink: No Surrender is good for lots of laughs, but this story has frightening, cautionary undertones having to do with what could happen when a 14-year old girl thinks it's ok to run away with someone she met online just because her parents are bugging her. Skink, Richard, and even Malley (the dope) are memorable characters and this is a fine, fast, read for young Hiaasen fans, especially ones who need to be wised up a bit.

LW

I Heard My Country Calling: a Memoir

I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir
by James Webb
Simon and Schuster, 2014.  388 pages.  Biography

From its title one might guess James Webb's new book to be a bit hokey; it is anything but.  Webb, a   former Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, an Emmy-winning journalist, author of ten very well received books, former Secretary of the Navy, and a recently retired U.S. Senator has written a fascinating account of his life as an Air Force brat moving relentlessly with his family around the country while his father was, by turns, a pilot and and engineer working on America's cold war missiles. Webb's accounts of his years at the naval academy and then as a combat marine in Vietnam are enlightening and harrowing. His continuing relationship with his family, particularly his grandmother, gives the reader a strong sense of where his own courage, persistence, and ambition came from. On the whole, I Heard my Country Calling is a rich and rewarding narrative with one major and mystifying gap:  Webb has been married three times.  Two of his wives are briefly mentioned, and two of his six children are very briefly mentioned. Why leave out such a profoundly important part of one's life? It's a puzzlement.

LW

Friday, October 3, 2014

Flat-Out Celeste

Flat-out Celeste (Flat Out #3)
By Jessica Park
CreateSpace, 2013. 329 pages. Fiction.

While not as socially awkward as she was a few years ago, Celeste Watkins still finds fitting in at school difficult and prefers isolation to the stares she gets with her affected language and intelligence. If she can just make it to college, things will be better, she reasons. Until she meets Justin Milano, a college student who is determined to get her outside of her solitary world.

I fell in love with this series with the first book (Flat-Out Love), a chick-lit book that had a surprising amount of depth to it. This book starts two years after the first and is a lovely addition to the Watkins family story. Flat-out Matt, the second book of the series, is actually a retelling of the first book from a second perspective, so readers can choose to read Flat-out Celeste without reading Matt (which the author has warned does have sexual content), if they prefer.

Park has an amazing feel for her characters in this book and an exceptionally witty and fast-paced style of writing. The plot is light, but complex, and the characters' evolution is believable. There is some language and some sexual innuendo.

JH