Google+ Followers

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

CHILDREN OF THE JACARANDA TREE by Sahar Delijani




I found this book to be both enormously interesting and vastly disjointed.  It was difficult to follow the characters and time lines. Characters came and went with alarming frequency. Time jumped back and forth from the early days of the Iranian Revolution to the present with stops in the middle. 

My attention was immediately captured in the first few paragraphs, but then the next chapter moved to another time and place with new characters and I was left lost and wondering.  Perhaps this was the author’s intention as those same disjointed feelings were evident in each of the (many) characters.

Delijani captures the sense of loss and “disconnectedness” the characters felt as their lives were disrupted, ended and changed from moment to moment with no clear resolution in sight. The descriptions are lovely.  The characters are generally well drawn. Situations are rendered in often harrowing clarity.  However, I had a hard time with the younger generation. I couldn’t remember who the parents were or what had happened to them or worse, if I had even “met” them before. 

I wish I could say I liked this book and give it 5 stars. I wanted to..…but…..  The book needs a list of characters with notes to their relationships. A glossary would help, for example, a “manteau” was defined as a “medieval garment like a coat” in my dictionary, I’m still not clear on what kind of garment was meant.

I read this on an e-reader – perhaps not the best choice for this book. But thank you Net Galley who provided the book in exchange for this review.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

AMY FALLS DOWN by Jincy Willett



After a slow start I really found myself enjoying the witty (though very dry) humor in this book.  Amy grows on you as you discover more of her character and background.  I especially enjoyed the names of the chapters, trying to see if I could find the relationship as I read.  Another part I liked was the “topics” Amy lists as story ideas/titles. They give another clue to Amy’s persona.  Amy’s students are delightful, clearly and carefully drawn.
While the entire book is a put down of pretentious authors, it is also the story of a very human woman who has great sorrows to surmount. As is true with all good humor, there is also tragedy to provide contrast.  Willett deals well with both. (spoiler alert – Maxine’s recovery is the one deviation from  realistic outcomes in an otherwise well-paced and plotted tale.)
Anyone who enjoys a “good read” and, equally, a “bad read,” will enjoy this writer’s delight.  If you are a potential novelist, there is much food for thought. 
Book groups will have a field day with a variety of topics – truth vs fiction, honest criticism, how you see yourself as opposed to how others see you, marriage of convenience, dealing with rude/stupid/ignorant people (and being rude/stupid/ignorant yourself), personal growth and change, phobias and others.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

DEADLY STAKES by J A Jance



This is one of the better Ali Reynolds mysteries. Jance's Sheriff Brady and JP Beaumont series are consistently good. This series has been uneven.  Ali becomes in two intertwining mysteries. AJ, a teen boy, is involved with a murder when he follows his estranged father's instructions and discovers a dying woman. Chip, a prominent physician, and his girlfriend Lynn are charged with the murder of Chip's ex-wife. Family problems abound in both families - an ex-con father who suddenly has lots of cash, a mother with Alzheimers, an ex-wife preferred over the new girlfriend,  a son nearly disowned while a scheming sister is allowed to control the family fortune.  Meanwhile Ali and her "partner" rethink their relationship. 
The characters are believable, the dialogue is realistic. The pacing picks up as the tension increases.  Altogether a good read. 
I would have preferred fewer "commercials" - we really don't need to know that B has an Enterprise rental or the brand names of other products. A minor annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY by Denise Kiernan



A skillful recounting of the establishment and operation of Oak Ridge, Tennessee through the eyes of the girls (women) who worked there. The occasional interruption of the story by a companion story of the scientific working to create the atomic bomb was mildly irritating. I read an e-book before publication and there were significant errors of punctuation and numerous “lost” words. I assume these were corrected before publication.
I just bought the "real" book and would recommend that you get this and NOT the ebook. The pictures and other "extras" make a MUCH more enjoyable read. The thumbnail sketches of the "girls" helps keep the characters straight. The book bounces from girl to girl and topic to topic so the sketches are vital to an intelligent read of this book. Lots of information about a part of WWII history that is often overlooked.
The women’s stories were intimate and spared no sensibilities. I was surprised at the rampant racism – Blacks lived in “hutments” and were separated from their husbands and families while white women lived in single family houses with their husbands and families or in single sex dorms. Blacks and women were paid less than males doing the same jobs.
The strain of being separated from community and not knowing anything beyond the basics of job you did was significant. Letters both to and from parents were censored and contained so much “black out” that one parent told her daughter to not bother to write any more because her letters were simply gibberish.
Despite the restrictions what could be said even to other workers, love did find a way to bloom and recreational dances and other events were carried out. One creative woman found a way to use discarded materials to make biscuits and cornbread for workers longing for taste of home.

GULP by Mary Roach



I always learn something when I read one of Roach’s books. And I usually am laughing when I learn it!  Roach has a great (some would say twisted) sense of humor (don’t overlook the footnotes!) that enlivens a book that could be deadly dull. Never fear, Roach will entertain you even while discussing feces and other products of the human body. 
Gulp takes the subject of food and its ability to pass through the body while giving nourishment and pleasure to the human (and seventh grade boys a scintillating topic of conversation) and delves into the most intimate phases of digestion and excretion.  She finds unique and interesting studies (both legitimately scientific and the just bizarre) and explains what was learned in a way understandable to laymen. 
One thing I learned is that 90% of taste is actually smell, so the alimentary canal begins with the nose and ends with the anus (another smell!) Sorry, I couldn’t help it – that is what reading a Mary Roach book will do to you. Enjoy!