Monday, June 30, 2014

THROUGH ALICIA'S EYES

I am not a big fan of biographies or autobiographies, but when it comes to tales of the Holocaust I can't get enough of them.   Alicia: My Story is one of those books that I devoured.   I could not put this memoir down!  The way Alicia Appleman-Jurman tells her story makes you feel as if you are ther with her experiencing everything, the fear, worry, desperation.  You feel it all as  you read this book which makes it a must read.

At the young age of 13 Alicia loses her family to the Nazi regime.  She goes on the offer her courage and strength to fellow Jews with the hope that the time of tragedy would be over.  She saved the lives of thousands because of her courage, strength and hope through her fears.  When her family is caputed Alicia manages to escape the Nazi's grasp and flees into the woods and fields.  Alongher journey she encounters other Jews escaping and hiding from the Nazi soliders.  As a young teenager she witnesses her own mother's murder, and endures being emotionally and physically deprived. She knows she must endure to survive, not only for herself but for her people.  Where does she find this strength?  Through her faith.

I have to say this was the most compelling memoirs I have read to date. It is eaisly comparableto Elie Wiesel's Night.  Alicia Appleman-Jurman puts her words to paper and makes them come to life.  One can feel the sorrow, despair, fear, and hope as she speaks about horrors she had to endure as a young woman.  This woman, risked her life to help save the lives of many others.  Her story touches your heart and stays with you long after reading the novel.  Her words captivate you and compell you to read farther, to see how she endured and inspires her readers.  Appleman-Jurman brings her story to life and brings into her readers world.  She breaks down many ideals and enhances the strength that having hope and trusting in your faith can provide.

After reading this novel, your life will not be the same, you will not view your struggles in the same light. If there is one book that everyone should read at one point in their lifetime it would be this memoir.

Pros: Holds nothing back, tells the story as it happened
Cons: Very emotional story will bring you to tears.

Bottom Line: Everyone should read this novel.  It gives a new insight to the things that occurred during this terrible time in history.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 27, 2014

DANTE CLUB

Matthew Pearl's first novel is an interesting read.  He takes a literary masterpiece such as Dante's Inferno and adapts it to a mystery novel.  A killer is on the loose, but his style of killing revolves mysteriously around newly translated portions of Dante's Inferno.  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes and James Russell Lowell team up with 19th-century publisher J.T. Fields band together to try and find out who this mystery killer is.  The chase takes readers throughout 19th century Boston and through gruesome murder scenes.  Many have said this bold debut of Matthew Pearls represents a fresh approach to to the familiar who-dunnit novels.  Pearl takes the popular genre of novels and adds a twist with another literary master: Dante Aligherri.

Many who know of the literary world are weary of the use of the fireside poets as investigators of horrendous murders.  While the idea is a risk, Matthew pulled it off in a marvelous way.  Matthew has a talent for being very detailed and his imagry is like no other author I have read.  It felt as if I was walking the street of Boston at that time looking for the murderer myself.  "The Dante Club" has been categorized as historical fiction because of his use of literary masters as well as historical aspects of Boston in the 1800's.  Matthew Pearl has opened the doorways and expectations for his work.  "The Dante Club" is an excellent novel to start out with for Pearl's writing career.  It sets the stage for what we can expect in subsequent novels of his.

While there are many things to praise on this novel there are some things that could be altered.  The storyline is slow to start, while there is a lot of action and description, there can be too much.  Granted his descriptions are remarkable and he goes in depth with the descriptions to make his readers feel as if they are a part of the story, but there are moments within the story that the description takes away from the story.

  Pros: I enjoyed how it follows Dantes circles of Hell
Cons: Can get pretty graphic at times

Bottom Line: Pearl takes an interesting twist to the classic Inferno and uses it as a base for a murder mystery.  It is well worth the read.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Monday, June 23, 2014

TV GODS


Can you imagine what it would be like if the world of television was overtaken by the gods and goddesses of all the different pantheons?  What would the shows be like with these gods and goddesses running them and/or even starring in them?   Well you will find out in TV Gods, a collection of short stories written by a group of talented authors with interesting ideas on how these deities would effect television as we know it.
There are some stories that became my favorites off the bat: Hades Acres is one of them.  Many of us remember Green Acres; country boy marries uptown city girl and takes her out the country and hilarity ensues.  This version has a new take on Hades and Persephone after they have married, before he agrees to let her leave the underworld during the summers.  It even has its version of the opening theme right before the story begins.  I admit I sang the song. It is a funny take on how Persephone convinced Hades to let her out of the Underworld.  Imagine the River Styxx a pretty pink!  Some other stories I honestly forget their titles (I apologize).  One revolves around an episode of Law and Order the characters could hear and get annoyed with the ‘Doink doink” that we all associate with the show.

It was evident that the authors of each story did their homework and knew personalities that have been associated with the deity they used for their story, right down to the story that involved various creatures and spirits like a Kitsune.  Each story was so well done that while they each had their own style and themes, the stories each flowed together in a way that I have not seen in other collections with multiple authors.  You will find yourself wanting to read the next story and the next until you realize that you finished the book in one sitting.
Pros: Many different stories, but the all flow together.  Interesting take on different deities.
Cons: Slight, small grammatical errors, easily to look pass them.

Bottom Line:  BUY THIS BOOK
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A CHILLING TALE: THIRTEENTH TALE

I have never read a book that I have never wanted to put down.  There have been books I wanted to finish but The Thirteenth Tale I just could not put down, I was reading it all the time, at work, on the beach, in the tub, before bed.  It was hard not to want to see what was going to happen in the story and where Diane Setterfield would take her characters and story.

Margaret Lea is a girl on the outside.  Biographer by trade she is haunted by her past, the lose of a twin sister.  She is content writing biographies of people already past.  So it's no wonder when she receives a letter from Vida Winter, a prestegious author famous for her twelve thrilling stories.  Everything Vida has told has been a story, always different always elusive.  Now as she nears the end of her life she is ready to tell the truth, the thirtheenth tale.  And she wants Margaret to write it.  Vida weaves a tale featuing a beautiful Isabelle, feral twins, a governess, a beautiful garden, a ghost and a fire that changes everything.

From the very beginning Diane setterfield draws readers in and enthralls them with the letter from Vida.  Her words draw in you in as original.  She creates a story line unlike any I have read before. This novel could and should be made into a movie,and Hollywood still wouldn't be able to mess the story up.  The story is both eerie and fascinating as you read farther and learn more of the twins Adeline and Emmeline.  You try to figure the story out and figure what is going on and where it is going.  But when you find out the truth you are blown away,and ending you never expect.

Setterfield creates remarkable characters in Margaret Lea, the young woman who feels the constant presence of her twin sister who died at birth.   Vida Winter, a mysterious author who is relucant to tell her story, but at the same time wants the truth to be told.  John the Dig, the loveable gardener who appears as a father figure.  The mysterious ghost singing in the garden or causing havoc on the household. As well as the mysterious Aurelius who holds mystery in and of himself.  Her story is complete with minor characters who hold power within the story such as Tom and Emma, two young children Margaret meets while on a walk.

Setterfield does an amazing job of blending the stories together.  While she tells one story of Margaret listening to the story and learning to accept the truth of not only Vida's past but her own; she includes the mysterious thirteenth tale of Vida's past and the truth to who the woman really is and where her stories originate.  The way she describes the scenery and people makes you feel as if you are there while everything is happening.  The story doesn't get bog down by these details, but is only enhanced by them.

Setterfield creates a story that lasts with readers long after they have finsihed the book.  I think I might have to reread the novel again after writing this up. I thouroughly enjoyed reading this novel and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good mystery and is willing to wait to find out the truth.  Every word could hold the key and clues to learning the true mystery that lies in Angelfield.

Pros: Plot twists you never see coming, intriguing characters
Cons: Some aspects might be difficult to read about

Bottom Line: Not your typical mystery novel.  It goes farther and deeper than you would ever expect.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

GREEN

I have to say this author is one of my favorites, I am on a mission to get every single one of his books.  He has a dynamic within his books that are like no other.  I admit I read this book before I began the Circle Trilogy.  You are supposed to be able to begin the series with any one of the four books and it all loops together, but I think you can only start it with either Green: book 0 or Black: Book 1.  That being said, I enjoyed reading this book as a prequel.  It set the idea of what would be going on and explained a little bit about the world Tom Hunter goes into before being thrown into it with Black, even though Black does a great job of describing things.

The basis is that Thomas Hunter can travel between two worlds through his dreams, our world and another,each having an affect on the other.  In Green the Circle in Thomas' world is collapsing because Elyon (God figure) has not been present for years.  Things get worse when Thomas' own son Samuel begins to doubt his father and the faith they held onto and the temptations of both world begin to pull and tug at him.  He goes to the point of gathering forces to fight Thomas in a battle that could destroy the Circle and possibly their own world.

Green has it moments that makes you wonder how it fits in with the other books, and motivates readers to go out and get the series to see how everything loops around in a full circle.  There isn't as much descriptive segments as readers are used to with Ted Dekker's works.  It may seem there is references to vampire folk-lore in this novel with some of the evil characters having aspects of drinking blood.  With this series and others there is a sense of the world being made flesh, meaning the evils and goods of the world are given physical manifestations.

For me Ted is known to make his readers think about their own lives and while I read this I took a look at my own life and wondered what aspects do I doubt and how it could harm my own walk with God.  One thing I love about Ted Dekker and his writing is that his characters fall in deep valleys of struggling and despair.  That happens in a daily walk with God so why shouldn't his characters experience the same things?

 .
             
Pro:  Hooks you into the story from the beginning.
Con: Different style than some of Dekker's other novels

Bottom Line:  Personally I enjoyed this book and can't wait to read the other books in the series.

Rating 4 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BORN OF ICE

Born of Ice is the third book in Kenyon's The League series, beginning with Born of Night, and Born of Fire.  In this novel we look into the life of Devyn Kell.  Thoughout his life her served as doctorto the League until he came face to face with the backstabbing that cause innocent people to lose their lives.  Dev pledges to not fall into the ruthless acts of the League and becomes a runner; one who supplies planets with supplies they need to survive, and fight.  He is not known to have mercy on those who come in way.  On the other hand ins Alix who is being forcedto find evidence to bring Devyn down, she begins to work for him and finds out everything she heard about him is wrong.  She finds the one man she an respect and possibly love.  But her past and his enemies rear their ugly heads and threaten their very lives.  Devyn and Alix can either fight together or die on the own.

Sherrilyn opens the door to a whole new world with The League series. A world where assassins rule the universe and don't care whose life is lost in the mean time.  She paints a ruthless world where one needs to constantly watch their backs in order to survive, and forget about trusting other people.  Again she creates characters that readers find it hard not to fall in love with and have compassion for them.  Her writing is very vivid and descriptive.  I have been anxiously waiting for another installment to the League series.   Her characters in both series: Dark Hunters and The League seem to have some of the same characteristics such as appearing to be a "bad boy" and a sense of danger to them and of course beyond  sexy and desireable.  Born of Ice is full of action with the fights with the League, Alix's past coming back to haunt her, as well as the romance between Alix and Devyn. Definitely an amazing book to read before bed.

Pros: Memorable characters, storyline you don't want to stop reading
Cons: Nothing at all

Bottom Line: Compelling story needs to be added to any romance collection
Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, June 8, 2014

TWIST TO A CLASSIC TALE

We all know the classic tale of Red Riding Hood and the big bad wolf.  This tale however a different take on that classic tale.  One of the biggest things I did not like was that the ending to the book was not included.  Why read a book if you cannot get the ending?  Why buy an incomplete book?  It doesn’t make sense.

After Valerie’s sister is killed, her world spirals out of control.  The wolf has been kept at bay for generation with a sacrifice each month.  But we all know that no one is ever safe, the desire for a kill is never satisfied with a mere goat.  After a professional wolf hunter arrives in the village, they all learn that the wolf creature is one of them.   How can they tell who the beast is?  Unfortunately for Valerie, she can hear the voice of the wolf; who tells her she needs to sacrifice herself or else everyone she holds dear will die.  What will Valerie decide?  Will she find out who the wolf truly is?


Unless you go to the website and read the last chapter there, you will not find out the answer to those questions.  Not being able to read the end of the book is probably the biggest downfall and let down to the book.  It makes me glad I borrowed the book from the library instead of purchasing it.  That aside, the story was well written and an interesting take on the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.  You don’t know what to expect to happen in the story or where the storyline is going to take you.  The love story seemed a little out of place at first but then starts to make sense as you get closer to the end and formulate your own theories. 

Henri seems a little out of place in the story.  He seems to try a little too hard to get Valerie to notice him and accept his proposal for marriage.  Peter is just the brooding character that at times pushes Valerie away, but then turns around and tries to pull her close.  He is a very confusing character, but one that you cannot help but like.  Valerie you can’t help but like.  She is an ordinary girl who struggles with love and the uncertain.  The story itself kept you wanting to read more, kept you hanging unable to put it down.  There always seemed to be something around the corner waiting to happen, and I am sure the authors wanted it that way.  It gives the feel that the village is being watched and is waiting for the right time to pounce.

Pros: Interesting take of an old story
Cons: No ending, need to go online to read the end

Bottom Line:  It is an interesting tale if you like a different spin on classic stories.  It is very different from what we know.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars, simply because there is no ending in the book.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

KITCHEN GOD'S WIFE

Amy Tan is probably one of top favorite authors. I love the way she writes and that all of her stories deal with Chinese traditions in one form or another and Kitchen God’s Wife is no different. Tan opens with a daughter who dislikes the traditions/superstitions about luck, criticisms, and fearfulness of her mother. She fears telling her mother a secret and then learns her mother holds a few secrets of her own. The Kitchen God’s Wife explores the relationship between mother and daughter and the things that can make them drift apart throughout the years.

This is a great story of two friends who know each others secrets: Winnie and Helen. Helen is slowly dying and wants to reveal all of her secrets. Winnie stressed that Helen needs to tell her daughter Pearl everything as opposed to someone else revealing them.  This story is Helen’s life being exposed, her life from a small island on the outside of Shanghai through life in China during World War 2. The story is mixed with happiness and sadness that leads to her coming to America in 1949. While the story follows Helen’s life in the past it is a story of the relationship amongst families, focusing on mothers and daughters, which is a common theme in many of Tan’s work.


One aspect that I enjoyed within this novel is that it starts out in Pearl’s viewpoint, but then it switches over to Winnie’s view and ends with Pearl’s new insight on her mother and her family. Amy Tan’s writing is rich with emotion, and picturesque descriptions that you can almost smell the rice cakes she describes, or almost see the island Helen lived on. With that said, throughout the story there is struggle, heartache and pain that you begin to feel for the main female character which is Helen. You feel the pain she goes through as she describes it.

Tan is known for taking words and weaving them into a compelling story that draws her readers in. I did find in some parts the story to be lacking and seemed to just drag on, but there were also points where I could not put the novel down it was too interesting. If you are someone who enjoys a fast paced book that flies through the story, this is not the novel for you. It takes time to develop the story, almost to the point where you begin to wonder when the story will begin to develop.

I have read a few of Amy Tan's work and while this is not my all time favorite, but it is not one of my least favorites.  There is a lot within this novel to learn from not just the history story, but the relationship of mother and daughter, or rather family in general.  We may try to think of what our family members are thinking, but can never know what all they have been through.

If you are a fan of Amy Tan, then you should read this novel.  She does a wonderful job with this novel, and it is a great addition to any library. Any Amy Tan novel is a must read.



Pros: Interesting characters and storyline, great history behind characters
Cons: Can have moments of slow pace, too familiar theme
Bottom Line: This is one of my favorite Amy Tan novel and think it should be among everyone's to read list.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 2, 2014

RISE OF THE EVENING STAR

Rise of the Evening Star is the second novel in the Fablehaven series. We pick up with Kendra and Seth after they have returned to school after saving Fablehaven. Another year has passed and the school year is ending, when oddly enough there is a new student. All the girls in Kendra's class see him as a gorgeous boy whom they all begin to fight over. But Kendra sees him differently, he looks gruesome and disguisting to her. She soon learns his a creature known as a kolbold from a man who claims to know Grandpa Sorenson. He also oddly enough knows a lot about Kendra and what happened at Fablehaven the year before. This man, Errol, asks the kids for help to retrieving a stolen item. They soon learn he is not to be trusted and are once again whisked away to Fablehaven which is in need of their help once again.

We once again meet character we learned to love in the first novel, but we also meet new character who we will grow to love as well: Tanu, Coultier, and Vanessa. We view new forms of magic; I enjoyed seeing the use of other magic within the novel like Tanu's potions to recreate emotions, that was a nice addition to the story. True to nature, Seth gets himself into some trouble even though he tries so hard to be helpful. One thing I wasn't too sure if I liked was how helpless Kendra came off. She didn't seem to be able to think on her own and did things that others told her to do or things she felt were the "safe" way to do things. In the first novel she was more risky, reckless in some of her actions such as going to the Fairy Queen. This novel, she doesn't really do much that is seen as reckless. I think we need to see more of that in her character again. More of her taking risks to protect those she loves.

Mull does an excellent job at creating story that not only will children enjoy, but adults as well. There were moments when I couldn't set the novel down because all I wanted to do was read more and find out what would happen next. He does a wonderful job at keeping the world of Fablehaven alive and well. He makes it something can feel exists in reality not just in the novels. The characters Mull creates have strengths and weakness, abilities/talents and flaws. He makes them feel more personable and more tangible.

This is one of those novels that I think would get kids interested in reading again, much like Harry Potter did. While he enters the fantasy world he does it in his own way and creates something we haven't read yet. He can hold his own against some of the fantasy powerhouse series like Harry Potter and Mortal Instruments. I would love to see this series as a movie.

Pros: Lots of action in this novel, much like the last.  
Cons: Doesn't seem to have the same feel/tone as the first novel did.
Bottom Line: The series is a great series and the second books does not disappoint. Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.