Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Friday, January 19, 2018

Book Review: The Kitchen God's Wife

Today I share the review I wrote at this afternoon about The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan.  See you tomorrow.

 The Kitchen God's WifeThe Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's true what people say about Amy Tan: She's one grand storyteller! This is the second novel that I've read of hers. I admit it has been sitting on my shelf for several years. When I first bought it, I read several pages and put it down because the conflicting relationship between the daughter and mother was so relatable. I didn't think I could handle the story.

So years later, nearly 2 years after my mom's spirit soared into the universe, I picked up the novel. When I finally went beyond the first few chapters, I was surprised to see that the main story was about Winnie's (the mother) life in China during WWII. She is telling her story of heartbreaking secrets to her daughter because Winnie's best friend, Helen, who lived through much of the past with Winnie, has stated that she, Helen, is dying and can no longer keep Winnie's secrets. If Winnie does not tell her daughter, she Helen will.

The story of Winnie is as I said heartbreaking, but it is also one of strength, perseverance, hope, and being brave to take opportunities when they come. She reminded me of my mom.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Five Book Reviews for My 2015 Reading Challenge

I love reading books. Writing book reviews, not so much. I tell myself it's good for me to write them for my 2015 Reading Challenge. Discipline and all that. Of which, I have been finding the time to read for pleasure more regularly. Yay! for that. Boo! though, as a couple of the books I've read don't fit any category. This may mean another level of discipline—finding books that do match the challenge categories. I'll think about it.

Anyway, today, I give you four reviews. Just so you and the FCC know: Should you click on the Amazon links and happen to purchase anything there, Amazon may reward me with a bit of change.

A book with magic

As I read The Game by Laurie R. King, I traveled back to the Flapper Age, wandering around India with 60-ish Sherlock Holmes and his much younger wife Mary Russell.  The couple was sent there by Mycroft, brother of Sherlock, to find the 50-ish missing spy Kim O'Hara, the once-upon-a-time young boy about whom Rudyard Kipling wrote.  Sherlock and Mary disguise themselves as traveling Beduoins, who do a little magic show wherever they stop. Along the way, they are "adopted" by a young boy who helps them complete their mission. They eventually head to an Indian kingdom bordering Afghanistan that is ruled by a rather eccentric and cruel man who has ideas of taking over all of India.

The Game is the seventh of 13 titles in King's Russell and Holmes suspense series. This is the third one that I've read and it won't be the last. I just love how Sherlock and Mary roll their eyes as people fawn over Sherlock and ask about the stories that Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Watson wrote about him. I've never been interested in reading the Tales of Sherlock Holmes, even after enjoying the movies with Robert Downey, Jr. and watching the TV series Elementary every week. But, after finishing The Game, I now want to read Doyle's books.

A book based entirely on its cover 

Mrs. Kormel is Not Normal! by Dan Gautman is a fun, quick and easy read. It ought to be as it's the level between an easy reader and a middle school book. This book is part of Gautman's My Wierd School series, in which each title features one of the adults working at Ella Mentry School. Don't you just love the name of that school?

Mrs. Kormel is an Ella Mentry School bus driver who has her own secret language. When kids get on her bus, she greets them with "Bingle boo!" and when kids stand on their seats, Mrs. Kormel shouts at them to "Limpus kidoodle!" and they do.

The story is about the day that Mrs. Kormel and the kids go pick up a new kid somewhere off their normal route to school. Do they ever make it to school on time for show and tell, the math quiz, lunch, or the stuff after lunch?

A book from your childhood

Why did I let so many decades go by before reading Pierre: A Cautionary Tale in Five Chapters and a Prologue by Maurice Sendak? I love this very short tale that cuts to the chase so quickly, vividly, and, yes, enchantingly. The story is not unlike Aesop's The Boy Who Cried Wolf. That's all I'm saying.

A Memoir

I thought Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan was a novel when I checked it out at my local library. A few pages in, I realized it was a memoir. Corrigan has breast cancer and to her surprise she can only find comfort in her mom. She's surprised because Corrigan had one of those classic love-hate mom-daughter relationships when she was young. Corrigan tells us about that relationship and how she came to realize how much she was like her mother when she worked as a nanny as a young woman in Australia. Corrigan wrote about her memories with humor and love.

A book set in a different country

The Vanishing Thief is the first book in Kate Parker's series A Victorian Bookshop Mystery. I enjoyed it so much that after I finished it, I promptly searched the web for the next title, which ought to be in my mailbox in the next 10 business days.

The story is set in the latter years of the Victorian age in London. Georgia Fenchurch, the main character, owns a bookstore that she inherited from her parents who were murdered over 10 years ago. Georgia has vowed to find her parents murderer and, wouldn't you know it, after 10 years, she has sighted the murderer on a bus. Finding her parents' murderer is the subplot.

The main plot is finding a missing man who has managed to mingle with the upper class even though he is not. Georgia does her investigation as part of a secret group called the Archivist Society, which is known both by the London police force and the well-to-do. There are an interesting bunch of twists and turns to the tale, including the fact that the missing man has been blackmailing several upper class families. There is also a handsome duke who may have abducted the missing man and who is attracted to Georgia and she to him. He reminds me of the Beast in the Beauty and the Beast. Maybe they'll kiss in the next book.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Atta Girl, Jane Eyre!

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen used to be Numero Uno on my all-time list of favorite books. Then, a few years ago, I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And, just like that, after 40-some years, Pride and Prejudice became number two. 

So, what took me so long to read Jane Eyre

I was introduced to the novel in seventh grade when our English class watched the 1943 movie starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine. Until I watched the 2006  BBC series of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, I had no idea that Jane Eyre had a lot of gumption, courage, desire, determination, and smarts. Ms. Fontaine's portrayed Jane as meek and overpowered by the selfish Rochester. Then after I saw the 2011 film of Jane Eyre, starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, I finally decided to read the novel. 

Wowza! I love Jane. She stands up to Rochester from the moment she meets him to the moment they finally reunite. Rochester is a fortunate man because he has Jane's love. I admire Jane for the way she keeps moving forward, without bitterness,  no matter how tough life gets.  Atta Girl, Jane Eyre!

At last year's county fair, I entered a dry flower arrangement under the book title category, illustrating Jane on the moor, where she wandered about grieving after leaving Rochester when she learned he was married. That's the entry in the photo above. Yup, bits of moss and lichen glued to two rocks. This passage from Chapter 28 in Jane Eyre accompanied the entry.
...There are great moors behind and on each hand of me...The population here must be thin, and I see no passengers on these roads: they stretch out east, west, north, and south -- white broad, lonely; they are all cut in the moor, and the heather grows deep and wild to their very verge....
   I stuck straight into the heath: I held on to a hollow I saw deeply furrowing the brown moorside; I waded knee-deep in its dark growth; I turned with its turnings, and finding a moss-blackened granite crag in a hidden angle, I sat down under it....
Jane is barely visible in the photo. So, here's another a photo of when I was putting together the arrangement. Jane is represented by that rolled piece of blue denim as her cape and a red bit of fabric for her bonnet.

In case, you all of a sudden want to purchase a copy of Jane Eyre, rather than head to your local library, here's a link to Amazon. By the way, should you purchase anything at Amazon via this link, I may be given a few pennies for the referral.  FCC wants you to know that, as do I.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

#3 Book Review for My 2015 Reading Challenge

On Sunday night, I read The Happy Hollisters, being that it was published in the year I was born (1953), a category in my 2015 Reading Challenge. The Happy Hollisters was the first of the 33 titles of the Happy Hollisters series written by Andrew E. Svenson, under the guise of Jerry West.

I had bought the book several years ago at our local thrift store on a whim, because I was born and raised in Hollister, California and now living in Hollister again. As a kid, I remember seeing the series at the public library, but I bypassed the Happy Hollisters for the Nancy Drew series. If I had known that the Hollisters solved mysteries, I may have become a fan way back when.

I like the Hollister kids, from 4-year old Sue, to 6-year old Holly, 7-year old Ricky, 10-year old Pam, and 12-year old Peter. Each character has lots of positive energy and common sense.  One of the things I like about the Hollister kids is how they feel bad after doing something wrong, apologize, and seek to make amends. I also like how the kids take care of each other.  For instance, when one of the older kids sees Sue playing near the lake, he tells her that she should not go near there without an adult. The more I think about the characters and theirs actions, the more I see how the author had unintentionally taught the readers about personal responsibility, self-initiative, courtesy, respect, and other positive values.

Okay, the plot. The story starts with the Hollisters moving to a new town where Mr. Hollister has bought a hardware/sports goods/toy store. All of the children's toys have been packed in the smaller of two moving vans that never arrives at their new home. Mystery #1: What has happened to the van?  When they find the van, it's empty, which leads to mystery #2: What has happened to their toys?  Mystery #3 is even bigger: Someone is coming into their new home every night. Who is the prowler? What does he/she want? How is he/she coming in?

All the Hollister kids are involved in unraveling the mysteries, with Peter and Pam taking the lead. In every chapter, something is happening, and it's not always about solving mysteries. For instance, in one chapter, the kids build a dog cart so that the Hollisters' dog, Zip, can give them rides. In another chapter, Pam and Holly go rowing on the nearby lake, loose their oars, and float to the island in the middle of the lake. There, Holly falls into quicksand and Pam quickly brainstorms ways to save her sister.

Reading this book got me into the mood to read more childrens' books. When I was at the library yesterday,  I picked up several books in the children's section. So, stay tuned for more children's book reviews.

Note: FCC and you need to know that the link leads to Should you click it and happen to purchase anything there, Amazon may reward me with a bit of change. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

#2 Book Review for My 2015 Reading Challenge

Thug Kitchen is written by Matt Holloway and Michelle Davis, who are 29-year-olds, hence I can cross A book written by someone under 30 off my 2015 Reading Challenge

If swearing bothers you, walk by this cookbook, because a lot of f-bombs and sh-words are dropped. The title had me open the cover at the bookstore, but it was the novelty of the cussing that drew me into flipping through the book. There was nothing new under the sun for me. I know how to roast garlic, for instance. But, what  impressed me was that the authors offered recipes like the ones I make up and not make again because I can't remember what I did. Maybe I cook like someone under 30.

I left the bookstore without the cookbook, but I kept thinking about the intriguing recipes such as ginger-mushroom summer rolls, cauliflower cream pasta,  spicy plantain chips, and lemony red lentil soup. A couple weeks later when I was choosing books online for my birthday gifts, I thought, "Why not?" I needed inspiration for making more vegetable dishes.

About halfway through the book,  I realized that Thug Kitchen is a vegan cookbook. I guess the cursing is a gimmick to get people to eat their vegetables.  Anyway, I can easily adapt many of the recipes to include eggs, cheese, or other animal protein if I want to. Maybe I will somewhere down the road.

Fruit salad smoothie, anyone? How about almond Caesar salad, or, perhaps, whipped cream made with coconut milk?

Note: FCC and you need to know that the link leads to Should you click it and happen to purchase anything there, Amazon may reward me with a bit of change.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

#1 Book Review for My 2015 Reading Challenge

Five days into the 2015 Reading Challenge, I can cross off my first item —a mystery of thriller. Whooo-hooo!

Queen of Hearts is the eighth book in the Royal Spyness Mysteries series by Rhys Bowen.  This is one of three mystery series that I look forward to reading the latest stories. Bowen's Royal Spyness Mysteries  is set primarily in London in the 1930s. The protagonist is Georgie, the great grandaughter of Queen Victoria. She would become queen should King George and the 33 heirs before her were to die all of a sudden. So, it's very unlikely.

Georgie's formal name is Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie. Her father, the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch, gambled all family's fortune away, so Georgie is broke. Because she's of royalty, she can't make a living for herself although she has tried. In the first book (and maybe the second, I can't remember), she secretly worked as a maid. Queen Mary likes Georgie and often sends for her to do some bidding, such as monitoring the behavior of the queen's son, the Prince of Wales, at a party in which Mrs. Simpson would be there. Georgie doesn't like to do it, but how can you say no to the queen.

In Queen of Hearts, Bowen does something different. Instead of basing Georgie's adventure around her royal family, Bowen has Georgie accompanying her glamorous stage actress of a mother to America, where her mom plans to get a secret divorce in Reno in order to marry her rich German lover. While crossing the Atlantic, Georgie's mom meets a fellow actress and her lover, the big-time movie director Cy Goldman. Both convince the mother to go to Hollywood to take part in Goldman's movie. The intrigue begins when an Indian princess' ruby is stolen and Georgie thinks she saw someone go overboard. Until the ruby went missing, Georgie learns that her boyfriend Darcy is on board to follow the trail of a thief for Scotland Yard.

The tension gets turned further up when Georgie, Mom, Goldman, Darcy, and a bunch of others stay at Goldman's fake castle on a hillside along the Pacific Coast. Goldman is killed and the killer is one of the guests. Was it Goldman's lover? His wife? One of the actors?  By the way, anyone who has been, or knows about, Hearst Castle will recognize it as the model for Goldman's castle. Garish rooms are decorated with historical furniture, carpets, and such; Olympic size pools grace the grounds; and giraffes and other exotic animals wander here and there.

This was not my favorite title in the series, but I enjoyed it. I got three-quarters through the book before I flipped to the last chapters to find out who the killer was. No harm done. The ending didn't make sense until I went back and read forward again.

Note: FCC and you need to know that the link leads to Should you click it and happen to purchase anything there, Amazon may reward me with a bit of change. 

Note: FCC and you need to know that because the link leads you to, and should you happen to purchase anything there, I may get a bit of change for my effort of referring you to the products available at Amazon.  - See more at:
Note: FCC and you need to know that because the link leads you to, and should you happen to purchase anything there, I may get a bit of change for my effort of referring you to the products available at Amazon.  - See more at:
Note: FCC and you need to know that because the link leads you to, and should you happen to purchase anything there, I may get a bit of change for my effort of referring you to the products available at Amazon.  - See more at:

Monday, September 19, 2011

2011 Cozy Book Challenge

How many book challenges did I sign up for at the beginning of the year?  Whatever was I thinking? Oh, yeah, that I could and would read books for pleasure, at the same time as I'm doing research crazily about 500,000 different professions. hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Yeah, I'm hysterical. No, serious, I am hysterical.

I started off fine. If you were to look at my book list,  you'd see I've read a dozen so far. C'est la vie.
Just the fact that I piled up all the books that I want to read, rather than scattered throughout our space is a win for me. And, for the husband. Poor guy. Once upon a time he organized and managed a very large warehouse of paper and office supplies for a California state agency. It was very clean and orderly. It in fact rivaled the cleanliness of the Mama's garden. (The woman picks up leaves and sweeps the ground every day that it's not raining. )

What was I talking about? Book challenges, yeah. There is one I did complete: The Cozy Book Challenge.   I said I would read seven to 10 mysteries before the end of September. Every time I finished a mystery, I set it at the top of the stairs, thinking I'd write a brief review about it. hahahahahahahahaha.

But, look, that's what I'm going to do right now. Yep. Maybe I'll get another bookmark for completing it. I wouldn't mind. I actually use the one I got last year. Hey, that's another win for me, since it hasn't yet fallen into some crack never to be seen again.

Okay, so enough distraction already. . . . Uhm, okay, so some (cough) most of these books weren't on my 2011 Reading List.

The Clovis Incident by Pari Noskin Taichert
I bought this book in Albuquerque four years ago because she was a local Albuquerque author. The book is now with a  friend with a request that it eventually come back to me.  I want to read it again. The protagonist is self-employed public relations specialist and she's trying to keep herself from being extra-sensitive to the spiritual world. A visiting Chinese man was killed, but his soul is stuck until the main character can solve the crime. She's in a dilemma of having to solve it because her close friend is accused of murdering him.

The Clue of the Broken Locket
by Carolyn Keene. It's your usual Nancy Drew story. She's all confident about what's what, while her two girlfriends, George and Bess, are not. For some reason, Nancy and her friends have driven up to a far away lodge. They keep running into a woman who seems to have a split personality and  who eventually becomes the mystery they need to solve. Nancy's boyfriend, Ned, and his two friends show up to help the girls figure it out.  They're also nincompoops compared to Nancy.

Farewell, Miss Zukas by Jo Dereske. The Miss Zukas series is one of my favorite series. This, alas, is the last tale in the series. Helma Zukas is a public librarian in a town near Seattle. Her sidekick is Ruth, a rabid artist. They are like night and day to each other. It works. The author ties everything up nicely, exactly how I hoped the main characters would end up. In this final adventure, the mystery evolves around Helma's elderly great-aunt and the keepsake in her box that had been stolen. The secondary stress line for Helma is the fact that she finally said "Yes" to the Police Chief's proposal.

Acceptable Loss
by Anne Perry. The Monk and Hester series is another favorite series of mine. Monk is a London inspector who strongly believes in justice. He's one of the best detectives on the force even though he lost his memory several years before. Hester, his wife, served as a nurse in the Crimean war and a year or so ago started a safe house for prostitutes and destitute women and children in a bad part of London. It was Hester who helped Monk gradually gain confidence in himself and his abilities again. Through that all, he thought of her as a pain in the neck and so unwomanly, but yet Hester was who he would seek out to sort through his cases. It took several books before Monk realized he loved Hester. In this book, Monk and Hester want to find and arrest the owner of the boat on which orphaned boys were kept and used as play toys for the rich and famous men. Yes, Anne Perry does not shy away from disgusting criminal elements of  Victorian London. Perry also is scared to throw in complications. It is possible that the owner may be the father-in-law of Monk's and Hester's friend.

Fatally Frosted by Jessica Beck. The protagonist is a doughnut store owner and baker. This is the second story in the series, and the third is sitting in the pile. It's not so much that I like the characters as I like the doughnut recipes. I also like that sometimes Beck describes in context how to make doughnuts. Yes, I crave for doughnuts when I read this book. No, I didn't eat any. The mystery to this tale: A hated woman in town was poisoned by one of the baker's doughnuts.

Mr. Monk on the Road
by Lee Goldberg. Another protagonist named Monk. This is the same Mr. Monk of the TV series. Mr. Monk and his assistant Natalie are exactly how they were in the TV series. The book series is written in first person from the point of  Natalie. This is  the fourth or fifth book I've read in the series. It's the funniest yet. Mr. Monk, if you don't know him, has many quirks like he has to wipe his hands immediately after shaking a person's hand and that everything must be symmetrical. Natalie keeps him from going over the top. Mr. Monk was a former police detective for the San Francisco Police Department. Because of his quirks, he can't get his job back. But, because he is a dynamite detective, he is hired as a consultant. In this tale, Mr. Monk puts a sleeping pill in his brother's drink and then puts Ambrose in an RV so that the brother can see something of the world. Ambrose, you see, is an agoraphobic. This "kidnapping" is Mr. Monk's birthday present to his brother. Poor Natalie. She has to deal with two crazy brothers and the deaths that keep happening where ever they spend the night.

The Merry Wives of Maggody
by Joan Hess. I used to read this series a lot. It stars Chief Arly Hanks of the tiny town of Maggody, Arkansas. The characters are hilarious. Almost everyone in the town are Buchanans and many of them are married to each other. In this tale, the women of Maggody in all their righteous glory have decided to put on a golf tournament to help the poor golf widows. The prize is a very expensive, high powered boat. Of course, all the men of Maggody want the boat, so they've entered the tournament even though they've never played golf. Their wives are furious, so they've signed up for the tournament too. They're also unskilled in the game. Throw in the professional and almost-professional golfers, each with issues, and what do you get. A murder. I confess, I got bored halfway through, so went to the end and read backwards. I guessed right about the events.

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara. This is a beautifully written tale. It's a voice and style I rarely come across. Hirahara weaves fact and fiction quite well. The main character is Mas, a second generation Japanese American who spent his childhood in Hiroshima, Japan. He was there when the bombs were dropped. The mystery centers around Mas and his two friends who were together at the moment. In present day, someone is trying to find one of those friends, but it turns out that he was the one who died the day of the bombings. So, who is the one impersonating the dead man? Mas must sort it all out though he would rather not.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I picked up The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows,  at the bookstore early last year because the title caught my eye. Really delightful, don't you think? But, I put it down when I read "the German occupation" on the back cover. Let's face it, I don't like to read depressing tales anymore. A few months after that encounter, I read a review about it that made me think "maybe, I'll read it." Using correspondence to move the plot forward intrigued me. Now flash forward to my birthday last December. What do you know? A friend gifted me a copy of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." Thanks, again, evil2win.

The setting: London and the Island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands in the English Channel.

The time: Several months after the end of WWII.

The characters:  Juliet Ashton, an author, and the people of Guernsey.

The story: Juliet no longer wants to be thought of as a "light-hearted journalist." She wants to write something more serious, but doesn't know what. Then one day she gets a letter from Dawnsey Adams who's asking for help to find a London book shop where he can order more books by Charles Lamb. He had found her address in a book, by Lamb, she once owned that is now his. Juliet writes back and in no time she is corresponding with Dawnsey and several other members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

The Guernsey folks had started the society as a cover-up for a lie they had told to  German soldiers when they were out after curfew. The truth was that they were eating a roast pig which they were not allowed to have. Charming and mysterious, right? Through their letters, Juliet learns little by little about what the Guernsey people's lives were like under the German soldiers during the war.  Horror, dread, and serious concern with joy, laughter, and love snuck in. As Juliet comes to love the Guernsey people and feel like she knows them through their correspondence, so did I.

Juliet decides to write a book about the Guernsey people, which, of course, means she must go visit the island. Just before she goes off, the love that is in her life, essentially gives her an ultimatum in the form of a marriage proposal. He sees it as him versus Guernsey. To me, the question was whether Juliet would choose to live a life of hedonistic pleasure or a life unshallow?

My thoughts: I liked the story. Pure and simple.  Near the beginning, I got confused about whether I was reading a novel or correspondence between actual people. And, even when I knew better, I still wondered.

The book has two authors. Ms. Shaffer is the main author. Unfortunately, she passed away before she was finished. Her niece, Ms. Barrows, an author herself, completed it for her. Since I have no idea who did what, I can only say that Ms. Barrows was successful.

FYI: This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

For more info,
click here.

Click here
for more info.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: Homicide in Hardcover

Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle was a very fun and quick read. It's been a long while since I've read a book in one day. No, not all at once. I would've if I wasn't so responsible. Ha!

Brooklyn Wainwright is a bookbinder who lives in San Francisco. She attends a book event where she reunites with her mentor Abraham who had gotten miffed when Brooklyn decided to start her own business. An hour later, he is dead and Brooklyn becomes a suspect. She also is hired to complete the bookbinding job on a very old copy of Faust that Abraham was about to start working on. The copy supposedly has a curse on it and by all the misfortunes that fall on Brooklyn, it may be true. Brooklyn is worried that her mom may be the murderer, so she starts sleuthing on her own.

Thrown into the troubled mix is Derek, a handsome British security consultant who has been hired to protect the book. Lots of sparked dialogue go on between Brooklyn and Derek. Also, interesting to the tale is Brooklyn's parents, who still live in a commune. When the mom becomes stressed in the moment, she zones out everyone and everything around her by instantly chanting.

Homicide in Hardcover is the first title of Ms. Carlisle's Bibliophile Mystery series. When I finished it, I wished I had the next book in the series. So far three books have been published and another one will be coming out in May. I read at Ms. Carlisle's blog that the publisher plans to publish a title every six months. Wow.

FYI: This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

Click here for more info.

Click here for more info.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Jane Eyre

I didn't think it would be possible. That another book would bump Pride and Prejudice off the top of my all-time favorite list, and that it would be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

To think that I let 40 years go by before I read Jane Eyre. Oh, the condensed version was assigned in high school, but I merely skimmed it. I probably didn't like the opening pages because Jane's sour rich Aunt and her bratty cousins rubbed me the wrong way. I was an impatient reader in my youth. If I didn't like a tale by the end of the first chapter, that was it for me. And most likely I thought Rochester was a simp and Jane one, too, for being in love with him.

So, what got me to finally read it? The BBC movie of Jane Eyre with Tobey Stephens and Ruth Wilson. After watching it a few years ago, I was sold on the plot and the characters so much that I bought the book. But, I didn't read it. A couple weeks ago, the movie was being shown again on TV. It was a two-parter and I couldn't bear to wait a week for the ending. So, I searched through my pile of books for it.

Wowza! The book was far better than the movie. Now, I understand why Jane Eyre is a classic tale that many people will read over and over. Heck, I read it twice last week.

Jane is my kind of woman. Feisty, independent, clear-minded, and passionate. There is much to learn from her. To forgive and forget. To take a stand for oneself. To love and be loved. To not be afraid to say and do what is in your heart. To walk away. To return.

I think Bronte was very brave to write and publish this book. It was the mid-1800s, and I wonder how many people were offended by her story. She wrote about a little girl who stands up against emotional and physical abuse and who grows up to seek adventure and the means to support herself rather than find a rich husband. Bronte also tackled such issues as the crass rich and the religious without heart. I am most surprised about how openly she wrote about men and their mistresses.

Do I still think Rochester is a simp? Yes. But, after seeing him through Jane's eyes, he is redeemed and I quite understand how she can be in love with him.

On my arbitrary scale of 1 to 5, Jane Eyre is a 5. I'm ready to read it again.

Jane Eyre is one of the books I'm reading for the Off the Shelf Challenge

Book Review: Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford

Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford, A Journal by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston, and edited by William Holtz.

This book is the journal kept by two friends who travel from Paris to Albania.  This is a true story about two women in 1926.  Rose Wilder Lane  was a well-known author of the times, who later would become known as one of the founders of the libertarian movement. You, dear readers, may also know Rose as the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Rose's friend, Helen Dore Boylston, known as Troub, was also a writer, but during this time frame she was still learning her craft. Have you ever read any of the Sue Barton, Nurse series? They were written by Troub, who served as a nurse in WWI.

Zenobia is the name of the Model T Ford that Rose and Troub bought in Paris. Buying the automobile was easy, but getting it out of the showroom was not. It took about 6 weeks for them to get the proper paperwork and plates before they could legally drive it on the streets of Paris. Once they did, the women were on the road to Albania where they had rented a house. The women wrote about their daily travels through France and Italy in a journal for Rose's parents. Their different writing styles complimented each other. When each wrote about the same day or incident, I felt like I was getting a fuller picture of what Rose and Troub experienced.

While they were traveling through Italy, they were often asked if they were Germans. It was near the end of their time in Italy that they learned the reason why. Back then, only German women traveled without men in their parties. No doubt, it must've been unusual to see two independent women driving a brand-new car through Italian villages. I would think that would've been the case anywhere in the world at that time. Maybe still so today in some places.

The book was a fun read. I always like getting lost in time with real people.  I was glad that Holtz, the editor of this book, added an introduction to prepare me into the world of Rose and Troub, as well as an aftermath of sorts to give me a sense of their time in Albania. On my arbitrary scale of 1 to 5, I would give this book a 4.129.

Book Challenges
 This title fulfills these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested. 

For info, click here.
For info, click here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Review: The Lost Symbol

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown is the third novel featuring Robert Langdon, a professor of religious symbology. Just over 500 pages, the story takes place within 12 hours. On my random scale of 1 to 5, I give it an arbitrary 2.039.

Robert Langdon has been summoned suddenly to give a speech for his friend and mentor, Peter Solomon, at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. It turns out to be a ruse set up by bad guy Mal'akh who has kidnapped Solomon. To get Solomon back, Langdon must provide Mal'akh with the Masonic Pyramid that leads to finding the Masonic treasure buried beneath Washington D.C. Also key to the story are Solomon's younger sister, a noetic scientist, the CIA, and, of course, the Freemasons.

For  a fast-action plot, the story moved slowly for me. I didn't care for any of the characters, including Langdon. The back story for Mal'akh and his obsession with the Solomon family got tiring, but I do admit that I was surprised with the final details.

I thought there were two endings to the story. Catching the bad guy and finding out who he really was and his motives for murder, kidnapping, and all around evil mayhem was the first ending. The final 100 pages was about the mystery of the Masonic pyramid. If anything, The Lost Symbol made me want to learn more about whether and how the Freemasons may have influenced our country's Founding Fathers.

The Lost Symbol is one of the books I'm reading for the Off the Shelf Challenge

Monday, January 10, 2011

Book Review: Glazed Murder

Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck is the first title in her A Donut Shop Mystery series. I wish the author had used the old way of spelling the delicacy. D-o-u-g-h-n-u-t.  That aside, on my random scale of 1 to 5, I'd give Glazed Murder an arbitrarily 3.703.

Suzanne Hart is the main character of this mystery series. She's definitely a spunky woman. After all, she took her divorce settlement and bought the doughnut shop in her small North Carolina town, even though she had no experience in making or selling doughnuts.

The story opens with Suzanne turning on the lights of her shop at 2 a.m. She witnesses a body being thrown out of a car in front of her establishment. What a way to start a day, right? The dead body belongs to a good customer and friend of hers. That becomes one reason that Suzanne starts snooping. Another reason is her concern the culprit may try to get her because of the threats she keeps getting for snooping. Thirdly, from her point of view, the cops are very slow at solving the case and she thinks the chief doesn't like her because her mom turned him down. Of course.

Adding to the tension is Suzanne's ex-husband who believes she should forgive him already for cheating on her. He loves her, he misses her, and it was only one time, he says, and that's why Suzanne should take him back. He also becomes jealous when a state police investigator shows interest in Suzanne.

I have read so many cozy mysteries, I can usually figure out who did what before I get halfway through a story. Then curiosity takes hold and I read the ending to find out if I am right. If the story is good, I'll go back and finishing reading forward. I didn't do that with Glazed Murder. The author threw in so many red herrings, I couldn't guess who the murderer was. Yay! Me thinks I'll read another one of Suzanne's gumshoe adventures.

Ms. Beck gives 11 recipes, most of which are for doughnuts, including one for a baked doughnut that I want to try to make. And, yes, I wanted to eat a doughnut every time I put the book down. Probably would have if I wasn't going to sleep. Nope, I didn't dream of doughnuts.

P.S. This title fulfills both of these 2011 reading challenges in which I'm participating. They're both still open, if you're interested.

Click here for information.

For more info, click here.