Were you wondering where I've been? Don't doubt for a minute that I haven't been thinking about you. Every book that I've picked up since my last review has been "the one" that I was going to share. But you know how it goes... one thing leads to another and before you know it months have gone by, you've read 50 books (give or take!) and haven't written one word on your blog. Thankfully, I've been keeping notes! They may not make a whole lot of sense, but enough to remind me of what my feelings and impressions were while I was reading. Since there's no time like the present I'm ready to stop procrastinating and get down to business. Instead of giving you the in depth reviews I usually write I'm going to share a series of "minis". Four at a time - a snap shot of what I've read and how I liked it. Ready?? Here we go!
The Bear: A Novel by Claire Cameron
Little, Brown & Company
February 11, 2014; 240 Pages
What the inside cover says:
While camping with her family on a remote island, five-year-old Anna awakes in the night to the sound of her mother screaming. A rogue black bear, three hundred pounds of fury, is attacking the family's campsite -- and pouncing on her parents as prey.
At her dying mother's faint urging, Anna manages to get her brother into the family's canoe and paddle away. But when the canoe runs aground on the edge of the woods, the sister and brother must battle hunger, the elements, and a wilderness alive with danger. Lost and completely alone, they find that their only hope resides in Anna's heartbreaking love for her family, and her struggle to be brave when nothing in her world seems safe anymore.
This is a story with a small narrator and a big heart. Cameron gracefully plumbs Anna's young perspective on family, responsibility, and hope charting both a tragically premature loss of innocence and a startling evolution as Anna reasons through the impossible situations that confront her.
Lean and confident, and told in the innocent and honest voice of a five-year-old, THE BEAR is a transporting tale of loss -- but also a poignant and surprisingly funny adventure about love and the raw instincts that enable us to survive.
What I say about The Bear:
Alright, the premise is dark and unsettling and my initial thought was how good can a story told by a five-year-old actually be? Regardless of my apprehension, something about it sparked and I had to pick it up. I was a big fan of Room by Emma Donoghue - another (disturbing) story told by a five-year-old - and that may have been the reason. Anyway, I started it on my break at work and continued reading through dinner into the night. I was hooked. I had to find out what happened - how it all turned out. The author does a good job "being Anna" and speaking in her voice. I was struck by the way she "humanized" everything, giving inanimate objects personalities and human features, just like little kids do. I'll admit that there were sections of dialog that I skimmed over, but on the whole the book captivated my attention and propelled me to the end.
The subject is troubling, and there's nothing warm and fuzzy about this bear. I can't even really say that I enjoyed the book, however I read it in two days and it had an impact on me. That means something. I don't think this is for everyone, but I bet those of you who do read it will remember it long after you've finished.
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
St. Martin's Press
January 21, 2014; 304 Pages
What the inside cover says:
The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future.
That was half a life ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband George is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the Southern Georgia heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to Lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires.
It’s a lot, but not enough to keep Eby from relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand, and calling this her final summer at the lake. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door.
Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness, and heartbreak, and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope too, thanks to her resilient daughter Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer… and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.
One after another, people find their way to Lost Lake, looking for something that they weren’t sure they needed in the first place: love, closure, a second chance, peace, a mystery solved, a heart mended. Can they find what they need before it’s too late?
What I think of Lost Lake:
Ahhh... Sarah Addison Allen.... I'm a huge fan. Sarah created one of my very favorite settings - a bedroom with wall paper that changes pattern, color, scent and flavor according to your mood. How cool is that?! You never know what it's going to be, but it always captures the moment perfectly. I don't remember which book it was in, and it doesn't matter much since I've read them all, so I was tickled when her latest hit the stacks.
I will admit that I wasn't completely overjoyed by her last work The Peach Keeper, but nevertheless I was hopeful. Lost Lake fairs pretty well. It doesn't have as much of the magical sparkle as her first books and I think I miss that. In retrospect it feels like her books have grown up and are rooted a little more in the "real" world. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, I did find myself waiting for something magical to happen.
Even still, I enjoyed the story. It's filled with the kind of unique and charming characters that make her books fun to read, and I suppose the ghost that talks to the silent cook and the alligator that talks to the little girl are supernatural enough! Overall, I'd say it's a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
August 27, 2013; 400 Pages
What the publisher says:
The Van Ripper women have been the talk of Tarrytown, New York, for centuries. Some say they’re angels; some say they’re crooks. In their tumbledown “Stitchery,” not far from the stomping grounds of the legendary Headless Horseman, the Van Ripper sisters—Aubrey, Bitty, and Meggie—are said to knit people’s most ardent wishes into beautiful scarves and mittens, granting them health, success, or even a blossoming romance.
But for the magic to work, sacrifices must be made—and no one knows that better than the Van Rippers.
When the Stitchery matriarch, Mariah, dies, she leaves the yarn shop to her three nieces. Aubrey, shy and reliable, has dedicated her life to weaving spells for the community, though her sisters have long stayed away. Bitty, pragmatic and persistent, has always been skeptical of magic and wants her children to have a normal, nonmagical life. Meggie, restless and free-spirited, follows her own set of rules. Now, after Mariah’s death forces a reunion, the sisters must reassess the state of their lives even as they decide the fate of the Stitchery. But their relationships with one another—and their beliefs in magic—are put to the test. Will the threads hold?
What I say about The Wishing Thread:
Magic and knitting - now what more could I ask for in a book?!? Okay, so I had high hopes going in - even though I've been disappointed by this combination before - I thought maybe this is the one... sadly it's not. It could have been. It should have been. All the elements are there. Instead it's pretty much a dud.
The story line is good enough - three sisters forced to reunite after the death of their beloved aunt and do the right thing for each other and the community. In a book like this it's the characters that carry the story. Unfortunately we never really get to know any of them and what we do learn shows them as whiny, self adsorbed and shallow. Aubrey may be a bit more endearing, but she so naive and insecure (and we never really learn why other than her eyes are a strange color) that it just comes off as annoying.
I'm sure that there are plenty of folks out there who will like this one, but for me it didn't work. I don't have to love the characters, but I have to feel something. This book left me with nothing.
Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale by Gigi Levangie
October 17, 2013; 256 Pages
Blue River Press
What the promotional blurb says:
Perry Gonzalez is not like the other kids in her Beverly Hills high school—a full-blooded Latina on a scholarship, living in a tiny apartment with her mother, she doesn’t have much in common with the spoiled, privileged kids who are chauffeured to school every morning. But Perry is a budding young writer with her sights set on Bennington—and her seven deadly stories are her ticket to the Ivory Tower. To pay her way, Perry’s been babysitting (correction: teenage-sitting) and tutoring the neighborhood kids, and she has seen the dark side of adolescence: lust for the “Judas Brothers” that leads to electrocution at a private birthday party concert; wrath that inspires new and perverse family bonds; and greed, in a young Bernie Madoff acolyte who conceives of a copycat Ponzi scheme involving his own grandmother.
What I think about Seven Deadlies:
An impulse grab as I was shelving new books, this one is way outside of my typical reading zone. The cover art and title are what caught my attention and reading the back I saw that the author also wrote The Starter Wife, a TV mini series that I really liked. So I figured what the heck. It's not very long, why not give it a try?
It turns out that it's really a series of short stories each connected by the main character's presence. They are written in the form of an admission letter as she appeals to the committee for acceptance into their program and out of the crazy world she inhabits. At first I thought that it was kind of quirky and funny, but it didn't take long for the whole thing to become way to weird for my liking. It seems like the threads of reality that the stories were based on got thinner with each sin. I did skim my way through to the end. It didn't get any better. The epilogue provided an unexpected twist, but it wasn't enough to resuce the book from the grave it had dug.
When I was finished I realized that even though we had this book in the adult section of the library it really is a young adult / teen title. Keeping that in mind, I guess it might appeal to a younger reader or maybe someone more willing to endure the bizzare antics of these teens who come not from Beverly Hills, but the Twilight Zone!!
Wow! That was a lot of work and I'm only just getting started! Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing part of your day with me. One of the great things about books is we all respond to them differently. Everyone has an opinion and there is no right or wrong. I'd love to hear what you thought of these books, and invite you to share your views in the comment section.
Wishing you all the happiness words can bring!
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All of the opinions expressed here are my own and in no way represent the positions, opinions, feelings, views, or beliefs of the Athol Public Library.
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