Saturday, August 18, 2018

Moving my blog

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Because of several frustrations and challenges with BlogSpot formatting, I have moved my book blog to https://carmensbookadventure.com/

Please join me there as I continue the wonderful adventure of reading!

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall


The Book of Polly 
Summary:
Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and especially Polly's life pre-Willow. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, fifty years ago and vow never to return? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun the Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her past?

My take: 3 looks

This was a good summer book. Light, funny, and not a lot of reading effort required.  With seven books to her credit, several of which are on my TBR, Hepinstall is a solid member of the fiction world.

To write about a young girl (Willow) so preoccupied with the death of her aging mother (Polly) was a little bit of a stretch for me. After all, I was a young girl once, and I know that an obsession about death is pretty far from the typical preteen's mind.

On the other hand, I like the treatment she gave to Willow's older brother and sister. They were introduced on the periphery and the reader gets to know them both as they weave in and out of Polly and Willow's every day lives. It was the perfect way to see quirks, likes, imperfections, and finally, the love they both have for the matriarch of the family. Digging a bit into the personal lives of each, but only as deep as you would as an outsider looking in, there really was a nice balance to their characters.

Add a variety of colorful neighbors, a brother's childhood friend who returns to their lives, and a dog who can smell cancer in people, and you have a pretty good ride. It's not high literary fare, but it will hit the spot.

Recommended.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

2018 National Library Week: Today's Libraries

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This is what many of us middle-agers think of when anyone mentions the public libraries of yesteryear. However, libraries have come a long way in the last decade.

With the advent and proliferation of electronic devices and e-readers, the printed book has taken a back seat. Because of this, libraries have had to make changes, adjust attitudes, and open a whole new bag of tricks to keep patrons interested and engaged.

Image result for state of the art libraryTrendsetting libraries are moving from a storage facility for books and periodicals to interactive community centers. Games like PokemonGO gave many stagnant libraries the perfect incentive to shake off a dusty coat and engage mentally and physically with a new generation.

Libraries are not just about reading, but bring information in many forms, provide safe spaces to engage in conversations, debates, and roundtable discussions. Robust genealogy collections help generations get in touch with their past, while hands-on science and art rooms help young ones dream of the future.

Libraries are converting vacant box stores (like WalMart buildings) into beautiful, warm, comfortable, and exciting libraries. But it takes money and time. And money, lots of it. Support your library and encourage its growth and direction by being an active patron.

Monday, April 9, 2018

2018 National Library Week: Knowledge is Power!

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You've heard it before: knowledge is power. The most entertaining way to gain knowledge is to read. You don't have to read a physics book or the history of the Roman Empire to get smart! Any book engages your brain on many different levels, and helps you think, create, and expand your level of understanding.

Head to your local library today and check out some books on your interests.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

2018 National Library Week!

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It's National Library Week, y'all!

The theme this year is "Libraries Lead". Take this week to visit your local library, get a library card, and check out a book or two.

There are many events going on around the country to celebrate our rich history of libraries. Check out what's happening in your neck of the woods.

Friday, March 16, 2018

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, #6)
Summary:

In the newest addition to the universally beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the charming and ever-resourceful Precious Ramotswe finds herself overly beset by problems. She is already busier than usual at the detective agency when added to her concerns are a strange intruder in her house on Zebra Drive and the baffling appearance of a pumpkin. And then there is Mma Makutsi, who decides to treat herself to dance lessons, only to be partnered with a man who seems to have two left feet. Nor are things running quite as smoothly as they usually do at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors. Mma Ramotswe’s husband, the estimable Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, is overburdened with work even before one of his apprentices runs off with a wealthy woman. But what finally rattles Mma Ramotswe’s normally unshakable composure is a visitor who forces her to confront a secret from her past. . . .

My take: 5 looks

I adore this series by McCall Smith, "No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency". I love the name of the main character, Precious. I love that she considers herself a "traditionally built woman". I love that she has such pride in her homeland. Everything. I love it all.

In this installment, we get to know more about the main characters, as well as being introduced to what I hope will be recurring faces. This is among the best of the "cozy mystery", and I will read them as long as they are written.

Highly recommended.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Summary:

In his long-awaited first novel, American master George Saunders delivers his most original, transcendent, and moving work yet. Unfolding in a graveyard over the course of a single night, narrated by a dazzling chorus of voices, Lincoln in the Bardo is a literary experience unlike any other—for no one but Saunders could conceive it.

My take: 5 looks

Everything about this book is a breath of fresh air. The story of a night where spirits welcome the young Willie Lincoln to the cemetery. It becomes apparent that many of them do not realize they are dead, and as they become increasingly aware, it is both traumatic and funny.

The genius here is the story being told using historical text and perceived ghostly musings in tandem. Every comment is attributed to its source. With the insight of the historical records and the reflections of the spirits, the story is beautifully full and packed with feeling.

For example, the ghosts are used to seeing mourners come to the burial, then perhaps return a few times, only to trickle to never visiting again after a time. When Willie's father comes to the burial site, looks at his son, and takes the little lifeless body into his arms, the ghosts are awash in love and respect for this father. One comments, " We were perhaps not so unlovable as we had come to believe."

The dawning on both Lincolns that Willie is not coming back, as well as the true situation dawning on the spirits, impact the story with a gentle but unwavering look at the reality of death, acceptance of it, and moving on from it.

This is a book that I will buy to read again and again. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin

Summary:

An obsessive young woman has been waiting half her life—since she was twelve years old—for this moment. She has planned. Researched. Trained. Imagined every scenario. Now she is almost certain the man who kidnapped and murdered her sister sits in the passenger seat beside her.

Carl Louis Feldman is a documentary photographer. The young woman claims to be his long-lost daughter. He doesn’t believe her. He claims no memory of murdering girls across Texas, in a string of places where he shot eerie pictures. She doesn’t believe him.
       
Determined to find the truth, she lures him out of a halfway house and proposes a dangerous idea: a ten-day road trip, just the two of them, to examine cold cases linked to his haunting photographs.

Is he a liar or a broken old man? Is he a pathological con artist? Or is she? Julia Heaberlin once again swerves the serial killer genre in a new direction. With taut, captivating prose, Heaberlin deftly explores the ghosts that live in our minds—and the ones that stare back from photographs. You won’t see the final, terrifying twist spinning your way until the very last mile.

My take: 2 looks

It took me a while to read this one because I would get so frustrated with the main character that I had to put it down. Because I am reviewing this advanced reader copy from NetGalley, I felt compelled to pick it back up again and again to finish it.

For a woman who had been planning 1/2 of her life to track down a serial killer, she was remarkably ill-prepared and na├»ve. When she checks him out of a facility for dementia patients to take him on a cross country trip, they leave with a list of his "conditions", to which he continues to add. What? Who is in charge here?

Her plan is to visit all of the places where she believes he killed, and see if there is any recognition in his eyes on where her sister may be. It is clear from the beginning that she has not thought this through, and that Carl is much smarter than she even on one of this bad days.

Frustrating, overly detailed, and anti-climatic, I can't recommend this one when it is released in May 2018.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Hi-de-ho! Two in a row!

It is unusual for me to choose back-to-back books in which I invoke the "100-page rule"; but alas, there are too many (far, far too many) great books waiting for me to waste my precious reading time.

"The Woman in Cabin 10" by Ruth Ware is the first one. This one hit the stands in a blaze of hype, promising to be the next "Gone Girl" or "The Girl on the Train", as many do these days. And for some, it was that good. For me, not so much. My review is here.

The next one was more of a surprise because it's been on my TBR for a while, and I have looked forward to reading it. "1Q84" by Haruki Murakami, originally written as three novellas in Murakami's native Japanese, was translated to English and combined into one novel. My review is here.


1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1Q84Summary:
A young woman named Aomame follows a taxi driver’s enigmatic suggestion and begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She has entered, she realizes, a parallel existence, which she calls 1Q84 —“Q is for ‘question mark.’ A world that bears a question.” Meanwhile, an aspiring writer named Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project. He becomes so wrapped up with the work and its unusual author that, soon, his previously placid life begins to come unraveled.


My take: 2 looks
Even though I put this one down, I am giving it 2 looks because I did read to page 223 before deciding to abandon it. Interestingly enough, I asked fellow reader Sarah if she had read it, and she told me that she, too, put it down about 1/2 way through.

To pen a book that wraps it all up in the end is an intriguing method of writing, but it has to be interesting enough until you get to the solution in order to keep the reader. That is where this book failed me.

The characters were all very different, with developing pasts, and their trajectories were clearly going to intersect. However, none of the five primary characters had any hold on me. I was completely uninvested, but wanted so badly to like this one that I plowed through over 200 pages. Perhaps there was something lost in the translation from Japanese to English, and I was quite interested in the fact that one person translated the first two sections, with someone else translating the last section. I wanted to like the book enough to read it all and ruminate over any differences in style from the translators. However, it was not meant to be.

Not recommended.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

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Summary:
In this tightly wound story, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

My take: 1 look
I put this one down after trying again and again to get "into" it. When there are excellent suspense novels ripe for the picking on the shelves of the local library, this one does not hold muster. I did a quick survey on social media when I found myself struggling with the book, and found that it is quite polarizing. People either love it or hate it. Well, count me as one of the latter.

Not recommended.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending Things
Summary:
In this deeply suspenseful and irresistibly unnerving debut novel, a man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.

In this smart, suspenseful, and intense literary thriller, debut novelist Iain Reid explores the depths of the human psyche, questioning consciousness, free will, the value of relationships, fear, and the limitations of solitude. Reminiscent of Jose Saramago’s early work, Michel Faber’s cult classic Under the Skin, and Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is an edgy, haunting debut. Tense, gripping, and atmospheric, this novel pulls you in from the very first page…and never lets you go.

My take: 2.5 looks

I started this one over three times. It was so easy to put down when I needed more time or was feeling overwhelmed. However, it was also very easy to read, enabling me to start from the beginning each time. At less than 300 pages, I felt as if I had to finish it.

The story was interesting enough. I didn't get a good feel for any of the characters, and was not overly surprised by the ending. Some of the scenes felt forced, some of the dialogue choppy, and internal monologues were a bit too heavy-handed. However, because of the nature of the "surprise" ending, all of these things may have been as-designed. With a little more writing experience, I expect this kind of thing will naturally fall into place.

It read like a first novel, and upon looking, found that it is Reid's first novel, but not his first book. Because it was fairly easy to read, and because I am intrigued by the title of one of his previous works ("The Truth About Luck: What I Learned on my Road Trip with Grandma"), I am not yet crossing him off my list of TBRs.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Man Booker Short List!


I have read one of these books, and loved it. Now on to the others!!

Have you read any of the six?

Below, find the full shortlist, linked to NPR's reviews of the works and interviews with their authors, where possible.

Friday, August 11, 2017

The book was better.


I'm sure you have seen this illustration before on movie-versus-book discussions. With the sudden influx of movies based on books, I feel that I have to stress again how much richer and more satisfying reading a book is over seeing the movie adaptation.

When you read, you are creating your own movie. Your brain is more engaged and invested in a book. It is a very active process, combining the words you are seeing, processing, and understanding to create a full-color, vivid, on-demand movie in your mind. You are director and producer. You are in charge of makeup and costumes. You choose the locations and scenes. All of this in a split second.

That's why reading makes you smarter. Not only are you able to learn new words, but you are also engaging so much of your brain in sequential, systematic, and parallel ways - many times all at once!

There will never be a better movie-maker than your own imagination.

Some books to try instead of the movie:

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
One of my top 10 books, the story presents a challenge to the screen because it is primarily internal monologue. While the film and television series are true to the dystopian nature of the story, it is impossible to capture the parallel thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and the other handmaids as told in the double narrative-style of the book.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
Another one of my faves, this is the first book in a quartet. While the film adaptation, again, presents the general idea of the book, the fact that one character was given a much bigger part in the film (Streep's characterization of the Chief Elder) in order cash in on her star power doesn't sit well with me. The book is about exploring feelings, making decisions, and actions bringing consequences.

The Lost Weekend by Charles R. Jackson
The film version was highly acclaimed, nominated for seven Academy Awards and winning four. What is missing here, however, is the raw and visceral pull of alcohol on the main character. It consumes him, drives his behavior, and pulls the reader in opposing directions of disgust and sympathy for him. Thought of as the seminal American novel on addiction, this desperation cannot be captured on film. That, coupled with homosexual overtones, makes this 1944 novel a must-read.

These are just three of my pics for you. Let me know of other books-into-films you have experienced, and what your impression on the comparison was.