Sunday, December 11, 2011

how to build a family

No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: memoir
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: It may be a cliche to say that you laughed so hard you cried, except that I did while reading this book.  Several times.  Greene tells the story of how her family created itself with such wonderful humor that you can't help but fall in love with them all.

Of course, a book like this can't be all sunshine and smiles, and Greene doesn't pull her punches when relating stories of family tribulation.  Nor does she leave us in any doubt that children around the world face horrifying poverty and hunger every day.

If this book has a flaw, it's that it's a little uneven.  In the midst of discussing the process of adopting one child, the narrative jumps back to relate an anecdote involving an older child, or Green's own childhood.  These leaps never detract from the overall story, but the transitions are sometimes jarring.

Another cliche: this book is both hysterical and heartbreaking.  But mostly it is about how family bonds are about love and effort more than blood.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

did I miss something?

Nightwoods by Charles Frazier
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: The action in this story, what there is of it, moves very slowly. For the first half of the book, nothing really happens at all. But then, suddenly, things start happening and connections start being made, and I couldn't help but feel that I missed some sort of catalyst in the narrative. It is entirely possible that I did miss some important bit, but since I'm pretty sure that I actually read every page, it seems more likely that Frazier decided that his readers would take a bit of the action on faith.  In something like the reverse of dramatic irony, characters are suddenly referring to conversations and relationships of which the reader is unaware.

This kind of storytelling leaves me scratching my head and flipping back through the book to see if I missed something. (It also has me wondering whether the author chose to relate action to the reader in this way because he couldn't figure out how to actually write the scene where the critical interactions occur.) Frazier is talented enough to pull off these sudden transitions in a way that's not as aggravating as it might be, but I did still feel cheated out of critical parts of an otherwise beautifully told story.

 FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

the light and the dark


Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction, children's
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: In this book, Michelle Magorian has written what is essentially a very sweet story of an abused boy (William) who finds love and happiness.  But while most of the book is taken up with William's recovery (both mental and physical), Magorian is not afraid to show us what happened to him.  It is a true mark of her skill as a writer that our brief glimpse into this darker side of the story is done with a very light touch, making it completely believable, but not at all overwhelming.  Readers of all ages will be moved.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

a verb, Senator!

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: This is an engaging, believable story, and one that is well-told.  My only real problem with it is Proulx's choice to occasionally leave out the verbs or pronouns from her prose.  I understand this as a stylistic choice, but I'm a fan using all the parts of speech we have at our disposal, and I find it frustrating when authors deliberately make their work hard to read in order to have a distinctive "voice".

Monday, August 29, 2011

funeral train brought to life

The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: With the passage of Robert Kennedy's funeral train from New York to Washington as a framework, David Rowell fills this book with small details that make the stories come alive.  Rowell creates six stories from the hundreds of thousands of people who watched RFK's funeral train pass by (or, in one case, were on the train), and gives us a glimpse into a day in the lives of ordinary (fictional) Americans who were touched in ways large and small by his life and death.  This book is definitely not about RFK, though.  It's about these six sets of characters that Rowell has so realistically created.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

bad on either count

Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: A simply-told tale can be a good thing.  A simplistically told story, on the other hand, is usually not a good thing, and that, unfortunately, is what we have here.  The language is simplistic.  The characterization is simplistic.  The dialogue is simplistic.  The plot is simplistic!  It felt more like reading a comic book without the drawings than reading a novel.

Add to that was the question of what kind of book this book was supposed to be.  Was it supposed to be an attack-recovery story (in which case it was too pat to be convincing) or a thriller (in which case it was not at all thrilling)?  Making it even harder to figure out was that there was no believable connection between the two parts of the story.  I wish I could say that McConkey would have done better to decide what kind of book this was supposed to be and stuck with that, but since neither part was very good, I don't think it would have helped.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

narrative by implication

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: There is a lot of sex in the beginning of this book, most of it witnessed, which is good (or at least better than the alternative) since the main character, Elly, is a young girl.  Other sex is implied, making it difficult to know what actually happened.  I found this to be a very frustrating way of story-telling, since so much of Elly's character is supposedly shaped by this implied sex.  This is not the only piece of the story that is told through implication.  Elly's relationship with another character takes on importance in adulthood that is does not seem justified by what is revealed to the reader in her childhood.  I almost felt as though a critical scene has been edited out of the book which would explain how Elly came to be so close to this character later in life.  In the end, this book required too much guesswork for me.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

don't try to be fancy


Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction, fiction
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: In order for a narrative conceit to work, it can't get in the way of the story.  In this book, de Rosnay employs two conceits, one of which, alternating chapters between 1942 and present day, works fairly well.  Unfortunately, I felt like I was continuously tripping over the other conceit, that of referring to the main character of the historical chapters as "the girl".  It seems completely unnecessary to refer to her that way, since the reader can easily guess her name, and it's eventual revelation is completely anticlimactic.  Ditto for the revelation of the name of "the child" later in the book.

The story itself is engaging, if somewhat predictable.  Certainly, de Rosnay is to be given credit for bringing to light a part of the Holocaust - the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup in Paris - that gets little attention.  She's not exactly subtle about it, but her point is well-taken.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

why all the buzz?

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: Occasionally, a book lives up to the hype.  I'm not completely sure that this one does, but it comes close.  I can certainly see where all the hype comes from.  The characters (for the most part) are well-drawn and realistic, the plot is compelling, the tension believable, and the premise interesting.  So, I definitely enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure it deserves all the buzz.  I can't quite put my finger on why.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

a girl and her dog

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: children's fiction
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: Writing a review of a children's book as an adult can be a tricky thing because you have to remember that you're not really the intended audience the author was writing for.  Some children's books speak to everyone, regardless of age.  Others really are meant to appeal only to children, and that's not a bad thing at all.  It just makes a reviewer's life a little more difficult!

I think this book is one of those that really appeal more to children.  Personally, I found it saccharine.  Certainly others must find more of value in this book, since it's been made into a fairly successful movie.  There are lessons about confidence and kindness and not being judgmental that go down faily easy.  And I suppose any book that has a dog who smiles so big he sneezes is bound to have fans.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the wild, wild west

Doc by Mary Doria Russell
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: historical fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: I don't think I've ever actually read a Western, so I can't say for sure if this book qualifies as belonging to that genre, or if it's just plain old historical fiction.  Whatever it is, it's another example of Mary Doria Russell's mastery of her craft.  We already know that Russell writes great historical fiction and science fiction, but here she has chosen yet another period and setting vastly different from what she's given her readers before, and again with the meticulous research that her fans will by now take for granted.

If this book has a flaw, it's that it can be a little jumpy.  We are occasionally yanked back in time for some backstory, which always helps flesh out a character or plot point, but some way of distinguishing these short flashbacks from the rest of the narrative would have made the transition less jarring.  This small flaw is easily overlooked, though, as it doesn't take more than a sentence or two to adjust to the new setting.

And it's well worth overlooking.  Historical figures that many of us have heard of but probably don't know much about beyond the legend will come to life through Russell's writing.  Those who are more familiar with these figures will appreciate the research that Russell has done to go beyond that legend.  Everyone will enjoy a good story well told.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

sensationalized details

The Gangs of New York: An Informal History of the Underworld by Herbert Asbury
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Genre: non-fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review:  When reading a book written some time ago, it's important to remember that standards and tastes may have been different back then.  Such is the case here.  It's entirely possible (in this case, likely) that this book was considered eminently readable when it was published in 1927, but today's readers might find it somewhat more difficult.

Asbury presents us with a dizzying array of names of people (real names, pseudonyms, and nicknames) and places (modern and historical), barely pausing for breath, let alone meaningful distinction among them (I lost count of the number of gangsters described as "huge").  A map would have been nice, and a cast of characters even better.

Anecdotes are piled one on top of another, with little or no explanation as to why any of them are important or how any of them are connected.  And each one is more sensationalistic than the last, making me wonder where Asbury got his information from.  A bibliography is appended at the end of the book, but it's impossible to tell which stories he got from which sources (and, indeed, which came from "personal interviews" with criminals and police officers).  So, as hard a time as I had just wading through the mass of details, I almost had an even harder time believing them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

emasculating feminism

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: The ancient Greek play Lysistrata tells a powerful story about war and feminism.  This book, in which a school production of Lysistrata has a surprising effect on the community, removes every shred of meaning from the play.

Rather than being organized into a sex strike to put an end to a long-running war, the women in this book are individually struck by a spell that makes them just not interested in sex or intimacy any more.  Not only is there no larger purpose to their sudden refusals, but for the most part none of the women is aware that what's suddenly struck them is anything other than a personal change.  One of the girls undertakes a personal strike to stay in bed, alone, until the end of the war in Afghanistan, but this, too, just fizzles out, much like the desire of the women in town, and much like the plot of this book.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

I hope the movie is better

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: science fiction, YA
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: I don't generally find that the movie is better than the book. I don't think I've ever suspected that the movie will be better than the book based only on reading the book and before the movie has even been released. But I think (hope) that that's the case here.

The premise of this book is really interesting (which is why I picked it up in the first place), but the execution left something to be desired. The language can be a little stilted, and some of the scenes seemed virtually scripted for a movie. Also, the author's name is clearly a conceit (Pittacus Lore is actually named in the book as a Lorien elder), which is especially annoying because there was no pay-off to it. Maybe that'll come in the rest of the series.

So, I'll probably see this movie when it comes out, and I probably will read the rest of the books in the series as they come out. But I'll do it only out of curiosity to see whether a good story can be made out of this good premise, because it surely hasn't been done yet.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

loses focus

The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: It gives away nothing about this book to say that it's about two sisters whose father kills their mother. One of the sisters is also stabbed, but survives, and the other sister runs for help and returns to a very bloody scene. The remainder of the book is the next 30+ years of the sisters' lives, showing us snapshots of how this traumatic event and its aftermath effect the rest of their lives.

This is an excellent premise for a book (one that is loosely based in the author's own life, as it turns out). The father's impending release (either earlier on parole or later when is sentence is up) is supposed to create a lot of tension for the sisters, but very few changes are evident in their lives or relationships as this date grows closer. An improbable and weakly fleshed out encounter shortly before the father's release causes some temporary changes in their thinking, but things soon go back to "normal" and the reader is forced to wonder what the point of it all was.

This book got off to a strong and vivid start, as we live through the sisters' trauma, but as they grow into adults it becomes disorganized. Meyers could have either kept a tight focus on the immediately aftermath of the event (that part of the book was quite good) or given the reader more to chew on as the sisters grew up. She did neither, but instead takes the reader on a ramble through 30 years of the sisters not dealing with what happens. But then it seems she suddenly realizes that the story needs some closure, so Meyers gives them a breakthrough for an ending that neither she nor her characters have earned.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

ironic contrast

The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: This is a good book. But it could have been a great book if Clayton had been both less heavy-handed in her feminist discussions and less coy in her descriptions of her characters.

This book is not chick-lit by any means; it's themes are far too serious. But it's true, I suspect, that most of it's readers will be women. And most of those women will not need the kind of tutorial on feminism in the early 1980s that Clayton seems determined to provide. Not that we should forget the sacrifices made and hardships endured by our mothers and grandmothers, but a lighter touch might have better served the narrative here.

In contrast to her need to spell her feminism out in great detail, Clayton seems reluctant to give details about the relationships between and among her characters (and their mothers). It's certainly a valid literary technique to leave certain details to the reader's imagination, but it can be frustrating when the emotional crux of the story hinges on relationships that the author hasn't allowed one to get a clear sense of.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Monday, January 31, 2011

too much information

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Challenges: 100 Book Challenge 2011, 2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge
Review: Ordinarily, I would say that lots of detail in a book is a good thing, but here I think it's a little excessive. I don't need to know the timing of a character's action to the exact minute or the brand of coffee maker they use, unless it actually furthers the plot, which it generally doesn't here. That and astonishingly large cast of characters that I had trouble keeping track of are the only reasons this book didn't get all 5 stars.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

save the best for last

Songs of Love and Death by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, eds.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Genre: anthology
Challenge: 100 Book Challenge 2011
Review: The problem with reading collections of short stories by many different authors is that there's likely to be a lot of inconsistency. Such was definitely the case here. Some of the stories were absolute dreck, some were ok, some were actually pretty good, and at least one was excellent. Unfortunately, the excellent one was the last one in the book, and it was only barely worth it to read all the stories that came before it to get to that one.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

100 book challenge 2011

You didn't really think I was going to stop with just one challenge, did you? Certain people who shall remain nameless virtually dared me to do the 100 Book Challenge, so of course I took up that gauntlet. I'll keep a running list throughout the year on this post, so check back to see how much progress I'm making.

  1. On Beauty by Zadie Smith (finished 1/9/11)
  2. If I Stay by Gayle Forman (finished 1/11/11)
  3. Songs of Love and Death by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, eds. (finished 1/20/11)
  4. Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 1/22/11)
  5. Sent by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 1/23/11)
  6. Sabotaged by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 1/25/11)
  7. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Larsson (finished 1/31/11)
  8. The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan (finished 1/31/11)
  9. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell (finished 2/4/11)
  10. Incarceron by Catherine Fisher (finished 2/9/11)
  11. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher (finished 2/11/11)
  12. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (finished 2/14/11)
  13. Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear (finished 2/17/11)
  14. The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton (finished 2/27/11)
  15. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (finished 3/2/11)
  16. Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore (finished 3/5/11)
  17. Peace, Love, and Baby Ducks by Lauren Myracle (finished 3/7/11)
  18. Pompeii by Robert Harris (finished 3/12/11)
  19. One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde (finished 3/19/11)
  20. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (finished 3/24/11)
  21. Room by Emma Donoghue (finished 3/25/11)
  22. The Photograph by Penelope Lively (finished 3/29/11)
  23. The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers (finished 4/3/11)
  24. This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper (finished 4/11/11)
  25. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore (finished 4/14/11)
  26. Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (finished 4/22/11)
  27. A Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary (finished 4/27/11)
  28. An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon (finished 4/29/11)
  29. My Own Two Feet by Beverly Cleary (finished 4/30/11)
  30. The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer (finished 5/3/11)
  31. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (finished 5/7/11)
  32. The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury (finished 5/8/11)
  33. Aurora 7 by Thomas Mallon (finished 5/13/11)
  34. The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming (finished 5/15/11)
  35. Doc by Mary Doria Russell (finished 5/26/11)
  36. Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon (finished 5/27/11)
  37. The Shadow Year by Jeffrey Ford (finished 5/31/11)
  38. Where She Went by Gayle Forman (finished 6/2/11)
  39. The House on Salt Hay Road by Carin Clevidence (finished 6/9/11)
  40. Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt (finished 6/10/11)
  41. Lapham Rising by Roger Rosenblatt (finished 6/17/11)
  42. Half a Life by Darin Strauss (finished 6/21/11)
  43. SEAL of Honor by Gary Williams (finished 6/25/11)
  44. Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade by Diana Gabaldon (finished 6/26/11)
  45. The Report Card by Andrew Clements (finished 6/29/11)
  46. The Last Refuge by Chris Knopf (finished 7/1/11)
  47. Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle (finished 7/3/11)
  48. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (finished 7/5/11)
  49. Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts (finished 7/5/11)
  50. The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman (finished 7/8/11)
  51. Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon (finished 7/10/11)
  52. The Help by Kathryn Stockett (finished 7/13/11)
  53. Encore Provence by Peter Mayle (finished 7/14/11)
  54. Moloka'i by Alan Brennert (finished 7/17/11)
  55. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (finished 7/28/11)
  56. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (finished 8/1/11)
  57. The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer (finished 8/5/11)
  58. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (finished 8/7/11)
  59. Guyaholic by Carolyn Mackler (finished 8/9/11)
  60. If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? by Melissa Kantor (finished 8/10/11)
  61. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (finished 8/18/11)
  62. Love Lies Bleeding by Jess McConkey (finished 8/25/11)
  63. The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell (finished 8/30/11)
  64. A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay (finished 9/3/11)
  65. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx (finished 9/7/11)
  66. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg (finished 9/9/11)
  67. Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian (finished 9/13/11)
  68. Diamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace (finished 9/16/11)
  69. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (finished 9/19/11)
  70. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (finished 9/22/11)
  71. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier (finished 9/29/11)
  72. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (finished 10/6/11)
  73. The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer (finished 10/7/11)
  74. My Hollywood by Mona Simpson (finished 10/13/11)
  75. Zeke Bartholomew: Superspy! by Jason Pinter (finished 10/15/11)
  76. Homer & Langley by E. L. Doctorow (finished 10/15/11)
  77. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney (finished 10/18/11)
  78. Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech (finished 10/20/11)
  79. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian (finished 10/31/11)
  80. The Postmistress by Sarah Blake (finished 11/5/11) 
  81. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver (finished 11/9/11)
  82. The Pirate Hunter: The True Story of Captain Kidd (finished 11/10/11)
  83. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (finished 11/11/11)
  84. Out of Oz by Gregory Maguire (finished 11/23/11) 
  85. The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler (finished 11/24/11)
  86. A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (finished 11/26/11)
  87. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (finished 11/28/11)
  88. Room by Emma Donoghue (finished 11/29/11)
  89. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart (finished 12/1/11) 
  90. The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart (finished 12/3/11)
  91. The Scottish Prisoner by Diana Gabaldon (finished 12/6/11)
  92. Sleeping Freshman Never Lie by David Lubar (finished 12/6/11)
  93. Torn by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 12/8/11)
  94. No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Fay Greene (finished 12/11/11)
  95. The School for the Insanely Gifted by Dan Elish (finished 12/11/11)
  96. Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 12/11/11)
  97. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green (finished 12/12/11)
  98. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (finished 12/15/11)
  99. Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix (finished 12/16/11)
  100. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory (finished 12/23/11)
  101. Great House by Nicole Krauss (finished 12/31/11)

Monday, January 3, 2011

in the army

You Know When the Men Are Gone by Shiobhan Fallon
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction, short stories
Review: In this collection of short, loosely connected stories, Shiobhan Fallon tries to give the reader an insider's view of military family life. The stories all deal with an army cavalry division deployed from Fort Hood, TX to Iraq; some stories deal with the soldiers, others with their wives, and they all touch on the difficulties military families face both when they are separated for long periods of time, as well as when they are reunited.

Some of the stories ring true, like the story of a wife who is concerned that her husband has started an affair with a female soldier while he is overseas. Others strike a false note, like the one where a woman describes listening to the "wildly beating heart" of her fetus. With other stories, it seems that Fallon wrote herself into a corner she didn't know how to get of. The best example of this is the story of Meg who becomes obsessed with her new neighbor, Natalya. Natalya’s husband is deployed with Meg’s, but Natalya herself is a mystery. At the end of the story, the husbands all return (Meg’s and Natalya’s among them) and that is that. No explanation is given for any of Natalya’s actions, nor is she even mentioned in the rather abrupt conclusion.

By and large, though, these stories can be enjoyed by both military and non-military readers. They may resonate with members of the military or their family members, and will give a glimpse into military lives for those of us with no military connection.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Page to Screen Reading Challenge

I've decided it's time to take on a new reading challenge! For 2011, I'm participating in the Page to Screen Reading Challenge. My goal is to read at least 5 books that have been made into movies (and hopefully watch the movies too). All suggestions welcome!

July 13: Woohoo!  I finished Level 1!  Dare I aim for 10 books at Level 2?

  1. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
  2. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
  3. The Gangs of New York by Herbert Asbury
  4. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  5. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  6. Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  7. The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
  8. Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian