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All Book Reviews

Book Review: Pines: A Novel
Crouch, Blake
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Pines is the story of Special Agent Ethan Burke, who has found himself in the creepy little town of Wayward Pines, Idaho. He wakes with an injury and temporary amnesia. And as he starts to put the pieces together about how he got in a place that is a little too Norman Rockwell for its own good, well, things get really strange. And scary. An action-packed story that is equal parts horror, thriller and science fiction, Pines will keep you up all night turning the pages. Extra kudos because this author is from Colorado. Watch for the TV Series that will be based on this story

Book Review: Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers
Lamott, Anne
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

There is no one quite like Anne Lamott to provide an astute, thought-provoking, and humorous perspective on spiritual matters with such simplicity, honesty, humanity, and modest profundity that leaves one convinced that there are truly only three essential prayers that find expression in every human heart. No stranger to heartache, struggle, doubt, addiction, questioning, failure, angst, and chicken-heartedness, Anne’s writings resonate with all who keep an open, inquiring mind and a tender heart. I highly recommend that you read one of her earlier books (such as Traveling Mercies) to understand where Anne comes from and the forces that have shaped her thoughts and inform her wisdom.

Book Review: The Age of Miracles: A Novel
Walker, Karen Thompson
3 stars = Pretty Good

How would you react if the rotation of the earth had begun to slow. This is the story of a family and their reaction, from the point of view of the family's young daughter. A good story, but should be in the teen area, not adult fiction.

Book Review: The Unfailing Light
Bridges, Robin
3 stars = Pretty Good

Book 2 in The Katerina Trilogy. Katerina Alexandrovna, the 16-year-old Duchess of Oldenburg in St. Petersburg, Russia 1889, is a necromancer. While attending The Smolny Institute for Young Noble Maidens, she yearns to study to become a medical doctor, but first she must reconcile the Light Court of Czar Nicholas with the Dark Court of his brother, the Grand Duke Vladimir. Lots of tension and adventure as Katerina lives in a society of blood-drinking princes, poisonous veshtizas, dark faeries, the creatures she accidentally brings back to life, and the return of the lich tsar.

Book Review: Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog
Grogan, John
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

John and Jenny were young and in love. They brought Marley home and oh my goodness ! Marley was very mischevious, such as chewing through sheetrock, stole womans undergarments. Obediance school did no good as he was expelled.

Book Review: These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901
Turner, Nancy E
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

If you enjoy historical fiction, this is a must read! The characters and the imagery of the time and place bring you right into Arizona at the turn of the century. Written in a diary format and loosely based on the memoirs of the author's grandmother the authenticity of life in territorial Arizona is felt in every description of the land, people and time. Sarah exemplifies the life of so many women from my ancestral past. Strong, courageous, kind, funny, loving and smart. Her quest for an education and fulfillment of dreams touches the heart. I found at the end of the book I yearned to know more about this incredible women... If you do too, don't miss the sequels "Sarah's Quilt" and "Star Garden".

Book Review: A Memory of Light
Jordan, Robert
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

The final book in the Wheel of Time series, a finale 23 years in the making, it is well worth the wait. If you are looking for a place to start the series DO NOT begin here, book 1, “The Eye of the World” is really the only place to start. After the expected extended prologue, where the maneuvering and plotting found through out the series are intermixed with scenes from a desperate battle, the book plunges head first into The Last Battle, and almost never looks back. Even if Mr. Jordan had lived to fully write this last volume I believe it would have still had a completely different tone, and it is certainly far different from any prior book in the series. Be prepared for a far darker book, with less certainty that all will work out for all the “good” characters, but I feel this shift in tone has been forecast even in books fully written before Mr. Jordan’s death. In the end, for fans, not all your questions will be answered, and we leave this world with interesting stories that will never be told, but as at the end of Lord of the Rings I find myself mostly content with where most characters end and with a series that I will soon start from the beginning once again.

Book Review: I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats
Marciuliano, Francesco
4 stars = Really Good

A short sweet book full of humorous poems if they were written by cats! You forgot one option mentioned above for reading audience: cats! Great pictures and perspective on the part of the author.

Book Review: Remember Me
Clark, Mary Higgins
4 stars = Really Good

This suspenseful book has great character and plot development without sacrificing "the surprise" ending. The setting on Cape Cod makes it more memorable and enjoyable. Mary Higgins Clark's earlier books were great, but I feel this one is among her highest achievements.

Book Review: Hattie Big Sky
Larson, Kirby
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Historic books are so tough to get right. The history might be accurate but the prose downright boring, or the prose might be fantastic, but the facts totally off-base. For "Hattie Big Sky" the author took bits of her grandmother's past, combined it with several trips to Montana, and countless hours of research, to create a fantatic heroine with the flavor of the Old West who lives in that remarkable era of the 1918-1920 where there was still the possibility of obtaining manifest destiny. Hattie's a plucky little 16-year-old whose uncle left her a claim in Montana, all 300+ acres of claim, that she has to 'prove up' by a certain date if she wants to keep the land. She heads out, on her own, for Montana to make good on her uncle's claim. This is literally one of THE BEST historic novels I have read in I don't know how long. It's what you would call 'clean' teen historic lit. It's even got a spiritual angle since Hattie does an awful lot of praying, but you never feel preached at, which is refreshing. Teens and adults alike will enjoy this book, not only because of its heroine, but because it feels fresh and original, and it's always fun knowing a story is inspired by real-life events.

Book Review: Flight Behavior: A Novel
Kingsolver, Barbara
4 stars = Really Good

Dellrobia Turnbow and the migrating butterflies that show up in Feathertown have something in common. They are both just surviving their circumstances. The butterflies had their habitat destroyed and inexplicably chose to winter in TN. Dellrobia has married into a family that doesn't understand her or her stifled dreams. She planned an act of desperation that would disgrace her when she happened into the "valley of fire" ablaze with millions of monarch butterflies. Her discovery is perceived differently by the locals, the urbanites and the academics who are drawn to this phenomenon. The ensuing events help Dellarobia to find her voice. Barbara Kingsolver has a reputation for writing about issues relating to the degradation of the planet's natural resources. Readers of her environmental writings will not be disappointed.

Book Review: Wow! Said the Owl
Hopgood, Tim
4 stars = Really Good

This is a great read for preschoolers who are learning their colors. The illustrations are simple and eye-catching as is the refrain "WOW!" said the owl. It keeps kids interested, teaching not only colors, but also about night and day. It's a keeper.

Book Review: The Hunger Games
Collins, Suzanne
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

The Hunger Games is the first book in this trilogy and it really sets the stage for a different kind of world. This world is a tough and brutal environment for this population, especially the children who are of age to be picked for the annual Hunger Games. Katniss is the main character in the trilogy and she is a complex young woman. I really enjoyed all of the books in the series and highly recommend them!

Book Review: Catfish Alley
Bryant, Lynne
4 stars = Really Good

I chose this book for my book group to read not knowing much about it. As one person in my book group put it "An unexpected pleasant surprise of a book". Lynne Bryant told a gripping story of a small town in the south that even though things in our country have progressed, they really haven't. It is the story of Roxanne who has her own secrets and how she becomes friends with an elderly black woman and her life is changed forever. Lynne Bryant really knows how to write characters that are so life-like, that you just want to meet someone like Grace, Adelle, and Mattie in person. This is a wonderful book for book groups because there is lots to discuss.

Book Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home
Janzen, Rhoda
4 stars = Really Good

I really loved this book and highly recommend it. I listened to it on CD, but Rhoda Janzen's writing style is just fantastic. She made me laugh and she gave me lots to think about. Even a Mennonite History Primer was funny, but I did learn a few facts about the Mennonites while laughing. I really loved the stories that involved her mom. Even though lots of the book was funny, it was also tough at times to hear how badly her ex-husband had treated her. Rhoda was very lucky she had her family to rely upon. The best line from the book is "I suddenly had the feeling you get when, after a long sea swim, you touch bottom and draw a breath of relief: you made it, land ho, sharks from this point on extremely unlikely." It made me think of some of my hard journeys in life and feeling that same sense of relief.

Book Review: Bond Girl
Duffy, Erin
3 stars = Pretty Good

I liked Bond Girl even if parts of it were formulaic. Erin Duffy did a great job at describing how Wall Street was right before the economy meltdown as well as what is like for a woman to break into the "good old boys network". At times I felt sorry for Alex how she was treated and at other times, I couldn't help but laugh. I do wish Erin Duffy had fleshed out Kate Katz a.k.a Cruella. I would have loved to know more about her. Overall I thought it was a good first effort and I do hope Erin Duffy has plans to write more books.

Book Review: Me Before You
Moyes, Jojo
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

*Me Before You* had thoughtful meditations on what constitutes a well lived life.

Book Review: Please Look After Mom: A Novel
Sin, Kyŏng-suk
3 stars = Pretty Good

The mom who had taken care of her family and given endless love was missing. She vanished in the crowd in the Seoul station. She was illiterate and elderly. She came to Seoul to celebrate her birthday to save her children's time and money. After her disappearance, the story starts with a view from each family member (daughter, son and husband). Each family member follows her trace to find her. While they are struggling to find her, they realize that the mom was ignored and neglected. For example, they found out about her stroke through their doctor, remaining unaware of her illness since then. In the end, they realize that she holds a crucial role in all of their lives. Her name was Park So-nye; like meaning of her name, she was an ordinary girl like all of us who had many dreams for her future. As time passes by, her name and her dreams were sacrificed for her to take the role of a mother without her children's knowledge. Each narrator describes how he or she saw the mother in their point of view. Throughout this book, we come to question the true meaning of family.

Hyun Sook
Book Review: Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Classic literature. This book deeply engages the issue of intellectual freedom.

Book Review: The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the America
Wade, Stephen
5 stars = Curiosity Mars Rover Awesome!

Writer and musician Stephen Wade plumbs the deep river of American traditional music as he explores the back stories of 12 field recordings from the Library of Congress’ Archive of Folk Culture. Beginning in 1928, the Library of Congress established the Archive of American Folk Song with the goal of collecting “all the poems and melodies that have sprung from our soil or have been transplanted here, and have been handed down…from generation to generation as a precious possession of our folk.” Passionate collectors such as Robert Gordon, John and Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and many more, traveled the nation’s back roads, and beyond, with cumbersome recording equipment to capture the voices and music of everyday folk. In so doing, they created what is arguably the most valuable archive of the American experience.

In his book, Wade examines 12 musical performances, from among the Archive’s more than 150,000 sound recordings, tracing the stories of the performers and the songs, placing them in the social and cultural context of their time, and following the remarkable influence they have had on our modern culture. Using historical sources and well as recent interviews with family descendents and friends of the performers, Wade gives these largely unknown men, women, boys and girls the recognition they have so long deserved as bearers of real American culture. The lives of these performers often were tragic or bittersweet and the recordings they made in coal camps, prisons, churches, front porches and schoolyards both bear witness to the circumstances of their lives and transcend them. We are fortunate that these recordings were made in rural America during the 1920s-40s and that they have been diligently preserved in our national library. We are also fortunate that Stephen Wade has taken the time to dig deeply into the lives of these performers and write about what he has found.

The book is accompanied with a CD containing the performances captured in the original field recordings and discussed in the book’s 12 chapters.

Book Review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief
Wright, Lawrence
4 stars = Really Good

A fairly balanced look at Scientology, its founder, its impact on its adherents, and its influence on Hollywood and beyond. I think anyone who is tempted to investigate this religion further should take a look at the information contained herein.

Book Review: In an Instant: A Family's Journey of Love and Healing
Woodruff, Lee
4 stars = Really Good

This book chronicles the traumatic brain injury of Bob Woodruff, an ABC News Anchor, suffered from an I.E.D. when on patrol with our soldiers in Iraq in 2006. Lee describes the many surgeries and therapies her husband endured resulting in an amazing recovery! I feel this book offers much hope to families with loved ones who have a traumatic brain injury.

Delores O.
Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey
James, E. L.
4 stars = Really Good

You either like this book or you don’t. The people who don’t like it seem to criticize the writing style, story line, etc. Really people? This book isn’t popular because it’s a well written book. Personally, I liked it. I liked the story. I liked Anna. I liked Christian. He’s her first boyfriend. He’s hot. She’s naïve. Just go with the flow and read it for what it is.

Book Review: Roadside Picnic
Strugatskiĭ, Arkadiĭ Natanovich
4 stars = Really Good

Aliens have visited the Earth, and departed, leaving behind a number of artifacts of their incomprehensibly advanced technology. The places where such artifacts were left behind are areas of great danger, known as "Zones."
The Zones are laid out in a pattern which suggests that they resulted from the impact of an influence from space which struck repeatedly from the same direction, striking different places as the Earth rotated on its axis.

A frontier culture arises along the margins of these Zones, peopled by "stalkers" who risk their lives in illegal expeditions to recover these artifacts, which do not obey known physical laws. The one most sought after, the "golden sphere", is rumored to have the power to fulfill the deepest human wishes.

Written during the height of the Soviet rein of Russia, the Strugatsky brothers spin a tale that philosophically looks at what true freedom is and the price some are willing to pay for that freedom. One of the best sci-fi novels of its time and a true favorite of mine.

Dr. Badd
Book Review: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, his Agenda, and an
DiLorenzo, Thomas J.
3 stars = Pretty Good

For people wanting to learn more about teh 16th president, this is an eye opening book. Mr. DiLorenzo uses original sources to show the truth about Mr. Lincoln's worldview and agenda. Many people will be scratching their heads, wondering why the history of Lincoln has been so misrepresented.

The book is very readable, and engaging, causing the reader to want to see the whole extent of Lincoln's atrocities, from the suspension of habeus corpus to the destruction of newspapers critical of him and his war to prevent southern independence.

I highly recommend this book, especially for the defenders of Lincoln, as it will show them the truth about Abraham Lincoln.