Book Review: The Christmas List

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The Christmas List

The Christmas List
Written by Richard Paul Evans 
Published January 1, 2009 by Simon & Schuster
Genre/Subject: Adult Fiction, Christmas, Inspirational 
349 pages 

Three Word Review: Thought-Provoking, Uplifting, Inspirational

The Christmas List is a modern Christmas Carol.  James Kier is a power-hungry businessman who doesn’t care who he hurts to climb higher. While eating breakfast, Kier reads his own obituary in the newspaper. Kier isn’t pleased with what is written and  reads mostly negative  online comments about his supposed death. His ‘death’ awakes Kier as he then decides to use this to his advantage. He makes a list of individuals who he has wronged in the past. Kier learns that his actions are sometimes difficult for individuals to simply forgive and forget.

The Christmas List is an easy and fast book. Richard Paul Evans writes straight to the reader in simple language for all individuals to take the book’s message. It almost has a wholesome Hallmark message. Even though the setting occurs during the Christmas season, it can be read anytime of the year. I suggest The Christmas List  or other books written by Evans to get you into a Christmas or ‘feel good’ mood.

Book Review: Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

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wolveswTell the Wolves I’m Home

Written by Carol Rifka Brunt 
Published by Random House on June 19, 2012 
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, coming-of-age, AIDS, Family 
355 pages 

Three Word Review: Friendship, Loss, Renewal

It is 1987, and fourteen-year-old June Elbus feels that her one and only friend is her uncle Finn. Finn recently died to AIDS and June is heartbroken and feels at a loss until she receives contact from an unlikely source, Finn’s boyfriend Toby. Slowly Toby and June form a unique friendship and secretly meet sharing stories about how Finn impacted their life. June learns that some things she loved about Finn were actually from Toby. There are misconceptions and prejudices about AIDS and the family wants nothing to do with Toby who they believe wrecked Finn’s life. Both June and Toby feel they need to take care of the other to fulfill Finn’s last wishes.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home had a unique plot and I felt for both June and Toby. We discover friendships in any situation to fit our need and awaken our spirit. It was also interesting to read a book that dealt with AIDS when society questioned exactly what it was and their fears. I suggest Tell the Wolves I’m Home for a fresh reading perspective.

Book Review: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

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lightThe Light Between Oceans 

Written by M.L. Stedman 
Published by Scribner in July 2012
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction
343 pages

Three Word Review: Thought Provoking, Moral Dilemma, Heartache

Tom Sherbourne recently returns home to Australia, after being away during World War I. He wants to forget the difficulties during the war and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper. He is now completely alone and away from society. He marries and brings his wife, Isabel, back to the island. They encounter numerous stillbirths and Isabel is heartbroken until she hears the distant cries of a baby upon the shore. Tom and Isabel discover a washed ashore boat with a dead man and bundled baby. Isabel pleads for Tom not to report the finding in the official log books. She believes the mother must also be dead and wonders what mother would send a baby on a boat. The two raise the child as their own which is easy to hide the truth from family, since Isabel was recently pregnant and they are away for years at a time. When they return to visit the mainland they discover the truth behind the death and baby. The Light Between Oceans constantly ponders exactly what is morally right at the cost of a loss.

I thought The Light Between Oceans was an interesting plot that I questioned what truly is the right and best choice. I quickly finished this book and I think it would spark a good discussion for book clubs.

Book Review: The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew

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augustThe Dry Grass of August

Written by Anna Jean Mayhew 
Published by Kensington Books in 2011 
Genre/Topics: Adult, Historical Fiction, South, Integration 
289 pages
The Dry Grass of August is told from the perspective of 13 year-old June “Jubie” Watts in the South during the 1950s. On a hot August day in 1954, Jubie, her mother, siblings, and their black maid, Mary Luther, travel from Charlotte, North Carolina, towards Florida. Mary Luther has been with the family, since Jubie was five. Jubie feels a closer relationship to Mary who provides care than her own mother. Along the journey to Florida, Jubie notices anti-integration signs and hostile feelings towards blacks. The story switches between present time during the vacation and a past back story to learn more about the family. The reader slowly understands Mary Luther’s role in the family and family tensions. Tragic events occur and Jubie must decide how to act with her feelings.
I really enjoyed The Dry Grass of August. It was a different perspective about a topic that many are familiar with. The reader knows that something happens to Mary Luther in the first paragraph, so you don’t know exactly when and how it occurs. There is some violence and difficult context at times, so I recommend this for adult readers. If you enjoyed The Help, I think you’ll enjoy The Dry Grass of August. It also is a great book for a book discussion.

Book Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

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pettigrewMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Written by Helen Simonson 
Read by Peter Altschuler
Published by Random House Audio on March 2, 2010 
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, British, Romance 
13 hours, 358 pages 

Three Word Review: Cute, Humorous, Heartfelt

Major Pettigrew lives in a small village in the English country. He’s now in his early sixties, yet his morals and principles have remained the same. Major Pettigrew’s younger brother just died and he now feels at a lost. The death sparks a new friendship with Mrs. Ali, the older Pakistani shopkeeper. The friendship begins simple with tea and book discussions. Soon Major Pettigrew feels a strong attachment to Mrs. Ali. The small town is filled with humorous characters who think it’s their right to know everybody’s business. Some of the town citizens don’t view Mrs. Ali as Major Pettigrew and only see her as a ‘ethnic diversity’ and ‘low status’ as a shopkeeper. Both Mrs. Ali and Major Pettigrew have personal conflicts in their lives, yet these problems almost pull them together more. Can their relationship survive in difficult situations?

I thought Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was cute with a fairly simple plot, but it was still enjoyable. You feel for Major Pettigrew as nothing seems to go right for him. Sure this book is romantic  but it’s not an overly gushing romance. I think this is because the entire story is from Major Pettigrew’s perspective and his feelings for Mrs. Ali slowly develop. It’s refreshing to read about a relationship that begins completely wholesome as a simple friendship and moves to something more. I listened to Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and it was quite enjoyable. It had a ‘British’ voice without being too dramatic. If you enjoy small town humor and a non-gushy romance then you may like Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. 

Book Review: The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

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tiger's wifeThe Tiger’s Wife

Written by Téa Obreht
Published by Random House on March 8, 2011 
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Magical Realism
338 pages 

Word Review: ‘I-Want-My-Time-Back-To-Read-Something-Else’

The Tiger’s Wife describes a relationship between grandfather and granddaughter through stories. Natalia is a young doctor in a Balkan country who provides a service at an orphanage. While away, she learns that her grandfather died yet nobody knows the circumstances of his death. Natalia is on a mission to learn more about her grandfather and bring back his body for the funeral. The story moves back and forth between her grandfather’s stories that contain a fantasy element and Natalia’s perspective in the present. Natalia and her grandfather share secrets and he takes her on special visits to the city zoo. He has a great love for the tigers and he always carries The Jungle Book with him. Natalia begins to understand her grandfather through these stories.

It sounds like a great book in this brief summary, but I disliked the book for many reasons. The book was incredibly slow and almost seemed as though it never reached a climax. I was waiting for the book to grab me, but I felt that nothing really happened. There were too many characters that didn’t seem to connect. Once I somewhat understood one of the grandfather’s tales then it twisted into a tangent to discuss another character. Yes, additional characters add story elements, but in this case I felt that some of the characters were added for no reason. I’ve read many books with different perspectives and time periods, but The Tiger’s Wife‘s transitions were not smooth and Natalia’s perspective seemed to be sprinkled inside the grandfather’s stories making it sometimes unclear about what occurred in the grandfather’s tale. As much as I disliked The Tiger’s Wife, the writing itself was good. I’m surprised that this is Téa Obreht’s first book. Finally, after reading this book, I’m not sure who’s the ‘tiger’s wife’ and the importance with the grandfather. If you’ve read The Tiger’s Wife I’d love your feedback.

Book Review: Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

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girl translationGirl in Translation 

Written by Jean Kwok
Read by Grayce Wey 
Published April 29, 2010 by Riverhead
Audio Format: Published April 29, 2010 by Penguin Audio
Genre/Topics: Adult Fiction, Cultural, Coming-of-Age
304 pages, 9 hours 

Three Word Review: Determination, Heartbreak, Family Bond

Kimberly Chang is an 11-year-old who recently emigrated from Hong Kong to New York. Kim was an excellent student in school, but she now struggles due to lack of English skills and peer discrimination. Gradually, Kim’s determination helps her through language barriers, understanding American customs, and forming a few friendships. She lives in two worlds: school and home. Kim is in translation between trying to excel in school while helping her mother work  in a clothing fabric and living in very poor living conditions. She is determined to work hard and never settle for less than she’s capable of.

Girl in Translation was another enjoyable audio book. Grayce Wey does a good job providing a clear voice while also giving an ‘Asian’ accent during the dialogue that I was able to understand. Wey expressed each characters’ voice and emotions. I thought this book was enjoyable and would recommend, but I probably wouldn’t read it again.