Good Reads // November 2014

ReadingBench

Hello friends and fellow bookworms!  It’s time for my monthly book reviews!  And I have some AMAZING books this month to share with you.  Enjoy!
My first read was the sixth installment of the Charley Davidson series – Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones.  Lorelei King narrated this audio book, as she did all the others.  The first lines: “‘A blank is the only thing I draw well.’ – T-shirt.  ‘A girl, a mocha latte, and a naked dead man walk into a bar,’ I said, turning to the naked dead man sitting in my passenger seat.  The elderly naked dead man who ‘d been riding shotgun in my cheery red Jeep Wrangler, aka Misery, for two days now. We were on a stakeout.  Sort of.  I was staking out a Mr. and Mrs. Foster, so I was definitely on a stakeout.  No idea was Naked Dead Man was on.”  Summary from Goodreads: “Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it’s time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?  Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn’t come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear. Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she’s used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.”  My thoughtsAH – I truly enjoy this series!!! Charley Davidson is at it again in the sexy, suspenseful, and laugh-out-loud funny sixth installment of the series.  I’ve already reserved #7 at the library!  (4/5 Stars)
First Published: July 09, 2013 by Saint Martin’s Press
Audiobook: McMillon Audio; Read By: Lorelei King
Category: Paranormal, Mystery, Romance
My next read was A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout.  The first lines: “We named the houses they put us in.  We stayed in some for months at a time; other places, it was a few days or a few hours.  There was the Bomb-Making House, then the Electric House.  After that came the Escape House, a squat concrete building where we’d sometimes hear gunfire outside our windows and sometimes a mother singing nearby to her child, her voice low and sweet.  After we escaped the Escape House, we were moved, somewhat frantically, to the Tacky House, into a bedroom with a flowery bedspread and a wooden dresser that held hairspray and gels laid out in perfect rows, a place where, it was clear from the sound of the angry, put-upon woman jabbering in the kitchen, we were not supposed to be.”  Summary from Goodreads: “As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.  Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.  Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.”  My thoughts: Wow – I literally could not put this book down. I thought it was well written, with the imagery literally leaving you with a feeling that you are a part of the story. But be warned that this is a sobering book…filled with interesting, yet complicated characters, and some pretty rough scenes in the second half.  I felt a lot of emotions while reading this book. I do not agree with any of the negative reviews that the main character was “spoiled” or “lofty” or “completely naive.” She traveled over the years….a lot. She saw some amazing places, and she experienced some rough patches. But she was young, and her heart desired to prove something of herself as a new photojournalist. We all start somewhere. Highly recommend!  Some of my favorite passages: “The two of us sat on the rocky rim of the mesa, our feet dangling over the abyss, saying nothing.  Below, clouds spiraled into tufts and pompadours, forming an eery white fence line that cut us off from everything that lay beneath.  It was as if we were poised at the edge of a witch’s cauldron or sat at the prow of a great ship in the center of an otherworldly ocean.  I had seen this place in the magazine, and now we were here, lost in it.  It was a small truth affirmed.  And it was all I needed to keep going.” (pg. 35).  She just made it to Somalia. “I’d like to say that I hesitated before heading into Somalia, but I didn’t.  If anything, my experiences had taught me that while terror and strife hogged the international headlines, there was always-really, truly always-something more hopeful and humane running alongside it. What you imagined about a place was always somewhat different from what you discovered once you got there.”  (pg. 105).  Sorry for the brutality…but here it is…the first ‘rape.’  I shuttered reading through it…even though I knew it was coming.  How she survived all this, I cannot fathom. “In ten seconds it was over. Ten impossibly long seconds. Enough time for the earth to rumble and split, making a gulch between me and the person I’d been.” (pg. 209) (5/5 Stars)
Published: September 10, 2013 by Scribner
Category: Non Fiction, Memoir, Travel
I then read The Dinner by Herman Koch.  The first lines: “We were going out to dinner.  I won’t say which restaurant, because next time it might be full of people who’ve come to see whether we’re there.  Serge made the reservation.  He’s always the one who arranges it, the reservation.  This particular restaurant is one where you have to call three months in advance – or six, or eight, don’t ask me.  Personally, I’d never want to know three months in advance where I’m going to eat on any given evening, but apparently some people don’t mind.”  Summary from Goodreads: “A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened… Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reaches its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.”  My thoughts:  I don’t even know where to begin with this review!  I wanted so much to either love the book, or hate the book, but find that my mind is still reeling with exactly where to place it on the spectrum.  I will frankly admit that I literally could not put it down, but not because I loved the story.  I loved Koch’s writing and the pacing of the chapters, yet detested all the characters.  And a few scenes were just a bit too disturbing to me.  The main characters are two brothers and their wives, who have gotten together to talk about a horrible act of violence that their sons committed together.   The things the boys did are both horrifying and believable –  which is what makes the story gripping.  I loved that the story unfolded like a meal: Aperitif, Appetizer, Main Course, Dessert, and Digestif, and that the author matched the release of information to that pattern – from small tastings, through the big event, and finally the final touches.  The problem is that what the author ends up revealing over the course of the novel is simultaneously too little and melodramatically over-done.  Halfway through the book, I felt like I was watching a train wreck in slow motion – the kind where you cannot look away.  By the end, I honestly felt a bit ill.  I read a lot of reviews that called it the European “Gone Girl,” but for me, it was more like “Dark Places.” I cannot recommend that you read it…or that you not read it.  It’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.  (3.5/5 Stars)

First Published: October 31st 2009 by Anthos
Category: Fiction
My final read of the month was Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.  The first lines: “Lost in the shadows of the shelves, I almost fall off the ladder.  I am exactly halfway up.  The floor of the bookstore is far below me, the surface of a planet I’ve left behind.  The tops of the shelves loom high above, and it’s dark up there – the books are packed in close, and they don’t let any light through.  The air might be thinner, too.  I think I see a bat.”  Summary from Goodreads: “The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest.  The bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.”  My thoughts:  I really, really liked this book! I read somewhere that it was reminiscent of The DaVinci Code…and I can see the resemblance – although this version is filled with book nerds and computer geeks instead of religious fanatics.  There is such a mixture of old and modern fun in a little book: mystery, history, metadata and code-breaking!  The story is about an old, quaint book shop in San Francisco that had been around since the 1960’s.  The new clerk, a refugee from the economy dump, couldn’t figure out how it made enough money to stay open, let alone pay his meager salary; aside from a few book sales here and there, ‘members’ check out strange tomes filled with undecipherable text.  As a techno-wiz kid, the clerk decides to search for patterns in the check-outs using computers and algorithms – and what he stumbles upon is a secret society.  Well written, lighthearted, and imaginative – I highly recommended.  (4/5 Stars)
First Published: 2012 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Category: Fiction, Mystery, Fantasy, Novel
NovBooks
What are you currently reading?? Any recommendations for me??
Jen
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One thought on “Good Reads // November 2014

  1. These books sound so good! I’ll have to put them on my to-read list. 🙂

    Right now I’m reading “The Poisonwood Bible” by Barbara Kingsolver. It’s about an evangelical Baptist family from Georgia that moves to Africa. I cannot put it down!

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