Friday, November 23, 2012

Book Review: Where'd You Go Bernadette

Where'd You go, Bernadette
By Maria Semple

Bernadette and Elgie, have a daughter Bee. They live in Seattle.  He works for Microsoft.    Something happened to Bernadette's spirit after she won a prize for the best architecture of a home. But, tragedy, as a joke a rival tore the house down. Bernadette was devastated.  From there, Bernadette has never been the same.  They moved from California to Seattle.

Bernadette is a stay at home mom. She hires a man on line to help her with her errands. Because she doesn't like to go out of the house.  Bernadette  is angry, and wants revenge, and takes everything to the extreme wearing disguises of large sunglasses and scarves.

Bernadette enters her daughter in a competitive school.  But again, things get complicated.  Her neighbor, Audrey Griffith has a problem, blackberries are overgrowing into their yard. Her neighbor tries to remedy the problem by talking to her at school.  But, instead while waiting for her daughter to get in the car.  She runs over her foot. Then again, Bernadette gets in trouble, a contractor is hired to remedy the blackberries. But, once the bushes are taken out.  This loosens the dirt, and a landslide occurs to the neighbors home while she is hosting a brunch for a fundraiser for the school.

If matters were not bad enough, her neighbor's kid, Audrey Griffith is thought to being dealing drugs, Oxycotin from her mother's medicine cabinet.  The same medicine she was prescribed for her foot when it was run over.  Audrey gives the excuse she forgot to take it out of her son's back pack.

There is more antics of Bernadette and her neighbor, credit card fraud, traumatizing the children in school, traveling, disappearances of parents, teeth removed, a few sexual escapades, commitment of parent in a insane asylum, accusations of parent of child traumatize the school children.

I will tell you this was a fun and quirky read. I had so much fun reading about Bernadette and her travels and disappearance in Anartica. I will tell you it was way over the top. But, that is what made the story so fun and I wanted more. Believe me there is more.

I recommend this one highly.

State of Wonder; Book Review

State of Wonder
By Ann Patchett

I read State of Wonder because it was up my alley.  A story based on scientific facts.  I thought reading about the Amazon, would take me away to a exotic place.

When I was a teenager, I remember our high school teachers discussing the pharmaceutical companies and the Amazon rain forest.  The barks of trees had medicinal value.  The companies, not just pharmaceutical companies, were taking, and  destroying the rain forest and not giving back to the Amazon.

 Here is my take on the story of, State of Wonder.

The story takes place in Minnesota, and eventually takes us to the Amazon Rainforest.  The book opens up with Marina Singh's pharmaceutical scientist collegue, Anders Eckmann.  He is asked to travel to the Amazon to find Dr. Swenson.  Dr. Swenson's has found woman, from a certain tribe,  Lakashi tribe are able to conceive and give birth after the age of 70. She is there to locate " miracle herbs" But, no one has seen hide, nor hair of her in two years.

The company has asked Ander's to go down to the Amazon, and locate her and find out where she is on the project.  He travels to the Amazon.  He is there for quite awhile, and he never does locate Dr. Swenson. He is presumed dead.  But, he's wife never accepts he's death.

Marina Sigh, then assigned by her boss, and lover of Vox Pharmaceuticals to go down to the Amazon to locate he's body, and find Dr. Swenson.  Dr. Swenson was Marina's professor, and mentor in medical school. There is a secret of the fertility experiments are also doing research of the malaria drug, and there is a connection of both, the malaria experiments would not benefit Vox Pharmaceuticals.

The complication that adds to the story is the couple, is interfering with Dr. Singh job locating Dr. Swenson. They are blocking  Dr. Singh's assignment to find Dr. Swenson.  Then there is a little boy Easter,  a blind boy, Acker's took under his wing.  Dr. Singh, also took a shining to Easter.   She cares about him very much, and grows to love him as her own. 

The book takes you away to the rainforest. You could feel the natural habitat of the rainforest with snakes, insects, disease, etc.  It made me feel like I was really there in the rainforest. It reminded me as a little kid, a ride we would take in the amusement park, full of head hunters, and forest, and waterfalls, etc.

One part that I thought was interesting, was the author combined music of opera, and science together in her writing. Reminded me of her novel, Bel Canto.

 What I did not understand was how would there be a opera house in the middle of the Amazon. Then out of no where Dr. Singh finds Dr. Swenson at the opera, sitting behind her. A chance meeting, or what?  It did not make sense to me.  Maybe that is where it fell apart for me.

 I could not connect with the characters, and understanding their motivation. I am not sure, why I did not care, or connect with the story.  I really wanted to like the story especially when the place was character.  It reminded of Indiana Jones movies.

 I read many people liked State of Wonder. I was just not one of them.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Midnight in Peking
By Paul French
Review copy from Penguin Publishing

I am posting a bit differently this time.  I did not have access to a computer for six days.  I am afraid I will not give the important details to Midnight in Peking.
Instead, I found a nice review from the Britain newspaper, the Daily Mail

There you will find the synopsis of the book, the details and video from the author describing the murder surrounding Pamela Werner.   I will still give my review. You will find it below. 

Midnight in Peking, is a true account of the murder of young British Woman.  She was found mutilated in Peking China.  What makes this book fascinating, is the background history of China.  What the conditions of Peking was, the seedy part of town.  The cover up of the Chinese government, and the British government.  The men that were involved.  Why was a body mutilated? who did it?

What was a young woman doing in the Fox Tower?  Where was the blood, etc?

My Review:  I liked reading about the culture of China, and the history that was taking place in 1937 surrounding the murder of  Pamela Werner.  The book is still swirling in my head after a week.   The writing is with a journalistic eye, and the writing grabs you from the first page. But after 3/4 of reading the book, it was getting tedious with the father's investigation, and not the detectives.

The investigation became closed after Japanese invaded China.  The father decided to do his own investigation.  What the father comes up with is horrifying.

 The rest of the book was based on theories, not scientific fact.  It was not a open and shut case, just the prostitutes word. How do we know they were telling the truth.  The suspects were never brought in and questioned.  The witnesses did not actually see the murder.  They only heard screaming in the next room.

If you read this leave your comments below, what you thought.

Happy Dance

I am so excited, it only took two years for me get Microsoft Publisher working again.  I missed using it so much.  I started my first flyer again.  It looks great, so excited. I loved it, missed my hobby.

What do you think?  Nice, isn't it!!

 My son, finally took a look at it. Beside Publisher working again my Adobe reader is working for my nook. 

A few months ago, I could not access my Edelweiss account for the books I was granted access to.  I then had to contact the authors, and publishers to ask if they would want to send me hard copies.   The books were overflowing again in my house.   Now, I am back in business.   I am hoping that what ever the problem with my computer, will also fix my problems with my blog, too.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Lola Quartet: Book Review

The Lola Quartet
By Emily St. John Mandel

Review copy from Caitlin of Unbridled Books

The Lola Quartet, is the story of four friends in high school.
Gavin, Daniel, Jack, and one other friend's name, I can't recall.

Gavin, and he's high school friends live in Sebastian, Florida.  They are about to graduate high school.  Gavin  is about to leave home, and go away to college.

 Right before he is about to leave, his girl friend, Anna gets pregnant with Gavin's child. But instead of telling Gavin, he tells Daniel that he is the father.   Anna, comes from a troubled family, she is constantly coming to school with bruises and cuts.

In the meantime, Gavin has graduated college and worked as a journalist in a top NYC newspaper. But, he is getting lazy at investigating his stories. The last few stories, he did not do his research, and made up names, was found out, and fired. In the meantime his live in girlfriend leaves him.

  He can't pay his rent, food, and his utilities.  He's bills are piling up, and finally he takes his belongings, and leaves his apartment for good. He's sister finds out he's predicament.  She offers him a job back in Sebastian, Florida.

He moves back to Florida.  He is shown a picture a little girl. She looks so much like Anna. He wants to track her down.

I have not read books by this author before, but heard so much about her.  The first part of the book grabbed me, but then it lost steam. I loved the suspense, it reminded me of old detective stories, Spencer Tracy, kind of movie. I really wanted to enjoy reading.

But the second part, when we learned about the characters and what their motivation was I did not care. I am not into the excitement of the drug scene, and gambling, stealing drug money, and the risk taking. Anna, getting herself into trouble, and the mystery of how she got into this mess, and how she and everyone else came back a decade later, just did not do anything for me.

When I realized this was a story was about teenagers getting themselves into trouble further, and further, and, digging deeper and deeper into trouble. I realized this was not for me.

  Anna, did not try to fix her problems or own up to them, and either did her friends.  Where they were, before and after ten years and how to fix themselves. I did not care for the characters. It just was not my cup of tea. I don't know why I continued the story.  I should have stopped at part 2.

Maybe a younger person would have connected with this story.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Cutting Season: Great Story Telling

The Cutting Season
Attica Locke

Review copy from Dennis Lehane Imprint

In  between Baton Rouge,  and New Orleans in present day, Louisiana lies a part of American history in the south, Belle Vie, a slave plantation.

 Outside the gate  of Belle Vie, are the migrant workers. They are hired for cutting the sugar cane outside the gate by Groveland Industry.  The Clancy family have inherited Belle Vie from one generation to the next.

A body of a female  migrant worker is found outside the gates of Belle Vie plantation.  The plantation, at present day intersects with historical reconstruction south. There are guided tours, re-enactments, and weddings, slave quarters, and a gift shop.

 Caren, and her daughter, Morgan have recently returned to Belle Vie, from New Orleans. There is a long history on Belle Vie plantation for Caren.

  Caren's mother worked as a cook, she raised her on Belle Vie. Caren heard stories about the old plantation, about her great, great, grandfather. Growing up along the side of the landowners sons.  Her mother, told her stories about her kin, and old stories in the civil war,  and about her great, great, grandfather, Jason who  lived on the plantation, and disappeared one day in 1871, and  never found again.

 What happened to her great, great, great, grandfather, a former slave.  Could it be, he walked off with a lover, and left his married wife and children? Did the plantation owner, who are related to the present owner's have something to do with his death?  There are lots of questions past and present that Caren, wants to find out. The two murders are related, but how?

Then, at the same time there is a large sugar cane corporation, called Groveland buying up land left and right from poor land owners.  They are hiring people and replacing the local employees with migrant workers. Now instead of  slaves, hired migrant working for penance.

The land owner's of Belle Vie, one of the brother's is looking for political gain for finally giving the land to the large corporation.  The other brother, is the black sheep of the family, and looking out for the best interests of the family.

Caren is hired by the present owners of Belle Vie to run the plantation. This is very awkward for Caren,  Caren's family, were known as hired hands, and as slaves during the civil war. Caren grew up on Belle Vie plantation.  Caren felt shame about her history, and she feels ambivalent about herself living on Belle Vie, and being a Afro-American.

 Living on the plantation with slave quarters, and the re-inactments, and seeing their quarters each day of a reminder of what happened during the civil war.

During the investigation, a young man going to the local community college is filming a movie.
He wants to make a re-inactment of what happened to the former slave. But, something goes amiss.
He is framed for the murder. Caren's boyfriend, Eric becomes involved a lawyer from D.C.

My Review:  I read mostly literary fiction, not mysteries. But, I heard so much about this author and her book, Cutting Season. I needed a break from all the books, I have been reading lately, with deadlines.  I decided to give it a try.  I am so happy, I read Cutting Season.

The books I like to read are story telling, not so much character driven. I love a plain good story. I love lately, I discovered I love fiction that is caught up in a time period, and place with good story telling. I am not talking about  kings and queens, they seem to be locked into history.  But, a story with fictional characters, at certain time periods, and place for me to visit.

It did take me awhile to become attached to the characters.  But, once I became invested with them, I could not let go. I am still thinking about Cutting Season.  I hope there are more books by the author that delves into historical fiction with a mystery.

One part of the story with Eric, Caren's boyfriend was going into the slave quarters.  Most people that are white don't think about this. How would you feel going into a part of history that caused you pain?  I never understood that concept. But, also most authors, are white don't show that part of the story.   It must have felt like a painful part of history thrown in your face.

This part of history hit home for me to understand what Afro Americans feel living in, and being surrounded by painful reminders. 
I wonder how Afro Americans feel living and seeing their past every day over and over again.  I live in South Carolina, and never thought how it hard it must be at times living in the south. Possibly the reason migration of Afro Americans leaving the south and moving up north.

Me, as a Jew, I understand how I would feel going to Poland, or Germany to the camps.  That is why I have, never gone to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, because it is a painful reminder.  I was not living during the holocaust, but it is still hard, if I had to visit Germany, Poland, Russia, etc. I am sure the same goes for Eric, Caren's boyfriend.  He must have had the same feelings.

If you are looking for a good mystery, suspense, and historical fiction all wrapped up into one.  Then this book is for you, I recommend it highly.

One Thousand White Women: Book Review

One Thousand White Women By Jim Fergus I have been looking forward to reading, One Thousand White Women. S...