Whatcha reading?

Whatcha reading?

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Caleb's Crossing: Geraldine Brooks

This was a historical fiction on the first Native American(s) to attend Harvard University. The first couple chapters were confusing to me because I assumed the Narrator would be Caleb, but it was actually that of a girl who would befriended Caleb. I liked the title of the novel because Caleb's crossing could mean his crossing from a native to a white person's world as well as the physical crossing of the water to college and then later, crossing over to death. Reading it you hope for a happy ending, but knowing the history and what happens to both Joel and Caleb it is disappointing. Joel, who was valevictorian was murdered when their boat capsized coming back from visiting his family. Not long after Caleb would die from tuberculosis. I found the writing to be wonderful, Brooks wove the native beliefs and mystisism in with the white man's obsession over religion all done in a voice that was very reminiscent of the time. An excellently crafted story and a very enjoyable read that leave you looking up more information on the characters.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Sisters Antipodes: Jane Alison

This was a heartbreaking story of a girl who spends her childhood wondering if her father loves her. The father didn't know how to talk to his children, they made him uncomfortable and he didn't like being alone with them. Her story was made more devastating because his new wife had two girls the same age as his and they became a sort of replacement for the girls he didn't see. There was competitiveness between the two younger girls, who shared the same birthday, which seemed to end up defining who they were. I liked that the author referred back to her childhood diary and was able to recreate all the hurtful things said so they still seemed raw and painful. The "other half" Jennifer dies in her thirties leaving Jane to try to determine again who she is and what she has left. At the end there exists a sort of peace between everyone in the family, with the exception of the other stepsister, but there is still a feeling that everyone walks on eggshells to an extent. This was a beautifully written book.

Babe on Board: Konrath Peterson

This was a short story on detective Harry McGlade. He picks up a girl at a bar who is wanted by the Mafia. She comes back 7 months after he helped get her away from the mafia and she tells him she is pregnant. They go to a doctor's appointment together and on the way out of the clinic she is kidnapped by the mafia and he is beat up. With help from his pregnant sister, Jack Daniels, they get to the mobster's house to rescue her and find out she wants to live with the mobster. In the end Harry is both relieved and excited about the baby.

The Ghost Bride: Yangze Choo

I love stories that deal with other culture's beliefs. In this one Li Lan of Malaysia comes of marriageable age and learns her father had made a match for her with a boy she had recently taken an interest in. However the marriage agreement had been terminated because the eldest son died and they could not marry the cousin, Li's betrothed, to a poor girl like herself. The family instead asked for her to become a "ghost bride" to the deceased son. Li becomes haunted by the ghost of the son and journeys to the land of the dead to set things right. She meets her deceased mother in the land of the dead as well as a dragon man, with whom she eventually falls in love. There is adventure and suspense and when she comes back to the world of the living finds another spirit has entered her body. With help from her nanny the spirit is dispelled and she returns to find out she is again betrothed to the man she thought she wanted to marry. I enjoyed how nothing and no one is exactly as they seem and that she changes her mind on who to love once she realizes she has a choice. I also liked the whole idea of the funeral offerings and how they appeared in the land of the dead. I was sort of frustrated at the end, if Li Lan chose death anyway then why not let the spirit remain in her body, and then she wouldn't have to put up with her in the afterlife until she died. This was a very interesting and enjoyable read.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Broken Shore: Peter Temple

This was a murder mystery that a cop was trying to solve. It was really well written, you kept thinking you knew why the man died, but the plot kept getting deeper and deeper. The cop, Cashin, investigates a wealthy man's apparent murder and sees that the man's watch is missing. Later a pawn shop reports that a watch matching the description of the deceased came into the store. A road block is set up to catch the kids selling the watch as they come back into town. It starts to rain and Cashin tries to call off the operation, but no one responds on the radio. Once he meets up at the road block he sees another cop shoot one of the kids and another died in the car crash. The third boy disappears when they set bail and then is pulled out of the river in an apparent suicide. Everyone believes it is a closed case, but Cashin is not happy with how events played out too conveniently. He uncovers an underground pedophile ring that the old man was a part of and realizes two of the boys who were victims are killing off the old men who formed the group. He is almost killed while trying to arrest the murderer.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Fever: Mary Beth Keane

This was a novel based on "Typhoid Mary’s life. It starts with her remembering how her family in Ireland was nearly wiped out by Typhoid, but she survived. Later when she comes to the United States and becomes a cook by profession, she shows us how many of the people she cooked for suddenly became sick. A sanitary engineer puts it together that she is a carrier and getting people sick through her cooking. They lock her up on an island used to treat tuberculosis patients in order to keep her out of the public. She loses hope that it will be a temporary stay when they build her a small cabin. She stays there for three years. Then they learn of other people that are carriers, but since they are men and the bread winners for their family, they are not locked up. Eventually they let Mary go home with the understanding that she will check in at the office every 3 months and will not cook as a profession. She doesn't have a home to go home to though. Her "man", Alfred, was engaged to another. She finds a job as a laundress and rooms with a friend. Alfred decided he couldn't marry another woman and becomes a drunk again, Mary says she wants nothing to do with him and he then becomes a drug addict. Mary starts cooking for her friend and friend's children and when they don't become sick she believes she can cook again. She stops checking in at the office and gets work at a bakery, and then a hospital. She finds Alfred again and starts taking care of him and aids him in his drug addiction. The same time Typhoid springs up at the hospital Alfred dies. The Sanitary engineer is alerted by the Thyroid outbreak and finding Mary, locks her up for the last 23 yrs. of her life. By then Mary admits that the people must have died because of her.

Year of Wonders: Geraldine Brooks

This was a novel about the Plague in England in the 1600's. A woman walks to the Rectors home and reminisces about being happy once. The story then starts when she was 15 and meets back up to the "current" time the story begin in. When she was 15 she was married to an older man. By the time she was 18 she was a widow due to her husband dying in a mining accident. By the time she was 20 she had lost both of her sons when a boarder carrying the plague from London stayed in her home. She watched a friend hanged as a witch and her town diminish as the plague swept through. By the time the Plague was over, she had lost all of her family. Her father took advantage of his neighbors by overcharging them for digging graves and was finally punished when he tried killing a man and buried him alive while ransacking his home. Her Stepmother took advantage of the women by claiming she was a witch and selling ridiculous advice on how to keep the plague away. The Stepmother ended up going crazy after all her children died and ended up killing the protagonist's best friend. By the end of the novel the woman gained a new little girl, who was going to be killed because she was born out of sin and gave birth to another little girl after having sex with the minister. She left England by boat and then remarried a Muslim man and became part of his harem. This was a very interesting book about 16th Century England during sickness and was based on an actual town who barricaded themselves from the outside world to keep from infecting them. By the time the plague was over 2/3 of the town had died.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

If Looks Could Kill: Kate White

This story was a murder mystery that has you guessing until the very end. A woman, Bailey, is a freelance writer for a magazine and her sort of friend, Kat, is her boss. Kat calls her early one morning to tell her she has a bad feeling about the nanny, she missed their appointment and wasn't answering her door. Bailey goes over and finds her dead. It appeared that she had been poisoned by a box of chocolates. Upon further searching it appeared the girl was having an affair with an older wealthier man. In the end after several false suspects we find out the head of the newspaper, Leslie had the girl poisoned with the chocolates and had it look like it was supposed to be for Kat, since the girl was her nanny. Leslie's husband was the wealthy lover. Leslie tries to murder Bailey by having her over for dinner and feeding her peanuts which she was allergic to, luckily Bailey survives.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Dive From Clausen's Pier: Ann Packer

This was a terribly sad story that you can't put down, though you know it cannot end happily. A woman, Carrie, who just finished college, realizes she doesn't want the life set before her of marrying her boyfriend, Mike, of five years. He knows things aren't going well and in an effort to show off for her he dives from a pier during a cookout with their friends. The water was feet lower than normal and he hits something on his dive leaving him a paraplegic. Carrie is torn between not wanting to carry on with her life as before, where she wasn't happy, and trying to be the person people expect her to be. Eventually she tells Mike she doesn't want to get married- in a cryptic way. The next day she hopes in her car and moves to New York without telling anyone. There she falls in love and moves in with a friend. She doesn't pay rent or get a job and eventually sells her car so she can take clothes designer classes. Her best friend calls and tells her she needs her to come home. Carrie has no money and tells her she can't- she learns the friend's mother had overdosed herself and was in the hospital, so she puts a plane ticket on her credit card and comes home. The friend is furious and won't talk to her. (The entire time reading this book I kept thinking about all the wasted money!)Carrie books a couple plane tickets back to New York, but never goes back, she never finishes school, and gave her friend a check for rent. Eventually her boyfriend sends her sewing machine and tells her over the phone that he lost a brother named Mike; both of them were forever changed by Mikes. Carrie stays in Wisconsin out of guilt, she wants to go back to New York, but Mike's best friend tells Carrie Mike was suicidal. Then Mike's mom tells her she isn't reliable. For some reason she feels she has to prove herself to these people. Her friend eventually forgives her and life continues as always.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Payment in Kind: J.A. Jance

I liked that this story only gave the reader as much information as the detectives had. It was impossible to solve at the beginning because the key player, though introduced, was lost in the search. It wasn't until the end that we see her connection to the murdered victims. The detective is called to a murder at a school and finds a man and woman locked in a closet in what appears to be an affair as both were partially dressed. The facts don't add up, the closet was dark, the apparent suicide wasn't set up correctly and the woman was a lesbian. Luck happens to be on the detective's side when his interviews turn up vital information. A child was out skiing on the night of the murder and saw someone who looked like the deceased woman's daughter. (what struck me as odd here is that the murderer happened to be a receptionist at the school the skiing boy went to...wouldn't he have recognized her?) We learn the deceased woman's daughter was actually kidnapped and the murder is the girl’s sister taking revenge for the life she had to live since she wasn't "saved" from her crazy mother.