Thursday, July 28, 2011

Faithful Place (Crime/Mystery/Thriller)

Faithful Place by Tana French

It's official, Tana French is one of my new favorite authors! She has quite a gift for spinning a story with intriguing twists and turns, and developing characters that seem real enough to touch.

Faithful Place is the third book in Ms. French's Dublin Murder Squad series - which are only loosely connected to each other. This book stars Det. Frank Mackey, an undercover cop first introduced in book II of the series, The Likeness. In that book he was merely a peripheral character, and a rather slick, unlikeable one at that. In Faithful Place, we get to know Frank much more intimately, and it turns out that, although extremely flawed, he's also very human and likable.

Twenty-two years ago, Frank Mackey, age 19, planned to run away to London with the love of his life, Rosie Daly. The night they planned to skip town together, though, Rosie never shows up. Instead, Frank finds a note penned by Rosie, indicating that she's decided to dump him and run off to make a life of her own. Broken-hearted, but determined to escape his toxic family, Frank walks away from Faithful Place that night anyway, and doesn't return until now, when a suitcase bearing Rosie's possessions and ferry tickets to London are found in a run-down, long ago abandoned house in their childhood neighborhood. What really happened to Rosie Daly all those years ago? Frank is determined to find out.

I kept turning pages, eating it all up and wanting more, and when the book finally came to a close, I just wanted more from this author! unfortunately, her next book isn't due out in the U.S. until March of 2012.

Five stars to this one - if you're a fan of this genre, you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Stolen Life (memoir)

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

Like probably most everyone else, I've been riveted by stories in magazines and in the news about Jaycee Dugard. And like probably most everyone else, I've had a morbid curiosity about what actually happened during her captivity. Her face once again graced the cover of last week's People magazine, and ABC televised an hour-long candid interview this past Sunday night between Jaycee and Diane Sawyer. I forgot to record the interview Sunday night but watched it in snippets throughout the day on Monday, and found myself often in awe, and often in tears. Her memoir was due to be released on Tuesday, so I preordered it on my iPad so it would download as soon as it became available, and it downloaded Monday evening. That night I read the first 100 pages without stopping.

This is her detailed account of what happened: how one June morning in 1991, she walked to the bus stop like on any other ordinary school day, only on this day, a man by the name of Phillip Garrido pulled up alongside her in his car, reached his hand out the window, and paralyzed her with a stun gun, and then, with the help of his wife, Nancy, abducted her, drove her to their home a couple hours away and proceeded to keep her in captivity in their backyard for the next eighteen years. Eighteen years! It's almost inconceivable. During this time, she becomes no less than Phillip Garrido's sex slave and bears two children by him, giving birth both times in the squalid backyard, the first time when she was only fourteen years old.

It is an utterly riveting read, and yet, extremely difficult and disturbing. What this girl endured was horrific, and I honestly don't think I could have read it had I not known that in the end, she triumphs.

I got the impression that the book is intentionally not over-edited; it has a very stream-of-consciousness tone to it and very much reads like a young girl pouring her heart and memories out. And yes, she does still come across as very young; her writing has a very adolescent tone to it, which makes perfect sense - she was abducted at the age of eleven, and in a big way began a state of almost suspended animation at that point, being robbed of all the ordinary life experiences that mature a person.

It's very much worth reading, but not for the faint-of-heart.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Angel Experiment

The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, Book 1) by James Patterson

"If you dare read this story you become part of the Experiment. I know it sounds a little mysterious- but it's all I can say for now," - Max.

Maximum Ride is a 14 year old girl who, as the oldest, leads a group of 5 other kids.  With the help of the only adult they've ever trusted (who they now believe is dead), they are kidnapped from the lab where they have spent their short lives as experiments.  98% human and 2% avian, these children are stronger than average human adults, have powers and abilities in constant development, and ... they have WINGS!

As if these children don't have enough enough problems, they are being hunted by more genetically altered children who are part human, part wolf.

The book follows Max and her "family" as the youngest of the group has been kidnapped and taken back to the lab.  In an effort to rescue her, the other members fight to stay ahead of their attackers and learn more about where they came from and why they are what they are.

I downloaded this book in December 2009 and just got around to reading it this week.  I think I have read James Patterson in the past, but I can't remember the title, so I went into this book not knowing what to expect.  I went into this blind - reading no descriptions or reviews - and was surprised that it was written for kids (recommended 7th grade and up).

The story was written well, the language clean and the violence and gore (fights between the bird like kids and the wolf like kids) were kept to a minimum.  I actually enjoyed the book and I am anxious to see what my daughter thinks of the story as well.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Little House in the Big Woods

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

I have been waiting for what seems like half a lifetime to have daughters I could share the Little House books with. They were a truly beloved part of my childhood; I first read the series when I was eight or so, and so began my long love affair with Laura Ingalls. I spent many years of my childhood dreaming of actually being her one day, I was so enamored with her version of life on the American frontier.

My twin girls will soon be seven, and my youngest daughter is approaching five, so I thought this summer would be high time I introduced them to Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read a chapter at a time to them, and we finished Little House in the Big Woods tonight. It didn't disappoint. It's interesting that even in this age of high technology and childhoods jam-packed with enriching, educational, and organized activities, the story of a simpler time, when little girls had corn cobs for dolls and lived in little two-room log houses, can still so enthrall modern-day children. Even my nine-year old son and fourteen-year old son often came in to listen when I was reading to the girls!

Little House in the Big Woods covers about a year in the life of a little girl named Laura, who lives with her Ma and Pa and two sisters, Mary and Baby Carrie, in a log house in the woods of Wisconsin. It describes the hard work that was required of everyone in the family in order to contribute to the family's well-being, including frank accounts of hog butchering and deer hunting - festive events in those times! - the humble manner in which they lived, the expectation that children behave (including a number of references to one child or another having his hide tanned), and the love they had for each other.

The Little House books are based on the author's early life, but the stories are admittedly embellished and certain things fictionalized to make a better story. Still, from historical accounts of Laura's actual life, apparently the books she is famous for having written (which she didn't begin writing until she was in her sixties!) do capture the essence of the life she lived in late nineteenth-century mid-west America.

I can't wait to get started on Farmer Boy with the girls!

If you haven't read these books since your own childhood, go ahead, read them again. You'll love them just as much now as you did then.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Story of Beautiful Girl (novel)

The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

On a stormy night in 1968, a young woman and an older black man arrive at the door of an aging widow's farmhouse. With them is a very newly born baby. The young woman is intellectually disabled; she has escaped the institution in which she has lived since childhood, with the help of her companion, who is deaf, to give birth to this baby, the result of a brutal rape at the hands of an institution staff member. Before the night is over, police, searching for the two escaped residents of "The School" as the institution is known, raid the widow's home and haul Lynnie, the young woman, back to the institution, but not before she manages to hide her newborn daughter in the old woman's attic, and her companion manages to escape into the woods.

The story follows the next forty-plus years, during which the old woman raises the baby, hiding the child's parentage and heritage; Lynnie survives many more years at the institution before it is finally closed down, living constantly with a hole in her heart for her baby, and Homan, her companion of that fateful night, spends years on the run, but always hungering to find his way back to Lynnie - or "Beautiful Girl" as he has named her - and the baby, who, although he didn't father, he did help deliver on that rainy night in 1968.

I really, really wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The premise drew me in, but I found that the way the author chose to present each chapter from a different character's point of view, and with several years lapsing between each chapter, it was difficult to become attached to any of the characters. It felt like there were too many time-gaps; I think the story could have been much more engaging had it been told entirely from a third-person omniscient narrative perspective, with a smoother, more filled in time-line. I also found the overall story to be just plain hard to believe; at its heart, it's a feel-good story with happy endings, and I didn't find it to be realistic given the subject matter and general premise of the story. Overall, it's a very readable book, but I think it could have been so much more.

My hardcover is up for grabs.