Thursday, June 26, 2008
... I looked at him, and pain filled the area behind my eyes. How much adult eccentricity could he take? From a screwball grandfather, an alcoholic grandmother, a philandering father, a suicidal teacher, and a demanding mother? Poor Arch.
He stood up and gave me his most bored look.
He said, "Can I go?"
He let out a gust of air and flopped back into his chair. "Now what?"
"Just tell me if you know whether for some reason you think someone wanted Laura Smiley dead." (pp. 224-225)
I knew I had a busy week ahead of me and I wouldn't have a lot of down time to read, so I wanted to pick up something fun and easy to read. And I did just that when I chose Catering To Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson. I had originally found this book while participating in the Reading My Name Challenge this spring. I finally had an opportunity to read it and boy was I in for a treat.
Goldy is the single mom of Arch who runs her own catering business to make ends meet. Add an abusive ex-husband who is affectionately called JeRK by his two ex-wives, an ex-father-in-law who is partner with the ex-husband in an OB-GYN practice, an ex-mother-in-law who is an alcoholic, a police detective who has eyes for the caterer, and an assortment of other characters who have quirks of their own, you now have variety and spice to make the story a full meal. During a catered funeral reception for the fifth-grade teacher who recently committed suicide, Goldy is accused of poisoning her ex-father-in-law's coffee. Her catering business is shut down pending the results of the police investigation. Her need for employment and her suspicions of foul play lead Goldy to finding out family secrets that put others in danger. She begins searching for answers and finds trouble and adventure around every corner.
Humor and suspense make Catering To Nobody a real page turner. This is the first book in the mystery series featuring Goldy and her catering business. My book even included recipes! I loved this book and found it a fun and easy read that now has me hungry for more!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Wes Hammond started going to the state university after high school graduation but found it unchallenging and unfulfilling as he lived his days partying instead of attending classes. So he joined ROTC and graduated from military school as a commissioned officer in the Navy. But now flight school is full and he is stationed in California at a Temporary Personnel Unit. He is awaiting his orders with other newly commissioned officers and trying to find creative ways to pass the free time.
Awaiting Orders by Farrell O'Gorman is the story of Wes and his three new friends, the women they meet, and the adventures they partake in during their year at the TPU. They spend their time partying, reading, and watching the news. And they create road trips to help pass the time when they are ordered report to the base only once a week. They seem to find drama and trouble around every corner. On one last trip to Mexico before their orders finally arrive, a tragic event sets the stage for some changes in their near future. The time is 1990-1991 and the first Persian Gulf War plays a role in the development of the story. This is not a story about war but rather a story about four men biding their time while waiting to be a part of their country's active military.
The story was a bit much for me. It seemed to drag and I kept waiting for something to happen other than another road trip or party. Also,Wes continuously points out in his dialogue that eventually he would see what each event would eventually mean eventually in his future. I believe in foreshadowing, but the repetition of this dialogue was over used and eventually not interesting to me.
The narration was confusing at times. It seemed to jump from third person to first person (Wes) and then back to third person. As for the climax, when the accident happens and the orders finally arrive, it was quite a let down. The final chapter of the book was the best chapter in that it had a bit more depth and tied up some loose ends. And, it eventually lead to something... the ending.
I was disappointed in Awaiting Orders. I did finish it and do not regret that. However, I do find it difficult to recommend. It was slow moving and a bit of a let down in the end. I believe there was more to the characterization than what I found. The storyline was of self-discovery, but I just could not relate to the characters and their adventures. It reminded me of a modern version of Kerouac's On The Road, another book that was hard for me to relate to or find interesting enough to recommend.
I am glad, though, that I took the time to read O'Gorman's book after finding a recommendation for it from Lisa. Awaiting Orders had a different storyline from other books that I have read lately and I enjoyed reading a book that was set in recent times.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
In front of the Palace Flophouse there was a large log of wood where Mack and the boys were sitting in the mid-morning sun. They faced down the hill toward the laboratory. Doc said, "Look at them. There are your true philosophers. I think," he went on, "that Mack and the boys know everything that has ever happened in the world and possibly everything that will happen. I think they survive in this particular world better than other people. In a time when people tear themselves to pieces with ambition and nervousness and covetousness, they are relaxed. All of our so-called successful men are sick men, with bad stomachs, and bad souls, but Mack and the boys are healthy and curiously clean. They do what they want. They can satisfy their appetites without calling them something else." This speech so dried out Doc's throat that he drained his beer glass. He waved two fingers in the air and smiled. "There's nothing like that first taste of beer," he said. (pp. 141-142)
Mini-challenge #7 is to read a classic and review it. I chose to read Cannery Row by John Steinbeck after it was recommended to me last year by a dear friend. Although it started out a bit slow, eventually it engulfed me in its story and characters for a very enjoyable read.
Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. (p.1)
The reader is dropped into the community of Cannery Row with its people, routines, and interactions. Doc and his laboratory are well known in the community, and everyone seems to want to do something for Doc in return for his advice on many ailments, issues, or events. Mack and the boys live at Palace Flophouse, a shelter that they have made into a home. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't; but, they are always up to some kind of scheme. Also in the community is Lee Chong and his grocery where you can buy anything, Dora Flood and her Bear Flag Restaurant where a man can pass some time in the evening, and the old Chinaman who flap-flaps up and down the hill past the Flophouse. While reading this book, I learned about gathering various marine creatures such as starfish, frogs and octopi; making beer milk shakes; and planning a surprise party to show your appreciation for someone special.
True to John Steinbeck's usual style, the characters are down to earth and the descriptions bring the story to life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Cannery Row for mini-challenge #7.
Friday, June 6, 2008
In celebration of an author's birthday in June, I read Missing May by Cynthia Rylant. This book was the 1993 winner of the Newbery Medal Award. Summer and her uncle Ob continue to miss her aunt May who died two seasons ago. Their sorrow is so severe that it is beginning to affect their everyday living; and, now, Summer is beginning to worry about her uncle and his will to continue living without his beloved wife. One day Ob feels May's spirit around him in a very intense way. When he questions Summer's friend Cletus about spirits and contacting them, Cletus suggests a trip to Putnam County to meet with a minister who is known for such contact. The unlikely trio begin an unusual friendship, make discoveries about themselves and others around them, and eventually find comfort in their journey towards healing.
We stood there in May's beloved and practical garden, and Cletus searched the handout for some good words to say to bless the whirligigs that now had a place to spin and fly and live. He read: "'What is the true mission of spirit messages? To bring us consolation in the sorrows of life...'" Ob and I smiled at each other. And then a big wind came and set everything free. (p.89)
A very simply-told story about healing, Missing May by Cynthia Rylant reveals how three very unique people bring strength to one another while understanding death and life that follows. Their personalities are endearing which makes for a very touching story that can be enjoyed by both young adults and adults alike.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Texas Neighbors is a collection of three stories by Debra White Smith that include romance, second chances, and a bit of mystery. It is light hearted to read yet entertaining. It's a book that leaves you with a smile when you finish the last page.
The Key is a story about Brendy and Zeke. Can their original love be reignited after years of being apart? Has Zeke forgiven Brendy for marrying someone else while he was in Vietnam? And can Brendy add Zeke to her current life that is already full with responsibilities for so many other people?
The Promise is a story about Kent and Sylvia. Can Kent ever let his heart trust again? Are his children ready to trust and believe in another woman for their father's future? And what will his children and his mother do next to set Kent and Sylvia up to help jump start their romance?
The Neighbor is a mystery romance story about Allissa and Brad. Why are there bones buried in Brad's backyard? Who is out to scare, hurt, or possibly murder Allissa? And can Brad overcome his past grief to start a new life that again includes God and love?
All three stories are dreamy and fast reads. I enjoyed a great romantic escape to Texas for a couple days that I really needed. I have enjoyed other Inspirational Romance Collections from Barbour Publishing in the past and Texas Neighbors is another from that series that I would recommend.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
How does one describe David Laskin's book The Children's Blizzard other than heartbreaking, detailed, and fascinating: heartbreaking in the fact that several children lost their lives trying to return to their homes during a sudden winter storm; detailed in the descriptions, recollections, facts, and history that the author provides throughout the entire story; and, fascinating in the realization that this is a true story and it has been well documented as well as passed orally through generations of families who experienced it first hand. What a read it is!
Weather goes on forever with no direction or resolution, but a storm, like a story, has a beginning, middle, and an end. The conditions that made the storm will in time unmake it. The seeds of destruction are present from the start. (p.203)
Laskin leaves no stone unturned as he relates the story of this tragic event in history. On January 12, 1888, after a break in the wintry weather, a sudden and fierce blizzard hits the mid-west with very little warning. Laskin begins the book with the origins of several families that moved to the land to start new lives in the Dakota Territories of the United States. He then describes the winter storms that preceded the 1888 blizzard to set the stage. He also relates the history of meteorology and the Signal Corps who were responsible for the "indications" (weather reporting) of the day. He explains in great detail about winter weather, storms, fronts, and blizzards. Laskin then recalls the actual storm and how it impacted the families and their communities. He also describes the conditions of frost bite, hypothermia, the process of freezing to death, and the process of helping someone who has been exposed to such conditions. And, Laskin does not leave the reader wondering what happens after the blizzard. His final two chapters describe the aftermath of this terrible weather event.
The Children's Blizzard makes for a fascinating read. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy non-fiction reading that is well researched and full of history.