Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake

The Homecoming of Samuel LakeThe Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher's blurb:
Every first Sunday in June, members of the Moses clan gather for an annual reunion at a sprawling hundred-acre farm in Arkansas. And every year, Samuel Lake, a vibrant and committed young preacher, brings his beloved wife, Willadee Moses, and their three children back for the festivities. In the midst of it all, Samuel and Willadee’s outspoken eleven-year-old daughter, Swan, is a bright light. Her high spirits and fearlessness have alternately seduced and bedeviled three generations of the family. But just as the reunion is getting under way, tragedy strikes, jolting the family to their core and setting the stage for a summer of crisis and profound change.
I really enjoyed this beautiful novel. The characters are complex and full of contradiction. Sometimes character-driven novels languish a little for me, but this one has a nice plot that breezes right through a summer in the 1950s.

This book is a really emotional read. I was totally invested in this family, from spunky Swan Lake, her righteous father, her conflicted grandmother and the variety of aunts, uncles and cousins in between.  The one thing I had a hard time with was the bad guy. He is really, really BAD. You hate him like you are supposed to, but I started to dread when he would show up.

This would make a great choice for book clubs. You can read the first chapter here.

Also reviewed by: In the Pages... ~ Bloggin' 'bout Books ~ Reviews by Lola's Blog ~ Prairie Horizons ~ The Eclectic Reader ~ Gerbera Daisy Diaries ~ Your link here?
Source: Purchased

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Ex Libris

Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common ReaderEx Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman

On the library stacks: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This book is a collection of 18 essays written by Anne Fadiman for Civilization magazine. While she claims she is a "common reader," I definitely take issue with that assessment. I read more than the average bear, but Fadiman takes reading to a whole new level.

The book started out strong and I loved her essay on how she and her husband merged their libraries after years of marriage (ours still isn't--we each have our own shelves). The middle dragged a little but it finished strong. Standouts for me were the essays on plagiarism and proofreading.

This is a great little book to read in snatches here and there. I did find Fadiman's tone a little pretentious at times, but her prose is fantastic and her knowledge is inspiring.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ It's All About Books
Source: Library

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially OurselvesThe Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone--Especially Ourselves by Dan Ariely

On the library shelves: Adult Non-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I became a fan of Dan Ariely when I read Predictably Irrational three years ago.  He is a behavioral economist, now at Duke, with a great business sense. In this book, he looks at dishonesty and how it affects ourselves, our communities and our workplaces.

Dan structures the book by discussing some experiments he has conducted and what they have demonstrated about how we make choices. Essentially, we don't choose to be dishonest based on a simple cost/benefit analysis. Instead, there are a number of factors that influence our decision to be honest including religious reminders, what others around us are choosing and how much we feel we can get away with that is "reasonable." After each discussion he gives an real-world example and then gives some ideas about how we can structure our lives to be more honest individuals.

My book club read this one in November. It is incredibly readable and makes for a great discussion. We loved discussing Ariely's various experiments and each of us had some interesting take-aways.

Source: Library

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Baking Cakes in Kigali

Baking Cakes in Kigali: A NovelBaking Cakes in Kigali: A Novel by Gaile Parkin

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Angel Tungaraza lives in the Rwandan city of Kigali with her husband and five grandchildren. Originally from Tanzania, the family lives in an apartment complex full of expats. Angel's husband works for the university, but others in the complex work for the UN, CIA, as volunteer aids, etc. Angel runs a business making cakes and becomes the focal point for the complex when people come to order cakes and end up sharing their joyful and heartbreaking stories.

The thing that I love about this book is that it takes some pretty hefty issues--AIDS, the Rwandan genocide, famine, suicide and prostitution--and combines them all into a story that is astonishingly upbeat and full of hope. There are some really funny parts and some really eye-opening and poignant parts to this novel. I liked how I was able to look at some issues in a new way.

Probably my only gripe about this book is that Angel is very reminiscent of Precious Ramotswe from "The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency." Certainly if you like those books, you will like this one. But the similarities did bother me a little. Having said that, I really enjoyed this and would heartily recommend it.

Also reviewed by: The Book Nest ~ Your link here?
Source: Library Kindle Download

Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Strike for Christmas

On Strike for ChristmasOn Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts

On the library stacks: Adult fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joy and Laura are part of a neighborhood knitting club. After Thanksgiving they are totally fed up with how their husbands act during the holidays. Joy feels like her husband doesn't appreciate everything she does to make the holidays special and is a grinch when it comes to her family gatherings. Laura's husband loves to throw parties but never helps out with all the work it takes to prepare or clean up. Together they convince the women of their town to go on strike.

Joy's husband reacts by doing only the bare minimum to keep the holiday spirit alive. Laura's husband tries really hard to do everything, with pretty funny consequences. Balancing it all out are a few women in the knitting group who would give anything to have Joy's and Laura's problems--one recently widowed and the other with cancer. Sometimes it gets a little cheesy, but I don't really expect anything less from a feel-good Christmas book.

This was my book club's pick for December and it is the perfect holiday read. It helps keep the busy-ness of the season in perspective, but it is also light and humorous. It's a quick read that I'd recommend if you get a few hours on a snowy afternoon.

This book was made into a Lifetime movie and is currently playing.

Source: Library

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

On the library stacks: Children's fiction and YA Classics
AR Reading Level: 11.0

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My son and I read this out loud to each other during Halloween. I had never read it before and found it to be quite delightful. We bought a version with a lot of illustrations and my son really enjoyed it.

I knew this book involved Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, but what I didn't realize is that there is a love story of sorts involved. Ichabod, a school teacher in town, tries desperately to win the hand of a wealthy farmer's daughter, Katrina Van Tassel. Unfortunately for him, the match is not to be.

This book, first published in 1820, has very difficult vocabulary words for kids. I found I had to concentrate quite hard when my son was reading and every once in awhile we had to stop and summarize what was going on. Having a Kindle version we could use to quickly access the dictionary was very helpful. This is a great children's book for advanced readers.

Source: Kindle purchase