Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Green Mile by Stephen King

Never having read Stephen King, I wasn't sure what to expect with The Green Mile but I am here to say that this is one incredible story, written so well and so engaging right from the first page that I couldn't put it down. 
Set at Cold Mountain Penitentiary in Georgia, this is the story of just a few months of time during 1932 and really focuses on John Coffey, a man who has been convicted of the rape and murder of two little girls. Two other prisoners, convicted murderers as well, are also a big focus of the story; Eduard Delacroix, a small french man who befriends a mouse named Mr. Jingles, and William Wharton, a psychopath known as "Billy the Kid". Paul Edgecombe is the "bull-goose screw" of the E block known as The Green Mile. Here we meet the other very likable guards, Brutal, Harry and Dean as well as one guard, Percy, who has his job because of his family connection to the governor and is just as sadistic and mean as the worst prisoner to live on this death row. 
John Coffey is a huge black man, simple-minded, afraid of the dark, and whose face shows great sorrow with his never-ending tears. He seems to be just a gentle giant of a man and after miraculously curing Paul's terrible urinary tract infection with a touch of his hand, Paul starts to wonder if it is really possible that John committed the terrible crime that he's been convicted of. John seems to have a gift - but is it more of a curse than a gift?
I can't tell you much more in order to not spoil some things for you if you haven't read this book. What I can tell you is that it is one of the best books I've ever read. You will connect emotionally with each character, whether or not you like them, love them or hate them. Each character could be your neighbor in your small town. There is no horror in this book like Stephen King is known for, only friends, enemies and magic. I finished the book in tears, then turned around and watched the movie, (which was done really well, by the way!), in tears also. A story that will haunt me for awhile.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

Hmmm...What to say about Little Bee? This is such a powerful novel about a young Nigerian girl whose entire family, entire village, is murdered by the oil company who has discovered the countries biggest national resource right under their village. The story starts out with Little Bee in a refugee detention center in Britain where she has been held for two years after coming over to Britain hidden on a ship. A slip of the keyboard, (and a favor granted to one of the office men), has four girls being released into the countryside outside of London with no papers and left to get by on their own. If caught, they will all be sent back to their respective countries, where it has been deemed they are not in danger. Of course, the people who decided these countries are safe are Britain's Home Office bureaucrats who have not lived through the terror of your family and neighbors being destroyed and who are not witness' to such horror. After being released, Little Bee sets out to find the only people in the UK that she has any connection with. Andrew and Sarah were Englishman that just happened to take a vacation to Nigeria and happened to be where they shouldn't have been; on the same beach where Little Bee and her older sister were running and hiding from the men who murdered their family. Worlds collided as the men caught up with them moments after they revealed themselves to the Britt's on the beach. 

I'm not going to tell you what happens next as it would be a big spoiler if you haven't read this novel. I will tell you that it is a novel that is written so well, that it truly evokes that thoughts and feelings of this young girl who has lived through such horror. It opens your eyes to the fact that these terrible things that happen in our world are not just a small story on the evening news, but rather a large, horrible story in the lives of so many and that these terrible things really do happen all of the time in our world. The story is powerful and moving but also written with humor that will make you laugh out loud from time to time. I am always amazed when a male author can write so well from the voice of a woman and Chris Cleave did it wonderfully. I am in love with Little Bee.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

An Untamed Land by Lauraine Snelling

Norway 1877
'Gustaf Bjorklund waited patiently in his chair at the head of the oval oak table for the members of his family to take their seats so the discussion could begin.  He stroked his gray beard with fingers coarsened and cracked by years of heavy labor in the frigid Norwegian winter air.  One curling strand caught in an open crack and he felt the small twinge of pain.' 
And so the story of the Bjorklunds migration to America begins with this opening chapter of Lauraine Snellings An Untamed Land~

I really enjoyed this book, staying awake until 2 this morning to get it finished! Roald and Ingeborg Bjorklund traveled from Norway to America along with Roald's brother Carl and his wife Kaaren in 1880. After a long ship ride and then cross country journey, they settled on land in North Dakota for their homestead. Breaking the sod for planting and building a home took much hard work from these very strong and stubborn people. The hardships and heartache's they experienced along the way are faced with faith in God and hope for the future. 

My sister live
s in North Dakota so as I was reading, I was picturing the land as it would have been in the late 1880's and can't even imagine the terrible blizzards they would have faced in the wintertime. Ingeborg was a very strong woman, stubborn at times with the wish to be more help on the homestead than just the woman that was needed to tend the children and the garden. I could really relate to her and all she felt. The end of the book had me in tears, which doesn't happen often but I am glad to know that I can visit Ingeborg again with the next book in this series. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Memory Book by Penelope J. Stokes

Phoebe Lange was just a little girl when her mother was murdered in there home. Phoebe remembers standing in the kitchen, her mama hurt and bleeding on the floor and a man with ice blue eye's staring at her. Her grandmother took her in and raised her in the old family home. When Phoebe's Grandmother gets sick, she comes home from college to help care for her and finds out that her father, whom she always has been told was dead, is too soon be released from prison for the murder of her mother. Talk about a reality that will shake a person's faith to the core! As Phoebe is questioning everything she is and knows, she runs across and old Memory book that belonged to her great-aunt who just happened to have the same name as Phoebe herself. Wanting to know more about her great-aunt and why the memory book ended so abrubtly, Phoebe digs in. In a dream, (or was it?), Phoebe is transported back in time and spends some time as her great-aunt. There, she is able to answer some questions about her family and her faith in God. Can the past redeem the future, and the future redeem the past?

I really enjoyed this book, until the very last chapter or two. It was about a young woman struggling with her faith and with who she is; learning to trust in the people and the God who love her. I felt that the last couple of chapters were written as if I was sitting in church, listening to a sermon and it was a bit to much and heavy for the story. All in all a good read.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

'It was the coldest winter for forty-five years.  Villages in the English countryside were cut off by the snow and the Thames froze over.  One day in January the Glasgow-London train arrived at Euston twenty-four hours late.  The snow and the blackout combined to make motoring perilous;  road accidents doubled, and people told jokes about how it was more risky to drive an Austin Seven along Piccadilly at night than to take a tank across the Siegfried line.'
First paragraph of Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett

It's funny that I usually don't care for spy novels, but I have really liked every Ken Follett book I have ever read and this one was no exception. Set during the last days of WW II, Die Nadel was Germany's top spy. The Needle was living in England under numerous identities while ferreting out all the British secrets he could. When he uncovers the biggest secret of all, the one that will make all of the difference in Germany winning the war, he must get this secret intelligence back to Hitler.

David and Lucy Rose were in a terrible accident the night of their wedding that ended David's career as an Army pilot and severed both of his legs. David and Lucy went to live on a remote Scottish island where David's dad owned a house and sheep farm, the only other inhabitant being Old Tom, the sheepherder.

These four lives intertwine in passion, treachery and absolute bravado. You will fall in love with Lucy Rose and will find yourself turning pages late into the night. Wonderful!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

An Absence So Great - Jane Kirkpatrick

An Absence So Great (Portraits of the Heart, #2)An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'A photograph, like life, often reveals as much about who's absent as who's there.'
~First paragraph of An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick

Another wonderful book by one of my favorite authors! An Absence So Great carries on where A Flickering Light left off in the life of Jane's grandmother, Jessie Gaebele. Jessie is now eighteen and living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has gone away from her family and hometown of Winona, Minnesota as a punishment to herself for the longing of a married, much older man; her boss and mentor Fred J. Bauer. In Milwaukee, Jessie is working for Suzanne Johnson, a woman who has lost her husband so is now running his photography studio. She is living with the Harms family who are actually relatives of Mr. Bauer and in the course of time it comes out that Mr. Bauer is paying them for Jessie's room and board. She does not at all want this support, so begins to take photographs at the local dances in order to tuck away enough money to pay Mr. Bauer back and be once again out of his debt. When word gets to Jessie that one of the studio's in Winona is up for sale, she goes back home only for a short visit to approach the bank manager for a loan to secure the studio. Turned down on the basis that she is a woman, Jessie instead goes to work for this same studio to prove her abilities to the owner. She does so and the banker has a change of heart and gives her the loan. But all is well only for awhile and circumstances have Jessie once again leaving her family and hometown for the wide open prairies of North Dakota. Will painful memories ever leave Jessie behind? Will she come to terms with the pullings of her own heart?

Another historical novel beautifully written. Jessie Gaebele will grab your heart.

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Don't I Know You? - Karen Shepard

Don't I Know You?: A NovelDon't I Know You?: A Novel by Karen Shepard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'August 1976
It was a Tuesday.  Steven's key worked like it always had.  His mother was lying between the living room and the front hall.  He saw her feet first.  They were bare, and at first he thought she was doing her yoga.'
                                First paragraph of Don't I know You? by Karen Shepard

This was a really interesting murder mystery written first from the perspective of the murder victim's 12 year old son, then wrapped around other lives in the neighborhood.

Gina Engel was brutally murdered in her New York City apartment in the summer of 1976. Her son, Stephen, coming home from a day playing with friends, finds his mother's body lying in the hallway of their home. Could the murderer have been Gina's current boyfriend, Phil; Stephen's abscent father; an ex-boyfriend? It's determined only that it was someone that Gina knew. Stephen caught only a glimpse of a man in green Adidas tennis shoes leaving through an open window. The story stays with Stephen throughtout the first week of the investigation and up until the time when his father comes to take him to San Diego and a whole new life.

Next, two years later with the murder still unsolved, we meet Lily Chin. Lily is engaged to Nick, a wealthy landowner. A strange woman brings it to Lily's attention that her fiance' may have a secret life that was once tangled up with Gina Engel's. Is he a dangerous man or the man that Lily thinks she knows?

Fast forward ten years to the fall of 1988. Louise Carpanetti and her son, Michael, live in the same building that Gina was killed in years ago. Michael is a slow, emotionally-disturbed man who used to water Gina's plants when she was away and had a relationship with her son, Stephen. Louise had recieved a phone call from Gina as she had lain dying. She has always had suspicions that she has kept to herself about her own son. Is it time to come forward?

I thought this book was done quite well, but was left a little disappointed with the ending. All three voices were done well and we got to know the people involved intimately, but the very last chapter that held the answer was too short and lacked the depth of the rest of the novel. I felt that it ended very abruptly.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death Comes As Epiphany

Death Comes As Epiphany (Catherine LeVendeur, #1)Death Comes As Epiphany by Sharan Newman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a fun, light read. Set in 1139 France, Catherine LeVendeur is a novice nun who has not yet taken her final vows. She is at the Convent of the Paraclete studying under the abbess Heloise. Catheine had a part in preparing a manuscript for Abbe' Sugar that has disappeared and word is that the manuscript has been defaced with heresy. Catherine is sent back to her family from the convent in the disguise of a disgraced nun, but in reality is on a mission to find the missing manuscript and determine who defaced it and why. In this quest, Catherine puts herself in much danger physically and also mortally with the evil that is involved in this mystery.

Death Comes As Epiphany is the first in a mystery series, all with Catherine as the heroine. If you are ready for a light adventure, these are really fun books to dig into.

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