the low down on new books

Archive for February, 2011

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts:  by Sonya Sones. 432 p.  To be published by Harper Paperbacks in April 2011.  ARC provided courtesy of NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares?  Poetry / Adult Contemporary

Short Bio:  Holly feels caught in “the sandwich generation” – sending her daughter off to college while simultaneously dealing with her mother’s ill health, not to mention the other sundry effects of being a 50-year old woman (dealing with menopause, re-negotiating marriage relationship as kid leaves, etc.).

Eyewitness Account:  Being, myself, a young newlywed with no kids makes the setting of this story something that I can’t easily relate to – and yet, the poems that fill this book are so exquisitely written and full of the just the right balance of information to progress the plot and emotional expression to pull me in, that I found myself incredibly sympathetic to Holly and fully enjoying her journey.

I loved the narrator’s voice and style of expression, often alternating among wit, nostalgia, and raw emotion with ease. I loved the characterization, which gave each person in the story a personality without overly stereotyping. And I liked the plot, which had just enough tension and conflict to stay interesting without being so overblown that it felt artificially constructed. Most of all, I really enjoyed the last few poems at the end that set the whole story in context and provided a very positive and hopeful response to what could be seen as a depressing set of circumstances.

Note: Even though this book is technically a composite of “poems”, it reads more like lyrical prose.  I may not have picked the book up if I had known it was a series of poems, so I’m glad that I didn’t know that to begin with.  If that genre makes you wary – read the first couple poems before making up your mind.

Other Books Read by This Author: None.

What are other people saying? Esmerelda’s Book Thing, Holly Weiss, Lets Eat Grandpa 

Rating:

★★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★> Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★

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Pearl in the Sand

Reviewed by Cathy

Just the Facts:

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Christian Historical Fiction/Romance

Short Bio: Rahab hears of a holy and compassionate God moving his people across the country and directly to hers. Will she and her family be destroyed? Could it be this God cares about her more than the blood thirsty ones she knows or more than her family who sold her into prostitution? Will all she risks be enough to save them and then what? Where will she live and how will she continue after the city falls?

Rahab is a savvy and beautiful businesswoman. When she meets Salmone, she has no hope that such a distinguished man of integrity would find her of interest. Her only hope of fitting in with these strange new people is to study and win the approval of this wonderful God. After Salmone is wounded in battle, neither of them is sure what God’s future for either of them will be. Rahab is sure that her past can never be put behind her and she will be unworthy for the rest of her life. How will these two be able to find a life together?

Eyewitness Account: This was the most delightful account of a story I have known since the age of 6. Not many people have taken on the hard questions this story brings. Why would Rahab betray her own city? How could a prostitute just join the Israel nation and end up a matriarch of the line of Christ? How does she reclaim her purity enough to have a normal married relationship?

Tessa tells the sweetest story of God calling and wooing a woman to himself. I loved every page of this, a true love story.

Other Books Read by This Author: As far as I know, this is Tessa’s first novel

 

Rating:

★★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


The Inheritance of Beauty

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Nicole Seitz. 320 p. Published Feb 2011 by Thomas Nelson.  Read as an advanced review copy, courtesy of NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Adult Contemporary / Historical Fiction

Short Bio: “The Inheritance of Beauty” is an engaging story told from the perspective of a couple, George and Magnolia, who are aging in a retirement home somewhere in the South.  As Magnolia’s present-day mind withers from dementia/Alzheimer’s, her memories of her childhood tell the story of scarring childhood events that were shared by her brother and her, now husband, friend George.  A series of “providential” occurrences bring closure on the past, not only for them, but also for the gentle caretaker who looks after them at the nursing home.

Eyewitness Account: The plot summary hardly does justice to the deep themes that run through this book – themes of childhood, aging, guilt, blessing, curses, and forgiveness. I’ve never read such an interesting tale of how our actions affect the generations after us – the biblical idea of our sins cursing our children and grandchildren. Yet, the author deftly weaves in the parallel biblical truth: that it takes only one person to redeem the generational line back for blessing.

The author absolutely excelled at telling the story through the eyes of different characters – through the insecure and frail George, the mute and sheltered Magnolia, the faithful caretaker, Annie, and the lonely prodigy, Joe. Each voice was distinctly different, and contributed well to the development of both the characters and the plot.

I also loved the element of magic/the supernatural that Seitz brought into the story – like all of the other plot elements, I found it interesting while still being believable (something difficult to pull off!). My only critique is that it was a book that read slowly – probably due to the constant switching between the present and the past. It worked exceptionally well for the characterization, but bogged down the flow of the plot a bit.

I would definitely recommend this for those who like their literary meals with substance and leftovers to think about later!

Other Books Read by This Author:  none

What are other people saying? Thoughts From a Princess, Faithful Reader, Musings by Lynn

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


The Cheshire Cheese Cat

Reviewed by Nick

Just the Facts: The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright. Barry Moser, illustrator. pp. 1-37 excerpt. To be published on Oct. 1, 2011. Peachtree Publishers; Atlanta. Accessed through http://www.netgalley.com.

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Who cares? : Children’s Literature/Elementary Chapterbook

Not so short bio:

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub has unarguably the best cheese in England. Perhaps that’s why it is such a popular hang out for writers and poets. It’s definitely the reason that so many mice have inhabited the attic. And no wonder the owner is looking for a new mouser!

Skilley is a tom cat living in the streets of London–but he’s no ordinary cat. Skilley has a secret that would make him the laughing stock of cats and mice alike. When Skilley hears that the Cheshire Cheese Pub in London is looking for a mouser, he quickly formulates a plan to get hired for the position.

Pip, a mouse that lives among the mouse colony within the Cheshire Cheese, hears the pub owner, Henry, talking about getting a cat. Pip understands human language because he learned it from his rescuer Nell, the pub owner’s daughter.  He quickly decides to convene the mouse council to find the wisest course of action, but on the way foolishly gets caught by the would-be mouser! Pip is scared for his life, but starting to get annoyed as the cat prolongs the inevitable, or what Pip thinks is the inevitable. Once in private, Pip finds out Skilley’s secret. Skilley does not like to eat mice! More surprisingly, Skilley loves CHEESE! and that’s why he has come to Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. Pip thinks quick on his feet and makes a deal with Skilley that they will provide him with the hard-to-obtain Cheshire Cheese if he will protect the mice from any true mouser.

Will Pip succeed in persuading the mice, especially Maldwyn, a victim of a cat mauling, that the new mouser is harmless? Is Skilley indeed harmless? Will Skilley’s rival Pinch let Skilley take the post of Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese mouser so easily? What secrets is Maldwyn hiding? Will Skilley be able to make it “look” like he is a mouser while really eating the pubs cheese? Can Skilley trust the mice? Can the mice trust Skilley? And most importantly, will Charles find the perfect beginning to his book?

Eyewitness Account:

Deedy and Wright have composed a charming tale of a cat and mouse. But this tale is not the orthodox relationship that you’d expect from such eternal foes. The authors have an original plot scheme for their story and yet they have intertwined beloved traditional elements such as the writings of Charles Dickens and his character itself in the storyline. Even the setting of London and an old fashioned pub nicely offset the untraditional concept of a cheese-eating cat.

The first chapter is a little choppy, but after that the story takes off fluidly. I commend the authors for attempting to be artistic with the script at certain points in the book, but I think it is too distracting at times. Not exactly sure the intended age range, but in some places wording is unnecessarily dense.  The characters have great potential and so does the plot, but since it is only an excerpt, my rating for this book will be less than I would have liked.

 

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★★☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★☆☆