"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Why Are You So Sad? by Jason Porter

I really struggled with this book. I think the author was trying to insert some humor into a question most of us face at some point in our lives. We look up from our cubicle and wonder, is this all there is? Is this what I'm here for? Am I supposed to be happy with these circumstances set before me? For me, Porter missed the mark in both humor and meaningful content. 
I didn't find the novel humorous and after forcing myself through the whole thing (thank goodness it's short) I was disappointed anew when I reached the unsatisfactory conclusion. I don't really have any idea what was at the heart of main character, Raymond's, issue nor do I have any idea how it was ultimately resolved. There are a few hints indicating mental illness but then nothing comes of it, leaving me wondering if mid-life crisis is the culprit or something else entirely. Just thinking about it now is confusing! The novel closes with two alternate endings, neither of which brings the scattered elements of the story together. I suppose if I cared enough, I could choose the one to my liking? A flop for me.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18079551-why-are-you-so-sad?from_search=true.

The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey

In all fairness, I would give this one a 3.5 if I could. I love Downton Abbey so when I noticed the byline, "If you love Downton Abbey..." Well, with a start like that, this was obviously written for me! Initially I flew through the pages, drawn in by ghost stories and mysterious burglars. Alas, the honeymoon only lasted about halfway through. Catherine Bailey does an outstanding job of setting the scene. Through extensive research and notable authorial talent Bailey tells a story that could almost be fiction. It is no fault of the author's that I lost interest. Truthfully, the mysteries in the story weren't as mysterious as I hoped they would be. Each revelation is built up with a good and proper amount of suspense and then...you find out what's behind it and it's a bit of a let down. In the beginning there are a few ghost stories, tales passed down through the housekeeping staff, that I hoped to hear more of. No such luck. There's also a gripping section about a burglar trespassing in the secret rooms but sadly, there's very little more to that story either. Despite that, I would have ended the tale with a higher opinion if the middle didn't slow the pace so dramatically. It gets lengthy and repetitive through that bit. The family's struggle over John's participation in WWI requires the imparting of a number of duplicitous maneuverings that are very similar in nature and so have the effect of the same song on repeat.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16046229-the-secret-rooms?from_search=true.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Hammered by Kevin Hearne

Hammered was my favorite book in this series so far. It's the third installment and I wasn't sure when I started it if I wanted to continue with them. This is the first one that left me wanting to know what was going to happen next, RIGHT NOW! Oddly, main character Atticus isn't the one I love best in this series. So far I've stuck it out for news of Oberon, his Irish Wolfhound. Ha! Good news though, I'm finally starting to attach to the man behind the dog too ;0). It didn't hurt that after finishing the first two I finally felt like I had a handle on who the players are. There are a significant number of characters and it took the entirety of the first two books for me to start getting them all sorted out! 

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9595620-hammered.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is a little removed from what I normally choose to read but after several very "heavy" novels and a slew of textbooks, I needed something light-hearted, fun, and mindless. Graeme Simsion delivers exactly that! Main character, Don, is the reader's version of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory. He's brilliant academically but socially, he's a train wreck (albeit a hilarious, lovable, heart wringing one). Valentine's Day is coming so if you're looking for a G-rated romantic comedy that isn't too sappy sweet, I highly recommend The Rosie Project. There's no mystery to how things will turn out in the end but I was still up late into the night enjoying Rosie and Don's journey and refortifying my belief in true love in spite of ourselves.

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16181775-the-rosie-project?from_search=true.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult

At some point I think I lost my objectivity to Jodi Picoult's books. My starry-eyed adoration for everything she sets her pen to has most likely rendered me less helpful as a reviewer than someone who is experiencing her brilliance for the first time. I say the same things every time I read one of her books. I love her research and imagination. I love the imagery and irony she creates. Perhaps most of all, I love the education I get on subject matters I have rarely thought to contemplate. Besides the obvious moral, ethical, and often legal dilemmas Picoult's characters face, I have had the opportunity, as a devoted fan, to learn more about whale songs, bread baking, search and rescue, and wolf behavior-to name only a few. I love that she can completely distract me from all else in life while simultaneously forcing me to think critically about what I would do in the circumstances the characters face. There is no shortage of dinner table debate and discussion when I am in the midst of a Picoult-induced haze. 

A new resident of Wyoming, I found Lone Wolf particularly interesting. The wolves of Yellowstone, and some of the difficulties they have presented and been presented with, are briefly mentioned. I am fascinated and impressed by the elements of pack behavior Picoult introduces. And of course, the meat of the story... Questions about whether to prolong life or not are always difficult ones. How do we really know another's mind? We often make decisions for one another based on what we would want for ourselves. Not on purpose, of course, but we naturally tend to think that what we would want would surely be what our partner, parents, or friends would also want. Another point scored for having an advanced directive. What sometimes seems morbid may ultimately become a gift to the person left to make medical decisions they do not feel capable of making properly. Beyond the question of prolonging life or not, Picoult invites readers to consider what constitutes a life, a family, a father. 

I loved the final chapter in Lone Wolf. Just when you think it's over, Picoult leaves readers with one last 'what if' that lingers long past the closing author's note. 

Thank you, Jodi Picoult, for yet another well-crafted, astonishingly absorbing tale of love, loss, and transformation. 

You will find an official plot line description at: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13547188-lone-wolf?from_search=true.