sonk’s #CBR5 Reviews #59 – #65

I’m finally done!

#59: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (5 stars)

#60: Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III (3 stars)

#61: Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (2 stars)

#62: The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman (4 stars)

#63: Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker (3 stars)

#64: Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness by Erich Schiffman (4 stars)

#65: The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (5 stars)

Miss Kate’s CBRV review #7: The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

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This book is creepy.

The story is this: Dr. Montague studies the paranormal. To this end, he gathers a group of disparate people to investigate Hill House – a creepy old mansion that no one wants to stay in overnight. There’s Theodora – flirtatious and glam; Eleanor – mousy, lonely and weak willed; and Luke – heir to the property. 

They come together in the house, and in the course of the next few days they investigate the property as their sense of horror grows as the house itself seems to be coming alive. Not much actually HAPPENS for most of the book, but the feeling of dread is pervasive. Jackson’s descriptions of the dark, mildewy manse practically jump of the page.

This story is short – more like a novella. When the ending comes – and it does, abruptly – it’s quick and devastating.

Read more reviews at misskatesays.com: http://misskatesays.com/2014/01/03/miss-kates-cbrv-review-7-the-haunting-of-hill-house-by-shirley-jackson/

Miss Kate’s CBRV review #6: The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, by Charlie Lovett

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Peter Byerly is an antiquarian restorer and book dealer. He is also in mourning for his wife Amanda. His friends and family despair of him ever pulling himself out of his funk.

One day while leafing through an old volume on Shakespeare forgeries, he finds a watercolor portrait of what looks like his late wife. It’s can’t be, because this picture was painted during the Victorian era.

This starts him on a journey to discover the truth about the painting and the book in which it was found. He also tries to tackle the mystery of whether Shakespeare actually wrote his masterpieces. The story moves back and forth in time, and I won’t spoil it by telling you more.

The Bookman’s Tale has been compared to Shadow of the Wind, another great story about book obsession. I can see it, but this actually reminded me more of The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, in that the book itself is almost a character. Some of the coincidences in this story are a bit too convenient, and there’s a little supernatural element towards the end that I felt didn’t really fit. If you love books, however, I think you’ll like this.

Read more reviews at misskatesays.com: http://misskatesays.com/2014/01/03/miss-kates-cbrv-review-6-the-bookmans-tale-a-novel-of-obsession-by-charlie-lovett/

ABR’s #CBR5 Review #24: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

12-tribesHistorically, the 12 tribes of Israel are descendants of the patriarch Jacob. In this book, the 12 tribes are descendants of Hattie, a 15-year-old Southern girl who marries, moves from Georgia to Philadelphia, and settles into a life that brings her disappointments and tragedies. Rather than plagues of frogs and locusts, Hattie is plagued by alcoholism, infidelity, doubt and depression.

The book begins with the birth of Hattie’s first children, twins Philadelphia and Jubilee. Had the rest of the book maintained the pace and drama of the first chapter this book would’ve been excellent. I found the first chapter so heartbreaking I had to put the book down. But the remaining chapters, which are told by and about Hattie’s offspring, are often much less impactful.

Floyd is a sexually confused musician traveling through the South in the 1940s. Six is a prodigious but sinful preacher. Alice and Billups are adults traumatized by abuse they suffered as children. Franklin is unfaithful. Cassie is institutionalized. Bell is dying alone. By the end of the book, each of Hattie’s ‘tribes’ has told a story, and each one is more depressing and hopeless.

Many of the chapters exist as singular stories, but I thought the best ones casually mention Hattie and bring her back into the story, even if only peripherally. Ideally the book would end with a fairly complete portrait of Hattie, whether or not we liked what we saw, but many of the stories stop and start abruptly and the fates of many characters is untold.

My biggest issue with the book sounds disrespectful – after all the time period it covers was tumultuous and violent – but I wanted someone, anyone, to be happy, to find happiness. Chapter after chapter the characters struggle with alcoholism, infidelity, abuse, poverty, illness. It’s heaped on so that by the end of the book you’re a little jaded. (Much like Hattie, I suppose.)

There is a passage near the end of the book that summarizes the entire novel for me:

“Fate had plucked Hattie out of Georgia to birth eleven children and establish them in the North, but she was only a child herself, utterly inadequate to the task she’d been given. No one could tell her why things had turned out as they had, not August or the pastor or God himself. Hattie believed in God’s might, but she didn’t believe in his interventions. At best, he was indifferent.”

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review 40: Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

This is the last book I read in 2013, and I’m sad to say it ended with a whimper rather than a bang. I started this book a while back, but kept putting it down. (If I start and finish a new book before finishing the one I was reading, that’s never a good sign.)

The story of a small town, murder trial, and lost love, this novel shifts between present day and the recent past on a small island off the coast of Washington after WW2. This story itself is much like the weather of the novel: cold, dreary, and laborious. For me, this was a case of using more words when fewer would do, especially in regard to setting. Also, the motivations of characters were almost telegraphed in their deliberateness and story development seemed obvious so waiting for everything to unfold was tedious. Past: boy meets girl, girl faces stark reality, boy is sad, racism towards Japanese-Americans, WW2. Present: murder trial, still racism towards Japanese-Americans. It seemed like the murder trial would at least have some intrigue but even that played out predictably.

In short: well-written and if you like lots of descriptive detail and predictable action, you might enjoy it but I was bored. But I made it to 40 books this year because if it, so woo!

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #62: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

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This is a really good book, plus one of the few that aren’t part of a series. It’s a world where water is running out. Lynn and her mother live on a farm and protect their little pond. There’s lots of action and drama. I loved how Lynn’s character changes and grows from her isolated life with her mother to her less isolated life after she ends up on her own.

Seriously, this was a great book. You can read my full review here.

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #60: OCD Love Story by Corey Ann Haydu

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This was a really different YA novel, told from the point of view of a young lady afflicted with obsessive compulsive disorder. She joins a support group for OCD and starts a relationship with a boy from the group.

The book is told entirely from the girl’s point of view. Some parts are really cringe-inducing, more so than your normal YA drama. It’s a little heavier than some books, but I really enjoyed the story and characters, and the glimpse of a different point of view.

You can read my full review here.