Category Archives: Book Reviews

Copper Descent

This is my first author interview as part of a cool thing called a blog tour. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know what they were either…) When an author has a new book coming out that they want to publicize, they set up a virtual book tour by visiting bloggers like me who will take the time to read an advanced copy and give an honest review. Since I’m not a patient woman and I love to read, I immediately jumped at the chance to get my hands on books before the general public.

Today I’m joined by the author of  Copper Descent, Angela Hartley, who is also one of my fellow Utah Fantasy Authors.

The tale of Sinauf was a secret nineteen-year-old Nina Douglas’ ancestors kept hidden for eighteen generations. But the truth has been brought into light.

The dark god of legend is real.

Caught in an ancient war still raging strong in the modern world, Nina is confronted with Sinauf—the embodiment of all she fears and desires. Like a moth drawn to a deadly flame, Nina must resist the seductive charm of a beautiful monster, or prepare to lose everything she holds dear. 


I read Copper Descent before it had a cover and without knowing anything except that Angela had asked if anyone was willing to read it and review it as part of her blog tour for the launch. I had no idea how it was being marketed but I would have described it as a young adult urban fantasy. (I later found out it is New Adult Horror. Same thing, right?) My favorite aspect was how real the characters are portrayed. The main character, Nina, starts out as a teen but for the majority of the story is a young woman. She kisses boys without commitments, she experiences the heat of passion when she is attracted to someone (more than once), runs away when things get tough, fights with her parents, and is selfish and self-centered at times. She was a realistic breath of fresh air. And then, to my surprise, the evil antagonist chasing after our heroin is actually the devil. As a very non-religious person, I expected to be annoyed with this turn of events but it was so well written I instead found myself sucked in and unable to put it down. I love the way Angela took age-old themes and gave them new life. She expertly weaves Native American legends with all the religions of the ages resulting in a character I both understood and empathized with – even as he plotted to destroy mankind. The book has many elements of fantasy since worlds beyond our own are brought to life. And even though one of the main characters is Lucifer himself, the themes are nothing like you would expect. I highly recommend it – although I must disclose it does have violence and some sexuality for those of you who might have sensitivities. I would give it a PG-13 equivalent rating. 

Initially, I only committed to reviewing the book in exchange for the early sneak peak. But then it was so entertaining and I had a million questions I wanted to ask about it so I sat down and picked Angela’s brains for an interview instead.

Me:  Where did your idea for Copper Descent come from?

Angela:  When I first started writing, a dark figure showed up in all of my work. He became a calling card, really. I never knew when or how he would appear, but there was no doubt he would be there, lurking in the shadows and waiting for his opportunity to wreak havoc. Copper Descent started out as an exploration. I wanted to understand the monster. I also wanted to find a girl who was strong enough to take him on. The rest kind of took on a life of its own. No one was more surprised than me when I discovered he was Lucifer, but it also made perfect sense. So, I ran with it.
Me:  I recognized some universal themes of Christianity, but is there any truth to the Native American legends you reference?
Angela:  Having lived in Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah for the majority of my life, I’ve grown up hearing many stories about the Native American tribes in these areas. There are some pieces based on actual facts, like the Freemont Indians who disappeared from Nine Mile Canyon, and I incorporated parts of the Timpanogos legend, but I think all good lies are seeded with a bit of truth. And that’s really what a storyteller is—an excellent liar. Whatever accuracy is found in the pages were only a set-up to deliver the words in ways I found pleasing.
Me:  What is your secret to so accurately portraying the teenage experience without the angst one would expect?
Angela:  I’m actually raising teenagers right now, but I have unique circumstances. When my oldest daughter was eight-years-old, she was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Just like Nina, she was forced to grow up way too early, and has had to face challenges way beyond what her peers experience. Because of her struggles, she’s learned not to sweat the small stuff, or play into the drama. She’s my hero, and inspiration.
Me:  Another example of taking everyday life and letting it fuel your writing. I love it. The ending of Copper Descent was satisfying in its finality and yet left things open for potentially more to come. Are there plans for a sequel?
Angela: Copper Descent is actually the first volume in a seven part series entitled The Sentient Chronicles. The first three plots are designed to stand by themselves, each following a different set of characters, but everything comes together in the fourth book. The entire series follows Lucifer through his fall, his rise, and ultimately his journey back to the angel city.
Me:  How long did it take you to write – start to finish?
Angela:  Writing the novel took less than a year. Now, finding a publisher was a whole different ballgame. I searched for six years before I found the right fit.
Me:  Wow, that makes my own journey so far seem like small potatoes. I’m glad you stuck with it. What is your writing process?
Angela:  I write an ending, and then figure out how it happened. Most of my work is exploratory. I try to outline, but never end up where I thought I would.
Me:  Another “pantser”. I sometimes wish I could write that way but it doesn’t work for me. So, what is your favorite part of being an author?
Angela:  When someone is inspired by my work to think in a way they may have never considered otherwise.
Me:  Least favorite?
Angela:  The rejection. You need to have a pretty thick skin to make it in this industry, and it’s tough putting your heart out there time and again only to have it trampled. I think all writers must be a little crazy or masochistic to allow ourselves the opportunity to be so vulnerable.
Me:  No comment on where I think I fit into those categories, thanks. What keeps you motivated to write?
Angela:  I don’t think I could stop, anymore than I could cease to breathe. For me, creation equates happiness, and I live best inside my head. It’s the real world that tends to trip me up.
Me:  Where and when do you write?
Angela:  I treat my writing like an actual job, and work in some aspect of the craft for at least four to five hours a day, generally when the kids are in school. I have a netbook, and I tend to rotate my scenery often so I don’t get bored with my surroundings.
Me:  What else have you written?
AngelaCopper Descent is my first published work. Eight years ago, my hard-drive burned up on my computer, destroying all of my documents. My back-up file wouldn’t load on my new system. At the time, I was devastated, but now I look at it as a gift. My early work is dead and buried. It will never come back to haunt me *smile*.

Me:  How did you go from aspiring writer to published author?

Angela:  My entire journey took ten years. In the back of my mind, I always thought I’d write someday, but it took losing my father for me to realize that sometimes there are no more tomorrows. I went back to school at thirty, drafted my novel at thirty-three and spent the next six years querying. I didn’t sit idle, but continued to revise and work on other projects as I waited for responses. Mostly, I built my social media platform. At this time, I took a job offer, not because I wanted a career in that field, but gave me an opportunity to be visible. In the public eye, several speaking prospects presented themselves. My novel started reading beautifully, my query was flawless, and I found myself writing a column in the local paper. Some would say the universe aligned, but the truth is I worked my butt off and allowed myself to be uncomfortable.
Me:  What advice do you have for other aspiring writers?
Angela:  Fall in love with the work, not the dream. If you’re writing because you want to be famous or make millions of dollars, this isn’t for you. It is a long, hard road full of disappointment, but if you love the work you can discover aspects of yourself and others that make the journey worth your time. My best advice? Quit. If however, you find that you can’t, you are not an aspiring writer, but in fact a true writer. We are all addicts here, hooked on words and ideas. The more you surrender to the impulse to create, you’ll find those imaginary worlds will become clearer and more concise. Which is why you either need to quit or indulge as often as you can.
Me:  You heard her folks, quit now or jump on the crazy train that is being a writer. *smile* What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far on your author journey?
Angela:  That there is no end. There are always new mountains on the horizon. But I’ve also discovered I can do hard things, and I actually look forward to the challenges ahead.
Me:  Are there more books we can look forward to, and if so, when?
Angela:  I’ve recently finished Iron Resolve, the second book in Sentient. No release date yet, but hopefully in early 2015. In this novel we follow Myke Preston—a man with a weak disposition. He walks away from his wife and child only to discover Brooklyn has crumbled quite literally underneath his feet. The only way back to his family is through a maze of doors leading through his hellish past. It is raw, powerful, and for anyone who has dealt with addiction, infidelity, or domestic violence, incredibly inspirational. Utah Fantasy Authors plan to release an anthology later this year, The Secret Door. I’m writing a dark wizard story for that. In my spare time, I’m also working on a stand-alone novel—a cautionary tale of hypnotherapy and mass murder called D-Brie. And yes, Sinclair has a cameo appearance in this novel.
Me:  I can’t wait to read more. Where can readers find and connect with you? 
Thanks, Angela, for the instant gratification of an advanced read and for taking the time to talk with me and my fabulous readers who are now hopefully ready to rush out and get Copper Descent for their own libraries. Trust me, it was a great read and you will want to.

Copper Descent is available now HERE on Amazon and in print late June

Angela Hartley spent much of her childhood being shuffled from house to house with only a book for companionship. The magic she found in the written word saved her in many ways, transporting her into worlds far more enjoyable than the one she resided in. Literature became a passion and the idea of writing carried her through years of uncertainty.

After high school, she met and married her own Prince Charming. They rode off into the sunset in his blue Toyota and a whole new world full of hope and happiness opened up. He claimed they could move mountains together, and they did. While facing the painful realization that sometimes there are no tomorrows following her father’s tragic death in 2005, she decided it was time to follow her dreams. With the love and support of her family, she dove into another world, full of procreating angels and demon rock stars.

Her debut new adult horror novel, Copper Descent will be released on Amazon May 2014. Angela currently resides in Midway, Utah with her three children and husband. 

Book List Archive 2013

Time for out with the old and in with the new posts recapping the major accomplishments of the past year (and cleaning off the side bar to make room for tracking this year’s list). I thought 2013 was going to see far more books under my belt since last year was truly an overachiever one when it came to reading. However, I’ve had far more energy to be off my couch in recent months and you can’t listen to audible while doing yoga like you can while running.

  • The Winter of Our Disconnect, Susan Maushart (book club) – this book changed my children’s lives and is well worth reading
  • A Memory of Light, Wheel of Time #14, Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson – so much better than I ever hoped for and well worth the 15 years it took to wait for the end of this series.
  • Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, Rachel Maddow – disturbing and eye-opening
  • Firefly Lane, Kristin Hannah
  • Still Alice, Lisa Genova (book club) – frightening look at Alzheimer’s
  • The Reservoir, John Miliken Thompson
  • Mistborn: The Final Empire, Brandon Sanderson 
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Katherine Boo
  • Dark Places, Gillian Flynn
  • 14, Peter Clines – best scifi read this year
  • And I Don’t Want to Live this Life, Deborah Spungen (book club)
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller
  • Mistorn #2: The Well of Ascension, Brandon Sanderson
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn (book club) – this time I read it instead of listened and loved it even more
  • The Kitchen House, Kathleen Grissom (book club)
  • Mistborn #3: The Hero of Ages, Brandon Sanderson – the ending of this series cemented Sanderson’s place as my new favorite fantasy author
  • Old Man’s War, John Scalzi
  • A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness – this was a haunting read that stuck with me a long while
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck (work book club)
  • Horns, Joe Hill – one of my very favorite reads this year
  • The Rent Collector, Camron Wright (book club)
  • Joyland, Stephen King
  • Hounded, Kevin Hearne
  • The Dog Stars, Peter Heller (my pick for book club so I re-read it in print instead of listening). This is a far different book in print than in audible and I liked the audible far better.
  • Hexed, Kevin Hearne
  • The Light Between Oceans, M.L. Stedman (book club)
  • Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge – not my favorite scifi and proof that if you put something down twice it probably doesn’t deserve getting finished
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman – also one of my favorite reads this year – such a great one!
  • Mistborn #4: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson
  • Happy Money, Elizabeth Dunn (work book club)
  • Slim for Life, Jillian Michaels
  • Immortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cassandra Clare – I hope the movies are better than the books
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (book club) – I’m now officially a huge Gaiman fan, too
  • Mothers & Other Liars, Amy Bourret (book club)
  • No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty – oh how I wish I’d read this years ago to make NaNoWriMo easier!
  • Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson – read aloud with hubby on our road trip
  • The Name of the Wind: The King Killer Chronicles Day One, Patrick Rothfuss – also read aloud for hubby on our road trip after I filled him in on the first half; and yet another epic fantasy series I want to grab the next one immediately.

That’s thirty seven books this year. A far cry from the goal I set of fifty but still impressive since the theme this year was apparently fantasy. I read some major tomes that in terms of sheer number of pages alone could count as several books. I set the goal of forty books in 2014. Whether I hit that goal or not, you can be certain I’ll be reading every chance I get!

Book List Archive 2012

It’s that time again!  Time for me to recap my year reflecting on how crazy my goals are for myself while comparing them from year to year to show what progress I’m making on being the best overachiever I know how to be.  Last year I was bragging about how brilliant I was at combining running with audio books so I could *double* my reading.  The total for 2011 was a whopping eighteen books.  Hold onto your hats, people.  2012 saw over double the number of the previous year. 

  • Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides (the prose of this book still haunts me with its beauty)
  • The History of Love, Nicole Krauss (book club)
  • Letters for Emily, Camron Wright (book club)
  • Bullet, Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Uglies, Scott Westerfeld (book club)
  • The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (my pick for book club)
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins (re-read for hubby on a road trip because of the movie)
  • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (re-read because hubby insisted – I made him read the third himself because I hated it so much the first time)
  • Towers of Midnight – Wheel of Time #13, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (20 years later the series still isn’t finished)
  • Following Atticus, Tom Ryan
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (book club)
  • Defending Jacob, William Landay (book club)
  • Dies the Fire, S. M. Stirling
  • One For The Money, Janet Evanovich
  • Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand (book club)
  • The Ice Limit, Lincoln Child & Douglas Preston
  • Are you there Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea, Chelsea Handler
  • Hit List, Laurell K. Hamilton
  • Variant, Robison Wells
  • Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Ransom Riggs
  • On the Island, Tracy Garvis-Greaves
  • A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (another road trip read to hubby)
  • The Gods of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs (had to find out what else happened!)
  • Calico Joe, John Grisham (book club)
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson Walker
  • The Hollow City, Dan wells
  • Divine Misdemeanors, Laurell K. Hamilton
  • The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty
  • The Wind Through the Keyhole – Dark Tower 4.5, Stephen King
  • Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • 50 Shades of Gray, E. L. James (so wish this one wasn’t on the list!)
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (book club)
  • 50 Shades Darker, E. L. James (another waste of reading time I fully regret!)
  • The Maze Runner, James Dashner (book club)
  • Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert Heinlein
  • Legion, Brandon Sanderson
  • Hate List, Jennifer Brown (book club)
  • Lucifer’s Hammer, Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
  • The New New Rules: How Everyone But Me Has Their Head Up Their Ass, Bill Maher
  • Radical Frugality, Nic Adams (work book club)
  • Area 51, Bob Mayer
  • Orchids For Lila, September Roberts (my friend from my “other” book club’s first published work!)
  • One Second After, William Forstchen

Yes, you counted them right… (wait, you didn’t count them?  Well I did of course!) That’s forty five books in a year.  When two years ago all I could muster was a book club book a month and that was stretching it.  I read a grip of science fiction and remembered exactly why I love that genre so much.  I wasted far too much time on the oh-so-popular drivel otherwise known as 50-Shades.  I discovered I really like character/situation stories like Before I Fall, On the Island, Hate List and Defending Jacob that make you think about what you would do if you found yourself in an unusual situation.  I got to visit Mid World with my favorite Stephen King characters of all time even though I thought he was done writing their stories.  I found I am definitely NOT a Jane Austen fan.  My two favorites for the year were Middlesex and Gone Girl for far different reasons.  And, I’m looking forward to the conclusion of The Wheel of Time just as much now that it’s here as I was twelve years ago when I first started reading the series.

How the hell did I read more than double the amount of books this year than I did last?  I have no idea except we took two long road trips that accounted for four of them and a couple of them were short and frivolous audio books that only took a couple of hours.  I don’t know how I’ll top this year but we’ll see what next year brings when it is all said and done.  Here’s to another year of happy reading ahead regardless!

50 Shades of Grey

I haven’t done a book review for a while.  But this one has to be done – if only to warn people.

I just finished 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James.  I read it under duress and only so people I know would stop asking me if I’d read them.  Okay, and so I could see what all the fuss was about.  You can’t turn around without hearing a reference to these books – at least where I live.

I got a copy for my Kindle and, at 27% done, I was so annoyed I found it necessary to update my status on Goodreads (something I have never done before) with the following:  ‘I’m forcing myself to read this so I know what all the fuss is about. But it is frankly torture. If I have to read the phrase “oh my” one more time I’m going to scream.’

Sorry all of you fans out there, but this book sucked. Take every cliche you can find and wrap it up into a couple of characters, then throw in some porn/sex scenes written like it’s for a man. Seriously.  Don’t believe me? Try a virgin who meets a hot guy, has sex with him once, and all of a sudden knows exactly how to deep throat – and swallows! Yeah, if you believe that I’ve got a hot friend who delivers pizza, scantily clad,  who really wants to get laid by the entire sorority house.  No, really!

I’m not above smutty reading nor am I claiming never to have purveyed my share of porn.  But I was under the impression that this was filled with super hot sex.  Like the entire book.  Like women were getting so turned on that their men were noticing because they were getting more play than ever before.  Was there sex, sure.  Was it hot?  Not particularly.  Nor was it always believable.  Tell me a virginal, naive girl who gets her vajay jay pounded repeatedly and tied up and beaten who is only a little sore afterward.  Then there’s the bondage factor.  I just don’t get it and most of that was a turn off to me entirely. 

The main character, Anna, just graduated college, refers to her vagina as “down there” multiple times, says “oh my” so often that I wanted to scream after the first three chapters, and apparently could only bite her lip as a reaction to every situation.  The author had such a shallow arsenal of description that she merely repeated the same phrases over and over.  And apparently in her world every person in someone’s life would find it normal to tuck a stray lock of hair behind someone’s ear since every one of her male characters did that at one point.  I spent so much time rolling my eyes and muttering under my breath that I’m wondering how I forced myself to finish it at all.

I had no idea this crap (unworthy of even self-publishing credit let alone a real publishing house) began life as Twilight fan fiction but now it makes sense – right down to the weird and thrown in love triangle that never was properly developed except as another reason to enrage the jealous boyfriend even when he crossed a line of friendship.  What girl has a close friend try and take advantage of her the first time she gets drunk and then days later acts like it was no big deal and proceeds like nothing happened? Probably the same unreal girl who is clumsy and doesn’t think she’s very pretty but attracts the attention of the cutest boy at school – or in the city. 

I guess the same crazies who dress up and go to midnight premieres to swoon over seventeen year old kids are the same people this book might appeal to.  As for me, I’ll take my smut and my characters a little more realistic.  I’m skipping books two and three because, frankly my dear, I just don’t give a damn to even know what happens to these idiotic characters.

The Help

July’s pick for book club was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett.  It was full of rich characters – three of whom we see the story unfold through and around which in the beginning was hard to follow until I could figure out who was who.  This book was, for me, a fresh perspective on civil rights painted by those who lived in Mississippi in the 1960’s without being tragic or preachy. I simply loved this book. Once in a while a book comes along and actually lives up to the hype it is given – this is one of those times! Highly recommended…

Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris

This was a book club pick about a girl growing up in occupied France during WWII.  She returns to her childhood home as a widow hoping no one will recognize her as the young girl who’s name she no longer uses because of the scandal that occurred with her Mother.  It’s been a week since I finished reading AND participated in the book club discussion and I still don’t know exactly how I feel about this book…  I really liked the story but there was so much anticipation and suspense built up around this big secret the main character had kept hidden forever that when I finally learned the truth it was almost a let-down.  I read this book (vs. listening to it) and I found all the french in it distracting.  I feel like I missed whole pieces of the book between not knowing all the food references and then not being able to interpret the sections in french or even know what some of the names of the characters should sound like in my head.  That alone was enough to knock this book from four stars down to three.  However, if you’re looking for a book that keeps you guessing until the end with interesting characters this is still a book I would recommend for a quick and light read.

One thing I really liked was how the author showed us things that done by an adult would be appalling but when done by a nine year old child seemed almost harmless.  And the added layer of character development getting to see the same child grow to adulthood and look back on the role she may have played in her own Mother’s actions was fabulous.  I loved the book club discussion and took away may other insights I hadn’t come up with on my own – as always!

I Don’t Want To Kill You

I looked forward to this, the newest book from Dan Wells, with great anticipation.  And while it was an enjoyable read, sadly it wasn’t as good as the first two.  I felt that the main character was too different in this third and final book and I wanted him to be the same dark and terrifying teen we had glimpsed and gotten intimate with in the first two.  The story and the twists and turns it took were very interesting and exciting enough to keep me reading but the character of John and the inconsistencies left me wanting.  What happened to the guy who obsessed so much about killing that he had to resort to starting fires in Mr. Monster with all his rules to keep him from behaving like the sociopath he really is?  He’s completely gone and if you hadn’t read the first two books you could almost miss the fact that he IS a killer, not just some good guy who has to do bad things occasionally to save the people in his community.  Most of the time he comes across as just an awkward teen, barely noticing that he’s gotten himself a girlfriend, rather than the chillingly creepy sociopath walking a thin line and fighting his inner demons constantly.  It was clumsy character development at best.  While the story came to an exciting conclusion with more action and more demons, I just didn’t feel emotionally attached anymore to the main character so it left me feeling flat.  I wanted to love this book and while I still will highly recommend the series, this was not my favorite installment. 

I’m really so sad… but can’t wait to discuss it with all my reading and writing buddies who have been waiting somewhat impatiently for me to “get done with it already!”  Kudos to all of them who kept their opinions to themselves and let me read with unbiased eyes – I don’t know if I could have done the same for them! 

The Whistling Season, by Ivan Doig

I’m not usually a fan of the western but this was like no western I’ve ever read.  The story of a homesteader widow and his three young sons in Montana in the early 1900’s who take a chance and hire a housekeeper from back east hoping she was lying in her ad and really can cook, too.  It was an enjoyable glimpse of early American life in a one-room school house that culminated in a mystery that I didn’t see coming.  The writing was heavy in the language of the period with a sing-song quality at times that, at first, was hard to get immersed in.  I listened to most of it on audiobook by a good narrator which I believe was a better experience than trudging through the language and trying to find the voice of the book on my own.  A book club pick that I would recommend to anyone if you’re looking for a quick read you won’t have to think much about.

The book club discussion was surprisingly focused on JUST THE BOOK which was a welcome change for our crazy group lately.  We decided it isn’t really a western but more like a period drama which makes sense when I think about it.  After some of the very heavy and very political books we’ve read (and fought about) lately it was nice to have nothing but early American life and our ages to discuss.  I’m hoping to be one of the few of us who was alive in ’85 when Halley’s Comet came and still alive in my 90’s when it comes again.  Some in the room were too old to live that long while others were too young to see it in ’85.  I kind of had mixed feelings about that – I have old friends and ones that make ME feel old…

The Aquariums of Pyongyang

This was a book club selection I never would have picked up on my own but am so glad I read it.  What a horrifying account of atrocities that are happening in MY lifetime and continue to happen today.  A glimpse into the life behind the curtain of North Korea that left me disturbed and morally outraged.  This fascinating memoir by Kang Chol-Hwan tells the story of a nine year old boy who is sent to a labor camp for ten years with his family for political crimes against the state committed by his grandfather.  In the telling of his personal story – which rivals on many levels the picture we have as Westerner’s of the concentration camps of WWII Germany – he also shows the true life struggle of the everyday world under the dictatorship of North Koreans and the propaganda of their form of Communism.  I was appalled that I was not aware of the real story of North Korea and urge everyone and anyone to read this book.  Because the details of the camp are stark and horrific, it isn’t a book for young children but it is not graphic in the telling; merely sad and compelling.  I love history lessons in the form of a story I can sink into like a good novel and this is one of those rare kind of gems. 

The book club discussion last night was heated with politics that most of the time had not much to do with what was actually in the book.  Thanks to one of the outspoken ones among us, we were steered back about mid-way through the evening to the real person we had read about who had gone through these horrid things and risked much to tell the world about his ordeal.  Surprisingly, no one went away angry after the, at times, very heated discussion which is a testament of just what a great book club I have!

Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson

This was the book club pick for January… picked and announced in November (since we don’t read in December so we can get together for a holiday party instead)… and totally hyped by my dear friend Melissa, the newest addition to my beloved book club, who picked it.  Before I tell you what I thought, let me tell you why the deck was stacked against me from the beginning.  First, I had two months to read this – procrastinators and crazy do-it-all’s take note.  So while I bought it right away, I didn’t pick it up right away.  Second, I’d been hearing about how AMAZING this book was from Melissa since she’d read it over a year ago – so I ASSUMED it would also be a quick and fascinating read.  These two facts actually combined to create a perfect storm for me.  A storm who’s consequence was not having it finished before the discussion.

The full title of this book is “Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time” and is a non-fiction account of an American climber who gets lost in Pakistan after a failed attempt at climbing K2.  He is taken in by a local village and in order to pay them back promises to return to build them a school.  The village becomes his second family in the decade to follow and he goes on to build many more schools and do extremely amazing things for the remote villages of Pakistan and, eventually, Afghanistan.  The story itself is amazing with all the things this man who basically lives out of his car in order to scrape enough money together to fulfill his promise goes through.  And it is very eye opening about the Muslim religion and how very different it is from the picture of fear and extremism we are fed by the media.  The whole “theme” of the story is how education is the key to peace and how we all should be promoting the education of our children no matter what or how.  We had an amazing book club discussion – although because of the subject matter it was very easy to get sidetracked off of the book and onto current events with all the fervor a political discussion can get with 20 women in the room.

While this book IS amazing, it is hard to get into in the beginning which most people who voiced an opinion at the discussion agreed with.  For me, the writing style was way too dry – it read more like a newspaper story than a novel – and jumped around with little sense of why which made it hard to get lost in the story and easy to put down.  Which, since I had two months to read before the deadline, I did too often.  As a result, I had just gotten to the good part – halfway through the book – when it becomes harder to put down when it was time for book club.  I subsequently finished the book and am glad I read it.  If it weren’t for my expectations and assumptions of it being a quick read I would have had it finished in time…

Book List Archive 2010

Time once again to placate my OCD tendencies and convert my side-panel list of books I’ve read into a posting for safekeeping.  This list is as dismally short as it was last year but I was also doing a lot more running than reading this past year so who is really complaining?  Instead, I’m thanking my book club for keeping me committed to reading at least a book a month!  And here’s to more time for reading in 2011!

  • The Unit, Ninni Holmqvist  (book club)
  • The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe  (book club)
  • Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
  • Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
  • The House at Riverton, Kate Morton  (book club)
  • Mr Monster, Dan Wells
  • Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett  (book club)
  • I Am Not A Serial Killer, Dan Wells  (book club)
  • Life of Pi, Yann Martel  (book club)
  • Oceans Apart, Karen Kingsbury  (book club)
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen  (book club)
  • Pavilion of Women, Pearl S. Buck  (book club)
  • Change of Heart, Jodi Picoult  (book club)

The Unit

This month’s book club selection was The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  It was a translation so parts of the language were a little flat but what a great read if you’re looking for something to fire you up!  A fictional novel about a futuristic society where 50-year old childless women and 60-year old childless men with “unnecessary” jobs are deemed dispensable and required to check themselves into a Biological Reserve Unit where they are forced to donate blood and organs while participating in “humane” experiments until time for their final donation (aka euthanized) – all while living expense free and wanting for nothing.  While it is based on a futuristic society it mirrors our own in many ways, vaguely telling how the leaders of the society made small changes that spanned almost the lifetime of the main character – a woman raised by a forward-thinking mother who warned her against ever being trapped into being dependent on anyone besides herself. Next thing she knows, she’s a writer who’s always just gotten by, never found herself pregnant and now 50 and dispensable heading into the Unit for her final days.  The final days that ended with a twist and makes you think about what you would do in her shoes.

I can’t lie – the feminist in me as well as the writer HATED this world and all it stood for and I found myself marking pages for quotes and scribbling three pages of notes as I read so I wouldn’t forget a single topic for the book club discussion.  (The discussion was one of the most heated on record.)  This book is not about character development but is instead about very deep ethical and moral topics delivered in a thought provoking story.  I recommend it for anyone and everyone!  Regardless of your views you are bound to feel an emotional response to this fabulous little read! 

One word of caution to those more “sensitive” readers.  This book was originally published in Europe where sex is viewed and discussed in a much more plaintive way.  Many in my book club found that aspect to be superlative and at times even distasteful.  I’ve read smuttier so this in no way was trashy but may be a bit stark to those who have never experienced a more European outlook on the relations between men and women.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, Katherine Howe

Great book club pick for October and anyone looking for an alternative take on the Salem Witch Trials.  Imagine if it wasn’t moldy bread at work with those girls and their fits but actual witchcraft?  And then imagine if that witchcraft were written down in a book…  Oh, the possibilities!

A fun and light read refreshingly filled with sophisticated words – a nice change after so many YA novels of late.  Although the characters were a bit predictable at times with little depth, the story is one that holds your interest until the end.