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La casa redonda

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Loved this book! Louise Erdrich won the National Book Award for this novel. I can see why. I loved the writing, the characters and the plot. Really, though, the characters were the best. They were all well rounded and quirky. This was both a mystery and coming of age tale set on a reservation in North Dakota. The main character, a young boy named Joe, must deal wtih a tragedy that has happened to his mother. The crime committted against her basically goes unsolved by authorities for many reasons, one of which is that no one can decide who has authority over the crime - is it the tribe? The state? Or the federal government? In the end Joe and his friends take matters into their own hands to solve the crime. This book reminded me a lot of Stand By Me because of the friendship of the young boys. Also? The life on the reservation was depicted as both a tight knit community and a dysfunctional one. It was really a great read!
Fields of Grace (Heart of the Prairie Book #4)

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If you like Christian historical fiction this is a great pic for you. The main characters must immigrate to America so their oldest son can avoid the military draft in Russia in the late 19th century. On their ocean voyage tragedy strikes and the wife must marry her brother in law in order for the family to be allowed to immigrate to America. I liked this book - it's not Nobel worthy literature, but then who expects that out of every book? I enjoyed it, learned a lot about the Mennonite faith, and really felt that I was in turn of the century Kansas.
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef

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Gabrielle Hamilton will be speaking at the Friends booksale this year, which is why I picked up this title. I was glad I did! It's really well written (Hamilton received a Master's in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, so she knows how to write!). She lived a very dysfunctional life after age 11 when her parents divorced. Basically her mother left and she was raised by her father. I use the word "raised" very loosely. After working through her teen years and college in restaurants, Hamilton eventually opens her own restaurant called Prune in New York City. My review doesn't do justice to her life story. It really is very interesting. I think this would make a great book group title. I had so many questions and wanted to talk about the book after I finished it!
The Forgery of Venus: A Novel

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This was a GREAT literary thriller. The main character is asked to restore (or reproduce, really) a famous painting. This one step sends him on a dizzying spiral into a confusing world - is he creating genuine art or fakes? Has he lost his own self in his quest for art (and money). If you are intersted in art, art history and the history of art forgery you will really like this one. Also, for fans of Ian Pears Jonathan Argyll series - this is a must!
My Share of the Task: A Memoir

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This was a slog. I liked it and was glad I read it , but, honestly, I felt it could have been a little bit shorter. I had to read it with the aid of an atlas. It was fascinating, but be prepared for a lot of military jargon. I would warn readers, though, this is really not a memoir. More of a personal/military history of the last 20 years of war in the Middle East, told from an insider's perspective. It was totally worth the read!
The Magician King: A Novel

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Just like with The Magicians, I loved this book. Grossman really is a masterful storyteller. I was amazed at the twists and turns the story took. But also? I thought he told a really interesting story that, in the end, was just about people. I especially liked the way he wrote about depression. I think a strong case could be made that mental illness, sadness, despair and depression are really what this book (or the series) is about. Grossman's refelctions on what magic is and what happens when it leaves our lives sounds just like depression to me. I think though, it's really an optimistic book. Take a look at the last lines of the novel! Loved this and would recommend it highly to any lover of fiction, but especially fantasy fiction. It's definitely an interesting and unsual take on the genre!
The Night Circus

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I loved this book, but I think it's going to take a reader with some patience to get through it! The premise seems fairly straighforward. The main characters are two magicians caught in a contest not of their making. In fact, it turns out that their lives ARE the competition. The circus itself is the competition. The plot skips around in time, which in some ways adds to the dreamy quality of the story, our sense that time is not working correctly. But, it is also extremely confusing at times. I think Morgenstern is best at her descriptions of the circus, its inhabitants and its many features (like the amazing clock made by Herr Thiessen!). I wanted to see all of it come to life! I think this would make a great graphic novel because it seemed like there was so much to *see*. Also? I listened to this on audio, read by the incomparable Jim Dale, so that really made the novel for me. I do wonder if I would have stuck it out if I were reading it, because of the jumps in time and space. Wonderful, wonderful novel though!
Three Girls and Their Brother: A Novel

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You know, I wanted to like this book - it seemed like it was going somewhere and I was going to like it. But nothing seemed to happen. The story is set in New York where the characters all have various "it" jobs - one sister is a model, mom is a former beauty queen, they attend the "right" schools. But really, I just didn't care. The characters were not interesting enough to keep my attention. On the one hand, the book could have been a lot lighter and been more of a easy read - or it could have gone the other way and developed some depth, but it did neither.
The Burn Palace

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LOVED this book! Dobyns' debut novel is a mix of police procedural/mystery/paranormal/horror. Which is just my cup of tea. The novel opens as a baby is discovered missing from the maternity ward. In the baby's place is a snake. Astonishingly, the baby's mother is not concerned about her missing baby, and, in fact, insists it's the devil's baby. The novel moves along at a quick pace and we are led into a police case that may or may not involve satanic ritual, murder and suicide. Also, the characters were fantastic. I especially loved the two young boys at the center of the story, one of whom has telekinetic powers. This book reminded me a lot of Stephen King's early books. I would high recommend it!
Seating Arrangements

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This was a great book on cd. The characters were, for the most part, pretty awful people. The setting is a weekend wedding in a posh suburb in the Northeast. The characters are privileged people who attended exclusive boarding schools and private colleges. The father of the bride is particularly odious person and I listened to the book mainly to find out if he would ever achieve some level of self awareness. The ending was very ambiguous, so it's hard to say whether he did or not. I've got to look up some reviews to see what others thought about this novel. This is another work that I *think* would make a good book group pick, but, on the other hand, my book group members might hate the characters so much they wouldn't finish it! I did like the story though, and would probably recommend it to someone who likes realistic, contemporary fiction.
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