Friday, November 21, 2014

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult (audio)

"Every life has a soundtrack."

After one miscarriage too many, Max and Zoe's marriage of nine years is over.  After the divorce, Max struggles with alcoholism and goes to live with his brother, Reed, and sister-in-law, Libby.  He takes a turn for the worst and then becomes involved in their church.Zoe spends her time focusing on her career as a music therapist.  While working with a troubled teen at a high school, Zoe strikes up a close friendship with Vanessa, the school guidance counselor.  Their friendship slowly turns into a romantic one and the Zoe beings a new chapter in her life.  After Zoe and Vanessa are married, they decide they want to have a baby.  Struggling to have a child with Max, there are still three frozen embryos left from the fertility treatments.  Since Zoe can no longer have children, Vanessa plans to use the embryos to have their.  There is just one problem - Max has to sign off at the clinic and his new religious beliefs do not support Zoe's life style and raising a child in a save-sex marriage.

This novel brought up a lot of different issues.  The main ones, of course, was gay rights and what constitutes as a good family.  Max is forced to make hard decisions about the future of his unborn children.  There are also a lot of questions about what is considered to be a child, what rights the children have, and who gets to decide those rights.  

All in all, I enjoyed the book.  It was really interesting to see the different perspectives from each character.  I felt that the author was a little too "black-and-white" though.  I felt that there was too much focus on religion being a bad thing.  Just because someone is religious, doesn't automatically mean they are against gay rights.  Is it wishfully thinking that both can exist?  Maybe, but I felt that some of Max's story was a little far fetched and focused on the wrong aspects.  Throughout the book, I kept trying to form an opinion, but I ultimately decided that I couldn't really form one without considering all of the options.  And that just lead me to ask more questions.  I guess that's what a good book does - force you to ask more questions.  

Also, the book included a soundtrack of music that was played through the novel.  All of the songs were written specifically for the book.  Since Zoe was a music therapist and music was a big part of her life, this worked perfectly!  I'm glad that I listened to the audio book - otherwise I might have missed a lot of the songs. 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (audio)

★★★★ 1/2
"History isn't about the dates and places and wars.  It's about the people who fill the spaces between them."

Sage Singer is a loaner in her small town - which is why working the late night shift at a bakery is the perfect job for her.  She loves her job, but has been a in a bit of a rut lately.  Both of her parents have recently died, she hardly talks to her sisters, her boyfriend is married, and her only real friend is her boss.  One day at the bakery, she strikes up a unique friendship with an elderly man named Josef.  Josef is seen as legend in the town - teaching German at the high school and coaching baseball - and frequently comes to the bakery with his dog.  Sage and Josef begin spending a lot of time together, but one day Josef asks her to help him die.  Sage is shocked at the request and Josef confesses that he was a Nazi during World War II.  Unknown to Josef (or so she thinks), Sage also has a link to the holocaust.  Her grandmother was a survivor of Auschwitz.  As Sage struggles to make a decision, she also learns the story of her grandmother.  She is left with many questions about family, forgiveness, and acceptance.

I really enjoyed this book!  I've been wanting to read this for awhile - being a Jodi Picoult fan and having read lots of holocaust/World War II novels.  This book was a little different from her usual.  I had the ending pretty much figured out (which usually doesn't happen) towards the middle of the book, but I kept second guessing myself.  I liked Sage's story, but what really kept me going was the story of Minka, Sage's grandmother, and her experiences during the war.  For awhile, I almost forgot that Minka was just one part of the novel.  I also loved her writing of a fairy tale that ultimately saved her live in the camps.  It was really unique and has so many connects to her life.  This novel brought up a lot of questions about what was right and wrong and if someone can ever truly be forgiven for their past.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

"What he wanted was to find that world-within-the-world where he could be himself by himself."

" 'That must be something to discover a book that nobody's ever heard of or everybody thought was lost.'
'It's every bibliophile's dream,' said Francis, and Peter knew in a second that it was his own."

Let me start off by saying that I kind of have a thing for the whole "book-about-books" concept.  I love books, and reading, and libraries - so ultimately reading about any of those things usually catches my attention.  This one was no exception.  It was the last of the seven books I got for Christmas last year.  I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to put up the official list, but it should be up in the next few days or so.  I've been reading/listening to a lot of average books lately and it was a wonderful surprise to find a book that I couldn't put down.  Luckily, I was working at the volleyball gym this weekend and my husband was up north hunting, so I was literally able to spend most of the last few days reading :)

This book had so many wonderful aspects - books, libraries, booksellers, romance, and Shakespeare.  I loved the writing style and the different story lines that were woven together.  This novel was ultimately three stories in one:

1.) In the year 1995 is a young man named Peter Byerly.  Nine months after the death of his wife, he is struggling to pick up the pieces of his life.  When I first started the novel, I assumed his was much older than he was.  He is essentially an "old soul," reflecting on his quiet life with his wife and working in the English countryside as an antique bookseller - I was surprised to learn how young he was!  When Peter receives a call about a estate sale of old manuscripts, he is thrown into following a mysterious and dangerous book trail beginning with the time of Shakespeare.  He also meets a women named Liz whom he tries not to like, but just might end up falling for.

2.) Woven into Peter's journey is the story of him and his wife, Amanda.  Both quiet and lovers of books, the two meet in college at the library where Peter works.  I loved there love story.  It was simple and beautiful and cute and romantic and tragic.  It made me cry - a lot.  I kept hoping the ending would turn out differently, but of course it didn't.  And I kept wanting to read more about them.

3.) The third story is one of an old book - a very old book that was Shakespeare used as the material for his play A Midsummer Night's Dream.  This was the same book that Peter was investigating.  This story traced the book throughout history and readers discovered how it ended up at an old home near Peter.  I found it particularly interesting to read about Shakespeare's time and how stories were passed down through different sources.

Another aspects of this novel that I found to be really intriguing was that off book repair and book preservation.  As a college student, Peter first finds himself working for the library's circulation department.  After he approaches one of the workers in special collections about repairing and old book that he knows Amanda will use, he spends the rest of his college years - and career - learning about and repairing old books.  I do basic book repair as part of my job at the Andersen Library at UW-Whitewater and it was really interesting to read about book preservation - especially the process of rebinding books.  And, of course, I loved all of the library jargon! 

All-in-all this was a great book!  I was debating on if I should give it 4 1/2 or 5 starts.  The story line of Peter and Liz trying to solve the mystery of the old book was a little farfetched.  It seemed a little too much like the Da Vinci Code - which I liked, but I didn't always feel that it fit in with the rest of the story.  I have, however, decided to give it 5 stars - simply because of all the "book-ness" of the novel and for the fact that I couldn't put it down.  And because of how much I loved Peter and Amanda's story.  Highly recommended for anyone who loves books and libraries!

This book was #6 on my top ten list of 2014.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Midwives by Chis Bohjalian (audio/abridged)

★★ 1/2
"Everything about [chance] scares the bejesus out of so many people; it's the this thing they try to avoid at all costs.

Eh, another so-so book by Chris Bohjalian.  I keep waiting to find another one of his books that I enjoyed as much as the The Sandcastle Girls, but it hasn't happened yet.  This is the last of his books that I've listened to on audio books - either at work or on my hourly commute each way.

This book focuses on the controversial issue of midwives in the early 1980s.  Sibyl Danforth has been a practicing midwive for years.  She has been a well-respected member of the community until a snowy night when a birth becomes dangerous.  Unable to take the mother to the hospital, Sibyl makes the rash decision to perform a Cesarean section on her patient after she appears to have died.  The baby is saved, but what happens next is a tremendous guilt mixed with a huge legal debate - did Sibyl make the right choice or was she the one who was responsible for the death of the mother.

The story is told from the point of view of Connie - Sibyl's fourteen-year-old daughter.  This gives readers a unique perspective of what her mother was going through during the trial and her emotions along the way.  She author brings up aspects of how doctors felt about midwives during the time period and the process of the legal system (I've somehow managed to read a lot of legal books lately...).  It was decent to read, but nothing that stood out too much for me.  I did read the abridged version though, so I might not have been getting all of the details of the story.  Midwifery proved to be an interesting debate and it would be interesting to look into how it is viewed differently today.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah (audio)

"You will always miss her.  There will be days - even years from now - when the missing will be so sharp it will take your breath away.  But there will be good days, too, months and years of them.  In one way or another you'll be searching for her all your life."

Kristin Hannah is one of my favorite authors and I am currently going through many of her audio books.  This novel continues the story of Kate's family and best friend, Tully, after Kate dies of breast cancer the the book Firefly Lane. Deal with the lose of their wife/mother/daughter/and friend, each character must put the pieces of their life back together.  

This book was ok, but not one of my favorite of Kristin Hannah.  I enjoyed hearing about what happened to the characters after Firefly Lane ended.  Overall, it was a little to sappy for me - I don't usually to well with authors over talking emotions.  The novel began with Tully in a car accident a few years after the death of Kate and proceeded with several different back story lines of each of the main characters.  If often felt like a mix of a Lifetime movie and Charles Dickenson's A Christmas Carol.  I was interested in what had happened to everyone in the story, but I felt that there were too many "ghost of Christmas past" aspects.  It sometimes hard to tell whose back story we were hearing and many of the events were repeated several times.  

I think my favorite part of the book was the story of Tully and her mother Dorothy.  Tully was raised by her grandmother and hardly knew her mother growing up.  In this novel, we get to see Dorothy's tragic young adulthood and what events lead her to keep her distance from her daughter.