Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat Photo Credit: Barnes and Noble

I bought this book for my mom Mother's Day. When I was looking at the book choices I could make, this one stood out as different than your average romance or mystery or action novel. It seemed like it told a story. A few days later my mom called me to tell me she finished the book in just a day or two. (So obviously she enjoyed it.) She sat it aside for me and when I visited her, she passed it along. With the recommendation of my mom, I knew I would enjoy the book.

The strongest part of this book is hands down the characters. They are so vivid that you sometimes forget that they aren't real! Each character has a story and a past. Throughout the novel we discover those stories. We also discover their flaws and they are big flaws. No one is perfect and these women are no exception. Despite their flaws and maybe even because of them, the women are best of friends and no one can tear them apart. We see their flaws, but we also see how their friends see them. I think that is what makes us love them so much. The other minor characters are also full of flaws, but we don't hate them either because we see how other people see them. And each character realizes their faults and does try to make them better. It would probably be very easy to hate most of these people for their faults, but we don't have a chance because there are so many people around them that love them. And that love inspires them to love themselves a little more.

The plot is well done as well. The shifts in time and character perspective could be confusing, but I never had a problem with it. The author does an exceptional job of clearly defining who and when these events are taking place without the reader noticing him doing it. The history of each character is presented as it applies to their present circumstance. It really makes it seem like you are sitting next to them hearing stories. The end is a total surprise and pleasantly so. My only slight 'complaint' which really isn't so much of a complaint is that the Eleanor Roosevelt thing was a bit odd. You'll have to read it to get that though.

The author does an amazing job of presenting life for African Americans over the last 50 years without getting too bogged down in politics and culture differences. It teaches without a guilt trip. I greatly appreciated that as well.

A fun read with unforgettably lovable characters.
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The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat


Publishers Weekly
The indefatigable trio of Barbara Jean, Clarice, and Odette (known as "The Supremes" since high school) churns the small community of Plainview, Indiana into a Southern-fried tailspin this debut from Moore, a professional cellist. Each of the central characters brings unique challenges to the tables at Earl’s diner: Odette battles cancer while her pothead mother communicates with famous ghosts; Clarice tries to salvage a crumbling marriage with her cheating husband; and beautiful Barbara Jean, who married for money, drinks to forget a youthful affair and her dead son. In a booth at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, a short walk from Calvary Baptist Church, these women lay bare their passions, shortfalls, and dramas. Clarice’s cancer treatment brings them together in melancholy, but it isn’t long before secrets are revealed and the scramble to catch up on lost time begins. Despite meandering points-of-view and a surplus of exposition, Moore is a demonstrative storyteller and credits youthful eavesdropping for inspiring this multifaceted novel. Comparisons to The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe are inevitable, but Moore’s take on this rowdy troupe of outspoken, lovable women has its own distinctive pluck. Barney Karpfinger, the Karpfinger Agency. (Mar.)
Paperback
$12.41

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Addison's Mark by Matt Kuvakos

 Photo Credit: Amazon


This book is a Young Adult novel and there will be a sequel to this book. I would consider it Christian political fiction, but in the normal Christian book store kind of way. Normally, I do not read books in a series at all. If I choose to read them, I wait until several or all of the books are out, so I don't have to wait on any more. Often I lose interest in the series before the next one comes out. A series has to be exceptional for me to start reading it and wait on further books. This book just might fall into that category.


The setting in post economic fall America is very clear. It was not written so tragically that I wanted to stop reading. However, it was not glossed over as if it weren't real either. The sequences about visions were described vividly and their duration was clear as well. The characters were interesting and believable. I quite easily fell in love with the main characters. I knew who I didn't trust as well as who was caught in the middle. The plot moved along well. It was fast paced without being so fast as to lose the internal character struggle. When plots move so fast that they lose the internal character struggle, I stop reading and deem it poorly written. This book was not at all that way. 


However there were a couple things that I didn't care for. Theologically I disagreed in a few places. I did not disagree with the overall presentation of God, angels, Heaven, demons, etc. I did have an issue with Sam's ability to see and know all of this without declaring God as Lord. The ending seemed more like a stopping place rather than an ending. I understand it is book 1 of 2, but I didn't feel the resolution was sufficient enough to consider it the end of the book. I did like the way some things were hinted at without directly telling us. We have hints at what is coming, especially if you are aware of Biblical prophecies. However, it has not been so directly stated that there are no surprises left. I didn't like that it was not presented as Book 1 of 2, but I discussed those thoughts above. I didn't particularly like the cover, but I don't know that I could have done better. So maybe that isn't a very valid point.

I assume that the many questions I have left will be answered in Book 2. So I don't count those against the book. Some reviews did not like the abundance of similes and metaphors. I was not distracted by the similes and metaphors. It made Sam Addison more believable as a 20 year old non-scholar. Some mentioned confusion during the vision sequences, but that was not a problem for me.

Overall, the story itself is very good and doesn't limit itself to simply a young adult audience. The minor problems do not detract from the enjoyment of the whole novel.

DISCLAIMER:
I received a free copy of the book from Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.


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Addison's Mark


Twenty-year-old Sam Addison is marked by both good and evil. Sam is plagued by thoughts of his parent’s violent and mysterious deaths, making survival during a major economic collapse in the United States difficult to endure on his own. Before he loses all hope, an ethereal being visits him in multiple dreams and visions, trying to ignite his faith. Sam tries to forget what he saw, but it’s something that simply can’t be ignored when he finds an odd marking burned onto his wrist. He becomes consumed with unanswered questions about his purpose in life and what the mark could mean or even do. Until, he meets the beautiful Ashlin Ammon, the adopted daughter of the popular presidential nominee, and who some call the “savior” of the dying country, Marcus Ammon, who sees a lot of himself in Sam. Once invited to join the campaign trail as an assistant for Marcus, Sam is pulled into a war no man could ever survive. He is left with a choice that will not only change himself, but mankind forever.

  • Paperback: 272 pages
Buy New $9.89

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

 Photo Credit: Amazon


I had this book on my to be read list for a while and had thatuple opportunities to put it on my read list, but I didn't. I just wasn't convinced that I would really enjoy this book, so I passed it up a couple times. I finally decided to take it off of my TBR list, but I also got a few other guaranteed winners just in case. So what is my verdict?

Why did I wait so long?!

This book is heart squeezingly fabulous. It is a homey fantasy that is lovely and tragic and beautiful and creepy. In today's day where the idea of longer is better, this book is a scant 180 some pages. One could assume that it isn't long enough to really connect with the characters and have a sufficiently plotted story. Those assumptions would be wrong.

I  connected with the characters quickly and passionately. Some I loved, some I hated, some I pitied, and some I feared. They were all very well drawn and believable within their world, which was just almost our world. The plot is well done. We are left wanting more, but knowing that more is not possible and could quite possibly ruin what has already been recorded.

And yes recorded is the correct word. It is more of a recorded tale instead of a written story. It feels like an old tale that is somehow foundational to all that we know and all that we have forgotten.

I will say that there is one tiny part that gave me a cold chill because it was creepy. That shouldn't keep you from reading it, but I want to warn you that it is there.


A brilliantly imaginative and poignant fairy tale from the modern master of wonder and terror, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is Neil Gaiman’s first new novel for adults since his #1 New York Timesbestseller Anansi Boys.
This bewitching and harrowing tale of mystery and survival, and memory and magic, makes the impossible all too real...
  • Paperback: 181 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • Buy New
     $9.45

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Tie That Bound Us: The Women of John Brown's Family and the Legacy of Radical Abolitionism by Bonnie Laughlin - Schultz

 Photo Credit: Amazon

I will say that I have not finished reading the book. And you are probably thinking, I should stop writing reviews before I finish. However, I can't wait to finish the book to write a review because I LOVE this book! This book is very readable and very real. I don't want to read through it too fast because there is so much to absorb in what I am reading. So I don't want my review to be put off for too much longer. I feel as if I am sitting beside these women as they go through their life. The author does a very good job of putting the events in a larger context of the time. She does not show bias toward any one side. She tells us what these women went through and to the extent possible, she tells us what they felt about it. At no point in time did I feel like she was trying to convince me to think of this controversial figure in a certain light. I felt that I was being encouraged to make up my own mind. 

This is not simply a book about the women in John Brown's family. This is not simply a book about radical abolitionism. This is a book about a nation, a struggle, a time period. This is a book about family, duty, and sacrifice for a cause. It is a book that will cause to look at history differently. It might even make you look at the present differently. It will make you question your beliefs. 

I would recommend a physical copy of the book as it would be easier to refer to the notes on the author's source material. And I would recommend buying this book and not simply borrowing it from the library. You will want to read it more than once.

If you are interested in the lives of women, get this book.
If you are interested in abolitionism, get this book.
If you are interested in the Civil War era, get this book.
If you are interested in family dynamics, get this book.
If you are even slightly interested in history, get this book.

I received a free copy of it through NetGalley with the agreement that I give an honest review. My review is rather late at this point, but better late than never, hopefully.


Book Description

John Brown was fiercely committed to the militant abolitionist cause, a crusade that culminated in Brown's raid on the Federal armory at Harpers Ferry in 1859 and his subsequent execution. Less well known is his devotion to his family, and they to him. Two of Brown’s sons were killed at Harpers Ferry, but the commitment of his wife and daughters often goes unacknowledged. In The Tie That Bound Us, Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz reveals for the first time the depth of the Brown women’s involvement in his cause and their crucial roles in preserving and transforming his legacy after his death.
As detailed by Laughlin-Schultz, Brown’s second wife Mary Ann Day Brown and his daughters Ruth Brown Thompson, Annie Brown Adams, Sarah Brown, and Ellen Brown Fablinger were in many ways the most ordinary of women, contending with chronic poverty and lives that were quite typical for poor, rural nineteenth-century women. However, they also lived extraordinary lives, crossing paths with such figures as Frederick Douglass and Lydia Maria Child and embracing an abolitionist moral code that sanctioned antislavery violence in place of the more typical female world of petitioning and pamphleteering.
In the aftermath of John Brown’s raid at Harpers Ferry, the women of his family experienced a particular kind of celebrity among abolitionists and the American public. In their roles as what daughter Annie called "relics" of Brown’s raid, they tested the limits of American memory of the Civil War, especially the war’s most radical aim: securing racial equality. Because of their longevity (Annie, the last of Brown’s daughters, died in 1926) and their position as symbols of the most radical form of abolitionist agitation, the story of the Brown women illuminates the changing nature of how Americans remembered Brown’s raid, radical antislavery, and the causes and consequences of the Civil War.

  • Hardcover: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press; 1 edition (August 6, 2013)
  • Language: English
 Buy New$27.04







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane

This book is now on my top 25 list. (I couldn't possibly narrow it down smaller than that!) That is saying a lot because I don't think there are many newly published books on that list.
















Why is this book so high on my list?

Because it is fabulous! The characters, the setting, and the plot are all compelling and fascinating. The author is not afraid to use tried and true plot devices, such as
the overly talented group of friends that her the main character into high places. It  might seem too unrealistic, but Sloan does it with such honesty that I was enchanted.

The main character, Clay, is not particularly talented and he knows that. He also has lots of talented friends, Neel, Mat, Kat, and more. They all come together to help solve a 500
year old riddle and save Mr. Penumbra. All of the very best things are in this book too. Eccentric people, a secret society, the very latest technology, and lots of books. Sloan does an amazing job of making the reader feel like he is in a fantasy world that really does exist. You feel like if you walked down the right street at the right time of day then you would see all of these people.

If you like fantasy, read this.
If you like books, read this.
If you are techy, read this.
If you like conspiracy stories, read this.
If you like secrect societies, read this.
If you are looking for something to sweep you off your feet, read this.

I quite honestly can't think of anyone who
shouldn't read this book. Go read it now!



Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My whole life had been explained! Or at least the fiction loving part of it. As a kid my two favorite characters were Jessica Fletcher and Scooby-Doo. It is safe to say that I enjoyed, and still do, the logical and observant detective. I have now discovered who that began with, Sherlock Holmes. And I am in love!



I found a free copy of this book when I got my Kindle a couple years ago. It was illustrated and I think that really added a lot to the reading. I read it slowly whenever I had a free moment for a quick story. I think it took me over a year to read it. Not because I didn't enjoy it. On the contrary, it was specifically because I enjoyed it. I read it slowly because I didn't want it to end. Thankfully, I recently found a complete collection of Sherlock Holmes stories for the Kindle. So I can enjoy him for a while.

One thing that I loved so much about this particular Sherlock Holmes book is that there are short stories. There is no large time commitment needed to enjoy a bit of mystery. I also think it is a wonderful introduction to a legendary character that we all know, but may not have read. *sheepishly raising my hand*

Recently I reread this book along with other people from Story Cartel. They wrote several blog posts to go with the book. I really enjoyed them because it really made the book become more alive and more relevant. It wasn't just fluff reading anymore. I was learning things about the book and character and I was learning things about other peopl e. I was applying various parts of the book to my life. It made the book much more enjoyable.


If you enjoy mysteries, get this book. Read it now. Read it often.
If you have read this book, go read it again. You can thank me later.
If the above situations don't pertain to you, get it anyway. You will enjoy it.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Slaves Have Names by Andi Cumbo-Floyd

 Photo Credit: Amazon

I first heard about this book project a few years ago from Shawn Smucker. I was super excited to hear that someone was researching the history of the slaves that lived and worked on her home. I couldn't wait to read this book. Of course I had to wait for the research to be "completed" and the book to be written. In November of 2013, the book was published. I got a copy of it, but didn't get around to reading it right away. I FINALLY started reading it early last week and finished it in less than a week. That is a pretty amazing record for me with 2 little ones around.

Based on the speed of my reading, you may be able to figure out some of my thoughts. I will pass my thoughts along anyway. This book is amazing! Andi Cumbo-Floyd is honest about the information that she finds and the information that she can't find. She is honest about her impressions of the people and their work on the plantation. She is honest about her feelings in the whole process. She presents all of those involved with integrity and as real people. The slave owners and the slaves themselves are both presented within the boundaries given to them by the society of the time. However, she doesn't give them a free pass either.

She doesn't pretend to understand all of the ramifications from slavery and segregation. She doesn't pretend to understand what it was like to live in a society that accepts slavery. However, she doesn't simply accept the facts written on paper as the only information to be had about these people. She provides an amazing balance between facts and inferences. She makes these bare facts transform into a fascinating story. I just can't say enough good things about this book.

Go get it and read it. You will be a better person for having read it.

The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of My Home Paperback