Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus by Sonya Sones

Book description:
My name is Holly.
This story is about me—
a writer who's way behind
on her deadline.

But, honestly,
how can I concentrate on my work
when my fiftieth birthday's
rushing at me like a freight train,

my hormones are making me feel
like a Szechuan flambÉ,
and my eighty-year-old mother's
biting her nurses?

Not to mention the fact that my daughter's
just begun applying to colleges
(none of which are within
a thousand-mile radius of home),

and lately my husband's been
such an irritating, finger-pointing stinker
that I've found myself dreaming of ways
to spend his insurance money . . .

My name is Holly.
This book
tells my story—
a coming-of-middle-age story.

I was both intrigued and frightened when I discovered this entire novel is actually written in verse. Though at first it was strange to read, I quickly found myself immersed in the story and unable to put the book down. It is truly remarkable how vibrant and packed with detail this story is despite the spare poems that convey the meaning in dramatically fewer words than a normal prose novel. I can't say anything else except that this book is a definite must-read that I am recommending to all my family and friends.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mothers and Other Liars by Amy Bourret

Book description:
How far will a mother go to save her child?

Ten years ago, Ruby Leander was a drifting nineteen-year-old who made a split-second decision at an Oklahoma rest stop. Fast forward nine years: Ruby and her daughter Lark live in New Mexico. Lark is a precocious, animal loving imp, and Ruby has built a family for them with a wonderful community of friends and her boyfriend of three years. Life is good. Until the day Ruby reads a magazine article about parents searching for an infant kidnapped by car-jackers. Then Ruby faces a choice no mother should have to make. A choice that will change both her and Lark's lives forever.

This is the latest in a series of books I've read about abducted children, but one that certainly dealt with the problem of a child torn between two families in a unique way. When orphaned 19-year old Ruby finds a baby in the trash at a rest stop, she makes the impulsive decision to take the baby with her on a cross country adventure. Years later, Ruby and Lark are a happy family of two, about to become four thanks to Ruby's boyfriend Chaz and their baby onboard. That happiness is shattered when Ruby sees a newspaper article that reveals that baby Taylor (now Lark) was stolen and dumped all those years ago, and has parents still searching for her.

Without revealing too much of the twist, I will say that though it was a surprise at the time, the actaul outcome quickly became predictable, and the ending itself was very disappointing in the way it negated so much of the story that came before.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

Book description:
When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing, her prominent family calls on Nayir al-Sharqi, a pious desert guide, to lead the search party. Ten days later, just as Nayir is about to give up in frustration, her body is discovered by anonymous desert travelers. But when the coroner’s office determines that Nouf died not of dehydration but from drowning, and her family seems suspiciously uninterested in getting at the truth, Nayir takes it upon himself to find out what really happened.

He quickly realizes that if he wants to gain access to the hidden world of women, he will have to join forces with Katya Hijazi, a lab worker at the coroner’s office who is bold enough to bare her face and to work in public. Their partnership challenges Nayir, as he confronts his desire for female companionship and the limitations imposed by his beliefs.

I picked up this mystery based in Jeddah because I am currently living in Dhahran KSA and was intrigued. The author lived in Saudi Arabia and certainly has an understanding of the complexities of life here.

The mystery itself wasn't that mysterious especially if you are familiar with the culture here, but the book itself was nevertheless engaging with its focus on a conservative male desert guide and a fairly liberal female employee of the morgue. It is these two characters and their growing understanding of each other that forms the backbone of the story; the search for the missing daughter of a wealthy family is simply the mechanism that brings them together. 4 stars for quality writing and an interesting & unusual theme.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Girl, Stolen by April Henry

Book description:
Sixteen year-old Cheyenne Wilder is sleeping in the back of a car while her mom fills her prescription at the pharmacy. Before Cheyenne realizes what's happening, their car is being stolen--with her inside! Griffin hadn’t meant to kidnap Cheyenne, all he needed to do was steal a car for the others. But once Griffin's dad finds out that Cheyenne’s father is the president of a powerful corporation, everything changes—now there’s a reason to keep her. What Griffin doesn’t know is that Cheyenne is not only sick with pneumonia, she is blind. How will Cheyenne survive this nightmare, and if she does, at what price?

It could be this book suffered in my estimation because I read it immediately after Miles From Ordinary which was just exceptional, but I also thought it compared unfavorably to What Happened to Cass McBride? Though there are compelling elements to the story of the accidental kidnapping of a blind teenager who turns out to be the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, there are too many elements toward the end that do not pass the smell test. The book has a strong opening, and Henry does a great job portraying Cheyenne's experiences as a newly blind teen. Griffin is a strong character, though less compelling than Cheyenne, and the big revelation about his family history was no surprise to this reader. The first two-thirds of this novel made for a great read, but the last third was disappointing in its treatment of the characters.