Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Reviews - Fiction

This post is the fifth in a series of six daily posts where I'll be sharing book reviews. I regularly share reviews of the books I read, however so far this year I've mainly only been sharing reviews of the Pulitzer prize winners and the free books (I receive in exchange for an honest review) that I've completed. This week I'm catching up with reviews so I'll have a review for each book I've read. Check out my Books Read page to see a list of the books I've read, and click on any book title to check out my review.

In addition to the Christian fiction and books-made-into-movies, I've read a variety of other fiction books this year. These first three books were all selections of the book club I attend at our local library.

   

Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace was the book selected by our Friends of the Library organization for the community to read and discuss. This is a wonderful program that encourages everyone in our community to read a particular book each year. I typically enjoy these books, however I think this year the committee missed the mark. This book is about a dying man who spent his life telling tall tales and his son who wants to know the truth about him. The son re-tells the father's stories as a way to get to know him. Unless you truly love tall tales or have nothing better to do, I don't recommend this one.

I have read and enjoyed Khaled Hosseini's first two books, so I was a little disappointed in his newest book, And the Mountains Echoed. This book starts out with the story of a man telling a story to his young son and daughter. The next day, he travels to Kabul and gives/sells his daughter to a wealthy family, in the apparent hope of offering her a better life. Then the book becomes somewhat disjointed as each chapter follows the story of someone else in the narrative; at times it's the young boy growing into a man, other times it's two brothers who are neighbors to the wealthy family for a time, and at one point it's the story of the man who years later owns the home of the wealthy family. The story covers 50+ years, and while each chapter is interesting in itself, they don't necessarily tie together neatly. This is actually a very interesting book to read, but I felt dissatisfied with the ending and the dangling stories.

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg was an enjoyable read (except for a little disappointment in the final chapters). The story is set in two time periods. In modern times, we meet Mrs. Sookie Poole, a woman living in Alabama, married to a good man with whom she's raised four children. Her rather eccentric and domineering mother lives a couple of houses down. There are some FUNny scenes involving Sookie's desire to feed the little birds and her attempts to see a psychiatrist without anyone in their small town finding out (& telling her mother!). The other story is set during World War II and tells the story of a family that had several daughters who became WASPs (Women Airforce Service Pilots). I thoroughly enjoyed Sookie's hilarious exploits, how these two stories came together, and the growth of the characters throughout the course of the book.


I added The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson to my to-read list after Sian mentioned it on her blog quite a while back. The story of how Allan Karlsson climbs out the window of the old folks home and "disappears" is a FUN story, filled with his reminiscences of his rather bizarre and unbelievable stories about his past as he connects with several other interesting characters who become his traveling companions. About two-thirds of the way through I was getting a little tired of the story, however the author does wrap it all up neatly in the end.

   

Of course, my reading would not be complete if I didn't have a few children's/young adult books in the mix. Robbie picked up three new Dear America books for me on our trip to Pennsylvania earlier this year. These historical fiction books are written in the form of journals, and I thoroughly enjoyed Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763, the story of the young Quaker Girl, Caty Logan, and her capture and years with the Lenape Indians.

My sister sent me two of the books that my twin nine-year-old nieces will be reading this year as she knows I like to keep up with what they are reading. I really enjoyed both of these short chapter books and am looking forward to talking with the girls about them soon. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is a FUN story about how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle helps parents solve problems with her own very special cures for things like Never-Want-To-Go-To-Bedders and Answer-Backers. Her biggest secret is that she makes everything FUN! Everything on a Waffle has a more serious theme as Primrose Squarp's parents are supposedly lost at sea and she is shuffled between several prospective adopters. However, the story is told with lots of humor and Primrose finds solace in a restaurant that serves everything on a waffle.

   
 
I was intrigued when I saw a Scrapbooking Mystery in the new books section at our library. I discovered that this series by Laura Childs has 11 books! Of course, I can't read them out of order, so I immediately checked out the first few. So far, I've completed the first five books in the series. These are easy-to-read murder mysteries set in New Orleans and center around Carmela Bertrand, who owns a scrapbook store near the French Quarter. I enjoyed the stories and how the mysteries intertwine with scenes and details of scrapbook projects being created, along with the unique flavor of New Orleans and the mention of places that I've visited and/or heard about. [At some point during each book, I really wanted a beignet from Cafe Du Monde!] If you enjoy mysteries and scrapbooking, you'll definitely want to check these out.

What fiction books have you enjoyed lately? Are you adding any of these to your to-read list?

Tomorrow I'll be finishing out my book review mini-series by reviewing the latest fiction Pulizer prize winner I've completed.  (Click here to see all my book reviews.)

6 comments:

Sian said...

It's interesting to see the completely different cover your edition of 100 year old man has. It remains my favourite read from last year. I loved it and have enjoyed his new one this year just as much. I'm a sucker for a happy ending! (and a crazy imagination..)

Karen said...

I missed the first reference to the 100 Year Old Man, but it will go on my list now. I'm finishing up the newest Donna Leon mystery right now and enjoying it, as I do all her mysteries.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, I have many of the scrapbook mysteries in the series, maybe all, so I will give them to you the next time we are together! Don't buy them! I love them, but I have run out of room and just last week took them to my give away box!

Amyih said...

I am not anonymous! I just slipped when posting! Sorry!

Beverly said...

I recently read and enjoyed Sycamore Row by John Grisham. I love reading YA fiction, my favorite part of my job working in an elementary school media center was leading book clubs :)

Barbara Eads said...

I enjoyed And the Mountain Echoed. Not so much the story, but because whenever I read his books, I am amazed at the hardships endured. His books are my only glimpse in to this culture.