Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One Second After

by William R. Forstchen
audiobook: 13.3 hours
narrated by Joe Barrett

One Second AfterAbout the Book

In a small mountain town in North Carolina, the electricity suddenly goes out.  Soon enough the town realizes that America has been attacked by EMP weapons - the kind that permanently knock out all electrical equipment.  Over the first few days the people come together to support each other and share their food and supplies.  But as time goes by and things become more scarce, will kindness prevail in this small town or will harsh reality force people to make unpleasant decisions?  What happens when strangers come to town?  And will the power ever come back on?

My Thoughts

When I read the description of this book it immediately reminded me of the short-lived-but-well-loved TV series, Jericho.  That was enough to convince me to pick it up. And ok, the premise is basically the same - people coming together to survive and defend themselves.

Although I did like most of the characters in this book, I didn't feel all that connected to them.  One character did strike a chord though: a little girl who relied on insulin to survive reminded me of Kiddo and his reliance on his medications and feeding tube.  That one definitely kept me thinking about what I'd do in a similar situation!

My biggest problem with this book is that so much of it was exposition.  There needed to be much more "show" and a lot less "tell."  Also, so many times the exciting parts of the story were told in retrospect rather than as they happened. This slowed the pace of the story and, combined with the extensive info dumps, made the book drag.

Another thing to note is that the book is told from a conservative standpoint.  Not to the extreme, but it is clear that the author is solidly in the politically conservative camp.

I'm not sorry that I listened to this one; it made me think about the "what if" scenarios and how I'd handle them, and that is definitely a plus. But at the same time it could have been SO MUCH better.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

When The Killings Done

by T.C. Boyle
audiobook: 11.2 hours
narrated by Anthony Heald

About the Book (from my library's description)

When the Killing's Done: A Novel"From the bestselling author of The Women comes an action-packed adventure about endangered animals and those who would protect them.

Principally set on the wild and sparsely inhabited Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara, T. C. Boyle's powerful new novel combines pulse-pounding adventure with a socially conscious, richly humane tale regarding the dominion we attempt to exert, for better or worse, over the natural world. Alma Boyd Takesue is a National Park Service biologist who is spearheading the efforts to save the islands' endangered native creatures from invasive species like rats and feral pigs, which, in her view, must be eliminated. Her antagonist, Dave LaJoy, is a dreadlocked local businessman who, along with his lover, the folksinger Anise Reed, is fiercely opposed to the killing of any species whatsoever and will go to any lengths to subvert the plans of Alma and her colleagues.

[...]. In dramatizing this collision between protectors of the environment and animal rights activists, Boyle is, in his characteristic fashion, examining one of the essential questions of our time: Who has the right of possession of the land, the waters, the very lives of all the creatures who share this planet with us?

When the Killing's Done will offer no transparent answers, but like The Tortilla Curtain, Boyle's classic take on illegal immigration, it will touch you deeply and put you in a position to decide."

My Thoughts

I really loved THE TORTILLA CURTAIN because Boyle made me think about the illegal immigration of Mexicans into California in new ways. He presented people on both sides of the issue and made me feel for them all.  I was hoping for the same thing from this book, but it isn't exactly what I got.

In this book the controversial issue tackled by Boyle is invasive species versus naturally occurring species.  If a non-native species is endangering the survival of a native species, what is the right course of action to take?

As in TORTILLA, Boyle presents both sides by introducing characters on either side of the issue.  Alma, the scientist, is working to eradicate the non-native species on the islands.  I understood her and her beliefs and I felt that she was a realistic character.  Dave is with an organization similar to PETA and he is working to save the lives of all animals on the island regardless of how they got there.  Dave's characters was more volatile and unpredictable, and I didn't always understand his motives.

The book and the issues it tackles are fascinating and I enjoyed it.  However I felt that Dave's character represented all the negative stereotypes of an animal rights activist, and this led me to have very little sympathy for his cause.  Had Boyle chosen to portray the animal rights side of the issue in a less extreme way I think I would have gotten more from the book, that I'd have been more challenged by both sides of the issue.  By focusing on the extreme, Boyle enabled me to distance myself from that side of the issue; that is not what I was hoping to do.

All that said, the very very end of the book made me reevaluate some of my opinions and it turned part of the story on it's head.  Well done!

So I didn't love this one but I didn't dislike it either. It's definitely worth reading, and I'm certainly going to look for more by this author.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Photo of the day

As we pulled into the gas station just now Kiddo hollered "Mom, it's a vampire truck!" It took me a few minutes to figure out what he was talking about but I finally got it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

BEA Book Review: Next to Love

by Ellen Feldman
304 pages

From the epigraph:
War ... next to love, has most captured the world's imagination. - Eric Partridge, 1914

While meandering through the aisles on the last day of BEA the cover of this book caught my eye. When I saw that the author was at the booth signing the last few copies of the book I immediately rushed over to see what it was all about. During my chat with the author I discovered that the book was set during World War II and I knew that I had to read it.

Turns out, this is THE BEST BOOK that I brought home from my BEA/BBC trip!

About the Book

The story centers around three female friends who got married at the start of WWII. Each of their husbands is sent off to war but not all of them come home again. Can these women maintain their friendship when some are widowed and others are not? For those whose husbands did return, what happens when the man you married is not the same man who came back to you after the war? The book relates the tragedy and triumph the war years but it doesn't stop there. It goes on to explore what happened in the lives of these women in the 20-odd years that followed.

Why I Read It

A few years back I sat down with my grandma and helped her move all her photos out of the old, crumbling album where they'd been for 50 years and into a new album. During that project Gram shared tons of stories with me about her childhood and early married life. I knew the war stories - those were common tales in our house - but much of the rest was new to me. By the time we finished I felt like I knew Gram as a young woman rather than only as my grandma. That's one of the reasons I was so drawn to this book - it gives me insight into the WWII generation and helps me see them as young people in the heyday of their lives instead of the senior citizens they are today.

My Thoughts

I was sucked into this book from the very first pages. It begins in the middle of the war with one of the main characters getting news that several young men from town died in battle. From there the story goes back in time to the first days of the war. That scene from the start of the book? It actually happens about halfway through - I loved that, since I had expected it to be closer to the end.

The point-of-view switches between the three main characters, sometimes covering the same event from more than one perspective. Again, I loved that - it was interesting to see how the same situation could be viewed so differently by these women.

Reading this book gave me insight into what the lives of my grandparents generation were actually like, both for the good and for the bad. For that alone I would have enjoyed the book, but add in realistic characters, a compelling story, and great writing, and you've got an all-around fantastic book.

Your Thoughts

Have you read this one yet or seen other reviews?  It comes out in hardcover on July 26 - will you be buying a copy?

Also, I want your opinion on the cover. The image at the top is the ARC cover, the one that I have. The image down here is from the hardcover.  Which one do you like better? I LOVE the ARC one - it's what drew me to the book in the first place. I'm not a big fan of the new cover. To be honest, I'd have walked right past it ...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

another DNF

The GendarmeI've been trying to listen to the audio of THE GENDARME by Mark Mustian for weeks now. I was SO excited when this came out - it looked like exactly the kind of book I most enjoy. I picked it up from the library a few weeks ago, popped in the first CD, and ... just about fell asleep. I made it through one CD then took a few weeks break to listen to other books, thinking that maybe the timing was off for this particular book. I popped in the second CD today and nothing has changed. I love the premise of the book but it is just boring me to death. I am officially calling it quits on this one.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Outlander: The First Three Books

by Diana Gabaldon
audiobooks: Outlander = 32.75 hours, Dragonfly in Amber = 39 hours, Voyager = 43.33 hours
narrated by Davina Porter

Voyager (Outlander)OutlanderDragonfly in Amber (Outlander, Book 2)

After years of hearing about these books I finally decided to give them a try and I am HOOKED.  

About the Books

Book 1: For those unfamiliar with the story, the first book begins just after World War II.  Claire has just reunited with her husband after spending the war years working as a nurse in a field hospital.  The two plan to spend some time in Scotland where Claire will relax while her husband does geneological research.  However, while walking through an ancient stone circle Claire is suddenly pulled back in time to approximately 200 years in the past.  She finds herself in danger at every turn and - through a series of events - is forced to marry a young man named Jamie in order to gain his protection.  Although she is still in love with her (future) husband, Claire finds herself drawn to Jamie as well. The central question of book one is this: given the chance to go 'back to the future' will Claire choose her old life and her first husband or will she remain in the past with Jamie?

Book 2: SPOILER ALERT: don't read this summary if you haven't read book 1 - Ok, so, this book starts in the "modern" day with Claire and her daughter Brianna.  They are hoping to find out what happened to Jamie's men after the battle which led to Claire's departure.  The story then flashes back to the 1700s and we find out what happened to Jamie & Claire that led to their separation.

Book 3: SPOILER ALERT: don't read this summary if you haven't read book 2 - Claire found out at the end of book 2 that Jamie didn't die in the battle as she'd always thought,.  Now she must dig through the historical record to find out what happened to Jamie and where he went next.  Once she finds out all she can she must decide whether to risk yet another trip through the stones to find him.

My Thoughts 

I knew I would love these books but I put off reading them because I feared getting sucked into a long series.   Now that I've started I really DO love them but I've been able to pace myself, listening to a book a month.  

The books are sprawling and epic in scope. They contain a large number of characters and deal with quite a few historical events.  At times the author tends to ramble (the books could have been quite a bit shorter) but I really like that - I love all the extra details and side-stories that are included.  There are some graphic sex scenes - both consensual and forced - that may turn off some readers but I found the consensual ones quite good and the forced ones fitting to the story.  

I think the thing that makes me really love these books is that I identify with the characters. Claire and Jamie act in ways that I recognize as real, even if it isn't the way I would act in a given situation.  I love them together and I cannot wait to start the next book.

Your Thoughts

Are you a fan of this series?  If so, which is your favorite book?  Is there another book/series that you think I'd enjoy since I love this one so much?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mini Reviews: 6 Books

I hope that you all are enjoying your summer (or, for those in the other hemisphere, your winter) as much as I am.  Things have been super busy here BUT I am reading some and definitely listening to lots of audio books.  Below are some quick thoughts on some of my latest finished books.  I didn't provide summaries because 1) most of these are books you've probably heard of, 2) I'm trying to keep this short so I actually get a post written, and 3) you can click on the titles to read the summaries at

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman - audio, 6.5 hours, narrated by the author - I'm not a huge Gaiman fan so this was actually the first book by him that I've read/listened to.  I had seen the movie and loved it so I figured I'd give it a shot.  All in all I enjoyed it.  It wasn't anything that blew me out of the water but it was entertaining and original and I'm glad I listened to it.

Crossed, by Ally Condie - ARC from BEA (no idea of the page count as I don't have the book anymore) - I enjoyed Matched (liked but not loved) and I wanted to see what happened to the characters next. I picked up this book to send to Amanda but of course I had to read it first. :) Although I did like it I also felt that not a whole lot happened; it definitely had the feel of a "second in a trilogy" book.  I'm not particularly invested in the series but I will read the final book when it comes out.

The Girl Who Fell From the SkyThe Girl Who Fell From The Sky, by Heidi W. Durrow - 264 pages - This book was not what I expected AT ALL but it was strangely fascinating.  I didn't necessarily love it but I was totally intrigued by it.  What I did love was the examination of race and class that the author showed through the main character and her interactions with those around her.  I need to look up some info about the author and see if her writing was influenced by her own experiences with race in any way ...

Master and Commander (Aubrey/Maturin, #1)Master and Commander, by Patrick O'Brian - audio - DNF - This is a book that I SHOULD love. It has everything that I enjoy - historical detail, epic adventure, good narration - but I just couldn't get into it.  I listened for about 5 hours before finally calling it quits.  Of course, the fact that I fell asleep in the movie version might have given me a clue ...

Click image to view full coverA Woman of Independent Means, Elizabeth Forysthe Hailey - audio, 1.9 hours, narrated by Barbara Rush -  I really wanted to love this story of a real woman in the early 1900s making her way through marriage and family while retaining her independence.  Unfortunately I found that I really didn't like this woman. This became very clear to me via her dealings with her adult daughter late in the book; I couldn't imagine having to deal with this woman as my own mother!

Don't Breathe a Word
Don't Breathe A Word, by Jennifer McMahon - 464 pages - I saw a ton of reviews for this book over the past few months so when I got a copy in a BEA swag bag I decided to give it a try. I don't usually read "missing children" books but I was intrigued by the fantasy element in this one. It kept my attention and parts of it slightly gave me the creeps but overall it was just okay.  The problem for me what that I wanted more of the fantasy than I got.

Have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?

Hopefully I'll have more short reviews soon ...
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