Valerie S. (VolunteerVal) - - Reviews

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The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion
The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion
Author: Fannie Flagg
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 55
Review Date: 7/24/2015
Helpful Score: 3


From the first page, I knew I'd love this book, and I truly enjoyed every page. It's a perfect summer read - quirky characters, adventure, and some mystery. I especially enjoyed learning about the WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) involvement in World War II and the references to Polish culture. I read this for book club and look forward to a lively discussion.


American Housewife: Stories
American Housewife: Stories
Author: Helen Ellis
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 3/30/2017


I thoroughly enjoyed this short collection of snarky short stories. They range in length from 2 pages to 40 pages. I liked the author's dry sense of humor, but it's probably not for everyone. At least one story (The Fitter) had me laughing one minute and crying the next. If you like the front cover, you'll likely enjoy the stories within.


Assassination Vacation (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Assassination Vacation (Audio CD) (Abridged)
Author: Sarah Vowell
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 9/2/2010


I tried to like this book but just couldn't get past Disc 2. The author is the narrator, and her voice is whiny and very nasal. Too much history for my taste. Thank goodness I checked this out from the library.


The Baker Street Translation (Baker Street Letters, Bk 3)
The Baker Street Translation (Baker Street Letters, Bk 3)
Author: Michael Robertson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 9/11/2015


This novel is fast-paced, similar to an episode of a "Castle-esque" TV show. Even though it's been some time since I read book 2 in this series, I quickly slipped back into the characters and story. Laura clarifies her romantic interests, and the stage is set for the next installment of the story.


Beartown
Beartown
Author: Fredrik Backman
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 7/26/2017


This is a powerful story about hockey and small town life and human nature and love. I'll be thinking about it for quite some time. My only regret for listening to the audio was I couldn't reread some of the beautifully written passages in this novel.


A Beautiful Fall
A Beautiful Fall
Author: Chris Coppernoll
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 11/27/2017


It's interesting to read a contemporary romance by a male author with a female main character. The premise is familiar - girl from a small southern town wants to explore the world so she goes to college and law school on the East coast, cuts contact with family and friends back home, gets a job in a high-power law firm, wins a big case which attracts lots of attention and money, and then something happens that brings her back to her hometown. This book is Christian fiction so that adds some nuances to the standard story, but I felt the way Emma was able to instantly reconnect with family and childhood friends after a 12-year absence was very unrealistic.

The description of place was vivid, and I could easily imagine myself in the setting. The author included the original publisher's proposal at the back of the book; it was interesting to read the differences between first concept and published novel.


Beyond Summer (Blue Sky Hill, Bk 3)
Beyond Summer (Blue Sky Hill, Bk 3)
Author: Lisa Wingate
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 32
Review Date: 7/31/2017


The author continues to explore the Blue Sky Hill neighborhood in Dallas, TX. In this book, we delve into the lives of three main characters: Tam, Shasta, and Sesay. Tam is 18 years old and spends her summer taking golf lessons at the country club, shopping, and planning a year-long trip across Europe with her best friend rather than beginning college in the fall. Shasta is a 20-something Native American who has just moved from Oklahoma into her first home with her husband Cody and young sons Benjamin and Tyler. Sesay is a homeless woman and talented artist in her 50s or 60s fleeing an abusive "boss" on a sugar cane plantation in Miami. The novel addresses the question: What if the real estate development company endorsed by a high-profile sports hero is doing more harm than good in a historic residential neighborhood and the hero's family is forced to leave their mansion to live in one of the small run-down homes owned by the development company? The story includes characters previously featured in previous Blue Sky Hill novels as well as the author's Tending Roses series, but it could also be read as a stand-alone. I really liked this novel because it didn't tie up every storyline with a bow; there's hope for positive outcomes in the characters' lives.


Blankets
Blankets
Author: Craig Thompson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 45
Review Date: 4/13/2009


This is the fist graphic novel I've read, and I was pleasantly surprised. The story is complex (addressing topics such as personal faith, people with disabilities and parental/sibling relationships) and engrossing. At nearly 600 pages, the book is a bit unwieldly, but it read quickly. I appreciated the black and white illustrations for their amazing detail - no superheroes here.


Commonwealth
Commonwealth
Author: Ann Patchett
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.3/5 Stars.
 23
Review Date: 5/15/2017


I enjoyed this coming-of-age novel, the author's most personal to date. The story is somewhat autobiographical; Ann Patchett stated, "The specific actions of the characters are not the same, but the emotions are. As my mother would say, âNone of it happened, and all of it is true.'â Patchett also said, "My father was dying as I was writing this novel. I knew he'd hate this book, but I knew I was writing it because he was never going to read it.â

Sections of this novel feel like linked short stories rather than a novel - not a bad thing but there's a few fairly abrupt leaps in time and central characters.


Dandelion Summer (Blue Sky Hill, Bk 4)
Dandelion Summer (Blue Sky Hill, Bk 4)
Author: Lisa Wingate
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 29
Review Date: 8/29/2017


This is the fourth novel in the Blue Sky Hill series, and although it involved some characters from previous novels as minor characters, it was unique and could be read on its own.

Main characters are J. Norman, a retired NASA scientist, recently widowed, who feels there's not much worth living for in life, and Epiphany, a teenager whose ethnic heritage and parental situation make life challenging. Their unlikely friendship empowers them to research their family histories and have some adventure along the way. I enjoyed the way the author wove the history of the US vs. Russia race to the moon into the storyline.

This series reminded me that even though a group of people may live in close proximity to each other, each person has his/her own circumstances, challenges, and goals.


The Death of a Dowager (Jane Eyre Chronicles, Bk 2)
The Death of a Dowager (Jane Eyre Chronicles, Bk 2)
Author: Joanna Campbell Slan
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/23/2013


I have a confession to make: Ive never read Jane Eyre. However, after enjoying The Death of a Dowager, I want to read the classic Charlotte Bronte novel and author Joanna Campbell Slan has accomplished her goal of The Jane Eyre Chronicles series to introduce more readers to the delightful world of Jane Eyre.

I read The Death of a Dowager (book 2 in the series) without benefit of first reading The Death of a Schoolgirl (book 1) and had little difficulty in acclimating myself. At first, the number of characters was a bit overwhelming, but the primary and secondary characters were quickly sorted out.

I usually prefer novels with contemporary settings, but from the first chapter, I connected with Jane, Edward, Lucy and their world. Being relatively new to the cozy mystery genre, Ive searched for a series with an interesting plot beyond the facts surrounding the obligatory murder. The Jane Eyre Chronicles fits the bill, immersing readers in the life and times of 1800s England.

I highly recommend The Death of a Dowager and plan to read The Death of a Schoolgirl while waiting for the third book in this interesting series.

The above opinions are my own; thanks to the author for providing a complimentary copy of the novel.


Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Author: Matthew Desmond
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.8/5 Stars.
 3
Review Date: 5/22/2017


I highly recommend this heartbreaking, non-fiction book. The serious subject of adequate housing for Americans with low incomes living in Milwaukee is very approachable. The author tells the powerful story through six struggling families and two landlords. To do so, he lived in a trailer park and an inner city apartment building for several months.

If you've never experienced the challenges these families face, I encourage you to read this book. For the most part, Matthew Desmond states the facts and allows readers to draw their own opinions.


Family Album: A Novel
Family Album: A Novel
Author: Penelope Lively
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 7/27/2015


This novel had a very unique writing style. It was written almost entirely in present tense, even for events that occurred 10+ years in the past, and some characters had long soliloquies to move the story along. The last portion of the book is written in the form of email messages between the characters. I applaud the narrator who was very effective in her use of various voices for the many characters (6 children, 2 (or 3?) parents, etc.


Flight Patterns
Flight Patterns
Author: Karen White
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 16
Review Date: 9/2/2016


I was drawn into this novel from the first page. The story includes four generations of a (dysfunctional) family that has lived for generations in Apalachicola, Florida. Although each person is flawed, and most have a secret, I felt connected to them. I had to suspend belief regarding the amazing coincidence that drives the plot, but the interesting information I gained about beekeeping and fine china made up for this. If you enjoy family sagas with themes of love, home, and forgiveness, you'll enjoy this title.


The Girl from the Garden
The Girl from the Garden
Author: Parnaz Foroutan
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 11/13/2015


This is a powerful novel by a debut author. The story is told with a dual setting of current day Los Angeles and early 20th century Iran. The historical sections were far more powerful; it felt disjointed to occasionally return to the current day. The book addresses many basic elements (gender roles, procreation, familial sacrifices, etc.) and would provide great discussions for a book club.


The Girl from the Train
The Girl from the Train
Author: Irma Joubert
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 14
Review Date: 5/3/2016
Helpful Score: 3


Not to be confused with a very popular novel with a similar title, this powerful story includes one world war, two continents, and at least three languages. It follows the tumultuous childhood of a young girl whose life includes love, loss, and joy from a very early age. I am very glad I read this book and appreciated the Polish history facts I learned along the way.

This is not your typical Christian fiction novel - it is the author's first book to be translated from her native Afrikaans to English. In some places, the translation results in choppy sentences and unique word choices, but that didn't distract me as much as my inability to pronounce some names and terms.


The Girl in the Garden
The Girl in the Garden
Author: Melanie Wallace
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 3/20/2017


If you only read one "Girl" novel this year, I recommend this one. An intriguing character study told mostly in "backstories." The writing in complex sentences took me awhile to get into, but once I did, I appreciated the author's style. I finished this book several days ago and I'm still thinking about it.


The Goldfinch (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
The Goldfinch (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
Author: Donna Tartt, David Pittu (Narrator)
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 3/16/2015
Helpful Score: 2


There are thousands of reviews which outline this book's epic plot, so I'll skip that. I want to commend David Pittu for his outstanding reading of this novel. It demanded he voice many characters (male and female), several accents, foreign language phrases, and even a bit of singing, and he mastered all of this. Listening to this book rather than reading it greatly enhanced its enjoyment for me. It's a commitment though - 26 discs is a serious investment of time.


Gourmet Rhapsody (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
Gourmet Rhapsody (Audio CD) (Unabridged)
Author: Muriel Barbery
Book Type: Audio CD
  • Currently 2.3/5 Stars.
 4
Review Date: 2/19/2014
Helpful Score: 1


Positive: Several actors provide the voices of characters in this book. The audio is only four hours long.

Negative: This entire novel is told in soliloquy; there's not a single word of dialogue between characters. The main character goes on and on with dry and abstract descriptions of the culinary experiences he's had. I rarely quit books; if this had been any longer, I wouldn't have gotten past the first disc.


The Healing Quilt
The Healing Quilt
Author: Lauraine Snelling
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 1/12/2010


I really enjoyed this book. It's a contemporary story of a multi-generational group of women who come together to make a quilt in support of a great cause. The final result is far more than a beautiful blanket.


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