Bookshelf

TSOY-bookshelf1

This page is dedicated to those wonderful words I get lost in. Here you’ll find a short review of some of the books I read, along with a rating (see rating system below).

I hope you’ll join in on the conversation – have you read these books? What did you think of them? What have you read lately that fascinated you, that gave you chills, that had you rolling with laughter? Barring all spoilers, let’s talk about this wonderful blessing: The Written Word.

Deanna’s Star Rating System:

  • 0 = So bad I couldn’t even finish it
  • 1 = Not very good, but I finished it; won’t read author again
  • 2 = Okay, but most likely won’t read the author again
  • 3 = Average, will probably read one more by author to determine whether or not to read any further books
  • 4 = Very good, will definitely read author again
  • 5 = Excellent, will devour everything written by this author

Note to FTC: Unless otherwise specified, all books reviewed here were either borrowed from the library or purchased by me.

REVIEWS:

July 25, 2014 ~ 

Light of the World, by James Lee Burke ~ Rated 5

As always, James Lee Burke gives us incredibly believable characters in Dave Robicheaux and his adopted daughter, Alafair. This time we get to know Dave’s friend, his partner, Clete Purcell and his daughter, Gretchen Horowitz, who just happens to be the focus of the story, and she is one complex woman, to put it mildly. If you’re looking for action, action, action alongside incredible description, you’ve found it in Light of the World. 

True Evil, by Greg Iles ~ Rated 4.5

Another story full of action and loaded with mystery, True Evil is a must-read, especially for those who love suspense and being surprised. The only complaint I have is that it was a bit too long but other than that, terrific story!

Click here to read my review of one of the best books I’ve ever read, She’s Come Undone, by Wally Lamb.

Currently reading: Faith, by Jennifer Haigh

 I’m not sure I’ll finish this one as I’ve started it twice now and fallen asleep both times, (bored with the story). If I do finish it there will be a review posted, of course; if I don’t, well, I have several loaded onto my Kindle I need to get to, so either way, review coming soon.

June 18, 2014 ~ 

The Grifters, Jim Thompson ~ Rated 5 

I’m not sure how I missed this classic tale for so long but I’m glad to have finally discovered it. This is one of those edge-of-your-seat, can’t-put-it-down-page-turners with twist after twist after twist and you still don’t know the full truth until the very last page. Excellent story!

The Supreme Macaroni Company, Adriana Trigiani  ~ Rated 5

Per usual, Adriana gives us glorious imagery among characters so fleshed out they feel like real people and the foreshadowing is outstanding. If not for the spoiler I stumbled upon (on a FB post) I wouldn’t have guessed what was coming for the MC, Valentine. Superb reading!

Carthage, Joyce Carol Oates ~ Rated 4  

It was the perfect time to read Carthage as June is PTSD awareness month and the story is centered around an Iraqi war vet with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and his ex-fiancée’s sister who disappears early on. I learned a lot about PTSD that I wouldn’t have known otherwise and that made the story well worth the read, but for much of the second and beginning of the third part it dragged so much I thought I might have to stop reading – yes, a JCO! But then I reminded myself it was indeed a JCO and had to get better soon. And I was right, the ending was unexpected and I’m glad I made it there.

Currently reading: Light of the World, by James Lee Burke – review coming soon!

May 30, 2014 ~ 

I’ve read quite a bit since the last update here in March! Aside from these books I’ve read the last few issues of The Sun one of the best literary magazines ever. The only thing I don’t like about The Sun is that, no matter how much I try to put it down between stories so I can savor it, I end up reading the entire thing in no more than two sittings, in fact in one sitting more often than not. 

Voodoo Tales – The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead, by Henry S. Whitehead ~ Rated 4.5

You can get Voodoo Tales on Amazon right now for less than $4, and it is worth much more! For one thing it’s long – 704 pages! And almost every story is an absolute gem. Mr. Whitehead spares no expense in describing the gruesomeness of what voodoo, and other magic, can do to us. If you enjoy grotesque paranormal, you’re going to love Voodoo Tales!

Bellefleur, by Joyce Carol Oates ~ Rated 3

Considering it’s a JCO, I was surprised at how boring Bellefleur was. The characters are terrifically fleshed out but there are entirely too many of them and the story really dragged.

And the best book I’ve just finished: Your Life as Story, by Tristine Rainer ~ Rated 5

Although geared towards the autobiographical novel writer, the “instructions” presented in Your Life as Story can work for any story at all. This is absolutely the easiest and best book on “how to write” I’ve ever come across. Ms. Rainer makes writing – anything – seem like the easiest task on Earth! Of course we know writing isn’t easy but if you have this tool in your pocket it’s much easier to just write and not worry about structure because you have the assurance that you’ll be able to apply these rules, if you will, to what you’ve written once you reach the end. (I’m sure that makes sense if you’re a writer. In any case, this is The Book to Have on Hand!)

Currently reading: Adriana Trigiani’s The Supreme Macaroni Company, the third in the Valentine trilogy. I know it won’t take long to read this one so stay tuned for the review.

March 12, 2014 ~

The Darkest Part of the Woods, Ramsey Campbell ~ Rated 3

Having recently rediscovered Ramsey Campbell’s short stories I enjoyed them so much I added all the novels to my reading list. Granted, The Darkest Part of the Woods is an older one, published in 2002, so I’m hoping the ones following will be much better. The story itself is okay, though not my ideal, but the nuances of British English sometimes threw me into believing I just read something that was intended to be the direct opposite of what I read….if that makes sense. It could be that there was simply too much description, which I always have difficulty keeping up with [when reading].

First Love, by James Patterson ~ Rated 4

Had I paid attention and known First Love is a ghostwritten YA novel, (by Emily Raymond), I wouldn’t have picked it up. But even after I realized that, a few pages in, I was intrigued enough to go on. There were a couple of times when I almost decided to put it down but Ms. Raymond is skilled at creating suspense, if nothing else, and so I kept at it. It was a quick short read and, for its intended audience, quite good.

Also just finished The Whisperer in the Darkness, by HP Lovecraft (link to text) ~ Rated 5 If you’ve not yet discovered why Stephen King said of HP Lovecraft: “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” The Whisperer in the Darkness ought to do it.

Currently reading: Voodoo Tales – The Ghost Stories of Henry S. Whitehead ~ I discovered this book by reading The Big Book of Ghost Stories, which includes Henry S. Whitehead and am very glad I did. Not only is this quite a long anthology the stories are outstanding in their mystery, suspense and horror. Further review coming soon.

February 27, 2014 ~

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn ~ Rated 4.5

I heard that Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was a terrific, page-turning read so I kept an eye on it at the library for months. I finally got to read it this past week and I can vouch for the fact that it is definitely a page-turner; I finished it in two days. If you read my book reviews you know that it takes a lot to impress me and that there must be many twists and turns throughout the story, especially at the end, twists that make my mouth drop open in a gasping “No!” (though what I mean is “yes, this is great!”). Well, Gone Girl would have done that for me had I not, almost immediately, figured out the plot and knew how every piece of the story would fall into place (it was the way I read the title and interpreted the blurb). Normally that means I haven’t enjoyed the story but in this case I believe it has much to do with the fact that I’m a writer and every day, as I learn more about the craft of writing, I’m finding it easier to see what’s coming in a book. Yes, this could make reading not nearly as enjoyable as it once was, (and sometimes it does), but Gillian writes with such superb depth and clarity of vision that, even though I knew, or was certain I knew, what would happen, I still wanted to flip those pages. Now that’s a terrific book!

The Big Book of Ghost Stories, edited by Otto Penzler ~ Rated 4

If you like supernatural stories, you’re in for a fantastic treat. If you think you don’t like supernatural stories, your mind is about to be flipped. The Big Book of Ghost Stories is chock full – and I do mean full, 850 pages – of both classic and modern tales of a terrific mixture of horror, noir, pulp, gothic, science fiction, and more. There’s even humor thrown in there! With authors like Washington Irving, Joyce Carol Oates, Donald Westlake, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Rudyard Kipling, H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov – yes, all those outstanding writers in one book, and many, many more, you couldn’t possibly go wrong. The Big Book of Ghost Stories is not only a must read, it’s a must own!

Currently reading: The Darkest Part of the Woods, Ramsey Campbell ~ review coming soon!

January 26, 2014 ~ 

The Best American Short Stories of 2012 ~ Rated 4.5   With perfect work by Alice Munro, Steven Millhauser, George Saunders, Mary Gaitskill, Nathan Englander and more The Best American Short Stories of 2012 is an absolute must read – must own! In particular, Nathan Englander’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, will stay with me for life.

The Invisibles, by Hugh Sheehy  ~ Rated 4.5  I will definitely be reading more Hugh Sheehy. These shorts, especially The Invisibles, are incredibly original and moving stories.

A Fair Maidenby Joyce Carol Oates ~ Rated 5   Told in the classic JCO voice of suspense A Fair Maiden rates right up along her famous short Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?. (link is full text) One minute you think the elderly Marcus Kidder is preying on 16-year-old Katya Spivak, the next you believe he’s just the first adult to be kind to her, and in the end…..you knew nothing. And of course the best stories are those that shock you with a punch to the gut in their conclusion.

Little Bitty Liesby Mary Kay Andrews ~ Rated 5   Once again Mary Kay Andrews gives us buckets of laughs among emotional turmoil, and both the humor and the seriousness makes you want to laugh and weep right along with the quirky, (and fully formed) characters. Little Bitty Lies is a fun read.

Cradle and All, by James Patterson ~ Rated 4.5  It may seem surprising, but it took several chapters for me to “get into” Cradle and All. It seemed at first there was too much backstory but by the time I reached the second part I realized it wasn’t backstory I’d been reading but actual story. I was intrigued because I thought I’d known what this was all about but the mystery just kept growing deeper and deeper and by the time I reached the end I was truly shocked at the twist, in fact more than one twist, (which, as we know, is why I love fiction). A must read!

The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood ~ Rated 4   One of the best things about Margaret Atwood’s stories is that, although it’s always clearly her voice, you never know what you’re going to get. The Robber Bride is the most humorous of her work I’ve ever read, but at the same time you really feel for the women whose lives have been upended by “The Woman From Hell”. In fact, the characters are the best thing about all her work.

Boundby Antonya Nelson ~ Rated 2  After reading a few great shorts by Antonya Nelson last year I thought I’d love this novel, Bound. But no, I was sorely disappointed. Though the story itself is good (not great) there was too much inconsistency (and way too many adjectives) to move it along. There were several jarring places where I actually had to turn back and look at the page numbers to find out if I’d missed something. Definitely not worth the time, but I do recommend her shorts.

Currently reading: I just received my February issue of The Sun, which will take me no time at all to read, I love The Sun so much, so I’m heading to the library today with a few anthologies on the list. Meanwhile I’m anxiously awaiting my copy of Adriana Trigiani’s The Supreme Macaroni Company, the third in her Valentine trilogy. 

Click here for my post on the Best Reads of 2013

December 7, 2013 ~ 

Smoke, by Donald Westlake ~ Rated 4.5  If you’re looking for something light and refreshing you’ll definitely want to read Donald Westlake’s Smoke, the story of a crook who “accidentally” becomes invisible giving him the perfect tool for his trade; problem is everyone is hunting him down and so he and his reluctant girlfriend must run, run, run. As in all his work, Donald gives us characters that are both doomed and hopeful at once. And he doesn’t stop there, he puts these poor people in impossible situations – often life or death – and the chaos that ensues is absolutely hilarious.

Doctor Sleep, by Stephen King  ~ Rated 5 The follow-up to The Shining, (but nothing at all like The Shining), Doctor Sleep is among Stephen King’s best-to-date (though it’s hard to imagine I wouldn’t think that of all his work). The story follows the adult life of Dan Torrance, the boy in The Shining whose fate everyone wondered about for years. Now we get to be with him (as opposed to following him) as he uses his paranormal gift to assist the elderly in nursing homes move on to the Other Side. But this is the least of the story. Dan soon meets a teenage girl, Abra Stone, struggling with her own shining, the most brilliant ever known, as she battles with the strong force of the True Knot, a tribe of evil quasi-immortals who live off the “steam” of children with the shining. The characters are so fully formed it’s difficult to accept that they are indeed fictional. One of the best reads this year, I highly recommend Doctor Sleep.

MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood ~ Rated 5  Although it’s best to read the first two books of this trilogy – Oryx and Crake, and The Year of The Flood – MaddAddam can be read on its own. In any case you’ll discover (if you haven’t already from reading her previous works) that Margaret Atwood is one of the most intelligent people – not just writers – of our generation. Just to imagine the amount of research this work must have taken is staggering. Though it isn’t labeled as such, MaddAddam is in many ways a horror story for the fantastic plausibility that is this new world where the few people left on earth, (some biological, some manufactured), are left to defend themselves against giant pigs with human intelligence, evil men who once fought to the death as sport, and many other unnatural, (but now real), phenomena. Not only is MaddAddam one of the best reads of this year, it is one of the greatest stories ever written.  

Like Life: Stories, by Lorrie Moore  ~ Rated 4  The only thing I didn’t like about Like Life was that it ended much too soon. A very quick read because the stories are so intriguing you can’t help but keep your finger on the corner of the page, ready to turn it again and again and again. The characters here are people we know….or think we do.

Transatlantic, by Colum McCann ~ Rated 4 An outstanding epic tale that spans continents and generations, Transatlantic is a “must read now”!

Currently reading: The Best American Short Stories of 2012; The Invisibles, by Hugh Sheehy ~ I’m about halfway through both of these and they are outstanding! Reviews coming soon.

November 2, 2013 ~

Click here for a few recent favorites shared on Book Lovers Day. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman ~ Rated 3 I believe the problem with this book, the reason I rated it only a 3, is that it’s categorized incorrectly. Except for one passage that could easily have been revised to “fit”, The Ocean at the End of the Lane would be better labeled middle grade fiction.

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., Nichole Beriner ~ Rated 2.5 Although not a horrible read, The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. was quite lacking, both in story and in the flat characters.

Into the Darkest Corner, Elizabeth Haynes ~ Rated 3.5 Having been stalked earlier in my life, I can confidently say Ms. Haynes got the characters down-pat here. Though a good story, Into the Darkest Corner was not as exciting as I felt it should be.

Tabloid Dreams, Robert Olen Butler ~ Rated 4 A bunch of quirky characters in a bunch of quirky short stories, terrific read!

The Story of a Marriage, by Andrew Sean Greer ~ Rated 3.5  Not at all what you expect from the title, but much more serious and involved. Good story.

Currently reading: Smoke, by Donald Westlake After finishing several “serious” reads I felt it was time for some comic relief, and Smoke seems to fit that description to a tee!

August 29, 2013 ~

Just finished: Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson ~ Rated 4 This one is a great example of my reading too fast. Life After Life is a beautiful story in every way: there’s humor, horror, love, adventure, and every other genre you can think of – it has it all. I wish, however, that I had taken more care in reading it because after a while I became quite confused as to what was happening; had I read slower I believe I would’ve “gotten a better grip” on the story early on and not been so confused. But even if you sometimes get lost reading complex stories Life After Life is a must read, if for no other reason than the history lessons (but there are many more reasons, least of all the entertainment).

The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud ~ Rated 4.5 – Intensely gripping from first word to last, (and likely the very best last line I’ve ever read), The Woman Upstairs is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat masterpiece. The story is told so intimately that I felt like I was reading a memoir rather than a novel. Single women will especially appreciate this one.

Tenth of December, by George Saunders ~ Rated 4.5I just realized how lucky I got during this reading period…. George Saunders is a writer who knows that character is what makes a story, and he gives us just that. Every story in the anthology Tenth of December is outstanding, but Tenth of December itself was so good I had to read it twice! Other favorites are Escape to Spiderhead, which makes you tense with the psychological struggles, Home, and Sticks.

They Don’t Dance Much, by James Ross ~ Rated 4You must be a “real” reader, (have a good imagination), to appreciate They Don’t Dance Much, otherwise you might be quite bored. But if you’re a writer of noir you definitely want to pick this one up and study the characters. Very intriguing read.

Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann ~ Rated 5 Wow….. Let the Great World Spin is hard to describe, (outside of awesome that is). The characters are so rich, so real and the atmosphere so very well described I felt like I was right there in the story with them. As I started each part I wondered how the stories, which seem so very different from each other, could possibly come together as one, but after just a few sentences [of each part] I was so into what was happening in the moment that I forgot there were “separate” stories. And then, when they are finally brought together it seems so obvious (how each story is woven into the others) I wondered how I couldn’t have seen it before the end. Absolute outstanding work!

Currently reading: The Arbor House Treasury of Detective & Mystery Stories From The Great Pulps, Compiled by Bill Ponzini ~ I’ve a taste for noir at the moment, and this is as good as it gets. I’ll likely pick up another Colum McCann novel at the library tomorrow too. More reviews coming soon.

July 18, 2013 ~ 

I’m glad to be able to say I’ve been writing more than I’ve been reading lately – WOOT, Big Accomplishment! Ya me! But I have been reading, a lot. Below is a list of the books I’ve read since the last review in May, and their ratings, with a short note on each (instead of a long review since there are several). Make yourself happy – Read a Book!

Just finished: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: a mostly true memoir, by Jenny Lawson, a.k.a., The Bloggess  ~ Rated 4.5 ~ If you’re looking for a laugh, look no further. Not only is Jenny’s memoir hilarious but her blog is also a terrific place to visit, especially if you’re a neurotic woman in need of knowing you aren’t alone.

Several anthologies by Jill McCorkle ~ Rated 4 ~ If you’re a fan of laugh-out-loud southern family drama, you absolutely must read Jill McCorkle’s work, all of it. The woman has such astounding talent for bringing characters to life that you’d be hard-pressed to read a boring story.

Also by Jill McCorkle, the novel Life After Life ~ Rated 4.5 ~ This one has it all: suspense, drama, tons of humor and a lot of genuine friendship, a super read! (Not to be confused with Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, released much too close together considering they have the same title. I’m awaiting my copy from the library).

Another terrific anthology I just finished is Tobias Wolff’s The Night in Question ~ Rated 5 – absolute outstanding work!

I’ve also been reading a lot of classic poetry, which I would suggest we all keep at least one volume of by our side at all times. And if you enjoy twisted, chilling, disturbing poetry, you must read Margaret Atwood’s morning in the burned house. You can’t go wrong with her anyway.

Currently reading: They Don’t Dance Much, by James Ross – a classic that I was surprised I’d not hear of before, this one is very intriguing with easy to picture, vibrant characters. When that one’s finished I’ll be reading: Alice Munro’s Dear Life ~ Stories and then, another classic, Raylan, by Elmore Leonard.

May 8, 2013 ~

Just finished: Kate Atkinson’s series on Jackson Brodie ~ All rated 4.5 – 5 ~ Each novel in this series is absolutely outstanding, making you laugh out loud while at the same time wanting to cry for poor Jackson, a sometimes retired, (but more often not), PI who can’t seem to keep away from troubled characters. Kate brings a vividness to her characters, minor or not, that I’ve hardly seen from any other author. You must read these!

Also just finished: The House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (link to free ebook)~ Rated 5 ~ If you’re looking for a classic that will have you on the edge of your seat, continuously wondering who is good and who is evil, look no further. And the imagery, wow! If you’re a writer you’ll definitely want to study this one.

I’ve also been reading several classic poetry books, rediscovering what it is about poetry that I love so much (the least of which is the emotion packed in such a short space). One of the best, and most versatile, is Twentieth-Century American Poetry: there’s everyone from Stephen Crane to Mary Jo Salter, Adrienne Rich to Sara Teasdale, many, many, many favorites here.

Right now, in celebration of National Short Story Month (NaShoStoMo), I’m reading or rereading several different anthologies, including The Best American Short Stories of [year], currently on 1922. Amazing works here! I’m going to try to pick back up with writing (instead of reading so much) but check back soon for I’m not known for keeping my nose out of books.

April 14, 2013 ~ 

Just finished: The Accursed, by Joyce Carol Oates ~ Rated 5

From one of the greater writers of our time, if not The Greatest, comes another chilling gothic tale set in that time I so love to read about – the steampunk era. Per usual for JCO, the characters in The Accursed are so well defined it’s easy to picture them in terror, groveling, going mad – whatever they’re doing – right in front of your eyes. Of course this is one you’ll want to rush to read – now!

I read about four chapters of Blake Crouch’s Pines and was highly disappointed. I had not heard of Crouch until I read an anthology several months ago and loved the stories so much I thought I’d like anything he wrote, but no….Pines (or what I read of it) was incredibly clichéd and predictable.

Currently reading: Emotionally Weird, by Kate Atkinson

April 3, 2013 ~ 

Just finished: Ghosting, by Kirby Gann ~ Rated 5

Ghosting is a flat-out outstanding read! The characters, the pace, the voice, and the imagery – oh my gosh the imagery is so vivid at one point I caught myself squinting my eyes nearly shut as if watching a horror movie (but it isn’t all horror, there are beautiful descriptions as well). Brilliantly written, one thing I appreciate most [about the story] is that you truly don’t know what’s going to happen next but when it happens you think “well of course, that’s the only way it could go”, as if it’s real lives you’re reading about. I will definitely be seeking out and reading everything Kirby Gann has written. Heck, I’m tempted to move to Louisville, KY where he teaches just to take one of his classes. Yes, he’s that good.

Currently reading:Pines, by Blake Crouch 

April 2, 2013 ~ Just finished: A Suspension of Mercy, by Patricia Highsmith ~ Rated 3: Although there is indeed suspense throughout A Suspension of Mercy, (as we would expect from Highsmith), I was disappointed with the dull and unimaginative ending.

The Silent Girl, by Tess Gerritsen ~ Rated 5: Per usual, Gerritsen gives us believable characters and plot twists galore to keep us guessing.

Live By Night, by Dennis Lehane ~ Rated 5: Outstanding story of Joe Coughlin, a young man – who happens to be the son of a well-to-do Boston police captain – trying his best to live as an outlaw during Prohibition, (yet reluctant to call himself a mobster), Lehane takes us on yet another thrilling ride through love, betrayal, the possibility of redemption, and back again. This is an epic you won’t want to put down.

Lone Wolf, by Jodi Picoult ~ Rated 2.5: I’m sure those of you who’ve read Picoult’s novels will agree that she has a distinctive voice and knows how to portray her characters so that you feel you know them personally. Well, either that time of her career has ended or this book was ghostwritten by someone with no imagination. It was not only dumbed down, but also difficult to tell one character from another, in main part because most of them use the same language, going so far as to repeat the same clichéd phrases over and over again, (e.g. “In other words”). I was so irritated by this fact that near the 2/3 mark I began skipping sentences entirely! Yes, that is unheard of for me. And I was surprised by the ending, not because there was a great ironic twist but because there wasn’t, something Picoult has used to build her brand. Very disappointing read.

Currently reading: Ghosting, by Kirby Gann 

February 6, 2013 ~

Just finished: Cherry by Mary Karr   ~  Rated 3.5 and Lit, also by Mary Karr ~ Rated 5

I’m glad I read The Liar’s Club (Mary Karr’s first memoir, see below for review), first because if it’d been the other way around I doubt I would’ve gotten halfway through Cherry, not because the story isn’t good – it is – but because it’s written in both first and second person, (yes, second, as in “you wait for something to happen to you but nothing happens”). That may not have been so bad had she stuck to one for the first half and one for the second, but after opening with a prologue in second person then switching to, and staying with, first throughout the better part of the next several chapters I expected her to continue in first person; but no, she switches back to second, which jarred me a bit. She went back to first for a short bit, but after switching again I kept expecting it to go back to first but it never did. Confused yet? Me too. That said though, I believe I understand the reasoning behind the decision. Cherry is about how Mary developed into a young woman through the epitome of the ‘60s “sex, drugs and rock and roll” lifestyle. Thus, the majority of that stereotypical lifestyle is lived as if through another person’s eyes, like you’re seeing these things happen to you but don’t feel you’re a part of the events. Of course this is just speculation on my part, maybe I’m just describing a particular part of my life – ? Though not nearly as engaging as The Liar’s Club, Mary still gives us plenty to laugh and to cry about in Cherry, but if you have to choose between Cherry or Lit, definitely read Lit as it’s a Big Hit.

Lit is the story of the part of Mary’s life when she is always exactly that – lit. As a young wife and mother Mary became an alcoholic, (though she may say she “grew into her alcoholism”). I greatly appreciate how she bares her heart and soul for all to see in this fabulous account of her struggle with depression and alcoholism, and especially how she fought against being “saved” but ultimately conquered her fears in order to guard her relationship with her son. Since I’ve fought depression in my own life I easily identified with so many of the experiences Mary shares with us in Lit, but I suspect even those who’ve never had to deal with either depression or alcoholism will still empathize with her because the woman simply knows how to tell a story. While I’m hoping she’ll write another memoir soon, (and, by the way Mary, thank you for helping me to realize my life story doesn’t have to be told in one book), I’ll be reading her poems and essays. I have another favorite author: Mary Karr.

Currently reading: A Suspension of Mercy, by Patricia Highsmith 

January 26, 2013 ~

I’m sorry to say I had to set Await Your Reply down after the first quarter. Yes, it seemed to start out great but each of the four chapters I read only introduced new characters and since they hadn’t come together by then I started getting confused, (having to jump back and forth). I may try reading it again later.

Just finished: Stories That Make You Go ‘ah’, by Alison Wells  ~ Rated 4

I already knew Alison has a way with words, and Stories That Make You Go ‘ah’ only confirms that. I especially liked Filch, which is so moving you can’t help but root for the narrator while – yes, going ‘ah’ – at the same time, especially when you reach the last sentence. A wonderful collection of shorts, you must read these now!

Just finished: The Liar’s Club, by Mary Karr ~ Rated 5

Talk about a roller-coaster ride! The Liar’s Club will have you cracking up with laughter and then crying in the same sentence. That’s how terrifically this treasured memoir is written. Mary Karr, a poet, essayist and memoirist, tells the horrifying and comforting story of growing up as the daughter of a man who wove incredibly engaging stories and a mother who fought depression with alcohol, and she tells it with a grace befitting a queen. As you rush out for your copy of The Liar’s Club, I’ll be rushing out for my copy of everything else Mary has written.

Currently reading: The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton – I’m certain I’ve read this YA story before but my son is reading it at school and is so excited about it he asked me to read it with him, (something I’ve always dreamed would happen by the way). A classic written by a 15-year-old girl, The Outsiders is a short read so it shouldn’t take long to finish.

Also currently reading:  Atonement On page 1 the character had a big sister, and on page 3 she struggles as an only child….I had to set this one aside. Instead I picked up Mary Karr’s second memoir, Cherry, (as well as her most current, Lit), and am anxious to read both of these, (see review of The Liar’s Club above).

January 17, 2013 ~

Just finished: Mama’s Shoes,by Rebecca Elswick       ~ Rated 4.5

Although Mama’s Shoes started out a bit slow, after the halfway mark it picks up quite well. What I like most is how real the characters feel and I appreciate that Rebecca is not afraid to throw one obstacle after another at them, (as all novels should be written). The vivid descriptions themselves are worth getting through that first bit, and the end of the story, which is far from clichéd and expected, definitely makes Mama’s Shoes a great read.

Currently reading: Await Your Reply,by Don Chaon 

January 11, 2013 ~

Just finished: Breach of Promise, by James Scott Bell   ~ Rated 4.5

Though not as thrilling as Deadlock, Breach of Promise is still one heck of a ride, especially emotionally. James Scott Bell creates characters that feel so real it’s difficult to believe his stories are fiction. In Breach of Promise a young father is knocked flat when his wife not only leaves him but takes their daughter with her, and is determined to keep her from him, forever. Now he must do everything in his power to regain custody of his daughter while trying to pick himself up off the floor. Superb voice, pacing, amazing detail and an ending that will punch you in the gut, Breach of Promise is a must read.

Currently reading: Stories That Make You Go ‘ah’, by Alison Wells  I’ve just started reading this one but know already it will rate in the higher numbers. Why? Because, simply put, Alison has a way with words. Visit her place and you’ll see what I mean.

Also currently reading: Mama’s Shoes,by Rebecca Elswick  ~ Highly recommended by Lee Smith  – enough said. 

January 3, 2013 ~

Just finished: Deadlock, by James Scott Bell ~ Rated 5

I only learned of James Scott Bell a couple of years ago, and that was through his books on writing. Because of his down-to-earth style I decided to read his fiction. I read a couple of his anthologies/novellas and was hooked. Deadlock is the first of his novels I’ve read and if I’d had more than an hour or two a day I would’ve finished it in one sitting – it’s that good. I think the best part about Deadlock, (and Bell’s other stories I’ve read), is the fact that he weaves several narratives into one fascinating masterpiece, bringing them all together in the climax with seeming ease. Also, (and this is a trait of all great novels), there are twists and turns that we, the reader, should’ve at least guessed at but didn’t, making our mouths drop open with surprise. Deadlock is an absolute Must Read.

Currently reading:Breach of Promise,  by James Scott Bell 

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Stories and Musings by Deanna Schrayer

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