Friday, November 2, 2012

Wool Omnibus, by Hugh C. Howey

It's been a long time since I've read a book that I literally did not want to put down.  Well, the streak is over, thanks to Wool by Hugh Howey. (The edition I read is subtitled Omnibus because it was originally a collection of self-published stories that have been put together.)

Case in point: doing the elliptical for 30 minutes at the gym is usually a half-hour of boredom made bearable only by the selection of music on my mp3 player.  But I forgot my earphones yesterday, so decided to continue reading "Wool" instead.

Normally I have a hard time staying focused on reading material when I'm exercising...but not only did I stay focused, the 30 minutes evaporated in no time!

"Wool" is the kind of book for which you really need to set aside some uninterrupted time...else you'll be staying up way past your bedtime.

So what it's about?

An entire city of people (I don't think Howey ever specifies just how many) lives in an underground silo that reaches some 140 floors down into the earth.

They carry on their lives--schools, jobs, religion, marriage, childbirth, entertainment--in this shelter.  Their only knowledge of the outside world is that breathing its toxic air would destroy them.

Talking about the outside, even speculating about it, is a punishable offense.  The worst offenders are sent to "cleaning"-basically, their death.  (I'll let you find out about that for yourself.)

But when a curious IT tech finds some secret information about the history of the silo, it sets off a chain of events that kick this engrossing tale into high gear really quick.  In fact, the first page had me hooked.

The stairs

With life taking place on so many floors--the "uptop," the "mids" and the "down deep"--the stairway becomes a focal point of the story.  A trek from the top to the bottom could take quite a while, could even require an overnight stay at a halfway point.

I have to admit that I had to wonder, with silo life so perfectly planned and regulated, why whoever designed the silo didn't provide for elevators!

But I think another blogger, Janyaa, expresses her thoughts about the stairs perfectly:

I love how Howey incorporates the stairs into the story. They become a test of will, a graceful arc of hope, or potential for despair. Not only is it the tie that connects the levels together, but it’s also the gravity that keeps them apart. A barrier and a link. The very DNA of the silo’s civilization.

The characters 

While life in the silo--and the speculation about what is really outside it--are fascinating, it's the characters that really make the story.

My favorite is Juliette, who has all the attributes of a good heroine--courage, integrity, and feistiness. Not to mention she's a very talented mechanic, which serves her well in the adventures that befall her.

But more than that, she has a vulnerability that makes her likable and relatable.

More to the story?

I liked how this book--originally a collection of self-published stories--ends on a note of hope and even joy.

But it's obvious that Howey left some threads hanging loose.  And in a Q and A in the Kindle edition, he implies that there WILL be more to the story.  I can't wait to see if future installments will be as riveting as this one!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Booking Through Thursday: Carry-Ons

I've sadly neglected this blog lately, and it's been quite some time since I participated in Booking Through Thursday, so...there's no time like the present, right?

Here's today's question:

Do you bring the book(s) you’re reading with you when you go out? How?
Physically, or in an e-reader of some kind? Have your habits in this
regard changed? (I know I carried books with me more when I was in
school than I do now–I can’t read while I’m driving to work, after

Short answer:  Yes.  Often.  I find myself in situations where I have to "wait' a lot, and if I have my current book with me, no worries.  Irritation at having to wait vanishes when I get caught up in the story.

I used to have a Kindle before I broke the screen, and I really miss it for that very reason.  You can't beat the portability!  I really wish I had an e-reader again...even though I love actual books and would never completely abandon them.

Oh, and I NEVER go on a car or plane trip without a good book!

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday

and go here to enter for your chance to win a beautiful top from Soft Surroundings!

Friday, August 3, 2012

My review of Jane Austen's "Mansfield Park"

Warning: This review contains spoilers

Although I've thoroughly enjoyed other books by Jane Austen, this is the first time I've read "Mansfield Park."

I was riveted from the first page. I seriously had a hard time putting this book down, so utterly captivating and engaging was the story.

The book shows how, although morals and mores have changed drastically since the early 18-hundreds, basic human nature has changed not at all...and Ms. Austen had a laser-sharp grasp on it, and how to unerringly depict it.

I loved Fanny, and wanted her to be able to claim her deserved status as well as the man she loved.


This is from the the book, no such scene is depicted

The one thing in which I was disappointed was how the ultimate union of Edmund and Fanny was almost anticlimactic. They didn't even get a "reveal" scene in which Edmund could tell Fanny that he had been an idiot and it was Fanny he had really loved all along, and that they could at least share a heartfelt kiss and/or embrace.

The closest we get to any such scene is when Edmund comes to get Fanny from Portsmouth, and he clutches her to his heart.

I would have loved to have seen Edmund's feelings for Fanny be revealed to him gradually and culminate in a joyful scene of realization.

But that isn't enough to ruin the book for me. It was a truly enjoyable read, and a triumph for anyone who has experienced unrequited love.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My latest book trailer...

One of the things I love to do as a voice-over artist is voice book trailers.  Here's my latest, for Kathi Macias' The Deliverer.  It's produced by Misty Taggart with Trailer to the Stars.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

My review of Kate Alcott's "The Dressmaker": so what happened after the Titanic sank?

The Dressmaker: A NovelThe Dressmaker: A Novel by Kate Alcott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tess, a young maid who dreams of being a dressmaker and designer, lucks into boarding a ship in the employ of famous fashion designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon and her husband.

The ship is the Titanic, and of course we know how that voyage turned out. Fortunately for Tess and the Duff Gordons, they survive, and once in New York, Tess's dreams begin to come true.

But questions are being raised about the reasons for the Titanic's tragedy and who was to blame, as well as why many of the lifeboats were only partially filled. And the Duff Gordons are squarely in the middle of the controversy.

That means Tess's loyalties are torn between her new employer and a handsome sailor she befriended on the ship, Jim Bonney, who is determined to tell the truth about what really happened on the lifeboat he shared with the wealthy couple.

Good story

I gave this book four stars mainly because it's a good story that held my interest and propelled me along. It also renewed my interest in one of the most fascinating true stories of all time.

Pretty much everything about the doomed ship is intriguing, and I liked this book because it centered around the aftermath of the sinking. We've seen and heard a lot of stories about the actual event...what happened to the survivors who had to pick up the pieces of their lives and move on?

As well, many of the people in the book (although not Tess and Jim) were real people who figured prominently in the Titanic's story, including the Duff Gordons.

"Modern sensibility"?

However, the story falls a bit flat in the area of character development and emotion. It's not a surprise to find that Kate Alcott is a journalist who has covered national politics.

Another reviewer on Goodreads said that the book is guilty of giving its characters a "modern sensibility." I have to agree. They're quite politically correct, and even the hero, Jim Bonney, admits he "doesn't dismiss" the Bolsheviks and tells Tess "hopefully": "There's this bloke, Vladimir Lenin...have you heard of him?"

Also, will someone please tell me when the use of the word "okay" became common? Did people really say it frequently in conversation in 1912? I'm genuinely curious.

I will say that the characters in this book generally talked like contemporary people.

These are quibbles, though. If you like a good, entertaining tale against the backdrop of one of history's most fascinating events, you'll probably enjoy this book...just as I did.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A fascinating book about Louisa May Alcott

I believe I was about eight years old when I first read Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women."  It was an abridged version, but it launched me into a world of book-loving that I've never left.

I subsequently read everything by Alcott that I could get my hands on, and of course, I've re-read many of them several times.

This is exactly what my first copy of "Little Women" looked like

So I was delighted to read Harriet Reisen's "Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women."

Reisen, who wrote the book after researching the author's life for a documentary, provides a wealth of detail and glimpses into the personal letters and journals of Louisa and her family

Yes, Little Women was largely based on Louisa's own family--her father, famed philosopher Bronson Alcott, her mother Abby, and her sisters, Anna, Lizzie and May.

More than the March Family

But there is so much more to the story of Louisa and her family.  Bronson Alcott's perpetual head-in-the clouds philosophizing and transient schemes for utopian communities and innovative schools brought him fame and even admiration, but it rarely paid the bills.

This caused his wife and family to suffer, and Louisa bore the brunt of it for much of her life.  Once she became a successful author, she felt the constant weight of supporting her family financially.

There's a lot of sadness and suffering in Louisa's life, but through it all emerges the woman that "Jo" was based on...feisty, funny, and usually emerging triumphant over trials and depression.

This image of Louisa as a young woman is so much more attractive than later images.  Can you imagine how pretty she would be if she was smiling?

A fascinating woman

Louisa was ahead of her time.  She was passionate about issues like slavery and women's rights, and she firmly believed a woman could do whatever God had gifted her to do.

 Reisen never questions Louisa's sexuality in the book, as I think some other authors have done.  It's obvious from her personal writings, journals and letters that Louisa was attracted to men, and had a few suitors in her day.

By the way, Reisen believes Louisa's forays into pulp fiction were not just a means to pay the bills, although that was a huge factor.  She posits that Louisa lived vicariously through those daring, sensational tales, experiencing a life beyond her own tame domestic one.

A woman to admire

I find it sad that Louisa never married.  I think her life could have been much sweeter if she had had a life partner to share it with.

It's also sad that medical science had not yet advanced to the point where Louisa's life could have been lengthened beyond the age of 55.  Reisen cites doctors who have speculated that she may have had lupus.

This book left me with an even greater respect and liking for a fascinating woman.  I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the author of so many beloved books.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books: Anne Perry's The Face of a Stranger

"With insight, compassion, and a portraitist’s genius, Perry illuminates the shifting tide of emotions encompassing Queen Victoria’s London and the people who live there—aristocrats, brothel owners, thieves, Dickensian ruffians, and their evil keepers. She takes us through dangerous backstreets where the poor eke out their humble livings, and into the mansions of the rich, safe and secure in their privileged lives. Or so they believe..."

Not long ago, I realized I was up-to-date with Elizabeth George's mysteries (and not only that, I was having some reservations about her books), when I started casting about for a new series to get involved in.

I love Victorian mysteries, so I decided to check out Anne Perry's Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series.  I read and enjoyed a couple of them.

But then I read the first in her William Monk series, and I was hooked.

William Monk is the kind of man Heathcliff would be if Heathcliff wasn't violent and cruel. :)  He's dark, brooding, attractive and mysterious.  But he also has a heart, and I fell in love with him immediately.

The author's troubling history

It wasn't long before I found out that Anne Perry is a convicted murderer herself.  It's complicated, but she was very young when it happened, she has served her time and apparently deeply regrets the whole thing.

Some people have said they wouldn't read Perry's books because of that.  But I actually believe in redemption, second chances, and that people can change.

And darn it, she writes a great book!

If you decided to get into the series, I definitely recommend you start at the beginning, with "The Face of a Stranger."  There's a definite arc to Monk's story, and each book adds to its trajectory.

The story

I found the book riveting from page one.  William Monk wakes up in a hospital with no memory of who is or how he got there.

He has been in a serious carriage accident that has robbed him of his memory.  Eventually he learns that he is
a London police detective...and a very good one, but also a very disliked one.  Apparently the William he used to be was arrogant and downright mean.

He can't tell the police--especially his supervisor, Superintendent Runcorn, who obviously dislikes him and probably for good reason--that he has no memory.  He has to go back to work, because it's the only way he has of earning a living.

Immediately he's thrust into a high-profile murder investigation.  Fascinatingly, it seems his detecting skills haven't suffered too much from the accident--those seem to return instintively.

But obviously he's hampered by the fact that there are people everywhere who know him (and most can't stand him), while he doesn't know them at all.

(By the way, snatches of his memory do return throughout the series, but I'm well into it, and he still doesn't remember everything.)

Monk is a fascinating character, and as we can see his basic goodness and compassion, we like him and are rooting for him to succeed.

Hester Latterly

This book also introduces a character who becomes extremely important to the series--Hester Latterly, a nurse who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War and who is on sort of a mission to reform the appalling Victorian hospitals and antiquated ideas about nursing and health care.

Outspoken, independent and strong, Hester is the opposite of the kind of woman Monk is usually attracted to, and yet he is drawn to her.

Thanks to the character of Hester, I've learned so many fascinating things about the history of nursing.  In fact, each Monk book has significantly enriched my knowledge about a remarkable time in history.

I'm really enjoying these books, and I dread when I'm finally up to date on them.  They've pretty much comprised my leisure reading for the past couple of months.

I highly recommend them to anyone who loves mysteries and enjoys books set in the Victorian era.

I'm linking up today with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Revisiting my reviews of some Christy Award nominees!

I'm delighted to see that some of the books I've reviewed on this blog, as well as a couple of others but I read but didn't review, have been nominated for Christy Awards.

What are Christy Awards, you might ask? Named for Catherine Marshall's classic, "Christy," the awards are given each year to honor and promote excellence in Christian fiction.

The awards will be presented July 16th in Orlando.

Check out my reviews of four of the nominees (click on the title to go to my review):


Dancing on Glass, by Pamela Binning Ewen

Nominated in the categories CONTEMPORARY STANDALONE and FIRST NOVEL:

Words, by Ginny Yttrup

Nominated in the category HISTORICAL ROMANCE:

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, by Julie Klassen

To Die For, by Sandra Byrd

Nominated in the category YOUNG ADULT:

Waterfall, by Lisa T. Bergren

Although I never reviewed it, I also blogged about (and highly recommend) Mine is the Night, by Liz Curtis Higgs, nominated in the HISTORICAL category.

And I read and really enjoyed My Foolish Heart, by Susan May Warren, nominated in the CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE category.

You can find the complete list of nominees here.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Review of Maid of Fairbourne Hall, by Julie Klassen

OK, so that lasted all of 20 days...the retiring of my book blog!

Turns out, this really does seem like the best place to put my book reviews.  So I'm back.  And you know what they say about a woman's perogative, and all that! :)

Anyway, on to my review....

After reading all of Julie Klassen's previous books, my interest is always piqued when I hear she has another out.

And reading The Maid of Fairbourne Hall was the perfect antidote to the intensity of The Hunger Games and a string of P.D. James mysteries.

Julie Klassen's books may contain some danger and intrigue--they're not all fluff and frivolity--but they are books that you can just sit back and enjoy, for the sheer pleasure and fun of a good story.

Margaret Macy is a typical young lady of the Regency era--rich, beautiful and spoiled.  But she's not without decorum, and when her stepfather tries to force his boorish nephew on her in marriage--even to the point of suggesting the nephew compromise Margaret in order to insure the marriage--Margaret decides to make like Joseph fleeing Potiphar's wife.

And of course, the stepfather is only after the fortune she'll inherit when she turns 25 in just a few months.

She has no one to turn to and only a few coins to her name.  So what does she do?  She joins her own maid in leaving London and seeking a position elsewhere.

As a housemaid.

A good deal of enjoyment of this book is watching the tables turn on this pampered girl.  Disguised with a wig and spectacles, Margaret--now "Nora"--now literally finds out how the other half lives.  And that includes scrubbing floors and emptying chamber pots.

But Margaret is always likable, and we grow to respect her for adapting to her new lifestyle and gaining respect for the kind of people who have served her all her life.

And of course, there's a complication or two when Margaret finds out just whose house it is that she's working in.

Julie Klassen has obviously done her research when it comes to the part that servants played in that era--basically, that a wealthy home couldn't exist without them.  They often lived under severe rules and regimens, rarely getting any time off and working for very little pay.

I enjoyed the story's romance, and appreciated the element of faith that is an undercurrent of the main character's lives.

If you need an escape from the winter doldrums, you can probably find it in this light but refreshing historical romance.


I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!
Click on the badge for more info!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sayonara to this blog--at least for now!

NOTE:  I'm merging this blog with my main blog, Notes in the Key of Life.  
Please join me there for more book reviews, book bloghops, and all things books and reading!  

In the meantime, all of the content I've amassed here so far will remain right here...and who knows, maybe I'll try a return to double-blogging someday.

However, this blog never really took off readership-wise, and it's not easy to maintain two blogs and do them both justice.

I do hope you'll follow me on Notes in the Key of Life, where although I talk about other things, books and reading will always be one of my ruling passions!

Monday, January 2, 2012

My Review of Nightmare by Robin Parrish

I'm not one for horror movies or anything Satanic, but I have to admit--I'm a sucker for a good ghost story.

And I've always wondered--what's the deal with ghosts anyway? As a Christian, I believe souls go directly to heaven or hell when they die. So what are these things that creditable people have obviously seen?

Robin Parrish's Nightmare takes a look at such questions, and from a Christian worldview--while delivering a suspenseful and often quite scary page-turner of a tale.

The story centers around Maia Peters, a young criminal justice major whose parents are renowned paranormal investigators--or "ghost hunters," a term she doesn't like.

Maia has decided to walk away from such investigating and plans to go into law enforcement.

Then a fellow college student, the very wealthy and beautiful Jordin Cole, makes Maia an offer she can't refuse--generous payment for taking Jordin to the most haunted spots in America in an attempt to touch the paranormal.

Jordin's reasons for this quest unfold as the two take trips to places like the Stanley Hotel (famous for Stephen King's The Shining). Gettysburg, Alcatraz, and other spooky sites. And they get more than their share of paranormal evidence...leading Maia to believe that Jordin is a magnet for such activity.

The story culminates in a fast-paced, thrilling showdown between good and evil that leaves no doubt as to Who will be the winner in any such face-off.

Like some reviewers, I would have like to have seen the characters developed a bit better. I had a bit of trouble connecting with and even liking Maia initially, although she does grow more sympathetic as the tale progresses. But ultimately, that didn't affect my enjoyment of the book at all.

I especially liked the chapters dealing with Maia and Jordin's visits to the haunted sites. They didn't just visit--they spent nights there. Alone. Very creepy, chilling, scary and well-written chapters.

If you like a good ghost story, this one is for you.


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