Friday, October 31, 2014


Liz Moore's novel, Heft, is primarily about three people: Arthur, Kel, and Charlene, the woman who brings them together. We never hear from Charlene directly, but Arthur and Kel talk to us in alternating narrations, and Charlene figures prominently in both of their stories.

Arthur Opp is a big man. Big is perhaps not the best word. He weighs 550 pounds. Arthur has not left his home in about ten years--not even past his front porch--and orders everything he needs online, including groceries. Although he takes great pleasure in eating, he is very refined in other ways and thus is embarrassed by his dietary habits. The reasons for his withdrawal from society are complicated, but he has come to terms with his solitude. But then he receives a phone call from Charlene, a former student and paramour with whom he has corresponded via letters for many years. She wants to visit and bring her son Kel because she thinks Arthur could help him. Arthur is stirred to life and begins to think of new possibilities for his future.

Meanwhile, the narration switches to Kel, Charlene's teen-age son, who is a high school senior, a poor student, and an excellent baseball player. He lives in a poor neighborhood in Yonkers, but Charlene managed to get him into a good high school in an upscale suburb. This was one of the last important things she managed to do, actually, before descending into an alcoholic haze, which keeps her from ever leaving the house. Kel struggles with loving her and hating her at the same time, wondering where his father is, and finding his place in life.

Although Heft is primarily a character study of three very complex people, there is still some tension in the story, with the reader not knowing what the future holds for them and wondering how and if Arthur and Kel will actually connect. I listened to this book on audiobook and highly recommend that format for this story. Arthur's and Kel's feelings are so heartfelt, and actually hearing their voices made the text really come alive for me.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Material Witness by Vanneta Chapman

     Happy times are flowing through Shipshewana, Indiana, that is until Aaron, Melinda Byer's little boy, witnesses a murder in the parking lot of Callie Harper's Quilt Shop that sends this small town into shock.  Callie is beside herself and can't believe this is happening.  Little does she know that her world is about to be turned upside down. The killer wants something that Callie has and will not rest until he gets it. Shane Black is back on the scene to investigate along with Andrew Gavin. Shane vows to protect Callie, who has taken up space in his heart, and little Aaron, who is the only one who can identify the madman. Time is of the essence, and they must all work together to figure out why Callie is involved before the killer strikes again. The ladies, Callie, Esther, Deborah, and Melinda, seem to think there are clues to this mystery hidden on a set of quilts that they were given.  Shane thinks they are off their rockers. A stack of quilts can't possibly hold the answer they are looking for, right?  Or can they?

    Material Witness grabs your attention right off the bat and doesn't let you go until your fingers have turned the last page. Love between family and friends and how far one is willing to go to protect them is captured beautifully in this book. The interaction between the children was an added surprise, because I think they stole the show!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Who R U Really by Margo Kelly

Who R U Really by Margo Kelly

The internet is a dangerous place full of untrustworthy people. Unfortunately, many young adults do not realize the dangers they put themselves into when they engage in online video games, chatting, and social media. Who R U Really by Margo Kelly outlines the consequences of putting your trust into strangers online through a touching story centered around a teenage girl named Thea.
Thea is a young teenager with overprotective parents who has always been a model daughter and student. Her life changes drastically after she discovers an online game in which she creates a new life and begins conversing with another player she believes to be a young man named Kit. She begins to feel a deep connection with Kit and lets this relationship take over her life. She gives out personal information and gets herself into a dangerous and vulnerable situation. When another gamer with a connection to Kit is murdered, Thea begins to question who Kit really is and realizes she may not be able to handle this relationship alone. Who is Kit and is he capable of hurting Thea and destroying her life?

Who R U Really is a fantastic read and based on real life events. I really enjoyed seeing how a young girl can get herself into a dangerous situation through the internet and know what warning signs to look for. The internet is not a safe haven and you can get yourself into a bad situation quickly if you are not cautious. This is a great book for teenagers and parents of teenagers to read.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Investigative journalist, Jenny Nordberg, shares what she uncovers (for us) in Afghanistan - that girls sometimes dress as boys, live as boys til puberty, and some even past puberty will still live as men. Afghanistan, we well know, is a culture ruled by men; here men are honored, women (and girls) definitely are not! In Afghanistan it is an advantage to have sons and a disgrace to not have a son. So what to do? Be creative of course and save face! Ask a daughter if she would be a boy!  Or just announce a just-born daughter is a son! It works. The deception is even acceptable to others who know the secret! Does this not surprise you?

As Nordberg investigates this phenomena (or is it a phenomena really?) she asks the very questions you and I would ask: How does this affect these girls psychologically? How do they make the transition back to "girl" from "boy"? How is it they are not caught and punished? What is it like for these "boys" to later be forced to become wives and eventually mothers? How often does this occur?

In The Underground Girls of Kabul, you will be introduced to Azita, Zahra and Mehran and others. You will read how some were born as the unwanted girl but lived as the favored son with freedom to go outside, to talk to anyone, to have an opinion, and even work, helping out the family financially. You will know the secrets of the girls and women of Kabul yourself!

A very interesting read!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Author of the best-selling novel “Room,” Emma Donoghue, establishes a successful return to period fiction in her new novel Frog Music, proving once again that she is as adept at creating historical worlds for her readers as she is at weaving contemporary tales.  Frog Music, set in 1876 San Francisco, paints a colorful and disturbing portrait of this then-burgeoning young city.  Narrated by the brassy burlesque dancer and “lady of the night” Blanche Beunon, a recent immigrant to The City from France, the novel chronicles the events surrounding the murder of Blanche’s new-found friend, the larger-than-life, cross-dressing frog catcher Jenny Bonnet. Interestingly, the tale is based on actual persons and events meticulously researched by Donoghue in preparation for the novel. 

Seldom am I able to continue enjoying a novel after it has killed off my favorite character (Jenny the Frog Catcher) no matter how deftly written the prose.  Fortunately, however, Blanche turns out to be a bit of a phoenix and The City proves to be something of a character itself.  Reading this book, I found myself alternately amused, fascinated, and horrified by 1876 San Francisco and its denizens, learning about such various things as early small pox vaccinations, baby “farms,” and back alley “cribs.”  Far from being pigeon-holed as a strictly historical-fiction genre piece, this novel would appeal to any lover of juicy murder mystery.