Monday, November 28, 2016

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner, Wolf Hall, is a gloriously well-researched and executed piece of historical fiction.  It came as no surprise to me, upon finishing the novel, that Mantel is the first woman, and the first Britain to win the prize twice (her second award earned in 2012 for the following book in the Thomas Cromwell Trilogy, Bring up the Bodies).  Wolf Hall is an account of Tudor intrigue, encapsulated in the years 1527-1535.  Many a tale has been told of the volatile and infamous life-and-times of King Henry VIII, but Mantel’s story is a novel one.  All the key figures of the day are present: Cardinal Wolsey, Anne and Mary Boleyn, Thomas More, Stephen Gardiner, Thomas Howard, yet one distinction sets this version apart, the indomitable Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell, the book’s narrarator-at-large, notable for his humble beginnings as the son of a ne’er-do-well blacksmith, brewer, and notorious bully, sets out to make his own way in the world at fifteen.  It is his shrewd gaze that colors the political and social climate of the day in a wholly original hue. At turns a hard man, who never forgets a slight, and a generous soul with always a place in his bustling and successful household for one in need. Mantel’s Cromwell is imminently likeable.  At times, I found myself rooting for a man long-dead these 476 years.  I would highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction. You don’t need to be an expert on 16th century English history to enjoy it, as it is peopled with a colorful cast and written with a fine grasp of wit and storytelling.

Jennifer Wilson

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Fans of mysteries, thrillers, or young adult novels will love Lynn Weingartens Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls. What I thought was just contemporary fiction with a story about a girl who loses a friend, turned out to be so much more.

Friends since Kindergarten, June and Delia were always affectionate and had a deep connection that some people would mistake for true love. They shared everything with each other and were never apart, until their falling out one year ago. June has been dating Ryan the past year and he is part of the reason June and Delia grew apart. After a strange night of drinking went too far, June starts to distance herself from her best friend and pushes her out of her life.

After returning to school in January, June finds out that Delia has committed suicide. Feeling extremely guilty for not being friends with Delia when she clearly needed it the most, June investigates the death of her former best friend. She seems to think that Delia was not the type to end her own life and after talking to Delias latest boyfriend, she realizes it had to be murder. She learns that not everyone in her life is who they seem to be and comes to find out who truly cares about her the most.

Finding out what truly happened to Delia will keep you on the edge of your seat and lead you to a conclusion that caught me completely by surprise. Filled with emotion, suspense, action, and mystery, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is captivating until the very end.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Mistletoe Secret by Richard Paul Evans

     Dear Universe, 
        Is anyone out there?

      Richard Paul Evans has written another holiday novel about two lonely people who are looking for love in this, the third book of "The Mistletoe Collection."
      Alex Bartlett has found himself alone and lonely after his wife, Jill, left him for another man.  Alex was a salesman for a company called Traffix, which sells traffic management systems for transportation departments. His position requires him to spend a lot of time away from home and he believes it has taken a toll on his marriage.  Alex has two best friends, Dale and Nate, and they encourage him to explore online dating. After joining an online dating service, which doesn't work out well at all, Alex notices a blog, "Dear Universe, Is anyone out there?" He finds himself falling for this sensitive, vulnerable woman whose feelings mirror his own. Thinking no one is reading her blog, she writes about her most personal feelings, especially her overwhelming loneliness.  Alex finds himself reading the blogs posted by LBH daily and is looking forward to reading her next one.  He's reading her posts in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Alex decides to find out more about this blogger.  Following a trail of clues LBH has laid, he discovers that she lives in the small town of Midway, Utah.  He decides to go to Midway, Utah, just after Thanksgiving to find this person.
     After arriving in Midway he discovers that all the information he has to go on is this woman's initials. Instead, he finds a woman named Aria, a waitress at the Mistletoe Diner, who encourages Alex in his search while serving him pie and some much-needed sympathy and companionship.
     In the end Alex does find his blogger LBH, and it becomes complicated because he can't get his feelings for Aria out of his mind. Alex has traveled to Midway, Utah to find one woman and now he has two. Which one will he choose?
    "Dear Universe, Is anyone out there?" Yes, there is always someone out there, don't give up!

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

News of the World

Despite many positive reviews, I didn't have any intention to read this book. Historical fiction is not my favorite. But when it made the short list for the National Book Award, I had to see what the fuss was about. Wow! For such a slender book, it packs in plenty of history, humor, and tenderness to satisfy any reader who appreciates quality, contemplative writing. We travel with Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower who wanders through 1870s Texas, earning a living by reading the news to rural populations who are hungry for it. Along the way he is hired to deliver a 10-year-old Texan girl who had just been freed from four years of captivity by the Kiowa Indians. At this time in history, barely after the Civil War and while the Indian Wars are still rumbling, the country, especially the west, is a rough and raucous place. The Captain and his young charge Johanna have some narrow escapes, and their bond grows stronger every day. She calls him "Kontah" (Grandfather). They make a wonderful pair, but keep in mind, this is not your average "buddies on a road trip" novel. The writing is spare like the landscape, but not so much that the complexity of the characters is not revealed. Here is my favorite line, which seems to me to be the crux of the book: "Maybe life is just carrying news. Surviving to carry the news. Maybe we have just one message, and it is delivered to us when we are born and we are never sure what it says; it may have nothing to do with us personally but it must be carried by hand through a life, all the way, and at the end handed over, sealed." The message of this book: compassion. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Kelly Currie