Tag Archives: Book Review

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver.

30 May

In continuing with my “Barbara Kingsolver kick,” I read Prodigal Summer. It was a bit different from the other Kingsolver novels that I have read because of its strong focus on nature and the natural world that surrounds us, but I think that is one of the reasons that I really loved it (since I am a mountain/nature girl at heart). Here’s the synopsis according to Amazon.com:

Barbara Kingsolver’s fifth novel is a hymn to wildness that celebrates the prodigal spirit of human nature, and of nature itself. It weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives amid the mountains and farms of southern Appalachia. Over the course of one humid summer, this novel’s intriguing protagonists face disparate predicaments but find connections to one another and to the flora and fauna with which they necessarily share a place.

Of the three “stories” that made up the novel (Mr. Garrett, Lusa, and Deanna), I was most drawn to the character of Deanna. She is a wildlife biologist that lives alone in the southern Appalachian mountains who observes coyotes that live in the surrounding wilderness that she calls her home. I think I was most drawn to Deanna because of her satisfaction with living alone and isolated from the world, content to live among nature rather than humans. That is not to say that I would isolate myself that severely with no contact with the outside world. However, I understand the fact that Deanna is content with living among the wilderness. In that sense, she is not alone. She’s surrounded by woods and creatures that she has a strong connection with than she does with humans. Don’t get me wrong. I’m social. However, I love the mountains. Numerous times this past semester, I left campus and headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway (only about a 7 minute drive from campus). I’d bring along my camera and a book, and I’d be perfectly content. There were times when I did bring along a friend or two, and that was fun. However, I was most content when I went alone. I think that is because when it was just me, my camera, and a book, I was able to move at my own pace, stop at whatever overlook I wanted, and sit gazing out at the Blue Ridge mountains for as long as I wanted. I could just sit and appreciate the beauty around me, and most of the time, I left the Parkway with a clearer head and a stronger love for the Blue Ridge Mountains that I am so happy to call home.

Therefore, if you love nature, I highly recommend this book. It’s amazing!

Finding Daddy Cox By Mike Cox: A Book Review.

6 May

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned Mike, one of my writing mentors that I met when interning at the Columbia Star newspaper in January of 2009. When I left my internship at the Star, Mike gave me 3 books as parting gifts, one of which was his own book he wrote in 2003, Finding Daddy Cox.

Finding Daddy Cox is the story of Mike’s grandfather, Cecil Cox, which includes all the lessons that he instilled in his children and grandchildren that are still evident in the Cox family today. I remember Mike telling me how he wrote this book for his family, and as a token of remembrance for the grandfather that he resembled, but who died when he was five years old. There are parts of the book that have still stuck with me, like Cecil’s conversation with a blind man where he describes every part of the sunset so that the blind man is able to enjoy it as well. I think that was one of my favorite parts of the book. Overall, Finding Daddy Cox is full of life lessons that you’d expect to hear from an old Southern family: discipline your children but show them you love them, the importance of hard work, how to deal with pain, loss, and fear, and the realization that one’s family is the cornerstone to all of life’s understandings. Even though Finding Daddy Cox was essentially a collection of stories that Mike had heard about his grandfather as he was growing up, Mike put his some of his own self into the stories as well since he had heard his whole life how much he and Cecil Cox were alike.

I think what was most interesting to me was reading a book that was written by someone I know. I could hear Mike’s voice through the words, and that was really cool for me. Though the book was stories of his grandfather, I could see how Mike used his own writing style in certain descriptions of things, though I’m sure he had plenty of help from the people in his family who were still around at the time who assisted him with the stories.

I definitely recommend this book. I mean, I guess it’s different for me because I am friends with Mike, and so I know him pretty well. However, Finding Daddy Cox was a great portrayal of an Old Southern family and how certain traditions and ways of upbringing can have such a long-lasting effect on the generations to come.

Book Review: The Midwife’s Confession By Diane Chamberlain.

8 Mar

Yesterday I started The Midwife’s Confession by Diane Chamberlain, and I finished it last night. Yep, it was that good. I became a fan of Diane Chamberlain’s novels this past summer, and she hasn’t failed to disappoint. My favorite by her is Between The Silence, since it was the first novel I read by her and one of the few novels that left me shaky at the end, yet longing to hear more of the story. If you’ve never read anything by Diane Chamberlain, I suggest Between The Silence first.

Here’s the synopsis of The Midwife’s Confession according to dianechamberlain.com:

Dear Anna,
What I have to tell you is difficult to write, but I know it will be far more difficult for you to hear, and I’m so sorry. . .

The unfinished letter is the only clue Tara and Emerson have to the reason behind their close friend Noelle’s suicide.  Everything they knew about Noelle-her calling as a midwife, her passion for causes, her love for her friends and family-described a woman who embraced life.

Yet there was so much they didn’t know.

With the discovery of the letter and its heartbreaking secret, Noelle’s friends begin to uncover the truth about this complex woman who touched each of their lives–and the life of a desperate stranger–with love and betrayal, compassion and deceit.

Told with sensitivity and insight, The Midwife’s Confession will have you turning pages late into the night.

I was reading late in to the night, but only one night since I devoured this in one day. I think my favorite part of this was the way Chamberlain focused on certain characters and not others. Also, even though I’ve gotten pretty good at suspecting certain twists in terms of endings of novels, this book threw me for quite a loop….but a really great loop. I just couldn’t put it down. Though I liked seeing the friendship between Noelle, Tara, and Emerson, I would have liked more depth concerning Tara and Emerson’s friendship rather than just trying to understand their friendship through Noelle’s eyes. There are also other picky things I picked up on…like wanting to be introduced to Anna and Haley earlier in the novel….and getting more details concerning Lily. Though Lily is technically the character that’s “the elephant in the room” for Anna, Bryan and Haley, I longed for more details about Lily herself that would’ve showed the beginning connection between Anna and Bryan. However, despite all that, this was an amazing read, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Jodi Picoult. The critics don’t lie when they describe Diane Chamberlain as a Southern Jodi Picoult.

Book Review: Lone Wolf By Jodi Picoult.

7 Mar

On Monday night, I was sad to have finished Jodi Picoult‘s newest book, Lone Wolf. Jodi Picoult is my favorite author, and I got her newest book on Friday as a treat to myself (since I made it through midterms, and it was the beginning of my Spring Break). The bummer with Picoult’s books is that since I love them so much, I get so hooked that I usually finish them within a few days. This read actually took longer than most since I made myself take breaks. There’s something quite sad about the ending of a book, and so I wanted to try to make the experience last a bit longer. I didn’t have much luck. Ah well, better luck next time….maybe.

Here’s the synopsis of Lone Wolf (according to jodipicoult.com):

Edward Warren, 23, has been living in Thailand for five years, a prodigal son who left his family after an irreparable fight with his father, Luke. But he gets a frantic phone call: His dad lies comatose in a NH hospital, gravely injured in the same accident that has also injured his younger sister Cara.

Cara, 17, still holds a grudge against her brother, since his departure led to her parents’ divorce. In the aftermath, she’s lived with her father – an animal conservationist who became famous after living with a wild wolf pack in the Canadian wild. It is impossible for her to reconcile the still, broken man in the hospital bed with her vibrant, dynamic father.

With Luke’s chances for recovery dwindling, Cara wants to wait for a miracle. But Edward wants to terminate life support and donate his father’s organs. Is he motivated by altruism, or revenge? And to what lengths will his sister go to stop him from making an irrevocable decision?

LONE WOLF looks at the intersection between medical science and moral choices. If we can keep people who have no hope for recovery alive artificially, should they also be allowed to die artificially? Does the potential to save someone else’s life with a donated organ balance the act of hastening another’s death? And finally, when a father’s life hangs in the balance, which sibling should get to decide his fate?

Even though I’ve loved all of Picoult’s novels, I feel like this one may be one of my favorites. I love that Picoult chose to include the voice of Luke Warren, which gives the reader an invitation into his world…and into the world of his wolves, who have become more of a family to him that the human family he is also a part of. I never really knew how wolves and wolf packs functioned, so that was really interesting for me to learn. Though in all of Picoult’s novels she shows the different dimensions of what it means to be a family, I love that she varied things up. A daughter who believes her father is the moon in her sky. A son who couldn’t feel anymore distant from his father (but due to reasons that aren’t realized until late in the novel). And a wife who is torn between the love that she used to have for her ex-husband and the love that she’s trying to equally show to her children. I was sad for Lone Wolf to be over, but now I’ll just wait for next March to get here! I highly recommend it though. It’s definitely a page turner that will keep you up late into the night!