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2016 Unconventional Book Reviews

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Unconventional because I’ve forgotten all the rules of proper book reviews and missed out on the new rules about punctuation, like commas and space/no space at the end of a sentence. Just give your inner editor a glass of wine and try to embrace my nonconformity.

I haven’t written anything for the past couple of years, and I haven’t been reading either. Until now. I’m even mixing a little fiction in with non-fiction.  Not much writing yet, except a few snippets of thoughts and lines of poetry. Maybe these book reviews will inspire more writing.

A recent climb to the top of our local lighthouse with my grand daughter must have triggered this foray into lighthouse-centered fiction.

My dream road trip is a 1200 mile journey following the path of the the mighty Columbia River from its origins in Canada to where it empties into the ocean at the border between Washington and Oregon. As I plan my route, I am caught up in the maps, photos, stories, history and poetry of that beautiful river. I’m especially in love with all that is known of the time before the dams were built.

The Lightkeepers, Abby Geni

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Wow. 5 stars. A small group of researchers on a remote island off the coast of California are joined by a photographer. Not long after she begins her year-long project, she is assaulted by one of the researchers. There are injuries and deaths. And a ghost, maybe. The unique and tumultuous history of the island and the lighthouse is the foundation upon which this tale is told.

Geni weaves the tale through letters written to the protagonist’s dead mother. We learn bits and pieces about each character, getting more details as the story unfolds.  Their very individual personalities come together, then move apart and yet they carry on their research and daily lives seemingly undaunted.

The writing is almost poetic when it comes to the dramatic and desolate location and the subjects of the research. The breeding, birth, eating habits and deaths of whales, sharks, seals, and sea birds are seen through the photographer’s lens and a poet’s soul. The sights, sounds, smells and physical discomfort pull the reader onto the island and into the world of these ocean creatures and their human observers. Who knew Seagulls were so terrifying?

The story closes with several surprises, and is so well written it feels more like a memory I have lived, rather than pages I have turned in a book. Read this book.

The Lightkeeper’s Wife, Karen Viggers

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Another mystery, another lighthouse and a letter. 4 stars. In this case the letter is the mystery. This story centers around an ailing elderly woman and her youngest son. I fell in love with both of them. The author made me do it.

The letter is delivered to Mary in person and causes her much anxiety. She tricks her grand daughter into leaving her at an island cabin near the lighthouse where she and her family lived years ago. Her adult daughter is selfish and freaked out that her mother isn’t in a nursing home. One son doesn’t see what the big deal is and the other son, Tom, supports his mother’s decision, with concerns about her health.

Part of Mary’s mission is dealing with the letter. She alternates between deciding to destroy it and losing it. Mary is reliving her past and has certain places on the island she needs to visit as a sort of pilgrimage to her late husband.

Her daughter hires a young park ranger to check on her mother daily. Mary convinces him to drive her on her pilgrimage. As the days go by and her health declines, he becomes more of a caregiver and he is grateful for her wise and gentle counsel on his own personal issues.

Mary’s son, Tom, is a lost soul. He is carrying an old heartbreak and is a lonely social misfit. He is the only sibling that makes time to visit his mother at the cabin, despite his being embroiled in a strange love affair. Viggers gives Tom room to blossom and shed the weight of the past.

Mary weakens further, but is determined to keep the letter from the person she is supposed to give it to. Is she trying to protect herself or others? This is a tangled story of love and grief and how each of us does what we must to live the best life we can. Sometimes that means keeping secrets and sometimes it means letting go and moving forward.

The author paints a vivid picture of both past and present in a wild remote setting, which draws us in, as much as the characters flowing through it do.

 

River of Memory, The Everlasting Columbia,

William D. Layman

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Oh my. Can one be in love with a book? I am. This 9 x 11 softcover book is all black and white, except for the beautiful life-like fish illustrations by Joseph Tomelleri and David McConnell. Layman narrates the U.S. portion of the river and Eileen Delehanty Pearkes narrates the Canadian portion.

The 90 plus historical photos are stunning on black backgrounds. Some are by unknown or unnamed photographers, others by well-known Pacific Northwest photographers. Each is a work of art and history.

The photos lay the ground for narration, poetry and stories of deeply researched people, flora, fauna, and places along the Columbia River. The narration is succinct, yet extremely dense with fascinating information. Early explorers, surveyors and naturalists are quoted, as well as writers and poets of today. The words of Native Americans, First Nations and settlers are recalled in poetry and brief stories.

A museum of the natural history of a great river in a book. Ahhh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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About My Book Reviews and Watchdogs: A Novel

I think I need to say something about my book reviews. There are many ways to write a book review and I choose to write a simply review that tells what I liked about a book. I don’t list every character or give a detailed summary of the book; that information is available on all the book sites. I try to give enough information to (hopefully) entice readers to read the book for themselves. So far, I haven’t reviewed books that I don’t like and can’t recommend. I rarely give 5 stars anymore. I decided to save 5 stars for books that are exceptionally well written, with few, if any typos. If my coffee goes cold and I can’t tear myself away to take a bathroom break; that’s 5 stars! 🙂

Watchdogs by Patricia Watts
Watchdogs: A Novel
by Patricia Watts

Read in September, 2014


Several things drew me to this novel and the author didn’t let me down on any of them. The main character, Julia, lives in Seattle and is on a sabbatical in Fairbanks, Alaska. I live in Washington and frequently visit my family in Alaska. The author captured Fairbanks perfectly and gave us a true taste of the beauty of rural Alaska.

Another talent the author has is the ability to juggle plots, sub-plots and hold the tension just tight enough to keep the reader turning the page. There is murder, suicide, and attempts on Julia’s life all the way to the end of the book.

I love Julia’s honesty, with herself and others. As a professor, she sets her students to the tough task of deciding where to draw the line with truth and journalism.

The romance was done well also, and didn’t overpower the rest of the story. I always enjoy characters who wrestle with real life moral and ethical questions, as Julia does. Truth, justice, and how they are balanced with topics of journalism and the media, make this book a winner for me.


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Book Review, Out of My Genre, But Great!

 

Nightwalkers by Inion N. Mathair

Nightwalkers: The Secret of Jessup

by Inion N. Mathair (Goodreads Author)

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Patti Hall‘s review

Aug 26, 14  
I bought and read this book in support of the mother-daughter writing team that I met online. Scary YA books are not my normal genre. I mean, I’m a grandma! From now on, I will read anything they write, no matter the genre.
Teenager, Renni, is a fine character who draws you into her life within minutes after meeting her in the first chapter. She interacts with her family and friends with honesty and openness. I love her curiosity and willingness to dig for answers.
All the characters are very well written and the authors are so good at keeping us guessing who is friend and who is foe. I like that.
There’s mystery, intrigue, first love and, yep, some danger. Nothing is black and white, and the truth is hard to come by, but Renni steadily works her way closer to the secrets of the town and her family.


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Book Review

I know, I know, I have a million books to review and I am so very far behind. I hope to get to more while I’m visiting my folks here in Alaska.

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier
The Lost Sisterhood
by Anne Fortier (Goodreads Author)

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Patti Hall‘s review 

Read in August, 2014

 

A hefty read at almost 600 pages, but worth every minute I spent reading it. I enjoy strong, brave, and curious female characters who look for solutions and are not stopped by challenges. And, wow, do they have some challenges!
This book gave me two such main characters, as well as a couple of others I admired. The three male leads were never a sure thing—were they good or evil? worthy of our leading ladies?– until they finally showed their true colors.
Every twist and turn, however dangerous or puzzling, fit into the bigger picture on the trail of the lives of the mysterious Amazons. Geography, history, love, mystery and a bit of magic thrown in made this roller coaster ride of a story great entertainment.
Two quests separated by thousands of years, yet both leading to a surprising conclusion. Fact and fiction are stirred together and the reader comes out wondering…hmmm, maybe a little research will quench my thirst for more information about this amazing sisterhood?


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Patti’s News Day Tuesday 3

M. Angelou quote

Maya Angelou’s recent death is not necessarily news now, but one thing she said in a 2009 CNN interview, has stuck with me. I think it is the most news worthy thing I have read in the last two weeks, so I have dedicated this News Day Tuesday to her.

Our country needs us all right now to stand up and be counted. We need to try to be great citizens. We are necessary in this country, and we need to give something — that is to say, go to a local hospital, go to the children’s ward and offer to the nurse in charge an hour twice a month that you can give them reading children’s stories or poetry,” she said. “And go to an old folks’ home and read the newspaper to somebody. Go to your church or your synagogue or your mosque, and say, ‘I’d like to be of service. I have one hour twice a month.’

“You’ll be surprised at how much better you will feel,” she said. “And good done anywhere is good done everywhere.

From http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/28/us/maya-angelou-obit/index.html

Two more short, but powerful quotes I love by Maya Angelou:

 “Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” 

“We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.” 

This is the last line in a tribute that Maya wrote for Nelson Mandela, His Day Is Done: A Nelson Mandela Tribute. I believe that it also rings true about her.

“We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.” 

Gratefully Yours,

Patti


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Patti’s News Day Tuesday 2

 

New construction reflected in windows of abandoned building.

New construction reflected in windows of abandoned building.

Here’s a brief sampling of news items that I found interesting enough to pass onto our community. I hope you find some nuggets in this week’s writer-reader news roundup. Patti’s News Day Tuesday posts every other week.

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/retailing/article/62367-smashwords-overdrive-ink-global-e-book-distribution-deal.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=727cd991d8-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-727cd991d8-304817009

“Smashwords, an e-book self-publishing platform, and digital library vendor OverDrive have reached an agreement to distribute its titles via the OverDrive network of public libraries. The deal will make more than 200,000 Smashword titles available for borrowing and for-purchase through OverDrive.”

This is huge. How do you feel about your Smashwords book being distributed for free? It will be interesting to see how this goes. On one hand, many more readers will have access to your work. On the other hand, most will probably not be buying it. If you have a good book, and it shows high readership, will that be enough to raise sales and/or to fulfill your needs as an author? Hmmm

http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/62368-pw-launches-booklife-integrates-self-published-reviews.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=727cd991d8-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-727cd991d8-304817009

PW will introduce BookLife, a new website for self-publishers, at this year’s BookExpo America. Simultaneously, we are integrating reviews of self-published books into our regular review coverage.” More good news for indies?

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2014/04/30/how-retailers-publishers-and-indies-can-fix-the-e-book-industry/

A quick article about the two main ways that retailers, publishers and indie authors can “fix” the e-book industry. No one can deny the first fix, but what do you think about the second one?

 

http://www.lifehacker.co.in/life/Five-Best-Book-Recommendation-Services/articleshow/35312577.cms

Looking for a good book to read? Here is the scoop on the top 5 sites to go to for book recommendations. Many of us do book reviews on Goodreads, but what about these other sites? Where do you go for book searches?

Where do you get your writer-reader news? Please share a link or two in the comments section.

Happy Newsy Things,

Patti


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Book Review: In the Body of the World: A Memoir, Eve Ensler

 In the Body of the World: A Memoir

 

In the Body of the World by Eve Ensler
Patti Hall’s review on Goodreads and Amazon

Oct 12, 2013
Recommended to Patti by: Elaine Mansfield
Recommended for: *Cancer victims and survivors. *Anyone with a female in their life.
Read from September 10 to 28, 2013, read count: 2
*I easily concede that this may not be the right book for everyone. I know that I would want to read it if I had cancer, but it may be too raw for others. Ensler does not filter out the horrendous things done to her body during her fight against cancer, nor the horrendous things done to the bodies of females in the Congo. I strongly value the message of hope that she brings to both subjects. Oh, and the “V” on the cover is not an accident.
Any possibility of love and respect for her body was taken away with the violation of it by her own father. Eve Ensler kept her body busy though, with good, bad and ugly actions. Years later, she began talking with, and interviewing women about their bodies. Part of the discussion was about how they could value and protect their bodies. Ensler wrote and published the Vagina Monologues and performed the play on stage. Her character portrayals are pure art. Other artists took on her role. The result of all that wondering and questioning can still be witnessed on campuses and theaters across the country. Ensler continued to interview women from every walk of life, and from around the world. There was only one thing that stopped her, or I should say, refocused her.
The plight of the women and girls of the Congo gave her a new focus. The Congo is a place where the rape, pillage, murder and destruction of females, from infants to grandmothers, are rampant. These crimes against humanity take place in collusion with the destruction of the Congolese earth. These crimes take place in order to mine the earth’s natural ingredients, which feed the rest of the world’s lust for resources and technology.
Not long after Ensler began to envision and ignite solutions with and for the women of the Congo, she encountered the destructive force of cancer within her own body. While the Congo women and earth continued to be attacked, Ensler was forced to retreat (although never out of contact) and fight her private battle. And a horrendous battle it was. Ensler writes about it like a gentle, yet ferocious mother. She writes in awe of the mighty foe. Her writing invokes a woman who is, at once, humble, brave, weak, passionate and grateful. As if that were not enough to compel readers, Ensler is also generous with her unvarnished honesty.The City of Joy is being built and run by the girls and women of the Congo. It is its own powerful force, envisioned and ignited by Ensler and her circle of supporters. When Ensler and her doctors were done slaying her cancer dragons, she went right back to The City of Joy. She continues to travel the world to garner funds for the V-Day movement to end violence against women and girl’s bodies. This daunting challenge is no less heroic than the fight to save her own life.

The loudest lesson Ensler offers her readers is hope.