Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen

Yes, it is exactly what the title sounds like: Southern chick lit. And I’m okay with that, especially after reading a heavy duty book like The Judas Field. Who doesn’t need a little bit of contemporary southern melodrama after an intense, grizzly book about the Civil War?

Susan Gregg Gilmore's Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is an old story. The preacher’s daughter can’t wait to get out of her tiny home town. Catherine Grace and her sister lost their mother to a drowning accident when they were little girls, and she has always missed her mother terribly. Her father was a great dad, and her next-door neighbor filled lots of motherly jobs, but there is still an emptiness.

As soon as the Catherine Grace graduates from high school, she moves away to the big city of Atlanta. Her boyfriend back home moves on, but she has no intention of ever returning, so that’s OK.

Eventually, things happen that force her to return to her tiny hometown.

Yes, you’ve probably heard that same story line before, but all stories are based on the same basic themes, right? I liked this one. It was fun, a little sappy, and a little surprising.

If you need a great light read, especially after something that takes a lot of concentration, this is a great choice.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Book Review: The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

My goodness. My reading tastes are so odd. This month I've read the hardcore The Judas Field and the fluffy Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, and now I'm somewhere in between with Diane Chamberlain's The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes. But I liked them all, and I really, really liked CeeCee Wilkes.

The story is pretty crazy and far-fetched, but I didn't care. CeeCee Wilkes is a 16-year-old foster kid smitten by a 22-year-old college student who asks her to do an unthinkable thing: kidnap the governor's wife. Out of love for him, she does it, but the results are disastrous. Well, sort of.

CeeCee is forced to go underground and take on a new identity until her world comes crashing down nearly 30 years later. I know: it sounds cheesy. But I was spellbound, seriously. I loved this story. Maybe I just needed a book that was dramatic and unlikely, but I read it in about 2 days.

Guess what? I am going to read more Diane Chamberlain books. Maybe they are cheesy, but at this point in my life, I don't care. I need some cheese.

(Thanks to S. Krishna for the initial review and recommendation.)

Book Review: The Judas Field

My 86-year-old father and I flew out to Seattle (from Tennessee) a few weeks ago to visit his sister, my aunt. Strangely, my father did not bring a book with him for the long flight, so I gave him Howard Bahr's The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civl War. He devoured it well before the end of the flight, which included a long nap on his part, as well.

At several points while reading, my father said, "Listen to this." He'd then read me a beautifully poetic passage from Bahr's book. My father and I are suckers for word crafting. When he handed it back to me, he said that he really enjoyed it but didn't know if I would like it.

I did like it, actually. The Judas Field is stark and sad, but the story is well told and vivid. Cass Wakefield is a Civil War veteran, haunted by the horrors of the war. Twenty years after the war, an old friend asks him to take her to Franklin, TN, where her father and brother were killed. She wants to dig up the bodies and rebury them in Mississippi.

Cass reluctantly agrees and embarks on a painful journey full of horrific memories and an array of ghosts. The discriptions of the battles as remembered by Cass are really amazing; Bahr is masterful enough to conjure up a nearly tangible vision of the horrors of battle. This novel is the gritty heart and soul of a soldier in the midst of slaughter that was the Battle of Franklin.

The novel is beautifully written and terribly sad, but a truly mesmerizing window into how lives are altered forever by war.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: The Queen's Daughter

Joan, the youngest child and only daughter of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine, is The Queen’s Daughter in this novel by Susan Coventry. I must admit to having forgotten most of the details of this medieval time period when Henry II, Eleanor, and Joan's brother Richard the Lionhearted took center stage. I read this solely as a novel, without being able to fit all this into a solid historical context.

I enjoyed the book. I wish I had brushed up on all the battles, the Crusades, and medieval history in general before I had read it. But as a story of a princess who is forced to choose between loyalty to her father, mother, or brothers and who has no choice but to marry the King of Sicily when she is only 12, the novel was good. There were way too many confusing battle scenes and political references for me, but someone who knows the historical details would probably love all this. My father, for example, who pretty much knows every single bit of history ever, loved The Queen's Daughter.

I actually read this book because I thought it might be fantastic for a European history class. This could be a good book to enrich a study of medieval history, but I wouldn't really recommend it for kids under 15, as there were several scenes focused on her sexual relationship with her husbands.

If you're a history buff, you may love this; otherwise, well, I'm not sure the writing was compelling enough for me to give it an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review: The Secret Daughter

I am fairly sure that Shilpi Somaya Gowda's The Secret Daughter will end up on my Top 10 list for 2011. I was riveted from the very first page and totally satisfied with the ending. What gets better than that? Ah yes, Gowda's writing is great, too. This isn't just a satisfying plot read.

The book opens with a young Indian woman, Kavita, giving birth to a daughter. She knows her husband will dispose of the baby, so she escapes to the city to give her to the orphanage. On the other side of the world, Somer and Krishnan, both doctors, struggle with infertility. We see it coming, right? Somer and Krishnan adopt a beautiful girl from an Indian orphanage, and the story moves on from there.

The book then alternates between the lives of Somer, Krishnan and Asha, a privileged American family struggling to stay together; and Kavita and Jasu, whose life is full of hardship and, for Kavita, a constant sense of loss and longing for her daughter. Asha eventually makes her way back to India on a prestigious fellowship, and through her work there, she gains understanding of who she is and who her parents really are.

I absolutely loved this debut novel and look forward to reading whatever Shilpi Somaya Gowda has coming up next.

Thanks to S. Krishna's Books for the recommendation!

Other Bloggers Review The Secret Daughter
Helen's Book Blog
Luxury Reading
The Book Chick