Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Doomsday Book

by Connie Willis

A historian by training, adventuress by nature. That describes Kivrin, the young woman whose dream is finally coming through as she is sent to study life in the year 1320. The middle ages is a time fraught with danger, especially for a woman alone. Kivrin shrugs this off as she prepares to be a part of something that she has dreamed of for years.

Nothing can go wrong. There are checks and cross checks and redundancies everywhere. The net has been used before and often. So often that Gilchrist, the arrogant, self serving unprepared and untrained man in temporary charge of the facility seems fine with foregoing some of the tests and checks.

Kivrin is all too willing to believe him, and to take the risk to live her dream. Nothing can go wrong.
She has made preparations down to the last detail of proper clothing, and language, She even made sure that her nails were worn and broken by volunteering at a local archeological dig before she leaves.

The archeological dig that was nearly the undoing of everyone for miles around.

Kivrin herself and Baldri the tech assisting at sending her to 1320 are both infected by a bacteria that has survived the tomb they helped to uncover.

Not only does Kiverin arrive at her destination infected, but something else has gone gravely wrong. People are dying in the time she left and the time where she is now living. Was it her? Did she bring this upon them?

I admit to an affinity for time travel stories. Who would not want to see what it was like when the Pyramids were being built? Who would turn down a chance to see a time before they were born, a simpler, happier time?

The characters in this story were realistic, complicated and human. People doing the best that they can to have the best that life can offer them. They lived and loved and worked together in communities 700 years apart, but not so different after all.

This is a story filled with dreams, with anguish and fear. But it is also a story of love and hope and strength. I was captivated by the characters and the tale. I couldn't put it down, until I finally learned how the story ended.

As Good As It Got

By Isabel Sharpe

I am sorry to say that I did not enjoy this book. I have passed it to my sister, who I believe will like it.

I found it to be to simple, too predictable and utterly boring. By the time Martha was introduced, I was disgusted that these women felt too weak and needy to carry on without a man in their lives. The idea of a camp for these women to attend in order to recover from the amputation of their man was almost too much to take.

I am honestly sorry that I cannot give this a good review. I could not finish it fast enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Between Here and April

Deborah Copaken Kogan

This was an extraordinary book in so many ways. The main character is Elizabeth, a young mother who stepped away from a successful career as a journalist to raise her young daughters.

The story begins when Elizabeth suddenly recalls an event from her childhood. When they were six years old, Elizabeth's friend April vanishes from her life. No one ever really discussed what had happened to April, or what had become of her. Only after research from that time brought to light that April had died. She and her sister were killed in a murder suicide by their mother. There are threads of post partum depression in Aprils story, and a mother who was without diagnosis or help, as it was not a recognized condition at that time.

This information comes to light when Elizabeth's daughters are the same ages as April and her sister. Although in the beginning one might think this is a story about April it is far more about Elizabeth. She is a young woman who has lost confidence in her marriage and her decisions. Her self esteem and self worth are in seriously short supply.

It is a story of how Elizabeth finds her way.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Stories From The South 2008

Edited by ZZ Packer

For those who are lovers of the short story, or those who enjoy tales from the not so innocent south, this will be a good read.

The Bridge of Sighs takes us into the heartbreaking, gut wrenching world of Cattle Killers who visit "humane " death on steers raised to die.

The Ease of Living is about a desperate mothers attempt to keep her son from being affected by death, by sending him away. Providing distance between him and the death of two boys. Can we ever get far enough away from death?

The Candidate is the story of a single mother distracted, if only for a moment from her own small life.

Child of God and the ugly world of St Jude's. But is it truly ugly? Cannot some beauty be found in the darkest of dark places?

And there is more, so much more. Eighteen Stories filled with characters that we all have known or heard about. All told with the scent of magnolias in the background, and the tangible heat of a deep summer night.

If you have not been a reader of short stories, this is a good place to start. The stories are so rich and powerful that you take away all that you usually find in a longer read. There is something for you here.

Tomato Girl

By Jayne Pupek

I found this to be a well written story with characters who are both compelling and interesting. It takes place in simpler times, but was there ever such a thing? Ellie Sanders has had to grow up too fast. She lives in a world with a mother whose madness makes it impossible for her to care for Ellie as she should. Her father does the best he can, but it is not enough. Particularly when the tomato girl comes into his life and Ellie's.

Ellie takes care of herself. She sees things through a child's eyes, but with a vision distorted by fear and pain. Those eyes have seen more than any young girls eyes should see. Birth, death , betrayal , abandonment and murder are not small things, Yet Ellie sees or endures the knowledge of them all.

There are "angels" in Ellie's life, as in each of ours. Will they be in time to save her? Is there hope for Ellie in the end?