Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #49 of 2016

The Signature of All Things by Liz Gilbert
Pageturner’s Book Selection Decembersignature

Well, as is evident, I didn’t reach my goal for the Reader’s Advisory. I had attempted to read a book a week, but with Anne Rice setting me back, then the fire, then Christmas was upon us…I came up short. I hope this serves as an example to all of us to not stop reading, even if we slow to barely perceptible progress. Reading from a list wasn’t easy, either. It was almost like assigned reading back in high school. However, I found some gems that I would have never picked up if it hadn’t been for this challenge. I highly recommend you step out of your comfort zone at least once or twice a year. Pick up your best friend’s favorite book. Ask someone you admire or find intelligent for a recommendation. Join my book club! Trust me, there is ZERO pressure. When we met to discuss this one, one of us hadn’t cracked the spine, one of us had read it a year ago and couldn’t recall much of it, and, well, I was about 100 pages in. Don’t be intimidated by thick books, you still just read them one page at a time.

This book captivated me…for approximately 200 pages. I was rooting for Henry the urchin and purely delighted to read about homely Alma and her stalwart pony. But then, Beatrix dies and Retta moves away and all the life just drains away. The magic is gone.
What was I expecting from a book where the lead character is a moss botanist? Surely not daring tales, startling secrets, and steamy romances?
Well, yes.

I expect full throttle from all my reads! And this had them, just on a much lesser scale. I dearly hoped Prudence was a villain (she would have made a great one), I wished for more grandiose details on the opulence of White Acre, and I was definitely disappointed in Alma’s romantic conquests. How very drab. It takes her almost a lifetime to seek what she desires. A lifetime to live! As she says to the tree at the end, “You and I are very far from home, aren’t we?” And she’s way past due.

If you’re looking for a crawling plot and a serene landscape, you’ve found your book. The prose is poetic, make no mistake, but prepare to feel melancholy for weeks on end. Personally that’s one of my least favorite emotions.

Happy New Year and I hope each of you find some wonderful books to share and enjoy this year. Please feel free to follow me on my blog, amysappalachia.com for book reviews and general merriment.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #49 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #48 of 2016

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin51t-fg95usl-_sx330_bo1204203200_
A Book Set in Europe

In order for me to digest a book I must first be able to concentrate.

I have not been afforded that luxury the last couple of weeks with all the trauma in our county, so I’m behind.

Words that come to mind to describe this novel: bland, pointless, dragging, boring. Maybe with all the fires and displaced families in my county right now a rich girl’s love life just didn’t do it for me with the hand kissing and drama with a furtive photograph.

I had high hopes for The Fortune Hunter but it fell short. I liked An American Heiress well enough. So why didn’t I like this? It had all the makings of what I normally love: historical fiction, well-off people, horses, etcetera. Maybe my timing was off. But I didn’t care for it. The only truly enjoyable character was Casper, he was brimming with life while the rest of them just seemed to drift by shrouded in fog. There were three predominant stories: one, Charlotte’s love for photography, the Empress’ love for Bay, and Bay’s love for Tipsy, his horse who jumps hedges supposedly 18 feet tall. Everybody else is filler, and the Lennox diamonds never got enough action for my taste. I was not excited to finish, and if I had to read one more word about Sisi’s lines around her eyes…

Not every book I read has the ability to lilt me to sleep, but this one did. And for that, I bequeath it two stars.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #48 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #47 of 2016

About a Girl by Lindsey Kelkabout-a-girl
Pageturner’s Book Club Selection November

I’ll admit I groaned when this one was announced. I thought I was above reading chick lit—British chick lit, at that—in my ripe old age. But obviously, I have forgotten how much fun it is!  It’s pretty much the story of any up-and-coming girl in the city. Girl has entry-level advertising job, where she is desperate to advance. Girl is secretly in love with her best guy friend for going on ten years. Girl works her fingers to the bone with ad agency only to be made “redundant” & let go. Girl is now without purpose & is sitting on a park bench in London, all ‘woe-is-me’ when a Nazi sympathizer tries to rob her, only to learn she has nothing to rob. Not even a phone. Nazi sympathizer converts to Tess sympathizer & gives her the latest phone he’s ripped off somebody. At least now she has a phone. Girl goes home to the apartment she shares with Satan’s mistress, Vanessa, to drown more sorrows with her girl BFF, Amy, & biscuits (read: cookies. We’re in England, you knockers). The trio of besties go to Tess’s parents for a family function, girl gets blind drunk & snogs boy best friend…and more…& boy best friend morphs into a wanker afterwards. Girl’s mother is mortified that she lost her job, slept with Charlie, & got plastered in public. Girl is now rejected thrice.  But we’re only getting warmed up. Fortunately, we don’t have to endure dreary London long. We soon jet-set to Hawaii & are off to drink tropical frozen concoctions with a sex god. I’m telling you, it doesn’t get better than this. The girl is laugh-out-loud funny and completely relatable. You will not regret indulging in this. It is wholly enjoyable to any female who needs an escape. Best part? It’s a trilogy! Oh, happy days.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #47 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #46 of 2016

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice
anne-rice-the-witching-hour-1 A Book That’s More Than 600 Pages

Well, I reckon. Coming in at 965 pages in my hardbound 1990 version, with smallish print, I do believe this is the longest novel I’ve ever read.

Of course I’m proud of myself. This is like the New York Marathon for book dragons like me! Up till this point, my greatest literary accomplishment was Gone with the Wind, or maybe The Goldfinch. The heft of this book set it apart from either of those. I’ve heard wonderful things about Anne Rice’s works, & this seemed like the perfect spooky October read.

Unfortunately, it took much longer than the two weeks I allocated. More like four. But it was so worthwhile. As lengthy books are wont to do, it sucked me right into the history of these Mayfairs. Upon learning this is a trilogy, I kinda wanted to poke my eye out because I knew there would be many mysteries left unsolved. And when you read a book of this caliber, you want to know ALL THE THINGS.

Don’t let the size intimidate you. It’s sweeping in an unpretentious language. It provides a beautiful description of New Orleans. The middle third of the book takes place overseas, hundreds of years ago, so you don’t get stagnant waiting on things to happen. Mrs. Rice provides an entire rich history of these generations of women, who traded healing powers for demon worship & enormous wealth. But they all learned, one by one, you can’t outsmart the devil. And he only wants one thing: to grow stronger.

So there’s all these characters, all with these lives spanning several centuries, & it is advisable to make an intricate family tree as you read because you will find yourself referring to it repeatedly (you can thank me later). Some of the Mayfairs you’ll love, & some you’ll want to destroy yourself. None are what they seem. You’ll have favorites (if it’s not Stella, we can’t be friends). It doesn’t get too wicked & gruesome until almost the end, & by then it’s too late—you have no hopes of putting it away now. Look how far you’ve come!

This book is a representation of true talent & creativity and the snaring capability of a magnificent novel. Bravo, Anne Rice. Bravo.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #46 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #45 of 52 for 2016

The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambronthe-ringmasters-wife-by-kristy-cambron

A Book Guaranteed to Bring You Joy

Yeah….about that…

I was on Instagram one day, idly scrolling when this book post caught my attention. Someone has had the charming idea of choosing a novel, packaging it in a box with small gifts to be opened as you reach certain pages, & then having online discussions about it. I mean, how cool is THAT?!?

Turns out, extremely cool.

If only…..if only the book had been half as enjoyable! What a disappointment. Maybe it’s written for young adults but the publishers forgot to mention that. That would explain a lot. Maybe it’s my own fault for wanting presents as I read…surely no grown woman needs trinkets to keep her content & in the story…But the writing is juvenile, the language is contrived (who knew so many conversations were whispered in life?), & the plot predictable. Add to that the confusion of two different narratives in two different eras, & for much of the book, on two different continents…I was constantly having to wrinkle my brow & flip back to see what year I was in.

If you want to read about a poor little rich girl’s break from a noble family to run away & star in a circus where everyone adores her (because she is without fault & beautiful in every way), here’s the perfect novel for you. Personally, I was much more interested in Mable’s story, which, unfortunately, isn’t elaborated on much after she meets John Ringling. Save yourself & read instead a nonfiction account…sounds like an interesting life, to say the least.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #45 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book # 44 of 2016

The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom

Pageturner’s Book Club Selection17888952

Well, you’re in the right place if you wanna read this, because I don’t recommend buying it. Sure, it has all the earmarks of being a feel good/ curl up & cry novel, but it falls disappointingly short. First of all, there are too many characters introduced way too quickly. I kept having to pause & think who was who & with whom they were communicating. There was virtually no character development to help differentiate between any of them, especially the women. Secondly, I believe politics are best left out of fictional books. Authors who attempt to sneak their personal opinions into a fictional novel have misplaced notions of what sells. I’ll say it again & again, I think it costs them readers. It has cost Mitch Albom one.

If you have heard so much about this writer & can’t contain your enthusiasm want to read one of his works, my suggestion is to try The Five People You Meet In Heaven.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #44 of 52

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Guest Resident Blogger’s Book #43 of 2016

27833670Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

A Book Published in 2016

*Deep breath* Listen, people. Blake Crouch takes a lot out of you. I thought I was prepared after reading the entire Wayward Pines trilogy in less than a week, but turns out you can’t condition yourself for his novels. He is something else entirely. Just when you think “I’ve got this figured out. If Jason will just listen to me, we can get him out of this alive & back to his family & his life.” But you can’t. Because you don’t know the HALF of it.

So there’s this guy, Jason. He’s married to a beautiful artist, Daniela. They have a teenage son, Charlie. Jason & Daniela “gave up” the Big Time to raise their child. And they both wonder “What if?” nearly constantly. They may not appreciate what they’ve got…but who does, really?

So one night, returning from celebrating a colleague’s success, Jason is accosted by a masked man. When he wakes up, he’s in a laboratory where everyone is ecstatic to see him. Except he doesn’t know a single face.

And it only gets crazier from there.

So if you wanna sweat & hyperventilate & give your heart a good workout, this is a good choice. It’s brand new, & all over social media right now, & if you read it you can be a cool nerd with me. So do it. Or you’ll be wondering “what if” yourself….As for me, I’m not allowing that phrase to enter my mind ever again.

Amy Johnson, Guest Blogger in Residence 2016
Book #43 of 52

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