See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles – – Book Review

This is another excellent Young Adult book that I listened to on CD while making dinners and washing dishes. The book takes place over the summer and into the fall of Fern’s (the main character) twelfth year. She has all the usual problems of a young adolescent, feeling over-looked in her family – being the third of four children. She is less loud and less needy than her siblings, particularly her three-year-old brother, Charlie.

While her dad is busy running and planning on how to make Harry’s, the ice cream restaurant he owns more profitable, her mother retreats to the office to meditate. Fern’s older sister Sarah makes out with the busboy and her brother Holden runs off to be with his boyfriend Grey. All this leaves Fern to watch and take care of Charlie.

At first I thought this book would be about Fern’s problem of being overlooked and ignored, but then we find out that her brother Holden is gay. Okay, I thought, then this is it. But no, and just when I wanted to shake their parents and scream “Pay Attention!” the worst thing possible happens. I won’t tell you what that is, just that Fern’s friends and her brother and sister come together to help her in the best family way possible.

A good read, sad, but just like life. This book was well written and rang true with Fern’s perspective on life sounding just like a twelve-year-old girl. I highly recommend reading it.

Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen – Book Review

Juliet’s Nurse by Lois Leveen – what a beautiful book. The story is brilliantly researched and told. I found it to be both easy to read and historically accurate. The tale revolves around Juliet (yes, Shakespeare’s Juliet) as told by her Nurse (that beloved character from Romeo and Juliet). I love that the story is the Nurses’ story and not only about Juliet.  It added so much more to the story, and I thought that it was much more interesting being told this way.

The book starts with the birth and death of an infant, when Angelica is hired to be the wealthy Juliet Cappellettis’ wet-nurse. As the relationship between the heartbroken Angelica and baby Juliet deepens, Angelica is kept on as Nurse to Juliet and indeed she is the girl’s closest companion and intimate. How cloistered wealthy girls were at the time and how little was thought of them besides how much money and social standing could they bring into the family by marrying well.

The historical time in which this book takes place is full of misogyny, extreme poverty, extreme wealth and danger from both rampant murder and disease. Loss is a recurring theme since by the end of the book Angelica has lost everyone she has ever loved due to murder, disease and the fight for power by the wealthy.

One of the things that stands out is that over the course of a few days, Juliet meets and weds Romeo. In Shakespeare we’re given beautiful soliloquies to help this improbable tale along, but in Juliet’s Nurse, we are not. In fact, I was left wondering at the harm done to Juliet by her uncaring Mother and grasping Father that led her to make such a choice. A choice, that as everyone knows, she dies for.

Angelica of course, goes on. She has become the indomitable Everywoman. She picks herself up, dusts herself off and creates a new life for herself. A hero indeed.  This is a book that I enjoyed and recommend to you.  Very good!

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica – Book Review

This book is a thriller that is told from various characters viewpoints in a “before” and “after” manner. The plot involves the kidnapping of an art teacher who just happens to be the daughter of a well-known judge in the city of Chicago. The kidnapper decides to not turn her over to his superiors and instead takes her to a cabin the in middle of rural Minnesota. His reasoning for doing this is to keep her safe. He is afraid that his superiors will kill her after torturing and raping her, regardless of whether the ransom is paid or not.

The main character, Mia, has never felt safe before, and once she realizes that her kidnapper “Owen” is trying in his convoluted way to keep her safe, she begins to trust him. And so begins her relationship with her kidnapper.

By telling the story in a “before” and “after” format, Kubica sets up the thriller in such as way as to leave the reader questioning exactly what the outcome will be. We are also left wondering whether or not we will ever find out what really happened.

I recommend this book. The way the story was told only requires that the reader pay attention to the chapter titles. Some other reviewers had a question regarding this format, but I thought that if you took notice of the chapter titles, it was fairly easy to follow how the story was unfolding. Also, this book gives us the story of the main character without ever using her voice. Instead, the story is told through the voices of her mother, the detective who is looking for her and her kidnapper. I found this particularly interesting, and it worked well. Only at the end of the book do you get both the impetus for the story and the conclusion. Well done!

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris – Book Review

This book is an epic tale of the Norse Gods, their rise and eventual fall in Ragnarok, brought on the elemental Loki, who is used by Odin and others to bring about the end of Asgard. It’s a story told by Loki himself who warns us not to trust him in these “truth-telling” adventures.

The first part of the book was a little tough going, but the rest of it more than made up for the slight issue I had. I enjoyed the way Harris told the story, and even though Loki is supposed to be the “bad” guy in mythology, I found him to be anything but. Of course, we all like the bad boy.  After all, we all like it when other people, or in this case, Gods, get exactly what they deserve. Real life so often is full of nasty people making out well, that when mythological or fictional characters get what they deserve we feel as if justice has been served.   And, Loki was there to serve it up.

The book is told in the voice of Loki, so of course it is his perspective we are allowed to see; however we are also warned that he could be lying. It’s not like he’s trying to pull the wool over our eyes; he warns us he is. So, kudos for being honest – or at least as honest and an elemental born from Chaos can be.  I recommend this book as it gives a new perspective on the whole Loki and Ragnarok thing.  If you don’t know much about Norse mythology this is as enjoyable a way to learn as I can think of.

The last line of the book, “Let there be light…” was perhaps my favorite. It would explain a lot of things from our world.