Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 3 stars
Review by Snowdrop

With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man—also named Jonathan Safran Foer—sets out to find the woman who might or might not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis.

Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war, an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior, and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukrainian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past.

As their adventure unfolds, Jonathan imagines the history of his grandfather’s village, conjuring a magical fable of startling symmetries that unite generations across time. As his search moves back in time, the fantastical history moves forward, until reality collides with fiction in a heart-stopping scene of extraordinary power.

This is a book about a young boy who finds an old, yellowed photo and is determined to find a lady in it who possibly saved his grandfather. It’s a look back upon a time of war and of the Nazis obliterating everything. It leads to many old memories, good, funny, and sad.

Everything is Illuminated has won many awards. It’s praised by the NY Times, Library Journal, the Washington Post, and many more. The author, Jonathan Safran Foer, was only 21 when he wrote it. In that view, it is amazing that such a work was written and published. It was even made into a movie. I found it difficult to read. Not because of its vulgarisms although there are many, but more so due to the broken English spoken by their translator who travels with them to the place where his grandfather lived. There are times it is hard to read because of the Holocaust and the treatment of the Jews, but that is not badly written, only hard to read because of the subject.

The author named the main character after himself. It caused me to wonder if the story was in its own way autobiographical as well as fictitious? There are some very poignant moments in Jonathan Safran’s journey. I wonder if the author has experienced the same feelings, the same sadness? It may be why although somewhat difficult to read, there can be no question the book is well-written. There are moments that come together and make you feel ashamed that you did not have to share the horror the Jews did during the war. Moments so well-written that you feel that you understand and yet know that you can never understand what the Jewish people experienced.

Is this a book you should read? I think it’s an experience many would gain from. It might be a story you shouldn’t pass by.

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald

Vesper Flights by Helen MacDonald
Publisher: Grove Press
Genre: Inspirational, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Animals don’t exist in order to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

In Vesper Flights, Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best loved essays, along with new pieces on topics ranging from nostalgia for a vanishing countryside to the tribulations of farming ostriches to her own private vespers while trying to fall asleep.

Meditating on notions of captivity and freedom, immigration and flight, Helen invites us into her most intimate experiences: observing the massive migration of songbirds from the top of the Empire State Building, watching tens of thousands of cranes in Hungary, seeking the last golden orioles in Suffolk’s poplar forests. She writes with heart-tugging clarity about wild boar, swifts, mushroom hunting, migraines, the strangeness of birds’ nests, and the unexpected guidance and comfort we find when watching wildlife.

By one of this century’s most important and insightful nature writers, Vesper Flights is a captivating and foundational book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make sense of the world around us.

This is a book of essays. People have a tendency to think it is about falcons because MacDonald is a falconer and also has written previous books about hawks and falcons. These essays are more than an observance of nature. They are also a description of one’s walk of life. Not all of the settings are out on the edge of a cliff. Some are experiences in our humdrum days of life, and some are very ethereal.

Vesper Flights did have trouble holding my attention but in looking back, I think this is a book one has to read at the right time. Sometimes essays can seem disjunct to me, like short stories in a sense. But I don’t think this book is meant to be looked upon as I did. It’s spiritual, it’s relaxing, and it’s calm. I am a very black and white thinker, so I don’t often look for meaning or inspiration as MacDonald does. I was brought up as a sort of “buck up” person, and this is not that kind of book. It’s a soul-searching, beautifully written book of essays about nature and about life.

Oblivion by Kira Stone

Oblivion by Kira Stone
Publisher: Razor’s Edge/Changeling Press
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, LGBTQ, Erotic
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Who said going to Hell didn’t have its rewards?

Killed in a dirty back alley by a street whore. Such an ugly way to die. But my lessons in death have only just begun.

Hell is filthy. And cold. And as soon as I fell, I found a demon waiting for me. My new Master. From spanking to whipping to painful abuse, each new lesson gives me hope — the hope of oblivion. Surely I can’t survive this long.

But the longer I’m here, the more I learn about myself and the life I wasted. And the more I crave Master’s touch. Each lesson strips away another layer of my mortal flesh. I am everyman. I am no one. I am what my Master wishes me to be. A Demon’s whore for all eternity…

Boy howdy, this one is a hot story!

I have to start this out by mentioning this is a Razor’s Edge story, which means it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s meant to be off-the-charts hot and not necessarily romance. If you’re looking for something that’s going to melt your reader, then this is the one for you.

He is killed in a dubious way and has to pay for his many indiscretions. I wasn’t looking for anything too sweet, so this story delivered. He is punished and there are moments of dubious consent, but the true thrust of this story is the journey. He goes on the journey of a lifetime – or would it be deathtime since he’s with his master in hell? He learns about himself and what he can handle. What he likes and needs. It’s crazy hot and may be a bit uncomfortable for some readers. It’s erotica and meant to be cutting edge.

If you’re looking for something hot and guaranteed to melt your screen, then this is it. Give Oblivion a try.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Publisher: Spiegel and Grau
Genre: Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Review by Snowdrop

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a widely published author and this book, Between the World and Me, is the first of his works I have read. One of those we are all familiar with that he wrote is the Black Panther series of Marvel comics. Between the World and Me is a letter to his son. A letter to try and prepare him for the world he will grow up in.

This book is well-written, almost poetic at times. It also has an angry tone or at least it did to me. I would never pretend I could understand the trials and tribulations that a Black man in our country has had to live through, still must endure. Some of this is powerful and hurtful. It was difficult for me to admit I live in a society that could be guilty of such things.

On the other hand, I’m a solutions person, a problem solver. While I know we can’t make racism disappear overnight, I guess I was hoping the letter would be a document of Coates instructing his son about how he had the opportunity to change things. This is not that. It does not have an uplifting tone. It is the story of a Black man and what he had to live through. While it might not have been what I was expecting or even what I wanted to hear, I know it was a valuable read.

The Boys by Ron Howard & Clint Howard

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard & Clint Howard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, Gentle Ben—these shows captivated millions of TV viewers in the ’60s and ’70s. Join award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard and audience-favorite actor Clint Howard as they frankly and fondly share their unusual family story of navigating and surviving life as sibling child actors.

“What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. in The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.

With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.

By turns confessional, nostalgic, heartwarming, and harrowing, THE BOYS is a dual narrative that lifts the lid on the Howard brothers’ closely held lives. It’s the journey of a tight four-person family unit that held fast in an unforgiving business and of two brothers who survived “child-actor syndrome” to become fulfilled adults.

Two brothers, one journey few can understand and a lifetime of memories.

I love to read biographies and autobiographies. When I saw this one about little Ronny Howard, I had to read it. I’m glad I did. There’s a whole lot more to Ron Howard than you might think. First, he’s not only a gifted filmmaker, but also a gifted writer. This was like reading a conversation between friends. Truly. His brother, Clint, writes half of this book and he’s more complicated than I ever thought.

Ron Howard is more than just Opie from the Andy Griffith show. I had no idea how hard worked to get ready for that part and how he had to work to BE Opie. I had no idea he had no concept of how to sign autographs while playing the role of Opie. He didn’t have the easiest life and it’s interesting to read about his transition from Opie to Ritchie Cunningham on Happy Days, then his move to directing. I liked how he’s so honest in his retelling of this era and his tendency to wish his father had his success, rather than having it for himself. It shows his humbleness.

Then there’s Clint. I knew this was his brother, but I didn’t know much about him. This book obviously changed that. He didn’t have quite the same experiences as Ron, even though he grew up in the same household. That’s not to say he wasn’t treated well. He was, but he had different experiences. There’s the unfortunate incidence with the buzzard during the filming of The Red Pony. If you’re upset by indignities to animals, then this might be the portion to skip. I never realized he had such drug problems or had become such a character actor. I have a new respect for Clint Howard.

All in all, this is a wonderful Hollywood autobiography and one that shouldn’t be missed. Recommended.

Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner

Secrets of a River Swimmer by S.S. Turner
Publisher: The Story Plant
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Rose

As Freddy gazes at the majestic river gushing past him in the depths of a Scottish winter, he’s ready to jump in and end his life. But what happens next is not what Freddy expects. From the moment he enters the river, Freddy starts a journey which is more beautiful, funny, and mysterious than he could have imagined. And through this journey Freddy’s story becomes interweaved with a cast of unforgettable characters who are equally lost and in search of answers. Eventually they all unite in their quest for an answer to the biggest question of them all: will the river take them where they want to go?

In the tradition of inspirational works of fiction like The Alchemist and Life of Pi, Secrets of a River Swimmer is at once a profound exploration into living with meaning and an affecting story of people on the cusp of change.

This is a beautifully written, almost lyrical, account of one man and how the river saved his life – quite literally. Freddy is tired of life – tired of modern living, tired of cell phones, tired of the rat race. He’s ready to give it all up and slips into a cold winter river – to let his life slip away.

And, in one sense, it does just that. It slips away and he is left with so much more at the end of the book than when he started. Between the beginning and the end, he learns about himself, about life, about death, and he makes friends along the way with a very wise fish who has wonderful comments and commentary on life.

This book not only held my attention throughout, wondering what would happen to Freddy next, but it also gave me things to wonder about and things to ponder. It’s magical at times, tragic at times, laugh out loud funny at times. It not only entertained me, it uplifted me. It’s hard to believe this is the author’s first book.

Kudos, Mr. Turner. I will definitely be on the lookout for you in the future. 5 stars.

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Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ The Purveli by Dianne Duvall

The Purveli by Dianne Duvall (Author), Kirsten Potter (Narrator),
Aldebarian Alliance, Book 3
Publisher: Self-published, Tantor Audio (Audio Publisher)
Genre: Sci-fi/Fantasy, Romance, Action/Adventure
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Ava has always been different. Born with strong telepathic abilities, she lives a very isolated life until she is offered a job with an obscure network that aids powerful Immortal Guardians in their quest to protect humanity from the psychotic vampires who prey upon them. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel so different. For the first time in her life, Ava has found a place where she belongs. She’s happy. Life is good. And when her employers invite her to join a group of other gifted ones and a handful of Immortal Guardians on a journey to another planet, it becomes absolutely fantastic.

In no time at all, she is speeding across the galaxy aboard a Lasaran warship manned by two amazing alien races. It’s the dream of a lifetime… until a vicious attack by a mutual enemy of Lasara and Earth lands her alone in an escape pod with no habitable planet in sight and only one ship within range: one that carries the enemy who wants to know why the bioengineered virus they released on Earth long ago didn’t exterminate humanity and leave the planet ripe for their claiming.

Jak’ri doesn’t know how long he has been a prisoner aboard the Cebaun, but he fears the enemy’s twisted experiments will soon lead them to a virus that will eradicate the Purveli people. Despair grips him until a female from Earth is taken captive and reaches out to him telepathically. The gift that Ava said caused her such misery in the past soon becomes his salvation as the two of them form a fast friendship. Determined to distract each other from the horrors of their existence, they immerse themselves in telepathic communion during the day, then seek solace and adventure together in shared dreams. As their friendship deepens into love, the two hatch a daring plot to escape their captors. But the enemy will not let them go without a fight.

Can Ava and Jak’ri stand against so many and emerge victorious?


Happiness Is Listening to Your Dog Snore – Humorous and Inspirational Dog Quotes to Celebrate Our Canine Friends by Sandra Murphy

Happiness Is Listening to Your Dog Snore – Humorous and Inspirational Dog Quotes to Celebrate Our Canine Friends by Sandra Murphy
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Non-Fiction, Inspirational, Contemporary, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

From Afghans and Akitas to Yakutians and Yorkies, and everything in between, there’s a very special connection between dogs and their owners. Our four-legged friends put smiles on our faces, comfort us when we’re down and make us laugh with their antics. They aren’t just “man’s best friend” but a terrific companion to women, children and anyone in need of the perfect companion.

Bestselling author and editor Sandra Murphy (Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the 60s, From Hay to Eternity) has compiled a collection of quotes celebrating canines; our furry friends who bring so much joy to our lives. Some quotes will be familiar, many will be new, but all remind us how wonderful it is to have dogs in our lives.

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One of the things I liked the most about this collection was the way the author separated all of the quotes out in various sections. The first portion was dedicated to humorous quotes, while later ones included themes that ranged from inspirational to what the author’s peers at Untreed Reads thought about dogs. It was nice to know what to expect from each section before I read it, and it also made it easy to flip ahead or back to a specific theme if needed.

As much as I enjoyed reading these quotes, there were times when I found them repetitive. The same themes and ideas were repeated over and over again in the various sections. It would have been nice to have a wider range of thoughts on the topic as dogs are creatures almost everyone loves. Had this been the case, I would have happily gone with a much higher rating as the concept itself was well worth checking out.

Some of my favorite sections were the ones that pondered what the world might look like through canine eyes. For example, one quote discussed whether the writer’s dog might have given them a name and, if so, what that name might be. That was exactly the sort of content I was hoping to read about! It’s fascinating to gaze into the eyes of a dog and try to figure out what they’re thinking about.

I smiled as I read Happiness Is Listening to Your Dog Snore.

Coloring the Zodiac by Christina Haberkern

Coloring the Zodiac by Christina Haberkern
Publisher: Plume
Genre: Non-Fiction, Young Adult (14 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

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Are you a fan of astrology? Do you sit down and check your horoscope daily? If so, then this is a great coloring book for you. Even if you’re only a casual student of astrology or simply randomly curious, you can still enjoy this fabulous book celebrating all twelve sun signs. There’s something for everyone inside these pages, no matter your artistic abilities.

Coloring the Zodiac gives you a lot of options when deciding what to choose first. For each sign you get several pages with different aspects of the signs. Symbols, images, affirmations, and even quotes from some famous reps for your sign abound in this book. The illustrations are easy enough to color but detailed enough to make your artwork really stand out when it’s complete. The artist does an excellent job of capturing what is truly representative of each sign with her drawings.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up this book. Adult coloring books can be very hit or miss at times. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by what I found in this one. All the drawings called to me, not just those for my sign. I could relate to the pages dedicated to my sign and see my family and friends in the others. Another bonus is that it’d be suitable for younger audiences as well, teens and tweens would have fun coloring in the designs as well as adults. The next time you’re feeling a bit stressed or restless, grab your colored pencils and this book and have fun. I know that’s how I plan to spend some time in the very near future – it’s written in the stars.

Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Honour’s Rest by Judith Crow

Honour’s Rest by Judith Crow
Publisher: Crowvus Choughs, Stempster House
Genre: Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Young Adult (13 – 18 y.o.)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Snowdrop

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

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No, according to Pen’s uncle, the Rite is not magic at all. But, if it’s not magic, then how could Pen push the school bully into a pond while he was really studying alone in the library?
When Pen’s family realise he has the Rite, he is sent to live with his Uncle Napier, who can help him control his ability.

But Napier has other duties. He is the Rendelf, in charge of the Rite in the UK, and he has gathered many enemies over the years…
…enemies who would be delighted to use Pen against him.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE: http://www.longandshortreviews.com/book-reviews/honours-rest-by-judith-crow/