Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Being Santa Claus by Sal Lizard

Review based on ARC.

There's a lot of magic in a book like this.  It was encouraging and hopeful reading about all the ways in which the spirit of Christmas is alive and well.  I personally agreed with a lot of Mr. Lizard's points and perspectives.

Sal Lizard is a "Genuine Santa" and has spent the past two decades reminding people, young and old, that the spirit of Christmas is what matters.  The book really is a "feel good" book, and I spent many pages smiling, reminiscing, and, yes, wiping away tears.

The book does a nice job of going through the life of this genuine santa and many of his experiences, painting a complete picture of why his persona is more "genuine" than the rest.

What I didn't love about the book was really just that at times it seemed that the focus was more on Sal's good-deeds.  BUT, to be fair, the book was not actually written by Sal.  Sal told his stories, and the form they took in final publication may have been someone else's doing.

Indeed, Sal did do a lot of good in the world.  I didn't necessarily agree with all of his lessons or goals, but I didn't have to, to enjoy the book, the stories, the people, and the spirit of Christmas.  I particularly loved the story of Donna and have often hoped that I can someday make a similar, faceless impact on someone else's life.

Overall, a great "feel good" book for the holidays.
Definitely recommend!
FOUR of five stars.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Breathe by Sarah Crossan

On this, here, Election Day... a book review.  Nothing about the election ;)

Breathe is yet another dystopian, not-too-distant future, young adult novel about the dangers of taking something essential for granted, and, of course, some romance.  But don't get discouraged by that description.  When I first started reading the book, I sighed in resignation.

YET.  It was a great take on the "same-old."  In this instance, the essential element that we've taken for granted is, you guessed it, air.  We've cut down all the trees, and now we must subsist on manufactured air in a bubble.  The bubble is, of course, tightly managed by the elite, and there is, of course, a resistance.

But the story was very well told, the characters were vivid and believable (plus flawed! but not too flawed ;)), and the plot moves along at the perfect pace.  I read the book quickly, and I was very satisfied when I turned the last page.

For its audience, this book is definitely a stand-out.  I highly recommend.
FOUR out of five stars.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

First, I would like to link to my book group's Anne of Green Gables review, which is largely my review ;), posted here.

Ok, Bernadette...
This was also a book group book and, in fact, it was recommended to us by a non-book group member!  I am posting my separate review here because I expect that a lot of the Desert Girls will have a lot to say about this book, separate from my thoughts.

I really really really enjoyed this book.  I FLEW through the first half... as my bath got cold.  Bernadette is a sort of mixed media book, using letters, emails, transcripts, etc. to tell the story.  There is a little bit of narration by Bee (daughter) throughout the first 2/3 or so, and then quite a bit more narration in the latter portion.  The Desert Girls recently read Wife 22, which was also a mixed-media book, but Bernadette took the concept and, really, showed the world how it should be done.

The book is touted and/or implies that it is a mystery.  Bernadette has disappeared and we must discover where she went.  This is not a particularly accurate description.  Bernadette does disappear, but not until more than halfway through and then... well, you're not really unsure about where she went.  You don't know for certain, but you can piece it together pretty well.

Instead, the book is really a wonderfully told story about a rather dysfunctional family (aren't they all), with a mother (Bernadette) who is a genius hermit former architect, the daughter (Bee) who is a brilliant young girl with a medical history and a love of life, and the father (Elgie) who is a workaholic genius microsoft project head who loves his family, if from a distance.  Blech, sounds boring the way I just did that.  Trust me, it's not.

The characters are quirky, crazy, relatable, totally un-relatable, enraging, off-putting, loving, spiteful, and the complete heart of the story.  Semple does not describe her characters in the traditional sense; rather, she provides enough information to give you an outline, and a bevy of personality traits for the reader to fill in the details.  The story is less the point, focusing instead on the development of the characters and their character.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Bernadette, and I highly recommend.  What made the book not perfect was the ending, which sort of dropped, just a little, in its intrigue.  The resolution was just a little less climactic than I would have hoped.  But it did not detract from the book as a whole, and it did not leave me feeling frustrated... just a little less than perfectly satisfied.

Highly recommend.
FOUR AND A HALF of five stars.