What’s On My Nightstand….

Lots of good stuff – and in no particular order!

Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

An Echo in the Bone – the latest in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series – and it’s a big one!

Review: Dan Brown’s THE LOST SYMBOL

Last Tuesday marked the debut of Dan Brown’s latest novel, The Lost Symbol, and I was so excited to arrive home and see my little brown Amazon package waiting for me at the garage door!

In case you’ve missed the pre-publicity hype, Brown’s latest book continues to adventures of Robert Langdon, Harvard professor and expert symbolist, as he takes on the mysteries and mayhem awaiting him in Washington, D.C.

I have to honestly say that while I enjoyed this book, I didn’t like it as much as The Da Vinci Code. I felt the beginning of the book moved slowly – I wanted more puzzles and clues – and there was a great deal of “explaining” that at times felt awkward. I also grew frustrated with the number of times Langdon was incredulous about something and then finally “got it”. And I found some of the character’s actions unbelievable, in particular how they kept getting into trouble due to how trusting they were.

However, with that aside, this book is an entertaining read. It’s a trip through Washington and through history, with a special emphasis in this novel on the Freemasons, a group which I personally knew little about. I give Brown credit for the incredible amount of research he puts into his books and how he devises a plot that pulls it all together.

While this book is long, over 500 pages, it will appeal to Brown’s fans – in fact it has already sold in record-breaking numbers. It has strong themes of spirituality running throughout, which should appeal to some readers (but not others).

Overall, I would give The Lost Symbol 3 1/2 Stars!

Review: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I recently read, on an Amazon list of “Best Books of 2009”, of “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”. It sounded interesting, especially since it features an 11-year-old precocious, mystery-solving protagonist who loves chemistry. On a trip to the library, the book was in the “new fiction” section, so I took it out.
What a delightful book! I so enjoyed reading of the adventures of Flavia de Luce, the spunky and brilliant heroine, as she solves the mystery of a murdered stranger in her family’s English manor house’s cucumber garden. Flavia lives with her brooding, introverted, philatelic father and her two older terrifying sisters, the self-absorbed Ophelia (aka Feely) and the book-loving Daphne (aka Daffy), in their historic and somewhat decaying manor house. Her mother has previously been killed in an accident. Flavia spends her time in her chemistry lab, and running under the radar of the adults in her life.  She is precocious, cunning, daring, and quite lovable. Bradley’s use of language, in particular his similes, had me smiling and at times laughing out loud. The mystery in this story kept me guessing, and the characters were well-developed and interesting.

Supposedly, this is the first of a series of books featuring Flavia and her sleuthing. I can’t wait for the next installment!

I give this book 5 Stars!

Coming soon: a review of “The Shadow of the Wind”, and I’m reading right now: Dan Brown’s new release: “The Lost Symbol”.

Review: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt like they knew you stripped bare of your outer facade? This is how I felt about the characters of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge is a middle-aged woman, living in the small town of Crosby, Maine, and this novel is a series of vignettes depicting the people of the town, their lives, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The common thread running through these short stories is the character of Olive. In each story we see a different side of Olive, and by the end come to know her as multi-faceted and deeply human.

Whenever I pick up a Pulitzer, I’m never sure if I’m going to like it. Will it be too deep to get through? Will I feel compelled to love it, and don’t? Will I be able to read it enjoyably, or have to attack it like a college textbook? I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. It is a gem. Strout’s writing is so beautiful and descriptive. She calls on elements of human nature that, as I read, I found myself shaking my head and saying, “Yes, that is exactly how it is in life, isn’t it?” This book portrayed her characters in such a raw state that at times it was a bit painful to read. Yet, each story had a feeling of redemption in it, too.  This was a wonderful book. I picked it up on a whim at a local bookstore and purchased it – and I’m so glad I did!

I give this book 5 Stars!