Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The All-Girl Filling Stations's Last Reunion

by Fannie Flagg

Although I haven't read a lot of Fannie Flagg, this story is very similar to the others I have, light and easy reading focusing on accomplishments of women. The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion switches between the life of Sookie today and the history of Fritzi in early 1940.

Sookie has a loving husband and four grown children, a beautiful home and several close friends in her small Alabama hometown. It seems like she's living the life of Riley, and she would be, if only her perfect mother didn't live two doors down and wasn't the talk of the town! Sookie believes she has never lived up to her mother's expectations and has spent her entire life trying to dance to her mother's tune.

Fritzi is a strong-willed daredevil who wants to be in the limelight. She can fix a car and fly a plane and is always on the lookout for a challenge or an adventure. When WWII breaks out, Fritzi wants to enlist, but instead has to settle for running the family gas station in Wisconsin. Eventually, the US military accepts a small group of women to aid in transporting aircraft to vital locations. Fritzi immediately joins the WASP's.

These two lives merge when Sookie receives a letter from Texas with some unbelievable news that causes her to rethink her life and herself.

Personally, I wore a little thin hearing Sookie's constant pity party and had a hard time believing her response to the surprising news, but I enjoyed the history of the WASP sections. If you liked Fried Green Tomatoes you'd probably like this book too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

by Maria Semple

Fast, quirky and mostly fun.

Bernadette Fox is a depressed architect who flees California after a series of mishaps and ends up with her family in Seattle, living in a house that is coming apart at the seams. Since she can't seem to avoid disaster, Bernadette takes off again, only this time leaving her family behind. Her 15-year old daughter then goes on a mission to find out where her mom disappeared to. There are some pretty funny happenings in the beginning.

The first half of Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a humorous beach read, but somewhere around the time Bernadette disappears so does most of the fun. Each of the characters makes drastic personality changes and the style of writing changes, to the detriment of the story in my opinion. However, if you want a quick mindless read and if you like Sophie Kinsella and Jane Green, you'll like this book, unless you're from Seattle, in which case you may not be thrilled with Semple's satirical look at the city (and Microsoft). 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

The Haunting of Hill House is a ghost story first published in 1959, but in our day we'd probably label it a psychological thriller. Some strange things are happening at Hill House and Dr. Montague is determined to uncover the source. He brings together a couple of people known to have had previous paranormal experiences to spend the summer in the house and find the ghost. However, one of his guests, Eleanor is already pretty unstable and her time in the house wreaks havoc on her mind.

There's not much in this book that is overtly frightening, rather it is the subtle phenomenon and slow deterioration of Eleanor's mental facilities that cause anxiety. It's like the puzzled reaction of my kids after they first watched Psycho and wondered, "what's the big deal?" And Hill House is a classic in the same way, which is why many authors have clearly been inspired by it. If you've read other haunted house stories and liked them you will enjoy reading this predecessor. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Snow Child

by Eowyn Ivey

Yes, I am really far behind on posting! Every once in a while I have a book to write about but get stuck on how exactly to review the book, this is one of those books. I have come back to it several times and just can't seem to get it out, so even though the reviews are piling up, I can't quite get over the hump.

In a nutshell, I liked this book a lot. It is a sweet story of a couple, Jack and Mabel who are trying to make a life for themselves on the Alaskan frontier. The Snow Child is a combination Russian folk tale and Cather-esque style homesteading saga. Ivey does a great job detailing the hardships faced by these pioneers, in addition to relating the personal suffering of this particular childless couple. She weaves these elements throughout the book as she is simultaneously unfolding the tale of the snow child, Faina. It's fun at the beginning that Ivey makes the child somewhat of a mystery, leaving everyone wondering if Jack and Mabel are losing their sanity. She also does a great job giving Faina just the right mix of vulnerability and durability. While I wished for a different ending, ultimately it was in keeping with the nature of the characters. And even though most of the story consists of numerous trials and adversity, the beautiful writing doesn't leave you feeling gloomy.

This is a great book to sit down with over a long, cold weekend.