Thursday, July 6, 2006

Book Review: Lick Creek

Very enjoyable book! Lick Creek by Brad Kessler takes place is the small coal mining community of (surprise, surprise) Lick Creek, WV, during the late 1920s.

It tells the story of young girl (teenage), Emily Jenkins, who lives on a family farm. Her father, brother, and first love die is a coal mine explosion. Her mother goes into severe depression dealing with such a loss and at times doesn't even bother to get dressed. Emily is forced to become quite resourceful in order to provide for her and her mother. She takes to gathering berries, mushrooms and making goat cheese, and then traveling to the city of White Sulfur to sell these items to the fancy hotel.

During this time period, electricity is booming. Many electric lines are being installed--some right near Lick Creek. One of the lineman falls from a pole during a thunderstorm, and his crew brings him to the Jenkins home. Having this injured man in the house, breathes life back into Ada Jenkins, Emily's mother. She nurses him back to health. During his time at the Jenkins, he develops a strong relationship with Emily.

One of the things that really intrigued me about this book was how different things were back then. Would any of us know what to do if a man came to our homes with a dislocated shoulder, a broken leg, a gash to the head and a concussion? There were no phones (or at least the Jenkins didn't have one), and the nearest doctor was far enough away that he wouldn't be able to come until at least the next day. I was impressed that Ada knew just what to do! First aid was just second nature to her.

Just a warning...there are a few bad words in this book. Also, Emily does fall in love a few times, so there are a few scenes that are descriptive of this. I'd say it was nothing too explicit and it is very tastefully written, but just a warning that it is there.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Book Review: Neighbors

The next book I read was Neighbors by Thomas Berger. If you can avoid this book, I definitely would not read it again! Maybe the cover should've been a clue to me. The entire time I was reading this book, I kept thinking that the ending would redeem it for me...make it worth my time.

Unfortunately, this was not the case.

The story is about a family who lives on a dead end street. New neighbors move into the only other house on the street, and all sorts of trouble ensues. The husband and wife want to have the new couple over for dinner, but before they can even extend the invitation, the new couple, Harry and Ramona, stops by and sort of invites themselves. The entire book chronicles the rest of the evening and the next day. It is full of misunderstandings and complete and total misbehavior on the part of the new neighbors.

I felt that I didn't really understand the motivation of any of the characters. The situations that the characters got into were difficult for me to read--not because they were crude or inappropriate, but simply because they made me uncomfortable.

I kept thinking (hoping) that it would end with the main character, Earl, awaking from a dream. These situations were just too absurd for me to believe that they would be a reality. Instead the book ends (here's the spoiler), with Earl having a heart attack and dying. It turns out that it was all real and that the stress of the entire situation kills him.

It was such a disappointment!

Monday, July 3, 2006

Book Review: Devil in the White City

I've decided that I need to read more. I thought it would be fun to write up reviews of books that I read. I have a goal to read at least 1 book each week. Check back often to read reviews of the recent books I've read.

The first book is Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it! Click on the title's link to find it on Amazon, where you can search the book plus read excerpts and reviews

This is not my usual choice of a book, but it was recommended by a friend. It is a non-fiction book. I usually only stick to fiction; however, this book really reads like fiction. Maybe that is why I enjoyed it so much.

This book takes place in the late-1890s during the planning and construction of Chicago's World's Fair. The story revolves around two men--an architect and a serial killer. These two men most likely never met, but their stories are both linked to the World's fair.

I thought that this was very cleverly written. Larson, chapter by chapter, describes the events surrounding both of these men alternating one with the other. This helps to create a lot of suspense and desire to continue reading. You will be very intrigued by the happenings of one man, and then suddenly, you will begin a new chapter about the other man, become very intrigued only to be shifted back to the first again. At times this was a little frustrating, but I thought it really did add to the enjoyment of the book.

I also enjoyed this book, because I never really knew just how influential the World's Fair in Chicago was. Many of the products and appliances that we rely on today find their roots at this fair. It is fascinating. Like I mentioned earlier, this is a work of non-fiction. There are pages and pages of notes in the back of the book. Most of Larson's sources were from newspapers of the day. It amazes me just how much research he must have put into this book. I can't help but wonder just how long the research took him.

If you're looking for something to read this summer, I'd definitely recommend adding this book to your list.