Dec 15, 2010

Review: Precious by Sapphire (Audiobook Version)

By now I'm sure most of you are familiar with this heartbreaking story of Precious Jones, an illiterate, obese 16-year-old girl living in an incredibly dysfunctional home in Harlem. The book, originally titled PUSH, was published in 1996, and was Sapphire's debut novel. It's not an easy read and I found the audiobook especially raw.

PRECIOUS tells the horrific and disturbing story of her life dealing with a father who sexually molested her from a very early age and a mother who not only stood by and did nothing about it but who also abused Precious, both mentally and physically. She is sixteen and pregnant with her second child by her father when she begins the story, which is also the time she leaves the ineffective public school she's been attending and starts classes at an alternative learning school. Immediately upon starting this new school drastic changes occur. For the first time in her life, Precious becomes unafraid to speak up in class and share her voice with the other students, who have similar stories of abuse and neglect in their own lives. Over the course of two years we follow Precious on her journey to learn to read and write, with the ultimate goal of taking her GED test so that she can get a job and support herself and her children. With the loving support of her new teacher, Ms. Blue Rain, she is pushed to try hard and never give up, no matter what obstacles lie in her path.

My thoughts:

I went into this book with my eyes wide open, having a pretty good idea of what to expect and I have to say I was still shocked at what Precious endured in her young life. Aside from the obvious shock and horror of her home life is the fact that this girl was sixteen years old and could not read or write. That is unfathomable to me. She had absolutely no self confidence and had such dislike for herself that she simply sat for hours in the back of the classroom of her public school and did not move, speak or participate in any classroom activities - ever. To say that is unexceptionable in our society is a gross understatement. There are so many disturbing things happening all around Precious and it was all very hard to listen to.

I loved the character of Ms. Rain, the teacher at the alternative learning school. She became a shining light to Precious and was one of the few adults that truly wanted to help. Her mother was a pig and I hated any part of the book she was in. There is no way you can read/listen to this book and not have overflowing compassion for Precious. She is dealt one blow after another yet she sticks to her plan and doesn't allow anyone or anything to get in the way of her goals.

I'm glad I chose the audio version of this book. Since the content was so gritty, I wanted to 'get in and get out' so to speak. Reading it would've taken longer and I don't know if I could've endured it. The audio version was just over five hours and was much easier for me to handle. I do have to mention that the narrator, Bahni Turpin, did a fantastic job with all of the voices in this book. She was very believable and I feel she nailed it.

I gave this book 3 stars mainly because, even though I was happy that Precious was able to continue on with her goals for her life, I didn't particularly like the ending of the book. I think I was expecting a bit more finality. With that I mean, I wanted to know if she did, in fact, achieve her goal of getting her GED. I felt the book ended abruptly without that closure for me. That said, it is an incredible story, though it certainly isn't for everyone, but I'm glad I listened to it and I'm sure I won't forget Precious Jones for quite some time.

Author: Sapphire
Published: PUSH 1996; PRECIOUS Audiobook October 2009
Publisher: Random House Audio
Rating: 3 Stars

Dec 14, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: 12.14.10

The rules are simple for Teaser Tuesday -
  • Grab your current read
  • Let it fall open to a random page
  • Select two teaser sentences to share being careful NOT to include any spoilers!
  • Name the title, author and page number of the book your getting your teasers from
Today my teasers are from THE GOOD THIEF by Hannah Tinti . . .

At first the screams were pleading. Ren could make out words. "Stop! Leave it on! Please!" the voice begged. ~ page 130

For more teasers and to play along, visit MizB at Should Be Reading each Tuesday. Its a great way to get a glimpse into some really good books.

Dec 9, 2010

Review: Falling Home by Karen White

In the last few years, I have become a big fan of Karen White's work, so when I received a copy of FALLING HOME in the mail unexpectedly, I was beyond thrilled. I had recently read (and loved) ON FOLLY BEACH, so I was sure I was in for another terrific story. Here's a quick rundown, but don't worry, I won't give anything away . . .

Cassie Madison is the protagonist in this story of family, love and sometimes, regret. She has been living in New York City for fifteen years since leaving her small hometown of Walton, Georgia, after feeling betrayed by the two people closest to her. Once Cassie got to New York she never looked back and vowed to put that part of her life behind her. However, the past comes rushing to meet her when she gets a call from her sister, Harriet, who tells her their father is dying and has asked her to come home. What Cassie thinks will be a short trip turns into months and she is forced to face the people that she felt betrayed her all those years ago and gave her the reason to leave. She finally meets her sister's children that she's never seen before and finds herself involved in a fight to save her historic family home.

Almost immediately there is a pull on Cassie's heart for the place she grew up and the people of the community who have known her since she was little. But just when she thinks its time to head back to her life and fiance' in New York, an urgent family crisis arises and Cassie is left to make a decision about her future and what she wants out of it.

My thoughts:

What I like about this book is that there is much more going on here than just the story of a scorned woman who goes home to rebuild old relationships. Obviously, the story of Cassie and why she left is the main premise for the book but it doesn't stop there. There is also an intriguing mystery surrounding her father and some secret letters she finds in an old letter box. There is also the story of an old house and what some people will do to try to destroy it. But most heartbreaking of all is the story of Cassie and her sister, Harriet, who have been estranged for fifteen years. Another aspect is that of the troubled relationship Harriet has with her oldest child, Maddie, who, like her Aunt Cassie when she was a teenager, doesn't feel like she belongs in Walton and wants desperately to be like her aunt. Cassie also finds herself being drawn to a man she didn't give a second thought about when she was younger, but since returning can't seem to fight the attraction she now has for him. I loved how each of these stories are interwoven seamlessly in such a natural progression, which makes it all very realistic.

Another plus is how lovely and likable the characters are - even the ones you know are up to no good. Honestly though, in the beginning I didn't know if I was going to like Cassie but fortunately, my feelings for her changed as time progressed, though I believe that could have been the author's intention all along. My favorite characters were Maddie and Sam Parker, the doctor and former classmate of Cassie. I loved how he always stood his ground with Cassie and was not afraid to tell her the truth about herself even though it would sometimes hurt her. I think we all need someone like that in our lives. It didn't hurt that Ms. White painted him as a confident, sexy man in jeans and cowboy boots. What woman wouldn't love that?! Hell, I'd love to find my own 'Sam Parker'!

As with other books I've read of hers, Karen White has completely satisfied me with FALLING HOME. I felt connected to the people and loved each of the scenarios that played out. I have to admit to even shedding a few tears. I also love the title, although in the beginning I didn't know what it meant. In a nutshell, I enjoyed this book immensely and it makes me even more determined to go back and read her other books I've missed along the way.

I'd like to thank Joy Strazza at Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting for thinking of me and sending me this wonderful book.

Author: Karen White
Published: November 2010
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 464
Grade: A
Will I recommend this book: Yes!

Dec 1, 2010

Club Dead by Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse Mystery Book #3)

After recently reading a couple books with serious content, I was ready for something light and fun and that is when I reach for a Charlaine Harris book. One of my guilty pleasures is the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series. CLUB DEAD is the third book and it takes up with Sookie recovering from a broken heart after her vampire boyfriend, Bill, has apparently left her for another vamp, which is odd in itself. Here's a blurb from the back of the book to get you caught up...

There's only one vampire Sookie Stackhouse is involved with (at least voluntarily) and that's Bill. But recently he's been a little distant - in another state distant. His sinister and sexy boss, Eric, has an idea where to find him. Next thing Sookie knows, she is off to Jackson, Mississippi, to mingle with the under-underworld at Club Dead. It's a dangerous little haunt where the elitist vampire society can go to chill out and suck down some type O. But when Sookie finally finds Bill - caught in an act of serious betrayal - she's not sure whether to save him...or sharpen some stakes.

My thoughts:

As with the previous two books in this charming series, I was completely taken in by Sookie and her group of misfit compadres. We also get to meet another character, a Were by the name of Alcides, who takes Sookie under his arm (his very big and muscular arm) and helps her around Jackson to find Bill. He is a great character and I loved the attraction that he and Sookie share. Bill's boss, Eric, is once again ever-present and he becomes less sinister to me during this story. Almost likable.

Although I didn't feel the mystery surrounding Bill's disappearance was as intriguing as the mysteries in DEAD UNTIL DARK and LIVING DEAD IN DALLAS, I still enjoyed it very much. The precarious situations that Sookie finds herself in were entertaining and kept me wanting to keep reading.

Unlike many Sookie fans, I have only watched a few episodes of the True Blood series on HBO. Honestly, I much prefer the books. I have all of these amazing characters etched in my imagination and when I saw the TV show, it kind of blew it all out of whack for me. I would much rather keep my mental pictures of all of them, so I have decided to stick to the books.

I can't say that this one is my favorite, but it is still worth the time in reading. I've already picked up DEAD TO THE WORLD (book #4) and have read a few chapters and I can already tell I'm really going to enjoy it.

Charlaine Harris
Published: 2003
Publisher: Ace Books
Pages: 292
Grade: B-