"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Catching up on past due reviews, with quotes

It's the end of the year. Time to finish up all my past due reviews from 2022 and turn the page, starting a new year.  


Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah // St. Martin's Press, 2208. 479 pages.


 Summary: Kate and Tully become friends in 8th grade when the unlikely friends meet up one dark night when each has escaped their houses on Firefly Lane. Their friendship lasts for three decades until a single act of betrayal breaks up their friendship. Can it be mended?

Review: I am a huge Kristin Hannah fan. I especially love her books The Four Winds and The Nightingale, both published after this book. I am not a fan of this book however. I was irritated by the girls unequal relationship and that it continued and went on and on for so many pages.

Clearly I am not a fan of this book and I wouldn't usually even bother writing a review of a book I rated with such a low score, but this was a book club selection and I made a goal to review ALL my book club reads. Also, many of the gals in the club really liked the book, two of the members rated it as their favorite book read by the club in 2022. They obviously found something in the book that I didn't find. My recommendation if you haven't read anything by Kristin Hannah is to select one of her more recently published books.


"That was the thing about best friends. Like sisters and mothers, they could piss you off and make you cry and break your heart, but in the end, when the chips were down, they were there, making you laugh even in your darkest hours."

Rating: 2 stars

Odder by Katherine Applegate // Feiwel Friends, 2022. 288 pages.

Summary: Odder, a sea otter, spends her days off the coast of central California, practicing her underwater acrobatics and spinning the quirky stories for which she’s known. She’s a fearless daredevil, curious to a fault. But when Odder comes face-to-face with a predator, her life takes a dramatic turn, one that will challenge everything she believes about herself—and about the humans who hope to save her. Inspired by the true story of a Monterey Bay Aquarium program that pairs orphaned otter pups with surrogate mothers, this poignant and humorous tale told in free verse examines bravery and healing through the eyes of one of nature’s most beloved and charming animals.

Review: This is a darling tale, told from the point-of-view of a sea otter pup, has an excellent conservation message perfect for 3rd to 5th grade readers. I had just learned about the Monterey Bay conservation area on a show about national parks in the world. Now this sweet story brings the information to life. Told in free verse, it is an easy read, though it does have tense moments of survival.


Nobody has her moves.
She doesn’t just swim to the bottom,
she dive-bombs.
She doesn’t just somersault,
she triple-doughnuts.
She doesn’t just ride the waves,
she makes them.

Rating: 4.5 stars.

Poetry RX: How Fifty Inspiring Poems Can Heal and Bring Joy to Your Life by Norman E. Rosenthal, M.D. // G & D Media, 2021. 380 pages. Tantor Audio, 9 hours, 11 minutes. Narrated by Marguerite Gavin and Scott Pratt.

Summary: Poetry to heal, inspire, and enjoy.

Poetry Rx presents 50 great poems as seen through the eyes of a renowned psychiatrist. In this book, the reader gains insights into love, sorrow, ecstasy, and everything in between: love in the moment or for a lifetime; love that is fulfilling or addictive; when to break up; and how to survive when someone breaks up with you. Separate sections deal with responses to the natural world and the varieties of human experience. Other sections involve finding your way in the world and the search for meaning, as well as the final stages of life.

In describing this multitude of human experiences, using vignettes from his work and life, Rosenthal serves as a comforting guide to these poetic works of genius. Through his writing, the workings of the mind, as depicted by these gifted writers speak to us as intimately as our closest friends. (Publisher) 

Review: I found great comfort in many of the poems selected and analyzed by Dr. Rosenthal. I listened to the audiobook and would listen as I walked the dog or drove around town doing errands. By dribbling it out in such a way, I took full advantage of each poem and enjoyed Rosenthal's thoughts more than if I powered through the book in a few days. I want my own print copy now so I can refer back to it in future times. 

Quote from the introduction: 

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has closed down in many ways, depriving us of joy, companionship, love and adventure. Against this backdrop of loss and hardship, we are seeking novel remedies, and poetry is a surprisingly powerful remedy, not just for the moment but for our entire life. Poetry can serve both as a balm and a vaccine for the soul.” 

Rating: 4 stars.

Seven Empty Houses by Samantha Schweblin. Translated by Megan McDowell // Riverhead Books, 2022. 208 pages.

Summary: The seven houses in these seven stories are empty. Some are devoid of love or life or furniture, of people or the truth or of memories. But in Samanta Schweblin's tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back in: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child's first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents. (Publisher)

Review: I probably wouldn't have read or even known about this small story collection were it not for seven Empty Houses being named as one of the five National Book Award winner, a book translated into English in 2022. What I enjoy about reading short stories is how quickly the action starts and stops. Authors rather bog down their stories with too many details or back stories. One must just jump into the action and hang on for the ride. The author is a Argentine Spanish-speaking writer but she lives in Berlin. Every story had something to do with a house and I couldn't quite place these houses in the world. I just knew, somehow, that they weren't in the US. No big deal. The stories were all sort of creepy, or odd, or off-kilter and I found them all compelling. Give it a try!

Quote from first story "None of That": 

 Rating: 4 stars

The Complete Book of Aspen by Danna Smith // Plumbago Press, 2022. 308 pages.


When Aspen’s best friend gives her a DNA test kit, a half teaspoon of spit is all it takes to discover her entire life has been a lie. The death of Aspen’s father breaks her small family. Aspen’s mother slips into depression, leaving Aspen and her brother, Cooper, to hold together the broken pieces of their lives. Time, love, and medical attention allow Aspen’s mom to heal, and their family begins to find a new normal. But just as the sun starts to peek out from the dark clouds of depression and loss, Aspen and her friend Sophie get the results of their DNA tests.

Learning that her beloved late father was not her biological father—and that her mother had deceived her—ignites a wild storm of emotions. Aspen struggles with her identity and the burden of being the gatekeeper of this closely guarded family secret. When her mother refuses to reveal her biological father’s name, Aspen sets out on a courageous journey to find him.

A heartbreakingly hopeful young adult novel told in narrative and creative verse by award-winning author and poet Danna Smith, based on her true DNA experience. (Publisher)

Review: Wow. I consumed this book in one gulp rarely coming up for air. Such a thoughtful story and seemingly true reaction to the news that your Dad isn't your father. Hmm. The poetry was so good. I liked it so much and I've read a lot of novels-in-verse lately, I should know! Highly recommend.


Double Helix.


All I've learned
is DNA sucks
at keeping

Rating: 4.5 stars


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