September 03, 2013

Late Summer Reading Recap:

Overall: ****

Summary: A classic "wild-west" tale of outlaws, ladies of the night, railroads, love affairs, and twisted plots. In a rare act of compassion, Addie French, madam of "The Chili Queen" in rural 1860's New Mexico, takes in a woman she believes was rejected by the man her evil brother arranged for her to marry. When a plot to steal half of the woman's inheritance goes awry, no one knows who to truly trust with their money, future, or worse... love. 

What I Loved: The likeable, seemingly simple characters, the setting, the twists and turns just when you think you've got the story all figured out.

Not So Much: This book was entertaining, light-hearted, and enjoyable to read... it didn't necessarily change my life or leave me longing for more, but it was a great introduction to one of my new favorite authors. 

Overall: *****

Summary: The private diary of a naiive, newlywed pioneer and early homesteader in eastern Colorado territory. In her not-so-rare moments of absolute solitude on the prairie, Matti Spenser would find pleasure in confiding in her only true friend, her journal, in her desolate new home. 

What I Loved: The historically-rich glimpses into the relentlessly cruel and satisfyingly rewarding lives of the early Colorado homesteaders, her candid and elegant journal entries, the simplicity of her writing as if you are reading a letter from a dear friend in a foreign land.

Not So Much: This novel is absolutely heartbreaking down to the last drop. Whether much of the story is fabricated or not, Dallas uses the framework of the actual diary (discovered in an elderly neighbor's trunk belonging to her grandmother- classic) to weave a harrowing and totally human story of loss, loneliness, and a little bit of love. 

Overall: *****

Summary: As her mother lay dying, Laurel Nicolson is determined to solve a mysterious crime that has haunted her family for half a century.  Bouncing between present day and 1940s London, the author weaves a detailed story of deeply hidden secrets that slowly start to come to light in the final moments of the main character's life.

What I loved: A relatively long read (just under 500 pages) the book is rich with details and characters, some crucial, many not, so you have no choice but to get completely sucked into a swirling story that spans sixty years, and don't know what end you'll eventually come out of. 

Not So Much: There were moments when the story felt off-track, spread too thin, and overly analytical, but only enough to make me want to go back and re-read certain paragraphs, not hesitate to move forward. 

Overall: **

Summary: A poor family in a poor village, somewhere near the Gulf of Mexico, become discouraged when their infant son is stung by a scorpion and their only hope of saving him is paying off the evil doctor who resides in a mansion in town. With no means to pay, they set out to find a pearl that they could trade for money and medicine, but what they find is beyond any of their dreams.

What I Loved: This short story (under 100 pages) was perfect for a short plane ride and felt like reading an old folklore legend that would have been told around campfires. A classic story of human desperation, greed, hope, and fear. 

Not So Much: At best, it's a quick and easy read: simple characters, simple storyline, simple morals, and simple language. At worst, it's cheesy and predictable, no harm in giving this, or other Steinbeck short stories a try.

Overall: ****

Summary: Following the lives of half-a-dozen of the Mormon missionary families who joined the Martin Handcart Company on their thousand-mile (walking!) journey from Iowa to the Great Salt Lake City, Dallas retells the stories of heartbreak and hope behind one of the country's greatest tragedies. 

What I Loved: The characters, their faith, and bravery. The story is so sad and seemingly impossible, it's hard to believe the book is based on real people and true events. 

Not So Much: This story is absolutely devastating. Based on a real event, and a terribly tragic one at that, there are few redeeming qualities that make you sit back and say that at least it was worth it. 


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