Books Read in May 2008

Ask Again Later by Jill A. Davis
They've “found a lump,” is all it takes for Emily to leave her law career, her boyfriend, and move into her childhood bedroom to be with her Mom.So, you’re in your childhood bedroom, your Mother has cancer, and you’ve left your long-time lover so things can’t get any worse, right? Well, enter the absent Father. Yes, the man who left when she was five is at the door offering to help. She ends up taking a job as a receptionist in his law firm, and slowly gets to know him.
Although this sounds sad and heart-wrenching, let me assure you – it’s a funny, laugh-out-loud tale that confirms once and for all that you can grow up to be a functioning adult despite your parents, and questionable choices in men, yadda yadda..

Empty Nest…Full House by Andrea Van Steenhouse
This is an old-old release, and I have no idea why I picked it up -- except that I have been struggling with how soon my son will be off to college and starting his adult life. It’s a good thing I read it, because I was guilty of many mistakes Van Steenhouse says can make this difficult passage even more difficult. The tale begins with senior year in high school, and ends with the final departure for college and entire freshman year. It offers a humorous look at what can be a turbulent time for parents and children.
This is a must-read for any parent who doesn’t want to make the same mistakes their parents made, although after reading the book, you’ll understand why (and how easily) they made them! I highly recommend this simple, yet powerful, little book to help guide you in making the journey positive and happy. On both sides of the generation fence.

Forgive Me by Amanda Eyre Ward
Nadine Morgan is a globe-trotting journalist, covering historic events, and placing herself in danger to get the “real” story. Once a resident of Cape Town, she left after a tragic event and hasn’t been back -- until she hears the story of American student, Jason Irving who was beaten to death by local youths at the height of the apartheid era. Now, years later, Jason’s killers have applied for amnesty. Nadine, who is recovering from a brutal attack, can’t stay away from a good story and leaves a would-be lover to follows Jason’s parents to South Africa for the trial.
To my surprise, I found feelings of sympathy for the victim’s parents and the killer’s parents -- both having “lost” children. Forgiveness is a powerful thing and Ward provides a haunting story to gently push us toward the process.

Girls Poker Night by Jill A. Davis
Another hilarious Jill A. Davis book! This is an older release, but after discovering “Ask Again Later” I simply had to read it.
Ruby Capote is tired of her boyfriend, Boston, and life in general, so she shoots a resume and a 6-pack of beer to an editor in New York City, landing herself a job. As soon as her Boston relationship is over she takes up with her editor boss Michael. She gets advice from friends during weekly poker nights and her life is played out before thousands of readers in her humor column. The book reads like a “Lifestyle-Humor” column, and although it’s definitely a chick-lit book it’s one of the more well-written ones. Nice balance of laugh-out-loud funny and I-wish-that-hadn’t-happened-sad.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin
Children are being murdered in a medieval England town, and the Jewish community is being blamed. The citizens say this proves that Jews sacrifice Christian children in creepy, secret ceremonies. King Henry I is concerned about the Jew’s fate -- mainly because without their taxes he would be bankrupt. Henry calls on his cousin the King of Sicily to import the best medical expert in Europe. He’s sent a young doctor named Adelia -- a "mistress of the art of death," AKA early version of the medical examiner.
Truth be told, this book started out as a yawner. I kept with it and after the first chapter was rewarded with a novel I couldn’t put down. Yes, some parts are corny and unbelievable, but it’s a nice blend of historical fiction with a shot of medieval CSI.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A new hardcover edition came out late 2007 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the novel first published in 1957. Fifty years later, I venture to say Kerouac’s book still has what it takes to inspire young people in America to hit the road in search of, well, whatever it is they think they need to find but don’t know until they find it. Kerouac's novel is a great window to the rhythms of 1950s underground America, including jazz, sex, illicit drugs, the lure of the open road, of being “beat,” and that elusive “something” that can set you free. Based on Kerouac's real-life adventures.
If I were young, single, and daring I’d take off today.

The Night Journal by Elizabeth Crook
In the 1890s Hannah Bass began writing in her journals about her great Western adventure -- first as the survivor of a horrific train wreck, then as a Harvey Girl at the fancy Montezuma Resort, and finally as the wife of Elliott Bass, a railway engineer. Fast forward to Hannah's daughter, Claudia Bass, a renowned historian who edited and published the diaries and basically rode her Mother’s written word to fame. However the great grand-daughter, Meg Mabry –hasn’t bothered reading them. That is until an excavation on the old family property reveals a discovery that can underscore the diaries and the family’s history.
I loved how Crook spun the modern-day professional Meg who has a cushy life, around the 1890’s frontier woman Hannah whose life consisted of Indian ruins, grand desert hotels, and hardships. Before your eyes, the stories collide and you see how several generations of women deal with family secrets, death, and creating your own life.

The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman
O.K. by now you may realize I’m a sucker for a true story, and this is the true story about the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, during World War II. They also happened to be an incredible husband and wife team who helped save hundreds of people from the Nazi’s.
Antonina is the zookeeper's wife, and although her husband fights in the resistance, it is really Antonina who shows us what true heroism is all about. It’s not about killing and guns, but more about daring, attitude, and creating joy in the face of hardship. This is a solid book. My only complaint is that Ackerman interjects too heavy a dose of the Warsaw Holocaust with Antonina’s own poetic writing and it didn’t work for me.