Book Reviews
Earlene Fowler

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     Here are a few books I've read that I've really enjoyed. I'll continue to add to the list. Keep in mind that the mini-reviews are my opinions. And I'll only post books I liked. If I don't like a book, I won't bash it in public. That's unfair and just plain mean. There's enough negative stuff in this old world. I don't plan on adding to it. 

Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You - Laurie Lynn Drummond - This is a book of short stories written by a woman who was once a uniformed officer with the Baton Rouge Police Department. It is a thought-provoking, unique and brutally honest set of interconnecting stories. Written from five different characters' points-of-view, they give you insights into the women who protect and serve the public in law enforcement. I know a few female police officers, some I call friends, and I found this book of stories to be so right on in terms of the stories my friends have told me. On top of the very realness of the setting, plot and characters, I found the writing to be exquisite. If you are at all interested in what many female police officers experience, you'll enjoy this book. I must warn you that it is raw and troubling in spots. It will be stories you won't forget after you read them. 

Way Off the Road - Bill Geist - This is just a fun book to read. I love the program "Sunday Morning" and remember when all the magazine shows were not about husbands and wives murdering each other, but told interesting stories about people, places and things. Bill Geist, if you watch this show, has a segment almost every week where he visits some odd place or interviews an American who is doing something different. I loved all these everyday America essays. It made me want to rent an RV and find my own special places in this fine country of ours. This is a perfect book to take on a trip, to read on the plane, in a train, next to a lake waiting for the fish to bite or to have someone read out loud to you as you're driving a back road in Arkansas. It would make a great gift to just about anyone. 

The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield - I honestly haven't enjoyed a book like this in I don't know how long. It reminds me of the types of books I used to devour when I was a teenager. The ones my mother bought by Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney. This is definitely one of those moody, mysterious, can't-put-it-down "running across the wind swept moors" type of books. But it is also very intelligently and well-written, even poetic in places. But, more than anything, it's one of those kind of books that you totally suspend your disbelief and go on the fun journey that the author had concocted for you. I've bought it in hardback for many of my friends and recommend it especially for that dark and stormy night when you want to cuddle under the quilts and read until two a.m.

We Are All Welcome Here - Elizabeth Berg - I've read quite a few books by this author and have enjoyed them all, but this one is, in my opinion, far and above the best book she has written to date. It is a touching and realistic story about three women in 1964 Tupelo, Mississippi--a mother with polio who lives in an iron lung, her teenage daughter and the African-American woman who is the mother's caregiver. Each character just jumps off the page with life. It is even more interesting to read that Ms. Berg created this story from a suggestion from a fan, a woman who really was raised by her mother who lived in an iron lung. I wasn't bored for a minute reading this book and rushed through it. Now I need to read it again more slowly, I think. 

Heart Mountain - Gretel Ehrlich - This book was published in 1988. It is one of my favorite books. I've read it three or four times. My husband, who is not much of a fiction reader, also loved this book (after I convinced him to read it). It takes place in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, during WWII. As I've stated before, I'm not overly fond of historical fiction, but this story won me over. It is a vast and complex plot concerning ranchers and sheepmen, soldiers and women in love, the Heart Mountain relocation camp for Japanese-Americans and how all the people around the camp interact with the Japanese. Too much to go into, but I really admire not only this author's storytelling ability, but her beautiful prose. She writes mostly non-fiction essays, which I also enjoy. 

Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner - I've read this book about eight or nine times. Yes, that's how much I like it. As a writer, I'm fascinated by how he tells two stories at once, seamlessly going from one to the other. As a reader, I am always enthralled by the story. It never fails to pull me into it even though I know how it turns out! So, I try to study this story as a writer (the reason I've read it so many times), but am always so caught up in the story that I forget to study how he does it. That is the mark of a great writer. There's a reason he won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel. The plot in a nutshell is a man who is having his own marriage, family and health problems is researching the life of his grandmother and the secret tragedy that always haunted her and his grandfather. It's a hard book to get into, but once you're there, you won't leave until you find out the secret. 

The Last Girls - Lee Smith - Okay, I have to say I love this book, but that I also love everything this writer writes. Cakewalk, Black Mountain Breakdown, News of the Spirit, Fancy Strut, Me and My Baby View the Eclipse. I could go on and on. Lee Smith has been my favorite writer for as long as I have been an adult. I remember picking up her first book (The Last Day the Dogbushes Bloomed) when I was in my twenties and thinking, "She knows my relatives!" You cannot ever, ever go wrong with a Lee Smith book. I will always buy everything she writes. 

Desert Shadows - Betty Webb - Suspenseful mystery set in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona, very human and interesting protagonist

A Hole in the Heart - Christopher Marquis - My friend, Jo-Ann Mapson, wonderful writer and teacher, sent me this book. Set in Alaska, this male author writes authentically from a female point-of-view

Girl Meets God - One of the most honest and heartfelt spiritual books I've ever read about a young woman's search for God. No matter what you believe, her sincerity and intelligence will win you over. (Also read her second book, Mudhouse Sabbath, another beautiful read)

The Seduction of Water - Carol Goodman - An absorbing, suspenseful book that I found hard to put down.

Going to Bend - Diane Hammond - One of the most realistic books I've ever read about working class women and their friendships.  This writer knows what she is talking about. I'll look for more of her books.

Anything You Say Can and Will Be Used Against You - Laurie Lynn Drummond - Connecting short stories about five female police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Absolutely mesmerizing and authentic. I've read it twice.

And My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You - Kathi Kamen Goldmark - You know I'm a sucker for any book about country/western music.  This book was a lot of fun and seemed authentic to me. 

Good Hope Road - Lisa Wingate - I love everything this author writes. I like her characters and the settings she creates.  Her style of writing is immensely readable and enjoyable.

At Home in the Heart of Appalachia - John O'Brien - This is a non-fiction book, a memoir really, of a man who grew up in Applachia and moved his family back there. Interesting personal insights and history of the area. I learned a lot from this book and enjoyed his easy-going style of writing.

Ya-Yas in Bloom - Rebecca Wells - Those of you who have read the Ya-Ya books know what they are about. This continues the women's stories. Southern to the core and are especially enjoyable if you can listen to the recorded book done by the author herself.

Nickel and - Barbara Ehrenreich - I read this a while back when it first came out, but I have to tell you that it is one of the truest books I've ever read on poverty in America. The author went undercover in different minimum wage jobs and reported what she experienced.  I've worked my share of minimum wage jobs and, as I've always contended, but for the grace of God go any of us. I've read this book twice and will read it again, I'm sure.

The Falls - Joyce Carol Oates - Okay, I confess, I listened to this as a recorded book. I did rent the unabridged version. I really enjoyed it and I don't especially like historical fiction.  I learned a lot and was thoroughly entertained. It made me go out and buy the book so I can actually "read" it now.

Sweetwater Creek - Anne Rivers Siddons - Okay, I'll read anything this lady writes. She just tells good stories about real-seeming characters in places in the South that I'd love to visit. Her Peachtree Road remains one of my all-time favorite books.

The Dogs of Babel - Carolyn Parkhurst - I dare you to read this book and not burst out in tears more than once. It is an entirely original plot, not easy to do these days.

Animals in Translation - Temple Grandin - This book blew me away, especially because I own a dog now. Ms. Grandin is autistic and explains animals in a way that only someone who has a special relationship with them can. If you own an animal or are interested in autism or just want to read a powerful book, get this one. (Also look for Thinking in Pictures.)

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