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Q&A | August 19, 2014

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Describe your latest book. The Getaway God is the sixth book in the Sandman Slim series. In it, the very unholy nephilim, James Stark, aka Sandman... Continue »
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Elizabeth Vollbach has commented on (6) products.

The Time in Between by Maria Duenas
The Time in Between

Elizabeth Vollbach, July 15, 2014

This is a nice story of nice girl, Sira, who grows up poor in Spain before World War II. She’s a seamstress there with her mother until, years later, she is swept off her feet by a man who takes her to Morocco only to leave her there high and dry. Now she’s alone and in debt, but all is well when she opens business there as a seamstress. But that’s not all she is. And so on. As historical fiction, Spain before and up to World War II, this book excels.

But THE TIME IN BETWEEN disappointed me because it was so predictable. I could predict everything that happened. And I don’t mean just the historical facts. Everything that happened to Sira, every mess she got into, I could predict. At least, that’s the way it seemed to me. I know people who disagree.
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Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter by Melissa Francis
Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter

Elizabeth Vollbach, June 9, 2014

This is an interesting book, enough that I kept reading it. While it's easy to put down, it is good enough that I also was anxious to pick it up again.

The reader sees Melissa grow up with a mother who saw to Melissa’s career as an actress from the time she was an infant. Melissa also went to school, unlike other child actors. Often they are "home schooled" (Melissa's quotation marks) so they are available for auditions. One "home-schooled" third grader, Melissa observed, couldn't even sound out a three-syllable word.

We read other books about poor families having their children work. Melissa did this, too. Sometimes we forget that acting is real work.

As Melissa got older, competition became fiercer, and she got fewer and fewer roles. When she wasn't working, her mother got more unreasonable and lazy. So Melissa went to Harvard, far from her home in California and her mother.

Other reviewers of this book say that they like it less after this point. But I think the opposite. While Melissa's life as a child actor is interesting, that part of her story isn't riveting. But it is while she is in college and after she gets married and moves to San Francisco that the reader really sees her mother’s insanity. She was descending for years and this is the finality. This explains how Melissa could write what she did, say what she said.

I now respect Melissa Francis.
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A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley

Elizabeth Vollbach, May 28, 2014

This is a nice story. You could call it heartwarming. "60 Minutes Australia" even did a segment on it, and it was written up in newspapers first in Australia, later all over.

Little 5-year-old Saroo lived with his family in a poor neighborhood in India. One day he accompanied his big brother to a job at a railroad station, became separated and lost, and ended up living for weeks on the streets. He survived to be adopted by Australians but never forgot his other mother in India. This is Saroo's account of his search for her and the rest of his family in India. If not for the Internet (Google Earth and Facebook), it couldn't have happened.

Yes, I like this story. Who wouldn't? Many paragraphs, though, go on and on about Saroo's search in unnecessary and boring detail. Skip those. Probably, the segment on "60 Minutes Australia" was long enough.

I won an ARC of this book from librarything.com.
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The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
The Orchardist

Elizabeth Vollbach, March 24, 2013

THE ORCHARDIST is a lovely book, and many people rave about it. So you might not want to pay attention to my criticism. Maybe they're right and I'm wrong. But I have two problems with this book.

First, the author, Amanda Coplin, never lets her readers know any character. She glosses over everything.

Second, Coplin uses too many sentence fragments, and she doesn't use quotation marks. This is a device, I'm sure, but for what, I'm not sure. I only know that the result for the reader is choppy sentences that are difficult to read. Over and over, I had to reread paragraphs because I had to figure out when someone was talking and when they quit talking.

There was a good reason things like punctuation and quotation marks, capitalization, and even spaces between words were invented. If a writer cares about her readers, she uses them. If she says the heck with you and doesn't that's inconsiderate

I won THE ORCHARDIST through http://www.ManOfLaBook.com blog.
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(10 of 18 readers found this comment helpful)

Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom by Yangzom Brauen
Across Many Mountains: A Tibetan Family's Epic Journey from Oppression to Freedom

Elizabeth Vollbach, February 26, 2012

ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS: A TIBETAN FAMILY’S EPIC JOURNEY FROM OPPRESSION TO FREEDOM by Yangzom Brauen is made up of descriptions of one Tibetan family’s progression through different cultures, beginning in Tibet before the Chinese invasion and ending in Sweden until they do a complete circle and return to Tibet many years later after the Chinese allow them back in. Each culture the family moves to is more technologically advanced than the last. This book is about their ability to cope in each new culture and how they view Tibet on their return. At least, that’s what I thought Brauen intended.

Actually, only two members of the family, the mother and daughter, make it all the way. The daughter’s daughter, Brauen, did not make the journey as the title and cover picture imply. She was born and raised in Switzerland but likes to call both Switzerland and Tibet her countries. Although she did go to Tibet with her mother, brother, grandmother, and Swiss father many years later, their return wasn’t permanent.

But the book doesn’t end there. Maybe it ought to. Instead, it continues. Notice, I say the book continues, not the story. That is because my impression was that the continuation was another story, that of Brauen’s protests against oppression of Tibet and her hope that Tibet not be forgotten.

I have a problem with books that have no dialog, with unemotional, impersonal descriptions of people and things. That’s how this book is, especially in its first half. It contains so many details it drags. Details should enhance a story. But here they mostly don’t because the author tries to cover too much.

This is the risk I find in most nonfiction. Although I prefer nonfiction over fiction, most nonfiction fails for me because most authors don’t know how to write it other than to state the facts.

Although the second half of this book is better than the first, it, too, is made up of many impersonal descriptions. I was never made angry, sad, touched, or happy for anyone.

This book has received many favorable reviews on amazon.com and goodreads.com. Maybe you should believe them and not me. Maybe you will be able to manage to keep your mind from wandering. But I think that will be a trick.

I won a finished, hard cover copy of this book through luxuryreading.com. So I actually feel guilty for disagreeing with their two reviews of ACROSS MANY MOUNTAINS. But there it is.
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