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Melinda Ott has commented on (144) products.

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
The Boston Girl

Melinda Ott, December 10, 2014

The only other book by Anita Diamant I've read is The Red Tent, which is one of my favorite novels. Because of that, I was a little surprised at this one as it is so completely different. The Red Tent is lush and evocative. The Boston Girl is a Jewish Grandmother recounting her life.

And it is absolutely delightful!

I think this book hit me on two emotional levels. For one thing, Addie Baum reminds me of my grandmother. Sort of. On the surface, there probably isn't that much in common between Addie, a Jewish girl growing up in the North End of Boston, and my grandmother, a Norwegian girl growing up in small town North Dakota, other than they are about the same age. But, Addie reminded me of what I always pictured my grandmother to be as a young woman--spunky and ahead of her time.

The other tie for me was that this book takes place in Boston and I lived there for 3 years. While I don't miss the city, it is fun to read about place with which I'm familiar. Diamant vividly creates early 20th century Boston and it was great fun for me to take a trip back in time with her.

This book reads exactly like what it is: a grandmother telling her granddaughter about her life and what shaped her into the woman she became. There are several times in the book where Addie makes asides, telling her granddaughter not to tell her mother something or, well, hinting about things that happened in her life that probably wouldn't be proper to talk about (her granddaughter, as you discover at the end of the book, gave up the hinting and just lays at all out--I almost snorted tea through my nose when that little bit came up!).

This was one of those books that I just could not put down--I plowed through it in a little over a day, which is pretty fast for this mother of young kids. Yet, I still kept scratching my head about how this was so different from Diamant's The Red Tent. I guess it is the measure of a skilled author to be able to write in such different voices.

I highly recommend this book to, well, just about anyone. Just be warned...if you think you'll be reading something along the lines of The Red Tent, you'll need to adjust your expectations (trust me, it will be worth it!)
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Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Melinda Ott, December 5, 2014

I love me some Rainbow Rowell--both Eleanor and Park and Fangirl are on my "highly recommended list. When I found out about her newest book, I knew that I would be reading it.
Unfortunately, this may have been a case of unrealistic expectations on my part. I can't be sure, but I think I would have enjoyed this book more if it had not been written by Rainbow Rowell. It's not badly written, but it just didn't feel like a Rowell book for me. At first, it reminded me of Jennifer Weiner (whom I enjoy) and then, when the magic realism kicked in, it reminded me of an American Cecelia Ahern (whom I enjoy). It did not, however, seem like it was written by the same person who wrote Eleanor and Park and Fangirl.

I never felt that Rowell reached the emotional heights (or depths?) that she had in her other books. I kind of felt that Georgie always knew what the problem was with her marriage, so she never really had any big revelation. And, this may just be my prejudices, but I didn't really like Georgie.

I will say that the book did keep my attention, even if I found parts of it lacking. While I felt that Rowell never dove deep enough into the plot, I was at least interested enough to turn the page. And, honestly, I think someone who has never read anything by Rainbow Rowell would probably enjoy this book more than I did.
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Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann
Astor Place Vintage

Melinda Ott, December 3, 2014

This is one of those books that has been on my radar for a while but I just now had the chance to sit down and read it. It was definitely a promising prospect--the plot convention of two stories separated by time is something that appeals to me, as is the time period of Olive's story.

And, indeed, there were things I found enjoyable. I really loved how Lehmann took the time to juxtapose the New York City of 1907 upon the New York City on 2007. She does an admirable job of really going over the geography of the city and how things have changed. I also appreciated the period photographs she included in the book.

I also found Olive's story line intriguing. A young woman who, through no fault of her own, falls from her place in society but still has the gumption to pull herself up and achieve her dreams. Lehmann spends quite a bit of time highlighting Olive's naivete in the ways of passion, which actually fits quite well into her character and serves to draw a clear distinction between the life she lost and the life she had to live.

On the other hand, I found Amanda's story line almost unbearable. A woman who has been a 6 year relationship with a married man and then wonders why she's stuck? That is just a tired story that's been told too many times. I never felt any empathy for Amanda and, therefore, had no patience for her. I can see how Lehmann was trying to tie the characters of Olive and Amanda together, but it either just didn't connect, or it connected too easily to be believable.

There were some other issues with this book. I respect Lehmann's attempt to illustrate the issues women had to face in the early 20th century in Olive's narrative, but she just tried to cram too much in. She talked about religion, women in the workplace, childbirth, birth control, sexual fidelity, and immigration. Phew!

I also didn't find Lehmann's style as readable as I thought I would. She isn't a difficult author to read, but there is just something a bit uncomfortable in her voice that I found a bit irritating. It was almost as if she were not completely natural in her writing.

I think if this book had been just about Olive, I would have loved it. As it is, it was just a lukewarm read for me.
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Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats Mysteries) by Sofie Kelly
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat (Magical Cats Mysteries)

Melinda Ott, November 25, 2014

Cozy Mysteries are what I read when I want to just relax and give my mind a break. I will admit that I'm not the sort of mystery reader who consciously goes through the book looking for clues and challenges myself to solve the mystery before the reveal; instead, I read these more as a straight novel and just enjoy the story as I go along.

It had been quite some time since I last read a Cozy Mystery when I picked up this book. I really didn't know much about it other than it had cats (which I love) and that was the first in the series (which is a must for me). Other than that, I went into this book with an open mind.

This was an enjoyable read for me. I immediately liked Kathleen and found I could relate to her. As is common in such books, Mayville Heights is full of quirky characters, although I will admit that a number of them sort of blurred together for me. I have a feeling that they will become more distinct as the series progresses, so I hesitate to hold that against this book.

Another thing that I'm hoping will become clearer in later books (as you can tell, I've already decided to go further into this series) is how these two cats, Owen and Hercules, are magical. In this book, their "magic" seemed to be limited to stealing and then getting stoned on catnip and walking through closed doors. Still, I found these cats charming, even if their powers were a bit vague.

I thought I had figured this mystery out until the very end, which is a good sign. I also didn't feel that there was an unbelievable jump needed for Kathleen to solve the mystery. I also appreciated that Kathleen didn't act like a detective throughout this book Frequently in Cozy Mysteries, you get a baker or librarian or what not basically doing police work and that was not the case in this book.

If you are looking for a new series, I would definitely recommend this book and series. I'm hoping the following books are as good as this one!
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Away by Amy Bloom

Melinda Ott, November 18, 2014

I really, really thought I would love this book. The summary sounded fascinating and I was quickly pulled in by Bloom's writing. She has a poetic voice that I found hypnotic. Unfortunately, that was not enough to save this book for me.

I tried to put my finger on what went wrong for me and I came up with two big problem areas. The first was the story itself. From the summary, it sounds like this is one of those vast novels, but then you look and the book is less than 300 pages. There are basically 3 sections of this book--New York, Seattle, and Canada/Alaska and Bloom just sort of drops the reader in each one--and I had a lot of trouble buying how Lillian got to Seattle and then to Alaska. Bloom also dives a bit in to the world of the soap opera dramatics, which did not appeal to me. I felt that a lot of what happens to Lillian just wasn't necessary and I would have rather that Bloom had used those pages for something else.

The other problem was Lillian herself. I just never felt any connection with or sympathy for her--which is strange because I can understand the desire to find your child, but it just didn't ring true for me with Lillian. I never felt that I was able to get into her enough to feel her compulsion to go on her trek to find her daughter. Instead, she seemed like such a survivor (and I don't mean that in an entirely positive sense) that I couldn't see her give up her comforts to return for a daughter she was told was dead.

It's a shame as I think that Bloom is a fantastic writer and this book sounded great, but it just didn't work for me.
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