Tag Archives: book review

The Silver Star Gets A Gold Star From Me

I finished another book recently! I picked up Jeannette Walls’ book The Silver Star (though I was late to the game, as it was published nearly a year ago in June of 2013) because I’ve enjoyed her other books immensely. Despite the controversy that has surrounded The Glass Castle and the criticism it has received as potentially being a work of mostly fiction I frequently recommend it to people who come into the library looking for something different or entertaining. I enjoyed it and Half Broke Horses because they are just descriptive enough and have that unique element of balanced humor and seriousness.

Anyway, back to The Silver Star. The book takes place in the 1970s. Our narrator is 12 year old Bean (Jean) Holladay and the story centers mostly around her and her 15 year old half-sister Liz. At the beginning of the book the girls live with their easy come, easy go mother Charlotte Holladay, a singer/song-writer who conveniently abandons things that are tough or make her uncomfortable. Shortly into the story Charlotte does just that: she abandons the girls, promising to return after she’s had some solo time. When Charlotte hasn’t returned a few weeks later, the girls fear they’ll be found out and moved into foster care. Liz, always the problem-solver and definitely idolized by Bean, suggests they travel across the country to Byler, Virginia, where Uncle Tinsley still lives in the old Holladay mansion.

When the girls arrive in Byler things aren’t quite what they expected. They slowly, at first, form a relationship with Uncle Tinsley and then realize they’ll probably be staying in Byler for awhile. The girls make themselves at home, learning about the Holladay family’s history of owning the mill in Byler, meeting family, exploring, and going to the newly-integrated school. They decide to look for jobs and soon find it at a local family’s house, working for the mill’s foreman, Mr. Maddox. Though initially considered somewhat of an outcast, Bean embraces her new school and the friendships she makes there and with her father’s family. Liz, however, keeps her nose to the grindstone working for Mr. Maddox and begins withdrawing after being made fun of at school. Then something awful happens to her, and she becomes even more withdrawn, while Bean takes charge of the situation, at least as much as one can take charge.

The Silver Star is a coming of age story of two girls in a unique situation, in a classic southern town dealing with some classic issues and some unique ones. I absolutely adored some of the characters: Bean was, of course, my favorite, but Uncle Tinsley, Joe, Aunt Al, and Liz are all wonderful also. Bean’s innocent courage and curiosity remind me a lot of another famous literary character, Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird. Mr. Maddox also reminded me of a character from Harper Lee’s famous masterpiece, as did the atmosphere, storyline, and the storytelling. The Silver Star also many elements that were reminiscent of The Glass Castle, such as the abandonment, the strongman characters, the sibling relationships, and the coping skills, which isn’t surprising, consider they’re written by the same author.

I would probably give this book 4.5/5 stars; if I had just recently finished Jeannette Walls’ other books I might have been more disappointed, as I would definitely consider this book my least favorite (what a back-handed compliment). It was easy to read and possibly geared more toward young readers though it surely appeals to both a young adult and adult audience. While I wouldn’t say the book is fast-paced it does move along easily, but the first third of the book had some moments that were slow. The book has several miniature lessons and moments and characters that left me thinking. Though I didn’t like it as much as I liked either of Walls’ other books or To Kill A Mockingbird, it was a fantastic story that I may pick up again and have already suggested to others. I can’t wait to read more from Jeannette Walls, and am currently seeking a book that reads similarly.

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Inherit the Dead: a Decent Book for a Great Cause

About a month ago I was chilling at the desk at work when an older gentleman handed me an audiobook and said “My wife said this book was really good. I’d like to get the print version of it, if it’s in, so I can read it please.” I found it for him and told my long-time mentor/friend/coworker/first boss what the guy had said. We both decided to take the book home; she took home another copy of the book and I took the audiobook, since it’s pretty much the closest I can come to guaranteeing to finish a book these days. The book was Inherit the Dead, and on the cover it said “Twenty thrilling writers, one chilling mystery.” Normally I steer clear of books by multiple authors; I feel like these stories tend to be disjointed and just not very entertaining to me. I can’t stay interested, but then I typically struggle with adult mysteries anyway, unless they lean on the thriller/horror side of things. I ended up taking home and finishing and enjoying Inherit the Dead, however, much to my surprise.

Inherit the Dead, edited by Jonathan Santlofer, was crime writer Linda Fairchild’s idea. She endeavored to call attention to Safe Horizon through the combined talent of other crime/legal/mystery bestselling authors Mark Billingham, Lawrence Block, CJ Box, Ken Bruen, Alafair Burke, Stephen L. Carter, Mary Higgins Clark, Marcia Clark, Max Allan Collins, John Connolly, James Grady, Heather Graham, Bryan Gruley, Charlaine Harris, Val McDermid, SJ Rozan, Jonathan Santlofer, Dana Stabenow, Lisa Unger, and Sarah Weinman. In 1978 Safe Horizon was founded in New York to “provide support, prevent violence and promote justice for victims of crime and abuse, their families and communities.” The organization helps over 250,000 victims of crime every year and is the largest provider of services for victims of domestic violence in America. If the book is to support a cause like this I decided I had to read it and review it. And if you know me, you know a few things: (1) I don’t have much time to read, and therefore don’t do much of it these days, (2) I haven’t reviewed a book in a long, long time, but (3) I love reviewing books. So this has to mean something, right?

The book is about Perry (Pericles) Christo, former cop, current private investigator, and his newest case. Perry has been hired by the wealthy and well-known Julia Drusilla, whose adult daughter Angelina Loki is missing. But things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem at the surface. Angelina is about to inherit a fortune, but only if she is around to claim it on her birthday, and Julia doesn’t hide the fact that she and Angelina have had a bad relationship for awhile. Angelina’s father, Norman Loki, is a stoner, drunk, and former/non-practicing lawyer who lives large and isn’t much help, changing his demeanor and his claims like Jekyll and Hyde. Angelina’s boyfriends, a player mechanic and a politician hiding his relationship with Angelina, offer some insight and lead Perry to new information in his hunt for the missing girl, while Angelina’s debutante friend merely tries to seduce the private investigator. The book follows PI Perry back and forth from dreary Manhattan to the Hamptons as he tries to find out why Angel is missing and whether or not it’s by her own will. Eventually the story peaks and Perry -and the reader- find out what really happened.

What this novel has going for it is unfortunately also working against it. Each author adds his or her own flavor to the smorgasbord. Heather Graham’s chapter fittingly revolves around Angelina’s sultry seductress friend, while Charlaine Harris’s portion involves a humorous confrontation between Perry and another character that totally reminds me of Harris’s well-known Sookie Stackhouse character. Each author’s chapter is uniquely them, and while they managed to seamlessly move from chapter to chapter there are some characterizations that just don’t sit right with me. Norman Loki, for example, seems to be all over the place, and not really in a good way. The difference in descriptive language and pace is interesting and works for the story, though. Each author definitely had their time to shine and make the story their own; at times I wondered if the book was ever going to end… It probably could’ve been trimmed down a bit. It was fun looking forward to each new chapter, not necessarily due to any of the story’s suspense, but because I couldn’t wait to see how the next author would play off those previous.

Overall I enjoyed Inherit the Dead. I love multi-author books that have a cause, and the superstar writers do a decent job of making this books a good one. While I won’t read it again I will likely suggest it to many of the library customers that come in. I give this book 3.5/5 stars.