Saturday, April 26, 2008

"Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen," by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Catherine Grace Cline is the daughter of a preacher in Ringgold, Georgia, and is desperate to leave her small-town life. Every week she and her younger sister sit at the local Dairy Queen, eating dilly bars and plotting their escape. Catherine Grace resists the pull of marriage to a high school sweetheart and the wishes of her father to remain, and always whines about why God has forsaken her (her mother dies when Catherine Grace is young, so she is forced to do things like go to a mother-daughter tea party as a server. *gasp*).

She turns 18, moves to Atlanta. Dad and sister want her to come home for a visit, she's too busy, blah blah blah. Oh, no! Tragedy strikes! (More like lame, overused plot points.) CG goes home, more "Why, God, why?" moments, then there's a sort of miracle and suddenly "I guess God is a pretty good guy after all." Aw, shucks.

Pardon me while I throw up a little.

Now, I fully admit that I'm not a big fan of the Southern voice, not if it's all about daddy and people with three first names and Sunday picnics by the lake. Gag me. But I tried really hard to get past all of that. While there were some amusing parts, and there's definitely heart to the story, I just couldn't get into it. I should tell you that my co-worker loved it and probably thinks I'm too picky (does she not know all the vampire fiction I've read?). So, take it as you will. While I don't doubt finding salvation at a Dairy Queen (who but God could have created the deliciousness of ice cream?), this book just left me with the waxy taste of cone coating in my mouth.

2.5 stars

Friday, April 18, 2008

"Standing Still," by Kelly Simmons

Claire has three young daughters, a husband who spends most nights away on business, and a secret past that has left her with a panic disorder. On an evening when her husband Sam is gone, Claire hears glass breaking upstairs. When she reaches her oldest daughter's room, an intruder is standing with the girl in his arms. Claire offers herself in exchange and is unknowkingly caught up in scheme more complex than just a kidnapping for ransom.

For the next week, she is held captive in a hotel room with the kidnapper. Worried for the safety of her family, she waits for the ransom to be paid, all the while wondering if her past has caught up to her and if more danger lies ahead.

I could not put this novel down. The late-night reading left me with headaches the next day, but it was worth it. I look forward to more books by this brilliant author, who brought to life a story by switching between present-day scenes and snapshots of Claire's past. Expect to learn about the best and worst in humanity, and that sometimes you can find them both in one person.

5 stars

"The Next Thing on My List," by Jill Smolinski

June Parker takes mercy on fellow Weight Watcher Marissa, whom she sees teetering down a sidewalk on high-heeled shoes, and offers her a ride. A freak car accident leaves Marissa dead and leaves June wracked with guilt, especially after cleaning the blood off of Marissa's purse in order to return it to the girl's family and finding a slip of paper that details all the things she'd hoped to accomplish before her 25th birthday. After months of moping and depression (and being dumped by her boyfriend), June visits Marissa's grave on the six-month anniversary of her death. She meets Marissa's brother and mentions the list she'd found. Because he is angry that June hadn't returned the paper, she blurts out that she intends to finish Marissa's list.

With the deadline of Marissa's 25th birthday, June sets out on tasks great and small, such as see a sunrise, change someone's life, and "Make Buddy Fitch pay." She enlists the help of a friend and a few co-workers to help her make her goals.

The Next Thing on My List was a very quick read and packs an emotional punch. Sure, it has its moments of predictability. On the other hand, it's always nice to read something that isn't mainly about getting a guy and wondering why he hasn't called. This book also shows how one person can have an amazing amount of influence on others' lives. I suggested Smolinski's book to co-workers, and each one loved it. Librarian approved!

I wasn't completely with the ending, as the guy June ends up with kinda skeeves me out. Points docked for the ick-factor.

4 stars