A Piece of Cake: A Memoir by Cupcake Brown

“If you put God in your plans, you can make them as big as you want.”

cover to A Piece of Cake I've typed and retyped the beginning of this paragraph countless times in an attempt to word this tactfully, respectfully, even wittily when what I really want to say is, “Shut up and suck it up!” Do we really have that much to complain about?

In this book I met a woman who endured every conceivable horror but determinedly struggled her way to success. It took a long time. It took a lot of work. It took a strong faith that grew from small gestures of trust. With all the scapegoating and complaining that consumes the world, I was eager to finish this book and discover how this woman rose above the self-pity to make something of herself.

Between the covers of this book, I discovered the formula to success: Prayer and trust in God + determination and hard work = happiness living your dream. Who would have thought?

I'm embarrassed to admit that as the story progressed, my feelings changed from sympathy to frustration. Working in pharmacy for 13 years has hardened my tolerance of drug addicts. My lack of experience with addiction on a personal level allowed my professional hardships of dealing with the disease to remain at the forefront of my mind while reading this book. For a moment, I lost my compassion.

Before this book, I couldn't fathom how someone could return from the doorstep of death to accomplish more than most people with every advantage. You're allowed an open walk through this author's darkest moments and when she finally finds her light, you can't help but discover a little of your own. I take with me the lesson that when life hands you lemons, you can, when ready and willing, make lemonade.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

A murder mystery was just the break I needed after the intense love story I'd finished reading only days before. I'm partial to reading books set in the historic Deep South. I chalk it up to my desire to know the world during a time I still struggle to understand.

cover to Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter With a glance at the cover and synopsis, the book looked promising, but instead of a whodunnit, I got a who"duh"it. I'm not the girl who figures out what's going on before it happens. The endings tend to surprise me. So as I verged on congratulating myself for my Sherlockian sixth sense, it became apparent that this book was just simply written with a simple plot. That's all. I, unfortunately, retain my complete lack of foretelling.

I wouldn't consider myself bored while reading this book, but I didn't walk away with the urge to recommend it either. It was an okay read to pass the time. The book did leave me with one blaring, burning question, "Where was the suspense?" Tease me, please me, make me work for it. Don't just shove it down my throat. I like a little mystery in my mysteries.

The Next Queen of Heaven by Gregory Maguire

Every time I get a few chapters deep in a Gregory Maguire book I have the same thought, "What the heck did I get myself into?" But by the time I'm rounding the midway point of the story, I realize I've made yet another premature judgment. I think an explanation of my teetering opinions lie with the writing style of the author. The text tends to be a pinch of cryptic, a dash of dark with a splash of cynical. Although I enter each book with hesitation, I'm never disappointed with the ride.

cover to The Next Queen of Heaven The party mix of characters were as charming as they were oddly paired. A gay singing trio with a group of elder nuns? Neighboring Pentecostals with Catholics?

As with all groups of people with differences, you had the common stereotypical judgments, though these characters seemed to mesh despite themselves. Whether intentional or not, the showcase of camaraderie between these rare couplings strengthened my faith in brotherly love. We don't have to see eye to eye to walk side by side.

My single peeve with this book was the ending. I was thirty pages from the back cover and I struggled to figure out how it could possibly wrap up. The last pages held what was possibly the best part of the story but from there it takes a dip into confusion. There were two characters at the end, one was exactly where you expected them to be and the other was just an odd placement. I didn't really get it.

Despite Gregory Maguire's unconventional web of storytelling, it's well worth weathering his wacky world of wit for the pearl that awaits inside.