Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. Review and GIVEAWAY!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Before there were blogs, there were journals. And in them we’d write as we really were, not as we wanted to appear. But there comes a day when journals outlive us. And with them, our secrets.

Summer vacation on Great Rock Island was supposed to be a restorative time for Kate, who’d lost her close friend Elizabeth in a sudden accident. But when she inherits a trunk of Elizabeth's journals, they reveal a woman far different than the cheerful wife and mother Kate thought she knew. 

The complicated portrait of Elizabeth—her troubled upbringing, and her route to marriage and motherhood—makes Kate question not just their friendship, but her own deepest beliefs about loyalty and honesty at a period of uncertainty in her own marriage. 

The more Kate reads, the more she learns the complicated truth of who Elizabeth really was, and rethinks her own choices as a wife, mother, and professional, and the legacy she herself would want to leave behind. When an unfamiliar man’s name appears in the pages, Kate realizes the extent of what she didn’t know about her friend, including where she was really going on the day she died. 

Set in the anxious summer after the September 11th attacks, this story of two women—their friendship, their marriages, private ambitions and fears—considers the aspects of ourselves we show and those we conceal, and the repercussions of our choices.

My thoughts: Every so often a book is written that strikes a cord and resonates deeply and on many levels. This is definitely one of them.

The two reviews I struggle with the most are of the books that move me and the books I really hated. The latter is difficult because I struggle to write something that negates an author's work. The former is difficult because I lack the words to articulate the emotions evoked. It is the culmination of adjectives, writing style, story, and subject matter that, disaggregated, is less than whole.

The protagonist can be Elizabeth or Kate. The truth is that the reader can identify so closely with both women that if she reflects enough on the ideas, the protagonist could be herself. As Kate reads the journals of her recently passed friend, she identifies with much of Elizabeth's emotions, insecurities, and unpredictability of the world around her. At the same time, the journals reflect a different woman than Kate knew. Elizabeth showed a persona she wanted to be known but the real Elizabeth was much more complicated, insecure, wounded, and uncertain. Kate finds that the better she knows Elizabeth through her journals, the more she is compelled to face her own insecurities and secrets. 

One of the things I loved about the book is the way Nichole develops the story. Rather than relying on a shocking and unbelievable story line, she methodically uses the environment to reflect just a piece of emotion without overkill. The contents of the journals are surprising to Kate but the true value is in the way Kate reviews those around her and rethinks the secrets she keeps. 

If I were to use this book for a book club (and it could be used in a book club without offense. One swear word. There's your spoiler. You won't get any more), I might want the members to reflect on the following questions:

1. When was the moment you realized your spouse kept secrets from you? Were they game changing secrets?

2. What secrets do you keep from your husband? What do you fear by keeping them? Write two scenarios of sharing your secrets; worst case and best case.

3. What do you see as your public persona? Why did you choose this one?

4. What is your private persona?

5. Reflecting over the above questions, is it because of lack of trust in others or lack of trust in yourself that you are not honest with the real you?

6. Is motherhood and couplehood all you thought it would be? 

7. Do you feel your life is well balanced right now? When have you felt like you were hanging off the proverbial cliff, debating whether or not to let go?

8. Do you believe in fate, coincidence, choice, or a little of all? 

I could continue in so many different directions but I'm going to make a choice to leave you hanging a little bit. The story is a subtle exploration of friendship, marriage, motherhood, career, and the unpredictabilities of life. It's one to savor rather than consume.

The publisher has kindly agreed to sponsor a giveaway! 1 copy for U.S. or Canada address. No P.O. boxes.

Nichole Bernier’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 4th:  Library of Clean Reads
Thursday, June 7th:  Knowing the Difference
Monday, June 11th:  Ashley Loves Books
Wednesday, June 13th:  Regular Rumination
Thursday, June 14th:  Great Imaginations
Monday, June 18th:  Luxury Reading
Wednesday, June 20th:  Colloquium
Thursday, June 21st:  Boarding in my Forties
Monday, June 25th:  Bibliosue
Wednesday, June 27th:  A Musing Reviews
Friday, June 29th:  Broken Teepee
Monday, July 2nd:  Girls Just Reading

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittmore and NOOK Giveaway

Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee. Everything changes when you’ve looked at the world through . . .


Brielle’s a ballerina who went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and the incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than Jake or Brielle has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices start.

A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive.

{More about Shannon}

Shannon is a wife and mother. A sister. A daughter. A friend. She was raised in Northern California by her parents—pastors of their local church and constant figures of inspiration.

As a youth, Shannon traveled with an award-winning performing arts team, excelling on stage and in the classroom. As a young adult, she attended Portland Bible College, continued acting, and worked with an outreach team targeting inner-city kids in the Portland-Metropolitan area.
It was in Portland that she met her husband, Matt. They were married in 2002. Soon after, they took the reins of the youth ministry at Living Way Community Church in Roseville, California where they continue to serve in that capacity. In October of 2004, their son Justus was born, followed by their daughter Jazlyn, born in 2008. Find out more at

Celebrate with Shannon by entering her "Angel Eyes" Giveaway and connecting with her during the Author Chat Party on 6/26!

One "angelic" winner will receive:
  • A Brand New Nook Color
  • A copy of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends at noon on June 25th. Winner will be announced at the "Angel Eyes" Author Chat Facebook Party on 6/26. Shannon will be hosting a book chat, testing your trivia skills and giving away some great prizes!
So grab your copy of Angel Eyes and join Shannon on the evening of the June 26th for a chance to meet Shannon and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 26th!

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You Book Tour

The setting of this book is two locations in England and then mostly the worst battles of WWI. The story begins with Nadine and her brother meeting the young Riley, the son of a working class couple contrasting with Nadine's higher class. Riley is adaptable and is taken in by a high class, artist, Sir Alfred, which provides the young couple access to one another throughout their late childhood. Romance begins to bloom when Riley makes a rash decision and enlists in the European conflict, regretting it mightily.

In a coastal village near Dover, beautiful Julia laments  her loneliness as her husband, Peter, who would not have been conscripted, has already left for war. Feeling useless, as she has been bred since birth to be nothing more than a beautiful wife, she obsesses with her appearance until Peter returns.

In Julia's home lives the plain looking Rose, Peter's cousin. Pitiable before the war, being unmarriageable, Rose finds herself useful and strong as she works in a nearby hospital with soldiers who are grotesquely mangled. To shock Julia, Rose allows a scene to play out where she explains, in detail, how Dr. Gillies, a brilliant surgeon, reconstructs faces that have been shot away, burned off, or otherwise mangled. Poor Julia listens in fascination and horror. 

Although many books are written on WWII, less on WWI, the book gives a snapshot of different aspects on this war. Technological advances in war machines, made this war particularly bloody and costly in lives of the soldiers since advances in protection had not kept up with destruction. Like WWII, the soldiers spent a lot of time in trenches. Unlike WWII, the common fighting for the Allies involved hand to hand combat. The deadliest days of the Battle of Somme are detailed with the effects of both Riley and Locke.

Meanwhile, in England, Nadine bucks tradition and fights her mother on becoming more proper. Knowing her love is in battle, she chooses to become a glorified nurses assistant at a hospital where she sees the soldiers after the initial patch-up. She is a beautiful soul who refuses to play by the pretty rules of pretending war is not happening. Riley's and Nadine's love and commitment develop beautifully and honestly. 

In contrast, Julia and Peter grow further and further from one another. The war affects all of the characters differently. Rose becomes more and more useful and connects with humanity better even through horrible disfiguring injuries in her hospital. One character tries to forget through brothels and alcohol. Another withdraws emotionally and wallows in self-pity after a horrible injury. Another character tries to reconnect by getting as close to death and gore and possible. A few characters try to maintain normalcy and social expectations from pre-war. It is the dawn of a new age and all are ill-prepared to return to "normal" after the war.

The writing style was difficult for me. I is often disjointed and two characters might respond to one another in one paragraph. Point of view changes as quickly as from one sentence to the other which threw me off at times. Additionally, colloquialisms for British English at this time period are employed and confused me. 

The book is, at times, difficult to read due to the strong correlation drawn between sex and war. Yet it is a fascinating tertiary affect of war. Be assured that the story does not wander into the occupied and/or conquered lands to rape and pillage. Intimacy becomes a problem, however. The language is strong and crass.

Regardless, I loved the story, once I muddled through and figured out the writing style. The book is a definite worthwhile read and the romantic in me was satisfied. It's no happily-ever-after but ultimately the way to deal successfully with the aftermath was a deep commitment to hope and love.

Tuesday, June 26th: A Musing Reviews
Wednesday, June 27th: Lit and Life
Thursday, June 28th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, July 3rd: Reading Lark
Wednesday, July 4th: Unabridged Chick
Thursday, July 5th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Monday, July 9th: Shall Write
Tuesday, July 10th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Wednesday, July 11th: My Bookshelf
Thursday, July 12th: “That’s Swell!”
Tuesday, July 17th: The Written World
Wednesday, July 18th: The Book Garden
Thursday, July 19th: Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, July 26th: A Bookish Affair

Monday, June 25, 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles Paperback GIVEAWAY

Rules of Civility: A NovelOn the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society—where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve. With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

Previous Review: Rules of Civility by Amor Towles is somewhat of a historical novel of the year 1938 except it's really the story of Kate Kontent and the different people she met, the choices she made, and the way her choices molded her for the next couple of decades. It seems a bit random yet I am very drawn to this story because of certain truths I gleaned from it. Here's what I liked:

Kate: Human, quick witted, well read, learns best by living although reading is an excellent past time. She bounces back and morphs into a person of interest because of the people and experiences of this year. On her own she is quite boring and tends to be a girl of opportunity. She takes some stands by the end, changes her mind and her ways and sees her own hypocrisy. She is complex and I so enjoyed the dialogue. For this I forgive her loose morals.

Eve: A completely unexpected character. Although completely beautiful and witty, she also comes from a background of means. She can always go home to her parents where there is wealth and opportunity to marry well and pop out babies. She chooses her own destiny and is not the opportunist I expected. She also taught the best truism of the book. As Kate is reading to her, Eve tells her to skip and begin on page 104, where the action really begins.

Extension of this concept is another scene at work where Kate is looking at snapshots of Bette Davis, knowing that whatever will be published will define her. This is what we really get when we meet people in our twenties or thirties; 103 pages have already been written that set up the background of who they are. We've skipped it so we don't get a complete picture. What we have is a snapshot and often make our judgments based on that defining moment. Erroneously.

Tinker: The one who changes the most and realizes the difference between being driven by wants and needs. His snapshot changes for the reader.

Wallace: The most genuine of the characters. Admirable and humble.

Anne: Never satiated, she is often the cause of conflict although not because she is untruthful. She is forthright and interesting.

This one is a solid 4 star book. It makes me think and I almost appreciated Hemingway. I read The Old Man and the Sea and found myself utterly depressed and despairing by the end. For all he suffered to catch that big fish, the sharks still ate it. Had I skipped the first 103 pages, I would not have been so bored nor would have suffered through his suffering. If Hemingway had skipped the first 103 pages he might not have met such a tragic end.

But perhaps that is the beauty of being Hemingway.

Thanks to an awesome publicist, I have two copies to offer for giveaway.
Paperback comes out June 26th (tomorrow).
Let's get this show on the road.
Contest ends July 10, 2012

The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

The Meryl Streep Movie ClubThe Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: In the bestselling tradition of The Friday Night Knitting Cluband The Jane Austen Book Club, three women find unexpected answers, happiness, and one another, using Meryl Streep’s movies as their inspiration.  Three estranged female relatives—two sisters and the cousin they grew up with after a tragedy—are summoned home to their aunt’s inn on the coast of Maine. Thirty-one-year-old Isabel Nash McNeal is reeling from her husband’s affair, but a secret pact she made years ago may keep her from the one thing she wants most. Twenty-eight-year-old single mother June Nash promised her young son she’ll finally track down his father, and her search will lead her where she least expects it. Their cousin, twenty-five-year old Kat Weller, rocked by her mother’s shocking announcement and the arrival of her cousins, accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal—then has her “yes” tested in ways she never imagined.      Every Friday night, Isabel, June, and Kat reluctantly get together to watch the films of their family matriarch’s favorite actress—Meryl Streep—and find themselves sharing secrets, talking long into the night, and questioning everything they thought they knew about one another, life, and love. Through surprising and heartfelt discussions of movies such as Out of AfricaThe Bridges of Madison County, and Mamma Mia, the three women unexpectedly discover who they really are and what they truly want

My thoughts: This book really surprised me. I like Meryl Streep. I don't love her but I find her acting compelling. But the book is really about four women, reuniting 15 years after a tragic accident, each going their separate ways, and finding meaning in a few of Streep's movies. They are each able to pull deep meaning out of the movies and each take is different and worthwhile.

The author provides some insight in that she has often found meaning in movies and applies life lessons to her own life. She picked Meryl Streep and concentrated on movies she has done and wrote them into the book, looking at them from different characters' perspectives.

The characters provide different personalities and depth to the story. This is not as light of a read as I had anticipated. No person is simple and single dimensional. Isabelle discovers her husband has been cheating on her. She also harbors a deep desire to have children, despite a childhood pact they made to never have them. Edward withdraws from her and falls in love with another woman. Isabelle returns to her teenage home of her aunt to lick her wounds. To me, she is the one who changes the most in a logical and beautiful way.

June had a two night stand and found herself pregnant. Now the single mother of a 7 year old son, she embarks on an adventure to find the father of her son. She finds what she is looking for and so much more and not in the way anticipated.

Kat was the least interesting to me. On the other hand, her needs were complex, too. She had the option to stay and marry Oliver, the boy next door and her best friend, or leave to study abroad. Even by the end of the book, there is no clear "right" answer. But the journey of discovering her own heart is a good one.

Lolly is the catalyst that brings them all together. Lolly announces she is terminally ill and the girls rally around her. Lolly is the one that took the sisters, Isabelle and June, in when their parents and Kat's father (Lolly's husband) were killed in an accident. But even Lolly has some of her past to forgive herself of.

Very well written, the story develops naturally and concludes beautifully.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Passion by Lauren Kate

Passion (Fallen, #3)Passion by Lauren Kate

My rating:2.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: Luce would die for Daniel.

And she has. Over and over again. Throughout time, Luce and Daniel have found each other, only to be painfully torn apart: Luce dead, Daniel left broken and alone. But perhaps it doesn’t need to be that way. . .

Luce is certain that something—or someone—in a past life can help her in her present one. So she begins the most important journey of this lifetime . . . going back eternities to witness firsthand her romances with Daniel . . . and finally unlock the key to making their love last.

Cam and the legions of angels and Outcasts are desperate to catch Luce, but none are as frantic as Daniel. He chases Luce through their shared pasts, terrified of what might happen if she rewrites history.

Because their romance for the ages could go up in flames . . . forever.

Sweeping across centuries, PASSION is the third novel in the unforgettably epic FALLEN series.

My thoughts: To be fair, I feel the need for disclosure. I didn't "read" this book but skimmed it. I read the first and last 100 pages and skimmed the betweens. This is the continuation of the story of Luce, the mortal that burns up whenever Daniel, the fallen angel kisses her but then shows up reincarnated in a different time period. It's a curse they bear for whatever reason. In this book, we find out what the reason is. And it's disappointing and unbelievable.

First off, Luce is inside an Announcer and time travelling so she can witness her demise over and over again. What she wants to know is why the curse and if Daniel really loves HER or is simply drawn to her because of the curse. Good reasons to time travel and Luce begins alone and meets interesting characters, and gains understanding of the history she and Daniel share. Mostly, I enjoyed this part even though I skimmed it. Daniel and Luce go WAAAYYY back.

In the meantime, Daniel is chasing Luce but also taking time to really look at the relationship(s) and placing them into perspective. Good introspection but I still didn't understand why Daniel was so compelled to Luce. Aside from that, the author writes each experience with colorful detail so the reader *almost* doesn't care WHY. But not quite.

So in the beginning is the curse, brought on at about the time the angels fell. And this is where the interest of the story lost me. I wanted to know the answers to Luce's questions but the answers were vague and weird.

This book felt like an afterthought to me. It seemed to be a failed bridge between books that could have been included in book 2 or 4. That said, the explanation for the curse and the fallen angels left me thinking, "That makes absolutely NO sense."

Read it for the story, not for the explanation.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Horseplay by Karma Wilson and Jim McMullan GIVEAWAY

  • Title: Horseplay!
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Little Brown & Co 2012-06-05 (2012)
  • Language: English
  • Buy it: Amazon

Those horses didn't sleep one bit.
They frolicked on the loose.

They joined in games like Hide-n-Seek,
Leapfrog, and Duck, Duck, Goose. 

"So this is why you snooze all day. I thougth I told you NO HORSEPLAY!"
When his stubborn horses insist on playing games all night instead of sleeping, one determined farmer wears himself out trying to change their habits. 

Told in clever rhyming verse throughout, Horseplay will engage parents and kids alike as they follow mischievous horses who just won't go to bed.

My thoughts: It is important for me to clarify who the real reviewer of this book is. It is not me. In fact, the reviewer of this book and all of the children's books is much more honest and critical than myself. He has no expectations of acceptable social mores or all the required graces to give a review that might not hurt someone's feelings. He's seven years old and just graduated from first grade.

Here's what he had to say:

That's right. Nothing. He was far too busy reading the book and looking at the pictures which are (in my opinion) fun and uncomplicated. At this stage of the game, children don't need complicated illustrations crowded with extra animals or extraneous objects. They want a book that tells the story in plain and easy language and illustrations that provide clues.

When the 7 year old boy has nothing to say while he is reading the book, that means he is understanding the story. 

And that is an unequivocal success.

And one for you!
You know the drill.
Fill out the form below.
I'll let you know via email if you won.
Publicist from publishing company will send you the book.
You do the happy dance.

I love playing Santa in the middle of a hot June day!

Friday, June 22, 2012

This Bright River GIVEAWAY

This Bright River: A Novel

Critics hailed Patrick Somerville’s first novel, The Cradle, as a “magical debut” (Chicago Sun-Times), one that “calmly, relentless pulls at the Gothic skein of family tragedies” (Washington Post), “a deeply gratifying modern fable” (The New York Times). With his new novel, Somerville more than makes good on that early promise, telling a powerful story about a young man trying to atone for past mistakes, and a young woman trying not to repeat her own.

Ben Hanson’s aimless life has bottomed out after a series of bad decisions, but a surprising offer from his father draws him home to Wisconsin. There, he finds his family fractured, still reeling from his cousin’s mysterious death a decade earlier.

Lauren Sheehan abandoned her career in medicine after a series of violent events abroad. Now she’s back in the safest place she knows - the same small Wisconsin town where she and Ben grew up - hiding from a world that has only brought her heartache.

As Lauren cautiously expands her horizons and Ben tries to unravel the mysteries of his family and himself, their paths intersect. Could each be exactly what the other needs?

A compelling family drama and a surprising love story, rich with the dark humor and piercing intelligence that made The Cradle so beloved, This Bright River confirms Somerville’s status as one of the most talented writers at work today.

Fill out the form below for a chance to win one of 3 copies!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu GIVEAWAY

Confused by two different covers? So am I. But I think this is the real hardcover copy.

Did you like the first book in the series?
Did you like my review?
Do you want to read the book?
Do you want to OWN the book?

Fill out the form below.
2 copies available.
Can't see the form? Click HERE.

The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

The Reckoning (The Taker, #2)The Reckoning by Alma Katsu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I turned to Luke and reached for him. My blood felt as though it had seized up in my veins.
“Lanny, what is it?” Luke asked.
I clutched his lapel desperately.
“It’s Adair. He’s free.”


He gave her immortality.
She tried to destroy him.
Now he is searching for her.
They must not meet.

Or there will be a RECKONING

My thoughts: Okay. So I was taken aback by "The Taker." It was so beautifully written and articulated but lacked 1) morals and 2) character likeability. To summarize The Taker; Lanore is born in the early 1800s. She loves Jonathon, a beautiful and shallow boy. They grow up in parallel lives but are friends. Jonathon sleeps around. Lanore finds herself pregnant. She is sent to Boston to have the baby in a convent. She runs away and finds herself in the company of Adair and his crew who happen to be not only immortal but into all things unholy and carnal. Sexual acts of the imagination ensue but not in detail. Also, Adair is incredibly sadistic. Punishment is also sexual in nature. Lanore becomes immortal. She returns to her village and gets Jonathon who is, at that moment, caught for sleeping with another man's wife. Jonathon becomes immortal. Lanore feels trapped by Adair and she is. She makes a plan and makes Jonathon carry it out with her, rendering Adair neutralized for the next two centuries. Jonathon is gone. Lanny is with a doctor who helped her escape. Adair awaits.

This is all important to understand for the second book which I went into prepared to love the writing style, never connect to the characters, but I really wanted to know what happens to Adair. The book opens with Lanny and Luke (the doctor) at a museum exhibit opening. Treasures were donated anonymously throughout the world by Lanny cleaning out her things. Suddenly, she feels a keening inside her head and knows immediately the cause. Adair is free.

In the first book, Adair was formidable. His life spans many, many centuries of growing in the art of alchemy. He is terrifying but never single dimensional. He follows his internal compass to the closest of his minions, Jude, and enters the twenty-first century.

The rest of the book is told by differing points of view. Lanny revisits some of her immortal siblings (Adair's creations) and makes some self-discoveries of her true nature. She doesn't like who she is when she sees herself in contrast to the others. They were all chosen for their ruthlessness, lack of conscience, and overall unlikeability. They had histories that were sordid and crimes that horrific. We get a glimpse of the history of many of them. Most are still vague except for her first stop, a man who wants immortality to stop. He is ready to die. He is so tired. And she continues on her journey to the old players from the first book, always trying to stay away from Adair.

Meanwhile, Adair is adjusting to this new world. He still holds a great deal of power within him and, with his old books, it seems he is even more powerful. He bides his time until he and Lanny meet by being controlling, hateful, vengeful, and trying to master patience until he can exact his revenge upon Lanny. We also get a brief history on Adair. He flashes back to other times in his life when becomes immortal, how he gains his current body, and some other noteworthy moments. Also, Adair finds himself despicable like Lanore finds herself the same. Weird as it is, Adair becomes the character I liked the most in this book. He discovers his buried humanity.

Again, the book is very well written. Violence is abundant but not detailed. It is not a young adult book, regardless of the cover. I liked it much better than "The Taker" but found the information from the first book to be crucial to the second. Developments in this book make the third book MUST READ. I will definitely read the third book.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gone: A Novel by Cathi Hanauer

Gone: A NovelGone: A Novel by Cathi Hanauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: From the editor of the New York Times bestselling essay anthology The Bitch in the House and the novel Sweet Ruincomes a compelling domestic drama about a woman who must hold her family together after her husband disappears.It is every woman’s nightmare—or fondest dream. Her husband leaves to drive the babysitter home and doesn’t return. Thus begins Gone, Cathi Hanauer’s sexy, tension-filled new novel.     For the past fourteen years, Eve Adams has worked part-time while raising her two children and emotionally supporting her sculptor husband, Eric, through his early fame and success. Now, at forty-two, she suddenly finds herself with a growing career of her own—even as Eric’s career sinks deeper into the slump it slipped into a few years ago.     After a dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate Eve’s success, Eric drives the babysitter home and, simply, doesn’t come back. Eve must now shift the family in possibly irreparable ways, forcing her to realize that competence in one area of life doesn’t always keep things from unraveling in another.     Gone is a novel about change and about redefining, in middle age, everything from one’s marriage to one’s career to one’s role as a best friend, parent, and spouse. It is a novel about passion and forgiveness and knowing when to let something go and when to fight to hold onto it; about learning to say goodbye—but, if you’re lucky, not forever.

My thoughts: Gone is the story of the evolution of marriage. The introduction to Eve and Eric begins with Eve, lamenting that Eric ran off with the babysitter. This could easily be a simple, textbook case of a midlife crisis and a man suffering marriage malaise. Instead, the author paints a much more complex and complete picture.

The story of Eve and Eric is told by both points of view. It is present tense as they muddle through the sudden and unplanned separation. Given, Eric's decision to drive away is sudden and impulsive. Again, this could be easily attributed to an artist's flighty temperament. But it is not. Eric ends up across the country, staying with his mother, trying to figure out where he is in life. What happened to make him a stranger and useless at home. Why he left Eve and the children like that. Slowly, Eric puts the pieces of his life together and realizes what he needs and some of how to attain it.

Eve is at home working as a dietitian and some of her cases are teaching her valuable and painful lessons about life and interconnectedness. She is learning how she shuts people out, how she avoids difficult situations, and how she misses what she had and took it for granted. A warning - the beginning is slow as Eve muddles through her cases.

The story is not action packed but deeply moving and I savored it. It is best appreciated by a middle aged person in a middle aged marriage. A parent of a teen or pre-adolescent will empathize well. Painfully well. It is moving and heart-wrenching. I wish I had this book years ago.

I think the best part of the book is realizing that marriages change throughout the years and both partners are responsible for adapting. You can never go back to have the same marriage. Marriage is about compromising for what you want most.

Safe Within: A Novel by Jean Reynolds Page

Safe Within: A NovelSafe Within: A Novel by Jean Reynolds Page

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary: A novel of how family happens—whether you like it or not
Elaine and Carson Forsyth have returned to the tree house—Elaine's childhood home, a cabin nestled high in the branches of two oaks beside a North Carolina lake—where forty-nine-year-old Carson has chosen to spend the waning days of his life. As Elaine prepares for a future without her beloved husband, their solace is interrupted. Carson's mother, Greta, has set loose a neighbor's herd of alpacas and landed herself in police custody. While Carson, remarkably, sees humor in the situation, Elaine can only question what her obligations are—and will be—to a woman who hasn't spoken to her in more than twenty years.

In the wake of Carson's death, Elaine and their grown son, Mick, are thrust into the maelstrom of Greta, the mother-in-law and grandmother who never accepted either of them. Just as they are trying to figure out their new roles in the family, Mick uncovers unexpected questions of his own. A long-ago teenage relationship with a local girl may have left him with more than just memories, and he must get to the bottom of Greta's surprising accusations that he's not Carson's son at all.

My thoughts: This is a savory kind of book. Although not long and wordy, the author sets the scene of complicated family relationships weighted down by the realities of life, the present and the past. Written in flowing prose, the book bounces between points of view and provides a more complete picture of the complexity of the individual, the relationships in differing schemes, and the town.

Elaine and Mick return with Carson, husband and father, who is dying of cancer, to the town where they began. As with any small town, rumors take on life of their own and rumors are the interest. Mick's paternity is called into question. Family is defined and redefined. Forgiveness is given and taken away. Throughout the book, Carson remains central and steadfastly like a compass. Even after he dies, he is very much the center of the book in a steady way.

Three generations are looking for peace. I love a nice, tidy ending where everything is wrapped up in a bow but I absolutely loved the open ended ending of this book. There is hope and possibility. Jean Reynolds Page is an artist on the written canvas.

Here are some more thoughts from people besides me:

Tuesday, June 12th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Wednesday, June 13th: Reading Lark
Thursday, June 14th: A Cozy Reader’s Corner
Monday, June 18th: Hospitable Pursuits
Tuesday, June 19th: Silver & Grace
Wednesday, June 20th: A Musing Reviews
Thursday, June 21st: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, June 25th: Bloggin’ ‘Bout Books
Tuesday, June 26th: Paperback Princess
Wednesday, June 27th: BookNAround
Thursday, June 28th: The Book Bag

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Wallflower in Bloom: A Novel by Claire Cook

Wallflower in Bloom: A NovelWallflower in Bloom: A Novel by Claire Cook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads: From the acclaimed bestselling author of Must Love Dogs comes a winning and witty new novel about a woman who emerges from the shadow of her overbearing family and finds herself “dancing with the stars.” Deirdre Griffin has a great life; it’s just not her own. She’s the around-the-clock personal assistant to her charismatic, high-maintenance, New Age guru brother, Tag. As the family wallflower, her only worth seems to be as gatekeeper to Tag at his New England seaside compound. Then Deirdre’s sometime boyfriend informs her that he is marrying another woman, who just happens to be having the baby he told Deirdre he never wanted. While drowning her sorrows in Tag’s expensive vodka, Deirdre decides to use his massive online following to get herself voted on as a last-minute Dancing with the Stars replacement. It’ll get her back in shape, mentally and physically. It might even get her a life of her own. Deirdre’s fifteen minutes of fame have begun. Irresistible and offbeat, Wallflower in Bloom is an original and deeply satisfying story of having the courage to take a leap into the spotlight, no matter where you land.

My thoughts: Why have I not read Claire Cook's books before? Why is she not be best friend?

The protagonist, Deirdre Griffin, has third child syndrome. She has a golden child oldest brother, a perfect and outgoing older sister, and the adorable little sister referred to and called throughout the book "Joanie Baloney." If a caboose child had been added to this family, I might have related a little bit better. Still, she has the third child syndrome down pat. She's overlooked, feelings get hurt, feels overshadowed by not only her rock star type brother but the other sibs, too. With a small breakdown, she makes a rash decision and finds herself Dancing With the Stars!

One complaint about the story - Deirdre does a dance turn in the hotel. Because she is allowing her inner dancer to shine! Cook ignored Murphy's law. When MY FRIEND was singing Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and dancing a groovy move, she did it while waiting for the elevator which opened when her back was turned. This resulted in MY FRIEND turning during a groovy move, seeing the shocked faces in the elevator, and moonwalking out of their eye sight. Nobody saw Deirdre pirouette. That's just sad.

Why I loved the book was the quirky but relatable family members, the relationships, the protagonist who is an epic third child, and the humor. I loved to read this one! I can't wait for the next Cook book!

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Girl Giant by Kristen Den Hartog

The Girl Giant: A NovelThe Girl Giant: A Novel by Kristen Den Hartog

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazon:  “Something good can come from even the most terrifying things. For eve y thing that is taken away, something else is given.”
Ruth Brennan is a giant, “a rare, organic blunder pressed into a dollhouse world,” as she calls herself. Growing up in a small town, where even an ordinary person can’t simply fade into the background, there is no hiding the fact that Ruth is different: she can see it in the eyes of everyone around her, even her own parents. James and Elspeth Brennan are emotionally at sea, struggling with the devastation wrought on their lives by World War II and with their unspoken terror that the daughter they love may, like so much else, one day be taken away from them. But fate works in strange ways, and Ruth finds that for all the things that go unsaid around her, she is nonetheless able to see deeply into the secret hearts of others—their past traumas, their present fears, and the people they might become, if only they have courage enough.

My thoughts: The story of Ruth offers an articulate and intriguing story of the time period directly following WWII. Ruth is an early baby boomer, born to a former Canadian soldier and a Britvish bride. Through Ruth's point of view, the reader understands the shame both parents carry with their secrets that divide them. We also experience childhood and puberty through the eyes of a girl vastly different from her peers and the shame of her status and stature.

The book is small, short and succinct. Easy to read but one I will probably forget.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

Beautiful RuinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads: The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 

“Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece.” —Richard Russo

“A ridiculously talented writer.” —New York Times

My thoughts: I am still digesting this book and knowing I am missing so many metaphors while still wondering about the beautiful ruins, although as I am typing this, the beautiful ruins are in every character, every location, and every described act. Although the language, and description are gorgeous, the stories of each protagonist compelling, I did not see the link so clearly until Shane gives his pitch for DONNER! That's when the connections began forming for me, although I now see the stories which eventually come to a perfect climax at the same point in time while the marginal stories are quickly summarized in endings that could have been any ending at all, the characters each mirror one another for their beautiful and hopeful lives turned quickly by decisions made. They also differ in perspective. While one character's decision alters his or her course indelibly and can be viewed as ruined, another perspective is that the character made the choice with good intentions with varied results. Yet each character has at least one moment of clarity regarding the need to change course to be more balanced with their ethics.

This is not to say that all characters carry the same ethical standards. In fact, some are very divergent from the norm.

I am still struggling with the understanding the true message of the book so I can offer very little insight. At the same time, I feel like I have travelled a good journey. I have been to parts of Italy I did not physically see whe I was there. I also was a first hand witness to the golden age of Hollywood where there were movie stars and not merely actors and actresses. But I was not a witness to this time period in real life. Elizabeth Taylor has always been a has-been with far too many ex-husbands and a regular drama queen. Well, that was true in 1962, as well.

I just truly enjoyed the richly painted canvas of word scenery imprinted on my mind. I somehow grew to care about each of the characters because they were succinctly developed and stayed true. Even the scene where Lugo shoots Pelle in the foot after intimidating a major character and Valeria, knowing Pelle is bad news, drops her veneer to wrap the foot - it was still consistent with Valeria's character and highly entertaining.

This is an adult book. Expect exceptionally strong language, some sex, a grade deal of alcohol and some drug abuse.

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*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.