Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Many years later, when Grace is living out her last days in a nursing home, she receives a visit from a young director who is making a film about events of that summer. The director takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories of the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege, of the vibrant twenties and of a stunning secret that Grace kept all her life.
(Summary from back of book, cover photo from amazon.com)
My Review: Grace Bradley's is currently living in a nursing home. She has began to realize that her life is coming to a close when one morning an unexpected visitor walks into her life. This visitor turns out to be a woman who is directing a film about Grace's past, the days when she was a maid working at the Riverton estate. Yet this is a story Grace is not anxious to relive as she has buried a secret there decades ago. Now she must make the choice to reveal it or let it die with her. And if she does reveal it to whom does she tell?
Kate Morton fills her novel with vivid descriptions, allowing the reader walk right into the 20's England downstairs servant hall, yet effortlessly march out to present day to spend time with an older, wiser Grace. There is no doubt that this author has done her research on early 20th century England and can write of it in an informative yet utterly captivating manner. To read this novel is to time travel. It's a little vacation that one doesn't wish to end.
Yet, like all good things, the story must come to a halt and a rather abrupt halt this was. I loved this story dearly. Yet the closing pages failed to quite meet my expectations. The author certainly gave an unpredictable and memorable close to her story, yet it felt slightly incomplete to me.
That being said this is still a book that I would highly, highly recommend. If you liked The Thirteenth Tale, you must not let this book pass you by. It you enjoyed A Countess Below Stairs, pick this novel up immediately. Or if you are just in need of a well written story with a bit of suspense and mystery, this is the book for you. It's a beautifully written novel that leaves me yearning for more of Morton's writings.
My Rating: 4.5 Stars
If I had to sum it up in one phrase: An unforgettable mystical journey that ended much too soon.
Monday, June 29, 2009
My Review: I would have to argue with the last sentence in the above summary. If you are like me and believe it would be great to own a successful home-based business yet have no ideas on what type of business you'd like to try, then this book probably is not for you. Or maybe it is, just don't expect it to give you any ideas on the type of business to start. If you already have a general idea of what you'd like to do, this is the first book I would turn to as it will give you a running start to starting your own business.
I have never enjoyed reading textbook material so I have to say that I somewhat dreaded opening this book. I was pleasantly surprised though as to how different this read from a textbook. Furman gives you a short and entertaining autobiography while laying out the steps to running a home-based business. He has a humorous writing style that makes it easy to keep reading. I was shocked to find myself actually enjoying my time inside the cover of this book.
I love how the book is divided up. Furman chose to organize his information into three main sections: mind, body, and soul. Within these sections are short (generally 3-5 page) chapters where the information is given to you in a very direct manner. The author not only uses his own experiences to prove his points but also draws on everyday life experiences that anyone can relate to. It all amounts to an interesting and educational book with no extra fluff or hard to decipher business jargon.
My Rating: 4 stars, I'd recommend it to anyone looking to start their own home-based business
If I had to sum it up in one phrase it would be: The first book I will turn to once a brilliant idea for a home-based business pops into my head.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most -- a child. It's said that money can't buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects. The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff's destruction his life's mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte's ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption...and love. Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.
Play Dirty is Sandra Brown's wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future -- his life -- hinges on one last play. (picture: Barnes and noble.com, summary: google)
Review: I have read many, many Sandra Brown novels. I love to pick them up when I need my "mind candy" fix. That being said I picked this book up and read it start to finish. It was a guilty pleasure, but I enjoyed every moment.
The novel is centered around the seven deadly sins. Although, I didn't realize that until the end, and I still don't know if it was the authors intention. It twists and turns around one man's deepest desire and fears, and another man's desperation and ambition. Locked in between is a woman on the edge of disgrace, determined to stand by a man she vowed to love and cherish forever, even when his obsession put her on the block.
Griff Burkett is released from federal prison after serving time for throwing a game for the mob. He is welcomed to the outside world by two people determined to turn his world upside down. If he says yes, a fortune awaits him. If he says no..........
Only when he allows himself to see into the very soul of the fragile woman, does he see what needs to be done.
It is a novel of unbelievable favors, inescapable fears and undeniable passion. Ms. Brown is successful in connecting you, almost immediately, to Laura Speakman and her compounding problems. As she becomes embedded in her husbands plots, you find yourself wondering what you would do in her situation........if the one man you had loved all your life suddenly became someone else entirely, becomes blinded by ambition.
Though far fetched in some senses, this book is entertaining and engaging. The writing is simple, but fits the story appropriately. I will always recommend Brown for a great ride, with twist and turns throughout. She is anything but predictable, and I can always count on her to add just the right amount of romance to keep me riveted.
My favorite part was sitting after I had finished the novel and realizing the connection with the seven deadly sins. It was great that I did not recognize that aspect until the conclusion of the novel.
(As a side note: there are some fairly graphic sex scenes, just so everyone is forewarned....)
My Rating: 4 stars - only because of the lack of depth and slightly far-fetched storyline.
Sum it Up: Another sexy, suspenseful tale from the master of what I like to call "chic-mystery".
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Once a month on Monday night, eight students gather in Lillian's restaurant for a cooking class. Among them is Claire, a young woman coming to terms with her new identity as a mother; Tom, a lawyer whose life has been overturned by loss; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer adapting to life in America; and Carl and Helen, a long-married couple whose union contains surprises the rest of the class would never suspect.
The students have come to learn the art behind Lillian's soulful dishes, but it soon becomes clear that each seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen. One by one they are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of what they create, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflection on the sweet fragility of love, and a garlic and red sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Over time, the paths of the students mingle and intertwine and the essence of Lillian's cooking expands beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of their lives, with results that are often unexpected, and always delicious. (summary from the book jacket -- photo from www.bookclubcookbook.com )
My review: I adore Food Lit. I simply cannot resist diving into a mountain of words and descriptions that make my mouth water. Nothing in this world inspires me to cook (or rather more likely, eat) like a food book well-written and I have truly feasted the last couple of days.
The School of Essential Ingredients is an exquisite blend of short stories surrounding an unusual cooking class and its participants. I was immediately drawn in by the dazzling combination of almost-recipes, tantalizing aromas, and flavors that infused the pages of this book. Each chapter tells the story of a different student, offering a brief glimpse into their lives and the effect the cooking class has had on them. I actually wanted to linger, taking small bites of the story instead of just devouring it in one big gulp. So I read, savored, till the pages seemed drenched with the smell of garlic and oregano, and I found, at the very end that I still wasn’t ready to leave. I was full, but wanted even more.
For you foodies out there I’ll give you a little heads up, this book has no recipes (not written down anyway) but I found, as it wove its way along that I didn’t care in the slightest. One of the messages of this book was how food can be such an integral part of the human experience and how we should revel in it and listen to what it tells us about ourselves. I adored every inch of it and highly recommend it as a source of inspiration if you are ever lacking in imagination or motivation in the kitchen.
If you'd like, you can read an excerpt here.
My rating: 5 Stars. I could eat this book—I mean, full on consume it.
For the sensitive reader, there were some brief moments of sensuality, but nothing graphic.
Sum it up: An intensely delicious feast. Be sure to dine slowly.
Friday, June 26, 2009
We the Sisterhood, hereby instate the following rules to govern the use of the Traveling Pants:
1. You must never wash the Pants.
2. You must never double-cuff the Pants. It's tacky. There will never be a time when this will not be tacky.
3. You must never say the word "phat" while wearing the Pants. You must also never think "I am fat" while wearing the Pants.
4. You must never let a boy take off the Pants (although you may take them off yourself in his presence).
5. You must not pick your nose while wearing the Pants. You may, however, scratch casually at your nostril while really kind of picking.
6. Upon our reunion, you must follow the proper procedures for documenting your time in the Pants.
7. You must write to your Sisters throughout the summer, no matter how much fun you are having without them.
8. You must pass the Pants along to your Sisters according to the specifications set down by the Sisterhood. Failure to comply will result in a severe spanking upon our reunion.
9. You must not wear the Pants with a tucked-in shirt and belt. See rule #2.
10. Remember: Pants = love. Love your pals. Love yourself. (Summary from back of book. Image from amazon.com.)
My Review: The author does a good job of putting 4 very different girls (and mothers) together in a realistic way. Mothers do create a bond while pregnant together for the first time, going through child birth classes, and postpartum. And it's also realistic for the mothers to grow apart with time. The uniqueness of this story is how the girls stay close over time despite their differences and as their mothers growing apart.
An aspect to this book I really like is how the characters are developed. There are 4 girls: Carmen, Tibby, Lena, and Bridget. Truthfully, Carmen's character annoyed me thoroughly throughout the entire story. But this is what makes the story believable. You like people even if they annoy you. Bridget is a poster child for confident, athletic jocks. Lena is your typical shy beauty, endearing in her obliviousness to her affect on others. Carmen is a loud-mouthed leader who doesn't know how to control her emotions. Tibby is your quirky, late-bloomer who strives to think independently.
The book jumps between characters as they experience their first summer away from each other, linking them together with letters written to each other and the passing of the Pants.
Bridget's story takes her to the sunny Baja peninsula for a soccer camp. She, within the first couple chapters, makes a rash decision and loses her virginity to a soccer instructor she seduces. (I'm being very blunt about this because I want mothers out there to know the subject matter--the movie brushes over this almost hiding what really happens in the book. I've had friends say they didn't know that happened based on the movie.) What I really liked about this part of the book was her recoil into herself from the experience. She realizes she was not ready for such an adult decision. She feels like she doesn't know who she is anymore and changes drastically. I see this happen every year with my students. Sometimes I wonder if the girls had read this book would they have thought twice before giving up something so special so readily. It makes you think. A good book makes you do that.
Carmen's story takes her to visit her dad--her parents are divorced. Upon arriving she learns her father is engaged again. She was under the assumption going into the visit that it would be a one-on-one visit with her dad. I mentioned I found her annoying. My reason was her immaturity and outrageous reactions. Again, this is very real. Sometimes we don't know why we're reacting the way we are: we just know we're emotional and things aren't the way we wanted them. This is Carmen's mantra almost to the end. I liked how the author channeled this painfully awkward emotional growth. Very real. It's good to see ourselves in others, hopefully allowing us to change and grow beyond these types of selfish reactions.
Lena's story takes her to Greece, visiting her grandparents with her sister. Being a quiet beauty interested in capturing the majestic beauty of Greece on canvas, Lena wants and manages to keep to herself. That is, until she meets Kostos. He throws her into a self-contradictory spiral. An unexpected and very revealing meeting creates the perfect barrier between the two in Lena's mind. An aspect brought up from this event is America's prudish view of naked bodies, as opposed to the European view of the human form. While I have to say I fall right in that American category, it brings to the readers attention that not all people think the same way. Lena's tortured social life outside of the Sisterhood is very real. She knows how to act around those who know her, but around those who don't she is mysterious and confusing to say the least. The author does a great job of depicting a shy, insecure beauty (from my opinion having had a friend just like her).
Tibby's story keeps her right there in their home town, being left behind. We've all been there, and it's not fun. Tibby's reaction is relatable--no one likes being the one left behind. She starts the story angry and lonely. She eventually makes an unexpected friend: Bailey. Bailey won't leave her alone, basically leeching onto her while she worked at the local store. While at first Tibby is annoyed, she learns to appreciate and eventually adore Bailey. It isn't until she realizes Bailey is terminally ill that she clings to the friendship. Despite the outcome being expected, you can't help but grieve with Tibby as she realizes she almost prevented their friendship. The strength portrayed by Bailey making her wise beyond her years teaches Tibby and the reader many lessons.
While this book is definitely written at a Young Adult reading level, there are many lessons and issues that reach beyond the Young Adult realm. You feel as though you're part of the Sisterhood, a very comforting experience for a teen. I would read this with my daughter so that I could talk with her about the growing pains each of the girls go through when I felt she was ready.
My Rating: 4 Stars, probably the best of the 4 books.
If I had to sum it up in one phrase: An endearing story of friendship and teenage maturation.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
My Review: This is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who fought for his county in the World War II only to become a prisoner of war, which he escaped due to the bombing of Dresden. Once he arrives back he tries to live a normal life, marrying, having a child and becoming an optometrist but the war still haunts him on a deeper level. After the loss of his wife he starts believing that he has been abducted by aliens, clever aliens who live a life much simpler than our own American ones and are able to teach him some very simple yet important lessons.
This was a very easy read for a classic book. One that I flew through and only once closing the book was I able to ponder on all the subtle morals Vonnegut wove into these few pages. I would say that this novel centered around freewill. The aliens on Tralfamadore lived a life where they could see it all - the beginning, middle and end. They could see their mistakes, yet lacked freewill thus they could not change them. Therefore the serenity prayer comes into play throughout the novel...change the things we can, accept the things we can not and pocess the ability to know the difference.
Like most satires this novel lightly touches on many important lessons throughout the story, using humor to cover some of the most painful parts. For instance, the author uses the phrase "so it goes" after every death from cow to person to glass of water. He mentions death in this casual manner because, unfortunately, this is it how death relates to war. Using this same light writing style, Vonnegut also touches on the issues of peace, poverty, the American press and fate in general.
Overall I would say that this was a very thought-provoking read, more so even after closing the cover. I can see exactly why it is considered a classic. I feel the need to read it again and highly recommend it to all.
My Rating: 4 Stars
If I had to sum it up in one phrase: A classic that must be read, then pondered, and then read again.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Writing for the Web offers sound principles of writing persuasive copy and presenting it in an appealing format so that visitors to your website will read what you've written and act on what they've read. Both new and professional web writers will benefit from the commonsense advice and tips in this book.
Whether you are creating an online portfolio, developing your company's website, or starting a blog, Writing for the Web shows you how to hook readers and keep them coming back. The book also has its own blog with complementary content. (picture from self-counselpress.com - summary from back of book)
My review: When I saw Writing for the Web, the first thing that stood out for me was it's size--a completely unintimidating 178 pages. Even though the content wasn't, say, as exciting as a NYT Bestseller, it was something that I looked at and thought...yeah, okay, I can read that. I knew it wouldn't become a doorstop.
This book is organized and easy to understand. It is the perfect book for someone with little web training who is trying to set up or reconfigure their website or blog. The author is very patient in explaining basic web writing concepts and terms to someone who is new to the weblog universe.
The parts that I found most interesting were:
- The background information on the evolution of the Internet and web writing.
- How we search for information on the Internet versus the printed page
- How different people search the Internet.
- How to lay out a web page or blog in a way that is easy to read and pleasing to look at.
- How to set up a site or blog based on what type of audience you are targeting.
- How to use correct grammar, and appropriate word usage (which, heaven knows, I need).
My rating: 4 Stars. I probably wouldn't die for this book, but it was worth the read.
Sum this book up in one phrase: Web Writing 101 - a good start.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
My Review: When this was announced as the next book club read the unanimous response was a pained "ungh". Apparently none of us were in the mood to have our hearts mercilessly flagellated. The upcoming host assured us that the book was non-fiction, a memoir, and we were therefore unlikely to find steamy, rain drenched love scenes or heroic sacrifices of the stoic, yet handsome, male lead. On this condition we agreed to read it.
The story of the author's childhood was interwoven with that of the present day trip he took with his brother. Comparing the two I thought the childhood story was much more interesting and I found myself waiting anxiously for the "scene" to cut from present day to the past. The author's childhood is perfect for examining "good parenting verses bad parenting" and also for discussing what the measurement of a good parent is. Despite certain "bad parent" tendencies his parents had, often a bi-product of their very depressed financial situation, the author and his siblings grew to be well-adjusted contributors to society. Many of the characteristics they developed that helped them reach successful adulthood where developed as a result of the "bad-parenting" moments. Perhaps the children's success was a result of the balance between good and bad decisions of the parents. Perhaps there is hope for us all.
Also interesting to me were the short excerpts about the brother's wives and families. Partially this was because I wondered "what did their wives think of them taking off for three weeks to travel the globe (leaving them home with the kids)?" I was also impressed by the efforts the author and his wife take to overcome a severe learning/social disability that one of their (five) children has. This adds depth to the author's character and demonstrates how traits developed in his childhood really came into play as an adult.
Now, as for the present day descriptions of the trip he took. This is were I ran into some problems. First, I didn't have to imagine the tour group he was in (80+ people) because I saw them, or at least their type, all too often when I lived (briefly) in Rome (and of course thought myself better than the "tourists"). Loud, ignorantly rude, and like the author, oblivious to the disruption they were causing. These groups traipse through ancient landscapes looking for the next funny photo-op and the author proudly describes how he and his brother did just that.
Second, while the retelling of the childhood memories rang true, in the modern day story there were certain conversations between the author and his brother that I suspected had been doctored to move the story along. In my opinion this is a perfectly valid tool to use, as long as I don't recognize it. If I do then I once again feel manipulated by saccharine, jolty dialogue and moments that call for a crescendo of orchastra music. To put it bluntly, there were some conversations that I just don't believe two men, even very close brothers, would have.
This book proves my point about manipulative fiction, verses as-life-happens non-fiction. The story of the authors life, as told in this book, has multiple heartbreaking events, but their veracity allowed me to mourn with the author, rather than turn away, wounded, by words selected solely to make me cry.
My rating: 3.9 stars
In one sentence: Deep, but not too deep. Emotional, but not too emotional.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
My Review: This has to be my all time favorite Read Aloud book for my middle school students. It doesn't matter if they're 6th graders or 8th graders: I have not had one class that didn't beg me to read more.
Harris isn't the main character, although with all his hair-brained ideas you might think he was. Harris is the main character's cousin. You never hear the main characters name throughout the entire book. Because of this it can sometimes make explaining the story difficult.
The book draws you in immediately. The main character explains the predicament he's in: forced to stay with random relatives all around the country because his parents are 'puke drunks.' Typically this perks up my students' ears because they're not used to hearing teachers talk about dysfunctional households. His cousin Harris starts weaving his web of control--as much as any 9 year old can manage--by insisting that the main character sleep in one bed until Harris arbitrarily decides to switch. (Here I usually point out to my students that it's not typical to switch beds...unless...maybe...you wet the bed?) There are lots of subtle moments like this that I enjoy discussing with my students and relating to their own lives.
Classic 'boy' moments abound. They get into all kinds of trouble. Some of my favorite parts include the blown-up frog (don't worry, this is in the first chapter of the book), anything to do with the horses the size of dinosaurs, and the electric wire fence. I won't ruin these events by telling you too much because the book is too enjoyable to spoil. If you've had a brother, known a young boy, or simply babysat a wild child of any gender, this book will remind you of their simple curiosity and insatiably fun spirit.
There are a few parts that can be hard to sift through. I don't know much about farm equipment and at times the descriptions of these machines go on too long. I almost lose my students in these sections, but thankfully it picks up quickly once the explanation is finished.
Another aspect that may be of concern to some parents is the use of cigarettes and some swearing. The main character does try to smoke one once when Harris asks him if he wants one. The nice part is his reaction--puking and realizing how gross it is. I try to remind kids of the time period in which the book is set--1950's. Smoking then wasn't viewed the same way it is today--unhealthy. The swearing I will honestly admit to not reading aloud. I replace the words with school acceptable language. I tell the kids it's in there, but if they want to read it, they will have to get the book for themselves.
That also brings me to another benefit of Harris and Me. It helps teach history. There are parts where the Second World War is talked about. I get to explain a little about farm living, how research has shown smoking to be unhealthy despite years of people thinking the opposite, how cars used to be fixed and re-fixed for years because people couldn't afford to buy a new one simply because the one they had wore out, etc.
Another aspect I favor is the transportation back in time. It feels like the book slows time. You're able to go back to the days when parents expected kids to play outside unattended all day long. Kids were allowed to experiment, even if it means breaking things once in a while, without serious punishment (not with drugs or alcohol: please don't be confused by the message of the book or what I'm trying to portray here). Strong family values, regular sit down--and together--meals are shared. Life, back when we didn't have all the technology we have today, was as simple and enjoyable as enjoying a fresh pie baked outside under a large oak tree. This book revives all that.
My Rating: 5+ Stars
If I had to sum this book up in one phrase: Laugh out loud funny. Total and utter fun with lots of teachable moments thrown in.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Whether you have just stepped into the world of graphic design or you are part of an existing venture, this book details everything you need to know to start and run you own successful graphic design business--from understanding the particulars of the field and establishing your niche, to getting clients and actually doing the work. It is a step by step guide that unleashes the secret to success: being creative with a business mind-set.
In recent years, advances in technology and the prevalence of the Internet have significantly changed the graphic design business. Photo- and art-sharing sites, social networking sites, and low barriers to setting p websites have heightened the demand for fresh graphics. Opportunities in this field are booming, with new customers and markets at your fingertips.
Start and Run a Graphic Design Business will show you how to get those opportunities into the palm of your hand, by giving you the tools you need to develop a thriving and sustainable graphic design venture, regardless of your previous business experience(photo:amazon, summary:back of book).
My Review: Before I review this book, I feel like I need to say that I have no plans to open a graphic design business. However, it is something that interests me and if I did decide to pursue that venue, this is the book I would turn to.
I first thought that this type of text book reading would be difficult. I found, however, that it was quite engaging, making you think about how you would do things and how other people would view your business from the outside.
It is very well organized, taking you from the beginning phases and development of an idea, into the sustainment and continued marketing techniques that are most effective for your area and target market. I found those points especially easy to understand and assess even in the very preliminary stages of business planning.
Again, I have no big plans for a graphic design business, but I am intrigued by the diversity of thoughts and concepts that this book was able to present in an easy to understand step by step format.
My Rating: 4 Stars
If I had to sum this book up in one phrase: Top notch educational writing.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Now he has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter's defeat of You-Know-Who was Black's downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard Black muttering in his sleep, "He's at Hogwarts...he's at Hogwarts."
Harry Potter isn't safe, not even within the walls of his magical school, surrounded by his friends. Because on top of it all, there may well be a traitor in their midst.
My review: The third book in the Harry Potter Series was, as usual, a really great read, but I didn't like it as much as the first two. The main characters seemed to be fighting amongst themselves quite a lot which pulled away from the playful camaraderie that had been built over the last few books. While some of the trademark HP humor was still there, the fighting was distracting for me and I missed some of the amazing one-liners that packed her other two books. All the upset, however, was pivotal to the plotline, and so I have to just chalk my disgruntlement (yes, I believe I just made that word up) up to my personal tastes. The story was still well written with a multitude of unforseen twists and crazy tense moments--enough that (since I was reading out loud) I found myself actually shouting the lines...and making a bit of a hoarse idiot out of myself. Of all the books, so far, this one had the most jaw-dropping surprises hands down. If you're reading this book for the first time, you'll be amazed, in the end, at how all the different plotlines, character struggles, and hints that you've been given throughout the book come together in a way that is completely unexpected. All in all, I felt this was still a fabulously unpredictable read made ever so slightly less enjoyable by some tension between the characters.
My rating: 4.25 Stars. Cuz I can. I'd say the material is getting a little older. There is more angst and anger in this one, along with scary moments, and a few situations where languange almost becomes an issue. Like calling someone a rotting b...and then getting interrupted. Still a total PG, but inching away...
Sum it up in one phrase: They're getting hormonal and starting to fight. I guess it's to be expected.
Friday, June 12, 2009
"'Wild Bill' and 'Babe.' Even their names beg the telling of their tale, like great ball players from the 1920's, or legendary lawmen--or outlaws--of the Old West." (photo from Amazon.com. Summary from back of the book.)
My Review: This is the fourth book relating to the Band of Brothers I've read. My husband is an enthusiast and friends with Don Malarky, a paratrooper mentioned in this book. He forewarned me that this book was more graphic than the other three I'd read. I was therefore prepared for the difference between this book and the others.
If you know the story of the Band of Brothers, the storyline follows a familiar route. The main difference I found is Robyn Post (the writer) basically used dictated conversations from the two men to make the entire book. It is conversational, which makes it easy to read. But I'd almost say it is too conversational because at times it is harder to read with thoughts left unexplained or too vague. The two main characters, Wild Bill and Babe, are both from South Philly and speak with a strong dialect that Robyn Post allows the reader to experience firsthand. A positive aspect to this is you feel transported back in time to when people said things like, "foist," instead of first and, "why, soitainly!" instead of certainly. The main characters endear themselves quickly to the reader simply by their strong and unique personalities.
Wild Bill, name given by friends and rightly so, is frank and open about what really happened during the war. He doesn't spare himself, nor anyone else, the truth of what happened. There are vivid descriptions of the horrific nature of war (body parts hanging from trees and brains in a stream) and his own promiscuous behavior with the many 'Broads' he charmed. But he also evokes from those who knew him, whether from personal acquaintance or from reading this book, an intense awe at his concern and care of those around him. He held together his unit, kept men as safe as war allows, and continued to keep his men together after the war. His optimism in all situations, whether saving a fellow soldier or lying wounded and bleeding in the snow, is heroic; it kept other soldiers upbeat. He had a way of making all those with him happier and safer.
Babe endears himself differently. Not quite as flamboyant, nor flashy, Babe is constant, loyal, and true. He and Bill, in some ways, are unlikely friends--Babe was raised a strict Catholic. Babe also didn't want leadership. Bill came across leadership naturally despite his desire to not have it. Babe was the great supporting role.
My favorite aspect to the book is the way it portrays the deep, lasting friendships made during the war in this unique group of soldiers. They have a bond unlike any I've ever known. It's something to admire and hard to comprehend.
If you're interested in a new perspective on the Band of Brothers, one that gives a very real, honest confessional of how many were killed and by whom, give this book a shot. These two best friends are hilarious; they chide each other constantly. I appreciated the honesty and felt this book portrayed the war accurately. Having read a victim's perspective I felt this book gave the reader a less glamorized version of war. (Not that the other books by the Band of Brothers soldiers glamorize war. They are just more guarded about what is shared, therefore inadvertently making the war seem less grotesque to the reader.)
My Rating: 4 Stars
If I had to sum the book up in one phrase: A moving story about war, friendship, sacrifice and change.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Summary:At the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind, Grandpa Herman makes the rules for everyone, and everyone obeys, or else. But even in this isolated community where it seems nearly everything is forbidden, temptation occasionally touches the congregation . . . and for Ninah, temptation comes in the form of her prayer partner, James. Ninah is determined not to sin with James---so determined that she's willing to fill her shoes with shells to keep her mind on Jesus' pain.
Nevertheless, she soon finds herself pregnant. She fears the wrath of Grandpa Herman, the church members, and God Himself. But the events that follow show Ninah that God's was are more mysterious than even Grandpa Herman can understand... (photo from Barnes and Noble. Summary from back of novel)
My Review: Picked for Oprah book club in April of 1997, The Rapture of Canaan is a well written, well told and well liked story of religion, family, love, and the coming of age of one very tenacious girl.
Ninah is only 14 when she feels sexual stirrings for her prayer partner, James. He is a young boy just coming into manhood, and he just happens to be Ninah's nephew, older by one year.
Pregnant and alone with her thoughts of doubt and disbelief, Ninah turns to her Nanna and finds an unexpected camaraderie and a deep bond that seems to hold them up as everything else comes crashing down.
Condemned for fornication, Ninah waits the birth of her child with mixed feelings, part apprehension, part undeniable love. She knows that this child in her womb will rock the tight knit church community to it's core, leaving no member untouched.
After finishing this novel I had to sit and think. That is truly exceptional to me, when a book makes you think, makes you question yourself and the way you think. That is not to say that I agree with much of anything in this book, but it did open my eyes to the young kids in communities such as Fire and Brimstone, that must live and breathe the teachings, only because it is the only thing they have ever known.
I loved the main character, and in a way I felt myself understanding her fears and longings. She is scared of Grandpa Herman, yet longs to voice her opinion. She is confused by rules in the church(for instance: lying in a grave for a night as punishment for drinking alcohol), and why Grandpa seems to have supreme power over all of the congregation.
There are to many twist and turns in this novel that deserve attention, I cannot mention them all. It is a good read with great potential for a book club like discussion. However, I do not think that the content is going to please everyone, it made my stomach lurch many times and I am sure that although I liked it enough, I will not read it again. I give it the rating I do only because it is thought provoking and extremely well written.
My Rating: 4 stars
If I had to sum up the book in one phrase: A great addition to Reynolds collection, though not her best work.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Narrated by Aaron's son, Mac, When Madeline Was Young chronicles the Maciver family through the decades, from Mac's childhood growing up with Madeline and his cousin Buddy in Wisconsin through the Vietnam War, through Mac's years as a husband with children of his own, and through Buddy's involvement with the subsequent Gulf Wars. Jane Hamilton, with her usual humor and keen observations of human relationships, deftly explores the Macivers' unusual situation and examines notions of childhood (through Mac's and Buddy's actual youth as well as Madeline's infantilization) and rivalry between Mac's and Buddy's families that spans decades and various wars. She captures the pleasures and frustrations of marriage and family, and she exposes the role that past relationships, rivalries, and regrets inevitably play in the lives of adults. (Cover Photo from Barnes & Noble.com, Summary from book jacket)
My Review: When I first read the summary I found the plot line intriguing. Growing up with your father's ex-wife as your sister, that's fairly unique, right? And it was except that wasn't really what the story focused on. This read more like the diary of the younger brother, Mac, except it included way too much detail, especially in the dialogue, to be even a believable diary account.
Mac's parents were always honest with him and his sister about Madeline's identity, showing them photos of her as their father's bride and recounting her tragic accident. In fact they were honest to the point that Mac felt nothing was odd about his upbringing until his cousin, Buddy, made some inappropriate comments about Madeline, leaving Mac to question his upbringing. The story continues with more of an emphasize on Buddy and Mac's relationship, while leaving Madeline's life as just a side story. The parts about Madeline were interesting to me but the parts about Buddy were rather dull. I also found that the story took a political, anti-Vietnam turn which was fairly distracting and not at all what I would have expected.
Hamilton has a unique writing style. It's one that takes a few chapters to get used to before things start flowing smoothly. I enjoyed her writing very much in Map of the World. Years after reading it I am still thinking about that novel, where as I am certain this story will soon be forgotten to me.
My Rating: 2 Stars
If I had to sum this book up in one sentence: A story that disappoints as it veers from an intriguing plot line into a dull novel.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
All Around The Town - Mary Higgins Clark
Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs
The Host - Stephenie Meyer (RFS Review)
The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency - Alexander McCall Smith
Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
Beyond Band of Brothers - Mj. Dick Winters
Call of Duty: My Life Before, During, and After The Band Of Brothers - Lt. Buck Compton
A Child Called It - Dave Pelzer
Easy Company Soldier - Don Malarkey
Freakonomics - Steven D. Levitt
Tuesdays With Morrie - Mitch Albom
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The House Of Mirth - Edith Wharton
The Importance of Being Ernest - Oscar Wilde
Much Ado About Nothing - William Shakespeare
Night - Elie Wiesel
Twelfth Night - William Shakespeare
Wives and Daughters - Elizabeth Gaskell
Young Adult Fiction
Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer (RFS Review)
Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
Letters From Rifka - Karen Hesse
The Messenger - Lois Lowry
Northern Light - Jennifer Donnelly
The Outsiders - S.E. Hinton
The Princess Bride - William Goldman
A Rose For Emily - William Faulkner
Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants Series - Ann Brashares
Thunder Cave - Roland Smith
Twilight - Stephenie Meyer (RFS Review)
Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld
The Witches - Roald Dahl
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
A Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Number The Stars - Lois Lowry
The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
Tuck Everlasting - Natalie Babbit
Al Capone Does My Shirts - Gennifer Choldenko
Fablehaven - Brandon Mull
Harris And Me - Gary Paulsen
How Angel Peterson Got His Name - Gary Paulsen
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis
Matilda - Roald Dahl
Our Only May Amelia - Jennifer Holm
Politically Correct Bedtime Stories - James Finn Garner
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Summary:A compelling emotional mystery in the timeless vein of Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, about family secrets and the magic of books and storytelling.Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of them invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorkshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline. Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.(Summary and photo compliments of Barnes and Noble .com)
My Review:It is hard for me to write this review. As Heather said today over coffee, you can't review it how you would like to without giving the entire story away.
That being said: I REALLY enjoyed this book. I had just finished a couple books, historical fiction, that I loved, so I was very nervous that this one was going to pale next to those. But it didn't, it held it's ground as a compelling, and ever so creepy tale.
Vida Winter at first comes across very cold, but you find yourself sinking into the enchantment of her story. Margaret Lea is slightly detached at the beginning, but you find yourself yearning for her to find the peace that has escaped her for many, many years. All the characters, including a "friendly giant", come to life with intricate storytelling and plot lines that will leave you spinning. Setterfield has created a "Tale" that holds onto it's secrets until the very last pages: The Thirteenth Tale.
There it is,short and sweet and it doesn't give away ANY of the good stuff!
My Rating: 5 stars
If I Had To Sum It Up In One Phrase: Delightfully Eerie.
Friday, June 5, 2009
A year later, with a forged letter of marque, Annalisa is intent on hunting down the wretched James Sterling and reclaiming her father's treasure from him. But now she's in danger of of him stealing something far more valuable this time: her heart. (Summary from the back of the book - picture from Amazon.com)
My Review: I have to confess that I'm always a little embarrassed when I post these. I just need to get over it and admit that I like romance--DO YOU HEAR ME--and the YA variety usually manages to get it right and still allow me to recommend it to my mother afterwards. To Catch a Pirate is not earth-shattering, and is fairly predictable, but it delivered exactly what I expected from it. It's what I would call a "cake" book. Sweet, yummy, and it doesn't take to long to finish. There were moments when it leaned a little closer to "cheesecake" than anything, but it was still a cute, clean romance with fairly basic writing and a happily-ever-after ending.
My Rating: 3 Stars. A YA a reader might give this more, but I couldn't. It was fun, but not special. This book was completely PG - perfect for a young adult reader who wants a little romance with out all the...erm...extras.
Sum it up in one phrase: A slice of cheesecake. Yummy, but with little to no nutritional value.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Summary: Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step...
Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted insider her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.
Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.
Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. (Summary from book jacket - picture from amazon.com/uk)
My review: It is 3PM and I’m still in my pajamas. Oh, I stopped for breakfast, lunch, and a visit from Miss Kim, but I’m still wearing my glasses and no makeup. I might have brushed my teeth. I don’t remember. My hair is bunched in an untidy mess at the back of my head. I need to work out. I need to SHOWER. I haven’t done any of that though. The only thing I’ve managed to do is finish reading the most AMAZING book—a book so AMAZING, in fact, that I’m going to have to Shift=F7 the word AMAZING so that I don’t over use it. The Help is remarkable, incredible, startling, marvelous, staggering , exceptional (well, you get the idea) and is also quite possibly one of my favorite books ever. Its pages just simmer with heart, soul, and sassy tell-it-like-it-be women who, despite their own trials, are fighting against the societal mores that keep them "in their place".
The Help is the story of Aibileen and Minny—two black domestic servants who each deal differently with the hardships of housekeeping and white-child-rearing in the 1960s. Aibileen, used to keeping her head down, is sick and tired of raising children who only grow up to treat her like trash. Minny, a take-no-crap-from-nobody kind of woman—freshly fired from her last job for being too uppity—is trying to find someone, anyone, who will hire her. The best part of this book was sharing the everyday lives, loves, losses, hopes and fears of these women and other women like them who spend their lives raising other women’s children only to have them grow up just like their mothers--cooking other women’s food but not being allowed to eat at the same table--and cleaning other women’s toilets (despite being unable to use them themselves). Enter Eugenia Phelan, aka Skeeter, a white woman, just out of college, longing to be a writer, and disillusioned with the prejudices she begins to see are held by her close family and friends. Each woman tells a separate story that slowly twines together as they embark upon what is quite possibly the most brave thing they have ever done.
This book was able to pull so many different emotions out of me. I was alternately ashamed and proud (for no good reason). I wanted to laugh, cry, and scream with rage. And the suspense, OH the SUSPENSE!! You wouldn’t think a book about housekeepers could be suspenseful but I have to tell you—it about killed me toward the end.
While The Help would make a wonderful movie, it is not frilly chick lit or a light YA romance—it has teeth and real grit to it. Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter are powerfully moving women with depth, personality, and honest emotion that compels you to read out of a sense of personal obligation to the story itself. If you liked The Secret Life of Bees, you’ll LOVE this book! If you READ this book, you will LOVE this book!
My rating: If I could give a book 6 stars, I would. But I can’t, because it would throw off my whole dang system. So, 5 Stars.
If you’re a sensitive reader this book contains three things you might want to keep in mind:
1) a graphic miscarriage. I'd recommend waiting if this topic is difficult for you.
2) a creepy man exposes himself, briefly, to two women. It was bizarre.
3) a story about pie. I can’t tell you why, but you’ll never forget it. I guarantee it.
Sum this book up in one phrase: I adored this book in every single luscious detail.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
My Review: Melinda Sordino is a witty, artistic, tortured teenage girl, trying to survive an already difficult transition to high school with her entire world against her. She cannot communicate with her parents; it doesn't help that her parents cannot communicate with each other either. Her friends have left her to face the clique-ish world of high school alone. She has no one to stand by her but herself. And she's not much company. The story takes place over a year, her freshman year, with her twisted perspective describing all she sees--Principal Principal and Mr. Neck to name a few of her descriptions. Despite being so alone and deeply depressed, she finds ironic, dark humor in the false world of high school. She also finds solace in artwork and silence. But, it's her silence that starts to eat her alive.
Imagery and wit keep this book from bordering the realm of too depressing. Much of what Melinda experiences most readers can relate to: strange teachers, obscure rules, bullying, harassment, isolation, lies, and betrayal.
It's Melinda's steady, daily triumph over life that keeps the reader engaged. By the end of the book, Melinda has triumphed over much of what has plagued her and the reader is rooting her on.
For books on such a difficult topic as rape, this book skirts many of the grotesqueness of rape and deals more with the aftermath of such an ordeal. Considering there are enough students who have dealt with this atrocity in their own lives, and need an outlet to understand what they lived through, this book is a good place to start. It's also a good resource for students wanting to understand someone who is dealing with such abuse. It gives hope, clarifies who's at fault, and validates the victim.
I'm not sure I read this book at the right time in life for me--having just had my second baby girl may not have been wise as I started having horrible dreams of what could happen to my two girls. I recommend this to any teacher of teenage kids and any parent wanting to understand or remember life during these painful years. There were times I wanted to put the book down and not finish just because of the depressing subject matter, which is probably why I gave it the rating I did. Overall, it's worth at least reading once and definitely is worth the read if you're dealing with the horrible reality of rape and abuse.
My Rating: 4 Stars
If I could sum it up in once sentence: A raw, honest look at a victim of rape in the brutal world of adolescence.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Reading for Sanity is hopping on the contest bus in celebration of reaching our 100th book reviewed.
To enter you must:
1) become a follower (of our blog...not just sheepish behavior in general)
2) post a link about this contest on another page (your blog, facebook, myspace, etc.)
3) comment, leaving your name, and let us know what book we've reviewed you're most likely to read next!
It's that easy!
This contest will run until the end of June at which point we will select a winner and post it on the blog!!!