Saturday, May 29, 2010

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen

When I picked up Briar Rose, I really anticipated reading a version of Sleeping Beauty.  I had no idea I'd be reading a book about the Holocaust.  That said, it took nearly 150 pages to get to the portion of the book about the Holocaust.

First the good . . .  The last fifty pages or so were quite gripping.  Gemma's story was horrifying and tragic.  I was completely engrossed.  

Then the bad . . . The first one hundred and fifty-ish pages were boring.  I didn't like the style of writing.  It seemed very amateurish and way too detailed.  Details can be lovely but not when the author describes the main character bending over to get a magazine.  That's not important.

The book got rave reviews for the most part.  I'm afraid I can't contribute to those.  While I feel the story of the Holocaust is important to tell, I don't think this book was good enough to really do that.  It is listed as a novel for young adults and yet the subject matter was quite adult and there are scenes of homosexuality that may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Friday, May 28, 2010

My Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster

Loved it!  I'll let you know that up front.  I am a huge fan of Jen's and I will pretty much read anything she writes, including her blog (jennsylvania), her twitter posts (atgeldshrugged), and her books (of course).  She makes me laugh and that's a very good thing.

I might be able to relate a tiny (a lot) bit with her reality show obsession.  In this book, Jen decides that reality shows are making her dumb.  She sets out to experience new things, like theater, foods from around the world, and great literature.  She finds that she loves some things, hates others, but that her life is richer for the experience.

I hope you've read some of her other memoirs.  If you haven't, you should.  She doesn't disappoint in this latest edition and I found myself growing along with her.  But I'm not giving up my reality television.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

I was thrilled to receive an advance copy of My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares.  I've been a fan of hers for several years and I was looking forward to this book.  It didn't disappoint.  Except the ending - which I'll get to later!

I'm not one who believes in past lives but this story made everything seem very possible.  Daniel has lived a very long time, in many different bodies, in many different parts of the world.  What's unusual is that he remembers each of his lives.  He sees Sophia in one of his first memories and meets her again several times during different lifetimes.  She's always different but he knows her.  She doesn't have the memory and never remembers her past lives.  Daniel knows that he is meant to be with Sophia but their lives rarely connect at the right moment.  She is usually married to someone else or the wrong age.

When Lucy/Sophia meets Daniel, she is instantly drawn to him, unaware that she has met him several times before.  Daniel scares her away and spends several years watching her from afar.  Daniel is forced to reveal himself to Lucy once again after a threat from their past arrives to take back what was his.

The story is told both in modern day and the stories from Daniel's memory.  It sucked me in quite quickly and I enjoyed the entire story.  Until the end.  I like neat and tidy endings and this one left some things open.  I hear rumors this is a planned trilogy and I really hope it is!   Go out and pick up this book.  It's a good one.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Out of Eden by Beth Ciotta

Out of Eden, by Beth Ciotta, is a typical romantic novel.  We’ve got instant attraction, misunderstandings, shoes, nosy neighbors, the long suffering best friend, and the Mafia.  Maybe the Mafia isn’t typical but the point is, there wasn’t anything surprising about this novel.  I was anxious to read a funny romance but instead I found myself just wanting to get through it. 

It’s well-written, there isn’t a problem with that.  The novel has a plot that moves along fairly quickly, but it just wasn’t interesting.  I found the main character to be rather annoying.  She ran her family’s shoe store and let her family walk all over her because she never expressed what she wanted.  She wanted adventure.  She wanted to travel throughout Asia.  She wanted to paint the shoe store!  I wanted to shake her and tell her to just do it!  I understand putting dreams on hold but the constant whining about it was annoying. 

And then there was Jack.  He’s not a very well defined character.  I know he was good looking -as all romantic leads must be - and was a police officer.  Other than his loyalty to friends and family, and his endearing affection for the dog that adopted him, he was pretty boring. 

I guess my thoughts are that I’ve read similar plots that were much more interesting.  When you really don’t care if the romantic leads get together, it’s a problem.  I was disappointed.  It’s not horrible, but it just didn’t get to the point where I’d call it good. 

Friday, May 14, 2010

Savor the Moment by Nora Roberts

I waited patiently for Savor the Moment, by Nora Roberts, to come out and I snatched up the book as quickly as I could.  It is the third book in the "Bride Quartet" and if you know me, you know I love a good series.  It's always nice to know that the story goes on.

For those unfamiliar with the series, it focuses on four women who run a wedding business.  There is the wedding planner, the florist, the photographer, and the cake artist (seems to little to call her a baker).  This book is Laurel's story.  Laurel makes wedding cakes.  She's also had a lifelong crush on her best friend's brother.  Del has never considered Laurel in a romantic light because she's always been his sister's friend, one of his girls.  When Laurel gets frustrated and kisses Del instead of hitting him, emotions turn and the romance begins.

This book solidly moves the series along and definitely provides the light and fluffy romance.  The only villain in these books is stubbornness and possibly Mac's mother who is just a pest.  We'll see if she shows up to cause more problems in the final book.   I'm looking forward to Parker and Malcolm's story.  Parker seems a tough nut to crack.  Should be interesting.

Romance fans will definitely enjoy the series!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - 13 May

Are your book choices influenced by friends and family? Do their recommendations carry weight for you? Or do you choose your books solely by what you want to read?

I am definitely influenced by what my friends and family read and recommend.  Some of my favorite authors were introduced to me that way.  The majority of the time I make my own decisions but have on occasion read a book based on peer pressure.  That sometimes backfires on me.  I've read some stinkers!

There are certain people who I feel "get me."  I am more apt to jump on a book they recommend over some other people (who will remain nameless).  I love them even if I think their choices of books are a bit off my taste. 

Last night my dad asked me if I ever read non-fiction.  I told him I do and mentioned a few memoirs and humor books.  He didn't seem to think that counted.  No, Dad.  I don't read books on World War II.  Sorry. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

I'd been wanting to read The Help, by Kathryn Stockett for a while.  I was fortunate to have a co-worker loan me a copy and that gave me a good excuse to jump right on it!  I wasn't disappointed.  I was hooked from the beginning.

Abilene is the narrator of the first chapter and she sets the tone with absolute love for the child she is raising and frustration -maybe even disgust- for the little girl's mother.  Abilene is a black woman, a maid, living in Jackson Mississippi in the 1960's.  The Civil Rights movement is just beginning to take form but in Jackson people are stubborn and don't want change, let along integration.

Another narrator is Minny, a mother of four.  She is a maid with a fast tongue who gets herself in trouble with the ladies she works for.  When she gets a job working for the odd Celia Foote, she is secure in her paycheck but terrified that what she did to a former employer's daughter will come back to haunt her. 

The third narrator is Miss Skeeter, a white woman.  She was raised by a black maid and was extremely close to her.  When Miss Skeeter returns from college to find that Constantine has moved away without a goodbye, she starts to think of the stories of these women, who wait on her and her friends.  She is motivated to write their stories.  It's a risk for her and for the women who share their lives with her.

I was born in the 1970's, raised in California, and I'm white.  I can not relate in the slightest to what it must have felt like to be told to use a separate bathroom because of skin color.  Despite not living any part of this story, I was still moved by the book.  I was struck by the fear.  The women who told their stories to Miss Skeeter were terrified of getting caught.  They were afraid for themselves, and their families.  It was shocking and horrible.

The book is wonderful.  It opened my eyes.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Musing Monday - 10 May

I haven't done a Musing Monday in a while.  I'm hoping to get back in the routine!

Musing Mondays2 Today’s MUSING MONDAYS:

Do you have to carve out time in your day for reading (due to work and other obligations), or does your reading just happen naturally? (Question courtesy of MizB)

I do carve out reading time.  And I'm very selfish about it!  I read at lunch almost every day.  I have a forty-five minute lunch break and I read while I eat.  I get very annoyed when I have to run errands or do something else during that time.  Like today's eye appointment.  Drat. 

I do try to read a little at night as well.  That doesn't always work as it depends on family obligations.  Like tonight's dinner with my aunt.  Drat again. At least I'll get to read for a few minutes before bed.  I hope. 

You can see that today is not going to be a good day for reading.

On a normal day, I would say I average an hour of reading time.  Not nearly enough. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone Gap, by Adriana Trigiani, is a charming novel with a wonderful cast of characters.  The main character is Ave Maria, a thirty-five year old pharmacist who considers herself the town spinster.  After her mother passes away, she learns the truth about who she really is and that the man who raised her was not her biological father.  As her world tilts beyond what she has always known, she finds herself letting go of her past and looking toward the future for the first time in her life.

The characters that make up the town add so much to the charm of the novel.  It wouldn't be the same without Iva Lou, Pearl, or Theodore.  There is even a cameo by Elizabeth Taylor!  If I have any complaint, it's that it took a while to get to the romance.  Ave was just way too stubborn!

This is the first novel I've read by Adriana Trigiani and I enjoyed it.  It is a sweet story and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys smiling!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Booking Through Thursday - May 6

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So … you’re halfway through a book and you’re hating it. It’s boring. It’s trite. It’s badly written. But … you’ve invested all this time to reading the first half.
What do you do? Read the second half? Just to finish out the story? Find out what happens?
Or, cut your losses and dump the second half?
It all depends.  If it's a book for a review, I'll plug through.  Sometimes I just want to see how bad it can get.  If it's a book I've heard a ton about and have been encouraged to read, I'll probably skim.  If it's a book I bought for fifty cents at a library book sale, I'm going to put it down. 

I don't like giving up on a book.  I do give most books a fighting chance.  I usually give it to fifty pages.  If I get to one hundred and I still don't like the book, I'm not apt to quit.  If I've invested that much time, I'm going to finish.  I do find myself skimming at times just so I can find out what happens.  I don't like doing that either.  I want to enjoy, think about, and immerse myself in a book. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Quick Reviews!

I get distracted easily.  I get very excited about something - like this blog - and am pretty faithful for a while but then something shiny passes by and I'm distracted.  Sooooo, to make a really long story short, I missed a few reviews and I'm not terribly motivated to go back in time for a few reviews.  I've decided to write a few quickies so that I don't feel the guilt and can move on to bigger and better things.  And more recent reads that are more fresh in my memory!  My mind ain't what it used to be. 

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan is a fun, action packed children's novel.  I enjoyed it enough to buy the next few books in the series but not enough that I've already read them!  I wanted Percy Jackson to be more like Harry Potter but he isn't.  The books were very informational with regard to the Greek legends of Gods and Titans.  I found myself googling a few things just to get them straight in my head.  The premise is good and I do look forward to reading more.  Just not yet.

Hot Six by Janet Evanovich is the sixth book in the Stephanie Plum series.  I enjoyed this one a lot.  The characters are so wonderful and it's like an old friend when I pick up a book.  I admit that the plots get a little jumbled in my memory but each is unique.  This is definitely a series I will continue to read and enjoy!


Going Overboard, by Christina Skye is a fun romance.  There isn't anything wonderful about it, it's pretty standard boy meets girl fare.  I read it fairly quickly and even though the timeline was a little wacky for me, it was still worth finishing.  The end read like bad fan-fiction (triplets?  Really?) and that soured it a bit.  Not bad, not good, just okay for a beach read.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

As a fan of Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, I was really looking forward to reading The Map of True Places.  In her latest novel, we again return to Salem, which just seems to grow more and more charming in my head.  I'll have to get there someday.  While this book is not a sequel to The Lace Reader, there are a few familiar characters.

The Map of True Places centers on Zee, a psychologist from Boston who returns home to Salem to help care for her father. She's lost a client to suicide and is in an unhappy relationship with her fiance.  Her father,  Finch, is suffering from Parkinson's and as the disease progresses into signs of dementia and alzheimer's, he breaks up with his longtime partner who has been a faithful caregiver.  Zee can't leave him alone and takes a leave of absence from her work to care for him.  Back in her childhood home, memories of Zee's mother and her suicide are brought to the surface.

I was quickly caught up in the many layers of stories offered in the book.  While everything circles back to Zee, we are given opportunities to read stories about the other characters.  I wanted some to go on and on.  One mark of a wonderful book is the knowledge I take from it.  This book was full of facts, history, and legends.  It's a wonderful book, with wonderful characters, and sly twists that keep you reading even after you've figured things out.  I highly recommend it!