Thursday, December 8, 2011

40 Books Down...

and so much more to come!

Well, I completed my goal of reading 40 books in a year... actually, ahead of schedule. I've read books that have been on my list for a while, and some I would never have originally chosen for myself. I will be reading and reviewing a couple more books before the year is out. And come the new year (can you believe it's almost 2012?), I am looking to re-vamp this blog and add some new features. Check back soon!


by Neal Shusterman

A.K.A. Book #40!!!!!!!!!!!! I actually finished this book back in early November, but life tends  to get a little crazy around the holiday season and I'm only sitting down to write this review now. Unwind follows three teens who live in a society where parents can choose to have their child "unwound" between the ages of 13 to 18. This process breaks apart every single part of the body to be used as organ donations, which society believes keeps the spirit & soul alive, while the body lives separated. This is actually the second book I have read this year which deals with children being raised for this purpose (the other one being Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go - my very first book of the year). I would say that while Ishiguro's is much more intellectual & slow burning. Unwind, however, is much more of an action story, with three teens who were chosen to be unwound entering the arena to debate the moral and ethical issues of the process. There is fairly good character development among the three main characters, as the reader watches them grow from normal teenagers into those leading a revolution. The book was enjoyable, and a quick read. The only part that really stuck with me though, was a scene in which the reader enters the first person point of view of a teen who is being unwound. His thought process slowly dwindles away into nothingness. It is a truly disturbing scene, but also very necessary in the telling of this story. I view Unwind as the more violent and active counterpart to Never Let Me Go. It makes me feel like I have come full circle this year in my reading, with these two stories acting as bookends.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scandalous Desires

by Elizabeth Hoyt

Do not mock me for my love of romance novels. They are pure escapist works, that take you completely away from the day to day with fantastic humorous and emotional writing. I love them. They are my thing. That being said....

Who doesn't love a romance novel featuring a proper girl and a charismatic pirate? And not just ANY pirate, oh no. But an IRISH pirate. Can it get any better? This is the third book in the Maiden Lane series by Elizabeth Hoyt, and it's the one that I've been waiting for since I read book number one. When we are introduced to the characters in the first book, Mickey (the Irish pirate) horribly destroys Silence's (our heroine) marriage and leaves a baby on her doorstep. Their story progresses throughout the second novel, but this book finally gives the satisfaction that Maiden Lane readers have been waiting for. It does have a bit of a throwback plot (E.g. 80's romance novels were all about pure girls being kidnapped by pirates), but with much more modern and sensible writing. Each character has obvious flaws, and it's interesting to see how their love brings about change in each of them. Elizabeth Hoyt is a pretty unique romance novelist, whose books are either hit or miss. This one, I would classify as on target. Although the premise may be slightly unrealistic (who gets bribed by a hunky Irish pirate to come to his castle and live with him?), the book is a quick read, enjoyable, and one of the best of Hoyt's works (a much improved follow up to Notorious Pleasures). There is a bit in the middle that dragged a bit, and I might have edited out as not necessary to the plot, but overall it was a very fun. If this were a Netflix review, I would give it three to four stars for "really liked it".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Night Circus

by Erin Morgenstern

     I read a little blurb about this book in my Entertainment Weekly and was instantly intrigued. So I got a coupon for 50% off at my B&N, I naturally raced in to pick up a copy. And let me tell you, this book is MAGICAL. I mean, really, really, magical. Even the physical book is a reflection of the wonderful story within, with its black cover with silver inscribing and black & white illustrations that echo La Cirque de Reves. (It's beautiful.... I recommend reading it in hardcover, but a Nook will do in a pinch).
     First, a quick (really inadequate) synopsis: Two seemingly immortal magicians recruit young proteges to compete against each other after years of training (Celia and Marco).  The venue? An ever changing, ever moving circus. The rules? Only one - that you cannot interfere with the other's work. The stakes? Unknown to the competitors. The young man and woman who are forced to compete in this mysterious challenge build a mystical world that visitors lose themselves in for a night, some for a lifetime. But as the competition progresses, it becomes dangerous to both the artists and bystanders. And when competitors find a deeper love than either have ever known, the risk becomes even greater for all of those involved.
     This is Morgenstern's debut, and it was hard to believe that it could possibly live up to the hype. I have heard mixed reviews... most people love it, some hate it. I can see why the book is divisive. Some people believe it starts off too slow, too descriptive, with too many plotlines. However, I am firmly in the camp of those who love it. Love, love, love it! I completely lost myself in the story. When I put the book down, I couldn't wait until the next time I could pick it up to return to La Cirque de Reves. I found myself becoming one of the "reveurs"... the characters in the book who come to love the circus so much, that they follow it from town to town, even from continent to continent. The author writes with such detailed prose that the reader can smell the caramel popcorn, and see the black and white stripes of the circus tents rising in the air. Beneath this enchanting world that she has created, is a subtle darkness, and a slow-building love story that propels the tale forward. Morgenstern artfully weaves together multiple storylines, and even timelines, that converge in the final few chapters of the book and bring the reader to a stunning conclusion. It may be difficult to follow the jumping around at times, but Morgenstern keeps each chapter fairly short and easy to follow.
     Truthfully, I don't think my review will do this book justice. I have read a lot of books this year. Still, this is definitely one of my absolute favorites and probably one of the few that I will read again. There are so many subtleties and nuances that I think I will appreciate even more now that I see the "bigger picture". It is one of the more unique books that I have recently read, and the rights have already been sold to Summit Entertainment to turn it into a movie (surprise, surprise). So make sure you read it before it comes out on film in a couple years! This is a book for readers who use a lot of imagination, and if you do... you will find yourself lost in the world of The Night Circus.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Undomestic Goddess

by Sophie Kinsella

My sister recommended The Undomestic Goddess to me when I was looking for a "feel good" book. Life can be overwhelming, and sometimes it's good to have a simple book to escape to.  And this book definitely delivered exactly what I was looking for. Sophie Kinsella is a British writer who's mastered writing humorous, and yet emotionally relevant, stories for the modern woman (best known for Confessions of a Shopaholic - the book is ten times better than the movie!). The story follows Samantha, a crazy tense lawyer that is attached to her Crack Berry. Through a series of mishaps she stumbles into a position as a housekeeper in the Cotswolds. Here, she learns to turn off her phone, bake a loaf of bread from scratch, build authentic relationships, and enjoy the simple things in life. Some women may argue that this book is an anti-feminist work, advocating for women to leave the office and return to the kitchen. However, Samantha addresses this issue in the book by stating that she's not trying to be a leader for women to leave the workforce, but just that she has rediscovered happiness in her life away from the expectations that she had placed on herself. Kinsella was obviously aware that her readers may find fault with the heroine finding happiness away from the world of a high-powered lawyer. I think the real point here, is that it is important to have balance in your life. Instead of running around focused solely on her own success and working 70 hours a week, Samantha slows down to really enjoy her life, her true passions, and the love she finds along the way. Two thumbs up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Name of the Wind

by Patrick Rothfuss

     I was gifted this book by my fabulous friend Stephanie. She is an absolutely voracious reader, and I trust her reading opinion implicitly. When she gave The Name of the Wind to me for my birthday, it was because she's (and I quote) "obsessed" with the series, and "you like books like this". I do? I do! At first, I wasn't sure if I was a fan of  the fantasy genre, but on closer reflection it's pretty clear that I am. Especially since The Name of the Wind runs along the fantasy lines found in books like Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, which I LOVE. Add a mix of the magical academia found in Harry Potter, and I'm hopelessly sucked in.
     Enough rambling, back to the review. Set. Go. I'm not going to hold back... this book was fantastic. It is the beginning of an epic story that is supposed to last over the course of three huge novels (this one was over 700 pages long). The story is told by the hero Quothe in his later years, when he is discovered hiding from the world  and his past in a small tavern during a time when unspeakable creatures roam the countryside. Through his own storytelling, we learn about his early life and years at the university, his triumphs and his flaws. With his honesty, Quothe becomes a totally relatable hero despite his almost inhuman capabilities. There is a side plot regarding a drug-addicted dragon that I don't think was strictly necessary, but it added another opportunity for Quothe to demonstrate the hero that he was slowly developing into. Rothfuss mixes action, magic, love, and a hero story with seamless effort that I lost myself in. As soon as I feel up to starting another fat novel, his follow up in the series will be on my bedside table.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Need...

I need to read something that makes you just feel good inside! Any suggestions?

Friday, September 23, 2011

State of Wonder

Ann Patchett  
  I so wanted to LOVE this book, but the most I can say is that I liked it... without an impressive amount of enthusiasm behind my statement. The book description reads like an action/mystery novel: Dr. Marina Singh travels into the Amazon in search of the truth regarding her lost friend and the project her company has entrusted to her old mentor Dr. Annick Swenson, but instead finds an even greater mystery awaiting her. It was only after I started the book that I was informed that it is actually a modern day telling of Heart of Darkness. The story itself was actually very interesting, and forces the reader to consider some challenging ethical issues. How far can modern science go? What are the limits? What SHOULD be the limits? What lines are we willing to cross? The questions that Ann Patchett raises still pop into my head weeks later.
     My main issue with State of Wonder was the structure. Basically nothing happens for the first 150 pages of a 350 book. When the catalyst (Dr. Swenson) finally arrives on the scene, the pace picks up and we get to the heart of the story. However, the pace continues to pick up and you are left with an extremely abrupt ending. Everything that Dr. Marina Singh was searching for, all of her decisions, come to a very rapid close in the last 20 pages. I felt a little shell-shocked. That was it? After such a thoughtful and slow beginning, I felt that the book came to a careless end. Maybe that was the feeling that Patchett was aiming for; to create the shocked feeling that her lead character must have had, but I felt deprived of the lengthy ending I surely deserved after waiting for the resolution Marina searched for throughout the entire story. Despite the negative points of State of Wonder, I am still impressed by Patchett's writing and skill in developing a magical Amazonian world, and will try another of her books in the future.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

13 Reasons Why

by Jay Asher

I actually read this book in July while I was on my vacation. I'm not quite sure why it has taken me so long to get around to writing a review, but this book has crossed my mind nearly a hundred times between finishing it and putting down these words. The premise (I'm not giving away any spoilers) is certainly unique: a young high school boy (Clay) receives a set of tapes in which Sarah reveals the "thirteen reasons why" she committed suicide. While it sounds like a story that may romanticize the idea of suicide, it really deals with the people left behind and the horrible things they experience, while also addressing the prevalent issue of bullying among high school students today. Clay becomes the readers guide through the grief, anger and confusion of being called to put together the puzzle pieces and carry on. Truly, the most shocking aspect of this book to me was the bullying and teasing that was illustrated among the students. I'm pretty sure I don't remember people being so fantastically cruel when I was in high school, but the world has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Thirteen Reasons Why is definitely a book that teenagers (and even adults years out of high school) can relate to and empathize with. So many teenagers have been "saved" by reading this, and "the reason why" isn't hard to see after a solid afternoon spent drawn into the story.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Something Blue

by Emily Giffin

It is very rare to find a book that somehow transforms the previous antagonist into a heroine that the reader can root for. Emily Giffin manages to accomplish just that in her sequel to Something Borrowed. This time the reader follows Darcy as she stumbles through her relationships and finally finds her own happy ending. I will say that it takes the book a little while to get going, but once she finally makes her way to England the reader starts to see some real progress. What I enjoyed about her character transformation, was that it was believable to me. Instead of changing her character 180 degrees, she makes slight modifications that make a big difference in her outlook. Darcy's little quirks and mental side comments keep the character changes in line with what we already know about her. I did not LOVE this book, but I certainly did LIKE it, more than the first book Something Borrowed. If you are a fan of Giffin's work, I think you will too.

Summer at Seaside Cove

by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Are you looking for a quick, entertaining summertime read? Then this is the book for you! My eldest sister Jess recommended this to me on my vacation. I will admit that I was doubtful that it could possibly be as hilarious as she insisted, especially after reading the incredibly cheesy description (and yes, I do judge a book by it's cover). I am happy to say though, that I was quickly proved wrong! This book was filled with humor, romance, and as my sister said, a believable obstacle that the couple must overcome. In many romance novels, they face kidnapping, imprisonment and a variety of other unbelievable challenges. In Summer at Seaside Cove though, they main couple must overcome their painful past relationships and the distance between them. All in all, a great summer read. I am definitely interested in reading the follow up book that will be coming out in the series.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And the year's half gone...

Well, it is officially July and a few days ago we passed the halfway mark for the year! This time has gone by quickly, but I have managed to stay on top of my goal. In fact, I am actually ahead of schedule! Phew! I have a feeling as the holidays start rolling around, my production speed may decrease. Which is why I plan on taking full advantage of my upcoming vacation next week, and reading as much as possible between the hiking, fishing, and horseback riding. Don't you worry, faithful reader - I will meet, if not surpass, my goal of 40 books this year! I am starting to get down toward the end of my little pile of books to read though... so feel free to lend me a book or offer another suggestion for my future reading endeavors.

Signing off for a week now, but I'll be back soon with a stack of hopefully positive book reviews for you!

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance

by Atul Gawande

If you told me that I would enjoy a book written by a surgeon, I would probably snicker a little bit when you turned away. I read surgeon's notes every day at work - they are dry, incredibly over-descriptive, and not all that mind-consuming, honestly. But my sister gave me two of Gawande's works, and after reading the first (Complications), I was hooked. Better is a book that focuses on improvement, on moving forward, and how best to do it. As someone in the medical world, I found it very interesting and applicable to my work. But Gawande gives examples and suggestions that can apply to everyone in any field or life-stage. His use of real-life case studies makes the possibly dry topic of improvement actually engaging. He writes using interesting case studies to demonstrate his points, including: infections and handwashing, vaccinations in the third world, military medical care in the field, ethical decisions and malpractice, cystic fibrosis, and childbirth... to mention a few. He advocates being open to change, always looking for areas in which you can grow and improve in your practice and as a human being. For example, one point that has really stuck with me since reading this is his section on "diligence". In my profession as a nurse, there are many little seemingly minor actions and procedures that we must follow a million times a day. But every little action contributes to the well-being of my patients, I must be diligent in my practice. I also must be diligent in my life, to work hard to accomplish the tasks I have undertaken, to be persistent. Gawande has seen and learned so much, through his writing I feel that he must be one of the most interesting men alive. The book really is not so much about only improving the medical practice, but improving as humans. Gawande has a great deal of insight to offer, and I would happily give either of his books to any friend of mine, regardless of their interest in medical affairs/cases. I think we can all find something to learn from in his works.

The Help

by Kathryn Stockett

This is a book that I have been meaning to pick up for a while.... but nothing gets me motivated like seeing a preview for the movie version. If you are a "reader", then you know that you MUST read a book before seeing the movie version or it will be ruined for you. So I borrowed a hardback copy, opened up the pages, and felt myself being completely sucked in. I was worried that Stockett's book would skirt around the real issues, or address them in a condescending way, but she very artfully describes the complex relationships between black and white women in the south during the mid century. She mixes light and humor with impossibly dark and painful situations. Every few chapters, the book changes focus to one of the three main female character - Skeeter (the young white woman who wants to write about the real world of "the help"), Aibileen (the one who believes that change is possible and agrees to help Skeeter, despite great personal risk), and Minnie (the comic relief, but also the one with some of the greatest insight into the life of the "help" and black women in the South). While reading, I came to love aspects of each of these characters, but none more so than Minnie. She has an anger for her situation in life, an interesting relationship with the woman she comes to work for, and an underlying compassion that drives her to help those around her. The book is beautifully written and gracefully handles a complex subject that I think many of us would like to deny ever happened/happens. Pick up your own copy before you head to the movie theater this summer.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Where She Went

by Gayle Forman

I read Gayle Forman's first book,  If I Stay, earlier this year... and it has stayed with me over the past few months. It's a touching story of life, love, and the grief that comes when you are left behind. So here I should issue a warning that if you have not read the first book in the series, reading this review will definitely reveal some SPOILERS for you. MAJOR SPOILERS. Okay, take a breath and here we go!

Where She Went takes place a few years after the first book, after Mia has gone to school in New York and Adam has made it famous as a rock star. After being separated for that time, their lives intersect for one night in New York. Secondary to losing Mia, Adam lost all joy in life, despite his apparent success. Reading from Adam's perspective is so compelling, and your heart breaks for him as you read his story. You follow him through the loss and pain after the accident with Mia's family, through her recovery and his life without her, and finally to the moment when they come together and face everything between them. My review? I love this book. I read it in under four hours, and was completely consumed by the world that exists around Mia and Adam. These books are so beautiful, and draw the reader in so completely, that I feel like giving a copy to everyone I know. They're written for a young adult audience, but deal with such complex issues that I am confident readers of all ages will find something to love.


by Veronica Roth

If you have been living under a rock, then you might not know about the wave of futuristic dystopian society novels that have been hitting the young adult section. The pinnacle of this genre is perhaps the well-known Hunger Games series. (Side note: If you have NOT read this book series.... turn off your computer right now and get yourself to the nearest bookstore, library, or friend's house to get yourself a copy! ... I'm not kidding. Do it. Right. Now.) For those of you still reading this entry, Divergent is a mix of the Hunger Games and The Giver. Which makes it fantastic. In this society, you are born into one of five factions that dictates your lifestyle, personality and actions. At the age of sixteen, however, you have the choice to stay with your faction, or choose a new one to join. For Beatrice, the initiation experience leads to her leaving home and re-naming herself Tris. As she deals with changing factions, she learns about herself and the commonalities/differences between the different factions. Through it all she finds a strength in herself that she doubted she possessed. This, plus an intriguing hero and the discovery of an underhanded plot to destroy the current factional system adds up to a dynamic book that had me staying up way past my bedtime. So while you're out getting yourself a copy of the Hunger Games, make sure that you pick up a copy of Divergent too!

Just Like Heaven

by Julia Quinn

Julia Quinn's latest, and much anticipated, novel debuted at #2 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. There's a reason. What I really love about Quinn is that she not only writes brilliant romance, but her books are hilarious! Sometimes her characters make me laugh so hard, that I draw stares from the non-readers around me. But trust me, she is hilarious. Since I have such high standards for Ms. Quinn, I was a little nonplussed by her last novel which lacked her signature strong relationship. However, Just Like Heaven marks a return to the more vintage Julia Quinn Bridgerton-series style writing. Our hero and heroine have known eachother since early childhood, and after facing death and revealing secrets, come to realize that they truly love one another. And during all of this, they eat a lot of sweets, attend/participate in a horrendous musciale, and finally escape the loneliness they each face in their lives. My one critique would be that the reader is expected to accept the strength of their relationship based on reports of the past, while not much relationship development actually occurs in the course of the story. But Quinn makes it entirely believable and manages to have me laughing again. This is definitely a must read if you are a fan of her work.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

To Taste Temptation

This book took me about six months to finally finish up. An upper class English woman can't bring herself to marry the "classless" upstart American, until their lives are at risk and she finally realizes her mistake. True love prevails. End story.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dead Reckoning

by Charlaine Harris

This is the eleventh book in the Sookie Stackhouse series (AKA True Blood). I started reading these books on my Hawaiian vacation a year ago, and blasted through them. I actually made my family go to the book store on our tropical vacation so that I could get the next one in the series. Once you pick up one of these books, you cannot stop. However, for my second review in a row.... I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed. It seems that the main character Sookie is forever re-evaluating her life, wishing that it was different... but never actually making the changes that she needs to build the life that she wants. As a reader, it is beginning to get incredibly frustrating. The Sookie I loved from the early books is slowly disappearing... no more words of the day or believing in the best of people. I suppose this is simply the result of the darkness she finds herself surrounded by, but I would like for just one thing to go right for her and restore her sense of hope.  That said, I still recommend the series (it is 180 degrees from the True Blood television series), and feel like this book laid some important groundwork for what is to come next.

Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage

by Kieran Kramer

Kieran Kramer is one of the newest historical romance authors. And after her fantastic first two novels, I bought this book on the spot when I saw it availabel in the store. I was anticipating something along the same lines as her earlier books, but was sadly disappointed. This may seem hypocritical after my last post about Something Borrowed,  but I cannot truly enjoy a romance novel where one of the characters is married. In this case, Jilly and Captain Arrow also lack the witty conversation and soulful relationship that I found in Kramer's first works. Although there is one major obstacle standing in their path, it is miraculously resolved and wrapped into a nice little package over the course of a few pages. In all, I think this novel lacked the depth that I expected. I would still rate Cloudy with a Chance of Marriage a solid three stars, as it was a quick and good (if predictable) read, but it was not my favorite of Kramer's Impossible Bachelor series. The sneak peek at the back of the book into the first two chapters of her next (fourth and final of the series) book already has me incredibly excited to get my hands on it! My hopes are high!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something Borrowed

by Emily Giffin

The premise of Giffin's book Something Borrowed put me off for quite a while. A story where the heroine is the "other woman"?! But I heard so many positive reviews, I thought it was time to pick it up... I also can't say that seeing the preview for the movie coming out was not a factor in my motivation to get it read. Despite my inital concern about a cheating heroine, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Giffin somehow makes it work! Rachel (the heroine) is the girl next door, with low self-esteem, no relationship, and an unsatisfying job. Darcy is her best friend, with a job she loves, extreme self-confidence (seemingly narcissistic), and the perfect fiancee Dex. The central three characters are joined by a surrounding cast of friends who lighten the mood, support the female leads, and offer perspective.

*Minor Spoiler Alert* After hearing so many great things about Something Borrowed, I expected the character of Darcy to be extremely unlikable... so that it would be easier to cheer Rachel on. Instead, they were both complex characters with their own strengths and flaws. While Darcy is self-centered and steamrolls over Rachel, she is also has a dynamic personality that draws you (and Rachel) in. As Rachel's relationship with Dex continues to develop, Rachel begins to draw away from simply being "Darcy's friend" and developing her own strength and character by balancing friendship, love, and betrayal. The two women have a complex relationship, which is demonstrated by Darcy's continually trying to "up" Rachel in elementary school boyfriends, college admissions, and finally with Dex (who Rachel had a friendship with prior to his relationship with Darcy). So although Darcy is magnetic, you cannot entirely support her. Their past and Darcy's recent actions in her own relationship with Dex, appear to validate Dex and Rachel's affair. Yet, even though I felt happy for Rachel and Dex being together in the end, my heart was still a little sore for Darcy and the loss of their friendship. This probably stems from the fact that I do not believe an affair can ever be truly justified, and that you are always responsible for your own actions. In my opinion, your own behavior should never be dictated by the way that someone else acts. Despite my own beliefs, Giffin made this story not only readable, but truly enjoyable by creating multi-dimensional characters. Although I may not believe that the characters actions were right, I was drawn in and was able to understand their motivations. I am looking forward to reading her follow-up novel (Something Blue) that focuses on Darcy's character.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Postmistress

by Sarah Blake

I love stories surrounding the World War II era. As a time that demonstrated both the worst and best of humanity, it makes an excellent setting for story-telling. So when I saw The Postmistress by Sarah Blake, I was pulled to it as a magnet. Blake's novel follows three American women in the time period before the U.S. has entered the war. Iris is the postmistress in the small cape town of Franklin, who thrives on routine and order. Emma is the newcomer to the town who has finally found a home with her new husband (and the town doctor), Will Fitch. Finally, Frankie is a reporter scouring Western Europe for the truth. While telling their three separate stories, Blake also weaves them together with language that is beautiful, and at times heart breaking.

Blake often refers to the "edges" of a story. Her characters state that there are times when we only know the parts of the story that are told or experience, we do not always see the final outcome or the center of an issue. In the same way, Blake writes about WWII from the perspective of the "edges".  The reader is not following a soldier off to war, we are not with a family hiding their friends in the basement, or walking with those trying to escape from the country. Instead, we are with three women who cannot yet see the enormity of what is happening around the world. They see only the "edges" that they can experience in their own lives. Actually, Frankie tries to press through the edge to the center of the story, and becomes overwhelmed by the horror of what she experiences. Each of the heroines faces their own struggles with purpose and  truth: Iris hiding a potentially devastating letter, Emma facing life on her own after Will leaves to help as a doctor in the London blitz, and Frankie collecting the stories of those fleeing the areas ruled by the Nazis. They come together in the end, with their own sorrows and perspectives on faith and purpose. Although this is not a story with a "happily ever after", Blake tells it beautifully and manages to offer the reader a unique perspective on WWII.

The Rake

by Suzanne Enoch

Short and sweet: This was a great romance novel! Georgiana and Dare are great characters and despite their apparently antagonistic relationship, truly have a deep love for one another. Working through their tumultuous past and trust issues, they re-build their relationship with a satisfying ending! This is definitely a winner for Suzanne Enoch.

Friday, April 8, 2011


by Paul Harding

I'm not sure exactly what drew me to pick this book up in the store... I think it was the title that reminded me of the term used to describe Irish gypsies (or travellers). Upon closer examination I quickly learned that the novel has absolutely nothing to do with Ireland, but was intrigued by its status as a Pulitzer Prize winner, and the positive reviews. Tinkers begins by telling the story of an elderly man (George) on his deathbed, hallucinating about and re-living earlier days in his life. Intertwined in the telling of his own story, is that of his father's (Howard) life and struggles. What I really appreciated most about this book was the depth that it offers to George's life. Instead of seeing George simply as an old, sick man, the reader gets to experience his full life and learns to appreciate him in that light. Both men suffer through Howard's epilepsy, which eventually prompts Howard to strike out on his own after causing injury to his son. The story is a telling of their journeys, and encourages the reader to look at life with a different point of view.

Although this book is only about 190 pages, I will say that it took me a couple of weeks to read. I love words. I love how they can be put together to form vibrant images, to describe life from a unique point of view. Harding is a master of this, and his writing definitely leaves an impression. Harding jumps between the two characters' points of view, "excerpts" from The Reasonable Horologist, and third-person storytelling flawlessly. He manages to describe epilleptic seizures in a beautiful and sometimes frightening way. My one complaint is that a single descriptive sentence sometimes runs the entire length of the page. In addition to words, I also love punctuation... and I never realized how much until I read this book, and started looking around for some more periods. For me, it took a greater amount of concentration to make sure that I was truly absorbing the information that I was reading. If you have the time and some extra brain power, Tinkers is definitely worth a read. Although the title Tinkers was selected to describe the two male characters' abilities to break down and repair things, I find that the story is focused on their wanderings and life journey. So maybe my initial impression of the title is fitting after all, viewing the characters as "travellers" through life.

"And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you've done nothing to deserve it." - Paul Harding, Tinkers, p. 72

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All About Passion

by Stephanie Laurens

If you know me well, or maybe even not so well, then you are probably aware of my love for historical romance novels. They are what you might call my "guilty pleasure", although I think they are a very valid reading choice (I will have an upcoming post on WHY romance novels deserve literary respect).

My review for All About Passion by Stephanie Laurens will be fairly short and concise. This book is the same as the majority of her others. If you like your hero to be dark and brooding, and your heroine to be passionate, a little pushy and the one woman who finally overcomes the hero's emotional walls.... then this is the book for you!  Stephanie Laurens is the master of this type of novel, and does it well. I do like that in All About Passion she adds an element of mystery/adventure to the novel with the introduction of character who makes several attempts on the heroine's life, which lets the reader use a little of their own detective skills throughout the book (I was right!).  The only problem is that I find it necessary to take a "break" between reading her books, because the plot lines and characters are all very similar. Over time, it becomes difficult to differentiate which character was in which story. So in short.... if you like other various Stephanie Laurens' novels, then I am fairly confident that you will enjoy this one as well.

BLOG NOTE: As part of my goal to read forty book this year, I am also trying to branch out and read some books that I might not normally select for myself. So if you have any suggestions, pop on over to my "40 Books in a Year" page (link at the top of this website), and post them there!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Her Fearful Symmetry

by Audrey Niffenegger

I was so excited to start this book, mostly because the author's debut novel (The Time Traveler's Wife) is one of my all-time favorite books. Unlike The Time Traveler's Wife, Her Fearful Symmetry follows a straight time line, but tells the story from several characters' points of view. The story revolves around a set of twins, Julia and Valentina, who inherit a flat in London from their unknown aunt (and mom's twin sister) Elspeth. Their relationship falls apart at the seams, as the mystery of the separation between their mother and aunt becomes unraveled. Along the way though, they develop relationships with their upstairs neighbor with OCD, Elspeth's former lover, and even the ghost of their aunt.

The ghost of their aunt, you say? Yes. Now, I am one of those readers who frequently likes to flip ahead in the book and read little snippets of what will be coming up. You may call it reading spoilers, I call it reading motivation. In this case though, reading ahead made me doubtful that I was going to enjoy the story progression. Why? Honestly, because ghost stories scare me. Since I cannot absolutely say that ghosts do not exist in real life, they are one of the supernatural "beings" that leave me on edge and give me nightmares. As we meet the ghost of Elspeth, however, Niffenegger proves that ghosts (at least her ghosts) have substance and depth that makes them almost human. It is not difficult to relate to the separation and loneliness that Elspeth experiences in her afterlife. Though while you feel sympathetic for her plight, it soon becomes apparent that there is an underlying darkness to her actions that creates serious and life-changing consequences for all those involved in the story.

What I liked the most about Her Fearful Symmetry was the way that Niffenegger includes the characters' inner dialogue, along with their conversation. The characters speak very subtly at times, but with so much meaning "between the lines". Also, her exploration of OCD, with the character of the neighbor Martin, was another highlight. Again, she gives a depth to the character, beyond the symptoms of his OCD. While Her Fearful Symmetry is not as high on my list as The Time Traveler's Wife, it is definitely an interesting read that will draw you in and keep you wondering as the twins explore their relationship with eachother, their neighbors, and the afterlife.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Little Bee

by Chris Cleave

This is a book that I have been meaning to read for about a year now. It has received such positive reviews, and the book description presented it as a novel with so much mystery and a plot that will change the reader's life. After reading it, I feel that the book was slightly misrepresented. It is much different than the intriguing mystery that it is presented as, dealing with international politics, globalization, the plight of the refugee, and our own self-centric views in the developed world. Chris Cleave is a master writer, who weaves together two different female narratives (a Nigerian refugee and a citizen of Great Britain) to form one cohesive story.

What was most disconcerting to me as a reader, however, was the lack of emotional investment that I felt. Although Little Bee and her English counterpart, Sarah, deal with truly horrific events, they were narrated so matter of factly that they did not have much emotional impact. Maybe because the book deals with such tragic happenings, the only way for the narrator and the reader to get through it successfully is with an element of distance. So while I did not feel emotionally tied to either of the main characters, Little Bee did leave me reflecting on our society's treatment of refugees and willfull ignorance of things happening outside of our own safe environment.  

Honestly, my favorite part of this book is the imagery and word choice that Cleave chooses. For example:
"Learning the Queen's English is like scrubbing off the bright red varnish from your toenails, the morning after a dance. It takes a long time and there is always a little bit left at the end, a stain of red along the growing edges to remind you of the good time you had. So, you can see that learning came slowly to me." - Little Bee by Chris Cleave, p. 3
His ability to switch between two distinct narrators and his vivid descriptions/examples were very impressive and kept me interested in the unfolding story.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Beginning

This year I made a goal of reading a minimum of 40 books (see my "40 Books" page). To help keep track of my readings, reviews, and thoughts I will be maintaing this blog for myself throughout the course of the year. Hopefully it will help keep me accountable to my goal... and if anyone else stumbles across this page, hopefully I will gain a good book recommendation or two. Welcome to page one!