Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brasheres

From Goodreads: Tibby, Lena, Carmen, and Bridget have grown up, starting their lives on their own. And though the jeans they shared are long gone, the sisterhood is everlasting.

Despite having jobs and men that they love, each knows that something is missing: the closeness that once sustained them. Carmen is a successful actress in New York, engaged to be married, but misses her friends. Lena finds solace in her art, teaching in Rhode Island, but still thinks of Kostos and the road she didn’t take. Bridget lives with her longtime boyfriend, Eric, in San Francisco, and though a part of her wants to settle down, a bigger part can’t seem to shed her old restlessness.

Then Tibby reaches out to bridge the distance, sending the others plane tickets for a reunion that they all breathlessly await. And indeed, it will change their lives forever—but in ways that none of them could ever have expected.

I raced through all the Traveling Pants books in my pre-blogging days. I wouldn't say I loved them - there were parts that I wasn't thrilled my young daughter was reading - but they were one of those "cultural literacy" kind of things. Everyone was reading them so you really just had to in order to be part of the discussion. Along the way I did grow fond of those girls so I couldn't resist picking this one up when I saw it at the library while I was looking for something much more scholarly - Hemingway's A Moveable Feast (which I'll mention when I write about our book club reading The Paris Wife). So I went in to the library for literary greatness and came out with fluff and, of course, sat down and proceeded to read the fluff straight through that very night. It was sentimental sap and I cried all the way through and I guessed the big secret almost as soon as I opened the book and I am glad I didn't pay money for it.....but I am also glad I read it. It satisfied my curiosity completely and like going to your high school reunion, it's just fun to know how everyone turns out all those years later!

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

From Goodreads: At age eighty-two and in failing health, Olivia Morrow knows she has little time left. The last of her line, she faces a momentous choice: expose a long-held family secret, or take it with her to her grave. Olivia has in her possession letters from her deceased cousin Catherine, a nun, now being considered for beatification by the Catholic Church--the final step before sainthood. The letters Olivia holds are the evidence that Catherine gave birth at age seventeen to a child, a son, and gave him up for adoption. Olivia knows the identity of the young man who fathered Catherine's child: Alex Gannon, who went on to become a world-famous doctor, scientist, and inventor holding medical patents.

Now, two generations later, thirty-one-year-old pediatrician Dr. Monica Farrell, Catherine's granddaughter, stands as the rightful heir to what remains of the family fortune. But in telling Monica who she really is, Olivia would have to betray Catherine's wishes and reveal the story behind Monica's ancestry. To silence Olivia and prevent Monica from learning the secret, some will stop at nothing--even murder.

My track record with Mary Higins Clark has been kind of spotty the last few years, I even wondered if maybe she was just past the point of writing books I would truly enjoy. But this one was a winner. I really had to trim down the description from Goodreads because there is so much going on in this book - plots and sub-plots and sub-sub-plots. She still laid it all out pretty simplistically so it remains the easy read that you expect from a MHC but easy with oomph if that makes any sense! Good mystery that I didn't have completely figured out too soon!

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday started by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). This month Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Anna at Diary of an Eccentric. Stop by there to check out everyone else's mailboxes.

From Goodreads: In this beautifully written debut, Anna Jean Mayhew offers a riveting depiction of Southern life in the throes of segregation, what it will mean for a young girl on her way to adulthood--and for the woman who means the world to her. . .
On a scorching day in August 1954, thirteen-year-old Jubie Watts leaves Charlotte, North Carolina, with her family for a Florida vacation.

This was a win from Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog. I have already started it and I am loving it! What the description above doesn't mention but is on the back of the book is that a tragedy occurs so every minute is that combination of enjoyment and dread anticipating the how and when of that tragedy. I love Southern fiction and this one, thus far, is a treat!

From Goodreads: From Thomas Jefferson's birth in 1743 to the California Gold rush in 1849, America's Manifest Destiny comes to life in Morgan 's skilled hands. Jefferson, a naturalist and visionary, dreamed that the U.S. would stretch across the continent. The account of how that dream became reality unfolds in the stories of Jefferson and nine other Americans whose adventurous spirits and lust for land pushed the westward boundaries.

This was a win from the Library Thing early reviewer program. Awhile back,  I had high hopes that I would improve myself (become a smarty pants) by reading my way through the presidents with the  U.S. Presidents Reading Project. Well that was 2008 and now, four years later, I am still on our third president (Thomas Jefferson for those of you who are even less smarty pants than me) so that goal has not exactly panned out. This book would seem to fall into that category of books that would make me a better person so I am just hoping it is also enjoyable!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

From Goodreads: In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is eighteen-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a twenty-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family’s farm as forced labor. And there is a twenty-six-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred–who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz. As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna’s and Callum’s love, as well as their friendship with Manfred–assuming any of them even survive.

LOVED IT! I think this is my favorite thus far for 2012 (I know it's only March but it really was that good!). I've read books before about the Second World War and the terror of the Nazi's and the plight of the Jews but there always seems to be more to be explored. This book explores the time from the perspective of a German family that are initially Nazi supporters but slowly discover the hideous barbarity being perpetuated. There were several instances in this book where I wondered if the described events were more history than fiction. At one point the Jew, Uri, goes into hiding in the woods where it is rumored a whole community of Jews are living; well, I seem to remember a book or a movie with that scenario at the core, so maybe it is true? True or not, it was fascinating. I cared deeply for the characters and while I wanted the war to end, I didn't want the story to end.

I have another book of his, Midwives, in my TBR pile, I might have to dig it out and put it closer to the top!

The audiobook challenge is hosted by Teresa at Teresa's Reading Corner, click on the logo to see my progress.

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier

From Goodreads: Never before published in the United States, this first novel is released by the critically acclaimed author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "Falling Angels." Readers meet Ella Turner and Isabelle du Moulin--two women born centuries apart, yet bound by a fateful family legacy.

This story would have been wonderful except for one big struggle for me. The idea of the story was great, the characters in both the present day story and the historical part were interesting, I loved all of that. What spoiled it for me, was the style of writing the author used for the 400 years ago story. She didn't use quotation marks and a traditional format of he said/she said. She just used a dash and then the dialogue followed without attributing it to the speaker so you had to puzzle it out. I'm sure it flowed beautifully in the author's head because she had the advantage of always knowing who was talking but it was awkward for me, awkward enough to put this at the bottom of my Tracy Chevalier list. Remarkable Creatures is in first place, Burning Bright, and The Girl With the Pearl Earring are tied for second place and this one is last!
This works for the following challenges -

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Click on the logo to see my progress towards the 2012 A to Z Reading Challenge hosted by Strawberry Splash Reviews.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

From Goodreads: Tia and Mike Baye never imagined they'd become the type of overprotective parents who spy on their kids. But their sixteen-year-old son Adam has been unusually distant lately, and after the suicide of his classmate Spencer Hill - the latest in a string of issues at school - they can't help but worry. They install a sophisticated spy program on Adam's computer, and within days they are jolted by a message from an unknown correspondent addressed to their son - 'Just stay quiet and all safe.'

Meanwhile, browsing through an online memorial for Spencer put together by his classmates, Betsy Hill is struck by a photo that appears to have been taken on the night of her son's death and he wasn't alone. She thinks it is Adam Baye standing just outside the camera's range; but when Adam goes missing, it soon becomes clear that something deep and sinister has infected their community. For Tia and Mike Baye, the question they must answer is this; When it comes to your kids, is it possible to know too much?

I read the horror book Duma Key by Stephen King last month and laughed off the walking dead, they didn't scare me. But this book by Harlan Coben, with the teeneage boys and suicide and drugs, scared the bejeezus out of me. Listening to the parents worry about their son as he slips away from them into a world of drugs made me physically ill - stomach in turmoil, muscles tense, it was frightening. There was more than one storyline and when the narration would switch from the reckless teens to the sadistic killer, I would breathe a sigh of relief, "yes, let's chop this lady into small pieces" THAT I can handle. It's all about perspective isn't it? Tween now Teen has such struggles with depression and self-injury and experimentation with drugs - this book just captured the parent's misery (my misery) of worrying about your child and feeling helpless. Having gone through two suicidal instances with Teen this fall, I really wondered if I could make it through this book, but I did; Harlan Coben keeps things moving at such a fast pace that it just keeps you listening. I did only give it four stars on Goodreads because the preachiness of the whole "Should you monitor your kids using technology?" debate was tiresome and the multiple plot lines coming all together was a bit of a stretch - but overall this was a fast paced thrilling read, but perhaps, a bit too close for comfort for me.

The audiobook challenge is hosted by Teresa at Teresa's Reading Corner, click on the logo to see my progress.

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris

From Goodreads: In David Sedaris's world no one is safe and no cow is sacred. A manic cross between Mark Leyner, Fran Liebowitz, and the National Enquirer, Sedaris's collection of stories and essays is a rollicking tour through the national Zeitgeist: a do-it-yourself suburban dad saves money by performing home surgery; a man who is loved too much flees the heavyweight champion of the world; a bitter Santa abuses the elves; a teenage suicide tries to incite a lynch mob at her funeral.

My least favorite David Sedaris book - that was unexpected! I thought Barrel Fever would be just as much of a fun romp as all his other books I have read (and loved!) but it just wasn't. I had to push myself not to lose focus in order to finish some of the beginning stories, flipping forward to see how much longer it would go on. How did this happen? Well, this is (from what I can figure looking online) his earliest book and it has a different feel from his later books in that the bulk of the book is stories that aren't autobiographical but are complete fantasy - that made them hard for me to follow - Who's talking? What's real? What's made up? And it felt like he was trying too hard to be funny and edgy instead of the natural storyteller ease his later works have. Everything changes with the last quarter of the book with the title story "Barrel Fever", and then (YES!) four essays "Diary of a Smoker", "Giantess", "The Curly Kind" and "The Santaland Diaries" - those five made it worth plowing through the rest of it. So now I know - I like David Sedaris' essays, I don't like David Sedaris' stories.

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Lonely Mile by Allen Leverone

From Goodreads: When struggling hardware store owner Bill Ferguson witnesses a kidnapping in progress, he reacts instinctively, breaking up the crime and saving a young girl. But the kidnapper, a sociopath known as the “I-90 Killer,” escapes and vows revenge, targeting Ferguson’s own daughter as his next victim. Now one terrified father must unravel a plot that may go much deeper than he realizes, racing against time to save his only child from an unthinkable fate.

Sooo, these Kindle freebies are quite the crap shoot - this time I came up even. It was not bad (like some others), it was not outstanding (like maybe one or two over the past few years), it was good. The plot was good - not too intricate but complex enough that it held a surprise, the characters weren't incredibly developed but they were basically believable and somewhat interesting and varied from likable to incredibly creepy, and the suspense/mystery/action definitely held my attention. This was one of the times that I didn't feel like I was just plowing through to find out what happened - I enjoyed it and wanted to keep reading, my time felt well-spent!

The 2012 E-Book Reading Challenge is hosted by Sarah at Workaday Reads. Click on the logo to see my progress.

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!

Click on the logo to see my progress towards the 2012 A to Z Reading Challenge hosted by Strawberry Splash Reviews.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmerelda Santiago

From Amazon: Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. Growing up, she learned the proper way to eat a guava, the sound of tree frogs in the mango groves at night, the taste of the delectable sausage called morcilla, and the formula for ushering a dead baby's soul to heaven. As she enters school we see the clash, both hilarious and fierce, of Puerto Rican and Yankee culture. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be eleven children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. In this first volume of her much-praised, bestselling trilogy, Santiago brilliantly recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.

I expected to like this one more than I did. I certainly respect the author for living the life she did, accomplishing so much, and then writing it all down to share (better than I ever could) but it just didn't flow for me. In the beginning as she is writing about her early childhood, the writing is this strange combination of really vivid images but a childlike voice. She also throws in a lot of Spanish vocabulary throughout the book; there is a glossary at the back but I am not a "go to the glossary" kind of girl, more of a "skip over it and be a little confused" girl. Finally there is a gap at the end - she gets accepted to a magnet high school and bang she's in Harvard. I know she had to stop - the book would have been double the size if she kept going, but it just seemed like it could have been done more gracefully. I blame her editor for that one.

This is not a book I would have picked up on my own, I hadn't heard of it on blogs or in other media. It was the book pick for an online book club I am a part of with some sorority sisters from college. I'm glad it was a pick - it gave me a glimpse into Puerto Rican culture that felt real and was memorable. But I felt like a doting aunt reading it - you are enjoying it because you are proud of this girl for her accomplishments but not because it is fascinating and you can't wait to turn the page.

I am trying to reach 100 books this year - I've never done it before although I have come very close, click on the logo to see how I am doing for this year!