Friday, May 28, 2010

Picture the Dead

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown is a teen book about spiritual photography, ghosts, and the grief the Civil War created in the many women who lost their loved ones on the battlefield.  This book is filled with scrapbook pages put together by the main character, Jennie.  She lost both her twin brother, Toby, and her fiancee, her cousin Will.  She's stuck living with her Aunt Clara--an ill mannered, unpleasant woman, and her Uncle Henry, who's too much of a weenie to stand up to his wife.

The only survivor of the war is her cousin Quinn, who returns with a damaged eye, and secrets.  Aunt Clara and Uncle Henry arrange to have a photo taken of the family with a spiritual photographer, in hopes that it will capture a sign from Will.  At the photo session, Jennie experiences a moment where she sees Will appear, very angry.  Jennie begins her quest to find out why Will is haunting her, and what secret Quinn is keeping from her about Will's death.  Things are not adding up.

The end is a bit of a twist, but a great one!  The pages throughout the book illustrated with pieces of letters, photos, and comments of Jennie's from her scrapbook help build the story.  It's a refreshing change from the usual paranormal teen novel.  I seem to have fallen into a Civil War period in my reading, so this falls neatly within those parameters.

If you've got a teen who likes lost love, a little bit of history, and a good ghost story, recommend this book.  It's a quick read, and it's fun to study the illustrations and letters--they add to the story.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm Working On It!

I know, I know, it's been over a week since I've posted a new review.  What the heck?!  I'm slogging through a book that, while enjoyable, is building ever so slowly and making me fall asleep when I attempt to read a chunk.  But, I will persevere.

So, in between running, yard work, and an unusual work schedule, I am having my first-in-a-very-long-time unproductive read week.  I have managed to read one enjoyable paranormal romance, but it has a sequel, so I won't review them until I've read that, too.

I'll be posting a review sometime this week, so hang in there!

Monday, May 17, 2010

On Folly Beach

On Folly Beach by Karen White is another hit!  I've read many of her novels, and each one never fails to disappoint in writing style, characters, or story line.  She's an author I stumbled upon a few years ago as I was wandering through fiction at my bookstore.  Once you've read one of her novels, you have to go back and read everything else!

On Folly Beach takes place in both 1942 and in 2009 in Folly Beach, South Carolina.  Maggie is a young woman raising her little sister, Lulu, and living with her beautiful cousin, Cat on Folly Beach at the start of World War 2.  Cat is already a war widow; her short marriage to Jim ends when he dies at Pearl Harbor.  Cat is beautiful, yet insecure, and has to always be the one the men love.  Jim was, in fact, dating Maggie first, until Cat got her claws into him.

Maggie soon meets Peter at a dance in Folly Beach.  He's a civilian and explains that he can't enlist because he has severe asthma.  He's on business from his father's factory in Iowa.  Hmm.  He's mysterious, and soon Maggie finds herself drawn to Peter as he makes appearances in Folly Beach, each time bringing Maggie and Lulu books for Maggie's shop, Folly's Finds.

In 2009, Emmy moves to Folly Beach after losing her husband in Afghanistan.  She buys Folly's Finds from Maggie's daughter-in-law, and finds love notes written in used books from the shop.  She quickly becomes intrigued--who wrote them, and why?  As Emmy digs into the mystery, the story goes back and forth, between 1942 and 2009.  You learn Maggie's story, and at the every end, know just who was having a secret affair, what was going on around Folly Beach, and Lulu's role in it all--the secrets she has kept for 60 years.

I loved this book.  It's about love, and how making choices can leave you stuck and unable to move forward.  It's also about forgiveness, sacrifice, and being brave enough to move forward, and leave sadness behind to forge a new, happy life.

If you like this novel, try her backlist.  She's written about 8 other novels, and I've read quite a few.  I highly recommend her!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yum-Yum-Little Ones

The Enemy  by Charlie Higson is a gripping teen novel about kids struggling to survive in a world where the remaining adults are zombies.  These zombies really like kids--they like eating them.  Years before, anyone over 16 quickly became ill, and most people died from a mysterious disease--was it biological terrorism?  No one knows, because the only people left are young kids.

Those adults who didn't die became "grownups"; zombies who smell, look gross, and wander around London, looking for food.  They're a nasty bunch, and the Holloway kids have learned to defend themselves against the grownups.  Slowly, however, they are being picked off, and when Jester arrives at their headquarters, telling them about another group of kids living at Buckingham Palace, they decided to follow him there.  Walking across London should seem fairly easy with no traffic to contend with, but the kids soon find grownups gathering to stop them.

All of the characters in this novel are well developed and each shows a strength of character that momentarily stops you from realizing they aren't adults--just kids struggling to survive with no answers to what happened, and no way to know what will happen in the future.  My favorite character is Small Sam.  He's a small in stature, but incredibly resourceful and clever as he is taken by the grownups in the opening pages of the novel.  Small Sam is terrified, but manages to keep his fear at bay as he works to escape and rejoin his sister and the others.

I'm looking forward to the sequel--there has to be one!  Read this, and recommend it to your favorite teens.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A New Sookie!

I've gotta say, I love Sookie.  Who, you say?  Sookie Stackhouse, the mind reading waitress who is the central character in Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse novels.  Her latest- Dead in the Family just came out Tuesday, and I eagerly picked it up and read it over the last few days.

Here's what I love about these novels:  They take place in Bon Temps, Louisiana, they mix modern day with vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters,  and witches, and they're pure fun.  I read her first novel, Dead Until Dark years ago.  It's been so long, my copy is a lovely shade of yellow and the spine is creased.  Charlaine has imagined a world that is, strangely enough, utterly believable.  Vampires have "come out" and are a part of society.  Weres and other creatures are still keeping it  quiet; you never know if your co-worker or next door neighbor is a supernatural creature.

Sookie is a twenty-something blond waitress at Merlotte's bar.  Sookie has lived in Bon Temps her entire life, and, along with her brother Jason, know pretty much everyone in town.  Most people know there's something strange about Sookie, but they don't know what.  She's a mind reader; she can pick up people's thoughts.  It's made her life hell, and she's basically isolated herself in order to keep some quiet in her head.  She can't date a normal man, because she can hear his thoughts.  Kinda ruins a date.  Who wants to know everything about someone on the first date?

Enter Bill.  Bill Compton is a vampire, who has ties to Bon Temps.  He comes into Merlotte's one night, and Sookie has a few shocks:  Not only is Bill the first vampire she's ever met, but she can't hear his thoughts.  Utter bliss.  And Sookie's adventures begin.

Sookie is a great character.  She's funny, clever, and loyal to her friends and family.  She's someone you would like if you ever met her.
Dead in the Family is the tenth Sookie novel.  Reading them has been a delight, and as Sookie's world evolves, she encounters more love, heartbreak, and heart-wrenching decisions.  I thought this was another great novel; it's getting harder for Sookie to keep herself out of trouble and live simply.  You have to read the first nine--I won't tell you anymore!

Many people have watched True Blood on HBO; it is based on the Sookie novels.  The third season begins next month, and I look forward to watching the mayhem in Bon Temps.  But, if you've never read the novels, read them before you watch the  show.  While I love the series, I think the books are better.  And, don't think of just buying the first novel.   Go ahead and buy at least the first three, 'cause you'll stay up reading them, and go right into the next one.  Actually, just buy the box set.  It's the first eight.  Then buy #9, which just came out in paperback.   Just think--within a month, you'll have read all ten!  Enjoy!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

Emily Giffin was an author I resisted for awhile because I thought she was just another chick lit writer.  While I had enjoyed my share of chick lit over the years, I was tired of it and looking for something modern, yet not always about a young woman looking for love in an advertising agency in London surrounded by a fabulous circle of friends.

One night at work, I was wandering the sales floor, and once again came across Emily's books in fiction.  I succumbed to the lure of her first novel, and have since read every one of them.  On May 11th, Emily's latest title, Heart of the Matter arrives in bookstores.  I was lucky to receive an advanced reader's copy of it and knew it would be as well written as her previous novels.

Heart of the Matter takes place in Boston and involves a married couple, Tessa and Nick.  Nick is pediatric surgeon, and Tessa is a stay at home Mom of two small kids.  Their life is full, and happy, although Tessa realizes quitting her job as a professor did not lighten her load at home.

Nick is called away from their anniversary dinner on an emergency:  a small boy has been burned  during a birthday party, and is going to need Nick's help with reconstructive surgery to his hand and face.  Enter Valerie, single mom to Charlie, the burn victim,  who forms a relationship with Nick that may cross the line between patient and doctor.

Emily Giffin's gift is taking a situation that we have all either experienced or heard of someone else going through, and asking the simple question:  what would you really do if you were in that situation?  As you  find out reading Emily's novels, there are many shades of grey.

As a reader, you follow Tessa's doubts and growing unhappiness.  But is she really unhappy or just being influenced by her mom's words of wisdom about marriage?  How much does it matter to her what her life looks like to the other upper-middle class women in her neighborhood?  Is Nick to blame?

Up until the last page, you just don't know how this will turn out.  That's the beauty of Emily Giffin.  She shows you  both sides of a situation, and  makes you pause to take a moment and realize you may not have all the answers and be absolutely sure what you'd do when it involves your spouse, a relationship, and a whole life together.  

Try Emily Giffin's novels.  They are grown-up novels for women who have lived, loved, and can appreciate the complexity of making the best  choice that leads to happiness.