Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two Very Different Tales

I just finished both of these novels in the past few days, so I'm posting both reviews at once.  One is a teen retelling of a fairy tale; the other is a modern day mystery shrouded in the paranormal and set in Charleston.  Here are the reviews:

I have to say, this book took me a bit to get into the story. Rosalinda Fitzroy  wakes up after 62 years in a stasis slumber to find she's still 16, but the world has moved on, and a major plague outbreak and planetary near disaster has changed her world drastically. How did she end up slumbering for so long? Who put her there? And who has sent a freakish man/droid that will stop at nothing to terminate her? Rose's parents are long gone, but they left a legacy of power and money that will someday be Rose's responsibility. As she struggles to wake up from the physical effects of being in stasis for so long, she also struggles to find her way in a world where she is considered an oddity and has few friends. As her past is slowly revealed, Rose has to choose between being a passive participant in her life, or to waken fully from her sleep, and become the strong young woman she was meant to be. I liked this book, although it took quite awhile to get moving. Rose can be a bit frustrating at times, but there is hope. This can be a stand alone novel, but the ending leaves it wide open for a sequel. I would read the sequel just to see how Rose has grown after all the earth-shattering discoveries she makes in A Long, Long, Sleep. There is great potential for her to become a powerhouse as she learns to listen to herself, and stop believing she is the person her parents told her she was--weak, silly, and not able to stand on her own.

And the next one:

Posted 04/26/11: Amelia Grey is a graveyard restorer who lives in Charleston. She also can see ghosts, and has learned to isolate herself in order to protect herself against those spirits that would attach themselves to her light and literally suck her dry and drive her insane. Amelia's work in a graveyard soon involves her in a local murder, and John Devlin, a mysteriously brooding detective who is haunted by the spirits of his wife and young daughter. Amelia struggles to maintain her distance, but at the same time is drawn into Devlin's life as his dead wife (a nasty bit of lady) and young daughter soon start visiting her garden. What do they want? This book was great! The historical lore of Charleston and the study of cemeteries and tombstone symbols was just fascinating, and you can tell the author spent much time researching this overlooked part of our history. It makes you want to explore your local cemeteries and find out more about our culture and how we honor the dead. I especially enjoyed the tension between Amelia and Devlin. This romance will not be easy, as much stands in their way--he is part of a secret society, and she can see ghosts. Both have secrets to keep. Can't wait for the next one in this series!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

My Reading List for the Next Two Weeks

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed with my reading choices, so for the sake of my sanity, I'm picking out the books I'm going to be reading the next few weeks.   Most of them are on my Nook (courtesy of Net Galley).  And, I'll be starting on The Paris Wife May 1st for The Talking Leaf Book Club.  If you haven't checked out this blog, please do.  We're reading a book a month, and blogging about it.  Can't wait to start on our first pick.

Here's my reading list!  I may actually get them all done, if the weather continues to be rainy every time I have a day off!  I think I'll have a whirlwind week of yard work when the sun finally does shine and it warms up!

Courtesy of Net Galley

Courtesy of Net Galley

Courtesy of Net Galley

Courtesy of Net Galley, although it's a bit
difficult to read this on my Nook!  Argh
I may just buy the book :)

As you can see, it's a mixed bag.  Teen fantasy, Sci-Fi, running stories, and a novel about a woman who blogs about food and her life.  I'll be posting reviews!  I can't wait to read The Restorer.  It came into the bookstore yesterday, and I gazed longingly at it before I put it out on our New Trade Paperback Table.  

Have a great reading week, folks!  

What are you reading? 
 How many books are you reading now?  
Are you reading more this year, or less? 
 I want to know!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry

This was a very touching book about two adult sisters--one with Asperger's, who struggle to come to terms with the sudden death of their parents. Amanda is the sister with the husband, big house, and two kids. Ginny still lives with her parents, and struggles to define "what's normal". She finds comfort and ways to cope with life when she cooks, thinks about food, and reads blogs about recipes and food.

After their parents die Ginny, in a moment of trying to cope, prepares a recipe from her deceased Grandmother. And as the recipe is completed, her Grandmother arrives in the kitchen, sitting on a stool. Ginny quickly realizes that making a recipe handwritten by someone dead brings them back to her kitchen, for as long as the smell of the cooking lingers. It's her chance to have one last conversation with her mother, and solve the mystery of a letter her father wrote to her mother many years before, asking for forgiveness. What did he do that required forgiveness?

This book was a delight to read. It is poignant, and sad, but Ginny is one amazing character. She struggles with the definition of "normal" all her life. She has coping mechanisms that help her get through the day, but at the same time, she's not living her life to the fullest. With the death of her parents, and a clash with her sister, she soon realizes she must take steps to leave her comfort zone and take control. 

The recipes in this book will make you want to start cooking. And reading this from Ginny's perspective helps to understand what someone on the Asperger's spectrum must go through each day. I found that deeply insightful; and I especially loved Ginny's realization that everyone's "normal" is different. There is no normal that is a blanket that fits us all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure

Here's my review from Goodreads.com:

Here I thought I was the only person on the planet who felt this way about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her books.  I so wanted to be Laura--she seemed to try and be so good, but there was a bit of an imp that came out sometimes.

I agree with Wendy's feelings about being an adult and have that illusion of Laura World ripped away.  It is not fair to grow up and find out some things aren't quite true, especially Laura's World.  And that most of it is gone, too.  How sad.  It's another reminder of how our childhood memories aren't exactly what we thought they were.  Along with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, Laura's actual  life was not quite what was in the books.  I don't know much about Rose, except that I thought she was pretty amazing.  But to understand now, from an adult point of view, that she had a difficult childhood, and had a rocky relationship with her Mother; well, it's kind of  a shock that someone out there--especially her own daughter-- didn't think the sun shone out of Laura's sunbonnet.  It makes me wonder  what I would have thought of the middle aged Laura.  Would I have liked her?

I guess I still  think of Laura Ingalls Wilder the same way I did as a child--a precocious young girl who loved her Ma and Pa, yearned to travel out West,  and tried her very best to be good.  Wendy's journey around the Mid-West to visit the various sites of Laura's life kept me glued to the pages. I've always wanted to go to Mansfield, Mo, but now I am torn.  I think I prefer to keep the image of Laura I've kept in my mind since first reading Little House in the Big Woods intact and close to my heart.  That book remains my favorite out of the series.

I still want to try and make candy out of maple syrup and snow.

Thanks, Wendy for your journey into Laura's World.  It was bittersweet, funny, and a bit tearful.  And I still think Melissa Gilbert was one kick-ass Laura.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Giveaway Coming Up!

I'm closing in on reaching 50 books for this year!  And I realize I was supposed to do a giveaway when I hit 35, but I just completely forgot about it.  

I'll keep you posted on upcoming information about the giveaway.  I'm so excited!  Hopefully this will happen in the next two weeks.  So on that note, it's raining and gloomy outside and I have a few days off.  I'm going to read!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Two Historical Novels for You

I love my historical fiction, whether it's teen fiction, or adult.  I've read two historical novels in the past week that are very different!

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell is a teen historical novel with a paranormal twist.  Young Amelia is sent from Maine to Baltimore in 1889 to spend the summer with her cousins, the Stewarts, in order to "catch" a husband.  Her cousin Zora is a lovely young woman who is in love with Thomas, the son of a local doctor.  Amelia's first dinner party introduces her to Nathaniel, a poor artist who is paid to be the 'fourteenth' at dinner parties.  Nathaniel is a mysterious young man who soon has Amelia thinking only of him.  An accidental gaze into  the sunset has Amelia seeing a future event--Zora dancing with Thomas in a beautiful dress.  Spilling the beans to Zora, and having the event occur exactly as Amelia has seen it, soon has Amelia caught up in a whirlwind of social calls with other young society ladies demanding that Amelia see their future, with horrible consequences for everyone, and sending Amelia back to Maine, locked up in her brother's attic as a 'ruined' young woman.  

I did like this book.  The idea for the story was intriguing, and the descriptions of society and the do's and don'ts at that time pull you into the story.  My only complaint was that nothing much happened until the last 25 or so pages, and then Bam!  It all happens at once.  And the end?  Well, it kinda left me unsatisfied.  I hope there is more to Amelia's story so the readers can have some conclusion and we can discover how Amelia's talent came to be.

My other book is by one of my favorite authors, Geraldine Brooks.  It's coming out in May and it's called Caleb's Crossing.  Geraldine Brooks is a spectacular historical novelist.  She has taken the story of Caleb, who was an actual figure in history--he was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard in 1665.  
The story is about Caleb, but is narrated by Bethia, a young woman who meets Caleb in her early teen years as they both live on Martha's Vineyard.  Caleb is with the local tribe, and Bethia meets him one day while she's out gathering food.  Bethia's father is a preacher who has been making attempts to convert the local tribes to Christianity, and Bethia's thirst for learning has lead her to learn some of the native language, which she uses to communicate with Caleb.  Over the years, their friendship grows, and through many tragedies in Bethia's family, she finds herself an indentured servant in Cambridge, where Caleb and her brother are preparing to take exams to enter Harvard.  

This novel is another amazing story by Brooks.  She weaves so much into her stories, you become completely involved in the lives of the characters.  Bethia is a wonderful young woman who fights against the strictures of her time, which do not allow women to learn to read and write.  She's lucky that her father has allowed her to learn, but when it becomes clear that she is much smarter than her older brother, her father forbids her to advance her studies.  He tells her women are there to be supportive of their husbands and run the household, and that Latin, rhetoric, and Greek are too difficult and unnecessary for women.

If  you  are a fan of historical fiction at it's best, pick this up.  It's a fascinating look at the early history of our country, and it's amazing to realize that Harvard has been around so long!  Caleb's struggle to bridge the gap between his culture and the white culture is heartbreaking, and you find yourself wishing he had been left alone to live his life amongst the beauty of Martha's Vineyard.  

Monday, April 11, 2011

Random Read Monday--Or--Getting Books Off The Floor

It's Random Read Monday again, and here's my choice for this week:

The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer.  It's about a plucky heroine who is a professional wet nurse who gets into the business of the family she works for, and all sorts of trouble follows.  Can't wait to read it!

I picked this title because it is, like many others, in a pile on my living room floor.  I have 4 piles, to be exact, of books I have bought & ARCS  that I've been given and haven't read just yet.  I have them in corners and next to my book cases, but I just can't ignore them any longer.

So here's what I have decided to do--it's my assignment for the summer. I'm going to grab a book off of a pile each week, and I'm gonna read it.  Those piles of books will slowly go down, and I will finally be reading what I've bought in the last year!  I would love to have a big book sale at the end of the summer, but in order to do that, I have to read the books before I sell them.  Piles be gone!   Can I do it?  Hope so--it will be fun to read everything and rediscover what it was about that book that made me buy it in the first place.  It is also helping me reign in my book buying impulses.  I easily have enough books at home to get me through the rest of the year, and probably part of next year, too.  Now this doesn't mean I won't buy anything, just that, like grocery shopping, I must use what I have at home first before buying new "groceries".  Cause really, books are like food for me.  Sometimes I need something spicey, sometimes it's gotta be a full meal, and sometimes it's just gotta be a snack.  I think I have all of them covered.

I also have enough unread books from Netgalley, free downloads from B&N's Free Fridays, and other titles I've purchased on my Nook to keep me busy besides what I've physically got at home.

Now, having said all that, I have to go outside and work in the yard.  No reading until later!  Do you read less in the warmer months, or more?  I think I read less, cause I have more to do outside just in upkeep of the house and yard.  And more running, too.  Do you prefer to read fun, light books in the spring and summer, or do you read whatever appeals to you?  I read whatever appeals to me, and for this summer, it will be what appealed to me over the last year. :0

Thursday, April 7, 2011

365 Thank Yous

It's always good to read about someone who was completely down on his luck and through a simple act of gratitude turned his life around.  

John Kralik did just that.  John was a lawyer struggling to keep his firm together, going through a painful divorce, and completely tapped out financially.  Clients weren't paying their bills; he was struggling to make payroll for his employees, and felt like a complete loser living in a dingy apartment and sharing custody of his young daughter.

After hitting his lowest point, John decided he would start writing thank you notes to people who had given him Christmas presents.  These notes were not long, just a few sentences to tell them how much he appreciated the gift and what it meant to him.

This small act, along with the simple joys his daughter found spending time with him set him on a path to recreating his life with gratitude.  Now sometimes John had set backs, but he kept going.  He found inspiration in his friends with  their kind words and support when he felt down and ready to give up.  And those thank you notes he sent felt like an act of meditation to him, and kept him calm and focused on the positive aspects of his life.

Have you written a thank you note lately?  

Another great book to read is 29 Gifts by Cami Walker.  Cami decides to give a gift--usually something small but meaningful--for 29 days.  The effect on her life was, quite simply, magical.  This is another great book about reaching past your bad times and giving to someone else.  The act of giving--whether it's kind words, buying a cup of coffee for someone else, or even saying thank you--can uplift your spirits and start a positive change in your life.  

These books are my "gift" to you, my readers.  They are both very inspirational, and I hope you can take some time to read these stories about everyday people making amazing changes just by a simple act of kindness.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Magnolia League by Katie Crouch

Oh, this was fun teen read.  I was especially interested in this novel because it takes place in Savannah, Georgia--and I'm going there in November on vacation with two of my sisters.  

Alex is a sixteen year old, slightly dumpy dread-locked young woman who has lived on a California commune all of her life.  This changes when her mother is killed in a car accident, and Alex's grandmother collects her and brings her to the family mansion in Savannah to live.  

Alex doesn't fit in too well, and especially with her grandmother's Magnolia League.  What exactly is the Magnolia League?  Well, it's a bit mysterious, and Alex's grandmother is the founder and leader.  Alex is the heir apparent, and hoodoo is alive and well with the Magnolias.  

I can't say much about the plot, because it would give a major part of the story away.  What I can say is that I really enjoyed this novel.  It's fresh, different, and Alex is not a cookie cutter heroine.  She's mouthy, smart, and determined to find out what her "friends" are up to with the Buzzard family--and why they refuse to leave Savannah. 

There will be a sequel, of course!  Alex has a lot of work to do, and she's not going to have an easy time accomplishing her goals.  If you're looking for a teen read that explores the mysteries of voodoo, hoodoo, and the Old South, look no more.  Grab this one and read it.