Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is There Every Safety in Secrets??

It's been quite a while since I've gotten a selection from the First Look Program at Harper Collins. But for some reason, this month I received 3!! Here is my first review, The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel (320 pgs, Avon 2008).

Fiona and Patricia have been friends since the First grade. Growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana they were inseparable. Fiona grew up in a large house with her parents and housekeeper. Far from perfect, Fiona's parents were cold and strict. Patricia lived with her twice-divorced mother and half-brother in an apartment. Patricia's mom was never home and her brother would rather spend his time beating her up than actually speaking to her. In a world that wasn't very kind to either, the girls forged a bond that held the test of time.

Now, both girls are in their 30's and living in Hollywood. Fiona is married, expecting her first child and working as an actress with moderate success. Mostly TV movies and guest appearances in series. Patricia is now the host of a famous reality show and a bigger star than she had ever dreamed possible.

But the main focus of this book is not the careers of each woman, but relationships. The relationship between the two friends; the relationship between the families; but most importantly, the relationships between the woman and their husbands. Because there is a secret between the women that has been held since they were 10 years old....when they swore never to tell. But what happens to all the other relationships if this one secret ever sees the light of day?

I liked this book. Delaune Michel has written a lot of Fiona's inner dialogue in a way that made it a bit confusing to me at first. Then I realized it's written just like I think.....goes a bit in circles! But when I finally settled down, I was very impressed at the deep character study she has put to paper. Fiona is a bit of a fractured soul. As an actress, she has learned to keep a very positive exterior, while holding everything inside. She is rather neurotic, and you can see as Michel takes you into the past for looks at her childhood, the reasons for her self-doubt. Patricia, on the surface, comes off as an insensitive, career-driven user. And in a way, she is. But there is more to her than that.

Drifting between the past and present, The Safety of Secrets is an intense look at how secrets can bind you together....and how they can tear you apart. At first, it's a light book about Hollywood. But when the past comes into play, there is an evolution. And light, it is not. If you are looking for a good book about friendship, relationships, and life, this one might be it. If nothing else, it shows you that the little things a parent does, can affect a child for the rest of her life!! And that itself, is worth the price of admission! 4/5

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blogger Awards are Brillante and Excellent!

In the past couple of weeks, this lowly little blog has been bestowed the honor of a couple of blog awards. I've been remiss in my duties as owner to thank everyone....and I'm going to do that right now!!

Marg from Reading Adventures has been a friend for a long time. In fact, it was in part due to Marg and her blog that I actually started this blog! She has wonderful book reviews and great taste, so I always love to stop by and see what she is saying!!

Biblioatrist from Bibliolatry is smart, sassy and has excellent reviews as well. I feel honored to make her list of blog award winners!

Amy from The Sleepy Reader is another blogger that I have been following since, well....since I started this blog. Her blog also has great reviews, and lots of book related "stuff". She's a really nice person to boot. What more can you ask from a blogging buddy??

Carrie K. from Books and Movies and Wisteria from A Bookworm's Dinner are both relatively new-to-me bloggers. Both have wonderful, book-related blogs and have been added to my ever-expanding blogroll. I actually feel the most honored to be nominated by these two since I don't know them that well....and they felt my blog deserved an award. Well that just gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling!!

So...THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!! I'm am honored, and to be honest, rather humbled. When I started blogging, it was to keep all my book reviews in one spot. To rant a little. And maybe pass on some decent information. But I can honestly say I didn't really have any expectations for other to actually READ it. And now that I know you do, I will try to do better....and maybe post a little more often!! pass on the love:

Once an award is received, the rules are as follows:

1. Put the logo on your blog.
2. Add a link to the person who awarded you.
3. Nominate at least seven other blogs.
4. Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5. Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

This is really hard. Because I love all the blogs that I frequent, and I always feel like I'm leaving someone out. But, rules are rules, so I'll pass these awards on to just a few of my blogging buddies:

Nicola from Back to Books. Nicola's blog is filled with wonderful book reviews, both for adults and YA's. I love finding great recommendations from her. She hasn't steered me wrong yet!

Bobbi from Bobbi's Book Nook is a relatively new-to-me blogger. But from reading her numerous and wonderful reviews, we seem to be very like-minded in our reading. She has great diversity in her reading, and I can see my TBR pile growing a lot from just visiting her blog!

Rhinoa from Rhinoa's Rambling is like a reading "soul sister". I love her taste in books, I love the look of her blog. And let's face. She's just plain cool!!

Tammy from Rambling's by Tammy is a relatively new blogger. But I've known Tammy for a lot longer since we've been involved in a book club together. She is smart, sassy and funny. She has great reviews. And you need to check out her blog!

Laura from Reading Reflections is another fairly new blogger. She has a very pretty blog with wonderful reviews. She's also a challenge addict like me!!

Tanabata from In Spring It Is the Dawn has a beautiful blog. Besides the great book reviews, she is a kick-ass photographer, and there are always wonderful pictures to see. A definite must-read blog!

Finally.....there is Debi from Nothing of Importance. There are days I honestly think Debi and I were separated at birth!! She is smart and funny. Has great taste in books. Wonderful reviews. And lots of great family pictures. Debi's a great mom, with great kids and a great love of reading. And when I say Challenge Addict....she's right up there with me!

That's it. I could go on for hours. But I won't. Share the love!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Queen of Gothic Strikes Again!

As a fan of all things dark and dreary, I have, within the last few years, become quite a fan of Daphne du Maurier. The woman could write quite a tale, that's for sure. Did you know, she wrote the short story that Alfred Hitchcock used to make his movie, The Birds? I didn't know that either!! See...reading this blog IS educational!! So, with a need to read more by this author, I choose to read Jamaica Inn by du Maurier (304 pgs, Avon 1936) as a selection for the What's in a Name Challenge.

It was a cold grey day in late November. The weather had changed overnight, when a backing wind brought a granite sky and a mizzling rain with it, and although it was now only a little after two o'clock in the afternoon, the pallour of a winter evening seemed to have closed upon the hills, cloaking them in mist.

How's that for setting the mood right off the bat??

When Mary Yellan's mother was on her death bed, she begged Mary to make her a promise. Mary's mother said that when she died, she wanted Mary to leave their little farm and go live with her aunt Patience. Trying to look out for her daughter, Mary's mom was afraid that life would be too hard for a young girl on a farm by herself and wanted her to have an easier life. Little did she know the fate of things to come.

With all her belongs packed into a small trunk, Mary set out for Jamaica Inn, which was owned by her Aunt Patience and her Uncle Joss. Mary had only met Patience once, but remembered her mother's sister as a vivacious and carefree woman. But when she told the coach driver where she was going, he tried to talk her out of it. He said no one went to Jamaica Inn, especially a young woman. It was an evil place. However, Mary had promised her dying mother, and good or bad she had to keep that promise.

But when Mary arrived on that cold, rainy night, she found that Aunt Patience was no longer the young vivacious woman she used to be. She was older, thinner, and perpetually frightened. She was a shell of the woman she used to be. And the man she married, Joss Meryln was a huge, hulking man with a mean streak a mile long and an evil glint in his eye. Joss told Mary she was to help out around the Inn and as long as she minded her own business, everything would be fine.

But Jamaica Inn was no travelers Inn. It was old, crumbling and falling apart. No one every stayed there. Mary couldn't figure out how the Merlyn's made any living off of it.....until the night when she was woken from her sleep by all the wagons. As she peered out the window (when she wasn't supposed to do), she saw a bunch of men unloading boxes into the storage rooms in the Inn. As she snuck downstairs to get a better look, she overheard her uncle threaten a man who wanted "out".

But just when Mary was trying to figure out a way to get her Aunt Patience away from this place, a strange man stopped at the Inn. He was dark, rugged and handsome.....and was Joss Merlyn's younger brother, Jem. He seemed like he wanted to help Mary, but could she really trust someone with the last name of Merlyn??

I read the story Rebecca a couple of years ago, and while I really enjoyed it, I wasn't "wowed" by it. I finally realized I just had too many high expectations for such a famous book. Not so with Jamaica Inn. I knew nothing about this one. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it before I started looking for books to fit into the challenge. From page one, du Maurier ran with the "eerie, dark" Gothic setting and told a brilliant story. Mary was a smart, strong, independent young woman in a time when those qualities were not usually used to describe a woman. Jem was the proverbial "bad boy". A handsome horse thief that was fun and likable, du Maurier created a great anti-hero in Jem. Will he do the right thing in the end.....or will he be just another Merlyn?? I guess you will have to read the book to find out!!

For a book that was written over 70 years ago, Jamaica Inn was incredibly readable and highly entertaining. I enjoyed it immensely. A great Gothic tale of thieves, murder, and even a little romance. Definitely worth reading and highly recommended.


Questions from Weekly Geeks:

Bookfool: What did you think of Jamaica Inn? Did the concept of shipwrecking surprise you or did you already know about wrecks off the Cornish Coast? How many du Maurier books have you read and where does this one fit in, as far as favorites, if you've read several?

I really liked this book. I also thought it was cool that Jamaica Inn is a real place on the Cornish Coast. I had not heard of "wreckers" before reading this book. It was a concept that surprised me, and again, I like the idea that du Maurier used a real historical event and created a story around it. So far, I've read 3 du Maurier books: Rebecca, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn. While I enjoyed all 3, my favorite was probably My Cousin Rachel, followed very closely by Jamaica Inn. Rebecca was a great book too. A Classic. But I think I liked the others just a wee bit better.

Nymeth: I'm very curious about Jamaica Inn (the Tori Amos songs helps, I confess). Was this your first Daphne du Maurier? If so, do you plan on reading her again? If not, how does it compare to her other books? Would you recommend the book for the RIP challenge? Did the ending surprise you or could you see it coming?

The Tori Amos song is actually about this book!! That girl is definitely a reader! And no, it's not my first du Maurier book. But I will definitely try to read more of her works. She's impressed me alot. As far the RIP challenge goes, although no ghosts, it's clearly a dark Gothic novel and I think it would fit just fine. There WAS a surprise in the ending, but I had kind of figured it out long before Mary did. But du Maurier actually dropped a lot of decent hints about I guess it wasn't all that much of a surprise!!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Salon - Reading and Movies

Well...I guess it's that time again!! Sunday night and I'm just now posting my Sunday Salon. I'm giving myself props for actually making it 3 weeks in a row!!

It was a busy weekend here in the Toland household. Lots of work.....a couple of movies and even two finished books! I went to see Mamma Mia yesterday. I have a secret love of ABBA music. Damn. I hate admitting that. But it's like a disease. For some reason, those songs just seem to worm their way into my brain, and I can't help but love them!! It was a really good movie, and now I really want to see the live version. Meryl Streep is wonderful, as always. And Amanda Seyfried, as Sophie, was, in a word, incredible. Colin Firth is just so adorable. Not so much Pierce Brosnan though. I think someone told the man he could sing. They lied. Still, it was fun....and Dancing Queen has been in my head ever since!

We also watched Gone Baby Gone on video. Very good movie. I was really impressed with Ben Affleck's screenplay and his first Directing attempt. One of these days I'll have to read the Lehane novel.

I finished up reading du Maurier's Jamaica Inn. I was really impressed by this one. For a novel that is over 70 years old, it reads easily and has lots of excitement....even a little romance. It's a classic "Gothic" novel. When I read Rebecca, I enjoyed it....but I was a little disappointed. I expected to be "wowed". And I wasn't. It's one of those books I've heard so much about....and then it just didn't live up to the high expectations I had. With Jamaica Inn, on the other hand, I didn't have any high expectations.....and I really loved it.

I also finished Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's a YA book about the life of a senior boy named Tyler. Tyler was a kid that spent all of jr. high and most of high school being picked on. But by his senior year, he was 6'3" and all muscle. He also got into some trouble, was on probation, and now finds himself considered "dangerous". The thing about Anderson is she really knows how to write like a teen. I was impressed by Speak when I read it a few months ago....but I think Twisted was even better. Reviews to both books are forthcoming!!

Other than that, I'm still taking my time walking the Appalachian Trail with Bill Bryson. The man is nothing if not hilarious. And I'm also reading an ARC by DeLaune Michel. I haven't gotten too far into it yet, but so far so good. Maybe I'll also start on of my Vine books. I need to keep on top of these ARC's, that's for sure. I'm off to read a little more. Happy Sunday....and Happy Reading!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Weekly Geeks #12 and Amazon Vine

Sheesh. It's been like a week since I posted. Man. Gotta get on the stick, as my kiddies would say. Weekly Geek #12 is this:

1. In your blog, list any books you’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet. If
you’re all caught up on reviews, maybe you could try this with whatever book(s)
you finish this week.
2. Ask your readers to ask you questions about any of
the books they want. In your comments, not in their blogs. Most likely, people
who will ask you questions will be people who have read one of the books or know
something about it because they want to read it.
3. Later, take whichever
questions you like from your comments and use them in a post about each book.
I’ll probably turn mine into a sort of interview-review. Link to each blogger
next to that blogger’s question(s).
4. Visit other Weekly Geeks and ask them
some questions!

At the moment, I'm only one review behind. But I'm reading 3 books, so I'm going to open those up for any questions as well.

  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (just finished. Will review in the next few days)
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel
  • Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

That is my list. If any of you faithful readers have questions you would like me to answer as part of my review.....Go for it!!

============================================== any of you post reviews on Amazon?? I am involved with a Yahoo group that promotes Reader Reviews. It was actually this group that got me interested in starting this blog in the first place. And after reading the first few reviews that I posted, I can see how much better I've gotten!!

Anyhoo, have you heard of the Amazon Vine program? Since I do post reviews on Amazon, I got an invitation to join the Amazon Vine program. What is this you ask?? Oh, just another way for me to get free books!! Of course, it's also more obligation to review, but regardless of that, I'm pretty excited about it!

When I clicked on the invitation, here is what it said:

As one of our most valued customer reviewers, we would like to offer you a special invitation to join an exciting new Amazon program called Amazon Vine. As a member of this exclusive community, you will have access to pre-release and new products across all Amazon categories, and the opportunity to be among the very first to review them. There is no cost to you to participate or to receive Vine products. We are simply asking for your time in writing reviews for the products you select from the program.

Here's how it works -- Each month we will email you a newsletter of new products covering a wide range of product categories, including items that have been targeted specifically to you based on your past purchase and review history on The number and types of
products featured in your monthly newsletter will vary, but you can be assured that we will send you products that we think you will be most interested in. Browse the selection and request items that appeal to you. We will ship those items directly to your doorstep - free of charge - and they are yours to keep. Once you write your review, we'll
post it on the product detail page on with a special badge and header so that it stands out (you'll turn your friends green with envy). As always, Amazon will not edit or modify your opinions, nor share your personal contact information with vendors.

Just way too cool, no?? Every month there is a newsletter and you get to choose things : books, cd's movies, grocery items, electronics, etc. First come, first serve kind of deal because there is a limited number per item. And you can get up to 4 items at a time. You have to review 3 out of every 4 items or you can't get any more. Still sounds fun!

My picks for this month:

Is anyone else involved in this program? I am hoping for a lot with this, and I was just wondering if it all pays off!

Later!! Tomorrow, Blog Awards and maybe a review!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Japanese Reading Challenge

I know....I know. But I couldn't help myself. Besides, I have to redeem myself from last year's pitiful performance!

Hosted by the beautiful Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza, the rules are easy. Read three books of your choice. They can be a novel, a work of poetry, a children's book, graphic novel, biography or autobiography.Read them between July 30, 2008 and January 30, 2009.

I was going to throw in a Graphic Novel or two, but decided against it. I FINALLY came up with a reading list, so here it goes:

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

I'd love to hear from you if you've read any of these !!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Any Time for Reading??

The Sunday Salon.comThe answer to that question would be a resounding NO!! Not for lack of want, but so little time this weekend. Friday was the only day this last week that I had completely off (ie, not working either job!) So, my husband and I took the kiddies to see The Dark Knight. And out to dinner. was all family time.

On Saturday, my daughter Bella had her end-of-the-season softball tournament. Now....we really only expected to play the one game. Not that we didn't have a lot of faith in our girls, but they had a lot of odds stacked against them. First of all, in a league of 7 - 9 year olds, our team was ALL 7 year olds and 1 9 year old. Let's just say, all of the other teams were LOADED with older kids. I'm not sure who divides them the way they do, but we kind of got screwed from the beginning. Now, I had actually requested the coach, because Ray coach Bella last year and really liked him. And truthfully, it's not really a competitive league anyway. The "Lassie" division is more educational, a place to learn the basics. But through the season, we really struggled against some of the other teams. And we were actually picked to finish dead-last.

But our little band of girlies pulled out a victory in the first game and took us to another game!! We played for 3rd/4th place this afternoon. And although we lost by 1 run, our girls finished 4th out of 10!! We couldn't have been prouder!

There are our girls with their trophies and medals!! Aren't they a bunch of cuties??

On the reading front, I finished Good Omens last week, and I'm almost done with both the Bryson and the du Maurier. Hope to have both completed this week. I also want to join the Japanese Reading Challenge....but I haven't taken the time to figure out what I want to read yet! Yet another "to do" on my list.

So.....I guess this is a short Salon. Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

As Good as the Hype.....And Then Some

Was there ever a doubt that I would miss an opening of the biggest, most anticipated movie event of the entire summer?? Nope. My husband and I fell in love with Christian Bale's version of the Caped Crusader after we saw Batman Begins. On top of it, the events surrounding Heath Ledger's untimely death just makes this opening all the more mythic. After reading many articles about how Ledger's performance is Oscar-worthy, we were lined up for an early day showing yesterday.

Movie reviews aren't really my thing, so I'll make this brief. The movie is truly as dark and as phenomenal as the hype that surrounds it. Heath Ledger's Joker is truly a work of art. He is ruthless, homicidal and in a word, insane. I never thought I would consider another Joker after Jack Nicholson, but Ledger makes it his own. He takes twisted to an all new level. I have no doubts that he will be nominated for an Oscar for this performance. It was actually really sad to watch him, to be honest. I had the same feeling when I went to see "The Crow" after Brandon Lee had died. A true genius was lost when he past away.

The thing that works about Christian Bale's version of Batman is his 'humanness', if that is a word. He isn't so much a superhero as he is human, with bumps and bruises.....and a dark place of his own. The parallel between the good and evil is the core of this movie, and it works.

The most surprising part of the movie though, is Aaron Eckhart's Harvey Dent. As anyone who has ever read the comics knows, Harvey Dent is Two-Face, and he is introduced in this movie as well. Two-Face's coming out is possibly the creepiest scene of the movie, despite all of Ledger's great acting.

So...if you are a superhero fan in any way, you most definitely need to see this one on the big screen. It really is worth the price of admission!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Armageddon Has Arrived.....and It Is Hilarious!

As I stated in my Sunday Salon post, I knew I needed to read Terry Pratchett!! I just knew it. I've heard endless reviews on his writing, but I've just never taken the time. ease my way into the world of Pratchett, I decided to start of with his collaboration with Neil Gaiman: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnus Nutter, Witch (368 pgs, Ace Trade). It's also a selection I'm using for the What's in a Name Challenge and the TBR Challenge.

God does not play dice with the universe; He plays an ineffable game of His own devising, which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody], to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker in a pitch-dark room, with blank cards, for infinite stakes, with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.

The end of the world is coming.....what are you going to do? For angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley, that is the question. After spending centuries on Earth, they've become friends....sort of. And they actually LIKE it here. They don't want a war between the "sides". So when the Antichrist is born, the two of them take it upon themselves to "watch" him to see if they can stop him from becoming evil. If they work together, maybe they can keep him from choosing between Good and Evil, and postpone Armageddon. Sounds like a good plan, doesn't it??

But due to a mix up at birth, the son of the American Diplomat is not really the Antichrist. He's just a normal 11-year-old boy. The real Antichrist is named Adam, and he lives in Lower Tadfield, England. Raised by normal English parents, he has friends and a dog (the Hell-Hound has become a normal, little dog that likes to terrorize cats). He doesn't even realize the power he possesses. Can this seemingly normal little boy actually become the purveyor of the end of the world??

All of this has been prophecized by Agnes Nutter, a witch in the seventeenth century. She was the only true prophet that ever lived. She even wrote a book, called The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. Unfortunately, the book didn't sell very well. In fact, it didn't sell at all. Not that it mattered to Agnes; she just wanted the author copy anyway. And that copy is now in the hands of one of her descendants, Anathema Device, a witch of her accord, who is also trying to stop the end of the world.

There are also the four horseman of the Apocalypse, who have assembled to usher in the end of the world. However, they aren't horseman, but bikers. REAL Hell's Angels to be exact. War, Famine, Death and Pollution (Pestilence had to retire after the discovery of Penicillin). Now the race is on to find the real Antichrist, and depending on your side, either save or end the world!

A satirical look at Armageddon, this book is also kind of parody of the movie, The Omen. When Warlock (the boy everyone THINKS is the Antichrist) is young, his Nanny buys him a tricycle. But she can never get him to ride it in the house! The irony and wit in this book astounds me! A. Crowley (ie Crawley) was the serpent in the Garden of Eden; The tempter. Aleister Crowley, in real life, was the famous Satanist or occultist. Which makes this line even funnier:
"Crowley always found [Satanists] embarrassing. You couldn't actually be rude
to them, but you couldn't help feeling about them the same way that, say, a
Vietnam veteran would feel about someone who wears combat gear to Neighborhood
Watch meetings."

What Pratchett and Gaiman have done with this book is take a horrible, scary, evil happening and make it humorous. But in the midst of all the fun, they make some really valid points:

"There had been times, over the past millennium, when Crowley had felt like
sending a message back Below saying, Look, we may as well give up right now, we
may as well shut down Dis and Pandemonium and everywhere and move up here,
there's nothing we can do to them [humans] that they don't do themselves and
they do things we've never even thought of, often involving electrodes."

But in the end, they leave it up the wisdom of an 11-year-old kid, who just happens to be the Antichrist. And I guess this says something for the whole nature vs. nurture debate.

"I don't see what's so triffic about creating people as people and then gettin'
upset 'cos they act like people," said Adam severely. "Anyway, if you stopped
tellin' people it's all sorted out after they're dead, they might try sorting it
all out while they're alive."

I realize I'm kind of all over the place with this review. That's because the book is kind of all over the place. It's not the easiest book to review, that's for sure. But I'll tell you this: This is one fantastic book!! If I didn't already have a total crush on Neil Gaiman, I'd fall in love all over after reading this one. Of course, now I'm totally enamoured with Pratchett too. The end of the world doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. It can be positively hilarious!! Gaiman and Pratchett just proved it!! 4.5/5

Monday, July 14, 2008

So Much More than Just "Chick Lit"

For about 2 years, I was a very prolific reader of "Chick Lit". My favorites were always the Brit Chick Lit. Although Marian Keyes is from Ireland, I have always lumped her in this category. That being said, I have never actually READ a book by Marian Keyes. I've always meant to, but it just never happened. Maybe that is why I was so surprised when I read This Charming Man (576 pgs, William Morrow). A special thanks to Michael Barrs from William Morrow for sending this one my way! I'm using this one for another check on my Pub 08 Challenge list.

The worst day of my life. When the first wave of shock released me from a fiendish grip, I couldn't help but notice that Paddy hadn't called me. Ominous. I was his girlfriend, the media was going wild that he was getting married to another woman, and he hadn't called me. Bad sign.

This story is told in alternating chapters by the women in the life of Paddy de Courcy, the head of the New Ireland political part. Smart, handsome and debonair, Paddy de Courcy has charmed the entire country of Ireland....and quite a few women to boot. From each woman's perspective, we can see how knowing Paddy has shaped their lives.

Lola is a stylist with an amazing fashion sense and purple hair. Excuse me. That would be molichino hair. She considered herself Paddy's girlfriend, even though there were very few times he actually took her out in public. After the news broke, Lola spent a week stalking Paddy trying to get answers. The best he could do was that his fiancee was going to be the perfect politician's wife...something Lola would never be. With her business taking a series nose-dive because of her obsession with Paddy, she decided to take a break and stay at a friend's cabin in a little remote village across the country from Dublin.

Grace is a reporter for The Spokesman. She is tough, breezy and full of spunk. And she knew Paddy when she was younger. The worked together in a bar right out of high school. And just when Grace had decided to make her move, Paddy met her twin sister, Marnie. Marnie was as opposite from Grace as could be: she is tiny, fragile and super-emotive, in a Sylvia Plath sort of way. Paddy and Marnie dated for a long time, before he broke her heart and moved on. Today Marnie is married and has 2 beautiful daughters, lives in a beautiful house, and has the perfect life. But she's hiding a horrible secret that could ruin everything.

Alicia is the fiance in question. Not a beauty, like most of Paddy's women, Alicia is a widow that is definitely the conservative, dependable type to be a politician's wife.

As I stated earlier, when I started this book I expected a light, breezy book that would cute and funny. While there certainly were some cute parts (mostly all from Lola.....Tranny Night is utterly hilarious!), this book hits on some extremely serious and complex topics, such as domestic violence and alcoholism. I loved the way the book was laid out, with each character's own voice telling how the suave Paddy de Courcy changed her life. (although I have to admit, Lola's chapters slightly annoyed me. As much as I loved her character, he "voice" was written in almost a short-hand sort of way. Made it a bit difficult to read sometimes.)

I'm always a fan of a strong female heroine, which is the reason both Grace and Lola appealed to me so much. Marnie played the victim too well, and it bothered me on some level. But her growth through the book was definitely the most dramatic. Paddy himself is only written through the eyes of the women, and Keyes has done an excellent job of taking him, making him this fantastic man, then peeling back the layers to see what is really inside.
There is so much more to this book, but I'd hate to give anything away. So, I'll leave you with this: although this certainly isn't a book for everyone, it was an exceptionally good tale of love, friendship, family, and heartbreak. And I am extremely glad I read it!! 4.5/5

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Salon - Reading and Blogging

The Sunday Salon.comWell....this is my first ever Sunday Salon!! At the beginning of the year, I wasn't reading very much. So I tried to find lots of book-related topics to post about. Now....I'm reading a lot more, but it seems that I am blogging less. Hence, joining the Sunday Salon. I'm trying for a happy medium!! I'm sure there's one out there. I guess the trick is to find it.

I am already behind on reviews. Man...that never happens to me. Hopefully, I will get one up, maybe tomorrow, for This Charming Man by Marian Keyes. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I opened the book thinking it was going to be a "fluff" filled "Chick Lit" novel. Now that's not a bad thing, mind you. Sometimes I NEED some fluff in my life. But this book was WAY more than that.

At the moment, I'm knee-deep in 3 books. The first is Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I'm over half way through, and I already know, without a doubt, I'm going to HAVE to read the Discworld series!! I'm already head-over-heels with Neil, but I just know alot of the wit and irony in this novel has to come from Pratchett. Hands down, a hilarious novel.

I've also reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. Another incredibly funny book. I had no idea there were so many ways to die by bear attack!! It's the non-fiction journey of Bryson as he walks the Appalachian Trail.

Finally, I'm reading Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier. She is definitely the queen of the Gothic novel, and so far, so good. It starts on a gloomy, storm-filled night. (What good Gothic novel doesn't?) I haven't gotten to far, but I was captivated by the open paragraphs. Du Maurier has such a wonderful style of writing. I just love it!!

I guess that's all for now. Happy Sunday!! And Happy Reading!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Magically Delicious!

Slowly, but surely, I'm finding my way through a vast number of challenge books!! My year in reading started out very slow. I think I only read 2 books in January and 2 in February...if that. But in June, I managed 6, and I've already read 3 in July. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen is my first book read for Maggie's Southern Reading Challenge. What a treat it was!! What is it about me and books dealing with magic??

Every smiley moon, without fail, Claire dreamed of her childhood. She always tried to stay awake those nights when the stars winked and the moon was just a cresting sliver smiling provocatively down at the world, the way pretty women on vintage billboards used to smile as they sold cigarettes and limeade.

Pretty, isn't it?? Being a Waverly in Bascom, North Carolina, meant people looked at you a little differently. For many generations, the Waverly's were considered odd. Claire Waverly, from the age of 6, grew up in Bascom at her Grandmother's house. The Waverly garden has been a legend for many years. If you ate an apple from the tree you would see the most important thing that would happen to you in your lifetime. Not really a good thing, to be honest. The flowers were all edible, and had some remarkable affects on people. It was one of the reasons Claire had become such a successful caterer. She could make all sorts of delectable items, each containing some mystical flower from the Waverly garden.

Sydney Waverly was Claire's younger sister. For her, growing up a Waverly was awful. She hated the fact that her family was different and went out of her way to be like the other kids in school. In the end, she took off right out of high school and never looked back at Bascom....until now. Sydney and her 5-year-old daughter were on the run, from an abusive man. The only place Sydney could think of going that would be safe was back to Bascom and Claire.

Now Claire's very quiet, solitary life has been turned completely upside-down. Throw in a smitten art professor that has moved next door, an aunt that has the ability to always know when a person needs something, a gay gourmet grocer that has lost the love of his life, lots of people from Sydney's past: both friends and enemies, and Claire doesn't know what has hit her. But the one thing Claire she DOES know is that she wants to reconnect with her sister. And keep her safe from the past she is running from.

Now, I never did read the book Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. But I did see the movie. And I know it's been said before, but it wasn't difficult to draw a lot of similarities between it and this story. BUT, that being said, this is a highly enjoyable read. The characters were well drawn out, and I really wanted good things to happen to them. Quirky Aunt Evanelle was a hoot! I just loved it when Fred moves in. And I thought the interaction between Claire and Sydney was very realistic of how sisters would act.

The story was a little predictable, but in the end, I still completely enjoyed it. It was a little mystical, a little romantic, a little mysterious, and a whole lot of fun! 4/5

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Book Gods Have Been Kind to Me......

The last two weeks, apparently the book gods were smiling down upon me, because I've gotten a host of books in the mail!! Most notably, I'd like to thank Michael Barrs from William Morrow for sending me along some fine books to read!! A couple from Harper Collins' First Look program (with one still on the way!) I haven't had a book from them in months, then all of a sudden....BAM! 3. And a couple that were sent from authors.

I'm posting this book porn in lieu of the not one, but 2 book reviews I'm behind on. It's been a crazy week at work!
  • The Safety of Secrets by Delaune Michel
  • Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall
  • Gilding Lily by Tatiana Boncompagni
  • The Strand Prophecy by J.B.B. Winner
  • The Loveliest Woman in America by Bibi Gaston
  • Where Memories Lie by Deborah Crombie
  • What If....? by Steve N. Lee
  • Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
  • This Charming Man by Marian Keyes

Looks like I can just about complete the ARC change that Teddy is sponsoring with this list!!


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Quiet But Brilliant Novel About Family

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson (291 pgs, Delta) has been on my radar for a long time. But the final push to read it came when I signed up for John's 2nd Canadian Reading Challenge. Lately, my reading has been focused mostly on fantasy or dystopian novels which are really my favorites. But when I start reading so much of the same genre, I begin to feel like I'm getting myself in a rut. This was the perfect novel to take myself out of said rut!

This is the story of Katie Morrison, a zoology professor from Toronto. Told in alternating chapters of past and present, it reveals her life growing up in rural Crow Lake in the wild terrain of Ontario. When Katie was 8 years old, her parents were killed in an automobile accident, leaving her alone with her older brothers, Luke and Matt and her baby sister, Bo. Relatives had gotten together to figure out what to do with the kids. Because money was tight, no one was able to take all 4 kids together. Luke, the oldest, was supposed to leave for teacher's college in the fall. Matt was going to have to leave high school to help on an Uncle's farm. And the girls were to go live with another relative. But Luke would have none of that talk. There was no way he was going to let them be separated, and made the decision to stay home from college to take care of the girls, and find a job. Because Matt was the exceptionally brilliant student, he needed to finish high school so he could go to college himself.

The story mainly centers on Katie's hero worship of her brother, Matt. It is his influence that has made Katie the person she is today. Starting with their trips to the lake to watch the water creatures, Matt is reason that Katie becomes so interested zoology. Matt is still stinging from Luke's self-sacrifice of giving up college for him, but decides he will do so well in school, he will get a great job and send all the kids to college himself (with a little help from Katie). But somehow, things never go as one plans, do they?

Their neighbors, the Pyes, have a family history rich with abuse, that spills over into the Morrison's lives. Both Matt and Luke work the farm for Mr. Pye, who spends his days terrorizing his own children, Laurie and Marie. The intertwining relationships with Pyes causes a chain of events that even further changes the lives of the 4 Morrison siblings.

This book is a slow, family drama. But not slow in a bad way. Lawson tells a beautiful story about the meaning of family. The rich detail of life in Crow Lake paints a picture that is easy to see. She creates a cast of characters that you grow to love. The events of the past have made Katie the quiet, reserved person she is today. It affects her relationship with Daniel, the man in her life who is so anxious to know about her past, and yet is kept hopelessly in the dark. It is the story of jealousy and resentments that build over time. But it is also the story of love and family, loss and healing. It is truly a beautiful story, at times so heartbreaking, it makes you ache. I highly recommend this wonderful book to anyone who has ever questioned their place in life. And really, isn't that all of us?? 4.5/5

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What if?????

After reading so many wonderful things about this book, I choose to read Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (337 pgs, Harcourt) for the It's the End of the World as We Know it Challenge.

For Miranda, your typical 16 year-old-problems exist: changes in her best friends, too much homework, an annoying little brother, will she get asked to the prom. So the whole "moon" thing was never really an issue to her. An asteroid was going to hit the moon, and all it was causing Miranda was a lot of homework!!

But the astronomers predictions were wrong, and when the asteroid hits, it causes the moon to shift closer into our orbit. Miranda's thoughts undergo a radical change. Since the moon causes tidal changes, great tsunamis occur almost instantly, wiping out most of both coasts in the US. But it's more than that. Volcanoes become active, earthquakes occur and shifts in the weather patterns start to happen. All of this instantly changes Miranda's life. Instead of worrying about a date for the prom, Miranda is now forced to concentrate on survival in a world gone mad.

Told in journal form, the changes that Miranda goes through are subtle at first. She thinks her mom is crazy to have gone to the stores and bought out all the canned food, batteries and candles she could find. Surely things would get back to normal soon. But Miranda goes along with it, in the beginning just to not make waves. But as the months progress, and the situation gets worse, and it's obvious that things WON'T be getting back to normal soon. Family quickly becomes the only thing in Miranda's life.

This book is actually quite scary. I thought the actual plot was a little contrived, mostly because I'd like to think our scientists would have known the possibility that complete climate changes could occur and we would be a little better prepared. But overall, this book isn't so much about the conditions the world are in, but about the after-effects of a tragedy on this family. The way Miranda's mom holds her family together is honestly stuff heroes are made of. I kept thinking each time she did something, "Would I be smart enough to think of that?" It shows that family is truly the most important thing in the world.

This book is about love, family, and self-sacrifice. There are no fairy-tale endings with this one. But maybe a little sliver of hope. A very good, thought-provoking book. I just wished I had read it at a different time. Coming off such a high with The Host, I'm kind of afraid I didn't give this book it's due. Have you ever felt that the TIMING of reading a book affects the way you feel about it? For me, this was a very good book, but I wasn't completely blown away in the way I had hoped I would be. Still, this book is definitely worth reading. 4/5

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

For all my neighbors to the North, Happy Canada Day!! In honor of the holiday and my friend John, from the Book Mine Set, I decided to once again take part in his Canadian Book Challenge. Last year, I read one book (mind, you it was a great book!!! A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry). But sadly, only one.

So here it is again: Starting July 1st, 2008 and running to July 1st, 2009, I challenge you to read (and write about) 13 Canadian books (by Canadians and/or about Canadians).

This year, I already have a head-start on the game because I'm almost done with my first selection, Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. So, here are my selections, a few left over from this year:

  • Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
  • The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint
  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  • The Time in Between by David Bergen
  • Runaway by Alice Munroe
  • The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
  • Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald
  • Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright
  • Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Sounds like fun!!