Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Island of Lost Girls by Jennifer McMahon

This is one of those books that you're completely drawn to and then once you delve deep into the plot you want to keep reading because you're dying to solve the mystery, but at the same time your cringing your way through it thinking..."Please don't go there, please don't go there....oh its so going there."

The content this story addresses is not for the weak of heart. It's gut-wrenching stuff and quite honestly, very real too. I personally have known a few people close to me that have gone through similar experiences and though its ugly in every way, its really necessary for us to understand so that we can better empathize and comfort those who've suffered. This story is about a lot more than just an abduction. I tore through the last hundred pages and when I finally put it down, I felt so burdened and sickened that I had to watch a few episodes of Mad About You with my hubby to shake off the funk I was left in.

So all in all, a very well written story and extremely engaging. It took me a bit of work to keep the characters straight, since the chapters alternate between Rhonda Farr's childhood and the present tense, but once you find the groove its hard to put down.

Description: One summer day, at a gas station in a small Vermont town, six-year-old Ernestine Florucci is abducted by a person wearing a rabbit suit while her mother is buying lottery tickets. Twenty-three year old Rhonda Farr is the only witness, and she does nothing as she watches the scene unfold – little Ernie goes with the rabbit so casually, confidently getting into the rabbit’s Volkswagen bug, smiling while the rabbit carefully fastens her seatbelt.

The police are skeptical of Rhonda’s story and Ernie’s mother blames her outright. The kidnapping forces Rhonda to face another disappearance, that of her best friend from childhood – Lizzy Shale, whose brother, Peter just so happens to be a prime suspect in Ernie’s abduction.

Unraveling the present mystery plunges Rhonda headlong down the rabbit hole of her past. She must struggle to makes sense of the loss of the two girls, and to ask herself if the Peter she grew up with - and has secretly loved all her life - could have a much darker side.

Rating: ***

Recommend: not for everyone, the content can be very difficult to get through.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson

Boy am I pumped up to review "The Mighty Queens of Freeville"! And not just because its my very first ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) from Hyperion (who-hooo!!! Doing my happy dance here), but also because I absolutely adored this memoir!!

I actually don't read that many memoirs, because I'm afraid I'll end up bored and trudging my way through it, but I found Amy Dickinson to be a pure delight. Some of you might know her from her advice column, "Ask Amy" that appears in more than 200 newspapers. The stories and events she would describe were not always easy to read, but what struck me the most was her amazing perspective and positive outlook even after such difficult circumstances. I truly believe that you can allow something devastating to destroy you by making you an angrier individual, or you can allow it to mold you and define your character, making you wise and stronger.

I was probably close to halfway through this book when my cat got really ill and I was so distraught that I could focus on nothing but her well being. And because of all this distraction, I had to take a bit of a break from reading for close to a week. Right after the chaos subsided, I eagerly picked it back up only to read Chapter 6, "Livestock In the Kitchen" and sat there on my couch with tears running down my face as she shared the story of her own sick cat Pumpkin. Holy cow. It was like my best girl friend sitting there sharing her story and we were laughing and crying together. That's really what I loved about Amy's writing, she wrote as if she were having a conversation with you one-on-one over a hot cup of coffee in your comfy sweats. I swear I was laughing with her one minute and crying the next.

Thank you Betsy at Hyperion for sending me this gem of a memoir!

Description: Amy Dickinson has made a career out of helping others, through her internationally syndicated advice column "Ask Amy." Readers love her for her honesty, her small-town values, and for the fact that her motto is "I make the mistakes so you don't have to." In The Mighty Queens of Freeville, Amy Dickinson shares those mistakes and her remarkable story. This is the tale of Amy and her daughter and the people who helped raise them after Amy found herself a reluctant single parent. Though divorce runs through her family like an aggressive chromosome, the women of her family taught her what family is about. They helped her to pick up the pieces when her life fell apart and to reassemble them into something new. It is a story of frequent failures and surprising successes, as Amy starts and loses careers, bumbles through blind dates and adult education classes, travels across the country with her daughter and their giant tabby cat, and tries to come to terms with the family's aptitude for "dorkitude." Though they live in London, D.C., and Chicago, all roads lead them back to her hometown of Freeville (pop. 458), a tiny village where Amy's family has tilled and cultivated the land, tended chickens and Holsteins, and built houses and backyard sheds for more than 200 years. Most important, though, her family members all still live within a ten-house radius of each other. With kindness and razor-sharp wit, they welcome Amy and her daughter back weekend after weekend, summer after summer, offering a moving testament to the many women who have led small lives of great consequence in a tiny place.

For more info, you can go to the website http://www.themightyqueensoffreeville.com/

Rating: ****

Recommend: Definitely.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When life gives you lemons...

...you make lemonade right! Well how the timing couldn't have been more encouraging to receive a Lemonade Award than this week!!

After my poor cat Banks getting really sick from her shots last weekend and then having someone steal all our lumber for the fence we were building, including an actual portion of fence already built, I received this lovely little award from Desert Rose Booklogue:

So in the tradition of receiving these lovely little awards, I'm passing it on to some of my favorites:

2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews

Book Escape

Booking Mama

Books on the Brain

Charlotte's Web of Books

Everyday Reading

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'?

Maw Books Blog

and there's a bunch more, but those are just a few that I love!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best Discovery of 2008!

I've been on the lookout for a good used bookstore for as long as I've lived here in Nashville. And then one day my friend Alicia asks me if I've been to McKay's Used Books yet. Just before Christmas I was hoping to pick up a few classics for Jason's gifts and thought maybe I'd check them out first.


Best used bookstore ever!!!! The next time I went I brought Jason with me and found myself a mini grocery cart they provided and LOADED UP! I walked out of that place with 23 books and spent only $27!!!!!

I'm officially in love with this place :-)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sitting Practice by Caroline Adderson

Lately I've been relying mostly on recommendations and fellow book bloggers reviews before I pick up a book to read. But I happened to come across this one in the library and thought that both the cover and the premise were quite intriguing. It didn't take me long to become completely absorbed in the character's situations and emotions, and as much as I really wanted to like this book, it left a sour taste in my mouth by the end.

I was pretty bummed out by how crass the author would get with the language, it is just is a total turnoff to me when foul language is used too often. To be honest, the F word is not romantic in any way whatsoever. Any even apart from that, I really started to care about this newlywed couple who had suffered such a tragedy, and the way it ended was so dissatisfying! Sure you might say, well life doesn't always include a happy ending, but at least leave the reader with some hope, or a silver lining. The book jumped around so much between the past & present that I didn't really understand the point of it. Every time there was a flashback to their wedding, I thought, yes - because that was this all comes down to, their committment to one another. But no, not really, I guess it was more to talk about his catering?

I was left with this pit in my stomach and thought, yuck. And I'll just leave it at that.

Description: It only takes a moment for your life to be changed forever—as the characters of this darkly comic novel discover early on. The fateful moment for the newlyweds Ross and Iliana comes with the freak automobile accident that leaves Iliana paralyzed, Ross grief-stricken, and both of them struggling to come to terms with a married life nothing like they originally had in mind. As the usually affable Ross struggles with guilt and with finding ways to cope with his newly fractured life, Iliana gets used to her unwelcome existence as a wheelchair-bound wife, to her husband’s growing sense of alienation, and to their awkward new lack of intimacy.

What ultimately happens with Ross and Iliana is as unexpected and surprising as the fateful mishap that sets the events in motion in the first place. Sitting Practice is a clever and insightful study of love’s collision with harsh reality, told by an author with a remarkable instinct for the workings of human nature, a nimble gift for language, and the ability to find humor in the oddest places.

Recommend: Nope

Rating: **

Friday, January 9, 2009

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

At last! I brought this big ol' mama-jamma book with me on our trip to California and had the toughest time putting it down! I was anxious to see how it all ended and found myself as pathetically wrapped up in this series as everyone else I knew who had read it. It truly was a great series and I'm truly amazed how someone can create such a world on paper. Fantasy is typically not my thing, so I really thought this would be a stretch for me, but it was so easy to get wrapped up and now I'm waiting along with so many others with bated breath for the next film based on the series to come out in theatres!

I'm still a bit in awe that I read this 756 page book within a week's time. That sucker took up more than half my carry-on! And I loved how it ended, I thought it was perfect.
As far as recommending this series, there are people I work with who ask me if I would recommend this series to their kids. My response is, if it was me, I would ask my child to wait till they were 16 before reading it, because I feel the nature of the content can be a bit intense and mature for anyone younger than that. And if I were a parent who had a 16 year old interested in this series, I would first want to read the books myself, so that I could sit down with my child and have a conversation about what they thought of it. This series is so popular amongst our youth and I don't feel that by not allowing my kids to read the series is going to protect them any. I would hope that my kids could read a series like this and filter it through the belief systems they've been brought up with so they view these books through a healthy and balanced worldview. There are definite parallels I found myself aware of through this series that I felt related with my Christian walk, and those are the types of conversations that I hope book series like these will someday spark with my own children.

Description: When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give, how could you not give it? If it was someone you truly loved?

To be irrevocably in love with a vampire is both fantasy and nightmare woven into a dangerously heightened reality for Bella Swan. Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to werewolf Jacob Black, a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife have led her to the ultimate turning point. Her imminent choice to either join the dark but seductive world of immortals or to pursue a fully human life has become the thread from which the fates of two tribes hangs.

Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating, and unfathomable, consequences. Just when the frayed strands of Bella's life-first discovered in Twilight, then scattered and torn in New Moon and Eclipse-seem ready to heal and knit together, could they be destroyed... forever?

The astonishing, breathlessly anticipated conclusion to the Twilight Saga, Breaking Dawn illuminates the secrets and mysteries of this spellbinding romantic epic that has entranced millions.

Recommend: 16 and Up!

Rating: *****

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Things I Want My Daughters To Know by Elizabeth Noble

I have two younger sisters, Kris and Kati. So naturally, when I come across a story that delves into the sister relationships and how they deal with a difficult situation I'm naturally drawn in. I fell in love with this family and was extremely intrigued by how they dealt with the loss of their mother to cancer. I myself have never really lost a loved one before, so I have no possible way to imagine how painful it must be. But the way Elizabeth Noble pulls you in, you feel as though your walking in each of their shoes. Yet at the same time there was a great balance with humor so it wasn't overly depressing.

But I do have just one teeny complaint, and that was that I had a hard time with a lot of the British slang. I wish there was an index in the back that explained what they all meant.

So all that to say, I will be adding Elizabeth Noble to my list of authors to keep an eye out for!

Description: How do you cope in a world without your mother?

When Barbara realizes time is running out, she writes letters to her four daughters, aware that they'll be facing the trials and triumphs of life without her at their side. But how can she leave them when they still have so much growing up to do?

Take Lisa, in her mid-thirties but incapable of making a commitment; or Jennifer, trapped in a stale marriage and buttoned up so tight she could burst. Twenty-something Amanda, the traveler, has always distanced herself from the rest of the family; and then there's Hannah, a teenage girl on the verge of womanhood about to be parted from the mother she adores.

But by drawing on the wisdom in Barbara's letters, the girls might just find a way to cope with their loss. And in coming to terms with their bereavement, can they also set themselves free to enjoy their lives with all the passion and love each deserves?

This heartfelt novel by bestselling author Elizabeth Noble celebrates family, friends...and the glorious, endless possibilities of life.

Recommend: Yes

Rating: ****