Friday, September 24, 2010

89. Family History by Dani Shapiro

I was recommended to read Family History from Amazon. It sounded like a good read, so I got it from the library. It was a good read, and a quick one. I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
From the prodigiously gifted author of the acclaimed memoir Slow Motion, a stunning and brutally honest novel about one family’s harrowing recovery from devastation. Rachel Jensen is perfectly happy: in love with her husband, devoted to their daughter Kate, gratified by her work restoring art. And finally, she’s pregnant again. But as Rachel discovers, perfection can unravel in an instant. The summer she is thirteen, Kate returns from camp sullen, angry, and withdrawn. Everyone assures Rachel it’s typical adolescent angst. But then Kate has a terrifying accident with her infant brother, and the ensuing guilt brings forth a dreadful lie—one that ruptures their family, perhaps irrevocably. Family History is a mesmerizing journey through the mysteries of adolescent pain and family crisis.

This is a scary book, but not because there was a crazed serial killer running around loose. I believe this book would scare any parent who can watch their child fall apart mentally and cause chaos to herself and those around her. The story starts out in the present day and is told what happens through flashbacks. While the ending was a bit too open-ended for me, I still enjoyed it. All of the characters are realistic and easy to relate to. Ms. Shapiro is an author I will be looking out for in the future.

88. Still Missing

I first became aware of this books from numerous blog posts and placed a hold at my library. A lot of other people must have been reading those too, because I had to wait for quite awhile. It was worth the wait, I give Still Missing an A-.

From Amazon:
On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a 32-year-old realtor, had three goals—sell a house, forget about a recent argument with her mother, and be on time for dinner with her ever-patient boyfriend. The open house is slow, but when her last visitor pulls up in a van as she's about to leave, Annie thinks it just might be her lucky day after all.
Interwoven with the story of the year Annie spent as the captive of a psychopath in a remote mountain cabin, which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist, is a second narrative recounting events following her escape—her struggle to piece her shattered life back together and the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor.

This was one tough book to read. It wasn't that the descriptions were so horrible or graphic, but the author does an excellent job putting you, the reader, right there along with Annie. I loved the way that the author chose to write the book, though Annie's visitions with her psychiatrist, and taking us back to the past and then the present. Annie was difficult to like, but not sympathize with, and I was shocked by the ending. Not the who, but the what. I hope this author is quickly working on another great read!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

87. Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain

I was recommended Secrets She Left Behind by Amazon based on the previous books I had searched. I am glad I was. This was a great book and a fast read, despite being close to 500 pages long. I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
One afternoon, single mother Sara Weston says that she's going to the store- and never returns. In her absence she leaves her teenage son alone with his damaged past and a legacy of secrets.
Keith Weston nearly lost his life in an act of arson. He survived- but with devasting physcial and emotional scars. Without his mother, he has no one to help him heal, no money, nothing to live for but the medications that numb his pain. Isolated and angry, his hatred has one tight focus: his half-sister, Maggie Lockwood.
Nineteen-year-old Maggie Lockwood spent a year in prison for the acts that led up to the fire. Now she's back home. But her release cannot free her from the burden of guilt she carries. She grew up with Keith Weston, played with him as a child... and recently learned that they shared a father.
Now the person Keith despises the most is closest thing he has to family, until Sara returns... if Sara returns.

While I was reading, there felt like I was missing a ton of backstory, but I assumed it was just the authors way of telling it. I discovered with about 50 pages left that there was a previous book. I was really bummed because I hate reading out of order, but I thought the author did a good job of filling me in. I probably won't go back and read the other book because I got the basic idea of what happened. I love the way the author gave his the perspective of several of the characters and allowed us to get inside their heads. That is probably one of my favorite types of styles. The was a bit of suspense in the book, but I would have to classify the genre more of contemporary style. I know I have some more of Ms. Chamberlain's previous books on my own TBR shelves and I will definitely be reading those!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

86. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart

I read about Summer at Tiffany on a couple of other blogs and I was interested immediately. I love all things New York City and have been more and more interested in the decades of the 1940s and 1950s. It was a cute memoir and I was immediately taken to New York City during World War II. I give it a B.

From Amazon:
New York City, 1945. Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor, a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany-blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller's—and the envy of all their friends.
Looking back on that magical time in her life, Marjorie takes us back to when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous, pinched pennies to eat at the Automat, experienced nightlife at La Martinique, and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland's honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with CafÉ society, she fell in love, learned unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

This was a charming story and I loved the way it showed how everyone had to deal with the war, focusing on women. It was interesting to learn how things were rationed and why women were suddenly taking positions that men had only held before. I loved the inside peek of Tiffany and the old glamourous New York City and picturing places she was describing when I have been there 50-60 years later. This is a cute, short book and one perfect for mothers and grandmothers and those who are interested in learning about old New York.

85. Holly's Inbox by Holly Denham

I have seen and read about Holly's Inbox on what like it seems everyone's books blogs but wasn't really interested. While picking up some other books at the library, I came across Holly's Inbox and decided to give it a try. It was an enjoyable and light read, and I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
Dear Holly,
Are you sure you know what you're getting into…?
System alert: Inbox full of scandal, romance, and office hilarity!
Meet Holly Denham. It's her first day as a receptionist at a London investment bank and inexperienced Holly is struggling. Take a peek at her email and you'll see why: Holly's inbox is a daily source of drama. An affair with a sexy VP heats things up at the office, but when Holly's first flame (who, she thinks, left her in the lurch) gets a job at the same company, complications abound.
How's a working girl supposed to have a love life with a demanding job, crazy friends, a dysfunctional family, and gossipy colleagues? Not to mention that Holly's been keeping a secret from everyone - and the past is about to catch up with her.
Written entirely in emails, this compulsively readable UK smash hit will keep you laughing and turning the pages all the way to its surprising and deeply satisfying ending.
Repeatedly compared to Bridget Jones' Diary, became a website phenomenon, with thousands of daily visitors from all over the world. This novel tells Holly's story in full, and also includes exclusive extra material not available on the site.

Until reading that Amazon description, I had no idea the book started from the website. I have to admit that I enjoyed the way the story was told, through all emails, and feel like I have read another book written like that in the past. It was a typical chick lit story, filled with humor and romance. I won't write much more about this one, other than it was the perfect book to pick and read when I had a few minutes.

84. Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen

While looking at Amazon, I saw some description of Black and Blue on the site and decided to give it a try. I also saw it was an Oprah Book Club pick and I never read any of her picks (at least I don't think I have) so that made me a bit more curious. It was a tough book to read and difficult to handle but good. I give it a B+.

From Amazon:

For eighteen years Fran Benedetto kept her secret, hid her bruises. She stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father, and because, in spite of everything, she loved him. Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son’s face, Fran finally made a choice—and ran for both their lives.Now she is starting over in a city far from home, far from Bobby. In this place she uses a name that isn’t hers, watches over her son, and tries to forget. For the woman who now calls herself Beth, every day is a chance to heal, to put together the pieces of her shattered self. And every day she waits for Bobby to catch up to her. Bobby always said he would never let her go, and despite the ingenuity of her escape, Fran Benedetto is certain of one thing: It is only a matter of time.

It was so tough to read about the abuse of Fran and how she finally decides to leave her husband. Having to forgo all of her family and friends to get be safe. My heart was pounding at time when the thought of her husband, Bobby, would track her down. While the ending was a bit disappointing, it was realistic. Sometimes I like to read to escape real life, but I can see why the author chose to go that route. A very interesting, but tough, read.

Friday, September 10, 2010

83. How High the Moon by Sandra Kring

I read and reviewed another book earlier this summer by Ms. Kring and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to give another of her books a try. How High the Moon was very cute and at times funny, and I give it a B+.

From Amazon:
In this tender novel set in 1955 Mill Town, Wisconsin, Sandra Kring explores the complicated bond between mothers and daughters, the pressure to conform, and the meaning of friendship and family. Ten-year-old Isabella “Teaspoon” Marlene has been a handful ever since her mother, Catty, dumped her with an old boyfriend and ran off to Hollywood. Teaspoon fights, fibs, never stops singing, and is as unpredictable and fearless as a puppy off its leash. Still, Teddy Favors, a man who has taken his share of kicks, is determined to raise her right. Teaspoon wants to be better for Teddy—even if that means agreeing to take part in a do-gooder mentorship program and being paired up with Brenda Bloom, the beautiful reigning Sweetheart of Mill Town. Against all odds, as the summer passes, this unlikely duo discover a special friendship as they face personal challenges, determined to follow their hearts instead of convention. It’s while Brenda and Teaspoon are putting together the grandest show the Starlight Theater has ever seen that Catty returns to Mill Town, shattering illusions and testing loyalties. But by the final curtain call, one determined little girl shows an entire town the healing that can happen when you let your heart take center stage.

I absolutely adored the main character Teaspoon and she often brought a smile to my face. This book was touching and sad at the same time, but Teaspoon shows spunk and is enthausastic throughout it all. I loved how she didn't understand some things and her explanations for those actions. One of my favorite was how she thought two women who were really prostitutes just like to go for rides in people's cars. Through her naiviete, Teaspoon gets to know people for who they are and not what people think they are. I believe there is a good lesson here for everyone to learn while reading an enjoyable and pleasant book. I will definitely be reading more by Ms. Kring in the future.

82. A Stranger Like You by Elizabeth Brundage

I've read and enjoyed Ms. Brundage's previous books so much, so when I saw that she had released a new book, I was very excited. Unfortunetly, A Stranger Like You was a bit disappointing. I give it a B-.

From Amazon:
Hedda Chase is a top-flight executive producer at Gladiator Films, fast-tracked in the business since she graduated from Yale. An aggressive businesswoman, she recently pulled the plug on a film project initiated by one of her predecessors. The screenwriter on the project was Hugh Waters, a wannabe with a dead-end marriage and a day job at an insurance company. This script was his ticket out-until Hedda tampered with his plans, claiming his violence was over the top, his premise not credible, and his ending implausible. Hugh decides to prove otherwise by staging his script's ending and casting Hedda Chase as the victim. He flies to Los Angeles and finds Hedda, kidnaps her, and locks her in the trunk of her vintage BMW in the parking lot at LAX. He leaves the keys in the ignition, the parking ticket on the dash, and lets "destiny" take its course. This is the set-up for a troubling, smart, deadly look at women and images of women, at media as a high-stakes game and the selling of a war as theatre. (One key character is an Iraq veteran, and one of Hedda's projects is a film about women in Iraq). Brundage's Los Angeles is a casual battleground that trades carelessly in lives and dreams. As always, her characters are complicated, surprising, and intense in this high velocity, provocative novel.

There were a lot of smaller characters that ended up playing a role in the all of the main character's lives and at times it was difficult to keep them all straight. This book was shorter, and I felt like if the ending was a bit rushed and not flushed out enough. I also felt that the author was preaching her views a bit on the Iraq and to some extremes, the Afghanistan wars which turned me off. Whether or not I agree with an author's viewpoint, I read fiction to be entertained... not preached at. I think that is sometimes a difficult thing to do, but something that is important. I won't be giving up on Ms. Brundage, but I am glad that I checked this book out from the library.

Monday, September 6, 2010

81. .The Starlite Drive-In by Marjorie Reynolds

The Starlite Drive-In was a pure impulse read. While picking up some holds from my local library, I saw it sitting on the new release bookshelf and decided to give it a try. It was a good read, but not great. I give it a B.

From Amazon:
Start with a drive-in movie theater in the 1950s. Add a starstruck and lonely 12-year-old girl, and a handsome drifter. . . . The story unfolds almost cinematically and could make a wonderful movie. Told from Callie's perspective, it captures that childlike innocence and wisdom perfectly . . . a fine first novel from an author to be reckoned with".--"Richmond Times-Dispatch".

What grabbed my attention of this book is that it's set in the 1950s. Over the summer, I've come to love books set in the past and the 1950s are one decade I really love to read more about. I already love old movies and television shows, so why not books that are set at the same time? I will admit it took me a bit to get into the book, but I eventually got pulled in and enjoyed it. While the ending was a bit predictible, it was still a good book. There are some lessons that can be learned here especially about love. I loved the setting and thought that the idea was so creative and different. All in all, Starlite Drive-In was a fun way to spend the long holiday.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

80. The Kindness of Strangers by Katrina Kittle

I absolutely LOVED this book. I believe I found it from Amazon, recommended to me based on previous books I looked at. The Kindness of Strangers was probably one of my favorite reads so far this year and I give it an A.

From Amazon:
A young widow raising two boys, Sarah Laden is struggling to keep her family together. But when a shocking revelation rips apart the family of her closest friend, Sarah finds herself welcoming yet another troubled young boy into her already tumultuous life.
Jordan, a quiet, reclusive elementary school classmate of Sarah's son Danny, has survived a terrible ordeal. By agreeing to become Jordan's foster mother, Sarah will be forced to question the things she has long believed. And as the delicate threads that bind their family begin to unravel, all the Ladens will have to face difficult truths about themselves and one another—and discover the power of love necessary to forgive and to heal.

The Kindness of Strangers is touching, heartbreaking, and extremely emotional. My husband kept asking me what I was shaking at my head for but I just couldn't help it. This book just touched me in a way that is hard to explain. While not graphic, it is disturbing. Since I've been trying to get pregnant for over a year and a half without any luck, I've thought about becoming a foster parent and this book gives an honest look at what happens. I know my review isn't making a lot of sense, but I just can't encourage you enough to go and check this one out.

Friday, September 3, 2010

79. Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner

I'm not sure why I decided to read Fly Away Home. I've read some of Ms. Weiner's books in the past, but can't say that I've been a huge fan. Maybe it was the description, something that I thought was quite relevant to today's world. Overall, I enjoyed it but didn't love it. I give it a B.

From Amazon:
Sometimes all you can do is fly away home . . .
When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips, and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician’s wife—her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored knit suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her husband, the senator.
Lizzie, the Woodruffs’ younger daughter, is at twenty-four a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, trouble always seems to find her. Her older sister, Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve—a husband, a young son, the perfect home—and yet she’s trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER’s exam rooms, she finds herself craving more.
After Richard’s extramarital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider her life, who she is and who she is meant to be.
Written with an irresistible blend of heartbreak and hilarity, Fly Away Home is an unforgettable story of a mother and two daughters who after a lifetime of distance finally learn to find refuge in one another.

First of all, I read some other reviews that said this book was hilarous and laugh out loud funny. I wasn't to sure about that. I maybe smiled at a few passages, but didn't smile. I was very disappointed with the ending and almost felt cheated. However, I loved the way the story was told from Sylvie, Lizzie, and Diana's point of views. I thought the topic was agreat one and have to say that Ms. Weiner has a wonderful voice. I will probably read more by her, but won't make a point of seeking them out.