Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Great New Book

Before Ever AfterBefore Ever After by Samantha Sotto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received this as a goodreads first-reads giveaway.

I really loved this book. It is well-written and so unique. I did have a slight nagging on occasion that Max and Shelly's attraction to one another could have initially been more believable, but, as stated, the nagging was slight. And the rest of the story more than made up for it. I loved the characters and all of the stories on the "slight detour." It's amazing when an author can spend so much time recounting side-stories, yet still develop the central characters so much. This is Sotto's first novel, but I hope not the last!

My one major complaint: Where is the recipe for the baked eggs? Must...have...baked...eggs!

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Why Have I Not Read This Already?

True GritTrue Grit by Charles Portis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was only a few minutes into True Grit when I knew I would love it. I felt a surge of excitement at the prospect of continuing it. And while the story itself is not wholly spectacular, Mattie's voice is. I loved every moment of it. This book submerged me completely in another time and place. I have only read a few Westerns, but I usually enjoy them (see: Lonesome Dove), but True Grit is definitely at the top and I plan to read it again. And probably again.

**Audio Version: I was very impressed by the narration, even though a couple of the voices were a bit shaky. And I was slightly distracted by occasionally hearing swallowing, etc. But she definitely had Mattie's voice down and Rooster's as well. And there is no doubt that the story lends itself to verbal storytelling.

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Monday, May 23, 2011

The Map of True Places

The Map of True PlacesThe Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was fortunate enough to win this book through a goodreads giveaway and I am so glad! It was on my "to-read" list anyway, because I did enjoy The Lace Reader (which, also taking place in Salem, leaked into this book a few times). But I liked this one so much more. I was slightly worried at the beginning because I was afraid that too many story-lines were beginning in various places in time. The fact is that it all comes together artfully. There is a lot of suspense and I literally didn't put the book down for the entire last half! The characters are well-written and complex. Every person is completely three-dimensional.

There are a lot of loose ends that need tying up by the end. There is a point where they all start clicking into place (some things predictable--some not so much). But all in all things come to a satisfactory end despite some heartache and loss.

It is nice to read something that isn't entirely in the normal vein of thinking. This novel has several elements that you just sort of give yourself over to because they are so intriguing. I will definitely keep my eyes open for more books by Barry.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Read this Series! (Start With Book One)

The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms, #2)The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I zoomed through this book as my house (specifically--laundry) crumbled around me. And it was worth it. I love the characters. Almost no one is angelically perfect or completely evil, so it is sometimes unclear who to root for. I found myself sympathizing with the bad guys and wondering if some of the good guys are really bad. I don't know how I will manage until the third book is published later this year. If I had one complaint it would be that I couldn't always reconcile the action with the provided map. That always bugs me. But that is seriously minor in the scheme of things. What a great book/series!

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

I'm Sorry Natalie, Another Book Review

Firefly LaneFirefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had a sense of impending doom as I read this book. And as much as I enjoyed reading what was happening in the moment, there was so much apprehension as I progressed through it (rather quickly, I might add). I also can't say that I was completely surprised with the outcome, although there were a few slight surprises. But the way the novel is written makes, what might have been formulaic in another author's hand, something very beautiful and touching in a completely non-cheesy way.

I don't know anyone exactly like Tully, and I think she is an extreme most of the time. But her character is consistent--even as she changes and grows. Kate is a little easier to relate to. They both annoyed and angered me at times, but I envy their relationship and will miss them now that the book is over. I have a feeling, however, that this is not a book that I will forget any time soon.

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Monday, March 7, 2011

Another Flower Book

The Masque of the Black Tulip (Pink Carnation, #2)The Masque of the Black Tulip by Lauren Willig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't like this as well as the first, but it is a pretty solid second in a series. The central characters from The Pink Carnation shift to the background as others take center stage. That fact didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. There are situations where, based on the first book, I thought I knew where they would go. And I was wrong. That is not to say that there isn't any predictability, but this was a pretty original story. The story-within-a-story is the main focus, but Eloise Kelly--researcher of all things Pink Carnation related--and her story inch along. I am not sure if an entire week has passed in the real world. But it is interesting enough and I like Eloise.

I might take a slight break from this series, but I have every intention of returning. I love that there are several more out there that I really don't have to wait to read.

**Audio Review: I enjoyed Kate Reading's narration in the first book that I decided to continue with the audio.

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Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Awakening

The AwakeningThe Awakening by Kate Chopin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally! After about 20 years on my to-read list I have finished it! I don't know why I thought this would be a daunting read. It is relatively easy to read, but very complex in its themes and tone. I wonder how I would have viewed it had I read it 20 years ago. I think that motherhood has allowed me to see it through different eyes.

Edna is extremely selfish, once she is "awakened." But does she have the right to be? Just because she came to certain realizations after committing to a life as a wife and a mother (and very particular ones at that), should these realizations be suppressed?

I think that every wife and mother can relate to Edna on some level. But her actions are so completely foreign to me in this day and age that, similarities aside, it is hard for me to grasp her complete embrace of selfishness. I don't think she was that confined in the first place, but the reality of her perceived oppression can't be denied. There were times when I began to think that she is completely oblivious to the duties she is abandoning until she makes it clear that she is well aware and, aside from a slight twinge of guilt, she doesn't care.

I am glad I read this (I wanted to read along with my 15 year old). The overall feel of this novel will remain with me for a long time.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Should be easier...Right?

I'm not sure what makes a death anniversary so difficult. I mean, he is no more gone today than he was yesterday or last month or last year. That said, it is still impossible not to dwell on that horrific day four years ago.

But this year one significant thing has changed for me. Over the years I have struggled to call up a picture in my head of the "before" Erik. The Erik before the drugs and the illnesses. It has been heartbreaking for the "after" Erik to be forever present in my mind when the "before" Erik was around for so much longer. But a few months ago, without going into too much detail, I had a poignant dream. In the dream I saw Erik. We were in a theater of sorts and my siblings and I were gathered around him talking about who knows what. It didn't seem to matter. What was important was that he was himself. His smile was genuine and there was that certain sparkle that he always had in his eyes. He was my brother Erik.

The peace that dream has given me is no small thing. I think about it often and I it begins to replace the ill Erik in my mind. I can't tell you how grateful I am for that seemingly small yet profound thing.

Another recent positive note is that a friend of my sister's kindly and amazingly took bunches of Erik's old shirts and make quilts for each of his siblings and my mom. She also made a pillow for my dad and grandma. They are AMAZING!! I will cherish it forever.

I am sure this day will get easier as the years progress. But I hope that it will never cease to be a day that we reflect on our brother and how much he will always mean to us. Love you, Erik!!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pink Carnation

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (Pink Carnation, #1)The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I read a book and wonder how in the world I hadn't heard of it before now (thank you, Becky!). The Pink Carnation is great fun and full of suspense (not to mention a few, um, racy scenes--wow!). It reminds me a bit of the book Juliet by Anne Fortier with its story within a story. But this one is so much better. It is what Juliet should have been.

The characters and plot are so satisfying. I am ready to move on to book two. Now.

**Audio Review: Kate Reading very capably narrates. She gets a definite thumbs up from me.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Matched (Matched, #1)Matched by Ally Condie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been looking forward to reading this book since it came out and I finally had the chance. I am glad I did. As recent YA books go, this isn't completely original. It is part Hunger Games, part Brave New World, part The Giver, and part 1984. But the characters, while not completely fresh, are worth getting to know.

The Society in which Cassia lives appears to be very simple. And the writing in the early chapters seems very minimalistic, which fits well with Cassia's narrow view of things. But as the book progresses and Cassia's life becomes more complicated, the writing seems to evolve.

I am looking forward to the next book in the series and hope that it is more original than the first.

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