Review: The Art of Mending

Why I picked it: I have read most of the books written by this author, so when I saw this title on the shelf at the library (and I haven't read it yet) I decided to pick it up.  I think I might have the book upstairs on a bookshelf.

Synopsis: It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. Unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the past?

Laura Bartone anticipates her annual family reunion in Minnesota with a mixture of excitement and wariness. Yet this year’s gathering will prove to be much more trying than either she or her siblings imagined. As soon as she arrives, Laura realizes that something is not right with her sister. Forever wrapped up in events of long ago, Caroline is the family’s restless black sheep. When Caroline confronts Laura and their brother, Steve, with devastating allegations about their mother, the three have a difficult time reconciling their varying experiences in the same house. But a sudden misfortune will lead them all to face the past, their own culpability, and their common need for love and forgiveness.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Let me say that I have read several of Berg's books and I enjoy her novels.  I didn't love this one.  I felt the book was missing something, maybe the secret needed to come out with more of a 'bang'.  That said, the story unfolds like it would in real life - someone struggling with something that took place over years would probably share a secret a little bit at a time. 

I was satisfied at the end of the story.

Source: Library (audio)

Review: Tales from the Yoga Studio

Why I picked it: I received an email asking if I would be interested in reviewing this one - with yoga being one of my favorite activities I had to read it. 

Synopsis: The yoga studio is where daily cares are set aside, mats are unfurled, and physical exertion leads to well-being, renewal, and friendship. An aggressively expanding chain of Los Angeles yoga "experience centers," has Lee and her extraordinary teaching abilities in its sights. They woo her with a lucrative contract, a trademarked name for her classes, and a place for her handsome musician husband. But accepting the contract means abandoning the students at the homey studio Lee runs in L.A.'s Silver Lake district- and leaving behind four women whose friendships are suddenly more important to her than retirement benefits and a salary increase.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This book is about the personal and professional struggles of business owner Lee.  Just about every aspect of her life is breaking down yet she finds a way to help people through teaching yoga.  She and her husband own the yoga studio, while considering making a big decision that will impact many lives secrets are exposed.  It's the first book in a series so I expect we will learn more about the decision Lee makes at the end of the story in book two!

Source: Review Copy

Review: The Tin Ticket

Why I picked it: Every once in a while I get a request to review a book that I know I have to read, this was my feeling with The Tin Ticket. 

Synopsis: Historian Deborah J. Swiss tells the heartbreaking, horrifying, and ultimately triumphant story of the women exiled from the British Isles and forced into slavery and savagery-who created the most liberated society of their time.

Agnes McMillan and Janet Houston were convicted for shoplifting. Bridget Mulligan stole a bucket of milk; Widow Ludlow Tedder, eleven spoons. For their crimes, they would be sent not to jail, but to ships teeming with other female convicts. Tin tickets, stamped with numbers, were hung around the women's necks, and the ships set out to carry them to their new home: Van Diemen's Land, later known as Tasmania, part of the British Empire's crown jewel, Australia. Men outnumbered women nine to one there, and few "proper" citizens were interested in emigrating. The deportation of thousands of petty criminals-the vast majority nonviolent first offenders-provided a convenient solution for the government.

Crossing Shark-infested waters, some died in shipwrecks during the four-month journey, or succumbed to infections and were sent to a watery grave. Others were impregnated against their will by their captors. They arrived as nothing more than property. But incredibly, as the years passed, they managed not only to endure their privation and pain but to thrive on their own terms, breaking the chains of bondage, and forging a society that treated women as equals and led the world in women's rights.

The Tin Ticket takes us to the dawn of the nineteenth century and into the lives of Agnes McMillan, whose defiance and resilience carried her to a far more dramatic rebellion; Agnes's best friend Janet Houston, who rescued her from the Glasgow wynds and was also transported to Van Diemen's Land; Ludlow Tedder, forced to choose just one of her four children to accompany her to the other side of the world; Bridget Mulligan, who gave birth to a line of powerful women stretching to the present day. It also tells the tale of Elizabeth Gurney Fry, a Quaker reformer who touched all their lives. Ultimately, it is the story of women discarded by their homeland and forgotten by history-who, by sheer force of will, become the heart and soul of a new nation.

Type: Non Fiction

Quick Take: Highly Recommend - To say this book will move you is an understatement but you know that after reading the synopsis above.  A tough story to read at times but one the everyone should read just to understand this time in history.  The author has written with so much detail and emotion, it's extremely well researched.

This story grabbed me from the first chapter and I found myself horrified at time but also cheering for the women in the book.  Have you watched the book trailer? It's a history lesson and a touching clip. A must see.

Source: Review Copy

Review: Strangers at the Feast

Why I picked it: I read some great reviews for this book last month and with a long run planned I decided to buy the book to keep me company (spur of the moment).

Synopsis: The critically acclaimed author of Easter Island delivers a gripping, complex, and satisfying drama that unfolds over the course of Thanksgiving Day as two families are connected by a horrific crime.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I enjoyed this book.  The author writes with a level of detail similar to Jennifer Haigh, if you enjoy reading her novels you will like this book. 

The story is told with several points of view, discovering more about each character as the story progresses.  Over 90% of the story takes place before the crime.  I have read a few books following this format recently, enough to realize that I prefer a story to unfold reflecting backward and dealing with life after the crime/event.  It's interesting to end a story without complete closure, leaving the reader wondering.

I was left satisfied and am still thinking about the characters in this book, weeks after finishing.

Source: iTunes (audiobook)

Review: The Good Sister

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club selection.  The MMBC is now available on iTunes or you can listen online by clicking the link above. 

Synopsis: Roxanne Callahan has always been her younger sister's caretaker. Now married, her happiness is threatened when beautiful and emotionally unstable Simone, suffering from crippling postpartum depression, commits an unforgivable crime for which Roxanne comes to believe she is partially responsible.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Highly Recommend - Let me start with the end, when I finished this book I thought... wow, this is a powerful book. Everyone who was lucky enough to get a copy of the book and happened to be at the Escape was talking about it.  I can't wait for the author's next novel which will be released in 2012.

Source: Review Copy

Author Q&A:

Tell us a little about yourself: I was born in Melbourne, Australia and came to this country when I was a baby. My mom is one of five sisters and I'm the eldest of more than ten cousins and despite rarely seeing each other, I'm still tight with many of them. What amazes me is how much alike we all are. My Dad was an American and took us to live in a beautiful small town (big now) in Northern California. I was blessed with a wonderful childhood. I've always been a reader, a daydreamer, but most of all a storyteller, going back to sixth grade when I wrote a novel called "A Designing Young Teacher." My husband, Art, is a law professor and poet and we've been married a long time and still really like each other. We have two sons and three grandchildren, two large dogs and four horses.

What was it like getting your first novel published? This requires a longer answer than I think you want but I'll try to hit the high points. I've actually had two separate and very different writing careers. During the first one I wrote ten historical novels in four years and in order to do that I became addicted to a number of illegal substances. I went into treatment for addictions and came out of that a different woman. My style and subject matter changed radically and it took me almost twenty years to sell another book. During that time I continued to write but my style and subject matter had changed so much that one editor complained to my (then) agent: "Why doesn't she write like she used to?" For years I studied the craft, read constantly across all genres including the dictionary, kept a deeply boring and introspective journal, and wrote novels that no one wanted. When "Wildwood" sold to Kensington in 2001, I was overcome with relief and gratitude.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? Marilyn Monroe. I've always been drawn to real and fictional characters like Norma Ray whose lives go off the rails. In the real world these individuals come in for a lot of criticism and derision and judgmental moralizing, but I'm convinced that if we could see to their cores we'd be in sympathy with them. And what would I ask her? All the questions anyone would, plus those no one but me would think of.

Review: She's Gone Country

Why I picked it: I bought this book for the Nook, to read while traveling earlier this month.  I have read all of Jane's trade fiction novels, having discovered her through the Manic Mommies group.

Synopsis: Shey Darcy, a 39-year-old former top model for Vogue and Sports Illustrated led a charmed life in New York City with a handsome photographer husband until the day he announced he'd fallen in love with someone else. Left to pick up the pieces of her once happy world, Shey decides to move back home to Texas with her three teenage sons. Life on the family ranch, however, brings with it a whole new host of dramas starting with differences of opinion with her staunch Southern Baptist mother, her rugged but overprotective brothers, and daily battles with her three sons who are also struggling to find themselves. Add to the mix Shey's ex-crush, Dane Kelly, a national bullriding champ and she's got her hands full. It doesn't take long before Shey realizes that in order to reinvent herself, she must let go of an uncertain future and a broken past, to find happiness--and maybe love--in the present.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend: I enjoy all of Jane's book.  Since I generally read historical fiction, books set in other countries or tough woman situations... Jane's books are a nice break for me.  I love how the author continues to bring characters forward from one book to another. 

I was lucky enough to meet Jane this month and so many of the women in attendence said this was their favorite book (the women at my table had a Jane crush - it was cute to watch).  Jane did share a little about her next book - she asked us not to talk about it but I will say it's a change for her, one I'm looking forward to.

Source: Personal Copy (Nook)

Review: The Doctor and the Diva

Why I picked it: I received a request to read this book from the publisher.  I'm careful at selecting books to read - only because I don't read as fast as most book bloggers.  I was excited to read this one!

Synopsis: A breathtaking novel of romantic obsession, longing and one woman's choice between motherhood and her operatic calling.

It is 1903. Dr. Ravell is a young Harvard-educated obstetrician with a growing reputation for helping couples conceive. He has treated women from all walks of Boston society, but when Ravell meets Erika-an opera singer whose beauty is surpassed only by her spellbinding voice-he knows their doctor-patient relationship will be like none he has ever had.

After struggling for years to become pregnant, Erika believes there is no hope. Her mind is made up: she will leave her prominent Bostonian husband to pursue her career in Italy, a plan both unconventional and risky. But becoming Ravell's patient will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Lush and stunningly realized, The Doctor and the Diva moves from snowy Boston to the jungles of Trinidad to the gilded balconies of Florence. This magnificent debut is a tale of passionate love affairs.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I loved this book.  At one point I thought it was going in one direction and it went somewhere I hadn't planned on!  I kept reading, patiently waiting for the story to circle back.  I felt Erika's sorrow/distress and the writing was beautiful.  A compelling story without the perfect ending but neatly wrapped up (my favorite ending).

Source: Review Copy

Review: Seven Year Switch

Why I picked it: I have seen this book around all summer - I read it in advance of an author interview/discussion that I wanted like to listen to.  You can listen to the author discuss this book as part of the Satellite Sisters Word-Write Festival.  They are hosting a great festival this month - check it out!

Synopsis: Struggling and sassy single mom Jill—left to raise three-year-old Anastasia when husband Seth runs away to join the Peace Corp—is just about over the devastating loss when Seth reappears seven years later ready to pick up where they left off. Jill wrestles with her still-raw anger and her precocious daughter's heart-breaking need for her daddy back in her life. “Honey, if you don't forgive him, it'll eat you alive,” counsels Jill's boss and best friend, Joni. For his part, “It wasn't the life we planned,” Seth explains. But Anastasia helps him remember it's the life he needs while Jill discovers letting go teaches you how to hold onto new possibilities.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a fun light book - perfect for a beach vacation but so much more.  The main character, Jill, is a travel agent so this book is filled with lots of cultural knowledge... I appreciated learning while reading. I also liked the ending - it's messy (closer to real life than the perfect ending).

Source: Audible

Review: The Mermaid's Pendant

Why I Picked it: TLC Book Tour - We brought our son to see The Little Mermaid when he young (maybe 3) and fell in love with the story and the soundtrack. My son's ringtone for me is 'under the sea'. How cute is that! I typically stay away from fantasy/fairytales but thought I should try reading this one after learning it's loosely based on the movie.

Synopsis: Inspired by the beloved classic The Little Mermaid, THE MERMAID'S PENDANT is a modern fairytale about growing up and discovering who you are-and what you believe in. At times lyrical, this novel is a fantastic journey filled with magic, myth, romance, and adventure.

Four years after John Wilkerson claims the mermaid Tamarind for his wife, they have an idyllic marriage that depends on a talisman that she crafted on their island paradise. But Tamarind learns a painful truth: it takes more than legs to live on land and more than magic to sustain a bond. When the talisman breaks, she and John are forced to rely on themselves instead of magic.

Three wise women play key roles in the young lovers' journey to mature love. Ana, Tamarind's aging mentor, casts spells and performs seductions to keep the lovers apart. Valerie, an expat jewelry maker cum fairy godmother, works her own magic to bring them together. Lucy, their widowed neighbor, grounds the couple in the realities of marriage, parenting, and family.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: This story is told in two parts, how the mermaid chooses to live life on land and life after making this decision (which is much more complicated).

The characters and situations are real.  Life can be challenging and this comes across in the book.  Courtship/love transition to everyday life and tend to become a lower priority once career and children enter the picture.  This book explores the challenges in marriage, family and ones personal desires.

It might be a tad too long for some readers (500+ pages) but I enjoyed it and will pass the book along to a friend who I know will love it.

Source: Review Copy

Review: Fly Away Home

Why I picked it: This book was sitting on the bookshelf at my local library and Weiner is a popular author so I decided to take a listen.

Synopsis: 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.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Maybe I expected too much...the book starts with at a great pace and kept me engaged but I found myself bored reading the second half.  As the book progressed I found myself no longer carrying what happened to the characters.  This isn't the first time this has happened for me with Weiner... it might be time for me to take a break from her novels. 

Have you read this book?  Did I miss something?

Source: Library (audio)

Review: Helen of Pasadena

Why I picked it:  It's no secret that I enjoy listening to the Satellite Sisters.  They are the one constant in my life, helping me through three moves since 2002.... so when I heard Lian Dolan was writing a novel I knew I would read it. 

I'm excited to announce that the Manic Mommies Book Club will be reading Helen of Pasadena in January (2011).  Several of the manic mommies listeners must also be fans - I can't tell you how many email requests I had for this book to be a book club selection in 2011.

Update Jan 2011: We had a wonderful discussion with Lian, the call is available on iTunes or click here to listen online (lower right side of page)

Synopsis: Helen Fairchild leads a privileged existence.  It only bothers her a tiny bit that she has never quite fit in with the proper Pasadena crowd, never finished that graduate degree in Classics, and never had that second baby.  But the rigid rules of Pasadena society appeal to Helen, the daughter of Oregon fiber artists, even if she'll never be an insider.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I loved reading this book, it's what I like to call smart women's lit!  I even teared up towards the end of the novel when I thought someone doing righting a wrong (you read that right, tears).  But I can't tell you the scene or the event or it would spoil a storyline.

This book makes you think about the person you dreamed you would be before life got in the way.  Helen's sudden loss doesn't allow time for sulking, after months of finding her way she rediscovers herself (a strong, confident, independant person, someone people respect and want to be near).  We will have so much to discuss when we meet in January.

The interview at the back of the book suggests that the author is working on two other books set in Pasadena.  I wonder how long I have to wait for her second book to be published.

Rating: 4/5 stars
Source: Review Copy

Review: The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

Why I picked it: I have had this book on my bookshelf for over a year, wanting to read it but not having time.  I was able to get an audio copy at my library - which is my plan to help me get caught up with the books I have yet to read.

Synopsis: Connie is looking forward to starting work on her graduate thesis over the summer, when her mother asks her to sell an abandoned house once owned by her grandmother in Salem, Mass.

Reluctantly, Connie moves to the small town and inhabits the crumbling, ancient house, trying to restore it to a semblance of order. Curious things start to happen when Connie finds the name "Deliverance Dane" on a yellowed scrap of paper inside an old Bible, and begins to have visions of a long ago woman condemned for practicing "physick," or herbal healing, on her neighbors in 1690s Salem. Interspersed with modern-day sections are chapters on the actual witch trials, revealing the fascinating story of Deliverance Dane and how she got caught up in the tragic events.

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: This novel moves back and forth between 1991 and 1692, and is filled with facts about the women and their 'witch' like tendencies.  Connie's research about the trials and discoveries along the way about life in Salem play an important role to the story.  The story starts to unfold when Connie begins researching Deliverance Dane and the book that she is sure will help uncover the mystery. 

Did you know the author is a descendant of Elizabeth Howe, who died in the Salem Witch Trials? A little mystery, history and a villain made me think about The DaVinci Code while reading this book.

Source: Review copy

Review: Hummingbirds

Why I picked it: Hummingbird's is a TLC Book Tour selection.  This book sounded intriguing, a NYC prep school story that included the faculty and the secrets that surround an all girls school with a token male teacher. 

Synopsis: A wonderfully compelling novel about the intertwining---and darkly surprising---relationships between the teachers and students at an all-girl prep school, Hummingbirds marks the debut of author Joshua Gaylord, a prep school teacher himself on New York City's Upper East Side. Spanning a year at the Carmine-Casey School for Girls, this intimate private school community becomes tempestuous and dangerously incestuous as the rivalries and secrets of teachers and students interact, intersect, and eventually collide. Ultimately, Hummingbirds poses a fascinating question: who are the adults and who are the children?

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This may sound odd but this story reminded me of Glee, the storyline cirlces around Mr. Leo Binhammer and his female student Dixie Doyle but stops there. Dixie is the popular girl in school, has a crush on Binhammer and is a bit of snob.  Leo revels in knowing he is an icon at school (everyone loves him).  This book is hard to discuss without sharing plot twists (good twists) but I will tell you there are plenty of twists in the book to keep you wanting to know what will happen. 

The story is mostly told from the adult/teachers vantage but with a good mix of teen girl mixed in for good measure.  It's a story of many messed up lives but I confess I did enjoy reading it.

Click here to read an author Q&A with Helen's Book Blog

Source: Thank you TLC Book Tours for supplying my review copy.  Click here for details of the Hummingbird's book tour and to read more reviews.

Review: The Girls

Why I picked it: My book club in Omaha read this book for our October selection and discussed the book with the author Tuesday evening.

I was so excited when they called me to talk and catch up!  I miss these ladies so much.  We talked for an hour (about everything)... as soon as I hung up the phone I thought... I forgot to ask:

Cheryl,  How are your boys doing? 
Lisa, Tell me about the call with Lori (we didn't even talk about it)
Linda, How are the grandchildren? How's the musician?

I could go on and on.... but with a dozen women in our group I will spare you the individual questions (ha).

Synopsis: Rose and Ruby are closer than most twin sisters. Indeed, they have spent their twenty-nine years on earth joined at the head. Given that they share a web of essential veins, there is no possibility that they can be separated in their lifetime.

On the eve of their thirtieth birthday, Rose sets out to write her autobiography. But because their lives have been so closely shared, Ruby insists on contributing the occasional chapter. And so, as Rose types away on her laptop, the technophobic Ruby scribbles longhand on a yellow legal pad. They’ve established one rule for their co-writing venture: neither is allowed to see what the other has written. Together, they tell the story of their lives as the world’s oldest surviving craniopagus twins – the literary Rose and straight-talking Ruby often seeing the same event in wildly different ways. Despite their extreme medical condition, the sisters express emotional truths that every reader will identify with: on losing a loved one, the hard lessons of compromise, the first stirrings of sexual desire, the pain of abandonment, and the transcendent power of love.

Quick Take: Recommend - I read The Wife's Tale earlier this year (loved it) and was excited to read this book for my Omaha book club. Someone from my book club suggested The Girls and talking with the author was a wonderful experience so it was an easy selection for us.  I know I shouldn't compare books but I will - I liked The Wife's Tale so much more than this one, there is a long family trip to Uncle Stash's home town that seemed to last forever (maybe it was the audio experience).  That said, I adored Ruby and the descriptiveness of how they live from day to day.  I know this is a novel loosely based on a particular set of twins which made the book more interesting.

Source: Library (audio)

Review: If you lived here, you'd be home by now

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club selection.  Click on the green arrow below to listen to the book discussion (30 minutes), you can also download the audio from the MMBC page to listen on your ipod.

Synopsis: Rickie left home a long time ago-so how is it that at the age of twenty-five, she's living with her parents again, and sleeping in the bedroom of her childhood home?

At least one thing has changed since high school: She now has a very sweet but frequently challenging son named Noah, who attends the same tony private LA school she herself attended. Rickie fit in fine when she was a student, but now her age and tattoos make her stand out from all the blond Stepford moms, who are desperate to know why someone so young-and so unmarried-has a kid in first grade.

Already on the defensive, Rickie goes into full mother-tigress mode when her small and unathletic son tells her that the gym teacher is out to get him. She storms the principal's office, only to discover that Andrew Fulton, the coach, is no dumb jock. As her friendship with Andrew develops, Rickie finds herself questioning her assumptions-about motherhood, being a grown-up, and falling in love.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a quick read about a woman who is lost and trying to find her way.  This was a great book club discussion book.  I was so happy with the feedback I received before the call which made for a great discussion last night.

Source: Review copy

Author Q&A

Tell us a little about yourself: I'm married to a TV writer (he works on "The Simpsons" at the moment) and we have four kids. Which means life is very busy.

What was it like getting your first novel published? What is your writing schedule like? I'm a mother first and foremost, so writing has to be fit in around all the rest. It's not too bad during the school year--I usually have time to write while the kids are in school. But summers are hard! I have someone home on pretty much any given day and it gets tough to find a block of time to work. Out of necessity, I've become a master at racing over to the computer and writing a paragraph or two when everyone's distracted. I keep my laptop in the dining room most of the time--near the first floor action but just slightly apart from it, so I can dash in and write whenever I find the time.

I'm NOT complaining: I am so lucky to be able to be a full-time mom and stay home with a sick kid and go to any school performances or games and STILL have the career of my dreams. I actually think having both was the key to my success. I had a nanny for a awhile and it wasn't until I found her another job and started taking care of the kids completely by myself that I felt emotionally freed up to write--it was like I had given myself permission to do something just for me because I had no guilt about not being with the kids enough.

Selling my first novel was literally a dream come true. I was a huge reader as a kid and all I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a writer. Seriously: I had no other ambitions (or abilities). But it wasn't easy. I had two novels with two agents that never sold and it wasn't until this third agent and third novel that I actually sold one.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I write a very loose outline that's probably about two pages. Very loose. Did I mention it's very loose? I have characters, a situation, a sense of where it's going . . . but scene by scene is pure invention. There's an amazing "ah-ha!" feeling when you're struggling with what should happen next and suddenly you have an epiphany and it feels almost obvious. But (probably because my process is so unstructured) I rewrite a LOT. There's often very little left of the original draft in the final version. Things clarify with time (and with my husband's and editors' notes).

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? I just read for the second time this unbelievable graphic novel called ASTERIOS POLYP which is one of the greatest things I've ever read. The author is a guy named David Mazzucchelli and I'd love to sit him down and ask him all my questions about the book--because there are so many layers in both the writing and drawing that I could spend hours studying each page and still want to know MORE. So it would be fun to talk to him.

Of course, I just reread it, so it's on my mind. Ask me on another day, and I'll probably have another answer!

Review: The Art of Disappearing

Why I picked it: With the move behind me and the house mostly settled I thought I would re-enter the world of book tours.  Thanks TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read this book.

Synopsis:  How do you know if love is real or just an illusion?  When Mel Snow meets the talented magician Toby Warring in a dusty roadside bar, she is instantly drawn to the brilliant performer whose hands can effortlessly pull stray saltshakers and poker chips from thin air and conjure castles out of the desert sands. Just two days later they are married, beginning their life together in the shadow of Las Vegas, where Toby hopes to make it big. Mel knows that magicians are a dime a dozen, but Toby is different—his magic is real.

As Toby’s renown grows and Mel falls more and more in love with his wonderments, she starts to realize that Toby's powers are as unstable as they are dazzling. She learns that he once made his assistant disappear completely, and couldn’t bring her back. And then, just as Mel becomes convinced that his magic is dangerous, a trick goes terribly awry.

Exiled from the stage, Mel and Toby flee the lights of Las Vegas for the streets of Amsterdam where a cabal of old-time magicians, real magicians like Toby, try to rescue him from his despair. But he’s haunted by the trick that failed, and obsessed with using his powers to right his mistakes, leaving Mel to wonder if the love they share is genuine or merely a fantasy, conjured up by a lost magician looking to save himself from being alone.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: This book dances a fine line between magic and sorcery.  Mel and Toby time travel in a unique way and Toby is obsessed with his magic abilities and Mel and her brother Max also have some magical abilities (to simplify).  As the story progresses the plot thickens and Toby's decisions start to change the future as he finds a way to revisit moments from the past.

I have read comments comparing this book to The Time Traveler's Wife, I'm sorry to say I don't see the comparison.  I don't read much in this genre so it's only fair to say I did struggle with some elements of the book. Don't let this sway you though - if you enjoy magical elements (ie: Harry Potter) you will probably like this novel.

I did like that Toby's obsession started taking a toll on him, and those around him.  What comes out from his obsession that is a creative ending to his story.

Source: Review Copy

Review: The Nobodies Album

Why I picked it: My book club read The Dogs of Babel which we all enjoyed and I had been reading such great things about The Nobodies Album that I had to read it.  The premise was so interesting to me.

Synopsis: Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book—a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo haven’t spoken in years—an estrangement stemming from that tragic day—she drops everything to go to him.

The “last chapters” of Octavia’s novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album—the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo’s dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning reveal, Octavia must consider how this story will come to a close.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - Reading reviews for this book I was surprised to see so many people label it a murder mystery.  There is a murder that's solved by the end of the book but I thought this was Octavia's story about lifes regrets and hope for her relationship with her son and their future.  This novel takes place over just a few days yet you have no idea of this while reading (it's a page turner).

Source: Library (audio)

Review: The Boy Next Door

Why I picked it: It's not a secret that I love reading about Africa and the Middle East so when I found out that Irene Sabatini won the Orange Prize for new fiction I had to read this book.  The day the announcement was made I logged on to the libraries website and was delighted to see an audio copy with no holds.  I picked it up the same day and burned a copy for my ipod. 

Synopsis: In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, there is a tragedy in the house next door to Lindiwe Bishop--her neighbor has been burned alive. The victim's stepson, Ian McKenzie, is the prime suspect but is soon released. Lindiwe can't hide her fascination with this young, boisterous and mysterious white man, and they soon forge an unlikely closeness even as the country starts to deteriorate.

Years after circumstances split them apart, Ian returns to a much-changed Zimbabwe to see Lindiwe, now a sophisticated, impassioned young woman, and discovers a devastating secret that will alter both of their futures, and draw them closer together even as the world seems bent on keeping them apart. The Boy Next Door is a moving and powerful debut about two people finding themselves and each other in a time of national upheaval.

Quick Take: Recommend - I wish I could give this a highly recommend but I can't... I enjoyed most of the book but it does carry on a bit to much in some parts.  I was intrigued by Ian and Lindiwe, she starts a relationship with Ian knowing he has just been released from jail for burning someone.  As the story progresses we slowly learn what reallly happened.

This novel span many years.  I was captivated by Lindiwe's decisions throughout the book and couldn't wait to see how this story would end.  It's wonderfully written.  If you enjoy award winners this book will not disappoint you.

Source: Library (audio)

Review: Room

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club Selection.  Thanks to Miriam at Hachette for picking it for us almost a year ago!  I enjoy reading the Booker prize winner (I almost always love the book), congratulations to Emma Donoghue for making the short list.

Have you read Room?  If you have, click here to join the discussion!  We have a few book related questions for you to answer.

Synopsis: To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This book is getting alot of buzz and it's much deserved.  How the author wrote an entire book from the view of a fie year old still amazes me (and she said it was easy!).  We had a lively discussion of the novel using the reader's guide and gathered some great questions. 

Source: Review Copy

The author wasn't able to join us to discuss Room but she did answer our questions:

I’m curious to find out why the author had a television in the room. Was this an addition during the seven years (maybe a sundaytreat) or was the TV as part of the Room from the beginning? Good question. I agonised over whether they should have a TV or not; I really didn't want them to watch it all day, but I thought that with no TV they might be living a rather 19th-century life, a premodern one rather than the modern-but-sealed-off-from-the-broader-world one I wanted for them. So I decided to make Ma strongminded enough to severely limit their watching, and that way Jack could have visual recognition of many things in Outside without truly understanding them.

This is a common question for writer’s but we are curious… have you thought about Ma and Jack and what their live might be like in ten years time? I've thought a little bit... what I hope for them is that they gradually become more and more like everybody else! They'll always be marked by their experience but they shouldn't have to always feel so strange and special.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process and how you stayed in a five year olds mindset for the entire novel? Was this as challenging as it seemed to us? No, this novel was easy: the story, perspective and tone came to me all in one go, and having a five-year-old son at the time made it pretty effortless to 'channel' Jack. What I struggled with was the balance between grim and upbeat, naive and satirical, slow and fast... lots of tinkering, basically.

Jack seems to have a bond with objects in the room, calling objects Plant, Wardrobe (capitalized). We would love to explore this with you, can you share a little more behind the purpose of this to a five year old? I saw him and Ma as a tribe of two, and I thought their religion would have a large element of animism: seeing a spirit in everything. My kids do that too, they automatically personalise, play and talk to every object they encounter. I figure Jack needs friends and Ma will encourage any way of getting them.

Breast Feeding: One of our readers emailed me to add one more question to the list. She’s wondering if you had gotten a lot of attention or criticism regarding the presence of breastfeeding an older child in this novel. Breastfeeding felt like a logical ‘must’ for Ma.  Yes, lots of rather uneasy attention, almost all of it in the US. To me the breastfeeding made absolute sense on every level, because Jack and Ma are still living very much as mother and baby when the novel starts; they're never more than a few feet apart. She would hold onto any habit that comforts him. But in the US especially, many people are viscerally horrified at the idea of nursing a five-year-old...

Congratulations on being shortlisted for the Booker! As a writer, mother, and partner we are wondering how you do it all. Are you working on your next novel?  I do it all with the aid of my partner (she got six months paid leave when each of the kids was born, which really helped) and then daycare; I manage to do things like email when the kids are in the house, but never actual writing. Yes, I'm working on the next novel now, an unsolved crime from 1870s San Francisco.

I appreciated Ma’s breakdown once the escaped and she knew Jack was safe. This made the story feel like it could have been a real experience for someone (albeit a horrific one).  I'm glad this rang true for you! I (rather coldbloodedly) wanted Jack to be parted from Ma for a while so that he'd start growing up fast, but I also thought it was very plausible that someone would fall apart AFTER their escape; prisoners released from solitary confinement very often only develop psychological problems afterwards...

What is your writing schedule like? It's determined by school and daycare: the minute the kids are out of the house I rush to my computer like a lover!

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I'm entirely inorganic: I plan everything, pretty much. If there's a good strong structure there's room for changes at a later stage, but the structure (and usually the first and last scenes) remain the same.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? Emily Dickinson - but I doubt she'd agree to be interviewed!

Review: Every Last One

Why I picked it: I was visiting the library and saw an audio copy sitting on the shelf - after hearing so many people talk about this book this summer I had to read it.

Synopsis:  Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother, whose three teenaged children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener, or even her life as the wife of a doctor.  Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount.  And so, when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, and is blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterwards is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible line of hope and healing that connects one human being with another.

Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, to live a life we never dreamed we’d have to live but must be brave enough to try.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a story of how a mother copes through day to day life, she is married, has three teenagers and owns a landscaping business. She's tired, trying to stay connected to her kids and be ahead of anything 'bad' that can happen until life hands her a situation no one can plan for.

If you are going to read this book I will tell you to give it time. The story progresses slowly and with a lot of detail. It's important to the story though once you get close to half way through when something tragic happens to the family.

Source: Library (audio)

Review: Good Enough to Eat

Why I Picked It: Look at the cover - don't you want to read it?  The cover drew me in and the synopsis piqued my interest enough to say yes to the request in my inbox.

Synopsis: Former lawyer Melanie Hoffman lost half her body weight and opened a gourmet take-out café specializing in healthy and delicious food. Then her husband left her-for a woman twice her size. Immediately afterwards, she's blindsided by a financial crisis. Melanie reaches out to a quirky roommate with a ton of baggage and becomes involved in a budding romance with a local documentary filmmaker.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take:  Recommend - I really enjoyed this book and would pass this one along to a friend looking for something good to read.  I know a few people who have lost a considerable amount of weight and I thought the author did a great job describing the realities of weight loss and the new insecurities that replace the 'fat' ones.

Can you imagine someone leaving you because you decided to improve your overall health?  I can't begin to understand this situation but I'm sure this happens (remembering that the one left behind is not going through a life changing transformation).  The ending is really good to, a 'real life' type of ending.

Have you read it?  Did you like it?

Source: Review Copy

Review: Safe Haven

Why I picked it:  I had read just one book by Sparks until this year and am shocked to confess Safe Haven is the third Sparks novel for me in 2010.  I like to read the book before seeing the movie so last winter I read two Sparks novels back to back.  I really enjoyed The Last Song (the movie was good) and decided not to see Dear John after reading the book (I didn't love this book).

Synopsis: When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family.

But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

Quick Take: This is not your typical Sparks novel.  It felt like I was reading a cross between Sleeping with the Enemy and Kindergarten Cop.  I enjoyed the book but it felt odd reading reading something with suspense from Sparks.  That said, who am I to say a writer can't try something different, expand your horizons.... 

That's about all I have to say for this book (didn't love it, didn't hate it).

Have you read it? 

Source: Review Copy

Review: The Life You've Imagined

Why I picked it: The cover drew me in and then when I clicked to Devourer of Books and saw she was hosting an online book discussion.  I enjoy getting to discuss books online (reading all the opinions).

Book Club Girl also interviewed the author, click here if you are interested in listening to the discussion

Synopsis: Have you ever asked yourself, "What if??" Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.

Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her "speck on the map" hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.

Cami Drayton, Anna's dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.

Maeve, Anna's mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.

And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.
Type: Fiction

Quick Take: If I'm honest I need to tell you I struggled with this book.  It took me three weeks to finish, which made it hard for me to be invested in the story.  Part of the issue was that I couldn't find time to sit and read.  These women are so different as grown ups and having taken different paths after high school... I kept thinking the author was going to have them all be friends (which isn't true but distracted me).  I enjoyed Anna's storyline the most and I have a friend from my twenties who is very close to Amy so she seemed 'real' to me.

I have reconnected with friends from youth, only to find we don't have much in common.... facebook keeps us connected.  I don't say this to be hurtful, I'm just stating my experience. 

I enjoyed the writing and character development.  The male characters weren't strong but they kept the story moving forward for me. The ending is perfect (one of the better endings I've read in a while), it doesn't wrap up too much.  This would make for a good book club selection - a lot to talk about.

Have you read it?  Did you like it?

Source: Nook

Review: My name is Memory

Why I picked it: I picked up the hardcover from the library and traveled with this book to Boulder in July... I didn't read one page before the books due date.  When scanned new audio titles at the library a few weeks ago I was surrised to see this title available.

Synopsis: Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has "the memory", the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again. But just when young Sophia (now "Lucy" in the present) finally begins to awaken to the secret of their shared past, to understand the true reason for the strength of their attraction, the mysterious force that has always torn them apart reappears. Ultimately, they must come to understand what stands in the way of their love if they are ever to spend a lifetime together. A magical, suspenseful, heartbreaking story of true love, My Name is Memory proves the power and endurance of a union that was meant to be.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a wonderful, creative, loving story.  After visiting the authors website I found out that the movie rights have been urchased AND this is book one in a three part series.

Daniel's story starts over 1,000 years ago.  When he dies he comes enters the world again through birth in a new body.  We discover parts of history that have been forgotten and you will fall for this character.  He feels life will not be full until he can be with Sophia.

Sophie happens to be Lucy in her present life but she has strange dreams that lead her to Daniel.

I don't know what else to write about this book other than to say I really enjoyed it and look forward to reading the second book in the story - we are left hanging... I need to know what's going to happen!

Source: Audio (Library)

Review: I'd know you anywhere

Why I picked it: The simple reason, the cover.  I have been in a creepy book mood recently and i'd know you anywhere was the perfect choice to continue my 'dark' phase.

Synopsis: Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life. But her tranquility is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. I'd know you anywhere.

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition. Having wondered why Walter had let her live, she cautiously makes contact with him.

Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable life, will do anything to protect it—even if it means finally facing the terrible truth she's kept buried inside.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Highly Recommend - The author write a wonderful book, it's complicated, in a good way.  There are so many twists that you keep thinking, the story just keeps getting better.  Walters manipulating and creepy, Barbara is the stories connector and boy is she a game player and keeps you on your toes!  She's a piece of work!

This book wasn't too graphic for me, in fact there are no details of the events other than noting they happened.  This book is about today (20 years later) and how Walters actions impact several lives the last two months of his life. 

If I'm going to find something wrong with this book I might say it wraps up too neatly (which is the case with so many stories).

Source: iTunes (audio)

Review: Trust

Why I picked it: To be honest, I hadn't heard of this book until receiving a request for review.  I was intrigued by the synopsis and knew it would be a good book for me - and of course what secured the decision was knowing the author was from Australia.

Synopsis: Susanna Greenfield has given her all to being a good daughter, sister, wife, and mother. Somehow, she's maintained her profession as a college art teacher, as well as rearing two headstrong teenagers and nurturing a twenty-year marriage to Gerry, a confident, ambitious architect. She's also the eternal peacemaker between her pretty younger sister Angie, former junkie turned born-again Christian, and their strong- willed mother, Jean.

Just when Susanna is struggling to revive her creative career, a devastating accident rips apart the fabric of her world, exposing secrets which threaten to destroy both a marriage, and a life. Plumbing the rich emotional vocabulary of faith and betrayal, loyalty and forgiveness, Trust is the story of a woman's challenge to find her self.

Quick Take: Recommend - This would be a great book club selection.  This book is filled with deception in so many forms and covers just about every topic one could talk about (sex, lies, religion, work, life, balance, personal growth, and abuse to name a few).  I love reading books with reference to local lingo and spelling.  Let me know if you have read it, I would love to chat about this one.

The characters talk to themselves periodically, I loved this.  It wasn't too much, just enough to keep you engage (or chuckle from time to time).

I want to know what others think of the title, what does it mean/refer to? 

Source: Review Copy

Review: Still Missing

Why I picked it: I had been reading good things about this one, it's not my typically read but I was in the mood for a dark/creepy book.

Synopsis: On the day she was abducted, Annie O’Sullivan, a thirty-two-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 captive in a remote mountain cabin — which unfolds through sessions with her psychiatrist — is a second narrative recounting the nightmare that follows her escape: her struggle to piece her shattered life back together, the ongoing police investigation into the identity of her captor, and the disturbing sense that things are far from over.
Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - You will be hooked from the first page.  This novel is gripping and moves quickly.  I was attached to the character fairly quickly and listening to all that she  This is really a psychological thriller!  The second have moves a little slower but overall it's a really good book.  I liked Annie's personality, she's irritated with life and desires closure/acceptance while living every day with humilation and fright.

Have you read it?  What did you think? 

Updated Oct 4 - I found an online discussion of Still Missing today (click here to join the discussion with Tea Time with Marce):

Did you find the story believable? I was captivated and nervous while Annie was missing.  The author did a good job makeing me feel uncomfortable and wanting to know what would happen. We read stories more often about people kept captive and I could see this happening... I wouldn't want to be a realtor after reading this book.

What did you find unbelievable, if anything? To be honest... I didn't love the book after she was free, the story started to fall apart for me.  Maybe I just don't want to believe a Mother would do something so horrible.  I did like how angry Annie was throughout the book.

What is your opinion on the cop/victim relationship? I didn't buy into this relationship - I don't think this relationship could happen in real life (wouldn't it break some rules)? If I'm really honest... she is so damaged emotionally and physically that I don't understand how this would happen and so quickly after release.

Was “The Freak” believable? For the most part, yes.  I believed him as a character

Thanks Marce for hosting the discussion!

Source: iTunes Audio

Review: After You

Why I picked it: I read a review of After You which reminded me that I had a copy of my laptop (audio).  A perfect selection to keep me company while running.  Thanks Judith (Leeswammes Blog)

Synopsis: The complexities of a friendship. The unexplored doubts of a marriage. And the redemptive power of literature...Julie Buxbaum, the acclaimed author of The Opposite of Love, delivers a haunting, gloriously written novel about love, family, and the secrets we hide from each other and ourselves.

It happened on a tree-lined street in Notting Hill to a woman who seemed to have the perfect life. Ellie Lerner s best friend, Lucy, was murdered in front of her young daughter. And, as best friends do, Ellie dropped everything her marriage, her job, her life in the Boston suburbs to travel to London and pick up the pieces of Lucy s life. While Lucy s husband, Greg, copes with his grief by retreating into himself, eight-year-old Sophie has simply stopped speaking.

Desperate to help Sophie, Ellie turns to a book that gave her comfort as a child, The Secret Garden. As the two spend hours exploring the novel s winding...

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a great choice for me. I enjoy reading books that could 'mostly' happen, are well written and feel good when they end.  If you like Kristin Hannah, Emily Giffin, Jennie Shortridge... you will enjoy this book.

I wonder who the girl is on the cover.  Have you read this book?  Sophie wears glasses and has curly hair.  I know who I think it is...

Source: Library (audio)

Review: The House on Oyster Creek

Why I picked it: This book was given to me for review earlier this spring.  I'm not sure what grabbed my attention but I'm so happy I accepted this book.  It's one of the better books I have read this year.

Synopsis: Sensitive but practical, Charlotte Tradescome has come to accept the reticence of her older, work-obsessed husband Henry. Still, she hopes to create a life for their three-year-old daughter. So when Henry inherits a home on Cape Cod, she, Henry, and little Fiona move from their Manhattan apartment to this seaside community.

Charlotte sells off part of Tradescome Point, inadvertently fueling the conflict between newcomers and locals. Many townspeople easily dismiss Charlotte as a "washashore." A rare exception is Darryl Stead, an oyster farmer with modest dreams and an open heart, with whom Charlotte feels the connection she's been missing. Ultimately he transforms the way she sees herself, the town, and the people she loves...

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I really, really enjoyed reading this book.  The writing is incredible and the story/characters will challenge you as a reader. 

Oyster farming is the in the background of this story for most of the book.  As we follow Charlotte on her journey (and her families) you feel the pull she has to farming.  I had no knowledge of oyster farming and what's involved but it sounds like hard work and patience is needed. 

The book has two main plots that twist and keep you interested, the politics of the island (laws to land and farming) and her marriage (is she wandering or is her husband controlling).  Both will keep you guessing but leave you satisfied when the story ends.

Source: Review copy

Review: Prep

Why I picked it: This is my second novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, I read and enjoyed American Wife last summer.  So much so that I wanted to try another selection by the author.  Prep made a lot of press when it was released so it was a good choice for me.

Synopsis: Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Quick Take: This is a tough review for me, I can't give it a solid recommend (to a friend with little time to read) but I was interested and am still thinking about this book weeks later.  The writing is good but the story takes a long time to unfold. The reader is waiting for Lee's life to start and the selfpity to end for the first third of the book.  Once she gets to spring of her junior year the book picks up pace until you get to the end (about the last half of the book). 

I was surprised by the ending, in a good way. 

There are some crude discussions related to sex that some readers may not appreciate but it felt like they belonged in the book.

Have you read this one?  I would love to know what you thought. 

Source: Library (audio)

Review: The Island

Why I picked it: I have read most of the books written by Elin Hilderbrand so imagine my excitement to find out that we are reading this book for the Manic Mommies Book Club (and discuss the book with the author).

Synopsis: From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket. Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Intead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.

Type: Fiction, 416 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: Highly Recommend - I loved this book.  Birdie's daughter, Chess, makes a life changing decision that has consequences no one could expect.  Birdie decides the best medicine is a month at the summer cottage where she will have time and seclusion to help her daughter heal.  Birdie's sister and her other daughter decide to join them and they realize they all need time to evaluate life and take time to strengthen family bonds.

Not only is it a perfect summer read but the story is well executed and I found myself invested in the characters.

I didn't want this book to end.

Source: Review copy

You can listen to our discussion by clicking on the green arrow below or by downloading the discussion (click on the recording on the right side of the MMBC page). The call has been edited to 40 minutes:

We are discussing the book online, click here to join the discussion.

Source: Review copy
Author Q&A

Tell us a little about yourself: I am Type A and completely overscheduled. I am married and have three children -- Maxx is 10, Dawson is 8 and Shelby is 4. I am a Little League mother; I spent all spring at games 4 nights a week and Saturdays, and my son Maxx made the All-Stars, meaning even more games and weekends away! My favorite things about summer are: the beach, my Jeep with the top off, cold champagne, corn on the cob, blueberry pie and flip-flops. (Note: baseball does not appear on this list.) I grew up in Philadelphia and I'm a huge Eagles fan. I jog 6-7 miles every morning. In the winters, because my husband manages a beach club that is closed, we pull our children out of school and take an exotic vacation. This past winter, we spent 6 weeks traveling through Vietnam. Next winter, we will go to Perth, Australia, which is my favorite place on earth. The two things I would really like to learn to do are: speak French and play the guitar. But who has the time???

What was it like getting your first novel published? It was a mixed bag. I was relieved to have sold it (to St. Martin's Press) but my advance was only $5000, so I could hardly quit my part time paralegal job. When the book came out, it was immediately chosen by People Magazine as Beach Book of the Week. And then St. Martin's immediately ran out of books. I actually didn't know anything about book sales at that point -- but oh, have I learned.

What is your writing schedule like? I write from 11-4 about 4 days a week in the summer. I have a live-in nanny who covers the children, God LOVE her! In the winter, I write at a remote location ( a friend's empty rental house in town) from 10-6. And when we are on our exotic vacations, I write six days a week while my husband covers the kids. I take one day off to snorkel or see the temples.

When you start writing, how much of the story do you have mapped out and how much is organic? I have certain things mapped out, but more than anyone might imagine is organic... as I'm writing, the process of discovery characters tell me what's going to happen next. It's mystical, but I try not to talk about it too much or even think about it, because I don't want it to go away.

What are you reading now? I just finished The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. It was utterly fabulous. It all came together at the end in a way that made the whole more than the sum of its parts. It felt like witchcraft.

If you could interview anyone, who would if be and why? What would you like to ask them? The only person I would really like to interview is my father, Robert Hilderbrand, who died in a plane crash when I was sixteen. And my question would be: Are you proud of me? (Tissue, please!)


Review: One Day

Why I picked it: I was looking for something new to listen to last week, after reading a blog that mentioned this book moved her to tears (supported by many comments) I thought this would be a good choice.

Synopsis: It's 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. They both know that the next day, after college graduation, they must go their separate ways. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. As the years go by, Dex and Em begin to lead separate lives lives very different from the people they once dreamed they'd become. And yet, unable to let go of that special something that grabbed onto them that first night, an extraordinary relationship develops between the two.

Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day July 15th of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

Quick Take: I'm just going to say it, here's another book that I didn't love/didn't hate.  There are so many great books to read that I know I wouldn't think to recommend this one to a busy friend.  This doesn't mean its a bad book.

It's a sad/lonely story about two people who have a strong connection but are not willing to take a risk.  Emma lacks self confidence and Dex is a bit of a creep, how they stay connected over two decades escapes me. Dex isn't Emma's type and she defines the relationship quickly, deciding to be friends.  There was a point in the story where I started to fall for the characters, when they go on vacation together, but the story took a different turn.  One I expected would happen in the book, just not that quickly. 

I think the struggle I had was that the book takes place on/near July 15th over a twenty year time frame.  I just read a book following this format a month ago and I didn't love that one either... so maybe it's me (which is a fair observation).

Below you will find a few other bloggers reading this one:
Everyday I write the Book
Gerbera Daisy Diaries

Have you read this book?  Did you like it?

Source: Personal copy (iTunes audio)

Review: Vision in White

Why I picked it: One of the Manic Mommies readers sent me an email last winter to say she was enjoying this series and suggested I give it a try.  I haven't read Nora Roberts and thought this might be a good book to read while learning to use the Nook.

Type: Fiction
Synopsis: With bridal magazine covers to her credit, Mackensie “Mac” Elliot is most at home behind the camera – ready to capture the happy moments she never experienced while growing up. Her father replaced his first family with a second, and now her mother, moving on to yet another man, begs Mac for attention and money. Mac’s foundation is jostled again moments before an important wedding planning meeting when she bumps into the bride-to-be’s brother…an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

Carter Maguire is definitely not her type: he’s stable, and he’s safe. He’s even an English teacher at their high school alma mater. There’s something about him that makes Mac think a casual fling is just what she needs to take her mind off dealing with bride-zillas and screening her mother’s phone calls. But a casual fling can turn into something more when you least expect it. And with the help of her three best friends – and business

Quick Take: Recommend - This is a fun summer read.  It's smarter than boy meets girl, they break up and get back together which I enjoyed.  There are two other books in the series so it could be fun to see how the characters develop as the story continues.  If you are going to the beach or looking for a fun book this one might be perfect.

Have you read it? 

Source: elend (Nook)

Review: Life After Yes

Why I picked it: I hadn't bought a book in a while and when I saw this I knew I wanted to read it - a spontaneous pick.

I first read about this book late 2009. It had been on my list since learning about the author and her background. Writing is a second career for Rowley and she's a mom juggling life and her dream.

Type: Fiction

Synopsis: This is the story of Quinn—born Prudence Quinn O'Malley—a confused young Manhattan attorney who loses her father on that tragic September morning that changed everything. Now, at an existential crossroads in her life, Quinn must confront impossible questions about commitment and career, love and loss. Her idealistic beau desperately wants a wedding, and whisks her away to Paris just to propose. But then Quinn has a dream featuring judges and handcuffs and Nietzsche and Britney . . . and far too many grooms. Suddenly, her future isn't so clear. Quinn's world has become a minefield of men—some living, some gone, and traversing it safely is going to take a lot more than numerous glasses of pinot grigio.

Quick Take: Recommend - This book started out a little slow for me but by about page 100 I was surprised to find myself fully invested and waiting to see if Quinn would make it to the alter.  Quinn's first name is Prudence and the author plays with the word throughout the story, very clever. 

This is a funny, smart, well written book.  If you like Emily Giffin you will love this book.  I wonder how long it will be before I get to read another book from this author.

Giveaway:  I have had so many comments about people wanting to read this book... I'm giving away my copy!  Just leave a comment along with your email address to enter (since I'm shipping the book, I will ship anywhere).  I will pick a winner for next Monday's post.

Source: Personal Copy

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