Review: Committed

Have you read this yet? I had been waiting to read Committed: a skeptic makes peace with marriage for months, I know it’s a new release but I have been aware of this ‘sequel’ for a long time. Last summer I watched Elizabeth Gilbert talk at TED, part of her discussion was related to the success of Eat, Pray, Love and her awareness of the struggle to surpass this success (she talks about the odds being against her). It’s a very interesting talk, I encourage everyone to watch/listen.

The main reason for reading this so quickly (and not waiting for the library copy), the Slate Book Club is discussing this book soon and I want to be able to listen to the discussion when it posts.

From author’s website: I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

Links:
Author Q&A
Nurturing Creativity (TED)

Type: Non-fiction, 285 pages, Hardcover

Synopsis: A sequel to her bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert’s new book is the story of how she and Felipe, the man she met and fell in love with at the end of Eat, Pray, Love, grapple and ultimately make peace with the notion of marriage, long after each of them has endured an ugly divorce and sworn off the institution.

Quick Take: I finished this book almost two weeks ago and have been waiting to write about it. I did end up listening to the audio version which was narrated by the author. This might have impacted my ‘reading’ experience, it was like having a friend share their story. In short, Gilbert and her then boyfriend are entering the US, he is deported and they must marry for him to enter the United States. Neither want to get marriaged, they want commitment, not marriage and plan to be together forever.

I have to say I REALLY liked this book. It’s part educational, part memoir. I enjoyed learning how marriage is defined around the world. Gilbert did a lot of research and took time to write a book that is worth reading. We are reading about her journey, at the beginning of the book she doesn’t really want to marry again but recent events force her to re-evaluate. If you enjoyed Eat, Pray, Love I think you will like this book.

If you have read it I would love to hear your thoughts, if you haven’t…let me know when you do read it. There is a lot to discuss!

Source: Personal copy

Review: Perfection

After seeing this book on many websites as a recommended book club selection I wanted to read it as a potential book club selection for the Omaha Bookworm's.  I have been enjoying memoirs over the last few years ago - I have always read them but I have been enjoying memoirs written by people, not famous but people with stories worth sharing. 

From author’s website: I am a writer, graphic designer, and artist. In addition to Perfection I have written essays and commentary for publications including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Hemispheres, Glamour, and mr bellers neighborhood. I received a MacDowell Fellowship in 2008 where I completed work on Perfection and began work on a novel. I live in Brooklyn, N.Y. I am the world’s biggest skeptic, but try me.

Synopsis: A breathtakingly honest, gloriously written memoir about the complexities of forgiveness when a young widow discovers her husband's secret life after his death Julie Metz seemed to have the perfect life—an adoring if demanding husband, a happy, spirited daughter, a lovely old house in an idyllic town outside New York City—when in an instant, everything changed. Her charismatic, charming husband, Henry, suffered a pulmonary embolism and collapsed on the kitchen floor. Within hours he was dead, and Julie was a widow and single mother at 44. Just like that, what seemed like a perfect life melted away. But the worst was yet to come.

Six months after his death, Julie discovered that her husband of 12 years, the man who loved her and their six-year-old daughter ebulliently and devotedly, had been unfaithful throughout their marriage, going so far as to conduct an ongoing relationship with one of Julie's close friends. This memoir—moving, simple, filled with incandescent images—is the story of coming to terms with painful truths, of rebuilding both a life and an identity after betrayal and widowhood. ltimately, it is a story of rebirth and happiness—if not perfection.

Type: Memoir, 352 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: It’s no secret that I enjoy memoirs, some of my 2009 favorites fall into this genre. I didn’t love this one as much as some but it’s very good, I found the book jumped around a bit for my liking but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. It’s VERY honest and at times maybe too raw (I felt like I was intruding at times). I can’t begin to imagine how anyone would handle the news that a spouse had over 10 affairs… and is dead so you can’t ask questions! This would make closure difficult. You will like the ending, the author is in a good place.

Links worth clicking:
Author Q&A
Audio Interview
GMA Appearance

While I was reading Perfection, Nicole of Linus's Blanket emailed me, mentioned she enjoyed this book, click here to read her review.

Source: Personal copy

Review: Dear John

I reviewed The Last Song earlier this month and loved it (keep Kleenex near you for the ending)...so to follow with my general rule, read the book before seeing the movie, I wanted to read Dear John as well. I did listen to this book on my iPod (rather than reading it) which might have altered my opinion a bit.

From author’s website: … Meanwhile, between founding the school and coaching track and field at New Bern High School (the team would win both the indoor and outdoor state championships that spring), I was already hard at work on Dear John. The book was inspired by the movie Casablanca, one of my favorite films, and like Casablanca, Dear John explores what it really means to love another. The book was published in October 2006 again debuting at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Did you know: The film rights were purchases by Sony Screen Gems, and that the film stars Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfreid? John’s last name (Tyree) was a childhood friend of Nicholas’s? John’s character was inspired by Nicholas’s cousin, Todd Vance? Savannah was named after one of Nicholas’s daughters?

Synopsis:An angry rebel, John dropped out of school and enlisted in the Army, not knowing what else to do with his life--until he meets the girl of his dreams, Savannah. Their mutual attraction quickly grows into the kind of love that leaves Savannah waiting for John to finish his tour of duty, and John wanting to settle down with the woman who captured his heart. But 9/11 changes everything. John feels it is his duty to re-enlist. And sadly, the long separation finds Savannah falling in love with someone else. "Dear John," the letter read...and with those two words, a heart was broken and two lives were changed forever. Returning home, John must come to grips with the fact that Savannah, now married, is still his true love--and face the hardest decision of his life.

Type: Fiction, 278 pages, Trade paperback

Quick Take: Let me start by saying the voice of the reader bothered me a bit so this might impact my review. I do not listen to many audio books and have to say I was surprised to find this bothered me, but it did. Dear John is a fine story but I didn’t connect to the characters which is I typically do with Sparks. There also was major revelation in the book that wasn’t explored, which I don’t understand. I will give the book some credit, it doesn’t end like one would expect which was a shining moment. I didn’t hate the book, it was just missing something for me.

Source: Personal copy

Review: The Weight of Heaven

I have seen this book at the book store and on several blogs over the past few months but when I saw TLC Book Tours was touring the book I thought it was time to read it. I was lucky enough to get this book from the library with no wait.

About the author: Thrity Umrigar is the author of three other novels—The Space Between Us, If Today Be Sweet, and Bombay Time—and the memoir First Darling of the Morning. A journalist for 17 years, she is the winner of the Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University and a 2006 finalist for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award. An associate professor of English at Case Western - Reserve University, Umrigar lives in Cleveland (courtesy TLC Book Tours)

Click here to listen to a few interviews with the author (I recommend the NPR interview).

Synopsis: When Frank and Ellie Benton lose their only child, seven-year-old Benny, to a sudden illness, the perfect life they had built is shattered. Filled with wrenching memories, their Ann Arbor home becomes unbearable, and their marriage founders. But an unexpected job half a world away offers them an opportunity to start again. Life in Girbaug, India, holds promise—and peril—when Frank befriends Ramesh, a bright, curious boy who quickly becomes the focus of the grieving man's attentions. Haunted by memories of his dead son, Frank is consumed with making his family right—a quest that will lead him down an ever-darkening path with stark repercussions.

Type: Fiction, 384 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: I really enjoyed this novel! The story grabs your attention right away and keeps you engaged until the last page. Although I am not participating in the TLC book tour I can’t wait to read the reviews. 2010 just began but I think this will be one of my favorites for this year. The storyline is unique, the ending might surprise you, I loved it! I would love to discus this book with others, I might see if the Omaha Bookworm’s would like to read it as a 2010 book selection.

Source: Library

Review: The Singer's Gun

The Omaha Bookworm’s met with Emily during the fall to discuss her first novel Last Night in Montreal so I was happy to accept a copy of her second novel. It arrived just days before Christmas, the cover looked intriguing to me so I read this one right away. This book is scheduled for release May 2010.

From Author’s website: Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada, in 1979. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. She is married and lives in Brooklyn.

Synopsis: The Singer’s Gun is a story of love, corruption, betrayal, human trafficking, and the difficulty of living an honorable life.
 
Everyone Anton Waker grew up with is corrupt. His parents are dealers in stolen goods, and his first career was a partnership venture with his cousin Aria; they sold forged passports and social security cards to illegal aliens together, until Anton began to long for a less corrupt way of living in the world and set out to change his life. By his late twenties he has reinvented himself as a successful middle manager at a water systems consulting firm.

Anton leads a happy, steady life, engaged to be married and working in a job he loves, until a routine corporate background check reveals that contrary to what the framed diploma on his office wall might suggest, Anton never actually attended Harvard. In the meantime, his secretary has disappeared, and his cousin Aria is blackmailing him; if he doesn¹t do one last job for her, she¹ll tell his unsuspecting new wife that Anton¹s diploma is a fake.

As Anton’s carefully constructed life begins to disintegrate around him, he’s forced to choose between his loyalty to his family and his longing to live honorably in the world.

Type: Fiction, 304 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: This is a quick read, I love Emily’s writing style – every word serves a purpose. It’s a bit romance, mixed with drama and suspense. I didn’t see the plot twist coming which is always a nice surprise! I found the review below while visiting the author’s website, it’s a perfect recap (in my opinion).

"Making good on the promise she showed in her debut, Mandel has crafted a taut novel that defies categorization in all the best ways. Is it a domestic drama? A political thriller? A love story? Can it be all these things and more? It can, and it is. On his honeymoon, Anton Waker leaves his wife in order to remain on the remote island of Ischia off the coast of Italy. Using a spellbinding structure of fractured scenes and complex chronologies, Mandel reveals his mystery to the reader in small, addictive doses. This is a book to be read compulsively, and then read again for its exquisite detail and its beautiful prose. A riveting read."  -Patrick Brown, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena

Source: Advanced reader copy

Review: True Colors

I have brought this book home from the library a few times and finally got around to reading it! I read Firefly Lane last spring after someone recommended it to me, which I enjoyed enough to continue reading new releases by this author. 

From the authors website: After working in a trendy advertising agency, I decided to go to law school. "But you're going to be a writer" are the prophetic words I will never forget from my mother. I was in my third-and final-year of law school and my mom was in the hospital, facing the end of her long battle with cancer. I was shocked to discover that she believed I would become a writer. For the next few months, we collaborated on the worst, most clich├ęd historical romance ever written. Click here to read more.

Synopsis: The Grey sisters had only each other when their mother died years ago. Their father provided for them physically on Water's Edge, the ranch that had been in their family for three generations, each of them however, longed for their father's love.

Winona, the oldest, knew early on that she could never get it. An overweight dreamer and reader, she didn't exhibit the kinds of talents and strengths her father valued.

Vivi Anne, the youngest, had those things. And it was Vivi Anne who only ever saw a glimmer of their father's approval.

When Vivi Anne makes a fateful decision to follow her heart, rather than take the route of a dutiful daughter, events are set in motion that will test the love and loyalties of the Grey sisters.

With breathtaking pace and penetrating insight, Kristin Hannah's True Colors is a novel about sisters, vengeance, rivalry, betrayal—and ultimately, what it truly means to be a family.

Links worth clicking to:
Click here to read ‘behind the novel’ with the author
Click here to watch a video about the book

Type: Fiction, 400 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: Let me start by saying I enjoyed this novel, especially as I read the last few chapters and could take it all in. The story takes place over two decades so it does contain a lot of detail. It’s a good, heartfelt story about three sisters, their family struggles and life in a small community. The story centers about one sisters decision to marry a man that no one cares for and he ends up in jail for most of the book. We watch her struggle to raise a child alone, feeling abandoned at times and finding a way to cope. If you enjoy Kristin Hannah novels this one will not disappoint you.

Hannah has a new novel to be released next month called Winter Garden, my library has ordered 9 copies and I am number 8 on the hold list!

Source: Library

Review: Receive Me Falling

I was reading author Ericka Robuck’s website and was surprised to learn that she is revising parts of this novel and might be republishing soon. 

From author’s website: Erika Robuck is an historical fiction writer. Her first novel, Receive Me Falling, was released in March of 2009. She is currently at work on a novel set in depression-era Key West in the home of Ernest Hemingway. Erika has a keen interest in all things historical, and spends her time reading, writing, researching for her writing, and visiting local, national, and international historic sites.

Be sure to check out Erika’s blog.

Synopsis: Every slave story is a ghost story. The haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts.

After Meg's parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she's inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants. 

Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father's estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father.

In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine's slave, Leah, results in the girl's death, but was it murder or suicide?

Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest.

Type: Historical Fiction, 280 pages, Trade paperback

Quick Take: Everyone who reads this story seems to love it and I’m not about to be the exception. I really enjoyed this novel and how it moved forward and backward in time. It was a joy to read, a compelling story with an unexpected ending. I recommend this one!

Source: Bostick Communications and Erika Robuck

Review: The Last Song

I saw the trailer for The Last Song while going to a showing of Young Victoria over the holiday’s and wanted to read it before the movie is out later this spring. The movie is not released until April 2010 but I bought a copy of the book last week and am happy to have read this while on vacation.

From the author’s website: Nicholas Sparks was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on New Year's Eve, a scant eighty minutes prior to 1966. As fate would have it, my father was a bartender and was scheduled to work that night, usually the busiest of the year. Short on tip money but long on pride, he demanded the finest obstetrician in Omaha and I was brought into this world kicking and screaming, the second son of Patrick Michael and Jill Emma Marie Sparks, in a family that would include an additional child (a daughter) the following year.

Did you know… Nicholas wrote the screenplay before he wrote the novel? The Last Song is the longest novel that Nicholas has written?

Synopsis: Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels--first love, love between parents and children -- that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.
 
Type: Fiction, 390 pages, Hardcover

Quick Take: You might guess that I’m going to love this story since I had to buy the book after seeing the movie trailer – you are right. This book will bring back memories of your first love and your last summer as a teenager (the independence that we all craved at the time). It’s also a story of family and learning to trust and love again. In typical Sparks fashion… you will shed a tear or two towards the end of this novel. I love books that tug at my heart.

Source: Personal Copy

Review: The Piano Teacher

The cover of this novel draws you in – I have seen this book for a while and finally found time to read it.

From Author’s website: Janice Lee was born in Hong Kong to Korean parents and lived there until she was fifteen, attending the international school. She then left for boarding school in New Hampshire, where she learned the true meaning of winter.

Synopsis: In 1942, Will Truesdale, an Englishman newly arrived in Hong Kong, falls headlong into a passionate relationship with Trudy Liang, a beautiful Eurasian socialite. But their love affair is soon threatened by the invasion of the Japanese, with terrible consequences for both of them, and for members of their fragile community who will betray each other in the darkest days of the war.

Ten years later, Claire Pendleton comes to Hong Kong and is hired by the wealthy Chen family as their daughter’s piano teacher. A provincial English newlywed, Claire is seduced by the colony’s heady social life. She soon begins an affair, only to discover that her lover’s enigmatic demeanor hides a devastating past.

As the threads of this spellbinding novel intertwine and converge, a landscape of impossible choices emerges—between love and safety, courage and survival, the present and, above all, the past.

Type: Historical Fiction, 352 pages, Trade Paperback

Quick Take: After watching/listening to the Border’s online book club discussion I can tell you this book is true historical fiction, which made me like the book more. I didn't love this one but I learned a lot about a time in our world history that I knew very little about.  The Piano Teacher is not the center of this novel (in case you are expecting this, like I was) but don’t let that stop you from reading it. It is a good book club selection, there is a lot to discuss.

Source: Library

Link worth Clicking:
- Borders online book club discussion
Click Here to listen to the author interviews, Q&A's and more

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