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

ANNA read-a-long: Part 8

I can't believe I have finished reading Anna Karenina!  I bought my copy in 2005-06 to bring on vacation and read the first two parts - then I read somewhere that the book was published as seperate novels with over a year between books.  This gave me an excuse to try reading it like readers would have but it failed. 

I'm surprised with part 8, we spend very little time with Anna.  Much less than I expected.  Tolstoy really enjoyed writing Levin - I would be interested to know if there is a personal connection to Levin's character.

If you haven't read Anna yet, please read it!  It's a wonderful story, filled with society, Russian life, relationships, depression and so much more.
We are using Oprah's discussion guide to help facilitate the dialog. The recap below is from her website.

Part Eight: The End: A New Beginning

Review: Backseat Saints

July Manic Mommies Book Club selection - click here to read the Q&A and listen to our discussion with the author

Synopsis: Rose Mae Lolley is a fierce and dirty girl, long-suppressed under flowery skirts and bow-trimmed ballet flats. As "Mrs. Ro Grandee" she's trapped in a marriage that's thick with love and sick with abuse. Her true self has been bound in the chains of marital bliss in rural Texas, letting "Ro" make eggs, iron shirts, and take her punches. She seems doomed to spend the rest of her life battered outside by her husband and inside by her former self, until fate throws her in the path of an airport gypsy—-one who shares her past and knows her future. The tarot cards foretell that Rose's beautiful, abusive husband is going to kill her. Unless she kills him first.

Hot-blooded Rose Mae escapes from under Ro's perky compliance and emerges with a gun and a plan to beat the hand she's been dealt. Following messages that her long-missing mother has left hidden for her in graffiti and behind paintings, Rose and her dog Gretel set out from Amarillo, TX back to her hometown of Fruiton,...

Quick Take: Recommend - This is my favorite book written by Joshilyn Jackson, it might be due to our discussion, learning details behind the story and the authors research/writing process.  Confession:  I always like books more after talking with the author (they are so insightful!) :)

Rose May Lolley's life has been surrounded by people to mistreat each other - setting a terrible example for how wonderful life can be.  This book starts with a bang and will keep you on your toes. 

Rose May appears in Jackson's first novel Gods in Alabama, it's the only book that I haven't read and since we have to wait until 2012 for a new release... I'm happy to have a book to read later this year/early 2011, I'm intrigued!

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 and read an interview with Joshilyn Jackson.

Source: Review Copy

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