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

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