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)

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