Review: Home Front

Why I picked it: Everyone I know who reads Kristin Hannah loves her novels.  I wasn't planning to read this book but picked up the audio from my local library.

Synopsis: All marriages have a breaking point. All families have wounds. All wars have a cost. . . .

Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life—-children, careers, bills, chores—-even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a solider she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own—-for everything that matters to his family.

Type: fiction

Quick Take: At the core, this is an important story. I don't know anyone personally who has been deployed, the impact of deployment has on a family, returning home with an injury, and life after deployment is new to me. I'm aware of the personal struggles but haven't thought about how hard it can be to accept things and move on (and when it's okay not to move forward). This novel pay a lot of attention to the emotional toll deployment has on a family that is broken before deployment... making life after a return home even more challenging.

For me, this book has an important message but it's a slow paced bummer of a novel (in the middle).  I listened to it which didn't let me skim through the whining, something I would had done had I been reading a paper copy.  I also don't know any children who act like Betsy, she's horrible/whiny from the beginning to the end.  It took away from the story a bit. I was tired of Betsy's whining and Jolene's feeling sorry for herself. 

Jolene is not an upbeat/happy person.  With a tough childhood and we are constantly reminded that she's unhappy (life has let her down somehow).  After she returns home...I kept waiting for her to read her email. I know people react differently in situations but since she was so unhappy at home, she most likely would have reached out to her 'family' after returning home.  She would have read Michael's email and much of to second half conflict would have been avoided.

Have you read it? Did the whining come across in the written novel (vs listening)?

Rating: 3 stars (for the importance of the story)
Source: Library (audio)

Review: The Singles

Why I picked it: Something about the book cover drew me in.  I requested this book without reading the synopsis.

I'm happy to say this is our June MMBC selection!

Synopsis: Bee wanted the perfect wedding; she got the “Singles”

Back in her single days—before she met the man of her dreams—Beth “Bee” Evans hated being forced to attend weddings solo. Determined to spare her friends the same humiliation, she invites everyone on her list with a guest. Much to her chagrin, however, Hannah, Vicki, Rob, Joe, and Nancy insist upon attending Bee’s lavish Chesapeake Bay nuptials alone. The frustrated bride dubs them the “Minus-Ones” and their collective decision wreaks unintended havoc on her otherwise perfectly planned wedding weekend.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: What a refreshing novel!  One that I read this book in a 24 hour time frame while on vacation earlier this year. 

The Singles is told from different voices, the bride (just once) and then it's told by the people to attend the wedding as a 'single'.  As the story goes on we learn how the singles know the bride and groom, their relationships, insecurities, and more.  It's a very fun look at an evening (and the morning after). 

One of the characters has a fun habit, when she walks in a room she casts the room with actors. This weaves it's way into the story, in a fun way.  Next time you go out to dinner, look around and cast the waiter/waitress, the couple at the table next to you. etc...

So... I read part of this book in a public sitting area at a hotel.  The couple sitting next to me were having the most uncomfortable conversation, one I couldn't avoid without leaving the room.  The wife actually told her husband, 'if you loved me you would give me a baby. It would show me you're no longer selfish'.  oyvay...  Casting: husband, Vince Vaughn; wife, Kate Winslet; bartender, Adam Sandler; person overhearing conversation, Sandra Bullock.  What do you think Vince Vaughn would say next?  They continued talking for about five minutes before they left the room.

Rating: 4 stars
Source: NetGalley

Review: The Lost Daughter

Why I picked it: I picked this book up a few weeks ago, while shopping at Costco. 

The cover is stunning and reading Wally Lamb's endorsement led to my purchasing a copy of the book.

Synopsis: Brooke O'Connor—elegant, self-possessed, and kind—has a happy marriage and a deeply loved young daughter. So her adamant refusal to have a second child confounds her husband, Sean. When Brooke's high school boyfriend Alex—now divorced and mourning the death of his young son—unexpectedly resurfaces, Sean begins to suspect an affair.

For fifteen years Brooke has kept a shameful secret from everyone she loves. Only Alex knows the truth that drove them apart. His reappearance now threatens the life she has so carefully constructed and fortified by denial. With her marriage—and her emotional equilibrium—at stake, Brooke must confront what she has been unwilling to face for so long.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I dare you to read chapter one and put this book down.  I can't see anyone doing it! 

This novel starts with two teenagers in a hotel room, the girl is in labor.  It's a gut wrenching start to the book.  Fast forward fifteen years, Brooke is happily married, life seems good but she has a secret. Beautiful set up, how can the author go wrong?

Well, it's gets better... her high school boyfriend shows up (out of the blue) and confesses that the baby delivered all those years ago was breathing and left for dead, in a dumpster!  This is how the story begins...

This is a great book club selection - there's so much to discuss just from what I have mentioned above but there's so much more to the story. 

Have you read it? I'm happy to say I picked this book for the Omaha Bookworm's (July), we will have a fantastic discussion... I can't wait.  Find a copy and read it!

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy

Review: The Second Time We Met

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club selection

Have you signed up to receive updates for the Manic Mommies Book Club, a once a month email announcement with giveaway details?

In your Inbox or RSS Reader

GIVEAWAY:  I have one copy of this book to giveaway.  Just leave a comment to sign up (include your email)!  Drawing closes Sunday evening (Ap 9).  Open internationally.

Synopsis: Adored by his adoptive parents, Asher Stone is on the verge of a professional soccer career-when a car accident throws his future into doubt. Suddenly, Asher begins to wonder about the girl who gave him up for adoption in Colombia two decades ago. And so begins his search for a woman named Rita Ortiz.

From the streets of Bogata to a tiny orphanage tucked into a hillside, Asher untangles the mystery of Rita's identity. As he comes closer to finding Rita, his own parents are faced with fears and doubts, and Rita must soon make her own momentous choice: stay hidden, or meet the secret son who will bring painful memories-or the promise of a new beginning . . .

Quick Take: One of the great aspects of being in a book club is getting to discuss books and hear different opinions.  It's safe to say that for this month's book, everyone enjoyed it.  I received so many emails asking if the author was planning carry some of these characters forward, to another novel.  A delightful read.

I read this one in just three days, wanting to know how the Rita's story would end.  You will find yourself wanting to know more about Rita, Lucas, and her family.  What happens after the story ends.  I love it when a novel ends and the reader gets to imagine what's next!

Leila Cobo, what can I say... she's extremely talented!  A pianist, TV host and an author.  The Second Time We Met is her second novel.

You can listen to our discussion below (47 minutes), download to your laptop or from itunes:

Rating: 4 stars
Source: Personal Copy (iPad)

Books I can't wait to read!

I have usually read or marked to read several of the books making the Orange Prize short list, long before the long list is announced. 

I have read The Night Circus (well attempted, DNF), have a copy of The Submission on my iPod, and library holds for all the books listed below.

Long list for the Orange Prize: I'm eager to see what makes the short list on April 17.  Fans of Room (Emma Donaghue) will be pleased to see she has made the list with her new novel, The Sealed Letter.

Have you read any of these titles?  I can't wait to read them!

The Grief of Others: Is keeping a secret from a spouse always an act of infidelity? And what cost does such a secret exact on a family?

The Ryries have suffered a loss: the death of a baby just fifty-seven hours after his birth. Without words to express their grief, the parents, John and Ricky, try to return to their previous lives. Struggling to regain a semblance of normalcy for themselves and for their two older children, they find themselves pretending not only that little has changed, but that their marriage, their family, have always been intact. Yet in the aftermath of the baby's death, long-suppressed uncertainties about their relationship come roiling to the surface. A dreadful secret emerges with reverberations that reach far into their past and threaten their future.

The couple's children, ten-year-old Biscuit and thirteen-year-old Paul, responding to the unnamed tensions around them, begin to act out in exquisitely- perhaps courageously-idiosyncratic ways. But as the four family members scatter into private, isolating grief, an unexpected visitor arrives, and they all find themselves growing more alert to the sadness and burdens of others-to the grief that is part of every human life but that also carries within it the power to draw us together.

The Forgotten Waltz: A recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing, that reads with breathtaking immediacy.

In a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009, it has snowed. A woman recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for "the love of her life." As the city outside comes to a halt, she remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, she awaits the arrival on her doorstep of his fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie.

The Submission: A jury gathers in Manhattan to select a memorial for the victims of a devastating terrorist attack. Their fraught deliberations complete, the jurors open the envelope containing the anonymous winner’s name—and discover he is an American Muslim. Instantly they are cast into roiling debate about the claims of grief, the ambiguities of art, and the meaning of Islam. Their conflicted response is only a preamble to the country’s.

His fiercest defender on the jury is its sole widow, the self-possessed and mediagenic Claire Burwell. When his selection leaks to the press, she finds herself under pressure from outraged family members and in collision with journalists, activists, opportunistic politicians, and fellow jurors.

The Translation of the Bones: Mary-Margaret O'Reilly is ready and willing to help out Father Diamond in the Sacred Heart church in Battersea. She may not be very bright, and she is sadly overweight, but she can certainly clean.

One day she decides to give the statue of Jesus a thorough and loving cleansing. But then something strange happens, and moments later she lies unconscious, a great gash in her head, blood on the floor. Word gets out that this strange happening is the opening of the statue's eyes and the flowing of blood from its head.

After she recovers, she goes back obsessively to the statue of Jesus. He has told her things, things she must act on, and urgently. But He has become remote and uncommunicative once again, and she is in despair. The act she decides on is a shocking one, and it will bring together the lives of the O'Reillys and the Morrisons in a way that will change their lives forever.

Review: Little Girl Gone

Why I picked it: I was so excited to read this book with the Manic Mommies Book Club.  Campbell's last book still haunts me.

Synopsis: Madora was seventeen, headed for trouble with drugs and men, when Willis rescued her. Fearful of the world and alienated from family and friends, she ran away with him and for five years they have lived alone, in near isolation. But after Willis kidnaps a pregnant teenager and imprisons her in a trailer behind the house, Madora is torn between her love for him and her sense of right and wrong. When a pit bull puppy named Foo brings into Madora's world another unexpected person--Django Jones, a brilliant but troubled twelve-year-old boy--she's forced to face the truth of what her life has become.

An intensely emotional and provocative story, Little Girl Gone explores the secret hopes and fears that drive good people to do dangerous things . . . and the courage it takes to make things right.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: I read this book from start to finish in one sitting, while flying back to the states from vacation earlier this year.  It had just the right level of creep factor for me... imagine being held captive while free to leave at any moment... trapped without locked doors.

This was our second MMBC selection from the author (love a return author).  We had a wonderful discussion, talking about the characters in this novel, the decisions we make, and the power someone can hold over you.

I was haunted by the decisions and actions Madora made throughout the novel.  After discussing the book I understood why she reacted like she did but I really wanted her to stand up for herself. Have you read it?  WOW... powerful.

This is a great book club selection - there's SO much to discuss.

Below is the audio from our discussion:

Favorite book by author: The Good Sister

Rating: 4 Stars
Source: Advanced copy for review

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