Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best of 2007: Lisa's Picks

2007 was not the best reading year for me, however, there were a few stand-outs. I won't rank these because personally they are all at the top of the heap - well worth your time.

  • Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, – J.K. Rowling capped her already wonderful series with its finest outing. I look forward to reading these again and again and again.

  • All But My Life, Gerda Weissman Klein – I normally don’t read autobiographies, but this book club pick had me running to Wikipedia. Well written and heart-wrenching, this book makes me believe in hope.

  • A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini – Read it. ‘Nuff said. See our review here.

  • Behind Those Eyes, T.P. Carter – Do you believe in soul-mates? This debut novel from African American author, T.P. Carter (another impulse purchase), took a story of love and makes you wonder if it is worth the consequences, even if you can love and be loved just for a short time.

  • Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picoult – Jodi Picoult does it again and somehow with unbelievable timing. Nobody does moral dilemmas better, except maybe…

  • The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalian – Recommended by Barnes & Noble, I bought this on a whim. This book represents everything I believe a book should be. Bohjalian took a classic “The Great Gatsby”, wrapped it in a delightful narrative and a surprising twist that for days after had me questioning everything I’d read.

  • Midwives, Chris Bohjalian, - I picked this up after reading The Double Bind, and I honestly don’t know how I’d missed this author for so long. I got so caught up in the story, that I was sad when the end came. Not to mention, that twist. So subtle, so unexpected, so good.

Continue reading the review...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Julie's Review: The Second Wives Club

Summary: The Second Wives Club is made up of four women--Fiona, Alison, Julia and Susan--who are grappling with the specters of their predecessors. Fiona has to contend with a surly stepson whose mother is trying to turn him against her. Sofia, the ex-wife of Alison's new husband, Luca, is using their two children as weapons in order to manipulate Luca. Beautiful Julia is floored by her husband's insistence on maintaining a friendship with his first wife. Though not married to Nick, Susan lives with him and is raising his daughter, living in the shadow of her predecessor, the perfect Caitlin, who died tragically young. The women come together to support each other and help each other through their problems. Together they come up with ways to tackle their problems: Alison and Julia decide to confront the first wives, Fiona tries to befriend her stepson, and Susan makes a move to get Nick to appreciate her. Readers will eat up this fun, frothy novel to learn how the wives fare in their attempts. ~amazon.com/booklist


Review: I was looking for an easy, breezy book to read in a day or so and I found it in The Second Wives Club: A Novel I've read her 3 previous books: The Ex Files: A Novel, Fourplay: A Novel, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767916913?ie=UTF8&tag=girjusrea-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0767916913 and enjoyed them so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. I also knew that at least one of the characters would be a stereotype and I wasn't disappointed. What I found best about the book was the friendship the 4 women created by essentially having one thing in common...being 2nd wives. Each of the women had a different cross to bear whether it be step-children, ex-wives that won't let go or living up to a dead woman's memory.

I enjoy books where the characters evolve and for the most part the women did, except for one and it wasn't that much of a surprise. There wasn't one of the characters I identifed with but I pretty much could feel for each of their situations and each was vastly different. I felt that the ending was a bit abrupt and still had some lingering questions but overall it was a satisfying read. This is what I would consider your "traditional or typical" chick-lit fare, it didn't really deal with any huge social, political or economical issues.

Final Take: 3/5

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Julie's Review: The Monsters of Templeton



Summary: "The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, thefifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass." So beginsThe Monsters of Templeton, a novel spanning two centuries: part acontemporary story of a girl's search for her father, part historical novel, andpart ghost story, this spellbinding novel is at its core a tale of how one townholds the secrets of a family. In the wake of a wildly disastrousaffair with her married archaeology professor, Willie Upton arrives on thedoorstep of her ancestral home in Templeton, New York, where herhippie-turned-born-again-Baptist mom, Vi, still lives. Willie expects to be ableto hide in the place that has been home to her family for generations, but themonster's death changes the fabric of the quiet, picture-perfect town herancestors founded. Even further, Willie learns that the story her mother hadalways told her about her father has all been a lie: he wasn't the random manfrom a free-love commune that Vi had led her to imagine, but someone elseentirely. Someone from this very town. As Willie puts her archaeological skills to work digging forthe truth about her lineage, she discovers that the secrets of her family rundeep. Through letters, editorials, and journal entries, the dead rise up to telltheir sides of the story as dark mysteries come to light, past and present blur,old stories are finally put to rest, and the shocking truth about more than onemonster is revealed. ~amazon.com

Review: It took me a while to get through this book and while much of it had to do with the busy Holiday season, I think some it also had to do with the fact that I didn't fall in love with or identify with any of the characters. The main character, Willie was flawed but seemed 2 dimensional to me. I never really felt any depth coming from her. Her mother Vi was trying to change her life by finding religion and all that Willie could do was mock her. While I do realize it went against everything Vi had ever done in her past, it was nice to see that someone could evolve into a different person and find a place where they felt they belong and I don't think it was right for Willie to judge her mother, especially since Willie wasn't exactly in a righteous place herself.
The real essence of the story to me is about finding out who you are through your family history. While I found most of this interesting, I also found parts of it confusing as she searches for her father and how he might be a part of the same blood line. Now as twisted as that sounds, Ms. Groff does wrap it up in such a way that it's not as twisted as it seemed at first.
The lake monster, Glimmey, I think is representative of what Willie is feeling when she gets there and when she leaves. I am curious to know what Ms. Groff based the monster on, was it Loch Ness or some other "known" beast? I have no doubt that she did her homework on this part of the novel. In fact, I think a tremendous amount of research went into novel as a whole. Any time you are exploring family history, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, you have to keep your facts straight and she did an excellent job of that.
I did figure out one of the twists in the book but the other one took me completely off guard and was just as surprised as one of the characters in the book when the revelation came.
For a first book, I have to say Ms. Groff weaves a very good story, even if at parts it was slow and dragged a bit. The best part for me was the last 1/4 of the book when the story started to come together. I don't know if it's a book I would have picked up off the shelf to read myself, but I'm glad to get the opportunity to read an up and coming author. And now that I've read her, I will keep my eye out for her other novels and I wish her success.
Final Take: 3.75/5

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Bottom 10 Books of 2007; Julie's List

As a pairing to my Top 10 Books of 2007, I thought I would list my least favorite books of 2007. For some it doesn't mean I didn't like them, it just means I expected more out of them either based on the summary or because of the author.

Reservation Road - Jonathan Schwartz
Running with Scissors - Augusten Burroughs
Plum Lovin' - Janet Evanovich
Sweet Liar - Jude Deveraux
The Bluest Eye - Toni Morrison
Cross - James Patterson
Blue Screen - Robert Parker
Wildfire - Nelson DeMille
Good Grief - Lolly Winston
New York Dead - Stuart Woods

Continue reading the review...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 Books of 2007: Julie's List

I can't believe we are nearing the end of another year. And that means for me I'm 6 weeks away from baby #2!! WOW!! As I type, I'm reading my 47th book of 2007, with the hopes of finishing it before the holidays so I can cruise through another while off of work. Well without further ado, here is my Top 10 List of 2007:

Harry Potter and The Dealthy Hallows - J.K. Rowling; I don't know if there's much to say about this book other than it was a fantastic end to a fantastic series. I cried, I laughed and I utterly loved it. It's probably the best book of 2007 if not the last few years for me. I thank both Jenn and Lisa for getting me to read this.

A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseni; As a huge fan of The Kite Runner, I couldn't wait for his second book to come out and I was not disappointed. I was amazed at how a male writer could write a female's point of view so well and eloquently. I also loved learning about a part of th world that I don't know a lot about.

All But My Life - Gerda Klein Weissmann; Jenn recommended this non-fiction book about one survivor's story through the Holocost. I haven't read many books about this subject other than The Diary of Anne Frank so it was a great book for more exposure on this horrendeous part of history. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn.

My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult; What a powerful book about sisterly love and obligation. This is probably one of my favorite Jodi Picoult books. I've always admired the way she takes a social topic and creates real and warm and sometimes hated characters in a story.

The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards; I picked this book up on a whim at Target and I'm glad I did. What a powerful story about love and decisions that change our lives forever, good or bad. I enjoyed the way the author told the story from a few different points of view.

Garden Spells - Sarah Addison Allen; What a tremendous debut novel about 2 sisters and family history. I loved the mystery and magic that surrounded the characters and the story. Ultimately it's about opening yourself up and letting go.

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger; Lisa recommended this book and I'm glad I decided to take her advice (although when haven't I about books). I read it while on vacation and promptly left it with my dad to read. While I did find it hard to follow at times, I found the love story to be timeless and everlasting and beautifully written. Plus it's set in Chicago and you can't go wrong there.

19 Minutes - Jodi Picoult; I'll say it again, this woman is a master at taking a social issue and writing a story around that makes you think twice about what you think you would do or know about a subject. The fact that this was out so close to the Virginia Tech shootings makes it even more timely of a subject matter.

Cold Paradise - Stuart Woods; An earlier Stone Barrington novel this one was excellent and is what made me go back and start the Barrington novel's from the beginning. I probably wouldn't have read it if I knew that a character from an earlier book would appear but nothing I can do about it now. Stuart Woods is a master storyteller and to me the Stone Barrington books are his best.

Echo Park - Michael Connelly; My dad lent me this book and I'm glad he did. I throughly enjoyed my first Harry Bosch novel. I love crime/police/law books (and tv shows) and this one did not disappoint me at all. I love it when I discover a new author even if the author him or herself isn't "new". Harry is a likeable and real character which makes the book even more enjoyable.

My warmest holiday wishes to all of you who visit our little blog and hopefully I'll have another review, or 2, up before 2007 is just history.

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Girls on Haitus!

Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but we've been taking a little break. We're just a little busy having babies, setting up offices and getting ready for the holidays!

We'll be back in a couple of weeks with our favorite books of 2006 and more reviews and articles!

Happy Holidays to you all!

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Group Review: The Big Over Easy

Fforde's whimsical fifth novel, his first not to feature literary detective Thursday Next, is consistently witty, but its conceit—putting a criminal spin on nursery rhymes—wears a bit thin. Det. Jack Spratt, the dedicated but under appreciated investigator in the Reading, England, Nursery Crimes Division, is depressed because the court finds the three little pigs "not guilty of all charges relating to the first-degree murder of Mr. Wolff." Working with an ambitious young detective, Mary Mary ("Quite Contrary"), Spratt later takes on the case of "fall guy" Humpty Dumpty. Fforde crafts a police procedural out of this bizarre alternative universe that prizes, as The Eyre Affair does, literacy (detectives, for example, garner recognition less for solving crimes than by writing articles about cases for the likes of Amazing Crime Stories or Sleuth Illustrated). While it can be charming to encounter Mrs. Hubbard or Tom Thomm or to hear Spratt bemoan "illegal straw-into-gold dens" in this unusual context, the novel's broad satire overshadows elements like plot, conflict and characterization. The result is unusually clever but not compelling in the least. ~ Publisher's Weekly.

Jenn's Review:
This is an incredibly clever book, perhaps too clever for it's own good. It is not only a play on nursery rhymes but decades of detective stories. It's satirical writing at its most witty, which makes this book "not for everyone."

I found myself being torn away from the plot in an effort to catch all the references... and some of them I didn't catch until I was presented them a third or fourth time. The plot is delightfully twisty and, yes, far fetched, (but there's that satire again!) yet you can't help but be pulled into it. However I still found it all oddly distracting somehow...

If you are not in the mood for a lofty farce, this book is not for you. Someone who I think will enjoy it tremendously? My husband; it his style of humor... but for my final evaluation, would I read it again? Maybe not.

Final Take: 3.9/5

Julie's Review:
I liked this book, I didn't love it. I like the overall concept of the book. It's similar to what Gregory McGuire is doing with Wicked and Confessions of an Evil Stepsister. Jasper FForde is taking a topic we've all grown up with and making some insinuations regarding the classic nursery rhymes.

I liked the character of Jack Spratt. He's a solid character and of good morals. He's been ridiculed and stepped on but he still likes his job and feels that he's making a difference. Enter Mary, Mary a new detective with the Nursery Crimes Division and who frankly, doesn't want to be there. The case unravels and leads to a bunch of different characters who might have wanted Humpty Dumpty dead. The book is a bit slow and times and could have been wrapped up a bit sooner. I enjoyed the way Fforde incorporated the other nursery rhyme characters into the book and even chuckled when some of them were mentioned. Not only does he include nursery rhymes, but he even included a bit of Greek mythology in the book. I thought it was clever the way he wove that into the overall storyline. I did like that he didn't just add characters or subplots to incorporate nursery rhymes, everything had a purpose to the main plot. The crime itself lends a lot to discovering the real Humpty Dumpty and I felt sorry for him, even if he was not always on the up and up with his business ventures.

I would definitely read Jasper Fforde again, but I'm not rushing out to get his other books. I have enough on my bookshelf as it is right now.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Lisa's Review:
Humpty Dumpty - talk about an egg with a target on his back! Jasper Fforde crafted a clever, witty mystery using nursery rhymes. A very interesting premise with a few chukle-worthy moments. This was a slow read for me, witty as it was. I wasn't at any time fully engrossed in what I was reading. I did enjoy the twists and turns and the ultimate reason for Humpty's demise. Jack Spratt was by the best developed character and I enjoyed his simple everyman persona. I can't recommend this whole heartedly, but it's certainly good for chuckle if you need it.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Julie's Review: Baby Proof

Summary: The bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Something Blue tells the story of what happens after the "I do"s. As a successful editor at a Manhattan publishing house, Claudia Parr counts herself fortunate to meet and marry Ben, a man who claims to be a nonbreeding career-firster like she is. The couple's early married years go smoothly, but then Ben's biological clock starts to tick. A baby's a deal breaker for Claudia, so she moves out and bunks with her college roommate Jess (a 35-year-old blonde goddess stuck in a series of dead-end relationships) while the wheels of divorce crank into action. Even after the divorce is finalized and Claudia embarks on a steamy love affair with her colleague Richard, she begins to doubt her decision when she suspects Ben has found a smart, young and beautiful woman willing to bear his children. Standard fare as far as chick lit goes, but there are strong subplots involving Claudia's sisters (one is coping with infertility, the other with a cheating spouse) and the childless-by-choice plot line produces above-average tension. - Publishers Weekly

Review: I've read Emily Giffin's other two books, Something Borrowed and Something Blue enjoyed both of them emensly so I'm not sure why this sat on my shelf for over a year (too many books, too little time?!) but I'm glad that I finally read it. I was engaged in the story within the first few pages and was immediately drawn to the main character, Claudia. I enjoyed how the story was told from her point of view and she didn't really hold any punches about how she felt. All of the characters in the book were very vivid and real to me except Ben. For some reason, even though he's an integral part of the story, he felt a bit cartoonish to me. I seriously doubt that's how Emily wanted him to come off but he at least did too me.

I disagree with Publishers Weekly in the fact that this is standard Chick-Lit fare because of the subject matters that it deals with, some might call them social taboos and I don't think they've been addressed in any other "chick-lit" book that I've read before. While the ending was good and seemed to fit within the story, I am a bit disappointed that the author chose the route she did. While I enjoyed the point-of-view from Claudia, I do think it would have been equally as enriching to perhaps have thrown Ben's POV in during the course of the book too. Although in doing that you would have lost some of the twists thrown in at the end of the book.

I enjoyed all the supporting characters in this book. There were many different subplots going on but yet you didn't feel like there was too much going on that you couldn't follow it. Ms. Griffin did a very nice job of blending all the plots together.

I will continue to look for Ms. Griffin's work in the future, she's an excellent storyteller.

Final Take: 4/5

Continue reading the review...

Monday, November 26, 2007

My Sister's Keeper: More Casting News

Apparently, no amount of crossing my fingers and wishing on a star can make this little girl's dreams come true. Okay - that was a bit over-dramatic, but my plea to not have Dakota Fanning be cast in the movie adaptation of "My Sister's Keeper" didn't quite reach the producer's ears.


Now, now... don't get me wrong. Ms. Fanning is quite an adorable young lady, but she is also the obvious choice and I was really hoping Nick Cassavettes and Co. would go a much different route. Besides, aren't they much younger than they characters in the books? Well Cameron Diaz is also younger than the mom in the book.
Oh well, Dakota and her sister Elle will be inhabiting Kate and Anna Fitzgerald. Read the story here.


I won't proclaim that I won't go see this movie - at least not just yet. However, if they get me Christian Bale and all may just be forgiven.

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Entertainment Weekly's 2007 Entertainer of the Year

For the first time ever, EW has chosen an author as their entertainer of the year! That author - who else but JK Rowling. Well done EW. 100 % deserved.

"J.K. Rowling is our Entertainer of the Year because she did something very, very hard, and she did it very, very well, thus pleasing hundreds of millions of children and adults very, very much. In an era of videogame consoles, online multiplayer ''environments,'' and tinier-is-better mobisodes, minisodes, and webisodes, she got people to tote around her big, fat old-fashioned printed-on-paper books as if they were the hottest new entertainment devices on the planet. Let's also credit her for one more thing. What she spent the last 17 years creating turned out to be completely original. "

Check out the entire article and the other entertainers here.

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Julie's Review: The Myth of You and Me

Summary: Stewart peers into the complicated heart of friendship in a moving second novel (after 2000's Body of a Girl). Ever since a cataclysmic falling out with her best friend, Sonia, after college, Cameron's closest companion has been Oliver, the 92-year-old historian she lives with and cares for in Oxford, Miss. Oliver's death leaves Cameron alone and adrift, until she discovers that he has given her one last task: she must track down her estranged best friend (whose letter announcing her engagement Cameron had so recently ignored) and deliver a mysterious present to her. Cameron's journey leads her back to the people, places and memories of their shared past, when they called themselves "Cameronia" and swore to be friends forever. It was a relationship more powerful than romantic love—yet romantic love (or sex, anyway) could still wreck it. Stewart lures the reader forward with two unanswered questions: What was the disaster that ended their friendship, and what will be revealed when Cameron and Sonia are together again and Oliver's package is finally opened? The book is heartfelt and its characters believable jigsaw puzzles of insecurities, talents and secrets, and if Cameron's carefully guarded anger makes her occasionally disagreeable, readers will nevertheless welcome her happy ending.

Review: A girlfriend lent me this book and while I read it quickly, the ending was pretty predictable and a bit disappointing. You can pretty much think that if a friendship that was very strong in youth ends up disintegrating in young adulthood the reason was most definitely a man. I won't give tell who and when but that it was a bit disappointing that the author chose this route. What I found most redeemable about the books were the flashbacks to how Cameron and Sonia became friends and how they stayed friends throughout most of their youth and young adult life. It is understandable how Cameron liked the life of a nomad since she grew up moving a lot in life since her dad was in the armed forces, so the fact that she gets up and leaves soon after Oliver dies it's not too surprising. What is contained in Oliver's package is the most interesting part of the whole the story.

I will give the book credit, it did make me think about past friendships and the reason they are in the past and the truth is that in life you tend to out grow people and people are in your life for a certain time and reason. That being said I think every friendship teaches you something about life and something about yourself.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Continue reading the review...

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Joy of Books

I love books and it's evident by my bookshelf that has over 50 books that haven't been read. So that's my issue, I just finished a book and now I need to start a new one and I haven't the slightest clue on what to pick? I don't know what I'm in the mood for either.

Any suggestions on how to pick my next book?

-Julie

Continue reading the review...

Julie's Review: The 6th Target

Summary: When a horrifying attack leaves one of the four members of the Women's Murder Club struggling for her life, the others fight to keep a madman behind bars before anyone else is hurt. And Lindsay Boxer and her new partner in the San Francisco police department run flat-out to stop a series of kidnappings that has electrified the city: children are being plucked off the streets together with their nannies-- but the kidnappers aren't demanding ransom. Amid uncertainty and rising panic, Lindsay juggles the possibility of a new love with an unsolvable investigation, and the knowledge that one member of the club could be on the brink of death. And just when everything appears momentarily under control, the case takes a terrifying turn, putting an entire city in lethal danger. Lindsay must make a choice she never dreamed she'd face--with no certainty that either outcome has more than a prayer of success. - Amazon.com

Review: I'm always excited when I read that there's a new Women's Murder Club book coming out and this time was no different until I just finished it. It was a bit of a let down, not in the characters but in the split storylines. I understand why it was done that way because none of the plots would be a full book but I was disappointed that the crimes didn't somehow intersect, that would have made them a bit more interesting. In, what I will call the main plot, the crime affects all 4 of the WMC women but the other stories 3 of the 4 ladies takes center court. This is the part I didn't mind and would have enjoyed having it flushed out a bit more.

I feel that the book could have been better done if there was just one author. It's not that it was a horribly written book but it definitely seemed like each of them had their plot to write and perhaps that's why none of the crimes intersected. I would prefer if James Patterson continued to write these books on his own, like the Alex Cross series and leave the co-writing to his other books.

I also don't feel like the summary by amazon.com this time around is truly accurate on a few different points.

Final Take: 3.5/5

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Are You A Re-Reader?

If Jenn was British, she'd undoubtedly be a part of the 80% referenced in this article. Me, on the other hand, I'm still wondering if I'd be included. Apart from the Harry Potter series (how could you not read those countless times?), I mostly never re-read, unless of course, there's a movie in the works. Most books aren't really worth the time anyway.

But "Pride and Prejudice" as a top re-read? Really?

So what about you, would you be a part of the 80%? And what would be atop of your list?

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Jenn's Review: 1st to Die

Summary:

The Women's Murder Club pits four San Francisco women professionals against a serial killer who's stalking and murdering newlyweds in bestselling author James Patterson's newest thriller. Lindsay Boxer is a homicide inspector who's just gotten some very bad news. She deals with it by immersing herself in her newest case and soliciting the personal as well as professional support of her closest friend, who happens to be the city's medical examiner. The two women, along with an ambitious and sympathetic reporter and an assistant DA, form an unlikely alliance, pooling their information and bypassing the chain of command in an engaging, suspenseful story whose gruesome setup is vintage Patterson.

"What is the worst thing anyone has ever done?" the killer muses to himself early in the narrative. "Am I capable of doing it? Do I have what it takes?" Answering his own question, he embarks on a murderous spree that takes him from the bridal suite in a Nob Hill hotel to a honeymoon destination in the Napa Valley and thence to a wedding reception at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. Dispatching his victims on the happiest day of their lives, he purposefully leaves enough clues for his distaff trackers to discover his identity and put him behind bars. But just when the women think they've got the case all wrapped up, the killer turns the tables on them in a bloody denouement that even the most discerning reader won't see coming. Patterson, author of the popular Alex Cross mysteries, promises future adventures for the Women's Murder Club, which may give him an opportunity to develop his heroines' characters more completely and win new fans among those who prefer their detectives in high heels and lipstick. --Jane Adams, Amazon.com

Review: I don't tend to read a lot of male authors, I'm not sure why that is... perhaps I don't feel that they speak to me as do female authors...whatever the case, I decided to pick up the Women's Murder Club Series, because I can't get enough of the new show on TV. I think the characters are fantastic! --And so very close to what Patterson has written.

In picking up this book I was far from disappointed. As a matter of fact, I read it in a day. I couldn't help it; it just didn't want to be set down. The plot twists were brilliant (I hate when I can pick a murderer a mile away, and I certainly didn't see this coming). The characters accessible (Patterson writes female characters surprisingly well). The book had a perfect balance of drama, romance, friendship, and character development for me. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

Overall 4.8/5.0

Continue reading the review...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Julie's Review: Garden Spells

Summary: Two gifted sisters draw on their talents to belatedly forge a bond and find their ways in life in Allen's easygoing debut novel. Thirty-four-year-old Claire Waverley manifests her talent in cooking; using edible flowers, Claire creates dishes that affect the eater in curious ways. But not all Waverley women embrace their gifts; some, including Claire's mother, escape the family's eccentric reputation by running away. She abandoned Claire and her sister when they were young. Consequently, Claire has remained close to home, unwilling to open up to new people or experiences. Claire's younger sister, Sydney, however, followed in their mother's footsteps 10 years ago and left for New York, and after a string of abusive, roustabout boyfriends, returns to Bascom, N.C., with her five-year-old daughter, Bay. As Sydney reacquaints herself with old friends and rivals, she discovers her own Waverley magic. Claire, in turn, begins to open up to her sister and in the process learns how to welcome other possibilities. Though Allen's prose can lean toward the pedestrian and the romance subplots feel perfunctory, the blending of horticultural folklore, the supernatural and a big dollop of Southern flavor should find favor with a wide swath of readers.

Review: When I was at Barnes and Noble to buy the book, the lady told me it was a "can't put it down" book. Well once I really got into it, she was right. I loved the characters and I loved the prose. Claire and Sydney Waverly couldn't be more different (aren't most sisters?) but yet they shared a common theme, they each blamed each other for what happened to them in their childhood. Their mother Lorelei left them when they were younger to live with their grandmother in Bascom and while Claire embraced her mysterious heritage; Sydney rebelled against it. Claire stayed in Bascom and created a successful catering business while Sydney ran off and explored the world but only to return to Bascom 10 years later with a young daughter in tow.

To me , the book was about fate, opening yourself up and embracing who you are. We see a good change in both Claire and Sydney. Claire learns to open herself up and Sydney learns that she has the strength she needs to be a good mother and a good person. Each Waverly women has a gift that manifests itself in different ways. While their gifts are magical, I took the message to be we all have gifts and should use them in the best way possible. While this book is set in the South, it didn't seem overly "southern" to me, other than maybe the cooking part of the book.

I know the book has been compared to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman and while they are similar they are different. Garden Spells isn't about witchcraft and a book of spells, it's about embracing yourself and your heritage. The cooking part of the book actually reminded me of a 1 star movie with Sarah Michelle Gellar called Simply Irresistable minus the magical crab.

I would definitely recommend this book and will definitely be purchasing Sarah Addison Allen's next book.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

2007 Books & Holiday Shopping

Okay, yes, I'm one of those crazy woman who likes to have the majority of her holiday shopping done by the end of November. But if you are looking for the book lover in your life... or even just for you, Amazon has put together their list of Best Books of 2007 - I'm not usually a societal conformist, and I don't tend to read things just because they're popular, but the Editor's Top 100 list is a great way to review the year in books - you can even shop by genre - and see what catches your eye.

Go ahead see what you/we/I may have missed.

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tidbits about JK Rowling

Couple of JK Rowling related stories over the last week or so.

ABC News is reporting that JK Rowling is planning to write the wizardry tales of "Beedle The Bard" but the chance that you and I, the ordinary fan likely won't get to read them. The plan is to produce on seven of these books that are handwritten and illustrated by JKR. Six books will be given to people close to the Potter franchise and the remaining book will be auctioned. So think we can all get together to raise the million or so this will go for?

According to The Press Association, Ms Rowling and her publisher has initiated a copyright lawsuit against Steve Vander Ark, a fan and a librarian who created the online encyclopedia of the Potter series. His book is planned for release in the UK next month. Now JKR has always said that she will write an encyclopedia herself. Hmm...

Continue reading the review...

My Judgment Must Be Off...

Over the past 3 or so months, I've read one really good book. What's that about? So, I won't be reviewing The Almost Moon right now, because it's honestly going nowhere fast. I've been reading it since last Sunday and I am still 107 pages in. The most I can say about these 100 pages is simply that's it's really tedious and partly disturbing. I haven't yet read The Lovely Bones, because I am holding out for the movie and I expect that I will read it anyway, because I've had a lot of recommendations for it.

But back to the fact that I can't find a good book to read... is it simply bad judgment? I am extremely frustrated that I haven't been able to fully escape into a good book lately, because boy do I need it!

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: UK vs US Edition

I started reading both versions of these books about seven years ago - just after I started reading the series. A friend of mine was going on and on about how much he preferred the British editions as they were closer to what JK Rowling actually wrote (not overly edited and Americanized) – not to mention the difference in artwork.

I thought it prudent to investigate for myself... and found that there is a world of difference between the Sorcerer's Stone and the Philosopher's Stone. Rowling herself was greatly displeased with the American publication as she found it to be overly translated from English (or as my mum would call it "The Queen's English") into "American." There are several times where this is understandable (for example, the difference between a jumper being a sweater in English and a dress in American) but I would have to agree with JKR that the first novel was overly edited (mum to mommy, for example), something which she made sure did not occur again in the novels that followed it.

The differences between the books from here on out are slight, with a few notable exceptions. JKR pointed one out herself in an interview a few years back about Goblet of Fire where the order of appearance for Harry's mother and father (during Priori Incantatem) get switched backwards in the first UK edition as an editor questioned JKR and thinking she was wrong, JKR changed it around.

Also, notably missing from the UK edition is part of Dumbledore's final conversation with Draco in Half Blood Prince. The text in red was omitted from the UK publications:
"He told me to do it or he'll kill me. I've got no choice."
"He cannot kill you if you are already dead. Come over to the right side Draco, and we can hide you more completely than you can possibly imagine. What is more, I can send members of the Order to your mother tonight to hide her likewise. Nobody would be surprised that you had died in your attempt to kill me -- forgive me, but Lord Voldemort probably expects it. Nor would the Death Eaters be surprised that we had captured and killed your mother -- it is what they would do themselves, after all. Your father is safe at the moment in Azkaban...When the time comes we can protect him too. Come over to the right side, Draco...you are not a killer..." Malfoy stared at Dumbledore. ~(HBP US Edition pg 591/UK Edition pg 552)
This text also does not appear in later paperback versions of the American editions either, so apparently it was a textual cut that didn't make the first US version.

As for the Deathly Hallows, from what I have observed, the differences are minimal. There are the typical variations in spelling and the substitution of a word here or there. Otherwise, it falls in among the rest of the series.

So yes, I own both versions of the Harry Potter series. Do I have a preference? Reading book one, yes, I prefer the British edition... after that, it depends on whether I'm reading/re-reading at home or carrying it around with me... the UK versions are a little more compact, but I do so love the Mary GranPré illustrations... so it's a toss up.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coming Soon: Certain Girls (Summary)

Even though you can't find it on amazon.com, apparently amazon.co.uk has a brief summary of the upcoming release. Here it is below:

It's been almost thirteen years since we last saw Cannie Shapiro, the heroine of Good in Bed, whose journey towards happy-ever-after made millions of women the world over laugh, cry and recognise themselves. The last decade of Cannie's life has brought some surprises. Her life story, in fictional form, became an unexpected bestseller, and Cannie has since retreated from fame's fallout, writing science-fiction under a pen name and praying that all her daughter inherited from her father, Cannie's ex-boyfriend Bruce Guberman, are her curls and her eye-colour, and not his predilection for smoking pot. Meanwhile Cannie's best friend, Samantha, is looking for love in all the wrong places, and Cannie's husband, Peter, has decided that he'd like to have a baby, and the family's first choice for a surrogate is none other than Cannie's flamboyant kid sister ...

Sounds like a good read to me.

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Coming Soon: Remember Me (Book Summary)

Well that didn't take too long.

Trashionista (the British chick-lit blog) has posted a summary for Remember Me from Amazon U.K. (What's up with that?)

It goes:

Lexi wakes up in a hospital bed after a car accident, thinking it's 2004 and she's a twenty-five-year old with crooked teeth and a disastrous love life. But, to her disbelief, she learns it's actually 2007 - she's twenty-eight, her teeth are straight, she's the boss of her department - and she's married! To a good-looking millionaire! How on earth did she land the dream life??! She can't believe her luck - especially when she sees her stunning new home. She's sure she'll have a fantastic marriage once she gets to know her husband again. He's drawn up a 'manual of our marriage', which should help. But as she learns more about her new self, chinks start to appear in the perfect life. All her old colleagues hate her. A rival is after her job. Then a dishevelled, sexy guy turns up...and lands a new bombshell. What happened to her? Will she ever remember? And what will happen if she does?
Sounds like a fun read.

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Book to Movie: In Her Shoes

It's been quite a while since I've read In Her Shoes, but I do tend to watch the movie when my daughter is taking her nap or down for the night. I find that I enjoy the movie everytime I watch it. So since it's been a while since I've read the book it's hard for me to remember the details and do a true comparison.

What I do distinctly remember is being appalled that Cameron Diaz was cast as Maggie. She wasn't who I pictured and I remember seeing the movie in the theatre and going in biased that she was going to mess up the part. Good thing for Cameron shortly into the movie I changed my mind and now I can't picture anyone else as Maggie. The wonderful Toni Collette was cast as Rose Feller and she was perfect in the role. And of course who can forget Shirley McClaine playing their long estranged Grandmother.

What I remember most about the book is identifying with the struggle between two very different sisters. Now I have a younger sister and we are different but we aren't like Rose and Maggie but I could see some sister relationships be that twisted. What mattered in the end though was their relationship with each other and how they came to terms about being different. What they had in common throughtout the whole story was that they wore the same size shoe.

If you've read the book and haven't watched the movie I encourage you to see the movie, you might be pleasantly surprised. Also, if you haven't read the book but you have seen the movie you'll love the book even better. The book in this case is better than the movie but the movie is a pretty good portrayal.

Book to Movie: 4/5

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lisa's Review: How To Kill A Guy In 10 Days

Summary: Hailey McGraw, Lexie Muller's best friend, is back in town . . . and Lexie is ready to party! These girlfriends have got a lot to celebrate—shy Hailey is newly single, and wild Lexie's about to hit the big 3-0—and they've got nothing on their minds but fun, frosty drinks, and the hot men hanging out at one of Miami's hottest clubs. But their night to remember turns memorable in a way they never expected when a hunk from the bar winds up stone-cold dead in the parking lot . . . and definitely not from natural causes. The dead guy's the (late) boyfriend of a friend. And when it becomes apparent that the cops are getting nowhere fast, Lexie and Hailey decide to do some sleuthing of their own. After all, they're both smart, imaginative, and fearless—and nobody runs faster in high heels. But diving deep into Miami's underbelly to confront drug lords, ex-cons, and gun-toting divas may be too much to handle for a couple of South Florida girls who just want to have fun . . . ~Back of Book

Review: No one can ever say chick lit doesn’t serve its purpose. I was in need of something light and fun to read with no time to visit the bookstore. This book was in my To Be Read pile, so I grabbed it and off I went. The elements were all there, drunken debauchery, shameless ogling of men, girlfriends playing amateur detectives, and of course shopping. The writing here was easy as the authors’ styles blended well and the twists just kept on coming. I was not expecting that person to be the killer! My one issue minor pet peeve really – I hated the title, sure it’s catchy, but it’s also misleading. Otherwise this was just what the doctor ordered. While reading, I saw the makings of a series, something which was confirmed when I read the interview with the authors that was included in the back of the book. Good, because I wouldn't mind coming back for another.

Final take – 3.9/5

Continue reading the review...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Julie's Review: Daddy's Girl

Summary: The undistinguished academic career of Natalie "Nat" Greco, a mousy and naïve law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, takes an unexpected turn at the start of this less than compelling legal thriller from bestseller Scottoline (Dirty Blonde). When an attractive male colleague, Angus Holt, convinces Nat to accompany him on a teaching assignment at a nearby prison, a sudden riot puts them both in peril. Nat finds herself desperately attempting to save the life of a guard, apparently stabbed by an inmate during the fracas. The dying man asks her to pass on his last words to his wife, but possessing knowledge of this cryptic message proves dangerous. Nat finds herself accused of murder and must evade the law while also tracking down the bad guys.

Review: I've read several of Ms. Scottoline's other books and have always enjoyed them and this one didn't let me down. I found the main character, Natalie aka Nat, endearing and identifiable. She was an everyday girl going along in her everyday life when life throws her a curveball. I liked that Nat turned into a sleuth to try and figure out the truth herself instead of waiting for the police to figure it out. It's not like she isn't intelligent and knows how the law works, she is a law professor.

The friendship and then relationship between her and Angus isn't forced but you can still see it a mile away and I don't think the author was really trying to conceal her intent there. The relationships that I didn't get or see how they pertained to the story was her family. Maybe it was to show why Nat was the way she was but I didn't need the filler of the family subplot to really care about it. Another thing that bugged me about this novel was the title of the book....Daddy's Girl. I just don't think it fit the book very well. I don't have a suggestion for a different title but this one just didn't work for me.

The twists and turns of the story were very well done and I didn't see them coming at all, in fact I pretty much thought the story was done when there was another twist thrown in.

I can't really see Nat coming back for another book on her own but I could see her popping up in Bennie Rosato novel. I have to say I prefer the Bennie novels to this one and maybe it's because I've read several of them and am invested in the characters.

Final Review: 3.75/5

Continue reading the review...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Coming Soon: Remember Me?

Sophie Kinsella's new one is due February 26, 2008. It's called Remember Me and no summary is available for it, so one can only guess what it's all about. I do know one thing, though - this one probably won't feature Becky Bloomwood. Thank God.

Ms. Kinsella's non-Shopaholic novels have been pretty good, so I hoping for good things.

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Coming Soon: Certain Girls

We're pretty stoked that Jennifer Weiner is releasing a new book in April 2008. I mean it is about time, right?

Even more exciting than that however, is the fact that Certain Girls is a sequel to Good in Bed. Now if you can't understand why we're excited about that, probabaly because you haven't read Good In Bed yet, then shame on you. Seriously the Best! Book! Ever!

Of course, there's not a lot of information available yet, not even cover art, but you better believe you'll know as soon as I do.

So what do we think, is Cannie getting married? Did she lose weight? How long can you wait for Jennifer Weiner to bring the funny? Think she'll let me interview her? Is it April yet?

Continue reading the review...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Can someone explain to me...

Why there are differences in book covers for the US and UK and probably other countries? What purpose does this serve? It is a creative issue?

Just curious.

Continue reading the review...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Julie's Review: Reservation Road

Summary: Explain this to me: One minute there is a boy, a life thrumming with possibilities, and the next there are marked cars and strangers in uniform and the fractured whirling lights. And that, suddenly, is all the world has to offer." This is the voice of Ethan Learner, a college professor who has just watched his 10-year-old son, Josh, die in a hit-and-run accident on a silent Connecticut road.
John Burnham Schwartz's Bicycle Days (1989) received favorable reviews but seemed very much an autobiographical first novel. His second fiction, Reservation Road, however, is a book that resists genres: a tragedy where all the characters are flawed and none are entirely guilty; a thriller where the killer, Dwight, wants to be caught but is too laden with self-loathing to turn himself in; and an experimental novel where the narrative jumps gracefully among three perspectives.

In the opening pages Schwartz establishes strong connections between fathers and sons. Moments before the accident Ethan watches his son standing precariously close to the curb; he sees possibilities in Josh, a shy boy whose musical gifts indicate a sensitivity that is no less present, though more mature, in his father. At the same time, Dwight and his son, Sam (also 10), are rushing home from an extra-innings Red Sox game where Dwight tries to rebuild the fragments of attachment left after a bitter divorce. Schwartz reveals depth in simple gestures--a hand, for example, placed in a hand, only to be self-consciously pulled away. Dwight drives on after hitting Josh, though he slows in a moment of hesitation in which Ethan hears him calling "Sam" or "Sham"--he's not sure which. Out of grief, and with only scattered clues, Ethan begins his quiet pursuit of the killer, a pursuit that fuels the novel to its poetic conclusion. In Reservation Road, John Burnham Schwartz has crafted a lasting work of literature, a page-turner that's also a rich character study.

Review: I had high hopes for this book. It started off with good momentum and then fizzled. It wasn't until the the last 30 pages did the book come to a climax and abrupt end. In fact I wasn't sure it ended the way it did and had to go back and read the final few pages.

I found that the characters were 2 dimensional and sterotypical in their reaction to the tragedy. For the parents of the young boy killed, the mother, Grace, retreats into herself and the father, Ethan, retreats into the books he's always loved and found comfort in. They have a daughter, Emma, who is mentioned in passing and her grief is somewhat addressed. I actually think the book might have been better if told from her point of view, even though she's 8. The other man and his son, Dwight and Sam, have a torrid relationship that I won't get into in case you pick up and read the book. I found myself not really caring for any of the characters and their plights. Dwight has had a hard adult life and retreats into the bottle to try and deal with the pain he has caused. There is a one twist that I really didn't see coming and was a nice surprise but the author didn't elaborate on it or use it how I thought it might have been used. I disagree that this book is a rich character study, because I found the characters to be predictable and not really likeable. The only likeable characters were the children.

As a parent, I can not imagine the pain and suffering these parents are going through and hope I never have to, but I couldn't identify with the mom and to make me buy into this story I think it would haven helped.

To be honest, I bought this book because a friend told me that Jennifer Garner was going to be in the movie version, only to find out that was not the case. I do want to see the movie version because of the cast (Reservation Road) and because I think it might be a better movie than book, which is usually not the case.

If you have the book on your shelf, read it, if not you aren't missing a masterpiece of contemporary fiction.

Final Take: 2.75/5

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Terry McMillan versus Publishers of Ghetto Lit

There's been an email going around for the last couple of weeks in the African-American community that I have debated writing about. Mostly I've just been too busy to write, and I still in some ways feel like I should let this pass without saying anything, however….

Ok, some background – I have long felt that a lot of black authors sacrifice themselves, their integrity and just plain good writing at the altar of money. Lots of people call these books "ghetto lit", I call it just plain trash. I've been biding my time, waiting until I was able to review a few more of these books on the blog before I opined about this phenomenon, which to me seem to be getting worse and worse. Ms. McMillan's email is directed to three women in charge of publishing these books at Simon & Schuster (they are also her ex-husband's publishers) and for the most part I agree with her on just about all of the issues. My issue with this whole thing is quite simple – what took her so long to take this stand? Why now, not more than a week after her ex's book (a fictional tell-all) was released? Makes one wonder.

Continue reading the review...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Literature Nobel Awarded to Writer Doris Lessing

This post is a little late, but I felt the need to give the nod to this years Nobel Literature Award winner, Doris Lessing (NPR article).

Looks like I'll be bumping The Golden Notebook up closer to the top of my list of books to read this year.

--Though I can never hear/read Doris Lessing's name without thinking of the author song from that ingenious 90's band, Moxy Fruvous. Anyone else have that problem?!?

[silence... crickets... more silence...]

Yeah, didn't think so...

Continue reading the review...

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Word about Women's Murder Club Part Deux

I did end up tuning in, thanks to DVR I watched it on Saturday while my daughter napped and I will be tuning in again. It's been long enough since I've read the 1st book in the series that I wasn't nitpicking the characters or the storyline. I like Angie Harmon as Lindsay Boxer but I was even more delighted by Paula Newsome as M.E. Claire Washburn. I actually think I identify with her..she cuts to the chase and tells it like it is. :)

I like that they will have individual cases but there will be a season long murder mystery that they need to solve. Not only did it cause Lindsay professional strife but it seems to have caused her marriage to disolve. I'm happy to see Rob Estes back on tv and they don't seem to have him playing the jerk ex-husband, he actually seems like a good guy.

It seems like I wasn't the only one who tuned in this week. (ratings)
Now we just have to wait to see if it holds it's audience. Not like there is much else on TV on Friday Nights.

Hope you guys enjoyed and will continue to watch.

Continue reading the review...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lisa's Review: The Monsters of Templeton

Summary:
One dark summer dawn, at the exact moment that an enormous monster dies in Lake Glimmerglass, twenty-eight-year-old Willie Upton returns pregnant and miserable to her hometown of Templeton, N.Y. Willie is a descendant of the creator of the town, Marmaduke Temple, and she expects to be able to hide in the place that has been home to her family for centuries. But the monster changes the fabric of the village and Willie's mother, Vivienne, has a surprise for the girl that will send Willie careening through her family's history to dig up clues about her heritage. Spanning two centuries, the story is told through a panoply of voices, from Templeton ghosts to residents, masters to servants, natives to interlopers, and historical figures to literary characters. ~ Source: http://www.laurengroff.com/

Review:
I received The Monsters of Templeton from Barnes & Noble as part of their First Look Book Club program. This was the first selection. As I write, I am still not sure how I will rate this book. It took me a couple of weeks to read this one – now I was preoccupied with some work stuff but this book never really drew me in enough to make me forget about what was going on in my life. That’s never good. Secondly, this is a book about genealogy. I remember sitting at my grandfather’s knee, eyes glazed over, mind wandering as he told me all about my family tree. I believe the genealogy element of the book had the same effect on me at times. It was in fact interesting, Willie’s search for her father (I knew who he was the moment I met him, but I kept forgetting that I knew that – a mark of good writing I suppose). I enjoyed how the major players from the past rose up to tell their stories in their own voices, however, it was still confusing trying to keep track of all those people. That is probably why I will always live in mortal fear of marrying my cousin.

Lauren Groff did a good job of working the stories of the past and the present together in the same narrative. There is a slight supernatural element (a monster in the lake) that I am never fully sure why it was there, even after it told its story in the epilogue. It was a bit contrived having the “house ghost” help her find the last clue (a really good clue though). A bit of a cop-out I thought. Truthfully there were way too many times that I felt like I was in a college English Lit class and failing miserably. Yeah I’m getting the feeling I didn’t like it, which is sad, because I read Stephen King’s article about it in Entertainment Weekly and I was looking forward to it, not to mention ecstatic when I was able to get it early. Let’s all blame my preoccupation with work stuff – Agreed?

Monsters is due for release in February 2008.

Final Take: 2.9/5

Continue reading the review...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club

One morning in September I got an email from Barnes and Noble announcing their First Look Book Club. It was totally random and I am still wondering how I got on the list (I suspect it's because I joined their forums many moons ago to see what other people thought of Chris Bojahlian's The Double Bind - Excellent Book!). The first selection was The Monsters of Templeton, which I've heard some buzz for (My review). Obviously, there are limited books, so it's first come, first served and it seems I was rather lucky to see the email when I did.

This was quite the treat for me, as I love books especially when they are free and I can get to read them before everyone else. I will suggest that you at least join their book club so that you are on their lists. Besides the possibility of getting free books, the authors of certain releases often drop by the forums to discuss their books and answer questions.

Library Thing also does something similar with their Early Reviewers Group, but they have rules about who recieves the books.

As always I will keep you all posted on whatever else I find.

Continue reading the review...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Word About Women's Murder Club


It is rare that I look forward to a book adaption whether it be tv or film, like I am to this new series, Women's Murder Club, premiering on Friday on ABC. I'm actually surprised that it has taken this long to make one of James Patterson's books into either a movie or a tv show. Although there was two tv movies made from his books Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas and 1st to Die. I didn't happen to catch either of them, even though the 2nd one is the first in the Women's Murder Club books.

I've read 1-5 (waiting on 6 from my dad) and have thoroughly enjoyed this series because of the group of strong women who know what they want and work together to solve crimes. I like the books because they pull from different areas of law enforcement and even include a reporter who they bring into their group. My favorite character has always been Lindsey Boxer, played in the series by the wonderful Angie Harmon.

I know that in all the promotions for this it says "based on" the series, so I'm interested to see where they've made changes. James Patterson is listed as a writer for the show along with 2 female writers, so I'm encouraged that it will be true to the characters he's written 6 novels about.

If you haven't read the series but like crime dramas with strong female characters, I encourage you to read the books. And if you aren't sure about reading the books, check out the show and see if it peaks your interest.

There's one thing us book lover's know..it is that the books are always better than the tv show or the movie.


I'll be tuning in on Friday to check this show out.

Continue reading the review...

Jenn's Review: Garden Spells

Summary:

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it...

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other. Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

Review:
I was truly enchanted with this novel. Sarah Addison Allen has an uncomplicated style of prose that is soothing to read and has a definite flow about it. Her story not only encompasses the Waverlys, but also delves into the lives of the townspeople with whom they interact. Often times, this can be dull, but Allen has written a story in which the past is so rooted in the present and entwined with the main characters, that the forays are delightful. Each Waverly has her own brand of magic which has varying effects the town as well as herself; and each of them stuggle to come to terms with their role in their family and in each other's lives.

The book is not without flaw, but as it is Allen's first book, that is to be expected. I would have loved to have learned more about the apple tree, the rest of the family, or even fleshed out the ending a little bit. However, it has a tone that is reminiscent of my favorite book of all times, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. If you enjoy fantasy and romance, this is a light and tender read for you!

Overall Rating 4.7/5.0

Continue reading the review...

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