Saturday, March 30, 2013

Alice's Review: The Best of Us

Summary: An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.    Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself. ~amazon.com

Review:  I have been very curious about Sarah Pekkanen's novels for a while.  Our Julie is a big fan of hers and I wondered what the buzz was all about.  Now, I know.  Sarah Pekkanen is wonderful.


I found the premise a bit unlikely but maybe that’s because none of my friends are multi-millionaires who can afford a vacation aboard a charted flight to Jamaica in a private villa complete with personal Chef and helicopter rides let alone invite a handful of their closest friends.  It’s surreal.  That is my only negative comment about The Best of Us.  The rest is wonderful.

From the first page, to the last page I was so engrossed in this story.  I really loved it.  Each character was very different, each marriage was different.  I loved how diverse each character was.  I also loved how my feeling towards the characters changed throughout the novel.  The novel felt authentic.  That Tina, Allie, Savannah and Dwight remained friends after college was real.  The way the interacted with each other, the experiences they shared, everything felt so true. 

If you follow our blog, you already know the love we feel for Ms. Pekkanen.  I’m sure you have read Julie’s reviews singing her praises.  I’m happy to finally join the chorus.  I recommend The Best of Us to all.  It ‘s a great summer beach read, light, funny, yet insightful.  It has substance, memorable characters, and the ability to make the reader feel like the fifth friend in that house and slip right into their world like you’ve known them all along as well.  

Final Take:  4/5

Pick up The Best of Us from your bookseller on April 9, 2013.  Enjoy!

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Julie's Review: Losing Clementine

Summary:  In thirty days Clementine Pritchard will be finished with her last painting and her life. World-renowned artist and sharp-tongued wit Clementine Pritchard has decided that she's done. After flushing away a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions, she gives herself thirty days to tie up loose ends—finish one last painting, make nice with her ex-husband, and find a home for her cat. Clementine plans to spend the month she has left in a swirl of art-world parties, manic work sessions, and outrageous acts—but what she doesn't expect is to uncover secrets surrounding the tragedy that befell her mother and sister. In an ending no one sees coming, will we lose Clementine or will we find her? A bold debut from an exciting new voice, Losing Clementine is a wonderfully entertaining and poignant novel about unanticipated self-discovery that features one of the most irresistible, if deeply flawed, characters to grace contemporary fiction in years. ~amazon.com

Review:  Losing Clementine is an unique novel. It is not comparable to any book I've read. It is fresh, it is honest. It makes you look at someone who is suffering from mental illness in a new light. It also shows the long lasting effects of having a history of mental illness in a family.

Clementine is an interesting character. She is definitely not without faults but within those faults is a deep honesty to herself. She's not so honest with the people in her life. She lies to them about what is going to happen and what it is exactly she's preparing for. As we follow her through the last 30 days of her life, her life is pieced together as a canvas that she herself might paint.

She works through and I'd say resolves most of her issues in her life, including tracking down her father and beating the crap out of him towards the end. As you read through the novel, you keep wondering "will she, won't she?". I liked that we were kept in the loop on her decision making and how we got a view into her head. I won't say I agree with her but I can understand why she felt there was only one option.

Ms. Ream has written a distinct debut novel. She had a true understanding of Clementine and her mental illness. She wrote with passion and compassion for her character. I also liked how each chapter was a countdown in her 30 day quest.
As usual, Alice has picked a novel for me that I might not have otherwise have picked up and I thank her for that.

Losing Clementine is a novel really not to be missed for it's unique perspective. I look forward to reading whatever else Ms. Ream writes.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Alice's Review


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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Alice's Review: Eden Close

Summary: A compelling tale of edgy, small-town emotions, lingering obsession, and romantic salvation.  Andrew, after many years, returns to his hometown to attend his mother's funeral. Planning to remain only a few days, he is drawn into the tragic legacy of his childhood friend and beautiful girl next door, Eden Close. An adopted child, Eden had learned to avoid the mother who did not want her and to please the father who did. She also aimed to please Andrew and his friends, first by being one of the boys and later by seducing them. Then one hot night, Andrew was awakened by gunshots and piercing screams from the next farm: Mr. Close had been killed and Eden blinded.  Now, seventeen years later, Andrew begins to uncover the grisly story - to unravel the layers of thwarted love between the husband, wife, and tormented girl. And as the truth about Eden's past comes to light, so too does Andrew's strange and binding attachment to her reveal itself. ~amazon.com

Review:  One thing I know for sure is that I am never disappointed when reading a novel by Anita Shreve.  Her characters and her prose enamor me.  Her novels are lyrical and poetic, the perfect example of less is more.


I thoroughly enjoyed Eden Close.  The novel is told in present time with some flashbacks that establish the mystery that carries the reader through the novel.   The mystery is not the only thing that kept me interested, it’s the characters.  Ms. Shreve writes characters that make me want know their deepest secrets and desires.   There are two major plot twists in this novel, one I guessed and one left me reeling. 

I really enjoyed the character of Eden.  She was such an enigma to me.  Between her antics as a child and young teen, to becoming a recluse as an adult, she was someone I wanted to know more.  I also liked Andrew.  I really understood his desire to know the truth of what happened on that night 17 years ago and his turmoil about his future.

As the saying goes, this Eden Close is an oldie, but goodie.  It renewed my love of Anita Shreve.  It’s not the kind of novel you read for your heart, but it is one you will nonetheless enjoy.

Final Take: 4/5

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Julie's Review: Chocolate for Two

Summary: Waverly Bryson’s life is officially perfect: She’s engaged to her gorgeous boyfriend, Jake; her Honey on Your Mind TV segment is more popular than ever; and Waverly’s Honey Shop is growing by leaps and bounds. What could possibly go wrong? For starters…everything. This is Waverly, after all, and drama follows her wherever she goes. Why should her trip down the aisle be any different? Now, before she can marry the man of her dreams, she’ll have to go head-to-head with his high-society mother, whose vision for their wedding isn’t exactly meshing with Waverly’s. Adding to the chaos is the impending departure of Paige, Waverly’s very pregnant retail partner; the arrival of her suddenly secretive best friend, Andie; and the meddling of a new TV producer who’s promising to “shake things up.” Suddenly Waverly’s perfect life feels like it’s about to come crashing down…unless the irrepressible Miss Bryson can prove to the world—and to herself—that she really can have it all. ~amazon.com

Review: Chocolate for Two is the fourth book in the Waverly Bryson series and it doesn't disappoint. If you've followed this blog then you know I'm a huge Waverly fan. She's funny, smart, sensitive and a little scatter-brained. In other words, she could be you, your best friend or your sister on any given day.

In Chocolate for Two, we join Waverly on her journey as she realizes she is engaged and as she goes about planning her wedding. Not only that but having to deal with a potential mother-in-law that is at best, frosty towards her.

Not only does she have a wedding to plan but she's getting asked to do a daily segment on the Love, Wendy show and her Honey notes line of products is really taking off. Unfortunately, she also has to find a replacement for Paige, her business partner who's leaving for Nashville.

If you haven't read the series (Perfect on Paper: The (Mis)Adventures of Waverly Bryson, It's a Waverly Life, Honey on Your Mind), I can't recommend it enough. What I love about Ms. Murnane's writing is that she is succinct. It doesn't take her 100 extra pages to get to the point.

Final Take: 5/5


Thanks to the Maria and her publisher for my ARC copy of the novel.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Julie's Review: The Best of Us

Summary: An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage. Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself. ~amazon.com

Review: You know what I love about Ms. Pekkanen's books the most is her ability to create extremely likable characters that at times you want to shake, smack, hug and love. You know, kind of like your friends in real life. The Best of Us follows her previous novels with an engaging look at female relationships and friendships. We quickly meet Allie and Tina who have been best friends since grade school and still live only 5 minutes away from each other. They are invited on a trip of a lifetime to spend a week long vacation in Jamaica with their other college friends, Savannah and Dwight.

Each woman is going through her own trials and tribulations. Tina is a stay at home mom with 4 young children who feels lost and depressed. She just wants a little help from her husband when he gets home from work and the ability to have some time for herself every now and then. Allie has just received some debilitating medical information about her father, that she's not sure how to process. Savannah's husband left her for a younger woman and she's trying her damnedest not to let it get her down but her insecurities cause her to act out in the wrong manner. And then there is Dwight's wife, Pauline, who is the outsider of the group but who wants to do something special for her husband for his birthday.

Throw in some alcohol, a beach location, insecurities, issues, a hurricane bearing down and you end up with possible combustion. What Ms. Pekkanen does is show that no marriage, no relationship is perfect. It might look perfect from the outside but most have problems even if they aren't apparent. Not only that but the one friend that seems to have it together is probably the one who is in need of someone to lean on.

I firmly believe that what makes her characters so real is that we can see a little of ourselves in each of her characters. Just like you see the flaws and favorable characteristics in yourself, you see them in the ladies as well.

If you've never read Ms. Pekkanen before, then The Best of Us is a great place to start. If you've read her before, then you won't be disappointed.

The The Best of Us is out on 4/9/13!

Final Take: 4.75/5


Thanks to Sarah and her publicist for sending me a copy!


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Children's Corner: The Tickle Tree

 This book is a beautiful, whimsical bed time read.  "A phantasmagorical flight of fantasy at your fingertips..."  The poem from Chae Strathie is lovely and a little Seussian, but it is the illustrations that make this book fabulous.  Poly Bernatene is the illustrator and her work is incredible.  She has captured delightful dream world that is completely inviting.  I love that the words aren't always straight types set, but where necessary, follow the art around and over pages.

This would be fantastic made into prints for a child's room.  It's a soothing pre-bed read that makes me want to snuggle up with my daughter and dream right along with her.  This is one not to miss.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Julie's Review: Family Pictures

Summary:  From the author of Another Piece of My Heart comes Family Pictures, the gripping story of two women who live on opposite coasts but whose lives are connected in ways they never could have imagined.  Both women are wives and mothers to children who are about to leave the nest for school.  They're both in their forties and have husbands who travel more than either of them would like.  They are both feeling an emptiness neither had expected.  But when a shocking secret is exposed, their lives are blown apart.  As dark truths from the past reveal themselves, will these two women be able to learn to forgive, for the sake of their children, if not for themselves? ~amazon.com

Review: I love Jane Green's books. It's like cuddling up and talking to a good friend. Her books always tackle important issues and never fail to make them not look all pretty. Her books typically do end nicely tied up but not in a way that isn't realistic. Most of her characters fight for their happiness and do get it in the end.

Family Pictures is no different. All the women in the novel, Sylvie, Eve, Maggie and Grace all have to fight for the life they want in the end. Each of them has a different path and some are more self-destructive than others but they are not easy.

I pretty much knew the storyline that Ms. Green was going with but that didn't make it less compelling. What makes it compelling are the women and their resilience.

As we are introduced to Sylvie first and it seems her story is the majority of the book, I understood her better than I did Maggie. That doesn't mean I didn't sympathize with her but she wasn't the easiest character to like initially. That being said she had the most changing to do and she did do it.

Ms. Green tackles both eating disorders and drinking in this novel as well. Neither is easy to read about but I was more disturbed by the eating disorders. She does a magnificent job of going into how very destructive they are and the long term effects on the body.

While the outcome might not be surprising, Family Pictures, is well worth the journey.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for an ARC of this novel.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Alice's Review: Almost Gone

Summary: Brian Sousa leaves sentiment and saudade behind in Almost Gone, a linked collection spanning four generations of a Portuguese immigrant family. In this hardscrabble world, the youth struggle with the secrets left behind by their elders, as their parents fought through the pain and joy of assimilation. Told through various perspectives, Almost Gone is a working-class tale of survival that finds no easy answers, but cuts straight to the bone. ~amazon.com

Review:  I jumped at the opportunity to read this novel.  This is the first time I am reading anything by a fellow Portuguese American and I looked forward to reading a work of fiction by someone who shares my heritage.  I was optimistic especially since this novel promised to encompass the feeling of being an immigrant, of living in two very different worlds.


Because of my optimism, it pains me to say this.  Honestly, I’m on the fence about this novel.  I really liked Mr. Sousa’s writing style.  He is gifted and I know he will have a successful career.  He made me believe I was on a journey though the beaches of Lagos and Brasil. He wrote interesting characters, kept them real and unassuming.   I was there with Scott and Hailey as they dealt with their grief.  I felt Helena’s certainty that a black dog was ruining her husband’s garden.  I understood their pain.  It was beautiful, real.

My concern with Almost Gone is the formatting of the novel.  It reads like a collection of short stories however these stories have characters that are intertwine and skip back and forth though time.  Sadly, the transitions weren’t smooth.  It was well written but too scattered.  Although this was an interesting way to tell the story, it would have benefited from some focus.  Perhaps it would have helped if it was told in chronological order.  The problem was I couldn’t see the point to it all.   There were no resolutions, and too many holes.  More than once, I expected something else and was a disappointed.

What I did enjoy were the characters.  I really liked Scott.  I wish I knew more about him.  I worry about him and how his life changed.  I also loved Scott’s grandmother Helena.  Her story game me chills.  And Paulo’s wife Claire.   Let’s face it, I really liked each character and what they had to give.  I wish they could have given more.  This novel left me with a sense of bitterness.  As I was reading Almost Gone, I came to realize that each character was bitter.  That bitterness they felt didn’t come from what each character didn’t have or what they were denied, it comes from knowing they had the opportunity to do something different and they chose not to.  Man, I love stuff like that. 

On a personal note, I thought this novel would be more in line with my story as a Portuguese American and it was far from it.  Maybe my family is the exception to rule.  I could understand where the characters where coming from but it wasn’t my story.  It made me sad for them.  Made me wish they would have done something.

Overall, I am glad I read this novel.  I look forward to reading Mr. Sousa’s future work and I will recommend Almost Gone to my Portuguese and Brasilian friends.  I think anyone who knows what it’s like to build a life in one country when their heart still belongs to another will appreciate Almost Gone

Final Take: 3/5

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Alchemyst

Blurb: Nicholas Flamel was born in Paris on 28 September 1330. Nearly seven hundred years later, he is acknowledged as the greatest Alchemyst of his day. It is said that he discovered the secret of eternal life. The records show that he died in 1418. But his tomb is empty and Nicholas Flamel lives. The secret of eternal life is hidden within the book he protects - the Book of Abraham the Mage. It's the most powerful book that has ever existed. In the wrong hands, it will destroy the world. And that's exactly what Dr. John Dee plans to do when he steals it. Humankind won't know what's happening until it's too late. And if the prophecy is right, Sophie and Josh Newman are the only ones with the power to save the world as we know it. Sometimes legends are true. And Sophie and Josh Newman are about to find themselves in the middle of the greatest legend of all time.

Review: "*gasp*  NO!  I need the next book!!!"  Seriously, I thought about leaving my review at just that and diving into the next book.  Not that the ending wasn't a natural break in the story, but I was so absorbed in the plot that I had no desire to stop.

The Alchemyst has been on my To Be Read list for a while and I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to read it... but I'm thrilled the rest of the books are out there waiting for me.  The mythology is rich and the characters are interesting.  I love the research that went into these novels and the historical details embedded in it.  What makes it an even more fascinating a read is that legendary figures are also rubbing elbows with mythical legends.

I love the sibling dynamic in this story.  Sophie and Josh may be twins but they couldn't be more different.  They have been thrust into a world of magic that is totally foreign to them, and while Sophie accepts this with reluctant grace, Josh fights his role.  He is the less mature of the twins and his temper and lack of thought before speech is going to be a problem.  Josh wants to find someone to blame for his new found life or a way to escape it instead of finding a way to deal with it, which may lead him to make some rash decisions that will come back to haunt him.  His teen self doubt is realistic and frustrating all at the same time.

Aside from my general frustration with Josh, I find that I would really have liked to spend more time with the Flamels and the twins before being thrown into the chaos of the story.  However, I think the story would lack the frantic momentum it needs to maintain the urgency of the plot, so I understand Michael Scott's choice.   In the same vein, I crave more background on the mythology, but that too would bog down the pace, so I will have to do some research on my own.

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel is a series I thoroughly look forward to completing.  It won't be long before I return to the world of Flamel and Dee with The Magician because I won't be able to stay away for long.

Final Take: 4.5/5.0

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Julie's Review: A Grown Up Kind of Pretty

Summary: Every fifteen years, trouble comes after the Slocumb women. Now, as their youngest turns fifteen, a long-hidden grave is unearthed in the backyard. Headstrong young Mosey Slocumb is determined to find out who used their yard as a make-shift cemetery, and why. What she learns could cost her family everything.  As forty-five year old Ginny fights to protect Mosey from the truth, she’s thrown back into the arms of the long-lost---and married---love of her life. Between them is Liza, silenced by a stroke, with the answers trapped inside her. To survive Liza's secrets and Mosey's insistent adventures, Ginny must learn to trust the love that braids the strands of their past---and stop at nothing to defend their future. ~joshilynjackson.com

Review: What works so well for A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is that it is told from 3 different points of view. I can't imagine it working with a singular view point. What also works is that each voice is so clear and different from the next, that the names at the beginning of the chapters aren't needed. Ms. Jackson has written a witty, heartbreaking and heartwarming novel. At times you find yourself cracking up and other times you are close to tears. While the story is ultimately about family, it is a mystery as well. It is this mystery that makes Mosey question who she is and who her family is. It is this mystery that makes Big fight that much harder for family.

There is a lot going on in this novel but not in such a way where it is too hard to follow. What Ms. Jackson does an excellent job of is tying it all back together. Now this doesn't mean that the book ends up tidy and with a big bow, it doesn't but that's ok. In the end you know these characters are going to be ok.

I will have to say that I didn't particularly like Liza, even in the end. I thought she was selfish and self-centered, even in her current state. She didn't care who she had hurt and if she hadn't had the stroke, she'd probably still be doing the same things. Saying all that, it's not that she was evil, she did have a heart but she was weak when it came to men, especially married men.

I will be making time to read the backlog of Ms. Jackson's books, so if anyone has a suggestion on where to start, I'll take them.


Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to SheReads.org and Ms. Jackson for an autographed copy of the novel. 

Note: A few of us on Twitter had this novel in our TBR piles, so we all decided to read it together. Some finished quicker than others but it was fun. We had a hashtag #grownuppretty, if you want to look at the talking that ensued.

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Children's Corner: Go, Dog, Go!

 The Dr. Seuss series needs no publicity, but in honor of my daughter reading her first book that isn't a "reader", Go, Dog, Go! is my feature for today.  This was the first book I read as a child, and the first book my brother read (quite possibly the only book he's ever read, but we can't all be readers I guess...), and, quite by accident, it is now the first book my daughter has read.  As a child I loved the silliness of it, as an adult I love how it's designed for a beginning reader.

This is a long book.  I'd forgotten how long a book can be when you are first starting to read.  What I love though it that there is so much to discuss in each picture that it gives the struggling reader a break when they most need it to examine the pictures and enjoy the scenes.  I love that the pictures can be used for contextual clues too.  Honestly, I don't think I will ever look at this series the same way again; my appreciation has increased ten-fold.


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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Alice's Review: Heart Like Mine

Summary: Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?  At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.  Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant, hopeful portrait of womanhood, love, and the challenges and joys of family life. ~amazon.com

Review:  It was very prophetic to have heart in the title, this novel has a lot of heart.  Heart Like Mine is the remarkable new novel by Amy Hatvany about the aftermath of the sudden death of a divorced mother.  It is told in alternating chapters from the three very different points of view.  Kelli, divorced with two kids and a past she is constantly hiding from.  Ava, Kelli’s 13 year old daughter going through a time when she needs her mother the most.  Lastly, Grace, engaged to Ava’s dad and Kelli’s ex-husband Victor, living her ideal life with a man who isn’t pressuring her for kids.

 
I want to praise Ms. Hatvany for writing such a tremendous novel.  She excels at writing full characters and getting their points across without using a million words.  This novel is on the shorter side.  It’s a quick read but has a lot of substance.  Her words are chosen thoughtfully.  I would read her again in a second and will recommend Heart Like Mine to anyone who asks. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the three main characters in Heart LikeMine.  Each was very different, each brought something new to the story. Of the three, I related to Grace the most.  Her apprehensions were real.  I connected to her in that I am also a thirty plus year old with no children of my own and no desire for them either.  I am presently dating a man who is the father of a teenage girl.  I totally understood Grace and knew where she was coming from. 

When I first began the novel, I thought I wouldn’t like Kelli. I was wrong. I thought Ms. Hatvany did an exceptional job of writing her in such a way that I felt empathy for her. Kelli was nothing like I expected. Ms. Hatvany skillfully revealed Kelli’s truth and I was thankful for her part in the novel, she was the tie that held the story together.This is the first time I am dipping my toe in the Amy Hatvany novel pool. I really enjoyed her writing style. It was well rounded and well written. She writes from the heart for the heart. I look forward to reading more of her work. 

Look for Heart Like Mine on sale March 19, 2013.

Final Take: 4/5

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Julie's Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Summary: Steel Magnolias meets The Help in this Southern debut novel sparkling with humor, heart, and feminine wisdom. Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille-the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town-a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen. But when Camille is hit by a truck and killed, CeeCee is left to fend for herself. To the rescue comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell. In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah's perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons, to Tootie's all- knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer. Laugh-out-loud funny and deeply touching, Beth Hoffman's sparkling debut is, as Kristin Hannah says, "packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart." It is a novel that explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship and gives us the story of a young girl who loses one mother and finds many others. ~amazon.com

Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a wondrous novel. It is heartwarming, charming, and funny. It is all the things I like in a Women's Fiction novel. It has vivid, 3 dimensional characters that will resonate with me for along time. It tackles serious issues without being preachy and overbearing. It bring Savannah in the 1960s to life.

Ms. Hoffman covers many issues but the one that permeates for me is that we all need a sense of belonging. We all need to be loved and to love. CeeCee felt loved by her mother but her mother had her own issues to deal with and her father was never around. After a tragic accident, CeeCee is picked up by her great-Aunt Tootie and taken to Savannah to live. Within the arms and hearts of her great-Aunt, her aunt's cook, Oletta and some other very influential women, CeeCee begins to blossom. I don't always take quotes from books, but Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is one that deserves a few.

Friendship
"As I watched the silent exchange between Sapphire and Miz Obee, it occurred to me that that's what friends should do: cherish the good and pretend not to notice the harmless rest. ~page 181

Life
"It's what we believe about ourselves that determines how others see us." ~page 249

"People is wise 'cause they get out in the world and live. Wisdom comes from experience ---from knowin' each day is a gift and accepting it with gladness. You read a whole lot of books, and readin' sure has made you smart, but ain't no book in the world gonna make you wise." ~page 290

There are so many gems like those in this novel, that this whole review could be quotes.

This book for me was very similar to The Secret Life of Bees, which happens to be a favorite of all time book. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt now goes on that list as well. I can't wait until my daughter is 12 so that I can share with her this magical and powerful novel. If you haven't read it (I know I'm late to the party), I can't recommend this book enough.

I would love a sequel but only if Ms. Hoffman feels that it's right. I'd love to see what they are all up to in 5-7 years. Before CeeCee goes to college. 

Ms. Hoffman has her new book Looking for Me coming out in May and I am fortunate enough to have a copy sitting in my TBR pile for April. After experiencing this story, I can't wait to read her next one.

Final Take: 5/5


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Monday, March 11, 2013

Julie's Review: The Promise of Stardust

Summary:  Priscille Sibley’s The Promise of Stardust is a haunting and unforgettable debut novel about life and death and love, set against a moral dilemma that may leave you questioning your own beliefs. Matt Beaulieu has loved Elle McClure since he was two years old. Now married and expecting their first child, Elle suffers a fatal accident. To keep the baby alive, Matt goes against his wife’s wishes and keeps his wife on life support. But Matt’s mother thinks that Elle should be euthanized, and she’s ready to fight for what she believes is the right thing. A stunning, compassionate examination of one of the most intricate ethical issues of our time, The Promise of Stardust, will stay with you, long after the last page has been read. ~amazon.com

Review: The Promise of Stardust is a love story but it is entwined with the so many ethical and moral subjects, that even though you want to know what happens in the end, you need to read  it slowly to understand the subtleties. It is an interesting, thoughtful, thought provoking, emotional novel. It is one that you could talk about for hours. It is the type of novel that opens up taboo subjects for discussion. It is not an easy book to read. It is a book that made me cry at the end. It is a story that drove a family apart and then brought them back together in the end.

It is about truly knowing what a loved one would want you to do and not because you have a signed piece of paper. It is about mitigating circumstances and fighting for what you believe in and what you know they would ultimately want.

Matt and Elle were destined to be together since the day he held her when she was days old. Their lives together wouldn't always be easy and having a baby was the biggest tribulation they would face together. Well, Elle has an accident and is brain dead but pregnant, Matt's world turns upside down. He knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that she would want him to try and bring this baby to term. Unfortunately, others have documentation that Elle had a living will that would not keep her on life support. We have Matt, his father-in-law, Hank in one corner and Linney, Matt's mom and Elle's brother, Christopher in the other corner.

I was happy that the book didn't turn into a courtroom novel or a novel with a bunch of legal jargon. Some of it is needed so that you understand how Matt's lawyer, Jake, will argue this in front of the job. I loved how Ms. Sibley told the story of Matt and Elle. How she went to their past to show us who they both were and how their love was all encompassing. Theirs wasn't a storybook love, it was real and genuine.

I can only imagine the research time that Ms. Sibley put into this book. It is obvious that she has a lot of medical knowledge and looked into the legal arguments. What she doesn't do it interject how she feels about these subjects. It's not a preachy book.

The Promise of Stardust would make an excellent book club choice, if you think people would read it with an open mind. This is a book that will be passed around in my circle. I can't not recommend it enough.

Final Take: 5/5


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