Monday, October 29, 2012

Jenn's Review: Howl's Moving Castle

 Summary:  In which a witch bewitched the hatter's daughter - and then some....

Sophie lived in the town of Market Chipping, which was in Ingary, a land in which anything could happen, and often did - especially when the Witch of the Waste got her dander up. Which was often.

As her younger sisters set out to seek their fortunes, Sophie stayed in her father's hat shop. Which proved most unadventurous, until the Witch of the Waste came in to buy a bonnet, but was not pleased. Which is why she turned Sophie into an old lady. Which was spiteful witchery.

Now Sophie must seek her own fortune. Which means striking a bargain with the lecherous Wizard Howl. Which means entering his ever-moving castle, taming a blue fire-demon, and meeting the Witch of the Waste head-on. Which was more than Sophie bargained for...

Review:  Two of my favorite all-time novels from my teen and pre-teen years were written by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl's Moving Castle and Fire and Hemlock.  I feel compelled to re-read them every few years and was shocked when I realized that not only have I never reviewed them, but I've never reviewed any of the late Ms. Jones' books.  These two books held the first protagonists I ever connected with on a personal level; I never knew books could do that. Diana Wynne Jones changed me from an avid reader into a voracious reader.

I suppose it might seem odd that I connected with a young girl who is turned into an old woman, but I was born an old soul and I understood her fear of failure and her resignation towards being too responsible to ever have an adventure. I love the way Sophie discovers that things aren't always as they appear, that your fortune is what you make of it, and adventure happens when you least expect it. I adore that she wrote a magical land that views our reality as strange and magical in itself. 

Though her prose were never overly complicated, her depth of meaning never ceases to amaze me.  With each reading I catch a new reference I didn't notice before or another layer of subtext. It's amazing how your perspective shifts as a book ages with you. What was a book about magic and coming of age has become a study in perspective, relationships, and ultimately love.  In a way it reminds me of the cleverness of Jim Henson in that there is that level of maturity that the reader can absorb or if not, still enjoy the story at face value.   

I have seen Hayao Miyazaki's film of Howl's Moving Castle, and while I appreciate the interpretation, I feel like the relationships were over simplified and that the story lost its edge.   There is something foreboding about a castle that hovers around which is lost when you make the artistic decision to give the castle legs. It's also why I prefer the original cover art... There is a delicious darkness about it. 

So perhaps I ascribe more to this than I ought to because it carries such fond memories, but to this day, it's one of my favorite reads.

Final Take:  5/5

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Julie's Review: Plant a Kiss

Review: I grabbed this book off the bookshelf at the library and it has quickly been one of our gone to books at night. It is a simple, sweet and kind book. It is about a little girl who plants a kiss and instead of keeping it for herself, she shares it and by doing so discovers what how happiness comes from sharing.

The illustrations are simple but delightful and capture the essence of the story being told. It also has a touchable part weaved into the illustrations which my son discovered.

Now that we've read it so much, he knows the story by heart. I love hearing him "read" it to me and ask questions about what is going on in the story. He wants to know everything about why she's doing what she's doing and why the kids are asking her questions. It is so much fun to see his mind churning at understanding books.

While it is simple, it is a great story about sharing and understanding that happiness doesn't just exist in receiving but in giving as well. I think it's a great story for a child of any age.

As a sidenote for some reason I see Jenn's kidlet as the little girl in this book. I wonder if she'd think the same thing?


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Julie's Review: Overseas

Summary: A passionate, sweeping novel of a love that transcends time. When twenty-something Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson attracts the notice of the legendary Julian Laurence at a business meeting, no one’s more surprised than she is. Julian’s relentless energy and his extraordinary intellect electrify her, but she’s baffled by his sudden interest. Why would this handsome British billionaire—Manhattan’s most eligible bachelor—pursue a pretty but bookish young banker who hasn’t had a boyfriend since college? The answer is beyond imagining . . . at least at first. Kate and Julian’s story may have begun not in the moneyed world of twenty-first-century Manhattan but in France during World War I, when a mysterious American woman emerged from the shadows of the Western Front to save the life of Captain Julian Laurence Ashford, a celebrated war poet and infantry officer. Now, in modern-day New York, Kate and Julian must protect themselves from the secrets of the past, and trust in a true love that transcends time and space.

Review: You know how when everyone raves about a book you find yourself curious if it'll feel the same for you? Well, Overseas doesn't disappoint, at all. Ms. Williams has created quite the sweeping love story with a bit of time travel thrown in for good measure. Julian is dashing, debonair, funny, protective, smart and mysterious. Kate is a strong-willed, independent and smart young lady. Together, they are one of my favorite literary couples.

I don't usually do a lot of romance books, but there was something about the description of the book that drew me in. Ms. Williams does an excellent job of weaving 1916 with 2008. She does it in such a way that when they two eventually collide, you aren't confused and it makes perfect sense. It is not all authors that can deftly handle time travel but Ms. Williams is one of them.

Overseas immediately reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife, which is still one of my all-time favorites. There are obvious differences when you get into the novel but the power of love is evident in both of these stories.

I really don't want to say much about the book because of fear of ruining it. It is a magnificent debut novel, that makes you feel the power of true love that spans over time and is timeless. I can't recommend Overseas enough.

Final Take: 5/5


Monday, October 22, 2012

Julie's Reviews: The Headmaster's Wager

Summary: A superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting debut novel about one man’s loyalty to his country, his family and his heritage.    Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English academy in 1960s Saigon, and he is well accustomed to bribing a forever-changing list of government officials in order to maintain the elite status of his school. Fiercely proud of his Chinese heritage, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country, though he also harbors a weakness for gambling haunts and the women who frequent them. He devotedly ignores all news of the fighting that swirls around him, but when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival faces the limits of his connections and wealth and is forced to send him away.  In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage whom he is able to confide in. But Percival's new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further into his world, he must confront the tragedy of all he has refused to see.  Graced with intriguingly flawed but wonderfully human characters moving through a richly drawn historical landscape, The Headmaster's Wager is an unforgettable story of love, betrayal and sacrifice.

Review: I will say that the first 100 pages of this 400+ page novel had me riveted to it. I wanted to know what would happen to his son. I wanted to know if Percival would find away to get his son out and keep him safe. After that, I didn't really care much. I found that I wanted to like Percival but in the end I just couldn't care about him. He took too many risks when he should have been honoring his debts. He was a gambler with a craving for prostitues. I felt that he was a hypocrite to when it came to who he loved.

There were definitely things that I enjoyed about this book. I enjoyed learning about this time in history from a different perspective. It was even a bit of a geography lesson as well. I had no clue that Indochina and Vietnam were the same thing. These are the things that keep me coming back to historical ficiton overall.

Dr. Lam definitely has a passion for Chinese history and culture. This was evident in the way that he wrote Percival. I will say that the middle of the book dragged for me and I felt it probably could have been cut down by 100 pages or so.

Anyone who has a keen interest in Chinese history or the history of Vietnam would definitely find The Headmaster's Wagerengaging.

Final Take: 3/5

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Hogwarth for my copy of the book.

Monday, September 10th:  The Bowed Bookshelf
Monday, September 17th:  Book Chase
Wednesday, September 19th:  Bibliophiliac
Monday, September 24th:  My Bookshelf
Wednesday, September 26th:  Lit and Life
Monday, October 1st:  BookNAround
Thursday, October 4th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, October 8th:  Paperback Princess
Wednesday, October 10th:  Susan’s Literary Cafe
Wednesday, October 10th:  Unabridged Chick
Monday, October 15th:  A Book Geek
Thursday, October 18th:  Bookish Habits
Monday, October 22nd:  Girls Just Reading
Thursday, November 1st:  A Novel Review


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jenn's Review: The Time Travelers (Gideon the Cutpurse)

 Summary:  1763. Gideon Seymour, cutpurse and gentleman, hides from the villainous Tar Man. Suddenly the sky peels away like fabric and from the gaping hole fall two curious-looking children. Peter Schock and Kate Dyer have fallen straight from the twenty-first century, thanks to an experiment with an antigravity machine. Before Gideon and the children have a chance to gather their wits, the Tar Man takes off with the machine -- and Kate and Peter's only chance of getting home. Soon Gideon, Kate, and Peter are swept into a journey through eighteenth-century London and form a bond that, they hope, will stand strong in the face of unfathomable treachery.

Review:  The cover proffers The Time Travelers as being for fans of Harry Potter and I'm not sure I quit agree. While I found it an enjoyable read, I'd say it was for a younger crowd which is why I'm placing it in this week's Children's Corner.

Linda Buckley-Archer writes accessible prose which can be difficult when dealing with time travel.  She doesn't over simplify things and even though she jumps back and forth from the past to the present. She always makes the time jumps clear starting with a character name.   Also, the children are young so there is no teen angst with which to deal.  I love that her chapter titles give descriptions of what is to come. It reminds me of some of my favorite Diana Wynne Jones novels.  It makes it somewhat like a chapter book and I think that it makes for a fun way for parents and children to read together, imagining what might come next. 

Peter and Kate have only just met and now they have accidentally fallen into 1763. They have to learn to trust and depend on each other. Whatever they may have learned about the 18th century in school, nothing quite prepares them to live in it.  They meet colorful and dangerous people in the past and they must work together to get back to the present.  Though they decide to keep their predicament a secret, they tell many people along the way and the amazing thing is the number of adults that believe them. I'd say that was the only part of the story that really bothered me in its simplification. 

I think this is the start of a great trilogy for the imaginative child mystery, history, and sci-fi all rolled into one adventure.  I will be reading this with my daughter ...when she gets a little older.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Alice's Review: Snow White & Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman

Summary:  Welcome to the Festival of Roses, a world full of magic and romance. Every year during the festival each boy leaves a flower at the door of the girl he believes is the "fairest of them all." Naturally, Snow White gets dozens of flowers, while her younger sister Rose Red is ignored. This year, though, things are different. For the first time, Rose Red has a mysterious admirer, and this year she isn't the only one jealous of her sister's beauty. But even though it’s a time of celebration, when girls begin disappearing, the festival turns deadly. With mysterious strangers arriving every day, an ominous marriage proposal, and magic and danger everywhere, Snow White and Rose Red will need to work together to survive the festival and solve the mystery.

In this fun and whimsical re-imagining of Snow White and her often-forgotten sister Rose Red, Lilly Fang creates a never-before-seen story of magic, mystery, and the bond between two sisters. A must-read!

Review:  I have never read a fairy tale. That’s not true. A couple years ago, I downloaded Beauty and the Beast. I loved it. That was the only one. I don’t remember reading them growing up. My knowledge of fairy tales comes strictly from Disney movies. I think it’s one of the reasons I am in love with the ABC show Once Upon a Time. It’s awesome to see my beloved Disney characters come to life. Now, you may wonder why I would choose to read Snow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman by Lilly Fang. Well, because I was curious about written fairy tales and well, this ebook was free on Amazon.

Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by this short novel. It was different and interesting. It was also unlike anything I have read before. I loved that Snow White has a sister, Rose Red. I love that both sisters live with their mother. I love that she is teaching her daughters to be strong, self-reliant women.

I loved all the characters involved especially Rose Red and the Huntsman. Rose was a strong willed, adventurous girl whose middle name should have been Moxie, not Red. Always in her sister’s shadow, she was a bit disheartened but did not fault Snow. She loved her sister. The Huntsman was everything a dark romantic hero should be. Mysterious, callous, courageous, caring, protective. There were a few twists in this story, all unexpected by me. My favorite (of course) dealing with matters of the heart. What I really enjoyed the most in this fairy tale was how the sisters helped each other. They relied and supported each other.

I know I will search out other retold fairy tales in the future. Especially if they are as well thought-out and written as Snow White and Rose Red: The Curse of the Huntsman . I really enjoyed it.

Final Take: 4/5


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Alice's Reviews: Swim

 Summary:  Ruth has left her job writing for a hit television show for reasons she’d rather not discuss and is supplementing her increasingly dwindling savings with freelance writing projects—namely, helping anxious high school students craft a perfect college essay and lonely souls craft captivating online dating profiles. When she’s not working, she’s swimming—lap after lap at the local indoor pool, in a desperate attempt to wash away the sting of professional failure and heartbreak that she can’t seem to shake. It takes an unexpected client to show her that appearances can be deceiving, and that sometimes the bravest thing you can do is simply dive back in.

Review: Swim is a short story by Jennifer Weiner that was included in the book The Guy Not Taken.  It is also the inspiration for her newest novel, The Next Best Thing.  I purchased the short on Amazon for two reasons.  The first being the price:  At $1.99, you can’t go wrong.  (Although I do believe the Kindle edition is free right now.)  The second is I missed her.  I really did.  I love her writing style and her characters.  The way she infuses them with such realism they can be anyone you actually know or wish you knew.  Ruth is no different.

A car accident left Ruth was a facial scar that is the source of much insecurity and an unrequited love has left her broken hearted and jobless.  In an effort to get back on her feet, she takes a job as a college application coach.  This is the perfect antidote to remain hidden and anonymous until a two unexpected things happen to set her life going again.

I couldn’t remember if I read The Guy Not Taken already, but something about Swim was familiar to me.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Ruthie is one of my favorite Jennifer Weiner characters.  At the end this story, I got that effervescent burst that happens when I read something really good, really special.  Ms. Weiner was clever to release this short because I have already purchased The Next Best Thing.  I can’t wait to see what changes Ruth has in her future and how she continues to grow.

Final Take: 5/5


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jenn's Review: Frozen Heat

Summary:  NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat arrives at her latest crime scene to find an unidentified woman stabbed to death and stuffed inside a suitcase left on a Manhattan street. Nikki is in for a big shock when this new homicide connects to the unsolved murder of her own mother. Paired once again with her romantic and investigative partner, top journalist Jameson Rook, Heat works to solve the mystery of the body in the suitcase while she is forced to confront unexplored areas of her mother's background.

Facing relentless danger as someone targets her for the next kill, Nikki's search will unearth painful family truths, expose a startling hidden life, and cause Nikki to reexamine her own past. Heat's passionate quest takes her and Rook from the back alleys of Manhattan to the avenues of Paris, trying to catch a ruthless killer. The question is, now that her mother's cold case has unexpectedly thawed, will Nikki Heat finally be able to solve the dark mystery that has been her demon for ten years?

Review:  I normally would save Frozen Heat for next summer when Castle is on hiatus, but the cliff hanger in Heat Rises was too compelling. Frozen Heat is the tale of Detective Heat's mother's murder and it's far more sensational than the story of Kate Beckett's mother's murder; it's very Richard Castle ~and I loved it.

I love the relationship between Rook and Heat, and I think it's affecting the way I view Castle's relationship with Beckett... Rook and Heat are so easy together and I find myself wishing that Castle and Beckett were 'there'. The literary version does solve cases in tandem just as fabulously as the television version though and it makes for a great read.

Nikki has a wall that is not ready to come down, but this case keeps putting cracks in it.  Rook keeps pushing her to dig into her mother's past.  I have a feeling this story line runs a little closer to Castle's father than it does Beckett's mother.  The case was fascinating and I was completely unable to solve it.  That's saying something.  There were surprises around every corner and I love how Rook stood with Heat through it all, even when he wasn't sure he should.

The writing team threw in another cliff hanger here, but release dates will force me to wait for the next Nikki Heat novel.  I've said it before, if you are a Castle fan, this is a must read, if not, you might just like them anyway.

Final Take:  5/5


Monday, October 15, 2012

Julie's Review: Rogue

Summary: Two years ago, Robin Monarch was a top level CIA operative—perhaps the best they had when it came to black bag operations. Then one day, in the middle of an operation, with his team around him in the field, Monarch walked away, leaving his old life and friends behind without a word of explanation. Now this ex-soldier, ex-operative, and orphan with a murky past is a thief, stealing from the super-rich and has surfaced in St. Tropez. But when a complicated, high profile jewel heist goes wrong, Monarch is led into a carefully woven trap designed to force him to complete the very same mission he walked away from years ago. It will take all of his skills (as well as those of the team he burned) and all of his cunning, if Monarch is to thwart the violent and deadly goals of the very powerful cabal who will do whatever it takes to bring the very dangerous "Green Fields" technology under their control.

Review: Robin Monarch: Thief, CIA Agent, Friend, Lover, modern day Robin Hood. Sure his past is a bit shady but he steals to make life easier for those who don't have much but he's also a well trained agent who does the right thing in the end.

I love books about spies, mobsters, and the Russians. I mean I grew up during the Cold War, how can you not still think of the Russians as the enemy? (Only in fiction of course). Mr. Sullivan has done a bang up job of making Monarch a likable character even if he is a bit questionable at times. As you edge towards the end of the book, you know that he's a good guy trying to do the right thing, even if he makes millions by doing that.

Rogue starts with an adrenaline shot and then gives you a boost of it on the last line! Not only is Monarch a great character but the rest of his team is as well. Tatupu, Fowler, Chavez and Barnett go to bat for Robin even if he left them in the wind during an operation. Those are true friends and people who really have your back.
A lot of people are comparing Monarch to Bourne and while I love Jason Bourne (Matt Damon movie versions), there are definite differences between him and Monarch. Sure they have the special training but Monarch knows who he is and where he came from. Those are the demons he wrestles with and eventually comes to terms with.

I can't wait to see what Mr. Sullivan has for us readers next and I really hope it involves Robin Monarch.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Thanks to Minotaur Books and Kaye Publicity for my copy!


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Children's Corner: I Must Have Bobo and I'll Save You Bobo

Review: A while ago our 4 year old son started calling everyone "Bobo" as a term of endearment. We aren't sure where it came from but it's pretty much stuck to him since. We do try to only use it at home or around family thought. :)

So needless to say that when I saw these books at the library on our latest excursion, I grabbed them. They have quickly become our go to read at night. They are cute, quick books with a cat that cracks me up. Sure the stories are supposed to be about the little boy and his stuffed monkey, but Earl the cat steals the show for me.

They are adorable books for any kid (or parent) who had a stuff animal that they dragged every where and was a permanent fixture in the daily lives.

The illustrations are engaging and simple. I would definitely recommend these the next time you are at the library.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Alice's Reviews: All Gone

Summary:  Just past seventy, Alex Witchel’s smart, adoring, ultracapable mother began to exhibit undeniable signs of dementia. Her smart, adoring, ultracapable daughter reacted as she’d been raised: If something was broken, they would fix it. But as medical reality undid that hope, and her mother continued the torturous process of disappearing in plain sight, Witchel retreated to the kitchen, trying to reclaim her mother at the stove by cooking the comforting foods of her childhood: “Is there any contract tighter than a family recipe?”  Reproducing the perfect meat loaf was no panacea, but it helped Witchel come to terms with her predicament, the growing phenomenon of “ambiguous loss ”— loss of a beloved one who lives on. Gradually she developed a deeper appreciation for all the ways the parent she was losing lived on in her, starting with the daily commandment “Tell me everything that happened today” that started a future reporter and writer on her way. And she was inspired to turn her experience into this frank, bittersweet, and surprisingly funny account that offers true balm for an increasingly familiar form of heartbreak.

Review: I have been on quite a memoir kick as of late. Each has been better than the last and thankfully, All Gone followed that pattern as well.

In All Gone, author Alex Witchel recounts her mother’s battle with dementia.   With refreshments, of course.  The book begins with how Ms. Witchel copes by cooking her mother’s recipes, using food as a way to bridge the gap between who her mother was and is becoming.  Each chapter ends with a difference recipe from Alex’s collection, recipes formed not only in food but memories.  All Gone is packed with sentiment.  She portrayers her dilemma with heartbreaking truthfulness. As a reader, I felt her grief, her sadness at losing her mother, although she is presently here in body.  As Alex says, gone but not gone. 

This memoir touched me deeply especially since my parents are getting older.  I read this partially in fear of what I might have to go through.  I hope that if I was ever in the same situation, I would survive with as much poise and grace as Ms. Witchel has.  The beauty in this memoir not in the coping though.  It is in how Ms. Witchel finds her way back to herself. 

I believe foodies and non-foodies alike will enjoy this short memoir.  All Gone inspired by to search out my own family recipes, to learn how to make them with as much love as my parents cook and to make my own food memories. 

Final Take:  4/5


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Julie's Review: Abdication

Summary: England, 1936. The year began with the death of a beloved king and the ascension of a charismatic young monarch, sympathetic to the needs of the working class, glamorous and single. By year’s end, the world would be stunned as it witnessed that new leader give up his throne in the name of love, just as the unrest and violence that would result in a Second World War were becoming impossible to ignore.
During the tumultuous intervening months, amidst the whirl of social and political upheaval, wise-beyond-her-nineteen-years May Thomas will take the first, faltering steps toward creating a new life for herself. Just disembarked at Liverpool after a long journey from her home on a struggling sugar plantation in Barbados, she secures a position as secretary and driver to Sir Philip Blunt, a job that will open her eyes to the activities of the uppermost echelons of British society, and her heart to a man seemingly beyond her reach. Outwardly affable spinster Evangeline Nettlefold is a girlhood friend to the American socialite Wallis Simpson, a goddaughter to Lady Joan Blunt and a new arrival to London from Baltimore. She will be generously welcomed into society’s most glittering circles, where one’s daily worth is determined by one’s proximity to a certain H.R.H. and his married mistress. But as the resentment she feels toward Wallis grows in magnitude, so too does the likelihood of disastrous consequences. Young, idealistic Julian Richardson’s Oxford degree and his close friendship with Rupert Blunt have catapulted him from excruciating hours in his mother’s middle-class parlor to long holidays spent at stately homes and luxurious dinners in the company of a king. But even as he enjoys his time in this privileged world, his head cannot forget the struggles of those who live outside its gilded gates, and his uneasy heart cannot put aside his undeclared affection for May. May, Evangeline and Julian will all become embroiled in the hidden truths, undeclared loves, unspoken sympathies and covert complicities that define the year chronicled in Abdication. In pitch-perfect prose, Juliet Nicolson has captured an era in which duty and pleasure, tradition and novelty, and order and chaos all battled for supremacy in the hearts and minds of king and commoner alike. As addictive as Downton Abbey, as poignant as The Remains of the Day, Abdication is a breathtaking story inspired by a love affair that shook the world at a time when the world was on the brink of war.

Review: Abdication was an interesting character study if you happened to care about the characters, which unfortunately I did not. I never felt the plot went anywhere either. I understood what Ms. Nicholson was trying to do, she wanted us to view the abdication of King Edward VIII's from different view points. Unfortunately, I didn't think any of them really cared that much and were caught up in their own lives and the drama that was their own.

While I found May to be intriguing, I felt that her past with her father was a bit stilted. I felt there should have been a little more emotional fall out from the situation. It seems a little too tied up neatly with a bow to really have some punch. I did thoroughly enjoy the relationship between Sam and May. They seemed to really understand the value of family.

Other than to provide an insiders look at how Edward and Willis' affair affected those around them, I felt that Evangeline didn't really offer much to the story. The idea of a love triangle between her, Julian and May felt forced and unauthentic. I felt nothing but pity for her because she was a lonely women with no one that really cared for her.

I know that this is Ms. Nicholson's first foray into historical fiction but perhaps her next one should have more of a hook.

Final Take: 3/5


Monday, October 8, 2012

Julie's Review: Blackberry Winter

Summary: The story, which takes its title from a late-season, cold-weather phenomenon, continues Jio’s rich exploration of the ways personal connections can transcend the boundaries of time. Seattle, 1932. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May snowstorm has blanketed the city, and that her son has disappeared into the heart of the storm. Outside, she finds his teddy bear lying face down in the cold snowy streets. Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter” storm and its predecessor that occurred on the same date nearly eighty years earlier. Learning of the unsolved abduction, Claire vows to unearth the truth—only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.

Review: I adore Sarah Jio and her books amaze me. I saved Blackberry Winter for my business trip because I knew I would have the plane ride to concentrate on it. Needless to say I had about 80 pages left and finished them immediately upon getting into my room.

Ms. Jio has a way of immediately sucking you into the story. Vera and Claire are both likable and relatable characters. You want to know what happens to them and you want them to be happy.

We are quickly introduced to single mom Vera who shows us the struggles for her during the depression. She is forced to make decisions that compromise her son, Daniel's safety. You just know something awful is going to happen to Daniel while she is at work. Vera is a mother who will do anything to find her son even if it means compromising who she is. Through Vera's story we meet Claire who is assigned a features story about the winter storm that occurred on the same day 80 years earlier.

Claire herself is reeling from a traumatic event that she and her husband, Evan haven't dealt with in the year since it occurred. The story of Daniel pulls her in and it's the first thing she's been drawn to in over a year.
She immerses herself in the story of Daniel and vows to figure out what happened to the young boy. Was he taken from his mother? Is he still alive? It it through her research that we learn what happened to Vera and eventually Daniel.

The two stories are seamless in their links to each other. It is one of Ms. Jio's strengths; linking the past to the present. It was also nice to see a couple of characters from her first book, The Violets of March.

What I love about Ms. Jio's novels is that she immediately pulls you in and you don't want to leave. In Blackberry Winter she does an excellent job of seamlessly weaving the past and the present together. She also transports you to Seattle during the depression. She paints a very real and bleak picture of Vera's life. It isn't that the mystery was difficult to figure out, but it's the journey of the characters that you care about and want to learn more about.

I can't wait until her next book, The Last Camellia, is released. If you haven't read her books, then I highly suggest you run out and get them. You could devour them in one weekend!

Final Take: 5/5


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Children's Corner: Skeleton Hiccups

We love Halloween in our house (especially decorating for it); it must have something to do with our affinity for the macabre.  So 'spooky' books are a year round thing in our house especially ones that are all about bones.  This one is a new favorite.

Skeleton wakes up with the hiccups.  He attempts to brush his teeth and he hiccups his jaw right off.  He tries everything to get rid of them but, well, he's a skeleton, so the normal human 'cures' are a little difficult for him.  He can't hold his nose, or drink a glass of water... but he tries, and we giggle.  Eventually his friend ghost manages to scare them out of him.

The illustrations with this book are fantastic and the prose are easy enough for my daughter who has just discovered her ability to sound out words.  The humor makes it appropriate for all ages.  If you're looking for a good spooky giggle.  This is it.