"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." — Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ten Things I Love About You by Julia Quinn

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: Annabel - fertile, lush Annabel - must marry for money, instead of love, yet finds herself falling for the carefree nephew of her aging intended fiancé, who hopes that Annabel will provide him with a heir.

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

Ten Things I Love About This Book:

One: It's delightful to read a romance novel and laugh out loud. This book brought back pleasure reading. (Oh, not in that way!)

Two: I've been reading so many depressing books lately and both main characters are such loving, affectionate people despite their trials, that maybe I fell a little in love with them too.

Three: Sebastian Grey is a cheerful, happy hero, despite his insomnia brought on by the war. We know right away that he needs the right woman in his bed, to give him the peaceful sleep he deserves.

Four: Sebastian's insomnia leads to Sebastian becoming a popular novelist, as he writes when he can't sleep. Most people adore the novels of "Mrs. Sarah Gorely", and having a male hero in my romance novel also be the author of romance novels is his time is an enjoyable twist.

Five: Sebastian is a charming rogue, who simply adores women, but not in a leering over-sexualized way that many "reformed rakes" (another common plot) do.
"He looked about ready to chuckle but did not. It was a common expression for him, she realized. He saw humor everywhere. It was a rare gift that, and possibly why everyone liked to be near him."
Six: Annabel's stress about making a match with the repulsive Earl of Newbury while navigating London's social scene is realistic, painful yet humorous.
"There were a thousand ways to make an idiot of oneself, with new opportunities arising every day. It was exhausting trying to avoid them all."
Seven: Annabel knows that she was chosen for her wide hips, her large breasts and the potential to carry many healthy male heirs for the Earl of Newbury. But she doesn't know is that the Earl of Newbury is desperate to have an heir so that his current heir, his nephew Sebastian Grey, will not inherit.

Eight: So when Annabel meets Sebastian, she has no idea how much trouble she is causing, just by both men taking an interest in her.

Nine: This really was a unique plot in terms of how the story unfolded and the problems that the hero and heroine face. Julia Quinn, along with Mary Balogh, is one of my favorite Regency Romance authors.  Quinn writes intricate plots that are complicated by the society in which they live, and they are always delicious and enjoyable, with sometimes surprising, but definitely plausible, endings that could only make sense in that story. 

Ten: I would give and recommend this book to anybody who's hesistant to try a romance novel. It has humor, some angst, love, romance and only a few explicit sex scenes. You like both the hero and the heroine and they will make you laugh. Now, that's a good book.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Frenemies by Alexa Young

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: Two fashionista tweens find themselves growing apart after a summer away.

Why are we friends? Is it proximity? Are we going through the same life events? Do we have similar interests? Do we have similar values? Do you make me laugh? Do you think I’m smart? Is it my boots? C’mon, I know you think my boots are sexy.

When Halley gets back from summer art camp, she’s bubbling over with excitement to share her new look (lavender cowboy boots) , and new art camp friend, with Avalon, who stayed home all summer, but Avalon expected Halley to slip back into her old role without hesitation.

So when Avalon makes fun of Halley’s new boots, Halley’s not worried; she just thinks Avalon needs to get used to them. And Halley’s not the only one who’s changed. Avalon went from an A-cup to a C-cup over the summer, but hasn’t updated her tops. But when Avalon makes fun of Halley’s new art camp friend Sofee, Halley wonders if Avalon had really been this mean all along. Halley finds herself pulling away from Avalon without telling Avalon why and Avalon makes it worse by forcing the issue, essentially saying “It’s the boots or me!”  It’s not really about the boots, you know.

The two girls don’t really talk, and then the former friends and current neighbors divide everything: Gymnastics squad vs. cheerleaders (or cheerfollowers, if you’re being snarky); custody of their shared dog, Pucci; designated lunch spots; they even split their shared fashion column, using it to publicly attack each other.
 "It was like she was in a game of tug-of-war – with her feelings for the old Avalon pulling her in one direction, and her disgust for the new Avalon pulling her in another."
When someone changes the agreement and the dynamic of a friendship, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the person who changed, who is into something new and wants to drag her friend along with her? Or is it the fault of the person who resists growth, change and independence? 

I know this is a YA novel, but once you get past the fashion references, it’s a well-written look at friendship and the unspoken rules we abide by. 

This book reminded me of the Clique series, but it was more realistic, better written, and less full of name-dropping styles. Check it out. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Dog House: A Love Story by Carol Prisant

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

Summary: A woman tracks her marriage and family life using pets as guideposts.

Good, but dull. That’s how the author describes her own life, and since this is a rambling memoir, that’s also an apt description of the book.

Parts of the book were hysterically funny, and in other parts, I wondered why she would write what she did.

This book was almost like a tell-all from an aging, long-ago famous Hollywood starlet, saying, “These are the men (dogs) in my life. Some I loved, some I didn’t.”

It’s supposed to be a love story about the dogs in her life, but instead it seemed just sad and pitiful. Carol’s mother didn’t like dogs, but Carol tried to bring home three. Then, in preparation for her child, she adopts a monkey (!), who she eventually gives back.

And that’s a general idea of how the book went.
I adopted a pet.
I gave it up. (or it died.)

Good but dull.  I also think that Carol married an undemonstrative man, and she instead poured all that love and affection and attention into her son. They eventually start a business together but have to sell it to save their mother-son relationship.  And when Carol and her husband Millard do find a dog, you get the feeling that Millard loves the dog more than he loves Carol. Just sad.

While reading this, I wondered, “What’s the point here? What’s the message? What’s the theme? There didn’t seem to be any kind of unifying element, except that they had dogs in their lives at varying points. Okay.

I’m not supposed to quote from an uncopyedited manuscript, but so I won’t here. There are parts in this book that will make you shout with laughter, but with an unsatisfying ending, I’m not sure how polished this book is yet. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Glass House (Morganville Vampires, Book 1) by Rachel Caine

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A college student and her housemates deal with vampire politics and death threats in a small Texas town.

There's a phrase in the romance review world called TSTL. It translates as Too Stupid TLive. It often refers to the heroine who keeps running into danger and then expects the hero to rescue her, although why anyone could be attracted to anyone so stupid, no one knows. I didn't expect the teen heroine of a vampire novel to fall into the TSTL category, but she does.

Child prodigy Claire Danvers (great name, by the way) simply must go to college because she lives to study. She'd rather be studying than anything. So Claire's parents send their sixteen-year-old daughter to get her associate's degree in the small Texas town of Morganville. But Claire doesn't fit in at TPU and is too scared by her classmate Monica to go to class. But when nasty Monica and her hangers-on carry their malicious pranks too far, Claire is scared for her life.

Instead of transferring, or leaving the college, or going to any faculty or administrator, or telling her parents, sixteen-year-old Claire decides to just move off campus. 

Claire doesn't know that if she moves off campus, she's considered available for any vampire to control or drain. Her roommate's a ghost (he was incompletely killed by a vampire and became a ghost instead of a vampire), one roommate's a Goth girl, and one roommate is her new crush, but he's haunted because the vampires killed his mother. 

If the writing wasn't so good, I would have stopped reading long ago. The writing is clear, expressive, and realistic, even if the plot is not. 

She always wondered how in the hell anybody could be stupid enough to open up a door to the scary bad thing in the movies, but now she knew. She absolutely knew.
Sometimes, you didn’t have a choice.
Eve was gasping for breath and crying furiously in between. “I hate this,” she said, and slammed her hand into the hard plastic steering wheel, over and over. “I hate this town! I hate them!”
So leave already!

Great writing, but this book was too full of stupid people who make choices only to move the plot along instead of acting in a way that makes sense. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: An adult woman uncovers her German heritage, finding that her mother was the mistress of a Nazi officer. 

What would I do to save my children's lives? Anything. I would do anything. So when Anna is forced down on a sagging bed and muffles her cries so she won't disturb her daughter playing in the other room, I had nothing but sympathy and support for Anna. And when Horst, the Obersturmführer, brings milk and meat each week for Anna's daughter, Anna welcomes him only as a way to keep her daughter Trudie alive, despite the dread and shame she feels.

This was a tragic and deeply-moving book, showcasing the horrors of the Holocaust, the secret shame of rape victims, and how the trauma of the past still affects us today. It's a well-written debut novel with sympathetic, whole characters and enhanced even further my understanding of that period of history.

The book opens as Trudy, a middle-aged professor of German studies at the University of Minnesota, is attending the funeral of her father. Jack was not her biological father, but the man who married her mother, Anna, and brought them from Germany to Minnesota, after the war.

A different section opens with beautiful, teenage Anna, back in Weimar, Germany, and how her life is slowly changing with the new anti-Jewish fervor. The book spends just enough time on each character so that even while you're engrossed with lovely Anna and her terror and deprivation, you're still worried about Trudy and her loneliness and anger.  The author cleverly refers to adult Trudy as Trudy and young Trudy as Trudie, reflecting both the German spelling and the American spelling.

Even though Anna does not fight back, the brutal scenes with whiskey, razor blades and scarves are nothing but rape, as you know that Anna has no choice. Her shame, her defiance to keep her child living, and the emotional strength required to not scar her daughter even further are laden with power and intensity.
"She has often told herself that she is not so badly off, really. Men of power have had mistresses since time out of mind, and it doesn't matter that none of the gaunt women who visit the bakery will look directly at Anna. At least she and Trudie are safe in a warm place with access to food, and she is earning her keep in ways both legal and illicit while at this very moment others are dead, dying, starving, having their eyeballs lanced and toenails pulled by the Gestapo, laboring with heavy machinery that crushes their fingers to nubs, standing naked in the rain, their children wrenched shrieking from their arms, being shorn, shot, tumbling into pits. It is really very enviable, Anna's prosaic little arrangements with the Obersturmführer."
There are many more fascinating important plot points that deepen the layers in this book. I won't give them away, but while this is a very good book, it's hard to read all at once. On her 23rd birthday, Anna asks the the Obersturmführer to spare 23 Jews, one for each year of her life. The reaction to her request is chilling. 

Every time I read a book about the Holocaust, I'm continually astonished that Mel G. and Mahmoud A. can still deny that the Holocaust occurred. Consider also Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lois on the Loose: One Woman, One Motorcycle, 20,000 Miles Across the Americas by Lois Pryce

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A British journalist diaries about her solo motorcycle ride from Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America.

Lois Price writes in what I consider a very British voice, not quite the sly British humor I love, but the understated yet complicated language that people mock today.

“Despite this sudden influx of ursine furry friends I was still keen to carry on camping, although the reality of having one set of clothes and no washing facilities was beginning to make itself known to me, and probably anyone else who had the misfortune to come into contact with me.”

Lois on the Loose tracks one woman’s motorcycle ride from Alaska to Ushuaia, the southernmost tip of South America. It chronicles her misadventures, language difficulties and bike mechanical issues in a cheerful and hopeful voice with normal grumbling. My main grumble - I thought she was supposed to do the bike ride solo, yet she has a companion for much of the way.
The best scene is when she and her companion are crossing borders from one Central American country to another.

“Then the questioning would begin:
Where are you from?
Where are you going?
La Paz.
Where is your husband?
No husband.
You have children?
No children.

This summary of our domestic situation would elicit a look that hovered somewhere between confusion and irritation, followed by the final question.
Drogas? Drugs. You have drugs?
No. No drugs.

With the inquisition at its end, the bemused boy soldiers would send us on our way, the unspoken question written all over their faces: Well… if they haven’t got husbands or children or drugs, then what can they possibly be up to?” ‘ 

This book highlights the journey, not just the destination, but the writing wasn't very approachable, in my mind. 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs (Glory St. Clair, Book 5) by Gerry Bartlett

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: Vampire Glory St. Clair, in her never-ending quest for beauty, secretly meets with her lover's arch-enemy in order to lose 20 pounds. 

Real Vampires Hate Their Thighs  - funny title, right? Stupid book. 

Glory St. Clair is over 400 years old. She's got a moderately successful vintage clothing business, a gorgeous fake-fiance, a gorgeous authentic and rich vampire lover, and she's still obsessed about losing 20 pounds. Seriously? 

She's planning clandestine meetings with her lover's arch-enemy in order to lose 20 pounds that nobody else minds except for her? I couldn't believe it - and I read plenty of unbelievable books (werewolves, vampires, witches, dystopian fiction with monsters and killer animals). 

A 400-year-old vampire would have been alive in the 1960s. Ever heard of Twiggy? I have. Skinny and famous. Glory would also have been alive in the 1920s, where women bound their breasts to look as flat as possible.  So today's standards of beauty don't seem any more onerous that in previous eras. But suddenly living in LA requires that Glory lose 20 pounds. The vampire weight loss expert also promises that Glory can target her weight loss to focus only on the areas she wants to lose - and Glory believes it. How could a vampire this stupid live for 400 years without being staked by now?

And the writing was just weak. 
"I was sure my blonde hair had been blown into a fright wig by the change for my bat flight. Then he checked out my snug jeans in a size twelve (oh, how I wished for a six!). Hmm. Back up north again, he lingered on my double Ds which I'd love to slip into a C cup. I could only imagine the joys of having to shop for new bras and to actually buy colorful pretty ones."
And Jerry, also known as Angus Jeremiah Campbell III, thinks Glory is perfect. In fact, he'd willingly marry Glory and support her. He could even use his millions to buy Glory sexy, colorful bras to hold those double Ds. 

I couldn't finish this book. There are so many good funny chick-lit vampire books out there, you don't need to waste your time with Glory St Clair. Try Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs (Jane Jameson, Book 1) by Molly Harper.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

One Week in December by Holly Chamberlin

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A woman who gave up her daughter to be adopted by her brother wants to expose the truth in front of her family and her child. 

One of the reasons why we chose international adoption is because we didn’t want our child’s birth mother to ever change her mind, and re-claim our child. So I started this book with a bit of anxiety. Could I really be sympathetic to a woman who gives up her child and then wants her back?  Turns out, no. But maybe that's because this was a poor book.

Becca drives up to her parents one Christmas with the intention of telling Rain, her teenage niece, the truth – that Becca is actually her mother and that Becca’s brother and his wife, who raised Rain as their own and never told her she was adopted, are Rain’s actual uncle and aunt. Becca is cold, detached and selfish, and while this book was a great study in family dynamics, having the main character be so unlikable is an interesting literary device.

Turns out all uptight Becca needs is some sex and romance, right? So the author throws in a sexy neighbor, who happens to be an artist and who challenges Becca’s reserve.

Becca’s little sister Lily and older sister Olivia were far more interesting characters. Lily is suffering a bad break-up but realizes the guy was a jerk and Olivia suffers from infertility, so much so that her marriage is in trouble.

I had such high hopes for this book, but in the end, it was only okay. 

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: After losing her parents, teenage Gaia becomes her neighborhood’s midwife and is embroiled in the politics of birth and adoption.

The first three babies each midwife delivers every month are “advanced” to the Enclave, a walled inner city where the best and brightest have been living (and marrying) for years.

As a brand-new midwife, Gaia is only following the policies she’s lived under for years. But after she returns home from her first delivery, and her first advancement, she returns home to find that her parents have been arrested.

There’s a crisis in the Enclave. Rampant inbreeding in the years since the Enclave formed has led to hemophilia and death, with mandatory blood tests before anyone can marry.

Gaia’s parents hold a secret, a secret about the babies who have advanced, one that Gaia must uncover if she ever hopes to keep them alive.

"Because she was scarred, she had had no chance of being advanced to the Enclave. In some ways, her case was the supreme example of why it was better to give the babies over within hours. Years ago, they used to leave babies with their mothers for the first year of life, but the mothers were growing increasingly careless, and the children were getting injured or sick before their twelve-month ceremonies. With the current baby quota system, the Enclave recived healthy, whole babies the day they were born, and the mothers could get on with becoming pregnant again, if that’s what they wanted to do.
No deformed babies were ever advanced, for any reason. For Gaia, one accident had guaranteed a life of poverty outside the wall, with no education, no chance for good food or leisure or easy friendships, while the girls her age who’d been advanced were now in the enclave, with boundless electricity, food and education. They were wearing beautiful clothes, dreaming of wealthy husbands, laughing and dancing."

Confession time here: I love dystopian fiction. Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games is one of my favorite books.  While Collins' and O'Brien's worlds are completely different, the same sense of dread, menace and ideal pacing make these books among my favorites.

How did the world end up as it it did?
“The cool age ended when the fuel was used up, and it was too late for the masses to adjust, I guess. Crops failed. Some illness. A few wars. They coldn’t move around  what little food they could grow, I guess. It takes a lot to feed people, Gaia. We forget. We’re lucky here. There are smart people running the Enclave, and we don’t do so badly ourselves outside the wall.”

Many hard-working, decent people kept the foundry, glass factory and mills going to produce useful goods. There were things to respect here, lives that weren’t all brutality.

My few minor complaints about the book are spoilers, but you can find them in the comments section.

A complete satisfying read. The author completely left the book open for a sequel but I hope it won’t be like The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Walking the Bible by Bruce Feiler

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: The people and places of the modern Bible, captured by modern day photography.

I don’t care what religion you are. Read this book simply for the photography and you will be open-mouthed in wonder.

But if you have any interest in at all in the Old Testament, this book will be fascinating to you. Bruce Feiler takes us along with him to the places (and people) the Bible mentions and makes it vividly real, combining quotes with meaning and a historical perspective.

I discovered what is meant when the Bible says God sent manna from heaven. I won’t give it away. But it’s worth checking out this book just to know.

If you’ve read Anita Diaman’s The Red Tent, this book should also be on your To-Read shelf.
And once you’ve read Council of Dads, you should also check out this book.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Flirt (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 18) by Laurell K. Hamilton

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Summary: After Anita refuses to raise the dead, her family of lovers is held hostage until she does.

What made the Anita Blake series so good in the beginning was Anita's moral dilemmas. How can a necromancer date a vampire? And how should her powers be used? Anita also has a specific rules about sex, blood and death.

Lately, Laurell K. Hamilton has been all about the gore, with people digging in open sucking wounds, or multiple partner sex with strangers that leaves people dazed.

It's a pleasure to have a nice super natural story with a little bit of violence and vengeance, and a little bit of monster sex, and a mystery and a scene where Anita learns how to flirt. Well, I predict that many of the people who were disappointed in Hamilton will come back.  This was one of her shorter novels, but maybe she has a new editor she respects. Cheers to that!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In A Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A teen organ-recipient takes on some characteristics of her deceased donor. 

Olympic-caliber figure skater Eagan mis-times her jump and In a Heartbeat, her life is over. Homebound Amelia draws horses and uses a lift chair to move around her house, and In a Heartbeat, Amelia has a chance at life again. In a fit of rebellion - and In a Heartbeat - sixteen year-old Eagan checked the "organ donor" box on her brand new-license and the lives and hopes of two Midwestern families are changed forever. When fourteen-year-old Amelia starts becoming a snarky sassy teen, with characteristics of her donor's personality, she is driven to discover who her donor was.

This is a tender young adult story of dreams, hope and discovery. It was painful to read the tense relationship between sixteen year-old Eagan and her mother. Eagan's mother push-push-pushes Eagan to skate her best, as if skating's all that matters. Eagan's mother's loneliness and the desperate way she won't let her daughter settle for mediocrity remind me as a parent not to let my dreams for my kids interfere in their dreams. This book made me recognize the value (and blessing) of ordinary.

The book opens after Eagan has died, but not since The Lovely Bones has a dead character been such an active vital voice. I think this book should be required reading for all new teen drivers, as well.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Frenemies by Megan Crane

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!
**I have a frenemy. I’m struggling with having her in my life, so I read books about how other people might handle this. Watch for a few books titled Frenemies, because I'm reading them all.**

Summary: A woman reviews her friendships after her friend cheats on her with her boyfriend. 

I’ve never been cheated on (that I know of), but I hope I never scream out Janis Joplin songs in public to my cheating boyfriend and the former friend who kissed him. But that’s what 29-year-old Augusta “Gus” Curtis does in the opening chapter in this book. I don’t know why I continued reading this, since I wanted to scream at Gus to “ Grow Up!” constantly while reading. Twenty-nine and you’re still acting like you’re in high school, except that you can drink. It's a pet peeve of mine when women still use a cutesy nickname past high school, and it's even worse when it's a boy's name. 

Gus has an easy job – in her chosen career field, lots of casual friends, and two close friends and yet she acts like an immature prat. And luckily for me, halfway through the book, her friend does scream at her, “You both need to grow the hell up, but I don’t care if you do or not, because I’m not dealing with this sh*t anymore.” Having a main character express exactly what I was feeling helped me finish this book. 
So Gus decides to grow up. She might decide to not have a cute gender-neutral nickname, and instead use her given name (sorry, pet peeve), but instead she cleans up her apartment (power to the feng shui!) and thinks before she speaks. Amazing.

Gus’ big epiphany comes just in time for me to finish reading. 

“Here Helen and I were, standing on a staircase, fighting over a guy I might have just realized wasn’t worth it.” 
Thank you. That sentence alone redeemed the book. And then Gus realized that she hadn’t been a good friend to Helen, so she shouldn’t have felt so betrayed. And getting mad at the female who cheats while trying to win back the male who cheated shows just how messed up Gus’ thinking is/was.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

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Summary: A single mom falls in love with the married plastic surgeon who's treating her injured son. 

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

Oh. My. God. Emily Giffin gets it. Did I get kidnapped without knowing it and have my brain harvested for thoughts? I laughed, cried, winced at the truths in this book. If you haven’t yet read Emily Giffin, pick up this book, because this is the one book everyone will be talking about this summer. You’ll see it at the beach, on airplanes, coffee shops and in book clubs. I’m suggesting it to my book club and I know we will continue to discuss it long after we meet, because it’s so relevant, so true, so compelling.

The story, Heart of the Matter, is told from two points of view; Tessa, a mother who recently started staying home with her kids, and Valerie, a single working mother whose son Charlie is seriously injured in a freak accident. When Tessa’s husband Nick becomes the surgeon assigned to Charlie, Valerie cannot help being captivated by the man who will save her son.

From the very first chapter, Tessa’s restlessness and anxiety instill a sense of dread in the reader and I know something bad will happen. I had to read on, because I know just how Tessa feels.

“I still love having sex with my husband, as much as ever once we’re under way. It just so happens that I know prefer sleep to most everything else- chocolate, red wine, HBO, and sex.”

When Tessa’s 5-year-old is fussing in Target, in front of another mother and her docile daughter: “I flash a fake smile of my own, refraining her from telling her what I’m really thinking: that it’s an unwise karmic move to go around feeling superior to other mothers. Because before she knows it, her little angel could become a tattooed teenager hiding joints in her designer handbag and doling out blow jobs in the backseat of her BMW.”

Tessa’s life rung true for me, and will for thousands of stay-at-home moms. Tessa’s life is laugh out loud funny, and so apt. When Nick suggests bringing Oreos to school as the snack for the day, I wanted to reach through the pages to smack him myself.

Yet Valerie, as the other woman, won my heart. Valerie’s intense love for her child, her loneliness, her fragile hope, and Charlie’s brave struggle made me hug my own kids (and my husband) a little tighter.

Strangely enough, my book club is also reading “Free-Range Kids” where the author tells parents to relax, because statistically, it’s unlikely that anything really bad will happen to your child. So when I read about Charlie’s accident, I panicked internally. What if it were my kid? And God, I hope I never find out. Valerie’s helplessness, her anger, her relief at having competent surgeon Nick tell her that he can help, that he will help, makes their relationship not only probable, but plausible. How could you not fall in love with the person who helps heal your child?

The book ends in the best and worst way possible. I was absolutely satisfied with the way things had turned out and would have been just as pleased if things had been different.

Jodi Picoult denied that her books are formulaic in an interview, and I snorted with derision. What’s wonderful about Emily Giffin’s books is that even though she does focus on adultery (a painful subject) she writes such heartfelt, often sympathetic characters in a realistic and funny way. And the book is absolutely up-to-date, with Facebook etiquette dilemmas, and mommy one-upmanship, and preschool applications.

I mean, Giffin really gets it all – the boredom and competition of being a stay-at-home-mom, the anguish of being a single parent, the loneliness of being a working, adult female. Even as Nick, Tessa and Valerie make choices, heart-breaking, anguishing choices, Giffin writes so well, that each action and each character will relate to some part of you and you not only understand why they are doing it, you know that you would do it too. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A vampire sworn to protect the President of the United States battles enemies, both foreign and domestic. 

I was given a copy of this book by the publisher.

At this moment, there are eight separate conspiracy groups plotting to destroy the U.S. government. And Nathaniel Cade, the President’s Vampire, is working against the non-humans who would bring us down. 

This book was awesome! From the very first page, when Zach Barrows, a self-titled “young Karl Rove,” is reassigned as the presidential liaison to the President’s Vampire, I read with accelerated heartbeat and eager anticipation. His new job: “Forget the War on Terror, Zach. This is the War on Horror. And you’ve just been drafted.” Cheese ball line, I know, but it totally works. 

Cade is a newly-formed vampire about to be executed when President Andrew Johnson pardons him. Johnson hired voodoo priestess Marie Laveau (yes, that Marie Laveau) to bind Cade to protect and serve whomever is the President of the United States. What a premise, and one that leaves me begging for the next in what I hope is a long series of books about the President’s Vampire. 

I love political thrillers and this has black ops, treason, betrayal and vampires. Books written by journalists always tend to be better written, because they know how to tell a story efficiently without falling in love with their own words. There is just enough plausibility about real threats that you almost wonder… “Could there really be…? Nah! Right? No!… But maybe…” 

The back of the book reads: 
Enough action to out-Bourne Jason Bourne and out-Bauer Jack Bauer. I loved most of the Jason Bourne books, and the movies as well. Never quite got into “24” but I know that Jack Bauer does torture. So I chuckled when Cade says with no irony, “The United States doesn’t torture.” 

There are some other bits of humor scattered throughout this action-packed political thriller. Certain lines will have you racing to Google and then laughing once you realize what it really means.

If you like any David Baldacci, any Brad Meltzer, any Dan Brown, any Tom Clancy, any James Rollins, you will devour this book. (Sorry, couldn’t resist a little vampire humor.)

My minor criticism:
As the monsters rampage through the White House, “Bits of human flesh and blood spread out over the wallpaper selected by Jackie Kennedy.” Poor Mrs. Kennedy. Don’t we have enough visions of her covered in the bits of human flesh and blood belonging to her husband? It was a gruesome reference that wouldn’t have been so distracting had it been any other first lady (with the exception of Mary Todd Lincoln, of course).

I could also see almost every scene in my head as I read along, so clear and descriptive was the writing. We could spend hours discussing the casting for when this is made into a movie – and I do hope it is made into a movie. Once you read it yourself, I hope you’ll chime in with your casting suggestions.

Bottom line: Sink your teeth into this one, with relish!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Schooled by Gordon Korman

Please note: Links pointing to Amazon contain my affiliate ID. Sales resulting from clicks on those links will earn me a percentage of the purchase price. So buy and read now!

Summary: A home-schooled teenager raised by hippies is thrown into a modern-day middle school. Classic fish out of water story.

You need to be an adult to appreciate the humor of a 13-year old boy spouting off 60s commune propaganda. I giggled thru most of this novel. Capricorn Anderson was raised on a commune by his grandmother Rain.

“Rain always said that anger upsets the balance inside a person. So when you yell at somebody, you’re attacking yourself more than whoever it is you’re yelling at. Falling out of the tree must have made her forget this. Because when the nurses finally let me in to see her, she was screaming at the doctor at full volume. “I can’t do eight weeks of rehab! I can’t do eight days.” “

When Rain falls and breaks her hip, requiring eight weeks of rehab, a social worker invites Cap into her home and has Cap attend the local middle school. On the first day back, rising bully Zach Powers removes the L from the sign, reducing Claverage Middle School to a sign announcing C Average Middle School. Throwing a hippie into a modern day middle school is one of the most unique (and humorous) plot devices I’ve read. When Zach shows Cap his locker, Cap responds, “When we lock things away, we’re really imprisoning ourselves.”

The best part about this book was how true Cap remained to his values, despite the social pressure middle school has. It seems that peer shame contributes to a lot of middle school misery. Every year, the students select the nerdiest person to be elected school body president. This year, they select Cap and expect to mock him unknowingly all year. Since Cap is clueless, the kids enjoy making up impossible tasks for him, and watching him try to accomplish them. One running joke is that he has to learn all the names of the 1100 students in the middle school.

Yet Cap is charming and clueless as to how the real world works. Cap, honest as can be, is given a school checkbook to pay for the school dance. When asked for donations, he freely writes checks, because he doesn’t understand how a checking account works. “It was funny – a money-obsessed world was the main reason Rain had dropped out and formed Garland. Yet, in my experience, money was really excellent, and every time I spent it, someone ended up smiling.” Giving away this money makes Cap very popular, but it doesn’t affect his personality at all.

The sheep mentality of middle school becomes so great that when they don’t hear from Cap (he’s gone back home to Garland) his friends hold a memorial service for him. Cap missed his friends so much and never even got to say goodbye, that he decides to visit, right in the middle of his own memorial service, of course.

And during his memorial service, he says goodbye to every single student by name. Perfect scene.