Monday, April 28, 2008

With the Light Volume 1: Raising an Autistic Child by Keiko Tobe

Masato and Sachiko Azuma are new parents to a beautiful little boy whose auspicious birth at dawn leads them to name him Hikaru, meaning “light”. When they begin to notice he is not communicating like other children, they are devastated to learn the official diagnosis is autism.

Volume 1 of this manga deals with Hikaru's birth to his early years in preschool and elementary school. The story balances a tale of family life, work life and social life, with Sachiko’s attempts to get medical help and educational placement for her child. Written from Sachiko’s viewpoint, we see how she deals with her fears and frustrations, especially in light of how others view her and her son. In many cultures, there is still a tendency to blame the parents and their parenting for autism, and Sachiko feels the hurt these misconceptions can cause.

Like many fictional treatments of disease or dysfunction, the book sometimes simplifies the emotions, processes and timelines involved with the management of a life-long condition. Sachiko forgives Masato very quickly after he virtually abandons the family for his job. Masato has an overnight turn around and becomes fully invested in his son’s life. For those living with a family member on the autism spectrum, they know that change and acceptance happens much more slowly in real life.

Nevertheless, this is an important book, both in the realm of graphic novels and in world of autism literature. Those unfamiliar with manga will initially find the backwards-style of reading this work a bit of a challenge, but hang in there, the story is worth it. It is heart-warming and moving, and even has some comic moments, much like real life with an autistic child.

If you like this title, you might want to try Volume 2, which was released in March of 2008.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Lexi Smart was having a bad day. She didn't get a bonus at work, her kind of boyfriend stood her up, and now Lexi and her friends were standing in the rain trying to find a cab. Lexi spies one and decides to chase it down. While doing so, she trips and falls down some stairs and the last thing she remembers is that this is going to hurt.

Lexi wakes up in the hospital. It turns out to be three years later. The last thing Lexi remembers is the night out with her friends. She doesn't remember anything about the last three years. When she looks in the mirror, her snaggletooth is gone, she has lost weight and her frizzy hair is sleek and straight. She can't figure out why she looks like that, but she isn't complaining. Nor is she complaining about her drop dead gorgeous, rich husband or the fact she has advanced in her career.

As Lexi returns to her life, she struggles to adjust. She also learns some not so good things. Apparently, she has a new set of friends and is the kind of person who would cheat on her husband. She can't understand how she went from a fun loving, nice person with morals to a money-loving cheater who is always hungry.

This was a fun read. You will be as eager as Lexi to find out what happened to her. And you won't be disappointed! Sophie Kinsella is the author of the Shopaholic series, Can You Keep a Secret? and The Undomestic Goddess.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne

Melissa Romney-Jones has been sacked again. This time as a PA for a real estate agency. Melissa is not quite sure where to go from here. While drowning her sorrows with her two best friends, Nelson and Gabi, Melissa runs into an old school friend. Bobsy tells Melissa about how she works for their Home EC teacher now. She has an agency where men can acquire the company of a refined lady. To keep them company and listen to their problems. Not an escort service, at least that what Melissa hopes. Melissa meets with her teacher and decides to give it a go. On her second outing, her "date" was given the idea that Melissa is in fact an escort and is quite upset when she won't put out.

Melissa is out of a job again when she decides that she will start her own business. She will hire herself out to be a "girlfriend" to guys who aren't really looking for girlfriend but need help with wardrobes, picking out presents, getting rid of unwanted girlfriends, etc. You name it and Melissa will do it. Expect laundry and sex. She uses a fake name, Honey, and wears a blonde wig. Her family is well known in London and she doesn't think they would approve, hence the disguise. Plus, for some reason the disguise gives her a boost of self-esteem.

Her business is a success. She has more than she can handle and is loving it. She starts developing feelings for one of her clients, Jonathon Riley. He is an American, who is working at her old real estate agency. Unfortunately, Melissa needs to find a balance between her job, planning her sister's wedding(not her idea), squashing her feelings for Jonathon(which is not easy), and her friends. Good thing Honey is there to help!

This is the start of a great series. The next book is Little Lady, Big Apple and the third book and most recent is The Little Lady Agency and the Prince. I highly recommend this series. I loved it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

End of the World Blues by Jon Courtenay Grimwood

Jon Courtenay Grimwood‘s End of the World Blues was the 2006 winner of the British Science Fiction Association Award and was also short-listed for the 2007 Arthur C Clarke Award.

Publishers Weekly notes that “Grimwood's latest tale reads as if Kurt Vonnegut were writing manga for the producers of Doctor Who,” an apt description for a book that defies any easy classification. A literary work, almost dreamlike in its flow and slippery structure, it is a remarkably ingenious futuristic noir novel that is a mystery, crime novel and work of science fiction all at once. The setting moves forward and back in time, with reality and settings that shift from Japan of around 2020 to the strange clan kingdoms that orbit what remains of the earth in the far distant future and then to an England of 2003 and back again.

The book’s anti-hero, Kit Nouveau, has settled into Tokyo life as an English language tutor and the owner of an Irish biker bar called Pirate Mary’s. An Iraqi war veteran and former member of a failed teen punk band, the expatriate has married a famous Japanese ceramicist and is having an affair with his student who, unbeknownst to him, is the wife of a big-time Yakuza.

Haunted by the memories of a youthful indiscretion that led to the death of a friend and the loss of a lover, he is drifting through life. When his bar is blown up, his wife is killed in the explosion and the street girl he brings coffee to every morning turns super ninja and saves him from an assassin, it is clear his life is going to get very weird, very quickly. The story weaves his path of redemption for past wrongs, with his journey to discover why he is being targeted. Along the way; we learn the secrets of his savior street urchin, Nijie Kitagawa: a thief, killer, cosplay kid, teenage runaway and also the Lady Neku, Countess of High Strange.

As we discover how Neku's past and Kit’s future connect, the author takes us on a dark and beautiful twisted journey through future clan wars, British spy agencies, London crime families and the Yakuza. Enthusiastically recommended.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Bend in the Road by Nicholas Sparks

Although it has been two years since Missy Ryan's death, Miles Ryan, a sheriff in the small town of New Bern, North Carolina, is still plagued by the hit-and-run accident that killed his wife and the mother of his seven-year-old son, Jonah. Neither Miles nor any other sheriff has been able to find the person responsible for her death, and Miles vows that he will not rest until he finds her killer.

Recovering from a painful divorce, Sarah Andrews has recently moved to New Bern in hopes of starting anew. Sarah, who is Jonah's second-grade teacher, meets Miles for the first time at a parent-teacher conference to discuss Jonah's difficulty with his school work. It is obvious that Sarah and Miles have a mutual attraction for each other. They are both hesitant to start dating again, but they can't resist their feelings and are surprised to find themselves falling in love. Miles feels that Sarah is the best thing that has happened to him since his wife's death.

However, their bliss is abruptly halted when new information regarding Missy's death surfaces. Now Sarah has to make a choice to tell Miles the secret regarding Missy's death that could destroy both of them.

A Bend in the Road is quite different from some of Sparks's other books. Although the element of romance is still at the heart of the story, the uncovering of Missy's death added much suspense to the novel, and I couldn't stop from turning the pages.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks

Adrienne Willis worries about her daughter. Amanda has been so depressed since her husband has passed that she is starting to neglect her two young children. Although Amanda doesn't know it, Adrienne can empathize with her pain. Her remarkable ability to empathize is due to the secret Adrienne has kept hidden from her daughter for years, and she decides that now is the time to tell Amanda the story behind that secret.

Adrienne's story begins after her divorce from her cheating husband and when Amanda was still in high school. Adrienne receives an invitation to watch her friend Jean's Bed & Breakfast in Rodanthe, North Carolina for the week. Adrienne, needing an excuse to get away, agrees, and fifty-four year old Paul Flanner, a surgeon, is the only guest scheduled for the week. Although it is odd for any tourists to visit the B&B during the winter, Paul has traveled to the town at the request of the husband of a patient who died under his care.

Although they both have their own agendas for the week, a fierce nor'easter hits the B&B, leaving Adrienne and Paul stranded. Despite their past heartaches, Paul and Adrienne embark on a whirlwind romance, and little do they know that the turn of events over the next few days will change their lives forever.

This is another tender romance set in the Carolinas from bestselling author Sparks. What amazes me about this author is that through his characters, Sparks has such a natural ability to show the reader that there is still humanity and love in this world. I have been in such a reading rut lately, and Spark's books are always a sure bet for me.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga

This story picks up Margot Harrington's life twenty-five years after she published a book about her adventures as a young American antique book restorer in Florence, Italy after the famous Arno River flood. That book, Sixteen Pleasures is now being made into a film called The Italian Lover.

Sixteen Pleasures was Robert Hellenga's (a Galesburg, IL resident) first novel, and it's a fun play to have this story be a sort of sequel to that book, as told through Margot and the quirky actress who plays her character in the film.

There are half a dozen stories in one in this novel--Margot's love story with an American professor, who came to Italy to avenge the terrorist bombers who killed his beloved daughter in a train station bombing, the story of Miranda, the lost actress who falls in love with an Italian film worker and ends up staying in Italy, and the story of Beryl, who has an affair with the Italian star of the film, but happens to be the wife of the dying film director, Michael. Then there's Esther, the producer of the film who is struggling with her identity after a sudden divorce from her business partner of 25 years.

All of these love stories take place during the filming of the movie version of Margot/Robert's original book in Florence. If you love Florence like I do, you'll enjoy the many references to real places and events. The novel's bittersweet ending isn't a happy ending like there always is in the movies, but it does conclude on a sweet note.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? by Peter Walsh

This book is not your typical diet book. If your looking for recipes and strategies for losing the pounds, this book is not for you. If you interested in learning how the mess in your house relates to the mess you put in your body then this IS the book for you! Peter Walsh, you may know him as the host of TLC’s “Clean Sweep,” has put together a fascinating correlation between mess and fat. He gives concrete examples of how a cluttered house affects your moods causing depression and/or anxiety. He believes the two most important areas of your home are your bedroom and your kitchen. For example, if your kitchen counters are so cluttered and you can’t or won’t attempt to make room to cook a healthy meal, then you are ‘allowing’ yourself to eat either something unhealthy, like Mac-n-Cheese, or just eat out all together. This will continue causing your calorie count to rise exponentially as time goes by.

The solution? Clean your clutter, loose the weight! Once you have eliminated the weight of your clutter you will mentally feel lighter and this works tenfold towards your goal of making your body lighter too. Sprinkled throughout this work are activities and food-clutter principles giving you the opportunity to stop and look hard at your life. What do you want? What are your goals? What do you want your life and your body to look like? Overall this is a fast-paced read. It’s informative and witty. The downside-Peter spends an enormous amount of time referring to his first book, It’s All Too Much, which can be a bit distracting. I would recommend reading that book first.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards Hits the Small Screen!

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards was one of the best books I had read last year, so I was so excited to hear that it was made into a television movie which airs Saturday, April 12 at 8pm CST on the Lifetime Network.

The story begins on a snowy night in 1964 when Doctor David Henry's wife goes into labor. The blizzard is so bad that they can only make it as far as David's office, and the doctor has to deliver his own baby. Unbeknownst to either parent, Norah is pregnant with fraternal twins. The first child she delivers is a beautiful, healthy boy. The second child is a girl that David immediately recognizes as a downs syndrome baby. David does not tell his wife that she has given birth to two babies, and he instructs the nurse, Caroline, to dispose of his daughter in some sort of institution. Caroline cannot bring herself to surrender the child to the institution and raises her as her own.

The television adaptation stars Dermot Mulroney (The Family Stone, My Best Friend's Wedding, The Wedding Date), Gretchen Mol (3:10 to Yuma), and Emily Watson (Angela's Ashes). I am very interested to see how this thought-provoking novel will translate to the small screen. If you have read the book and see the movie, please post a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockmann

Annie Dugan has moved back to Florida. After taking care of her dying friend, she needs a change. She takes a job with PI Ric Alvarado, who Annie was childhood friends with. Two weeks into the job, Annie wants to quit. She doesn't want to be Ric's secretary but his partner. Ric doesn't want Annie doing anything dangerous. To try and get Annie to stay he agrees to let her help on a missing persons case. Easy and non-dangerous, right? Wrong. This case turns out to be anything but easy and very dangerous. They become involved with the mob, the FBI, a movie star and a dog named Pierre. And while they are trying not to die, they fall in love.

The book also brings back FBI agent Jules Cassidy and actor Robin Chadwick. The two men haven't seen each other in a couple of years but are thrown together again. And as much as they try and deny it, they still are very much in love.

This is another great story by Suzanne Brockmann. There is action, suspense, romance, and humor. The secondary characters are terrific. It is book eleven of the Troubleshooters series. The first book starts with The Unsung Hero. While you could probably read them out of order, I wouldn't. A lot of the characters are recurring.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I Only Want to Be with You by Lisa Norato

Marcella Tartagalia is this close to becoming Senior editor at her New York magazine. She just needs to do a great job at her boss's wedding, the current senior editor and she is a shoo in. Her boss has found love in England with a vicar and is giving up her exciting life in New York for the countryside. Right before the wedding Marcella is outside the church with the magazine's photographer/best friend, Sallie, getting last minute shots when a hunk on a motorcycle drives up. It is lust at first sight for Marcella. Back at the wedding, William Stafford, aka the hunk, is walking his aunt down the aisle. He sees Marcella in the pews and he to is struck with lust at first sight. He ends up giving her a ride to the reception and they hit it off. Marcella later finds out William is a vicar and will not have sex unless he is in a committed relationship. Marcella's hope of a weekend fling is lost but for some reason she still wants to be with William the entire time.

Marcella goes back to New York and misses William like crazy and vice verse. Phone calls aren't cutting it and with both of them busy with their jobs they can't travel back and forth. Marcella needs to decide between her job and the love of her life. Is there some way to compromise or is it all or nothing?

This was a great first book by Lisa Norato. It is funny and sweet and keeps you wondering how Marcella and William will be together.