Monday, June 30, 2008

A Rare Breed of Love by Jana Kohl, Psy.D

A Rare Breed of Love is a true story about a white poodle named Baby, who was rescued from a puppy mill. Baby’s story will raise awareness of the mistreatment of dogs that are kept in cages for the purpose of producing litter after litter of puppies for profit.

Baby only has three legs as a result of poor living conditions and travels around the country with her “Ma” meeting with politicians and speaking out against the lack of regulations in puppy mills in the U. S. This book has many pictures of Baby with politicians, movie and television personalities, as well as sports figures who also try to spread the word about the inhumane treatment of animals.

Baby and her story will touch your heart as she does the many people who she comes in contact with each year.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

As a new knitter, I thought it might be fun to read a book with knitting as a central theme. The Friday Night Knitting Club is Kate Jacob’s first novel about a group of women who meet once a week to knit, eat and chat.

As the story follows their lives, both the ups and downs, these women are there for each other. There is Georgia, a single mom of a bi-racial teen and independent business owner of a yarn shop in Manhattan, who is dealing with the return of her daughter’s father as well as a former best friend, Cat, who is on the verge of a divorce from her wealthy husband and doesn't know what to do with her life. Anita, Georgia’s mentor, is a widow who is discovering love again. Darwin is a graduate student working on her thesis in women’s studies and dealing with a long distance relationship with her husband, and Lucie is a struggling filmmaker who decides to have a baby at 40 and raise it on her own. Then there is Peri, part time worker in the shop who is pursuing her degree in fashion design and developing a line of felted handbags, and K.C., Georgia’s former co-worker who decides to leave her long career in publishing and go back to school for her law degree.

Thrown into this interesting mix are Georgia’s daughter Dakota who is 12 with dreams of being the next Food Network star, Dakota’s father James who is trying to make amends with both Dakota and Georgia, and Georgia’s Gran who lives in Scotland and taught her to knit as a child.

I really wanted to love this book, but was a bit disappointed. While it was good enough for a first novel, I found the story progressed rather slowly and when the big twist in the plot arrives late in the book, I felt the ending then wrapped up too quickly.

The characters were interesting, but were not developed enough for me to really care what happened to them. However, I could really relate to the character’s successes and frustrations with knitting, and appreciated the anecdotes comparing knitting and life.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy stories about women and friendship and the everyday ups and downs of life as well as anyone who is interested in knitting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life V.1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley

This humorous and light-hearted graphic novel takes place in Toronto and centers around 23 year-old Scott Pilgrim and a kooky cast of characters which includes Stacey, the younger sister, Wallace, the boy crazy roommate, and his Bomb-omb bandmates.

Lately Scott has been stuck in a rut, as he is "in between" jobs and his friends won't let up about his 17 year old girlfriend, Knives Chau. However, things start looking up when the rollerblading girl from his dream turns out to be someone who actually exists: enter Amazon Canada delivery gal, Ramona Flowers.

After Scott and Ramona begin to date, Scott discovers that he is in a real pickle. How will he break it off with his current girlfriend, crazy Knives? Will he be able to trump the rival rock band, Crash and the Boys? How will he thwart off Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends?

I can't wait to read the next volume to see what shenanigans Scott will be involved in next. Although as an adult I really enjoyed this read, the Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series will have strong appeal to the teens.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende

This fantastic memoir gives us insight into this tremendously gifted writer's personal and family life. If you've read Allende's memoir, Paula, then you know the heartbreaking story of her daughter's agonizing death.

This newest memoir brings together the fascinating characters that make up her extended family. A daughter-in-law who not only realizes she's gay but has an affair with Isabel's stepson's fiancee, a drug-addicted stepdaughter who one day disappears never to be found, grandchildren who inherit their aunt's disease and an enormous amount of chaos.

This book, on one hand, makes you appreciate your family but on the other hand, makes you want to be a part of this crazy tribe. A great read!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Lethally Blond by Kate White

Bailey Weggins is at home when she gets a call from an old flame, Chris. He needs her help. His friend Tom is missing. Since Bailey is a true crime writer and has solved a couple of murders, Chris thinks she can help. Bailey agrees to meet him and discuss the situation. It turns out Chris has landed the lead in a new TV show, Morgue. Tom also has a role on the show. Chris hasn't heard from Tom in a couple of days and he knows Tom wouldn't do anything to jeopardize his job. Bailey agrees to look into it.

While following some leads, Bailey learns Tom has a cabin up north. Bailey decides to drive to the cabin and check things out. When she gets there, she sees Tom's car. Bailey is relieved, thinking everything is OK. But as Bailey goes inside the cabin, there is an awful stench. She finds a body hanging in the shower, burnt to a crisp. She is positive it is Tom.

With Tom's death confirmed, Bailey begins the search for the killer. And the list of suspects is long. From the possessive girlfriend to the secret affair, to the angry producer and the jealous ex-girlfriend, everyone is a suspect. Even Chris starts looking suspicious. Will Bailey figure out who the killer is or will she be the next victim?

Another great mystery by Kate White. The Bailey Weggins series is terrific. I always look forward to the next one!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Peony in Love by Lisa See

See's latest historical, Peony in Love, centers around Peony Chen, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood who is betrothed to a man that she has never seen or met. Despite her trepidation about her impending marriage, Peony looks forward to her wedding ceremony, until the night she attends her favorite opera, The Peony Pavilion.

Behind the screen where women are required to sit, Peony spots a young man who she feels she is destined to love. During the opera, the two young lovers take a great risk by meeting, even though they know that their fates have already been decided, and Peony's heart becomes even more taken with the young man.

Swept up in the drama of the opera, Peony isolates herself in her room to prepare for her wedding, but she spends much of the time writing commentary on The Peony Pavilion. Consumed by her own love-sickness, tragedy strikes, and the rest of the novel is spent with Peony, who is trapped in the afterworld as a hungry ghost, and who must atone for her actions in order to reach her final resting place.

Much like Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, Peony in Love is rich in cultural history and includes the horrific details of the Chinese foot binding practices. Because Peony requires the reader to suspend their disbelief for a majority of the novel, this book is not for everyone. If you liked Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, a better choice for a next read than See's latest might be Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama.

Monday, June 16, 2008

World Without End by Ken Follett

Ken Follett is primarily known to readers for his espionage thrillers, perhaps most notably for the Edgar award-winning Eye of the Needle from 1978. However many of us love him for his beautifully executed historical epic, Pillars of the Earth.

Written in 1989, Pillars takes place in the fictional 12th century English medieval market town of Kingsbridge and details the machinations between church, crown and the common man in an effort to build of the town’s cathedral. The characters are well-developed and Follett shows an obvious passion for architecture in his descriptions of the gothic cathedral. This book was selected for Oprah’s Book Club in 2007.

Those who loved the characters and the world of Pillars were thrilled when a sequel called World Without End was released in the fall of 2007. It hit #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List on October 28th, 2007, and remained on the list another 6 months! The book is long, over 1000 pages, but you will read it far more quickly than you might expect – because once you start, you can’t put it down.

This sequel takes place in the same locale, but two centuries later, and features the descendents of the characters in Pillars. It is the start of the Hundred Years War and the time of the Black Death, and the people of Kingsbridge are spared by neither of these historical events. Architecture, ranging from a radical new bridge design to the rebuilding of the cathedral’s tower, again plays an important role in the story. The addition of a nunnery, and some strong female characters, make the plight and power (or lack thereof) of the medieval woman an important theme in the book.

The scope of this story takes in the predicaments of landless laborers, the influence of town aldermen, parish politics, medieval medicine, witchcraft, the role of the guilds and, of course, the power of the crown. Again, Follett delights with his richly-detailed characters, settings and sub-plots. This book is a page-turner in the true sense of the word. A huge, sweeping saga that really sucks you in to another world, one you are sorry to leave at the book’s end.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Gift From Brittany by Marjorie Price

Marjorie is a young artist in the 60's who fulfills her dream of moving to Paris and ends up snagging a handsome French painter for a husband. Marjorie, swept up in the romance of it all, agrees to buy a summer home in the countryside with Yves and their young daughter. But her visions of a languide seaside villa turn into owning an extremely remote, dilapidated hamlet of seven farmhouses in Brittany! While Marjorie is reluctant at first that she and her family will be happy, she soon finds that she adores La Salle and the people: in particular, Jeanne Montrelay, a peasant woman in her 70's. What Marjorie did not count on is the painful demise of her marriage to a man who becomes abusive and insanely jealous of her talent. This city gal from Chicago moves herself and her daughter permanently to this tiny hamlet where she is cared for lovingly by Jeanne and the villagers. In the most unlikely place she find her true self and gathers the courage to explore her talents and move on with her life.

It was unusual to read yet another memoir of an American setting up shop in another country that is set in the 60's rather than present time. It was fascinating to read about the lives of these villagers that is so truly different--it makes you wonder what this village is like now, forty years later. I was very moved by the relationship forged between the protagonist and the elderly peasant--a very unlikely friendship that blossomed. Enjoyed immensely!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell by Amy Sohn

If you have already seen all six seasons of Sex and the City and now the movie, you may be wondering how to get your next "Sex" fix. If so, you may want to try Sex and the City: Kiss and Tell by Amy Sohn.

Although it only covers through season four, you get a snipet of each episode, including interesting commentary from the cast and crew. Other features include a two page spread of some of Carrie's most memorable ensembles (the Gucci fanny pack - for lack of a better word - is my favorite), close-up shots of all four ladies' apartments, a trivia quiz, glossary of slang used in the show (frenemies, upsex, yogasm, etc.), and detailed biographies of the men of Sex and the City.

Interesting fact: David Eigenberg, who plays Steve Brady, was born on Long Island but actually grew up in Illinois, and this is where he got his signature "Steve" accent. I always thought he was from Boston.

I have been sharing this little treasure of a book with everyone who needs more Sex and doesn't know where to turn. Also, don't forget Candance Bushnell's original book Sex and the City which the HBO series is based upon.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

In War Times opens with Sam Dance, a young soldier during WWII, who has been receiving specialized scientific training for some unknown purpose. It’s the morning after a tryst with his physics instructor, Dr. Eliana Hadntz. To Sam’s confusion she is giving him a large envelope filled with plans for a secret device that she claims will change human consciousness in such a way that war can be eradicated.

After she leaves, Sam hears about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on his radio, and learns that his brother is among the casualties. With this deeply personal link to the tragedies of war, Sam sets himself to learning all he can to help him decipher Dr. Hadntz’ plans.

As the war drags on, Sam finds an unexpected source of enlightenment in his struggle to create a working Hadntz Device: his love of modern jazz. Interwoven throughout the war narrative are rapturous, transformative jazz interludes, including jam sessions with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

In War Times is a thought-provoking, challenging read that explores the ethics and possibilities of technology.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

Repenting for her devious childhood, twenty-seven year old Josey Cirrini lives her life at her mother's mercy, taking Margaret to her hair appointments, women's club, and more. Her only vices are the secret stash of treats, travel magazines, and romance novels she keeps hidden behind the false wall in her closet and seeing her crush, Adam the mailman, every afternoon.

When Josey goes to access her hidden stash of delights, she is startled to find Della Lee Baker, who is known by most locals of Bald Slope for haunting the local bars at night, in her closet. When asked to leave, Della Lee threatens to reveal Josey's secret.

Resigned to Della Lee staying, Josey takes her suggestion to meet Chloe Finley, a woman who is going through a terrible breakup with her cheating boyfriend, Jake, who also happens to be Adam's best friend. In addition to her relationship woes, Chloe also has the problem of books mysteriously appearing because they think she needs them.

With the help of Chloe and Della Lee, Josey slowly learns how to break free from her controlling mother and to take risks in her life - especially a risk with her heart.

Later, Josey discovers that a woman's body is found in the river and the police have yet to identify the body, and many secrets of the novel begin to unravel.

This books was excellent, and I couldn't put it down. The Sugar Queen has everything you could ask for in a novel - romance, mystery, and a little magic realism thrown in for good measure. I highly recommend this book as well as Addison's debut novel, Garden Spells (read the review), and I can't wait for her 2009 novel!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fifteen Minutes of Shame by Lisa Daily

Darby Vaughan is a best-selling author on how to marry the man of your dreams. She did three years ago and is happy as can be. While promoting her book on the Today show, Matt Lauer asks her what she wants to tell her readers about her divorce. Darby has no idea what he is talking about. He tells her in the paper today was an article about how her husband is divorcing her. Darby promptly throws up and faints.

Darby never saw this coming. It turns out her wonderful husband, Will, has been cheating on Darby with his ex-wife and has decided to give it another chance. After trying to come to terms with this life altering news, Darby leans on her friends. They promptly set her up with the best divorce attorney in Florida and start helping her get her career back on track. She goes on a couple of faux dates with other celebrities to show she isn't hurting and you can move on from this kind of devastation. She even does a reality dating show on how to find your dream man. But inside, Darby is an emotional wreck.

Slowly but surely, Darby starts to recover and even starts having feelings for another man, her divorce lawyer, Holt. And it wouldn't be complete without Will realizing he made a mistake and wants Darby back. Will the new independent Darby explore her feelings with Holt or fall back to Will?

This was an excellent first fiction novel by Lisa Daily. It had humor, romance, and Matt Lauer!