Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Kids Are All Right

WOW! Just finished The Kids Are All Right By Diana, Liz, Amanda and Dan Welch. I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. I could not put it down. Four kids growing up  in an upper middle class family in NY. Horses, tennis, country clubs, big house, big family, big love. The stuff dreams are made of. Maybe too good to be true because it all falls apart. Sadly, so sadly their handsome loving father dies and not soon after their beautiful mother begins a long battle with deadly cancer. This is their story. It is superbly written in an easy to read fashion where each sibling speaks. At first the reader is trying to remember whos who (and I even looked at the photos for a visual) and very quickly I felt like I knew them. The memory is an interesting part of human life. We all see and remember things so differently. In addition siblings and parents of, constantly repeat how surprising it is that we can we all be raised in the same house and be so different. This book reminds us deep inside how alike we really are. Sisters and brothers are gifts. Your history is theirs and that never changes. Throughout your life, they are the people that know you best. If you nourish that relationship as you grow then you are able to appreciate that. Some people never have that opportunity. They all suffer through these tragedies but the beauty shines through their love for each other, no matter what. Life certainly does not seem fair and our paths continue to change but your memories, your childhood can be the anchor to all the chaos. (If you have ever been to a highschool reunion it is amazing what memories people have of you and your family. ) Going down memory lane must have been a tough trip for these four but man, they did it. Bravo to them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Brightest Star in the Sky

The Brightest Star in the Sky, By Marian Keyes. I am thrilled to announce I just finished my first Early Review Book from Library Thing, my first Marian Keyes book and LOVED it. It was light, happy, funny and a perfect way to get through the busy holidays. The writing was entertaining and the characters were enchanting. This book  reminds me of Cecilia Ahern books (which I adore, ie PS I Love You), also set in Ireland and a bit magical. Think fairy god mothers, magic spells, love potions! If it wasn't written so well, I would not have thought I could get through it but with The Brightest Star in the Sky I looked forward to continuing with these characters that quickly became friends, everyday. These Dubliners share a building on Star Street. Their lives all interconnect in one way or another and although they could not be more different they share the  search for love, their soul mate and the ultimate ... happiness. Check out this read and take a fun trip to Ireland!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Girl with No Shadow

The Girl with No Shadow  By Joanne Harris    If you loved Chocolat (thank you Johnny Depp), you have no doubt waited to see what may have happened to Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk. Years later they reappear in Paris. Vianne now rents a small chocolaterie in Montmarte and they live above the shop. She has another child, Rosette who is a bit mysterious but much beloved and Anouk is now called Annie. They are accepted by the community and have finally found peace and quiet. That is until the day Zozie de l'Alba whooshes like the wind into their shop and into their lives. She befriends Anouk and Vianne and runs the shop like it has never been run before. It is almost like a magical spell has been cast on them all. And maybe it has. Adorable, lively, let your imagination take you away! Most certainly you will need a box of chocolate at your side.

A Year in the Merde

A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke. Funny, light, entertaining and easy to read. If you are in the mood to take a humorous (very British) trip to Paris or reminisce about a past adventure, you will enjoy this read.  The "merde" exudes multiple meanings. The story is told through the eyes of "Pol" (Paul), a British twentysomething that moves to Paris to open tea rooms for a very questionable character named Jean-Marie. Paul inevitably steps in merde (of the doggie nature) and other kinds, at every turn, symbolic of his difficult new life in Paris.  The reader follows Paul through his romantic adventures or misadventures, and work life, where work is accomplished in little bits between strikes, vacations and coffee breaks. Paul both loves, hates and is bewildered by the French. If you like British authors, (think Peter Mayle, Nick Hornby) and would like to take a little trip abroad, get out your passport and be ready to laugh out loud! (And yes ladies, Hugh Grant could definitely play the part of Paul if this were a movie!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Little Bee

Little Bee, By Chris Cleave. This book was different. I read a lot of English authors. The humor is different, the themes are different, the vocab is different. There is often a very subtle underlying meaning that takes some work to figure out. Sometimes I really get it and sometimes I don't. I almost always enjoy them. Little Bee is about about a girl from Nigeria that winds up in a detention center for people trying to enter England without papers. She is a unique, electrifying character. She says what most people only think but would never say out loud. She is wise beyond her years and speaks from her heart. Little Bee witnessed atrocities in her village and now is on the run to find freedom. Her only hope is and English couple she met by accident on a beach when she was fleeing her village. They have never forgotten her but they are  not sure how they can help her, or rather save her, which they feel inclined to try and do. Their relationship is love/denial of existence.  I dislike the men in the story that treat Sarah (the English woman who wants to help her) with utter disrespect. Her husband is an obnoxious, negative, whining character and her lover is no better. On the other hand I am disappointed by some of Sarahs actions because she seems to be smarter than some of the moves she makes. Her heart is in the right place but her head is in the clouds. Still, an interesting read and if you like English authors, it is worthwhile.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Museum Guard

The Museum Guard   By Howard Norman        Unique is a nice way of labeling this book just plain old strange! It is the mid 1940's in a small, very quiet town in Halifax Nova Scotia. The main character is a very odd DeFoe Russet who lives with his Uncle Edward. They both work as guards at the Glace Museum which displays small shows of art. DeFoe is in secret love with Imogen Linny who is the caretaker of the small jewish museum, none of them are jewish. There is absolutely nothing about her that is remotely normal. In fact they are all alittle crazy! Yet, as only an avid reader can understand, the writing is excellent and the author somehow manages to keep the readers confusion at bay. Imogen is in love with a painting showing at the museum. This book is different but I cannot say I would have put it down without finishing. Would I read another of his books? I have to say maybe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Help

The Help By Kathryn Stockett. Yesterday my book club discussed this authors fabulous first novel at our holiday meeting. We unanimously loved it. The story is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962. Civil Rights is active and hot, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, segregation is a serious issue in the deep south. Skeeter Phelan, the daughter of a cotton farmer tells the story. Although her family is well off, she is a down to earth, tom boyish sort of girl. After arriving back in Jackson after college, Skeeter decides she wants to be a writer. The other main characters are Minny, a sassy maid who speaks her mind and loves her family and gets fired over and over again. Aibileen, another maid that works for a friend of Skeeters is more of a wise, lovable nanny that adores the children she looks after and swallows her pride at the unfair treatment she does not deserve. These three women tell the story of what it was like to live and work in this town, at this time. Racial tension is heated in every aspect of their lives. The whole country can feel change is coming but it is a rough and rocky road to get there. Perhaps we are still traveling that road.  As a club we cast the movie (no doubt it will be). Aibileen reminds us of Queen Latifah (as she was in Secret Life of Bees, wise and calm) Minny can be played by Wanda Sykes (funny and sassy) and Skeeter ... we were stuck on but I think of Claire Danes, pale, shy, smart and lovely. A really enjoyable book, fantastic characters and one that I didn't want to end.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saving Agnes

Saving Agnes   By Rachel Cusk      Naive young Agnes Day is the main character of this quirky, funny tipsy turvey story. Agnes has recently finished school and lives in London with a wacky roomate, works for a small magazine with crazy coworkers and falls in love for the first time. Not a lot of meat to the story but enjoyable if you can deal with the bizarre characters and laugh at the bad choices Agnes makes, over and over again. The author, Rachel Cusk captivated audiences (including myself) with The Country Life, which I adored. Saving Agnes has the same type of quirky characters but a less interesting storyline. *Warning to readers: Unless you enjoy English style writers and dark, English humor, this is not for you!