Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Secret Kept

A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay

Goodreads summary:

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood. Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach. It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased. But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer. When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.

Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash. Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death. Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.

Trapped in the wake of a shocking family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children. How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself? Suddenly fragile on all fronts as a son, a husband, a brother and a father, Antoine Rey will learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way. By turns thrilling, seductive and destructive, with a lingering effect that is bittersweet and redeeming, A Secret Kept is the story of a modern family, the invisible ties that hold it together, and the impact it has throughout life.

My opinion:

I was so excited for this book, I loved Sarah's Key, and I was fully expecting the same kind of reading experience from A Secret Kept. Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me. It started off well enough, with Antoine taking his sister to the Ile de Noirmoutier, where they spent the summer as children, as a surprise 40th birthday gift. I thought, how cool that he and his sister have such a close relationship! My brother is one of my best friends too, but I am sure he wouldn't think to take me on a vacation for my birthday. To get to the Ile De Noirmoutier, they must cross the Gois causeway, which is claimed by the sea at high tide. You must time it right to cross, or wait and watch for the tides to recede before you can cross. There is something so romantic about this, an island with an almost secret road.

Unfortunately, for me, the book takes a steady downturn after Antonio and his sister Melanie leave the island and return to their lives. Antoine's character is pathetically annoying, weak, whiny, and ineffective. He loathes himself, his children loathe him most of the time, his ex-wife seemed to merely tolerate him like one would a spoiled child - but I ended up loathing him too much to like him at all. The "secret" didn't really seem that important either- I felt kind of let down by it - and I totally guessed it right away. That didn't help either.

If you pick up this book hoping for another Sarah's Key, put it back down. I feel that this book maybe overshadowed by the greatness (in my opinion) of its predecessor, and that if this had come out first, then it might not seem as bad.

Monday, May 30, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week! I used to post this on my other blog, Cinnamon Owl, but I wanted to try to start a new blog, book reviews only. We will see how this experiment goes!

Read last week:

A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay: I wasn't a fan of this book. I loved Sarah's Key, and wanted the same experience with this book, but I just didn't get it. I will be posting my review of it later this week.

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: Maybe A Secret Kept didn't have a chance since this is the book I read right before it, and this book was Amazing! I am still thinking about it, and it has been a few days since I finished reading it. Beautiful, poetic, with imagery you want to roll around in, this book is one of my favorites so far this year!

Currently Reading:

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris: I have been a fan of Sookie Stackhouse for years- they are just so fun, and sometimes you just need a book to be fun! I love the little town of Bon Temps, and seeing how my favorite characters are getting on. I am a fan of the HBO series True Blood as well, but I read the books first, and wish that the show would stick to the books a little closer.

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray: I am not sure what to expect from this series, but I am looking forward to reading it!

I am Tama, Lucky Cat

I am, Tama, Lucky Cat by Wendy Heinrichs

I was so excited when I signed up for netGalley and this was a book option to view. I had just looked through a catalog at work that this book was in, and wondered if it would be any good and if the students would enjoy it. I felt lucky myself, to have had the opportunity to read it.

NetGalley's summary of the book:

Long ago, under the shadow of the white-capped mountains of Japan, a Lucky Cat, bobtailed and white with unusual markings, arrives at the door of a rundown temple. A kind and gentle monk welcomes him.

Tama the Lucky Cat watches as his new master teaches Buddha’s ways to small gatherings of poor farmers. The monk worries about the people’s welfare, ignoring his own empty stomach. One night in a powerful thunderstorm Tama sees a towering warlord on a white horse. The cat beckons the warrior to him just as a large branch crashes to the ground, landing right where the warlord had previously stood. In thanksgiving to the Lucky Cat for saving his life, the warlord lavishes gifts on the temple and makes it his family’s place of honor.

I loved this book! I loved the illustrations, the story, and how it was told. My favorite part is when Tama, a Japanese Bobtail, is explaining that he does his best to contribute to the well being of the temple. The little monk isn't able to feed himself, but he still makes room in his temple for a stray cat, whom he names Tama. Tama repays him in the small ways that he can, by keeping the temple free of mice who would eat their small stores of rice, and snuggling close to the monk at night to help keep him warm. Tama does indeed prove to be a lucky cat, by saving the life of warlord, when he beckons the warlord forward with his little raised lucky paw, out from under a falling tree. The warlord thanks the lucky cat by making the temple a place of honor for his family, and the inhabitants of the temple are no longer hungry or cold.

This is definitely a book I would add to my own personal library and also would like to see in our school library.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver is an oldie (2001) but goodie, and was a perfect start to my summer. The language and prose of this book made me recall lazy summers when I was a child, endless days outside, checking out bugs, laying in the grass under the big tree in my old backyard. So green and fresh and full of promise.

There are three main co-protaganists in this story - The "Predators" section, with Deanna Wolfe, who is a solitary wildlife ranger living on the top of a mountain, and she is a guardian for all life that lives there; "Moth Love", the story Lusa Landowski, an academic scholar of insects from the city who finds herself widowed and living among a large family of in-laws on the family farm ; and "Chestnuts", which is the story of Garnett Walker, a slightly canterkous old man who is devoting the rest of his life to saving the dying Chestnut trees in his region, while finding himself perpetually irritated by the woman next door and her organic ways. These three occupy the same mountain, and their lives are interconnected in small ways. This book has been described as being sexual, and while I find it lush and sensual in parts, I think it is just pointing out that nature is always propagating itself, and reproducing, from the smallest insect to the wider world.

My favorite character and storyline was Lusa's. She is such a dynamic character, who finds a way to make her place on the farm, and in the family, slowly but surely through intelligence, creative thinking, and by just not caring what others thought, and doing it her own way. And it didn't hurt that she raised goats, which is something I would love! I wouldn't want to raise them to slaughter, I would only want a few for milk and cheese. I love how she slowly began to have a better understanding of her sisters in law, and they of her.

I thought the Deanna storyline bothersome - I wanted to like her more than I did. I usually like any character who is about saving nature, not killing animals and just being as in tune to the wild as Deanna was, but her relationship with Eddie Bondo seemed unrealistic to me. I could never have a relationship with someone who was so far on the other side of an issue that I was passionate about - I couldn't understand how Deanna could want to save the coyotes yet could rationalize sleeping with someone who was there solely to kill them. I guess she won in the end, in at least one way.

There was beauty, magic and poetry in this book. I became immersed in it, and while I usually breeze through books, this one made me stop and think. This book was about the balance of life, how no one can be truly alone, loss, rebirth, and how all life is interconnected, woven together with invisible strands.

"Solitude is a human presumption. Every quiet step is thunder to beetle life underfoot, a tug of impalpable thread on the web pulling mate to mate and predator to prey, a beginning or an end. Every choice is a world made new for the chosen." Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer

Monday, May 23, 2011

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly blog meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where you list the books you read last week and the ones you hope to read this week! I used to post this on my other blog, Cinnamon Owl, but I wanted to try to start a new blog, book reviews only. We will see how this experiment goes!

Read Last Week:

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert: I could not get enough of this book- I stayed up until 2 am the night I finished it. Rachael really got a bum deal, being sent to a leper colony as a seven year old, having to grow up without her family, and having to deal with leprosy at the same time. She formed a new family, or ohana, on the island however, and grew to live a long life, and reuniting with her sister, brother, and someone else very special to her. I can't tell you how many times this book made me cry, but I can say it was at least four.

This book had a special meaning to me, as my husband's family is Hawaiian, and are from the island of Moloka'i, topside. I have always wondered if one of his ancestors, a Nellie Sullivan, was somehow involved with the leprosarium that was on Moloka'i. I spent a great deal of last week trying to trace, but had to back burner it for later this summer.

Currently Reading:

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: An oldie but one I haven't read. I am a little skittish about reading it, I am a little nervous about those baby coyotes and the hunting challenge! If things start to look like they are going south, I may abandon book.

A Secret Kept by Tatiana De Rosnay: My book club recently read Sarah's Key, and I fell in love with this author's words, and just had to read this one as well.