Sunday, August 28, 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.

Read last week:

 Summer in the South by Cathy Holton:  I loved this one!  It was delightful!

River Marked by Patricia Briggs:  Briggs just keeps getting better, in my opinion!

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz:  I had hoped for more substance; the premise was interesting, but it seemed like a beautiful woman wearing too much jewelry.

Reading this Week:

Summer Friends by Holly Chamberlin:  I won this from Librarything, I feel since school starts in one week, I want to finish this up!

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross:  Reading for netGalley; started last week and the husband man had some extra time to hang out, so I didn't read as much as I had planned.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children:  I love this cover, the title, and I have heard good things about it. 

The Hijab Boutique by Michelle Khan:  Another Librarything win, I am hoping it is one I can donate to the school library when I am finished.  We have a very large population of people of Middle Eastern in our area, and not very many books about their culture, especially fiction.  So I am looking forward to this one.

Blue Bloods - Review

Title:  Blue Bloods
Author:  Melissa de la Cruz
Publisher:  Hyperion

Goodreads Summary:

When the Mayflower set sail in 1620, it carried on board the men and women who would shape America: Miles Standish; John Alden; Constance Hopkins. But some among the Pilgrims were not pure of heart; they were not escaping religious persecution. Indeed, they were not even human. They were vampires.The vampires assimilated quickly into the New World. Rising to levels of enormous power, wealth, and influence, they were the celebrated blue bloods of American society. 

The Blue Bloods vowed that their immortal status would remain a closely guarded secret. And they kept that secret for centuries. But now, in New York City, the secret is seeping out. Schuyler Van Alen is a sophomore at a prestigious private school. She prefers baggy, vintage clothes instead of the Prada and pearls worn by her classmates, and she lives with her reclusive grandmother in a dilapated mansion. Schuyler is a loner...and happy that way. Suddenly, when she turns fifteen, there is a visible mosaic of blue veins on her arm. She starts to crave raw food and she is having flashbacks to ancient times. Then a popular girl from her school is found dead... drained of all her blood. Schuyler doesn't know what to think, but she wants to find out the secrets the Blue Bloods are keeping. But is she herself in danger? 

My thoughts:

I really really wanted to like this book.  But I really didn't.  I recently read a book by de la Cruz that I loved, The Witches of East End,  and I saw this series and thought, why not?  I like young adult books and vampires, so I figured it would be a fun read. 

I don't know where to begin with what I didn't like - the names of characters were all over the place, with characters named Bliss and Schulyer and Allegra and I think one named Perfection? mixed with Jack and Dylan and Oliver.  Then there is the constant brand name dropping- I felt I was reading Vogue magazine, and not being all that knowledgeable about fashion, I had no frame of reference for these clothes, handbags, etc.  Then, for the actual book itself- vampires who are angels who were involved in the missing colony of Roanoke, and have ties to ancient Rome? Say what?  That just seemed one step somewhere too far.  The constant talk of rebirths and fallen angels and who is who and what is what, drove me nuts and left me feeling like I needed about four flow charts of characters who they were in the past, their angel names, how they are related to whom, and so forth.

I was disappointed, I don't know why I expected more but I did. It is safe to say I will not be reading the rest of this series.

Friday, August 26, 2011

River Marked - Review

Title:  River Marked
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher:  Orbit

Goodreads Summary:

Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She’s never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River—one that her father’s people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help…

My thoughts:

I think these books are getting better and better!! So many times you start a series, and then after a few books, the magic wanes, the story feels boring been there-done that, or goes the other extreme of way off the deep end.  River Marked keeps the same tone and feeling that the others in the series have, but takes the story to a different level.  Mercy has grown from the first book, but still is essentially the same Mercy.  Her marriage to Adam changes her for the better, and while I was always rooting for Samuel, I like Adam more after reading this book.  This book focuses only on Mercy and Adam and the evil they are battling on their honeymoon, so you get to know them better, as well as seeing how they relate to each other in a relationship as well.

This book has a more mystical feel to it, and heavily involves Mercy's Native American heritage. At first I didn't care for all the legends, but then I became more and more interested in them, and then loved them as part of this book.  The big bad in this book was very big and very bad, and will make me think twice before I set foot in a river or lake.   The only drawback to this book was that Sam was not in it - I missed him.  

Overall, I really enjoyed this book - it kept the series fresh and different, and I learned more about the characters.   

Summer in the South - Review

Title:  Summer in the South
Author: Cathy Holton
Publisher:  Ballantine Books

Goodreads Summary: 

After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend Will Fraser and his two great-aunts, Josephine and Fanny Woodburn. Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall, while working on her first novel. 
But Woodburn is anything but quiet: Ancient feuds lurk just beneath its placid surface, and modern-day rivalries emerge as Ava finds herself caught between the competing attentions of Will and his black-sheep cousin Jake. Fascinated by the family’s impressive history—their imposing house filled with treasures, and their mingling with literary lions Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner—Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the Woodburns’ legacy. Putting aside her planned novel, she turns her creative attentions to the eccentric and tragic clan, a family with more skeletons (and ghosts) in their closets than anyone could possibly imagine. As Ava struggles to write the true story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.

My thoughts:

This was a smorgasbord of delights!  A book with back story set in the 20s, a rambling old mansion in the south, ghosts, intrigue, mystery, and the main character was originally from my very own part of Michigan! It was neat to read a book that mentioned places I know and have been to, like Boblo Island.  The story slowly bubbled along, like a slow southern afternoon, and I loved all the characters - except Ava, who was the main character. She kind of bothered me, she seemed rather passionless and without emotion- and the ones she did display were selfish and manipulative.  I adored Will, Jake, Maitland, Fanny and Josephine however, especially Fanny.  The central mystery is who killed Charlie, Fanny's husband - and was he really murdered? (Warning: Bit of a spoiler coming up) The family is hush-hush about anything Charlie related, and Ava seems dead set on dragging the skeletons of this family out of the closet, regardless of the fact that she is living in their house and accepting their hospitality for free.  Rude Ava, rude.  When I finally read who the killer was, I really could understand that character's motivation.  It would not have been my reaction, murder, but I would have been filled with rage too at this final straw, the one that finally drove this character to the breaking point.

Aside from despising Ava, I loved this book.  It was a perfect read for a humid, lazy summer day. It makes me want to institute my own Toddy Time at my house!

Monday, August 22, 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.

Read Last Week:

 Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut by Jill Kargman: Loved it, thought it was hysterical! This book does use some strong language and crude humor at times.

Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank:  I loved the ability of this author to transport the reader to each location she writes about.  Everything in this book came together perfectly for me.

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster:  This author is so fun, and I loved this book! I feel I could relate to the character.

Currently Reading

Summer in the South by Cathy Holton:  I am really looking forward to this book! It seems to have everything I like wrapped up in one cover.

River Marked by Patricia Briggs:  I think I am going supernatural this week! This book is part of the ongoing Mercy Thompson series.  Who doesn't love a girl who can fix cars?

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross:  A Steampunk young adult novel I am reading for netGalley.

Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz:  I recently enjoyed a book by de la Cruz, so I wanted to try some of her other books.

Folly Beach - Review

Title:  Folly Beach
Author:  Dorothea Benton Frank
Publisher:  William Morrow

Goodreads Summary:

Home is the place that knows us best. . . . 

A woman returns to the past to find her future in this enchanting new tale of loss, acceptance, family, and love. 

With its sandy beaches and bohemian charms, surfers and suits alike consider Folly Beach to be one of South Carolina's most historic and romantic spots. It is also the land of Cate Cooper's childhood, the place where all the ghosts of her past roam freely. Cate never thought she'd wind up in this tiny cottage named the Porgy House on this breathtakingly lovely strip of coast. But circumstances have changed, thanks to her newly dead husband whose financial—and emotional—bull and mendacity have left Cate homeless, broke, and unmoored. 

Yet Folly Beach holds more than just memories. Once upon a time another woman found unexpected bliss and comfort within its welcoming arms. An artist, writer, and colleague of the revered George Gershwin, Dorothy Heyward enjoyed the greatest moments of her life at Folly with her beloved husband, DuBose. And though the Heywards are long gone, their passion and spirit lingers in every mango sunset and gentle ocean breeze. 

And for Cate, Folly, too, holds the promise of unexpected fulfillment when she is forced to look at her life and the zany characters that are her family anew. To her surprise, she will discover that you can go home again. Folly Beach doesn't just hold the girl she once was . . . it also holds the promise of the woman she's always wanted—and is finally ready—to become. 

My thoughts: 

I have been hit and miss with Dorothea Benton Frank lately- this one however hit all the right notes!  Ever since reading Vixen, it seems so many books I have picked up or want to read are set in the 1920s, or have backstory from the 20s.  Which is fine by me - I have always loved the excitement and drama of the roaring 20s.  Folly Beach has a storyline in the present day, but every other chapter is part of a play about the Heywards, who worked with Gershwin to turn Heyward's Porgy and Bess into a musical.  

I have to admit, at first these chapters bothered me - I would just get into what was going on in the main story line  and would be interrupted within the book, like a commercial.  But as I read on, the more I enjoyed the Heyward's story line just as much.  I liked all the characters in this book, especially Cate's love interest John, who reminded me a tiny bit of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre.  And wow Cate has a terrible start in this book - I was riveted, what else could have gone wrong for her?  Apparently everything!  The tragedy of it all forced her to become her own person though, and find actual happiness in the end.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Such a Pretty Fat- Review

Title:  Such a Pretty Fat: One Narcissist's Quest to Discover if Her Life Makes Her Ass Look Big, or Why Pie is Not the Answer
Author:  Jen Lancaster
Publisher:  NAL Trade

Goodreads Summary:

A Note from Jen Lancaster: To whom the fat rolls…-I'm tired of books where a self-loathing heroine is teased to the point where she starves herself skinny in hopes of a fabulous new life. And I hate the message that women can't possibly be happy until we all fit into our skinny jeans. I don't find these stories uplifting; they make me want to hug these women and take them out for fizzy champagne drinks and cheesecake and explain to them that until they figure out their insides, their outsides don't matter. Unfortunately, being overweight isn't simply a societal issue that can be fixed with a dose healthy of positive self-esteem. It’s a health matter, and here on the eve of my fortieth year, I've learned I have to make changes so I don't, you know, die. Because what good if finally being able to afford a pedicure if I lose a foot to adult onset diabetes?"

My thoughts:

Another book that made me laugh - this has been the time frame of humorous books for me, apparently.  Lancaster's style was easy to read, and genuinely funny.  Having just read Kargman's Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, the differences in style and characters were so distinct! While Kargman had no compunction about using certain words, Jen spelled out any words that related to S-E-X or being N-A-K-E-D.  It was like going from New Orleans to Disney World (which I actually did, on my honeymoon-worlds of difference in one trip).  

I liked how Jen didn't want to really lose weight - she was happy with herself the way she was.  She had great self-esteem and confidence, yet realized she was not the most healthy of individuals. I think she is relatable to most people, or at least anyone who has embarked on a weight loss journey and tried one or two of the different diets out there - I know that I have done quite a few of the things mentioned in the book myself!  Throughout the book, Jen struggles, then gets serious, and then loses some serious weight.  

I didn't like all the footnotes, and I had a hard time (still do) with the fact that this seems like a fiction book but is a memoir?  A fictionalized account of the author's life?  I am still slightly confused on this, I hate to admit.  I also did not realize this was part of a series, but I never felt that I was missing anything not having read the books that came before this one.

My conclusion? Easy, fun read, with a pretty relatable character.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut - Review

Title: Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut
Author:  Jill Kargman
Publisher:  William Morrow

Goodreads Summary:

Demonstrating Woody Allen's magical math equation, comedy = tragedy + time, a sensational collection of witty essays about life, love, hate, kids, work, school, and more from the author of The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund and Arm Candy
Jill Kargman is a mother, wife, and writer living the life in New York City . . . a life that includes camping out in a one-bedroom apartment with some unfortunate (and furry) roommates, battling the Momzillas of Manhattan, and coming to terms with her desire for gay men. In this entertaining collection of observations, Kargman offers her unique, wickedly funny perspective as she zips around Manhattan with three kids in tow.
Kargman tackles issues big and small with sharp wit and laugh-out-loud humor: her love of the smell of gasoline, her new names for nail polishes, her adventures in New York City real estate, and her fear of mimes, clowns, and other haunting things. Whether it's surviving a family road trip or why she can't stand Cirque du So Lame, living with a mommy vagina the size of the Holland Tunnel or surviving the hell that was her first job out of college, Kargman's nutty self triumphs, thanks to a wonderfully wise outlook and sense of fun that makes the best of everything that gets thrown her way. And if that's not enough, Kargman illustrates her reflections with doodles that capture her refreshing voice.

My thoughts:  

This book comes with a disclaimer- if you are uncomfortable reading books with strong sometimes crude language and humor, this book is not for you.  And I realize that is more of a warning than a disclaimer.  Kargman is hysterically funny to me, but I know that not everyone enjoys reading certain words or about certain situations.  So I want to put that out there.

Kargman's book made me laugh out loud - I mentioned on another post that I had to put this book down until my husband got home, just so I could share the funny parts with him.  I am sure he thought I was a nut, amid my giggles, trying to read the sentence.  But he is used to it.  Her hatred of Nellie Oleson almost had me hyperventilating.  I was a huge Little House fan, and I really disliked Nellie too. And her descriptions of momzillas, I feel I have met those women, and yes, they are frightening.  

There are a few parts that are not meant to be funny, but reflective, such as the chapter where Kargman writes a letter to her apartment, which was sort of like her cocoon for a bit,  and gave her the space to grow and change; but the chapter where she talks about how vanity saves her life is my favorite.  Her never give up, I am going to get what I want attitude regarding botox led her to a startling discovery, that really did save her life.  

I loved this book, although I do not recommend it for everyone. 

Monday, August 15, 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.

Read Last Week:

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews:  This was a great summery read; we were having the best weather so far this summer last week, breezy and warm, but not too hot and humid, and this book fit my mood.  I enjoyed it and I am looking forward to reading the next one, Savannah Breeze. 

Ta-Ta For Now by Bethany Lopez:  This is a young adult book about the trials of beginning high school.  I felt it was a very accurate portrayal of how difficult the transistion can be, and I am sure the kids at my school are going to pick up the book, read it, and like it. 

Currently Reading:

Folly Beach by Dorothea Benton Frank:  As my summer is winding down, I find myself trying to cram as many beach summer books in as I can.  I love to read seasonally, lol.   

Such a Pretty Fat by Jen Lancaster:  I have heard good things about this author, so I wanted to give her a read. 

Sometimes I Feel Like A Nut by Jill Kargman:  I am actually reading this one right now, and last night I had to put it down.  I was laughing right out loud, and I had no one to share the funny parts with! So I put it aside until my husband came home and I could read parts to him. 

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake:  I am still working on this- I don't want to give up, but it might take me forever to finish it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Savannah Blues - Review

Title: Savannah Blues
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publisher:  Harper

Goodreads Summary:

Landing a catch like Talmadge Evans III got Eloise "Weezie" Foley a big house in Savannah's historic district. Divorcing him got her booted into the carriage house in the backyard. Tal, meanwhile, lives with his girlfriend, elegant Caroline DeSantos, in the mansion Weezie lovingly restored. For Weezie, letting her dog piddle on Caroline's prize camellias isn't payback enough.
Now Weezie, and antiques "picker," is trying to make a killing at a big estate sale while dealing with loopy relatives, a hunky ex-boyfriend who's the hottest chef in town, and the Tal-Caroline "situation." Dirty deals are simmering all around her, just as Weezie discovers how very delicious love can be—the second time around.

My thoughts:

I couldn't stop thinking about how cool it would be to do what Weezie does- being a "picker" sounds kinda fun! Like treasure hunting everyday for a living. Reading this made me want to run out and find estate sales and garage sales and try my luck!

This book was a fun read- I loved reading about Savannah, one of my favorite southern cities, right up there with New Orleans.  I liked the allusion in the book too, to the book and trial of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - and I was surprised to learn that Andrews was a reporter for that case and trial.  I could write a whole other blog on this book, I loved it so much. 

I felt like although I enjoyed reading about these characters, I barely scratched the surface of them.  Weezie seemed almost obsessed with junking - like she never wanted to do anything but that.  When she and Daniel were together, they fought all the time and I didn't really like that.  I did really like Daniel and Bebe's characters though- I felt like I knew more about them then I did Weezie!  I did enjoy Weezie's mother and father - her mother was a trip, even after rehab! 

The mystery plot line was well done, I thought.  A fine old house, the only one of its kind, a murder that Weezie stumbles on while looking for the bathroom - I thought these parts were better written than the romance, with fun details and surprises. 

I enjoyed this book, it was a fun read! I will more than likely read the next book in this series, which is about Bebe. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ta Ta For Now - Review

Title:  Ta Ta For Now!
Author:  Bethany Lopez
Publisher:  through

Goodreads Summary:

Melissa begins her freshman year with one goal in mind, getting Brian Jackson to be her boyfriend. She will soon learn that things don't necessarily turn out the way you plan them, the value of true friendship, and the importance of family.

My thoughts:

First, I want to preface this by saying that I know the author - she is my friend and former college roommate.  However, I want to be an ojective reviewer, and I will not let the fact that she is a friend of mine cloud that. I am very proud of her for taking this scary step of writing a book and putting herself out there for the world to judge.

This book is a very accurate portrayal of what life is like for the average fourteen year old girl starting high school- such a transitional year, with changing friends, boyfriends, alternately hating your family and realizing they are the best thing that could happen to you.  And the main character, Melissa, has a rough freshman year, having to go through it all.  Bullies, friends who aren't really your friends, peer pressure- she is indoctrinated pretty quickly to the world of high school.  She manages to keep it together with the help of good friends and her family, who support her and love her, although she did find herself hitting some low points in between, such as fighting in school and with her sister. Her feelings about certain things were dead on to how a younger teenage girl would feel.   

There were a few typos.  Also, the scenes with the kids smoking, it seemed right out in the open where teachers or monitors would see them, such as the school courtyard at lunch.  Maybe I am too old to remember, or maybe it is because I work at a school and think that this would be noticed, I don't know. 

All in all, I think this is a great first book! Beth donated it to me for one of our school libraries, and I am going to send it to the middle school library.  I think this book is definitely one kids are going to pick up, read and enjoy!! 

You can check Bethany out at her blog, and follow her on twitter as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Witches of East End - Review

Title:  The Witches of East End
Author:  Melissa De La Cruz
Publisher:  Disney-Hyperion

Goodreads Summary:

The three Beauchamp women--Joanna and her daughters Freya and Ingrid--live in North Hampton, out on the tip of Long Island. Their beautiful, mist-shrouded town seems almost stuck in time, and all three women lead seemingly quiet, uneventful existences. But they are harboring a mighty secret--they are powerful witches banned from using their magic. Joanna can resurrect people from the dead and heal the most serious of injuries. Ingrid, her bookish daughter, has the ability to predict the future and weave knots that can solve anything from infertility to infidelity. And finally, there's Freya, the wild child, who has a charm or a potion that can cure most any heartache.

For centuries, all three women have been forced to suppress their abilities. But then Freya, who is about to get married to the wealthy and mysterious Bran Gardiner, finds that her increasingly complicated romantic life makes it more difficult than ever to hide her secret. Soon Ingrid and Joanna confront similar dilemmas, and the Beauchamp women realize they can no longer conceal their true selves. They unearth their wands from the attic, dust off their broomsticks, and begin casting spells on the townspeople. It all seems like a bit of good-natured, innocent magic, but then mysterious, violent attacks begin to plague the town. When a young girl disappears over the Fourth of July weekend, they realize it's time to uncover who and what dark forces are working against them. 

My thoughts:

I am a huge fan of books with magic and mystery and folklore and legend- I was the kid who loved fairy tales and Scooby Doo, I just never grew out of it.  This book was a pleasant surprise- I didn't know what to expect, and to be honest, I didn't expect too much.  I really enjoyed the three main characters in the book, Freya, Ingrid, and Joanna.  I probably liked Ingrid the best, which makes sense - Freya would be my past, and Joanna my future.  I am at the point in life that Ingrid's character represents.  Joanna got on my nerves a teensy bit, but it was easily overlooked.  She seemed more of a peripheral character, more than a main character too, which was odd.  Maybe that is why is was easy to overlook her.  

One thing I really liked was that these witches were something different- usually when I read a book about witches, they are generally celtic.  The witches in this book were Norse Goddesses, which I thought was unique.  Their history has inspired me to want to read more Norse mythology.  I love when a book makes me want to learn more!  I had heard of Freya and Loki, but not the rest of the myth.  

This book was a little slow moving in places, but picked up at the end- and then leaves you with a cliffhanger!  I am looking forward to the second book in this series, when we get to learn more about Freya and Ingrid's mysterious missing brother.  

Monday, August 8, 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.

Read Last Week:

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom:  I loved this book start to finish.  I sobbed, cheered, and rooted for these characters the whole book.  It was one of the best books I have read this summer.

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman:  This was not my favorite of her books.  I have read better, but this book still had the haunting qualities and beautiful prose that is uniquely hers.  

The Witches of East End by Melissa De La Cruz:  This was a fun book, with a mystery in it that kept you guessing.  It was an interesting take on Viking lore and witches, I enjoyed that twist immensely.  I should have the review done in the next day or two.  

Currently Reading:

 Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews:  Last week was a pretty heavy week, book-wise.  Serious, sad, I enjoyed them but I am ready to balance it out with a few fun books, like Andrews' Savannah Blues.

Ta-Ta For Now by Bethany Lopez:  This is a young adult that the author donated to our school library - I happen to be lucky enough to know the author, and I am looking forward to reading her first book.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake:  To be honest, I picked this book up because I like the name and cover.  I may end up hating it and not finishing it, or I may really love it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Red Garden - Review

Title:  The Red Garden
Author:  Alice Hoffman
Publisher:  Shaye Areheart Books

Goodreads Summary:

The Red Garden introduces us to the luminous and haunting world of Blackwell, Massachusetts. Hoffman offers a transforming glimpse of small-town America, presenting us with some three hundred years of passion, dark secrets, loyalty, and redemption in a web of tales.
From the town’s founder, a brave young woman from England who has no fear of blizzards or bears, to the young man who runs away to New York City, the characters in The Red Garden are extraordinary and vivid: a young wounded Civil War soldier who is saved by a neighbor, a woman who meets a fiercely human historical character, a poet who falls in love with a blind man, a mysterious traveler who comes to town in the year when summer never arrives. At the center of everyone’s life is a garden where only red plants can grow, and where the truth can be found by those who dare to look. The Red Garden is as unforgettable as it is moving.

My thoughts:

Not my favorite book by Hoffman.  I am a huge fan of magical realism in books, I love how authors can write a bit of fanciful magic into a realistic book.  I think that is how life should be, everyday viewed with a bit of wonder.  On this level, The Red Garden delivered.  On others, I was left a little wanting more.

The story in this book flows through time like the novel's Eel River, hopping from one generation to the next, with one character being somehow related to another in a previous chapter, whether it is niece, great-grandaughter, etc.  Some of the stories I really enjoyed - the story with Johnny Appleseed, and the girl and the "monster" were my two favorites.  I am going to say this for those out there who are like me, and can't stand when animals in books die- there are many deaths of beloved animals in this book.  One story in particular, reminiscent of the Greyfriar's Bobby, killed me.  I couldn't stand it, and I couldn't figure out why Hoffman kept throwing this heartwrenching animal stuff into the book. I also mentioned I was left wanting - the stories were short stories, and by the time you felt connected to a character, their particular story was over.  I felt robbed in these instances. 

As for recommending it?  If you are not a Hoffman fan already, this is not a good one to start with.  It is not her best work, in my opinion, and while you can get a sense of her style, it is lacking.  If I didn't already like her, I would never have finished this book.  I saw glimpses of the Hoffman I liked, but it was not enough.

This book, like The Kitchen House, to me was about love in all its forms, good, bad, ugly. More than anything, that is what I took away.  The characters were imperfect, yet they all loved one thing more than anything in the world. 

The Kitchen House- Review

Title:  The Kitchen House
Author:  Kathleen Grissom
Publisher:  Touchstone

Goodreads Summary:

When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family.
Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin.
Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.
The Kitchen House is a tragic story of page-turning suspense, exploring the meaning of family, where love and loyalty prevail.

My thoughts:

I couldn't put this book down, even though I pretty much cried my way through it.  The story was written from a unique perspective of an Irish indentured servant, Lavinia, who is raised by the Kitchen House slaves on a large plantation.  Her family consists of Belle, who is also the illegitimate daughter of the Captain; Mama Mae, Papa George, Uncle Jacob, Ben, the twins Franny and Beatie, and Sukey.  She had others in her kitchen house family, but these were the ones I felt were nearest and dearest to her heart.  Lavinia thinks and love like a child her whole life, always believing in the goodness of people and not seeing the bad, although she is frightened of her own shadow much of the time as well.  She is a gentle, naive girl, who grows into a gentle, naive woman, who has love for everyone.  She is unaware of the dark deeds that are perpetrated on her family, as they are hidden and kept from her.  Lavinia doesn't seem to really fit in totally anywhere, with her kitchen family or the master's family, separated from one life by color, and the other by class and situation in life, although she develops close relationships with them all, in her Lavinia way.  Her trusting, childlike demeanor leads her down a dark road that you want to stop her from heading down, but you know there is nothing you can do, and that it is all downhill from there.

Marshall is the Captain's son- I had the hardest time with Marshall, struggling with how I felt about him.  He is sympathetic yet a villain.  Events in his past have shaped him, and most of the time he is a terrible person, that you hate and abhorr.  But then there are glimmers where you believe he can be good, although these glimmers are short lived for in the next second he does something foul again.  

I really do not want to discuss this book too in detail, as I don't want to ruin it, so I am just going to say this book, although a tear jerker, was a book about love at its core.  The kitchen house family loves each other deeply and with great loyalty, and you will love them too.

Personal friends who might like this book- Jennifer H., mom

Monday, August 1, 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 missed last week, I was on vacation "up north" as Michiganders say. And I didn't eve read much!

Read Last Week:

Summer Rental by Mary Kay Andrews:  I started this book on vacation at my family's summer rental.  My room was a bug jar with the light on, so I couldn't fit much reading in at night! I enjoyed this book, it was a fun summer read.

Honolulu by Alan Bernnert:  This author has never let me down, I have found both his books to be beautiful and moving.  I recommend them to everyone.

Heart of Evil by Heather Graham:  Second in the Krewe of Hunters Series.  I enjoyed this second book much better than the first.  And I was in love with the ghost story!

Currently Reading:

The Kitchen House by Katheleen Grissom:  I have read favorable reviews of this book and so far so good!

The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman:  Alice Hoffman is always a favorite of mine, and this books seems no exception. So far I have cried, and laughed, because my one of my favorite historical figures, Johnny Appleseed is a character! And I am not even that far into the book yet, so I wonder what other surprises are in store.

Gave up on for the moment:

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik:  This is not a bad book, I was just not in the mood.  I plan on revisiting Gopnik's Paris this fall or winter.