Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 Bookshelf

This month I spent the majority of it overseas or recovering from being overseas.  :)  To accommodate my reading I had stockpiled several titles on my Kindle over the past few months in preparation for this trip.  So the month of July I read titles off of my Kindle.  You might notice that all the titles I read were easy reads and nothing heavy or even non-fiction.  My trip was one in which I didn't want to be weighed down by thinking too much or too hard or being to immersed in the book to enjoy where I was.  You'll see from my reviews that my goal was accomplished.  It was never hard to put the book away and go do something else.*  :)
Did I miss the feeling and smell of a real book?  YES.  Nothing can compare to the feeling of paper between your fingers, looking at your book and seeing how many pages in you are and how many you've got to go, flipping through the pages and seeing words pop out here and there, the weight of a book and the story it has to tell.  E-books are great and and handy for those times when you can't travel with the real thing but in the end they can't, they don't, make up for a printed book.
*For the record, only the first 5 books were read over the length of my trip.  The others read at home as I recovered from the trip!

Mrs. Tuesday's Departure by Suzanne Anderson

I had high hopes for this book.  They were so disappointed.  I'm confused by the high ratings others are giving this book because it was poorly written.  Anderson had a great concept, I think, for this book but didn't deliver on it in any way.
Set in WWII it is the story of a family trying to make an escape from the impending Nazi occupation in Hungary.  I'm always up for stories from this time period.  I find them fascinating. Natalie is the main character of this story as she is the adult trying to find a way out before her niece gets taken away.  If Anderson had stuck with the story of Natalie and her attempts to escape with the rest of the family then I may have given the book a higher rating.  But she threw in weird excerpts of "Mrs. Tuesday's Departure" that were disjointed and gave no insight to the story and actually confused things quite a bit for the reader. Anderson worked fairly hard to evoke from the reader sympathy/empathy for "Mrs. Tuesday" but never succeeded as it was never clear who Mrs. Tuesday was and it never was made clear what her departure was.  I finished the book completely confused and frustrated that I had spent my time trying to make sense of this story.  I'm so sorry but it was a fail.  It was not done well at all.  I feel like I've read enough books to discern good from bad.
I read the book on Kindle and either the formatting of the book was weird for Kindle or the book was edited poorly because the chapters just stopped and started and very odd points.  Almost in the middle of thoughts and sentences.  It was horrible.  I can't, in good conscious, recommend anyone spend their time reading this book.



Thanks for the Memories by Cecelia Ahern

Actually I would give this one a 3.5 out of 5.  Ahern is one of those authors that I love some of her novels and I only like others.  She's very hit and miss in my opinion.  Her writing style is slightly similar to a favorite author of mine, Sarah Addison Allen, as in she includes in her books mystical kind of twists that seem real enough - as if they actually could happen that way.  In that she is good at making the unbelievable - believable.  That is where her similarity to Allen ends though.  Ahern sometimes makes the entire novel easy to read, other times I sense she herself struggled to birth the story.
In this one, read on my Kindle, Justin and Joyce have an encounter together - yet separately.  Through a tragic circumstance that Joyce goes through and a reluctant donation that Justin gives their lives become intertwined in the most unusual way.  It is not immediately obvious though and the book takes the reader, alongside Joyce and Justin, on a journey of discovering how their lives now intersect and why.  A thread of healing for both main characters is weaved throughout and it becomes apparent that both are in need of healing.
Ahern kept the story moving along in an interesting way and I easily read it and didn't feel like it was a chore.  She's an author that I keep returning to.




Milkshake by Joanna Weiss

What a ridiculous book.  Truly a waste of time and a waste of paper, ink, and the energy it took to format for e-book.  Sheesh.  Ms. Weiss tried to make a common topic of motherhood, breastfeeding, a political platform and make it funny.  In my opinion it just came off as a waste of her time and mine since I choose to read the book.  Oy.
Lauren Bruce is a new mom and breastfeeding.  But she isn't sure how she feels about it and struggles with it.  However she has a friend, Mia, is a breastfeeding Nazi and so she's feeling the pressure to become a Nazi as well.  At the same time a woman is running for Governor of the state Lauren resides in and her campaign manager is looking for something to make into a platform that will help her candidate get the women's vote.  Unfortunately for Lauren she's about to become the unofficial - official spokeswoman for Candace Calloway's newest political platform - the freedom to breastfeed whenever and wherever.  So a story is born...or so thought Weiss apparently as she crafted a satirical story from this topic.
In all fairness it is a hot topic that prompts heated debates and opinions among the ranks of mommies (at least in the U.S.) but to take it to the political level to make a point about the ridiculousness of the camps of thought turned me off.  The book was written with some disjointedness and didn't flow naturally. Weiss gets a 1 star for her portrayal of both camps of thought on breastfeeding - she accurately painted them, even though it was a bit exaggerated for her satire.
I was disappointed in this book and was irritated by it.



Fools Rush In (Weddings by Bella Book 1) by Janice Thompson

In all fairness my rating of the book probably leans closer to a 3 star.  It was a light, easy read that was fairly enjoyable in that way.  It was interesting enough that I will probably, at some point, pick up books 2 and 3 of the series just to finish out the story line Thompson created.
Bella Rossi is a transplanted Italian living in larger-than-life Texas.  She's lived there almost her whole life but hasn't quite taken to the culture of Texas.  Her entrepreneurial family runs a couple of successful businesses and Bella has just recently been tasked to take over the wedding event center that her parents had been running.  She makes some switches and starts offering themed wedding packages - learning as she goes.  As it goes with large families, and it seems especially with large Italian families, Bella gets plenty of help - solicited and unsolicited - as she forges her way.  In the midst she wonders if she will ever get to plan her own wedding.
A light, easy read perfect for mindless reading.  It won't weigh you down thinking through plot lines but it won't inspire you much either.




Simon's Choice by Charlotte Castle

Castle's book gets 3 stars for how she handles the grief a parent must go through when they are faced with the terminal illness of their child.  She does a decent job of painting the picture of what grief looks and feels like in the face of a child's death.  For my personal taste she gets points off for the unnecessary use of language.  What is it with British authors and their love of vulgar language?  And most times unnecessary? Sure a person grieving may slip in a word or two every now and then but not with the regularity that Simon does.  Sheesh.
Simon and Melissa have been married for 12 years and their daughter, 6, has been struggling with leukemia for a couple of years now.  Simon is a doctor himself which adds to his despair - he can't fix his daughter as a Dad or a doctor.  The stress of her illness has taken a toll on Simon and Melissa separately and as a couple.  They've been bravely trying to hold things together for their daughter but as she nears the end they unravel completely.
The book details a decision Simon is weighing out about his daughter's near death and his life beyond it.  As a reader Castle painted Melissa in such a light that I wanted to punch her lights out.  She was vicious toward Simon in light of the grief.  It was an okay book.  It's gotten rave reviews on this site and while it was good I'm not sure it earns those rave reviews - the ending seemed hurried and like Castle couldn't figure out how to close out the story so she just picked straws and finished it out without much thought.  It came a little too sudden to be believable for me.




Always the Baker, Never the Bride (Emma Rae Creations Book 1) by Sandra Bricker

This book gets a 3 because Bricker was clever to make an award winning baker a diabetic.  That kind of play is worth 3 stars along with her scrumptious cake recipes she includes.
Emma Rae is a baker by trade - a rising star in the pastry world.  She's also a diabetic so she doesn't ever get but one tiny taste of her delectable treats.  In this book she is highly sought after by a new boutique inn opening up that will cater to high end weddings.  We follow Emma Rae as she dives in to help build up this new boutique and build relationships with her new co-workers and bosses.
A fun, easy read.  But I'm not sure I will read the others in the series - the wedding theme can get a little old after a while.




Fools Rush In by Kristan Higgins

Millie, the main character, is obsessed (and that's putting it lightly) with Joe Carpenter and has a plan, now that they are adults, to win his heart.  As the reader you know from the very beginning how this is going to end up so basically it's like reading a train wreck.  As the reader I was highly annoyed by Millie's obsession and her best friend's enablement of the obsession.  Some friend to let the train wreck proceed.  Millie's obsession leads her to make all sorts of decisions - some good and some bad.  Enter in some other key characters and you can easily see where the story ends.  Even so I enjoyed the book - mostly because I needed mindless reading while recovering from jet lag.  :)
This is the first Higgins novel I've read.  She seems to be a popular chicklit author.  I can see why.  For an easy, mindless read pick up one of her books I'd say.




Stuck in the Middle (Sister to Sister Book 1) by Virginia Smith

Another light read for those searching for something that won't stretch your brain cells too much.
Virginia Smith introduces us to the Sanderson sisters in this book.  She starts with Joan, the middle girl, who is a 25 year old still living at home with her Mom and Grandma and trying to recover from the end of a 9 year relationship.  Joan is floundering a bit in the sea of life. There's been a lot of change in her life, a lot of loss, and she's putting blame on the people she thinks are responsible.  As the reader it's easy to see her blame is misdirected. A new neighbor doesn't just move into the neighborhood but moves into Joan's heart as well.  But she isn't sure what to do with that feeling.  Smith lets us in to Joan's thoughts as she navigates the waters.




Just the Way You Are by Barbara Freethy

Freethy's book is a solid 3 out of 5 stars. She writes well enough, develops her characters well, and keeps the reader engaged.  It's a typical chicklit kind of book and probably follows the same "template" as her other books do.  Meaning that I'm sure it's a version of the same story/dilemma/conflict with similar results/conclusion. Oddly enough this book's story line halfway mimics another book I read earlier this week, "Fools Rush In" by Kristan Higgins.
Alli and Sam have been married for 9 years and have an 8 year old.  If you read a few more sentences into the first chapter and do some math you'll quickly realize their marriage happened because a pregnancy did and Sam is a good guy who did the right thing by marrying Alli.  However.  (There's always a however isn't there?) The pregnancy and marriage came at a cost...to Alli's relationship with her sister Tessa, who was Sam's girlfriend at the time.  The book comes in 9 years later as Alli and Sam are separated and headed for divorce.  Throw in a grandmother who wants to see healing between her granddaughters and the troubled marriage and you've got a story.
I found myself kind of frustrated with Alli and Tessa's inabilities to get over 9 years and realize that people change and grow and nobody or nothing stays exactly the same.  I suppose we do that in "real life" but it sure is frustrating to read it/witness it/etc.
It's an easy read that covers some serious topics but without too much brain strain. I may check into other books by Freethy but only when I need to read something that won't take a lot of effort on my part.




The Silence of Trees by Valya Dudycz Lupescu

At some point in the past few months the description of this book intrigued me enough to download it on my Kindle.  I'm not sorry I did.  It turned out to be a gripping tale of Nadya, a Ukrainian woman, who allows us to visit her past at the time of WWII.
There are very few parts of the world that WWII did not reach to and touch in some way.  At the age of 16 Nadya finds herself in a nightmare as she has lost everything due to German occupation of her homeland.  As she forges ahead in life, with a grit and determination that is so characteristic of that generation who was affected, she allows a falsehood about the night she became orphaned to drive her choices for many life steps.  I am sure she was not the only one who did this.
While this is a work of fiction it probably is a very close telling of someones story from this time period. Lupescu did her research and paints an accurate picture of the way in which someones homeland (their culture and ethnic pride) stays with them no matter where they find themselves making a life. She also does a good job of telling the story of baggage and how heavy it gets after so many years of lugging it around.
It was a slightly odd book to read but a good one nonetheless.




Bound to You by Vanessa Holland

I, after reading so many chicklit books this month, actually liked this book quite a bit.  I was surprised!
It's kind of the same story floating out there in chicklit world - boy and girl are together, break up, there's a secret baby, boy reenters the picture after "x" number of years.  Gasp.  What to do now?  What I liked about this story that varies from the usual is that Jenna, girl, gives, Sam, boy, a honest chance instead of the infuriating cat and mouse game that most authors usually have them go through.  She actually behaves like an adult, as does he, and because of that I found the book a pleasure to read.
Holland writes well enough, this seems to be her only book but should she publish anything else I may give it a chance.




The Third Floor by Judi Loren Grace

Grace shares her true story of being a pregnant teenager in the 1960's in this autobiography.
Written simply but with honesty and heart we get an inside look into the lives of pregnant teens in the 1960's thanks to Judi's decision to expose the "secret shame" of that time period.
In the 60's it was very popular to send off girls who found themselves pregnant to homes to wait out their pregnancies.  It was also very popular to do so without providing explanation of pregnancy, the home itself, etc and to heap upon the girls judgment of their "sin". It was a difficult time for teen girls who found themselves pregnant.
To gain some insight into what the pregnant girls were thinking was good, although I certainly don't share the beliefs of the adults in the 60's who decided to treat these situations so callously.  My feeling is that Judi needed healing from that time in her life and she found it as she wrote out her story.










1 comment:

  1. You have a book blog? How did I not know this? I'm bookmarking it.

    ReplyDelete

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