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Showing posts from May, 2009

book review: handle with care

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Handle With Care , Jodi Picoult's latest novel, is the story of the O'Keefe family: Sean, a police officer; Charlotte, a former pastry chef turned full-time mother and caretaker; Amelia , a 13-year-old yearning for independence and control over her life; and Willow, a 5-year-old struggling with OI, brittle bone disease. Day-to-day life is stressful enough for this struggling family, but a trip to Disney World turns disastrous. Willow falls and breaks a bone, and they're rushed to the hospital, seemingly at the relief of park employees. Willow's x-rays raise red flags of abuse, and Amelia spends the night in a foster home, while the parents are separated and interrogated. It's gut-wrenching , and the reader understands the caution from the police and hospital while knowing these parents are loving. From there, the story spirals out of control. Sean wants to sue for what they went through in Florida, but the lawyer says that's not a case. A wrongful birth suit

children's book review: georgia's greatness

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Georgia's Greatness is the third in the Sisters 8 series. This book takes place in March (seeing a trend here?), and it's Georgia's month to discover her gift and talent. For some reason, this book incorporates fantasy, and I love it, while I took a little fault with the second one. I won't spoil the surprise of Georgia's talent, although I will tell you it's even cooler than Durinda's . The highlight of this book is seeing the eights truly come together to figure things out and get themselves out of a jam. They seem to be getting smarter, more sensible and more self-confident, and it makes them that much more enjoyable to read. I realize I'm not the target audience, but the there is a two-page soliloquy (if you will) about The Waltons that had me laughing for hours (even nomadreaderboy loved it). Georgia's Greatness is at least as good, if not better than Annie's Adventures . This series is a true delight to read. Rating: 4 stars (out o

book review: my sister's keeper

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I have only read one Jodi Picoult novel, Keeping Faith , which I loved. I've always meant to read more, but my list of books and authors to read passed the ridiculous length months ago. When I assessed the summer movies based on books , this novel moved to the top of my list. My Sister's Keeper is mostly the story of two sisters: Anna, who was diagnosed with leukemia when she was two, and Kate, who was conceived so her umbilical cord could be transplanted to save Anna. Kate is now thirteen, and she has decided to sue her parents for medical emancipation because every time Anna is sick, Kate must offer pieces of her body up to save her. It's a harrowing tale told from the point of view of Kate, her mom (via flashbacks dating back to Anna's first diagnosis), her dad, her brother (a juvenile delinquent), her attorney, and her guardian ad litum . While the story is told through multiple voices, I found myself identifying (and enjoying) Kate's parts best. She truly wr

children's book review: the night tourist

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The Night Tourist is a mesmerizing tale of Jack Perdu , a fourteen-year-old Classics prodigy (seriously, he's helping a Yale professor translate Ovid's Metamorphosis ) who takes a mysterious trip into New York City's underworld. Jack isn't initially sure if he's live or dead, but he meets Yuri, a definitely dead young girl who becomes his tour guide. Jack's goal is to find his mother, who died years ago. The novel is part adventure, part ode to New York (perhaps my favorite city in the entire world), and part reinvention of a classical myth. It is a beautiful, engaging tale of friendship and the level of magic Marsh creates rivals the Harry Potter universe. While it is not rare for me to delight and enjoy a children's book, it is rare for me to forget I'm reading a children's book. The Night Tourist is so thoroughly engaging, any adult reader (especially sci- fi and fantasy fans) would love it. Despite being filled with intrigue, humor and fun,

children's book review: durinda's dangers

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Durinda's Dangers is the second book in the Sisters 8 series. I must confess, it's endearing, but I did not love it as much as the first book . The story picks up in February, and this round seems more fantastical than the first, which combined reality and fantasy. There is love drama between the talking refrigerator, Carl, and the robot maid, Betty. Durinda discovers her magic gift, which is the awesomely cool ability to freeze people. Even cooler is that her cat can do the same thing to the other cats. It's a nice continuation of the story, but it felt a little too tied into Valentine's Day. Granted, I read it in May, so I was a little removed the festive occasion. It's still delightful, and I'm still excited for the third book.

book review: stories from candyland

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Stories from Candyland is one of those books that's really hard to review for a simple reason: it's not good, but I absolutely loved it. I don't think it's a coincidence the reviewers at Amazon are equally divided between 5 stars and 1 star ratings. I am a huge fan of Tori Spelling's faux reality show So NoTorious , and I read STori Telling and enjoyed it. I've seen a lot of Beverly Hills, 90210 episodes in my time, and I am pretty well-versed in the Spelling universe. I can't say I had much of an opinion of Candy going into the book. From Tori's stories in her first autobiography and the hilarious anecdotes from the show (brilliantly played by Loni Anderson), I gathered she was a little cooky. Stories from Candyland is a completely bizarre autobiography because it's not even remotely chronological. I imagine her writing it, appearing at the computer, and deciding what to write that day, and keeping the book in the same order. There are rid

book review: if i stay

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Gayle Forman's young adult novel, If I Stay, is tremendous. It's the story of a lovely family in Oregon: punk rockers turned cool parents and their two children Mia, a gifted cellist and high school senior and Teddy. The bulk of the story is told by Mia through flashbacks after the family is in a car accident. She tries to figure out if she's alive, and if so, should she stay when her family is gone. What could easily become schlocky or depressing is ultimately uplifting in the deft hands of Forman . The characters are a family I want to have over for dinner. The book is a mere two hundred pages, but Forman manages to have not just one, but a multitude of well-formed, likeable characters. Yes, it's a young adult novel, but I would recommend it to adult readers as well. It's a timeless tale, and it's the second-best book I've read this year (the best is The Lost Witness by Robert Ellis, but read his City of Fire first). Rating: 5 stars out of 5

book review: nobody move by denis johnson

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Nobody Move is the story of interconnected characters in the California desert. Jimmy Luntz is a gambler deep in the whole to his bookie, Gambol is the man sent to inflict physical harm to get the money, Juarez is the king of this underworld, and Anita Desilvera is an alcoholic and soon-to-be-divorced woman convicted of embezzlement who happens upon Jimmy. It's a motley cast of characters, and the cover's gunshots holes are a good indicator of the amount of violence. Denis Johnson is a gifted writer; no one disputes this fact. The characters are intriguing, and there is suspense of sorts, but somehow it didn't all come together for me. Perhaps my own cynicism led me to believe their futures to be bleak and inevitable and I didn't fully embrace the characters. I usually adore noir , but I was ambivalent about this one. It's a brief book, less than 200 pages, and it seems to beg for a movie rather than a book. I wanted to like it more than I did, although I did

children's book review: gathering blue by lois lowry

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After I raved about The Giver to people smart enough to have read it years ago, I was thrilled when they told me it was actually the first in a loosely-connected trilogy that includes Gathering Blue and The Messenger . Gathering Blue is the story of Kira, a lame (as in she was born with a bad leg) girl newly orphaned. As in The Giver , the reader discovers the world and community Kira lives in through her eyes. As an orphan, Kira may soon be kicked out of the village. The first few chapters treat the reader to a court hearing of sorts determining if and how she should stay. This world is quite different from the world of The Giver , and dare I say, it's not quite as interesting. Granted, it had a lot to live up to. Ultimately, Gathering Blue , is good, but it's not great. The novel seemed to divide itself into three parts in my mind: the beginning, where the reader learns the setting; the middle, where the action is rather subdued; and the end, which is once again intrigui

children's book review: annie's adventures

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Annie's Adventures is the first in the new series The Sisters 8 by Laruren Baratz-Logsted. It's the story of octuplets (far more lovable than the infamous real-life octuplets). Our heroines were born on August 8th, 2000. They each have a cat. Their last name is Huit (French for 8). It's a numerology bonanza. They were born one minute apart, and the total difference in their height is one inch (meaning the oldest, Annie, is eight inches taller than her eight minutes younger sister). Our story begins on New Year's Eve, when our beloved octuplets notice their father went out to get more wood for the fire quite a while ago, and their mother went to get eggnog quite a while ago. The girls soon discover a note, telling them they each have a gift, and they each much find a present to uncover the secret to where their parents are. The story is a mix of reality (how the not-yet-eight-year-olds must learn to function as adults so as not alarm neighbors, teachers, etc. that the

book review: lords of corruption by kyle mills

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Lords of Corruption by Kyle Mills is an exciting international political thriller set mostly in Africa. The story opens with an ominous, violent preface that sets a dark tone for the novel. Then, the story shifts to another characters, Josh, who is having a miserable time finding a job, despite his near-perfect GPA as an undergraduate engineering major and now with an MBA. Josh has one felony blemish on his record that makes him undesirable, even next to his otherwise shining record. A recruiter for a charity, New Africa, approaches Josh with a unique opportunity to be a project manager for the charity in Africa. Here's what the publisher has to say: "When an obscure charity recruits Josh Hagarty to manage their activities in a war-torn region of Africa, he is eager to sign on and atone for a past he regrets. After a lifetime of bad luck, someone is finally giving him a chance. All he has to do is not blow it. He tries to lose himself in his new job, but soon the precariou

children's book review: the giver

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I've waited a few weeks before reviewing Lois Lowry's Newbery Award-winning book, The Giver , because my first inclination is to say: read it. It's awesome. The end. I am not a big reader of science fiction, although on the off chances I do read the genre, I usually find myself enjoying it. One reason I fear I don't venture into science fiction too often is that it's hard to read reviews about the books without learning too much about them, and I like to know as little as possible going into books. With that in mind, I'll try to review this brilliant book giving away as few details as possible. The Giver is told from the point-of-view of Jonas, an almost-twelve-year-old boy. As the story unfolds, it becomes more and clear Jonas lives in a very different world than we do. Details of when and where are scarce, as it is all Jonas knows. The reader is along for the ride as Jonas learns more and more about the community he lives in. One of the things I've love

book review: offbeat bride by ariel meadow stallings

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As a bride-to-be, I'm doing the requisite reading (or skimming) of bridal books and magazines. So far, I've found it more sociologically fascinating than actually helpful, and I've enjoyed reading novels about weddings more than wedding handbooks, but Offbeat Bride was fabulous. It's more of a memoir than a wedding planning book, although I did get quite a few great tips from it. As it is more of a memoir of the author's journey planning an unconventional wedding, I would recommend it to those of you not planning a wedding. The book is certainly geared at those of us brides-to-be who may not embrace the ubiquitous white dress (I'm wearing blue because it's my favorite color and makes my eyes shine) or getting married in a church (I'm getting married in a library) or having someone walk you down the aisle ( nomadreaderboy likes this idea far more than I do, and he may elect to have his parents walk him down the aisle.) Regardless of what traditions yo

book review: 8th confession by james patterson

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The 8 th Confession is the eighth book in Patterson's Women's Murder Club series. This novel features our four main characters working more independently than most prior books have. Cindy, the reporter, manages to be walking outside of her apartment and stumble upon a fresh corpse of a homeless man revered by the homeless population and dubbed Bagman Jesus. She calls Lindsay, the detective, to the scene. Naturally, Lindsay and her partner don't have much time to work the case of a homeless man, even one shot repeatedly and likely not the victim of the usual homeless on homeless crime. Still, the two detectives vow to work on it in their spare time. Meanwhile, Yuki , assistant district attorney on a brutal losing streak, is awaiting the verdict of a high-profile case of a young woman who allegedly killed her parents for the insurance money. Also, the young, rich and fabulous in San Francisco are suddenly dying while our expert coronor can find no cause of death on their

book review: godmother by carolyn turgeon

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Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story dances between two times: long ago, when the fairy godmother was charged with getting Cinderella to the ball, and modern day. Our modern day heroine is Lil, short for Lillian, who is a fairy in the body of an old woman, albeit one with giant, white, feathery wings she must conceal from humans. She works in a rare booked store in Manhattan. Lil is a sad but lovable narrator. I found myself enjoying the modern scenes set in Manhattan much more than the slowly evolving story of Cinderella. Each chapter begins with the long ago tale, but it became increasingly clear to me the outcome of Cinderella and the ball (it's not the fairy tale we grew up hearing) far earlier in the book than it's actually revealed. These breaks into the past disrupted the flow of the story. Still, Lil is a delight. I confess I don't read many books dealing with fairies, so I can't speak to the originality of the banished fairy. Before this book, I wasn't

book review: life sentences by laura lippman

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I featured this book in my mailbox delight column on March 11, 2009. Here's how the publisher describes this novel: Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers—and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction. When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy's body was never found and Calliope's unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her fo

book review: the sisters antipodes by jane alison

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Sentence worth remembering: " Where we're from, where home is supposed to be, seems so nebulous, at the intersection of blood and place." (page 55) The Sisters Antipodes , a memoir, begins with novelist Jane Alison's childhood. When she was four, her parents developed a close friendship with another couple with two daughters of nearly identical looks and ages. Both men were diplomats. The two couples swapped spouses, and The Sisters Antipodes is Alison's recounting, through diaries she kept as a child and her own memoirs, of what happened and how she came to greater understanding as she grew up. Jane Alison is a beautiful writer. I adore her prose. Marriage of the Sea is one of my favorite books. I always enjoy the opportunity to learn more about novelists. It's wonderful to discover the elements of themselves and their loved ones they incorporate into their fiction. The Sisters Antipodes was interesting, but it didn't grow throughout the memoir. Al