Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Barefoot

Barefoot, by Elin Hilderbrand.

Still no flicker of interest from Peter. Peter thought of Josh as the help. A servant, a slave. Whereas Peter was the husband, the neighbor, the peer, the equal, the chieftain in Melanie's real life. But Peter Patchen was also a genuine crumb who cheated and lied - that was Melanie's real life.

I have read Elin Hilderbrand's stuff before and it was pretty good, so upon recommendation from fellow blogger Lori, I decided to read Barefoot. Although it has a picture of a beach on the cover and may well be considered a "beach read," it definitely goes beyond that, and I ended up liking it a lot. The novel is about Vicki and Brenda, sisters, and their friend Melanie, all of whom end up staying at Vicki and Brenda's tiny Nantucket cottage for the summer. Melanie is running away from her cheating husband, Peter, whom she hasn't yet told that she is pregnant; Vicki is trying to get away from the fact that she has lung cancer; and Brenda is avoiding a major scandal involving her at the university at which she taught. The summer changes all of them for the better, however, and the way that the plot unfolds makes for a great book and fun read.

4 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Janelle Brown.

Janice often consoles herself with the idea that Margaret will understand, someday when she has a family of her own, how priorities change; how fantasies about career and adventure grow irrelevant the minute you have a baby in your arms who adores you, relies on you, greedily consumes your very essence. How life always isn't what you anticipate it will be like when you're young and idealistic, and the grace comes in learning to love what you have chosen instead. Sometimes, Janice also wonders whether the person she is trying to convince of this is not her daughter but herself.

This is Janelle Brown's (author of This is Where We Live) first novel and it was just as fantastic as her other one. It follows Janice, who has been married for twenty-nine years but was just dumped by her husband, who has run off to be with Janice's tennis partner; and her children Lizzie, who is a 14-year-old high-schooler and Margaret, a 28-year-old who has decided to close her magazine, Snatch, and try to hide from her old friends Visa and Mastercard, as she owes them about $100k in past bills. When she hears the news of the divorce, she comes rushing home, and she, Janice, and Lizzie will soon learn that they are all hiding secrets from one another.

The book was excellent, and I really like the way Brown writes - there is so much detail and the prose seems so effortless. I eagerly await her next novel, whenever that may be.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cum Laude

Cum Laude, by Cecily von Ziegesar.

Another slow song came on, and even as their bodies continued to participate with what was happening in the room - talking to each other, moving puzzle pieces around, pretending not to fall sleep or stroke a foot or a lock of hair - their minds were elsewhere. Each of them in his or her own way was marveling at how they'd gotten there, to this particular house in Maine, this wee-hour moment together, when at breakfasttime they'd been in their own houses, in their own hometowns, with no inkling of this whatsoever.

Cecily von Ziegesar is the author of the "Gossip Girl" series, and I read a review of Cum Laude online that said she basically took the stereotypes of her characters from there and put them in this book. I am a big fan of "Gossip Girl," and although this may be so, I thought she did an excellent job with this novel, and I hope there will be a sequel or two - one website mentions two more but another says no sequels will be coming anytime soon.

Eliza, Nick, Tom, and Shipley are freshmen at Dexter College, in a small town in Maine. They meet each other during orientation and have no idea at that point how their lives will soon intersect with one another. Cum Laude follows them through their first year of college, and by the end of the book I found myself wanting more - much like with von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girl" Manhattanites.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Something Like Fate



Something Like Fate, by Susane Colasanti

Maybe everything that happens in our lives isn't already decided by fate. Maybe we have some influence over the outcome. If you want something badly enough, can you change your fate? Or will the thing you want the most come true anyway, no matter what you do?

I saw this book in Borders a few months ago and was intrigued by its cover (see above). Why was the girl on the left holding hands with the boy sitting closer to the other girl? I put the book on hold at my local library and now am finally getting to read it. It reminded me a lot of The Unwritten Rule, by Elizabeth Scott, which I also reviewed, in that a girl is lusting after her best friend's boyfriend. The characters in Something Like Fate, however, could not be more different than Scott's.

Lani "knows" that she and Jason have a connection, even when he starts dating her best friend Erin - and he knows it too. When she goes off to summer camp the summer before their senior year of high school, he breaks up with her via snail mail, and he and Lani spend most of the summer together. The problem, of course, is when Erin gets back from camp, and Jason has to tell her that he and Lani are now going out.

The book was pretty good, and I'm going to check out some of Colasanti's other YA books sometime soon.

4 stars out of 5.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Insatiable

Insatiable, by Meg Cabot.

Alaric supposed vampires avoided Target because of the parking lot security cameras. (It was a myth that vampires wouldn't show up in mirrors or on film. Certainly in the old days it had been true, when silver-backed mirrors and film had been the norm. But now that the world had gone digital - and mirrors were cheap - vampire reflections could be caught just like anyone else's.) Alaric actually liked Target. They didn't have Target in Rome. He'd bought a Goofy watch the last time he'd been in a Target. The other guards had made fun of him, but he liked his Goofy watch. It was old-fashioned and didn't do anything but tell time.

But sometimes all you needed was to know the time.


Meg Cabot is the author of "The Princess Diaries" series, which I like, but she's also written quite a few books for adults, Insatiable being one of them. This was a vampire story but almost written like a spoof, as you can see above - a lot of moments in the novel made me laugh out loud. The main character, Meena Harper, has quite a special gift - when she looks into someone's eyes, she can tell how they will die. She views this more as a curse than a gift, but when she runs into Lucien Antonescu, who ends up being a vampire, he ends up acquiring the use of her gift via means that you can probably guess.

The novel was really funny and also interesting. The way it ended was not really conventional but I liked it, and according to Cabot's website, there will be a sequel released in 2011.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"This is Where We Live"

This is Where We Live, by Janelle Brown.

She was going home, of course - there was nowhere else to go. But it wasn't just that: She was incapable of giving up. As her mother observed, it was just her nature. There were things she wanted - and they weren't outrageous things to want - a nice home, a happy marriage, financial stability, the ability to pursue her dreams. A few bad months, one terrible fight, shouldn't mean the end of all that. It shouldn't mean that they suddenly didn't love each other anymore. She would go home and save it all.

I had never read anything by Janelle Brown before this novel but it was very, very good. The prose is among the smoothest I have ever read, and her characters, including Claudia and Jeremy, the main ones, are very relatable. They both make bad choices along with the good but we can see where they are coming from, and how they came to make those choices, and can't help but wonder what we would have decided if we were in their position.

I could actually see this novel translating to the "big screen" very well. Brown has also written the book All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, which I just checked out today from the library, and I am hoping that is a good as this novel was.

5 stars out of 5.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Help

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett.

Mae Mobley was born on a early Sunday morning in August, 1960. A church baby we like to call it. Taking care a white babies, that's what I do, along with all the cooking and cleaning. I done raised seventeen kids in my lifetime. I know how to get them babies to sleep, stop crying, and go in the toilet bowl before they mamas even get out a bed in the morning.

This book was 444 pages long, and I flew through it in less than a day - that's how good it was. Many people had recommended it to me, but every time I checked it out from the library it inevitably became due, so this was the first chance I had to read it, and the rumors are true - it was excellent.

The book follows the lives of three or four African-American maids in the South (Jackson, Mississippi) in the 1960s, and also one ambitious white lady, who decides to write a book, anonymously, with first-person accounts of what it's like to be an African-American maid in a household during this time period. I was surprised to find out that the author of this book, Kathryn Stockett, is white, because most of the chapters are written in first-person, and as you can tell by the passage from the book included up above, it does NOT sound like a white woman talking. The characters in the novel were very memorable, and they will probably stick with me for a long time after reading this book.

4.5 stars out of 5.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The House on Oyster Creek

The House on Oyster Creek, by Heidi Jon Schmidt.

She was probably right: The oystermen were fighting a losing battle - it was a romantic notion that you could farm the edge of the sea, live by the tides, and really make a living at it. Farmers never made a decent living ... Certainly the dairy farmers she'd grown up among had suffered one hard time after another, and without government milk subsidies, she'd hate to think. But to be able to say, "I raise oysters," was a little like being able to say you were a mom, or that you wrote a column for the East Village Mirror - there was not much outward glory in it, but at the end of the day you could be proud for what you'd done.

This is the first novel by Heidi Jon Schmidt that I have read and it was very good. The main character, Charlotte Tradescome, has a husband who is 20 years older than her and a small child, Fiona, and they decide to move from New York City to a house he inherits in Wellfleet, Masschusetts, near Cape Cod. She meets Darryl there, an oyster farmer, and sparks fly between them; he is her age but unmarried, but she still feels bound by her marriage to Henry. Meanwhile, Charlotte has sold off part of their land to another "washashore" (out-of-town) couple, and they are making changes to it that not all of the townspeople agree with.

The ending was a bit surprising to me and it's rare to see a type of romance in a novel that ends up like Charlotte and Darryl's.

4 stars out of 5.

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