Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Alright, so this is not my regular type of read, but I figured why not branch out a bit and read something that I wouldn't normally pick up. So here goes:
From the back of the book:
SHE HAD THE DARKEST OF PASTS. AND HE HAD EVERYTHING TO LOSE BY LOVING HER.
Laura Foster, FREE FROM THE BONDAGE OF AN UNSPEAKABLE CHILDHOOD, has struggled to make a new life for herself. Now the owner of an elegant boardinghouse in Glory, Texas, she is known as a wealthy, respectable widow. But Laura forgets that she is always just one step ahead of her past.
When Reverend Brand McCormick comes calling, Laura does all she can to discourage him as a suitor. She knows that if her past were discovered, Brand's reputation would be ruined. But it's not only Laura's past that threatens to bring Brand down - it's also his own.
When a stranger in town threatens to reveal too many secrets, Laura is faced with a heartbreaking choice: Should she leave Glory forever and save Brand's future? Or is it worth risking his name - and her heart - by telling him the truth?
My thoughts : (This review will be short, because I don't really have all that much to write about this novel. )
Heart of Stone was my first foray into the Christian Lit genre and I'm glad it was. The book was an easy read with solid writing and interesting characters. However, the story line seemed a bit cliched to me: woman with 'sordid' past meets man of cloth and must decide to follow her heart and tell him about her past or run away from him and her heart. It reminded me of what I think a romance novel would be like, but without all the sex scenes in it. As far as religion goes, the book was not stuffed with religious references like I thought it might be - that was rather surprising. The 'message' of the book was rather dated, but still rings true: never allow anyone or anything to define you. Overall, it was actually a great way for me to get a taste of Christian Lit. And now I know that mild romance novels are just not my cup of tea.
By the by, if anyone in the US would like my copy of this book, just send me an email - the first one who does, gets it! Cheers!!
P/S Thanks Anne (from The Book Report Network) for providing me with a copy of this book - I really appreciated it!
Monday, June 21, 2010
It's back! Hosted by Stephanie from Stephanie's Written Word, the Everything Austen Challenge is gearing up for its 2nd year of reading and watching everything Austen (and Austen related). Here are the details:
The Everything Austen Challenge will run for six months (July 1, 2010 – January 1, 2011)! All you need to do is pick out six Austen-themed things you want to finish to complete the challenge. You have until Thursday, July 15th 2010 to officially sign up.
For any more info and to sign up, check out Stephanie's Written Word.
I'm definitely participating! Now I just need to figure out what Austenish reads and films I want to immerse myself in. Hmmm.
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Taken from the back of the book:
Since its first publication a decade ago, Bernice L. McFadden' award-winning debut novel Sugar has touched the hearts of thousands. Celebrating ten years of literary acclaim, this anniversary edition brings this timeless tale of a mother's loss and transformation to a new generation of readers.
Evoking the rich atmosphere of the deep South, Sugar tells the story of a young prostitute who comes to Bigelow, Arkansas, to start a new life. Sugar moves next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for the daughter who was murdered fifteen years before. Over sweet potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, changing both their lives - and the life of an entire community.
Sugar brings a 1950s southern town vibrantly to life, with its flowering magnolia trees, lingering scents of jasmine and honeysuckle, and white picket fences that keep strangers out - but ignorance and superstition in. To read this novel is to take a journey through loss and suffering to a place of forgiveness, understanding, and grace.
At first I wasn't sure that I was going to enjoy this book as much as I did. The beginning was slow and the writing a bit uneven, but the author drew me in with the characters of Sugar and Pearl. As soon as she put these two women together the story came to life and the writing flowed with such ease that I was finally able to lose myself in the story. And what an interesting story it was. Overcoming separate and horrific tragedies, Pearl and Sugar form a bond that opens up their hearts and minds to finally embracing the joys and wonders that life has to offer. Pearl finds herself discovering the joys of walking around the house naked, listening to music at a juke joint, and engaging in afternoon delights with her husband, Joe. Sugar experiences falling love and the revelation that prostitution does not have to be her line of work, because she is worthy of respect, kindness, friendship and love. McFadden touches on a variety of topics within her novel, such as: friendship, mother-daughter relationships, death, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, abandonment, loneliness, identity, race, etc. Her ability to include such serious issues with such intensity and vividness makes for a strong debut novel and makes me want to seek out more of McFadden's works. I would definitely consider Sugar to be a good read.
Happy reading! And now I'm off to tackle another book.
P/S Thanks to Bernice for providing me with a copy of, Sugar!
Thursday, June 10, 2010
What a truly delightful book to read! I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading Joyce Dennys' book, Henrietta's War: News From The Home Front 1939 - 1942; in fact I read it straight through in one sitting because I didn't want to put it down. Here is the blurb from the back of the book (it'll give you an idea of what this little gem is all about):
Spirited Henrietta wishes she was the kind of doctor's wife who knew exactly how to deal with the daily upheavals of war. But then, everyone in her close-knit Devonshire village seems to find different ways to cope: There's the indomitable Lady B, who writes to Hitler every night to tell him precisely what she thinks of him; the terrifyingly efficient Mrs. Savernack, who relishes the opportunity to sit on umpteen committees and boss everyone around; flighty, flirtatious Faith, who is utterly preoccupied with the latest hats and with flashing her legs; and Charles, Henrietta's hardworking husband, who manages to sleep through a bomb landing in their neighbor's garden.
With life turned upside down under the shadow of war, Henrietta chronicles the dramas, squabbles, and loyal friendships that unfold in her affectionate letters to her "dear childhood friend" Robert. Warm, witty, and perfectly observed, Henrietta's War: News From The Home Front 1939 - 1942 brings to life a sparkling community of determined troopers who pull together to fight the good fight with patriotic fervor and good humor.
Talk about a wonderfully, charming book to read. I absolutely loved that the book was compiled of letters Henrietta wrote to her "dear childhood friend" Robert during the war - it made for such an engaging read, because you couldn't help but wonder what Robert thought of these letters filled with bits and bobs about the eclectic circle of friends Henrietta surrounded herself with. Also, the illustrations she included with her letters made me laugh out loud quite a few times - it was great to see a picture of Mrs. B ice skating and a picture of Henrietta with a hot-water bottle strapped to her back while she was gardening - loved it! The writing was splendid, because it was filled with such detail and humor. And Dennys' tone was mocking, sweet, and completely entertaining. The characters were such a joy to read about that you could definitely see the fun Dennys' had in creating them all. All in all, I think that Dennys' idea to use fiction as a means for bringing laughter to people who were struggling to see the light during the dark times of war, truly showed what a talented and genuine writer she was. I would highly recommend this book to everyone!
Happy Reading to all!
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Overall, it was nice to escape into the Twilight world for a short time. The writing was the same as the previous Twilight novels- not bad. There were times where it seemed like I was reading the same sentences over and over and over again, which was a bit tedious. The vernacular that Meyer chose to use to illustrate a contemporary and youthful feel was a bit dated and didn't flow as naturally as it was intended to. The romantic nature of Bree and Diego's relationship seemed rushed and a bit forced, as if it was thrown in the story in order to check off an item on the list of what should be included in the book: battle = check, deception = check, love = check, etc. The bit with the Volturi visiting Victoria and Riley was a bit much. I mean, we already knew that they were duplicitous and that they want the Cullens destroyed, so to have them go and encourage Victoria in her plot to kill off the Cullens was unnecessary. I suppose in the end, this novella about Bree Tanner was not really integral to the Twilight saga, because it didn't really provide us with any new information. At the end of the day, it was still fun to read about vampires and escape into the silliness of it all. I wouldn't really recommend this book to non-Twilight fans; and as for Twilighters I would just say that if you pass on this book, its not a big deal, because there really isn't much to be gained from reading the short second life of bree tanner.
Happy reading! I'm off to figure out which book to read next.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Let Them Call It Jazz by Jean Rhys is short and brilliant. It consists of three short stories about three lonely women suffering from various forms of depression: Let Them Call It Jazz, Outside the Machine, The Insect World.
Let Them Call It Jazz:
Selina is a young woman who has no money, no home and no idea of what to do next in her life. She came to England with the intent of becoming a seamstress at a shop in London, but has had no luck getting hired. Instead she finds herself kicked out of the bedsit she rents weekly and learns that her life savings (30 pounds) has been stolen. While having a sandwich and coffee, she meets a man who provides her with a new place of residence. He owns a house and has a vacancy available. Reluctant at first, Selina soon finds herself living in a worn down flat, spending her nights drinking and dancing outside in the yard. The next door neighbors are unfriendly towards her and constantly tell her to leave the area. This tension grows and eventually the police are phoned - her dark skin and foreign accent have made the neighbors suspicious and they accuse her of being a prostitute, a troublemaker and a disturbance to the neighborhood. Unable to defend herself, Selina winds up in front of the local magistrate and eventually jail. She feels isolated, victimized and completely abandoned by everyone and everything. Her only solace is in a song she heard a young woman singing in prison - the Holloway song. Selina believed that the woman was singing that song to her and that was how and why she wound up in that prison - to hear that song. However, when Selina's song gets jazzed up and sold for cash, she is saddened - this song was her only connection to a place, to a reality. But she soon realizes that she has nothing and this song is an example of the nothingness she owns and so she lets go of the song.
Outside the Machine:
Inez Best is not good. She is in hospital having surgery and suffering from depression. She is surrounded by women - and she hates women. Unsure of how to react to everyone and everything, she just lays there at first and listens to the chatter surrounding her. Observing the women, she soon finds herself disliking them more and more. And she soon realizes that she needs to stay in the hospital longer, because she has nowhere to go once she leaves. Plus, she enjoys spending the day in bed, eating lunch, reading books and not having to do anything else - its an escape from her reality. She heals slowly every day and when she finally walks herself to the bathroom to wash up, she encounters Murphy (another fellow patient) who gets tackled by a nurse - apparently Murphy was going to attempt suicide in the lavatory. All the women question Inez when she returns from the bathroom - it seems that Murphy has a husband and two small children, but is so unhappy with her life that she has been trying to kill herself for quite some time. The women are appalled and disgusted by Murphy and think she should be hung. Inez, on the other hand, connects with Murphy, because she has contemplated suicide before, too. When it is time for Inez to finally leave, she is given some money by the Mrs. Tavernier, the old woman with whom she first spoke to upon entering the hospital ward. Inez accepts the money and thanks the woman. In her head, she tells herself that the amount people are willing to give - whether it be monetary or their own personal time - is never enough to truly help someone who is as sad and depressed as she is.
The Insect World:
Audrey is reading a book called Nothing So Blue and it provides details about insects, like the jigger ( a sand flea). She is living a flat she shares with her best friend, Monica. They both work as typists in a government building. Audrey likes to read - she prefers the written word to life. She would rather immerse herself in a book than in her own personal reality. We find Audrey getting upset over the way the sales woman at a store bullies her into buying a short dress that fits her too big. We follow her home where she remembers that she has not eaten all day, but is already running late to meet her friend Roberta for tea. At first glance, she is envious of Roberta for living in a cute cottage and opening the door in a floral housecoat and plopping herself down on the couch like a film star would have done. However, when Audrey really looks at Roberta, she realizes that the floral housecoat is actually made of old curtains and that Roberta doesn't look too glamorous after all. They begin to discuss the insects in the book that Audrey is reading and Roberta explains how the creepy jiggers are mere sand fleas and tells Audrey not to believe everything she reads. Eventually Audrey gets home and finds Monica making dinner and blasting the radio. They argue a bit and Audrey lays down to sleep. She gets woken up by Monica who tells her to stop screaming or they will be thrown out of their flat - apparently Audrey was screaming about jiggers.
All three short stories vividly show the various forms of depression that these women suffer and they ways in which they choose to handle it or ignore it. The writing is excellent and truly showcases what a talented author Rhys was. Her ability to bring up so many different, but important issues in such a short space of time is amazing. Some of the issues she touches upon (aside from mental illness) are: racism, sexism, economic status, social class and identity. Rhys is also able to fully develop the characters and provide a background for them without disrupting the flow of the short story line's plot. Her tone is somber and haunting - the essence of each character's mental state of mind. Overall, I would highly recommend this little book - its the perfect introduction to Rhys' writing style. Enjoy!
Happy Reading! I'm off to figure out what book to dive into next. Cheers!!
Description from book flap:
In a crumbling seaside hotel on the coast of Japan, quiet seventeen-year-old Mari works the front desk as her mother tends to the off-season customers. When one night they are forced to expel a middle-aged man and a prostitute from their room, Mari finds herself drawn to the man's voice, in what will become the first gesture of a single long seduction. In spite of her provincial surroundings, and her cool but controlling mother, Mari is a sophisticated observer of human desire, and she sees in this man something she has long been looking for.
The man is a proud if threadbare translator living on an island off the coast. A widower, there are whispers around town that he may have murdered his wife. Mari begins to visit him on his island, and he soon initiates her into a dark realm of both pain and pleasure, a place in which she finds herself more at ease even than the translator. As Mari's mother begins to close in on the affair, Mari's sense of what is suitable and what is desirable are recklessly engaged.
Wow. Ogawa has written another haunting novel. I'm not sure what to write about this book, because truthfully there were times that I was rather shocked at the deplorable and violent manner in which Mari was treated by her companion, the translator. Her first foray into an intimate relationship consisted of being tied up, hung by the ceiling, photographed, physically and verbally abused - all of which Mari craved and enjoyed. So, why did I cringe whilst reading about this S&M relationship? Because Mari is seventeen and has never experienced unconditional love from anyone (except her father, who was an alcoholic that died rather suddenly in Mari's young life). She believes she is ugly and undeserving of happiness and views her relationship with the translator as a means of escape from her stagnant life at the hotel; where her mother roughly brushes her hair every morning and constantly berates her for merely existing. With no friends to talk with or hang out, Mari relishes the freedom she feels when she is with the translator. And this translator takes advantage of Mari's naivete. He engages this young lady by playing on her loneliness and desperation. At first, he seems rather odd, but quiet and soft spoken. There is a walk around town and a wave goodbye, which leads to a letter that implores Mari to please meet him again. Once they are on his island and in his house, the atmosphere shifts and the translator is no longer kind - instead he becomes forceful and authoritative with regards to what he expects from Mari. Its interesting to watch this relationship progress throughout the book and the ways in which Mari's demeanor changes, along with her feelings about her body and self. I think that the introduction of the translator's nephew was an easy way to begin the ending of Mari's relationship with the translator. Of course, the ending is not what I expected. I won't spoil the ending for you, but suffice it to say that the translator turns out to be just as ugly a person as I had figured out earlier. As for Mari, I'm not sure what I feel towards her, except disappointment and pity. In the end, these characters definitely captured my attention as did their story. Ogawa is able to describe a scene so vividly that you can clearly picture Mari's thrill at deceiving her mother or the excitement she felt while reading the translator's letters tucked away behind the front desk when no one was looking. The writing is solid and the tone is perfect at capturing the unpredictable shift of events throughout the novel. I would definitely recommend this book to Ogawa fans.
Happy reading to all! I'm off to finish reading Jean Rhys', Let Them Call It Jazz.
By the by, this read counts towards two of my reading challenges: Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge 4 and CL's The Summer Reading Challenge 2010 - (Click on the links to find out more about each challenge, if you are interested in joining in on the reading fun). Bazinga for me!