Monday, March 28, 2011
Betty Weissmann has just been dumped by her husband of forty-eight years. Exiled from her elegant New York apartment by her husband's mistress, she and her two middle-aged daughters, Miranda and Annie, regroup in a run-down Westport, Connecticut, beach cottage. In Schine's playful and devoted homage to Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, the impulsive sister is Miranda, a literary agent entangled in a series of scandals, and the more pragmatic sister is Annie, a library director, who feels compelled to move in and watch over her caprcious mother and sister. Schine's witty, wonderful novel "is simply full of pleasure: the pleasure of reading, the pleasure of Austen, and the pleasure that the characters so rightly and humoroursly pursue...An absolute triumph"(The Cleveland Plain Dealer).
I absolutely enjoyed this book. It was such an engrossing read. The writing was excellent and the characters were unforgettable. Its a story about everyday life and the ways in which people handle the cruel and biting ways that life can twist and turn when you least expect it. Of course, the rare good bits in life that make you smile are mentioned in the book - they just don't seem to happen that often. Perhaps, that is why I like this book, because of the realistic manner in which life is depicted (messy, complicated and unresolved). Its refreshing to read a book that is made up of moody, broken and completely self-absorbed characters who all seem rather nutty and unlikeable, yet somehow manage to inspire a connection (or at least I connected with some of them on some level). Of course, there were the few characters that bordered on the ridiculous (I laughed out loud when they appeared in the story) - I'm thinking they were inserted into the story line to show us how mundane situations can easily be turned into a melodramatic soap opera. And what is this story about? Well, everything. We have divorce, romance, love, death, money, deception, sexuality, pregnancy, scandal, and family all tied into one big story that revolves around Betty and her two daughters, Miranda and Annie, who find themselves once again all living together under the same roof (which is not exactly turning out to be what they expected) . Betty is refusing to accept the fact that her husband of nearly five decades has filed for divorce, Miranda is hiding out after a horribly embarrassing work scandal has left her bankrupt, and Annie is trying to keep her mother and sister from falling apart, even if that means ignoring her own needs. Each of these women is attempting to find some sort of resolution to their situation, yet neither of them really try to do anything about it. Or at least not at first. As the story progresses and more dramas seem to ensue, we find these women's strength pushing through and aiding them in moving forward with their lives. We see some situations being resolved, while others are pushed aside. And we have an ending which is bittersweet. All in all, a book that makes you laugh, cry and sigh in exasperation - a good read in my opinion. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys women's fiction.
On a side note, reading this book means that I have completed the Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011. I joined at the neophyte level, which means I only had to read 1 book if I wanted ( I could read anywhere from 1 - 4 books). Yay, me!! Of course now that I think about it, reading only 1 book does seem rather lazy. Hmmm. Perhaps, I'll read another - like, Sense and Sensibility.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
I'm done! Villette is dead. Okay not really, but you know what I mean. Its over and I can now rest knowing that I won (okay, so there was no competition, but I won in the sense that I didn't let the book beat me - I beat it (meaning I finished it regardless of how boring it was)). Anyhow, its done and I can honestly say that I didn't hate the book and I'm glad I participated in the read along. I suppose at the end of the day, its just like one of those stuffy classics I had to read for school and immediately forgot about afterward. Anyhow, before I delete the book from my Kindle, here's what happened in the end (and yes, the ending did make me smile).
Lucy and M. Paul finally admit that they have a friendship, a close one - so close, that he wants her to think of him like a brother? That bit was weird - how can you think about someone you want to be with romantically as your sibling? I know he was trying to establish a relationship with her, but seriously? Anyhow, before all of this talk of friendship, Lucy finds out (via an errand Madame Beck has asked her to run for her) that M. Paul was once in love and that the woman died. So he has taken it upon himself to be financially responsible for her family and his priest (the man who encouraged him and counseled him - this is also the guy who listened to Lucy before she fainted). He has chosen to live the life of a pauper, as long as these people are taken care of. This altruistic nature melts Lucy's heart and she realizes what a great man M. Paul is. And so their friendship blossoms and this leads to drama - Madame Beck announces that M. Paul has quit teaching and will be leaving for a faraway country. Lucy is shocked. What!?! Why!?! When!?! And of course, where is he? Lucy hasn't seen him since they discussed their relationship (you know, the whole love me like a brother scene). Each time he is at the school, Madame Beck finds a way to keep them apart - in fact, the day he comes to say goodbye to his pupils, she literally blocks Lucy from being seen and ushers M. Paul out of the room ( I had to laugh at that scene. Come on, Lucy! Why didn't you push her aside or run up to M. Paul?!). Its just crazy how blatant Madame Beck is about keeping Lucy and M. Paul apart and how Lucy doesn't even try to stop her. Perhaps her will is stronger than her tongue, because one night that she is given a sleeping drug, the drug does not put her to sleep, instead it jolts her awake. Overcome with the fear that she will not see M. Paul before he leaves, Lucy sneaks out of the school and wanders around town and sees everyone she knows (and yet, they don't see her? I swear, she really can blend into the background at times). Anyhow, as a result of her spying, she learns that Madame Beck, the priest and the old woman (the one M. Paul is taking care of) have all plotted together to keep Lucy and M. Paul apart. They each have a stake in this new job of M. Paul's - apparently the old woman discovered some land of hers that needs to be tended to for three years, before she can make any money off of it - so all three, who believe they will each get a cut of the money (except for the priest, he just hates that Lucy is Protestant), have decided to get M. Paul to tend to the land - which will take him far away from Lucy. OMG! Lucy is shocked and hurt by this truth. She runs back to school and finds the nun in her bed and wants to scream, but she can't. As she gets closer, she realizes that its not the nun, but just the nun's clothes. Anyhow, Lucy and M. Paul finally get to spend time together and she tells him what she learned as a result of her late night wanderings and he shows her why he has been away from her these past few weeks. M. Paul has acquired a house, which can double as a school and has set it all up for Lucy - he knows that she has been saving her monies in the hopes of one day opening up her own school. He told Lucy that he feared for her being alone with Madame Beck whilst he was gone, so he decided it would be best to have her realize her dream of opening her own school sooner than later - which of course, he would become a part of when he returns in three years. Lucy is stunned and deeply moved by M. Paul's actions and realizes just how much he cares for her and she cares for him. And so, M. Paul leaves to tend the land and Lucy spends the next three years enjoying her new life and awaiting the return of the man she loves. Before I forget, we also find out that Dr. John and Polly get married and have children and remain happy. Oh and Ginerva and her beau elope and she explains to Lucy that it was Alfred (Ginerva's beau) that dressed up as the nun - it was a means of disguise he used in order to sneak around the school to meet up with Ginerva. How crazy is that!?! Poor Lucy, all along she thought she was being haunted by a nun. And so the book ends.
I'm happy that Lucy found love and was able to get away from Madame Beck. And I'm glad that M. Paul turned out to be a somewhat decent man. I'm still not sure how much I liked Lucy or this story - it was dreadfully boring at times and it wasn't until the end that the pace picked up, but I am glad I got a sort of happy ending. After all that loneliness, it was good to see Lucy recognize she didn't want to be alone anymore.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
And so I'm off to find out what will transpire between Lucy and M. Paul. Until next week, Happy Reading!!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Who killed Dr. Harvey Burdell in his opulent Manhattan town house?
At once a gripping mystery and a richly detailed excavation of a lost age, 31 Bond Street is a spellbinding tale of murder, sex, greed, and politics in 1857 New York. Author Ellen Horan interweaves fact and fiction - reimagining the sensational nineteenth-century crime that rocked the city a few short years before the Civil War ripped through the fabric of the nation, while transporting readers back to a time that eerily echoes our own.
Though there are no clues to the brutal slaying wealthy Dr. Burdell, suspicion quickly falls on Emma Cunningham, the refined, pale-skinned widow who managed his house and servants. An ambitious districh attorney seeks a swift conviction, but defense attorney Henry Clinton is a formidable obstacle - a man firmly committed to justice and the law, and to the cause of a frightened, vulnerable woman desperatly trying to save herself from the gallows.
I'm going to be honest and admit that I am midway through this gripping book. Its just too good of a read to speed through and so I'm taking my time with it - savouring each page. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction.
Based on actual events (Dr. Harvey Burdell was murdered in 1857 and the crime was never solved), this book is the perfect blend of fact and fiction. Horan has created a book that captures the mood and essence of 1857 so perfectly, that you can't help but be transported back in time. The seamless way her story unfolds, not only yields details surrounding each character, but also provides useful information about issues of that time period - racial conflicts, social and economic politics, the real estate boom and the sensationalist newspapers. Through Horan's excellent writing we are privy to a New York that is long ago forgotten. We are also witness to Emma and Harvey's odd courtship, the discovery of the body and an exciting court room trial - all of which make for quite a spellbinding read. As I keep reading, I find myself falling further and further into this captivating tale of murder and deceit. I'm loving every minute of it!
In fact, when I first began to read this book, the title Alias Grace popped into my head. Atwood's own foray into historical fiction based on a murder involving rather dubious people - in my opnion her best book. I've found Horan's book to be similar to Atwood's in the sense that both are extremely well written and quite compelling reads. Atwood's haunted me for some time after, which leaves me to wonder if Horan's will do the same.
Well, I'm off to finish 31 Bond Street and I most definitey look forward to reading anything else by Ellen Horan.
Monday, March 14, 2011
TALENT BORROWS. GENIUS STEALS. EVIL DELEGATES.
It's a hideous echo of a violent past. Across America, murders are being committed with all the twisted hallmarks of the Boston Strangler, the Zodiac Killer and Son of Sam. The media frenzy explodes and Nashville lieutenant Taylor Jackson knows instantly that the Pretender is back...and he's got helpers.
As the Pretender's disciples perpetrate their sick homages - stretching police and the FBI dangerously thin - Taylor tries desperately to prepare for their inevitable showdown. And she must do it alone. To be close to her is to be in motal danger, and she won't risk losing anyone she loves. But the isolation, the self-doubt and the rising body count are taking their toll - she's tripwire tense and ready to snap.
The brilliant psychopath who both adores and despises her is drawing close. Close enough to touch...
This is your basic crime thriller filled with suspense and nail-biting scenes. I don't usually read these types of books (truthfully, I'm not even sure why), but I wanted something different to read and so I agreed to read Ellison's book. Let me just say that I'm glad I read it - not only did I enjoy reading this book, but it also pushed me to consider reading more books in this genre (books that I would usually consider fluff, beach/airport reads). I enjoyed the quick pace of the story and the casual way it trapped you into a world of cops, crime bloggers and secrets - a world that is scary, but captivating. I was immediately taken in with the characters of Taylor and Baldwin - I wanted to find out what would happen to them and their relationship as they found themselves being pushed further and further along in their search for the Pretender. The writing was solid and the plot was interesting. There were some predictable revelations in the book, but there were also plenty of twists along the way that kept me on my toes. Overall, it was a satisfying read. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading crime thrillers (think James Patterson).
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Let's see, we are now back at school and Lucy is receiving letters from Dr. John. He promised to write her and she didn't believe he would and so when she got his first letter she ran to hide it away so that she could save it for later. That actually made me pity poor Lucy - she always makes herself out to be rather pathetic. Anyhow, she is reading her letter and relishing it, when out of nowhere an apparition of a nun appears before her and scares the frack out of her to the point that she rushes downstairs and tells the adults that there is someone hiding upstairs - Dr. John happens to be there and they all rush upstairs and find no one, which is when Lucy realizes her letter is missing - where has it gone? Well, it seems John found it and so he gives it back to her when he sees how overwrought she is about losing the letter. I think he even feels sorry for her, because she is treating the letter like its her most prized possession. And so they continue to exchange letters for a bit and then we find Lucy and Dr. John together at a show, whereupon they rush to the aid of this poor young girl - who winds up being a blast from the past for them both. Yes, it is the return of Polly! Finally! I was wondering when she would show up again - of course her identity is not revealed to Dr. John or Lucy at that time. And so the story progresses to where we find Lucy wondering why she hasn't received word from Dr. John in such a long time - she begins to think something dreadful has happened to him and doesn't eat because she is so worried and feeling rather depressive (those darn nerves of hers - curse them!). After seven weeks of nothing, she finally receives a letter from her godmother. Disappointed its not from Dr. John, Lucy reasons with herself that at least she now knows they are fine and still think of her. In fact, they have invited her to stay with them over this half-holiday weekend. And, it is at casa de Bretton that Lucy is finally reintroduced to Polly. Yes, Polly has finally entered the picture (she was the young girl from the show that they rushed to help - how they didn't realize it then that it was Polly is beyond me. I knew it was her from the moment they begin to describe her minute stature and delicate features, plus when John asked Lucy if the girl was a child that really clinched it for me). From Lucy's observations (which is all the book really is), we find that Polly and Dr. John have rekindled their old friendship and the love bug has bitten them both. I had hoped it would be Lucy and Dr. John finding love with each other, but looks like Polly has replaced Lucy in that equation. Hmmm. I wonder what Ginerva would think. Oh, that's right, she's related to Polly and is beyond annoyed to find Isidore fawning over Polly. I don't think she's going to be too happy when she finds out that Polly will be attending her school - apparently, Papa wants Polly to get educated and
Madame Beck's school happens to be in Villette and Lucy teaches there, so there you have it - a match. My questions now are: What will happen between Lucy and Dr. John, now that all his attention is diverted toward Polly? Will Polly and Dr. John marry? Will Ginerva scream in rage and tear her hair out when she finds out Dr. John chose Polly over her? Will Lucy ever do anything, besides blend in with the tapestries and wallpaper? I suppose I'll find out soon enough.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her care was entrusted to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. Now, at twenty-three, she discovers a 1943 correspondence between the convent's late mother superior and the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller that plunges her into a secret history stretching back a millennium: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim. Blending biblical lore, the Miltonic fall of the Rebel Angels, the apocryphal Book of Enoch, and the myth of Orpheus, Angelology is a luminous, riveting tale of ordinary people caught up in a battle that will determine the fate of the world.
I read this book in two days - the first day I read about 3/4 of the book and then I realized that I didn't want it to end, so I tried to slow down a bit on the second day (only to find myself itching to get to the end to see what would happen). And this is what I found: Trussoni has written a richly detailed story about good (humans = angelologists) versus evil (Nephilim = bad angels). A book that is filled with mystery, suspense, action and OMG revelations. Truth be told, I was reminded of Dan Brown's, The DaVinci Code. Angelology has the same thrilling and quick-paced feel that Brown's book had. Except with Angelology we get so much more. Not only is it well written and obviously well researched, but it is also wildly imaginative and quite engaging. You are captivated by this idea of angels and their wicked history of enslaving humans and this society of angelologists who are always at work trying to thwart the angels' agendas by any means.
I found the novel's tone and mood to be dark, but tinged with a smidgen of hopefulness. The ease and flow of the story allowed for the readers to not only learn as much as the angelologists learned, but it also provided background information on the characters through old books, letters, and diaries. I found myself immersed in a story that details covert operations, a treasure hunt for Orpheus' lyre, lost loves, death and destruction and vivid descriptions of monsters so beautiful and compelling that you want to reach out and touch them. Honestly, I didn't want this book to end and luckily it doesn't have to. Trussoni is hard at work on the second book and let me just say how excited I am to learn that we are going to find out what will happen next for these characters and the battle between good and evil.
I know my review didn't provide much detail with regards to the plot, but that is because I don't want to give away what happens in the story. Instead I urge you to pick up a copy and enjoy getting to know Evangeline, Gabriella, Verlaine and Percival all on your own - they are characters worth investing in. I definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for something different to read or someone who enjoys a good thriller. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and hope that you are, too.
Thanks to the TLC Book Tours, I'm allowed to give away two copies of this book. All you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address and the name of your favorite book. Two winners will be chosen at random. You have until March 25, 2011. Open to the US and Canada.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
And so you see, we are back with Lucy revealing memories to us that sort of include her, but are really about other people. Where is she in all of this? Why doesn't she want us to know her? Yes, we do learn that she is insecure when she puts on that pink dress for the concert, but that is about it. And yes, we know she hated being alone in the house and freaked out about it and went to church and then fainted - all of which displayed how shot her nerves were. Oh and of course she reveals to John that she recognized him some time ago, but didn't tell him so. My point is that though Lucy does reveal bits of herself, she doesn't really reveal true self with us. I want to get inside of her head, instead of being held back at such a distance. Seriously, where is this book going? Is Lucy even going to matter by the end or are we going to forget about her before the last page is turned? I'm starting to wonder why I decided to give this book a read - its making me mental trying to feign interest in a character who has no character to speak of- all she has are observation skills and a penchant for blending into the scenery. UGH!
Alright, well I'm off to read something interesting and will be returning to Villette next week. Happy Reading!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
From back of book:
Nina Barker is a neurotic young New York lawyer whose life is coming apart. After suffering a lost job and a bad breakup, she flees the increasingly painful world she knows in favor of what she imagines - quite wrongly, it turns out - will be a simpler life on the remote island of Miramar. Populated with corrupt politicians, quirky and frequently intoxicated expats, ghosts, strippers, and a guy who may or may not be working for the CIA, Nina soon discovers her tropical escape isn't exactly paradise - it's also not boring.
Northern Exposure. The t.v. show about Joel ( a NYC doc) who winds up in a small town in Alaska working as their town doc in order to pay off his med school debt. That is what this book reminded me of. Of course, Nina was a lawyer and she chose to run away to Miramar after losing her job and getting dumped by her boyfriend - so, technically its nothing like Northern Exposure. Except that it is, because Miramar is most definitely a strange new world that does not compute on Nina's NYC radar (just like Joel and Cicely)and she soon finds herself enmeshed in the lives and livelihood of this odd little island filled with strippers and fecal filled beaches. In this book, we get to see Nina at her worst (insecure, self-involved and pathetic at times) and then finally at her somewhat less worst (slightly secure, self-aware, and less pathetic). We get to experience an island that seems to be long ago forgotten and yet for many, its a last resort effort at making a go of things when life has you at a standstill. Its an interestingly odd read that leaves you smiling.
Initially I loved the idea of Nina escaping to Miramar, because who hasn't imagined running away to an exotic island when life is not going the way you had planned. Of course, once reality sets in and all the issues you were trying to avoid coming running straight at you, no matter where you are, well, then Miramar doesn't seem like such an ideal place to be. And that is when all the introspection comes into play - where Nina begins to realize that running away means she is not moving forward and that her life is still revolving around other people and not herself. We get to see Nina finally face the truth about her cheating ex-boyfriend and the role she played within that declining relationship. We get to see Nina realize that her future is unknown, but most definitely one that she can handle.
Tropical Depression is a well written book that makes you laugh out loud and sigh in frustration (heck, I even teared up a few times). Its a book that shows us how scary and exciting change can be - when we finally decide to go for it. Its a book that I would recommend to anyone and everyone. (And its also a book that has me looking for Northern Exposure on Netflix.)