Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: The English American by Alison Larkin

The English American: A NovelTitle: The English American

Author: Alison Larkin

Pages: 336

Source: Library

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "I think everyone should be adopted."

Summary (From back of book):

Twenty-eight-year-old Pippa Dunn is a cheerfully awkward fish out of water -- an untidy redheaded bundle of energy in a posh, buttoned-up London neighborhood. She has always loved her adoptive English parents and sister, Charlotte, while knowing that she was adopted -- or, as her parents tell her, "You were chosen, darling." But not knowing where she truly comes from, Pippa starts to wonder ... who are her birth parents? Are they ebullient and creative, like Pippa? Are they rich and charismatic? Is she a long-lost Kennedy daughter?

When she learns that her mother is a free-spirited redhead (like Pippa!) living in Georgia and that her father is a politically inclined businessman in Washington, D.C., Pippa takes the plunge and crosses the pond to discover her roots. She is soon caught between two opposing cultures, two sets of parents, and two completely different men. Pippa is about to learn the real meaning of "nature versus nurture," of "culture clash" -- and of the full richness (and chaos) of her identity as an English American.

My Two Cents:

This book started out a little worrisome to me. There was just something about it that didn't catch me quite right, and I was worried that that would be the case for the book's entirety. Luckily, something just seemed to click into place about 40 pages in, and then I finished the book rather quickly.

I absolutely adored Pippa. She was smart, funny and entirely herself, regardless of the way others thought she should act. She reminded me a lot of a grown-up Anne of Green Gables or Pippi Longstocking (Not just because of the red hair!) because she just did and said whatever she felt like doing or saying instead of conforming to the conventions that everyone else did. I felt very connected to her as a character, also, and I cared about what happened to her.

Larkin's writing is good, but there's nothing really special about it. It's clear and easy-to-read. This is a book that could be powered through in a few hours, if the reader were so inclined.

The one thing I wasn't very fond of in this book was that Pippa's birth parents were just so out there it was almost a little hard to believe them. I know that Larkin was trying to show that Pippa realizes that her "real" parents are the ones who raised her for 28 years, so there had to be something "wrong" with the birth parents, but there was just a little too much villainization (Is that a word?) of the birth parents for my liking. I almost would've preferred to see that the birth parents were just *normal* people who welcomed Pippa into the fold of their lives.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I think anyone who likes books about the "odd duck" child in a family, or who was the "odd duck" in a family, could relate to and enjoy this book.

Monday, June 28, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: June 28, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

This week, I read:
The English American by Alison Larkin
Riddle of Berlin by Cym Lowell

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):
 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5) by Richelle Mead
Don't Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel

This week, I'm reading:
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

This week, I hope to begin reading:
Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie
Ni'il, the Awakening by James Boyle
Glimmerglass (Faeriewalker #1) by Jenna Black

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Show Me 5 Saturday: Don't Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel

From That's A Novel Idea and Find Your Next Book Here

Don't Die, My Love

1 book I read: Don't Die, My Love by Lurlene

2 words that describe the book: Teen drama


3 settings where it took place or characters you met:

Setting: Waterton, Indiana

Julie Ellis is a teenager who is desperately in love with the star of the football team and who sees nothing but great things ahead of her. She has problems with her mom trying to get her to look at colleges when all she wants to do is find out where her boyfriend plans to go and then make her decision. When Luke finds out he has leukemia, though, her world is turned upside-down.



Luke Muldenhower is the star of the Waterton Warriors football team with a promising college career and a great girlfriend. He's been in love with Julie since they were kids, and he loves reminding her in little ways how much he loves her. After finishing a season that has left him with a flu he can't really shake, Luke goes to the doctor, expecting to be given a prescription and sent on his way to prepare for his senior year and a bid at the championships. It's not that simple, though, and Luke must come to terms with his own fate.


4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

I liked that this book was a lot like slipping on a well-worn pair of jeans: I remembered it from the moment I opened the front cover. McDaniel's books stick with you well past adolescence because they pack that emotional punch that's so memorable.

I didn't like how stereotypical a teenager Julie was. Sure, she had to be universal and appeal to her readers, but Julie was just too snippy with her mom a lot of the time for my liking.

I liked how quick of a read this was. It's only 250 pages and a really easy read, so I was able to finish it in a couple of hours. It gave me a nice feeling of accomplishment even though I was a little less than satisfied with how the book lived up to my memories of it.

I disliked that this book was all about packing an emotional punch and not really about drawing any sort of believable characters. I just didn't really feel that much for anyone in the book. Perhaps it's because I'm remembering basically bawling my eyes out when I first read this book (When I was about 10 years old, I believe), and my re-read will never live up to that feeling. But, I've run into some really great young adult literature recently that packs an emotional punch while still appealing to the adult readers. Young adult literature really has come a long way since the mid-90s.

5 Stars or less for your rating?

I'm giving the book 3 stars. It just didn't sit well with me this time around, and part of that could be because I've got about 15 years between my first read and this one. That's a lot of living and emotional maturity. I can see where young girls would still be affected by this one, but I think it may not be as well-received by today's readers as it was when it first was published because of the increase in sophistication of young adult literature.


The Whys and Wheres: Library - I picked it up because I read it so many years ago and still think of it from time to time, so I wanted to see if it lives up to my expectations.

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5) by Richelle Mead

Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy, Book 5)Title: Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5)

Author: Richelle Mead

Pages: 489

Source: Library

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "There's a big difference between death threats and love letters -- even if the person writing the death threats still claims to actually love you."

Summary (From book flap):

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Siberia, Dimitri's birthplace, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir's -- and to her best friend, Lissa Dragomir. It's graduation, and the girls can't wait for their real lives outside of the academy's cold iron gates to finally begin. But even with the intrigue and excitement of court life looming, Rose's heart still aches for Dimitri. He's out there, somewhere.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance, and now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and she knows in her heart that he is hunting her. And if Rose won't join him, he won't rest until he has silenced her ... forever.

But Rose can't forget what she learned on her journey -- whispers of a magic too impossible and terrifying to comprehend. A magic inextricably tied to Lissa that could hold the answer to all of Rose's prayers, but not without devastating consequences. Now Rose will have to decide what -- and who -- matters most to her. And in the end, is true love really worth the price?

My Two Cents:

This is, overall, the best young adult vampire series I have read. It's well-written, the world is rich and the characters aren't just a bunch of spoiled, whiny teenagers. However, this is my least favorite book in the series so far.

When last we left Rose, she thought she had killed her love Dimitri, who was turned Strigoi (The worst kind of vampire). But, he wasn't dead. This book picks back up at St. Vladimir's with Rose reading another of Dimitri's notes to her in which he tells her she is fair game as soon as she leaves the academy's gates.

The main action of this book really takes place within the first 150 pages. After that, it's just a lot of walking around and talking and a lot of Rose getting upset. It's still a pretty solid book, but it just does not live up to the other four books in the series. Sure, there's a pretty good twist at the end that leaves plenty of material for the final book, but it just wasn't what I had hoped it would be.

Even though this installment was a bit disappointing, I still would recommend this series to anyone who likes vampire literature. If you've read Twilight and think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, please, do yourself a favor and read this series instead. You'll never know what hit you. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

Jude the Obscure (Penguin Classics)Title: Jude the Obscure

Author: Thomas Hardy

Pages: 444

Source: Personal copy

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry."

Summary (From back of book):

Jude Fawley, the stone-mason, whose academic ambitions are thwarted by poverty and the indifference of the authorities at Christminster, appears to find fulfillment in his relationship with Sue Bridehead. Both of them have fled from previous marriages, and together they share a 'two-in-oneness' rarely matched. Ironically, when tragedy strikes it is Sue, the modern, emancipated thinker -- the last and greatest of Hardy's heroines, ranking with Emma Bovary and Anna Karenin -- who is unequal to the challenge.

Its literary qualities apart, Jude the Obscure is also a rich source of social history, accurately reflecting within its pages the encroachment of the modern, developing world on the rural traditions of England.

My Two Cents:

While this book was still good, it is my least-favorite Hardy to-date (I've read all the major Hardy's except The Mayor of Casterbridge). I think a lot of the problem I had with this was that it was so meandering most of the time -- It covered such a HUGE span of time and it took forever for Hardy to really get down to the meat of the matter. I think it would have been better if he had just focused on Jude's bid for Christminster and then showed a little of what happened after his rejection or something.


I really liked Jude as a character. I felt sorry for him through the entire book, mostly because I knew that his big dreams could come to no positive end. You have to expect, when reading Hardy, that anyone who has a dream but no money will come within sight of achieving that goal, but never quite make it. And Jude works hard, independently, to gain entry to Christminster (A fictionalized Oxford), but fails because he has neither the money or the social standing to recommend him to the dons.

I wasn't, actually, terribly fond of Sue, nor was I really impressed with her as the heroine. Sure, she bucks the tradition of rural England and runs off with Jude while she's still technically married -- One source of all the "scandal" when this book was first published -- but she just seemed kind of blah to me. She had no real spark or life that I could grab onto and say, "Yes, this is a great heroine."

Even though Hardy was a pretty critical social writer in his time and often dealt with the plight of the lower classes, this is his most socially critical work that I've read. This book, although slow at times, never failed to provide me with a rich commentary on the social mores of Jude's world. If nothing else, this book is important for that picture of a world gone by.

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: June 21, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

It was a slow reading week for me this week between work and getting my house ready for a cook-out on Sunday. I still managed to finish a book, though!

This week, I read:
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

This week, I'm reading:
The English American by Alison Larkin

This week, I hope to begin reading:
The Essays: A Selection by Michel de Montaigne
The Riddle of Berlin by Cym Lowell

What are you reading this week? 

Friday, June 18, 2010

BBAW: My Nomination Post

I've seen a lot of posts over the last several months talking about Book Blogger Appreciation Week, so when I saw Jenners' post about how she's joining up, I was intrigued.

BBAW is one of those things that, I think, every book blogger needs to tackle at least once, much like Dewey's 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. Of course, having never experienced a BBAW myself, I can't really tell anyone why they should participate, other than I see a lot of people talking positively about it.

In looking through the posts on the BBAW site, I saw that bloggers are being asked to nominate themselves for awards this year, and link up to the post which condenses their five nomination entries.

Since I started my blog back in December, I decided to nominate myself for Best New Book Blog, a category which I'm sure will be full of awesome new bloggers. But, nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

So, here are my five posts for my entry, which I think best represent what I've done with my blog thus far:

1. A post most of you probably haven't read (From when my blog was a wee, itty-bitty tadpole) where I try to figure out which War and Peace character I loathed the least

2. A review of one of my favorite reads of 2010, complete with a Twilight rant, Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

3. My favorite read of all time: The Great Gatsby

4. How Eric Van Lustbader's Last Snow sort of helped me overcome James Patterson Syndrome

5. One of my longest reviews (It should be, it took me seven weeks to read the book!), Gone With the Wind

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Review: Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah's KeyTitle: Sarah's Key

Author: Tatiana de Rosnay

Pages: 293

Source: Library

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "The girl was the first to hear the loud pounding on the door."

Summary (From back of book):

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is taken with her parents by the French police as they go door-to-door arresting Jewish families in the middle of the night. Desperate to protect her younger brother, Sarah locks him in a bedroom cupboard -- their secret hiding place -- and promises to come back for him as soon as they are released

Sixty years later: Sarah's story intertwines with that of Julia Jarmond, an American journalist investigating the roundup. In her research, Julia stumbles onto a trail of secrets that link her to Sarah, and to questions about her own romantic future.

My Two Cents:

I have been *trying* to read this book for months, ever since I tossed it into my Amazon cart while shopping for the library. When it came in, I was reading another book, so it made the rounds of several people. Then, I read about 50 pages one Saturday morning and was hooked, but someone came in requesting the book. So, it's taken me until now to read it.

Until reading this book, I had no idea there were roundups in Paris during World War II. It makes sense, seeing as France was Nazi-occupied for part of the war. But, it was still a shock to learn that people really were taken from their homes by French police, sent to French camps, and then taken by train directly to Auschwitz and killed. Horrifying.

I liked Julia as a character well enough, but there were some times when I had wished she would have woken up sooner and changed her home situation. Some of the things she put up with just annoyed me, and kind of set me against her character.

Sarah, though, is one of the most memorable characters I've ever met in fiction. She begins the book as a regular 10-year-old girl, but the horrors that she sees and the things she's forced to come to terms with change her permanently. While there probably wasn't a child during the roundup who was in her exact situation, there likely were several children who had their innocence destroyed by their own countrymen.

This is an incredibly powerful book. I usually try to stagger my reading of books, switching back and forth between two books I'm reading, but I couldn't put this one down. I finished more than half the book in about an hour on a train ride. This is one book you'll never forget.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: June 14, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

This week, I read:
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Don't Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel

This week, I reviewed (Click on the title to read my review):
 The Art of Devotion by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin
Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown
She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

This week, I'm reading:
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The English American by Alison Larkin

This week, I hope to begin reading:
The Riddle of Berlin by Cym Lowell
The Essays: A Selection by Michel de Montaigne

What are you reading this week?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: She's So Dead to Us by Kieran Scott

She's So Dead to UsTitle: She's So Dead to Us

Author: Kieran Scott

Pages: 275

Source: Publisher

Rating: 4/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "'Oh. My. God. You are never going to believe who I just saw driving through town in a Subaru.'"

Summary (From back of book):

Ally Ryan would rather be in Maryland. She would rather be anywhere, in fact, than Orchard Hill, site of her downfall. Well, not hers exactly, but when your father's hedge fund goes south and all your friends lose their trust funds, things don't look so sunny for you. So her mother moved them away to flee the shame. But now they're moving back. Back to the country club, new car every year, family came over on the Mayflower lifestyle that Ally has outgrown. But there are bright sides. Like gorgeous Jake Graydon. Ally and Jake instantly like each other, but it won't be easy for them to be together -- not if his friends (her former friends) have anything to say about it. Is Ally ready to get thrown back into the drama of the life she left behind?

My Two Cents:

This book just did not work for me. It wasn't the writing or anything, it's just that I can't stand to watch kids be so cruel to one another. And, sadly, the mean girl streak is big in the young adult literary world. It's just like reading one big celebrity reality show. I almost felt like the Kardashian sisters and Lindsey Lohan were going to pop up any second.

People in this book were just too mean and too shallow for me to be able to actually like them. Sure, Ally was all right, and I liked her well enough, but it was just too hard watching everyone else mercilessly bring Ally down time and time again simply because they could. I almost put the book down, hoping it would get better and that the mean girls would get their come-uppance. Nope. Didn't happen. Sure, there's buzz that this is going to be a trilogy or that there will at least be a sequel, so there's time for them to pay their dues, but I was just left unsatisfied.

Perhaps I'm projecting some of my more heinous junior high experiences on this book, but the mean girls were too mean and there was very little redeeming quality in anyone in this book for me to really like it. I know Scott is trying to show some of the seedy underbelly of high schools through this clique, but I think that this mean girl, privileged child with no consequences trend in young adult literature (Think Gossip Girl. *shudder*) isn't helping kids get through high school any more easily. It's just giving kids more ideas.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Critical Care by Theresa Brown

Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in BetweenTitle: Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life, and Everything in Between

Author: Theresa Brown

Pages: 208

Source: Publisher

Rating: 6/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "'You left teaching English for this?'"

Summary (From back of book):

Brown walks readers through the rigors of chemotherapy, reveals the odd things that can happen to people's bodies in hospitals, and throws in some humor with her chapter titled "Doctors Don't Do Poop." During her first year on the hospital floor, Brown is seriously injured, but her recovery allows her to take a new perspective on the health care system, giving her a better understanding of the challenges faced by her patients.

My Two Cents:

I'm not usually one to read memoirs, especially those by people in professions I really know nothing about, but I have several friends in nursing, so I decided to get a look at what they do every day.

Brown, a former English professor, decides to return to school and become a nurse, spending her first year on the medical oncology floor. Each chapter includes stories of actual happenings on her ward, showing the ins and outs of not only nursing, but cancer treatment. It's a really quick read, and I think those in the medical profession would enjoy this.

For me, though, it just didn't quite work as well as I thought it would. Brown's writing is OK; it's nothing stellar and it's not bad. But there really isn't much heart behind a lot of these tales. She talks about dealing with her first deaths on the ward, but doesn't really give us much in the way of how she dealt with those losses. She just kind of says, "It took me a long time to recover" and then moves on. I guess I would have liked to see a little more of that instead of all the stories of patients.

I liked this book well enough, but it just didn't impress me as anything particularly special. Perhaps those with more knowledge of nursing or medicine will find more interesting things in this book, though.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Review and blog tour: The Art of Devotion by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

The Art of DevotionTitle: The Art of Devotion

Author: Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

Pages: 378

Source: Publisher

Rating: 7/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "For each of us, there is a moment: what we see at the last, before God closes our eyes forever; an entire existence distilled to one perfect memory."

Summary (From back of book):

The secluded beaches of a sun-drenched Mediterranean island are the perfect playground for young Sebastian and Adora. Emotionally adrift from their mother, Adora shelters her sensitive older brother from the cruelties of the world. Sophie does not question her children's intense need for one another until it's too late. Her beloved son's affections belong to Adora, and when he drowns in the sea, she has no one else to blame.

Still heartbroken years later, Adora fills her emptiness with Genevieve, the precocious young daughter of her husband's business associate and his jealous wife, Miranda. Thrilled to be invited into the beautiful and enigmatic Adora's world, the child idolizes her during their summers together. Yet, as the years progress, Genevieve begins to suspect their charmed existence is nothing more than a carefully crafted illusion. Soon, she too is ensnared in a web of lies.

My Two Cents:

Any book that begins with the final sentence from my all-time favorite novel, The Great Gatsby, gets an extra point in my book. And when that novel can take some of the same themes found in Gatsby and use them properly, it gets more points.

This book, Bruce-Benjamin's first novel, is told entirely from the memories of its characters. There is no present tense in the verbs, and some other reviewers have had problems with that fact. I think it works for this book, especially since so many of its characters are stuck in the past and can't see forward into the future. The "telling" from memory also works well for Bruce-Benjamin's writing style, which is easily readable and fluid.

I had a hard time determining which characters to like and dislike, which is definitely the author's intention. She only shows you what you need to see at any given moment, and your opinion of many of the characters changes pretty drastically throughout the course of the book. Sometimes, I like when authors do that, but other times I'm not so fond of it. The constant change in appearance and opinion of the characters works for this novel, though, as a lot of the focus is on artifice and perception.

I do have to say that Sebastian and Adora's relationship often creeped me out a little bit. They were far too close and dependent for brother and sister, especially as they got older. Maybe it's just because I've never had a sibling relationship that was that insanely close, but I just didn't understand it and I didn't understand why Sophie, their mother, didn't dissuade them from spending so much time together.

If you like books about family relationships, secrets and lies, this is the book for you.

Monday, June 7, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?: May 31, 2010 and June 7, 2010

Hosted by Sheila at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly bookish meme whereby bloggers share their reading for the past week.

Since I seemed to forget that last Monday was, in fact, Monday, I'm posting two weeks' worth of IMWAYR this week!

The last two weeks, I read:

The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy Book 5) by Richelle Mead
Critical Care: A New Nurse Faces Death, Life and Everything in Between by Theresa Brown
The Art of Devotion by Samantha Bruce-Benjamin

The last two weeks, I reviewed:
This One Is Mine by Maria Semple
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens
The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy

This week, I'm reading:

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This week, I hope to begin reading:
The English American by Alison Larkin
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
Don't Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel (I want to see if this is as awesome a book as it was when I was in junior high!)

What are you reading this week?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories by Thomas Hardy

The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories 1888-1900Title: The Fiddler of the Reels and Other Stories

Author: Thomas Hardy

Pages: 276

Source: Personal library

Rating: 9/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Here stretch the downs, high and breezy and green, absolutely unchanged since those eventful days."

Summary (From back of book): 

In the title story of this collection, Car'line Aspent, bewitched and seduced by the dazzling fiddler, Mop Ollamoor, rejects her loyal suitor Ned only to repent her decision and seek him out years later. The ten other tales share the theme of love, but they are more than simple love stories. Written with Hardy's customary compassion for ordinary men and women and his sharp sense of irony, they tell of romantic disasters, betrayals, misunderstandings and cruelties. And, as in Hardy's novels, it is frequently the women who fall in love unwisely, in defiance of their class, their expectations or their family loyalties, and suffer for their impulsiveness.

My Two Cents:

This collection of short stories is classic Hardy at its finest: Fatalistic and sympathetic at the same time. Anyone who's read Hardy's novels (Tess of the d'Urbervilles specifically comes to mind) knows that Hardy feels for the common man, but knows that fate does not spare those who need it.

My favorite story in this collection is "An Imaginative Woman," which tells the story of a woman who falls in love with a poet she's never met. As you're reading the story, you think there are a couple of ways it can end. When it finally does come to a close, Hardy provides a twist ending to rival those of Guy de Maupassant. It is well done and actually made me laugh out loud (I'm not sure if that was his original intention, but I like irony!).

Another great story is "Enter a Dragoon." After learning that the man she was supposed to marry three years ago was not killed in battle after all, Selina's family hurries to make the marriage final. It's not until after his death, though, that she learns the truth of what happened during those three lost years. I kind of saw the ending coming, but that didn't make it any less interesting of an ending.

Fans of Thomas Hardy's novels will enjoy this book full of looks into the lives of the common man who doesn't always get his happy ending.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Review: The Wife's Tale by Lori Lansens

The Wife's Tale: A NovelTitle: The Wife's Tale

Author: Lori Lansens

Pages: 353

Source: Library Thing Early Reviewers program

Rating: 8/10

Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge

First Sentence: "Alone in the evenings, when the light had drained from the slate roof of her small rural home, and when her husband was working late, Mary Gooch would perform a striptease for the stars at the open bedroom window: shifting out of rumpled bottoms, slipping off blousy top, liberating breasts, peeling panties, her creamy flesh spilling forth until she was completely, exquisitely nude."

Summary (From book flap):

On the eve of their silver anniversary, Mary Gooch is waiting for her husband, Jimmy -- still every inch the handsome star athlete he was in high school -- to come home. As night turns to day, it becomes frighteningly clear to Mary that he is gone. Through the years, disappointment and worry have brought Mary's life to a standstill, and she has let her universe shrink to the well-worn path from her bedroom to the refrigerator. But her husband's disappearance startles her out of her inertia, and she begins a desperate search.

She boards a plane for the first time in her life and flies across the country to find her lost husband. So used to hiding from the world, Mary learns that in the bright sun and broad vistas of California, she is forced to look up from the pavement. And what she discovers fills her with an inner strength she's never felt before: perfect strangers who come to her rescue, an aging, sometimes hostile mother-in-law who needs her help, friends who enjoy her company. And through it all, Mary not only finds kindred spirits, but reunites with a more intimate stranger no longer sequestered by fear and habit: herself.

My Two Cents:

At first, I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book. I'm not usually a big fan of books that focus largely on one characteristic of a character -- In this case, Mary's weight -- because it almost seems to reduce that character to a stereotype. With Mary, however, it soon becomes obvious that her weight is the outgrowth and cause of a lot of other factors in her life.

I've never had an experience with Lansens' work in the past, but I think I'll seek out her other novel. Her writing is smooth and easy to read. This book flows really well. I would sit down to read and look up after another 50 pages, surprised at how quickly the pages flew by.

I really liked Mary as a character. She is someone who, in the beginning of the book, clearly needs a change. It takes one major event to throw her out of her usual life, but she does a total 180 and becomes a whole new person. She steps outside herself and her own problems to help others, including her often abrasive mother-in-law and a woman she meets in a parking lot. I cheered for Mary through the whole book.

Lansens is great at rendering a lot of different people vividly. She has the ability to present an Israeli immigrant who drives a limousine with the same depth that she shows us Mary, and we get the same sense of a kindly bank teller that we do of Mary's husband. The minor characters are just as memorable as the major characters.

If you like stories with characters who make great changes in their lives or who get through a major crisis, or if you're a fan of non-traditional women's fiction (Is that even a category?), this book's for you.

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