Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Corner of White

by Jaclyn Moriarty

I didn't realize this was a YA novel and when I started reading it and discovered its intended audience, I groaned.  I used to enjoy reading YA books every once in awhile, but lately the genre seems filled with vampires, werewolves, and/or otherworldly beings.  The writing is often lackluster.  And the teenage angst wears me out in no time.

Since I had received this book free as a review copy, I decided I needed to give it a fair shake.  I'm so glad I did.  I thought it was delightful.

There are two main characters who are both likeable, confused, searching for their fathers, and who view their worlds in a fresh, unexpected way.

Madeleine has a history of running away from home, but this last time was the worst because her mother ran away with her.  They end up in Cambridge, England.  Even though it's the real world (our world), the view from Madeleine's perspective makes you wonder if it really is.  Madeleine writes to her father hoping he will come rescue them and get her mother the help she needs.

Elliot is also looking for his father who disappeared the night his uncle died and the physics teacher also went missing.  Elliot lives in the Kingdom of Cello where Colors can be scary.  It is believed that his uncle was killed by Purples, who then took his dad as a prisoner.

Quite by accident, our two main characters discover a way of sending messages back and forth between the two worlds.  It seems unlikely that Madeleine and Elliot will ever be able to understand the content of the other's messages but its these communications that lead to answers for each.   I liked the interplay in the messages between the worlds of the concepts of light, color, rainbows, and Isaac Newton.

The way things came together in the end provided some clarity but also got me excited to read the next book in the trilogy.   I liked how Moriarity created two such different settings for her characters.  Even though, one was the real world, it seemed just a little off kilter and, even though Elliott's world was a fantasy world, it seemed 'real' in many ways.

Even as I pushed forward to the clarity of the ending, I found myself smiling and feeling good as I enjoyed the tone of the book  and the interesting play of ideas.  I know we're not supposed to quote from ARCs but I want to share a couple of places where you can get a sense of these playful ideas.  The first is about Jack who is Madeleine's friend and classmate.
Jack had gathered these names together by the stems; he'd arranged them in a vase which he kept to the right of his mind.  At night, before he fell asleep, he'd breathe in the fragrance of each, the details that Madeleine had shared.
Jack was very interested in astrology and one time asked Madeleine what her star sign was but she heard his question as "What does your star sigh?"
He'd seen how much she liked the idea that she owned a star, and that it sighed; he's seen in her eyes that her mind was rushing through the possible words that it could sigh.
Towards the end of the book, Elliot is summoned before the Princesses of his kingdom.  One of the princesses says to him
You seem a bright boy, so could you just gather your shock and confusion into a little handkerchief size and save it for later?
There were two things I did NOT like because this book is written for 12 year olds and older: 1)  Elliot and his friends jump on a moving train and went into a neighboring territory where it was legal to buy beer at age 16, 2) the mention of sex between more than 2 people.  I thought both of these were out-of-line and not necessary to the story.  I am appalled at how casually multiple-partnered sex is thrown into television as run-of-the-mill, normal, everyday stuff (I'm talking about a recent episode of Psych) and then to run across it in this YA book, sickened me.  Totally uncalled for and not necessary!

The Corner of White will be in bookstores on April 2.  I loved it and can't wait to hear your thoughts about it.  I received this book from NetGalley  and Scholastic Books in hopes that I would read it and give it an honest review.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Six Years

by Harlan Coben

I don't know how many books I've read by Coben but I've enjoyed each one.  Six Years was remarkably good.  Loved it!
Six years have passed since Jake Sanders watched Natalie, the love of his life, marry another man. Six years of hiding a broken heart by throwing himself into his career as a college professor. Six years of keeping his promise to leave Natalie alone, and six years of tortured dreams of her life with her new husband, Todd.
But six years haven’t come close to extinguishing his feelings, and when Jake comes across Todd’s obituary, he can’t keep himself away from the funeral. There he gets the glimpse of Todd’s wife he’s hoping for . . . but she is not Natalie. Whoever the mourning widow is, she’s been married to Todd for more than a decade, and with that fact everything Jake thought he knew about the best time of his life—a time he has never gotten over—is turned completely inside out.
As Jake searches for the truth, his picture-perfect memories of Natalie begin to unravel. Mutual friends of the couple either can’t be found or don’t remember Jake. No one has seen Natalie in years. Jake’s search for the woman who broke his heart—and who lied to him—soon puts his very life at risk as it dawns on him that the man he has become may be based on carefully constructed fiction.

This book kept me guessing about Jake, about Natalie, and what really happened in that short summer they supposedly spent together, and the six years since.  Did Jake and Natalie ever have their time together or is Jake delusional.   I love a book that keeps me guessing, questioning.

There is a freshness to this story.  It's not an ordinary mystery with a body that needs to be solved.  There's no body.  The police aren't involved.  It's one man in search of his one true love who doesn't seem to even exist.

Sometimes when I write a review on a book that I really liked, I feel a little nostalgic - wishing I hadn't already read it so I can look forward to reading it.  Does that ever happen to you?  

***I received a copy of Six Years from Dutton Books, Penguin Group in exchange for an honest review.  No other compensation was received.***  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scent of Triumph

by Jan Moran

I picked this book up after quitting early on another book.  I've had such good luck with the other books I've read this year and was sad to pick up one that didn't hold my interest.

Scent of Triumph had me in its grips on page two.  The writing and the intense scene captured my attention immediately.

It's 1939 and the Nazi's had just invaded Poland.  Danielle and Max secure passage to England as soon as they get word while in New York on business.  Instead of bringing their son with them to the states, they left him in the care of Max's mother who lived in Poland.

You can probably guess that the son and his grandmother are captured and sent to a work camp.  Danielle searches for them but eventually has to flee to America for her safety and that of several family members.

In America, Danielle must rely on her determination, strong will, and natural abilities to forge a life for her and   those dependent on her.  Life isn't easy, but she is beautiful and has a 'nose' for scents.  Trained in, and with her knowledge of perfumery she starts a successful business.

I really liked the parts of the story that took place in Europe.  The parts in America were good, but I wanted to read more about what was happening to those family members that were impacted by the war and still living in Europe.  The author had a direction she wanted Danielle to take, but I want to read the alternative version where Danielle stays in Europe.  I don't know that it would be better, just different.

This was a good read, one that I think most of women would enjoy.  I suppose this book would be classified as general fiction - drama, maybe?

I received a ecopy of Scent of Triumph from NetGalley and Briarcliffe Press in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

The Resilient Woman

by Patricia O'Gorman, PHD

I read a lot of self-help books in my 20s & 30s but when all the messages were just different wording of the same themes, I weened myself.  Some of those books helped me create some positive changes in my life.

The Resilient Woman is among the best of the best that I've read.  I don't even know where to begin telling you how worthwhile this book is.  In preparing for this review, I went back and looked at my highlights - there are many highlights.  I can see that I need to reread the whole book a couple more times.  Plus, I'm going to buy a copy for each of my 4 daughters.

As I read The Resilient Woman the Lord's admonishment to us in the scriptures to "endure to the end" and "endure all things" kept coming to mind.  I realized that by becoming a resilient person, I could endure all things with grace and learn lessons from my life experiences.

Throughout the book Dr. O'Gorman provides thoughtful journal exercises.  Let me just share one with you.  This is about half way into the book and so there has been quite a bit leading up to this one but it hit home with me.
You are puzzle worth working on.  Get curious.  Begin by looking your patterns.  Describe a pattern that you keep repeating.  What are you protecting yourself from by following this pattern?  What would happen if you did something else?
Then she talks about curiosity vs shame.
   With shame we see ourselves as the problem.  Shame doesn't feel good no matter how we package it.  It traps us, sucks out energy, and, most important, shame keeps us stuck, which keeps us from accessing resilience.  By disempowering us, shame facilitates us doing the same things over and over again  It keeps us in the same patterns that we know do not work for us.  The opposite of shame and critical self-judgement is curiosity.  Curiosity invites an openness to understand, a willingness to dare to take the risk to explore.  In fact, curiosity can actually be quite exciting!  Experiment with changing some small things in your life to see if the earth falls out from under you.  When you find out it doesn't, you, too, can feel this exhilaration.
I liked this because curiosity is one reason I read.   That's something I know about.  By using curiosity in another way I can learn to experiment with small things in my life and see if they work for me or not.

There are so many concrete suggestions in this book.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  It's directed at women but I think it can apply to men, too.  I recommended it to my husband.

I received a copy of The Resilient Woman from NetGalley in return for my honest review.  No other compensation was received.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Murder Below Montparnasse

by Cara Black

 I enjoyed this book a lot and look forward to reading more from the series.  That's right, it's a series. I can't believe how many times I find myself in the middle of a series without having read any of the earlier books.  That's not always a bad thing.  Reading a mystery out of order can create it's own experience - the reader gets to go back and discover the motivations behind the main character.

Murder Below Montparnasse is book 12 in the series.  There were times I was a little confused and that was probably because I wasn't familiar with the characters and some of the backplot.  The sprinkling of French words also added to my confusion but I wouldn't want those left out.

In spite of that, it was a really good book and a good mystery that revolves around a painting by a famous French artist that has gone missing.  I liked the main character, Aimee Leduc, and her two colleagues in her detective agency.  I have already made a list of the books in the series, in order, so I can read more.

This book will be released on March 5.

Are you familiar with this series featuring Aimee Leduc?  Do you have a favorite?  At this point I'm not worried about reading them in order, but I would like to read more.