Tuesday, September 30, 2014

1914 history.

Touching again on the 100th anniversary of WWI, I was sent a very unusual account of a soldier's time spent during the first world war in the form of a graphic novel titled Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier. The diary includes the first months of the war that everyone thought would be over by Christmas, yet lasted 4 years killing millions. No one has any idea who the author is, what happened to him, or why he stopped writing, although we can imagine. The graphic novel part isn't even the strangest part of this book, the strangest part is that its illustrator Barroux, found a diary on an ordinary day, walking the streets of Paris, in the trash. He scooped it up, created some drawings to go along with the writing, and now we have a truly unique piece of history to enjoy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

holding you over until maisie dobbs comes back.

Jacqueline Winspear's novels are so rich in history and SO much better than any history class I've ever been in. And in light of the 100th anniversary of WWI, this author does not disappoint!  

The Care and Management of Lies is a tale of love and war set before and during WWI in England that takes the reader through different facets of WWI history using several perspectives. Set on both a farm in Kent and France where the fighting was occurring, we meet Kezia Brissendon, a school teacher in London turned farmer's wife, and her husband Tom who decides to join the Army in August of 2014. Their story is told partially through letters, and it is easy to see the love this couple has as they make sure not to tell each other the whole truth of what the other is experiencing while apart (now you may understand the title). There are other characters as well, Thea the suffragist and Edmund fighting on the front lines, all are connected, and all share their sides and the awful truths of war.

Friday, September 26, 2014

the voice of a southern girl.

Lay it on my Heart by Angela Pneuman is a coming of age story about a thirteen-year-old girl living in an extremely dysfunctional family all while going through the major discomforts of adolescence. Set in Kentucky in 1989, Charmaine's life gets even more complicated by the fact that her father, the son of a famous evangelist, who has believed he himself could hear the voice of God, has been hospitalized after suffering a serious mental break. Now that her father is no long able to support her family, her mother, Phoebe is forced to rent out their home and move them into a trailer. Every since her husband's mental breakdown, Phoebe starts questioning her marriage and her role in her family. When she starts sharing her feelings and venting to her daughter, their relationship becomes even more strained. Now this is just the premise of the novel. It's difficult for me to describe the southern humor surrounding what appears to be a serious storyline, but it is extremely witty. Imagine a mother confiding in her daughter about her marriage, and the daughter wanting to die inside, wishing she never heard such things. There's a vulnerability to the characters (and the author as much of this is based on her childhood) that will make you want to wrap them up in a hug.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

the way this author strings together words is poetry.

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat is about a small, fishing community in Haiti that is in financial decline, and several of the people in it that don't seemingly have much of a connection to each other at first glance. Fisherman, and father to Claire, Nozias has debated giving his daughter away to a wealthier woman in his village for years, wanting a better life than he can give. When Claire disappears on her birthday and coincidentally the day her father's friend goes missing at sea, the residents of Ville Rose must deal with solving two mysteries. There are two parts to this book, each part carries four different stories, and as we are taken behind the scenes into the lives of other characters, some of privilege, some not, it gets a bit dark, mysterious, even magical.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

what a cast.

I just finished my first date with Jonathan Tropper. It was love at first sight. This Is Where I Leave You (the movie) hit theatres last weekend, which led me to download the novel to my Kindle a few days ago, and then love happened, like I spoke about earlier.

A not particularly kosher Jewish family is brought together to sit Shiva after their father passes away from a long battle with stomach cancer. Mind you the members of this family are SUPER dysfunctional and dangerously outspoken, and are forced to sit together in their parent's living room for seven days while the community comes to pay their respects, feed and visit them. Narrated by Judd, (child #3 out of 4 siblings) who walked in on his wife banging his boss a few months prior and is now forced to face his family, sadness and pudgy belly is not even in the worst shape of the bunch. Paul and his wife Alice are on a baby making schedule that doesn't stop for Shiva (and that gets really weird). Wendy is married to an ass of a man that she kind of hates, raising her children that she also kind of hates. Phillip, the baby of the family brings his new girlfriend who's twenty years older than him to meet his family, like it's the perfect time or something. And their mother, oh Hillary. Mourning the loss of her husband in her short skirts and low-cut shirts showing off her fake boobs and hiding more than everyone else.

I have never met a family of characters that I liked more than the Foxman's. Now excuse me while I go gobble up the rest of Tropper's novels.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

pretty much my biggest fear.

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is not at all what I expected. I mean, whoa. I've been reading easy breezy beach reads for the past few weeks, I was not properly prepared for the intenseness of this novel. Forty-something Jenn and her husband are joined by her step-daughter, Emma and her seventeen-year old boyfriend, Nathan on their annual holiday vacation to Spain (at Emma's insistence). Taking place over the course of seven days, Jenn finds herself being drawn to the beautiful Nathan and his youthfulness mostly because she has lost her own. As her actions turn reckless, readers will feel some major heat in lots of places despite the fact the whole basis of this novel is super immoral, and a tad illegal. Honestly, the characters weren't my favorite, but I didn't have to like Mrs. Robinson to enjoy her story if you catch my drift.

Friday, September 19, 2014

mystery and magic.

Fourteen-year-old Trevor Riddle was plucked from his seemingly normal life with his two parents in Connecticut and moved to Riddle House, his father's family's ancient estate after his parents announced that they were not only bankrupt, but separating. Riddle House is a mansion where Trevor's grandfather still lives, and is not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. Many readers have assumed that fourteen-year-old Trevor is narrating the story, and that is kind of true, but really it's adult Trevor's account of what happened twenty-three years earlier, in 1990, which is why our narrator sounds so much more mature than a young teenage boy. Just to clarify. Moving on.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein is actually a ghost story, which our precocious narrator quickly learns as he explores his ancestral estate and discovers spirits as well as dark family secrets. If you enjoy multi-generational family stories and lots of twists and turns, you will surely love this novel.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

from the mouth of nixon.

In a nutshell, The Nixon Tapes: 1971-1972 transcribes Nixon's most interesting and influential year as president of the United States from the actual tapes that recorded him and his staff in office during that time period. Historical experts, Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter have been through all the tapes, plucked out the important stuff (well, the stuff they found important for the sake of this particular book) and edited it in a way that readers can easily follow. There is much on the tapes that made Nixon look bad, but I enjoy that the authors decided to show his intelligence as well. I mean, he was super jealous and extremely paranoid, but he was also pretty fricken brilliant. Although the authors do not focus on Watergate, they do focus much of the book on foreign relations, which may either make or break your interest in picking up a copy.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

five ladies and a baby.

Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax is an amazing follow up to Ten Beach Road. The crew is back together to give a house in South Beach Miami a facelift. The only difference is that they are now being filmed 24/7 by...Lifetime. Madeline, Avery, Nicole, Kyra and Deirdre (Avery's prodigal mother) blew away the YouTube world during their first stint remodeling Bella Flora, when a hurricane tore through the town and the beautiful house, Lifetime decided to pick this bunch up and turn them into a reality show titled Do Over.  So the ladies fixed up Bella Flora (again, in the same way they did the first time with Kyra filming), and now the pilot is set to run sometime this summer while they are fixing up the Millicent in Miami for their second season (hopefully) of the show. That's all back story, Ocean Beach is set specifically in Miami and The Millicent belongs to an elderly man named Max Golden who promised his wife on her death bed that he would return the home to its former glory. All the ladies fell in love with this ninety-year-old former Comedian, it was impossible not to. All of their stories easily pick up where Ten Beach Road left them 8-9ish months ago, Kyra is raising her son (remember she was knocked up by a movie star) alone, Maddie and Steve still have some major tension, Nikki and Giraldi also have some major tension, but it's the sexual kind, and Avery and Deirdre are still on the outs. It's a great story with excellent details included on how The Millicent was brought back to life.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

blue-eyed boy.

It took forty years for journalist and veteran Robert Timberg to write his memoir covering some of the time he spent overseas in the Marines during the Vietnam War, and his recovery afterwards. He was shaving for the umpteenth time, over the scars on his face caused by third degree burns from a land mine that ended his 13-month tour a mere 13 days early, and just got really pissed, pissed enough to finally sit down and write his story. A what a story it is.

In Blue-Eyed Boy, Timberg describes his journey through the realities of his disfigurement, thirty-five surgeries that didn't do much to hide his scars, and his search to find meaning in his new life. This meaning turned out to be journalism. Timberg recalls getting his first real story as a cub reporter about a woman who had jumped off a bridge. He pushed for that story, questioning everyone at the scene, letting his work overtake him and his insecurities, he realized afterwards that he wasn't thinking about his scars. At the height of his career he was a White House correspondent for The Baltimore Sun, which in turn, lead to his first book, The Nightingale's Song. I know readers will be thrilled (like I am) that Robert Timberg decided to finally face his past and share his story with the world.

Monday, September 15, 2014

it's an Everygirl world.

Maria Menounos used to be a little fat, (I mean, she was more normal sized than fat but it still makes me feel better about my life). I just love that she's not one of those celebrities that responds to questions about their amazing figures with "oh, I have good genes", she DOESN'T have good genes. She has real life Greek eating genes. And in her book, The Everygirl's Guide to Diet and Fitness: How I Lost 40lbs And Kept It Off - And How You Can Too! is filled with ways for you to get a girlish figure without yo-yo dieting, she even includes interviews trainers, dieticians, researchers and even celebrities who add to her fountain of information.

Personally, I love how Maria includes HER story. She grew up being a healthy kid, but once she hit high school and college, she gained weight, and didn't stop. Her addiction to Brown Sugar Pop-Tarts makes me realize that celebrities really ARE just like us, I'm with ya girlfriend. It was 1999, after she had attempted every fad diet in the book, that she finally woke up. She created her own diet/fitness plan that worked for her and her lifestyle and in turn lost 40 pounds within a year. Slow and steady does win the race when it comes to weight loss. But when she got into the entertainment industry, she was always strapped for time and found herself eating fast food 1-2 times a day. It didn't affect her weight much because she kept her portions small, but it did affect her health, and even hospitalized her! Maria shares all of her secrets of being healthy AND slim, without spending a ton of cash or having very much time at all. And that my friends, is the life of an Everygirl.

Friday, September 12, 2014

beachy series.

I just began Ocean Beach by Wendy Wax (LOVE her), which is the second installment of a series (not sure what the name of the series is, but it involves the ocean and the beach). Anyways, I just remembered that I never reviewed the first book in this nameless series titled Ten Beach Road, which totally kicked ass. So here I am.

Madeline, Avery, and Nicole have one thing in common. They were all swindled by their financial advisor (in Madeline's defense, her husband was) who disappeared with their life savings, along with many others. A once beautiful beachfront house down in Florida has brought them together because the only hope they have to regain any of their lost money is to fix it up and sell it. Madeline is a recent empty nested housewife. Avery is a cute little thing and part of a popular television series where she fixes houses, and Nicole is a (prissy) millionaire matchmaker. Three completely different women picked to live in a house and fix it up to save their pathetic lives. Very real world-esque. And when Madeline's pregnant out of wedlock daughter comes down to stay with the girls and catch the whole process (the good and the bad) on tape with her video camera, this project blows up in more ways than one.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

so THIS is love.

I finally got a chance to read A Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and while I do understand the hype around it - star-crossed lovers but with cancer, it wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be. Don't get me wrong, it was good, really good. It was metaphorical and Shakespearean, annnnd a little over my head at times since these are teenagers we are talking about here, and I'M an English teacher, (not a good one mind you), but I do think parts were probably over a lot of younger reader's heads as well.

Sixteen-year-old Hazel Lancaster was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was thirteen. She has to carry around a mini oxygen tank because the tumors moved to her lungs, keeping them from being able to function properly. She takes classes at the local community college (as she got her GED at home during her treatments), and attends a support group for cancer kids where she meets the dreamy Augustus Waters who lost his leg to osteosarcoma, but really just attended the meeting to support a friend, as he was in remission. The two fall in love, and in return give each other a better quality of life. As a whole, the central idea, main characters as well as supporting (Isaac and Hazel's parents especially) are what made this novel kick ass.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

you can't have the good without the bad.

Call me immature, but I'm a young adult novel buff. In my high school yearbook senior year I was voted "Forever Young", I love Disney princesses and any YA novel I can get my grubby hands on, which leads me to my next review...

Good girl Axi Moore is sick of her life. She lives with her alcoholic father (as a result of her little sister dying and mother leaving) in a town she doesn't care about, with people she could do without, except for her best bud Robinson she just happens to be secretly in love with. When she decides to do something so completely out of character and leave it all behind, she invites Robinson and his wild side to join her as she travels from Oregon to New York in a very Bonnie and Clyde fashion thanks to Robinson. But of course reality will eventually catch up to our young friends, and their adventure will remind you of what it's like to be young and in love when you knew so little about how to be both.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

the wait is over.

Crowd favorite modern thriller author, Lis Wiehl finally came out with her second Mia Mystery Book (following A Matter of Trust) this summer titled Deadly Business, and fans are RAVING, including this girl.

Mia Quinn is a prosecutor in King County and in this installment Mia and her children, Gabe and Brooke are still recovering from the loss of her husband, Scott who died in a car accident several months ago. However, Detective Charlie Carlson wants to re-open the case, as he has reason to believe Scott’s death was not an accident. Just another stress to add to the pile as Mia has been given the case of three youths who recklessly pushed a shopping cart over a four story drop seriously injuring a woman below. It's Mia's call whether to charge them as adults, and it's not an easy one to make since her boss's job is on the line. Chick has a lot going on and Wiehl keeps a nice pace and goes HEAVY on the action right from page one.

Monday, September 8, 2014

make it pink, make it green.

I adore Elin Hilderbrand, an author who lives on Nantucket and writes novels set on the island. I recently finished her latest, The Matchmaker and I instantly fell in love with the main character Dabney Kimball Beech, who has lived on the island her entire life and makes you want to go there and never leave.

Dabney is the most likeable main character I have ever met, even with her flaws. She is considered the "cupid" of the island because she has set up 40+ couples and not a one has broken up (well except for herself, but I'll get to that in a sec). When she sees two people together she either sees an aura of rosy pink, or an ugly green fog. She's famous for being right about these things, not to mention she's the sweetest little thing which is why so many of her neighbors love her so much. Now at 48, Dabney is married to a man nicknamed Box and has been for 20 some odd years. Their marriage has been a good one, but there was always something keeping Dabney from giving her husband her full heart. Even though Box married her AND adopted her daughter, Agnes when she was a toddler, supported her and her daughter, and loved them both a whole lot. You see, the first couple that Dabney ever set up was her and a boy named Clendenin Hughes when they were fourteen. The rosy aura faded when he left after college, and she decided to raise her baby girl alone. Or so you'd think. 

At the beginning of the novel, Dabney receives some news from the past... And I'll leave you at that, ensuring you that this is one the best novels of the summer. Hands down.

Friday, September 5, 2014

a post-apocalyptic setting.

Edan Lepucki predicts the (near) future in her debut novel, California where the metropolis of Los Angeles is slowing wasting away to nothing, leaving its residents without food, water, or a home to call their own. The country is facing a meltdown of disastrous proportions. Married couple Cal and Frido escape to a secluded cabin in the woods and attempt to live off the land despite their lack of survival skills being from a large city. Once Frida realizes she is pregnant, the two realize they cannot do this alone and make their way to a more populated area. Keep in mind that California is less a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel than it is a book about love and marriage, which is what makes it a good read filled with characters you can empathize with. No one wants to think too closely about a future that may or may not be that far away.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

kick ass giveaway!

Win a FREE copy of Having the Time of Your Life!
Contest Rules:
1. Follow this blog :)
2. E-mail your name and this book title to: jenileerose@yahoo.com to enter!
3. Contest ends 9/7!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

it's still wedding season!

Celebrated authors Margaret Brownley, Robin Lee Hatcher, Mary Connealy and Debra Clopton have pulled together their brilliant storytelling powers and created quite the collection of novellas titled Four Weddings and a Kiss: A Western Bride Collection.

Four authors, four love stories, four strong female heroines, in the West. The tomboy, Maizy MacGregor (raised by her dad, wears britches and all). The writer, Molly Everton (educated and underestimated by her father at his newspaper where she works). The one who's misunderstood, Katie Pearl (lost her family in a tornado and everyone thinks she's crazy because she has trust issues). And, the wrongly accused, Grace Davenport (accused of killing her third husband, doesn't have the best track record with spouses staying alive). Let me tell you, these women are feisty, and you will LOVE them and the way that the Lord works in their lives.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

if there was a tenth circle of hell, this would be it.

I just finished reading an oldie by Jodi Picoult titled The Tenth Circle. It was actually my airport book leftover from my trip to Puerto Rico that apparently I didn't really need. I have to say first that it wasn't my favorite Picoult novel, and I LOVE her so I'm not trying to be rude. It just wasn't in my wheelhouse as many of her past bestsellers have been (I still obsess about House Rules to this day). The Tenth Circle (deriving from Dante's circles of hell) revolves around a comic cartoonist named Daniel Stone and his abnormally close relationship with his daughter Trixie. Daniel was a stay-at-home hubby while his wife Laura taught at the local college, so when his fourteen-year-old daughter came home in the middle of the night from a "sleepover" and he found her crying in the bathroom because she had just been raped by her ex-boyfriend, you can say Daniel felt the urge to murder the guy a little more than your average dad. This story goes through the motions with Trixie and her parents, and even Jason, the boyfriend and the lies they all tell to save each other from the truth.

The storytelling was excellent as usual. I loved how Picoult narrated specifically about each character only a page and a half at a time. She kept me moving along at a nice pace so I didn't get bored or uncomfortable because rape is one of those topics I don't particularly enjoy reading about. Not for any reason other than the thought of it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Monday, September 1, 2014

i had the time of my life.

I'm a fan of Allen Klein and his little quote books, I've reviewed other collections by him in the past which you can be found here. Today we are focusing on Having the Time of Your Life: Little Lessons to Live By, which asks the question, What is Life? Then goes into Why We're Here, and ends with How to Enjoy the Journey. We all need to be given a fresh perspective on life sometimes. Life changes are happening one after the other, and as humans we have the tendency to get caught up in life so much that we forget to live it. Klein is here to help with over 500 quotes and anecdotes that are witty, soulful, and will get you thinking about how YOU can have the time of YOUR life.