Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book T: LibraryLove February 1, 2011

True Colors by Kristin Hannah

Book description~ Sisterhood triumphs over sibling rivalries in this artfully turned Kristin Hannah novel. Winona, Aurora, and Vivi Ann grew up together in a small Washington State suburban town. Bonding together closer after their mother’s early death, they develop differently. In a matter of moments, everything will change. The Grey sisters will be pitted against one another in ways that none could have imagined. Loyalties will be tested and secrets revealed, and a terrible, shocking crime will shatter both their family and their beloved town. With breathtaking pace and penetrating emotional insight, True Colors is an unforgettable novel about sisters, rivalry, forgiveness, redemption—and ultimately, what it means to be a family.

Hi again! I’ve taken a much needed mental break from blogging after the recent completion of our 52 book plunge and I’m back for another reading challenge! As you may know, us bookworms are scaling the alphabet and tackling 26 books this year, a nice departure from the pressure of last year’s challenge. In my first book review of the new year, I was so glad to finally take the time and read this chunkster of about 500 pages. One of our newest book club babes selected this for February discussion, and I cannot wait to discuss this with the ladies in a few weeks. Wrongful imprisonment, and the subject of this novel, will surely be a conversation piece!

Not only was Hannah such an artist in the way she gradually built the rising action, she did so with nicely developed characters and many surprises along this emotional journey for the Grey family. This was a story of The Grey sisters,  their family, their fight for what they believed in, and not giving up when others told them to. Can you imagine what life would be like if you grew up never having known your father because he was wrongfully accused and imprisoned for over a decade for a crime he didn’t commit? Unfortunately, Noah, one of this books’ main characters had to do just that. The older he gets, the more he questions his reality and searches for answers right under his nose. Noah doesn’t know who he is, or who is father is. But one thing is true…his mission is to figure both out. We’re taken along the ride with mainly Noah, his mother, Vivi Ann, and Vivi Ann’s sisters, although Winona is really the only other ‘main character’.  I definitely would have enjoyed more dialogue from Aurora, another of the sisters. I felt she was just lost in the shuffle in the background. But, the turning point of the novel came and I couldn’t read fast enough.

“Beside an ad for one of the city’s newest high-rises, she saw a gloomy photograph of a man standing in front of a prison guard tower. The headline read:  ‘Innocence Project Northwest Works to Exonerate the Wrongly Accused’. There might be an animal called absolute truth, but it couldn’t be caged and certainly didn’t roam the halls of justice. In her research for Dallas’ case, she’d read about more than one hundred men who’d been freed from prison in the past five years based on DNA testimony… and even more who hadn’t. Those unfortunate souls were all too often in Dallas’ position: DNA evidence neither tied them irrefutably to the crime nor will exonerate them. It amazed and shamed Winona how inflexible district attorneys and police could be once they decided on a defendant’s guilt. Often no amount of evidence could dissuade them, and so they kept fighting, making specious, ridiculous arguments that kept innocent people in prison for decades. “

Although I think Hannah could have shaved off 100 pages from  “the middle”,  I was along for the ride the whole way through. And if you’re expecting a book to grab you right from the very first page, I don’t think this is the book for you. However, patience prevails because this book is slow and steady; more of a trot and less of a gallop. Either way, it was well worth the wait to make it to the sweet ending. This was my first Kristin Hannah novel and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

4/5 stars

1 down, 25 to go!

Up next: C for Carry Me Like Water

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove



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Book #43: LibraryLove October 24, 2010

Strangers At The Feast by Jennifer Vanderbes

Book description~  On Thanksgiving Day 2007, as the country teeters on the brink of a recession, three generations of the Olson family gather. Eleanor and Gavin worry about their daughter, a single academic, and her newly adopted Indian child, and about their son, who has been caught in the imploding real-estate bubble. While the Olsons navigate the tensions and secrets that mark their relationships, seventeen-year-old Kijo Jackson and his best friend Spider set out from the nearby housing projects on a mysterious job. A series of tragic events bring these two worlds ever closer, exposing the dangerously thin line between suburban privilege and urban poverty, and culminating in a crime that will change everyone’s life.

I must first thank Alexis Gargagliano and Wendy Sheanin at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy of Strangers at the Feast to read and review. From the moment I read the inside book jacket, I couldn’t wait to read this novel, as the autumn weather rolls in and the season of giving thanks draws near.

Race, class, and family are three of the big ideas at the heart of Strangers as the Olson family members observe and learn things about each other around the Thanksgiving Day table they would never have expected….

Through the use of multiple narrators, Strangers is told in what is becoming the most popular writing-style.  The story unfolds on Thanksgiving Day in 2007, through each of the Olson family member’s eyes, both in past and present. We are led inside the hearts and minds of both Eleanor and Gavin’s characters, as the Matriarch and Patriarch of the family, but also inside their children’s and spouses hearts and minds. Instead of the typical construction of a novel,  where the rising action develops in a ‘steady-little-tug-boat’ type way, in Strangers, as the reader, we are strung along until the very last possible moment and then foiled completely and utterly.   I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough and could never have predicted the way the story would unfold.  Normally, I would criticize this; instead, Vanderbes does the artful job of burying little ‘Easter Eggs’ for the reader to discover, piquing curiosity enough to keep turning the page along the way.

“At worst, he thought Ginny would overcook the turkey. He’d been prepared, out of sibling loyalty, to drench slices of Ginny’s holiday char in his mother’s gravy and give a heartfelt yum.  But he’d counted on stuffing, vegetables, dessert. Was this her plan? Deprive them of football and food and teach them some kind of history lesson? See! This is what Thanksgiving was like for indentured servants in seventeenth- century Virginia!”

If one hadn’t read the book jacket to know there was a catastrophic twist coming, you’d simply read this book thinking this was a nice multigenerational story, written with excellent characterization, about enjoying Thanksgiving and learning about each other’s struggles, many of which are buried quietly and deep under the surface…until you read the bombshell on page 149 ending the chapter with this:

“Denise opened the door, through it would be hard later for Ginny to remember if Denise used her keys. Everyone was talking and carrying things. It would be difficult to say with certainty if the door had been locked.”

Chills ran up and down my spine. I wondered what on earth would happen next. Yet it took another 100+ pages to finally work us up to the peak of the rising action, which was indeed worth the wait!

“As the detective expected, the case got the entire city talking. Diana Velasquez was the reporter who finally realized that five white adults plus two dead, unarmed black kids equaled one major story. Having worked at the paper for a decade, she knew to double-check the police blotter every night in the hopes that the cub reporters missed something. She knew that a shooting in the North End would sell papers. When word got out about the stone knife in Kijo Jackson’s pockets, a Siwanoy Indain relic, Diana dubbed the incident the Thanksgiving Day Massacre. “

Tragedy strikes the Olson Family at a most unlikely time- their Thanksgiving meal, as a result of a previous business decision that rocks the family, neighborhood, and city for years to come.

Intrigued? Pick up Strangers at the Feast; you won’t want to put it down.

This Thanksgiving, what will you be thankful for?

4/5 stars

43 down, 9 left!!!!!!!! In the homestretch. Zzzz

In progress- The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (audiobook) and Burnt Toast

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove


 

Book #41: LibraryLove October 2, 2010

Stash by David Klein

Book description~ Gwen Raine is a thirtyish stay-at-home mom in the kind of tranquil suburban community where the wives spend their days ferrying the kids to and from school and music lessons and nature camps and where the husbands work long, grueling hours at stressful white-collar jobs in order to maintain the upscale standard of living to which the whole family has become all-too-accustomed. It’s a milieu in which everything seems to be right–yet so much can go wrong. And it does–starting with a seemingly minor decision that turns Gwen’s perfect life upside down. It’s a typical Friday morning in late summer and Gwen is anticipating a long-awaited weekend away at the lake with her overworked husband, Brian, and their two small children. After dropping her daughter off at swim class, Gwen drives across town to purchase a small bag of marijuana from an old flame. She’s counting on the pot to help her unwind later that night in those precious private moments with Brian after the kids are asleep. Then, on the way home, Gwen gets into a car accident–an accident that leaves her bruised and somewhat battered but leaves the other driver (an elderly man who crossed over into her lane) dead. The local police know the accident isn’t her fault, but when they find the marijuana in Gwen’s car, they throw the book at her. There have been problems with drugs in the schools and they want to crack down on abusers, whoever and wherever they are. Before long, Gwen is in legal hot water–and the temperature keeps rising. Finally, under pressure from the police, her attorney, and her own husband, she reveals her source’s name. Meanwhile, Brian is embroiled in a moral and legal dilemma of his own when the big pharmaceutical company he works for markets an anti-anxiety drug for “off-label” use as a weight-loss aid, only to discover that it can have deadly consequences. And Gwen’s former lover Jude, a local restaurateur and the supplier of the stash of the title, has gotten in way over his head with his little side business.

First, let me thank Jennifer Robbins of Broadway Books who sent me a Galley copy of this book to read and review.

Now down to business. I started out really enjoying this book. Think American Beauty + Season 1 of Weeds + Desperate Housewives and there ya have it. In a nutshell. Granted I absolutely love American Beauty,  Showtime’s Weeds AND Desperate Housewives, but it’s nothing new. When I make time to read, I want to expand my horizons. I want to learn something new. I want to discover about a foreign land, a time period in history, or about the human condition. This book did not enlighten me at all, but rather it made me feel like I was losing brain cells by the minute. Stash could have easily been an episode or two pulled right out Weeds or DH. I was completely on board until about half way. The action starts out really gripping. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what happened after desperate housewife Gwen decided to visit an old flame for some Mary Jane before leaving for the weekend with her husband and children to their lake house. Making yet another poor decision, Gwen got behind the wheel after smoking a joint and set a series of unfortunate events in motion. Sounds interesting right? It did….until about halfway through. The introduction of too many moderately developed characters and moderately developed plot lines later, the action, chapterization and dialogue became so choppy, it was no longer enjoyable. I hoped sometime before the ending things would pick up. The author took the (attempted) ‘plot twists’ so far into left field, I found myself suffering through the last half of this novel.

Sadly, I do not recommend this novel, nor do I want to waste anymore time reviewing it.

I know I can’t love every book, yet I am always disappointed when I can’t at least recommend folks pick it up and give it a try. You’re better off watching American Beauty and Season 1 of Weeds than reading Stash.

2/5 stars

Holy smokes. This marks 41 books read leaving 11 to go! Can I do it? Stay tuned to find out…the year is almost over!

In progress- Cutting for Stone

xo♥xo,

LibraryLove