A few memoirs (and a mystery!)

September 22, 2008 at 11:48 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I always try to give myself a few days before writing a review.. and somehow, instead of doing one review today, I have.. 5 books! I honestly don’t know how I do this to myself sometimes. *makes note to update at LEAST once a book*

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Bone By Bone by Carol O’Connell

This one is a mystery set in a small town, where everyone knows your name, and everyone has a secret.

I really enjoyed this one. Yeah, everyone has a secret, but they’re not easy secrets for you, the reader, to guess at. It’s nice because it’s not that predictable, where by the middle of the book you want to slap someone and tell them it’s suspect x that did it!

It’s got a half ass sheriff, a sharp government agent, seances, a housekeeper that seems to know everything, and heck, even the birds have secrets. It’s very enjoyable, and I like how they finally extracted the confession they needed at the end (although it was unconventional.) I was a bit sad when some characters didn’t get their happy endings, but I guess sometimes in life, you’re so far gone that a happy ending isn’t possible.

Good read!

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Something Like Beautiful by asha bandele

A single black mother talks of her raising her little girl. Only problem was, she didn’t exactly expect to be a single mother raising a little girl. She meets a man in prison, falls in love, and gets married to him. He’s been a model prisoner, and that combined with a marriage, and eventually the arrival of a baby, convinces them both he can get out on parole, and they can be a happy family. Unfortunately, things don’t work out that way, and she finds herself alone.

It’s a short memoir. Asha is typical in her mom worries (2 bottles and 3 diapers for a prison visit? Those guards better hope the baby’s stomach isn’t having an off day!) After losing her husband, she tries out the dating scene, and falls victim to another problem – domestic violence. She eventually ditches the guy, and moves on. She worries how society will see her – if, since she’s a single black mom, they think she’s one of those “statistics.” Jump in bed, have a good time, get knocked up, and *cloud of dust* there goes the father.

Asha tries hard. She tries to pay her rent and bills and grocery shopping with her meager paychecks. She tries to find quality daycare, and a good school for her daughter. She fights her depression, and remembers how much love and joy her daughter brings to her.

It’s a short book, but it’s not too bad. She really does try to make a good life for them, and I give her credit and wish her luck in the future.

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I Had To Row Across The Ocean by Tori Murden McClure

Another memoir, but it was pretty cool. As the title indicates, she (Tori, the author,) rowed across the ocean. She doesn’t do it for any cause or charity, or the fame. She does it to prove that she can. She chronicles everything. She sees dolphins, whales, schools of fish, sharks, and a mysterious tentacle floating along. She tells of the rough weather, how she gets banged up, capsizes a few times, and her struggles to row against opposing winds.

She tells of growing up, and what brought her to challenging herself like this. I don’t really want to say TOO much, without spoiling it, but I’ll say that she learned a lot about herself, found a husband, and she makes the journey. Way to go Tori! Hopefully this will inspire others to take up great challenges, even if they don’t succeed.

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Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway

Very well worth the read. As soon as I got it, I dug in right away. Kris signs on with the Peace Corp for two years, and she gets sent to a small village in west Africa. Her host, and mentor, was the village midwife Monique. During her two years, Kris tries to help the village as much as she could. She helps Monique care for the pregnant women and their children, helps out in the fields, and, her main project, helps them fix and renovate the birthing house.

She learns the language, the culture, samples the new foods, and makes new friends. Wild dogs and scorpions freak her out. She meets another volunteer, and he eventually moves to her village to be with her, and help out. In my eyes, Kris has the experience of a lifetime, something I wish I could have done, and be able to share with my own kids.

Her book helps raise awareness to one of Africa’s problems, besides AIDS. Without training, pre-natal care, and education to keep the babies alive and healthy, the mortality rate is high among birthing mothers and infants.

One thing I’d definitely like to point out, is with every sale of the book, a portion of the proceeds “..will help expand the capabilities of this clinic, as well as provide school tuition assistance and health care for Monique’s children.” They’re also partnered up with WomensTrust Inc, “a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women in West Africa at the grassroots level.”

Part of her website is dedicated to collecting donations, and can be found here : Monique and the Mango Rains – How to Help.

It’s a great and worthwhile cause. Pick up the book, and help out!

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And last one for today.. The Longest Trip Home by John Grogan

Yet another memoir! This one I found pretty amusing. John is the youngest of 4, and his parents are VERY devout catholics. They try to raise him in the faith – no smoking, no drinking, no pre-marital relations, etc, yet he pretty much defies all of this, and so much more. He has some hilarious misadventures, like undressing his pretty nun teacher, then being called on to stand and read, only to realize he has a bit of a “problem” that he tries to hide. Or once, during lunch, one of his buddies puts a punk record on, cranks it up, and blasts it, swearing and all, much to the fury of the sister.

He grows up, and still gets into trouble – like dating a very well endowed girl, publishing an independent school newspaper with some very liberal views, and moving in with his future wife. Through it all though, I think he regrets not being more honest and upfront with his parents, especially when they drift apart after he confesses some things them. He tries to reach a balance to keep his parents, and his wife happy, without pissing one off too much.

It was funny, and it was touching, and it cut the core a bit too. Who hasn’t at some in their lives, been dishonest with their parents, and later regretted it? I originally thought it would be a bit “meh” but it’s well written, and it kept me going to see what happens next. I found out he had written another book, “Marley and Me,” and I think I’ll be trying to pick it up as well.

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I might have to edit a little bit later, musing it all over.

Currently reading :

My Father’s Paradise, by Ariel Sabar (still! sorry! it’s good though!)

The Aviary Gate, by Katie Hickman. I regret not finishing this sooner. It started off a bit slow, but it’s definitely gotten more interesting.

Next to be read (in no specific order:)

The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner (another one I regret not getting to earlier! probably the next to be picked up in a day or two)

Shadow of Colossus by T.L. Higley

The Last Days of Krypton by Kevin J. Anderson (very soon, I swear!)

Just when I knock a few off my pile, more appear! Just donated a few books, but I feel like I hardly made a dent in freeing up space, unfortunately.

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Tan Lines

July 10, 2008 at 9:27 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Tan Lines by J.J. Salem

Liza is all about feminism. Her first novel is a hit, she debates with a sexy Republican on television, and has it all it seems. After a miserable relationship, and the events of 9/11, she seems to become a hypocrite. Instead of being strong, she seeks, and marries, a good looking, dumb jock of a fireman. After a few years of marriage though, she starts to realize it may have been a mistake marrying him, and after lashing out against a popular slasher movie, that not everything is perfect, especially after seeing some disturbing comments on her blog.

Kellyanne is a glorified call girl, in a way. She has a degree in Theater, and a desire to be an actress. After years of living off her sugar daddy, she realizes her posh lifestyle can vanish at any time if she isn’t always the compliant sex toy. After being sexually harassed on a reality television show and leaving, she is suddenly publicly humiliated as the hot blond slut from the south, and faces extraordinary humiliation. All because she rebuffed a man’s advances and he decides public humiliation was the best form of revenge. Along with possibly losing her first real chance at an acting job that presented itself, she also desires to no longer be a mistress to a rich old man.

Billie is literally living the sex, drugs, and rock and roll world. After a smash hit first album, a not so great sophomore album, and a crap try at a third, it’s suggested she changes her image instead to something more bubblegum instead. She knows what she wants in a man, and when she wants him in her bed, she’ll stop at nothing to achieve that goal. Drugs are like candy to her. She has no inhibitions, and says it like it is. All of it is taking a toll on her well being though and it feels like if she doesn’t clean up her act, the drugs and alcohol and her sexual encounters with various men are going to take one hell of a toll on her.

The three of them are best friends, and they gather at a house in the Hampton’s for the summer. As everything happens to them, they all try to help each other out with their situations.

The only thing I’m not liking about the book, even though it makes it more realistic to our culture today I suppose, is the celebrity name dropping, and constant swearing. It’s interesting so far, and I can definitely say it’s good for a beach read. It feels like it’d be a fairly quick read if you had a few hours to devote to it.

Almost done, so I have to remember to come and edit this with the rest of my thoughts. For all I know the ending is lame! I shall see soon enough.

Edit : 7/16/08

Actually finished it day after original posting… It really was a quick read. Interesting storyline, but I felt the ending was too abrupt. You find out what happens to the girls and the other characters in a “gossip column” style. A paragraph per girl, with maybe a sentence or two about the others. The author could have done a little more with the ending, and I think it would have been just fine. My original complaint stands though : too much sex, swearing, and name dropping is going on, but if you can get past it.. I’d give it 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

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The Heretic’s Daughter

July 10, 2008 at 9:00 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Basically, it’s a historical fiction about the Salem witch trials, narrated by Sarah Carrier, daughter of an accused witch.

It starts in the winter of 1690. The Carrier family has left their home and made their way to Sarah’s grandmothers home. Unbeknown est to the family, one of the children carries the infectious smallpox, which quickly presents itself, and makes the town quarantine them to their home. Under the cover of darkness, Sarah’s father brings her and her baby sister Hannah to her aunt and uncle’s home, to hopefully prevent them from catching the disease. By the time they are allowed to return home, there already seems to be distrust and suspicion towards the family.

Martha Carrier, the matriarch of the family, is a stubborn and willful woman. She carries an uncanny knack of knowing when a visitor is arriving, and waits for them outside, startling them. She also seems to know how the weather will fare, if the thunder clouds will produce rain or not. After an almost devastating fire spares the family, the distrust and suspicion escalates to gossip and accusations.

Soon enough, the Salem witch trials began, accusing men and women of witchery. Because of Martha’s actions, such as performing a dance to drive the fire away, or “cursing” a neighbor after returning a stray animal that he may not have the animal much longer if his negligence to care for them continued, she is quickly accused of witchcraft. After being informed she would be taken away soon, she declines to run away, instead deciding to stay and defend herself, hoping the truth will prevail. She also instructs Sarah that if her or her brothers were brought in as well, to say anything the judges wanted to hear. Martha didn’t care if the children damned and accused her, so long as by “confessing” they would not be punished by death, like she knew she would be.

It didn’t take long for the children to be brought in on charges of witchcraft as well. In those times, only the newly born seemed to be innocent. The elderly, to children as young as 4 years of age, were brought in. By following their mother’s instructions, they told the court exactly what they wanted to hear – that they were made to be witches, their mother making them swear on the Devil’s book, and all the wicked acts they did. By doing this, they were not condemned to die, like Martha was, but they were still imprisoned, made to live in disgusting filth, eating and drinking what their father managed to bring them. In her distress, Sarah didn’t do anything to deny her being a witch, especially after she supposedly revealed her talent for healing after one of her brother’s escaped death in a miraculous recovery.

In the end, Martha was tried and hung. The children in the prison were released after the village raised enough coins to pay for bail. Witchcraft mania started to die down, and the prisoners were released, some were recompensed, and the prison torn down. For many though, sadly, it was already too late.

All in all, it was a book I enjoyed. It definitely made me wonder if the some of the characters, like her mother Martha, and her cousin Margaret, did possess some form of psychic ability. Even though Margaret knew all the supposed signs of spotting a witch, she would appear to Sarah in her dreams, even once warning her of the fire.
Barely a child of 10 years of age, Sarah went through more than any child deserved, and I felt pity for her most of the time. She learns about hypocrisy, in the form of her Uncle, to spitefulness from Mercy, an indentured servant recently rescued from Indians, to taking up the woman’s role in the house after her mother is gone. It was fairly well written from a child’s point of view about how one family goes through this terrible ordeal.

Even though it’s a work of fiction, the key facts about the mania surrounding the trials remained, mostly born from fear of diseases like smallpox and Indian raids I believe. The superstition that just because one person understood how to work different herbs into healing salves and cures, they must be guided by the Devil’s hand. So what if they saved little Billy down the road from dying? It didn’t help that the Reverends, folks that should be preaching about forgiveness and understanding, and not about the eternal damnation of our souls, whipped their congregations into a terrific frenzy of fright and suspicion.

I would definitely recommend this book to read – not purely for the trials, but for how one family struggles to remain intact through them, growing from living a fairly decent life, to just barely getting by, and eventually, the loss of a beloved family member. It’s a good first novel from Kathleen Kent, and I hope it does well with the reader base after a more public release. I just my review and thoughts of it did it some justice!

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The Richest Season

July 9, 2008 at 5:39 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

The Richest Season

Joanna is a wife to a highly successful corporate husband. After being surprised with his latest promotion and realizing it would mean packing up for another move, and less time together with her husband, she packs up and goes to Pawley’s Island, a place she discovered years ago. Confronted by depleting funds, she takes up a job caring for Grace, an elderly woman. From there she slowly starts to heal and does some soul searching.

After Paul, her husband, realizes it’s not just “another thing” and she wasn’t coming back, then loses his job, he starts to do some soul searching of his own. He reconnects with his children, repairing the relationships with them. He rediscovers the joys of working with wood, and meets new people in his neighborhood because of it. He also realizes that money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, especially if you don’t have someone to share it with.

Through it all, the story flowed nicely. The characters all had a story to them, and when their story was revealed it didn’t take away from the story, but added to it nicely. When McFadden talks about the beach, you can almost feel as if you’re there as well. It’s light, and good for a beach read, though I think with the beach scenes, it might be nicer to read during the cold winters! (my original review from http://www.librarything.com)

She’s a stay at home mom, whose primary job was caring for her kids, but now that they’re fully grown and gone, she’s able to spend her time as she wishes. She has a part time job, and a garden she loves. The only thing she’s missing is friends, her one best friend thousands of miles away. With the new promotion and impending move, she resents the thought of being uprooted – yet again – and having to start over. While she didn’t go about it in completely the right way, I do admire her for going off on her trip to figure things out, and what to do about her life.
At Pawley’s Island, she settles in at Grace’s, gets a part time job on the side, makes friends, and joins a turtle watching club. She eventually realizes not everything is perfect though. Grace eventually reveals she has a terminal illness, hence why she only asked for a 6 month obligation from Joanna. Her husband desperately wants her back, and fights to win her heart again. She develops a crush on a gentleman from the turtle watchers, and winds up doing more than she should with him. She also realizes that she barely knows him, despite spending so much time with him, and eventually is told the truth about his questionable relationship with another woman.
In such a short period of time (only a few months,) it seems almost unbelievable that so much should occur to her. At the same time though, it IS believable. We all have a story to us, we all have secrets we’d rather not share. While we may not all experience the same things she did, some of us did and can relate. How often does a woman resent being shuttled place to place while her workaholic husband is never home? How often do we here stories of kids growing up, going to college, moving out, and mom experiencing an “empty nest syndrome”? Being faced with situations like that, she’s not the only one, nor will she be the last, that’s going to want to escape and re-discover herself, and figure things out. It’s one heck of a mid life crisis, I guess. Just my own thoughts!

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