Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: Testimony by Anita Shreve

Testimony by Anita Shreve

Publication: Little Brown
Publication Date: 10/21/2008
324 pages paperback

Jacket Synopsis:
At an exclusive New England Boarding School, a sex scandal unleashes a storm of shame and recrimination.

The men, women, and teenagers affected--among them the headmaster, struggling to contain the incident before it destroys the school; a popular student-athlete, grappling with the consequences of his mistakes; the boys mother, confronting her own forbidden temptations; and a troubled teenage girl eager to put the past behind her--speak out to relate the events of one fateful night and its aftermath.

Enter a world upended by the repercussions of a single impulsive action.....


Shreve is very good at tearing the cover off of our hidden emotions and presumptions, making us question our judgments. This was a difficult book at times and very emotional. Working with teenagers is stressful, and precarious at times, but also a delight. As I was reading this book I kept thinking about how it speaks to the fact that most teenagers (and often adults) don't realize the significance of one little act on their lives.

In this story many lives are changed forever by one impulsive act-lives lost, dreams shattered, and innocence lost. Wouldn't it be worth it to examine this idea and maybe create some understanding that even though choices were made, everyone was a victim as well as a perpetrator? Shreve makes it very clear that there are no easy answers-and maybe that it is almost entirely impossible to examine every issue that this situation uncovered.

Recently, I came across another review where Shreve was criticized for not developing a storyline that examined the young girl's underlying issues that help lead her to act out. Shreve does not make judgment statements in her work, the book shares the perspective from several of the characters involved and opens the door into the way they have personally handled the situation, and the tragedy that ensues.

The stream of consciousness flow of some of the characters made this a little bit tougher to get into at the beginning, especially that of the young girl, Sienna. But once the story got underway it was hard to put the book down. Shreve slowly led you into an understanding of who would die, and why, so that it was not a surprise. There was only one piece of information she held until the last, with few hints. Who held the camera?

Shreve's writing is terrific as usual, her characterization is believable and well done, the story is gripping, and well you definitely walk away with much to think about. I have not always been drawn into Anita Shreve's books, but when I am I find that I really enjoy it and love the questions that she leaves me with. Reading a book that makes me question some of my own presumptions is one of my favorite past times.

This is a terrific book for book clubs. So much to talk about, so much to examine. Enjoy!

I am offering one copy of Testimony by Anita Shreve. To win please leave a comment below with an email account where I can contact you. You may substitute (at) and (dot) for actual symbols. One winner will be chosen at random.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Review: The Lies That Bind by Kate Carlisle

The Lies That Bind by Kate Carlisle

Publication Date: November 2, 2010
Pages: 304
Publishers: Obsidian Mystery

A Bibliophile Mystery

Jacket Synopsis:
One bookbinder. One bully. One beau. Looks like someone has got to go.....
When it comes to rare books and antiquities, Brooklyn Wainwright is a master. That's why she has returned to San Francisco to teach a bookbinding class at Bay Area Book Arts. Unfortunately, BABA director Layla Fontaine is a horrendous host who pitches fits and lords it over her subordinates. With the help of her beau, Derek Stone, Brooklyn manages to put on a brave face and endure.

But someone else is not so forgiving. Layla is found dead from a gunshot wound, and Brooklyn is bound and determined to investigate. But when Layla's past ends up intertwined with Derek's, Brooklyn realizes that the case is much more personal than she thought--and the killer might want to close the book on her for good.

I enjoy Cozy Mysteries, especially during the fall when I can curl up with a cup of hot tea, a blanket and a book. They are just plain fun.

Kate Carlisle has captured my interest with this series. I love a smart heroine. Brooklyn is smart, a little loopy at times, but fun. Although I don't really connect with the new age, guru background of her family and friends, I do find it entertaining. Brooklyn is just the right blend of likable and quirky. She stumbles into murders, worries over her karma with dead bodies, but enjoys the pursuit of the villain. Perfect match for a cozy mystery. Of course she is one lucky lady--two gorgeous men to consider. A bad boy handsome type beside a smooth, English, ex secret agent type. Yummy. Enter fun.

Carlisle includes enough details of the bookbinding process that I am intrigued. I have begun to look into taking a bookbinding class. Of course I am one of those people that can get lost in the smell of books. Love it!!!!!!!!!!!!

I read Jane Eyre every couple of years, not for the plot, but for the language. I love words. Bronte is one of those authors who draw me in with their proficiency in language. I love a book with great vocabulary-used correctly of course. Also grammar is important. Carlisle has a good handle on vocabulary. Her writing style is smart, and fluent. Perhaps this is why she is one of my favorite cozy mystery writers.

For all of the cozy mystery fans out there this series is definitely one you need to check out. It is fun, smart, and well written. Curl up and read away!

Monday, October 18, 2010

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

A book meme by Shelia at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books.

It has been a while since I last posted this. Life interrupts.
Last week I was reading:

1. Fiber & Brimstone by Laura Child
2.Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley
3. everything lovely, effortless, safe by jenny hollwell

This week I am reading:
1. The Lie That Binds by Kate Carlisle
2. The Dissemblers by Liza Campbell
3. Testimony by Anita Shreve

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In My Mailbox

This weekly meme is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren! Check out her blog to see what others are reading.

My summer kind of fell a part on me and it has been a very long time since I participated. I have received many books since then but I will stick to some of the more recent.

I received Testimony by Anita Shreve courtesy of Hachette Books

Pub. Date: October 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

Synopsis (B&N):
At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape.

A Pandora's box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices--those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal--that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment.

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly explores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming innocents, the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.

From Librarything Earlier Reviewers I have received the following
The Dissemblers by Liza Campbell

Paperback 200 pp
Publisher: The Permanent Press
Publication Date: October 2010

Synopsis (LT):
The Dissemblers is the story of a woman searching for greatness and beauty, only to find that neither greatness nor beauty are exactly what she thought. Ivy Wilkes always assumed she would achieve greatness as a painter. She moves to Santa Fe in search of the light and landscape that inspired her idol, Georgia O’Keeffe. At first, Ivy embraces life in the artsy desert town, working in the O’Keeffe museum by day and spending her evenings with Omar, the seductive cousin of her upstairs neighbors. But when Ivy’s own painting stagnates, she finds herself paralyzed by the fear that she will never paint anything of worth. Unable to create anything original, she begins imitating Georgia O’Keeffe’s work and is enticed by an offer to create O’Keeffe forgeries to sell on the black market. The paintings sell, but Ivy’s secrets isolate her from those she loves, who have secrets of their own. When a mysterious man appears at the museum, asking questions about O’Keeffe forgeries, Ivy’s bonds of love and friendship are tested. In her struggle to find her own artistic voice, she navigates the space between pride and guilt, love and selfishness, with devastating consequences. Rendered in concentrated prose, The Dissemblers explores themes of isolation and misunderstanding. The emotions are subtle, and the characters continually thwart their own best intentions while harboring mutually exclusive desires.


The Mistress of Abha by William Newton

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
(August 31, 2010)

The year is 1930 and the British are in Arabia. Ivor Willoughby, a young orientalist, embarks on an ambitious quest to find his father, an officer abroad with the British Army. In all Ivor's life, Robert has returned to England only once, bedraggled and wild-eyed with tales of As'ir, a land of sheikhs and white-turbaned bandits, where he is fighting alongside Captain Lawrence and is known by the name Ullobi.

After that single meeting, Robert is never heard from again. Ten years on, Ivor must find out what became of him. So he sets out on the journey of a lifetime. Traveling to Cairo to join the Locust Bureau, then circuitously to Abha, Yemen, and along the Red Sea coast, Ivor searches everywhere for clues about Ullobi, but no one appears to remember him. Or perhaps they are afraid to admit to it. Along the way Ivor hears whispers of a woman warrior called Na'ema who was once a slave. Her story seems tantalizingly connected with his father's, and Ivor finds himself in the misty heights of Ayinah looking for an Abyssinian seer who was carried on the same slave ship as Na'ema in 1914 and might unlock the mystery.

I purchased the following books:

The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf

Pub. Date: July 2009
Paperback: 384pp
Publisher: MIRA

Synopsis (B&N):
It happens quietly one August morning. As dawn's shimmering light drenches the humid Iowa air, two families awaken to find their little girls have gone missing in the night.

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler.

Calli's mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter's voice.

Petra Gregory is Calli's best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor.

Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Pub. Date: January 2010
Hardcover: 351pp
Publisher: Delacorte Press

Synopsis (B&N):
 Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.

But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?

Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.

That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.

For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.

A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Pub. Date: October 2010
Hardcover: 274pp
Publisher: William Morrow

Synopsis (B&N):
A powerful and resonant novel from Tom Franklin—critically acclaimed author of Smonk and Hell at the Breech—Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter tells the riveting story of two boyhood friends, torn apart by circumstance, who are brought together again by a terrible crime in a small Mississippi town. An extraordinary novel that seamlessly blends elements of crime and Southern literary fiction, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a must for readers of Larry Brown, Pete Dexter, Ron Rash, and Dennis Lehane.

and Freedom A Novel by Jonathan Franzen

Pub. Date: September 2010
Hardcover: 562pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Synopsis (MacMillan):
Patty and Walter Berglund were the new pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. Patty was the ideal sort of neighbor, who could tell you where to recycle your batteries and how to get the local cops to actually do their job. She was an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams. Together with Walter—environmental lawyer, commuter cyclist, total family man—she was doing her small part to build a better world.

But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working with Big Coal? What exactly is Richard Katz—outrĂ© rocker and Walter’s college best friend and rival—still doing in the picture? Most of all, what has happened to Patty? Why has the bright star of Barrier Street become “a very different kind of neighbor,” an implacable Fury coming unhinged before the street’s attentive eyes?

In his first novel since The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen has given us an epic of contemporary love and marriage. Freedom comically and tragically captures the temptations and burdens of liberty: the thrills of teenage lust, the shaken compromises of middle age, the wages of suburban sprawl, the heavy weight of empire. In charting the mistakes and joys of Freedom’s characters as they struggle to learn how to live in an ever more confusing world, Franzen has produced an indelible and deeply moving portrait of our time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review: everything lovely, effortless, safe by Jenny Hollowell

everything lovely, effortless, safe by jenny hollowell

Publisher: Holt Publishing
Publication Date: June 2010
Paperback: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9119-9

A young woman caught at the turning point between success and failure hopes fame and fortune will finally let her leave her old life—and her old self—behind

Birdie Baker has always dreamed of becoming someone else. At twenty-two, she sets off to do just that. Walking out on her pastor husband and deeply evangelical parents, she leaves behind her small-town, small-time life and gets on a bus to Los Angeles.

Nine years later, Birdie's life in Hollywood is far from golden, and nothing in the intervening years—the brutal auditions, the tawdry commercials—has brought her any closer to the transformation she craves. Caught between success and failure, haunted by guilt about a tragedy in her long-forsaken family, Birdie is at the brink of collapse when she meets Lewis, a beautiful but naive young actor with his own troubled history, whose self-destructive impulses run dangerously parallel to her own.

When her big chance finally comes, Birdie must reconcile the wide-eyed girl she once was with the jaded starlet she has become and try to find herself and her future somewhere in between. Everything Lovely, Effortless, Safe is the story of a young woman's struggle to make her own way in the Technicolor land of make-believe.

My Review:
I was unsure at the beginning that I would enjoy this book. The description just didn't grab me so I put it off on the back burner. But finally guilt got the best of me and I decided to jump right in to the book. Good decision on my part.

The pace is slow and you are treated to morsels of information as you move along. Jenny Hollowell has great literary talent. The book is well written and touching. There is no rush to get through this novel. It is a book that is written to be drawn in sentence by sentence, word by word, to experience the emotions and feelings and desires that each carefully chosen piece evokes.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. Definitely a book that should be added to your TBR list if you haven't gotten to it yet.

This ARC was provided by Henry Holt & Co. for an honest review.

Review: Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley

Once Wicked Always Dead by T. Marie Benchley

Publisher: MMWE Publishing House
Publication Date: September 1, 2010
Hardcover: 296 pages
ISBN: 978-0984478705
What happens when a family's darkest secrets put lives in jeopardy? How far would you go for love?

A sharp mystery that swirls with family secrets, betrayal, love and loss, Once Wicked Always Dead is a strong debut from an author with literary blood in her veins.

The story begins with Molly Madison unaware of the Sociopath who is on the loose, creating havoc with a sense of their own justice. Her life is shattered by the sudden death of her beloved parents and the revelation of her husband Phillip's affair - with another man - Molly leaves the life of country clubs and the luxury of city life in Florida and heads west to Montana, resolved to run the family ranch, and to move on with her life. Her attraction to Clayton Leatherbe, the ranch foreman, is instant, but before a romance can blossom, the ranch falls prey to sabotage by wealthy land developers determined to drive Molly out, and Clayton learns of a family secret and collides with the Sociopath that could put the ranch - and Molly's life - in jeopardy.

My Review:

I would classify this as a romance thriller. The premise was good. I enjoyed the book as I began to read, it was interesting and moved at a steady pace. Since romance is not a genre that I particularly enjoy I struggled a little when the romance picked up in the story. I was uncomfortable with the gratuitous sex scenes-just not my thing. As I said romance books are not my thing but I found plenty of other points to like about the book. It was fluent, fast-paced and entertaining. Although I did not have a hard time figuring out who the murderer was, the twist at the end made it a little more interesting. Benchley is a skilled writer and can hold your interest. I appreciate a book that is not filled with grammatical errors and has a decent vocabulary.

If you are a romance/romance thriller fan you would really enjoy the book. There is a good back story to the romance and it moves well. I was entertained and it held my interest. T. Marie is a member of the Benchley family that includes Peter Benchley of Jaws fame and American Humorist Robert Benchley.

The ARC was provided by Newman Press for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Fiber & Brimstone

Fiber & Brimstone by Laura Childs (A Scrapbooking Mystery)

Publication Date: 10/5/2010
Pages: 336
Berkley Prime Crime Hardcover
Penguin Group

Halloween always draws out the ghosts and goblins in us all. New Orleans the perfect setting for the ghouls and vampires that are walking around these days, but when real corpses start making an appearance things get really scary. Carmela Bertrand and her best friend Ava Gruiex are immersed in building a monster puppet for the Monsters and Mayhem Torchlight Parade when they stumble upon the body of Brett Fowler.

Carmela's good friend Jekyl finds himself embroiled in the center of the investigation since he was heard arguing with Brett shortly before Brett's body was discovered. Having known Jekyl for years, Carmela is convinced that someone is framing him. While Brett owed Jekyl money, he owed money to many people after being indicted for his involvement in a Ponzi scheme. With so many suspects can Carmela discover the real murderer and clear Jekyl?

I love the Big Easy and the flavor but I wasn't comfortable right away with the vernacular. I adjusted rather quickly and became immersed in the story. Being a southerner myself, and one who lived for a time in the deep south I can be a little picky over the way southerners are portrayed in books. Laura Childs did this well. The story is fun and perfect for a cozy Halloween. And I must admit-for a change-it took me a while to even guess who the murderer could be.

This is the first of Laura Childs cozy mysteries that I have read but I am sure it will not be the last. Carmela is a fun, stable character while her friends Ava provides the quirkiness. Halloween is the perfect setting for a mystery. And what better place than New Orleans! In addition to the mystery the book also includes some scrapping tips as well as a few recipes. I tried one of the recipes and it was delicious: Carmela's Cajun Shrimp Bake.

If you like cozy mysteries this one will be a delight. Grab a bottle of wine, fix a plate of Shrimp, and enjoy the story.

This ARC was received from the author for an honest review.

Musings in October

I may have lost a few of my friends here with my suddenly quiet blog. Major changes tend to grab us and have the power to overwhelm us. That has been the case with me at least. A little over a year ago my teaching job was eliminated-due to the current economy I have not found a replacement position. My husband may be on the verge of changing jobs-meaning a move is probably on the horizon. A dear friend died very unexpectedly, my children moved out and moved on, and I became a grandparent.

So many changes! At times I have struggled with finding my way back into the world. I love books, have always loved books, and enjoy the shared experience of discussion and exchange about books. It is one of the primary reasons that I became a teacher-to share the joy that books can give-to hopefully mentor others into become life long readers and learners. Although I talk to my former students almost daily, I miss the class time, I miss the purpose that my life had.

While none of this is an excuse for not keeping up with my blog, it is the truth behind my recent struggles. Divided attention, loss, and major life changes. Today I am finally making the call to return to my blog and work hard. Hopefully, you can forgive me and come back to share a cup of coffee and a good book.