Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two Girls, Two Blogs, Two Perspectives: 150 Pounds

150 Pounds: A Novel of Waists and Measures
by Kate Rockland

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: A non-sappy novel about how to truly accept yourself and your body. I was surprised by this novel, because the story and character development were central, not always focusing on weight loss. The story follows Skinny Chick blogger Alexis, who at 100 lbs obsessively works out and weighs her food. Shoshana, of Fat and Fabulous blogger fame, has a full life of friends, family, and feels mostly happy with her body. After starring on Oprah, their lives, and weights begin to change. Alexis meets chef Noah, Shoshana inherits an apple orchard. 

Make this your first feel-good novel of the summer!

Song to Read By: "Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson

Author Website: Kate Rockland

Skipping a Beat: Success, Money, and Modern Marriage

Skipping a Beat
by Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: What if your husband had a heart attack and woke up acting like a different person? Could an already crumbling marriage survive? Julia must decide if she still loves her husband Michael. The details of their complex marriage are revealed. Throughout the book, details of their love story are slowly revealed, which shows how they fell in love in high school, college, and the early years building their career. The book takes several unexpected turns that kept me reading and relating to the main character, Julia. Her relationship with her best friend Isabelle provided funny and realistic dialogue. 

Song to Read By: "Settle Down" by Kimbra (an ironic choice)

Author's Page for the Book: http://www.sarahpekkanen.com/the-books/skipping-a-beat

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Inside the Mind of a Boy with Asperger's...Another Jodi Picoult Thriller

House Rules
by Jodi Picoult

Genre: Popular Fiction

Review: One of this author's talents is getting inside the minds of a diverse array of characters. Her novels surprise and thrill. There's a recipe: mix a legal drama with something medical and use multiple viewpoints--voila, a Picoult bestseller is born. House Rules is unique because it really captures the essence of a young man with Asperger's and his mother. The book doesn't judge him, but it portrays the traits of Asperger's Syndrome accurately and sensitively. The mom's mixed feelings are shared, yet a suspenseful drama still moves the story along at a swift pace. 

Author/Book Websitehttp://jodipicoult.com/house-rules.html The author discusses her personal experience with autism.

Song to Read By
Ludovico Einaudi - In un'altra vita (In Another Life)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wildflower Hill...Adventure in Tasmania!

Wildflower Hill
by Kimberley Freeman

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review:  A prima ballerina gets an injury and goes home to Australia to figure out her life. She inherits a house in Tasmania and goes there to find out who she is after her career and find out about her grandmother's extraordinary life. Switching between Emma and Beattie, a Scottish scrappy single mother who never lets life knock her down and pursues her dreams, living without apologies when society judges her. 

This book made me cry! There were sad parts and happy parts, a very emotional moving novel worth a cup of tea and a lazy Sunday. 

Note: If you love the books of Kate Morton, you will enjoy this novel.

Author website: http://kimberleyfreeman.com/ 

Song to Read By: "Lua" by Bright Eyes

Exactly what you were thinking...

Girls in White Dresses
by Jennifer Close

Genre: Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction

Review: Ever been clueless about what to do after college? Ever been overloaded by attending too many bridal showers and baby showers? What should you do if your best friend is dating a loser? These are the topics of Girls in White Dresses. Witty, cuttingly hilarious, and all too real, this book follows a group of college friends living in NYC and Chicago after graduating from college. Go on awkward ski trips, friend trips, relative trips, and suffer all the ins-and-outs of dating. 

Super honest and just what twenty-and-thirty-something ladies need to read right now! A fast, fun, relatable read.

Song to Read By: "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" covered by The Killers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns)
by Mindy Kaling

Genre: Memoir/Comedy

Review: I found this book hilarious. I liked learning about Mindy's progress as she became a comedy writer and her early days in NYC and at The Office.  She described the ups and downs of actually living her dream. Her stories about her childhood were funny and sad. If you liked Bossypants, you will probably like this book even better! Her voice is really honest, strong, and distinct. My favorite parts were her top favorite comedy moments and her description of the play she and her BFF wrote, using Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as characters. 

Song to Read By: The Office Theme Song: 

A chilling ghost story set in Scotland...

The Shadowy Horses
by Susanna Kearsley

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

Review: The Shadowy Horses will be re-released! I read an older edition and loved the atmospheric setting and relatable main character I have come to expect in Kearsley's books. Set in Scotland, our main character, Verity, is a British archaeologist, and she finds an intriguing site to work with an eccentric cast of characters. They're in search of the missing, famed Roman Legion. The odds are against them, but a young boy with extraordinary sensitivity helps them. A dashing Scotsman, fun setting, hint of ghosts, and thoughtful lead character made this novel a satisfying read!

Song to Read by: "Everybody" by Ingrid Michaelson

Finally, SMART Women's Fiction!

These Girls
by Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Women's Fiction

Review: This novel is the epitome of SMART women's fiction. Young women dealing with the balance of career, identity, and self-fulfillment. I related to all three main characters in different ways. Cate's "impostor syndrome" and proving herself after her promotion. Renee's struggles with her weight and battle for an editor job. Abby's conflicted feelings about her childhood and love for Annabelle, the baby she nannies. The arc of this story is character development, not a quest for a guy.  Perfect pick for a book club, lots of topics to discuss for young women. Well-written and breezy with surprising depth.

Song to Read by: "Divenire" Live by Ludovico Einaudi

 Love the author websitehttp://www.sarahpekkanen.com/

Thursday, May 10, 2012

I Want to Go to There...

by Tina Fey

Genre: Autobiography/Comedy

This cover catches my attention, yes, but it also creeps me out

Review: I love Tina Fey. I love Weekend Update and the Sarah Palin impression and of course, 30 Rock. My sister and I find ourselves quoting Mean Girls on a regular basis. 

Definitely found myself laughing out loud (aka LOLing) while reading. Especially the chapter where she talks about rocking a fanny pack with a "No Crying in Baseball" t-shirt and bike shorts with wrestling shoes. Classic. 

My favorite parts of the book involved learning about the background of 30 Rock, and also noting how she slips some real advice about being an intelligent, funny, powerful woman in today's world. 

Book Club Questions: Hope to segue some chapters into a discussion of vacations gone awry (cruise ship fire on Tina's honeymoon) and bad 80s/early 90s ensembles we have worn!

Fun Fact: I felt super cool for having also climbed boulders in the Blue Ridge Mountains while attending University of Virginia, just like Tina did in the book, when she went on that sad hike with Jess-Cris and co. Tina, we have that in common! I thought I was going on a hike, but apparently there's something called "bouldering" (see photo above)

Song to Read By: in honor of the bad 80s fashion celebrated in this book, try some 80s music: "Take on Me by A-Ha

Romance and Mystery in the South Pacific!

The Bungalow
by Sarah Jio

Genre: Women's Fiction

ReviewBreezy, heartfelt, and meaningful!

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. Two friends, Anne and Kitty, sign up as nurses and leave behind their lives of luxury and convention in Seattle for Tahiti. There, they face romance and heartbreak as WWII moves closer. Anne Calloway, the main character, has left her fiancee behind, awaiting the wedding, yet finds herself intrigued by Westry, a soldier. Together, they fix up an old bungalow with a mysterious past and a beautiful painting which may or may not be by a certain French artist who visited Polynesia. 

Author Websitehttp://www.sarahjio.com/books/ 

Read Jio's debut novel, The Violets of March, as well!

Her next novel, Blackberry Winter, will come out on September 25, 2012.

Song to Read BySounds of Peace by Shaun Paul

Sing You Home

Sing You Home
by Jodi Picoult

Genre: Adult Popular Fiction

Review: Zoe Baxter faces one heartbreak after the next, yet the book is not as depressing as it sounds. As Zoe moves on with her life, she finds solace in her job as a music therapist. Sing You Home explores the issue of gay marriage. There is a lot of legal debate and political statements, but the heart of the story is the characters. The ideas don't take over and make the novel boring, which is hard to do with such a weighty topic. 

On the Author's Websitehttp://www.jodipicoult.com/sing-you-home.html 

Song to Read By: "Oltremare" by Ludovico Einaudi (relaxing piano music) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8MzHqkNBwo

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The American Revolution: Spirit and Romance

Time Enough for Drums
By Ann Rinaldi

This book review is written by one of my 5th grade students, Veronica.

Genre: YA Historical Fiction

Review: Time Enough For Drums was set in the 1700s during the Revolutionary War time. I like being able to see the War through a different perspective. Jem, a 15-year-old girl is telling the story. I thought the book was interesting because it also noted significant historical events while still keeping you hooked. During the end of the book, though it started getting very sappy and a lot of disappointments happened all at once. It was very clever of Ann Rinaldi to do it through a regular colonist’s perspective because I got to see what one person would think of George Washington and what they felt during the war. Overall, I think Time Enough For Drums was a good read, while also giving you historical facts about the war.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Every Secret Thing

Every Secret Thing
By Susanna Kearsley
(also writing under pen name Emma Cole)

Genre: Fiction, Mystery

Set in England, Lisbon, Portugal, and Washington, DC, the story follows Kate Murray on a journey that begins after she meets a mysterious, kind old man, who knows her name and her grandmother. She watches as he's hit by a car in London. Kate uses her journalistic instinct to unravel the mystery, pursuing  unanswered questions. Along the way, losses abound, but she continues her search for the truth. She delves deeper into a cover-up during WWII, events in the early spy services of Canada and the intrigue on the "neutral" ground of Portugal. 

The plot sounds complex, but this is actually a light and enjoyable read. Loved the description of Lisbon--made me want to go there for sure!

Song to Read By: "Old Pine" by Ben Howard

Check out these photos of the real locations the author used to write the novel: http://www.susannakearsley.com/secret.html

Turn of Mind...

Turn of Mind
by Alice LaPlante

Genre: Adult Fiction, Literary

Review: The shocking tale of a mother with Alzheimer's, a former orthopedic surgeon specializing in hands who is accused of the murder of her best friend, Amanda, with whom she had a loving but contentious relationship. Her friend was found with several fingers excised from her hand. Did she comment the murder? Even she doesn't know.

 The story is told from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer White, in three parts, as her Alzheimer's worsens. The book is very humane, puzzling, and meaningful, but terrifying in a way as well, as only books about losing your memory, and its ramifications for identity and family/relationships, can be.  

Good Reads Author page: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/774591.Alice_LaPlante 

Song to Read by: "White Oleander" from the movie, composed by Thomas Newman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_iG4D9eOnw