Thursday, August 7, 2008

Maternity Leave Book Review

I keep putting this quick review of the books I read during maternity leave off as I read A LOT of books during maternity leave and keep on reading a lot. I spend a lot of time nursing the baby at odd times and read a book to keep myself awake or for something to do besides watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with my two year old. So here I go . . . . a quick review of my reads.

Slave by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis. I borrowed this book from my friend Elina. It was an eye-opening true live tale of a young girl torn from her family in Africa and forced into a life of servitude in Africa and also in Great Britian. I was and still am VERY disturbed that slavery still exists in our world today. We need to do something about this as a resident of the world! I recommend this book for everyone to broaden your world view.

Hard Eight, To the Nines, Ten Big Ones, and Eleven on Top by Janet Evanovich. I read these four light and fluffy reads over the past couple of months. Stephanie Plum's adventures continue to keep me entertained and laughing. I thought Hard Eight was a bit weak, but loved the other three. I'm getting distressed that I only have three books left in the series to read!

The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. The Lady Elizabeth is a fantastic historical novel about Queen Elizabeth I. I liked the perspective of the book as it was about her very early years, which are mostly ignored in novels for her later queenly years. A must read if you are a historical fiction fan that loves the Tudor era.

My Lady Ludlow and Other Stories by Elizabeth Gaskell. If you read Cranford, you will notice that there are many characters and tales missing that were in the PBS miniseries. This book contains the missing links. "My Lady Ludlow" and "Doctor Harrison's confessions" contain the missing characters. I enjoyed this book of stories. Gaskell is a great Victorian author who really gets the detail of living in a small country village.

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I read this book for my Kewaunee Library June book club pick. It's a great book for fans of The DaVinci Code and books in general. It is the story of a sacred Jewish text that was rescued in Sarajevo during the war in the 1990's. The book restorer finds several "clues" in the book of the journey it has taken over the past 500 years. There are several stories then for each clue and the books journey. It was VERY interesting. I only wish the stories could have been longer. This is one of the best books I have read this year.

The Notebook and The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks. I reread The Notebook for my Mom's Club June book club pick. It's a good book, but I actually think I like the movie better. I feel that it was Sparks' first novel and not as well written as some of his later books. The Wedding is a follow-up to The Notebook and is one of the most romantic books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a romantic tale.

Real People, Real Prescense by Cardinal William Keeler. This book is full of short stories about the Eucharist and how different people in a Catholic community feel about it. I enjoyed it. It gave me a lot to think about and helped me on my faith journey.

Push Not the River and Against a Crimson Sky by James Conroyd Martin. My mother-in-law loaned me these books and I highly enjoyed them. They are a must for those who love historical fiction as I do. The fantastic thing about these books is that they are set in Poland during the late eighteenth century. I know nothing about Poland and it was great to read a book not set in England or France. Push Not the River is based on Lady Anna Maria's diary, which is amazing considering all that she goes through. It is a great book. Against a Crimson Sky is a bit weaker as it is not based on a diary, but on Martin's imaginings of what could have been. He delves too much into the history to the detriment of the story.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale. After reading a couple of great reviews of this books, we chose it for our July Kewaunee library book club pick. This doesn't happen often, but the reviews of the book were actually better than the book itself. While the muder mystery was horrifying and interesting to read about, the book too often delved into tedious details that I didn't care about. Maybe I was spoiled by great non-fiction reads such as The Devil in the White City, but this book was not a good read.

Sam's Letters to Jennifer by James Patterson. This novel was my Lakeshore Mom's Club book club pick for July. It is one of Ellen's favorite novels so she chose it. Half of the moms loved it, while the other half hated it. I liked it, but had some details in it that annoyed me. Sam is actually the grandma writing letters to her granddaugher Jennifer about her illicit affair with the man of her dreams. Jennifer reads the letters while Sam is in the hospital and falls in love with her dying friend Brenden. The lovers and haters of this book disagreed about happy vs sad endings. Should an ending be happy if it is unrealistic? Interesting discussion. My bones were the details. The Badger Ferry didn't play movies and have many of it amenties until the 1990's, but riders find these things on the ferry in the 1970's. I loved the Wisconsin setting and the romantic get aways to Copper Harbor Michigan.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. Another good love story from Sparks. I enjoyed that the novel was about people my age and dealt with change after 9/11. The ending was sad, but good. The overall plot is about a young man that is in the military. Back on leave he falls in love with a young college girl. He makes plans with her for when he gets out of the military, but it all changes after he reenlists after 9/11. It's a good story, but have a box of kleenex hand.

I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle. This comic novel is about a dorky valedictorian's confession of love for popular Beth Cooper and the night of hilarity that follows. It was entertaining, but not the best book I've read. I thougtht the language and sex was a bit much for a young adult novel (I had to read adult novels for that as a teen), so I must be getting old

The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman. This novel is two stories, one is a modern day story of a woman searching for herself and the clues to the mystery of what happened to an English merchant's daughter, Celia, hundreds of years before. Celia was thought to be shipwrecked, but was really kidnapped and taken as part of the Sultan's harem. The second story is about Celia and her love Paul as he searches for her. I loved Celia and Paul's story, but was bored by the modern day scholar. Her love story was not engaging. The ending of Paul and Celia's story was bittersweet and a bit of a let down. Overall an interesting novel, but not the best I've read.

The Dirty Girls Social Club and Dirty Girls on Top by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. I read a good review of Dirty Girls on Top in Entertainment Weekly and figured I would check out the first book it was based on before I read it. The premise is chick lit from a Latina perspective. While I did enjoy the Latina perspective, as chick lit it was mediocre. While I did enjoy The Dirty Girls Social Club, I found Dirty Girls on Top to be a disappointing sequel. Mostly it was because I liked the ending of book 1, but Valdes-Rodriguez felt the need to undo all of the happy endings to start off book two. I found it unbelievable that a wife would go back to a murdering husband, and I couldn't feel sympathy for Usnavys and her cheating on a perfect husband. I'd read book 1, but skip book 2.

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot. This is the third book in the Queen of Babble series. It is a light hearted chick lit novel about Lizzie Nicols and her trials in NYC. I like her spunk and independence. I really like how she is always able to work for her dreams. On the romantic side though, I must say I was disappointed. What the heck happened with Luke? I don't know - anyone else out there that has read the series and would like to discuss.

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner. I have read this book previously, but reread it as it is my Mom's Club book club pick for August. Weiner is one of my favorite authors. Her chick lit has a great depth to it. I love the secondary characters and the relationships between sisters. If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend it.

In the Company of Secrets and Whispers Along the Rails by Judith Miller. I received these two books from my MIL for my birthday. They are Christian romance novels set in the late 1800's in Pullman, Illinois. I loved the historical aspect of them. The story was very good and kept me interested. I just wish I had the third book so I could see how it ends. Perhaps I'll have to hint around to my MIL that it would make a good Christmas present.

Love the One You're With by Emily Griffin. This novel was about a woman with a perfect husband who suddenly meets up with her long lost love. They had broken up for good reasons, but suddenly she finds herself wondering if she made a mistake. I thought this book was rather slow and it annoyed me as SHE HAD THE PERFECT HUSBAND. It was okay over all - I'd rather read any of Weiner's novels than this book.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This book was recommended to me by my friend Corinna. Kathy and I decided to pick it for our August Kewaunee Library book club pick. The book had an interesting premise. The author, Barbara Ehrenreich, lived in three different locations across the country and tried to live on a minimum wage job. She had a lot of difficulty, especially in securing a place to live. It was interesting as I had never thought about people living in hotels and whatnot. I thought that Barbara was a bit condecending to people who do work lower wage jobs. She tried to show the hardships they had to face, but she also seemed to think she was better than they were. It should make for a good discussion at our meeting!

Thunder Bay by William Kent Krueger. My MIL loaned me this book. It was a great mystery/love story set in Northern Minnesota and in Thunder Bay, Canada. A retired police officer is asked by a family friend (Henry) to find the son he feels exists that would now be a 70 something year old man. The story of Henry and his lost love Maria Lima takes up the middle of the book and was also wonderful. I really enjoyed this book.

Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson. I have loved the movie Somewhere in Time my entire life, but have never read the book until now. The book is back out in print as Matheson is also the author of I Am Legend. This book is the ultimate in describing a passionate love that can make a man will himself through time to be with his love. I really liked how the book made you question though whether Richard truly traveled through time or whether it was caused by his brain tumor. I like how the movie was set in Mackinac Island rather than the California of the novel. It was a good fantasy novel.

Captain Wentworth's Diary by Amanda Grange. Grange tackled one of my favorite Jane Austen heros, Captain Wentworth. I loved how this book described Anne and Captain Wentworth's first romance prior to the start of Austen's novel. Wentworth was a bit more of a "player" than I would have imagined him to be, but it all changes when he falls in love with Anne. This is a great book for any Jane Austen fan.

Well, I've been working on this "quick" summary for a week and a half now so it's time to post! I kept reading more books which added to me not being able to finish it! :-)

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