Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman

I just finished reading The Third Angel earlier today and it was fantastic. I've been thinking about it ever since. The book got off to a rather slow beginning, but stick with it as it is worth it in the end.

I love Alice Hoffman's novels - I need to read more of them. Her books often deal with the fantastical in our life, they are very hard to explain. They deal with honest troubles in life, but add a mystical dimension.

This novel was a three part novel that dealt with tragic love and involved a ghost and the mystery of who, what, and where the ghost came from originally. The first part of the novel dealt with Maddy, a young lawyer who has traveled to England for her sister's wedding, and f'sds herself falling in love with her sister's fiance. I was annoyed by this story at first because I didn't care for Maddy and had no empathy for her. When this section switched to Allie and Paul's story - it got A LOT better. The second party of the novel was about Paul's mother Frieda in the . She worked as a maid at the same hotel Maddy was staying at in section 1. She had a doomed love affair with a young musician that was heavily into drugs and in love with someone else. Section 3 told the story of Maddy and Allie's mother, Lucy. She stayed at the same hotel as a young girl and witnessed the tragedy that created the ghost that haunts section 1 and 2. By the end I actually flipped back through the book and read parts of the other sections with a much better understanding. It was great. It dealt with the complexities of love, but also had a very engaging mystery. I loved how the different characters and pieces of the story were interrelated.

I would love to discuss this book with someone. It would make a good book club book . . . except that it takes a bit to get into it. Anyone else love this book?

Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham

Madeleine Wickham is the real name of author Sophie Kinsella (The Shopaholic Series). Unlike her funny Shopaholic series, Sleeping Arrangments dealt with more serious issues. Two couples and their children are "accidentally" loaned a single villa in Spain by an old friend for a weeks vacation. There is a secret romantic past between two of the adults that flares up again during their vacation. Tensions mount and lives are changed.

I was annoyed by the adultery as I often am in novels when it seems to happen for no good reason. I got over it though as it was a good complex tale on what is involved in a good marriage. Each character was given a good three dimensional analysis and no one was who they seemed to be. One of my favorite characters was Jenna the nanny. Her jokes and take on everything was fantastic.

Overall it was an okay read, not one of my favorites, but not bad.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I feel like I am behind . . . I read all about the "Twilight" series in Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago and realized I had read not one of the "best books since Harry Potter." I decided it was time to change my state of ignorance and reserved a copy of Twilight at my local library. Twilight is a young adult novel and rather large, but it took me no time at all to read through it. And let me tell you - it definitely lives up to the hype!

Twilight is a passionate and thrilling story about a young teenage girl, Bella, who moves to Forks, Washington to live with her father. She has normal teenage angst about fitting in at a new school, but also finds herself enraptured with a beautiful teenage boy named Edward. Eventually she discovers that Edward is a vampire. The book takes a thrilling turn when Edward and his family must protect Bella from an evil force - and I will say no more.

I can see why teenage girls are enraptured with this book - Edward is one of the sexiest heros I've ever read in literature, even though there is no sex in the novel. He rates up there with Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Heathcliff, Rhett Butler . . . I need to start a list of top ten sexiest heros of literature! :-) He is not only gorgeous, but has a tortured soul that yearns to love Bella.

I highly recommend Twilight - it was a fantastic, thrilling, vampire love story. I can't wait to read New Moon!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea is a wonderful book. It's a truly inspiring story of how one man (Greg Mortenson) is making a difference in Pakistan and Afghaniston by building schools for underpriviliged children in remote areas. He believes that by providing education for children, especially girls, will promote peace. I read this book for my September Mom's Club book club pick and it should provide for some great discussion next month!

This non-fiction book tells the story of how Greg Mortenson traveled to Pakiston to climb K2. Disoriented after his failed bid to climb the mountain, he ends up in the small village of Korphe. The inhabitants care for Mortenson and he becomes friends with them. He promises to build them a school. He returns to America to raise money. Through hardships and years of work, he finally builds his school. Learning lessons from this first experience, he begins to build schools across Pakistan and after 9/11, Afghanistan.

Mortenson's story is inspiring. It's amazing how one man can do so much good. Parts of the book made me angry such as when he tries to give his talks in D.C. to politicians on how money spent on schools and clean water could do so much more good than more bombings. I still have hope that enough people will read this book to cause a change to happen in our government and in our dealings with Afghanistan. This book is a must read!

Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe is a chick flick with a unique premise. A father, Will Hayes, tells his young daughter Maya a love story of how he ended up with her mother. He will change the names and "some of the facts" so that she won't know who her mother will be at the end. Basically the story is how will came from Madison, Wisconsin to New York City as a young idealist to work on Bill Clinton's 1992 compaign. He leaves behind his college sweatheart Emily. He has to deliver a mysterious package to Emily's friend Summer and has a good friendship with the coffee girl Apri. These three women are the love story over the next ten years.

I enjoyed the movie, but especially liked how it was set in the 1990's. It was interesting to see how the city changed through time. I also laughed when he was originally from Wisconsin. It seems like Wisconsin is always the state of chose for a midwestern location in movies.

The movie seemed to stretch it for me though that the dad would tell his young daugher such raunchy details including the fact that Emily and Summer had an affair, Emily slept with his roommate, etc. Why would you want your daughter to know such personal details about her mother? Also Maya was a bit too good to be true. The ending surprised me, but no offense, but a daughter that is living through a divorce isn't going to want to help set her dad up with someone else. Unrealistic.

Otherwise it was a pretty good movie - I'd say mediocre chick flick. It provided a few laughs even to Ben who was passing by as I watched it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

You're Breaking my Heart . . . Robin Hood

I love the BBC America series Robin Hood. There is something about the classic TV series format (including evil music when the villians ride their horses around that appeals to me). One of my favorite parts of the show has been the love triangle between Marian, Robin Hood, and Guy of Gisborne. Truthfully, I think this is the strongest part of the show. At the beginning of Season 2, Guy was bitter and off Marian after she ditched him at the altar at the end of Season 1. The show wasn't that exciting. Then Guy's feelings for Marian return and the show just kept on getting better. The climax of this was when Guy refused to leave Nottingham for safety so he could stay by Marian's side and die with her. Very romantic. Marian turns Guy into a three dimensional character. We can see him wanting to be good for her sake, but having a hard time putting away him ambitions. We can also see that although Marian is in love with Robin, part of her is attracted to Guy.

Spoiler alert . . .

So how could the writers do this to me? How could they end Season 2 so badly?? The whole ending was ludicrous. Why the heck would Marian decide to tell Guy at the moment he is rushing towards the King with a weapon that she loves only Robin Hood. She knows this will destroy Guy and make him very angry. If anything, she would have done as she had always done in the past and appealed to Guy for his better self, for his love of her. I know Guy would have been angry, but to stab Marian and then run off like a coward? This seemed so out of character that I just wanted to laugh, if albeit hysterically. To have Robin and Marian get married while she lay dying was just so wrong. . . .wrong . . . .wrong. Getting rid of Marian has gotten rid of the best part of the show for me. Marian added the dimensionality to the characters, especially Guy. I don't even know if I want to watch Season 3.

What did you think of the finale?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vote for TV's Most Memorable Moments

I just voted for TV's most memorable moments at this link. Sadly, you can only pick one for comedy and one for drama. I was very torn with the drama section as not only were two of my all time favorite shows (Star Trek and Little House) present with truly great moments, but also one of my new favorite shows (Lost). There were also many other great shows present. Which do you think I voted for? If you get a chance, vote for one yourself. The winner will be broadcast on the Emmy awards - I think they are trying to raise their viewership. It may be working for me at least!

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! :-)