Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows was another excellent read and one of my best reads of 2008. This book is a story told by letters to and from a newspaper columnist, Juliet, and the members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Juliet's editor and friends. The story is of the formation of the society during the occupation of Guernsey by the Germans during WWII.

I loved the inside tragic story of Elizabeth the fonding member of the society. The power of the book to me is that it tells a well rounded story of what it was like during WWII. The autrocities that were committed were hard to stomach, and hard for me to imagine. Although some of them seem to be paralled in the middle east during my lifetime. Although there were many atrocities, there were also Germans who were good people and just like you or me.

This book is a quick read and quite enjoyable. I highly recommend it. I hear a crying baby so I'll work more on catching up with my Christmas romance novel reads later . . .

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Okay - I've got a bit behind on my book reviews again with the holidays. I'm going to do some quick summaries to catch myself back up over the next couple of days!

I was frankly surprised by how much I liked American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I was intrigued by the premise of a book roughly based on the life of Laura Bush, but I was also turned off by the thought of an "unauthorized biography" take on her life. I was therefore surprised that the novel had well rounded and intriguing characters. I thought Alice Lindgren was a wonderful character. A small town girl that is involved in a tragic accident, Alice spends years trying to atone for one night's mistake. She becomes a "spinster" librarian and meets Charlie Blackwell at a backyard BBQ. Charlie is the quirky son of a well known Republican family. Charlie and Alice have a great connection and quickly get married. The book skips ahead ten years to a troubled time in their marriage and then skips ahead twenty more years to Charlie becoming president.

It's no secret that I have no love for George Bush and have actually greatly disliked him from day 1. It surprised me then that I really liked Charlie Blackwell. He was a fun loving man who has a deep and passionate love for his wife. He is able to realize his life is heading in a direction that is not good for himself and his family and he is able to turn it around. The only thing I didn't like was the skip of twenty years at the end to Charlie being President. I wanted more story on the improbable path Charlie took to being president. Charlie is a complex individual, but the last portion of the book tried to simplify him.

The secondary characters such as Alice's Grandma were also fantastically written. I also loved the Wisconsin setting. Their vacation spot in Door County would literaly be about half an hour north of me - which was cool to think about. This brings about a good point - why are so many books, movies, and shows based in Wisconsin. When an author picks a midwest state, why is it usually Wisconsin? I love my adopted state, but am originally from Michigan and wonder why my home state does not get the love that Wisconsin seems to!

Overall, I thought this was a fantastic book and one of my best reads of the year. I thought the first 3/4 of the book were great, but the last 1/4 when Charlie was president was disappointing. Mostly because of the great time jump and how it seemed to skim the surface of Charlie and Alice rather than really go in depth. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Stargate - The Ark of Truth

Ben and I FINALLY watched Stargate - The Ark of Truth. It was probably our fourth time getting it from the library. It's hard to find time to watch movies that aren't child related these days.

Ben and I both liked the movie. It basically played like a very special episode of Stargate SG-1. This was fine with us as we miss one of our favorite shows. Stargate- The Ark of Truth finally brings about the conclusion of the Ori storyline as well as bringing back MOST of our favorite characters. I recommend it if you are a Stargate fan. If you are not a Stargate fan, you will not really know what is going on. I recommend you watch the series first.

We'll be watching Stargate Continium this weekend so I'll have a review of that soon - all I know is Jack is back!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere

I listened to the audiobook of The Christmas Promise by Donna VanLiere after I saw it sitting out at the library. I really enjoyed it. It was a heartwarming holiday tale of a sixty year old woman known as "Miss Glory" who helps out those in need in her small town. Sparks fly after she helps out her prickly neighbor Miriam by allowing her to move in while her home is being repaired from carpet damage. Gloria has a past heartache of her own that is fully developed over book. Meanwhile Chaz is an acoholic drifter that has just started a security job downtown. A co-worker's young son soon pierces Chaz's isolated shell and he starts to rethink his life.

I loved the characters in this book. They all had such interesting personalities. It was a relatable story, I felt like this could have happened in my own home town. The only flaw was that from the beginning I realized the major plot point that was going to happen (don't want to give it away). Otherwise this was a good heartwarming Christmas tale that I would highly recommend for your holiday reading!

Lady of the Rose: A Novel of the War of the Roses by Sandra Worth

I read about Sandra Worth on J. Kaye Oldner's book blog. Unfortunately the only one of Worth's novels in my library system was Lady of the Roses. I would like to read more of her books so I think they are going on my future Christmas and birthday lists:-)

Lady of the Roses was a love story set during the English War of the Roses. Lancastrian Isobel meets Yorkist John Neville at a castle as she travels toward the court of King Henry VI and Queen Marguerite. Isobel and John share a dance and fall in love. Although the Queen exacts a high bride price for her, Isobel and John marry and live a life filled with ups and downs at War rages around them.

I thought this book was great. The characters were all very interesting and it was set during a fascinating period of English history. I had never heard of these historical personalities before, it was enjoyable to learn about the War of the Roses version of "Romeo and Juliet."

One of my all-time favorite books is Katherine by Anya Seton. Lady of the Roses continues the story of Katherine and John's descendents. If you ever read Katherine and wondered, what happens next, this is an excellent novel to read.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Yuletide Treasure by Cynthia Pratt

Ben kept looking at this book and asking what exactly the "Yuletide Treasure" was. I kept explaning to him that this is a nice regency romance Christmas novel with no sex in it. He was not convinced. I think the "Yuletide Treasure" is love!

In this novel, Camilla is going to visit Nanny Mallow as her mother assists with her sister's delivery. She arrives to discover that Nanny Mallow has taken a nasty spill and needs assistance. Camilla goes out in a snowstorm for help and is rescued by Sir Philip, her companion on the coach ride to the village. Sir Philip takes Camilla and Nanny back to his home to stay during the storm. Sir Philip has a dream to become and author and Camilla helps him while love blooms.

The characters were great in this novel, but the ending seem very rushed. Different subplots were not finished, most glaringly, Tinarose's love for the Doctor. I think this novel would have been better if it would have contined on for another 50 pages or so.

A Rogue for Christmas by Kate Huntington

I blogged last year about my great love for Christmas romance novels. I think my favorite are actually regency Christmas romance novels. I stopped by the library before Thanksgiving to ensure that I could pick out a couple I hadn't read before they were all gone.

I read this book over Thanksgiving weekend. It was a delightful quick read. Mary Ann Whitaker is rescued at the age of 14 by an unknown hero when is assaulted on the way to a pawn shop. She wanted to sell her ring to have a good Christmas with her family. Her unknown savior sends her ring back as well as a Christmas goose and other surprises that make their Christmas complete. Seven years later, fortunes have changed for the Whitaker family. Mary Ann again meets her hero, Lionel St. James, and discovers that he is a "rogue" gambler that has been kicked out of his family for an ill fated elopement ten years previous. Mary Ann decides to help out Lionel as he helped her in the past.

This romance had great characters and a good story line. It was nice how the story showed that people aren't always what they seem. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a nice Christmas romance.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

The Black Tower was an excellent historical fiction novel and I highly recommend it. It was my Kewaunee library book club book for this month. I decided to read it early since I didn't finish last month's book on time (for the first time ever!).

The Black Tower is set during the restoration in France in 1818. Hector Carpentier, is a doctor, scientist, and long term graduate student that lives with his mother. Dr.Carpentier is going routinely through life when he suddenly meets Vidocq, France's premier dectective and is pulled into a murder mystery. Solving the mystery will delve into one of France's top mysteries, what happened to the Dauphin? Did he die of neglect in 1795 as reported, or did he escape and live on? The plot is intriguing and the characters certainly come alive. Vidocq is a larger than life, eccentric man. It was a delight to read about him. I had never heard of him before, but I'm glad that I now know about him. The mystery was great, but left open at the end. Was the Dauphin saved? I think myself and most people like to think so as trying to imagine how a small child could have been treated with such cruelty and neglect is incomprehensible. It's better to think that he had a happier life elsewhere.

Overall, if you love historical fiction and mystery, I highly recommend this novel. The characters are great and the story is riveting. It was a quick read while on the road to Minnesota for Thanksgiving!