Sunday, December 19, 2010

Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Job, Family, or SanityRun Like a Mother: How to Get Moving and Not Lose Your Job, Family, or Sanity by Dimity McDowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book! I've been following their blog and facebook pages for some time, but hadn't read the book. I've been reading it at night for a couple of weeks and have really enjoyed it. I found that I related most to Dimity, but also appreciate that having two very difference 'voices' as authors means that it will reach a large audience. I've already purchased five copies of this book because I have so many girlfriends and sisters with whom I think the messages of this book will really resonate. It is possible to be an active runner and still be a present mother, but the key is in finding a balance that will work for your family's unique situation.

With a ton of nutrition, gear and training advice mixed with their personal stories of trial and triumph and quotes from other moms this book really runs that gamut. It's a book that I know I'll refer back to over and over.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Johnson's Shea and Cocoa Butter Line

I have the pleasure of being doubly 'blessed'; the skin on my face is oily and the skin on the rest of my body is super dry. Being a compulsive shaver, with no more than two days going between a date with the razor, I rely pretty heavily on lotions and thick creams. I never thought I would like using oil, but a friend convinced me to try it a few months ago and I found a brand that I love but my wallet would beg to differ.

I was given the chance to try Johnson's Shea & Cocoa Butter line of baby oil products, including Johnson's Baby Oil, Johnson's Baby Oil Gel and Johnson's Baby Creamy Oil. I tried all three over a week-long period at various stages of the day; immediately after a shower without first toweling off, in the morning prior to getting dressed if I'd showered the night before, and then before bed if I showered in the morning. I did not use lotion in conjunction with these products so that the results I felt would be from the oil products alone.
I liked the silky feel that I got from the oil gel and that was because I really wanted a substantial product that didn't 'soak in' too easily. The oil cream felt like a thick lotion and it had the strongest fragrance, and for that reason alone was probably my least favorite of the three. However, I did feel the need to wash my hands after applying the gel, but I'm sure that's a personal preference thing. With both the oils and the lotions, I was able to just rub my hands together and put the excess on my arms.

That said, these were both products that didn't directly compete with my current brand of la-di-da body oil. I found that the Johnson's Shea & Cocoa Butter oil was every bit as effective as the more expensive one that I so covet, and the fact that the Johnson's version comes in more than just the cocoa butter scent (if that's not your thing) tipped the scale so that it will be my staple and the more spendy oil will be used on nights when I specifically want that scent. (Think date night ;))

I even traveled with the oil and it didn't leak into my toiletry bag. That's important to me as well because I tote stuff back and forth between the gym. Between my phone, iPod and other accessories, there would be a lot to ruin if it did.

Overall, all three have left my skin feeling silky smooth and the scent was not overpowering. I used all three directly after shaving, and did not find any skin irritation or other negative reactions. Now I'm on a mission to try all of the scents so I can settle on a new favorite!

**I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Johnson’s and received the products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Little BeeLittle Bee by Chris Cleave

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was really amazing. Little Bee is a refugee from Nigeria, who was held in an immigration facility in the UK for two years prior to being let out with a group of three other women, in what turns out to be an unethical manner that does not leave her with legal paperwork.

Knowing nobody, except a couple with whom she had a fateful encounter in Nigeria, she contacts them and sends all of their lives in directions that nobody would have predicted.

Chris Cleave uses language beautifully and the harsh realities he brings to light in addition to the subtleties of everyday life that we may take for granted or are just the norm were revisited when seen through the eyes of Little Bee.

This is a must-read, and I won't give any more details, but be warned that a box of Kleenex may be in order.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Casting AboutCasting About by Terri DuLong

I am so excited that I will be receiving a copy of this book to read and review! It should be arriving in the next month, so stay tuned!

View all my reviews

Friday, November 19, 2010

Knit the SeasonKnit the Season by Kate Jacobs

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have to say that, considering how much I liked Friday Night Knitting Club, I'm pretty disappointed with not only the plot (or should I say lack of plot) in this third book in the series, but with the wooden dialogue and two-dimensional characters.

I read the whole thing, but it took over a week because I was just not getting caught up in the characters like I had before. It was kind of like watching the re-make of 'The Women', in that you expect great things because you like all the actresses and you loved the original, but it just falls about 20 feet short.

I'm so sad to say, Ms Jacobs, but unless the next is a vast improvement, I hope you consider the Knitting Club series cast off, and the ends woven in.

View all my reviews

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Luxury One-Skein WondersLuxury One-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I ordered this book on amazon in order to get some inspiration for things that could accompany Christmas gifts. I didn't expect to be able to have the actual project be the gift. It has substantial items from scarves to socks and hats that people will appreciate. Plus, they're knit in luscious yarns that would break the bank if using 4 or more skeins, but one is within the budget if you're planning to knit for multiple people. I can't wait to get my Holiday knitting firmly underway.

View all my reviews
One-Skein WondersOne-Skein Wonders by Judith Durant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are some really great projects in here, including socks and scarves. You generally think of one skein or ball projects as being dinky little things that may be more decorative than practical...not so! With Christmas around the corner, I'm looking forward to knitting up some of the more beautiful scarves. It's nice to know that they'll be projects that are not only quick, but also affordable and wearable. I'm so glad I added this, and Luxury One Skein Wonders to my crafting library.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Johnson's Natural Baby Shampoo and More!

I was asked to test out several of the products in Johnson's new Natural Baby line, and decided to try it out on my kiddos and nieces during a family get together. The line is 98% natural and is packaged in bottles that use up to 60% post-consumer plastic, not to mention it's still promising 'no more tears'.

I'm big on how a product smells, so it's hard to find a good balance of smelling great, but not having a bunch of essential oils or other fragrances added that could irritate the skin. The 'ALLERFREE' fragrance, which is plant and fruit derived, smells really nice and is not at all overwhelming. I actually forgot to bring my lotion with me during this trip and used the baby lotion the whole weekend...nobody mistook me for a baby or nailed me for a mom, so it's definitely a subtle scent.

I tried the Baby Lotion, Head to Toe Foaming Baby Wash, Baby Shampoo, Kids 3-in-1 Shampoo Conditioner and Body Wash and the Kids 2-in-1 hand and face foaming wash; all of which are under the Johnson's Natural umbrella. Due to the age (and hair) range of the kids, I was actually able to test all of these products in one bath! The 'baby' got bathed prior to the three older kiddos getting in the tub.

I flipped over the bottle and found that there were still some awfully long words in the ingredients list. HOWEVER, if you go to the Johnson's page and click on the product, it lists out what each ingredient is and from what it's derived. In the lotion, for example, the only synthetic ingredient is Benzoic Acid which is used to 'maintain product freshness'.

I liked the scent and felt like it was gentle enough and actually purchased some to put in a gift package for a first birthday party I attended recently as part of a 'bedtime basket'. I'm glad that more companies are making an affordable option for parents who are invested in being more 'green' and sensitive to the needs of our ever-changing environment while they may not be able to afford some of the more high-end brands. I love to indulge in them occasionally, but with how often my kids take the cap off and dump out a whole bottle combined with the fact that a good day is judged by how dirty they are at the end of it; we go through baby wash pretty quickly! I'm glad that there's something I can reach for for everyday use that won't break the bank and also carries a name parent's have trusted for a century!

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Johnson’s and received the products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this book started out super slow, I'm really glad I stuck around for the long haul. I think part of it was all the character and place names. I like foreign films and generally don't have an issue with foreign settings, but for whatever reason this one was a little more cumbersome.

It reminded me a lot of the Ann Rule true crime books where the first half dragged out, setting the scene, but the second half really took off. As the reader, you were prepared to follow along because all the details were already in place. I look forward to reading the next in the series.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Lace Reader The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader is the story of one woman, Sophya 'Towner' Whitney, who left Salem, MA for California as a young adult after the tragic death of her twin sister Lyndley. Prior to heading to California, she had a brief, but successful, stay at a psychiatric hospital.

She returns to Salem following the death of her beloved aunt, Eva, a local 'lace reader' and town legend. The story is all about the women who've influenced Towner, with the confusing events of her past and a mystery intricately woven in.

I just finished this book, and there is still a lot to be processed. I really loved that it's set in Salem, a place I've visited a couple of times before, and that I still have another chance to see before leaving New England.

This book is a rich, descriptive text, full of explanations of lace-making and the geography in which the story is set. I did, toward the end, start to guess how it was going to end, and piece things together, but I think it was intended with the break-through flashes of memory and family history provided.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Reliable Wife A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goolrick's novel, an idea which was first explored after he read Wisconsin Death Trip in the 70's, is another of those quick reads that's got a lot of depth at the same time. I flew through this book in two days, mainly because I couldn't wait to see if what I thought was going to happen would.

Ralph Truitt is a Wisconsin businessman living in the small town of his family's name. A man haunted by the ghosts of deeds and relationships past, he puts out a want ad for 'a reliable wife.' Answering the call is Catherine Land, a woman who also has her share of dark corners and regrets.

Together they explore the landscape that may or may not become their lives. Set in one very long Wisconsin winter, the novel delves into an array of relationship dynamics with twists and turns while also giving a glimpse at some of the vignettes that inspired Goolrick to write about a Wisconsin winter in the first place.

The lives that go terribly wrong in the turn of a thought, minds gone mad when the snow sticks around too long.

While it could easily have been a very bizarre tale that took everything just a step too far, I felt like he kept a nice balance between predictable love story and a novel with deception and twists; sex and sexual themes seem to have a heavy hand, but it didn't feel gratuitous.

No spoilers, this is one to delve into post-haste.

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sonicare for Kids!

Many parents find that one of their battles is a struggle with their children to get them to brush their teeth the recommended twice daily, or to get them to brush for the desired two minutes. I'm lucky in that H definitely loves to brush his teeth; a tube of toothpaste, if not closely monitored, can be used within a month's time because he will stand at the sink and brush every time he washes his hands. That's great, right? Well, it would be if he got more tooth-paste on his teeth than he did on his face, or if he wasn't quite so excited about the rinsing phase, and spent more time on the brushing itself.

I didn't want to dissuade his eagerness to brush, but I also wanted him to understand that there could be too much of a good thing by brushing too often (I counted one day and it was 9 times...). Also, because I come from a family of obsessive-compulsives who brush way too 'briskly' I didn't necessarily want him to pick up my form, but I did want him to make sure that he wasn't missing any major sections and, mostly, I wanted it to remain fun for him so that it would be a good habit instead of a dreaded one.

In Massachusetts, they recently instituted a new law that daycare providers and pre-schools who have children that stay for a meal period (or more than four hours) have to brush their teeth while there. I thought this was great, as it's one more way to ensure that the sticky residue from the fruit snacks I swore I'd never let my kids eat gets brushed away expeditiously. As an aside, I was a little shocked to learn last week that raisins are just as bad in regards to sugar (yes, it's fructose instead of corn syrup, but still) getting stuck to their teeth as fruit snacks! Just when you think you're providing a healthy alternative...but I digress.

I was offered the chance to try the new Sonicare for Kids electric toothbrush, and I couldn't wait to tell H. He was ridiculously excited, but what boy doesn't love to get new electronics? It came with different 'face plates' that could make the brush handle more customizable, and two brush heads; one designed for 7+ year-olds, and one designed for 4+year olds. Because H loves to brush, but Charlie primarily bites down, or chews, on the toothbrush, I decided to use one for each, even if the ages didn't exactly correspond. The brush heads were comparable to the ones they currently use, so I thought it would be fine.

After letting it charge for the full 24 hours, which is recommended, I let Henry go at it after briefly explaining to him that he just needed to push the 'big button' once, then when it beeped at him, he needed to brush another area of his mouth. The first brushing session went really quickly, because for the 4 year-old setting (which I had already designated) it starts out at 1 minute, and then increases up to the recommended 2 minutes gradually after each full session with the brush is completed.

It beeps little tunes to move to each quadrant of the mouth, and then plays a longer tune as it shuts off and your time is complete. When it played the 'el fin' song the first time, H looked at me and said 'Is my tooth brush telling me I did a great job?' I would never have thought of that, but told him that it certainly was.

After just a week of him using the brush, he's able to do so independently in the morning, with me watching for the evening session to make sure he's getting all the nooks and crannies. I am able to use it on my almost-two year old just fine, and I'm getting his front teeth and insides of the back teeth much better than before because he doesn't seem quite so tempted to bite down on the vibrating head.

I like the musical cues, because I feel like it makes it really easy for H to use the toothbrush very independently, and at his age, he's really excited about anything that he can do fully on his own. There is only one button they need to push, and they don't hold it down the whole time, it's just a simple press and release. The gentle setting for the 4+ group versus the more vigorous cleaning for the 7+ group only has to be chosen once, but can be changed with the press of a button.

I did put it in my mouth to see what it felt like, and have to say it would take a little getting used to, because it's kind of a ticklish sensation, like when you get your teeth cleaned at the dentist's office, but the surface of the tooth I tried it on felt squeaky clean!

I've been wanting to get a Sonicare for quite some time, and will definitely invest in it now that I see how much easier it's made my kids' routines at night, and how clean my 'test tooth' felt after using it just briefly.

You can currently purchase Sonicare for Kids at Target and, but beginning May 3rd it will also be available at Wal-Mart stores nationwide. At $69.99 it is an investment, but investing in your child's dental health is definitely a worthy one! The replacement heads come in a 2-pack for $21.99. Also, keep in mind that if your budget is tight and you've got two kids, you could purchase one set, and the stand will accommodate both heads, or three kids could even share, storing one of the heads on the handle itself.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by MomCentral on behalf of Sonicare and received a free Sonicare for Kids toothbrush to facilitate my review.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Remains Silent Remains Silent by Michael Baden

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book had a lot of potential, and I read it mainly because it sounded like it could really be along the lines of the Kay Scarpetta books.

I guess the word that could really describe this would be 'unsophisticated'. It was almost as if you were reading the pitch for this book and not the actual book. The rough outline. The character development was pretty lazy, and there was no real build-up...the portions that were supposed to leave you breathless barely registered a change in heart-rate.

I had the second one out of the library, but after reading the first chapter, I realized that my hopes that the editors would have taken a more heavy hand with this one were going to be dashed, so I returned it. What a disappointment! I was really hoping to find the next great medical drama/thriller series.

No cigar on this one.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Born To Run

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I honestly haven't had a book that was, if not life-changing, then thought-changing like this book. I'm currently in the midst of training for my first half-marathon, and just thinking about the body mechanics, mind-set and absolute joy that the Tarahumara find in running makes each run go a little more smoothly, and has forced me to push myself WAY outside of my former comfort zone.

I've improved my time by almost two minutes per mile, and actually look forward to those long Saturday runs.

Coincidentally, this is the first time I've spent a lot of money on shoes...and that was because this is the first time I've felt on the verge of injury. I'm hoping that with ice, ibuprofen, lots of quality time with the foam roller and time, it'll resolve itself.

Some day, I may even invest in a set of the Five Finger 'shoes' that they feature in the book and my friend's husband bought after reading the book.

This is a must-read for every runner, or anyone who's even thinking of taking that first step. It's ridiculously inspirational and a phenomenal cultural read on top of that!

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really liked this memoir. I loved that it was the kind of read that you could pick up and finish in a couple of days, but not because you'd done nothing but read for those two days.

Rhoda Janzen is a Mennonite who 'left the fold' in the religious sense only. Following the dissolution of a long-term marriage when her mentally ill, sometimes abusive husband left her for 'Bob from' she is further broken, literally, by a car accident that leads her to take some much-needed solace and rest in the home of her parents, who are devout Mennonites; her father was actually once the head of the North American Mennonite Conference for Canada and the United States.

Full of humor, explanations of some of the philosophies of the faith and lots of talk about the food that comforts, there were several times that I actually laughed out loud. I know it's such a cliche, but this really is 'laugh-out-loud funny'.

Throughout, she is respectful of her parents' religion, but is still able to point out the things that are ridiculous to her in a way that is humorous without being bitter.

She clearly loves her family, and everybody likes a good story about getting back to your roots, even if you never really strayed very far.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Hour I First Believed The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
In this story within a story, within a story, Wally Lamb encompasses a number of this country's tragedies from the last decade, then reaches back to the Civil War, suffrage and the formation of women's prisons to weave a tale that is richly told.

Focussing on the lives of teacher Caelum Quirk and his 'three strikes' wife Maureen, a school nurse, Lamb tells the story of a couple struggling to make their marriage work, after finally realizing that they truly do love, need and want each other, in the midst of chaos and tragedy.

Maureen, working at Columbine on the day of the shooting, was in the library hiding in a cupboard. One of the 'collaterally damaged' she struggles with acute PTSD that slowly slides into chronic PTSD. Caelum, who was on his family farm dealing with the aftermath of his Aunt Lolly's death, the aunt who helped raise him, was gone from school that day and is left wondering how everything might be different if he'd been at school that day.

Selling their home in Colorado, they move back to his family home in Connecticut where he discovers old letters and documentation about his ancestors and the Women's prison his great, great, great grandmother founded, along with family secrets, history and lore.

A story of self-discovery, intertwined with mythology and faith and rich with history, this is one story that won't let you down on a research level. i won't go into the particulars of the story, so as not to contain spoilers.

The one criticism I have, and it was discussed at book club, was that it seemed like SO much happened in the book; he was personally involved with people from Columbine, Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War...but that's understandable from the story-telling standpoint because those sub-plots were illustrative of how much things have and have not changed all at once. From the Civil War to Iraq, everyone struggles with their belief system, and how they're going to apply it.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Not So Big House

The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live by Sarah Susanka

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I absolutely loved this book! I first checked it out from the library and have added it to my amazon wishlist, as it's one of those I'll refer bak to over and over. The Not So Big concept is not so much about the square footage of your home, but in maximizing the usable space in it.

If you're a family that will always eat your meals in the kitchen, no matter how much you have to extend the table in your nook but are scrambling for office/studio space-why would you waste over 100 precious square feet on a formal dining room?

Not So Big House is really all about making a house a home and loving every inch of it, nomatter how big, or Not So Big, it may be.

There are a ton of ideas from this book that I'll be implementing in our new home, and I hope you find inspiration for yours in it as well.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Crimson Rooms

The Crimson Rooms The Crimson Rooms by Katharine McMahon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Crimson Rooms is a period novel set in mid 20's England, with the primary character being Evelyn Gifford; a young, female attorney, working her way to gaining a full lawyer position by being a clerk in a small firm. In the beginning, her character seemed a little one-dimensional, but after reading the story, it seems that she had to seem that way, as the book is really about her own self-discovery and letting go of some of the constraints she'd placed upon herself, while at the same time, strengthening her convictions in her chosen vocation.

Living in an all female, multi-generational home, the family is still recovering (daily, it seems) from the death of Evelyn's brother, James, in the war. Their world is rocked when a late night knock on the door introduces into their lives a free-spirited woman and the young son she claims is the product of a relationship with James during the war, where she was a nurse and he a wounded soldier.

Adding insult to injury, it seems that Evelyn's father had been in communication with the woman, even sending her a monthly stipend in her homeland of Canada. Suspect of the woman's motivation, Evelyn grudgingly forms an attachment to the child, Edmund, with whom she quickly falls in love while still being cautious about his mother's motivations.

Evelyn gets her first professional 'break' when she's assigned to assist in two cases; a case of kidnapping, which brings forth social class issues, those of poverty and alcohol abuse vs. attachment and well-being. Additionally, the issue of sending children to live in the Canada Territory for adoption is explored, and revealed to be nothing more than sending kids out as cheap labor. The second case is a murder case in which her firm is defending the accused; Steven Wheeler, who is charged with shooting his bride of less than a month in the heart during an afternoon picnic.

Without having any spoilers, I can say only that Evelyn's character blossoms and she discovers throughout the novel how enmeshed ones life can become with those around you, and that a person's free will to make choices that will make their life livable are not always in line with 'justice' as seen by the eyes of the law.

Learning to let go, Evelyn also learns when to choose logic over lust, compassion over former convictions, and to open herself to new experiences and relationships. There were periods when I felt about this book as I did In the Woods by Tana French except that, as opposed to In the Woods, in the end I felt like I appreciated the author's choice of pace in certain sections because I think it added to the characters' overall development.

McMahon has actually written several novels prior to The Crimson Rooms, including The Alchemist's Daughter: A Novel, and I look forward to reading more. The Crimson Rooms was released on February 8th, and can be purchased online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and Indie Bound.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog campaign by MotherTalk on behalf of G.P. Putnam's Sons/Riverhead and received a copy of the book to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking time to participate.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp

Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp Moose: A Memoir of Fat Camp by Stephanie Klein

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I went back and forth on whether I liked this book. I like her voice, I like the premise and the idea of the story, but there are several parts that just don't feel good...and that's probably part of the point.

While I was expecting a 'ha ha, I had to go to fat camp, but I'm fine now.' This was much more about her continual, daily struggle with eating/food/and body image issues, even though she's been thin for more years of her life than she was 'fat'.

I think the part that made it the most sickening was the sadness I felt for her over her struggle to have to willingly gain weight when she was pregnant with her twins. I don't know if it bothered me because I had anxiety about gaining weight when I was pregnant as well, or if it's because I never have gotten to the point that I've had the discipline to really change my body for the better. It's far too easy to judge the inner workings of someone's mind and the feelings they've laid on the table for all to see. So, I'll try not to be too hard on her in my head.

In the end, though, there must be some poetic justice that that the very word used to sink her gut and break her heart is able to be turned into a meal ticket. Pun intended.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Middle Place

The Middle Place The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

Corrigan has written a beautiful book about our position in life when we become parents to our children, yet are still children to our parents.

In the midst of her breast cancer diagnosis, her father is diagnosed with late stage bladder cancer. This is such a moving book, but it's so much more than another tear-jerker 'Chicken Soup for the Cancerous Soul'.

Her descriptions of the sometimes rote and mundane tasks of motherhood are right smack in the middle of what is quite possibly the best love letter a mother could write to her children, parents and spouse and siblings all rolled together in a neat little package.

Perhaps one of the most relatable parts for me was being raised Catholic, still identifying as Catholic, but not attending church or really subscribing to a lot of the belief systems of the church. In one part, she addressed how she envied people like her father and mother who had such strong faith, and the comfort it could bring in a time of crisis while at the same time questioning whether faith allowed one to sit by...after all, God wasn't going to make sure you went to your appointments, or to ensure that a technician remembered to run a certain part of a test. It's something I've been struggling with personally, so I think I particularly liked that stream of consciousness.

Handling life's biggest stresses with class and wit, Corrigan is someone I would love to know in real life; grab some coffee with, have a play-date with our kids, have in my corner during life's ups and downs.

A quick read, this isn't something you'll have to slog through, but that you could possible purchase two days prior to book club and finish with time to spare. Just make sure you have your tissues handy.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, February 1, 2010

In The Woods

In the Woods In the Woods by Tana French

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had really mixed feelings about this book. Really, I felt like it was about 100 pages too long. By the time it got to the crux of the story, I was thinking "FINALLY!" instead of being curious to the end. I don't mind that it didn't end up with all the loose ends tied up, because I like having more to think about, but it was a little bit tedious at times, and sub-stories that felt unnecessary and unresolved. Additionally, there's a fantastical element that, in the end, is never really addressed.

Set in present-day Ireland, In The Woods is a 'you can never go home' type tale in which Andy/Rob is the sole survivor of a childhood tragedy in which he and two of his friends went to play in the woods one day, and two of them never came out. His family left, sent Andy to boarding school after which he changed his name to Rob to avoid further media and police contacts. He had no memory of the event, or several years leading up to it. As unbeknownst to his boss and co-workers, and is assigned a murder investigation that appears to have close ties with his own unresolved case.

Perhaps what was most disappointing is that the character that's supposed to be the 'surprise psychotic' is really not surprising at all. Rosalind is fairly transparently manipulative, and it's surprising that a seasoned detective was completely snowed by her when it was obvious to me, as the reader. Had she had more characteristics that were similar to Jamie, hence a reason for Adam/Rob to have a soft spot for her, I could see it, but otherwise it just doesn't fit.

Even though I wasn't wowed by this novel I would still recommend it to others, and would like to have it be part of a book discussion so that I could get different readers' perspectives. Overall, I think it's a great first novel, but it's not ground-breaking, and I look forward to reading the next book in my queue by her to see if her stories become more sophisticated and the characters less transparent.

But, as another reviewer on goodreaders so eloquently put it "Or could it be that weaving an engrossing, eclectic, multi-layered tale of murder, mythological spirits, and memory is a hell of a lot easier when an author goes into it knowing there's no way and no need to wrap it up? Because that's just lazy. "

View all my reviews >>

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have always been a fan of murder-mystery-drama books, Dennis Lehane being my favorite master of this genre. In reading the Lovely Bones, it was such an interesting perspective to have the narrator be the victim, Susie Salmon, to know 'who-done-it' from the very start, and to watch the deceased navigate through the author's take on 'heaven' while observing all that was left behind.

I liked that Sebold took on the task of letting us watch a child watch the devastation take hold of her family, and that she was not allowed to intervene. There were no signals etched into steamy mirrors from the after-life (save for one scene that you'll have to have your own take on), which made me like it more instead of less because it made it more plausible, If that's what you're looking for. The dysfunction in the adult relationships paired with the perfection in the adolescent ones may have been simple naivate on the part of Susie, or it may have been just the purity and lack of baggage that allowed them to flourish the way they did.

I was determined to read this book before I saw the movie, because I always get more out of the movie knowing what they left out. I doubt, for example, they'll provide as much back-story of George Harvey and his dysfunctional child-hood. Though it's not hard to deduce that a serial killer probably didn't have a perfect beginning.

The title stems from the following passage; "These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections — sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent — that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events my death brought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous lifeless body had been my life."

I was really excited to see the Mark Wahlberg will be playing Jack Salmon. In reading the character, you could see him very easily in the role. In all, I really liked this book, although I have to say I was mildly dissatisfied with the ending. Read for yourself to see how you feel.

View all my reviews >>

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Last Time They Met

The Last Time They Met: A Novel The Last Time They Met: A Novel by Anita Shreve

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
At first the dialogue in this book was hard to adjust to, in that it was written in italics as opposed to quotation marks; which Cormack McCarthy did with The Road. I found myself constantly asking if they were just mind-readers, or if they were actually talking to one another.

Rich language, diverse settings and characters that you vascillate between pitying and wanting them to stop pitying themselves, this book leaves you wanting to check more Shreve from the library.

Most importantly, this book has one of the best plot twists of any non-thriller novel I've read, and you will close the book at the end with your mouth wide open thinking "What the $*%! just happened?!" If you're a spoiler, do NOT read the last page of this one...or if you do, don't say I didn't warn you. Certainly, don't tell your friends the ending, or they won't be your friends much longer!

View all my reviews >>