The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

Tuesday, 6 October, 2009

The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards: Book Cover

I’m only half way through this book and already I’ve had whacked out pregnancy dreams…. oh wait, ALL my dreams are whacky. I’ll share that another time…

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

This stunning novel begins on a winter night in 1964, when a blizzard forces Dr. David Henry to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy, but the doctor immediately recognizes that his daughter has Down syndrome. For motives he tells himself are good, he makes a split-second decision that will haunt all their lives forever. He asks his nurse, Caroline, to take the baby away to an institution. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child as her own. Compulsively readable and deeply moving, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is a brilliantly crafted story of parallel lives, familial secrets, and the redemptive power of love.

Click here for an excerpt.

   

Morning Sunshine! by Robin Meade

Wednesday, 16 September, 2009

I absolutely LOVE Robin Meade on HLN!  I need her news like I need my coffee in the mornings. I really need both to get my day going.  So, that being said, I would’ve read her book no matter what the topic.  Thankfully it was about gaining confidence within yourself. And who doesn’t want a little extra confidence now and then? No? just me?  (I know, there are just SOME people who have too much in their quiver already. Ha!) 

 

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The following review is from Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

Robin Meade is the poster child for confidence and self-assurance. But the anchor of Morning Express with Robin Meade wasn’t always that way. In fact, there was a period in her career when she was plagued with anxiety and panic attacks. In MORNING SUNSHINE, she tells how she overcame her fear of public speaking to go on and achieve her dream of becoming a news anchor. 

Robin Meade offers her own tried-and-true four-step approach to building confidence. Her trademark warm, personal style translates from the screen to the page in this book, which will give readers even more insight into the young woman who came out of nowhere to become one of the most popular news anchors on television today. 

Biography

Millions of viewers each week tune into HLN morning show star Robin Meade and her show, Morning Express with Robin Meade, which airs weekdays from 6 am to 10 am. Her extraordinary, fun personality has attracted an enthusiastic following, including Stephen King, who devoted an entire Entertainment Weekly column to her.

The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer

Tuesday, 1 September, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review
Carrie Bell is the worst person in the world. Or so she would have you think. In the gripping, carefully paced debut novel of personal epiphany, The Dive from Clausen’s Pier, by O. Henry Award winner Ann Packer, Carrie’s very survival is dependent upon her leaving her fiancé, even after he dives into shallow water at a Memorial Day picnic and becomes paralyzed. Things hadn’t been going so well for the Madison, Wisconsin, high school and college sweethearts. Carrie knew, deep down, that she wasn’t going to become Mrs. Michael Mayer. But expectations and pressure from all sides–his family, her mother, her best friend Jamie, Mike’s best friend Rooster–force Carrie to shut herself up in her room and sew outfits of her own design as if in a trance. Then one night she slips out of the only universe she’s ever known. Many hours later she finds herself on the doorstep of a high school classmate living in Manhattan. Carrie’s adventures in the city–quirky roommates and a new romance with an older, emotionally impenetrable man–confuse her in her quest both to forgive herself and to embark on a career in fashion design. Packer writes in a convincing voice and packs a lot into this novel; she infuses Carrie with enough humanity and smarts to choose her own version of “happily ever after.” –Emily Russin 

From Publishers Weekly
Packer’s engrossing debut novel begins without ostentation. On Memorial Day, Carrie Bell and her fiance, Mike Mayer, drive out to Clausen’s Pier for their annual ritual, a picnic with their friends, a trip they make the way a middle-aged couple might, in grudging silence. Before their resentments can be aired, Mike dives into too shallow water, suffering injuries that change their lives. If Mike survives, he will survive as a quadriplegic, and Carrie faces unexpected responsibilities. Ultimately, Carrie does what is both understandable and unthinkable. She leaves her hometown of Madison, Wis., and shows up on the doorstep of a friend in New York City. There she discovers a different world, different friends and a different self. The hovering question–what will Carrie do? Abandon Mike or return to him?–generates genuine suspense. Packer portrays her characters–both New Yorkers and Madisonites–deftly, and her scenes unfold with uncommon clarity. But if Packer has a keen eye, she has an even keener ear. The dialogue is usually witty; more important, it is always surprising, as if the characters were actually thinking–one of the reasons they become as familiar to the reader as childhood friends. The recipient of several awards, Packer is also the author of Mendocino and Other Stories. Clearly, she has honed her skills writing short fiction. What is unexpected is the assurance she brings to a larger canvas. In quiet but beautiful prose, Packer tells a complex and subtly constructed story of friendship, love and the hold the past has on the present. This is the sort of book one reads dying to know what happens to the characters, but loves for its wisdom: it sees the world with more clarity than you do. 

Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs

Tuesday, 25 August, 2009

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The following is a review from Amazon: www.amazon.com/Comfort-Food-Kate-Jacobs

 

Kate Jacobs’s debut novel, THE FRIDAY NIGHT KNITTING CLUB, was a word-of-mouth bestseller, catching on not only among avid knitters but also among fans of women’s literature in general. It’s now even set to become a feature film starring Julia Roberts, which will release sometime in 2009. 

With her second novel, COMFORT FOOD, Jacobs again delves into the lives and loves of a group of interconnected friends and family. This time, however, the ending is decidedly less weepy and more, well, comforting. 

Augusta (Gus) Simpson is a familiar face to millions of Americans. She’s the star of the longest-running series on the Cooking Channel, “Cooking with Gusto,” and her face adorns not only countless television sets but also her own line of cookware and other household products. But as Gus’s fabulous lifestyle (her TV show is filmed out of the spacious kitchen in her Westchester manor home) marches on, so does time — and Gus is staring 50 squarely in the face. Is it possible that this energetic, hot mama has left her youth behind her? 

It seems that Gus’s bosses at the Cooking Channel are asking themselves the same questions. With a roster of new, hip television chefs and a handful of new extreme theme programs designed to appeal to ever-younger viewers, perhaps Gus’s show seems a little, well, old. Can Gus and her friends at the network figure out a new format that will preserve it from cancellation? 

For Gus, the answer to her problems is right under her nose — at her kitchen table, in fact. When an unexpected cancellation leaves Gus scrambling for show guests, she recruits her friends and family to serve as co-hosts and sous chefs, with humorous, and delicious, results. This accidental pairing of Gus’s closest friends and family — including her twenty-something daughters Sabrina and Aimee, Sabrina’s ex-boyfriend Troy, and Gus’s painfully reclusive neighbor Hannah — with aspiring Cooking Channel host (and former Miss Spain) Carmen Vega leads to a new hit show…and plenty of tension. As the guests come together at Gus’s table, tempers flare, tensions mount, and there’s plenty of time for everyone to discover not only delicious food but also new truths about themselves. 

At times, COMFORT FOOD can seem like a glimpse into a particularly fractious group therapy session, as sisters bicker with each other (and their mother), as former lovers try to become friends, as jealous co-workers negotiate professional boundaries, and as at least one woman tries to overcome her past mistakes. Jacobs successfully balances these somewhat tiresome exchanges, however, by offering numerous flashbacks into each character’s past, providing much-needed character development that can help gain readers’ sympathy for these sometimes prickly individuals. 

Gus herself is a winning character, and readers will be cheering for this mature, lively heroine to achieve both professional and personal success — which may even include love, an ingredient that’s been missing from Gus’s life since her husband’s death years before. Happy endings and a mid-life shot at romance will leave readers of COMFORT FOOD satisfied but looking forward to another helping of feel-good women’s fiction from Kate Jacobs. 

— Reviewed by Norah Piehl 

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Tuesday, 21 July, 2009

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I found this book at my favorite used book stores the other day. Used to, if I wasn’t at home, I was at Katy Budget Books. I started reading it on the 1 ½ hour drive home. I’ve had a hard time putting it down to participate in life.

Amazon.com Review
Jacob Jankowski says: “I am ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.” At the beginning of Water for Elephants, he is living out his days in a nursing home, hating every second of it. His life wasn’t always like this, however, because Jacob ran away and joined the circus when he was twenty-one. It wasn’t a romantic, carefree decision, to be sure. His parents were killed in an auto accident one week before he was to sit for his veterinary medicine exams at Cornell. He buried his parents, learned that they left him nothing because they had mortgaged everything to pay his tuition, returned to school, went to the exams, and didn’t write a single word. He walked out without completing the test and wound up on a circus train. The circus he joins, in Depression-era America, is second-rate at best. With Ringling Brothers as the standard, Benzini Brothers is far down the scale and pale by comparison.Water for Elephants is the story of Jacob’s life with this circus. Sara Gruen spares no detail in chronicling the squalid, filthy, brutish circumstances in which he finds himself. The animals are mangy, underfed or fed rotten food, and abused. Jacob, once it becomes known that he has veterinary skills, is put in charge of the “menagerie” and all its ills. Uncle Al, the circus impresario, is a self-serving, venal creep who slaps people around because he can. August, the animal trainer, is a certified paranoid schizophrenic whose occasional flights into madness and brutality often have Jacob as their object. Jacob is the only person in the book who has a handle on a moral compass and as his reward he spends most of the novel beaten, broken, concussed, bleeding, swollen and hungover. He is the self-appointed Protector of the Downtrodden, and… he falls in love with Marlena, crazy August’s wife. Not his best idea.

The most interesting aspect of the book is all the circus lore that Gruen has so carefully researched. She has all the right vocabulary: grifters, roustabouts, workers, cooch tent, rubes, First of May, what the band plays when there’s trouble, Jamaican ginger paralysis, life on a circus train, set-up and take-down, being run out of town by the “revenooers” or the cops, and losing all your hooch. There is one glorious passage about Marlena and Rosie, the bull elephant, that truly evokes the magic a circus can create. It is easy to see Marlena’s and Rosie’s pink sequins under the Big Top and to imagine their perfect choreography as they perform unbelievable stunts. The crowd loves it–and so will the reader. The ending is absolutely ludicrous and really quite lovely. –Valerie Ryan

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