Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Postmistress - Sarah Blake


"On the eve of the United States's entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter.

In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the Blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape.

The residents of Franklin think the war can't touch them- but as Frankie's radio broadcasts air, some know that the war is indeed coming. And when Frankie arrives at their doorstep, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen."

Cole's Review:
I'm a history buff, Anglophile, resident of Massachusetts and both my grandfathers served during WWII.  To say that this book spoke to me is an understatement.
The book is told from the point of view of our three main characters - Iris, Frankie & Emma and set in both Europe and Massachusetts.  Ordinarily, I'm not a big fan of story with multiple points of view, but this book transitions from character to character extraordinarily well.  In a way - this book isn't a shocker.  Everyone who has sat through an American History class knows the general timeline of the war and many of us have heard stories from grandparents, great aunts/uncles, elderly neighbors, etc.  Instead, this book is a moving story of the people behind the war.  The people left behind; the media point of view; the uncertainty of our involvement in the war for quite awhile; that so much of life truly is a series of accidents.
The one flaw that is obvious to me (but might not to you) is that Sarah Blake is not a Massachusetts native.  She is describing Providencetown, but gave it the fictional name of Franklin.  Unfortunately, the town of Franklin really does exist - 35 miles from Boston, not on Cape Cod!
That said; I loved this book and would recommend it to just about everyone.
Grade: A

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

House Rules, Jodi Picoult


Jacob Hunt is a teenage boy with Asperger's syndrome. He's hopeless at reading social cues or expressing himself well to others, and like many kids with AS, Jacob has a special focus on one subject — in his case, forensic analysis. He's always showing up at crime scenes, thanks to the police scanner he keeps in his room, and telling the cops what they need to do...and he's usually right. But then his town is rocked by a terrible murder and, for a change, the police come to Jacob with questions. All of the hallmark behaviors of Asperger's — not looking someone in the eye, stimulatory tics and twitches, flat affect — can look a lot like guilt to law enforcement personnel. Suddenly, Jacob and his family, who only want to fit in, feel the spotlight shining directly on them. For his mother, Emma, it's a brutal reminder of the intolerance and misunderstanding that always threaten her family. For his brother, Theo, it's another indication of why nothing is normal because of Jacob. And over this small family the soul-searing question looms: Did Jacob commit murder?


Sara's Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my all time favorite authors, so I couldn't wait to read her newest book! As always, her writing is beautiful and thought provoking. The story is told from several points of view - Jacob, his brother Theo, his mother Emma, and the detective investigating the murder. I am not normally a fan of multiple POV stories, but this one is movingly crafted. While I would never be so bold as to say I understand the challenges of autism after reading this book, I certainly feel much more aware of them. She does an amazing job of helping the reader understand how it might feel to live with it daily.

That said, I wasn't crazy about the actual storyline. It felt kind of lame and slow moving. The thing I love about Jodi Picoult books is the huge twist in the last 10 pages. I was completely blindsided by the twist in her last novel, Handle With Care, and was expecting more of the same here. Unfortunately, I saw the 'twist' about a quarter of the way through the book. I found the end to be unsatisfying, to say the least.

Lackluster twist aside, I would still recommend the book. And all her other books as well!

Grade: B

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Waking Up In The Land of Glitter - Kathy Cano-Murillo

Synopsis:With glue guns, glitter, twigs, or yarn, the ordinary can become extraordinary. . . especially at La Pachanga. Owned by Estrella "Star" Esteban's family, the restaurant has a rep for two things: good food and great art. La Pachanga brings people together-even when it looks like they couldn't be further apart. One ill-fated evening, Star jeopardizes her family's business, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her future career. To redeem herself, she agrees to participate in a national craft competition, teaming up with her best friend, Ofelia-a secretly troubled mother whose love for crafting borders on obsession-and local celebrity Chloe Chavez-a determined television personality with more than one skeleton in her professional closet. If these unlikely allies can set aside their differences, they'll find strength they never knew they had, and learn that friendship, like crafting, is truly an art form.


Cole's Review:

When I'm not stalking the aisles of a craft store, I have my nose in a book.  A book that combines both loves?  Even better!  The author, Kathy Cano-Murillo is a crafter that can be seen on DIY and HGTV, so I knew that if nothing else - there would be a few really interesting craft projects.

Right away, I was impressed with the detail in which each scene is described.  A series of unlikely events brings a group of women together to look for a second chance at love, life and joy in crafting.  Along the way - Star, her best friend Ofelia and television personality Chloe Chavez deal with 350 pounds of German glass glitter, conflicts with each other and the upcoming CraftOlympics.  The author uses a heavy dose of Spanish and Spanglish through the book.  Don't speak Spanish?  No problem - a glossary is at the back of the book.  The one thing that detracts from this book is that there are too many points of view. I counted seven different points of view in total.  It would have been easier to keep track of if just told from the point of view of our three heroines.

I laughed a lot and cried a time or two as well reading this book.  I'd recommend this book to anyone that enjoys crafting, and hope to see Kathy Cano-Murillo write more books.

Grade: B

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Geometry of Sisters , Luanne Rice


What is one sister without the other? Is it even possible to imagine?

New York Times
bestselling author Luanne Rice explores the complex emotional equations of love and loyalty that hold together three pairs of remarkable sisters. Here in the halls of Newport Academy, a unique private school that has attracted generations of rebels, outcasts, and visionaries, an unforgettable lesson in the eternal truths of sisterhood is about to begin….

After years away, Maura Shaw has returned to Newport, Rhode Island, to teach English at the academy. Behind her lies her life as the perfect Midwestern wife and mother, a life that seemed on the surface to be all she had ever wished for. That illusion vanished in a storm off Mackinac Island in the wake of an accident that engulfed Maura’s husband and her older daughter, Carrie. Now, with her son and younger daughter, she hopes to find a new beginning.

Newport has never failed to infuse Maura with a sense of mystery and hope. But for fourteen-year-old Beck, the move is a painful upheaval from everything she has ever loved—especially her sister, Carrie. Ever since her sister disappeared, Beck has retreated into the world of mathematics, where principles are permanent, unlike so many other things in life. Without Carrie, Beck has lost half of herself—the half that would have fit in at the elite private school she and her brother, Travis, will now attend. The half that made things right. Still, Beck clings to the hope that her sister will return to them.


Sara's Review:

My perception of Luanne Rice has always been that she writes fiction for more 'mature' audiences. I have no idea where that judgement came from, but it's prevented me from reading anything by her before. However, this book popped up as a recommendation from my local library and the title intrigued me. I come from a family of four girls, so naturally the idea of sisterhood appeals to me.

This book did not disappoint. While none of the story lines are ground-breaking (old love rekindled, the sinner repents, the lost child is found) the feeling of longing (for a mother, a sister, a lover) is palpable. I found myself pondering what could possibly make me walk away from my relationship with my mother, my sisters. And that is where I found the story to be just slightly disingenuous. Nothing could make me walk away from them - certainly not the reasons cited in the book. Which kind of makes the whole story feel just a little bit disappointing and predictable.

Overall, it was a decent read, but it doesn't necessarily change my opinion of the author. I might pick and choose over her other titles, but I won't be adding her to my 'Must Read' list.