Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
It seems as though things could not get any worse for Maddie Lawson. Her horrible boss at the radio station has humiliated her live on air, her mom has signed her up at the gym for a Couch Potato membership and her kids are embarrassed to be seen with her after her disastrous outing in the mum's race at the school sports day.
Jess, a popular beautician, is also having her share of trouble. Her new boss at work has it in for her and is watching her every move. On top of that Jess is desperate to fit into a size ten wedding dress for the Big Day that is continually being put off by her not-so-nice fiance.
Lauren has found herself at a dead end in her life. Hurt by the end of her marriage, she has decided to give up on romance for ever. However, this does interfere with her job running a dating agency. She has turned to food to comfort herself, all the while listening to the men who use her agency say they're looking for the perfect woman with a sexy bum.
All three women reluctantly join Fatbusters, a local weight-watching group, and soon discover that in addition to losing weight they will develop new friendships, lasting love and the life they always wanted.
Sweet Temptation lives up to its title and is a very sweet book. The characters are all well-rounded and down to earth women, they seem just like the type of women you would want to form a friendship with. The book deals with tough subjects that women face every day in an honest and also humorous way. You will cheer these women on as they lose weight and get back to who they really are.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Deeanne Gist has a way with writing dialogue- romantic one liners that just rip at your heart and bottom out your stomach (there's a scene involving shirt measurements that made me swoon). If you've been reading my blog, you already know I'm a huge fan of Gist's work. But I'd place this latest book in her top three, along with my dog eared copies of A Bride Most Begrudging and The Measure of a Lady.
Mack and Tillie are both likable characters with hearts for God. I found the premise of a romance between house servants at the Biltmore Estate unique, and I got such a kick out of exploring the setting- turn of the century North Carolina. One of the thrills of reading a great book is discovering new places, and Maid to Match delivered on that account too. The author hinted at a mountain man culture in that area that I'd never heard of. And the details she included about the Biltmore Estate made me wish I could visit.
I definitely recommend you put Maid to Match on your must read list!
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is back and with a whole new set of problems (and she wouldn't be our dear Shopaholic without any!) Daughter Minnie is now two years old and following in her mothers footsteps. She can name fashion designers, do a little online shopping and her favourite word is "Mine!" Becky and husband Luke are still searching for a house while they live with her parents, but bad luck keeps coming their way. And now, a financial crisis has hit the entire country.
So what does Becky decide to do? Cut back like everyone else? Nope, she decides to throw a lavish surprise party for Luke. If you know Becky, you know this isn't going to be smooth sailing.
Mini Shopaholic is the newest instalment of Sophie Kinsella's wildly popular Shopaholic series. It is as funny and charming as all of the past books. While most would assume that by the sixth book of a series things may begin to go downhill, this book proves otherwise. While I don't think it's the funniest or best of the series, it was fabulous having Becky back.
Kinsella also does a great job of taking the financial crisis into account and showing the difficulties of readjusting your mentality, especially for someone like Becky. It may be outrageous or frustratingly nutty but that it was what the Shopaholic books are all about. The one criticism about the book is that the character of Minnie doesn't factor into the book as much as one expects her to given the title of the book.
Mini Shopaholic is a wonderful addition to the series and a light, fun read. And, as always, Sophie Kinsella leaves a wonderful little hook at the end for her readers!
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Room is all five-year-old Jack knows. He was born there and it's where he eats, sleeps, learns and grows. Through his imagination, Room has become the real world and what he sees through the television set is just imaginary.
Room is also the place where Jack's Ma was imprisoned at the age of nineteen by a man named Old Nick. She has spent seven years in the eleven-by-eleven foot space. Jack's existence and her love for him has led her to create a life in that small space, so that he has no need for or knowledge of the world she was taken from.
But as Jack grows physically so does his curiosity about their world and the one in the television, along with Ma's desperate need to escape from Room. Will they make it out and if they do, what awaits them in the Outside?
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Room is deserving of all of the praise it has been getting. This is an easy read about a difficult subject. It has a hint of "ripped from the headlines" but looks at the issue from a unique perspective and is more of a commentary on our world than a sensational story.
It is written from the perspective of Jack, and Donoghue has masterfully written the voice of a five-year-old who only knows the four walls that surround him. Ma's fierce love for her son and determination will hit home with any reader. This is a book that will have you thinking "what would I have done?" You won't want to put this book down. Donoghue writes it with just the right amount of suspense and will keep you wanting to know how the story ends.
A lot of people are picking this as the front runner for the Booker Prize and many are shocked it wasn't longlisted for the Giller Prize. As I mentioned, it lives up to the praise it has been getting and I highly recommend this book.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
In the book In A Strange Room we meet Damon, a South African who feels the need to be on the move, constantly travelling from one place to another. The book is divided into three parts, each consisting of a different journey.
In the first, Damon is walking through Greece when he meets a German dressed all in black along a trail. Damon is taken by this man named Reiner and later on they meet up and hike through Lesotho. Damon follows Reiner, falling into a curious and unspoken relationship between the two.
In the second story, Damon meets a group of European hikers and joins in on their travels through Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, later meeting up with them in Europe. Here he becomes drawn to and fascinated by one of travellers, though they are separated by language.
In the third story, Damon travels to India with a friend who is trying to put her mental illness behind her. But she soon loses control and Damon finds himself as her guardian rather than her travel mate.
Each story looks at Damon in a different type of relationship - as the follower, the lover and the guardian - and through his travels looks at Damon's need to flee from himself.
The narrative of this book switches between first and third person often. This will be something that one reader enjoys while another does not. I found it brought a realness to the story, combined with the fact that the author uses his own name for the primary character which gives the story a feeling of being an actual retelling of these journeys.
There are a few criticisms of this work. Many feel that the cold style of writing and lack of real plot take away from the work. I personally felt that the style of writing really painted a picture for me of the isolation that can be experienced during travel, especially when one is running from something, and how precious human interaction can be no matter how flawed it is or how disconnected people are from it. This is a short and quick read and an enjoyable one as well.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Until the 1990's Clarkston, Georgia was what one would consider a typical Southern American town. Then it was designated a refugee settlement centre and it became the first American home for families fleeing the worlds war zones - places like Liberia, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Soon, the streets were filled with women wearing the hijab or traditional African dress and kids of all colours playing soccer in the street. Unfortunately, not everyone in Clarkston was welcoming of the refugees or the changes in their city.
Luma Mufleh is an American-educated Jordanian woman who was a girl's soccer coach when she discovered the young refugee boys playing soccer on the street. She founded a youth soccer team, known as the Fugees, to help unify these boys and soon found that her role would go far beyond being a soccer coach. She became a translator, a mentor and an advocate for the refugee community in Clarkston.
Outcasts United: A Refugee Team, An American Town follows the Fugees through one pivotal season and their story is one that is about more than soccer. It's about the refugee experience in America and Clarkston, Georgia, a town that without its consent became a social experiment.
As Warren St. John chronicles the soccer season from start to finish, he inserts the stories of the young boys and their families, the horrors they witnessed, the wars they survived and the difficulty of starting over in a new land. He also inserts the stories of Clarkston's original residents when this social experiment began. It is honest about the prejudices people held, the fights they put up, and how over time their attitudes changed to build a new Clarkston, one that is ethnically diverse and accepting of all.
Readers will be inspired by Luma Mufleh's selfless dedication to the young boys. Outcasts United highlights the needs of the refugee and immigrant populations in North America, how and where things can go wrong and what we can do to make it a better experience for all.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The first time Brooke heard Julian Alter perform "Hallelujah" in a dark bar, she knew he had the talent to be a star. And after five years of marriage and working two jobs to support his career, Brooke and Julian are about to realize that dream.
After an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Julian is catapulted to instant fame. Soon Brooke and Julian are living a whirlwind life of parties, tours, television shows and even a Grammy performance. Julian is a bonafide star.
While the newfound fame is fun at first, soon the negative attention comes calling. Brooke and Julian's marriage becomes a target of the tabloids and Brooke's work life is suffering. When pictures of Julian and another woman surface, will that be the breaking point of their marriage?
Lauren Weisberger is the master at taking us inside worlds very few get to see. First it was fashion magazine publishing in The Devil Wears Prada, then the public relations industry in Everyone Worth Knowing. Now she shows us inside the music industry and especially what it is like to be the wife of a famous musician in Last Night At Chateau Marmont.
If you are into pop culture you will love all of the celebrity references in this book. If you've ever picked up a tabloid magazine this will show you how they get their stories. Even if you're not into this celebrity world, you will still enjoy the story that Weisberger tells. She does an excellent job of taking the celebrity news we hear about so much these days and tells the story from the perspective of everyone involved. This is another fantastic novel by Lauren Weisberger.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
We have all seen the stories and pictures on the news, of the suffering and needs that exist in the world. In just the last few weeks we have seen floods and earthquakes tear apart people's worlds. And close to home we see poverty, hunger, and prejudice making life difficult for so many people. What if we had an opportunity to change that? What if we had an opportunity to make a difference in the life of one person or the lives of many?
In Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference Max Lucado shows you how you can do that. Armed with stories of Biblical and contemporary greatness, Lucado introduces you to the many people who have outlived their lives and left a legacy in this world. In each chapter, Lucado will help you overcome the obstacles in your life and give you inspiration to go out into the world and do so.
This book will definitely challenge you and inspire you to look for ways you can make a difference in your neighbourhood and the world at large. Each chapter is short, to the point, and full of real-world examples. The discussion and action guide will help you delve deeper into yourself, the Bible and your potential. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking for ways to make a difference.
One Hand, Two Hands is a book about the amazing potential a young ones hands have to make a difference in this world. It shows children that not only are their hands capable of helping them (brushing teeth, picking up toys) but capable of helping others (writing letters, wiping tears.)
This book is perfect for young children, pre-school age and early school age. I read this with my 3 year old daughter and she loved it. The message is simple and easy for children to understand and the illustrations are perfect for kids who aren't reading yet. The book easily leads into a discussion between parent and child about what kids can do to help others.
Little ones will love One Hand, Two Hands and so will parents. Being able to read this with my daughter as I read Outlive Your Life was a wonderful experience and is a perfect tool as we teach our daughter the importance of helping others.
These books were provided to my by Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program. The opinions expressed above are purely my own.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
It's the mid-19th century and France is in the middle of a Revolution. Olivier de Garmont is the son of French aristocrats and to say he is a snob is putting it mildly. Parrot is an Englishman who at the age of 12 was forced to flee to Paris after his father was arrested for forging counterfeit currency and ends up working for Olivier's family. When Olivier is sent to America to investigate their penal system, to his dismay he finds that Parrot is being sent along with him as his servant/secretary.
The trip does not start out well. Olivier suspects that Parrot has been sent to spy on him by his parents and Parrot deeply resents having to be of service to Olivier, as evidenced through his nickname for him - Lord Migraine. But over time, as they both explore the New World and all of the opportunities it has available for them, their relationship changes and a friendship emerges. Olivier embarks on a wider study of American life and Parrot begins to flourish in the new land.
Peter Carey modelled Parrot & Olivier in America after Alexis de Tocqueville and his work "Democracy in America" and from what little I do know of the work, it's a new way of looking at the work. Unfortunately, a lot of this may be lost on the reader.
The novel is heavy on the descriptive language. The first 200 pages of the book are full of description and honestly difficult to get through. Once Parrot and Olivier arrive in America the book picks up, there is a bit less of the imagery, a bit more storyline and it becomes easier to follow. My read-through definitely benefitted from being put on a hold for a few days around page 175, so I could come back at it fresh. That didn't last for long however and I found myself pressing through when I would have rather put it down.
The character of Olivier is highly annoying, though that is the point. Parrot provides great comedy with commentary and insight into Olivier/Lord Migraine. The storyline is rather predictable, especially the ending, and doesn't take the reader on many (or any) emotional journeys. It does give the reader a good understanding of American life in the mid-19th century and the ideals behind it.
Parrot and Olivier in America is one of those books that critics and juries will love and readers will be left wondering why. Reading this book is a big task to take on and is not an easy one. If you do give it a go, make sure you give it a lot of time and bring a lot of patience with you.