Monday, August 31, 2009

Cocktails for Three (Madeleine Wickham)

"Cocktails for Three" is one of those books that was just made for it by the pool while sipping a strawberry daquiri. Reading any book by Madeleine Wickham is wonderful for zoning out...mindless entertainment with a heart. You may know Wickham better by her pen name, Miss Sophie Kinsella, the queen of British chick lit.

This is the story of three best friends...each one with a secret. There is Candice, with a childlike innocence and a terrible past; Maggie, a new mother who does not feel any of the emotions that new moms are "supposed" to feel; and Roxanne, unbelievably glamorous with a secret man on the side. None are as happy inwardly as they portray to others. Their first of the month cocktail meetings are held as a release with friends. When a new girl enters the picture closely tied to Candice, will it tear the three friends apart for good or or bring them even closer together?

I have said before that Wickham (AKA...Sophie Kinsella) is a master at "intelligent" chick lit. The reader cares about her characters and wants them to succeed. This is a great book to read when you want to get away from it all. It's a great form of escapism.


Currently reading..."The Weight of Silence" (Heather Gudenkauf)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)

Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that is so profoundly moving that the reader cannot begin to fathom it. "Sarah's Key" is that book for the early part of the 21st century. It is a work of historical fiction set in France during the terrible time of the Holocaust.

Sarah Starzynski is a 10-year old Jewish girl living in Paris in July 1942 with her parents and younger brother. In the middle of the night, the French police bang at the door to arrest them. In order to protect her younger brother, Michel, Sarah locks him in a cupboard, their secret hiding place, promising to come back to him in a few "hours" when all this is over. Michel goes into the cupboard bravely with some water and his teddy bear. After the historically accurate Velodrome d'Hiver roundup on July 16, 1942 and the fact that her parents were torn away from her and sent to Auschwitz, Sarah can only hope that somehow her brother escaped the cupboard. She is able to slip away from Vel' d'Hiv' to go back to Michel. Your heart will pound as you follow Sarah's trip back there.

The novel seamlessly intertwines the time periods of Sarah and a journalist reporting on the 60th commemoration of the roundup, Julia Jarmond. Unknowingly, Julia and her family are preparing to move into the apartment where the cupboard was located. de Rosnay skillfully weaves between the major characters and time periods, showing that why some want to remember the Holocaust in any way they can, some choose to forget.

I cannot recommend this book enough. How many of us are ashamed to admit that we did not know that 76,000 Jews were deported from France by the French police and sent directly to Auschwitz? What happened to the 4,000 children arrested on that day, who had their heads forcibly shaved and their earrings ripped out of their ears for money? Read this book. You will weep and wonder how this could possibly have happened in our world less than 100 years ago.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Twenties Girl (Sophie Kinsella)

Sophie Kinsella, in my opinion, can do no wrong. As you can tell from the books I have been reviewing, "chick lit" is not normally my thing. It takes a lot for me to pick one of those up. However, Kinsella is not your normal author when it comes to that. Her books are poignant, heartwarming, laugh-out-loud funny, and just the thing you want to curl up with at night after a long day. "Twenties Girl" is no exception.

The premise is outlandish, but believe me, it works. Kinsella's latest follows Lara Lington, a Londoner starting out with her own business and desperate to get her ex-boyfriend to love her again. When her great aunt Sadie, who dies at 105 years old, begins to visit her as a ghost, things go even more haywire for Lara. Sadie cannot rest in peace until she finds a necklace given to her in the 1920s. Lara does not want to help her find it, but reluctantly agrees to get Sadie off her back. Kinsella's backstory of the necklace and ultimately how Sadie pulls Lara's life back together again is at the heart of the novel.

The author never disappoints. Be sure to actually read Kinsella (and her alternate pen name, Madeleine Wickham), and not think that movies such as "Confessions of a Shopaholic" do her any justice. Her books are great fun and will put a smile on your face.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Child's Play (Carmen Posadas)

As an avid reader of psychological mysteries, I was very excited to read this book. The description on the book jacket and the dark cover with the school uniform-wearing child made it seem like this novel would be The Bad Seed of the modern day.

Luisa, our narrator and bestselling author of mysteries, enrolls her preteen daughter, Elba, in the private school she once attended. On the first day of school, Luisa discovers that her old friend, Sofia, is Elba's teacher. Another friend from long ago, Miguel, is the father of one of Elba's classmates. These three were somehow involved in the death of Miguel's twin, Antonio, many years before.

Elba is a strange character indeed, and the reader never knows quite how to take her. She is entranced with things that a preteen girl has no business being entranced with. Unbelievably, another death occurs in Elba's school that mimics Antonio's. Between understanding the details of these two deaths and keeping track of the advent of Luisa's new novel, the reader can get terribly confused.

This novel was less than enthralling. I found myself only able to read a few pages at a time without having to put it down and take some Tylenol. The paragraphs were entirely too long and riddled with bad metaphors. Comparing a man's pink socks to two cones of raspberry ice cream was too much for me. Posadas is trying to be too literary here and lost what could have been a humdinger of a whodunit.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Department of Lost and Found (Allison Winn Scotch)

After reading "Time of My Life" by Scotch a few months ago, I was anxious to get my hands on this, her first book. Scotch manages to take a very serious subject, cancer, and develop a story that is at times touching, at times hilarious, and at times achingly raw. In her book jacket bio, the author says that she lost a close friend to breast cancer and wanted to write a book with a happier ending. She accomplishes what she set out to do, but the reader is not spared any of cancer's wrath in the process.

"The Department of Lost & Found" is the story of Natalie Miller, a ruthless senior adviser to a senator. She will let nothing stand in her way. When she is diagnosed with breast cancer, she tries to continue things as normal, but must face the fact that everything she has must now go into fighting this disease. Along the way, the reader sees cancer for what one can only imagine it is who doesn't have it....merciless. Natalie begins to understand that life is not for settling, and if she is lucky enough to get a second chance, she should live the life she wants to live.

Scotch does not sugarcoat anything, including her main character. There are times when it is very difficult to like Natalie. But aren't there times in everyone's life when we are hard to like, with cancer or without?