Saturday, March 29, 2014
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier is a beloved classic Gothic novel, so imagine my delight when I discovered Alena, a new book release with similar premise. In my mind, I always see the Hitchcock movie Rebecca, an old black and white film starring Joan Fontaine and Lawrence Olivier--ah a classic! After reading several pages of Alena via a Kindle sample, I quickly recommended Alena for my Book Club.
Sadly, Alena was a disappointment for me. While comparisons may be made between Alena and Rebecca, Rebecca remains far superior. The Preface of Alena is lovely and eloquent but the middle and end became dull and plain. It seemed almost as if a different author wrote the introduction. Alena, the novel’s namesake is the mysteriously absent curator of an art museum, the circumstances behind her disappearance are unknown. The main protagonist is an un-named naïve young lady who befriends a rich old man and soon finds herself appointed the new curator. It will be hard for the new curator as Alena’s presence is everywhere and constant comparisons and insecurities abound…
My recommendation is to bypass Alena and instead read these two contemporary novels:
The Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Eccentric, Mysterious, Fantastic
The Vanishing is a modern gothic novel that has more of that Rebecca-type story, including the haunting and the creepy mansion. Julia is a modern-day widow, her husband recently committed suicide after a Bernie Madeoff scheme - leaving her broke and isolated. When a wealthy family gives Julia an offer to be a live-in companion at their remote mansion, she really has nothing to lose. As soon as Julia arrives at Havenwood she starts hearing voices and starts believing that perhaps the mansion and its residents are haunted. The Vanishing sets the right tone, built the mystery and was immensely readable.
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
Ambitious, Noteworthy, Unique
Claire is a struggling artist, barely able to afford living in her one room studio when she is presented a tremendous if perhaps illegal opportunity. If she paints a replica Degas, a famous gallery owner (Markel) will give her a one woman show. She does not know what plans Markel has with her replica or the original painting, but she knows that she has willingly made a deal with the devil. As her relationship with the handsome gallery owner evolves into romance, she fears what will happen to them if they get caught. And yet, her ambition and desire get the best of her, how much will she compromise to ensure that her work gets noticed?
Saturday, February 15, 2014
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Intellectual, Creative, Complex
Finally finally finished! The beginning of this novel is fascinating and wondrous. I loved the idea of the story, one written about a Golem (clay creature) and a Jinni (Arabic Supernatural Spirit) who meet by chance in New York (such a new and interesting premise). The Golem’s Master has died unexpectedly and she must figure out how to live as a human when she needs no food or sleep and has superhuman strength. The Jinni was trapped in a container for a thousand years, he is glad to be out in the world again although this world is one he does not recognize. Because he is drawn to fire, he is a natural metalsmith. Both creatures are restless, frustrated and struggling to pose as humans in a complex world. The Golem and Jinni recognize the non-human in each other and forge an unlikely friendship. Alas, the constraints of the human world may be more than either can survive.
I had thought of choosing this book for Book Club as I read the first few compelling pages in the bookstore, but wow, this is a hard book to finish. A fellow Book club member read this book too and said she was glad that I had not chosen it; it was too lengthy and too intellectual for the book group. Notably, I stopped reading (e-reader) at 50% and set this book aside for months as the middle of the book just could not keep my attention.
Well written, but oh so long!
View all my reviews
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
A Few Books I Enjoyed in 2013...
The year of 2013 was somewhat disappointing to me as a reader. I did not love or even like many of the books that I read - despite Kindle Samples and Goodreads Recommendations, I found very few books that I would rate as above average. The few I enjoyed are listed in brief below:
How to Be An American Housewife
My favorite book club pick of 2013 was How to Be An American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. The story seems almost as if it is an authentic memoir as it recaps the life of a young Japanese woman in WWII who chose to marry an American GI in order to give herself a better life. Shoko has her secrets as she leaves her family and home to move to America with her new husband. Her one insight into the ways of American Culture are attained only in a little book called How to Be An American Housewife. The story is told through both mother (past and present) and also through her estranged Japanese American daughter.
Other books outside of book club that I enjoyed include:
Code Name Verity
This is also a WWII book which follows the lives of two young British female spies in Germany – this would be a great read for book club. Don’t let the YA genre mislead you, this is a captivating book.
From the Kitchen of Half Truth
I wish I had chosen this book for my book club pick; I enjoyed this special and quirky novel. Meg is OCD, the complete opposite of her eccentric mother who loves cooking and fairy tales. Meg loved her childhood until she realized that all of her mother’s stories were make-believe.
The Gravity of Birds
Another book I wish I had discovered prior to book club. Famous ArtistThomas Bayber suddenly reveals in old age that he has a few other paintings, paintings which may be priceless if they exist. Long ago Bayber summered in a cottage near the Kessler family. Bayber painted the young Kessler girls and dramatically impacted their young lives and the past and present drama unfolds from there.
Oh Really wish I had chosen this for book club…
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures
Who isn’t fascinated by Old Hollywood Glamour? At a young age, Laura Lamont leaves the Midwest for a hopeful movie career in Hollywood. Of course it doesn’t all go as planned and yet her California life is interesting as she works in the Hollywood Golden Age. I didn’t choose this book initially because reviewers were disappointed that this wasn’t a memoir. It does read as one, and in my imagination it could be any great Dame from the black and white AMC Golden Age, alas it is fiction.
READ READ READ and Enjoy!
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
This year I had trouble choosing a book for my book club and I turned to my Kindle to download some free book samples to help me make my choice. I found several book snippets that sounded as though they had promise only to let me down once I started reading. I went through countless samples, reading chapter after chapter in search of that next great book club find… to no avail. And after each sample disappointment, I would go back to the kindle store in search of another free sample. I soon realized that I am a Try-A-Sample Addict! Oh the savvy book marketers – they make sure those first chapters are engaging with spark but they haven’t followed through to ensure the fire continues through the middle to the conclusion.
Books that I explored for my book club included Earls at The Supremes All You can Eat (perhaps I love the authors story better than the book). I really wanted to like this Southern novel but the sample did not speak to me. I also sampled The Pilgrimage of Harold Frye which was a little serious for my taste. And so I continued to download MORE samples…
“Try a Sample” tried for my Book Club:
- A Hundred Summers,
- Whistling Past the Graveyard,
- The Scent of Rain and Lightning,
- Tell the Wolves I’m Home,
- The Drowning House,
- Fin & Lady,
- Beautiful Day,
- From the Kitchen of Half Truth,
- The Golem and the Jinni,
- The Engagements,
- The Witch of Little Italy
Yep, confirmed, a Try-A-Sample Addict! I did actually purchase and read a few of the books that I tried. Although, sadly, I believe that all this try before you buy took my book club choosing mojo away. Which leaves me wondering, are the Try a Samples a hindrance or a value add to the book reading experience? What are your thoughts?
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
refreshing, easy, sweet
I love hosting book club, but this year choosing a book was a real struggle. I knew we had a pretty serious July book in The Light Between Oceans. How do you find a book that is on the lighter side, but still has enough meat to stay interesting and lead to a good discussion? Wow, so hard. I ended up selecting a Romance, The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs.
Tess is a modern Indiana Jones, dedicating her life to researching, finding, and returning stolen war treasures. Unfortunately, Tess is lonely, she doesn’t have a family; her life is her work. That is until the sexy Dominic walks into her office and turns her world upside down by telling her that she has family – a sister and a grandfather, both are living in Sonoma.
The story of Tess’s grandfather is by far the greatest story. As a teen in World War II, the Nazis took Magnus’s family away, he never saw them again. Soon he becomes a resistance fighter, saving many children from the death camps. Eventually he and his new bride settle in California, starting an Apple Orchard and thus the saga begins…
There are stories past and present and plenty of recipes - The Apple Orchard is a delightful choice for book club when you need something from the lighter side.
The Apple Orchard Book Club
What to Serve:
Any recipes from the book (Danish Apple Pie) &
Sonoma wine, a cheese platter, fruit (apples and grapes), bread, chocolates, apple dessert
Book club idea:
Trivia with an Apple Prize. Or: I found book conversation starters (for book clubs) online. Questions such as “If you could be any character in a book who would you be?” I printed out the book-related questions and then had each person select a question from a jar at the beginning of the night. I tagged one question and that person won the “prize”. The prize can be a bottle of Sonoma wine, or a fun Apple scented candle.
Enjoy the caramel apple topping,
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Sunscreen swimsuit and beach reads--all a girl needs for summer
The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
I do love a good mystery, and a recent Edgar Award winner might satisfy that craving… perhaps. I have a seen this novel everywhere, and it has good reviews, my hopes are high.
Now You See Her by James Patterson
I always like to bring a Patterson to the beach. Patterson is the go to author for short snappy thrilling chapters and quick reads. He writes easily and the pace is fast, often chapter endings are cliffhangers so the reader has to push through for more, to get more detail, more information. When he’s good, he’s very very good and when his characters are bad, he’s better. While I enjoy the Alex Cross series, I find that I truly like the stand alone novels that Patterson writes, these are the must read beach thrillers
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
This is one of those much written about books, one which I hope does not disappoint. For me, the good news is that this book recently became available in paperback (still a favorite). This was an NPR favorite, an Audible and NYT Book favorite for 2012.
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer
Everyone needs a light and funny beach chick lit; I am hoping this is the one. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a weakness for Southern Contemporary fiction. Completely irrelevant, but my husband would love this, the author was Emmy nominated for her writing on VH1s Pop Up video.
Wildcards—books that I am bringing along and may read on vacation…
Other books that I am bringing along include The Orchardist and an Inquiry into Love and Death and Daddy’s Gone A Hunting.
What will be going into your beach bag this summer?
Saturday, April 20, 2013
an assortment of books set aside mid-read
I have a few stacks of to read books beside my bed – I do love my books. The good news is there are many books to read, the bad news is that many have been set aside mid-read.
My set aside /unfinished mid-read list is chock full of well intentions and intellectual or classic books like
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Anna Karenina, The Imperfectionists, Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Brave New World
And books that I’d read or heard about that couldn’t keep my interest
The Magicians, Black Water Rising, The Girl Below
And series or authors whom I have read previously but that I just cannot get into again
Like Clobbered by Camembert (I enjoyed the first book in this series), The Diva Digs the Dirt, The House at Riverton
What do you do with a book that just doesn’t hold your attention? Do you keep reading and hope that it gets better? Or do you put it aside, to maybe finish later? I used to feel that I had to finish each and every book—even the rotten ones. But now, I don’t want to waste the time.
Meanwhile the set aside pile is growing….