Cover Snapshot of Read Books

Sara's bookshelf: read

Crazy Little Thing
A Kiss at Midnight
The Disenchanted Widow
Hollywood Wives - The New Generation
There Goes the Bride
Table for Five
Do Not Disturb
The Husband's Secret
The Ugly Duchess
Help for the Haunted
The Power Trip
The Haunting of Maddy Clare
Summer At Willow Lake
Every Crooked Nanny
The Mystery Woman
The Woodcutter
How to Be an American Housewife

Sara's favorite books »

Monday, February 20, 2012

Review: The Three Weissmanns of Westport

The Three Weissmanns of Westport
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Light, bright, poignant

Four stars would be the review, but alas, while the rest of the book was evenly paced, the ending felt cold, sad and swift, like an execution.

Betty Weissmann has lived the life of a pampered woman, a housewife presiding over an elegant apartment in Central Park West. Out of the blue, her husband of almost fifty years tells her he wants a divorce. At the age of 75, Betty is shocked for if her husband had wanted to leave her it should have happened 30 years ago! Betty’s world is torn apart, especially when she is asked to leave her home. Where is she to go, and without her credit cards, how will she live?

Cousin Lou, truly the only character in the story to understand family and friendship, soon reaches out to Betty, after all, “she’s family.” Soon he has promised Betty that she can stay in his cottage in Westport. And as Betty’s comfortable life falls apart, her children begin their mid-life crises. Miranda has just learned that her published authors have all fictionalized their memoirs, which now means she is held culpable and will lose her income. Divorced Annie has a job as a library researcher but she is bored and lonely, her two boys distant and grown. Both sisters decide to sublet their apartments in order to join their grieving mother in Westport.

Thus, the three Weissmann’s come to live in Westport, to start their lives anew. Nothing is easy and the real world often knocks at their door. Betty copes only by pretending that her beloved husband has died, carrying like a widower. Miranda takes long walks and searches for herself, as only bankruptcy can make one do. And, Annie silently pines after an obtuse poet, while trying to manage the spending habits of her Mom and sister. Together the three Weissmann’s learn how to survive in a world that is dark and stormy, and full of the unexpected.

The Three Weissmann’s of Westport has been strongly compared to Sense and Sensibility, something I cannot comment on at this time, as my Jane Austen reading has gone by the wayside recently…

I did like the blunt, straightforward writing in the novel, the factual story-telling, the very real characters. This novel would work wonderfully for a book club or for a travel/beach read.

Available in trade paperback The Three Weissmann’s of Westport was written by Cathleen Schine and is 292 pages.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Review: The BFG

The BFG by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I adore Roald Dahl, and while I've read James and the Giant Peach and Matilda, I don't remember reading The BFG as a kid.

Sophie is an orphan who cannot sleep late one night and as she peers out her window she sees a rather large giant across the street. The BFG sees Sophie too, and grabs her and takes her to a faraway land of giants. Luckily for Sophie, The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant, unlike his counterparts. The other giants, much larger and more gruesome, have an appetite for people! All the disappearances of families and children across the world can be attributed to the Gizzargulper and the other giants.

The BFG doesn't like the other giants, but he is smaller and he cannot fight them. Together he and Sophie think of a plan that will lead to the demise of the other giants. I particulary love the way the BGF talks, as he is self-taught. My favorite little snippet, is when he is talking to Sophie about human beans, "They is nearly all of them notmuchers and squeakpips."

This is a timeless and charming story about friendship, acceptance and fun, recommended for age 8 and up. And of course, be sure to get the book with the Quentin Blake illustrations. Mr. Blake is an amazing illustrator, and each iconic image is silly and splendiforous!

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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Night Circus, an enchanting new favorite

Brilliant, Wondrous, Enchanting! The Night Circus is an Intricately woven tale of magic and mystery, charming to the end.

I was immediately drawn into The Night Circus, a magical novel, where the language is lyrical and whimsical creating a dreamlike environment.  We, as a “spectator” get little snippets and tiny glimpses of a brightly lit Le Cirque De Reves “Night Circus” that opens after sunset. The magical and elusive circus appears in random cities on different nights, never with advance notice; there is no advertising, only word of mouth.
The circus is charmingly and amazingly imagined, so cleverly composed that the readers will visualize every elaborate experience. Elegant and architechtural, the circus has a limited palette of black and white and silver. The Night Circus has been planned by engineers, magicians, and theatrical persons…no creative or exquisite aspect is lacking. Each circus tent or feature is better than the last; even the food has been created by genius gastronomists.
Celia is the child of Prospero the Enchanter, a most unfortunate twist of fate as Prospero plans to use Celia as a pawn in a magical challenge between himself and his enemy.  Prospero is a cruel master who punishes his daughter while forcing her to develop her illusionist skills. Celia is given no love and no information on the magical challenge; she knows only that she must prepare herself to be the BEST illusionist in order to win “the game.”

Marco is an orphan when he is chosen by the man in the grey suit, Chandresh, the nemesis of Prospero. Marco is to become the opponent in the game. He knows only that he must develop his magical spells and creations, as he will soon have a formidable opponent. Chandresh is an elusive Master, leaving Marco to study books alone in a townhouse.

Neither Marco nor Celia knows that there will only be one winner, the end game means death to the losing magician. Their competitive venue is The Night Circus where Celia will be the illusionist and Marco will be the magical architect. And, at first they are not aware of one another, they simply are aware that the game has begun and yet they are drawn to each other’s creations and illusions…

Shimmering and vibrant, The Night Circus pulled me in with the first delicious and descriptive paragraph. In no way will I be able to describe the visual atmosphere created in The Night Circus, you must read and discover the enchanting appeal for yourself. For the first time in a long time, I could not stop reading;  this book now has a place on my Favorites shelf, a twenty-first century new classic.

The Night Circus is written by Erin Morgenstern and today is available in Hardback and e-book formats.

Review: The Gilder

The Gilder
The Gilder by Kathryn Kay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Light, Underdeveloped,Contemporary

I would place this novella well into the light fiction category.

Marina is a Gilder; she learned her trade of gilding gold in Italy as an apprentice. The gilding process is interesting and young Marina is lucky to have attained an apprentice position. All is well and fine in Italy until Marina starts hanging out with Thomas and Sarah. Two is company and three’s a crowd, Sarah and Thomas are married. Marina loves Sarah, loves her friendship, and perhaps even has a bit of a crush on her. Sarah’s art career is on hold as her husband and his photography career must come first, there is only room for one artist in the marriage.

Soon Marina is assisting Thomas with his photography setups and this is of course where she gets into trouble. Thomas makes his move on night in the studio and Marina does not resist. But in the morning, the callous Thomas tells her that she should keep this from his wife. Feeling that she has betrayed her best friend, she quickly and quietly leaves the country.
Fifteen years later she has a teenage daughter who wants to know who her father was and this now means that Marina must confront her past and return to Italy.

I loved the Gilding aspect of the story, but had issues with the one dimensional Sarah and Thomas. We never get to know them or their motivations. There are great ideas here, but I do wish they all had been more deeply developed. I found this book listed on and will be disappointed if it is marked as a book club selection.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Review: The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Amulet of Samarkand, Book One in the Bartimaeus Trilogy
Fast-paced, addictive, magical fantasy

This YA book starts with a demon being summoned, in turn the demon appears, “two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke”. The demon is determined to frighten the young magician boy that summons him. The boy is very young, too young to be making demands such as charging the demon Bartimaeus to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand. The demon believes that the boy’s Master is forcing the boy to make the request. The demon is bound to do the boy’s bidding, but he resists as much as he can as he knows his task will be troublesome.

The demon very nearly loses his life as he fights other demons and strong magic when he stealthily steals the amulet from the powerful Simon Lovelace. Bartimaeus is dangerously pursued by beings that will stop at nothing to retrieve the amulet. But even as the quest began, Bartimaeus knew he would face great danger, as he knows that the Amulet holds great powers.

Bartimaeus is a demon who must obey the boy, a defiant demon, and a dangerous demon, one whose mind constantly works to determine a way to kill the boy. Demons must obey the commands of their summoners, which often puts Bartimaeus in great danger. Bartimaeus is a seasoned and clever demon, who does what he is commanded to do, despite having his life endangered. Even as a demon Bartimaeus is determined to survive, he wants to live, to be released from his service to the boy.

Nathaniel is a young apprentice magician with a grumpy Master who doesn’t recognize his student’s intelligence. The Master teaches slowly, proving too frustrating for the boy. Nathaniel makes up for it by reading all of the Master’s books and learning higher level magic in his room at night. The boy has a lonely life, he stays inside his Master’s house, and he knows only his unkind Master and the Master’s wife. The boy has no friends, no one to talk to, and he is bent on revenge against a much stronger (adult) Magician, Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel knows much more than his Master would believe, even the demon cannot believe the boys knowledge of magic, this will work to the boy’s advantage.

Before you think that this is too reminiscent of Harry Potter. No it is not! Magic is the only common denominator.

The reader wants to root for the boy to succeed despite the fact that we are unsure whether or not the petulant boy is a hero. We also root for the success of the demon, as we want the boy and demon to work together to vanquish the magicians who have wronged the boy.

While I wished success for the boy and demon, I could not decide whether or not this book had a hero, not even as I finished the book! My hope, and ah clever author Jonathan Stroud, is that the boy and Bartimaeus represent the good guys. This book left me wanting more; it read like a fast-paced action adventure, I anxiously await the next two novels.

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