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, March 26, 2012

Sister, A Masterful Debut

Intriguing, smart, suspenseful

Early on Beatrice gets a phone call that her little sister is missing; she knows her sister and feels an immediate gut-wrenching fear. Beatrice catches the next flight to London in order to get information about her sister’s disappearance. The only true thing that Beatrice knows at this point is that she knows Tess; there is no way that her sister left on her own volition.

This story is smartly told from Beatrice’s perspective as she immerses herself into her sister’s life, living in her sisters flat, and working with investigators to determine what could have happened to her sister. Beatrice tries to tell the story from the beginning, as she tells it to the Criminal Prosecution Service lawyer.

 The first bombshell occurs in Beatrice’s initial police interview when she asks if they have checked the hospitals as her sister may have gone into labor. Neither Tess’ Mom nor the Detective knew that the missing Tess was pregnant. The surprised Detective reveals that he has talked to the baby’s father, Tess’ Art Professor; however, the Professor acknowledged Tess only as a student, nothing more. Additionally, Beatrice reveals that Tess' baby had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis.

Beatrice’s obsession with what has happened to her sister is overwhelming and almost debilitating. Soon Beatrice has lost her job in America, stubbornly refusing to leave London. Beatrice will live in her sister's flat, work at a bar and investigate her sister’s disappearance in her free time, which ultimately makes her a target.

Suspects emerge early in Beatrice’s investigation. First there is the fellow student Simon, a stalker that has based his thesis on photos of Tess, many taken without her knowledge. Next is the baby’s father, Tess’ Professor who didn’t tell the police about his relationship with Tess because he is married with a family. Lastly, there is Chrome-Med the suspect genetics company that gave Tess the Cystic Fibrosis trial drugs.
So what happened to Tess? The reader will eventually learn the whole story behind Tess’ disappearance; it builds up from little glimpses throughout the suspenseful storyline.

If your book club needs a punch of adrenaline, something less dull and more intense, give this page-turning thriller a try.

Sister was written by Rosamund Lupton and is available in Trade Paperback now.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Review: The Weird Sisters

The Weird Sisters
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Such an odd title, and I never figured it out, these sisters weren’t weird by any conventional definition*. This story is about three sisters each at a major crossroad in her life. Rosalind is the eldest and is engaged but unhappy as she doesn’t want to relocate to be with her fiancée who has landed a great job in London. Bianca is the middle sister, forced to return home after being fired from her job for stealing funds. Cordy is the baby, a wanderer who has flitted her way through life, a transient who has just learned that she is pregnant.
These sisters are too old to be considered girls as they are ladies in their late twenties and early thirties, so they have already come “of age”. Each uses their mother’s cancer illness as a reason to move home. Named after their professor father’s favorite Shakespeare heroines, the three sisters tolerate each other, old issues still frothing to the surface as they live under one roof again.

As the eldest, Rosalind is the caretaker; she gets frustrated with her unorganized and selfish siblings. Rosalind makes the dinners, takes her mom to the hospital, and ensures that her mother has all that she needs. When Rosalind is given the opportunity to work for the college in her hometown, she is more than tempted. However she is engaged to a man who has a job far from home in another country, she doesn’t want to leave…how will she know what to do?

Bianca is beyond lost, she thought she would live a glamorous life in New York, but now she owes everyone money and debt collectors are on her trail. She leaves New York with all of her newly acquired belongings (clothes) but with nothing else. She owes her old company money, she owes back-rent, and has no way to pay it back. She has always been the most attractive sister, so almost the minute she gets to town she initiates an affair with a married man. She is ashamed at how her life has turned and finds her solace not in the church, but in the old town library.

Cordy has neglected herself and her body, she is tired and hungry, her first actions upon returning home are to sleep and eat. The others notice her eating ravenously but she’s so thin that they do not suspect her pregnancy and she is afraid to bring it up. The only thing she knows with all her heart is that the baby is hers and hers alone. An old high school friend gives Cordy a part time job as a waitress at a coffee shop, not a dream job, but one in which she starts to find satisfaction.

The sisters unite a bit as they see how fragile their mother has become, for her they must set their differences aside. One aspect of this book that I like is that all members of the family love books; their home is filled with books, how fabulous.

All in all, I think this would be a good Book club book, it is a simple straightforward tale about love and family, home and sisters.

*The author's website claims that Weird had a different definition in Shakespeare's time...

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Hunger Games Book Club

SPOILER ALERT-only for those who've read The Hunger Games

 Oh there are so many wonderful fun ways to celebrate the Hunger Games with your Book Club. Here's what we did...

My Hunger Games Book Club Menu                                                                                                 

Apps:  Bread, Blackberries, baked brie (representative of Katniss and Gales first meal)
Capitol Style Dinner:

Mega Salad: Fresh large salad with red and orange pepper; lots of salad dressing choices
Supreme Mashed Potato Bar (Crockpot of Mashed potatoes) with toppings:  sautéed mushrooms, bacon, cheese, sour cream, butter, chives, Cheetos, Vegetables, Gravy

Decadent Dessert: Chocolate Chip Swirl Cake
Drinks: Effie Prosecco  (Prosecco and a dash of cranberry juice) and or  Red Wine

I did internet searches and also found recipes for The Hunger Games  Orange Chicken with Peas and Lamb Stew with Plums. Anything rich and decadent is a good idea, as it would represent the Capitol.

Trivia: Create 10 Hunger Games Trivia questions and a Bonus Question. Be sure to have a Trivia Prize for the person that gets the most answers right.  Our Prize was “District 11” bread (bought at Panera).

 Book Club Discussion Points:

1.       Love Triangle?
We had a big discussion on whether there really was a love triangle in the first book. Some thought that Gale was like a brother, there was no romance there. I thought that there was a love triangle, if perhaps implied. Gale has asked Katniss to run away with him, after all. I think that while Katniss and Gale are partners, there is a potential love interest there, especially because of their history. However, most in my book club thought that Peeta was the only love interest that Katniss would come around to his affections. Hmmm.
2.       What did you think of Peeta, were his actions true and honest? Do you believe that he has always had an interest in Katniss? Or is he just going along the path that Hamish encouraged him to take? Is Peeta a worthy partner to Katniss?

I thought Peeta was somewhat genuine, but I still see Gale as a better partner. Katniss is stronger than Peeta mentally and physically and could have won the games without him. He actually held her back, as she almost got killed getting him medicine.

3.       Why did Katniss form an alliance with Rue and was that advantageous for her? What would have happened if Rue had been one of the last contestants? Could Katniss have killed her? What if Rue had survived to the end and was able to partner with Thresh? What would Katniss have done?

Rue was the same age and size as Prim, Katniss’ little sister. Katniss was immediately drawn to Rue because of the sisterly connection. Also, Katniss believed Rue to be smart and capable. If, in the end, it had been Rue and Katniss instead of Katniss and Peeta, we felt Katniss would have done the same thing, threatened berry suicide.

4.       The Capitol has more than enough food and drink and supplies while Katniss and her district are poor and hungry. What happened 74 years ago, how did the Capitol beat the Thirteen Districts? Why is the capitol so brutal, forcing each district to sacrifice children for the games? The basis of society, similar to ours is that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Of course the wealthy spoiled Capitol wants to maintain their lifestyle and control.

I thought it very interesting that the Capitol pits the Twelve Districts against one another in the games. This keeps each District separated, alliances between districts really are not encouraged. And, each District is its own entity, has its own occupations but there are strong physical barriers between the Districts. I think the Capitol is very smart in keeping each district isolated from the other, after all, they would not want a united uprising from all the districts. Perhaps there are not enough Peacekeepers or Capitol personnel to handle such an occurrence??? *I haven’t read Catching Fire or Mocking jay yet, this is pure speculation.

5.       Where there any parts of the book that didn’t make sense? That you didn’t like?

I was really disappointed in the Hunger Games when there were a mere 3 (three!) Tributes left, that the Game Makers turned to Mutants. Really? There are only two strong Tributes left, and they are both healthy enough to fight each other and now is when you have attack mutants? The timing felt so contrived, as the mutants should have made an appearance earlier when there were more contestants or not at all, were they really necessary? One person in our group thought that Katniss’s arrow should have pierced Cato’s heart that she deserved to kill him in a straightforward way; alas, he had on body armor. Really?

6.       Could you see the influence of Reality TV in The Hunger Games?

Much like Survivor, every moment in the Games, Katniss has to think about her actions and words. She is extremely aware that she cannot cry, cannot express her true emotions as she is on camera. And she constantly creates a sense of awareness of her actions, she cannot relax, everyone is watching. Even her kissing Peeta is a well thought action for the cameras, a calculated act for which she gains a reward, a pot of broth.

7.       In what year does The Hunger Games take place? What happened to what used to be the US?
The year to the reader is unknown, but this is the 74th Hunger Games. So the world changing is assumed to have happened at least that many years ago.  If you look online at a Panem map, California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and the East Coast are gone. District Twelve is where I thought it would be, somewhere  near West Virginia.

8.       What are your predictions on what will happen in the next books?

We believe that Gale might have more visibility. We know that Katniss and Peeta have unresolved relationship issues, but are they really meant to be together? And, I have to wonder about that alluded to, but mysterious District 13; my Spidey senses are tingling…What will the consequences be for Katniss having angered the president and the Capitol? How will she redeem herself, is that even possible?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Review: The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gripping Futuristic Dystopian Drama

This is the future, the US is a fraction of what it once was, and much of it in post-uprising poverty divided districts run by an unforgiving Capitol government. The Capitol presides over all Districts and as a reminder of a past uprising forces each to send one boy and one girl to the Hunger Games, a televised death match. Katniss offers herself as Tribute when her little sister is called, knowing that going to the games will mean certain death.

At sixteen Katniss is a survivor, her father died when she was eleven and since then she has been the provider for the family. She lives in a poor and hungry outlying district where starvation is a fact of life. Katniss has adapted by hunting the forest with her bow and arrows, saving little meat for her family but selling the larger game.

Katniss has unknowingly molded herself into a Games contender as she is a strong-willed girl with hunting and survival skills, much needed in the fight-to-the-death arena. She will compete against 23 other district representatives, most of whom are larger and stronger. Almost as s soon as she is chosen, she is whisked away to the Capitol, to be prepared for the games. Since this is a televised event, Katniss is given a stylist, and her entire outer image is transformed.

Katniss’ forest knowledge and determination keep her alive, and soon she starts to believe that she could be a contender in the games. But Peeta is an unknown factor, he’s a boy from her District who has professed his love but in The Hunger Games there can only be one winner. The rest of the Tributes must be seen as enemies; Katniss must kill or be killed.

This is a futuristic YA Dystopian novel, which will appeal to a wide reader audience. While I thought of 1984 and the whole “Big Brother is watching you” mentality, I also was reminded of The Lord of the Flies, a bit somehow. Read the book and let me know your thoughts…

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