Sunday, June 22, 2008

#35 WINTER HAVEN by Athol Dickson

Date Began and Finished 6/02- 6/06 2008
Genre - Christian Fiction
Year It Was Published - 2008
Publisher - Bethany House
Number of Pages 333
Reason for reading: Review for Curled Up
Rating 4.5/5 stars

Blurb or Synopsis: I have only read two books by Athol Dickson, but I feel I can safely say that his books are some of the best I've read not only in the Christian fiction genre, but the previous book CURED was one of my favorite books from 2007. Dickson writes in a beautiful prose, and while they are Christian fiction books, I think those who normally don't read books in this genre may feel drawn to his books as well.

WINTER HAVEN takes on a Gothic feel as the story takes the reader into a world that is seemingly filled with mysterious doings along the foggy coast of Maine, with people that are filled with evil intent, at least it seems so on the outside.

The book opens with Vera taking a boat trip to an island off the coast of Maine. She feels out of place there, as she goes to retrieve the body of her deceased brother Siggy, who she has not seen in thirteen years. She was just a young girl when Siggy, a highly functioning autistic young man, ran away from home and was never seen again. but upon the news of his death, Vera rushes off to Maine, a trip that was out of character for the very shy and insecure woman she has become. but she needs to find the answers to why he ran away, and to confirm whether this body is truly her brother who disappeared without a trace.

Vera's search for the answers to her questions is not easy. The islanders do not appear to like her, and she feels that they are doing their best to keep her in the dark. What should have been a short trip turned into an extended one as she stumbles upon one roadblock after another in her search. While she at first denies that this body is her brother's, she finally accepts it and then realizes he has not aged a day. How could that be? Was there something wrong with him that he did not age a day since she had last seen him? Nothing made sense, and it gave her more cause to find those answers that she felt the islanders were keeping from her.

In her search for a place to stay, she ends up rooming at Ida Abernathy's home, a widow who appears to have her own secrets. She's abrupt with Vera, and gives Vera the creeps, but she needs a place to stay. And despite Ida's warnings, Vera ends up searching a part of the island that is supposed to be dangerous, and runs into a man that will change her life forever, a man that she isn't sure she could trust, or she could love.

I know WINTER HAVEN is labeled as Christian fiction, but it truly reminds me of the old Gothic suspense romances that were so popular back in the day. it is my favorite genre of fiction, and this book brought back all those memories. WINTER HAVEN does mimic the old Gothics, with the foggy atmosphere of the islands, the mysterious Ida Abernathy and her strange ways, a supposed ghost that scares Vera out of her wits, and the rumors and tales that are being passed around by the locals. Vera, while not the classic heroine of the old Gothic romances, still fits into the scheme of things as she continuously refuses to listen to the warnings of the locals while she searches for the answers to her
brother's death. And the mysterious man Evan Frost, a man that has his own secrets and is considered by some on the islands to be a danger to Vera, is the turning point in Vera's life. the intrigue presented by the book was enough to keep me reading.

Obviously, I'm recommending this book and it may end up on my 2008 list of top books read. I am definitely looking forward to his next book.

#34 MENDING FENCES by Sherryl Woods

Date Began and Finished 5/27- 6/02 2008
Genre - Women's Fiction
Year It Was Published - 2008
Publisher - Mira
Number of Pages 387
Mass market Paperback
Reason for reading: Review for Curled Up
Rating 4/5 stars

Blurb or Synopsis: Two families lived next door to each other for 10 years. Emily Dobbs and Marcie Carter were what they thought best friends, with their children nearly the same ages. While their husbands didn't' get along as wonderfully as the two women, the two families would often socialize with each other. Their lives were almost intertwined.

The book opens with a young shy college student comes forward and accuses a popular super star college athlete of raping her during a date. What shocks those who hear about it is that the accused is none other than Evan Carter, Marcie's oldest child. He is known to all as a very polite, popular, and just all around good guy. But is there another side to him?

The accusation is one thing. But what Emily notices is that this news has affected her daughter Dani. Emily knew that Dani had always had a crush on the older boy, but couldn't understand why she was as upset as she was. Dani was behaving in a radically different manner, and it didn't make sense. Also, Dani's close friendship with Marcie's daughter Caitlyn was falling apart. The only one who seemed to be affected very little was Emily's son Josh. While josh and Evan used to be the best of friends as children, the two drifted as they were older, and Emily never questioned it.

The alleged rape is what starts the breakup of a long close friendship. But the book not only covers this incident, but actually goes back in time and starts at the beginning, when the two families first meet, as their families grow, through Emily's divorce and Marcie's difficult marriage. While I felt there could have been some editing (her books seem to be a tad too long), I did enjoy this book over SEAVIEW INN, mainly because of the very fascinating story line. I'm recommending MENDING FENCES to all who enjoy reading what is now termed as "women's fiction". So far I've read two of Sherryl Woods' books, and I will definitely read more by her.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ratmammys reads for May 2008

Here are the books I read in May 2008

(rating based on 5 Stars being the best)

#27 2cool2btrue by Simon Brooke Pgs 368 - 4/5 stars
#28 THREE GIRLS AND THEIR BROTHER by Theresa Rebeck pgs 335 - 3.5/5 stars
#29 DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT by Lauren Henderson Pgs 304- 4/5 stars
#30 A SOLDIER COMES HOME by Cindi Myers Pgs 242 - 4/5 stars
#31 SEARCHING FOR PARADISE in Parker, Pa by Kris Radish Pgs 343 -4/5 stars
#32 CRYSTAL CLEAR by Jane Heller Pgs 380 - 3.5/5 stars
#33 SWEET LOVE by Sarah Strohmeyer Pgs 297 -4.5/5 stars

My favorite book this month was a tie between SWEET LOVE, SEARCHING FOR PARADISE and THREE GIRLS AND THEIR BROTHER, followed closely by 2COOL and DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT... this was a really good reading month in terms of quality. I got lucky.

My least favorite book was CRYSTAL CLEAR and it wasn't a horrible book but i have read other books by this author, and this was definitely not her best.

Average 73.19 pages per day
Average pages per book: 324

I'm reading less per day, but the books are getting bigger... amazing...i was back to work in May (part time) so that explains why I read less. April was the month we went to Japan and I found a lot of time to read on the plane and in our hotel room in between events.

Of the 7 books I read this month, the following were books for review or requests by the author/publisher:

A SOLDIER COMES HOME - review for Love Romances
SEARCHING FOR PARADISE in Parker, Pa - review for Love romances
SWEET LOVE by Sarah Strohmeyer - review for Bookreporter

A good month of reading in terms of quality, but not quantity. June is already looking dismal, due to more work, but July we will be going to Maui for 10 days and I do spend a lot of time in the mornings reading.... it should be my best reading month of the year...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

banned books

Andi over at Tripping Toward Lucidity and Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies posted a Banned Books list, sharing with readers which books from the list they have read.

The titles in bold are the books I have read, and the titles in italics are ones that I have on my shelves waiting to be read.

#1 The Bible (I actually own several different versions of the Bible and have attempted to read it on two occasions. Not sure I will try again.)
#2 Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
#3 Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
#4 The Koran
#5 Arabian Nights
#6 Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
#7 Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
#8 Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (I have read bits and pieces of
this one.)
#9 Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
#10 Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
#11 Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli
#12 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
#13 Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
#14 Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
#15 Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
#16 Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
#17 Dracula by Bram Stoker
#18 Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
#19 Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
#20 Essays by Michel de Montaigne
#21 Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
#22 History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
#23 Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
#24 Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
#25 Ulysses by James Joyce
#26 Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
#27 Animal Farm by George Orwell
#28 Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
#29 Candide by Voltaire
#30 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
#31 Analects by Confucius
#32 Dubliners by James Joyce
#33 Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
#34 Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
#35 Red and the Black by Stendhal
#36 Capital by Karl Marx
#37 Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
#38 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#39 Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
#40 Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#41 Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
#42 Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
#43 Jungle by Upton Sinclair
#44 All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
#45 Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
#46 Lord of the Flies by William Golding
#47 Diary by Samuel Pepys
#48 Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
#49 Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
#50 Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
#51 Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
#52 Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
#53 One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
#54 Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
#55 Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
#56 Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
#57 Color Purple by Alice Walker
#58 Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
#59 Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
#60 The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
#61 Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
#62 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#63 East of Eden by John Steinbeck
#64 Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#65 I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
#66 Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#67 Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
#68 Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
#69 The Talmud
#70 Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#71 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
#72 Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
#73 American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
#74 Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
#75 A Separate Peace by John Knowles
#76 Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
#77 Red Pony by John Steinbeck
#78 Popol Vuh
#79 Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
#80 Satyricon by Petronius
#81 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
#82 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#83 Black Boy by Richard Wright
#84 Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
#85 Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
#86 Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
#87 Metaphysics by Aristotle
#88 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
#89 Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
#90 Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
#91 Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
#92 Sanctuary by William Faulkner
#93 As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
#94 Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
#95 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
#96 Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
#97 General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
#98 Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
#99 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
#100 Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
#101 Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
#102 Émile by Jean Jacques Rousseau
#103 Nana by Émile Zola
#104 Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
#105 Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
#106 Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
#107 Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
#108 Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
#109 Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
#110 Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

#33 SWEET LOVE by Sarah Strohmeyer

Number of Book #33
Date Began and Finished 5/24- 5/27 2008
Genre - Women's Fiction
Year It Was Published - 2008
Publisher - Dutton
Number of Pages 297
Hard cover
Reason for reading: Review for Bookreporter (also review request by author)
Rating 4.5/5 stars

Blurb or Synopsis: Inspired by the most important woman in her life, Sarah Strohmeyer wrote SWEET LOVE to honor the memory, but also to get closure after the passing of her beloved mother. SWEET LOVE opens with a prologue, written from the view point of Betty Mueller, who feels a need to correct a wrong she thinks she did to her middle aged daughter many years ago. Betty did not approve of her daughter's budding crush on the young man Michael Slayton, a family friend who was a bit older than Julie's teenage years. In the same breath, Betty also confesses she loves desserts and feels it's what helps make the world go around. She admits her own daughter Julie hates to cook because Betty was a slave to her own kitchen. Julie will have none of that.

And so, Betty decides to help fix a wrong that she did all those years ago, and through some finagling she manages to get Julie into a very exclusive cooking class featuring desserts. What Julie doesn't know is that Michael has also been given this same gift. When the two attend their first class, it's the beginning of a renewed acquaintance, where both Michael and Julie walk down memory lane and figure out what went wrong with what had been a good childhood friendship, and later was ruined by a misunderstanding in their professional lives. Julie is embarrassed to even see Michael, because her feelings were never reciprocated, that he only saw her as his best friend's little sister. What makes it worse, Michael doesn't' come to class alone. He brings a very attractive woman with him, and Julie is convinced they are involved.

Betty continues her manipulating, hoping to get the two of them together. But as she is doing this, she's also dealing with her own issues, health issues that will bring Julie and Michael even closer together.

SWEET LOVE I feel is the best book so far written by Sarah Strohmeyer. While her earlier novels, in particular the Bubbles Series of books, were light comedies with one-dimensional characters, her stand alone novels show a lot of depth. SWEET LOVE still showcases her humor, but there is a serious side to this book, with the characters being much more rounded and three dimensional, characters that change and grow from their mistakes. And while there is plenty of humor, there will be a times when the tissues will be needed as well. I was bawling by the end of the book.

As always, I am not disappointed by a Sarah Strohmeyer book, and this one especially rings true for me, as I can relate to Sarah's experiences in the loss of our mothers. SWEET LOVE is recommended.

#32 CRYSTAL CLEAR by Jane Heller

Number of Book #32
Date Began and Finished 5/18- 5/24 2008
Genre - Women's Fiction/Humorous
Year It Was Published - 1998
Publisher - Kensington Fiction
Number of Pages 380
Mass Market paperback
Reason for reading: Tbr/trade with friend
Rating 3.5/5 stars

Blurb or Synopsis: Crystal Goldstein is an accountant living in Manhattan. Her life is very orderly and quiet. She's been seeing a boyfriend for a number of years now but realizes it's going nowhere. She had been content, but now feels that she's wasting her time with him. When she discovers he's been cheating on her with his ex-wife, she's just about had it. Her best friend, Rona, coaxes Crystal to make a visit to Sedona for a vacation and also to help find herself and find some direction in her life.

So, Crystal makes the trip, checks into a very posh resort, and signs up for a 5 day "Sacred Earth" jeep tour, something she would never have done before this idea of even GOING to Sedona came up. This could be a sign, but the leader of their tour was none other than Crystal's ex-husband from years ago, a man she never thought she'd set eyes on again. Terry looked even better than when she saw him last, but as she got to watch him in action, she realized he'd also grown up. he was no longer that immature young man she had been married to, a man that was more like a boy who had no real direction in life. Crystal had always had more discipline, knew how she wanted to lead her life, and Terry was holding her back. She couldn't stay with a husband that had no goals or direction.

But now here they were, together again on a jeep tour. Terry was actually the owner of the company who ran the tour, and he looked happy. The two still feel the sparks, but Crystal hears that he's got a woman in his life, not really sure if it is his wife or girlfriend, but she is disappointed that he's not free to carry on where they had left off.

It is during this jeep tour that one of the customers of the tour disappears. Amanda Wells Reid, an international jet-setter who for some reason or another was on this tour (along with her entourage), has been kidnapped and now the company and the town of Sedona are the hot spot for the media. This is big news. Suspects include Amanda's husband, all of her entourage, as well as Terry's business partner and friend Will Singleton, a Lakota Sioux who was the last person to be seen with Amanda.

In the meantime, Crystal's boyfriend (ex-boyfriend?) wants to see her, and now she's not so sure she wants him back in her life. She's rediscovered Terry, and likes what she sees.

I've read a few books by Jane Heller, and this one is probably the oldest of them all. I didn't' quite like it as much as the others; the humor seemed a bit forced and the characters were all rather stereotypical on top of that. The story was enjoyable however, and I had fun trying to figure out who actually was guilty of kidnapping Amanda.

Crystal was the main character, but I think her romance story between Terry and her troubles with the boyfriend back home for me held the same interest as the story of Amanda's kidnapping. I didn't' like nor dislike Crystal's character; i just didn't' really care about her. It wasn't a bad book, but i think if i hadn't read this book at all, it wouldn't have been a missed opportunity. This is the type of book one would take on an airplane to read - light humor, beach read. I give it a mild recommendation.