Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!!

Happy Halloween everyone!! I'm not reading any scary books at the moment. I have to work today! Booo!! Instead I'm putting up a montage of some of my favorite scary movies! What are some of your favorites?












And of course no Halloween would be complete without a little humor to match. It comes courtesy of Roseanne and The Simpsons.



Friday, October 29, 2010

My take on: Blood Lily

"Imagine you were a nineteen-year-old black growing up in Rhodesia in the seventies. You couldn't vote or go to the same schools, restaurants, hospitals or bars as the whites. Everyone, including the law, regarded you as a second-class citizen. You could either accept your lot or stand up for yourself and join the terrs? What would you have done?" Pg. 219 of Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick

That is the question posed to a young white man long removed from the everyday racial wars in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Scott Carter couldn't understand that question until he was a middle-aged family man, living in London. He grew up privileged on a farm in Rhodesia. Now he is facing financial ruin in the wake of Lehman Brothers declaring bankruptcy. What can he do? Who can he turn to? Salvation does come from an unlikely ally. What got Scott to this point is at the heart of Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick.

Told in flashbacks, the "friendship" between a young Scott and Simba plays out during the rise of Robert Mugabe. What I know of Mugabe is very little. Just what I've seen on TV and read in newspapers. He rose to power under nefarious circumstances, and is still in power in Zimbabwe. Blood Lily, while fiction, paints a very vivid picture of the conflict in Rhodesia in the seventies. Brainwashing, torture and murder, Cranswick doesn't mince words.

Scott Carter has always had the freedom to do as he pleases, go where he pleases, because growing up white people were in a position of power. He has the freedom to explore the land, and with the animals and nature. Scott has time to appreciate the animals, especially his pet kudu, and the landscape.

Simba on the other hand, doesn't have that same freedom. Some schools, restaurants and hospitals are closed to him. He's not even truly free to socialize with Scott, the town pool is closed to black people. Scott says and thinks they are best friends, but even Scott has his limitations. While on a trip with Scott's friends, Bruce and Conway, a Danish woman takes a liking to Simba. Most of them are repulsed by her public displays of affection for Simba, despite being friendly to Simba on other occasions. Simba wants an end to segregation, something Scott cannot truly understand. Rather Scott is bored by Simba's "moods," and wishes he would focus on something else. The impression I got of Scott's character, is as long as Simba isn't in chains on a slave plantation he has nothing to complain about.

The boys grow apart, but come together again to fight against Mugabe and his followers (terrs). Simba and Scott join different branches of the military, but are brought together to fight the terrs. One side wants to take back land from the white ruling class, the other wants to keep that from happening. It seems like a bit of a contradiction on Simba's part to be fighting against Mugabe, but I guess the method in which Mugabe came to power is the problem. Simba acts as a translator and guide for Scott, Bruce and Conway. In the beginning it works, but soon there are chinks in the armor. A tragic loss and an act of betrayal haunt Scott as he eventually leaves Zimbabwe and ventures to college in England.

The storyline is very compelling, but at times I had trouble determining the timeline. One moment Scott is still in the military executing a big mission, and the next chapter he is a student in London prepping for a boxing match. I thought I missed something or did the pages get stuck together. That act of betrayal I mentioned in the last paragraph isn't revealed until later. The bulk of the novel is already a flashback, then to have a flashback within another can be confusing. Despite the time issues, I had to know what happened. I was left hanging, only making me want to finish the story more. I'm wondering what happened? What happened on that last mission? Was anyone hurt? The climax of the Blood Lily is gripping, graphic -- and most of all heartbreaking. What do you do when you think you're about to die? It's a moment when you truly know who your friends are. The last 40 pages were a hard read, but if you're a history buff pick this one up.

Rating: Give it a try

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author's publicist in exchange for an honest review. for more information on Mason Cranswick visit: http://www.bloodlily.co.za/index.htm


Thursday, October 28, 2010

It's that time of the week!


Book Blogger HopEvery week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost? Every seen the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast? There's a scene where the Beast surprises Belle with her own library. I want the real life version. One day I'm going to get it. It will have a fantastic view of the country and big comfy chairs. 

Here are some blogs I came across:

Notes: I hope to have a review of Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick up by Friday or Saturday. Also, November's question for "What's Up Tweeps?!" I guess this one is geared toward bloggers, but if you're a writer or you think it applies to you feel free to answer. As a blogger, have you found your writing voice yet? If so how long did it take you? E-mail responses to me at bookangel224@gmail.com. Entries are open until Nov. 14.

And...Come back Monday for a giveaway announcement!

Monday, October 25, 2010

What's on the cover?


Everything I Never Wanted to Be: a memoir of alcoholism and addiction, faith and family, hope and humor


It's Monday, and it's time to see What's on The Cover. Next up on the hit parade is Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera. This one comes courtesy of a blog tour with  Pump up Your Book Promotion (http://www.pumpupyourbookpromotion.com/). There will be a guest post from Dina Kucera (Nov. 10) and a review (Nov. 11). Everything I Never Wanted to be is about Ms. Kucera's struggle to overcome addiction. I'm always fascinated by how other people live, so I jumped at the opportunity to take part in a blog tour. The cover of book, while simple, is also powerful. I can see a little girl without a face, getting lost in the vast black cover. There's a story there. One's childhood is supposed to be full of life and cheerful, and obviously that didn't happen with the child on this cover.

The TBR pile is growing. Hopefully by Friday or Saturday I will have a review of Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick up. November will be a full month here. Here is a list of upcoming events:

Nov. 4: Testarossa -- Review and Blog Q&A with author Julie Dolcemaschio
Nov. 5: A Friend of the Family -- Review and Blog Q&A with author Lauren Grodstein
Nov. 12:  Sugar Tower -- Review and Blog Q&A with author Jessica Dee Rohm
Nov. 18: Guest post by Laura Pedersen author of Buffalo Unbound
Nov. 19: Review of Buffalo Unbound
Nov. 21: Second edition of my new blog feature "What's Up Tweeps?!"
Nov. 22: Review of You Already Know How to Be Great by Alan Fine (tentative date)

So many books, so little time!! But I know I can do it. Stay tuned!!!

Note: Next month's question for "What's Up Tweeps?!" I guess this one is geared toward bloggers, but if you're a writer or you think it applies to you feel free to answer. As a blogger, have you found your writing voice yet? If so how long did it take you? E-mail response to me at bookangel224@gmail.com. Entries are open until Nov. 14.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My take on: City of Tranquil Light

"My father had told me when I was young that courage was not strength in the absence of fear but strength in the presence of fear, and I asked God for the courage to withstand whatever lay ahead." -- Pg. 122 of City of Tranquil Light.

I don't always begin with a quote, but that was one of the most powerful points in City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. Whatever your beliefs are, that quote can apply to so many aspects in life. City of Tranquil Light is the story of a young couple, Will and Katherine Kiehn, whose marriage and faith are pushed to the limits while serving as Mennonite missionaries in China during the early 1900s.

When the book opens, Will is reflecting on his life in Kuang P'ing Ch'eng (a.ka. City of Tranquil Light) now that Katherine is deceased. Knowing that a major character is already dead led me to believe that there is no happy ending. But the journey Will and Katherine take, while filled with strife and heartache, is both happy and fulfilling.

"But despite my ordinariness and the smallness of my talents, I have led an extraordinary life."

While living on a farm in Oklahoma, Will felt a call to serve God at the tender age of 16, years later he would fulfill that call. Although he didn't want to leave his family, Will knew there was a greater purpose for him. That purpose comes in the form of a family friend, a missionary named Edward. Tales of dire straits in parts of China -- both physical and spiritual -- inspire Will. This is what he is supposed to do -- be of service to others. It turns out to be the best decision of his life, on this journey Will meets his future wife Katherine. He sees a beautiful nurse, who has stolen his heart. Katherine sees an immature boy.

Soon all that goes away, they learn to see the good qualities in each other. She has the power to ease someones sickness, and he has the power to teach. While they can see the best in each other, Will and Katherine see totally different things when they venture to Kuang P'ing Ch'eng. A year after their marriage, Will and Katherine are sent to the City of Tranquil Light to set up a missionary post. Will sees the numerous businesses -- Lantern Alley and Chopstick Lane -- in full swing, while Katherine takes note of the foul smell, and lack of electricity and plumbing. To me that seems very in tune with reality. Men and women by their very nature see things differently.

In time Kuang P'ing Ch'eng becomes more of a home to them than America.

"My home is here. And if my belly were full but my heart empty, what would I gain?"

They work together to dispel the myth that all foreigners -- especially Americans -- are evil. Katherine opens a clinic, treating patients out in the open so everyone can see her in action. Will opens their home to those in need. His acts of kindness are rewarded. One moment he is preaching to just a few people and then many.

Their life in China is fraught with extreme highs with the birth of their daughter Lily, and extreme lows. They have to earn the protection of the local bandit, and in doing so get caught in the midst of a local war. A tragic loss tests their faith. Why has God put them through this? What did they do to deserve this? If you're wondering what "this" is, I'm not telling. You will just have to read the book. They have every reason to leave, but can't bring themselves to abandon a town that has become their home. Even staring down the barrel of a gun isn't enough to sway them.

For me the book started out a little slow, but before I knew it Bo Caldwell took me on an emotional roller coaster. Caldwell used her maternal grandparents as the inspiration for this book. What's fact and what's fiction I don't know, but Caldwell did them proud. You aren't hit over the head with a Christian agenda. To me Will and Katherine's relationship are what drive the book, their faith is more of a backdrop. The book is told from both perspectives. It's clear how much they love each other. Both are willing to give up their lives in China for the other. While sad at times, you will be smiling by the end.

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Hop, Hop, Hop!!

Book Blogger Hop

First, Thursday marked my the first post in my "What's Up Tweeps?" feature. Thanks to Len and Amy for participating. I'm taking entries for next month's question until Nov. 14. The question we will be tackling next month: As a blogger, have you found your writing voice yet? If so how long did it take you? E-mail response to me at bookangel224@gmail.com.

Now on to the business at hand, every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: What is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden? If I had a garden, boy would I love to sit out there and read. When it is warm enough, I do sit out in the backyard and read. Mostly I read in my room. Sometimes on the couch when the house is empty.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's up Tweeps?! No. 1

Like my "professional" looking photo? I say professional because I made it at 2am on my laptop!! It needs work. Maybe next month it will be better. I wanted to introduce a new feature on my blog. "What's up Tweeps?!" will be a monthly feature. Hopefully in the future, I can make it weekly. It won't always be about books. Sometimes it will be whatever nonsense is in my head. There is a lot of nonsense in my head. For instance, I am writing this in the aftermath of the Yankees' 10-3 loss in Game 3. I went on my Facebook page and left a somewhat snarky comment about it on my OWN PAGE!  It was meant to be fun, but one Facebook friend took it rather hard. He'll get over it, and if not, SO WHAT!!

Back to the business at hand, "What's up Tweeps?!" The first question that came to mind is: Why do you follow book blogs? I wanted honesty, and I got it from Len of Musings of a Reader Happy (http://maidenveil.blogspot.com/) and Amy of Amy Reads (http://amckiereads.wordpress.com/).

Len: Initially I follow blogs as part of contest entries, but later on I get to discover blogs which interests me and some I think are really fun. 

Amy: I read book blogs because I love getting new recommendations and getting a chance to hear what others liked or didn't like about books. I like being able to compare my reading experience to that of others. I also think book bloggers are some of the absolutely nicest people I've met, so there is that too!

Now what about me? I'll be honest some blogs I follow for contest entries. I know it's bad, but who doesn't love a free book? Some I follow because the bloggers are just so funny and insightful. I have to echo Amy on the next reason. I like to compare what other bloggers thought about a particular book. Did they have similar thoughts as me? Did they like it? Why or why not? I've also learned about some books I never knew about. What about the rest of you?

Next month's question: I guess this one is geared toward bloggers, but if you're a writer or you think it applies to you feel free to answer. As a blogger, have you found your writing voice yet? If so how long did it take you? E-mail response to me at bookangel224@gmail.com. Entries are open until Nov. 14.

Monday, October 18, 2010

What's that on the cover ?

Blood Lily

Before we get to the business at hand. I'm still trying to drum up interest in a new blog feature. I'm trying to start up a new feature called, "What's up Tweeps?" For now it will be a monthly feature. Hopefully in the future, I can make it weekly. It won't always be about books. Sometimes it will be whatever nonsense is in my head. My first question is, "Why do you follow book blogs?" Be honest. If it's for the content, say that. If it's for giveaways, say that. I'm aiming to have the post up by Thursday. I'm extending entries until Wednesday. Since I want it to be apart of a blog post, e-mail me at bookangel224@gmail.com.

This week I hope to have a review up of City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell. It started off a little slow, but 100+ pages in the book is getting good.

On to the important stuff. Today is Monday, and every week I look at the covers on my TBR pile. Up next on my reading pile is Blood Lily by Mason Cranswick. Two friends, one white, one black are feuding amidst the Rhodesian War during the 1970s. I could always stand to learn a little history, which is why I said yes to the pitch e-mail. The bright yellow color makes me think of hope. Are the birds on the cover flying towards the hope of the future? I'm intrigued, I've never read a book set in Africa. Stay tuned!!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Come on let's hop!!

Book Blogger Hop

First a little housekeeping note: I'm trying to start up a new feature called, "What's up Tweeps?" For now it will be a monthly feature. Hopefully in the future, I can make it weekly. It won't always be about books. Sometimes it will be whatever nonsense is in my head. My first question is, "Why do you follow book blogs?" Be honest. If it's for the content, say that. If it's for giveaways, say that. I'm aiming to have the post up by next Thursday. I'm extending entries until Wednesday. Since I want it to be apart of a blog post, e-mail me at bookangel224@gmail.com

Now on to the business at hand, every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading move to your next title? When I first started blogging, I would stick it out. I thought I had to keep going. But I usually give books 50-60 pages before I give up. Sometimes more. I'm reading two books right now that I'm not totally feeling, but because I agreed to review them on certain dates I am going to stick it out. If I can't get into an unsolicited book, I will stop reading and move on.

Here are some blogs I came across:

Thursday, October 14, 2010

My take on: Heavenly

Ever wish for someone to watch over you more? Someone to make sure you don't get hurt physically or emotionally? Someone to try and prevent you from making mistakes. That is usually your parents, but sometimes even they are overwhelmed. A guardian angel would be the best of both worlds. Would you see it as a blessing? Or would it uproot your life? Would you want to always have to be on your guard because someone is watching over you? Those are just some of the themes at play in Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens, the first book in a YA trilogy.

Zoe is an 18-year-old girl lost in a sea of family problems, problems at school and alcohol. As the oldest of three, Zoe has become a de facto parent to her drug addict younger brother Luke and her 5-year-old autistic sister Abria. Luke has mentally checked out of the family, lost in a fog of marijuana, prescription pills and other drugs. Her parents are shells of their former selves. Caring for Abria has tired them out.

"Her eyes met mine; weary and hopeless. I hated that look. The Mom I remembered before Abria was diagnosed was lively, determined, strong, and never gave up. This Mom I'd seen gradually worn down, sanded away until only tissue paper remained."

When her overworked parents can't, Zoe has to keep an eye on Abria, who is prone to unpredictable behavior. One moment Abria is happily flapping her arms and smiling, the next she disappears. Life at school is just as tough, at least in her teenage mind, trying to navigate a friendship with boy-crazy Britt. When all of that becomes too much, Zoe drowns herself in alcohol -- although she denies having a problem.

"Clouds had shadowed our lives only after Abria came onto the scene. Why did she have to be in our family? This question nipped at me continually, an ugly, itchy rash that never went away, just moved to another part of me. Countless times I'd been unable to answer the question with what reason resided in my head."

This quote is one of many that rang true with me. Yes you love your family, but sometimes you wish things were different. After so many years of strife and turmoil, you wish your family was "normal" and happy.

During one of Abria's countless disappearances, a strange young man named Matthias comes to her rescue. Zoe is thankful yet leery of Matthias. There is something intriguing and attractive about him. After repeated appearances, all while saving Abria from danger, Zoe is shocked to learn he is a guardian angel, whom only she and Abria can she. After many long talks, Zoe finds herself attracted to Matthias. But despite her feelings and his own, they can't be together. Is she crazy for loving and wanting someone she can't have? There are so many things to love about him. He speaks in a calming, reassuring voice. He even becomes Zoe's moral compass. Just Matthias' presence makes Zoe question her own behavior. The problems with Britt have become so insignificant. How can she remain silent about Luke's drug use and ignore her own problems with alcohol? Is she a good person? Is there a Heaven? Is she going to Heaven? What is God like?

I normally shy away from books dealing with personal spirituality. I often wonder if books that deal with it are pushing an agenda, but that is not the case here. The story presented here is very real, one of a family in shambles, which Jennifer Laurens taps into very well. Zoe is like any typical teen. She would rather worry about teenage things -- boys, school, friends and parties. Her family was whole and happy, but then Abria's diagnosis fractures it. Other members of the family choose to ignore or mask their problems. Spirituality aside, these are problems every one can relate too. The ending is sad, but it also leaves you wanting for more. How exactly does Zoe's journey end? Since this is a trilogy, I don't know yet. But the first part of her journey is emotional, engaging and a worthwhile read.

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review. For information on Jennifer Laurens and the rest of the series (Penitence, Absolution) visit: http://www.heavenlythebook.com/default.aspx

Monday, October 11, 2010

Just another.....




Sugar TowerYeah I went there!! Got your attention? It's Monday, which means I have another cover to share. I'm 30 pages from the end of Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens, look for a review Wednesday or Thursday. I'm also thoroughly engaged in A Friend of the Family by Lauren Grodstein, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, and Testarossa by Julie Dolcemaschio. As soon as I'm done with Heavenly, Sugar Tower by Jessica Dee Rohm is up next.

Sugar Tower is a murder mystery. I look at that cover and think, "What problems could the people in that building have?" If you leave there, what is there to complain about? Of course appearances can be deceiving. Can't wait to find out what the mystery is!

Also, I hope to develop a new feature called, "What's up Tweeps?" For now, it will be a monthly feature. I hope to make it weekly. I want more interaction with readers. It won't always be book-related. It could just be whatever nonsense question popped up in my head. The inaugural question is, "Why do you follow blogs?" Be honest. If you follow just for giveaways, say that. If it's for the content, say that. I want to group the responses in one post, so if you want to participate e-mail me at bookangel224@gmail.com. I will be taking entries until Oct. 15. Thanks for stopping by!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In my mailbox: B&N sale edition

Don't Tell a SoulSpeak (Platinum Edition)  WillowWildthorn

Love Drugged
In my Mailbox is a weekly meme by Kristi at The Story Siren (http://www.thestorysiren.com/)Last week I was flipping through twitter and saw several posts about a Barnes and Noble sale. A sale of any kind is just trouble for me, I can't resist. I've learned to resist clothing sales simply because they cost more. But books are a whole different animal. I spent less than $30, so I felt I was a smart shopper.

Bought:

Don't Tell a Soul by David Rosenfelt -- I have no idea what this one is about. I know it's a mystery. I bought it simply so I could get the free shipping!


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson -- I don't believe in banning books, EVER!! I saw several newspaper articles about this book being banned. I had never heard of it, and I decided I need to read it.

Willow by Julia Hoban -- Amazon.com always recommends books for me, so how could I resist the $2.99 price on Barnes and Noble.com ?

Love Drugged by James Klise -- I saw this on The Story Siren, and I thought it was interesting.

Wildthorn by Jane Eagland -- Again this is one I saw on The Story Siren. I didn't even know what it was about. The cover attracted me more than anything.

Girl, StolenWon:
Sugar Tower
Girl Stolen by April Henry -- I totally forgot I entered a giveaway for this on GoodReads.com. That cover made me think there is a story there. A blind girl abducted and struggling to survive.

For review:

Sugar Tower by Jessica Dee Rohm -- I received a pitch e-mail on this one a few weeks ago. A real estate murder mystery, I'm always a sucker for a murder mystery. A review and blog Q&A will be posted on Nov. 12. Stay tuned!!

What did everyone else get?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's that time of the week!!


Book Blogger Hop
Every week Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books (http://www.crazy-for-books.com/) hosts a blog hop. Put your link in, post a comment and you can discover a lot of great blogs. Make sure you leave a comment on the blogs you find it helps drive up traffic for my fellow book bloggers. The Hop lasts Friday-Monday every week. This week's question/task: What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? It depends on my mood. If I'm sleepy, I must have something with sugar or caffeine in it. Most of the time, I'm not drinking when I'm reading or blogging.


My take on: Up from the Blue

When Tillie Harris of Up from the Blue by Susan Henderson goes into early labor with her first child she is all alone. Her husband, Simon, is away on business, and the only person Tillie can turn to for support is her stern military father, Roy Harris. Roy is not about emotion and tenderness, like her wild mother Mara, rather he is about being proper and efficient. To find out how this came to be the novel flashes back from May 19, 1991 to 1975. A year when 8-year-old Tillie was at her most impressionable.

To the outside world, Mara is the crazy/odd lady with the bold orange hair and blue painted front door that won't open. Her son, Phil, sees her just like the outside world. Phil would rather be the perfect solder for his father, following rules and order, rather than emotions and chaos. To Roy, Mara is an emotional, messy child, instead of a wife who makes sure the house is clean, that the children have clean clothes and food in their bellies. But Tillie tries not to see any of that. To Tillie, Mara is simply her mother. A mother who was more friend than parent, but that was Ok for Tillie. She and Mara can have late-night talks about literature and life, forming a strong bond. With others, Mara is withdrawn, sullen and unpredictable, but with Tillie she comes to life. Tillie is the only one who doesn't judge Mara. Roy can focus on work. Phil can exist in his own world, building model planes, and avoiding the fights between his parents.

A promotion forces Roy to move the family from a military base in New Mexico, to a job in Washington D.C. A job where he works at the "five-sided donut" or better known as the Pentagon. The move causes a traumatic separation of mother and daughter. Tillie must stay behind, while the rest of the family sets up shop in D.C. Feeling that change can improve the family, Roy insists on a separation between Mara and Tillie. Tillie is become too much like her mother, and Roy can't let that happen. Mara has to shape up or ship out. Probably not the best solution. Roy's wants to box up or ignore problems, which only causes a disservice to his family. When Tillie finally joins the family, Mara is gone and Tillie goes into an emotional tailspin. She makes friends at school, but can't always focus at school. Mara's clothes, knick-knacks, and even her smell are gone from the house. What can Tillie do? Phil is thriving without the chaos. How is that possible?

Mother and daughter are finally reunited, but how and why? You'll just have to read the book to find that one out. Their reunion is a major plot point in the book. The book is told from Tillie's point of view and alternates between 1975 and 1991. In other books, that back and forth has been a point of confusion for me. That isn't the case here. Alternating between time gives you a better perspective for Tillie. When the book opens, you don't have an understanding for Tillie's aversion for her father. Who wouldn't want their parent around, especially when you need them most? Henderson taps into the 8-year-old mind well. Some children, like Tillie, can ignore what's really wrong because children often operate with blinders on. Despite being told from Tillie's view point, you can tap into Mara's psyche as well. At first I thought Mara was just crazy, but as the novel moves along you can see Mara is just one of the many faces of depression. And ignoring depression, doesn't help anyone. At times Up from the Blue is a hard read, but a worthwhile one.

Rating: Superb


Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on author Susan Henderson visit: http://www.litpark.com/

Monday, October 4, 2010

Which cover do you like?

A Friend of the Family
 
I finished Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson, look for a review by Wednesday or Thursday. I had to give up on Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle. I gave it 85 pages, but short stories just aren't my thing. I'm still reading Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens, and it's good. I have also started Testarossa, City of Tranquil Light and A Friend of the Family. It's this last selection that brings us to Monday's weekly cover feature.

Last week, Algonquin surprised me with a review copy of A Friend of The Family by Lauren Grodstein. I was mesmerized by the cover. Can you guess which one? The one on the right is the hardcover. I received the glossy paperback edition. The paperback cover makes me think, "why is that woman a friend of the family?" She can't possibly be up to any good. That eye is staring right at me. Does she want something? If so what? I don't ask those questions when I look at the hardcover edition. On the hardcover, I think that man or woman wants to end it all or just runaway from life. Maybe it's all true, but the paperback edition is definitely more interesting. Look for a review and blog Q&A on Nov. 5.

Friday, October 1, 2010

My take on: Hush

Eishes Chayil or Woman of Valor has a sacred meaning in the Jewish faith. Until I read Hush by one of the many Eishes Chayil's of the world, I had never heard of that term. After reading this book, I take it to mean a woman who honors her husband, family, and community. It would be dishonorable to speak against or to make unimaginable allegations against members of your community. One such young woman, Gittel, struggles internally with whether or not to bring the sexual abuse of her deceased friend, Devory, to light.

Alternation between 2003 and the present day, we meet 10-year-old Gittel living with her very traditional Chassidic family in Borough Park, Brooklyn. Go to school, obey your parents, stay away from the influences of the "goyim" (a.k.a the outside world), and marry to procreate for love. Those are the rules one must live by. Gittel's family and community are in their own bubble, with no room for straying from tradition. But even Gittel is a little rebellious. She eats "semi" Kosher candy from her "goyim" neighbor Kathy, who is a little bit of crazy. Even sneak reading an issue of Oprah magazine is considered daring amongst her friends. Gittel even watches TV, and has long talks with Kathy. And above all else, Gittel is a loyal friend to Devory.

Devory is the odd duck of the community, marching to the beat of her own drum. Devory has a taste for adventure. She wants to climb and explore things her parents tell her not to. But slowly the light, the sparkle drain from Devory. She loses herself in books, tuning out the world. Running away from home, to the safety of Gittel's home is short-lived, as she is always sent back to her own home -- a place she doesn't want to be. One day Gittel witnesses a horrible act, Devory being sexually abused. It's hard to imagine how a child of any faith or race can understand what they are seeing. Is this normal? Will it happen to them? Do you scream for help? The author put Gittel through all of these emotions. When the act happens, it is hard to read, but it is written in a very realistic way. Devory's reaction also rings true. She shuts her eyes tight, hoping it won't happen to her. Hoping if she pretends to be asleep, everything will be ok.

Meanwhile Devory is dying inside. Her spirit snuffed out. When the book opens, Devory is already dead. How she dies? Well you will just have to read the book to find out! Gittel spends the rest of her dwindling childhood and teen years struggling with guilt. Letters to Devory offer some comfort, but lingering nightmares haunt Gittel. Kathy encourages Gittel to go to the police, even if doing so will alienate her from her family and community. Gittel can't be a true Woman of Valor within the community if she brings in the police.

With each chapter the suspense builds. We know Devory is dead, but how and why that came to be are offered in little nuggets, leaving you wanting for more.

The novel offers a great insight into the Chassidic community. The writer is operating under a pseudonym, but based on the bio and author's note at the end, she is a member of the Chassidic community. The author's unique perspective ring true in the characters. Gittel and others are forced to examine what is foreign to them. Even the word "rape" is foreign to the characters. There are no words for sexual abuse and rape, because it's not supposed to happen in their community. Things like that only happen in the "goyim" world. Even when there is knowledge of abuse, it is ignored or dismissed as lies. By bringing the abuse to light in the form of a book, the author is still a Woman of Valor. After all how honorable is it to ignore sexual abuse?

Rating: O.M.G!!

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher as part of a blog tour.
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