Sunday, July 31, 2011

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

The story of 3 generations of the Kelleher family and the drama that unfolds at the family beach house in Maine one summer. There is Alice, the matriarch, who is still suffering over the death of her husband 10 years earlier and for which she blames her daughter, and the tragic death of her sister at the Coconut Grove when she was young for which she blames herself. Then there is Kathleen, Alice's oldest daughter, the one Alice blames for her husbands death. Kathleen is a recovering alcoholic who lives with her boyfriend on a worm farm in California. She always swore she would never return to that beach in Maine, but circumstances beyond her control make her go back on the proclamation much to her dismay. Finally there is Maggie, Kathleen's daughter, who's in her 30's, just broke up with her loser boyfriend, and found out she is pregnant with his child. On the sidelines is Ann Marie, wife to Kathleen's brother, who just won a dollhouse competition (she's in her 50's) and thinks it is her sole purpose to care for Alice, much to Alice's chagrin. These women converge at the house in Maine one summer to confront their demons, come to terms with each of their deep secrets, and try not to kill each other.

I had a really hard time giving this book a rating. I wasn't rushing home to read it, but once I picked up reading it I didn't want to put it down. Every character in this entire book is self absorbed and insufferable. Alice is a tyrant, and knowing the truth of what happened that night at the Grove didn't make me change my opinion of her. It was sad and tragic, but her actions through the whole book could not make me pity her. Kathleen, who is 59, needs to grow up and get over herself, however out of all of them she is the one I liked the most and that isn't saying much. Ann Marie is just incredibly bizarre and reminded me of a Stepford wife with a savior complex. Then there is Maggie. I think she may have been the absolute worst character in my opinion. The things she did to spy on her boyfriend, the whining, her complete dependence on a guy who doesn't care for her and is obviously an asshole and the way she pines away for him made me sick.

However, there were parts that had me cracking up out loud. If you have read it or plan to read it, remember the Canadians. Just thinking about that part makes me smirk even now that I've finished it. The story of Alice's sisters death was one of the most tragic things I've read and made me pity her, until the next time she opened her mouth that is. No one really ends up with any redeeming qualities. I wish Alive would have told her family the story if her sisters death; I think that would have made for good reading. I'm really on the fence with this one and the more I think about the less I'm decided.

3 stars

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper's archives for a story, she doesn't think she'll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband - and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.
In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can't remember anything - her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.
Ellie and Jennifer's stories of passion, adultery and loss are wound together in this richly emotive novel - interspersed with real 'last letters'.

I am not one for love stories, romance or any other kind of mushy topic, in books, T.V. or movies. I find them corny and pathetic. I bought this because I thought it had a really cool title and sounded pretty interesting. I was amazed by how much I loved this book. It almost made me cry, and that is a feat in itself. I was up late many a night reading it trying to find out what was going to happen to Jennifer and her ill fated love affair with Anthony. If I could ever have a love of my life, I would want it to be like theirs. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars is because in the beginning, you stay in the 1960's, but it flashes back and forth from before Jennifer's accident and after, and it took me about 75 pages to realize that is what was happening. Be prepared to be swept away in their beautiful and heartbreaking story.

4 stars (I wish it was 5!)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Good Neighbors by Ryan David Jahn

This is a fictional account of the Kitty Genovese case from the 1960's. After coming home from work she was attacked outside her apartment and stabbed. She managed to get away and run to the courtyard where she was attacked again. There were 38 people in the complex that watched it happen and not one of them called 911 or tried to help. After her attacker fled the second time, she managed to drag herself back to her apartment only for him to come back for the final time. This book tells individual stories of the little dramas unfolding in all of the apartments.

I read this true story a few years ago and was appalled by it and I didn't feel any different after reading this book. It gives me chills. Great story, wonderful writing, you won't want to put it down. Just don't hope for a happy ending because there isn't one sadly.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Back Roads by Tawni Odell

Harley Altmeyer should be going to college. Instead he is stuck in a mining town in Pennsylvania raising his 3 sisters, working 2 jobs to pay the bills, while his mom serves a life sentence for killing his father. Harley ends up becoming obsessed with Callie, the 33 year old mom of his youngest sister Jody's friend. As they begin a doomed affair, Harley starts to find out what really happened the night his father was shot, who is really to blame, who really pulled the trigger, and some family secrets that were best kept hidden.

I read this in one day. It was like a train wreck, you know you aren't supposed to look but you just can't help but stare. I can't remember the last time a book gave me such a sense of foreboding. A lot of reviews remark that the book is funny; I did not find it funny. It was heartbreaking, disturbing, sad, but not funny. Be prepared if you read it; I had an idea as to what was going to go down, but I hadn't even scratched the surface.

5 stars

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Friday, July 8, 2011

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

Sofi is a young girl from Italy who's portraits attract the attention of Michelangelo, who invites her to come study under him. While learning everything she can, she also falls into a dangerous, at that time in history, relationship with a fellow student. After an encounter that could forever tarnish her family's name, she leaves her study and returns home to soon become a painting teacher to the new queen of Spain, wife of King Felipe. The Queen, a French girl of 14, in a Spanish court, has to learn how to please her King, in matters of the flesh and heart, and must ensure the birth of a son for an heir to the throne. King Felipe has been married twice previously and has a son from one if the marriages, Don Carlos, but everyone knows that he can never take over the crown. The queen develops a strange, in my opinion, relationship with Don Carlos, and becomes involved in a dangerous relationship with the Kings half brother, Don Juan. Sofi goes from being the Queens painting instructor to her favorite lady in waiting, trying to teach her how to please get husband, all the while receiving constant news about the Spanish Inquisition and their focus on her old mentor, Michelangelo, and the man who stole Sofi's heart along with something much more important in that day and age.

I loved this book. It was like a historical soap opera. Sofi is so real you can't help but relate to her on some level, Don Carlos completely freaked me out and his relationship with the Queen was just plain weird, as was he, the fighting between the Queens French and Spanish ladies in waiting, and wondering what will ever come of the incident that caused Sofi to leave her painting studies to begin with, I couldn't get enough of this historically accurate account of one if the few women painters of the Renaissance. If you are into historical fiction, a little romance (which I usually am not), betrayal, secrets and possible murder check this one out. You will not be disappointed.

5 stars

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Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

The vampire saga continues within third installment in Rice's popular vampire series. In this one, the vampire Lestat becomes a rock star, his music and lyrics about vampire history waking the Mother, who is out to kill anyone that is against him.

I'm going to keep reading these but I couldn't get with this at all. Flashing from the past to present, with more characters, both old and new, that are too many to begin to name here, I didn't even know what was going on most of the time. While the story of the twins was very intriguing along with the mystery behind it, it couldn't redeem this even a little.

1 star

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