Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Lake of Dreams

By Kim Edwards

From the book jacket:

“At a crossroads in her life, Lucy Jarrett returns home to upstate NewYork from Japan, only to find herself haunted by her father’s unresolved death a decade ago. Old longings stirred up by Keegan Fall, a local glass artist who was once her passionate first love, lead her into the unexpected. Late one night, as she paces the hallways of her family’s rambling lakeside house, she discovers, locked in a window seat, a collection of objects that first appear to be idle curiosities, but soon reveal a hidden family history.”

Just my opinion:

If I were asked to describe this book in just one word, it would have to be AMAZING. This novel ranks right up there as one of the best of the year for me so far.

There are a variety of personal reasons why I enjoyed this book. First, the story revolves around some documents and items found that lead Lucy to a past relative she had never heard anything about before. She begins to do some research to discover more about this person. For me, this is also something I truly enjoy. I love researching the past and the people involved in it. Not long ago, my husband and I discovered a grave marker at an old pioneer cemetery. Overgrown with weeds, the marker was absolutely fascinating (as many older ones often are) and when we got home, I dug out a book written by my husband’s great-uncle about his family. Among those pages, I found the man who was buried in that forgotten place. He had died before my husband’s father was born, so he never knew the man had existed. Smallpox took his life back before there was a cure for it.

Second, I started reading this book the day after the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. The book begins with Lucy discussing the constant earthquakes and tremors she endures while living in Japan. Her words – and the fear she was often unable to gain control of – were so very poignant given the recent events. As she described the difference between how she felt and how the man she was involved with dealt with it gave me a fascinating perspective on this current and very real disaster.

The third – and most important – reason why I liked this book is because the author is an excellent writer. The story is well put together with wonderful dialogue and descriptions. It was interesting and enjoyable to read. Kim Edwards is also the author of “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter,” which garnered high praise, and “The Lake of Dreams” is sure to become a favorite among critics as well. A beautiful and compelling story that is full of life … you really must read this one!

Some favorite passages from the book:

“The earthquakes scare me, too. I don’t know how you can be so calm.” “Well, they either stop or they don’t. There’s not much you can do, is there?”

At night I wake to the sound of trains passing. I miss you.

The raft moved gently, soothingly, on the waves. The moon, almost full, cast the sprawling old house in mild light.

Some dreams matter, illuminate a crucial choice, or reveal some intuition that’s trying to push its way to the surface. Others, though, are detritus, the residue of the day reassembling itself in some disjointed and chaotic way.

The hollyhocks were blooming, their soft bell shapes hanging from the tall stems, and you picked some and began to shape them into dolls—an unopened bud for the head, the blooming flower for a skirt.

Friday, March 25, 2011

AT&T campaign: Don't text while driving

This is a video everyone should watch, especially young people.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Family Meeting

By Miles DeMott

From the book jacket:

“The Cambee family, one of the oldest and most respected families in a city known for old and respected families, is about to sell Plantation Trust, the bank that cemented their fortune and made their name a household word. Although their lives seem to have been lived in full public view, this intensely private family is rife with secrets and scandals that potentially derail the sale and redefine the family itself as they meet each other again for the first time.”

Just my opinion:

I found the concept of this book quite interesting. Here was a business that had been in the same family for generations. As the last mogul lay dying, the bank hits the market. As far as he is concerned, none of his children have any inclinations to continue the family business, so it’s time to sell it and not burden any of them with the bank. A company interested in purchasing it hires a man who is trained in family dynamics to conduct a series of personal interviews with each member in order to better understand the business and where it should go into the future.

This is a concept I’d not realized huge corporations undertook, so I’m not entirely sure if it’s fact or fiction in the real business world. However, this author came across as someone who researched this idea and brought it to the written page.

I don't know if I would classify this family as dysfunctional, but they certainly had issues that created rifts between the individual members. As Tony talks to each one, some patterns begin to emerge and secrets come to the surface.

Because this book is all about delving into their personalities, the characters are well-defined and the reader gets to know them on a level not found in many books. This novel is well-written and full of fascinating twists. It’s a psychological study of people, family structure and big business – all rolled into 271 pages! I wish this debut author all the best with his book. He did an excellent job and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for him.

Some favorite passages from the book:

All my people done gone to their reward. But they was a handful while they was here, though, the whole lot of them.

Funny thing about war. … It all seems like such a good idea at the time, fighting for God and country, for honor and civility, at least as we define those things.

It’s all about the authenticity, sonny boy. … Living life deliberately, as Thoreau was fond of saying. Life as a tactile experience, embracing the rough edges that our culture tends to groom away in pursuit of homogeneity.

Some of us still believe in Santa Claus and prefer it that way.

Know about it? Princess, it was his idea. Once he realized you two were damaged goods in the old man’s eyes, and that was his fault more or less, the nameless hippy from South Georgia set about to shift that man’s paradigm. And here we sit. Just a damn shame he didn’t live to see it. This is his moral victory.

The irony would be breathtaking if it weren’t all so desperately human.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Committed: A Love Story

By Elizabeth Gilbert

From the back of the book:

“At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Indonesia. The couple swore eternal love, but also swore (as skittish divorce survivors) to never marry. However, when Felipe was unexpectedly kicked out of the United States by U.S. Immigration officials, the couple was faced with a strict ultimatum: get married or Felipe could never enter America again. Over the next ten months, as Elizabeth and Felipe wandered Southeast Asia waiting for permission to return home and wed, the author searched far and wide for wisdom, advice, and perspective on the subject of romantic commitment.”

Just my opinion:

First of all, I have to admit I’m probably one of the few people who never read “Eat, Pray, Love” and I haven’t seen the movie, either. So, I really didn’t know what to expect when I started reading “Committed.”

This actually turned out to be one of the most interesting nonfiction books I’ve read in a long time. As a social scientist, I’m always interested in topics that discuss the history of people’s lives and the ramifications of such. And this book reminds me of some of the women’s studies courses I took in college to earn my degree.

Gilbert explains in detail the history of relationships and marriage – and the aspects those entail – in a language that makes it easy to read and understand. Then she takes those facts and weaves them around the story of her life between when her previous book ended and she finally (reluctantly) married Felipe.

Her purpose was to find out what marriage means in different cultures, from ancient to modern times, and how she could apply the positive parts to her own life. Both her and Felipe were totally opposed to the idea of marriage, but circumstances forced them into it … it was that or consider the possibility they might not be able to have a life together.

This really is a good book and I’m certainly glad I took the time to read it. Now, I guess I’ll have to give “Eat, Pray, Love” a try!

Some favorite passages from the book:

It doesn’t take a great genius to recognize that when you are pushed by circumstances to do the one thing you have always most specifically loathed and feared, this can be, at the very least, an interesting growth opportunity.

Some fears can be vanquished, Rumpelstiltskin-like, only by uncovering their hidden, secret names.

I had long ago learned that when you are the giant, alien visitor to a remote and foreign culture it is sort of your job to become an object of ridicule. It’s the least you can do, really, as a polite guest.

Maybe the only difference between first marriage and second marriage is that the second time at least you know you are gambling.

Grandpa Stanley had watched Felipe carefully all weekend the first time they met, and then finally cast his verdict: “I like you, Felipe,” he pronounced. “You seem to be a survivor. And you’d better be one, too—because this girl has burned through quite a few of ‘em already.”

But authority figures, much to their frustration, have never been able to entirely control, or even monitor, the most secret intimacies that pass between two people who sleep together on a regular basis.

Marriage is a game. They (the anxious and powerful) set the rules. We (the ordinary and subversive) bow obediently before those rules. And then we go home and do whatever the hell we want anyhow.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Bridge of Peace

By Cindy Woodsmall

From the back of the book:

“Lena Kauffman is a young Old Order Amish schoolteacher who has dealt all her life with attention raised by a noticeable birthmark on her cheek. Having learned to move past the stares and whispers, Lena channels her zest for living into her love of teaching. But tension mounts as she is challenged to work with a rebellious young man and deal with several crises at the schoolhouse that threaten her other students. Her lack of submission and use of ideas that don’t live up with the Old Ways strengthen the school board’s case as they begin to believe that Lena is behind all the trouble.”

Just my opinion:

I’m struck by the number of authors who are now writing Amish stories. That, in addition to the surge in paranormal books, seems to be the genre of the 2010s. What’s really interesting is the huge gap between these two types of books. But, like every novel written, it takes a good deal of research to become familiar with your subject.

And one of the best for doing that is Cindy Woodsmall. Her books are easy on the eyes, with excellent writing and interesting topics. She has mastered the Amish fiction line with the help of the research she has done. Plus, she has an Amish friend who checks her facts to ensure their accuracy.

I like how the reader is able to feel the emotions of Woodsmall’s characters. They are very well developed and the descriptions leave you feeling satisfied with what you’ve read. You definitely understand the story and what’s truly happening in these characters’ lives. In addition, with each book, you walk away with a lesson or two in the Amish beliefs and faith.

This is a wonderful story that will strengthen your own faith without being preachy or overbearing. It’s just a marvelous read all around.

Some favorite passages from the book:

Aren’t there too many spells of sadness in life for a person to be unhappy before the bad days even arrive?

An unmarried person could never understand the confusing, complex relationship between a husband and wife. Until he lived it year after year, he never knew of the silent unity and the silent hostilities between couples.

Sometimes our heaviest baggage isn’t who we are. It’s who we think we are. And once we believe it, we unknowingly shape our lives after that belief.

Every human has flaws. And all of us have to deal with those flaws in each other. Pride makes us want to be perfect outwardly, but nothing can make us perfect inside.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


May you find your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Memoirs of a Widowed Mistress: A Love Story Blog Tour

Welcome to another Pump Up Your Book blog tour! I’ve participated in several of these tours recently and always have such a good time. So be sure to watch for more in the future!

Now, for the tour … Today, I am helping to promote this fascinating memoir by first-time author Megan van Eyck.

From the back of the book:

“Megan van Eyck is your average suburban mom with a good husband, two beautiful kids, and a nice home. A reunion with college friends puts her on a plane to Hawaii next to Carlos, an attractive older married man. Phone numbers are exchanged. She thinks better of following up with him, but her curiosity gets the best of her. With one phone call, followed by a casual lunch, a five-and-a-half year long love affair was born.”

Just my opinion:

I was a little apprehensive about reading this book when I first received it. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. After all, I’ve known women – and men – who have been caught up in similar situations. But I was curious. How was Megan going to describe this on-going relationship she lived with for more than five years?

I was, in fact, very surprised at how open and candid she was in the book. Here was a woman who continued to maintain a marriage at the same time as she “carried on” an illicit affair with a man who also was very married. Granted, they both had issues with their spouses that left them dissatisfied and lonely. However, I’ve always believed that if you are at the point where you are seeking an outside relationship, it’s time to call it quits. Yet, these two lovers each had their own reasons for remaining in their marriages that, on the surface, seem to make sense.

This memoir seemed so very sad to me. I could understand why Megan and Carlos fell in love with each other and I rooted for them throughout the book. I wanted them to find a way to be together without the ties to their spouses. Perhaps if Carlos hadn’t become ill, it may have eventually occurred. His death left her begging for some sort of closure. As the Other Woman, she wasn’t able to be there with him at the hospital or attend his funeral. She wasn’t able to gather family around her in that time of need for comfort. That was reserved for his wife.

Of course, as time passed, his wife and her husband found out about the affair. In her husband’s case, it was because he found a chapter to the book she was writing … her memoir. Her plan was to tell him once a publisher accepted the manuscript. At that point, yes, she would have to tell him because it was all going to be brought to the public’s attention.

A part of her still loved her husband. He was just unable to satisfy her emotional needs, which led her to the arms of another man. He wasn’t interested in putting forth that sort of effort and blamed all their marital problems on her. He did spend time with their children, but he checked out on being together with her – so much so that he didn’t care when she left for days to visit her “girlfriends” and take trips around the world with them. As a stay-at-home mom, he simply saw them as some time away for her and with her out of the house, he didn’t have to worry about dealing with any of her needs.

That’s why I found Megan’s book so sad. There are so many other options for couples in trouble and her husband wanted nothing to do with any of them. So, instead, she turned to someone who made her feel appreciated, beautiful, sexy and needed. It’s too bad it all ended so tragically.

Anyone who has wondered why affairs happen should read Megan’s book for a unique perspective that is insightful and honest. Be aware, though, there are a variety of sex scenes that are quite explicit, but their purpose is to add depth to the book. And they do that quite well.

To check out other blogs on the tour, visit Pump Up Your Book.
If you'd like more information about purchasing Megan's book, click on this link.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Paris Wife

By Paula McLain

From the book jacket:

"In Chicago in 1920, Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness—until she meets Ernest Hemingway and finds herself captivated by his good looks, intensity, and passionate desire to write. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group of expatriates that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. But the hard-drinking and fast-living café life does not celebrate traditional notions of family and monogamy. As Hadley struggles with jealousy and self-doubt and Ernest wrestles with his burgeoning writing career, they must confront a deception that could prove the undoing of one of the great romances in literary history."

Just my opinion:

I very much enjoyed this fictional account of the life of Hadley and Ernest Hemingway. It read like a wonderful movie set against the backdrop of one of the most romantic cities in the world. Or so it would seem.

Paris has long been known as a city of love, but the tensions that develop between friends and couples make you wonder if it’s all a façade. For Hadley and Ernest, it means their life together became complicated and difficult at times.

Although it’s obvious they love each other very much, the pressures eventually become their undoing. And because you’ve rooted for them from the beginning of the book, the end of their marriage has a sad tone that’s difficult to ignore.

At first, it may seem like I’m writing spoilers, but we all know from history that the marriage was doomed. It’s the story itself that makes you want to read the marvelous words Paula McLain has penned. She brings this tale to the pages in such a way that keeps you engrossed throughout. And as you learn to love this couple, you want to reach into the book and warn them of the impending circumstances that lead to the demise of their relationship.

It’s an excellent novel and you will definitely enjoy the journey.

Be sure to check out the website at www.ParisWife.com for more information, including photos, a reader’s guide and more.