Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (watch the trailer)

Published by HarperCollins

Rating: 4.5 stars

About the book :

Every gift has a price . . .

Every piece of lace has a secret . . .

My name is Towner Whitney. No, that’s not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time. . . .

Towner Whitney, the self-confessed unreliable narrator of The Lace Reader, hails from a family of Salem women who can read the future in the patterns in lace, and who have guarded a history of secrets going back generations, but the disappearance of two women brings Towner home to Salem and the truth about the death of her twin sister to light.

My review:

Though I've been taking a break from blogging, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to read and review this book. The Lace Reader is one of those books that has received a lot of positive buzz and I kept meaning to read it but secretly feared it would not live up to its hype. After reading the first sentences though, I knew I would enjoy it since I'm a huge fan of the 'unreliable narrator' writing style. I do have to say that as the story progressed, I felt like Towner was letting me down a bit by her lack of deception. By the end, I was almost begging for her to lie to me and then when I least expected it - bam! - she went in for the kill. My jaw dropped and I had to stare at the page for a couple minutes to get over my shock. Kudos to Brunonia Barry for that thought-provoking ending (which you'll have to read to believe and even then..... it's still a shock)!

This is not a book that necessarily lends itself to being read in one sitting, and yet I literally could not put it down. What I had thought was a plot-driven book, turned out to be an insightful character study into the minds and hearts of some very strong women. It was the passion and dedication behind their stories that intrigued me most.

I also really loved the dialogue among the characters and the the different dynamics between them. I was even surprised to find a great deal of deadpan humor within their conversations, especially Towner and Rafferty. It was a refreshing break from the disturbing events and intense emotions that are weaved throughout the book.

Another wonderful aspect of the book is the lace reading itself. I tend to enjoy the incorporation of mystical elements when properly executed. The Lace Reader never left me feeling skeptical about the special powers the women in the book possess, almost like an intense case of women's intuition that tranformed into a powerful gift.

In short, The Lace Reader is a wonderful book. There is a little something for everyone within its pages and the ending will leave you breathless. I look forward to reading more from Brunonia in the future.

This post is part of the TLC Book Tours tour for The Lace Reader. Be sure to check out these past tour stops:

Monday, August 24th – books i done read

Wednesday, August 26th – Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?

Monday, August 31st - Savvy Verse & Wit

Tuesday, September 1st – Cindy’s Love of Books

Thursday, September 3rd - Eclectic Book Lover

Friday, September 4th – Shhh I’m Reading

Monday, September 7th – Literate Housewife

And upcoming stops:

Thursday, September 10th – The Book Lady’s Blog

Monday, September 14th – Biblioaddict

Tuesday, September 15th – Trish’s Reading Nook

Thursday, September 17th – Books and Movies

Brunonia Barry is on tour again - see if she is coming to your city:
  • 9/8 – Bellingham, WA – Village Books – Reading and Signing
  • 9/10 – Oakland – A Great Good Place for Books – Reading and Signing
  • 9/12 – San Mateo – M is for Mystery…and More – Reading and Signing
  • 9/14 – Los Angeles – Vroman’s Bookstore – Reading and Signing
  • 9/15—Edwards, CO – VIP Customer Book Club Event
  • 9/20—Andover, MA – Meet the Author Benefit for PATHS
  • 10/12 Mequon, WI Next Chapter Bookshop
  • 10/13 Dallas, TX Legacy Books
  • 10/20 – Lexington, MA Library
  • 10/22- Swampscott, MA Library
  • 10/27- Destination Salem Lunch, Hampton Falls Library
  • 11/18th 10 AM, Exeter Library, Exeter, NH.

Some more noteworthy news:
  • Soon, will also have a downloadable t-shirt iron-on design and printable signage for booksellers.
  • In the September issue of Book Page, there will be a sweepstakes in which the grand prize is a trip for two to Salem, two nights at The Hawthorne Hotel, and a guided Lace Reader tour of Salem with Brunonia.

Big thanks to Trish for organizing this great tour and HarperCollins for my review copy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

I apologize for the hiatus - I've been very busy working as an intern .....

(which includes tasks like writing this, this, this and this AND mailing

books to some of you bloggers out there!!!)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Book Review: Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4 stars

Portia Nathan is an admissions officer at Princeton University but the endless hours and dedication to her job are starting to take a toll. As Portia's quiet life takes some unexpected turns, she is forced to reevaluate her priorities and come to terms with the changes.

Admission provides an interesting glimpse into the world of academia and the process of selecting the elite students that comprise an Ivy League university. It's clear that Jean Hanff Korelitz has done a great deal of research, in addition to her background as an outside reader for Princeton's Office of Admission. This was both an advantage and disadvantage in my reading of the novel. On one hand, I enjoyed hearing all about the intricate details and getting an insider's look into something I've always been curious about. The downside is that there were parts I felt I needed to skim through because they were a little too detailed for me and detracted from the bigger picture and overall storyline.

Though the narrative is somewhat detached and lacking in emotion, I still felt surprisingly connected to Portia and invested in her outcome. While reading the book it seemed like I was getting to know her pretty well and so when she makes a decision near the end of the book that seemed contrary to her character, I was really shocked. That particular choice was a life-altering one for Portia, even though it was still executed and narrated in a very subtle manner.

Admission is a very quiet novel. The primary focus is on Portia and her reflections on her life and the important choices she must make. This is not the type of book that features any action or huge plot twists, but it makes for enjoyable reading due to its subtlety and intelligence.

BIG THANKS to Miriam and Hachette for my review copy.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Book Review: Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Follow Me by Joanna Scott [browse inside]

Published by Little, Brown and Company , a division of Hachette Book Group

Rating: 4 stars

Publisher's description of the book:

On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

My review: (although I did participate in the Early Birds Blog Tour, I wasn't able to post a review in time for the tour)

What I found most interesting about this book is how Sally manages to reinvent herself, changing her last name and lifestyle to adapt to each new setting. There is something subtly suspenseful about her escapes and read on in anticipation . Even though I became frustrated with Sally at some points because I really wanted her to confront her past, I was still rooting for her until the very end.

What made it sometimes difficult to get into the story was the unique writing style. I'm not used to paragraphs of such literal writing, particularly with respect to thoughts in the characters' minds and even sounds.

Alhough I began to predict the major plot development before it occured, there was another surprise that came later. I'm not sure if I would have chosen for the storyline to veer in that direction, however I admire how it was all pieced together, nonetheless.

Though this book is not for everyone, I enjoyed the interesting narrative and unique characters, despite the unconventional writing style.

BIG THANKS to Miriam and Hachette for my review copy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Review: Perfection by Julie Metz

Perfection by Julie Metz

Published by Voice, an imprint of Hyperion Books

Rating: 4.5 stars

Perfection is Julie Metz's intriguing memoir about coping with death and then betrayal. Her husband of twelve years, Henry, died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism leaving Julie and their six-year old daughter to deal with their grief. Just as Julie was coming to terms with his death and recovering from her loss, she finds out that her marriage to Henry had been filled with affairs, secrets and lies. Not only did Henry have multiple affairs with other women but he also had an ongoing relationship with one of Julie's good friends. After hearing about this, Julie let go of the perfect image she had of her husband and began investigating his past lovers to get to the truth.

Perfection reads like a work of fiction, with its complex characters navigating plot twists and tragedy. It is unfortunate that Julie had to live through such painful events however it is clear from this book that she has emerged a new woman. Just as a fictitious character grows and develops from a book's beginning to its end, Julie takes us from her naive and unsuspecting beginnings to grief, pain, anger, exploration, acceptance and finally renewal.

While I cannot even begin to imagine how it must have felt to be in her position, the way Julie narrates her own life story made me feel like I was right there with her. Though I couldn't relate to her predicament, I did relate to her passion, her depth and her strong sense of emotion throughout her journey to acceptance. I felt her anger and her pain and though I usually shy away from foul language in my reading, there were times when certain words were justified and even I relished in their usage!

Some of the greatest parts of this book are those that touch upon topics of friendship and family. Julie shows us the importance of supportive friendships and unfortunately, the detriment of having friends who betray you. There are also heartwarming chapters illustrating Julie's special relationship with her daughter that nearly brought tears to my eyes.

With its passionate writing and elaborate narrative, I'm sure this book will capture your attention and especially your heart, as it did mine.

BIG THANKS to Hyperion for my review copy

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Book Review: The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho

Published by HarperCollins Publishers

Rating: 3.5 stars

BROWSE INSIDE the beginning of this book!!

The Winner Stands Alone takes place at the Cannes Film Festival among the world of film and fashion. Igor, a misguided yet very successful businessman, is pursuing his ex-wife Ewa in the hope of rekindling their romance. Igor believes that he must "destroy whole worlds" to win back her affection and he is willing to do anything for her. The book also features the tales of of different characters weaved in together, who all serve a function amidst the film festival: producers, actors, designers and supermodels. This story shows us the dark side of what can become if everyone would give in to temptation and seek out hedonism at all costs.

Best known for his renowned book The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho is an extremely talented writer. I had high hopes for this latest novel and was intrigued by the exciting setting. The Cannes Film Festival is always filled with glamorous and important people and getting an inside glimpse into that world is a lot of fun. The problem for me was that none of the characters seemed very real or made any impression upon me. They felt a little two-dimensional and lacked any real authenticity.

The most interesting aspect of the book is that all of the action-filled plot occurs over twenty-four hours. There is a lot of action, not to mention murder, that transpires as each hour passes by. For the most part my attention was captured until the very end and even if I wasn't too invested in any of the characters, I needed to see how it would finish.

What strikes me most about the book is morality or rather the lack of morality coming into play. Igor feels justified in murdering innocent people to 'prove' his love for Ewa, despite that having no effect whatsoever. This blurring of ethics is the common thread throughout the novel and I would have liked to see it explored further and I especially longed for some sort of conclusion to have been drawn.

Overall, The Winner Stands Alone has an interesting storyline and plenty of adrenaline-filled action but in my opinion, the characters were not developed enough for a proper execution of the plot. What really saves this novel is Coelho's wonderful writing style and vivid descriptions of Cannes that capture just the right ambience.

BIG THANKS to Deanna and HarperCollins Canada for my review copy