Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: Handle With Care by Jodi Picoult

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's youngest daughter, Willow, is afflicted with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a brittle bone disease that disposes her to break bones from even the simplest of acts, such as sneezing. Charlotte has become Willow's full-time caregiver and neglected her husband and older daughter Amelia, in the process. When an opportunity presents itself to sue for wrongful birth (claiming they would have terminated the pregnancy had they known of Willow's condition), Charlotte's decision will alter the lives of each family member forever and create a rift between her and her best friend, who was her gynecologist at the time.

True to Picoult's winning formula, this book unravels through the different points of view of the main cast of characters. The emotions are raw and the pain is almost tangible as each character struggles with their own reality and tries to find a coping mechanism to ease their heartache. I found myself quickly drawn into the lives of the O'Keefe family and it was hard to pull myself away from the book. The characters were all well-crafted, however some were able to elicit more emotion out of me than others, such as Amelia and Charlotte, while other characters such as Marin (the attorney) and Piper (the gynecologist) left me with less of an emotional connection. Nonetheless, each character serves an important role in the story and their complex subplots and internal conflicts make the book what it is.

There are a number of events that are hard to digest and as with classic Picoult writing, these characters do not shy away from controversional topics or serious issues. For example, while Sean and Charlotte's marriage falls apart, Amelia starts spiralling out of control and becomes self-destructive. Even though those parts were hard to read, they were a necessary part of the story and definitely added another interesting angle. My only issue is that towards the ending, I felt that some of these important issues were not properly resolved and seemed to be swept under the rug while the narrative dealt with more pressing topics.

What I liked though, is the inclusion of different recipes and baking techniques between different section that in my opinion served a couple functions. It was interesting to see how the techniques, such as blind baking, weeping and tempering, connected to the storyline and offered further insight into what was transpiring. Additionally, for me these interludes represented a reprieve from the emotionally difficult subject matter which I really needed.

Jodi Picoult in an incredibly talented writer who delves into deep contemporary issues with great care and a lot of meticulous research (as I learned from reading through her website) and Handle With Care is no exception. Though her plotlines can seem a little formulaic, they are always able to make me ponder some deeper issue and inevitably shed tears which in my mind, makes for a very effective novel! I can't wait to read her next book coming out March 2010 called House Rules (click here for an excerpt).

BIG THANKS to Michelle and Simon & Schuster Canada for my review copy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review: Darling Jim by Christian Moerk

Published by Henry Holt and Co.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Two sisters, Fiona and Róisín Walsh, are found dead along with their aunt Moira in her secluded home. There is disturbing evidence that Moira had been keeping the girls prisoners in her home, chained down, without proper nourishment. Upon the discovery of Fiona's diary by a postal worker named Niall, readers get an inside glimpse into their final days and learn how their demise is linked to 'Darling Jim', a charming storyteller who travels from town to town winning the hearts of all the local women. The story takes some unexpected turns as Niall becomes personally invested in the tales of these women and ensures that their story is never forgotten.

For a story that begins with the main characters' deaths, there was a surprising amount of intrigue and suspense throughout the book. This is one of those books that starts off by providing what appears to be all of the facts, and then slowly reveals more and more until the complete story is understood. That is what I particularly enjoyed about this book. Just when I thought I had a grasp on each of the characters, they said and did things that surprised me and made me question all that I had learned.

Every time I tried to put down the book I couldn't because I needed to read further to see how everything unfolded. It's hard to classify exactly what genre this book is because it's a combination of thriller, crime and it does have some elements of horror, though I found it to be more creepy than scary. The interesting combination of legend and fairy tale weaved throughout the novel enhanced my appreciation of the book and made it even more mysterious.

Though there can be no 'happy' ending in a story that begins with many murders, I think Christian Moerk did a wonderful job of tying up loose ends and leaving readers satisfied.

Darling Jim is filled with much passion and intrigue and will keep you reading on with anticipation until the very end. I look forward to seeing what Christian Moerk comes up with next!

* Edit: Girls Just Reading (a great blog, by the way) are giving away 5 copies of Darling Jim - enter HERE by May 3rd for your chance to win this great book!

BIG THANKS to Tara and Henry Holt for my review copy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Book Review: The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo by Lauren Goldstein Crowe and Sagra Maceira de Rosen

Published by Bloomsbury USA

Rating: 3 stars

This book is officially released today.

The Towering World of Jimmy Choo follows the establishment of Jimmy Choo as a modern luxury brand from its humble beginnings and one man's vision. This book provides an insider's look into Tamara Mellon's life and how she created the Jimmy Choo empire.

Although I don't own any Jimmy Choo shoes (although that would be nice), I was very intrigued by the book's subject matter and interested in learning about Jimmy Choo, the man behind the shoes that have become so popular in recent years and that I've heard referred to many times on screen, such as in Sex and the City. However, I was a little disappointed to see that most of the book does not focus on Jimmy Choo at all, but rather on Tamara Mellon. There are many chapters dedicated to details about her upbringing, her love life, and her family that have nothing to do with the Jimmy Choo brand.

Relatively early on in the parternship between Jimmy Choo's designs and Tamara Mellon's business savvy, they had a falling out with irreconcilable differences. Unfortunately, Jimmy Choo's side of the story seems to be missing from the book. I would have liked to see more information about Jimmy Choo and especially greater insight into his experiences and thoughts regarding all that has transpired.

The idea of a book combining business with culture, more specifically fashion, is wonderful but I didn't feel that it was executed as well as it could have been. There was a lot of focus on very specific details of the business angle and since this book is intended for the general public, some of that business talk seemed a little superfluous and complicated. Because of this, I preferred reading about the cultural aspect but again much of that was clouded over with information about Tamara Mellon.

Having said all that, there were many parts of the book that I did enjoy reading, such as the Oscars behind-the-scenes information. I think the main issue for me what that much of the book's contents wasn't what I expected. This book had a lot of potential that wasn't fully achieved in my opinion, however, it still does make for an interesting read if you want to learn all about Tamara Mellon and just how she made the Jimmy Choo brand what it is today.

BIG THANKS to Bloomsbury USA for my review copy.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Early Birds Blog Tour: Follow Me by Joanna Scott

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

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: To be posted

Unfortunately due to a postal service mix-up this book was sent back to the publishers. Because of this, I still haven't received the book and therefore could not write a review in time for the blog tour. However, as soon as I receive the book and read it, my review will definitely be posted!

Here is a great review of Follow Me from the Los Angeles Times to read in the meantime

About the author:

Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, she lives with her family in upstate New York.

Many thanks to Miriam for arranging this tour and for being so understanding about the post office mix-up!

Thankfully, there are MANY other wonderful blogs featuring reviews today of Follow Me as part of the Early Birds Blog Tours:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Book Deals

The Babysitter's Code by Laura Lippman

(from Hardly Knew Her)

Truth or Dare by Elizabeth Berg (from The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted)

Definitely worth checking out!

Also, get a free audiobook download of Marley & Me from

Here are some coupons for your book buying pleasure:

Barnes & Noble 10% off one item coupon (exp. April 26/09)

Border 25% off one item coupon (valid with Borders Reward membership - exp. April 26/09)

Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Book Review: Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black

Published by SOHO Press

Rating: 4 stars

This book is the 9th volume in the Aimée Leduc mystery series, that follows Aimée, a computer-security analyst, through her investigations. This installment begins with a mysterious Haitian woman who approaches Aimée, claiming to be her sister. As the story progresses, a number of deaths all seem to be linked to an international scandal involving Haitian politics and corruption.

This is the first book I've read in this series and I was not disappointed. I liked how the mystery intertwined with Aimée's life, providing her with a personal stake in its outcome. Aimée is also a great role model as can be seen through her independence and bold attitude throughout the novel. Though the plot occasionally begins to seem a little too formulaic, there are some intricate details that help contribute to its uniqueness.

The book's title, Murder in the Latin Quarter, reveals that the setting for the story is as important as the murder that occurs in the book. Black's description of the Latin Quarter and the Paris scenery helped enhance the story's overall charm and certainly made me want to hop on a plain to Europe!

While the book is not as fresh and original as it could be, it captured my attention from start to finish with its interesting topic and great female lead.

BIG THANKS to Sarah and SOHO Press for sending me this book to review.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Book Review: Sleepwalking in Daylight by Elizabeth Flock

Published by MIRA Books

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sleepwalking in Daylight begins with the thoughts of Samantha Friedman, who appears to be a devoted wife to husband Bob and dedicated mother to her 16-year-old daughter Cammy and her twin 8-year-old sons. All the other mothers envy how 'put together' she always seems but they would be shocked if they knew the truth. Her marriage is falling apart and Cammy barely speaks to her. The narrative then shifts back and forth from Samantha's point of view to Cammy's diary entries. Cammy feels like an outcast at school and experiments with sex and drugs in an attempt to numb the pain. At an early age Cammy discovered that was was adopted and is now seeking out more information about her birth mother and trying to come to terms with her own identity. Meanwhile, Samantha appears to be oblivious of Cammy's misery and alienation as she starts up a flirtation with a married man and further distances herself from the rest of the family. As the novel progresses, readers watch as both mother and daughter spiral out of control and then attempt to pick up the pieces, however in vastly different ways.

Samantha's problems are probably ones that every wife and mother feel every now and then. Her emotions and fears are captured incredibly well and I felt an instant connection to her. However, in comparison to Cammy, Samantha's troubles pale in comparison. Though Samantha is the more relatable one of the two, it was Cammy that left a lasting impression. Don't be fooled by the light-hearted (albeit beautiful) cover of the book, because there are some deep and painful issues explored in this story. Hearing about Cammy's pain and her consequent self-destructive behavior was really difficult. I found myself shedding tears at various points of her narrative, because I wanted so badly to end her pain. My frustration and anger at how Cammy's path unfolds however, is proof of how invested I became in this book and its characters.

Elizabeth Flock shows a great deal of insight and perception through the way she lets readers into the lives of Samantha and Cammy. I did feel like I was missing out a bit by not hearing Bob's side of the story, since he is mentioned so frequently and never has the opportunity to 'defend himself'. Nonetheless, the inner thoughts of Samantha and Cammy are captured so beautifully and truly captured my attention and most importantly my heart until the very end.

BIG THANKS to FSB Associates for my review copy

Monday, April 20, 2009

Book Review: The Night of the Gun by David Carr

The Night of the Gun by David Carr

Published by Simon & Schuster

Rating: 4 stars

This book is David Carr's very unique memoir about his battle with drug addiction and subsequent recovery. A reporter by profession, he decided to return to his hometown and interview friends, family and ex-girlfriends about their experiences with him. This, as Carr explains, is to fill in the gaps between where his memory fails him and to try to remain as true to reality as possible. Readers learn about the ups and downs of his past including multiple arrests, the birth of his twin daughters, and his battle with cancer.

The premise of this book intrigued me and I was really interested to see how the people in David Carr's life recounted past events and especially their feelings towards him and those experiences. The result is an interesting mix of different stories and events that colored Carr's life and shaped him into the person he is today.

My only problem with the different chapters lies in their lack of cohesion. Some of the chapters seemed out of place and left me feeling a little confused as to their purpose in the book. What I did really enjoy however, was how concise they were and their inclusion of photographs and other documents that helped paint the complete picture of what was being described. Some memoirs tend to include far too many details but this one kept things fresh and engaging, always leaving me wanting to read on.

What makes this story so amazing is that I kept forgetting I was reading a memoir because some of the events are so unbelievable and shocking. What's even more amazing though is how David Carr actually lived through all of those events and I have to admire how he was able to turn his life around. This memoir shows many different facets of Carr's life and it was interesting to see how people can come out of the same experience with such different memories and viewpoints.

I requested this book from MiniBookExpo – BIG THANKS to Lex and Simon & Schuster Canada!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays

MizB of Should Be Reading hosts the Teaser Tuesdays weekly event

Here are the rules:

* Grab your current read

* Let the book fall open to a random page

* Share with us (2) "teaser" sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12

* You also need to share the title of the book that you're getting your "teaser" from ... that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the "teaser" you've given!

* Please avoid spoilers!

This week's teaser is:

"No time for memories now. The fear in Mireille's face, the urgency in her voice kept coming back to her."

- Murder in the Latin Quarter by Cara Black, page 46

Book Review: Unlovable by Esther Pearl Watson

Rating: 4.5 stars

Unlovable is loosely based on a teenager's diary from the 1980s that was found in a gas station bathroom. It follows the (pathetic yet hilarious) life of Tammy Pierce, a sophomore in 1985. It was first serialized in Bust magazine and this book features the collection with additional material. Readers get an inside glimpse into Tammy's school life, social life and Tammy's thoughts on the people in her life. There are also Tammy's "own" drawings and doodling throughout the book's pages. The fashion and style is typical eighties with overly done make-up, leg warmers, shoulder pads and outrageous patterns. The hot pink cover with sparkly blue glitter (even on Tammy's eyeshadow) adds a nice touch to the 80s theme.

I first heard about Unlovable from Alea (Pop Culture Junkie) who raved about it and was anxiously anticipating its arrival. After reading the book I can now see why! Tammy is your typical teen, give or take some delusional behavior and occasional bouts of hysteria. She spends a lot of her time with deliquents and then wonders why she gets into such crazy situations. Even though I cringed at times because of how utterly clueless Tammy is, I couldn't help but laugh. Her desperate need to fit in, her obsession with the opposite sex and her stalker-like tendencies all make her a lovable character, but mostly one you love to laugh at. Though some of the drawings are a little repulsive (think dandruff, acne, Tammy's facial hair...etc.). they are all part of Tammy's charm (or lack thereof, seriously).

Even those born after the eighties (I was just a little toddler then) will appreciate its pop culture references and outrageous style. I especially loved the Teddy Ruxpin spoof since I remember playing with mine so clearly!

This book is so much fun - it kept me laughing for hours. Not only is the dialogue hilarious but the drawings themselves are really hysterical.

Here is a preview from Publishers Weekly "Panelmania":

Click here to see more of the book's fabulous artwork and hilarious moments in Tammy's life!

BIG THANKS to Esther, Eric and Fantagraphics Books for helping me get a review copy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Review: An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell

An Offer You Can't Refuse by Jill Mansell

Published by Sourcebooks Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

An Offer You Can't Refuse, which is already a bestseller in the UK, has just been released in North America. It starts off telling the story of seventeen-year-old Lola, who was just offered 10,000 pounds to break up with her boyfriend Doug, from his mother because according to her, Lola doesn't fit in with the privileged life she wants for him. Lola refuses the money but upon discovering her step-father's huge gambling debts, decides to take the money to bail him out. Fast-forward a number of years later, Lola decides to move back to her hometown and through certain circumstances runs into Doug. Lola realizes that she still has feelings for him but seeing her only arouses the anger and pain he had felt when she inexplicably broke up with him in a letter and left town. Despite the challenge, Lola fights to win back Doug's affection while trying to keep the secret about the money and her reasons for accepting it to herself.

I seem to be reading less and less of traditional "chick-lit" because I find that even light books need some substance to truly be enjoyable for me. That is exactly why I was so pleased with An Offer You Can't Refuse. Although the ending is predictable and it has its share of overly sentimental parts, Jill Mansell's witty writing and interesting characters put this book in a different league. It may appear that Lola is a helpless and pathetic woman, still pining over Doug after all those years, but she is not portrayed as weak at all in the story. Actually the opposite is true given how loyal Lola is to her step-father by refusing to divulge the real reason why she needed the money. She stays true to herself and to her morals, even though it would have been a lot easier to betray her stepfather's trust and tell Doug what really happened.

Even though this book is longer than most chick-lit books, it was an incredibly fast read. I was very absorbed in the storyline and especially enjoyed the cast of entertaining and at times wacky, secondary characters. It turned out that there was a lot more to the book and its plot than the description mentions, including a secret affair with a celebrity and the return of an estranged father.

Jill Mansell's writing is fresh and fun, not to mention being released in North America just in time for some great light summer reading! Stay tuned for my review of Jill Mansell's next North American release, Miranda's Big Mistake, which comes out June 2, 2009.

BIG THANKS to Danielle and Sourcebooks for my review copy.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More lookalikes (or in this case, the same picture!)

Both of these books are mysteries, which is very fitting given their interesting (and a bit creepy) cover art - plus they were both officially released just days apart!

Still Life by Joy Fielding (released March 24, 2009)

This book sounds very interesting and sometime soon you'll be able to read my thoughts about it since I was lucky enough to win it through Twitter -THANKS AtriaBooks!

Keeper of Light and Dust by Natasha Mostert (released April 2, 2009)

(for more info read a great review by A Novel Menagerie, which is where I first heard of the book)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Finds

What great books have you discovered this week?

Share your Friday Finds at Should Be Reading

The Godmother by Carrie Adams (found on BOOK CLUB CLASSICS!)

Looking for Alaska by John Green (found on Shhh I'm Reading)

How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson (found on Foreign Circus Library)

Undercover by Beth Kephart (found on Presenting Lenore)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Book Review: The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez

The World in Half by Cristina Henriquez

Published by RIVERHEAD BOOKS, a member of Penguin Group

Rating: 4.5 stars

This book is officially released today!

The World in Half is about Mira (Miraflores), a geophysics major who has recently discovered old letters written to her mother from her father. Although Mira's mother had always told her that her father never wanted a child and abandoned them, the letters told a completely different story. Her father wrote about his love and devotion to her mother and it was revealed that once he found out she was pregnant, he was excited to be a father. Mira is confused by this contradiction and wonders why her mother had lied to her. Mira is unable to confront her mother about it because she has early-onset Alzheimer's and besides, she knew her mother would never tell her the truth. Mira hires a nurse to care for her mother and heads off to Panama City to find the father she never knew. Once there, Mira questions her impulsive decision, which went against her usual rational behavior. One morning she encounters a young man who piques her interest and after hearing her story, volunteers to help her find her father. What starts off as a trip to meet her father ends up turning into a journey of self-exploration and self-discovery. Mira learns a lot about herself and struggles to come to terms with her own identity.

The World in Half is a beautifully written story that has a certain underlying magic to it. The characters are first introduced as one-dimensional, with simple thoughts and emotions. However, once the novel progresses, their depth and complexity become apparent and there is more to them than meets the eye. The plot itself it interesting, but I think the most compelling thing about the book is its quiet hold over the reader. I kept reading on further and further, not because of thrilling plot twists, but because I genuinely felt a connection to the characters and to the story.

I loved how Mira's search for her father turned out to be a search for herself. Her father represented all of the parts of herself and her identity that she was missing in order to feel whole. Exploring Panama City and learning about love helped open up her eyes. By the end, I really sensed her character's evolution and development.

This book has positive messages embedded throughout the narrative and Mira was the perfect vehicle for conveying them. Although it is possible to go through life without discovering who you are as a person, that is not living life but merely existing. The way things turned out for Mira was unexpected but it wasn't the ending that mattered, rather the journey it took to get there. The World in Half is a well-written story about characters you will care about and possesses a certain subtle power that will inevitably take hold of you.

BIG THANKS to Penguin Group for my review copy.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Book Review: Janeology by Karen Harrington

Janeology by Karen Harrington

Published by Kunati Inc.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Be sure to check out Karen's wonderful blog, Scobberlotch, where you'll find interesting, informative and often very funny reading material! Plus, starting tomorrow April 2nd, Karen is celebrating Janeology's one-year birthday! She'll be giving away copies of her book and discussing her debut year, along with other fun posts and pictures!

Janeology is narrated by Tom Nelson, whose wife Jane, has just been convicted of drowing their two-year old son and almost killing his twin sister in the process. Tom is still struggling with the reality that his loving wife could have actually commited such a heinous act and can't even look her in the eyes when visiting her in jail. Jane was found 'not guilty' by reason of insanity, and Tom cannot understand how Jane's seemingly mild depression could have turned her into such a monster. Adding even more grief to Tom's already painful existence, the prosecution is charging Tom with child endangerment and neglect, implying that he could have and should have prevented his son's death. Tom's lawyer has found one of Jane's relatives, Mariah Hernandez, whose clairvoyance helps her adopt others memories and pasts by holding onto their cherished belongings. The novel then shifts in perspective from Tom's narration to each of Jane's many ancestors and their own harrowing tales. By showing Jane's family's history of abuse and neglect, Tom's lawyer hopes to prove that what Jane's act was the result of genetics and nothing Tom could have foreseen or prevented.

Janeology is a very deep and thought-provoking book. Although this book is fictional, there are many real-life stories of maternal infanticide, making this book as relevant as it is at times painful to read. What sets this book apart from other legal thrillers and stories of horrible atrocities, is its departure into the world of clairvoyance and mysticism. This voyage into an almost magical realm of past memories helps lessen the emotional load of such a difficult subject, and was a much-needed break from Tom's present predicament. Although each family member's story isn't too long, they are all well developed and it's easy to imagine their personalities and lives from the information provided.

From reading Karen's blog, I know that she intentionally left the ending ambiguous in order to let readers interpret it however they wish. I usually dislike when an author does this because I appreciate closure from a book once I close its pages, however in this case I found myself quite satisfied with the book's ending. I think the message is that it doesn't matter exactly how things worked out for Tom because it was what he gained from his experiences that matters most. Overall, Tom learned how to be a better father and to focus on the child who lived, as opposed to spending life mourning the child who did not.

Karen Harrington has truly written a mesmerizing and intricate first novel and I anticipate great things to come from her in the future!

BIG THANKS to Karen for sending me a copy of her book to review.