Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"Juno's Daughters" by Lise Saffran - A Tempest Rising



Details

Title: Juno's Daughters
Author: Lise Saffran
Publisher: Plume
Release Date : January 25th, 2011
Available to order here: Amazon / Barnes & Noble



Synopsis

Jenny Alexander has sought refuge from a troubled past on tiny, verdant San Juan Island, off the coast of Washington State. There — surrounded by the cold water of the Puget Sound — she does her best to raise her girls, innocent Frankie and thrill-seeking Lilly, in a tight-knit year-round community of eccentrics and dreamers.

When a professional actor from New York awakens both Jenny and Lilly to the "brave new world" of love, Jenny is thrust into a command performance that resonates in all their lives.


My Review

Set in the Pacific Northwestern San Juan Islands, author Lise Saffran's "Juno's Daughter" is an immensely enriching novel, full of amazing characters, and a wonderful story. When a troupe comes into town, trying to bring Shakespeare's play "The Tempest" to life, Jenny Alexander's curiosity is piqued. There is no doubt that Andre, the young and charismatic actor who is part of the troupe, is definitely playing a big role in Jenny's interest in this play. But while this single mother of two teenage daughter is re-discovering her own passion, her seventeen year old daughter Lilly is beginning to get invested in Andre as well.

Author Lise Saffran explores the dynamics between mothers and daughters, between two different generations of women, and their love for one another. Reading about Jenny coping with her daughters coming into their own, and allowing them to make their mistakes and learn from them was a bittersweet and heartwarming experience. On the other hand, watching the girls realize that their mother is more than just a parent, and a woman with a heart and desires, and learning to accept this fact, was another touching experience. Overall, this book was an amazing read, and although I'm not a mother yet, it made me look forward to motherhood, even the trials of it. For a first novel, author Lise Saffran has outdone herself!


My Rating : 4/5 Stars



Disclaimer: Although I received a copy of this book for review, I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"The Scent of Rain & Lightning" by Nancy Pickard - Small Town, Big Secrets





Details

Title: The Scent of Rain & Lightning
Author: Nancy Pickard
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date : May 4th, 2010
Available to order here: Amazon / The Book Depository / Barnes & Noble 


Synopsis


One beautiful summer afternoon, Jody Linder receives shocking news: The man convicted of murdering her father is being released from prison and returning to the small town of Rose, Kansas. It has been twenty-three years since that stormy night when her father was shot and killed and her mother disappeared, presumed dead. Neither the protective embrace of Jody’s three uncles nor the safe haven of her grandparents’ ranch could erase the pain caused by Billy Crosby on that catastrophic night.

Now Billy Crosby is free, thanks to the efforts of his son, Collin, a lawyer who has spent most of his life trying to prove his father’s innocence. Despite their long history of carefully avoiding each other in such an insular community, Jody and Collin find that they share an exclusive sense of loss. As Jody revisits old wounds, startling truths emerge about her family’s tragic past. But even through struggle and hardship, she still dares to hope for a better future—and maybe even love.


My Review

It is undeniable that author Nancy Pickard has a flair for writing about murder mysteries that take place in small town settings. "The Scent of Rain & Lightning" is the second novel that I've read by Nancy Pickard, the first being "The Virgin of Small Plains" which went straight into the list of my favorite mystery novels of all time. Thus, when I picked up this book, I had a lot of expectations. And despite how pre-hyped (and over-hyped, I must add) the book had been in my mind, it came through on all my expectations.

Nancy Pickard has a knack for concocting mysteries that are sure to make your head spin, and have you grasping at clues to piece the puzzle together, and yet you'll find yourself completely clueless until the very end, until the author allows it to slowly unravel in all its glory. I pride myself in being a darn intuitive reader, and I must admit (far from humbly) that I can usually predict who the killer is, or the motive, much earlier than the ending of the book - but Pickard's novels always render my intuition useless, and leave me guessing until the very end, which is why I happen to love them. I love that there's an author who can trump my intuition, and leave me begging for more.

However, what makes this novel so great, it is not just the mystery itself, but the characters that the writer creates. You cannot help but feel empathy towards the mother who has lost her son, the daughter who has lost her parents, and with them, her childhood, and the son who may not like his father but feels obligated to defend him. The book is full of wonderful, meaningful characters that are real, and easy to relate to, even if you may not like them. After reading her books, one is convinced that author Nancy Pickard has never stepped foot outside spent her entire life in a secluded, rural, remote and small farm-town somewhere in the Midwest; her description of the town of Rose, Kansas is so spot-on, and her description of the dynamics and relationships between the townspeople is excessively real and believable.

Will Jody be able to forgive Billy Crosby, in order to move on with her life? Will she be able to let her guard down, and allow herself to care for Collin, the son of the man who killed her father? Will she ever find her missing mother? Will her wounds ever be filled, and will she ever move on with her life, fall in love again, or feel safe again?

Overall, I highly recommend this novel to someone who likes to read about murder mysteries, but also to those who like reading about the interpersonal interactions between people from a small-town like Rose, Kansas. Above all, I recommend you to read it for the riveting mystery, and for the characters, like Jody, who you'll remember long after you are done with the novel.

My Rating 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer: I bought a copy of this book for my personal reading/reviewing purposes, I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

~Sunday Stew - April 24th, 2011~


Sunday Stew is a Weekly Meme hosted Here at Books Devoured



First of all, I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Easter. May your day, and the forthcoming year be rife with blessings. 


Bookmark of the Week:





Recently, a book was delivered to me via The Book Depository , and along with the book came this bookmark. I mean, technically, it's a plain bookmark - nothing too exciting. But take a look at the content. On one side, there's a list of The Phonetic Alphabet and then, on the other side, there's the Morse Code Alphabet . I mean, we're probably never going to use either of those (Actually, I always have to use the Phonetic Alphabet to relate my name to any operators/organizations I may call) - but isn't it just cool? After receiving this bookmark, I was almost tempted to send my tweets in Morse Code. I desisted because I was afraid some of you might throw rocks at me! lol :P 




Around The Web:



April 20th to 25th


Since it is Easter Weekend, I thought it would be best for me to direct you guys towards this amazing blog hop going on - there are a TON of amazing blogs to be discovered (I mean, there are more than 200 blogs participating), and a ton of great giveaways to be entered. So hop along, and make yourself some new friends! :) 


Around Me:






First of all, I finally created a Facebook Account so that I could interact with all of my fellow bloggers, and authors, outside of Twitter. Feel free to add me, if you'd like! :)


Most of you may know, and some may not (and now all of you do), that I drove up north to San Francisco to see my uncle Paul, who has been in the hospital, in the critical care unit. I, along with my mom, my aunt, my cousin and another uncle drove up there - to see him, and spend some time with him. It was a REAL shock to see him, since he was very sick, very weak, under heavy sedation, hooked up to a respirator, and a dialysis machine. His face, arms, legs were extremely edematous and his abdomen was severely distended due to ascites. But Thank God, the day after we got there, his condition began improving. So much so, that by the time we left on Friday afternoon, his edema was completely gone, they had taken him off the respirator, and were soon gonna take him off the dialysis machine. I wanted to thank EVERYONE who prayed for him, for me, and kept our family in your thoughts and prayers - they were greatly appreciated. 

The pictures taken above were taken during the trip, and this happens to be my uncle's "backyard", so to speak. This is the deck behind/at the side of the house, since the house itself sits on a hill. It overlooks the ocean, and when it's not so hazy, you can see the outline of San Francisco, and I love it. During this trip, I didn't get a lot of time to read, but when I usually go up there for a vacation, or some time away, I love sitting on the bench under the tree on the top deck with his doggie Cedric, hook my feet into the tree, and get my read on. It's one of my most favorite places, ever, and I just thought I'd share it with you guys! :) 


Thank you SO much for reading my ~Sunday Stew~ Post, this week. I hope you enjoyed it, had a wonderful weekend, an amazing Easter Sunday, and that you'll continue to visit. Au Revoir, for now ! :D

~Winner Announcement - The "Happy Birthday Mr. Enamored Soul" Giveaway~



First of all, I want to apologize to everyone for not making the announcement for the winner yesterday. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen (family emergency) circumstances, I had to travel 400 miles up North to San Francisco, and that delayed my picking and announcing a winner.

Before I announce the winner, I want to THANK every one who decided to participate in this giveaway/contest. I thank you wholeheartedly for the lovely and kind words/wishes that you left for Mr. Enamored Soul - they mean the world to both him and me. I honestly wish that I could get each one of you a copy of the book that you'd wanted - but since I haven't struck gold in my backyard yet, I have to pick a winner.

And the winner of The "Happy Birthday Mr. Enamored Soul" Giveaway is:

***drumroll***

Miranda @ My Eclectic Bookshelf who picked "This Lullaby" by Sarah Dessen.

I am already planning another giveaway, and I think I'll be hosting it either this coming week, or the week after that, so stay tuned. Again, I am so sorry for those who did not win, happy for the winner who did, and infinitely gracious for your participation as well as for your support. THANK YOU!!! :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

~Sunday Stew - April 17th, 2011~

 

Sunday Stew is a Weekly Meme hosted Here at Books Devoured .

Bookmark of the Week:



Since I'm reading "The Liar Society" by Lisa & Laura Roecker I am using the bookmark that the author sent me with a copy of the book. I am so thoroughly enjoying the book, and I love the bookmark, because not only is the "pink hair" so exciting, I also love that it has a blurb by other awesome authors, Kimberly Derting (author of "The Body Finder" series) and Mandy Hubbard (author of "Prada and Prejudice"). Plus, its signed, which is another thing that makes me go "squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" (yes, just like that!). 

P.S - If you want a chance to win "The Liar Society" you can enter the contest for a copy on Goodreads (make sure to add it to your "to-read" list, ok?). 

Around The Web:


Okay, so Ann Aguirre's "Enclave" was released on April 12th, 2011 - and it seems the world has gone "Enclave" crazy, overnight! I, for one, am really psyched for to read this book. So, since I've been seeing the book everywhere, I thought I'd share my excitement with you and share some of the contests/giveaways that are offering "Enclave" as a prize! :D

  • Ends 04/19 - The Bookish Type is giving away "Enclave" by Ann Aguirre as part of "The Cornucopia of Dystopia" Giveaway Event

I wish you all the best of luck! Also, since April is "National Autism Awareness Month" I'd really appreciate it if you would read my post on Autism Awareness

Also, in my (vile) attempt at shameless self-promotion (it's for love, really) I'd urge you to consider entering my "Happy Birthday Mr. Enamored Soul" Giveaway - you could win your choice of either, The Notebook or A Walk To Remember (Nicholas Sparks), This Lullaby (Sarah Dessen) or The Body Finder (Kimberly Derting). 


Around Me:



So last night, I babysat a 4 month old BEAUTIFUL baby boy. And as I held him, and rocked him to sleep in my arms, he hung on to my shirt. He didn't let go, the ENTIRE night. And as his tiny fingers clung to the tortuous creases in my shirt, I realized how badly I want to be a mother. I know, I sound like a complete sap - but I honestly cannot explain the way I feel every time I hold a child in my arms. On most days, I feel like I'm in a fugue, in a constant haze and not knowing where I am or what I am doing - but as soon as a child finds their way into my arms, I always feel like I'm right where I ought to be. I know I have a LONG way to go before I'm going to be a mom, but seeing this beautiful baby folded into my arms like a half moon lying in a hammock, I was overwhelmed with emotion, and my heart filled with joy. I just thought I'd share that with all of you. 

Also, I really wanted to thank Shannon Pearcy of Books Devoured for being patient with me, and giving me the chance to participate in the Sunday Stew. I really enjoyed writing this post, I hope you'll enjoy reading it! :D

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The "Happy Birthday Mr. Enamored Soul" Giveaway

Okay, ladies and gentlemen - time for my FIRST GIVEAWAY! So I've only been blogging a few weeks. But I've come to realize that bloggers tend to be such incredibly weird people. We celebrate our milestones not by rewarding ourselves, but by doing giveaway for others - but then again, perhaps it is not that weird, given that happiness and joy grow exponentially when shared with others.

So, as some of you may know (and now all of you will), I'm the luckiest person on the face of this planet because I have Mr. Enamored Soul in my life. To say he makes my world a better place is an understatement, because he IS my world, he IS my life! So, I'm hosting my first giveaway in honor of his upcoming birthday on April 22nd - to me, that day is more important than my own birthday, Christmas and New Years combined!

So, here's what you can win (you get to pick ONE of these fabulous books!) :


 Title: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks


Synopsis: The Notebook, a Southern-fried story of love-lost-and-found-again, revolves around a single time-honored romantic dilemma: will beautiful Allison Nelson stay with Mr. Respectability (to whom she happens to be engaged), or will she hook up with Noah, the romantic rascal she left so many years ago? We're not telling, but you have two guesses and the first one doesn't count. Decades later, after Allison develops Alzheimer's, her beau uses "the notebook" to read her the story of the great love she's plumb forgot.

Why: Because Mr. Enamored Soul is my Noah. And we've promised each other we're gonna grow old together, so that's that! :)






Title: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

Synopsis: Remy doesn't believe in love. He romance novelist mother is working on her 5th marriage, and her father, a '70s hippie singer, left her with only a one-hit wonder song to remember him by. Every time Remy hears "This Lullaby," it feels like "a bruise that never quite healed right." Never without a boyfriend, Remy is a compulsive dater, but before a guy can go all "Ken" on her, she cuts him off, without ever getting close or hurt. She's stunned when klutzy, quirky, alterna-band boy Dexter inserts himself into her life and refuses to leave. Remy plans on having her usual summer fling before tying up the loose ends and heading for the coast. Except Dexter's not following Remy's tried-and-true rules of break-up protocol. And for the first time, Remy's questioning whether or not she wants him to. 

Why: Because when I had given up on love, and built a wall around my heart - Mr. Enamored Soul was the only man who took the time to build himself a door within that wall, and walked into my heart! :)




 Title: A Walk to Remember
  
Synopsis: In 1958 Landon Carter is a shallow but well-meaning teenager who spends most of his time hanging out with his friends and trying hard to ignore the impending responsibilities of adulthood. Then Landon gets roped into acting the lead in the Christmas play opposite the most renowned goody two-shoes in town: Jamie Sullivan. Against his best intentions and the taunts of his buddies, Landon finds himself falling for Jamie and learning some central lessons in life.

Why: Because you may not know this about me, but I'm quite unhealthy. I've been through some painful, debilitating conditions, and in my darkest hours, when I am ready to give up, or when I am neglecting myself, Mr.Enamored Soul is always around to take care of me & nurse me to health. He has truly been by my side..."in sickness, and in health."





Title: The Body Finder (Book#1) by Kimberly Derting

Synopsis: Violet Ambrose is grappling with two major issues: Jay Heaton and her morbid secret ability. While the 16 year old is confused by her new feelings for her best friend,she is more disturbed by her "power" to sense murdered dead bodies.Since she was a little girl, she has felt the echoes the dead leave behind in the world...and the imprints that attach to their killers. Now that a serial killer is terrorizing her small town Violet realizes she might be the only person who can stop him. Despite his fierce protectiveness over her, Jay reluctantly agrees to help Violet find the murderer - and Violet is unnerved by her hope that Jay's intentions are much more than friendly. But even as she's falling in love, Violet is getting closer to discovering a killer...and becoming his prey herself.

Why: Ah! Well, because when asked at random, which book read recently showcased a story about two best friends falling in love, several people answered "The Body Finder". Although I, myself, have not yet read this book - I am offering it for the following two reasons. 1) Because I fell in love with MY best friend and 2) because I love mysteries, and I thought there should be something in here for those who may not necessarily like romantic novels. 

To Enter you MUST do the following :

1) Leave a comment below sending Mr. Enamored Soul (his name's Adeel, in case you'd prefer to use that) any birthday wishe(s) you may like. Feel free to also throw in how much I love him, LOL.
2) Please make sure to also leave the name/title of the book you'd like to win, and your email address. Without your email address, I cannot contact you, which means you cannot win.
3) This giveaway is open to everyone - you do NOT need to be a follower, but I would be very grateful if you did decide to become a follower, and hopefully that will result in us being friends! And the contest is open to US/Canada as well as INTERNATIONALLY (Love knows no bounds,right?!?).
4) The contest ends April 22nd, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST (so enter BEFORE April 22nd,please). The winner will be chosen using Random.org and I will post the winner's name, as well as contact the winner via email on April 22nd. [Please read the Legal Disclaimer below]

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my Angel! :)




***********************************************************
Legal Disclaimer
  1. I am not responsible for items lost or damaged in shipping or items shipped from 3rd party sponsors. 
  2. Winners are chosen using a random number generator based on the comment number.
  3. Any cheating or misuse of information, or harassing of other parties, or bullying of any sort will not be tolerated. Please respect the blog owner and all participants and/or followers.  
  4. The winner will have 48 hours to contact me from the time that I email them - if they do not respond, another winner will be chosen.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Long Drive Home" by Will Allison - A Cautionary Emotional Tale






Details

Title: Long Drive Home
Author: Will Allison
Publisher: Free Press
Release Date (Expected): May 17th, 2011
Available for Pre-order here: Amazon / Barnes & Noble


Enter for your chance to win a copy here: Long Drive Home - Goodreads


Synopsis

A riveting second novel by Will Allison, author of the acclaimed What You Have Left. A happily married suburban father makes a mistake that results in a teenager's death and sends his own life into a devastating tailspin. Written as a confessional letter, the book is a fascinating and moving cautionary tale that explores the moral ambiguities of personal responsibility as it chronicles a father’s desperate attempt to explain himself to his daughter—even though he knows that in doing so, he risks losing her forever.

Review 

"Long Drive Home" by Will Allison may be a relatively small book of only 224 pages, but it packs a huge punch for the reader. Undoubtedly this novel will leave a huge impact on any one who is lucky enough to pick up this book. The beauty of this novel lies in the simplicity with which the author has tackled an immensely complicated and intricate subject. The premise is clear, and the question is: What happens when a single mistake, made in an unknowing and angry moment, causes your world to implode? Glen Bauer is a loving husband, and a doting father - the kind of man who can do no wrong in his family's eyes. And yet, on one afternoon, one act of sheer frustration results in him becoming a criminal, a reckless driver and a careless father. 


Slowly marinating in his own guilt, Glen walks a fine line between complete denial and constant fear of being found out. Above all else, he is constantly plagued by knowing that his daughter was in the car on that fateful day, and worse things could have happened. As he deals with the dead teenager's grieving mother, the constant questioning by the police, as well as the constant fear of being sued - Will's own family disintegrates as his marriage spirals downwards. 


The book is told from Glen's perspective, in the form of flashbacks, and a letter running along the narrative, in which he confronts his own demons and comes clean to his daughter - even at the risk of forever losing her love and respect. It is a simple narrative, written in simple language, and very evenly paced. There are no major twists and turns, but the narrative fluidly moves along, with nary a dull moment. Although there were times where I, like the main character and Juwan's mother, wanted so badly to just find out where it would all end. For me, this book was an extremely tense read. A dreadful knot kept tightening in my core, as I kept reading along. There were definitely a few moments in there, when I actually put the book down, to take a few deep breaths. And when the book came to a close, I visibly sighed with relief. However, although all that may seem like I am recommending against reading this book - I feel like this is one of those books that one MUST read, in order to gain a perspective on life. To gain the valuable lesson that every action has a reaction, a consequence. "Long Drive Home" is definitely a novel I will hold close to my heart, because it is just representative of many such stories untold, and it is surely a story that I will keep in mind, "to remind me to be careful." 


My Rating : 4/5 Stars


Disclaimer: Although I received an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of this book for review, I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"The Map of Time" by Felix J. Palma - A Review


Details

Title: The Map of Time
Author: Felix J. Palma (Translated by: Nick Caistor)
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: June 28th, 2011
Available for Pre-order here: Simon & Schuster / Books-a-Million / Barnes & Noble



My Review

"The Map of Time" by Felix J. Palma is a book that defies being boxed into a single genre. Its a magnificent novel that is part Historical Fiction, part Science Fiction, part Romance, even part Steampunk, and all in all, a great Mystery/Thriller. Even if you are a fan of only one of those genres, but not a fan of the others, I guarantee that you are still going to enjoy this book because it manages to do justice to all the genres it encompasses.

The book begins with a narrator introducing the reader to the story and its various characters. Author Palma has created a narrator with a clear, strong voice and a commanding presence. The narration is fluid, and on various occasions it tends to engage into direct dialogue with the reader, thus drawing the reader right into the novel itself. It has been quite some time since I have enjoyed a book narrated in the third-person, and seldom have I come across a narrator who resonates so well with me.

The story is simple, and the story is good. It involves the manipulation of time, and time travel, and is full of adventures. But it is not just telling an interesting story that this author succeeds in, he has also given birth to characters that are dynamic and multi-dimensional, much like the story itself. Felix J. Palma takes great pains to infuse as much detail as possible into his story, he leaves no stone unturned in order to give great depth to his characters, which in turn gives a lot of substance to this magical tale.

The novel is woven around three main intertwined tales. First, we have Andrew Harrington, the wealthy and heartbroken bachelor residing in Victorian London who lost the love of his life, prostitute Marie Kelly, to the evil and conniving murderer 'Jack the Ripper'. In his destitution, and inability to move on from his tragedy, he is willing to try anything, perhaps something even as implausible as time travel, in order to save Marie Kelly from the hands of the cold-blooded murderer. Then there's Claire Haggerty, a woman who feels stifled by the norms of the Victorian society which dictate her to marry a suitable man from the many suitors that her family finds for her. She feels disconnected from the people and customs of her time, and longs to exist in another world - a world where she is free to follow her desires, and love whomever she pleases. Last, but definitely not the least, there is the young author H.G. Wells, the man whose novel, 'The Time Machine' has motivated many to try their hands at time travel, and his book becomes the root from which the branches of this story sprout forth. Also incorporated into the story are the stories of Dracula, Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man), and the futuristic Captain Shackleton battling the automatons of the year 2000.

Ultimately, Felix J. Palma has authored a novel that is sublime in all its aspects. Acerbic wit, intellectual commentary, mind boggling twists and turns, combined with unique characters makes for an enchanting, satisfying and deeply mesmerizing novel. In the novel, the author writes about an invention being something that supersedes the being of the man who invents it, and outlasts him to form part of world as it goes into the future - to which I surmise that in this case, "The Map of Time" is Felix J. Palma's greatest invention to date, a novel invention that transports us to another place and another time, and this will surely be a novel talked about for ages to come.

My Rating : 5/5 Stars

Disclaimer: Although I received an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of this book for review, I was not compensated monetarily, or in any other way, for my opinion. The opinions stated in this review are solely mine, and are not representative of views of the author, or publishing company, of this book.

CymLowell