New “Walsh sisters” book by Keyes coming soon!

http://www.mariankeyes.com

So I might be a little late on this. You might already know, and if so, throw me a bone, because I just read this and am SO. EXCITED.

Marian Keyes will soon be releasing a new book, The Mystery of Mercy Close. Okay that is great news in itself as I love all things Marian. But things get even better…the story is another about one of the Walsh sisters!!! Excellent news, right?  But wait, things are about to be even better yet (better-er?)…it’s about Helen Walsh! If you have read the other books in the Walsh sisters chronicles, you can easily understand why Helen is my favorite of the sisters. She is cooky, zany, bizarre, and brazen and always provides some comedic relief during the often tough situations about which Keyes writes. I was so distraught when I finished the Walsh books and realized there was still one sister left, but with no story! I had always wondered what Helen had gotten up to, and I guess now is my chance to find out.

When we last saw her in Anybody Out There she had started a career as a private investigator, and according to Keyes’ website updates, we pick back up with her as her occupation is flat lining. The storyline apparently follows Helen as she investigates the disappearance of a boy-band member, and works through her romantic past, present and future. Keyes herself has admitted that she thinks this book is a bit “darker” than hers previous, but also isn’t afraid to admit how proud she is of this novel. I say “you go girl,” we’re all rooting for you. Modesty is overrated.

I can’t wait to pick this one up. The release date is September 13, but I’m not sure if this will be in Ireland only or if it will come out in the States at the same time. I promise to keep you updated if I find out anything else! In the meantime, I plan on getting my Keyes fix by reading The Brightest Star in the Sky as I’m a little behind on this.

Glad to have you back, Marian–you and all the crazy, fabulous Walsh ladies!

Advertisements

“Deep Dish” by Mary Kay Andrews

marykayandrews.com

Mary Kay Andrews is another fabulous southern writer to grace her pages with stories of strong female characters who find themselves in a little bit of trouble. This is the first book I have read from her and I plan to continue with many more. This was also the first book that I ever listened to on CD, when I was taking a horrendous road trip in the rain from my home in Virginia to Cleveland (the actual visit itself was great, mind you, but the 9-hour drive on the turnpike…not so fun.) I would still definitely prefer to physically read the book, but nonetheless it was a great way to pass the time.

Gina Paxton, chef and local Georgian celebrity, thinks that her life could not possibly sink any lower when she finds out that her beautiful boyfriend has been cheating on her. But then, to make matters worse, her television cooking show gets cancelled—because, of course, her boyfriend is also the producer, and his mistress is the wife of the show’s sponsor. Enter scandal! So now she is left single and unemployed and wondering what is left of her once seemingly perfect life.

All hope is lost until Gina learns that the Cooking Channel is interested in featuring her in her own national show! Gina thinks this could be the start of her new life of fame, but the real kicker comes when she finds out the network is also interested in another chef, the rugged Tate Moody. The producers are torn between which cook to sponsor, so they come up with a entertaining way to determine the winner: “fight til the death cook-off” in the form of a reality show with the grand prize of the primetime slot. Gina and Tate become arch enemies, sabotaging one another for the sake of the win. But no one can deny the underlying attraction and sexual tension between the two. Will they let their feelings get in the way of competition? And who will win the ultimate show?

This story is a little different from what I normally read. It is about a specific event, rather than a character’s life as a whole. With our country’s obsession with reality tv, it is a relevant topic and I think brings a lot of truth to the area. I enjoyed the book itself but I must admit I wasn’t thrilled with the audio reading. The orator gave “voices” to each character which I really could have done without. Not to mention her voice for the gay, black hairdresser was incredibly stereotypical.  I will probably stay away from audiobooks in the future, except in a case like this where I am traveling a long distance by myself. It is a convenient way to get through a novel and to keep you from falling asleep at the wheel, but I prefer my reading to be done silently, in my head.

According to her website, Andrews has written nine novels, most of which have been New York Times best-sellers, as well as an additional ten under her true name of Kathy Hogan Trocheck (Andrews is her pen name.)  Which ones have you read and would recommend?

Big Fat Ambitious List of Books to Read This Summer

My “have-to-read” list is always never-ending. I won a gift card to Books-a-Million the other week at work through a trivia challenge (apparently I know a lot of useless facts) and rather than spending it immediately, I walked out of the store with some major anxiety. My problem is that I always want to read too many books at one time! It gave me heartburn to think about purchasing just one. I eventually went back and bought The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder by Rebecca Wells and Getting Warmer by Carol Snow, but haven’t gotten around to reading either quite yet. Therefore, these will be the first two pieces on my “big fat ambitious list of books to read this summer.” I started off just wanting a nice top ten (apparently having a “Top Ten Tuesday” is the thing to do on blogs?) but my list eventually kept growing. So here it is…my Big Fat Ambitions List of Books to Read This Summer, the BFALBRTS. Interestingly enough that looks like “Big Fat Alberts.” Anyway….here it is (*HINT!* Roll over the titles to be redirected to the authors’ websites!):

  1. The Crowning Glory of Calla Lilly Ponder by Rebecca Wells
  2. Getting Warmer by Carol Snow
  3. Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
  4. Sisterhood Everlasting by Anne Brashares (the girls from Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants all grown up!)
  5. White Girl Problems by Babe Walker
  6. Where We Belong by Emily Giffin
  7. Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal (Remember the Sweet Valley Twins? This is them in their adult lives!)
  8. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson (I’ve read Dragon Tattoo and Fire and loved them, but I needed a break from the intensity before reading this one.)
  9. Dancing on my Grave by Gelsey Kirkland (memoir of a ballet legend.)
  10. I’ve Got your Number by Sophie Kinsella
  11. Skinny Dipping by Bethenny Frankel
  12. Mermaids in the Basement by Michael Lee West
  13. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
  14. The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes (I cannot believe I have not read this yet!)
  15. Hopeless Romantic by Harriet Evans
  16. The Best Little Girl in the World by Steven Levenkron (another ballet book.)
  17. Girlbomb by Janice Erlbaum
  18. A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown
  19. Pretty Little Dirty by Amanda Boyden
  20. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
  21. 40 Love by Madeleine Wickham
  22. Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg
  23. Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult (really, I want to read all of the Jodi novels I haven’t yet gotten to. She doesn’t write a bad book.)
  24. Girls in White Dresses by Jennifer Close (this pretty much sums up my life right now.)
  25. Bless Your Heart, Tramp by Celia Rivenbark
  26. There’s a Slight Change I Might Be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro
  27. This Charming Man by Marian Keyes
  28. Another Piece of my Heart by Jane Green
  29. Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews (and Savannah Breeze!)
  30. Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger

Okay, that was only 20. Not too bad. But then I also have the addendum to the list, which includes the new authors who I would like to try. I’m not sure which books to start out with, but I have always wanted to read something by the following:

  1. Jennifer Weiner–yes, I know she is the reigning queen of chick-lit. I admittedly could not get through the one and only book I have read from her, In Her Shoes. But I think she deserves a second chance.)
  2. Kim Gruenenfelder—I’ve recently seen her books showing up a lot. She seems to have a similar style to one of my favorites, Sophie, so I am anxious to pick up one of her novels.
  3.  Beth Harbison—The Shoe Addicts, Anonymous author has many others outside of this.
  4. Brenda Janowitz—Jack with a Twist and Scott on the Rocks, could there be any cuter titles?
  5. Kristin Hannah—She has nearly a million books. She must be good.
  6. Cathy Lamb—Her chick-lit sounds entertaining, with a little more substance than most.
  7. Sarah Dessen—Okay I know she mainly writes YA fiction. But her story lines just sound too good to pass up!
  8. Candice Bushnell—No, I have not read any. I have not read anything from the creator of chick-lit herself. ‘Tis a shame, I know.
  9. Elin Hilderbrand—Beachy, summer reads are always great!
  10. Jennifer Crusie—Again, she has a million books. And they’re all romantic comedies, what could be better?

Like I said, it’s ambitious. Especially considering it is almost the end of June already! But this is a constantly running and revolving list, and I hope that I can get around to these at some point, if not by the end of August 😉 Has anyone out there read any of the above mentioned? I would love to hear feedback on your favorites, as well as any books to start with from the new authors.

“One Day” by David Nicholls

http://www.davidnichollswriter.com

I have heard some mixed reviews of One Day by David Nicholls (recently made into a movie with Anne Hathaway…anyone seen it? I still have not.) One of my good friends said she was not too impressed and kept waiting for the action to happen, when it never really took off. I, however, thoroughly enjoyed this British novel and would highly recommend it for its relatable characters and different style. It is not the “everything is perfect and everyone’s life is fabulous” storyline we so often see in chick-lit, but I admittedly am a sucker for a depressing story. Maybe depressing isn’t the right word. Let’s try “emo…”

One Day opens in Emma Morley’s dorm room in Edinburg (UK) on July 15, 1988 with Dexter Mayhew. The two college seniors have just spent their first night together, which Emma hopes will blossom into a full-fledged romance, and Dexter assumes will be just another of many one-night stands from his college career. Neither expects what does become of their relationship to happen.  The novel continues to follow Dexter and Emma, giving a snapshot of their lives, sometimes separate, sometimes together, on the same day, July 15, year after year. The reader is able to peer into the lives of each character and follow how their relationship continues throughout, ebbing and flowing from hardships to happiness. Right after college, Dexter travels the world, sending postcards home from exotic locations to Emma, who is stuck in England, struggling to become a successful author and playwright. As time progresses, Dexter works his way up in entertainment and eventually becomes a famous television personality and producer.  He has his regular flings with woman after woman but always has a soft spot in his heart for his dear friend Emma. Meanwhile, Emma becomes an English teacher and begins an unfulfilled relationship with a wannabe stand-up comedian she met when waiting tables at the local Mexican restaurant dive. She can’t help but long for something more with her best friend Dexter, but at the same time, can’t stand the pompous star he has become.

Though the life events and of both Emma and Dexter are ordinary, mundane things that every reader has probably, at one point, experienced, Nicholls writes them into attention keeping  happenings that leaves you hanging on from year to year. Will Dexter and Emma ever admit to their love and be together? Keep reading and you just might find out…one day.

Kindle Fire Review

http://www.amazon.com

I thought I had been having a love/hate relationship with Kindles and all other e-readers for quite some time. I love the convenience that an e-reader can offer and the ability to have an entire bookshelf all in one small rectangle. However, there is something about holding a book and physically turning the pages that I thought I would never be able to let go of. My other issue with e-readers is the sheer price of the downloads. It does not make sense to me to purchase a book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble that I could easily check out for free at one of my main local libraries. So I was hard-core, anti-e-readers, completely, for some time.

But then some of my friends and coworkers got a Kindle Fire and I was the only one without one. So of course I had to be cool, succumb to peer pressure, and fit in.

Lucky for me, my amazing boyfriend bought me one for Valentine’s Day this year! I think it was just so that he could stop hearing me whine about the cool toys that other people around me had and how badly I wanted one. But nonetheless he generously forked over the $199 at Best Buy and bought me my new obsession.

To put it simply, I am now in love with my Kindle Fire. The romantic notion of missing the feel of a page of ink between my fingers was lost at my first finger swipe across the glistening HD screen. The convenience of downloading nearly any book you could possibly desire along with the immediate access beats the hell out of spending hours searching for a book in the library card catalog and driving to three different locations to find one that it not checked out. And one of the best things that I found out through my research is that reading on a Kindle can be FREE! Many libraries now have a program where as long as you have a valid library card, you can virtually “check out” book downloads. You still only have the regular check-out period to read the books before them being “due” back. The downside is that only a certain number of people can have a particular book “checked-out” at one time, so this drastically cuts back on the options of immediate downloads without having to put yourself on the wait-list. I must admit I have already become a sucker for the Amazon store and have purchased and downloaded at least ten novels. With a list price of about $9.99 per book it adds up quickly, but is still significantly cheaper than what one would pay even for a paperback at a physical bookstore.

My Kindle Fire has been great for reading. You can bookmark your pages, highlight and make notes on certain sections and text, look up a word you don’t know the meaning of, and even search for that word on the internet. I love that the Kindle will tell you how much of the book you have completed, so you do not have to grab sections of pages and guestimate, or, worse yet, try to do reverse math (subtraction, algebra, fractions….ahh!) of what page you are on, versus how many pages are in the book.

There are plenty of features outside of the e-reader function that make the Kindle Fire worth the $199 price. You can browse the internet, download apps and games, stalk browse friends on Facebook, and even watch YouTube videos and play music, anywhere you have wireless internet. Which, let’s be real, is practically anywhere these days.

Two negatives that I have found on the Kindle Fire:

1. Short battery life. If I’ve been reading a significant amount throughout the day or just playing way too many rounds of Fruit Ninja, I have to charge my Kindle for several hours. If you do not shut the device down completely when you are not using it, it burns through battery very quickly. And internet usage can make it die even faster.

2. Difficulty seeing outside. The Kindle Fire uses an HD color screen that is incredibly clear and great for graphics and reading indoors. But take it outside, and you can’t see a thing. Even with the backlight turned all the way up (the backlight is a great benefit–no more disturbing anyone when you want to read in bed!) it is impossible to read in the sunlight. I have heard that you can purchase an anti-glare screen to get rid of this problem, but I have yet to try it out. I went to the Bahamas a few weeks ago and made sure to pack some paperbacks with me because I knew my KF would be useless while laying in the sun (and yes, I had to put this part in about the Bahamas just to make you jealous and think that I am some exotic world traveller.) 

My boyfriend has an Asus Transformer Prime tablet that is incredible, and the iPad is excellent as well. But if you aren’t looking to spend a ton of money and don’t mind something that is smaller (perfect size to throw in your purse and travel) then the Kindle Fire is a great investment. I will forever have a soft spot in my heart for the good ol’ days of paper, ink and binding, but let’s be serious–I’m a Generation Y-er…and my KF has me hooked.

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry

http://www.loislowry.com

When I think about my middle school reading lists, I think about boring books on history and war, and being told what and how much to read during summer vacation. Even if a book on the list really was good, everyone always hated it because we had no choice in the matter and were forced to read it! And, of course, at age 12, anything an adult tells you to do is uncool, especially if that person is a teacher. But as I was finishing up The Hunger Games trilogy, I kept thinking to myself “I feel like I have read something similar to this before.” And the strangest thing was that I remembered enjoying it…secretly, of course. What 7th grader wants to admit to liking the book on the school reading list?  Well, that familiar book turned out to be Lois Lowry’s The Giver.

I decided to revisit this book, in hopes that my literary appreciation has matured since the time of Tamagotchis and *NSYNC (by the way, what’s up with the “*”? Really, is that necessary?) and downloaded it for a bargain on my new Kindle Fire (review coming soon!) When searching for the book, I came to find out it is actually part of a trilogy! Who knew? After beginning my second shot at The Giver I quickly remembered why I enjoyed it so much, and this time around I have a much deeper appreciation and understanding of the storyline and underlying issues and themes.

The Giver follows 11-year old Jonas as he matures through his perfect community set sometime in the future. Jonas’ world is very different from ours today. Life is always fine, people are always content, and things always go the way they have been mapped out. Families are referred to as “family units” into which children are not biologically born, but rather matched with and placed so that each unit is perfectly balanced with a mother, father, son, and daughter. As children grow up in the community, they go through a new rite of passage each year, gaining more responsibilities, an outward sign of their maturation. This year, as he becomes a 12, Jonas will receive his occupation and begin training toward his new career. Jonas wonders what he will be given, with thoughts of working in child care, teaching, recreation, and even at the senior center. But the one thing he never expects is the role that he is given: Receiver.

The job of the Receiver is to learn all of the memories of past, in order to preserve the history of the community and surrounding world. Jonas collects these memories from the former Receiver, now known as The Giver, who is too old to continue his job for much longer. But as Jonas continues to learn more and more about the past and the reality of his community, he must face the question of what is more important: this perfect world, or the truth?

The Giver is a quick, enjoyable read, and maybe better suited for adults, rather than 12-year old children who may not see past the surface and into the depths of this book. The second book in the trilogy is Gathering Blue and the third, Messenger. All great reads. Very separate from one another, but you eventually understand how they all tie together at the very end.

I thoroughly enjoyed my second experience with this story and promise that if you liked books like The Hunger Games and things dealing with secrets of futuristic worlds, you will like it too. Not exactly “chick-lit,” but an excellent, engaging read, nonetheless–one that I could not pass up raving about!

“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett

http://www.kathrynstockett.com

As soon as I heard about Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel The Help, I could not wait to get my hands on it and start reading. I have always been fascinated by the 1960’s decade and the tumultuous time in our nation’s history that it represents. I can’t imagine living at a time where people were treated completely unfairly due to the color of their skin or their gender, or their religious beliefs.  I know that we, as a society, still have a long way to go, but I am so thankful for the progress that we have made. Now time to step off my soapbox…

At the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Deep South Mississippi, Skeeter Phelan has just graduated college and cannot wait to begin her future in journalism. She quickly realizes that her road to editorial fame will not be as easy as she had expected, with the majority of her surrounding community believing that a woman’s place is not on the job, but rather, in the home. Skeeter takes an introductory job at the local newspaper writing a home advice column. The only problem is she knows nothing about cooking or cleaning or child rearing. After all, she grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, where families let “the help” take care of such things.

Skeeter learns advice and answers from the African-American housekeepers in her community, mainly Aibileen and Minny, who work for Skeeter’s high-society childhood friends. As Skeeter learns more and more about the true everyday jobs and lives of these women, she discovers their responsibilities run much deeper than cooking dinner and dusting furniture. In many cases they are more of parents to the children they look after than their biological ones are.  But what bothers Skeeter the most is how terribly these women are treated by their employers and by society as a whole. So she does what any good journalist would do and turns it into a juicy story. Despite initial resistance from the housekeepers who fear for their jobs and their well-being, Skeeter writes the scandal of the year, publishing all the dirty details about the black and white disparity in Jackson.  And when the upper crust gets wind of their dirty laundry being aired for the world to read, all hell just might break loose.

Stockett tells the story from the points of view of Skeeter, Minny and Aibileen, developing each character into one for whom you cannot help but develop a strong affection, as well as a love for their family and a deep hatred for their unfounded struggles in life. The novel is fiction, but one can definitely see something like this actually happening during that dark period of American history and it gives the reader a deeper appreciation for the equality that all Americans are entitled to today.

Check out the movie, as well. It is by far one of my favorite film adaptations of the book. Nothing was changed, nothing was left out, and nothing was exaggerated. The movie was a perfect version of an already perfect book. Even my boyfriend loved it 😉