Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield

Rating: 3 out of 5 horses (average)

Pages: 432

Challenges: New Author, Audio, Support your Local Library, Dewey Recommended, Numbers, Book Awards, 20 in 2009

Synopsis (and picture from BN.com)
Margaret Lea works in her father's antiquarian bookshop where her fascination for the biographies of the long-dead has led her to write them herself. She gets a letter from one of the most famous authors of the day, the mysterious Vida Winter, whose popularity as a writer has been in no way diminished by her reclusiveness. Until now, Vida has toyed with journalists who interview her, creating outlandish life histories for herself - all of them invention. Now she is old and ailing, and at last she wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. Her letter to Margaret is a summons.

Somewhat anxiously, the equally reclusive Margaret travels to Yorkshire to meet her subject - and Vida starts to recount her tale. It is one of Gothic strangeness featuring the March family; the fascinating, devious and wilful Isabelle and the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline.

Margaret is captivated by the power of Vida's storytelling. But as a biographer she deals in fact not fiction, and she doesn't entirely trust Vida's account. She goes to check up on the family, visiting their old home and piecing together their story in her own way. What she discovers on her journey to the truth is for Margaret a chilling and transforming experience.
I was disappointed in this book. I think that it is possible it was all the great reviews it has gotten, but also that I read it over a period of time. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I read it faster and would have kept the characters straight. Although the end of the book did surprise me which was nice.

Envy - Anna Godberson

Rating: 4 out of 5 horses

Pages: 416

Challenges: Young Adult, Support Your Local Library, 20 in 2009
Series: Luxe #3

Synopsis (and picture from BN.com)

Jealous whispers.
Old rivalries.
New betrayals.

Two months after Elizabeth Holland's dramatic homecoming, Manhattan eagerly awaits her return to the pinnacle of society. When Elizabeth refuses to rejoin her sister Diana's side, however, those watching New York's favorite family begin to suspect that all is not as it seems behind the stately doors of No. 17 Gramercy Park South.

Farther uptown, Henry and Penelope Schoonmaker are the city's most celebrated couple. But despite the glittering diamond ring on Penelope's finger, the newlyweds share little more than scorn for each other. And while the newspapers call Penelope's social-climbing best friend, Carolina Broad, an heiress, her fortune—and her fame—are anything but secure, especially now that one of society's darlings is slipping tales to the eager press.

Another good one in this series. I didn't like it as well as the others but it was still really good. This story ended with a setup for the next book (which I think is the last). In this we see Diana and Henry still loving each other even though he marries someone else...and Elizabeth in a predicament from being married to Will. We also see a new love emerge for Teddy, but will he ever get to be with the girl he loves? We will have to wait until book 4 to find out. I would recommend this series for anyone who is wanting a Young Adult book.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Forty Days - Jill Smolinski

Short Story Title: Forty Days
Author: Jill Smolinski
Book: American Girls About Town
Rating: 4 out of 5 horses

First Line:

"I didn't think it was any big deal. Turning forty."
This is a quirky story about Donna who is turning 40 and feels her life is too conservative. So she decides for the 40 days before her birthday she is going to do something she has never done an each day is different. Her first task is to go skinny dipping - which goes great until her Dad walks into the pool.
I really liked this story and liked the concept of doing 40 things and Donna going out of her comfort zone. Getting out of her comfort zone was a big success...and her last task was excellent. I could really relate to Donna feeling like she lead too conservative life and challenging herself...I might think to do this when I turn 40 (which will be in a little over a year and 1/2).
One of my favorite ideas from this story is "Ghost Fat" -this is for people who have lost weight but still see themselves as fat and still act as if they are fat.
"...There's a whole other world out there. It's filled with the type of people who don't think twice abut going away last-minute. Who as a matter of habit drop everything and do the sorts of things I was trying desperately to cram into forty days. Making up for forty years."
I really like this quote because I can relate...I am also not a spontaneous person and couldn't just run off to Vegas because someone else was ready...especially now that I am a Mom...as if I couldn't get more conservative and less spontaneous...but it happened!! LOL! But then again I wouldn't give it up!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bad Manners - Chris Manby (Short Story)

Short Story Title: Bad Manners

Author: Chris Manby

Book: American Girls About Town

Rating: 3 out of 5 horses
First Line:

"And then one day my Prince did come along..."
This story was well named - about a British man who the main character was dating who had horrible manners to others and pointed out every mistake others made. The main character and he finally broke up - and she had a one night stand...then she had bad manners. It was a cute 12 page story.
My favorite quote:
"You don't have to look too closely to realize that those little things he jokes about at the start of your passionate romance are going to be the big things that tear you apart later on. Your funny laugh is going to become a witch's cackle. That cute mole on your neck is the beginnings of a wart."

Just Visiting - Nancy Sparling

Short Story Title: Just Visiting

Author: Nancy Sparling
Book: American Girls About Town
Rating: 5 out of 5 horses

First Line:

"'You didn't.' I say, gripping the phone so tightly my knuckles turn white. I must have misheard her. My mother wouldn't have told those tow they could stay at my place. She wouldn't do that to me."

This is a story about Danni - who has moved to London after her fiance Tom married Susie - 2 weeks before Tom and Danni's wedding. And to add insult to injury purchased the house that Danni loved for him and Susie. A real winner huh?!

Now Danni's Mom has invited Kim (Tom's sister) and Michelle to Danni's for a 2 week visit. What Danni's Mom doesn't know is that Danni has been lying about her life in London - the great apartment she lives in is actually the home of one of the dogs that she walks and the gorgeous boyfriend is actually a client she has never met.

So now Danni has to hide her lies from Kim and Michelle so they take news to her small town that she is doing great. In the middle of one of her lies she meets a handsome man who helps her with her lies and it seems wants to take her out on a date!

A quote I liked:

"They should put us a warning signs on the highway at the edge of town. Beware: you are now entering a high-gossip area. Before taking any action, you should first stop and think, What will people say? Or, even better, WWPS bracelets should be handed out at birth and worn at all times. (263)"

I have lived in several small towns and this is SOO true!

I would like to read more of this author.

I Know a Woman - Quinn Dalton (short story)

Short Story Title: I Know a Woman
Author: Quinn Dalton
Book: American Girls About Town
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 horses

First Line:

"Let's call her Judy. I like the simple names that sound as if they could belong to your next-door neighbor or the mother of your best friend in the second grade."

This story is about a woman and her husband Dennis. They work together and there is a woman in the office who is discovered to be a stripper. The couple goes to see Judy strip...which seems to be the beginning of the end of their marriage...Dennis soon has an affair (not with Judy). The main character divorces him and takes half of the company. She then crashes parties and is busted out of a Millionaire's dinner by Neil. This is where we hear the details of the demise of the marriage.
I really liked this story and would like to read more by Quinn Dalton. I liked the way the story connected to Judy and the things that happened to her and her daughter and how it doesn't reveal everything at the beginning.
Is it just me or does anyone else have a hard time with the story teller's name in short stories? I am not sure if some of them are not called by their names or if it just happens so infrequently that I miss it. It's very frustrating for me!

The Two-Month Itch - Sarah Mlynowski (short story)

Short Story Title: The Two-Month Itch

Author: Sarah Mlynowski

Book: American Girls About Town

Rating: 3 out of 5 horses

First Line:

"You're having an urge to kiss the boy sitting next to you on the plane."
This story is about a girl who is debating on cheating on her boyfriend of 2 months with a guy who is on the plane. This story has different options - does she cheat and what happens - does she not cheat and what happens. The interesting thing is that regardless of her decision to cheat or not the story ends the same! I thought that was a neat twist about the story - and also if you are like me and a "what if" person it's comforting to know that regardless of the decision the story ends the same. It kind of reminds me of the movie Sliding Doors - only because the story is the same no matter what choice Gweneth Paltrow character picks.
Also I have been on the receiving end of the 2-month itch. I went through a couple of years where my relationships RARELY went 2 months 1 day! :)

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Chili Queen - Sandra Dallas

Rating: 4 of 5 horses

Pages: 292

Challenges: Library, Romance, Book Awards (SPUR), 20 in 2009

Synopsis (and picture from BN.com)
Life may have been hard on Addie French, but when she meets friendless Emma Roby on a train, all her protective instincts emerge. Emma's brother is seeing her off to Nalgitas to marry a man she has never met. And Emma seems like a lost soul to Addie-someone who needs Addie's savvy and wary eye. It isn't often that Addie is drawn to anyone as a friend, but Emma seems different somehow. When Emma's prospective fails to show up at the train depot, Addie breaks all her principles to shelter the girl at her brothel, The Chili Queen. But once Emma enters Addie's life, the secrets that unfold and schemes that are hatched cause both women to question everything they thought they knew.

I liked this book it surprised me which is always nice. I can see why it won a Spur Award. Although I have enjoyed all of Sandra Dallas's books I have read - this is probably one of my favorites. The characters were good and believable and the twists and turns were completely believable too! One was a little bit of a challenge - a man acting as a woman, but in the end I think I can accept that too!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Andromeda on the Street of Ducklings - Judi Hendricks (Short Story)

Short Story Title: Andromeda on the Street of Ducklings
Author: Judi Hendricks
Book: American Girls About Town
Rating: 5 out of 5 horses

First Line:

"It's eleven o'clock on a Tuesday morning in May, and I'm Standing on Boulevard St. Germain des Pres in front of the beautiful old church of the same name. My suitcase sits next to me on the sidewalk and my daypack is slung over my back. I'm vaguely aware that tears are leaking out of my eyes and rolling down my face."

This is a story of getting through grief. Andy has lost her soul mate 1 month before they are supposed to get married. He passed away in a motorcycle accident. After having problems dealing with her grief and the 1 year anniversary of Evan's death she spontaneously decides to take a trip to Paris.
While in Paris she stays at a bed-n-breakfast run by Pauline. Andy and Pauline become friends and Pauline helps Andy get through her grief like none of her friends have been able to do.
I really enjoyed the writing and the characters of this story. I want to know more about what happens with Andy and Pauline and if they stay friends. I also like how the title works into the story. I love that when stories guide you to why it is titled the way it is. I feel like it's a mystery solved. I highly recommend this story. I have Bread Alone by Judi Hendricks so I am eager to start reading it!

Amore - Laura Wolf (short story)

Short Story Title: Amore
Author: Laura Wolf
Book: American Girls About Town
Rating: 2 out of 5 horses

First Line:
"So why was everyone bend out of shape?"

This story is about Linda who likes to date foreign men and her family can't understand this. When they have the opportunity to meet these men they typically don't like them. She starts dating an Italian man named Raffael and arranges a dinner with him and her family. To her surprise her family loves him. She is so worried about how her family feels about him that this incredible dinner she has planned is ruined dish by dish because she is trying to ease drop on what is happening with her family and Raffael. She is so preoccupied that the meal is ruined and the kitchen eventually catches on fire. The story insinuates that she may have started the fire on purpose. I think she was so obsessed with making a great meal that it wouldn't surprise me to know that she burned the kitchen down rather than to admit that the meal was ruined. Also, the story insinuates that after the evening she doesn't see Raffael again - so clearly she was looking for a man that her family didn't like.

This story was odd. I didn't really enjoy it much. I would be interested to hear of anyone who has read anything else by Laura Wolf and what they thought about her writing. At this point I don't think I would read anything else by her without a high recommendation by someone else.