Monday, January 17, 2011

Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee

What a great read!

This is the story every overweight girl (and woman) wants to be able to tell - the year her life changed...she lost weight, found a boyfriend and a girl friend, and stopped allowing the nasty girls to control her. (OK - so an overweight woman's goals may be a bit different...)

Yes, it's a bit of a fairy tale. But, it's told so sweetly and so honestly that it is ok.

Rosemary is facing the worst Christmas ever, her skinny mom gave her a treadmill and her skinny aunt gave her tickets to a weight loss workshop. And Rosemary didn't ask for or want any of this. What she wanted was a date with her favorite guy...Mr. Hershey or Mr. M&M. But a chance conversation with an obese woman in her mom's salon forces Rosie to face what her life is and will be. When 300+ pound Mrs. McCrutchin says they look just alike, Rosie is freaked out...Really! She looks just like this huge woman.

As much as she is grossed out by that thought, food is her comfort. Especially as her mom and aunt become more and more secretive. Turns out her mom has cancer and her aunt is overprotective and more than a little mean. Rosie decides to start on a liquid diet without telling anyone.

And, the really cute guy, Kyle, notices her.

This is not a wake up one morning and life is wonderful, instead it's work. It's early morning workouts, gastric issues from liquid diets, the fear that any solid food will make all weight fly back on and the reality that the face looking back in the mirror might always seem like a fat girl.

You have to root for Rosie though. She is willing to try and she realizes that the life she has is not really a life. The first basketball game she attends in high school is by herself in the top row.

I really liked this - I would recommend it to all girls. So weight may not be their issue - but Rosie faces the demons in a way that would be helpful for any young gir.

at the MS library

The September Sisters by Jillian Cantor

So, how does a family continue after a daughter disappears? Especially if it is the sweet little sister, the one that everyone loves, the one who trusts and smiles and makes her older sister jealous? How can life go on?

That's what this book is all about. How do you continue?

Abigail is a 8th grader and her younger sister, Becky disappears from their house one night. No one knows what happens. She was just gone. As is the life that Abigail and Becky knew.

Suddenly people look at Abigail differently, her father and mother are both suspects and that makes everyone even more suspicious. Then school starts...Abigail's friends begin to fall away - her dad is overly protective and won't let her out of his sight and her mom can't seem to get out of bed.

This is a story of loneliness and friendship, of love and hate, of fear and freedom and of the surprising people who help you understand it all.

In the MS library

Wolf Rider by AVI

So, this is another book with an unfortunate title. It's an excellent suspense novel - but I expected it to be about Native Americans or Eskimos or something - who else would ride a wolf.

Instead this is the story of a boy, Andy, who answers the phone one evening and is told about a gruesome murder committed by the man on the other end of the phone. But, no one believes him. NO ONE! His father thinks he's crazy, his guidance counselor thinks he is hiding his anger, the police think he's making it up, and the girl who was the victim thinks Andy is coming on to her when he tries to warn her.

This story draws on the angst and frustration of a teenager who has information that NO ONE else believes. What can he do but try to solve it himself.

This is a cliff hanger and page turner!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

What a title -'s more than a mouthful. But, it is the heart and soul of this story. A story of friendship, betrayal, World War II, love and simple things.

As much as I loved it I have to confess that I can't remember the details very well. I read it all in one sitting - in my bathtub. So, needless to say there was quite a bit of skimming going on!

Basically the book follows an author who has finished a successful series and is sort of poking along for another idea. She receives a letter from a man from Guernsey (a small island off the English coast) who has a book that used to be hers. This is the start of a friendship which slowly grows as Juliet, the author, and Dawsey, the Guernsey native.

Through this friendship she learns of the five year Nazi occupation of the island, the decision to send away the island's children prior to the Nazi arrival, the prisoners who were worked to death on the island and the ways that the natives sustained themselves right under the Nazi's noses.

This is one of those books that grabs your imagination and pulls at your heart. As you find out about the austerity measures and starvation, the rules and limitations.
As Juliet travels to the island to really find out about these people. As she becomes friends and discovers who they really are and what has motivated them.

This is a great WWII book, but it's so much more than just that.

Enjoy it!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer

This is the January book club book. It was my suggestion and I was a little nervous about it...I was told to make a suggestions that was light and fun to read. I was very afraid this was going to be light and dumb! But, I was pleasantly surprised. It was one that I really enjoyed. A great fast December read!

The premise is four women meet at a retirement party. They are unknown to one another. Each has been introduced to the reader in previous chapters - for some of them we know a little too much! Each lady comes to the party with fears and hesitations and a problem of some sort.

Through the course of the party they bump together - bond - decide to flee for chocolate - all in WAY to short a time. But, it's a book after all.

Each woman family problem: a daughter whose husband might be having an affair, a woman approaching the upper limits of her career and sure her coworker is attempting to run her out of her job, another whose husband really doesn't know she exists, and one who has a dream of opening her own spa. Over more than one dessert they decide to attempt to solve each others problems.

Now this sounds quite contrived and ridiculous - and actually it is. But you really get to like the women and that makes it easier to overlook the book's flaws. It's all about suspending disbelief...

My very favorite part is a wonderful description of what love is for a happily and very long married couple and how that has evolved and changed. Faye is describing what she misses most since her husband's death. It is poignant and telling - it made me believe that Thayer herself is in the midst of a very long-term and loving marriage. It brought tears to my eyes!!

This is the first of a series -and I didn't love it so much that I want to rush out and read the rest.

These is my Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 Arizona Territories by Nancy Turner

This is an EXCELLENT book!
I was a little hesitant when this book was chosen for our book club. Why did I want to read an old diary and who would ever want to live in the Arizona Territories? It had to be hot and boring!

Well - I was mistaken! Sarah is the daughter of a pioneer who believes that girls should have the same skills as boys - so she could ride and shoot and work. Her family was moving East to Texas. Yes - east...
On the way they are attacked by Indians and her papa is killed. Mama goes a little off in her head and Sarah is the one getting things done. That continues when the other family in the wagon train - a Mormon family with prissy, beautiful girls, is caught up in a terrible attack. It is Sarah who has the sense to react - much to the families dismay.

The story follows Sarah back to Arizona and her toils to begin the horse ranch her Daddy wanted. It continues through a horrible, loveless marriage, the birth of her daughter and death of her husband. It is there that Sarah thinks her life will end...but... Turner doesn't stop it there.

Woven through the tail is Captain Jack Elliot. He was army leader of the wagon train and seemed to catch Sarah's eye. He appears a time or two at her ranch - finally being rescued by Sarah after his horse had gone off a cliff and trapped him. The two love/hate/love/like each other, finally, coming together in a wonderful marriage of love and respect.

Sarah is the kind of woman I imagine I would have been back there in pioneer times. But, would I have been willing to fight off a crazed mountain man as a young girl, live through a marriage to a man in love with someone else, and brave an unknown life in the growing town of Tuscon. Probably not!

I was struck again and again at how hard these women had to work. I mean REALLY hard. Late in the story, when Sarah is wealthy, living in one of the largest houses in Tuscon she still has to slave over an a hot fire to do laundry, cook, heat water for baths... I am so happy to be able to push the button for the washer and crawl into a deep relaxing bath.

Turner has created a main character that I cared about and really wanted to know.
There are two other Sarah Prine books..Sarah's Quilt and The Star Garden. They are both in my shelves and hopefully soon on my bedside table!

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Pale Assassin by Patricia Elliott

I really wanted to like this book. It has a great title and an interesting picture of a pale heroine on the cover. But, she is not the assassin. And the book just didn't quite live up to it's potential.

There is a damsel in distress, a dashing young man, a mysterious evil older man, a hard-working and overly involved brother. All those ingredients should add up to a great story...

The story even takes place in France at a time when all the old is being overthrown by the new. It's the Revolution and the wealthy are having a hard time holding on to what they have as the poor get fed up with being hungry all the time. It's a time of sword fights, horses and carriages and even the guillotine.

So, I would challenge you to read this story and tell me what you think. Did I miss something?