Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley

I really enjoyed this quiet story of tragedy, love and hope.
cover image from LibraryThing

Julia Forrester and her sister are stellar opposites. Julia has lost her son and husband in a horrible car accident and her sister, Alicia, has a house filled with family.  Julia is reeling from the loss and so paralyzed with grief that almost a year has slipped by.  As the spring comes to England it's time to get off the couch and see what is left of her life.

Alicia hovers nearby attempting to smooth out the life of her younger sister just as she always has.  And that brings them to the estate sale of the house where the girls' grandparents lived.  It's a crumbling old home that has been in the Crawford family for generations. And, just as Julia's life has fallen in ruins -so has the house.

But through chance meetings at the sale and in the subsequent days after - Julie begins to notice life.

This is a book of twists and turns. Each time I thought I knew what was next - I was mistaken. There are family secrets for generations which are laid bare due to time and circumstance. And Julia's biggest surprise shreds her fragile psyche, but gives her the strength to move on.

This is a great story. It mixes jolly old England with WWII, orchids, sister rivalry and a good old love story.  Highly recommended!

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

cover image from LibraryThing
I have been accused of liking books where nothing happens - where the characters are the story and that's about it.  

Well...this is another one of those stories... and I LOVED IT!!!

Henry Skrimshander. What kind of a character do you think he is?  Henry sounds a little nerdy, a little demure, a little bit in the background. But Skrimshander makes you stop and take notice. It's not a name you skim over.

Does that describe Henry?  Maybe. Henry is a baseball fanatic.  More than that though - Henry is the perfect baseball machine. He lives and breathes fielding and really nothing else. His goal in life is to be a shortstop. It may not even matter where that shortstop is -although the Cardinals are his ultimate favorite. That is due to a book Henry has mad his own story - The Art of Fielding by Aparicio Rodriguez, the best shortstop to ever play for the Cardinals.  

Henry is discovered by an ox of a catcher - Mike Schwarz who hails from a small liberal arts college - Westish - nestled on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Mike is the kind of contagious do-gooder who mothers everyone into being more of a person than they would be on their own. And his true love is Westish.  

There is also the president of the college, his messed up daughter who runs away from her husband and returns to live with her daddy, and Henry's very eccentric roommate.

But - mostly there is Henry. A kid who does everything right. A kid who makes his skills something most player only dream of. 

and then...he starts to think about it.

I have to tell you that reading about his baubles and brain freezes reminded me of my own swimming lessons way back in jr. high. I had taken swimming lessons for years and really loved to swim.  I could jump of the diving board and dive into the deep end with out pausing. Then one day,  I vividly remember standing on the end of the diving board absolutely frozen in fear.  It was impossible for me to jump off. I just couldn't do it again. and you know I never did. I haven't dived off an edge since. 

What in the world happens?  How can you have seasons of error free games and then not be able to toss an easy out at first base???  That is Henry's dilemma.  I have a feeling we can all relate to that!

One more thing before this review is finished. I read this book on my nook. So convenient and light weight and so disappointing.  I have discovered that books for me are a kind of commododity. As I read I am thinking about who I can recommend them to  - who I can share them with. This was no different. But, if it's on my nook it's only on my nook. I can't hand it to my baseball fanatic brother-in-law or my Cardinal fanatic nephews. I can't pick it up off my bookshelves and remember the spring vacation when I read it.  Books are more than the story for me...the physical book holds such appeal.  It's making me reconsider ebooks.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

cover image from LibraryThing
What an interesting book!  From the first pages you enter an unexpected world of magic and intrigue, magicians and the unknown.  In fact, the entire book keeps you just a little off center, just a little lost and confused - as if you are wandering around in the dark, and I think that is entirely Morgenstern's intention.

I really loved this book.  I love the quirky and unexpected and this is it.

The book is based on a gentleman's agreement - a bet between two ageless men to see whose protege reigns supreme.

As one of the men slowly disappears the other remains motionless in the process of time. But, their young pupils do not remain frozen. Instead, they slowly move out from under their older teachers to become something completely different.

The competition takes place in and around an incredible circus. The kind that runs only at night - on an unknown schedule - simply appearing and disappearing at seemingly at will.  At the core of the circus are two incredible magicians - each attempting to out do the other with tents of splendor all the while locked in an impossible contest that they aren't really even aware of.

So - this reminded me of an old movie - "Something Wicked This Way Comes."  The story of a circus and some  of the things going on behind the curtains. That is just how this book is. There are so many layers - so many slight of hands that a naive reader like me just doens't see.  But, that doesn't keep me from being mesmerized and returning again and again.

One Day by David Nicholls

cover image from LibraryThing
Ond of my favorite actresses is Anne Hathaway.  So, how could I pass of this book fair book. There was Anne snuggled up and looking happy.

This book took me a long time to really get into. I felt like it was way to predictable.  Brainy and semi-boring Emma has a short fling with gad-about-town Dexter.  There are moments that they could each follow to create a real romance - but college circumstances keep that from happening.  As the years pass Emma becomes more entrenched in her causes and significant friendships and Dexter looses  his grip on reality as he becomes rich and famous as a spokesperson for nothing.

Let's see what will happen - there will be an awakening and both will realize at the same moment that they are perfect for each other - fall madly in love and life will be perfect.

I kept waiting for that to happen. I mean duh!!!

But it didn't quite happen. Instead the years rolled by and Emma become famous - as a writer and Dexter faded into nothingness as drugs and stupidity took their toll.  Predictable.

And then it happened.  But it wasn't what we all thought.  It was more and it was less.

The end of the book redeemed itself.  But, I have to admit I would not have stuck with it without Anne as Emma.  I knew Anne was more than Emma's dreariness.  But, that was because of my belief in other Anne's not becasue of the book.

So - it's hard to recommend this.  I liked it - but the story has been done way to many times!!!