Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Aunt Dimity and the Duke

Aunt Dimity and the Duke by Nancy Atherton
The second of the Aunt Dimity books surprised me a bit. I was expecting the continuing story of Lori Shepard, but found instead the back story of Emma, Lori’s friend and next door neighbor. It was actually quite groovy to see how Aunt Dimity was interwoven in other people’s lives before she came into Lori’s. This is a gothic romance with a modern twist and just enough of a ghost story thrown in to keep the ball rolling. You’ll enjoy it.

By the way, there are several books in a series that I read. I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand the thought of reading books out of order. It always makes me feel like I’ve missed out on something. To solve this problem I’ve written out a list of books in order which you can check out here. -Flourish

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Magic Treehouse #5: Night of the Ninjas

Magic Treehouse #5: Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne.

Well, if anyone (other than Flourish) had told me that my six year old won't- sit- still- longer- than-5- minutes-or- pay- attention-to- anything- not- on- the- TV child would listen, enthralled, to a chapter book, and remember what we read over the course of a week, and beg me to read an extra chaper every night, I would have said they were crazy. But that's exactly what happened, thanks to Mary Pope Osborne and her magic treehouse. The Magic Treehouse series introduced us to Jack and Annie, who find a magic treehouse full of books. If they open a book, they can go to the place it describes. They visit dinosaurs, knights, pirates, and in the episode we read, ninjas. My son learned that the ninjas lived in ancient Japan and that they had a high appreciation for nature. He LOVED this book, and I plan on getting the entire series. We read a chapter or two each night and finished this book in about 6 days (there are 10 short chapters). I am so glad that we found the magic treehouse! These books are wonderful and I would recommend them for kids ages 5-8. - Blotts

Monday, August 29, 2005

Vanishing Acts

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult (audio)

Was he right to take his four year old daughter away from her alcoholic mother, disappearing for 28 years? This is the central question of the book that is summarized quite succinctly when the character of Andrew says that the reader has already made up their mind. Either you think he was right or you think he was wrong.

Jodi has written a compelling book about breaking the law in order to protect your innocent child. She delves deep into the minds of the participants by telling the story in the voice of the four main characters. This is a very interesting story about love and loss and the lies that we tell ourselves in order to have peace of mind. This enjoyable character study deals with some hard boiled ethical questions. Starting in New Hampshire and traveling to Arizona we follow the life and loves of Delia Hopkins who, ironically, earns her money through search and rescue of lost people. We also see glimpses of Mexican and Native American culture as well as the horrors of the American jail system.

I recommend against listening to this book on audio. The tempo is far too slow. I nearly gave up on it a couple of times but I’m glad I persevered because the story was a very good one. The narrator reading Fitz’s voice grated on my nerves. I figure this book is best read visually rather that auditorily. -Flourish

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Style on a Budget

Style on a Budget by Emily Chalmers
The thing is, the cover of this book states "Emily Chalmers with words by Ali Hanan and photography by Debi Treloar". This begs the question, who is the author of this book? I guess Emily is the designer who put the rooms together.

This book is pretty typical of decorating books available today. There are lots of colorful pictures that inspire you to embrace trash to convert to treasure. Color is definitely the name of the game as the designer must enjoy working with it. This book was ok. Some pictures have a European flair to them and are nice to look at but the text isn’t really anything that I haven’t read before in other decorating books. It’s full of advice such as evaluate what the room will be used for, but then it doesn’t tell you how to set up the room to best accommodate those needs. The tips sidebar in each section does have some cheap, handy dandy ideas. Overall, check it out from the library and enjoy the pictures. -Flourish

Friday, August 26, 2005

Under the Lake

Under the Lake by Stuart Woods

Wow was this book ever one long, bumpy ride. I picked up this paperback because it’s assigned to the developmental reading class and I was curious to know what it was all about. You’ve got to admit that it’s pretty tough to find a book that’s an easy read that is exciting enough and interesting enough to appeal to a wide variety of dispassionate, nearly illiterate, first generation college students. Yet this book may indeed fit the bill. Alcohol, misery, murder, drugs, sex, incest, undercover journalists, this book has got it all!

Written before the normalization of cell phones we find our main character escaping his life by moving to a remote Georgia mountain cabin and attempting to ghost write a book. Ghost is the key issue here as they turn up unexpectedly as everyone carefully avoids discussing what is under the man made lake. The excitement only intensifies as he hooks up with a journalist on the lookout for someone dirty. A little bit of everything rolled into one it’s an interesting story that will kill an afternoon for you in a fun way. -Flourish

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason

I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason: A Cece Caruso Mystery by Susan Kandel

Did you grow up watching old Perry Mason reruns on TV? Or were you of an early generation that grew up reading Erle Stanley Gardner novels? If either of these is true or if you just love a good female mystery with a bit of vintage fashion thrown in, then this is the book for you.

Susan has written a completely lovable, imperfect character in fortysomething Cece Caruso. A biographer by trade, our character has panache for vintage fashion unlike that of any other character I've read in fiction. It truly helps that one of her best friends runs a vintage clothing store. Cece is writing Erle Stanley Gardner's biography but ends up in her own mystery along the way. There are plenty of amusing supporting characters to delight as well. What a fun read! -Flourish

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Aunt Dimity’s Death

Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton (audio)
The first book in the Aunt Dimity series was quite enchanting! Our heroine Lori Shepard was stuck in a depressing rut when she discovered the Aunty Dimity stories her mother told her as a child were actually true! It seems that Aunty Dimity was a real live person who has left Lori an inheritance provided that she can recall, in detail, Aunt Dimity’s stories. The lessons learned are valuable in many ways and bring our main character an understanding of life that will carry her forward throughout the series and may remind readers what is important in life. Look for a little romance thrown in against a beautiful, serene English cottage background. A ghost story to delight! -Flourish

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Pads for Pets

Pads for Pets: fabulous projects for your furry, feathered, and ‘phibious friends by Elizabeth Quinn
Dogs, cats, mice, toads? This book has sample homemade homes for a vast menagerie of animal friends. A couple of them are a bit out of my league both budget and skill wise but most fall somewhere in the realm of possibilities. I can totally handle a pet bed made up of stuffed socks all sewn up together. What’s really cool about this book is that it gets you thinking about all the different ways that you can adapt their designs to your own taste and imagination. Most of the materials are cheap and readily available. I especially liked the bird lover’s duplex made out of a tall pole, a pair of binoculars, and two pencils. Clever! Tasty treat recipes for pets and good photographs make this book one to seek out at the library. -Flourish

Friday, August 19, 2005

Madame Bovary's Ovaries

Madame Bovary's Ovaries: a Darwinian look at literature by David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash

This book may be a little on the dry side for most of our readers but it is indeed a compelling look at literature from a nurture vs. nature perspective. Fairly academic in nature, Ovaries is well documented and provides references for many of its illustrations. Following classic examples such as Shakespeare’s Othello, Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as well as more modern ones like Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Puzo’s Godfather.

This was an interesting book that encourages you to examine some of your favorite literature from a different perspective. We already know that Bridget Jones is looking for the ideal mate but this book spells it out as a physical trait of survival. You may or may not agree with the authors' conclusions but it sure makes for an interesting read! -Flourish

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Lost

Lost by Gregory Maguire
Since I couldn't find Wicked: the life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West in my local public library stacks, I brought Gregory’s third book home instead. Early pages mention J.K. Rowling and muggles, middle ones are made up of constant fantasy literature references of the sort that we grew up with, and the entire book ends with the word “disillusion” (which frankly put a huge grin on my face). These reasons make this book quite enthralling. Though this is the first of Gregory’s books that I’ve read, it was a complete delight, impossible to put down. The lead character isn’t exactly a saint, in fact, you could almost call her a b*tch, but truly she is a fabulous heroine. Perhaps she's enjoyable because she appeals to my millennium southern belle largess. Regardless, she is a refreshing alternative to the blue eyed, blond haired sissys that star in many novels. Spanning Boston to London and finally to northern France, this literary ride is worth every moment. Did I mention that this is a ghost story? Try it, you’ll love it! -Flourish

Monday, August 15, 2005

When the Wind Blows

When the Wind Blows by James Patterson. Reading this book was like listening to one of my all-time favorite songs being played terribly off key- in a word- FRUSTRATING!!! Why the frustration? Because James Patterson created a fantastic storyline, and wrote an incredible first chapter, and then threw his brilliant beginning away! He jumped from third person narration (which worked really well), to first person narration (which was terrible, as he was writing from the female perspective. It sounded like a man trying to think like a woman... and it ruined what would have otherwise been a great character.) The narrative shifts were bad enough, but when you toss in the crude language and grotesque scenes of violence and add the constant television and pop culture references, you end up with a real disappointment. What a shame! This story could have been a great one: children are genetically engineered to fly, science goes too far, lives are ruined and futures hang in the balance... like I said, a great plot. Unfortunately, readers cannot live on plot alone. -Blotts

Flea Market Finds & How to Restore Them

Flea Market Finds & How to Restore Them by Caroline Atkins
Blotts, I’m going to have to thank you for giving me this book. Turns out that your bane is my blessing and the book you tossed out that landed in my hands has come in handy. Initially appearing to be one of those nice to look at decorating books, this one actually has some highly useful text to accompany the pretty pictures. The chapters are broken down into practical categories such as wood, glass, textiles, etc. There is also a fabulous index to help you figure out where things are.

I cracked this book ready to do battle on all the junque we drag home from the thrift store, rubbish bins, and in my husband's latest case, a recent excavation of a former homestead being prepared to receive a new house. Eight bottles later we were left with filthy, cloudy glass that didn’t want to come clean until (enter cue music) this book gave an excellent, cheap solution. Bottom line, this book is a keeper and would be an excellent and pretty reference book for your shelves. - Flourish

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Mermaid Chair

The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd (audio)
Fresh off finishing The Secret Life of Bees I hurriedly put my name on the library waiting list for Sue’s new book. What a disappointment this book was. She uses the same plot devises but with a slightly different story even down to using physical icons. The mermaid chair is equitable to the black Madonna statue in Bees. I simply could not enjoy a storyline about a married, middle aged heroine suddenly wanting to have an affair with a monk because her youngest child just left home. I enjoyed Bees so much that I was truly disappointed in Mermaid and had to stop about half way through.

Another fatal error I made is to listen to the audio book rather than read the physical book. The reading was truly awful. Sometimes the narrator used a southern accent and other times she didn’t. At first I understood that it was because she was telling the monk’s story and the woman’s story separately. Huh, I guess the monk wasn’t allowed to be southern. Regardless, the rhythm was never quite right and I would recommend that the reader come on down here to Georgia and sit at a Nu Way Weiner counter, enjoy a Coke and an award winning hot dog and just listen to conversations around her.

You may enjoy this book if you meet all of the following criteria: 1) You have not read The Secret Life of Bees 2) you are southern 3) you read the physical book and avoid the audio book like the plague -Flourish

Friday, August 12, 2005

White Oleander

White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Janet Fitch's first novel became a huge hit after Oprah read it. Oleander sold something like a zillion copies, and then was made into a movie. I didn't go see the movie, though, because I could not stand the idea of watching this story played out on the big screen - I think it just would have been too painful to watch. Astrid, herione of Oleander, is forced into the foster care system after her mother is sent to prison for murdering an ex-lover. Astrid's life, both before and after her mother's arrest, is terrible, and her story is absolutely heart-wrenching. She suffers every form of abuse I can imagine, at the hands of everyone charged with caring for her. It actually hurt me to read this book. Don't get me wrong - Fitch is a talented writer and I stayed up late to finish the story. Oleander is a suspensful page turner; but it is dark and disturbing and some of the scenes are flat out haunting. I applaude Fitch's creative, decriptive style, and her ability to suck her reader into a vivid world that feels real to all the senses, but I would not recommend this book to anyone who is overly tenderhearted (as I am). - Blotts

Eragon

Eragon (Inheritance Trilogy #1) by Christopher Paolini. I have to tip my hat to Christopher Paolini. He was a teenager when he wrote Eragon, and he writes better than most of the adults I know. Submitting a book at any age takes courage and conviction, and I think Mr. Paolini's accomplishment is an incredible one. Eragon tells the story of a boy and his dragon, and the destiny they share. I absolutely loved the beginning of this book - the scenes where the egg is lost, and then found by Eragon (who thinks the egg is a stone), the discovery and hatching of the baby dragon - were all great. I really wanted to hear more about the history of the dragons, but alas, that part of the story was cut short. Maybe there will be more backstory in the next installment (Eldest), due out soon. Then again, part of me does not want to read Eldest, for fear that it will be as predictable as the ending of Eragon. I hate to say it, but after the dragon hatches, the story gets a little short on character development and big on journey, (which is probably OK with most readers.) For me, though, character development and many-layered storytelling are important, and these things were missing from the second half of this book. It's definitely worth reading, though, and there are some great moments. I bet that the writing will become even better as the author gets a little older and wiser himself. -Blotts

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Undomestic Goddess

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
Known for her Shopaholic series, Sophie has written a thoroughly enjoyable thirtysomething, single woman book set in London and the Cotswolds. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I found it to be funnily entertaining. Our workaholic corporate lawyer heroine shellshockly walks out of her job and into that of a domestic servant’s. It’s amusing to watch her learn new householdy skills and rediscover herself and all her capabilities. Naturally she finds love along the way but that part of the storyline is quite secondary to the fact that she finds herself first. A couple of somewhat predicable surprises thrown in don’t detract from the humorous plot. Set your cell phone to vibrate and turn your Blackberry off because you’ll breeze through this one in no time. - Flourish

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Forget Perfect

Forget Perfect by Lisa Earle McLeod with JoAnn Swan Neely. I had the pleasure of meeting Lisa McLeod a couple of months ago, and I must say that she was absolutely marvelous. She has a great sense of humor and a fabulous personality and they shine brightly throughout this book. This is a "how to guide" for women who do too much, too often, for too many people, and hold themselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection. The truth is, we can't do it all right all the time, at least not without losing our true selves. This book will make you laugh, realize the importance of hanging out with your friends, rethink your priorities, and hopefully, appreciate yourself a little bit more. Reading this book is like sharing a cup of coffee with a comedian, a teacher and a life coach. Buy copies for all the women in your life! - Blotts

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Butterfly House

The Butterfly House by Marcia Preston
A quick read that had me shivering throughout but not from fright, oh no, from cold. I guess I should have gotten a clue about that from the snow ensconced house on the cover. This mediocre book is set in Canada and Oregon and tells the story of two sets of mother daughter relationships. Watching these relationships unfold was the saving grace.

One particularly annoying thing is the fact that the book is told completely in the past with the main story set in the early nineties and the flashbacks occurring in the seventies. Now don’t get me wrong here, I don’t mind a bit of flashback every now and again to shed illumination on the players but there was a wee tad too much for me in this tome. I totally get why it was important to set the main story in the nineties as well. The advent of technology in the last ten years must be a fiction author’s worst nightmare. I can just image having to write a story around it while readers ask themselves aloud “why doesn’t she just Blackberry him?” or “I’ll just give him a jingle on his cell”. Setting the main story in the early nineties allows the author to use plot-furthering devices such as letter writing and the white pages. Overall, if you’re a butterfly enthusiast or thoroughly enjoy mother daughter relationship novels then this book is for you. - Flourish

Monday, August 08, 2005

Paradise Fields

Paradise Fields by Katie Fforde
This is one of those books that you start reading and really hope the writing will improve after a few pages. But it doesn’t. You know in your heart of hearts that it won’t. The best thing to do at this point is to chuck it back into the “needs to go back to the library” stack. An interesting plot line that could have been a fun story in the hands of a different writer but the boring minutia coupled with the plot predictability forced me to stop reading after thirty or so pages. I won’t bother to pick up any of her other books unless someone gives them a glowing recommendation. -Flourish

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Year of Pleasures

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth delivers a very sweet story about a recently widowed woman who moves to some random town to start over again. This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I really enjoyed it. The writing style was almost subtle in its attempts to explain the story in a way that really gave me pleasure. There was no in your face attitude as with so many of the books written today. I guess you could argue the result is a very boring book, but you know what? Sometimes boring is good. This was a story about everyday life and everyday problems and how ordinary people deal with them. This book was a quick, refreshing read that is recommended for those folks who want to slow the pace down a little. - Flourish

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No, David!

No, David! by David Shannon. I'd like to meet David Shannon one day. Anyone who can write a book that my son BEGS me to read to him is, in my opinion, an unequivocal genius. And this book is my little boy's absolute favorite. There are just a few words on every page- this story is mostly told in the gorgeous and hilarious illustrations. David gets in all kinds of trouble, but is always reassured that his mother loves him. Every little boy I know has shared at least a few moments in common with David. Highly recommended as a "read out loud to me" book for ages 2 to 7- this one is a keeper. (I also recommend David Gets In Trouble.) -Blotts

Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (audio)
What a delightful story of a young southern girl’s life set in the 60s. Fourteen year old Lily Owen starts out in Georgia but ends up in South Carolina following her long dead mother's path. She finally meets some interesting folks that eventually care for and love her. The enjoyable audio book's narrator actually sounds like a young southern girl. An interesting background plot point is the undercurrent of equal rights for black folks and the abolition of Jim Crow laws. A handful of disturbing scenes of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her father but overall this book is a heartwarming coming of age story. What can I say? I love sappy, sentimental books. Bottom line: if you're a southern women you will most likely enjoy this book. - Flourish

Friday, August 05, 2005

Holes

Holes by Louis Sachar. I have always been a fan of Louis Sachar ( I especially love There's a Boy in the Girl's Bathroom), but Holes is by far my favorite Sachar book. Stanley, star of Holes, is cursed, and the curse cannot be lifted until a very old promise is fulfilled... the plot is wonderful, the characters are fabulous and the sub plots and backstory are just ingenious. This book is touching and tender in places, but for the most part it is laugh-out-loud funny. I read this book at red lights and on lunch breaks and couldn't read it fast enough... One of my all time favorites and highly recommended. - Blotts

Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore

Sammy's Hill by Kristin Gore (audio)
This book is an enjoyable trip through a Senate underling staffer’s love and neuroses on a backdrop of work on Capitol Hill. Women addicted to CNN and C-Span will most likely enjoy this book about the trials and tribulations of Sammy Joyce, a bright, hard working young woman who deludes herself about the sincerity of her boyfriend and the ways and means of how the government works. BTW, when did Blackberrys become the latest thing?

My favorite minor character in the book is Sammy’s pet Japanese fighting fish Shackleton. Named for the famed arctic explorer, Shackleton is perpetually practicing for his demise by posing in dramatic death poses. Bottom line: a good book to pop into the CD player and clean the house. - Flourish

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Coming Soon to The Restricted Section

The greatly anticipated Flourish & Blotts reviews of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (well, greatly anticipated by us, anyway) are coming soon to a blog near you. We LOVED this book, of course, and are working hard on reviews that will do it justice. We'll be posting these, along with some of our theories and "things to watch for in Book 7", as well as a guide to reading HP (to share with those you know and love who are relectant to read this incredible series.) Stay tuned and check in with The Restricted Section often! - Flourish & Blotts

Deception Point

Deception Point by Dan Brown. When most people hear the name Dan Brown, they think of the Da Vinci Code, but my favorite Dan Brown novel has nothing to do with Da Vinci. Deception Point is a work of science, politics, discovery and mystery; it explores the Arctic, the White House and the workings of NASA. Today's technology is advanced enough to make this story possible, and the writing is good enough to suck you in. I've read The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and Digital Fortress, and in my humble opinion, Deception Point is a product of Dan Brown at his finest. This book is exciting, scary and very, very smart. - Blotts

Salvage Sisters: Guide to Finding Style in the Street and Inspiration in the Attic

The Salvage Sisters’ Guide to finding style in the street and inspiration in the attic by Kathleen Hackett & Mary Ann Young
This type of book is usually right up my alley as I’m completely addicted to Shabby Chic and the Paris Apartment. I’m all about reuse, recycle and creating a hip, happenin’ home because of it. But this book didn’t really do it for me. Perhaps it was because despite their claim that the ideas were new and unique, they were actually repeats of ones that I’ve read about before. Yes, I’ve heard the tip about cutting up an old ball gown and using the skirt as a table cloth. No, I’ve never actually cut up an old ball gown and used the skirt as a table cloth. Who the heck would? I also took issue with the fact that said ball gown was stolen out of the donation bin at Goodwill. Granted they were donating clothing items themselves but isn’t it against the law and morally wrong to steal something out of the donation bin?

Ball fringe wreaths and newspaper Christmas ornaments may have their place in the world but I can’t see myself creating them anytime soon. Don’t get me wrong now, I loved looking at this book as seeing the inventive ways they’ve used trash. I adored the little custom made dog sweater and delighted to see both families trussed up in various garments all cut from the same wild cloth pattern. I also thoroughly enjoyed reading about their family history. Apparently they are real sisters, their mother having bore nine (yep), nine children. I’m tired just thinking of that. But here is the real kicker: Mom obviously wanted to simplify things a bit and named each and every girl Mary. Now there is a time saver! Bottom line: check it out from the library and enjoy the pictures. - Flourish

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Five Love Languages of Children

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, M.D. This book was recommended to me by a colleague who read it after hearing her pastor talking about families and the five love languages. This book was fascinating - the five love languages (touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation and gifts) are things I already practiced with my child, but I had never consciencely identified them as five different expressions of love. The ideas in this book will help you enjoy being a parent, and you'll probably learn a few things about yourself, too. - Blotts

Fat Girl's Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker

Fat Girl’s Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker
Billed as a guide to how one woman decided to give up diets and accept herself as she is, this book made me want to run right out and start whatever diet I could lay my hands on in order to prevent giving up. I guess if it's reverse psychology they were really going for then they managed it because the wishy washy way that the author moves back and forth between caring and not caring about weight loss is a true motivation. How is it not possible to view this women's decision as anything but a tragedy? My advice on this one: exercise, eat right, and skip this book. - Flourish

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Cooked Goose by G.A. McKevett

Cooked Goose (A Savannah Reid Mystery) by G.A. McKevett. After much coercion from my dear friend Flourish, I relunctantly read my first Savannah Reid mystery a couple of months ago, sure that I was going to hate it with a passion. Luckily, I am enough of a grown up to admit when I am wrong... I absolutely love this character! I am a southern girl myself and the Georgia flavor in these books is authentic and delightful- right down to the author's initials. In this Christmas installment, our herione (Savannah Reid, a Georgia-born-and-raised, self-employed detective now living in California) tries to catch a serial rapist while dealing with her self-centered sister and brother-in-law and their wild five-year-old twins. Great humor, good story... it's not hard to figure out who the bad guy is but it's a darn fun read. Highly recommended! - Blotts

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (audio). I knew there had to be a charming story behind this discombobulated movie. I saw the movie first and wondered why so many non-Southern Americans were chosen to play the parts that they did. Their accents needed help that’s for sure. But the story was an interesting one and Frazier’s voice on the audio book did not disappoint. One word of caution however, Frazier’s favorite word to use in this book is “sh*t”. - Flourish

Category: audio_books historical_fiction

Monday, August 01, 2005

Welcome to the Restricted Section!

Here in the Restricted Section, two Harry Potter fans will share theories and thoughts about all things HP, and post our reviews of other books we're reading while we wait for the release of Book 7. - Flourish & Blotts