Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Weekend in Paris

Weekend in Paris by Robyn Sisman

I’ll have to give this year’s offering from Robyn another try after having read Weekend in Paris. With so much description of the surroundings I feel like I’ve actually been to Paris for the weekend. Having always wanted to visit the acclaimed city I was deeply enthralled with this book. We follow our young, steady heroine as she chucks her job because of her Neanderthal boss and does something totally out of character. She boards a train to Paris and begins a whirlwind of adventure that is almost believable until her long lost father turns up in the picture. But it doesn’t really matter if it is an unbelievable story because it is pure escapism. This is what an impromptu thrill ride adventure Paris should be or at least what it is in my imagination. Her mother even gets in on a little Paris action when she shows up looking for her missing daughter only to end up staying a few extra days with a hunky Frenchman. Pure drivel but what a fun ride! Enjoy. - Flourish

Friday, November 25, 2005

School of Beauty and Charm

School of Beauty and Charm by Melanie Sumner (audio)

The strangeness of this book may indeed sneak up on you. At first you’re reading along for a few dozen pages hip deep in a Georgia seventies suburban world where things seem oddly familiar. The next thing you know you realize that you’ve landed in a bizarre Twin Peaksesque universe where everything is “normal” which is exactly what makes it so funny (that would be funny strange, not funny ha ha).

Weird, but in a cool sort of way we travel a bit of a twisted suburban nightmareesque adventure of a young girl who accidentally kills her brother and eventually runs away from home to join the circus. We do get to see things from her perspective which makes for an intriguing character study. Here is a book breakdown: first two thirds, Twin Peaksesque suburbs, final third, carny caravan. Although the audio was easy to listen to, it just didn't seem exactly right without being read with a southern accent.

Yeah, I liked it. What can I can? I’ve got an interesting sense of humor. Children of the seventies and those raised in the suburbs are probably the right audience. All others try it at your own risk. -Flourish

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Real Life Decorating

Real Life Decorating by Better Homes and Gardens

Most of the time decorating books look just exactly alike and are chalk full of pretty pictures without any details. It’s obvious that the rooms were detailed by a professional and there isn’t enough information to figure out how to recreate the look. Thankfully, Real Life Decorating doesn’t give off that feel. It doesn’t focus exclusively on designer rooms but rather on real people’s homes. Although some of the homes featured actually do belong to designers, it’s interesting to see how these people put together their homes. There is also quite a variety of styles of both people and homes. No matter how many times I pick up the book it seems like I see something new and different of get some sort of new idea. Go check it out from the library and let me know what you think. -Flourish

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Innocence

Innocence by Kathleen Tessaro

Did you really make the right decision years ago when you decided to (fill in the blank)? This is the central theme. Set in the London of today and of twenty years ago this book was a flashback to my often misspent youth. While visiting from the States to attend an acting workshop our heroine changes the course of her life by falling in love.

This is an entertaining book about introspection and learning to go after what you believe. One of the funniest opening chapters I’ve read in a while, unfortunately this humor doesn’t translate to the rest of the book. The jarring switch between time periods provides no discernable way to know where you’re at until a few paragraphs into it. But this is only a minor irritant rather than a major flaw.

Ghost story or psychological whirling? Either way it works. Recommended, especially if you were a child of the eighties. -Flourish

Monday, November 21, 2005

All That Matters

All that matters by Jan Goldstein

This is a brief, sentimental story of love between a grandmother and her granddaughter. The author manages to convey a complex story of torment and love experienced by both generations of women in just over 200 pages. Our younger heroine tries to end her misery through pills and alcohol and our older heroine intervenes to show her just how much there is to live for in this world.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable book. Its brevity does not lessen its intensity or its beauty. Moving through its pages was a helpful reminder to be grateful for all the splendor of this world. Overall, enjoy it and then pass it on to other female friends and family. -Flourish

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Ain't She Sweet

Ain't She Sweet by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

We all remember that b*tch from high school that did us wrong. She was pretty, popular, and had half the boys chasing after her. She was also the meanest snake around and notorious for hurting innocent bystanders, like teachers accused of things they didn’t do. Then one day she is financially forced to return home and must suffer at the hands of those she once tormented. So the story goes with the not so sweet main character, Sugar, who must face the wrath of her former clique, the Seawillows as well as half the small Mississippi town.

This was actually an delightful book. Even though it was all a bit predicable it was intoxicating to watch as the ones who suffered at Sugar’s thoughtlessness exacted their revenge upon her. Sick, I know, yet I couldn’t help but relish it. I enjoyed the plot twists and couldn’t stop myself coming to love the heart of gold main character. Overall, a fun, quick southern belle read. -Flourish

Friday, November 11, 2005

Puppet

Puppet by Joy Fielding (audio)

My reaction when the final sounds of this book filtered through my car stereo was “Thank God”. You know a book is bad when you start fast forwarding parts of it to try to hurry things along to the end. Opening with a court scene put me off right away as our female protagonist defends a rapist so well that he was found not guilty for all but one of the charges. For some reason I decided to persist with this book and the story line got a little better for the first half. The last half, however, moved slower than tree sap in January! The most memorable example is the author taking six audio minutes to move our two main characters in an elevator from the second floor to the third. Eek. I kept holding down the fast forward button but every time I’d release it they would still be in the elevator on their way to the third floor.

Also, I detest the overuse of flashback. It may be alright to repeatedly use it in a Lifetime movie of the week but it truly has no place in a novel. There are generally two types of flashback, the kind that shows you scenes that happened before the time period in the book and therefore provides insight into the character’s backgrounds. And then there is the kind that repeats scenes that you have already read in the book. This latter type is the kind that simply grates on my nerves and unfortunately is the kind that is used repeatedly in Puppet. I understand that the author was trying to get us into the head of our heroine (?) but really it just didn’t work for me.

Oh, yeah, how many times can an author use the phrase “I don’t understand” in a book? Seemed like a couple of dozen at least. If you’re going to give this book a read do yourself a favor and pick up the hard copy and not the audio book, that way you can easily skip the incessant repetition. -Flourish

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners

English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners by Margaret Hensel

I stumbled upon this book as a recommendation from someone on the cottage gardens section of Garden Web Forums. Written in narrative style, it was a delight from page one. Several English gardens are featured ranging from formal to casual and in age from relatively new to decades old. The glorious photographs are indeed an inspiration and somehow seem quite achievable when coupled with the description and detailed background information. It was enjoyable to read how normal, everyday folks like you and me created such outdoor delights for all the senses. Makes me think there might be hope for me and my garden yet! Although my eyes glossed over the high falutin’ Latin plant names, there is still enough content here to engage the armchair or master gardener. -Flourish

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Undomestic Goddess was the first book I read by this author. Since I enjoyed that one, I figured I would see what this one was about.

First of all, if you don't like to shop or have never felt the urge to buy something that you couldn't really afford, you may find the main character, Becky Bloomsworth, to be a bit strange, as she is deep in debt and still shopping. If you are a shopper then you may sympathize with her because at least she gets a good deal on her purchases.

Back to the subject of debt, Becky tries to get it under control by using a few different tactics, but in the end they all fail except the last one she tries, facing them instead of avoiding them. Don't worry there is some romance in this book. It's just that her take on love is "it's not happening to me." Overall: a good book, maybe not as "can't put it down" as some, but definitely very funny and lighthearted. -Marie, guest reviewer

Friday, November 04, 2005

Savannah Blues

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

Here is one not to be missed. Set in Savannah, Georgia, our heroine, Weezie, is a dumpster diver after the good stuff. She makes her living by picking crap out of Savannah back alleyways trash then reselling them to local antiques dealers. This girl is after my own heart! She is a loveable character made of southern magnolia brass balls who finds her way into a lot of trouble but then uses her smarts to find her way back out again. She has a cute little dog too.

The author used to work as a reporter and covered the infamous murder trial of Jim Williams which spawned the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. That was a pretty good book too, by the way, much better than the movie. This book has it all: ex-husbands, fake antiques conspiracies, murder, dogs, antiques, estate sales, all with a Georgia backdrop. If you’re a fan of Turner South’s Junkin’, then you’ll love this book. Overall: not to be missed. -Flourish

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Francesca's Party

Francesca’s Party by Patricia Scanlan

This book must have looked like a good idea when I put it on my to read list. However, I couldn’t get past page 60. The writing style is fine, the pace is ok, the character is interesting. The problem is that the first 60 pages go into detail about a husband who has an affair with a younger woman. The man is portrayed as a narcissistic, clueless baboon without much depth. The female lead is an interesting character but she is not enough to keep me going with this book.

Having endured a similar betrayal in my life I really didn’t want to relive it in this book. Reading is an escape from reality for me. The promise of the book title suggests that Francesca does overcome this knockdown on the road of life but I’m not really in the mood to find out. If anyone has read this one let me know how it ends. -Flourish

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue

Goddesses of Kitchen Avenue by Barbara Samuel

We piece together what happened to our main character throughout the course of this book, but it's a soul wrenching experience to get to the healing part of the loss process. Barbara has written a tender story about a mid-forties woman who seeks to rediscover herself after facing a betrayal. There is actually a cast of female characters each with their own chapter intertwined throughout this complex story. Our heroine, Trudy, is a mother, wife, secretary, friend, and neighbor. We see her interact with those in her life and rediscover her new agey side that got left behind decades before due to marriage and children. I found myself rooting for her as I followed her along her spiritual journey.

This author's writing reminds me of that of Elizabeth Berg's. It almost seems too boring and day in the life, etc. But that is what life is really about. It's how we learn to cope in our minds with difficulties thrown in front of our life's path that makes an interesting tale. If you're a woman of a certain age, you'll probably enjoy this one. -Flourish