Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Handle With Care

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Handle With Care
By Jodi Picoult
Publication Date: March 3

From Publishers Weekly:

"Perennial bestseller Picoult delivers another engrossing family drama, spiced with her trademark blend of medicine, law and love. Charlotte and Sean O'Keefe's daughter, Willow, was born with brittle bone disease, a condition that requires Charlotte to act as full-time caregiver and has strained their emotional and financial limits. Willow's teenaged half-sister, Amelia, suffers as well, overshadowed by Willow's needs and lost in her own adolescent turmoil. When Charlotte decides to sue for wrongful birth in order to obtain a settlement to ensure Willow's future, the already strained family begins to implode. Not only is the defendant Charlotte's longtime friend, but the case requires Charlotte and Sean to claim that had they known of Willow's condition, they would have terminated the pregnancy, a statement that strikes at the core of their faith and family."

I haven't read everything Picoult has written, but I loved My Sister's Keeper and The Pact. I wasn't a huge fan of her most recent, Change of Heart, but I'm looking forward to her latest release next spring.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

100th Post!

Six months, 100 posts...! Yea! What a way to end the year!

I started this blog on June 9, just on a whim, and quickly got hooked on tracking what I read. Who knew it would be so much fun?

I launched "Waiting On" Wednesday on August 20 to spotlight soon-to-be-released books that I'm much anticipating. My thanks to everyone who participates in this event! I hope you're having as much fun choosing your weekly selections as I am.

When I started back to work full-time in August, after working from home for the past five years, my reading (and, subsequently, my posting) took a hit. But, I've started to discover my rhythm and how to balance 40 hours a week in the office again with the rest of my life. Wow. How quickly I forgot how to juggle it all.

I'm re-learning how to make it all work, so you'll see more posting, and more reviews, in 2009.

I really appreciate everyone who follows Breaking the Spine and takes time to visit and comment! A special shout-out goes to Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? for being the first one to comment on my blog and offer such a warm welcome into this amazing community of book bloggers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Local News

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Local News
By Miriam Gershow
Publication Date: February 24

From Publishers Weekly:

"Bright, precocious but socially awkward Lydia Pasternak reports on the aftermath of her older brother’s disappearance in Gershow’s accomplished debut. Danny was everything Lydia wasn’t: at ease with their parents, popular in school, physically imposing, beloved by the opposite sex. Danny went from being Lydia’s playmate in their youth to her tormentor in high school, so his disappearance leaves Lydia with some very mixed feelings, one of which is relief. Lydia’s perspective gives this Lovely Bones–esque story line an unflinching quality as she details the emotional damage that reverberates even through her 10-year high school reunion."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Sweet By and By

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Sweet By and By
By Todd Johnson
Publication Date: February 17

From Publishers Weekly:

"Johnson's bittersweet and often humorous hen-lit debut portrays the lives of five very different Southern women: compassionate Lorraine, bossy Margaret, grief-stricken Bernice, ambitious April and brusque Rhonda. At the center of this character-driven novel is Lorraine, a nurse at the nursing home where Margaret and Bernice live. As the three women drift into friendship, hairdresser Rhonda arrives to take a part-time job, and the older women begin to change her life. Lorraine's daughter, April, meanwhile, is also gradually drawn into the circle. The story unfolds slowly over decades and life milestones, giving the characters plenty of time to reveal themselves. The underlying message of the power of love and friendship resonates, as does its depiction of the way in which people leading unremarkable lives can have a tremendous impact on those around them."

An author's debut? Southern fiction? I'm all about that.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Salon: Best Fiction of 2008

It's that time of year, and everyone is weighing in on the best fiction releases of 2008. Here's a roundup of five lists:

1. Publishers Weekly

2. Library Journal
Of this list, I read All We Ever Wanted Was Everything (review here), Cost (review here), and Olive Kitteridge (brief review here).

3. Washington Post

I read America, America (review here), Goldengrove (review here), and The House on Fortune Street (before my blog launch). Olive Kitteridge made their list as well.

4. New York Times

5. Amazon

I may need to add a few of these to my TBR, given that there are lots of titles on these lists that I didn't read. One consistent inclusion was Home by Marilynne Robinson, which I just couldn't get through.

I'm curious...what did you think was overlooked that made your personal list of best fiction this year?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Bridge of Sand

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Bridge of Sand
By Janet Burroway
Publication Date: March 25

From Books-A-Million:

"In this beautifully written novel, Burroway uses a woman's personal loss, coincident with 9/11, to explore race, territory and renewal. Dana, the widow of a Pennsylvania senator, buries her husband the morning of 9/11, only miles from the United 93 crash. After months of paralysis, she sells her house and heads south in an effort to pick up the lost strands of her youth. Set amid the blur of 9/11, this wise, beautifully written novel of love, race, territory, and renewal explores the issues that challenge us all."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Life Without Summer

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Life Without Summer
By Lynne Griffin
Publication Date: April 14

From Publishers Weekly:

"Griffin’s fiction debut is a spellbinding tale of loss and hard-won redemption. When Tessa Gray’s four-year-old daughter, Abby, is killed by a hit and run driver, there are no witnesses. From first meeting, Tessa distrusts the detective assigned to the case and, with her journalism background and ties to newspapers in nearby Boston, she begins to dig for her own answers to the identity of Abby’s killer. Meanwhile, she vents her grief with Celia, a compassionate but reserved therapist. Outside therapy, Celia’s and Tessa’s narratives remain separate until they shockingly intersect and lead the way to hard-won healing for both. Griffin’s carefully crafted characters ring heartbreakingly true and her finely wrought plot will snare readers from the first page."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sunday Salon: Book Blogging

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

There is something that I have been meaning to address on the blog, so I'm going to take TSS to do so. There has been lots of buzz recently in the book blogging community over the issue of Advance Review Copies and whether the acceptance of them obligates one to a positive review (my brief opinion: it doesn't).

I have never gotten into the ARC process, simply because my reading list is full enough as it is, and I didn't want the responsibility of moving these to the top of my list to ensure a timely review. I was concerned that it could be a Pandora's Box for me...that once I opened that door, it would dominate my TBR list.

That said, with my experience in the book publishing industry, I completely understand the importance of ARCs in the reviewing process. I just have chosen to stay out of this particular arena.

This brings up another point. You will notice that my site features predominantly positive reviews. That is by design. When I launched this site, it was primarily as a means to provide recommendations to friends. I was reading so many books that they were starting to run together, so I started the blog to keep up with the great fiction I was reading and pass it along.

I quickly found that when I finished a book I didn't like, when I sat down to write the review, I questioned myself. If this is a book that I wouldn't recommend, why am I spending time writing a less-than-favorable review? (And, because I don't accept ARCs, I'm under no pressure to review every book I read, favorably or not.)

I address this because I have realized that the positive reviews could potentially discredit the site in a reader's in, "She couldn't possibly enjoy every book she's reading." I'm not...there are many books that I read and don't like, and many that I don't even finish. I'm just posting about the ones I want to recommend to others.

This is purely a personal decision, and I don't fault blogs with a mix of good and bad reviews at all. That is what makes this community so vibrant and diverse, that we have the freedom to craft our blogs as we choose to reflect our own personalities and objectives.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of other bloggers out there...good or bad! :)

Review: Kissing Games of the World

"You know what freedom is? It's something people say they want when they're afraid they can't have what we all really crave: somebody to love. You think love is just these little, these little kissing games of the world you play..."

In Kissing Games of the World, author Sandi Kahn Shelton details an unconventional family, making their way through life, without the typical parameters of what defines a household.

Jamie, an artist and a single mom, is raising her five-year-old son, Arley, in the same house as Harris, a 60-something construction worker raising his five-year-old grandson, Christopher, on his family's Connecticut farm.

The group came together in the most unlikely of ways, but despite the unusual conditions, their situation works...and there's nothing physical to it, despite what everyone in town speculates. Arley and Christopher are best friends, raised like brothers, with the four coming as close to a family as any of them has ever known.

The two have complicated pasts, with Jamie having moved to Connecticut to escape a relationship with an unpredictable graffiti artist who is unfit to parent their child, and Harris having taken on his grandson when his equally unpredictable son, Nate, is unable to raise him after his wife's sudden death. For Harris, it's a way to make right his past, having left his wife and young son years earlier.

But, when Harris up and dies one day from a heart attack, Jamie's carefully constructed world is thrown up in the air. Her permission to stay on in the house is questioned, especially when Nate returns to (somewhat reluctantly) collect his son and settle his father's estate. Nate is estranged from the family, having spent the past five years on the road as a successful salesman, but with no stability and no knowledge of how to reacquaint himself with his son and raise him in his chaotic lifestyle.

Nate takes Christopher on the road with him, and Jamie and Arley move back into her sister's condo...and they try to navigate in their new worlds, with hits and misses along the way.

This book is both heart-breaking and heart-warming, and Shelton's writing is immediately engaging and sustains itself throughout. She makes us care about all of these characters...and keep caring about them even through questionable decisions and actions.

There is a lot of emotion here, with the breakup of the two close-knit boys, each having already experienced a fair amount of loss in their short lifetimes. At its heart, though, are the journeys and evolutions of Jamie and Nate, as they struggle to find out who they really are and what they really want, and need, from life.

I'm going to have to go back and read Shelton's earlier work, What Comes After Crazy and A Piece of Normal now that she is on my radar. Highly recommended...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: True Colors

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

True Colors
By Kristin Hannah
Publication Date: February 3

From Books a Million:

"The Grey sisters had only each other when their mother died years ago. Their father provided for them physically on Water's Edge, the ranch that had been in their family for three generations, each of them however, longed for their father's love. Winona, the oldest, knew early on that she could never get it. An overweight dreamer and reader, she didn't exhibit the kinds of talents and strengths her father valued. Vivi Anne, the youngest, had those things. And it was Vivi Anne who only ever saw a glimmer of their father's approval. When Vivi Anne makes a fateful decision to follow her heart, rather than take the route of a dutiful daughter, events are set in motion that will test the love and loyalties of the Grey sisters. With breathtaking pace and penetrating insight, this is a novel about sisters, vengeance, rivalry, betrayal and, ultimately, what it truly means to be a family."

This is a little "lighter" type of read for me, but I read Hannah's Firefly Lane earlier this year and really enjoyed it, so I have her latest on my list.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Review: The Hour I First Believed

"Some explosion--as local as rifle fire, as worldwide as war--can set things reeling in a whole different direction, can cause a fork in the road. And one path may lead to disintegration, the other to a reordered world."

In The Hour I First Believed, author Wally Lamb anchors his plot in the reality of the Columbine High School tragedy, with in-depth details of the day itself and the back story of the events. However, from there, this book is all his own.

In the days before the shooting, narrator Caelum Quirk, an English teacher at the school, returns home to Connecticut to be by the side of his beloved aunt, the woman who helped raise him, after a stroke, from which she won't recover. While he is away, that fateful day occurs, and his wife, Maureen, a school nurse, is trapped in the library, hidden in a cabinet to escape the killers.

The aftermath of the incident is too much for Maureen to bear, and she develops a powerful addiction to medication as a coping mechanism. With their marriage faltering, Caelum, hoping to break the cycle, decides to move them to his family's farm, now his own, to start their life anew. However, they still have more tragedy ahead.

With this move, back in his childhood home, Caelum begins to discover more about his family, what his ancestry represented in history, far beyond what he already knew. Through detailed files within the house, he uncovers some startling and painful revelations.

This book is large in volume...and large in scope. I struggled about three-quarters of the way through, when the details of the past started to overwhelm the current storyline, as it spans several generations and goes into what I considered borderline-overkill detail. However, just when I started to fade, it kicked back in. Honestly, there is almost no way to summarize the plot justly...there are so many elements involved.

Lamb does a remarkable job at portraying the events at Columbine. The research that went into this book is both evident and impressive.

It is a heartbreaking look at what a survivor of such an incident must endure. At its heart, though, is the story of a man who realizes that his life wasn't what he thought and his journey to find both the truth and himself.

While this book lags in places, I still think it should be on everyone's must-read list. Lamb is one of those novelists whose quality begs you to read what he has written...even if if it took the better part of a decade for his latest release.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The School of Essential Ingredients

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The School of Essential Ingredients
By Erica Bauermeister
Publication Date: January 22

From Publishers Weekly:

"In this remarkable debut, Bauermeister creates a captivating world where the pleasures and particulars of sophisticated food come to mean much more than simple epicurean indulgence. Respected chef and restaurateur Lillian has spent much of her 30-something years in the kitchen, looking for meaning and satisfaction in evocative, delicious combinations of ingredients. Endeavoring to instill that love and know-how in others, Lillian holds a season of Monday evening cooking classes in her restaurant. The novel takes up the story of each of her students, navigating readers through the personal dramas, memories and musings stirred up as the characters handle, slice, chop, blend, smell and taste. Delivering memorable story lines and characters while seducing the senses, Bauermeister's tale of food and hope is certain to satisfy."

As a foodie, I'm definitely intrigued. I love it when the two things I love, reading and cooking, come together.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Salon: 11-16

Another trade show trip this week, to Baltimore, but before I left, I got the much-anticipated new Wally Lamb novel, The Hour I First Believed.

I'm about 200 pages in (of 700+), and I feel like I have something great in my hands. Now that I'm back home and have some time in front of me, I can tell that reading this book is going to own my day.

After reading some good, better-than-good, and not-so-good novels lately, I had a "this book is going to be one to remember" feeling before I even read the first page, and it's not disappointing so far.

Ever had that feeling about a book before you've even started it?

Hope everyone is having a great Sunday!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Eat, Drink, and Be From Mississippi
By Nanci Kincaid
Publication Date: January 6

From Amazon:

"Truely Noonan is the quintessential Southern boy made good. Like his older sister, Courtney, Truely left behind the slow, sweet life of Mississippi for jet-set San Francisco, where he earned a fortune as an Internet entrepreneur. Courtney and Truely each find happy marriages--until, as if cursed by success, those marriages start to crumble. Then their lives are interrupted by an unexpected stranger--a troubled teenager named Arnold, garrulous, charming, thuggishly dressed, and determined to move in to their world. Arnold turns their lives upside down--and in the process this unlikely trio becomes the family that each had been searching for. In the best Southern fiction tradition, Kincaid has brought us an inspiring story about finding the way home."

I read Kincaid's novel Balls, about the life of a wife of a Southern football coach, several years ago, and I'm looking forward to her latest. She absolutely captured the essence and intensity of SEC football, from a unique perspective. (And, I love the title of this one.)

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Salon: Cookbooks

I spent last week at a trade show in Houston, arriving home to find the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook waiting on me (Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics). I am a cookbook junkie, primarily those of a Southern variety, and I collect old Junior League cookbooks from the South. Sitting down with a good cookbook is just as satisfying to me as a good novel. This year was a good one for cookbooks, so I thought I'd share my six favorites from 2008:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Very Valentine

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Very Valentine
By Adriana Trigiani
Publication Date: February 3

From Publishers Weekly:

"This first-in-a-trilogy is a valentine to Manhattan's picturesque West Village, starring a boisterous and charmingly contentious Italian-American family. Valentine Roncalli, adrift after a failed relationship and an aborted teaching career, becomes an apprentice to her 80-year-old grandmother, Teodora Angelini, at the tiny family shoe business. While Valentine struggles to come up with a financial plan—and shoe design—to bring the Old World operation into the 21st century, her brother, Alfred, is pushing Gram to retire and sell her building for $6 million. It's not all business for Valentine, of course: handsome and sophisticated Roman Falconi, owner and chef at a posh restaurant, is vying for her heart. This genteel and lush tale of soles and souls has loads of charm and will leave readers eager for the sequel."

As a huge fan of the Big Stone Gap books, I am thrilled that she's coming back with another series.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Review: I See You Everywhere

In I See You Everywhere, author Julia Glass takes readers on the journeys of two sisters, as different as possible, over 25 years, from their early 20s to middle age.

Older sister Louisa Jardine is the smart one, the practical one, neurotic, an artist who dreams of a stable life and family.

Clem Jardine, on the other hand, is a rebel, a nomad, an animal lover, the favorite of her parents, daring, reckless with hearts, scornful of a conventional existence.

Told in alternating voices, the story carries the sisters over multitudes of cities, men (and more men), jobs, and crises. Neither one wants the life the other one has, and they struggle to find common ground. Theirs is a fractured relationship, but just as easily as they are pulled apart, they are drawn back together again.

Louisa finally settles in New York, Clem in Wyoming, but their lives are far from stable. Each has more struggles ahead of them, more adversity to face, and they will need each other more than ever.

I wondered how the book would end, as their lives continued to change over time, and it came to a dramatic conclusion that took my breath away.

I love novels about sisters and the ever-evolving nature of the relationship. The parameters are constantly changing, responding to the various stages in life. Roles reverse, leadership shifts.

When I was in college and my sister in high school, we had one relationship. When she got married and I was still dating, we had another. She became a mother and I became a wife within two months of each other, and with those two big changes, our relationship changed yet again.

Accurately characterizing the relationships between women, particularly family members, without being trite is no small feat, and Glass is adept at this portrayal. She does a brilliant job at breaking down the complexities of sisters and how the dynamic between them changes over the years.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Conditioning

Here's this week's Booking Through Thursday question:

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain?

Despite the name of this blog, I'm not a literal spine breaker. Or a dog-earer. I want my books to look exactly the same after I read them. I'm definitely a "pristine condition" gal.

I think it's actually one reason why I prefer hardcovers to paperbacks, since the spine is much less evident with a book jacket. It bothers me how a paperback looks, especially a mass market (smaller) version, after it's read, especially if it's been "well read." And, it's why I prefer brand-new books...even from the library, if at all possible.

This is a touch off-topic...but, I also think that how I feel about the physical properties of a book is what will keep me from ever owning anything like a Kindle. Part of the reading experience for me is feeling the book in my hands.

What about you?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Piano Teacher

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Piano Teacher
By Janice Y. K. Lee
Publication Date: January 13

From Publishers Weekly:

Lee delivers a standout debut dealing with the rigors of love and survival during a time of war, and the consequences of choices made under duress. Claire Pendleton, newly married and arrived in Hong Kong in 1952, finds work giving piano lessons to the daughter of Melody and Victor Chen, a wealthy Chinese couple. While the girl is less than interested in music, the Chens' flinty British expat driver, Will Truesdale, is certainly interested in Claire, and vice versa. Their fast-blossoming affair is juxtaposed against a plot line beginning in 1941 when Will gets swept up by the beautiful and tempestuous Trudy Liang, and then follows through his life during the Japanese occupation. As Claire and Will's affair becomes common knowledge, so do the specifics of Will's murky past, Trudy's motivations and Victor's role in past events.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Review: Testimony

"Sometimes Mike wished he had just slipped the offensive tape into a pot of boiling water, or sent it out with the trash in a white plastic drawstring bag, or spooled it out with a pencil and wadded it into a big mess."

In Testimony, best-selling author Anita Shreve examines how a single event can have a multitude of consequences.

On one fateful night, in a dorm room of a prestigious Vermont boarding school, a videotape is made...a tape showing three upperclassmen, prominent basketball stars, and one freshman girl performing a variety of sexual acts, all clearly under the influence. The incident triggers a series of questions. Why would the school's highest stars put themselves in this position? Furthermore, why was it taped? Was the girl a victim or an active and willing participant?

The tape ends up in the possession of the school's headmaster, Mike Bordwin, and his decisions with what to do with it, how to handle the situation, and who, and what, to protect have long-lasting repercussions.

Fast forward to nearly two years after the scandal that ripped apart a town, a school, and a host of families, and the wounds are re-opened when a graduate student from the University of Vermont contacts everyone involved for her study of alcohol and male behaviors in secondary schools.

The story is told through her interviews, ranging from the most marginal to the very students on the tape. This particular approach could have been confusing, given the vast number of perspectives, but it instead makes for a well-rounded telling of the tale, with each person adding details to construct the complete story. One narrator alone could not have told this story.

Along the way, it is revealed exactly how the boys ended up in the room with the girl, the events that triggered the tragic episode and the fallout that came as a result.

Shreve does a masterful job at drawing out the story, releasing details piece by piece, building intrigue as she outlines what led up to that night and its painful aftermath.

I've read everything Shreve has written, and I'm a huge fan. Her latest does not disappoint.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Women

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Women
By T.C. Boyle
Publication Date: February 10

From Amazon:

"Having brought to life eccentric cereal king John Harvey Kellogg in The Road to Wellville and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in The Inner Circle, T.C. Boyle now turns his fictional sights on an even more colorful and outlandish character: Frank Lloyd Wright. Boyle’s account of Wright’s life, as told through the experiences of the four women who loved him, blazes with his trademark wit and invention."

Having adored Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I can't decide if this will further the intrigue or be overkill...regardless, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on it to see. Given the success of Horan's book, comparisons will inevitably be made, and it will be interesting to read the commentary once it's released. This certainly has a lot to live up to, but I'm hoping it's just as compelling.

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Review: Goldengrove

On an unseasonably warm Sunday in May, 13-year-old Nico watched her older sister slip from their rowboat, in the lake behind their home, into the water for a swim...and never come back up. Seventeen-year-old Margaret was beautiful, prosaic, mystical, and musically gifted, and her drowning forces Nico to reconstruct her world without her lifelong compass.

Goldengrove, authored by Francine Prose, focuses on the summer after Margaret's death, and what the family must endure to survive their grief. Nico's mother turns to the piano and prescription medication; her father retreats to the back of his bookstore to finish his book.

Nico is on her own, and her list of what she can't do without Margaret (among them, listening to music, watching old movies, going near the lake) grows until it narrows her world to a sliver. When Margaret's boyfriend, Aaron, proposes that the two lean on each other, it seems an ideal way for Nico to re-enter life by facing everything on her list head on.

As the relationship develops, though, the lines inevitably begin to blur:

"I had forgotten what...was me and what was Margaret. It had been so much easier when she was alive and I could compare us, side by side, and measure the distance between us."

This was a heart-breaking and compelling read, painfully looking at young grief and the maturity forced on a teenager in the wake of an accident. You really pull for this girl, rooting for her to make good decisions, come back to herself, and emerge whole on the other side.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: What's Sitting on Your Shelf?

From this week's Booking Through Thursday:

Okay–here was an interesting article by Christopher Schoppa in the Washington Post.

"Avid readers know all too well how easy it is to acquire books — it’s the letting go that’s the difficult part. … During the past 20 years, in which books have played a significant role in both my personal and professional lives, I’ve certainly had my fair share of them (and some might say several others’ shares) in my library. Many were read and saved for posterity, others eventually, but still reluctantly, sent back out into the world.

But there is also a category of titles that I’ve clung to for years, as they survived numerous purges, frequent library donations and countless changes of residence. I’ve yet to read them, but am absolutely certain I will. And should. When, I’m not sure, as I’m constantly distracted by the recent, just published and soon to be published works."

So, the question is his: “What tomes are waiting patiently on your shelves?"

Great article...I can completely relate to this question, having dutifully carried several titles with me from city to city, ever optimistic that they will, indeed, someday be read. But, on reflection, as a lot, they're completely random choices, making me wonder a) why I bought them and b) why I'm hanging on to them.

Here are three of mine:

What I Lived For by Joyce Carol Oates

Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

Wobegon Boy by Garrison Keiller

These had to have all been bargain buys over the years, books I didn't really care about to begin with. Usually when I buy a book, it's something I have really been waiting on, and it doesn't last long before it's read.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Kissing Games of the World

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Kissing Games of the World
By Sandi Kahn Shelton
Publication Date: November 4

From Publishers Weekly:

"Journalist Shelton’s poignant third novel elevates the oft-told stories of opposites attracting and sons struggling against their fathers. An absolute treat, Shelton’s work rarely falters and is filled with realistic twists, complex characters, and a moving conclusion."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Review: One Fifth Avenue

Step inside the doors of One Fifth Avenue, a grand, historic apartment building in Manhattan that houses some of the city's most prominent women...a rising socialite, a semi-retired gossip columnist, a television actress, and an Internet executive turned blogger.

And don't forget the art buff who serves as a concierge of sorts to the upper class, a beyond-his-prime script writer taken with his young assistant, a novelist on the verge of his big breakthrough, and an entrepreneur poised to hold the city in the palm of his hands.

In her latest novel, Candace Bushnell peers into the lives of New York high society and reveals what's hiding behind the doors of this venerable establishment.

All of the characters experience the drama that comes with money and fame...and a place in one of the most exclusive residences in the city.

I have to admit...after Sex in the City, I didn't make it through Four Blondes, Trading Up, or Lipstick Jungle. I had thought them too thin, but it could have been my mindset at the time.

But, that said, I loved One Fifth Avenue. It felt like a guilty pleasure, and I absorbed every mention of the city and its particular quirks and social structure.

It's an insider's glimpse into the most elite element of NYC, and yet, unlike some others before it, it didn't have a forced or over-the-top feel to it, like it was trying too hard. It was fresh and real and scandalous and delicious.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Book Meme

From BTT: I’ve seen this series of questions floating around the ‘net the last few days, and thought it looked like a good one for us!

What was the last book you bought?
Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons. Y'all know me, I'm a library girl, except for my very favorite authors.

Name a book you have read MORE than once.
I'm not a fan of re-reading, so, next...

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
Honestly, The Bible.

How do you choose a book? (eg. by cover design and summary, recommendations or reviews)
I choose books by: 1) author, 2) reviews, 3) recommendations...but sometimes the cover helps, too. I'm usually not browsing, though, so a cover swaying me happens rarely.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Easy...fiction. I can get into a good food-related memoir every now and then, but that's about it. I have enough reality...I love where a good novel can take you.

What’s more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
It is a cop-out to say both? If you just have one, it doesn't always make up for the lack of the other.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
I can't pinpoint my "most" loved character...I love it when writers get Southern women right. Those make my favorite characters, hands down.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
I have these on my nightstand:

The 19th Wife

The English Major
The Road Home
The Shack

Suggestions on where to start?

What was the last book you’ve read, and when was it?
I just finished One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell last night. (Review up tomorrow.)

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Oh yeah...if a book isn't going well, I have no problem putting it down and moving on.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Little Giant of Aberdeen County
By Tiffany Baker
Release Date: January 8

From Publishers Weekly:

"Baker's bangup debut mixes the exuberant eccentricities of John Irving's Garp, Anne Tyler's relationship savvy and the plangent voice of Margaret Atwood. In an upstate New York backwater, Truly, massive from birth, has a bleak existence with her depressed father and her china-doll–like sister, Serena Jane. Truly grows at an astonishing rate—her girth the result of a pituitary gland problem. It's got all the earmarks of a hit—infectious and lovable narrator, a dash of magic, an impressive sweep and a heartrending but not treacly family drama."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Leave a comment with either the link to your own "Waiting On" Wednesday post or just your answer (if you don't have a blog).

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Waiting On" Wednesday: This One Is Mine

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

This One Is Mine
By Maria Semple
Publication Date: December 4

From Amazon:

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life--except that she's deeply unhappy. This is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more--and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.

This seems a little frothy on the surface, but everything I have read points to a smarter novel, including this review from Publishers Weekly:

"Semple’s takes are tack sharp as her delightful cast is driven comically and tragically ever deeper into a culture of artifice. Semple obviously knows her turf, and she does an exquisite job of stomping all over it."

What's your "waiting on" pick this week?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

New York in the Fall

The past three books I have read have been heavier novels, emotionally charged and deep in content. That's why I'm ready to read One Fifth Avenue, the latest from Candace Bushnell. I need a lighter read, yet one that's still smart and well-written, and I think this one will fit the bill.

Plus, the fall always reminds me of when I moved to New York City, 11 years ago. It all happened very fast...I had an interview Halloween weekend, and I moved into my apartment the weekend before Thanksgiving.

So, right now, I'm feeling like reading a good NYC novel. I love reading about the people, the streets, the restaurants, the particulars of the city I loved and called home for awhile.

It reminds me of one of my favorite New York movies, You've Got Mail, when Tom Hanks' character says, "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Review: Between Here and April

In Between Here and April, author Deborah Copaken Kogan delves into the psyche of mothers, focusing on the choices they make to protect their children.

While watching a performance of Medea, former war journalist Elizabeth Burns experiences a long-suppressed memory of her first-grade best friend, April Cassidy, who disappeared from her life with little explanation. One day, she was there at school...the next, she wasn't.

Determined to find out what happened to her, Elizabeth embarks on a journey that will cause her to re-examine her own role as a mother to two young daughters.

Her research into the mystery reveals newspaper articles that spell out the incident. April's mother killed herself, along with April and her sister, in what Elizabeth finds out is dubbed "altruistic filicide." In this case, "mothers who kill themselves and their children simultaneously...think their children will be better off dead, rather than spending the rest of their lives without a mother."

Elizabeth, now a television producer, decides to turn the story into a documentary. Yet, faced with varying accounts of what led April's mother to this horrifying point, she wonders how to relay this story, with few "hard" facts to tell, realizing that empathy, which is hard to imagine, is the only way to successfully capture the emotions behind the decision.

I think this book will resonate with mothers, whether they agree with the emotions or not, and even though I'm not a mother, it still had an impact on me. There were a few distracting storylines throughout that made me impatient for the author to get back to the heart of this novel, but I still sped through the book.

This book seems largely autobiographical for this author, with some creative license engaged to fill in the holes of the facts to make it a novel. One thing that caught my eye as I started was a note on the copyright page that the "who, where, when and how" of April's disappearance were based on real-life events in the author's life...and that the "why" was the product of her imagination. Beyond that particular element of the book, I got the sense that it was the author's own story in every other way, as well, from her marriage and family to her career.

It makes the book more chilling to realize how much based in reality the events actually are...yet knowing how closely it ran to reality took something away from this for me, as a novel, as well. Does that make sense?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Sunday Salon: My Book Cup Runneth Over

Not that I didn't have enough on hand to read... but I logged into my library account earlier this week and had six books waiting on me. Sometimes I almost don't know where to begin. There's nothing like a stack of books calling your name and competing for your attention.

Between Here and April by Deborah Copaken Kogan
One Fifth Avenue by Candace Bushnell
The English Major by Jim Harrison
The Road Home by Rose Tremain
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
Goldengrove by Francine Prose

I have started Between Here and April...I'm buzzing through it pretty quickly, so I anticipate posting a review tomorrow.

Also: After suffering through Georgia's loss to Alabama last night, it definitely made me feel better to see that two bloggers, Mary at Bookfan-Mary and Avisannschild at She Reads and Reads, had honored me with an I Love Your Blog award. The love goes both ways! Be sure to stop by their sites and check them out...