Friday, May 31, 2013

Books That Make Me Go....Ahhhh

So I have been trying to post a notable excerpt on Fridays.  These gems that catch my eye deserve much more notoriety besides being written down on a little sticky note in the front of the novel.

This week my snippet is from The Sisters by Nancy Jensen:
Bertie looked and looked.  She wasn't in her own yard;  this wasn't her house, but some strange, wonderful, glittering place where her big, aproned body away, and she, released, drifted into that gleaming color.

pg. 88

I have been finding quite a few passages in this novel that have enjoyable like this one.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review: The Paintedd Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

Here is a summary of the novel from the Goodreads website:

Paris. 1878. Following their father’s sudden death, the van Goethem sisters find their lives upended. Without his wages, and with the small amount their laundress mother earns disappearing into the absinthe bottle, eviction from their lodgings seems imminent. With few options for work, Marie is dispatched to the Paris Opéra, where for a scant seventy francs a month, she will be trained to enter the famous ballet. Her older sister, Antoinette, finds work—and the love of a dangerous young man—as an extra in a stage adaptation of Émile Zola’s naturalist masterpiece L’Assommoir.

Marie throws herself into dance and is soon modelling in the studio of Edgar Degas, where her image will forever be immortalized as Little Dancer Aged Fourteen. Antoinette, meanwhile, descends lower and lower in society, and must make the choice between a life of honest labor and the more profitable avenues open to a young woman of the Parisian demimonde—that is, unless her love affair derails her completely.

Set at a moment of profound artistic, cultural, and societal change, The Painted Girls is a tale of two remarkable sisters rendered uniquely vulnerable to the darker impulses of “civilized society.”

My Review: 
This was an interesting novel set back in the late 1800's of Paris.  I think Buchanan did a great job of weaving characters and stories from real people that performed in the opera house.  Although it was a very dark and gloomy story, I couldn't tear myself away from these two sisters as their lives spun out of control.  The story alternates narration between both Marie and  Antoinette, so we see events unfold through both sets of eyes.

Although Marie and Antoinette are the narrators of the novel, there is also a youngest sister Charlotte in the family.  With only a mother looking to take care of her own addictions, the older sisters were left to be caretakers for the family.  Every penny the mother made from her job at the laundry house was spent on alcohol, leaving the girls to earn money to pay for both rent and food.

With the opera house nearby and always looking for individuals to play simple walk-on roles or ballet dancers, this was the most dependable pay for young girls at the time.  With Antoinette being the oldest, her prime time of dancing has passed, leaving a place for both of her sisters in her shadow.  Marie excels in the ballet, making extra money for additional lessons allowing her to dance with a more elite crowd.  But dancing with the elite provides its own set of troubles.

When Antoinette no longer can earn money from the opera house, she sets out on a dark path that will impact her family for years to come.  Her actions create a chain of events for both herself and Marie that cannot be changed.  Their relationship gains turbulence, as they were once gentle and protective towards one another, rather than the distrust and destruction they have created.

This was a wonderful story that I found very difficult to read at times.  It definitely wasn't a novel to pick up and read over a weekend.  Maybe it is just the business of my schedule, but this was just not a quick read for me.  Maybe others had an easier time of it than I did so please let me know if that is the case!  With themes of art, sisters, love, and forgiveness, you may enjoy this novel also.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me through the LibraryThing Early Rewards program in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Teaser Tuesday-May 28

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from The Sisters by Nancy Jensen:
No matter how much she wanted to, she couldn't ask Mother about it, since she'd stolen the picture from the family Bible-way in the back in the Book of Revelation that nobody ever read.  If she wanted to know about it, she'd have to put it back in the Bible and pretend to find it again, but she was afraid if she did, Mother might take it away and hide it someplace Alma could never find it.

pg. 51

Monday, May 27, 2013

Mailbox Monday-May 27

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at 4 The Love of Books.

So here is what came in my mailbox:
After Her by Joyce Maynard
And this one I received in my email as an audio download:

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin (audiobook)

I don't request many books any more, but I couldn't pass up After Her by Maynard.  Hopefully I get some reading done on this free day I have today.  Our weather is pretty gloomy here in Northern Wisconsin today so it doesn't look like I will be enjoying the outdoors.  

A special thank you to all of those who have served and fallen for this great country of ours!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Books That Make Me Go....Ahhhh

Although it's been ages,  I really TRY to post a notable excerpt on Friday.  These gems that catch my eye deserve much more notoriety besides being written down on a little sticky note in the front of the novel.

This week my excerpt is from The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan:
With the words in Le Figaro, proving Emile Abadie's life was never in my hands, might Antoinette forgive my lie, my treachery?  Might I get my sister back, maybe only for a bit, snuggling close under the linens?  It was better than a sister forever lost.

pg. 271

***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

I don't know why on earth I have been having such a hard time getting this book done.  I'm hoping I can say it is in my past by Saturday anyway.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Audiobook Review: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Title:  The White Queen

Author:  Philippa Gregory

Narrator:  Bianca Amato.

Abridged Length: Aprox. 6 hrs

Here is a summary of the novel from the Goodreads website:

Brother turns on brother to win the ultimate prize, the throne of England, in this dazzling account of the wars of the Plantagenets. They are the claimants and kings who ruled England before the Tudors, and now Philippa Gregory brings them to life through the dramatic and intimate stories of the secret players: the indomitable women, starting with Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen.

The White Queen tells the story of a woman of extraordinary beauty and ambition who, catching the eye of the newly crowned boy king, marries him in secret and ascends to royalty. While Elizabeth rises to the demands of her exalted position and fights for the success of her family, her two sons become central figures in a mystery that has confounded historians for centuries: the missing princes in the Tower of London whose fate is still unknown. From her uniquely qualified perspective, Philippa Gregory explores this most famous unsolved mystery of English history, informed by impeccable research and framed by her inimitable storytelling skills.

With The White Queen, Philippa Gregory brings the artistry and intellect of a master writer and storyteller to a new era in history and begins what is sure to be another bestselling classic series from this beloved author.
My Review:
First of all, let me say I have been burned by the abridged audiobook once again. I requested this book from the local library, picked it up and listened to the entire thing.  It wasn't until I started preparing this post for review that I found the audiobook narrated by Bianca Amato (who was wonderful by the way) was the abridged version.  The unabridged version is actually about 15 hours, and I have to admit that I kind of felt violated in a way.  I didn't even hear half of the story!  Well that's enough of my whining.  I will try to put some thoughts together regarding the abridged version.

Since I listened to The Kingmaker's Daughter first, I already knew the premise of this story, but I got to hear it from the opposing viewpoint this time.  Elizabeth Woodville is the voice of this story and Amato did a fabulous job of taking on her character through narration of the abridged version.  Woodville is a widow with children from her first husband, but that doesn't prevent Edward from becoming enamored with her.  Although rumors spread that a spell was cast on the young man who would one day be king, and it was interesting to read rumors weren't so far from the truth.

The parts of the story about witchcraft were interesting, but I think would have been more enjoyable in the unabridged version.  Many of the events that were blamed on witchcraft in The Kingmaker's Daughter were addressed in this novel.  When I first heard the accusations in the Kingmaker's Daughter I thought they were just silly fears, but when listening to the same events from The White Queen, these events became chilling.

We watch Woodville rise as she becomes queen, and then we see her throne ripped away from her.  She is blessed with many children, from both her first marriage and Edward, but we feel her sorrow when many of her and Edward's children die from sickness or murder.  It was a dangerous life for the children of royalty and they had to go to great lengths for the children's well-being.

This was a great book to listen to and I recall thinking that I wanted to hear more throughout most of it.  Now I know why!  With themes of magic, royalty, and love, this may be a novel you would enjoy also.  I don't hesitate in recommending the abridged version, but I sure do long to hear the unabridged version as well.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this audiobook from the local library to listen for my own entertainment.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Audiobook: A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer

Title:  A Prisoner of Birth

Author:  Jeffrey Archer

Narrator:  Roger Allam

Unabridged Length: aprox. 16 hrs

Here is a summary of the novel from the publisher's website

If Danny Cartwright had proposed to Beth Wilson on any other day, he would not have been arrested and charged with the murder of his best friend. But when the prosecution witnesses happen to be a group of four upper-crust college friends—a barrister, a popular actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in an established firm’s history—who is going to believe Danny’s side of the story?

Danny is sentenced to twenty-two years and sent to Belmarsh prison, the highest-security jail in the land, from where no inmate has ever escaped. But Spencer Craig, Lawrence Davenport, Gerald Payne, and Toby Mortimer all underestimate Danny’s determination to seek revenge—and the extent to which his fiancée Beth will go in pursuit of justice.

My Review:
I love listening to books that are full of action and suspense as they usually don't have a problem of keeping my attention.  I can't say that was the case for A Prisoner of Birth though.  I think I even missed a bit of the beginning, although it didn't take long to come to the conclusion that someone was murdered and Danny was being framed for the crime.

Danny is sent to prison for a crime he didn't commit and learns quickly what he must do in order to survive on the inside.  He meets some good friends during his imprisonment and he even makes some decisions that help to shape him into a better person. When certain events happen Danny decides to seize the opportunity and take control of his future.

It is a long road for Danny as he seeks revenge on those that are responsible for his imprisonment.  He takes his time as everything falls into place for him, allowing the true perpetrators to create their own demise.  Once you get to a certain point of this audiobook you can't stop as we need to know how Danny is getting his revenge on these men!

This was an interesting novel that did have me wanting to know how it all turned out, but for some reason did not capture my attention through its entirety.  With themes of love, revenge, and justice, you may enjoy this book more than I did.  I recommend this book to those of you that enjoy crime thrillers.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  I borrowed this audiobook from my friend to listen for my own entertainment.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mailbox Monday-May 13

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time.  This month you can check out what everyone received over at 4 The Love of Books.

Here is what came to my mailbox:
And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry

I haven't entered many contests lately, but this book caught my eye.  So the first time in probably two months I entered a contest, and won!  How cool is that! 

Man, life has sure been busy for me.  I keep waiting for things to slow down but it seems something always comes up.  Mother's Day was sure relaxing though, and I hope you all had a great day too!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Another Piece of My Heart by Jane Green

Here is a summary of the book from the author's website

Andi has spent much of her adult life looking for the perfect man, and at thirty-seven, she's finally found him. Ethan — divorced with two daughters, Emily and Sophia — is a devoted father and even better husband. Always hoping one day she would be a mother, Andi embraces the girls like they were her own. But in Emily’s eyes, Andi is an obstacle to her father’s love, and Emily will do whatever it takes to break her down. When the dynamics between the two escalate, they threaten everything Andi believes about love, family, and motherhood — leaving both women standing at a crossroad in their lives . . . and in their hearts.

My Review:
This was my first experience with Green and I wasn't really sure what to expect.  Our book club won copies of this book and when I was judging the book by it's cover, which I admit to doing quite often, I figured it would be a sappy love story.  Well I can tell you it was far from that.

The book is basically written in two parts.  The first half being told by Andi as she struggles with the troubles of being a stepmother to a young girl that wants nothing to do with her.  Emily is rude and belligerent most of the time, making it hard for Andi to continue reaching out to her.  It becomes more difficult when her husband doesn't support her, but always turns to his daughter at any sign of turmoil.  I definitely understood her frustrations, but by the end of this part it almost took on a whiny tone making me thankful we were done with that stuff.

The second half of the book was told from several perspectives, including the angry, young Emily.  We learn what makes her so angry inside and watch her as she makes wrong decisions that will follow her throughout her life.  We see a part of Emily that makes us want to slap her silly, but we are also lucky enough to watch her accept the cards that life has given her as she develops into a confident young woman.

Families can be messy business, especially when divorce and stepparents are involved.  I think Green did a great job of creating a realistic situation by not holding back any of the gritty nastiness that comes up in life.  Even though most of the gals in my book club didn't enjoy this one as much as I did, it did make for a great evening of discussion.  With themes of love, forgiveness, and family this is a great book for personal leisure or as a book club selection.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to my group by the publisher to read as a book club selection.