Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matters of the Heart by Danielle Steel

Okay guys I promise one more Danielle Steel after this one and I'll be back onto some more serious reading again.  This one was a bit different than her usual fare.  Sure it was still typical Steel writing (lots of repetitive writing, trademark phrases and impossibly good-looking, successful people...), but this had an element of serious horror to it.  It also had me thinking that she had recently read Eat, Pray, Love and was using the popularity of that book as a jump off for this one.
This is the story of Hope.  Hope is a successful photographer who is essentially alone.  For once Steel does not reveal all of her main subject's past at the beginning of the story.  It takes a few chapters before you know (although you suspect) what tragedies are in Hope's past. 
Hope meets Finn, an author.  She is swept up in a romance with him.  But Finn has a dark side.  A controlling side.  You do start to wonder why she doesn't just leave him already. But then again, I have also known women who have lived in abusive relationships.  I've seen how they are blinded by their abusers.  I guess Hope is representative of that.  I can't say I enjoyed this story.  But it did keep me enthralled (I wanted to see if she would have a breaking point).

Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Day at a Time by Danielle Steel

I know, I know I'm on a Danielle Steel kick right now, catching up on her books I've missed the past few years.  Here is another one in classic Steel style.  You know the whole story pretty much before it happens.  But it's good mindless reading.  I enjoy this kind of book once in a while.  This is the story of Coco, raised by a Hollywood Agent and a Romance Author, sister of a Movie Producer, living in a beach house in an extremely small beach community, making a living as a dog walker.
She meets Leslie, a big-time movie star and friend of her sisters.  She is housesitting and he is escaping from a questionable ex-girlfriend.  You can guess the rest of the story from there.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Oh Jodi, what are you doing?  This had all the markings of what could have been an interesting really good book.  Unfortunately it was such a case of contradictions, choppy transitions and trying to do too much with one book.  From the cover description, I thought I was going to read a book about a music therapist.  That would have been a great book.  In fact the best parts of this book were the music therapy parts.
What the cover doesn't tell you is the rest of what the book is about, it's pretty vague.
You don't know that it is also about struggles with pregnancy *warning* DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR TRYING TO BE PREGNANT - it will depress you and scare you*  You do not know that this book is about a marriage falling apart (although that part is glossed over so much it really isn't).  You do not know that this is a book about gay rights - which is funny because that is what most of the second half of the book focuses on.

Here are my problems with this book.
*SPOILERS BELOW - consider yourself warned*
1) the breakdown of Zoe and Max's marriage.  There was so little time on this that you kinda go 'huh?' - this in itself , the infertility and the marriage difficulties would have been a good book.  There was no mention of anything that really contributes to how it ended.  Just one day he was frustrated and left, the next thing you know it's months later and they are divorcing.  Come on, it's not that easy.  This is a nine year marriage we are talking about.
2) The book makes such a point of you are born gay, yet, Zoe who was as straight as they come, only ever being involved with men and never having a same sex attraction before jumps into a same sex relationship and then decides to marry the woman 3 months later.  That's a bit of a jump really.  Why then does the book make a point of anyone who is ex-gay must be wrong.  Why in the author's eyes is ex-gay not a possibility but ex-straight is?  Shouldn't it be a possibility both ways?
3) This book also makes a point of fighting lesbian stereotypes (ie not all butch biker chicks) but the one male gay character is a stereotypical wedding planner?  The Christian's are stereotypical gay-haters?  Come on.  If you are going to write a serious book that fights stereotypes then please fight all of them.   Show an equal view on all sides.
4) How blatantly anti-Christian this book is.  Dear Jodi Picoult: you have Christian readers in your fan-base.  Why would you do this?  The majority of Christians are not picketers and gay-bashers.  They are not a brainwashed cult.  Just as gays do not want a stereotype promoted, neither do the Christians.  The Westboro Baptist Church though it labels itself as Christian, is NOT!  Most Christian churches have denounced them and are not aligned with them.  Why would you lump them in?  Most pastors are not Southern larger than life in a big suit game show host types.  Yet the only pastors you meet in this book are.  I have never in my life heard a sermon like the one that was preached.  I can not think of a single pastor (and I know many personally) that would publicly name anybody in a sermon and denounce them.  Sunday morning services are a time of worship, to worship God.  The purpose of a sermon is to expound upon the Word of the Lord.  I have no idea where you would have gotten this idea.  But it is just wrong and inaccurate at best.  Also a new believer like Max would not be called upon like he was in this book to confront his ex-wife.  That's just terrible plot right there.  Standard pastoral practice would have counselled him along, not used him for any agenda.
5) The cutting the book back and forth from character to character did not work in this one.  It was just to choppy.  A more interesting book would have been just Zoe's perspective.  Or maybe just Zoe and Max.  It also made for poor character development.
6) Too many ideas in one book.  This book could have been 5 really good books instead of just one mediocre one.  Book One: Zoe and Max and their struggle in infertility and how it affected their marriage.  Book Two:  Zoe and her work as a music therapist  - there is a book that hasn't been written yet that would be fascinating.  Book Three:  Zoe and Vanessa and their struggles as a lesbian couple in Rhode Island, a state that doesn't recognize gay marriage.  Book Four: Max's alcoholism and recovery and how faith in Christ changed his life.  Book Five: The court battles and legality regarding custody of frozen embryos.

All this being said, I have faith that Jodi Picoult can write a good book.  She's done it before.  My favorite of hers was 19 Minutes.  That was excellent.  I think what has happened is that she has become so well known that she is probably contractually obligated to produce a novel every year or so and her writing is suffering for it.  I also think that because she is known to write on 'hot' topics she is trying to capture popular opinion instead of writing a really good book that takes all sides seriously.   I hope her writing picks up again.  She has talent, but it is being wasted with books that have so many problems like this one.

Rescue by Anita Shreve

Rescue is Anita Shreve's latest offering and fortunately falls into the category of books I really like by her (it's why I keep coming back to this author, for every passive, boring-ish story is one like this).  This is the story of Webster, a straight laced, small town medic in Vermont whose life is turned upside down by Sheila, an alcoholic he Rescues in a car accident one shift.  They have a whirlwind courtship and marriage that leaves him raising their toddler daughter Rowan on his own.  Fast forward 15 years and Rowan is a senior in high school, starting down her own dangerous path.  In desperation, Webster wonders if her should find Sheila to have her help their daughter. 
Well written and well worth reading.

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

I wondered how I had missed this book.  I thought I had caught up on all of Anita Shreve's writing last year, but I was wrong.  Oddly enough like Danielle Steel, I find Shreve writes 2 kinds of books.  This one was the one I find a little boring.  You feel like you are observing but there isn't a lot going on, just undercurrents that there is more to the story that what is presented.
This story is about Sydney, hired to assist Julie, the youngest child of Mark and Anna Edwards, who at 18 is really not very bright.  Sydney is 29, a divorcee and a widow who lives from odd job to odd job.  The Edward's have Sydney live with them at their beach house for the summer.  It is the older 'children' the Jeff and Ben who have an affect of both Sydney and the family.
The most interesting part of this book to me is the house in which is takes place.  The house is its own character, this book marking its 4th appearance (previously in The Pilot's Wife, Fortune's Rocks and Sea Glass).

Southern Lights by Danielle Steel

I said in my previous post that Danielle Steel writes 2 kinds of book.  The first is the breezy one, the second kind you get a sense she put a little more work and research into.  This is the second kind.  This one is set in current day New York and South Carolina.  The lead character here is a DA working a conviction of a serial killer.  When her daughter receives threatening letters she sends her off to live with her father in South Carolina, the last place in the world she wants to be. 
Reading this book, I started to wonder a bit if someone in the US South really pissed Danielle Steel off at one point.  Or, was that just the character's experience?  Either way, I liked this one.  It was interesting to read, with characters that were likable.

A Good Woman by Danielle Steel

It's no secret that Danielle Steel novels are one mode of relaxation for myself.  They are an easy, breezy read.  I find her books come in 2 varieties. This one is of the predictable, repeats itself a lot kind.  It's easy to get into, has a strong female lead character.  You like her, you sympathize with her and you root for her.  In this book that character is Annabelle Worthington.  Born in the late 1800's she loses her father and brother in the sinking of the Titanic.  It becomes up to her to care for her mother and make a good life for herself without the men in their lives to take care of them. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith

This is the 2nd offering from Anne Easter Smith (and my 3rd read of hers having read them out of order).  It is my favorite one of the 3.  Margaret of York is such a strong female historical figure that she makes for a fantastic story.  I can only imagine the work that went into this to weave fiction into history. 
Margaret of York is one of King Edward IV and Richard III's sisters.  She  became Duchess of Burgandy, marrying Charles the Bold at 22.  She ruled most of the Duchy as Charles set about conquering land.  She comes from an interesting (though bloody) time in history and is remembered as a great leader.  Good character, good story.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Saving Women's Hearts Blog Tour

 *The following post appears on my shared parenting blog Clever Mamas - Because I feel this is such an important book, I'm sharing the contest over here as well*

As part of our partnership with Mom Central Canada, I get sent items from time to time to review and share with you.  At the end of February I received a copy of "Saving Women's Hearts" a book written by women for women to raise awareness of heart disease in women.  One of the authors is a cardiologist specializing in cardiology for women and the other is a pharmacist and fitness instructor, dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle. 
So why this book?  Why is it important?  Heart disease is the number one killer of women in North America.  It is also one of the least researched and published areas in medicine.  Kinda scary in this day and age isn't it?  Did you know that heart disease presents differently in women than in men?  But until the 1990's most of the studies in heart disease were focused solely on men.  So what you know about heart attacks most likely describe a male heart attack, not a female one.
The authors include a quiz on heart health at the beginning of the book.  I was shocked and embarrassed about how little I actually know.  Fortunately this book is written in language that is easy to follow and understand.  Being a busy mom, I was worried about getting bogged down in some sort of scientific text.  This wasn't the case.  I could pick this one up and down as time permitted to gain a little bit more knowledge in this area.  This is a great book for any woman to have on her shelf.
Thanks to Mom Central we are giving away a copy of this book to one of our readers!  To enter, leave a comment telling why you would like to have a copy of this fabulous book.  Please leave your email address as well so I can contact you if your name is drawn.  The contest closes on Wednesday, March 9, 2011.

Disclosure - I am participating in the Saving Women’s Hearts program by Mom Central on behalf of Wiley Publishing.  I received a copy of the book to review and gift card as a thank you for my participation.  The opinions on this blog are my own.
*Because I feel this book is so important, I am running this contest concurrently on my shared parenting site http://clevermamas.blogspot.com - one winner will be drawn between both sites

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Once in a while I pick up a book and think, "This is what books should be like!"  Well written, an interesting story, not patronizing, true to character and situation...this was one of those books.  Seriously, one of the best books I've read recently.  I had no pre-conceived notions about this book coming in.  It was simply a book that looked interesting to me.  The book centres around Asha, a girl given up for adoption secretly in India.  She is adopted by a couple of doctors in America (the mother a Californian-American, the father and Indian immigrant whose family is still in India).  The story is more than just Asha's.  It is also Kavita's, her birth mother grieving her first born also a girl, taken from her at birth to infantcide.  It is also about Jasu, her biological father who knows naught what happened to this daughter (he is under the impression that she died shortly after birth).  It also tells Somer's story, Asha's adoptive mother who isn't quite happy with the way her life turned out.  She doesn't connect to her husband's heritage and homeland.  Krishan, Asha's adoptive father is torn between his love of living the American dream and his memories of his Indian upbringing.
The story is told in year clips, skipping 5 years here and there, so you get glimpses rather than a full unfolding.  In the middle of all of this is Asha, wondering about her birth parents.  Wanting to be more like her school peers and wanting to know her home culture.  I highly recommend this book.