Book Review ~ Testimony by Anita Shreve

Summary ~ At a New England boarding school, a sex scandal is about to break. Even more shocking than the sexual acts themselves is the fact that they were caught on videotape. A Pandora’s box of revelations, the tape triggers a chorus of voices–those of the men, women, teenagers, and parents involved in the scandal–that details the ways in which lives can be derailed or destroyed in one foolish moment., the needs and fears that drive ordinary men and women into intolerable dilemmas, and the ways in which our best intentions can lead to our worst transgressions.innocentsexplores the dark impulses that sway the lives of seeming

Writing with a pace and intensity surpassing even her own greatest work, Anita Shreve delivers in TESTIMONY a gripping emotional drama with the impact of a thriller. No one more compellingly

Anita Shreve’s Testimony was this months book club read.  I’m torn about what I thought about it.  I was really bored with most of the story but liked the beginning and end.  The book is told from multiple perspectives which got distracting at times.  Some of the characters who told the story from their point of view confused me with their importance and relevance to the story.  Did we really need to know that person’s thoughts to get the gist of the story?  Really? 

The story circles around a stupid night in a dorm room with very drunk teenagers and their crazy sexual escapades.  Being married to someone in law enforcement, the common denominator to most sexual assaults is alcohol.  No surprise then that that is the case in this work of fiction.  Actually that is the problem I had with the book on the whole.  I felt like I was reading an ongoing newspaper story told through multiple articles that drew the story out for too long. 

An interesting point was brought up at our lunch/meeting for Testimony.  “Would you want your teenager to read this book?”  The mutual agreement was yes, it would be an eye opener to teens out there that this type of thing can happen.  Testimony was inspired by the 2006 Duke Lacrosse scandal, proof that fact can be stranger than fiction.  Throughout the discussion I tended to feel out of the loop because I was the only one at the table who had read the book instead of listen to the audiobook.  [Quick question to you book bloggers and readers/listeners out there: Do you think that listening to an audiobook is equivalent to reading the book?]

If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult and other “true life” fiction stories, than Anita Shreve’s Testimony may be the book for you this spring.

{Rating 3 out of 5}

Friday Finds ~ March 26th, 2010

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This was my favorite meme to put together.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

   

   

   

The Last Child by John Hart
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Dog Boy by Eva Hornung
Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
The Long Way Home by David Laskin
If You Follow Me by Malena Warous
The Best of Friends: Martha and Me by Mariana Pasternak
The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Greenwald
The Imperfectionist by Tom Rackman

Friday Finds ~ March 19th, 2010

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This was my favorite meme to put together.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

     

    

The Surrendered by Chang Rae Lee
The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose
The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordane
Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas
Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Figures in Silk by Vanora Bennett
Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin
Shakespeare’s Wife by Germaine Greer
The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl
 

Book Giveaway ~ Garth Stein’s Raven Stole The Moon

I am soooo excited to have the opportunity to host this giveaway!!  Thanks go to Sarah Daily at Terra Communications for offering up a copy of Garth Stein’s reissue, Raven Stole The Moon.  Sarah does ask that the contest be limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada.  I sure hope the person who wins this book loves it as much as I did!  The story is really great and unexpected. 

I want to make this contest a little challenging so when you leave your e-mail address in the comment section of this post also let me know what your favorite myth or folk lore legend is.  Raven Stole The Moon is centered around a Tlingit Tribe spirit, the Kushtaka myth.  One of my favorite stories from American folklore is the Legend of Sleepy Hallow and the Headless Horseman.  So, share with us your favorite story and leave your e-mail address with it in the comment section of this post by Friday, March 19th at Midnight EST to win Raven Stole The Moon.  Good Luck, Happy Reading & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Book Review ~ Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Subject ~ Tawawa House in many respects is like any other American resort before the Civil War. Situated in Ohio, this idyllic retreat is particularly nice in the summer when the Southern humidity is too much to bear. The main building, with its luxurious finishes, is loftier than the white cottages that flank it, but then again, the smaller structures are better positioned to catch any breeze that may come off the pond. And they provide more privacy, which best suits the needs of the Southern white men who vacation there every summer with their black, enslaved mistresses. It’s their open secret.
Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are regulars at Tawawa House. They have become friends over the years as they reunite and share developments in their own lives and on their respective plantations. They don’t bother too much with questions of freedom, though the resort is situated in free territory–but when truth-telling Mawu comes to the resort and starts talking of running away, things change.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s novel Wench takes an interesting, yet previously unknown to me, piece of American history and brings it to life in the mind of the reader.  In the author’s note at the end of the book Perkins-Valdez says that Tawawa Resort was real but eventually did close and was sold to a Methodist Church organization which is now the present-day Wilberforce University. 

The feeling of the book was good, literally and figuratively.   Set between the years 1852 and 1854  in “Southern” Tennessee (Shelby County county which is just east of Memphis) and “Northern” Ohio, Perkins-Valdez brings pre-Civil War America to life in our minds.  Character development is strong.  The four main women of the book are vivid and unique. They care for each other deeply and admire and respect each other for the most part. 

The core character of Wench is Lizzie, a literate and hopeful house slave who believes her master and father of her two children when he says he will free their children.  A large part of the book focuses on Lizzie’s story and I enjoyed these parts the most.  I think the sections about Lizzie could have stood on their own as a book actually. 

The only problem I had with Wench was part one.  It felt disjointed and out of place.  Once part two started it felt like the true starting point for the book.  Part one was full of important information and development that was explained later in the book.  I think when I considered that the book started with part two instead, I enjoyed it much better.  I really enjoyed the story of Lizzie and what the characters discovered about themselves as the story went along. 

I was contacted by Danielle Plafsky at Harper Collins Publishers and she thought that since I had enjoyed Kathryn Stockett’s The Help so much that I would like Wench.  Thank you Danielle for sending me a copy of Wench!  It was a good read all in all and I think it would be a great book for discussion in a book club setting.

{Rating ~ 3.75 to 4 stars}

Friday Finds ~ March 12th, 2010

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This was my favorite meme to put together.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

   

   

    

Valley of the Dolls by Jaqueline Susann
Beside A Burning Sea by John Shors
Bone Worship by Elizabeth Eslami
The House on Dream Street by Dana Sachs
The Privileges by Jonathan Dee
Almost Home by Pam Jenoff
Angelology by Danielle Trussoni
The Vintage Caper by Peter Mayle
This Book Is Overdue by Marilyn Johnson
The Outcast by Sadie Jones
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

Author’s Can Be SOOOO Cool (and sometimes they don’t even know it)!

So, last night my friends Hillary and Amy joined me in Bethesda for a book signing.  Now this wasn’t just any book signing.  It was the publishing day for my new/old friend Sarah Pekkanen and her novel, The Opposite of Me.  Sarah reminded me that it was twenty-one months ago when she first contacted me via e-mail, while Hubby and I were still in Okinawa.  She asked me to please check out her new website for her upcoming book and tell her what I thought and if it needed any changes.  Me!?!  Who was I to tell and author what to do with her website?!  Well, I did and I learned that Sarah lived in Chevy Chase, MD and she was writing a work of women’s fiction.  Her website was really cool with chocolate and cotton candy pink hues and witty writing that made me laugh.  I signed up for her monthly newsletter that provided updates on her writing and her life.    

We kept in touch throughout the months so when I decided to fly to DC for one of my best friend’s wedding in November of 2008 I asked her if we could get together for coffee while I was in town.  Sarah agreed to the get together but her baby had other plans.  He decided he wanted to join the world at the beginning of that week so we didn’t get that original opportunity.  Let me tell you folks something.  Better late than never!  Last night we finally had the wonderful pleasure of meeting each other for the first time at Sarah’s book signing/reading/Q&A event at her neighborhood Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  

Amy, Hillary, Sarah & Me!

After the event she invited everyone to join her at a local watering hole across the street for chocolate-tinis (not my drink so I had a chocolate milkshake).  I am so glad we did!  Hillary, Amy and I got to hang out and talk with Sarah and her charming husband Glenn for over an hour total.  We talked about why Sarah’s book, being a brand new first release, wasn’t in hardcover (her publisher proposed that with the recession in place it would be better to make the price of the book cheaper), how she felt nervous but welcomed by her family and friends at her first event, how grateful both Sarah and Glenn are to famed author Jennifer Weiner for her support throughout the publishing process (they have the same editor) and numerous other things that helped us all get to know each other. 

The evening was a special and memorable one that I will never forget.  I am so grateful to be a book blogger/reviewer because of moments like these when the huge gap the reader sometimes feels between themself and the author dissolves and a friendship is born.  I am one lucky lady and wouldn’t change a thing about any of it. 

{Thanks to Hillary aka Library Love for granting me permission to post her beautiful pics!}

Book Review ~ Raven Stole The Moon by Garth Stein

Summary ~ From the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain comes an extraordinary tale of grief, devotion, redemption, and timeless mystery.  When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to visit Wrangell, Alaska, it’s a wrenching return to her past. The hometown of her Native American grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay Resort, where Jenna’s young son, Bobby, disappeared two years before. His body was never recovered, and Jenna is determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death. But whispers of ancient legends begin to suggest a frightening new possibility about Bobby’s fate, and Jenna must sift through the beliefs of her ancestors, the Tlingit, who still tell of powerful, menacing forces at work in the Alaskan wilderness. Armed with nothing but a mother’s protective instincts, Jenna’s quest for the truth behind her son’s disappearance is about to pull her into a terrifying and life-changing abyss.
 
Well folks, Garth Stein has done it again!  Actually he wrote a fabulous book before he even wrote the wonderful New York Times bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Stein’s new publisher, Harper Collins, has decided to rerelease his first novel that has been out of print for a few years.   The book I’m talking about is Raven Stole The Moon.  It’s a dark, sad, uplifting and incredible story about a family and what happens when tragedy strikes. Things are not all as they seem at first glance. 

I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!  Sorry for “yelling” but seriously, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to the main character, Jenna, and where her journey (I hate using that word but it applies here) would take her next.  The story revolves around the tragic drowning of Bobby, the young son of Jenna and her husband Robert, a couple years ago.  As the reader, we meet both distraught parents at a fork in their future road two years to the day after Bobby drowned.  They live in Seattle (a city I LOVE and have had the opportunity to visit many times because my parents are from that area) but the drowning occurred at a resort in Alaska.  Don’t worry, I haven’t given away anything! 

Garth Stein is a fabulous writer and really had me jumping in my skin throughout Raven Stole The Moon and I LOVED it.  It was surprising because I cried my way through The Art of Racing in the Rain and had such a different reaction to this very different book.  The only common denominator between the two novels is a dog.  In Raven Stole The Moon a dog, Oscar, plays a very important and surprising role and I really enjoyed the scenes that he graced.  The story also revolves around an Indian spirit.  The tribe is the Tlingit and the mythological spirit is the Kushtaka, loosely translated meaning “land otter man.”  Stein seamlessly weaves the stories of the Tlingit tribe into this fabulous work of fiction.

The characters are great, the story is superb and the descriptions of Seattle and Alaskan islands are vivid and true.  If you are a fan of folklore legend and like to get the blood churning in your veins while reading a great book than I cannot recommend Garth Stein’s Raven Stole The Moon enough!  There is not one lull from beginning to end and you will not want to put this book down so be sure to have all your chores and errands done for a couple of days and clear your schedule.  You’ll be so glad you did!

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

I would like to thank Sarah Daily of Terra Communications for approaching me with the offer to read and review Raven Stole The Moon.  I really appreciate the chance she gave me to gain awareness of Garth Stein’s book and to help bring him more attention which he truly deserves.

Friday Finds ~ March 5th, 2010 (Dang! Where is this year going?!?)

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This was my favorite meme to put together.  I like looking at the book covers and putting them all together.  It makes me want to go to the book store!  Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.  While browsing fabulous book blogs,  Amazon.com, Washington Post.com, NPR.org, various other places on the Internet, checking out the book section of Hubby’s Entertainment Weekly Magazine and getting recommendations from friends, these are the books that either made it to my wish list this week or I downloaded the samples on my Kindle from Amazon.com.

     

    

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman
Someone Will Be With You Shortly by Lisa Kogan
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Petals From the Sky by Mingmei Yip
Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by John Elder Robison 
The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
As Young As We Feel: A Novel by Melody Carlson
The Man From Saigon: A Novel by Marti Leimbach