Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

(63) Bufflehead Sisters by Patricia J Delois

I have been in somewhat of a slump. It has been a while since I have read a book that I could barely put down. Between the boyfriend & work, I am really lacking in dedicated reading time. So I made the time last night & found myself only getting five hours of sleep. And rather than take a nap between my meeting & my shift today, I finished my book. I *love* books that I can't put down.

Bufflehead Sisters is a book about the family that we create for ourselves. Janet & Sophie met in kindergarten. Janet was the only child of devout Catholic parents. She was raised in a loving, secure, safe home. Sophie was the only daughter of a mentally insane woman and her philandering husband. Janet & her family took Sophie in and gave her the love and discipline she was lacking at home.

The book follows the girls from grade school all the way through high school and into adulthood. And while Janet continues being the "good girl", Sophie takes a different path and in the process destroys all that is good in her life.Italic

While a bit predictable, I have to give kudos to Ms DeLois for creating such an intoxicating character like Sophie. Even on paper Sophie is exotic, haunting, and intoxicating all at the same time. You can't stop reading, even if you DO figure out the "twist" because you are curious at how Sophie will come out of the predicament .

Bufflehead Sisters won't win any literary awards, but her writing and her characters (especially Sophie) could rival any trashy Danielle Steele novel. Exactly the kind of book you want in your bag when you hit the beach.

Friday, July 24, 2009

(62) Best of Times by Penny Vincenzi

Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?

I do. And apparently so does Penny Vincenzi.

In her new book The Best of Times she writes about a group of people that were at the same place at the same time . They all lived through the terrifying crash on the M4. Each experienced the crash a little differently, but the tragic crash forever connected this group of people.

Ms Vincenzi has written an all encompassing epic novel. It is so detailed and so, well, REAL, that when their lives start overlapping , you can understand why. There is the doctor and his mistress that, while they escaped unscathed, their lives were forever changed by the events that happened that day. There is the semi-truck driver who is desperately trying to make it home in time for a family party. Did he push himself into causing the accident that killed three & injured many? There is the farmer who witnessed the accident and did all he could to help those on the freeway. But was it enough? There is also the doctor who was on duty in the ER that fateful day.

These people are just a few of the people whose lives will forever be changed by what happened on the M4 that fateful day. Will they be able to work through the mental trauma caused by the accident as well as the physical trauma?

The Best of Times is such a well written book. It truly takes you inside the lives of these people. None of these people would likely have crossed each others paths if it were not for this accident. Good, bad, or otherwise, I believe everything happens for a reason. And books like this only reinforces my belief.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Introducing the Barnes & Noble E-Reader

Right now. At this very moment an announcement is being made by Barnes & Noble, that is introducing the Barnes & Noble E-Reader.

The B&N E-Reader is a FREE application that you can download to your computer(PC or MAC), your Blackberry, or your iPhone. That will allow you to read E-Books that you have purchased directly from our website.

Let's talk about how easy this is going to be for you, the book lover. Earlier this month, B&N introduced the iPhone Ap that leads you directly to the B&N website. You can snap a picture with your iPhone and with the B&N Ap, you can pull the book up, locate it at a store in your area, purchase it from the website, or as of now, download it directly to your phone and be reading it within seconds. All for the cost of the book. Typically $9.99 or cheaper. E-Books can be downloaded directly to your phone at anytime. Anywhere. And just think, if you have the Barnes & Noble Membership Card, your cost will even be cheaper than if you were to purchase it from another website.

But just so we are clear. You do NOT have to purchase the $299 Kindle to get the exact same features that you get for FREE from B&N. I do not have an iPhone or a Blackberry, but in checking out www.ereader.com (A B&N Company), they have the software for other companies, so I suspect that in the very near future other phones will be added to the list. When downloading software directly from bn.com it even says that more phones will be added in the near future.

I got off track there, I am sorry, but this is an exciting time for me both as a bookseller and a book lover! Let me get back to some of the features, I did have the opportunity, this morning, to play with the E-Reader Application on an iPhone. Not only did it take only a few minutes to download the E-Reader, but also within seconds Sense & Sensibility was downloaded for free. I got to play with the features, which include font sizes, automatic scrolling, highlighting, taking notes, and the ability to search on Google or Wikipedia for something listed in the text of the book. I know there were other cool features that I am missing, but what can I say. It was 7:00am.

This is huge. HUGE for my company. For months now, there has been speculation at what B&N would do to compete with the Kindle and the Sony Reader. In participating in many book type message boards, there have been many people express their reluctance at venturing to the E-Book world because of the initial cost of the E-Reader. Let me say it again. The B&N E-Reader is FREE.... FREE!!!

While I am a little bummed that an application is not immediately available for my Palm Centro, I am not going to run out and by an iPhone or a Blackberry in order to read books. I love my Centro (and have my eye on the Palm Pre) & it does everything I need and more. I fully expect B&N to add other Smartphones to their list of Supported Devices in the very near future. Until then, I will just watch TV on my phone. God Bless SlingPlayer.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

(61) Undone by Karin Slaughter

I love love love LOVE a good, gritty, suspenseful mystery. My DVR reflects that with the hours & hours of NCIS, CSI, Criminal Minds and other crime dramas that I watch. Unfortunately with it being Summer Hiatus, I have to settle for reruns. And what fun are reruns. I already know "whodunit". Thank God for Karin Slaughter.

Karin Slaughter's new book, Undone, is by far grittier than anything you will find on network television. We meet up again with Will Trent & his partner, Faith Mitchell at the emergency room where they go after Faith passes out. While waiting for the doctor a woman is brought in with trauma so graphic that I can't begin to mention it here. Of course Will & Faith jump on the case.

They find another victim and soon two more women are missing. They start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. How the women are connected, why the monster is targeting these specific women. But who is the monster? They have pretty much figured out that it is a brother of the victim, but who is he? What name is he hiding behind? Is it one of the creepy men that were part of the car accident? Is it the son of the other car accident victims? Is it someone they have yet to encounter?

Undone is a fast paced crime novel that will haunt you. It is so gritty & graphic that it might not be for everyone. So be warned, if you can't handle Criminal Minds, Undone will turn your stomach. But for those of you that miss your gritty crime dramas during the long summer hiatus, pick up Undone it will satisfy your hunger for what you are missing and hold you over until the fall television season.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

I am so very disappointed. So very disappointed. I have had Julie & Julia on my shelf for quite a while. Just waiting for vacation to sit down and read this book.

My first inkling that this would not be a book I finished came on page 67 when she referred to dealing with the families of 9/11 victims as "emotional shitwork" that "Republicans had some family-values sort of notion that women possess inherent delicacy and sensitivity"


The repeated bashing of Republicans throughout the whole book just left a bad taste in my mouth. I stopped reading and shut the book on page 147 when I read this:

"Aunt Sukie is a schoolteacher in Waxahachie, Texas and one of those smart, kind people who nonetheless mystifies you by continuing to vote Republican."
Well Julie Powell. You can kiss this smart, kind, REPUBLICAN'S Rosie Red Ass.

I don't really discuss politics with anyone. I vote for who I think is the best person for the job and whose ideologies best align with mine. Right now I am really not sure if the Republican party best lines up with what I believe, but I do know they come a lot closer than the Democratic party. But no matter what I believe or what YOU believe, I will NEVER call you stupid for what you believe. I will NEVER make fun of you for voting who you vote for. Repeatedly, throughout her memoir, Julie Powell makes disparaging comments about the Republican party. It is one thing to express your support for one party in your book, it is quite another to make disparaging comments about the other party & the people who vote for them.

I really wanted to like this book. The trailer for the movies make it look cute. I can only assume that the producers were wise enough to take creative licenses with her day job & her feelings about Republicans. Makes no matter, now I won't shell out the $8.50 to go see the movie. Which is too bad, because I really was looking forward to this movie.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

(60) Perfection by Julie Metz

There are certain events in life that everybody reacts to differently. How we handle those events is a true testament to our character. Our jobs, as casual observers or intimate friends is not to judge how somebody handles such devastating blows, but to be there to love and support them in whatever way we can. A devastating blow like the death of a husband or the discovery that he had multiple sexual encounters and affairs during the entire length of the marriage could destroy the strongest of people, but they could also make us stronger people.

I try really hard to empathize and imagine what I would do in Julie Metz's shoes. Her husband drops dead suddenly of a pulmonary embolism & six months later she finds out that he cheated on her repeatedly and was involved in an affair with a close friend. While I don't know exactly what I would do, I am pretty sure that I would NOT repeatedly call up the ex-friend and scream obscenities at her. I am pretty sure that I would NOT rip our daughters, once the best of friends, apart and cause a scene so grand both little girls are crying hysterically. But I do not know for sure what I would do.

Perfection was, at times, very difficult to read. The raw emotions that Julie went through were so raw and graphic to read that I was almost embarrassed for her. Julie takes us on her journey of grief . She shares with us love letters (emails) between her husband and his various lovers. I found it very difficult to read those & in most cases I skipped over them. Julie also takes us through some of the steps she takes to getting herself & her life back. Engaging in a romantic affair with a friend within months of his death. Contacting each of his lovers and joining Match.Com were all ways she tried to deal with her pain.. Again, none of these things are likely anything I would do in her situation, so I am trying very hard not to be judgemental.

I would not say Perfection is the best memoir I have ever read, nor would I say it was the worst. I understand that the book was probably her ultimate way of dealing with the excruciating pain that she was dealing with in the years following his death. But it is not a book that I would have ever tried to get publish. There are some things that just don't need to be shared with the world. This is one of them. I really and truly hope that Liza never, ever reads this book. No young girl should ever have to read the things printed in this book about her deceased father. It just wouldn't be right.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, July 9, 2009

(59) The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax

The Accidental Bestseller is a book about friendship, loyalty, survival, and what happens when a friend who is down and out needs to be rescued.

Kendall, Mallory, Faye, & Tanya met ten years ago at a writers conference as struggling writers. Here it is ten years later and they are meeting at the same conference with the hope of seeing Kendall win an award. But Kendall doesn't win the award & that is the start of her world crashing down around her.

Her editor just told her they are dropping her after her next book. She goes home early to lick her wounds to discover that her husband has been cheating on her and he now wants a divorce.

With her final book deadline looming on the horizon, what does Kendall do? She heads to the family's mountain cabin & buries her head in the sand. Until her friends come to the rescue and force her to face reality. What the girls agree to could be considered unethical though, they agree to each write a portion of the book that will have Kendall's name on the cover. As each woman pours their heart into their portion, the line between fiction and non-fiction starts to become dangerously blurred. Each woman realizing that discovery of their assistance could be disastrous for each of them, but for different reasons.

Imagine their surprise when their book becomes a bestselling hit and a very popular talk show host wants to use the book for her national book club. Can the ladies get through the hour show without their secrets being revealed?

Wendy Wax has written an interesting insider look to the publishing world. While it is not as earth shattering as The Devil Wears Prada, it is interesting for those of us with a curiosity about what goes on in a Publishing House. While I did read the whole book, I found it lacking in a couple of different areas.

First of all, trying to keep the four friends and their fictional alters straight was a bit challenging. The thing that bothered me the most was that I think too much space was given to the history of the four women and their part in writing the Accidental Bestseller and not near enough time to what happens after the book has been released. Only the last seventy-five pages or so actually dealt with the ACTUAL Accidental Bestseller. And it felt forced and rushed. Very disappointing.

I really wanted to like this book and I even finished it, but it really was not a "bestseller".

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

(58) Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni

Right before I went on vacation I had a meeting with my District Manager to help get a better grasp on my future with the company. I love books. And I am extremely competitive. Those two qualities (among others) is what makes me a good manager.

But I want to be a GREAT manager. No, I want to be a GREAT Store Manager. So when the Boss Man suggested that I read Death By Meeting , I thought "No Problem! It is sitting on my shelf as we speak!".

So after giving up on Beginners Greek, I pulled it off the shelf & read it in about two hours give or take. Now, I know that most of you really could care less about Business Management type of books, but this particular book does not have to relate specifically to business people. Anyone who has to lead a meeting, from the PTA meeting to The Lady's Guild at your church would benefit from reading this book.

But before you groan & roll your eyes, Patrick Lencioni has a way with words. He does not write boring business manuals, but he writes fables. Leadership Fables. They are simply written. Without an excessive amount of detail or painful explanations, Lencioni tells us about Casey McDaniel and the software company he started in Monterey, California. His golf game was a hit with gamers everywhere and now he has sold his company. An executive from their new parent company has sat in on a couple of their executive meetings and his reactions have Casey believing that his job is on the line.

At the same time of the merge, Will has come to the company as a temporary admin assistant for Casey. Casey is friends with Will's family and their history leads them to have a more comfortable relationship than the average exec & their assistant. Bottom line. Will sees that Casey's job is on the line, because frankly, the meetings are boring and nothing ever gets resolved. Which is exactly what the parent company exec saw with every meeting he sat in on.

This caught my eye about what the rest of the staff thinks about the weekly meetings. Because I suspect this is hour our staff views our staff meetings:

"They are wondering about your, about our, competence. They just don't understand how we can come in here for two hours every week and emerge without clearer direction for them."
There are many times when we leave our weekly meetings at work where I feel as if nothing has been resolved and our booksellers know that. I suspect it affects our staff's morale more than we think.

So in his OCD way, Will is determined to help save Casey's job. He starts analyzing meetings everywhere. And what makes them boring. How to jazz them up & how to increase the productivity in the meetings. Lencioni does a great job of making the comparisons between movies & meetings. And how the one thing that makes a movie interesting, conflict, was lacking from the weekly meetings at Casey's company.

Okay, I have rambled on long enough. I will cut to the chase. Communication, structure, and fear of conflict is what will save your company Death By Meeting. The book gives a structured outline for leading meetings. The outline includes, among other things, a "lightning round" and cascading messages.

Please don't let the thought of reading a business book scare you away from actually reading this book. If you find yourself sitting through weekly meetings wishing you could poke your eye out with a pencil, you will learn great things from this book.

Did Not Finish

I tried. I really, really tried. A lady at work, for whom I respect & strive to have her literary taste recommended this book. So, in an effort to be more like Jo, I tried to read this book.

After three days and 78 pages, I am sitting here trying to force myself to pick the book up to read it. As we all know, that is never a good sign. You should NEVER feel forced to read a book, well unless of course it is for school.

Has anyone else had a "Did Not Finish" recently?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

(57) Building A Home With My Husband by Rachel Simon

I picked this book because the subject matter revolves around my new obsession. Home Renovation. Or better yet, HGTV. I have read books before about the housing industry that I found to be so interesting, especially House Lust. I was looking forward to reading a book about a couple's relationship as they embark on a fairly large, especially expensive renovation.

What I found was not just a book about home renovation, but a book about a woman whose whole perception of love goes through a renovation, just like her home is.

Where I identified with Rachel Simon was the fact that she married her husband after they had been "broken up" for six years. I am back together with an ex-boyfriend after we had been apart for almost three years. And like Rachel & Hal, we started off as friends this go-around. For me, it was nice to read of their success story. But even after being married for a couple of years, it is clear that neither Rachel, nor Hal, have all the answers to relationships and marriage.

Hal is an architect & is spearheading the renovation on their historical Wilmington, Delaware Row home. He has designed a house that, when completed will meet their every need. Plenty of light, plenty of space, and most importantly, plenty of closets. But it is difficult for Rachel to give it all over to Hal. She is far from enthusiastic at the thought of moving into a rental during the reno. If she is disappointed in the little hiccups that happen along the way, she is downright distraught when their home essentially explodes and sets the whole project back months. And thousands of dollars.

During the process she learns a lot about herself. And how she interacts with not only Hal, but Dan, their Contractor. And how she interacts with her dysfunctional family. Soon Rachel realizes that she is just not in the process of renovating her home, but her heart as well.

Building A Home With My Husband is a well written memoir. It is a nice blend of HGTV and Lifetime television. Although, I would have loved to see Before & After pictures. How cruel is it to write a book about home renovation and not include Before & After pictures?

If you can forgive that minor oversight, you will find Building A Home With My Husband to be one woman's insightful look at unconditional love, and how hard it is to give and receive it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

(56)Secrets She Left Behind by Diane Chamberlain

Jodi Picoult fans will LOVE this book! It was absolutely wonderful! And apparently it was even a sequel. The follow up book to Before the Storm, but I only discovered that after reading the synopsis for the Before the Storm so it is not necessary to read it before reading Secrets She Left Behind .

Secrets She Left Behind is the story of tragedy, hope, love, betrayal, and forgiveness. Told in Jodi Picoult fashion, Secrets She Left Behind is told from different perspectives at different points in time. Each chapter representing a different person.

Secrets She Left Behind is set in a small island community in North Carolina a year after a tragic fire killed three of it's residents and scarred on young man for life. The story picks up when the girl, Maggie, who set (but did not IGNITE) the fire is released from prison. Keith, her half brother, was the young man scarred & injured in the fire. Forever causing a rift between the two siblings, and their families.

Life will never be normal for the two families. And it gets even worse when Keith's mother disappears on the day that Maggie is released from prison. Both Maggie & Keith are living in their own personal hell when a young woman enters each of their lives. For Maggie, she is the friend & confidant that she never thought she would ever have again. For Keith, she is the girlfriend and lover that he never thought he would have again. But neither of them knows the role she plays in the others life. Neither of them know the real reason why she came to the island.

I can not say enough good things about this book. The characters are so well developed and so intertwined with each other, the story truly feels complete. Just as Jodi Picoult does, Diane Chamberlain will evoke more than one emotion as her words paint the story of an island, and it's people, trying to heal after tragedy strikes. And those emotions will stay with you long after the story ends.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

(55)Labor Day by Joyce Maynard -- On Sale July 28, 2009

I am officially on vacation! And that makes Labor Day the first book of my vacation. My goal is to read one book a day while on vacation. So let me tell you about the first book.

Labor Day is a story set in the late summer of 1987. It is the story of thirteen year old Henry, and his mother, Adele. They live a life of virtual solitude. On one of their rare trips to the local department store, Henry is approached by a man with blood dripping down his leg. He asks Henry to take him to his mother.

The man is Frank. Frank has just escaped from the local prison. Over the next few days Henry lives the life that he has always wanted. Frank easily steps into the role of "Man of the House". From household chores to teaching Henry how to make the perfect peach pie Frank endears himself to the broken family & the captives become the willing.

The story is told from Henry's perspective. His observations of his mother & Frank, well of life in general are made through the burgeoning hormones that only thirteen year old boys experience. He is torn between happiness and solitude. Torn between his mother's happiness and his own. Will this story have a happy ending? Or will their lives forever be ruined the the escaped convict that came into their lives one hot summer day.

Joyce Maynard has written a unique coming of age story. She takes you into the intimate world of Henry, Adele, and Frank. It is such a unique story and you will find yourself questioning what you know of all of the "hardened" convicts of the world. Labor Day is a touching, tender story that will warm your heart in a very short time, making it hard for you to put the book down.

All Will Be Revealed on 9/15/09

September 15th, 2009 brings with it the one of the most anticipated books in the history of publishing.

Forget Harry Potter. Forget Edward & Bella. This year, the world is waiting for The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown. Now if you have been living under a literary rock, Dan Brown is the author of the Angels & Demons and The DaVinci Code both books were runaway bestsellers. Not to mention hit movies.

Well in order to build the anticipation, Dan Brown and Random House have used technology and social networking to their advantage. The Lost Symbol website has gone live. All we see now is the cryptic countdown, but I suspect that if you keep checking, clues will be given daily.

But for those of you unable to wait, you can follow The Lost Symbol on Twitter and get daily clues and other updates. The very first update given on Twitter was this.

Codes of ethics? T 10 C; 6 P O T SOD; 12 S O T Z

I suspect that that right there will be the key to solving the puzzle that has become The Lost Symbol. I don't know about you, but I am dying to get my paws on this book. I love all of his books and have no doubt that this one will be like the others!

(54) Commencement by J Courtney Sullivan

This was a really, really good book.

Most of us went to college. And while not all of us (ahem :blush:) graduated college, we at least have had the college experience to some sort of extent.

We all had a first year experience. In fact I had a class called Freshman Year Experience (FYE) to help the transition from high school to college. I know my whole college experience was a bit unique, but as dysfunctional as it was, I will always cherish the time I spent with my college "family."

Commencement brought back all of those memories. The book is the story of four women who meet their first year at Smith. As most of you know, Smith is one of the few remaining all women universities and that alone was an integral part of the story. The story is told from the perspective of four different women who meet during their First Year.

Bree, April, Ceila, & Sally become not only the best of friends, but they become family. And through thick or thin family sticks together. As the friends navigate the world after Commencement, they find themselves making unique life decisions that sometimes challenge the boundaries of their friendships.

Then a crisis hits and the girls realize that their differences mean nothing when one of them is in need. Can their combined talents & strengths be enough to save the one who needs them the most?

J Courtney Sullivan has written a fabulous book about sisterhood. A book about tender relationships and the kind of love that only the best of friends can share, you will not make it through this book without wanting to call your best friend. I promise you that.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

(53) The Late Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow

What do you think happens to us when we die?

Do you go directly to Heaven? Or Hell? Are you able to check in on your family? To see what they do after you pass? I think everyone would like to take a peek at their own funeral, to see who shows up and who doesn't. Who cries and who doesn't.

Molly Marx gets the chance to linger in "Duration". Which gives her the chance to peek in on her family as they try to deal with her sudden death. She gets to see her husband with his mistress. Her daughter with her Nanny. Her twin sister briefly lose her mind with grief. And she gets to observe Detective Hicks try to piece it all together and find out what happened to poor Molly Marx.

But make no mistake, Molly Marx is no saint.

In between her voyeuristic visits, Molly shares with us tidbits of her life. From growing up in Chicago with her twin sister, Lucy. To her inappropriate relationship with Luke. But not even Molly knows how a she died. And she will not rest until the truth has been revealed.

Now, I know that just by reading the premise of this book, you are thinking it is a depressing, dark read. But it is not, really it is not. Nor is The Late Lamented Molly Marx a "fluffy" Chick Lit book. It is a well written story with developed, flawed, yet likable characters.

Thank you , Ms. Koslow, for sending me a copy of The Late Lamented Molly Marx. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Molly, Barry, Annabelle & the rest of the family.

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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