Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Amazing Thing

RATING: 5 out of 5

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s new book, One Amazing Thing is precisely that. One amazing collection of story tellers that all end up in the Indian Consulate in an unnamed (San Francisco) city in the U.S. They are able to tell their individual stories to each other because they are trapped in the basement of the building when an earthquake traps them.

A Black American man, ex military straight as an arrow kind of person, An elderly Chinese woman who appears to speak no English with her young, Americanized granddaughter, a young, Americanized Indian college woman, a young Indian Americanized man that appears to be Muslim, an aging American white couple, and of course, the Indian employees of the consulate.

What follows is nothing short of brilliant. This is not simply a collection of short stories strung together in one book, but intertwining stories that impact the other characters, and reflect the baggage that they each have been carrying through their lives.

Ms. Divakaruni has a unique talent for timing and relationships that holds you to page after page. You will not be disappointed in this amazing novel. If you have not read her other works, it will make you want to rush out and buy all of them.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Orange Mint and Honey

RATING: 5 out of 5

Why did I wait so long to read this book? I was lucky enough to snag a hard cover copy back in September of 2009 but somehow kept putting it further down on the pile. Must have truly been overrun with ARC’s. Finally, I decided I must devour it before the “made for TV” movie airs which just happens to be this Sunday on Lifetime. I never like to see the movie before I read the book. This was a simple feat because once I picked up the book; I could not put it down.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not light reading. The subject of conflict between mother and daughter is always raw and hurtful.

Shay Dixon had raised herself for all practical purposes as her mother, Nona was a stone alcoholic, and stayed drunk throughout all of Shay’s school years. Shay left the first chance she had, getting herself a scholarship, and as far away from her mother as possible. However, all the negative baggage that Shay left home with continued to haunt her throughout her college years. As she shied away from any kind a relationship, she had no support network, and that finally took it toll on her and she could not finish her thesis to graduate. Shay's adviser recommended that she take a semester or two off and gather her strength. Unfortunately, Shay had no place to go but home, which she did reluctantly because she was still packing all the baggage of her lost childhood.

However, Nona on the other hand, had found sobriety four years earlier, and given birth to another daughter, Sunshine, who she was just beginning to raise.

The story of Nona and Shay coming to terms about their earlier life is full of pain, blame, and a dawning of the damage that could not be forgotten but had to be forgiven for both of them to move on. The question really is can that happen?

No spoilers. I hope you will rush out and get a copy of the book. Record the movie and save until you finish the book. I promise you will not be sorry.

Just sample the trailer and you definitely want to see if the movie does justice to the book.

And once you have done all of that check out Carleen's personal blog, The Pajama Gardner and enjoy a cup of orange mint and honey.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fireworks Over Toccoa

RATING: 4 out 5

If you have been longing for the YaYa sisterhood to return, pick up and immerse yourself in Fireworks over Toccoa. You will be instantly transported back in time to the small town of Tocca, Georgia during WWII. You will embrace Lily. For even though she is a member of the privileged class of Southern women, Lily is also an independent, artistic, free spirit who learned all the correct behaviors from her mother, but can still see beauty wherever it exists.

Lily’s dilemma comes in the form of love. Love for her husband, Paul, that she barely knows, married just a few days before he leaves for the war. He leaves not as a combat solider but as the “Coke Colonel”, the man with the Coca Cola for the troops. A safe job. He is due back any time after a three year absence. And then, there is the new love that she develops for an intriguing, mysterious, sensual man, Jake, also just back from the war, who is preparing the explosives for the town’s 4th of July celebration. Oh, and he just happens to be Italian. Jake saw a different war than Paul did, and it impacts every part of his life, and the choices he makes for himself.

Mr. Stepakoff has an amazing voice for Lily. There is sensitivity, passion, and compassion in this young woman that you feel on each page. You can’t help but like her and will be pained with all the difficult choices she has to make.

I will not include any spoilers but I will say that the ending was a complete surprise and very moving. I recommend this novel as a very fulfilling read. This would make a wonderful movie as the visuals would be amazing.

Making Toast

RATING: 5 out of 5

Although profoundly sad, as would any book about the loss of a child, there is hope and recovery in this memoir as well. Roger Rosenblatt, writer and producer, has captured a range of emotions in his story of the sudden and unexpected death of his 38 yr old daughter, Amy.

I lost my only son, and I know I felt like the friend of his that he describes in the book that was more than just a little angry at God. I still feel like him sometimes.

However, as much as this book is about loss, it is also about how life must go on for those left behind and what that looks like on a daily basis. He views how each of the family members handles their loss differently and how each tries to pick up parts of Amy for the sake of each other and her three small children. It is comforting to read through the daily routines, the kind gestures, the periods of profound sadness, and come away with the sense that time will lessen the grief even if it does not make it go away.

Grandparenting takes on a whole new dimension for Roger and his wife, Ginny, or maybe I should just say parenting because they really step up to the plate for their son in law and move in to take care of Amy’s three very young children. It becomes a family affair to envelop, love, shelter, and nurture Jessie, Sammy and Bubbies.

Thank you Roger, for sharing such a personal and deeply sad part of your life and helping all of your readers realize that those of us who are left have to get up every day and make the toast or anything else that will help us move on. It is an affirmation that we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

I am Back!

It seems like it has been forever since I have been able to share my reading and reviews with everyone. But as life sometimes decides for you where you have to put your priorities, I am simply glad to be able to come back to share my reviews with all my friends and family and those writers that have been so gracious to share their work with me.