Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

My 2 cents:

Mary Alice Monroe loves monarch butterflies. She grows milkweed in her Isle of Palms garden to feed them on their journey each year, as the big orange and black butterflies fly thousands of miles from America's northernmost parts to southern Mexico. In her book, The Butterfly's Daughter, newly out in paperback, Luz Avila sets out toward Mexico in an old VW bug to take her beloved grandmother's ashes home; and ends up following the butterflies.

Luz's story is one of loss and discovery, forgiveness and redemption, sorrow and happy times. She must grapple with the loss of the grandmother who raised her, while forging a relationship with the mother who abandoned her. All the while on a journey to relatives she's yet to meet in Mexico. Once there, Luz finds resolution in more ways than she'd ever imagined.

Length: 382 pages

Worth Your Time? Yes, Mary Alice Monroe is a master of telling stories about mothers and daughters, and weaves in Luz and Mariposa's story with that of the magnificent monarch butterfly. Classified as adult fiction, high school girls will enjoy this book as much as their moms.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods

My 2 cents:

Sherryl Woods' new adult fiction novel, Sand Castle Bay, is now available on compact disc with Brilliance Audio. Read by Shannon McManus, the novel is easy and entertaining to listen to.

In this novel, childhood sweethearts Emily Castle and Boone Dorsett are reunited on the North Carolina coast after a decade apart. Now, with two successful careers on opposite sides of the country, and a child (Boone's son B.J.), will Emily and Boone find a way to make their relationship last this time?

The lovely, lulling backdrops of wintry Colorado and the Outer Banks of North Carolina add to the flavor of the story, as does Emily's grandmother's beloved restaurant, “Castle's.”

Length: 9 hours and 25 minutes (Unabridged on 8 cds)

Worth Your Time? Yes. If you're standing in the kitchen peeling and chopping vegetables, driving long hours or tackling a challenging chore - and you just want a little company while you do it - this is the audio book for you.

Bonus: To read a review on Sherryl Woods' latest book in the Ocean Breeze Trilogy, Sea Glass Island, go to

Monday, May 20, 2013

Capturing Camelot (Stanley Tetrick's Iconic Images of the Kennedys) by Kitty Kelley

My 2 cents:

My daughter, who's 12, asked me last week about John F. Kennedy. Aside from the automatic “he was our president when I was a little girl” answer, I found myself hard-pressed to give her an idea of who President Kennedy really was and what he meant to our country.

So when I walked into our small library and saw a beautiful, oversized book on the “New Books” shelf called Capturing Camelot, I picked it up immediately. Featuring Stanley Tretick's Iconic Images of the Kennedys, the text is written by Kitty Kelley, New York Times bestselling author. Strolling across the front cover is President Kennedy and young son, John, in a famous 1963 photograph of the two at the White House.

Inside is a scrapbook of color photographs, black and white snapshots and portraits, memorabilia, captions and more of John and Jacqueline Kennedy, their children, Caroline and John, and the Kennedy family, as well as friends and colleagues from the 1960s. The book shows only a handful of photos from President Kennedy's Washington, DC funeral procession and Arlington Cemetery memorial service, and none at all from the fateful Dallas, Texas trip.

Meant as a showcase of Tretick's most famous photographs, this beautiful book poignantly captures a time in our nation's history. A time that is hard still, after fifty years, to put into words.

Length: 228 pages

Worth Your Time? Yes. Classified Adult Non-Fiction, Kelley's book will be appreciated by readers of all ages.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

My 2 cents:

To Kill A Mockingbird is almost as old as me. Written by Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize winning novel celebrates its 53rd anniversary in 2013. I listened to the 11-CD collection, read by Actress Sissy Spacek, recently. Books on audio is a great way to fill the empty moments and time spent driving, cleaning house and organizing paperwork. Who can resist a good story?

Harper Lee's novel, is above all, and after more than fifty years, still a good story.
Scout's constant questions, and her relationships with her father, Addison Finch, her brother, Jim Finch, and the family's housekeeper, Calpurnia, are still compelling. Learning about the Finch's neighbors in a small Alabama town through Scout's eyes is still fascinating; Arthur “Boo” Radley, still tragic and heroic; Bob Ewell, still mean and low-down; and Tom Robinson, still innocent and doomed.

Hearing Scout's story as an adult, I identified more this time around with Addison Finch, Scout's father. As an attorney in a small Southern town in the 60s, representing a black man charged with the rape of a white woman was dangerous. Addison Finch inspires all parents, especially single parents, to do the right thing regardless of public opinion.

To Kill A Mockingbird deserves its Pulitzer Prize, because it's a spot-on mirror to an important era of American history, because it's funny, it's heart-breaking, it's inspirational, it's well-written, its characters are timeless, and, perhaps, above all, it's a good story. If you or your teen haven't yet read (or listened to) Harper Lee's novel, the summer of 2013 would be a good summer to do it.

Length: 12 hours, unabridged

Worth Your Time? Yes x 53.

Bonus: Listening to Sissy Spacek's performance (especially the dialogue between Scout and, well, any other character in the story, especially Jim) is priceless. Also, did you know Scout's best friend and neighbor, Dill, was based on Harper Lee's real-life childhood friend and fellow author, Truman Capote?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

what happened to goodbye by Sarah Dessen

My 2 cents:

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. Reading her Young Adult novels is like putting on a favorite pair of jeans, specifically your size 8 pair from high school that fit perfectly and were faded and soft.

What Happened to Good-Bye, Dessen's tenth book, was just released in paperback. Written for teens, this book is so good, their older sisters and moms will beg to borrow it. (But, then they'll want to go out and buy their own copy, because it's just one of those books you want to keep on your shelf).

Mclean Sweet is a high school senior, who has moved four times in the past two years, with her charming dad, Gus Sweet. Gus is a restaurant “fixer”. He's hired by a former pro-basketball player (who sure resembles Michael Jordan) to travel around the country, and improve ailing restaurants, so they can be sold for a profit. Before that, Gus and Mclean's mom, Katherine “Katie” Sweet, owned and ran a restaurant called the Mariposa, where Mclean basically grew up. Mclean's world was perfect, until her mom fell in love with the new head basketball coach at DeFriese College, divorced her father, and gave birth to twins.

Mclean hit the road, then, with her father. While Gus was busy reinventing a new restaurant in each town they moved to, Mclean got busy reinventing herself in each new place – complete with new name, new persona, new fashion style – new everything. Until she couldn't. When McLean moves to Lakeview her senior year, a lot happens. With her new neighbor, the friends she makes, her dad's new restaurant, her mother, and herself. Especially herself.

This book is for anyone who's ever been in high school, who's ever lived through a divorce, who's even eaten at a great restaurant, moved, cheered on their basketball team, or been the outsider looking in. And more. What Happened to Good-Bye is for anyone who's looking for a really great book to fall into. I'm going to read it again.

Bonus: Dessen's 11th book, The Moon and More, is due out June 4, 2013.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

My 2 cents:

The Casual Vacancy is J. K. Rowling's new fiction novel for adults, and was published in September, 2012. Young adults who grew up reading the Harry Potter books are, no doubt, thrilled to have a new book by Rowling to read. Late to the Harry Potter phenomenon, I recently tore through The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets (Years 1 and 2 of the Harry Potter series). I loved reading and talking with my daughter about muggles and wands, Hogwarts, Hermoine and Ron, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid and the magical holiday feasts. I loved it all. The Casual Vacancy is no sequel to Harry Potter, obviously.

Which is not to say it's bad. But it is different. The best thing about The Casual Vacancy is the writing. I read one reviewer's opinion that Rowling's new novel “has no magic,” but that's not entirely true. The writing is superb. The plot opens in a way familiar to Harry Potter fans – with a death. Specifically, the sudden, unexpected death of Barry Fairweather, a well-loved town council member in small Pagford, England. Who will fill his spot? His best friend, Colin Wall? His rival's son, Miles Mollison? Or Andrew Price's abusive father, Simon?
Readers learn about the private lives of Pagford's richest and poorest citizens, and about the daily struggles of its adults and its teens. A Casual Vacancy is not a sentimental book. It's more like a winter tree, standing stark and straight, with bare limbs. It doesn't flinch from the honest portrayal of Pagford's citizens, but it does leave the reader with questions. Also, even though the ending is hopeful, the story is bleak and sad. A little magic might be nice, after all.

Length: 503 pages

Worth Your Time? Yes, but be warned, Rowling's characters face a host of serious issues, including poverty, drug use, self-cutting, sexual abuse, OCD, depression, and facing the death of a loved one.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

My 2 cents:

If I were to take a test on Jonathan Safran Foer's newest book, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, I'm not sure I'd come out with a high score. There is much in the book I found confusing, and I'm pretty sure I didn't connect all the dots. Yet, Foer's book made me think really hard, and look at the events of 9/11 from an entirely new perspective. In fact, I doubt I'll ever see 9/11 the same way again, and I thank Foer for this.

Oskar Schell, an unusual, highly intelligent, amusing 9-year-old boy, finds a key tucked inside a blue vase high up on a shelf in his father's bedroom closet, one year after Oskar's father, Thomas Schell, is killed in the Twin Towers on 9/11. One word is written on the envelope holding the key - “Black.” That one word launches Oskar on a quest – to find the lock the key fits into – and to find the lock, Oskar reasons, he must find the person 
named “Black.” Oskar's search takes him all over New York City, and to get there, he must face and conquer many fears, including (but not limited to): public transportation, elevators, bridges and loud noises.

The illustrations and photographs are intrinsic to this story, especially the ones at the end. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a tribute of sorts, to those who died in 9/11, those who didn't die, and a testament to what it takes to survive.

Length: 326 pages

Worth Your Time? Yes. Classified as Adult Fiction, this book was published in 2005.

Bonus: Based on Foer's novel, the movie (starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock and Thomas Horn) was recently released on DVD. Shown in theaters in 2011 and 2012, it received mixed reviews.