While some of the books I review on my site are furnished by the publishers, authors, or publicists for the purpose of review all of my reviews are truthful, honest, and my sincere opinion.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Review: How it Ends by Laura Wiess

Thank you to Sarah with Pocket Books for sending me a review copy of this one.

About the Book
Laura Wiess, the acclaimed author who once brought us "a girl to walk alongside Harper Lee's Scout and J. D. Salinger's Phoebe" (Luanne Rice), brings us another memorable young woman, this one at the center of an extraordinary novel of how love ends, how it begins, and what it's worth to protect it...

All Hanna's wanted since sophomore year is Seth. She's gone out with other guys, even gained a rep for being a flirt, all the while hoping cool, guitar-playing Seth will choose her. Then she gets him -- but their relationship is hurtful, stormy and critical, not at all what Hanna thinks a perfect love should be. Bewildered by Seth's treatment of her and in need of understanding, Hanna decides to fulfill her school's community service requirement by spending time with Helen, her terminally ill neighbor, who she's turned to for comfort and wisdom throughout her life. But illness has changed Helen into someone Hanna hardly knows, and her home is not the refuge it once was. Feeling more alone than ever, Hanna gets drawn into an audiobook the older woman is listening to, a fierce, unsettling love story of passion, sacrifice, and devotion. Hanna's fascinated by the idea that such all-encompassing love can truly exist, and without her even realizing it, the story begins to change her.

Until the day when the story becomes all too real...and Hanna's world is spun off its axis by its shattering, irrevocable conclusion.

My Review
I had started reading this one quite a while ago and had put it down because I just wasn't that into it. However I am so glad that I picked it back up. Once I got into it the story just starts going and you are taken away with it.

The main character are Hanna and Helen. Hanna is a teenager who is dealing with things most teenage girls deal with. Helen is dealing with aging and the ravages that can have on the body. The story follows the two through their own issues and shows us how their relationship has shaped them.

This is as much a love story as it is a coming of age story. While I liked Hanna I didn't really connect with her. Even though her life seems pretty typical for a teenage girl I was not and never have been typical. So I could understand what she was going through, but I couldn't relate because I've never really been in her shoes.

I loved the audio book that Hanna and Helen listened to together. To me that was where the real story took place. The audio book has all the makings of a great story. Love, sacrifice, pain, suffering, and friendship. It was truly a story that examined the human condition in its many many forms.

It was a bit odd to read a story that was being read in a different story, it was an interesting idea and I think Weiss pulled it off without making it weird or distracting.

Hanna and Helen were very well developed. Helen's story really pulled at my heart strings and I cried on multiple occasions. There were a few points that I was close to sobbing. I really got lost in this book and just let myself become absorbed completely by the story.

This was a great book. I haven't cried this hard reading a book in quite a while. I will absolutely be picking up more of Weiss' work.

To learn more about How it Ends or to find where to purchase a copy for yourself please visit Simon & Schuster.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Review: Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner

Thank you to Atria for sending me a review copy.

About the Book
Addie Downs and Valerie Adler will be best friends forever. That's what Addie believes after Valerie moves across the street when they're both nine years old. But in the wake of betrayal during their teenage years, Val is swept into the popular crowd, while mousy, sullen Addie becomes her school's scapegoat.

Flash-forward fifteen years. Valerie Adler has found a measure of fame and fortune working as the weathergirl at the local TV station. Addie Downs lives alone in her parents' house in their small hometown of Pleasant Ridge, Illinois, caring for a troubled brother and trying to meet Prince Charming on the Internet. She's just returned from Bad Date #6 when she opens her door to find her long-gone best friend standing there, a terrified look on her face and blood on the sleeve of her coat. "Something horrible has happened," Val tells Addie, "and you're the only one who can help."

Best Friends Forever is a grand, hilarious, edge-of-your-seat adventure; a story about betrayal and loyalty, family history and small-town secrets. It's about living through tragedy, finding love where you least expect it, and the ties that keep best friends together.

My Review
I really connected with this story. Having just passed 10 years out of high school I find myself thinking about people I haven't seen in years and what they are doing now. So reading a story about two friends who had lost touch and have been reconnected was something that really resonated with me.

I connected with Addie, the main character. Even though she has made some changes to her life since high school, she is still pretty much the same person she was. She's shy and she lives her life without trying to cause too many ripples. Given the circumstances that surrounded her path to where she is in life at this point, I think that I would have made some of the very same decisions. I didn't like Valerie at the beginning of the story, but as the story progressed she kind of grew on me, as I've known people in similar positions and I almost felt sympathy for her. Even though the story is told from Addie's perspective Valerie is very much the catalyst that keeps the story going.

The writing was pretty good. The story jumps between the past and the present and also jumps between a few different locations. While this jumping can sometimes lead to a very disconnected story it was very well executed in this book. The flashbacks help to explain the time gaps between high school and the present. They also help build the story behind Val and Addie. The characters were very believable. The plot was a bit on the crazy side, but after I got to know Valerie I started to think that she's the kind of person that really could get herself into something like this.

This one really played with my emotions, as I really wanted to dislike Val but ended up feeling kind of sorry for her. Plus as we learn about Addie I really could let myself become her as I was reading. I even pictured her to be almost like me. The other characters were kind of two-dimensional, but because their importance to the story was limited I think they didn't need to be well-rounded.

I really liked this one.

To learn more about Best Friends Forever, or to find out where to get your copy please visit Simon & Schuster.

Review: Shooting an Albatross by Steven R. Lundin

Thank you to Penny Sansevieri at Author Marketing Experts for sending me this to review. BTW I won this review copy on LibraryThing in the Member Giveaways!

About the Book
Shooting an Albatross, is set during the only year in history the PGA canceled the entire season of professional golf and, strange but true, the same year a unit of the US Army occupied the El Rancho Golf Course in Los Angeles. The formal publication date is July 26th, the same day in 1943 that the Army actually occupied the El Rancho Golf Course in LA.

My Review

This book was a weird one for me. I liked the plot, and the characters, but something didn't mesh right for me. I did like the book, but there was just something a little off about it, at least for me.

The story, on it's surface is about a golf game. The true heart of the story is a touching romance. All the characters were believable and I had great images in my head of them as I read. I could see the things that were going on and I could relate to the stirring romance as it blossomed. However there was a disconnect for me that I just couldn't quite pinpoint.

I didn't get really attached to the story, even though I was able to create the "world of the book" in my mind. Even a few weeks after I've finished this one I'm not quite able to pinpoint exactly where the disconnect is. The opening of the book is intriguing, the characters were believable, the details were done well, and the writing style was easy to read. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset to read this one when I did.

I think it has all the elements of a really great story, and that it was executed very well, which is why I question why I didn't get into it more. I would recommend this to anyone who likes romantic stories (not necessarily romance novels...) I think in the future I will have to read this one again, at a time when I think my mindset is right.

To learn more about Shooting an Albatross please visit the book's website.

Review: An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

Let me thank Bloomsbury USA for sending me a review copy of this book.

About the Book
Throughout history, food has acted as a catalyst of social change, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict, and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes—caused, enabled, or influenced by food—has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.

The first civilizations were built on barley and wheat in the Near East, millet and rice in Asia, corn and potatoes in the Americas. Why farming created a strictly ordered social hierarchy in contrast to the loose egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers is, as Tom Standage reveals, as interesting as the details of the complex cultures that emerged, eventually interconnected by commerce. Trade in exotic spices in particular spawned the age of exploration and the colonization of the New World.

Food's influence over the course of history has been just as prevalent in modern times. In the late eighteenth century, Britain's solution to food shortages was to industrialize and import food rather than grow it. Food helped to determine the outcome of wars: Napoleon's rise and fall was intimately connected with his ability to feed his vast armies. In the twentieth century, Communist leaders employed food as an ideological weapon, resulting in the death by starvation of millions in the Soviet Union and China. And today the foods we choose in the supermarket connect us to global debates about trade, development, the environment, and the adoption of new technologies.

Encompassing many fields, from genetics and archaeology to anthropology and economics and invoking food as a special form of technology. An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying discourse on the sweep of human history.

My Review
At first I thought this would be a boring "history" book, one that just rehashes everything I learned in school. Much to my shock and enjoyment it was a pretty good book. This book goes back to the very first humans and shows how food has shaped our future. From being hunter-gathers to present day humans it's amazing, and obvious, how food allowed us to make those important changes. Standage even gives some ideas on how food may shape our future.

There was so much information that while not necessarily useful, was at least interesting. I never really thought about the role that food had played in our history, but after reading this book I thought to myself, "How could I not have recognized that important link?" I think food isn't at the forefront of history because it is something that we take for granted. Even when learning of times when food was rationed by different countries throughout history I never realized the role that food played in the political and cultural climates.

The writing style was also nice. It wasn't mundane to read, the information was presented with a very nice flow. It wasn't an exciting book, and it wasn't one that I became captivated by, but it was enjoyable. If nothing else the knowledge I gained was worth the read.

It was very interesting and I would definitely recommend it.

To learn more about An Edible History of Humanity visit Walker Books.