Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review:

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

     Sometime in the near future, hurricanes have destroyed our cities and instead of a line between the rich and the poor, it has become a gigantic gap.  Those that have the luck and were born swanks, live in luxury with jewels and a never-ending food supply while those that were not so lucky, live as scavengers.  Nailer, a teenage boy, works for the light crew and scavenges for copper wire inside of old oil tankers.  He works day-to-day, trying to make quota on his job just to be able to afford some food for that night.  After a hard and dangerous day’s work, he finds himself going home to a drug induced, abusive father.  He compares his father’s moods, fueled by drugs and anger, to the deadly weather that he endures on a daily basis living on the coast.  He somehow still finds it in his heart to care for him though silently attempting to tiptoe around this tattoo covered man, because before his mother’s death, he was once a caring and somewhat loving father.  Shortly after a huge storm, Nailer and his friend Pima, a light crew worker for whom he shares a blood oath with, discover a beached ship filled with lots of goods that a swank lives and grows up with.  All of this loot could make them rich and they could leave the hardships of a light crew worker but they discover a surviving swank and have to make a decision to kill her and keep the goods or save her in hopes of a big reward. 

     This is the first book in a while where the main character is a male.  He is not the big, buff, and some say, dreamy, Edward of Twilight but is food deprived, soiled head to toe but still he maintains a kind heart and is surprisingly clever.   I was pleasantly surprised by his character.  He is uneducated and illiterate but is very admirable because of how hard-working and loyal he is.  It took me a little while to get into the book most likely because of my own issues, lack of sleep and what not, but once I got through the first 50 pages, I was ready to read more.  With some dystopian novels, I find it a little difficult to allow the names of the characters to be accepted into my own vocabulary.  I am not sure if I am explaining it correctly but sometimes I am a little turned off from the beginning with names or nicknames or titles or worlds.  For example, if you ever read The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, you may or may not disagree that the description from the beginning of the uglies and the pretties was a little off putting, but it sinks in soon enough and you will not be able to put the series down!  That review will have to be for another day, though.

     There was a part of me that was thankful for watching the Pirates of the Caribbean and The Titanic because I was visually able to create the ships in my head.   I truly think anyone who enjoys a good pirate book or movie would enjoy the ride in this novel because there is a lot of action and fighting.  Also, there is minimal intimacy between the two main characters so if you are looking for a good love story, look for a different book.  I do see it progressing in the next book, though.  I expect the next book, The Drowned Cities, to be more brutal and packed full of even more action.  So I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys a good fight and who appreciates good moral values.

Overall, the book was filled with vivid imagery of the two classes, graphic violence, and mature situations, so I would definitely recommend it for older young adults or mature readers.

~Jacinda Herner

Friday, October 28, 2011

Coolest Students EVER

My field trip with my 7th graders to a surfing camp was awesome.  Exhausting, yes, but definitely, without a doubt, a great time.  In fact, I wish I could go back and do it all over again.

We slept in cabins on the beach.  We ate our meals outside with the waves crashing behind us.  We bodysurfed, we swam, we surfed (okay – I actually missed out on the surfing, but they surfed and next time I will DEFINITELY not miss out). 

We did team-building activities.  We sang campfire songs. And the most important part of the trip, we learned search and rescue techniques – basic first aid.  Students learned about treating soft tissue wounds, how to make splints, what to do when arriving on the scene of an accident, and also, how to save someone from drowning. 

The culminating event was a staged “rescue.”  Each of us teachers got to play a role – create a scenario in which we’d been injured. 

My character was the ditzy Brandi Bouffet, who was the captain of the pep squad at her college.  She wanted to be “Made” by MTV into a BMX biker. 

During her audition tape, she tried to build a “sweet” jump and go off of it on her bike.  It obviously didn’t go well as she ended up falling off, gauging her head on a rock, gauging a long cut in her leg, and twisting both her wrist and ankle.  Yeah, she (I) was a mess!  I was covered in make-up and doused with fake blood.  It was awesome!

When the students found me (I mean, “Brandi”), they had to use all of the strategies they had learned to help me before paramedics got there.  I tried to stay in character the entire time and for me, it was pretty funny. 

Every time they mentioned blood, I reacted by freaking out and screaming, “Oh my god!  I’m bleeding?!” 

And they all lied to me.  “No, no.  You’re not bleeding.” 

Then I asked, “Am I dirty? I totally hate being dirty.”  And I started to cry. 

“No, no.  You’re not dirty,” they assured me – even though I was coated in sand.  It was even in my mouth at that point (gross). 

They asked me what I was allergic to and I told them, “Dirt.” 

“Will I still get to be on TV?” I asked them.  “I want to be famous.” 

“Yes, yes.  You’ll still be on TV.” 

They were great.  I was wrapped like a mummy, lifted onto one of those rescue boards (okay, I don’t remember the technical name), and carried to safety.  My students saved the day.  I’m very proud of them! 

And somewhere out there, in the hands of one of my colleagues, is a very embarrassing video of the experience.  Black mail. ;)

The trip allowed me to get to know my students better.  It was wonderful to see their personalities outside of the academic setting.  I have great kids.  Experiential, or outdoor, education is incredibly effective.  I wish that every school had an opportunity to do something like this. 

On a side note
The Book Fair is happening at my school and teachers have the opportunity to create a “Wishlist” of books that we’d like.  I, being the Word Nerd, gathered a good-sized stack, thinking that I’d go back next week and pay for them all, but after school yesterday, one of my students walked in with five of the books I’d chosen and handed them to me. 

“I couldn’t get them all,” he apologized.  I just wanted to cry. 

Do you see how lucky I am? 

Best students EVER! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finding Our True Calling (Inspired by Oprah)

Yep, this is me (on left) in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way
to the Forum.  I played a twin courtesan.  (And did
lots of dieting, considering my costume!)

I want to piggy-back a bit off of my sister’s blog about fear and following our dreams. 

This past weekend, as I lay sniffling with a cold on the couch, I watched an episode of Oprah’s Life Class.  I have never watched the show before.  I am not a regular Oprah follower.  It just happened to be on and I liked the show’s theme:  “Finding your true calling.” 

Now, while I’m not an avid fan, every time I watch her, she always, always makes me think or gives me inspiration.  Talk about a phenomenal woman.  But this is because, as she said, she’s found her true calling.  Reaching out to people, helping people is what she was meant to do.  (Obviously!)  And she made the point that each and every own of us has a true calling.  Even if she hadn’t ended up on television, she believes that she would have found a way to serve people. 

This, of course, made me think of my own life and my true calling.  My sister gives me far too much credit for being fearless and following my dreams.  It hasn’t always been that way.  In fact, for much of my life, I felt something essential was missing, but I was the oldest, the perfectionist, the girl who followed the rules and so I’ve always made the choices that most follow society’s expectations – or at least, what I perceived were the expectations.  Go to college, get a degree (or two), get a good job, etc.  I did all of those things.  But something was missing. 

I’ve found that the only times I’ve ever truly been happy in my job is when I’m doing something for myself – my true calling, you might say – outside of work.  Now, I do believe that part of my calling is working with kids.  I love them.  But that isn’t the extent of what and who I think I’m meant to be.  It’s just taken me a really long time to figure that out.  And, honestly, a lot of stress and tears.

When I think of my happiest times, they involve creativity and, well, stories. 

For a number of years, I became involved in the community theatre.  It was exhausting working a full-time job and attending rehearsals until 11 p.m. at night, but man, I was happy.  It made everything worth it.  Because for a few hours every night, I got to become someone else.  I got to forget the problems of “Brei” and live someone else’s story.  I loved it.  When I moved from that town, I lost a huge part of myself.  I haven’t been involved in acting since.  Somehow, I haven’t found the time and the fear has snuck up on me.  Maybe I’m not good enough.  Besides, when would I have time for my husband (who I hadn’t known during my acting years)?

Last year was a difficult year for me.  I moved twice due to my husband’s job and therefore, was unable to work until we settled here.  It is hard to get out of bed when you feel you don’t have a purpose.  It was a rock-bottom time for me.  But sometimes, we need to hit rock bottom in order to rediscover ourselves. 

I began to do what I had done for the majority of my teen and college years.  I began to write again.  I began to create and lose myself in a story.  And it has made all of the difference.  (Even if my husband calls me obsessive about it!)

Now, I’m settled in a new town, where I plan to stay for a few years at least.  I’ve found a job that I love.  But I haven’t given up on the writing.  In fact, it makes the rest of my life bearable, because it gives me purpose.  I feel fulfilled. 

Our true calling doesn’t have to be the thing that pays the bills.  It doesn’t even have to be one specific thing.  It can be something small – a hobby – or if we’re lucky, it can become our livelihood.  But what’s important is that we face our fears and make the time to do it. 

I hope my sister finds her true calling during this transitional time in her life.  I suspect she already knows what it is, but is afraid to face “her light.” 

I hope each of us finds it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why are we afraid to follow our dreams?

Here is a quote by Marianne Williamson that Brei found on another blog and brought to my attention.  She said that when she read it, it reminded her of me. 
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves: “who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?  You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t
Feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other
People permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

The first three lines that really grabbed my attention and they really sank deep in.  Those lines remind me of myself also.  They make me think of the struggles that I have not only in  finding my light, but following it as well.  I know that everyone has those struggles, finding their passion, following their dreams.  Why are we so afraid?  I have really always enjoyed art.  Specifically drawing since I grew up with sketchbooks and pads to doodle on.  People have come in and out of my life, telling me that I have the "potential" to do something great for myself.  That I could really "go" somewhere.  Ha, I laugh at that now.   "Go" somewhere?  Well, I have landed all the way over in Germany so I guess that I have gone somewhere, right?

Is art my dream?  Is art what I am really passionate about?  I am not sure if it is but I am definitely afraid of it.  For some reason, ever since I was able to color at the age of 4, I have been extremely modest of my work.  I say "work" as describing anything that I colored in, drew, or created and I kid you not, ever since I could physically use a drawing utensil.  Were does that come from, that modesty, that insecurity, and that fear?  How come at age 5 or 6 when I colored in a coloring contest page that my mom had given me, I balled it up and threw it away when I was finished?  She then took it out, mailed it in and I won.
Though I might be at a point in my life where I am really struggling to find that spark inside of me, I can't help but be so proud of those around me who have found their light and who have let their guards down to follow it!  They are so inspiring, so determined, and so real.  I stand in awe of my sister, Brei, because for as long as I have none the girl (my whole life:), she has written stories.  It took her a long time to realize that writing is her true calling and for as long as she "ignored it, because it was not sensible, not logical" -her words, now knowing that she is finally following her heart and following her dreams, she can go to work with ease.  She has recognized her purpose.  She has found her joy.  She has stood up to her fear.  And I stand in awe of her light.

So a reminder to myself and to others: We are not inadequate.  We are powerful beyond measure.

Checkout the blog she found this on because she has a wonderful story that follows it:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver (A Review) - What if LOVE were a disease?

It seems I’ve been reading a lot of dystopian novels lately (and I can see how publishers are saying the genre is getting a bit saturated), but the premise of this novel really intrigued me.  In most dystopians - The Maze Runner series or The Hunger Games trilogy, for example – readers don’t know exactly what happened to the world to bring about the new society.  We can guess – World War III or global warming or something, but in those novels, the actual reason isn’t clearly identified. 

In this novel it is.  Love.  Love destroyed society.  The government and its scientists have pinpointed the cause of the country’s problems.  Love drives people crazy.  Love overrides their logic and brings about chaos.

But have no fear.  There is a cure for this horrible love disease (a.k.a. amor deliria nervosa).  In fact, at the age of 18 – after being segregated from “uncureds” of the opposite sex all of their lives – the serum is administered, a husband/wife and college is chosen based on test results and life will be blissfully stable and secure.  Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?

That’s what main character, Lena, thinks – especially after her mother killed herself for love when Lena was a little girl.  She’s terrified of ending up like her mother – crying all of the time.  And yet, she also has memories of her mother laughing, dancing, and singing – things that cured women would never do.  These contradictory memories of her mother plague her and she just wants to get the cure and not have the doubt, uncertainty, and pain that occasionally takes hold of her.

Lena’s determination to be cured and safe is shaken when her best friend convinces her to let loose and live a little in the weeks before her procedure – inviting her to forbidden parties, and especially once she meets Alex, who she assumes is safe because he has the scar of a “cured” man.  But looks can be deceiving.

Pulled into a world where she can laugh and dance and feel, where she experiences danger and excitement, where she witnesses firsthand the cruelty and disregard of the “cureds,”  where she finds out the information she receives from the government and even from her family is often a lie, she has to question her fate.  Does she really want to be “cured”?  And what about Alex? Can she leave him behind?  Forget him?

This was another of those books that I read in a day.  Fast-paced and exciting, it kept me turning the pages.  Lena and Alex’s romance was believable.  Finally, a male love interest who makes the reader fall as hard as the main character. 

And the ending is definitely shocking – leaving the reader wanting more.

Yes, it follows the basic formula of all dystopian novels, but the difference between this book and some of the others I’ve read lately, is that I genuinely like Lena – even though she is a bit frustrating at first because we know she shouldn’t get the cure, but she hasn’t yet been convinced.  And I definitely like Alex.  He has all of those qualities that give a girl butterflies – humor, kindness, sexiness, and he lets Lena be Lena, even when he doesn’t agree with her.  (Kind of reminds me of my husband, actually.)

So, now that I’ve droned on and on – I DO recommend this book.  The second book of the series Pandemonium comes out in March 2012, and I plan to be on the waiting list. 

Read and enjoy!

Author Interview:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Read, Eat, Then Read Some More....

Hey Everyone,

Just pulled a "Brei" today and read a book in a day.  Well, I got 28 pages into yesterday when I picked it up from the library but spent all day reading it today.  Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma.  If you haven't read my sister's review, I recommend that you do.  I agree with just about everything she said and I even had to re- read some parts in the beginning because of the way it ended and because if the thoughts going through my head.  I haven't read a book for an entire day in a while so it definitely kept me interested the whole way through.

Also, I would love to hear any of your thoughts on the book Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  Have you read it?  I ordered it from the library and I know Brei hasn't read it yet so I thought I would see if any one of her followers has. 

The Kindle Fire is Here!!

I recently had my birthday and my wonderful family ordered me the Kindle Fire.  I am so excited to start using it once I receive it in November and I can't stop thinking about all of the books that I can finally read!  Especially since the library here is really small and it takes a little while to get books in from the surrounding countries libraries. 

So, have you read up on the Fire?  Or what about a Kindle for Christmas? I have posted a couple of links below which are some great places to read up on it.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What's Next?

Hi everyone!!  First, let me thank my lovely sister for such a kind and over-exaggerated introduction.  Smart, artistic, and cool?  She is just sucking up because I am a billion miles away from her and every word counts;)  But honestly, we are both not very cool and as far as smart, funny and artistic goes....she has me beat.  She's the one writing an awesome novel and makes me giggle because of her ridiculousness during ever conversation we have.  See, I don't even know if ridiculousness is a word but since my spell-check hasn't tagged it, then I think I'm good.  Unless it's not on....hmmm.
Well, right now I am sitting in Germany, in a library, surround by books and people frantically typing away at their computers.  It's kind of overwhelming.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy reading and the peacefulness (usually) of a library, and though it is not very large, the library has shelves upon shelves of books staring down at me saying, "read me" (in a really low and aggressive voice:)  That brings me to the question, what's next?  What book do I open, spend hours upon hours reading, and hopefully enjoy during the whole process? 
Unlike my sister, I didn't grow up reading novel after novel.  I dreaded opening any book because it usually meant that there was a test to follow.  It wasn't until after high school and into college that I realized that I enjoyed reading and that it was fun.  I didn't know where to look in a library so I went straight to the professional- my sister.  She knew exactly what she liked and what she didn't.  I followed in her footsteps and  found out that we have very similar tastes.  Otherwise, if you leave me in a library too long, I start looking at covers.  The title as some effect on me but it is always the artwork that does me in.  It's how I always bought my cookies;)  Show me bold colors and enormous chocolate chips and they are good to go!  In my belly that is....
Really, though, if it wasn't for her, then I would have wasted long hours on boring books.  Where do you find your books?  Recommendations? Websites & reviews? Book trailers?  Just by the cover?  Now, I have found myself on scanning over their recommendations since I have entered and reviewed what I have read, and reading over what others have to say about it.  That and talking to my sister has helped in determining if the book is worth reading.
Just a reminder on good places to find books & reviews~ (For your 3-12 age group)
and definitely peruse the works of young artist's and writer's at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cowabunga, Dude!

I'm heading out on a surfing camp field trip with my 7th graders tomorrow and won't be back until Friday night.  It will be an absolutely EXHAUSTING, but I'm sure fun and exciting time and I can't wait!  We leave at the crack of dawn and I won't have internet access (or access to much technology period) for a while.
In my place, my sister - who is incredible and smart and funny and artistic - has graciously decided to help me keep up with blog posts now that school is in session. So you may be hearing from her on here this week and in the future.  She's a little nervous about entering the blogging world, but I know she'll be warmly accepted.
Have a great week and say hello to my sister, Jacinda.  She's the cooler of the two of us, trust me. :)
My sister, Jay, and I at her wedding this summer in the Dominican Republic. Isn't she beautiful?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Review: The Maze Runner (YA Dystopian - Exciting Read!)

In The Maze Runner James Dashner has created a world in which teenage boys become an experiment in will power, perseverance, and survival.  Thomas awakens in a world surrounded by a maze with no memory of his past.  The only residents of this strange and dangerous new world are other teenage boys.  They are given everything they need to survive through what they call “The Box,” which is an elevator shaft that opens up every two weeks with supplies.  Once a month, the Box delivers another amnesiac boy.

But this month is different.  They day after Thomas’s arrival, the Box delivers a teenage girl, breaking the two-year pattern of the Box.  After this, their entire world, as they know it, begins to unravel.

The maze encompassing their living space is vast.  For two years, they send out “runners” to find the patterns and secrets of the maze – hoping to break free of their prison, because every night, the maze closes off from them and reorganizes itself.  If any of the runners are not back my night, they will be locked within the maze and the horrible creatures roaming the maze at night will find and destroy them. 

The book is immediately exciting and intriguing.  There is no break in the action.  Dashner has created a unique world – unlike anything I’ve read so far – and even given the boys a language, or dialect, specific to their new life and completely believable for boys (“shuck-face", "shank", etc.). 

The characters are well-developed.  Each one has a distinct personality.  Although, I have to admit, it took some time for Thomas to grow on me.  He struck me as a bit too full of himself  and, at the same time, whiny at first.  Once the girl arrived, I was able to see and appreciate a softer, more likable side of Thomas and the mystery she provided kept me turning pages. 

This book will definitely appeal to boys – even reluctant readers.  I have proof of this because my husband is one of those “boys” and he devoured the book, and then the sequel (The Scorch Trials), and yesterday, I bought him the third book of the trilogy, The Death Cure.  I also think that this book will appeal to girls.  It is creepy, exciting, and action-packed.  Dashner even managed to add a hint of romance – although still mixed with mystery – which girls can appreciate.

The end of the book, much like The Hunger Games, will leave you hanging and begging for more.

I definitely recommend this book.  If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, then I think you will enjoy this. 

Checkout the trailer:

Friday, October 14, 2011

CONTEST!!! (Through Writer's Digest) 

Writer's Digest has given you a prompt, which is a picture, and all that is required is an OPENING SENTENCE (25 words or less).  I know, sounds simple, right?  Not so.

If you have been working on a novel or story, like me, than you know how crucial that very first sentence can be.  But whether you win or lose, what a great exercise!

So give it a shot.  I know that I will.

And good luck!  :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Woes of Revision (and Finding the Time to be a Writer)

Honey, if only you would stop being so cute and sweet,
I could get some things accomplished!  (Seriously, can
I really complain about this?)

I’m in the revision process.  The first revision.  And this is my first novel.  So yeah, I’m a bit overwhelmed for two reasons: 1) I have a full time job which is turning out to be more of a time commitment than I initially believed and a husband who likes spending time with me and is quite frankly, a bit jealous of my time at the computer, and 2) the first draft was 100,000 words and I still haven’t decided if it’s two novels or one! 

Based on advice I’ve heard from publishers, it is best not to write a series – especially for a new author.  The one book should be a complete story and if it happens to do well, then maybe a sequel can be planned.  With this in mind, I have cut 10,000 words already from the book, which is quite a feat (and I’m a bit proud of this, actually), but ANOTHER 10,000 words? Yikes!

In some ways, this is a very enjoyable part of the process.  I get to work out the kinks.  I get to use those suspense-building techniques I’ve been reading about and try the formulas recommended (I know, formulas!  Crazy, right?)  However, some days I want to bang my head on the table because the project seems so immense and insurmountable. 

Number 1 is my biggest obstacle.  People say, get up earlier.  I get up at 5 a.m. and work on schoolwork (or occasionally vent on my blog).  Plus, if I start writing before school, I won’t want to stop.  I hate to be interrupted.  It puts me in a terrible mood. 

People say, stay up later.  Write in the evenings or at night.  I am neurotic.  Besides the fact that my husband wants my attention in the evenings, writing before bed doesn’t work either because then, I don’t sleep.  I stew.  I can’t stop thinking about the book. 

As for weekends, well, that has been my only time and even then, commitments infringe upon that time.  It’s frustrating.  It’s discouraging. 

Sometimes, right after school, I pull out my computer and try to crank through a page or two, but it just doesn’t seem like enough time. 

So, what’s the answer?  More hours in the day?  A simpler life?  I wish. 

Someone give me advice, please. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Good Blog with Simple Advice, Ideas, and Inspiration for Writers

This blog, OneWildWord, has great tidbits of information or inspiration for the creative writing process.  It leaves you with things to think about and try in your own writing.  Check it out! :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review of YA novel: Imaginary Girls (by Nova Ren Suma)

There are some books - maybe far too few - that you finish, but they stay with you.  You can't stop thinking about the book.  It affected you.  It did its job.  Sometimes, I don't realize how invested I was in the book until I can't get it out of my head.  Then, I know.  The author did his/her job beautifully.

Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma is one of those books. As I read it, I couldn't put it down.  I finished it in a day.  Even as I was at times frustrated with the main character, I kept on reading and long after completing it, I continue to think about it.  Did I like it?  Didn't I?  I think the answer to that is yes and no, but the fact that I'm STILL asking myself that question says a ton about my reading experience.  Sometimes, there is no simple answer.

This YA novel, geared towards older teens, is about the deep, possessive and frankly, creepy relationship between two sisters, Chloe and Ruby.  Growing up with an alcoholic mother, Chloe depended heavily on her older, charismatic sister Ruby to raise her.  Ruby took the responsibility very seriously and came to love Chloe with an intensity closer to that of mother and child, rather than that of a sister.

Set in a small New York town, nestled next to a lake with a haunted past, the book is more of a ghost or horror story than contemporary fiction.  One night, while swimming across the lake to prove herself to the other teenagers in town - and because Ruby believes she can do it - Chloe comes upon a drifting boat in which lays the dead body of a classmate.  Life as Chloe and Ruby know it is never the same.

With the image of the dead girl branded in her mind, Chloe leaves town to live with their father while Ruby works to bring her home.  She will do anything for them to be together again, because there is no one Ruby cares about more than her sister.

Ruby is a magnetic, enigmatic girl - irresistible to the townspeople and especially her sister.  She entrances people with her smile and her beauty.  She has a power over people and is chillingly careless with it.  Individuals do not matter to Ruby, only Chloe and herself matter.  She is as ruthless as she is loving.  As a reader, I hated her and I loved her.  I couldn't get enough of her.  I, too, fell under her spell.  The writing is that good.  

While Chloe is the main character - and often makes decisions you want to shake her for, it is Ruby who drives the storyline.  It is Ruby who will captivate you.

This haunting, exquisitely-written novel leaves you with questions: What would you do for the person you love?  How far would you go?  How much would you give up?

Is there such a thing as loving someone too much?

It is a creepy, hypnotic read.  You may not "like" it in the traditional sense, but you will never forget it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (one of my favorite "feel good" authors)

Sarah Addison Allen has the most amazing ability of pulling me into a story.  She starts with a hint or glimmer of magic and mystery, enchanting the reader and leaving us wanting more.  I love her written style.  Reading her work is as effortless and enjoyable as spending the day with a best friend.  You laugh, you cry, and you have faith – in her characters, in the storyline, in magic. Her characters are well-developed and her stories are both beautiful and intriguing.  Can you tell I am a fan?
This story begins with a magical invitation which keeps popping up regardless of how many times Willa Jackson tries to hide it from her sight – as if it is teasing her, beckoning her to attend the event to be held at the newly-renovated Blue RidgeMadam.  The old  mansion was once owned by Jackson’s ancestors, but has long since been out of their possession and the family name is no longer synonymous with wealth and notoriety.  The house now belongs to the infamous Paxton Osgood, a former classmate of Willa’s, whose money and class leave Willa bitter, and a bit envious.
Willa Jackson is a woman desperately trying to act “adult” and repress – or atone for – her prankster reputation in high school, which she believes ultimately led to her dad losing his job.  She wants to redeem herself and – although he died in an accident – prove to him, or his memory, that she can be someone he could be proud of.  She stays in the town of Walls of Water to provide for her grandmother, who is under care for Alzheimer’s, but she wants nothing to do with her old life, especially Paxton Osgood.
Paxton Osgood has spent her entire life trying to live up to the standards put on her by her mother and herself.  Her quest for perfection has affected her personal life and left her tightly wound.  On the surface, Paxton and Willa are complete opposites, but deep down they want the same things: love, acceptance, and a good friend.
When renovations uncover the body of a salesman from sixties years ago, the two women are pulled into the mystery surrounding his death.  An unlikely friendship develops in their search for answers and as they allow themselves to let go of their pasts and the restraining weight of their self-inflicted personal expectations, they find love and come to understand who they are and what life is all about.
Although it isn’t my favorite of her books, The Peach Keeper is still an enjoyable read.  I would have liked more mystery, suspense, and magic surrounding the uncovered crime.  There were traces of it, but I was left feeling a bit disappointed in this aspect.  The romances were sweet, if predictable.  The strength of the story lies in the women’s journey of self-discovery.  I do recommend it for adults, however, as it is a quick read for someone who needs something light and uplifting.