Monday, March 29, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

There have been many many books over the years that deal with the subject of adultery and one could say that there isn't much left to tell on the subject.  With THE SWIMMING POOL, I was pleasantly surprised to find that indeed there IS more to say.  Seven years before, Marcella Atkinson had an affair with Cecil McClatchey, a fellow vacationer at the group of summer homes on the Cape.  On the night that their affair ended, Cecil's wife is murdered and Cecil dies a scant year later.  Fast forward to the present day.  Old feelings are dredged up when Marchella's teenaged daughter Toni begins working as a nanny for Cecil's grown daughter Callie.  Callie is in the throws of Perinatal Mood Disorder (formerly known as Post-partum Depression) and has escaped to the Cape in a bid for recovery.  Callie's brother Jed is staying with her and finds an old swimsuit belonging to Marcella in their house.  He investigates why the swimsuit is there and becomes involved in an affair with Marcella. 

This book is complex and interesting with unexpected twists and turns. It reveals how affairs can have wide-ranging effects on the people involved.  The characters are well-drawn and the story pulls you in.  The reader is caught up not only in the affair between Marcella and her former lover's son but also the mystery surrounding Betsy McClatchey's death and how no one has really been able to move forward since that fateful night. I was also moved by the excellent portrayal of Perinatal Mood Disorder. Having suffered from this disorder myself, I thought LeCraw offered up a very accurate and moving example of this problem in Callie.  That may have been my favorite storyline within the book.

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. A wonderful story of the long-ranging effects of betrayal and family secrets.  Very compelling and hard to put down.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

ANGELOLOGY by Danielle Trussoni

I have to admit that I am sucker for a good religious-themed suspense novel. Or movie for that matter.  I find the subject matter infinitely interesting.  This tendency is what drew me to Danielle Trussoni's ANGELOLOGY which has been touted as the next DA VINCI CODE. Since I did not care for the DA VINCI CODE, I should have known that this may not be my kind of book. I read it anyway.

Sister Evangeline has lived in the St. Rose Convent of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration since she was 12 years old.  During her duties in the convent library and archives, Evangeline receives a strange research request from a man named Verlaine wishing to know of any existing correspondance between a former prioress and Abigail Rockefeller during the mid-1940's.  Evangeline's research of the request leads her to discover a connection between the convent and a group of scholars known as angelologists who believe that angels live among us and have been detrimental to humankind.  The search for a lost artifact that may tip the balance in the battle between humans and angels begins while Evangeline learns secrets about her own past and that of her family.

This book was so disappointing. I thought the book would build up to the introduction of the angels but they are introduced right off the bat and they couldn't be more boring or uninteresting. They sound like a bunch of petulant self-absorbed children with wings. Evangeline is by far the best and most interesting character.  However, her ultimate destiny in the story becomes so obvious by the halfway point of the book that there is no real surprise. The best part of the book by far was the story of the expedition in the 1940's to recover the special artifact. After that, everything feels sort of anti-climactic. 

Regular readers of my blog know that I do not like it when authors throw in unnecessary plot devices. Especially romances.  Trussoni seems to be trying to develop every plot device in a novelist's arsenal in order to keep our interest.  The presence of the researcher Veraline seems pretty pointless except as a possible love interest.  The book has enough going out without adding this angle.  It is distracting and adds nothing to the story. Trussoni ends the book on a semi-cliffhanger leaving open the possibility for a sequel but it feels heavy-handed and annoying. If you are going to do that, why not just call this novel "Book One of the Angelology trilogy."

BOTTOM LINE: Not recommended.  The subject matter was so interesting and the story of a race against time to find an artifact that could save humankind should have been much more exciting than it was. The book had too much going on and the "bad guys" were too cliched.  This one was a real disappointment.

HERESY by S.J. Parris

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

HERESY follows the adventures of real-life renegade monk Giordano Bruno during his journeys in England during the 1580s.  Bruno flees Italy to avoid persecution by the Inquisition for reading forbidden books. He gives up his life as a monk in order to pursue his scholarly ambitions of proving to the world that not only does the Earth revolve around the sun but also that there are many of these star systems beyond our own. These heretical ideas bring him to England as a traveling scholar where Bruno will debate Copernican theory with a fellow at Oxford.  While there, a series of murders takes place that seem to model several famous martyrdoms.  Bruno is enlisted to help solve these crimes while he secretly looks for a banned book that may change the world.

I love good historical fiction and the subject matter of this particular book drew me in immediately.  The mystery surrounding the quest for a lost "heretical" book sounded exciting. However, this storyline ended up being sidelined in favor for the murders of the Oxford fellows.  The subject matter is exciting and interesting.  Bruno, however, doesn't offer much in the way of a main character. He is a bit lackluster and uninteresting compared to everything going on around him. His most interesting moments occur prior to his trip to England.  I liked the fact that Parris based the book on a real person but then he isn't allowed much personality to carry him through the story. 

While the book is marketed as a murder mystery/thriller, I think this is the least interesting part of the book.  The murders themselves take a backseat to the intrigue surrounding the conflict between Catholics and Protestants at this time.  Everyone is forced to take sides and must often inform on their friends in order to save themselves.  Even Bruno isn't exempt from this conflict.  He is coerced into becoming an informant which seems simple enough until he gets to know these individuals personally and becomes more emotionally invested in their lives.  What once seemed black and white becomes much more complex after this happens.  I think this is where the true story lies.  The murders are not nearly as interesting as the issues surrounding politics and religion.

As a murder mystery, HERESY fell flat for me.  As a story of the lengths individuals would go to in order to practice and protect their faith and beliefs and the conflict that this led to, I think the book works very well.  I found myself thinking about what I would do in that particular situation and whether I would be able to trust anyone. 

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended as historical fiction. I think fans of historical fiction will find much to like here.  It was a very entertaining read. Mystery/thriller fans may be a bit disappointed.  Overall, it is a nice piece of historical fiction.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back from Spring Break

Hello fellow bibliophiles!

I was off last week for Spring Break but I hope you enjoyed the children's book reviews that I posted. My EASTER BABIES review disappeared so I will get that one back up soon.  I had a lovely time with my family.  We traveled three hours so that my little one could see snow for the first time.  A friend generously allowed us to stay in her family's vacation home and it was a wonderful trip.  I met this friend through my blogs and it just goes to show you how blogging can connect us with really great people. 

I finished up two books and will post the review soon:
HERESY by SJ Parris and
ANGELOLOGY  by Danielle Trussoni

I also received a few books in the mail:

A SOFT PLACE TO LAND by Susan Rebecca White

It was so wonderful to have time to just play with my child, read and work on some unfinished projects. But it is never ENOUGH time!  Still lots to do.  I'll take what I can get, though. Hope you all have a great week this week!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

As  you can well imagine, my toddler has already amassed quite the library in his almost two years. I suppose that comes from having a parent who works in a library and has more than a passing appreciation of books.  Every holiday, I add a new book (or two) to his collection.  So, I was especially excited to get a copy of this book.  EASTER BABIES is a very sweet book filled with softly colored illustrations of animals. It combines the elements of a holiday book with rhyming and counting.  A child can assist in identiftying the easily familiar animals while working on counting skills. The rhymes are pleasant as are all the illustrations.  The book is more of a general Easter book with only a passing reference to the Christian holiday so it would work for most families.  I think it would make a lovely addition to anyone's Easter basket.

BOTTOM LINE:  Recommended.  A very sweet gentle holiday book with the added bonus of giving children the chance to practice their counting skills.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

We are a cat family so when I saw the bright bold cover of this book that featured a charming cat named Meeow, I knew we were in for a treat.  The illustrations in this book are wonderful!  The bright colors are appealing to young children and the simplicity of the story is perfect for toddlers. MEEOW and his friends discover the joys of using pots and pans and other kitchen items in order to make music.  The story ends with the little group using their imagination to view themselves as a marching band. The book is bright and lively and engaging.  My toddler insisted that I read it again immediately. 

One of the things that I really appreciate about this book is that it offers parents a chance to read the book and then bring kids into the kitchen to create their own kitchen band.  You can give your child a pot and a wooden spoon and encourage him/her to make music just like Meeow!  It is very easy to make a connection between real life and the story.  A great way to engage children in reading!

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended.  This is the third title in the MEEOW series and we are already planning on buying the first two. I look forward to seeing the next installment!

Monday, March 15, 2010

POTTY ANIMALS by Hope Vestergaard

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

My little family is inching its way ever closer to potty training and the prospect fills me with dread. Diapers seems so easy in comparison! So, when I was presented with the opportunity to read and review a copy of POTTY ANIMALS, I jumped at the chance.  

POTTY ANIMALS isn't your average toilet training book. It goes far beyond ONCE UPON A POTTY to introduce toddlers to all the toilet basics and niceties from washing your hands to flushing when you are finished.  I appreciated the breadth and humor of this book. Parents will enjoy it just as much as children. Each animal presents a different "do" and "don't" in a funny and entertaining way. The illustrations are cute and funny and easily recognizable.  The book is wordy, however, so I would recommend it for older toddlers. I abbreviated it a little for my 2-year-old. But I know this book will prove an invaluable and entertaining reference during the next few potty training years!

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A good addition to any toddlers library because they contain those basics that we all need to know!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Notes in the Margin

Hello bookish friends!

My reading seems to have slowed down as the sun is finally beginning to show its face around Sonoma County.  I managed to finish a few books (and reviews) and more are on the way.  I am currently reading PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA by Peter Carey and HERESY by S.J. Parris.  I hope to start ANGELOLOGY by Danielle Trussoni and SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver next.

Next week, I will be on Spring Break so posting will be sporadic. I have a few children's book reviews in the works so next week will be dedicated to those. I hope to come back from vacation with more books read and a lower stress level!

This weekend I'm having a secret birthday surprise event for my mom as she is turning 65. See the details here.

Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and we'll have beautiful sunshine all next week. I hope Spring is springing wherever you are.  Happy reading!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Sunday Nights are Rough

Many of you know that I am a full-time working mom. I have a 22-month-old son who is the light of my life.  My family lives in one of the most expensive places to live in the United States.  And we have debt. And we get really wonderful insurance through my job.  So, not working isn't really an option for me. The upside is that I have a very good job and work with great people.  I get to be around books all day.  What's not to like?  I get frustrated sometimes, though. I never get to have playdates and can't seem to manage to get together with other moms for playdates because weekends are my only options. I hear about all these great classes that other kids are taking and I can't sign Noodlebug up because he is in daycare those days.  Even though I forego exercise (and have made peace with being 40 pounds overweight) in order to spend more time with my child, it is never enough. I live for weekends when I can spend time with my child and my husband. 

I had a good weekend this past weekend.  We finally got some sunshine. I had a date night with my husband on Friday night, a crafty get-together on Saturday and a family trip to see the new ALICE IN WONDERLAND movie on Sunday. (it was Noodlebug's third movie and he continues to be an absolute angel)  The best part of the movie? I was worried he might be scared of the Jabberwocky so before the big scene came, I removed his 3D glasses and turned him around in my lap.  He hunkered down and fell asleep on my shoulder. Since he is a very active toddler, I never have the opportunity just to hold him. It was awesome. We played and laughed and had a great time and then Sunday night came. My husband sees the transformation I go through each Sunday night when the realization hits me that I will be going to work the next day and sending my little one to daycare.  I get grumpy and generally unpleasant.  The transition from weekeend to work week is a hard one for me. I hope someday that circumstances will change and in the meantime I try and cherish the time we have together.

I did manage to finish another book so I owe you two reviews now!


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

This book grabbed me from the very beginning.  Not only does it have an intriguing and somewhat amusing title but I also enjoyed the Mad Men-esque cover.  THE LONELY POLYGAMIST follows the stories of three members of the Golden Richards family. Golden Richards is the family patriarch.  He is the husband to four wives, the father to scores of children and the owner of a construction company. Rusty Richards is Golden's fifth son by his third wife. Trish Richards is Golden's fourth wife.  The story is told from the perspective of each of these individuals.  Golden is facing a crisis.  The course of his whole life has been determined by others and he never exercises any real free will. Until now. While away from his family building a brothel in the desert in order to save his family from financial ruin, Golden falls in love with a strange quiet woman named Huila.  His son Rusty is dealing with his own crisis. Rusty is a misunderstood child who feels lost in his larger-than-life family. Branded the family pervert, Rusty struggles to deal with his burgeoning sexuality while trying to get some sort of attention from the people around him.  Golden's wife Trish feels terribly alone in the midst of all these people. Having struggled with multiple miscarriages and stillbirths, Trish feels set apart from the rest of the family and at a loss to discover what she really wants.

At first glance, this book appears to be Golden's story.  He is the Lonely Polygamist. But he isn't the only one.  Trish and Rusty are both lonely polygamists as well.  Each of the threads of this story reveal three very lonely people trying to find a way to fit in and make peace with their lives. It is a sad and tragic story that also has moments of grace, humor and beauty. 550 pages did not seem enough to truly cover this tale.  I had a hard time putting it down and then wished for more at the end.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  A lovely and sad book about the loneliness, alienation and disconnection that we can all feel no matter how many people we live with.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Listen Along Storybook Program

Sterling Children's Books has started a wonderful new Listen Along Storybook program with eight wonderful titles.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy of CESAR TAKES A BREAK by Susan Collins Thomas along with an audio mp3 download to test-drive.  The book is really adorable. It tells the story of Cesar, a classroom iguana, who is left on his own during Spring Break. He chronicles his adventures in the form of a diary. At first, Cesar is sad and misses all of his friends until he discovers new friends and all the adventures to be had for an iguana left to his own devices.  It is a light-hearted and fun story with really nice simple illustrations. The added bonus is the free audio download that comes with the book. 

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the audio version of CESAR TAKES A BREAK:

The voices are great and I especially loved the original music. It really adds something to the story.  I love the idea of not only getting a quality book to read but giving the kids the opportunity to read along with an audio version as well.  There are seven more titles in Sterling's Listen Along Storybook program and I am looking forward to reading them all.  Find out about the other stories and this new program at the Listen Along Storybook website.

GIVEAWAY:  Three lucky readers will receive copies of all 8 books in the Listen Along Storybook program. Leave a comment with your information below by midnight on Monday, March 8.

Monday, March 01, 2010

THE POACHER'S SON by Paul Doiron

I received an advance copy of this book through the Barnes and Noble First Look program.

I have been putting off my review of this book because it was such a disappointment.  I have had the privilege of participating in the Barnes and Noble First Look program many times and I have really enjoyed every single selection. When they announced that the next selection would be a mystery/suspense title, I couldn't be more excited.  THE POACHER'S SON is set in Maine and follows Mike Bowditch, a game warden who just received news that his absentee father, a "ne'er do well" poacher, is the main suspect in the shooting of a timber executive and a cop.  Bowditch has had a long love/hate relationship with his father and is conflicted about how to react. He is dedicated to his job but cannot stop himself from wanting to help his father.  The book follows Mike's attempt to locate his fugitive father before the authorities do while he tries to discover who really committed the murders.

This is a classic father/son conflict story that reveals how such relationships can be extremely complex and difficult. The setting is wonderful and Mike's position as a game warden offers a new and interesting twist on this genre. I loved the descriptions of Mike's job and the different people and animals he ran into as part of his work.  Mike's relationship with his father was compelling at first but lost momentum somehow.  It is confusing how a book that starts off in such a solid way seemed to lose its way and flounder. The story and setting are solid but the characters become more and more unbelieveable and unnecessarily complex.  The ending just felt ridiculous and rushed. Perhaps if Doiron had stretched the story out and taken a little more time with it, it could have been great.  As it is, a promising beginning was ruined by a hurried slapdash end.

BOTTOM LINE:  Not recommended. A weak mystery that wasn't especially suspenseful. It would have worked better as a simple look into a troubled father/son relationship.