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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Devil Wears Prada...Review

About the book:
A delightfully dishy novel about the all-time most impossible boss in the history of impossible bosses.

Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands the job “a million girls would die for.” Hired as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, the high-profile, fabulously successful editor of Runway magazine, Andrea finds herself in an office that shouts Prada! Armani! Versace! at every turn, a world populated by impossibly thin, heart-wrenchingly stylish women and beautiful men clad in fine-ribbed turtlenecks and tight leather pants that show off their lifelong dedication to the gym. With breathtaking ease, Miranda can turn each and every one of these hip sophisticates into a scared, whimpering child.

The Devil Wears Prada gives a rich and hilarious new meaning to complaints about “The Boss from Hell.” Narrated in Andrea’s smart, refreshingly disarming voice, it traces a deep, dark, devilish view of life at the top only hinted at in gossip columns and over Cosmopolitans at the trendiest cocktail parties. From sending the latest, not-yet-in-stores Harry Potter to Miranda’s children in Paris by private jet, to locating an unnamed antique store where Miranda had at some point admired a vintage dresser, to serving lattes to Miranda at precisely the piping hot temperature she prefers, Andrea is sorely tested each and every day—and often late into the night with orders barked over the phone. She puts up with it all by keeping her eyes on the prize: a recommendation from Miranda that will get Andrea a top job at any magazine of her choosing. As things escalate from the merely unacceptable to the downright outrageous,however, Andrea begins to realize that the job a million girls would die for may just kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.

I laughed out loud in so many places. This is not the most well-written book. It's rather choppy and there are places where I wish the author had gone back and tied up loose ends. However, you cheer for Andrea and you hate Miranda which is exactly what you are supposed to do.

I could have done without the foul language.  I hate profanity and here, it seemed out of character for Andrea.

I read The Devil Wears Prada before the film came out, but I think this is one case where the film adaptation is actually better than the book.  I don't often say that, but the film did a better job of capturing Andy and Miranda than the book was able to portray.

Personal copy last read 6/06

* * *
3/5 Stars

Monday, October 29, 2007

Coming Home...Review

About the book:
Against the backdrop of an elegant Cornwall mansion before World War II and a vast continent-spanning canvas during the turbulent war years, this involving story tells of an extraordinary young woman's coming of age, coming to grips with love and sadness, and in every sense of the term, coming home...

In 1935, Judith Dunbar is left behind at a British boarding school when her mother and baby sister go off to join her father in Singapore. At Saint Ursula's, her friendship with Loveday Carey-Lewis sweeps her into the privileged, madcap world of the British aristocracy, teaching her about values, friendship, and wealth. But it will be the drama of war, as it wrenches Judith from those she cares about most, that will teach her about courage...and about love.

Teeming with marvelous, memorable characters in a novel that is a true masterpiece, Coming Home is a book to be savored, reread, and cherished forever.

I think this is my favorite of Rosamunde Pilcher's novels. Most people rave about The Shell Seekers, and yes, it's a great book. But, I love the character of Judith in Coming Home. She's independent and feisty, yet she yearns for love and a family.  When her father must go to Singapore for work, her mother and sister accompany him and Judith is left on her own.  She befriends the spunky, rich Loveday and finds herself immersed in a new and privileged world and the Carey-Lewises accept her as one of their own.  With them she finds a family, love and even heartbreak.

As World War 2 begins, Judith also discovers her own strengths as she faces a new and unknown future. 
Coming Home is set in England, mostly in Cornwall, during World War 2. Pilcher's characterizations and visuals are incredibly accurate and beautifully descriptive.  She writes from experience and the book is all the richer for it. 

This is a book I read over and over again. It's like a good friend. Well worth your time.

Personal copy last read 2011

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Chili Queen...Review

About the book: 
Life may have been hard on Addie French, but when she meets friendless Emma Roby on a train, all her protective instincts emerge. Emma's brother is seeing her off to Nalgitas to marry a man she has never met. And Emma seems like a lost soul to Addie-someone who needs Addie's savvy and wary eye. It isn't often that Addie is drawn to anyone as a friend, but Emma seems different somehow. 

When Emma's prospective fails to show up at the train depot, Addie breaks all her principles to shelter the girl at her brothel, The Chili Queen. But once Emma enters Addie's life, the secrets that unfold and schemes that are hatched cause both women to question everything they thought they knew. With Sandra Dallas's trademark humor, charm, and pathos, The Chili Queen will satisfy anyone who has ever longed for happiness.

Another one from Sandra Dallas. I enjoyed it. It is a well-written and entertaining western set in New Mexico. Everyone is trying to cheat everyone else and you don't find out until the end who really wins! There was one section that had some disturbing images of assault that, although relevant to the storyline, were a little strong for me.

Overall, a good book. I will be on the lookout for more Sandra Dallas books.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mr. Darcy's Daughters...Review

About the book:
It is the year 1818, twenty-one years after the stirring events of Pride and Prejudice. Mr Darcy and Elizabeth have gone to Constantinople, while their five daughters descend on the dangerous and dashing world of Regency London. The world is changing, but opportunities for women are limited, as intelligent, independent-minded Camilla soon discovers - and Society is unforgiving of those who transgress its rules. The sisters are assailed on all sides by the temptations of London, with its parties and balls, gossip and scandals, intrigues and schemes, not to mention the inevitable heartbreaks arising from proximity to so many eligible - and ineligible - men. In Mr. Darcy's Daughters, Elizabeth Aston presents a new variation on a Jane Austen theme, introducing a wonderful array of memorable and amusing nineteenth-century characters in a witty, lively and perceptive tale of Regency life.

This one was better than Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife. Darcy and Elizabeth have 5 daughters and have left them in the care of Colonel Fitzwilliam and his wife while they go on a diplomatic mission. Predictably, it's about the adventures of said daughters and not about Darcy and Elizabeth. The daughter's personalities are predictable yet again, and similar to the Bennet sisters of Longbourne.

While not a suitable sequel to Pride and Prejudice, this one is entertaining. I bought it, and then sold it on half.com, so it wasn't worthy of remaining on my bookshelf, but it is certainly worthy of checking out of the library if you want to be entertained for a couple of hours.

Personal copy read 2004

* *
2/5 Stars

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Inside My Heart...Review

About the book:
"I believe we were put on this earth to enjoy lives of joy and abundance, and that is what I want for you and for me. It's not my intention to give people advice on how to solve their problems (I leave that to my husband). But I've had my share of struggles over the years, and I know a thing or two about what has worked for me. I have chosen to be an active participant in my life rather than a spectator, and in so doing I have chosen how to be a woman, how to be a wife, and how to be a mother in ways that are uniquely my own. I offer the stories of these choices as evidence of the power of sheer determination, will, and faith in God."

You've seen her on television with her husband, Dr. Phil. But now it's time for a heart-to-heart conversation with Robin McGraw. In
Inside My Heart, Robin speaks woman to woman, inspiring you to embrace and celebrate the many roles you play and encouraging you to make deliberate choices that lead to a richer, happier, and more meaningful life.

She shares with you the life-changing moments of her childhood years, dating and marrying Dr. Phil McGraw, raising two sons, and asserting herself as a woman in a man's world to show you that you have the power to make choices in your life. In fact, she's convinced that you must choose to go after the life you want.

With a deep and abiding faith in God, Robin McGraw shares her story so you too can make choices that reflect your own heart's truest priorities and highest goals.

I don't always agree with Dr. Phil, in fact I don't ever watch his show, but I enjoyed his wife's book. She shares experiences from her life and how we can make deliberate choices that will enrich our lives. She shares experiences of her life with Phillip and there's is a true partnership and love story.

She has faith and speaks of God, but I felt that much of it was superficial. I would have enjoyed a longer book that openly explored and spoke of a relationship with God. It was good though, and it was inspiring.

Personal copy read 10/06

* * *
3/5 Stars

Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner...Review

About the book:
"Like every other well-brought-up young woman, I was raised to believe that life was a crescendo: Do everything right - eat your cereal, curl your hair, study, exercise, be sweet, and follow The Plan (although I was never too clear exactly what the plan was)."

Not only was life less simple than Jaroldeen had grown up expecting, it turned out to be a series of complex challenges and hard work. But with each experience she learned to relish her life's riches - especially the deep satisfactions of marriage, raising children, and of loving and being loved. In the 1970s, when bright young women were supposed to be pursuing careers, not carpooling kids and sorting socks, Jaroldeen opened a window onto her own heart and discovered she loved raising her sprawling family. At the same time, she kept up her writing - and maintained her sense of humor. Now she shares her insights and reflections gleaned over the years - what she calls "windows of light" - on children, husbands, friends...and creating that subtle miracle called a home. A meal of abundant courses, Things I Wish I'd Known Sooner is for women at every stage of living. It is a tribute to women's inherent wisdom and strength. From her own ordinary yet remarkable life, Jaroldeen Edwards has crafted a wonderful contribution to the priceless heart-to-heart talks of women everywhere. Here is a book written by a woman for women, that truly exults in the glorious complexity of life.

Jaroldeen Edwards is entertaining and has some great ideas and examples of life. She raised 12 children. My favorite essay, and the reason I bought the book, is the one entitled, "Things I wish I'd known sooner." It's full of practical ideas and the things that she wishes she'd learned earlier in life.

My favorite: to only use white linens and white towels. You never have to worry about matching sheets or making sure the blue towels don't get washed with the yellow ones!

My next favorite is to make your home a place of beauty, no matter your financial situation.

Personal copy read 8/06

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Taking Care of the Me in Mommy...Review

About the book:
Moms get so busy with the doing and the giving for their families that they never seem to have enough time to rest and receive. So many moms have bought into the world-view that they can have it all and then believe the self-talk that if I don't do it, it won't get done! Isn't it ironic that so many mothers are running on empty? Lisa Whelchel delivers a book full of practical tips and advice for mothers on how to find lost time in their day to nourish body, soul, and spirit.

I enjoyed this book. I was actually able to review part of it before it was published and my review is part of the reviews in the front of the book. Lisa Whelchel understands mothers. She has tapped into the heart of every wife and mother. She gives us the permission needed, and more importantly, the gentle reminder, to take care of ourselves, as well as our families.

The ideas are easy and practical, but more importantly, it's nice to read a book and know that the author truly does understand your heart and has been where you are. It gets a little preachy and I find it interesting the interpretations that mainstream Christians put on the gospel. At one point she says, "I understand that as New Testament Christians living under grace, we are no longer required to keep the Sabbath." Hello? Since when was a commandment no longer required? She goes on to clarify that she feels the Sabbath is important, but I found it an interesting idea. It's a good book, filled with practical suggestions for enriching your spirit and taking care of you.

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy!

Personal copy last read 7/06

* * * *
4/5 Stars

The Ultimate Career: The Art of Homemaking for Today...Review

About the book:
Since the 1960s Daryl Hoole has taught, in print and through lectures, the skills and rewards of effective home management. Once again, now with her daughters, she offers a treasure trove of good and practical updated how-to advice to homemakers of all ages and situations. But this is much more than a book about housekeeping. The heart of her message is that the specifics and techniques of "keeping house" are only the means to a more important end. Unlike other books you may read on home management, this one is built on eternal principles which, if applied, will help establish your home as a "house of glory and a house of God." 

Although Daryl is a virtuoso in the art of homemaking, to whom these ideas apparently flow with ease, almost any woman will find encouragement and suggestions to help her in her own quest to establish an eternal home. Even those who seem to find themselves "congenitally challenged" in the home management arena will find helpful tips on moving forward, one step at a time.

As an added dimension of value, this book also addresses some of the pressing challenges facing today's family. The book, a celebration of the divine role of motherhood and the eternal significance of the family, is a message of hope and good cheer from the heart of an author who has always celebrated and cheered for women who are devoting the best of their lives and efforts to the ultimate career.

I enjoyed this book so much. Daryl Hoole is a natural at home management and her book is full of great ideas for raising a family and keeping house. It's even better though, when you read it from the viewpoint that motherhood is a divine calling and that the family is eternal. Our roles as wives and mothers are so important: more important than just cleaning house. I love the practicality of the book and the ideas shared, but more importantly, I loved the thoughts and scriptures shared, and the fact that Daryl wrote it with her daughters and daughters-in-law.

One of my new favorite quotes comes from the first page, "Out of the dreariness, into its cheeriness, come we in weariness, Home." (Stephen Chalmers)

This is one book I will go back to again, and again. I have learned so much and have implemented some great organizational ideas from reading this.  You can learn more about Daryl Hoole here.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Personal copy read 8/07.  You can purchase your own copy here.

* * * * *
5/5 Stars

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Persian Pickle Club...Review

About the book:
It is the 1930s, and hard times have hit Harveyville, Kansas, where the crops are burning up and there's not a job to be found. For Queenie Bean, a young farm wife, a highlight of each week is the gathering of the Persian Pickle Club, a group of local ladies dedicated to improving their minds, exchanging gossip, and putting their quilting skills to good use. When a new member of the club stirs up a dark secret, the women must band together to support and protect one another. In her magical, memorable novel, Sandra Dallas explores the ties that unite women through good times and bad.

Absolutely delightful. Full of memorable characters and endearing voices. You don't want it to end. It's got that quirky small-town thing down pat. There is a tone of reality, where you know that the author understands small towns. You come to love the people and you can relate to the Pickles. The camaraderie that comes when you sit around a quilting frame is unrivaled. Queenie is delightful. You want her for your best friend and Rita is a hoot. You can just picture the upheaval that she brings to small town life.

It's the first time I've read Sandra Dallas and I love her.

Thanks to my local library for having a copy I could borrow.  You can purchase your own copy here.

Read 10/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bless Your Heart, Tramp...Review

About the book:
Step into the wacky world of womanless wedding fund-raisers, in which Bubbas wear boas. Meet two sisters who fight rural boredom by washing Budweiser cans and cutting them to pieces to make clothing. Learn why the word snow sends any right-thinking Southerner careening to the Food Lion for extra loaves of bread and little else. Humor columnist and slightly crazed belle-by-birth Celia Rivenbark tackles these and other lard-laden subjects in Bless Your Heart, Tramp, a no-holds-barred look at all things sassy, sensational, and southern.

Just like the Skank book. This one is laugh out loud funny. There is a sprinkling of swear words, but it's absolutely hysterical. You'll even laugh out loud at the stuff you think you shouldn't.

She completely captures the essence of southern people. I want to visit the south just to see if it's as real as these books are!

Personal copy read 9/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Stop Dressing Your Six-Year Old Like A Skank...Review

About the book:
Celia Rivenbark's essays about life in today's South are like caramel popcorn---sweet, salty, and utterly irresistible. Celia Rivenbark is a master at summing up the South in all its glorious excesses and contradictions. In this collection of screamingly funny essays. You'll discover: How to get your kid into a character breakfast at Disneyworld (or run the risk of eating chicken out of a bucket with Sneezy), secrets of celebrity moms (don't hate them because they're beautiful when there are so many other reasons to hate them), and eBay addiction and why. It ain't worth having if it ain't on eBay (Whoa! Is that Willie Nelson's face in your grits?) Why today's children's clothes make six-year-olds look like Vegas showgirls with an abundance of anger issues. And so much more! Rivenbark is an intrepid explorer and acid commentator on the land south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Laugh out loud funny. Some questionable humor and a sprinkling of swear words, but absolutely hysterical. You'll even laugh out loud at the stuff you think you shouldn't.

She completely captures the essence of southern people.

I LOVE the skank chapter. It's so totally true!

Personal copy read 9/07

* * *
3/5 Stars

Winter Solstice...Review

About the book:
In Winter Solstice Rosamunde Pilcher brings her readers into the lives of five very different people....

Elfrida Phipps, once of London's stage, moved to the English village of Dibton in hopes of making a new life for herself. Gradually she settled into the comfortable familiarity of village life — shopkeepers knowing her tastes, neighbors calling her by name — still she finds herself lonely.

Oscar Blundell gave up his life as a musician in order to marry Gloria. They have a beautiful daughter, Francesca, and it is only because of their little girl that Oscar views his sacrificed career as worthwhile.

Carrie returns from Australia at the end of an ill-fated affair with a married man to find her mother and aunt sharing a home and squabbling endlessly. With Christmas approaching, Carrie agrees to look after her aunt's awkward and quiet teenage daughter, Lucy, so that her mother might enjoy a romantic fling in America.

Sam Howard is trying to pull his life back together after his wife has left him for another. He is without home and without roots, all he has is his job. Business takes him to northern Scotland, where he falls in love with the lush, craggy landscape and set his sights on a house.

It is the strange rippling effects of a tragedy that will bring these five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan.

It is in this house, on the shortest day of the year, that the lives of five people will come together and be forever changed. Rosamunde Pilcher's long-awaited return to the page will warm the hearts of readers both old and new. Winter Solstice is a novel oflove, loyalty and rebirth.

I love Rosamunde Pilcher. I love everything she's written. Most people rave about The Shell Seekers, and while I love that book as well, it's not my most favorite.

Winter Solstice is delightful and thought-provoking. Pilcher's narratives are pure prose. You find yourself immersed in the world of Scottish tweeds and cottages and hospitality. She captures the intense feelings of grief, and the hope that comes when you learn to love again.

This is a book that, like Coming Home, I reread over and over again.

Read It. Everything she writes is terrific.

Personal copy last read 7/07

* * * * *
5/5 Stars


About the book:
After the man whose proposal she had rejected returns from his long military tour at sea, Anne Elliot is forced to face the decision she had made eight years before, along with the man she has never stopped loving, in Jane Austen's final novel.

Anne Elliot is one of my favorite Austen heroines, and Captain Wentworth is just divine. It's not easy reading, but it's a good novel.

Anne is the spinster sister, the solid one on whom everyone depends. She is intelligent and witty, thoughtful and compassionate. She follows the advice of others and is persuaded to not marry the man she loves. Her life then, does not take the turn she thought it would and she remains unmarried.

Her family is nuts. They are truly horrific in their treatment of not only her, but all others. They are self-centered and egotistical. Anne, alone, remains a truly graceful, refined woman. She has resigned herself to spinsterhood, but when she is reunited with Captain Wentworth 10 years after they parted, their romance is rekindled.

The film with Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds is an excellent adaptation. Their characterizations are dead on.

Personal copy last read 9/07

* * * *
4/5 Stars