Monday, December 12, 2011

A Secret Kept by Tatiana de Rosnay

It all began with a simple seaside vacation, a brother and sister recapturing their childhood.  Antoine Rey thought he had the perfect surprise for his sister Mélanie’s birthday: a weekend by the sea at Noirmoutier Island, where the pair spent many happy childhood summers playing on the beach.  It had been too long, Antoine thought, since they’d returned to the island—over thirty years, since their mother died and the family holidays ceased.  But the island’s haunting beauty triggers more than happy memories; it reminds Mélanie of something unexpected and deeply disturbing about their last island summer.  When, on the drive home to Paris, she finally summons the courage to reveal what she knows to Antoine, her emotions overcome her and she loses control of the car.

Recovering from the accident in a nearby hospital, Mélanie tries to recall what caused her to crash.  Antoine encounters an unexpected ally: sexy, streetwise Angèle, a mortician who will teach him new meanings for the words life, love and death.  Suddenly, however, the past comes swinging back at both siblings, burdened with a dark truth about their mother, Clarisse.  

Trapped in the wake of a shocking family secret shrouded by taboo, Antoine must confront his past and also his troubled relationships with his own children.  How well does he really know his mother, his children, even himself?  Suddenly fragile on all fronts as a son, a husband, a brother and a father, Antoine Rey will learn the truth about his family and himself the hard way.

I was anticipating a book on the level of “Sarah’s Key” and was disappointed.  As much as I loved “Sarah’s Key” I felt that the ending of it kind of fell flat.  This book was the same but without the enthralling beginning.  I only was mildly interested in the first half of the book and was a bit repulsed with the ending.  Also there was way too much unnecessary sex.

2 stars (Rated R – sex)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Last Noel by Heather Graham

A friend gave me this book to read, and me being the “book chain-smoker” that I am I just picked it up and started reading it expecting a sweet Christmas story.  I didn’t realize those were drops of blood on the cover.  In the first chapter there is a robbery and the shop-keeper is killed.  But I was hooked.  It moved fast and was an intriguing story with a few surprises.  But I won’t be reading any more of these types of books.  I read 100+ pages the first night and then had nightmares.  Yup, I’m a real wimp.  I just don’t do scary.

3 stars (Rated PG-13)

The Christmas Letters by Lee Smith

It all begins with Birdie Pickett’s first Christmas letter in 1944.  A lonely young war bride, Birdie is far from home and taking care of a new baby while her husband is fighting overseas.  At Christmastime, she writes home to her family about the joys and sorrows of her new life, and—being a wonderful cook—includes a recipe.  As her life changes and her children grown up, Birdie continues to write gossipy letters to her family and friends every holiday season.

Birdie’s daughter, Mary takes on the Christmas letter tradition—recipes and all—when she leaves college in the 1960’s to start a family of her own. Like her mother, she goes from poverty to prosperity, but she loses herself—and her marriage—along the way.

Finally, in the 1990’s, Mary’s daughter, Melanie, pours over the letters and lives of the women who came before herm and writes her first Christmas letter.

I can’t say that I highly recommend this book.  It was only 125 pages—I think too much happening in too short a time.  It didn’t seem to go anywhere, it fell kind or flat.  The last chapter (letter) written by Melanie seemed to be an advertisement or teaser for a book to come, but as far as I can tell, Ms. Smith has not written anything with the outline given in that letter.  In all, nothing special, and none of the recipes were all that special either! I would, however try another book by this author.

3 stars (Rated G)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas

It’s 1936 and the Great Depression has taken its toll.  Eighty-six-year-old Hennie Comfort has lived in Middle Swan, Colorado—up in the high country of the snow covered Rocky Mountains—since before it was Colorado.  When she first meets seventeen-year-old Nit Spindle, Hennie is drawn to the young grieving girl.  Nit and her husband have come to the small mining town in search of work, but the loneliness and loss Nit feels are almost too much to bear. One day she notices an ode sign that reads “Prayers for Sale” in front of Hennie’s house and takes out her last nickel.  Hennie doesn’t actually take money for her prayers, never has, but she invites the skinny girl in anyway.  The harsh conditions of life that each has endured help them to create an instant bond, and a friendship is born, one in which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed. 

One of the vehicles that keeps the book moving forward is Hennie’s stories.  While the story of the current day is happening, Hennie is always telling Nit stories of things that happened in Middle Swan in days past.  Hennie’s stories are a treat and you find yourself drawn in and then she comes back to the present and the story of the book is just as delightful. She also speaks in the jargon of the time and day.  She uses words like ‘harbornation” instead of ‘hibernation’ and ‘disremember’ instead of ‘forget’.   Lovely, lovely book.

Mormon Mention:  This is a new feature I want to try out.  When Mormons are mentioned in a book I am going to call it out just for fun.  In this case it was a very brief ‘mention’.  The women were having a quilting bee and the quilt had a cotton batten which was not common as they were expensive.  One of women mentioned how nice and easy it was to quilt, that the needle went through the material so easily.  She said she was glad it wasn’t made of overalls (which was a common material to use for the middle of the quilt) to which another woman say, “A Mormon blanket. That’s what you call an overalls quilt.”   Then someone changes the subject so you are never told anymore about why it’s called a Mormon blanket.  Anybody ever heard of it?

4 stars (Rated PG for topics only.)