The Question of Nature v. Nurture Tackled in “In the Blood”

January 20, 2015 Book Review 7

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

The Question of Nature v. Nurture Tackled in “In the Blood”In the Blood
by Lisa Unger
Published by Pocket Books
On July 22nd, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: complimentary review copy
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Is nature or nurture at fault when a child is ‘troubled?’  This is the basis of Lisa Unger’s novel In the Blood.  After years of working with abused children and their families asking that very question ~ yet never found the answer.

She thinks that we are made and not born, that it is the power of choice that forms our lives.  With enough positive energy and good feng shui we can overcome almost anything.  She’s one of those, the magical thinkers.  I think I envy her, even if I can hardly suppress my disdain.

Lana is a psychology major at a small college tucked away in upstate New York trying to escape the horrific murder of her mother six years prior.  She has a tumultuous relationship with one of her roommates, Rebecca ‘Beck,’ and sees her advisor, Langdon, as both mentor and friend.  Lana gets a job babysitting Luke, an 11-year-old troubled child attending Fieldcrest where both Lana and Langdon have worked.  When Lana has an argument with Beck over her relationship with Langdon and Beck subsequently disappears, Lana’s controlled life is turned upside down.

Lisa Unger outdid herself with this one.  In the Blood read like a true crime novel, unbelievable and yet so freaky scary enough to be true.  The plot develops more on a slow burn, perfectly paced.  Lana is disturbed enough to keep us questioning her motivations while 11-year-old Luke puts the terror in terrible!  Having read Lisa Unger’s Fragile {review here} and loving it, I can honestly say she has simply stepped up her game, giving her readers and fans a heavily researched thriller like no other.  Highly Recommended.


Book Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams

January 13, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

Book Review: The Dress Shop of DreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams
by Menna Van Pragg
Published by Ballantine Books, Random House
On December 30th
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
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Having read and loved Menna van Praag’s novel The House at the End of Hope Street {review here} I had high expectations of The Dress Shop of Dreams.  Both books are steeped in magical realism and satisfy my yearning for fairy tales.  I collected fairy tales as a child and read them over and over {The recent movie “Into the Woods” was a phenomenal experience for me!}  I’ve been accused, quite often, of living with my head in the clouds and being too much of a dreamer.  All perfect reasons to immerse myself in Menna van Praag’s novels!

When Cora Sparks parent’s died mysteriously, Cora moved in with Etta, her Grandmother, above Etta’s fabulous dress shop.  Cora grows up as logical, a realist and becomes a scientist with a heart closed to love.  On the same street as the dress shop is a book store where Walt, a young boy infatuated with Cora, grows up immersed in the stacks.  Walt ends up buying the bookstore as an adult {what a dream come true that would be for me!} and Cora burrows deeper and deeper into her lab.

Etta’s sewing needles and expertise at finding the perfect dress for a client is nothing short of magical.  A woman can walk into the dress shop without any self-confidence, put on a dress from Etta and then sees herself as beautiful, self-assured and ready to make her own dreams come true.  When Etta decides to push things along between Walt and Cora by sewing a tiny heart into Walt’s shirt, chaos ensues.

Normally I enjoy books with several points of view; however, The Dress Shop of Dreams seemed to have a few too many that did nothing to further the plot.  The cast of characters are imaginative and real, making this character-driven story a treat.

As a feel-good novel with underlying magic The Dress Shop of Dreams shines.  Reading it was like sitting through a Nora Ephron film with copious amounts of popcorn and snowcaps.  A super sweet, imaginative love story with hearts all awry and characters who think they know what’s best until life, and a bit of magic, show them otherwise.  Recommended to those who enjoy a Nora Ephron film and readers of Sarah Addison Allen.


I’m honored to be a member of the She Reads Blog Network.  Five lucky winners will receive the set of She Reads Books of Winter of which includes The Dress Shop of Dreams. ENTER HERE by January 30th, 2015.   The complete set includes The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister, Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker, and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.


It’s Monday, Jan. 12th, What Are You Reading?

January 11, 2015 Book Talk 14

Happy Monday Darlings!

Still in Arizona thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and warm weather.  Apparently it’s been in the 20’s in Georgia this past week while here in Phoenix, its blue skies and 72 degrees.  Going home will be difficult!  Although I am missing those North Georgia mountains, not to mention my babies!  When I face-timed with the Little Monkey, my 3-year-old grandson, he sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for me and melted my heart.

So, it’s another Monday, and I’m wondering what YOU are reading?  Sheila from Book Journey helps us to fill up our ‘to be read’ shelves with Monday’s meme.

This is my first Jane Smiley novel, and I’m excited to dig into the epic family trilogy.  The second book, Early Warning, comes out in April.  Have you read any of Smiley’s novels?

some luck by jane smiley

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family’s land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will fully know; Henry, the bookworm who’s not afraid to be different; and Claire, who earns the highest place in her father’s heart. Moving from post-World War I America through the early 1950s, Some Luck gives us an intimate look at this family’s triumphs and tragedies, zooming in on the realities of farm life, while casting-as the children grow up and scatter to New York, California, and everywhere in between-a panoramic eye on the monumental changes that marked the first half of the twentieth century. 


How was your weekend Lovelies?  Any fantastic books on your nightstand?



Book Review: Vanishing Girls

January 7, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

Many thanks to the publisher for the complimentary review copy; however, these are solely my thoughts and opinions.

Book Review: Vanishing GirlsVanishing Girls
by Lauren Oliver
Published by HarperCollins
On March 10th, 2015
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
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Lauren Oliver’s latest novel follows two sisters trying to overcome a terrible car accident and a family trying to move ahead in spite of a divorce.  Underlying that family drama is a 9-year-old girl who has gone missing from the backseat of her sister’s car.

Nick {Nicole} and Dara are a little over 11 months apart.  They’ve been inseparable since babies until the past four months has found Dara shunning Nick since the car accident.

Lauren Oliver has a way of writing that grabs you from the outset and does not let go.  In that aspect, she is a master storyteller.  In Vanishing Girls Oliver rotates between Dara and Nick as narrator and between ‘before’ the accident and ‘after.’  This style both moves the story along rapidly and hides the clues of what really happened with both the missing girl and the car accident.

A couple of issues I had with the plot ~ do high school juniors and seniors really drink that much? I don’t ever remember drinking that much in high school, nor do I believe I was so absent & unawares when my kids were in high school ~ perhaps I’m being naive?

Second issue is more plot development ~ I figured out part of the mystery early on from the big whoppers of clues and I’m probably the person that takes the longest to figure anything out!  My family and friends know when they tell me a joke they may have to break it down for me {sad, but true!}.  I’m thinking if the clues had not been so blatant that the big reveal may have been much more shocking.

Lauren Oliver’s writing ability is intense and wrings me out by the time I close the book.  Never fails, she has me sobbing by the end.  In Before I Fall {review} I remember thinking I would never quit crying!

Where she does get it right, Oliver shines.  The conflict and relationship of the sisters is what I witnessed with my girls who are 18 months apart.  The adoration and dedication are apparent between the two as is the struggle with personal identity and the intrinsic jealousies.  It’s a good study in love and conflict of two sisters.

To sum up, I liked Vanishing Girls.  Although the plot was not as seamless as previous novels, Lauren Oliver has a unique writing style that I thoroughly enjoy.  Recommended.


Mini-Book View: The Boston Girl

January 5, 2015 Book Review 8

Mini-Book View: The Boston GirlThe Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant
Published by Scribner
On December 9th, 2014
Genre: Contemporary Women, Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: purchased
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In a nutshell:  In which I just want to say, eh, it was ok; nothing spectacular.

Having read The Red Tent over ten years ago and recalling it to be an intense literary read, my expectations for The Boston Girl may have been a bit high.  Either my memory of The Red Tent is faulty or The Boston Girl just does not live up.  The premise is eighty-five year old, Addie, recounts her coming-of-age during the 1920’s to Ava, her 22-year-old granddaughter.  There are snippets of wisdom from Addie to Ava like You should always be kind to people, Ava. You never know what sorrows they’re carrying around. and You know Ava, it’s good to be smart, but kindness is more important.  The anecdotes, although a good message, had a way of repeating throughout the novel.

Touted to be a book of feminism, I found The Boston Girl to be more focused on female friendships. The life-long friendships between the women of the reading club where Addie found her voice was the shining star of the novel.  Diamant knows how to write female friendships like no other.  But hardcore feminism? Nope.

I enjoyed the title of the chapters like The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. in which Addie learned to type and I thought he was sweet and that I was sweet on him.  where Addie met a new beau. All of chapter titles felt like really good blog post titles. The various Jewish phrases interwoven gave some legitimacy to the culture in which Addie emerged.  

The Boston Girl is a genteel novel that reads like a lighter memoir.  According to Goodreads, many people have liked this novel.  I can’t say I didn’t like it, it just didn’t live up to my expectations.  I would recommend this novel for those who enjoy a lighter fare of women’s fiction.  Recommended with caution.

Have you read any of Anita Diamant’s books? Do you have a favorite?