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The Grand Plan to Fix Everything - Uma Krishnaswami

Posted by Gina Schwartz on April 25, 2012 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The Grand Plan to fix everything

Eleven-year-old Dini loves everything about movies--especially Bollywood movies. So she would have been really excited about her family's move to India...if they were moving anywhere near Bombay, the center of the Bollywood universe and home to Dini's all-time most favorite favorite star, Dolly Singh. But no. Dini's now stuck in a teeny, tiny village that she can't even find on a map. But small villages can have surprises, and soon Dini is hard at work on a new life's script in which she gets to meet the amazing Dolly. However, real life is often more unpredictable than the movies, and when Dini starts plotting her story things get a little out of control....

summary from goodreads

My Take

I was entranced by the cover of this novel so I poached it from my ten year old daughter (after she had read it of course).  The novel is beautiful - lovely and bright with just enough happy and just enough sad.

The writer has very artistically been able to make this novel read just like a Bollywood movie script so you can actually see little Dini thrilling over all of the various parts.  Ther are many absolutely absurd conincidences especilally one involving the mailing of a letter and perhaps just as many possible moments to break out into song - much like a Bollywood Movie.  It seemed rhythmic and sensual but all the while even when the bad happens you are sure that good will prevail and that if you have a grand plan to fix everything - that everything will be allright.

This is the perfect read for a little girt between nine and twelve.  There are even illustrations of some of the more preposterous events

Rating 3.5 Stars

The Colour of Tea - Hannah Tunnicliffe

Posted by Gina Schwartz on April 25, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

The Colour of Tea

An exciting debut novel set in the exotic, bustling streets of coastal China—a woman whose life is restored when she opens a small café and gains the courage to trust what’s in her heart.

Infused with the heady aromas of Macau and peppered with delectable characters, The Color of Tea is a mouth-watering journey of the senses as Grace rediscovers what it is to love, to live with hope, and embrace real happiness

summary abridged from goodreads

My Take

Maybe my love of this novel has been coloured by my love of tea and my wish to one day own a tea shop of my own but I found this novel delightful and difficult to put down.

At the beginning of the novel Grace is out of sorts and has received news that changes her life completely and shatters all of the dreams that she has for herself.  She feels out of place in China and has no frieds to talk to besides her husband.

Rather than becoming a recluse within her home Grace embarks on a brave journey and is able at the end after making some monumental mistakes to surround herself with love and family and a life so rich and full she sould not have envisioned it for herself.

I specifically enjoy novels where the author has taken the time to create complex characters and where these characters come to life in the novel.  This novel was no disappointment in this are - all fo the characters are deep - they become almost like real poeple you could meet on teh street with their own troubles.

The conclusion of the novel while a bit predictable is still sweet and endearing.  I can't wait to read more from this author.

Rating 4 Stars.

The Monk who sold his Ferrari - Robin S. Sharma

Posted by Gina Schwartz on April 25, 2012 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

The Monk who sold his Ferrari

After a heart attack nearly kills him, a high-powered lawyer treks to India to learn how to live a more meaningful life. Months later, he returns to the West and recounts the story of seven principles and practices that can help anyone experience true happiness.

summary from goodreads

My Take

I half expected this book to be on of those new age fables that are so popular nowadays like "Who Moved My Cheese" and "Fish for Life" all fancy and sweet but not telling you anything that i did not know.  THis novel however is very very different - it preaches the same message but in a very real way.

All of us know that we should eat better and exercise and get less stressed out.  THat we should spend more time with our families and with God and that if we did that our lieves would be happier, richer and more fulfilled.  We know that doing these things which are basic and would be eaily done if we would commit to it would improve our lives but we find it hard to do them.  I think the reason that we find these things difficutl is because we have no tangible evidence of these promised changes. 

In this novel the author puts forward a real example - an overworked lawyer on the brink of disease with destructive relationships and a very poor attitude to life and is able to demonstrate to the reader the effects that these changes have had on his lifestyle, his appearance and his approach to the rest of his life.

Of course Julian has madde some very severe changes many of which would be difficult to incorporate into a regular working, family lifestyle but the author is able to show us that even we might be able to have some of his success by making the smallest changes in our lives.

This lovely story is already on my reread list for 2013.

Rating 4.5 Stars

Stuck with You - Trish Jensen

Posted by Gina Schwartz on April 19, 2012 at 9:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Stuck with you

When the verdict comes in, will they be sentenced to life -- in love? The trend toward funny, sexy contemporary romance has been around for a while, but Trish Jensen offers readers a fresh (in both senses of the word) take on this popular genre

summary from Goodreads

My Take

I find that I am learning to enjoy contemporary romance more and more but still not as much as I enjoy the historical stuff.

I found this novel to be cute but it was very hard to take it seriously.  It was also a very predictable love story.  It was easy to see how it would end from teh beginning.  The part of the novel I did like though was the side love story between the doctor and Paige's brither - now that was unexpected and so cute.  I just loved reading about them.

This novel is great for a fun quick read.

Rating 3 Stars

Composing Amelia - Alison Strobel

Posted by Gina Schwartz on March 29, 2012 at 2:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Composing Amelia

Composing Amelia, is a journey through the introduction of mental illness into a young marriage and the resulting havoc that can be wreaked by the disease. A young Los Angeles marriage is put to the test and two careers are threatened when Amelia's husband Marcus is hired as a pastor at a remote Nebraska church. The move results in resentment and sparks the onset of mental illness in Amelia. Can Amelia's faith stand up to the oppression in her mind and the dysfunction in her relationship with her workaholic pastor husband? Will Marcus recognize the mistakes he's made in time to make things right—or will the darkness in Amelia's head push her off the edge before Marcus can be the husband he's meant to be? And how can God use such broken people to turn around the lives of the small flock of believers to whom He's led them?

summary from Goodreads

My Take

I can't say that I really enjoyed this novel.  I found that Amelia's confusion with her faith and the way she chose to exoress it was childish and petulant and I disliked the way she treated Marcus and ignored his needs and his ambitions.

What was lovely about the novel though was Marcus' character.  His love and patient understanding, his willingness to try aeverythign to save his relationship with Amelia, his tenderness, his care and his trust in God.  We should all be thankful to find a man so fine.  What was also well done in teh novel was the author's portrayl of biplar disease as a truly debilitating mental illness that kills from the inside out.  Oftentimes stories aobut mental illnesses are told from the perspective of someone looking in but in this novel we can feel Amelia's pain at having to exclude herself and her resentment about the betrayal of her mind.

The marriage relationship portrayed in this novel is a real one told by someone who has obviously been married.  There is always a time when both parties are dealing with their own issues and each shuts out the other and the marriage relationship suffers. 

Marcus's troubles relationship with his father is one areas where Amelia supports him.  She is the one on his side when his father ignores his accomplishments despite his obvious need for approval.  His ability to work through these issues and face the truth is explored very emotionally in the novel.

Although I did enjoy these theme in the story I found the story itself quite emplty,  I dont feel any desire to read it again.

Beyond Molasses Creek - Nicole Seitz

Posted by Gina Schwartz on March 29, 2012 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Beyond Molasses Creek

Three lives are bound by a single book . . . and the cleansing waters of Molasses Creek. 

courtesy of Goodreads.

My Take

From just the blurb on the novel I oculd not tell what this novel was about but from the moment that I read the first few pages I abolutely loved it.  The relationship betwen Ally and Vesey is compelling and fierce.  The author is able to write about how they are drawn to each other the effects that their friendship has on them and those around them.

The story of Sunila is just as compelling and really spotlights the terror of living a life where therare are absolutely no options - a hell that you will never be able to get out of.  As heartbreaking as the details of her story are what is even more terrifying is that this nightmare is lived by maybe millions of people accross the world who are forced to endure abominable conditions.

While the ending of the story is quite predictable what the story lacks in an ending that will surprise the reader it gains in just the beauty of the storytelling and the deep themes within the novel of love that will surpass all boundaries - race, caste, econcomic status and the deep humanity that knits us all together.

The Boleyn Inheritance - Phillipa Gregory

Posted by Gina Schwartz on March 27, 2012 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The Boleyn Inheritance

The Boleyn Inheritance is a novel drawn tight as a lute string about a court ruled by the gallows and three women whose positions brought them wealth, admiration, and power as well as deceit, betrayal, and terror. Once again, Philippa Gregory has brought a vanished world to life -- the whisper of a silk skirt on a stone stair, the yellow glow of candlelight illuminating a hastily written note, the murmurs of the crowd gathering on Tower Green below the newly built scaffold. In The Boleyn Inheritance Gregory is at her intelligent and page-turning best.

summary from Goodreads

My Take

This novel is set in one of my favourite periods in history.  I love the Tudor Era because to mean it is politically the era that is most similar to how we live now - all the pomp and ceremony, the backbiting, the changing alliances and the politics.

What this novel successfully does is bring togther the stories of the three last wives of Henry VII, three very differnt women from three distinctly different backgrounds who must deal with the same King - a man who is to be feared

For Anne of Cleaves coming to England is her chance to be free and she takes it even when it means divorce and disgrace.  The author takes great pains in the painting of this character who even though she is young and not very worldly must make very mature decisions if she is to save her own life.  She is thoughtful, with a quick mind and seems ot keep her own counsel well.  Katherine Howard is only seventeen when she is married to the king.  She displays all of the actions a seventeen year old queen would display - she is vain and condesending and there is little about the real job of being queen that she understands.  It is her ignorance and her trusting ways that eventually lead to her execution - even the words she says on the scaffold paint a true picture of her character.  Catherine Parr is Henry's wife when he dies.  She is perhaps the best wife of all for him - while she is a commoner she is a mature woman with her own ideas and values - it is clear that she is aware of everything that is at stake and is prepared to fight for her life.

The novel is very well researched down to the descriptions oaf the various palaces and the fashions worn by the queen's ladies and it is a very enjoyable read.

The Marriage Mailbox

Posted by Gina Schwartz on March 9, 2012 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

The Marriage Mailbox - Jon Eno

This was a cute little read that I came accross.  I strangely could not find it on either of the bookish sites that I frequent - shelfari or goodreads but I quite liked it.  It is the story of a young girl who is terrified of her parents getting a divorce as they seem to be fighting all the time.  she creates the idea of a marriage mailbox where they will write each other letters indicating how they feel.

Her attempts to intercept and correct their correspondence is hilarious.

This is a cute quick little read.  You should try it.

The Half-Stiched Amish Quilting Club - Wanda E. Brunstetter

Posted by Gina Schwartz on March 6, 2012 at 1:55 PM Comments comments (0)

The Half Stitched Amish Quilting Club

Join the club of unlikely quilters who show up for Amish widow Emma Yoder’s quilting classes. A troubled young woman, a struggling couple, a widower, a rough and tough biker, and a preacher’s wife make up the mismatched lot. But as their problems begin to bind them together like the scraps of fabric stitched together in a quilt, they learn to open up and lend a helping hand. Is this what God had in mind to heal hurting hearts and create beauty from fragments

summary from Goodreads

My Take

This is my second book about the Amish and I enjoyed it as much as i did the first one.  What I specifically loved about this novel was the motely crew cast of characters who showed up for Emma's quilting class.  In the other books that I read with this type of theme the quilters are always female - from different walks of life but always adult female.  In this novel the quilting class brings together all types - men and women - a definite cast of characters.

All of the relationships that develop in the novel are moving.  without throwing any spoilers it is intriguing how drawn to Jan Star is even before she actually knows who he is and how lovingly protetive Jan is of the baby when he holds her during the class.  While some of the scenes between Pam and Stuart are hilarious, the reader is able to feel the deep sadness between them and the feeling tha tif they could just fix this one thing everything would work out for them.  This really touched me in a special place and set me making some changes in my own life.

The developing relationship between Emma and Lamar is a lovely piece of the story and his ability to win her over by his loving persistence is a sweet note.

The one part of the novel that did not rign true for me was the story of Ruby Lee the pastors wife.  This seemed a little blown out of proportion for me and appeared to resolve itself a little too quickly.

Overall this was a lovely novel, worth a second read.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith

Posted by Gina Schwartz on February 24, 2012 at 9:45 AM Comments comments (0)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness -- in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

summary from Goodreads

My Take

I loved this story almost from the first line.  It was one of those novels where you sort of know that everything will turn out to be OK but you are not sure how the author will achieve that.  For me the novel has many memorable parts but the part I remember the most is Francie's recollection of the way that all of her classmates were first generation Americans with their parents coming from all parts of the world while Francie's parents were from Brooklyn - born in America.  Her lot however had not improved for being a second generation American though.

I found the symbolism of the tree to be lovely and very moving - the tree sustains and gives ease but also makes the people out as poor - almost like a badge of disrespect.  The trees close to Francie's new school are markedly different showing how different the peope are.

This novel is a true family drama with all of the details that make up a story like this - love, sadness, grief, tragedy - and while there were some sections that I wish could have been expanded on or explained more thoroughly it was a beautifully well paced read.




Rating 4 Stars