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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

Love and Capital - Mary Gabriel

Posted by Gina Schwartz on February 16, 2012 at 2:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Love and Capital

Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, LOVE AND CAPITAL is a heartbreaking and dramatic saga of the family side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death.

Drawing upon years of research, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel brings to light the story of Karl and Jenny Marx's marriage. We follow them as they roam Europe, on the run from governmen

summary from Goodreads

My Take

My only quarrel with this novel was that with over 700 pages it was way too long.  I read it on a kindle - it seemed even longer without having page numbers as a guide.  That said though this book was as the summary above states brilliantly researched and wonderfully written.  The story of Karl and Jenny is at once a love story and an adventure story for all ages.  It is a wonderful memoir about dedication and the wasy that one can be so passionate to a cause that you would forget to take care of yourself and your family.  This novel took a long time to read but at no time was the reading a chore i was very excited to find out what would happen next to the Marx family.

This novel spared no punches and painted a picture of an intellectual so cought up in his own ideas that nothing else mattered.  The Marx family was constantly in debt and running from their creditors.  They even endured the death of their children and grandchildren and terrible illnesses themselves coming out of their poverty and Karl's inability to keep a real job and take care of his family.  their dependence on Frederick Engels is almost too much to bear - and the reader is left wo wonder what would have happened to the Marx family had Frederick Engels not been able to support them.

Perhaps the real tragedy in the novel is the fact that the Marx duaghters all fell into the sema pattern in their married lives as their parents.  Both Jenny and Laura face poverty and the death of their children and Tussy who takes up the party work wholeheartedly faces the most brutal cut of all.  For all his intelligence and dedication the Marx legacy is not an happy one.

This novel is not one that you shoud miss.

Rating 4 Stars

The Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan

Posted by Gina Schwartz on February 14, 2012 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The Battle of the Labyrinth

Percy Jackson's fourth summer at Camp Half-Blood is much like his previous three—high-octane clashes with dark forces, laced with hip humor and drama. Opening with a line for the ages—The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school—this penultimate series installment finds Percy, Annabeth and the satyr Grover furiously working to prevent former camp counselor Luke from resurrecting the Titan lord Kronos, whose goal is to overthrow the gods.

summary from Goodreads

My Take

This is the fourth installment in the Olympians Series and the action is really heating up.  I would have to say that this is my favourite book of the series so far.  I liked teh development of the relationship betwen Percy and Annabeth and I also liked the inclusion of other mythical characters such as Calypso and Daedalus.

I loved the authors concept of the labyrinth that makes it almost a living thing.  It is definitely a part of the novel.  i love the way it changes adn especially the concept of time being different in the labyrinth.  this was fantastic.  Readers are definitely in for a thrill with this one.

Rating 4 stars

Cherished - Kim Cash Tate

Posted by Gina Schwartz on February 6, 2012 at 2:00 PM Comments comments (0)


Before healing can begin for Kelli and Heather, they need to believe they are worth cherishing. As Kelli and Heather awaken to their true worth, they find the freedom to pursue their dreams-and relationships-based on the security of knowing God's unconditional love.

summary from Goodreads

My Take

I truly enjoyed this novel.  the author was able to tell a deeply moving story while at the same time spreading the message of God's abundant love and his capacity for forgiveness.  At the beginning of the novel the actions of both Kelli and Heather seem to grievious to ever warrant forgiveness especially as one of them seems hell bent on falling back into her old ways but the reader is led to see that even though they have kept up their exterior defences that their hearts are changed and that God sees the heart.  The lovely bible verses which intersperse the story are all well chosen and complement the mood of the novel. 

The reactions of the characters and the situations created within the novel were extremely realistic.  We can see why Heather is an outcast in the church and why there is a great division among the friends about being her mentor and bringing her into the group.  We can feel Brian's pain at seeing what one wrong decision has cost him and his an Kelli's collective pain at the loss they have felt, but God is able to take this pain and use it for his higher purpose while at the same time bringing healing.

The novel also explores the power of music and especially Christian music to bring forth reactions and gives the reader a rewarding insight into the workings of the modern day Christian music industry.  I enjoyed the symbolism of Brian's stage name - Alien - he is an alien in the world in that he is in the world but not of the world.

I admired the authors ability to measure the pace of the novel so tha tit does not move too quickly, instead she allows the girls to take their time to truly find their worth and the richness of God's love.

I can't wait to read more from this author.


Not Yet 40 - Koryn Frost

Posted by Gina Schwartz on January 30, 2012 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Not yet 40

Fans of Jennifer Weiner and Helen Fielding will fall in love with Not Yet 40, a hilarious and true-to-life tale of three friends in Boston. With powerful observation and laugh-out-loud hilarity, Koryn Frost takes readers into the lives of these unforgettable women as they navigate their perilous 30s.

Frost delivers a wonderfully tender character study of this delightful trio: Maria, a high-powered, trash-talking attorney and single mom; Jessica, who's been trying unsuccessfully to ditch her boring boyfriend; and Susan, who can only seem to attract the attention of one guy -- her gay best friend.

summary from goodreads

My Take

I heartily agreed with the summary of this novel that is written above.  This story was funny and really touching.  It was easy to identify with each character even though they are so reamarkably different and to empathise with her specific issues.  While the issues are serious the author is still able to deliver a readable story that will entertain the reader.  I cannot wait for the next installment.

Rating 3.75 Stars

Almost Perfect - Patricia Rice

Posted by Gina Schwartz on January 23, 2012 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Almost Perfect

Cleo Alyssum isn’t exactly a recluse, though living on an island and avoiding people aren’t the actions of a social butterfly. Cleo simply has more important things to do than to chat with the sexy, artistic, impossibly bullheaded hunk living in her guest house. Yet somehow Jared and his devilish charm inch their way into her life, reaching the warm places her cold exterior cleverly hides. Will Cleo open her heart to a man who falls short of her expectations? After all, it wasn’t her intention to fall for someone who is almost perfect.

summary from Goodreads

My Take

While I enjoyed this story I felt that it was somehat rushed.  Cleo seems to go from hating Jared to being completely besotted by him in such a short space of time that it is hardly believable and it makes the story seem very contirived and while I know it is a story I don't realy like to feel rushed.

What I did like very much was the idea and the character of Cleo in the story. She is strong and stubborn but still very vulnerable because of her past.  This helps her to be able to think through the dilemma of the children by seeing it throught her own experiences which allow her to delay taking the action that many might see as the only way forward so that she could figure out a more pleasing solution.

The supplementary characters in the novel provide some lightnes to the novel which would otherwise be very heavy as it deals with weighty issues.  For excample the arrival of Cleo's family with a barrage of people that I had troulbe figuring out and Jared's family.

I found the issue of the children in the novel to be heartbreaking - to have to live that life and endure the hurt and neglect and even abuse from strangers.  This is an important theme in the novel as it deals with children's rights and the issue of what is the best place for children who are at risk and the role of the foster care system.

This was largely a successful well written story.

Rating 3 Stars

Cereus Blooms at Night - Shani Mootoo

Posted by Gina Schwartz on January 12, 2012 at 1:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Cereus Blooms at Night

Set on a fictional Caribbean island in the town of Paradise, Cereus Blooms at Night unveils the mystery surrounding Mala Ramchandin and the tempestuous history of her family. At the heart of this bold and seductive novel is an alleged crime committed many years before the story opens. Mala is the reclusive old woman suspected of murder who is delivered to the Paradise Alms House after a judge finds her unfit to stand trial. When she arrives at her new home, frail and mute, she is placed in the tender care of Tyler, a vivacious male nurse, who becomes her unlikely confidante and the storyteller of Mala's extraordinary life

summary from Goodreads

My Take

I don't think tha tI have enver written in this blog before about my absolute love of Caribbean literature and most especially Trinidadian literature.  I love all of the stories because they are stories about me and people like me.  People that I know, my neighbours, my school friends - everybody.  THis novel which is set in  the town of Paradise on a fictional island called Lantanacamara is about Trinidad.  The story told is one so common in villages all around this country and one is full of compassion for little Mala and her sister.  THe author also allows the reader to feel compassion for Chandin and for Sarah who have themselves been scarred by the lieves that have bee forced to live in the name of progress.  The family story while it has its peculiarities also tells the storie sof many families living in the country districts.  Where it is a known fact that all cannot move forward - some progress and some must be left behind.

When Mala is left behind she and after her dreadful secret is revealed to Ambrose who does not fight for her she goes crazy - in the novel it seems as if she has suddenly gone crazy but the reader cna see that this craziness is the force of all of her disappointments and betrayals wieghing her down and eating away at her piece by piece.  At the alma house Tyler is confused by her cires of "Where Asha".  This to me is a plea for help a request to go back to an easier simplier time in ther life - when things made sense.

The nurse Tyler who is charged with telling Mala's story in the novel is as trapped as she is.  It is only in his interaction with Mala that he is truly free.  She is the only one that he allows to see his true self and iit is coincidentally only through her that he finds someone to share with.

The author has managed to draw lively rich characters in her novel - so alive and multi dimensional that they seem to leap of the page.  Even minor characters such as that of Ambrose's wife are richly drawn and memorable.  The least likeable character in the novel would be Ambrose Mohanty himself.  He is typical personality type a man who has never stood up for anything and because of that has managed to make two women miserable in his life.  He runs away from life by simply sleeping.  His response to Otoh sums it all up when he said "Things were easier when I was sleeping"

This is a great novel.  You absolutely must read it

Rating 5 Stars

Year End Roundup 2011

Posted by Gina Schwartz on January 10, 2012 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

2011 In Review

I had set myself a reading goal to read 100 books in 2011.  I have never been able to achieve this goal.  For a while I thought that I would make it but then I got bogged down with work and all sorts of other things and I only managed to make it to 94.  Still a good showing though.

Part of my goal was to read more non - fiction and I was able to read 8 non fiction books in 2011.  I also met 67 new authors.

Longest Book - "Those in Peril" - Wilbur Smith - 838 pages

Shortest Book - " A Sweeter Kind of Rythmn" - Tom Peters - 9 pages

Best Book - "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" - Steig Larssen.  I saw the movie on Saturday and loved it.

Worst Book - Sophie's Choice - William Styron - Way too long.

Best New Author - Stieg Larssen.

Goals for 2012

To read 100 books

To read 10 or more non- fiction

To read at least half the books in new authors.