Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Scarlett reviews the Cider House Rules

The Cider House RulesThe Cider House Rules by John Irving
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Cider House Rules by John Irving provides insight into the painful, politically charged, topic of abortion. Homer, an abandoned orphan, is the champion of life and finds the idea of abortion repugnant. Wilbur, the surgeon Homer considers father and mentor, feels passionately that a woman must have the right to choose. Each man sways us.

The emotional devastation wrought by the abandonment of unwanted children is sensitively told. We imagine the orphans waiting for adoptive parents, listening for the sound of cars in the lane…hoping, crying when other children are adopted. We feel Wilbur’s pain as he remembers patients dying in anguish from sepsis after tortuous attempted abortions from unskilled charlatans.

Irving crafts a human story, beautifully told, of ordinary people confronted by difficult decisions. He presents the perspectives of women caught in situations beyond their control, making it difficult for the reader to remain neutral on the subject. We are drawn in, slipping on the razor’s edge of the moral question of abortion as Candy, Grace, Lorna and Rose Rose tell their tales. We consider our view on abortion as we examine their predicaments. Is abortion, regardless of any circumstance, murder? Is it cruel to create unwanted orphans that are likely to be neglected and abused rather than to abort a fetus? Should a woman have sovereignty over her body? Irving seems to be asking us to consider these questions, and more.

When faced with unwanted pregnancy, a woman chooses her rules according to her moral or religious code. The reader may not condone abortion but, after reading this book, must acknowledge that the decision to abort is not always an act of irresponsibly selfish women choosing a frivolous method of birth control.

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Scarlett's review of Alias Grace

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Alias Grace
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, is an enigmatic, complex character-driven tale that synthesizes obsession, empathy, symbolism and repressed sexuality. The silent narrative of self and not-self screams to the reader as Grace creates her reality and claims a history that is not her own. Grace applies the abstract, crystalline logic of lunacy to distance herself from attack. Through her eyes we see that victims deserve their fate and are responsible for their suffering. It is just desserts. She toys with her accusers, amused when Simon flounders, thrashing like a fish…stranded on the mysterious shores of dreams. Simon is mesmerized. Grace is forbidden fruit, taunting him that she knows his fantasies. Restraint whispers “it cannot be” as Simon joins Grace in a dance he thinks is familiar, and one he believes he can lead. As Simon’s life parallels Grace’s the reader wonders what is true as he plays sham to her charlatan.

I own a copy of this book and found it fascinating. I rate this tale a brilliant 5/5 stars!

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Road Rash is a quick, fun read for adults.

Road RashRoad Rash by Bonnie Bernard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved Road Rash! I rate it as 5/5 stars, and recommend it as a quick, fun read for adults. Kudos to Bonnie Bernard for writing this little treasure and being among the handful of authors whose work makes me laugh aloud.

Road Rash is a wonderful, original, off-the-wall sort of book that kicks the mainstream fiction genre right in the face…then dumps a big ole bowl of coleslaw on top of it. The closest I can come to describing Bonnie Bernard’s quirky story is to say it is sort of like a comical hybridization of The Big Lebowski and the The Five People You Meet in Heaven…with an absurd twist. The irreverence of the story works so well, partly because Wayne —who thinks he must have gotten in at the wrong gate because he’s Hell-bound for sure— has a prickly conscience that keeps poking at him. Don’t think the Harley dude’s gone soft, though. Even good guys get fed up sometime…and he is glad to have taken his last bite of that damned coleslaw his passive-aggressive wife, Tammy, slopped on his plate, year after year, every time he disappointed her.

There are so many funny concepts and lines in this story. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading. I probably shouldn’t have read it in bed, though. My husband did not appreciate my giggles, or having me read the funny parts of the book aloud to him at 1:00am…If he doesn’t watch it he’s going to get a big ole bowl of slaw for his 3-squares the next few days. I’ll write Tammy (care of Bonnie Bernard) and get her special recipe. That will fix him!

Disclaimer: I requested this book and was provided it as a gift in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Scarlett's review of Thimble Kisses

Thimble KissesThimble Kisses by Crystal Clifton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thimble Kisses by Crystal Clifton is a sweet reminder of the importance of family traditions. As little Andy strives to find his mother a special Christmas gift he helps the reader understand that love is the most precious of treasures. I thoroughly enjoyed the message and illustrations in this story. I recommend it for children aged 3-5 years. Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. This review reflects my true opinion of this book.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scarlett's Review of Where'd You Go, Bernadette

By, Maria Semple

Product Details
·       Hardcover: 336 pages
·       Language: English
·        ISBN-10: 0316204277
·        ISBN-13: 978-031620279

Book Description
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Publisher:Little, Brown and Company

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle--and people in general--has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence--creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.

My Review

Where'd You Go, Bernadette is a rare book, unlike any other I've read. I read the first few pages, and my nose twitched (a sure sign I was on the scent of a good read).  I swatted Marshall Dillon, my annoyingly curious cat... and, a few dozen cracker crumbs, off my chest and eagerly turned the pages.

Bernadette, that lovely, self-absorbed, eccentric spotted me from behind those glasses of hers, winked, and pulled me right into her story.  What a story!  "Take me with you, Bernadette", I begged, as she planned her exploits.  I nodded in approval when she jobbed out her menial tasks to a nefarious guy-Friday in India.  I had her back when she sparred with her uptight, Suzy-do-gooder, neighbor whose undies were in a twist over berries and mudslides.  I itched to slap some common sense into her genius husband's lofty head, but knew it was too far up Ted's behind for easy access! I felt Bernadette's love for her daughter, Bee, as surely as I love my own.

I munched, read, reacted, pushed the cat...munched, read, threw the cracker box at the trash can...missed.  Didn't notice.  I read right through to the end, so tired that one eye rebelled and closed. I could not stop reading.  The style, perspective and presentation of the story were too compelling. The characters hopped right off the pages to make certain Bernadette didn't get the last word. I saw Bernadette as they saw her...and, my heart fluttered in alarm.  Her detractors couldn’t see the fine line between creation and destruction, or that walls are oftentimes the greatest evidence of fragility. They tore at her, seeking to expose her weakness. Sometimes when you rip away the prickly barriers what remains is too vulnerable to withstand scrutiny.   Bernadette had to go to save herself.  I saw that. As one who has a cave selected in the Algonquin for when I can’t take the stress any longer…I got it. 

My intense love affair with the book lasted right up to the ending.  What? Then, like many torrid affairs, it fizzled to mere infatuation. A complex character like Bernadette is just incapable of tidying everything up as nicely as the ending suggests.  Aside from my peevish point about the ending, there is no way this book deserves anything short of 5 of 5 hearts!  (By the way, mums the word about my forest hideaway! I don’t want my Editor to find me.)

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Scarlett Reviews 'Tumbleweeds'

Book Description (per Amazon)

February 5, 2013
Recently orphaned, eleven-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle where the sport of football reigns supreme. She is quickly taken under the unlikely wings of up-and-coming gridiron stars and classmates John Caldwell and Trey Don Hall, orphans like herself, with whom she forms a friendship and eventual love triangle that will determine the course of the rest of their lives. Taking the three friends through their growing up years until their high school graduations when several tragic events uproot and break them apart, the novel expands to follow their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at forty years of age. Told with all of Meacham's signature drama, unforgettable characters, and plot twists, readers will be turning the pages, desperate to learn how it all plays out.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 145550923X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455509232

My Review

Tumbleweeds starts out very slowly, to the point that I almost put it down.  I’m glad I didn’t.  After plodding through the dry, obligatory, chapters where Meacham established the adolescent bonds between the three key characters of the story, I finally made it to the interesting parts.  I was hooked!  Oh, the shenanigans those three got themselves in to as true love developed in a triangle complicated enough to give Pythagoras a migraine.  Not me! I knew exactly which stud-muffin Cathy would pick.  Or, so I thought.  I munched on a couple more crackers, turned the page, and, “Huh?” 

Leila Meacham was not following the script I envisioned at all! She must be an admirer of Poe and Bronte: such was the angst she created —the plot twists cleverly wreaking havoc— ruining lives and setting the wheels in motion that led me, like a horse to water, down the herring-strewn path to the ending.  Meacham tossed so many herrings about that I felt I was at a fish market. I’ll be squeezing lemon juice on these hands for days!  Still, the ending was clever, if a bit contrived. Dare I say, fishy?  The convenient ending —and, Cathie’s ridiculous choice of man-candy— just irritated the heck out of me, so Tumbleweeds earned 4 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scarlett Reviews 'The Book of Madness and Cures'

by Regina O'Melveny

Book Description (per Amazon)

April 10, 2012
Dr. Gabriella Mondini, a strong-willed, young Venetian woman, has followed her father in the path of medicine. She possesses a singleminded passion for the art of physick, even though, in 1590, the male-dominated establishment is reluctant to accept a woman doctor. So when her father disappears on a mysterious journey, Gabriella's own status in the Venetian medical society is threatened. Her father has left clues--beautiful, thoughtful, sometimes torrid, and often enigmatic letters from his travels as he researches his vast encyclopedia, The Book of Diseases

After ten years of missing his kindness, insight, and guidance, Gabriella decides to set off on a quest to find him--a daunting journey that will take her through great university cities, centers of medicine, and remote villages across Europe. Despite setbacks, wary strangers, and the menaces of the road, the young doctor bravely follows the clues to her lost father, all while taking notes on maladies and treating the ill to supplement her own work.

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Little Brown and Company (April 10, 2012)

My Review

I was so excited to finally receive The Book of Madness and Cures in the mail.  It was a book I’d requested from the publisher and I was beside myself with excitement when it arrived.  I love historical novels and, if you toss in a bit of medicinal lore sprinkled with early treatments for madness, you’ve got this clinician drooling! I couldn’t wait to read about the adventures of Gabriella Mondini: a 16th century Venetian physician determined to practice medicine during the Renaissance, when doing so could be construed as heretical.  Remember, most gals in the 16th century used needles for needlepoint, not suturing wounds!  Gabriella’s unseemly interest in such manly things is tolerated by the physicians in Venice only because her father, a renowned physician, acts as her mentor.  When he abandons her in pursuit of a personal quest, Gabriella is no longer permitted to practice the healing arts.  The tale of her attempts to find her father, and complete their book of cures for madness, moves the story along. I could scarcely contain my excitement as I settled in for, what I was sure would be, a delightful read.

It really should have been.  All the requisite pieces for a perfect story were there, yet, the story fell flat.  I regret to say that it just did not pull me in.  The dialogue, in general, was stilted and the interactions between mistress and servant were unrealistic for the Renaissance period.  Interesting case histories of patients suffering from madness are interjected sporadically throughout the book.  All-in-all, the clinical feel of the writing was such that it left me removed from the supposed distress of the protagonist. Still, this is a debut novel and O’Melveny certainly has talent.  Her next book, I’m sure, will flow more freely.  This one, however, earned 3 of 5 hearts from this reviewer.

Disclaimer:  This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My review reflects my honest opinion of the work.