Monday, July 2, 2012

Book Review: Her Latin Lover

Title:  Her Latin Lover
Author:  Katheryn Lane
Publication Year:  2012
This book was received free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Description from

When Mary Delaney is offered an all expenses paid, luxury holiday in South America with her journalist boyfriend, the last thing she expects to happen is to find herself stuck in the middle of nowhere with no boyfriend, no money and no way of getting back to London. When an irresistibly sexy landowner, Don Paulo de Castile, tells her that he has just won her in a game of poker, should she believe him, or try to find out what has happened to her missing boyfriend?

Paulo didn’t realise at the beginning of his poker game that he was playing to win Mary, a woman who bears a striking resemblance to a person he once loved. However, it takes more than a game of cards to win Mary’s heart and Paulo isn’t the only local man interested in her. As well as battling for Mary’s affection, he has to fight off the attentions of the local mafia in a fight that can have only one outcome . . .

I Gave It: 3.5 Stars 

Katheryn Lane knows how to whisk a reader away to a foreign land and give her (or him!) adventure, romance and just enough feistiness to keep the attention.  Even though her two books that I have read have a similar theme of faraway love affairs, their stories were enjoyably different from each other.  

The characters Mary and Paulo were believable and the chemistry between them was palpable.  There was tenderness in their interactions, especially once Mary let her guard down a little, and yet enough spice when things got rough to make the reader want to turn the page.  A crazy twist 3/4 of the way through was well-timed and definitely a surprise.

There were a few points in the story near the beginning and again in the middle where the plot felt a little stagnant, and the mystery of the picture hanging on the wall was dragged out just a little too long.

I do enjoy Katheryn Lane's books and look forward to escaping with another one when it comes out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Title:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Author:  Dr. Maya Angelou
Publication Year:  2009

Description from Amazon: 
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age–and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns about love for herself and the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a modern American classic that will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.

I Gave It:  5 Stars and before I tell you why, please watch the video of Dr. Angelou reciting "Still, I Rise."

I wanted you to watch the video because this is the the voice I had in my head as I read her beautiful prose.  She sang her story to me, the highs and lows, the heartbreaks and the inner wisdom gained.  Her autobiography left me shaking my head at the events in her life, indeed, at the mindset of her era.  Of course, the ripple effects of history are still felt today but they can only be understood and annihilated when we look to the past.  Dr. Angelou could have been a victim of many things but she chose not to; knowing her background now, I have even more appreciation for this wise woman's accomplishments and attitude.

Dr. Angelou's prose is bursting with metaphors that will have you tasting, smelling, and feeling her life as a little black girl in Stamps, Arkansas.  Have you ever sat down for Sunday breakfast in a small, Southern town?  The table is set for us by Maya's grandmother whom they call Momma.  "She fried thick pink slabs of home-cured ham and poured the grease over sliced red tomatoes.  Eggs over easy, fried potatoes and onions, yellow hominy and crisp perch fried so hard we would pop them in our mouths and chew bones, fins and all."  Served with a side of cathead biscuits.  Just the type of meal that would keep you full from morning till after church services - something that was never missed in Momma's household.  Growing up, little Maya was quite sure that "God was white, too, but no one could have made me believe he was prejudiced."  This was no easy feat in a town where "people used to say that the whites...were so prejudiced that a Negro couldn't buy vanilla ice cream.  Except on July Fourth.  Other days he had to be satisfied with chocolate."  That paints the picture, doesn't it?

Segregation hung thick in the air of Dr. Angelou's hometown.  Her observations of its reality leave a lasting impression on the reader.       

Her relationship with her grandmother, her grandmother's relationship with the Church, and the abandonment by her parents carried her through her childhood and then from state to state as a youth.  Her brother, Bailey, is her closest friend for much of her childhood though they remain on separate journeys - parts of which they could not share.

In the many homes in which Dr. Angelou lived, amongst the many people who played roles in her life, you bear witness to the birth of her great spirit through this book and watch her rise.  

If you enjoy autobiographies, African-American history, or well-written prose with golden nuggets of wisdom, you will enjoy this book.    

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: The Almost Moon

Title:  The Almost Moon
Author:  Alice Sebold
Publication Year:  2007

Description from

A woman steps over the line into the unthinkable in this brilliant, powerful, and unforgettable new novel by the author of The Lovely Bones and Lucky.

For years Helen Knightly has given her life to others: to her haunted mother, to her enigmatic father, to her husband and now grown children. When she finally crosses a terrible boundary, her life comes rushing in at her in a way she never could have imagined. Unfolding over the next twenty-four hours, this searing, fast-paced novel explores the complex ties between mothers and daughters, wives and lovers, the meaning of devotion, and the line between love and hate. It is a challenging, moving, gripping story, written with the fluidity and strength of voice that only Alice Sebold can bring to the page.

I Gave It:  3 Stars

This is how the book opens.  “When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.”  I had to read the line twice to make sure I didn’t miss an important word that would negate this sentence.  And then, of course, I had to read on to be sure that what I had read was literally what had happened.  It was. 

(That’s not really a spoiler because you’d learn this even if you picked up a copy and browsed through the first page in a book store). 

Over the next 24 hours, Helen Knightly does some strange and incredible things that can only be explained by the stories of her heartbreaking childhood that unfold throughout the chapters.  We learn that even the people closest to her – her ex-husband Jake and best friend, Natalie – could never have known this completely shattered part of Helen that she is no longer able to keep under wraps.

Despite the subject matter, it’s not a heart-pounding thriller or an edge-of-your-seat suspense novel.  It’s more of a sad exploration of someone’s deeply hurt psychology and I felt predominantly disturbed and then incredibly sorry for Helen’s choices. 

It wasn’t until the last quarter of the book that I realized I had no idea what Helen was going to choose to do next and it’s literally not until the last couple pages that we become aware of her next step.  The last part of the book intrigued me the most.  The rest of it was well-written; I was always happy to pick up where I left off but didn’t feel compelled to learn more. 

I recommend this book to anyone who likes off-beat stories.  It’s definitely not a typical plot! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: Confessions of a Shopaholic

Title:  Confessions of a Shopaholic
Author:  Sophie Kinsella
Publication Year:  2001

Description from
Becky Bloomwood has what most twenty-five-year-olds only dream of: a flat in London's trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season's must-haves. The only trouble is, she can't actually afford it --- not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Saving magazine not only bores her to tears, it doesn't pay much at all. Still, how can she resist that perfect pair of shoes? Or the divine silk blouse in the window of that ultra-trendy boutique? But lately Becky's been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank --- letters with large red sums she can't bear to read --- and they're getting ever harder to ignore. She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Her only consolation is to buy herself something ... just a little something ...

Finally, a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life --- and the lives of those around her --- forever.

I Gave It:  4 Stars

This light and fluffy novel was a breath of fresh air - nay, a strong steady breeze of giggles and oh-my-goodness head shakes.  As someone who has quite the opposite problem of a shopaholic, it was so much fun being inside the mind of a crazed shopping fiend while knowing my own bank accounts weren't suffering for it.  Kinsella does a phenomenal job of drawing the reader into Becky's world through the non-stop running commentary that is the entire book, where we learn about Becky's weaknesses and strengths and her adorable heart. 

There was the predictable romance and the save-the-day ending but it was played out very well. We knew what was going to happen but we didn't know quite how sweet Becky was going to get there - and if she'd have her wits about her when she did!  

Overall, a very easy read that doesn't need a special occasion or mood to suit it.  I'm looking forward to reading my borrowed copy of Shopaholic Takes Manhattan soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Book Review: The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

Title:  The In-Between World of Vikram Lall
Author:  M.G. Vassanji
Publication Year:  2004

I Gave It:  5 Stars

Vikram Lall is an Indian boy growing up in Kenya during colonial times; his grandfather left his homeland of India to work on the Kenyan railways, laying down its rails and the foundation for his family’s life in this new, breath-takingly beautiful country.  He and his sister, Deepa, befriend a Kikuyu boy Njoroge and two British children, brother and sister Bill and Annie Bruce.  The five of them form a complicated bond during a time when the British were in power, and were using the Asians to aid in suppressing the Africans.  All the while, Asians and Africans were forming friendships by a very loose definition, and some were even finding love.  Vassanji’s powerful prose demonstrates the destructive racism that dwelled among the three groups - heart-wrenching and true to the letter.  Love was one thing; disgracing your family or your tribe was another and the majority opinion was that complete intermingling would simply not be tolerated. 

In the dark, lush forests, the Mau Mau (a Kikuyu group) were plotting the uprising of the Africans and gaining a reputation as murderers.  In their wake, many British families were killed which brought further wrath upon the other Africans and a tighter noose around the Asians’ necks.  Vikram’s family is devastated by the murders of some of the British who became close to them by way of customers in their provisions store, increasing the fear and racism within their family and the Asian community at large.  Where does this leave Deepa and Njoroge who can no longer deny that their childhood closeness has led to something more?

Vassanji brilliantly executes the plot with strong characters.  Even Vikram, the restrained, almost indifferent character who ends up a key player in post-colonial Kenya’s political scandals, exemplifies the by-stander role of the Asian in Kenya’s history.  I am grateful for Vassanji’s character, Mahesh Uncle, who is Vikram’s mother’s brother – a Mau Mau supporter and revolutionist – as he shows a side of humanity that may be overlooked in a community that largely chose to stay “in the middle”.    

Thus the in-between world of Vikram Lall is a story of identity and the struggle to find it as a third generation Kenyan Indian – not British, not African – with no real ties to India.  This in-between world is easy to relate to when you are like me:  the daughter of Vikram Lall’s generation – not fully Indian, definitely not African (though I speak more Swahili than even I was aware), mostly Canadian...and always stumped by the question “So, where are you from?”

I highly recommend this book to you if you:
·        want to learn about the incredible times of colonial and post-colonial East Africa    
·        love a heart-wrenching story of passion
·        enjoy prose that reads like a poem and paints vivid images that will stay with you long after the last page is turned