The Roses

January 30th. 2010

Well, with comparisons to Gone With The Wind and Thornbirds floating around this book, I was looking forward to settling in with six-hundred pages of East Texas historical drama–curses, twisted wills, tragic relationships, hard-headed women, alcoholism, financial windfalls and losses, death, births, loves lost and revenge. What’s not to love? This was going to be a return to grand story-telling and, it didn’t disappoint. ¬†With a few swift chapters. I was hooked. Since the book begins with the main character’s death, the story unfolds in flashback and and from the perspectives of the three primary characters; Mary, Percy and Mary’s great niece, Rachel . The “roses” significance to the story (both historically and literally) was beautiful and may launch a whole new angle for the FTD business. I know I won’t look at red, white and pink roses the same way. Until this becomes a movie, which I’m sure it will, I can’t say if its as lasting as GWTW or Thornbirds, because there was little that was singularly unique to Leila Meacham’s tale . This story could have been lifted and reset anywhere, in any culture and it would have resonated with readers–because the conflict is entirely human and ages-old. But that doesn’t mean I can easily forget Mary and Percy and the Scarlett-esque choices women sometimes make to protect the things they love.

The last of my Christmas novels

January 25th. 2010

So, finally, on a rainy, cold Sunday afternoon I finished the last of the stack of Christmas-themed novels I’d purchased during the holidays. What could be better than smart, poignant stories filled with twinkle lights and cranberry strings, right? Maybe I had too much bah-humbug to fall in love with the novels this year. I plodded through, instead of savoring. Guess that’s more of a reflection on me than the writers. Susan May Warren told a funny, heart-warming tale in The Great Christmas Bowl (I’m thinking there was a whole lot of personal experiences in this novel) of a football-crazed mom and her youngest child’s final year in high school. When her misguided husband signs her up for the church hostess position, she has to coordinate the annual Christmas tea (following long held Swedish traditions) and her life goes amok. (Don’t judge–I’m living proof just this sort of chaos exists. Although some events are still too fresh for me to really laugh about them.) It was a really cute story. Since I love Susan Wiggs’ books, I picked up Lakeshore Christmas, the third in her series from Avalon, and it was a delightful love story between two unlikely people. Throw in a bit of the paranormal, a financial crisis, a church pageant and you have a magical Christmas tale. I did like these stories, and I know you would too because they make you feel good about being alive.

Leaving Carolina

January 24th. 2010

Leaving Carolina, by Tamara Leigh, was a fun read. Lighthearted, meaningful and full of lovely people.

The Solution to Haiti’s Problem

January 22nd. 2010

I’m no expert on politics, economics or Asian cultures, or really even Western cultures for that matter. But, I do like to read. And sometimes I spit back what I’ve read because I get some weird blip of an idea of how multiple issues share similar patterns. Ergo, Haiti and why its remained historically backward, undeveloped, corrupt and ripe for disaster. In this months issue of National Geographic, there’s a fascinating article entitled “The Singapore Solution.” The writer, Mark Jacobson, spent time in the tiny nation, Singapore, and studied its Phoenix-like rise from utter poverty and devastation a generation ago, into an international player where its 3.7 million people have a per capita income that exceeds many European countries. (As opposed to the culture in Jakarta, its neighbor.) They use corporal punishment to fight the drug trade. They mandate education. They micromanage. But this highly-controlled society has taken a country smaller than the size of Delaware and transformed itself from the inside out. It’s a radical idea, but the Haitians should take note from the Singaporean, maybe import a few of its zero-tolerance leaders. Unless Haiti changes from the inside all the way through to the outside, no amount of international aid will make a lasting difference. And Haiti’s people will remain victims for another generation.

The Bible Salesman

January 14th. 2010

Call me crazy, but I picked up this book in Barrons a few weeks ago, read the back cover and all the endorsements and thought–hey, this will be a fun story. Well, many chapters into it and I still hadn’t laughed. I even went back to the scene that one ‘endorser’ promised was was a howl and realized I thought it was just sort of . . .sick. What’s wrong with me? I’m a Southerner. I’ve lived in rural areas AND I have an active imagination. So why can’t I get the humor in Clyde Edgerton’s novel about con men in 1940s Carolina? It’s dialogue driven, which I love, and has colorful characters too. I guess I thought the whole thing was sort of spit out like the staccato of a machine gun–all punch, no fluff. Maybe you ‘ll like it better than I did.

The Worst Movie I’ve Rented in a Long Time

January 10th. 2010

It’s a cold, winter night here–what could be more heartwarming than watching a rom-com set in a climate even colder than my location? Nothing, in theory. The reality is that if anyone ever suggests Renee Zelwegger and Harry Connick Jr. to get within fifty feet of each other they should be shot. These people have NO chemistry. Actually, I’m beginning to wonder how Harry has made it in films. I love his singing voice and could listen to him play the piano for hours, but the man does not translate well to film–admit it, even in “Hope Floats” it was hard to see why Sandra Bullock’s character would fall for his local loner–and that was when Harry was in fighting shape. And how an agent convinced RZ to do this film is beyond me. The script was so old that I was yawning from the set-up shots. “New in Town” is a stinker, do not waste your money.

Christmas Books

January 9th. 2010

Do you ever feel about books they way you do about kittens? You try to walk past them at the store, but they call out to you and you know its a mistake, but you turn around, pick them up, read the back cover and set them down on the table. And then, guilt strikes you. These books need a good home. No one else has come through the bookstore to choose these hardbacks and the bookseller will just destroy them if no one takes them home. So. . . in spite of the voice in your head that says just keep walking, you go back and buy the books with the ever present hope that you won’t regret spending money on something that’s bound to be a disappointment? Well, if you’ve ever felt this way, welcome to my Christmas book purchases.

So, a few weeks ago, I brought home some promising ‘sale’ books all with a Christmas theme. Not to belabor the point, but I’ve been bored with each one of them. Well, not counting the one I could hardly get through because it was so ridiculous. Patrick Taylor’s “An Irish Country Christmas” was, I was sure, going to be the one to save the lot. But I couldn’t get past one more whisky-soaked page without having to take a break. Catherine Palmer’s, “A Victorian Christmas” didn’t feel Victorian at all–the stories were so short it was hard to get an concise feeling at all. And Cecelia Ahern’s “The Gift?” Hello, does she think no one remembers “It’s a Wonderful Life?” I’m all for repackaging a beloved story premise, but this one stretches even my generous boundaries. I’d like to see her write a story that doesn’t involve some sort of paranormal character. Anyhoo . . .since I was given a Kindle for Christmas, I’m not into free online e-stories, so I’ll take some time play with the new gadget before I can report on fresh books. Although, I did hit the bookstore again and came out with an armload of new novels–the fat one on top, the new doorstop novel, “The Roses.”