The Savvy Bookworm

My Personal Book Review Site

The Perfect Summer

Written By: Erika - Mar• 20•07


by LuAnne Rice

I picked up this book after watching a TV movie of another of Rice’s novels. The movie was enjoyable as a little something to pass the time, and since books are always better than the screen adaptation, I searched it out. Of course, my library did not have the one I wanted, but they did have this one. And I thoroughly enjoyed this easy read.

The characters developed wonderfully and quickly, enough that I was caught up in the lives of Bay McCabe and her children in the very first chapter. We also met her feisty best friend Tara who lived across the way. It didn’t take long to discover that Bay’s life wasn’t all roses, but that she adored her children and would do anything for them- including put up with a cheating husband. When her husband Sean doesn’t come home one night as promised, Bay suspects him of cheating on her once again until she realizes her husband is actually missing. The introduction of the FBI and the charges of embezzlement brought along a fun character in the lead detective that brought a different point of view to the story.

As the search for Sean and the reasons behind his embezzlement begin to unfold, Bay finds herself looking to an unexpected person for help- that of an old friend from the past Daniel Connolly, and his fragile daughter Eliza. Eliza and Bay’s oldest daughter Annie become best friends instantly and add yet another layer to this charming novel. Eliza is anorexic and is a cutter, due to witnessing the violent death of her mother a year earlier. She is able to help Annie to cope with her missing father and together the two girls discover the meaning of friends forever.

There was a bit of predictability to this book, but the setting of a seacoast town in Connecticut more than made up for it. Every time the seaside was mentioned, I could smell the salty air and feel the breeze on my face. I will certainly be searching out more of LuAnne Rice’s work, as it is heartwarming through and through. This would be an excellent choice for a beach read or for sitting in the garden with a cup of tea. It’s more of a girls read though, so I have to recommend this to the ladies, but overall, definitely enjoyable, and recommended here.

The Nasty Bits

Written By: Erika - Mar• 09•07


by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been reading this book on and off for the last few months. It truly is a gem. It is a collection of articles and vignettes, and perfect for filling in the cracks between full-length novels. Or for that 15 minutes before you have to run out the door. I was already a fan of Anthony Bourdain before reading this book. I truly enjoy watching his show, No Reservations, on the Travel Channel. He has such a zest for exploring a new culture, and he is so gracious to his hosts. While he’ll tell the camera when something really isn’t good, he will profusely thank the host and the chef at the time, because he fully appreciates the effort they put into the dish.

The Nasty Bits was just a fun book to read. Full of commentary from Anthony Bourdain on the restaurant industry, travel, and The Food Network. He has a sincere appreciation for the little guy, and it shows in his writing. He has such a clear voice when he writes too, I feel like I’m in a room having a conversation with the guy, it’s such a conversational tone. I would earnestly recommend this book to any foodie or fan of Anthony Bourdain. There are some adult references and some language, so I wouldn’t recommend it for just anyone, or for someone under the age of 18, but it really was an enjoyable book to read. And it sure makes me want to travel to Vietnam.

Sense and Sensibility

Written By: Erika - Mar• 07•07


by Jane Austen

I’ve never read Jane Austen before. In fact, once again while I was reading I found myself lamenting the poor choices the powers that be had us read in high school. Where was the literature? I took two years of Literature and Composition, and you know what I remember reading? 1984, Dune, The Shining, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, In Cold Blood, and some Shakespeare. I enjoyed most of them, except Dune. But none of them really were challenging to read in any way. Ah, except one horrible experience with Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. And maybe that awful novel was the reason we never were challenged further?

Anyway, while it did take me a few pages to become accustomed to Ms. Austen’s writing style, it didn’t take long to become a page turner. I did not know the story of Sense and Sensibility, as I have also not seen any screen adaptations. Apparently I was missing out on something grand because I loved this story. I did get confused on occasion as to which Miss Dashwood was being discussed, but mostly, I thought the story of love and family and friendship was enchanting. I was transported straight to that time period, and I desperately wanted to be invited to one of the many social engagements the Dashwoods found themselves invited to. This novel also showcased the importance of money in the nineteenth century. People married for money, and the lack of money led to lesser choices for a suitable match.

Sense and Sensibility was Jane Austen’s first novel to be published, and as I have learned further novels became more and more complex. I will most definitely be seeking out others, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Mansfield Park. And I will definitely have to find the movie of Sense and Sensibility because I could just see Hugh Grant as Wiloughby in my mind. I am infinitely glad that I curled up with this novel, and I will not shy away from more.

The Da Vinci Code

Written By: Erika - Feb• 24•07


by Dan Brown

I realize that I am very behind the times in picking up this novel. However, I am one of those people who hates reading what everyone else is reading. I know it sounds silly, but for the most part, I seldom read a book that can be found on a current bestseller list. But I decided that it was time to pick up this book and find out what all the hoopla was about.

And? I really enjoyed it! It was very well done, in my opinion. The mystery and intrigue was well-balanced with the suspense and the action, and it most definitely kept me turning the pages. It really was a fun novel to read and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. What I liked best about it was that I had no idea how it was going to turn out. Some parts, yes, but for the most part, I didn’t correctly identify the bad guy or his purpose for being a bad guy. It was very good, and I would read it again in a second.

While I was reading, I was also keeping in mind all the controversy surrounding the movie and it’s release, and I can’t do a proper review without addressing all that. And quite frankly, I don’t get it. The book is fiction- very well done fiction in fact. It may present ideas and thoughts within as fact, but common sense still says that all those ideas are just that, ideas and, quite frankly, fiction. It was a fun story, and I challenge anyone who thinks this book is evil to actually read it. For awhile I was thinking that I could see where the Catholic Church got upset about the details within, but it all wrapped up at the end, and the bad guy was not the Catholic Church, so where all the drama came from? I couldn’t tell you. I will say that I don’t have any desire to see the movie because I think Tom Hanks was miscast, he just doesn’t strike me as a Robert Langdon. I also recall seeing reviews that said it was a poor adaptation of the book and left out too much. So instead I will just enjoy the fact that I read a great book. A fun work of fiction.

This was a story about the quest to find the Holy Grail. I think it was fascinating that Dan Brown chose to write a grail story, making the grail more a person and an idea than a physical cup or object. It was creative and exciting, and really, no different than enjoying another grail legend or grail movie- what comes to mind for me is Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. Why is that an okay movie, but The Da Vinci Code isn’t? It’s the same idea, that the Holy Grail will lead to something more. Whether that be immortality or a change in the way the world views something. And like I said before, if you are one of those people who has protested this book or movie in any form, I challenge you to read the book. It was fun and entertaining, and no more controversial to me than The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe.

Ireland

Written By: Erika - Feb• 24•07


by Frank Delaney

I have to admit, I was disappointed with this book. This was a selection from Zooba when I was a member, and I bought it without really knowing what it was about. What I was expecting was some kind of historical fiction about Ireland. What I got was basically a collection of short stories and Irish folklore disguised as a novel. At the beginning we meet a storyteller and it is he who carries the book with story after story about some of the folklore of Ireland. Was it entertaining? Somewhat, some of the stories were neat. But I have no idea if these stories are actually part of Irish legend or if they were just made up for this book. Overall, this one was a bit of a disappointment. The continuity from story to story was seriously lacking, and I would have a hard time recommending this without reservations.

The Shunning, The Confession, The Reckoning

Written By: Erika - Feb• 24•07

By Beverly Lewis

I thought I’d review these all together, because it really is one flowing story. You could probably get away with reading the first one and stopping, but you’d still wonder what happened. But all three books could have easily been published as one story, with maybe a little more detail. In fact, that’s exactly what I wish would have happened with these books.

At the beginning we meet Katie Lapp, a young Amish woman who is looking forward to her upcoming marriage to a widower. We find her and her family busy planning and getting ready for the wedding, and as most young brides experience, Katie finds herself full of nerves. She has always felt like a free spirit, and is hiding a love for music and the guitar (forbidden in their Amish Ordnung). And one day, while looking at her mother’s wedding dress, she finds a satin pink baby dress with the name Katherine Mayfield on it. The discovery of the dress takes the entire Lapp family on a long and winding road full of discovery and love for each other.

Overall, I really enjoyed these books. In fact, I read two of them in one day, they were gripping and very easy to read. I enjoyed learning a little more about the difference between Amish and Mennonite communities, and once again I found myself drawn to these people and their way of life. These are most definitely Christian novels, and there is no getting around the strong message of forgiveness among the pages. My only problem with this book was that it was really easy to figure out what was going to happen. The foreshadowing was pretty blatant, and while I was satisfied with the conclusion, I knew most of what was going to happen well ahead of time. I also found that there were several loose ends that just seemed to be dropped, and I would have liked a little more closure there. But overall, an excellent was to spend a few afternoons. I would read more from Beverly Lewis, and in fact, plan to do so, as she has several series of books set in Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons

Written By: Erika - Jan• 31•07


by Lorna Landvik

The title says it all, really. I picked up this book knowing full well that this was going to be full-fledged chick-lit. Hey, sometimes you just need to unwind and look at life behind a white picket fence. This was an engaging novel, I was snapped into it right at the very beginning, and I found myself absorbed into these friend’s lives. At first I was a little annoyed that the narrator was going to change throughout the book- every chapter belonging to a different member of the Freesia Court Book Club. Oddly enough though, it worked really well for this book. There was still a sense of continuity that I don’t normally feel when the point of view changes in a book.

This book definitely honed in on the sense of nostalgia. The ideas of an era gone by where neighborhoods still got together for picnics and children played together until dark without a care in the world. The five women we meet Faith, Slip, Audrey, Kari, and Merit all have extremely different personalities- and very different marriages. Each book the group reads together brings something else out for them to discover about themselves, and we see the journey from housewife to someone who affects change in the world around them.

This was an engaging novel, definitely recommended for the ladies- but guys, you may want to stay away from this one. My only beef with this book was with the character Grant. He added so much to the last portion of the book, I would have loved to see him introduced sooner. This was a perfect book for a coldwintry day, and I would look forward to reading more from Lorna Landvik.

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Crime

Written By: Erika - Jan• 30•07


by Tamar Myers

A Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery with Recipes.

It’s been awhile since I posted a book review, and I’m sad to say that today’s review is not a great one. If you look back at my past reading list, you will find that I do enjoy reading books about the Amish and Mennonite people. So when I stumbled on a whole series of books by Tamar Myers that are set in Pennsylvania Dutch country, I was a little excited. So I picked up this book with relish and dove in, and was sorely disappointed.

I can’t speak for the rest of the series but this surely was a dud. First off, the Amish and Mennonite aspect of the book is sorely lacking. Our heroine is supposedly a non-practicing Mennonite, and she is very inconsistent. This is very evident as we see the story from her point of view, and many of her viewpoints contradict each other. One minute she is chastising another person for being prideful, and the next minute she is thinking some horrible thoughts about another person. Just very inconsistent in general, and surely not consistent with Amish and Mennonite beliefs. My second beef with this book is that the whole thing was very easy to figure out. It was so contrived, that I knew quite often what was going to happen before it happened. If I had to give it a term, it is very formulaic, and not very well done at that. And thirdly, this series is promoted as being set in Pennsylvania Dutch country with recipes. I found none of the recipes in this book even remotely appealing, and furthermore, one of the recipes called for several cans of cream soups and such, and I surely know that Penn-Dutch recipes do not rely on such convenience items.

After reading this book, I will most definitely not read another by Tamar Myers. What a disappointment, and I cannot believe that she actually wrote over 2 dozen books, including about 15 of these Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries with recipes! They certainly won’t be going on my must-read list anytime soon.

Captain Blood

Written By: Erika - Jan• 09•07


by Rafael Sabatini

I enjoyed this book immensely. This was written in a classic style, so it did take a few pages to get caught up in the prose and the storytelling, but once I did, I was off for an adventure. Someone who does not know what this book is about may be concerned by the title. Fear not, for at the beginning of this book we meet a young doctor named Peter Blood. This is his story, and what a story he is. How unfortunate circumstances find him bound from his home in England to the South Seas and the New World as a slave. This book actually sheds a lot of light on why many of the pirates of old probably became pirates. And I couldn’t help but think of Johnny Depp and Pirates of the Caribbean when I read this book. And I am positive that when he was studying his character for pirates, Johnny familiarized himself with Captain Blood. Because this was a pirate to root for, I wanted him to succeed every step of the way, and at every junction things would run amok and not work out quite the way I expected.

Because of the unexpected turns of events over and over, the ending was also unexpected, and left me smiling and wishing there were just a little more to the story. Fortunately for me, if I wanted to continue on, Rafael Sabatini wrote several more adventures about Peter Blood after the success of his first one. There are also once-successful movies in circulation starring Errol Flynn. And while I won’t run out and buy a copy, I will keep an eye out for them to appear on TCM or another classic movie channel some day. I can definitely recommend Captain Blood if you’re looking for a swashbuckling adventure, because it’s pirates in and out, and just wonderful. Every page is inviting and the writing is beautifully done. A perfect book for cozying in front of the fireplace.

The Dante Club

Written By: Erika - Jan• 05•07


by Matthew Pearl

Wow. Really, that sums up this novel in one word. Wow. What a fantastic tale of intrigue and mystery and literature.

This story is set in 1865 in the grand city of Boston. We meat a group of men who are attempting to translate Dante’s The Divine Comedy into English from it’s native Italian for the first time. The men who are working on this translation are none other than famous literary geniuses of old. We have Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and famous publisher J.T. Fields, who rounds out the foursome. While they are working diligently on their translation, the powers that be are set against the translation and subsequent publication. They feel the young American soil, recently ravaged by war, isn’t ready for such a gruesome tale.

While working on their translation through “The Dante Club” ,which meets once a week, some gruesome murders occur in their community of education, and these four men stumble upon the reality that someone is committing murder right out of Dante’s hellish travels. This books is full of actual historical references, and people of note come into the equation from time to time. This was such a tumultuous time in history, the civil was is still fresh in everyones minds, and the police officer assigned to the Dante murders is the first police officer of color- he isn’t even permitted to carry a weapon. With references to actual events in history, this book is a page turner.

I can’t tell you how often, while reading this book, I felt myself in Longfellow’s study, surrounded by cigar smoke and poets pondering Dante’s writings. I wanted them to finish their writings so badly, just as I wanted Lucifer to be caught. After a while, I got a little nervous upon meeting a new character, hoping that they weren’t about to become the next victim. I could see these four educated men snooping in their own poetic manner- I could just go on. This novel was a wonder to read. I confess, it took a little while to get into it. The first chapter was overwhelming, and for the faint of heart, this book is not for you. The murders are gruesome, and portrayed very accurately- right out of one of the Cantos of The Divine Comedy.

This novel ranks right up there with the best I’ve ever read. It was a true page turner- gripping in the sense that I felt caught up in it. It was so well written…Matthew Pearl is clearly a genius, given his pedigree, but his gift for words is mesmerizing. This is the first I have read by him, and I will eagerly seek out The Poe Shadow upon my next trip to the library. I also now have an interest in the works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I can only hope that my small town library can satisfy my curiosity.

On A Highland Shore

Written By: Erika - Jan• 01•07


by Kathleen Givens.

I loved this book. Loved it. It was definitely a book that I had a hard time putting down, and I’m looking forward to see if the author continues the stories that haven’t been told yet.

In the beginning of the book, we meet Margaret MacDonald, a young Scottish woman who is preparing for her marriage. She is to be wed to a relative of the King, helping tie families together. She is excited about her marriage, until she finds her betrothed in bed with her best friend. Tempers flare, and Margaret attempts to have her marriage arrangement forfeited, going as far as seeking an audience with the King to settle the matter. She is told to honor the betrothal and heads for home, determined to figure a way out of her fate. Upon her arrival at home, she meets with disaster, and she is flung into the politics of the Scottish Highlands while still trying to find a way out of her marriage.

I was surprised to learn that this was a romance novel. I am not one to typically pick up a romance novel, and while this did indeed have romance in it, and some fairly accurate bedroom descriptives, it wasn’t overwhelming. The romantic part of the story was expertly entwined with actual historic events of 1263. I love reading historic novels that have a little bit of fact and a little bit of fiction expertly woven together, and this is just such a story. I found myself rooting wholeheartedly for the Scots and their Irish allies who come to their aid when needed.

This book read like a movie. I could see the grey skies and the mountainous terrain as they were described. I could see Margaret standing on the shore, the wind swirling her hair and dress around her as she lamented her coming marriage. Overall, it was wonderful. And with a slight warning that there is one “bedroom encounter” in the book, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun book to read. Something to get lost in for a few hours…

One Mississippi

Written By: Erika - Dec• 21•06


by Mark Childress

I enjoyed this book for the most part. It’s a coming of age novel, set in 1973 in rural Mississippi. The schools have just been integrated by law, and the views of the general public are quite conservative. Our main character, Daniel, has an extremely dysfunctional family that provides plenty of comic to this book. Upon his arrival at Minor High School, Daniel finds a new best friend, Tim, and they journey through their Junior year of high school together. This book is full of friendship and high school events that really have you rooting for Daniel through the whole thing. Both Daniel and Tim have secrets that they hide from each other, and while the author tries hard to keep things hidden, it really didn’t take me long to put together Tim’s secret, which added a whole new dimension to the book.

Overall, this is fiction set in high school, and may not be the type of book a grown adult would want to curl up with. And while I did enjoy the story, it was a little advanced for a younger high-schooler. There are definitely some adult situations and the setting sometimes didn’t match up with the content. Some of the issues confronted in this book include religion, drugs, homosexuality, and school violence. The content was much more suited to the time period of today, and other than a fascination with Sonny and Cher, I fail to see why the author chose to set this story in 1973, other than the issue of racial integration. I guess having said that, the book is inconsistent in that regard, but still enjoyable.

I’ll be honest though, I didn’t care much for the ending. There were many unresolved issues, and it felt like the ending came on much too quickly, and then tidied up too nicely. So do I recommend this book? Yes, if you’re looking for an an enjoyable story that takes you back to high school. If you’re looking for something with depth… this may not be the book for you.