Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Book of Lost Fragrances

Title:  The Book of Lost Fragrances
Author:  M. J. Rose
Publication Information:  Atria Books, Simon and Schuster. 2012. 368 pages.

Book Source:  I picked up this book while browsing the new book section at our library.

Favorite Quote:  "Myths are a culture's collective dream. Small stories about individuals that, out of the thousands told, were the ones that clicked with the most people because of the patterns in our collective unconscious. As the stories are handed down, they change, grow, become more extravagant and magical."

The Book of Lost Fragrances combines seemingly unrelated things - high fashion Paris perfumes, Egyptian mythology and history, and the Chinese - Tibetan conflict. These disparate topics come together in a story about adventure and beliefs.

Jac made the decision to leave behind her family's perfume business. Yet, she is haunted by memories and nightmares of her mother's death and her own illnesses. Her brother Robbie continues to run the family business and yet is at risk of losing it all. Tied into this story is the legend of Cleopatra's perfume factory and beliefs about reincarnation. Some believe. Some do not believe. All will go to extreme lengths to support their beliefs.

The books seems to start as a family saga. It then turns into that and an action adventure story. Parts of it read like a spy novel, but because of the family story tied into it, becomes a much more personal story. I love perfumes. I like mythology and the exploration of belief systems. So, I enjoyed the book and the way it brought all those elements together. A quick and easily read story.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Title:  Afterwards
Author:  Rosamund Lupton
Publication Information:  Crown Publishers. 2011. 386 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book because I loved the first book (Sister) that I read by this author. This book came from the library.

Favorite Quote:  "Inside her rule-abiding, responsible, sensible persona there's a risk-taking, life-grabbing person. Maybe it's taken to her mid forties to let out her teenage self."

The story of Afterwards is narrated by a woman in a coma. Yes, a woman on the brink of death, in a coma. It is not flashbacks. It is narrated in present time by her soul or essence or being or whatever you want to call it as it floats outside her body. Sounds a little bizarre, right? Except that it turns out to be a pretty good story.

Grace has run into a burning building to save her daughter Jenny. Now, they both are in the hospital fighting for their lives. And their souls or essence or being or whatever you want to call it are together outside of their bodies. They both watch the story unfold - the reactions of those around them and the story of how that fire actually happened. They follow people, listen in on conversations, and learn things about themselves and others. Yet, they can't influence any of it. They cannot pass of the information they learn.

The story of the fire and the book comes to a somewhat predictable close but with interesting twists and turns and interesting character studies along the way. Periodically while reading this book, I stopped to think that it was odd listening to the narration from a person outside of herself. However, mostly, Grace and Jenny each became two distinct characters - their bodies that lay in a coma and the reality of who they were as they floated through this story.

The story became one of parenting and love - what would you do to protect those you love? How far would you go? What risks would you take? What choices would you make? What priorities would you set? So, a somewhat different narration but a really good story.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Fear of Falling

Title:  Fear of Falling
Author:  Susan Kiernan-Lewis
Publication Information:  San Marco Press. 2012. 221 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book from the author through Goodreads free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book was a Kindle download.

Favorite Quote:  "It's hard for me to believe that they thing I now see as the most important thing in my life was the thing that got pushed into the background noise of the life I was making."

Fear of Falling is a story of pioneers who are forced into that role. Sarah and Matt travel with their ten year old son John on a vacation to Ireland. Following a major worldwide disaster, they are forced to remain there. They learn to rely on themselves and each other, and they learn to survive without the technology and conveniences of modern day life.

The book does state that a terrorist attack as the cause. I wish it had not because the cause did not really matter. What mattered was how this family survived. The attack was a jarring note in the book, and brought the world into a story that was mostly about people being isolated from the world. Although it was the cause of this family's hardship, it did not feel like it belonged in the book.

There is a dichotomy to this book. Part of it is the positive experience of returning to a less-connected, closer-to-nature way of life. It is a commentary of the rush we all get into in our lives and the peace and simplicity that comes from slowing down. The other part is like a western novel. Good guys and bad guys. Shoot 'em up fights to the finish. It is the story of survival.

The book is a quick and easy read. I enjoyed the stark and sometimes startling contrast between the two aspects of the book because that is true to life - life comes with the good and the bad and there is no one easy way. What I liked best about the book was the development of Sarah as a strong character who adjusts to the changes in life and who does what is necessary to adapt and survive.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling Invisible Women

Title:  Calling Invisible Women
Author:  Jeanne Ray
Publication Information:  Crown Publishers. 2012. 245 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book arrived as a paperback uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "You first have to be willing to give what you want to get."

The premise of Calling Invisible Women calls to women "of a certain age" who sometimes feel invisible in their lives as they hear only of what doesn't get done and get no acknowledgement for what they do or who they are. A metaphor and experience many of us can relate to.

Clover wakes up one day truly and actually invisible. The book starts off following the premise in that no one in her family notices and tells the story of Clover's reactions. What happens next in the book is surprising. The story becomes one of self discovery and change as Clover leaves behind her perceptions and "sees" herself in a whole new light. Her relationships shift. New friendships emerge. Her confidence and and belief in herself grows. All as she learns to deal with being invisible.

Thrown into the mix is the reason behind why women are turning invisible and the actions they take to draw attention to their disability. A bit of social commentary on the pharmaceutical industry and the development of prescription drugs.

The book is a fun read. Some of the situations are a little over the top, but they add to the humor of the book. At the same time, through humor, the book touches on a serious topic and a positive message. Visible or invisible, life is truly about how we see ourselves not in how others see us.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Paris Wife

Title:  The Paris Wife
Author:  Paula McLain
Publication Information:  Ballatine Books, Random House Inc. 2011. 433 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book as this month's selection for my local book club.

Favorite Quote:  "To marry was to say you believed in the future and in the past, too - that history and tradition and hope could stay knit together to hold you up."

The Paris Wife is historical fiction. It is a fictionalized account of Ernest Hemingway's first marriage to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson. So, with one search, you could know what the story of this book is.

I was hesitant to read this book because Ernest Hemingway is such an iconic figure in American literature. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize. A winner of the Nobel Prize. I knew the story of his life and his suicide, but I did not know if I wanted to read the details that a book like this one would bring. I sometimes prefer to keep icons as icons and not deal with their reality as human beings.

However, because the book was my book club selection, I persevered. I am glad I did. I still don't like the characters or the story itself any better. However, I really appreciated the storytelling. Even though I knew what was coming, I got involved with the characters and their emotions. The book is well written, and the story well told. I am looking forward to hearing what the rest of the my book club thought!

Friday, June 8, 2012

What You Wish For

Title:  What You Wish For
Author:  Kerry Reichs
Publication Information:  HarperCollins Publishers. 2012. 408 pages.

Book Source:  I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program free of cost in exchange for an honest review. The book arrived as a paperback uncorrected proof.

Favorite Quote:  "It seemed foolish to waste emotional wealth on a battle that you simple couldn't win."

What You Wish For is the quest for parenthood - the desire to have children, the desire to not have children, and the lengths to which people will go to to get what they wish for. The book follows a set of characters on their journey.

Dimple is the single successful actress contemplating her biological clock. Maryn is the divorced childless woman looking to get her husband's permission to use embryos frozen while they were married. Eva is the Hollywood agent who is steadfast in her voice that she does not want children. Wyatt is the single gentleman looking to adopt a child. Their stories overlap and interconnect in unexpected ways.

Surrounding these individual stories is a story of Hollywood and the movie business. Deals made and broken. Actresses hired and fired. Individuals on the brink of fame. Politics and all the drama that entails.

The story weaves back and forth between the characters with each chapter focusing on one character. All the stories do come together. However, sometimes it was necessary to flip back and forth to remind myself where the story was going. Also, the setting of the story competes with the story itself. The Hollywood drama sometimes muddles the individual stories of parenthood. So, a good premise for a story that got a little lost.