Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

4 Star

Sarah Nickerson is like any other career-driven supermom in Welmont, the affluent Boston suburb where she leads a hectic but charmed life with her husband Bob, faithful nanny, and three children—Lucy, Charlie, and nine-month-old Linus.

Between recruiting the best and brightest minds as the vice president of human resources at Berkley Consulting; shuttling the kids to soccer, day care, and piano lessons; convincing her son's teacher that he may not, in fact, have ADD; and making it home in time for dinner, it's a wonder this over-scheduled, over-achieving Harvard graduate has time to breathe.

A self-confessed balloon about to burst, Sarah miraculously manages every minute of her life like an air traffic controller. Until one fateful day, while driving to work and trying to make a phone call, she looks away from the road for one second too long. In the blink of an eye, all the rapidly moving parts of her jam-packed life come to a screeching halt.

A traumatic brain injury completely erases the left side of her world, and for once, Sarah relinquishes control to those around her, including her formerly absent mother. Without the ability to even floss her own teeth, she struggles to find answers about her past and her uncertain future.

Now, as she wills herself to regain her independence and heal, Sarah must learn that her real destiny—her new, true life—may in fact lie far from the world of conference calls and spreadsheets. And that a happiness and peace greater than all the success in the world is close within reach, if only she slows down long enough to notice.

Lydia - 4 Star

This novel surprised me.  Still Alice was one of my favourites a couple of years ago and I had worried about being disappointed as I often am in this situation.  But I found I was pleasantly surprised…once I stopped comparing.

The first few chapters of Left Neglected were mind boggling to me. I felt like I was on a run away train.  It read like this with both what was transpiring and how it was written and combined with the knowledge that I already knew something ominous was about to happen, I didn’t relax until it actually did. I was seriously close to anxiety attacks.  It made me question my desire to have children. And for those of you out there who have them, I’m sure the chaos will seem familiar and I’m curious for Kathryn to read this and hear her opinion. 

One of the surprises I encountered was how frequently I laughed out loud.  Completely unexpected, I appreciated the lighter moments throughout the heavier subject matter and Sarah’s ability not to take herself so seriously.  This story took me on a ride and even without the high powered career or children or even a husband, I sat back several times and took stock.  What would I do?  Do I spend enough time with loved ones?  What matters most to me?

This novel stretched my mind in a million directions and I’m grateful for that.  The messages were so poignant in this era of electronic communication and stimulation.  And I know so many people who might… or dare I say – should – draw something from this novel that I’m desperate to pass it on.  And interestingly enough, now that I think about it, my online usage has dwindled over the last few weeks since reading this novel.  Huh…

Unfortunately I did have a few concerns including being unable to relate to Sarah’s character at times. I felt her overly materialistic, almost just to offset the situation and thought this could have been handled more subtly with just as much effect.  I also found the storyline predictable and the ending abrupt.  However, I did like the overall concept and, having studied psychology in University, I found Left Neglect to be a fascinating subject.

If you’re looking for something a little heavier, that will still give a few chuckles while making you think, search no further.  Pick up Left Neglected today

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Here Come the Girls by Milly Johnson

5 Star

Shirley Valentine, eat your heart out.
Ven, Roz, Olive and Frankie have been friends since school. They day-dreamed of glorious futures, full of riches, romance and fabulous jobs. The world would be their oyster.
Twenty-five years later, Olive cleans other people's houses to support her lazy, out-of-work husband and his ailing mother. Roz cannot show her kind, caring husband Manus any love because her philandering ex has left her trust in shreds. And she and Frankie have fallen out big time.
But Ven is determined to reunite her friends and realise the dream they had of taking a cruise before they hit forty. Before they know it, the four of them are far from home, on the high seas. But can blue skies, hot sun and sixteen days of luxury and indulgence distract from the tension and loneliness that await their return?

Lydia - 5 Star

Milly Johnson’s novels have never failed to plaster a smile on my face and Here Come the Girls was no exception.  I grinned and giggled away through her latest delight.

I loved all the characters in Here Come the Girls and rooted for all four girls to sort their lives out in whatever way they needed to. Their problems were all so different and well portrayed that there wasn’t one storyline I was more interested in over the others. I was eager to see what would happen with each woman and even though I might have found some of their endings predictable, I still cheered at final decisions and smiled through the epilogue. There were even a few surprises along the way.   

The four friends played off each other wonderfully. Not once did I get confused as to who was who or who was speaking.  Their banter felt natural and realistic, as did their troubles and past hurts which mired their present situations.

Having traveled on a couple of cruises as a young teenager, I’ve since harboured a love for them and have always wanted to get back on board. I thought Milly captured the cruising essence brilliantly.  I was flooded with memories of being a silly teenager meeting new friends, seeing new places, relaxing on board, eating delectable multi-course meals and seeking first kisses. Don’t worry, this book doesn’t come over all Love Boat like, dripping with cheesy romance of kisses on the stern, which I admit, I was somewhat expecting with it being a cruise ship and all. Instead, love, life and romance stroll along at a leisurely pace throughout this gentle ride with friendship at the forefront. 

I will never stop reading Milly Johnson novels. Her uplifting, feel good stories leave a grin on my face and I adore spending time in the worlds she creates and with the characters I grow to love.

Thank you to Simon and Schuster UK, for our review copy!

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Violets of March by Sarah Jio

5 Star

A heartbroken woman stumbled upon a diary and steps into the life of its anonymous author.

In her twenties, Emily Wilson was on top of the world: she had a bestselling novel, a husband plucked from the pages of
GQ, and a one-way ticket to happily ever after.

Ten years later, the tide has turned on Emily's good fortune. So when her great-aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily accepts, longing to be healed by the sea. Researching her next book, Emily discovers a red velvet diary, dated 1943, whose contents reveal startling connections to her own life. 

Lydia - 5 Star

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover?  Well, The Violets of March has one of the most magnificent covers I have ever laid eyes on. It’s simple, the dash of purple amidst the muted tones is stunning and the weathered and layered feel is fitting for the novel.  I had high hopes when I cracked the cover based on the gorgeousness of it and I wasn’t disappointed.

Firstly, still on the cover, I will try not to complain about my copy being defaced in an accident involving a cottage and vodka.  In my defence…the book was so lovely that it remained on the coffee table to sneak peaks at during spare moments! The Violets of March is a delightful, effortless read with an astounding setting that made me want to pick up and move somewhere with a beach immediately.  The intrigue surrounding the 1940’s journal was as easy to be drawn into as Emily’s present day story and I had no difficulty moving back and forth between the two.  

As someone who has taken the last year to do exactly what Emily has done, I appreciated this story. I loved that, although you could tell she was hurting, she didn’t come across as whiny or feeling too sorry for herself and Emily’s desire to reconnect with herself resonated deeply with me. Every character was portrayed perfectly and I especially grew attached to Aunt Bee’s character. Her strength and spunk reminded me of one of my own Grandmothers at times and I knew from several conversations with her before she passed, and some overheard ones as a young child that I now understand, that everyone has a past and stories that not everyone is privy to. This personal knowledge drew me even deeper into the novel and I couldn’t wait to discover what would transpire with Emily and what she would unearth between the pages of the journal.

There were twists and turns in this novel that I wasn’t expecting and some that I had figured out, although this didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  The mystery, romance and heartbreak involved in this novel had me in tears at times and I had difficulty setting this novel down. 

This was an outstanding debut and I can’t wait to devour more from Sarah Jio.

Kathryn - 5 Star

Loved it- really really loved this novel in fact and I am so sad it’s over!  I was up far too late reading it and I even tried to read a page or two in between taking care of my toddler and newborn- so it was definitely a great read.  I know Lydia loved the cover but it really didn’t do a lot for me so I’m glad I didn’t judge this one by the image on the front!

Mostly I think that the unfolding of the story was incredibly well thought out- there were enough little hints and details dropped to have some readers over analysing everything (that was me) and other readers pulled along gently to the end (hopefully that will be you so you can get more sleep than I did).

I loved the description of the island and could picture everything perfectly in my mind, this extended to the houses, the beach and the people.  I loved the place so much I would love to visit it, find all these people and hopefully be invited in for tea.

My only negative was that main character Emily left me a bit cold at the very start but I warmed to her as soon as she went to visit her aunt Bee on the island.  I think Emily is supposed to be a bit tricky to love initially and this is why her aunt and her friend Annabelle are both trying to have her own her emotions from her recent separation.

The novel is both sad and joyful and invoked many tears and giggles. I recommend it wholeheartedly but will not give away too many details to ruin it for the next reader.
Thank you to Sarah Jio for providing our review copy! All opinions are our own.

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