Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Sugar Queen

The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen

Josey Cirrini has lived in this small ski town her entire life.  At 27, she lives at home with her mother and takes care of her, driving her to meetings, picking up groceries, and being her companion.  It's a dull life, and her mother is not nice.  The highlight of her day is when the mail is delivered, and she rushes down to have a two sentence conversation with the mailman.

To cope, Josey keeps a stash of snacks and romance novels in her closet.  But one day she opens it to find a stowaway, Della Lee Baker, the town vagrant, is squatting there hiding from her life.

This starts off a series of events that pushes Josey out of her comfort zone, away from her steady, boring and meanial life of servitude to her mother, and into her own.

I loved this book.  Josey is loveable and relateable and the little side mystery keeps things moving.  The chapters all being named after sweets was very cute, and like Allen's last novel, the magic is all here.

Chloe becomes Josey's first friend.  Chloe has this wonderful little habit that books appear before her whenever she is in need of them.  As a child, bored over the summer, a book of magic tricks and card games appeared at her feet.  As an adult, dealing with a cheating boyfriend, the book Finding Forgiveness haunts her as she sorts it all out.

It was endearing.  I liked it a lot and the twist at the end ... I should have seen coming, but I didn't.  Which that moment when you go, "Oh my gosh I should have known!" is just awesome.  I can't wait for Allen's next book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, next March!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Sister's Keeper

My Sister's Keeper, Jodi Picoult

Katie is 2 years old when she is diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia.  The doctor informs her parents that she will need a bone marrow transplant in order to surivive for even a few months or years, and neither her parents nor her brother is a perfect match.

The doctor tells her parents not to despair, that perhaps other siblings will be a match.

This sends Sara and Brian (Kate's parents) to a clinic to genetically engineer a perfect match for Kate.  Months later, Anna is born.

Fast foward 13 years and Kate is 16 and Anna is 13.  After all the treatments, Kate's kidney's are giving out and she needs a transplant.  After years of transplants, transfusions, and donations, Anna is expected to participate in this procedure to.  She surprises them all by hiring a lawyer, and filing for medical emancipation from her parents for the rights to her own body.

I have stayed away from Jodi Picoult because of the smaltzy titles and high drama themes.  But she is a favorite author of a good friend of mine, and this book in particular has intrigued me.  So I picked it up.  Dialogue, characters and side stories all aside ... this book really made me question what I would do.  What anyone would do.  Because honestly ... how far would you go to save your child?

It is very easy to judge Sara.  To say she's a monster for treating Ana and Jesse (her oldest son) this way; for abandoning and neglecting them to care for Kate.  But the world isn't fair.  And when one child requires 1000% more attention than the others ... how do you manage?  What do you do?  And when one child  can save the other ... don't you persue it?

One thing bothered me about this book ... the absence of religion.  I got the impression by a few flippant comments that were made that Picoult doesn't set a lot of store by religion.  But at a few points (maybe only two) characters say to Kate, "you'll watch us from Heaven," "We'll see you in Heaven," etc.  It felt like the author was picking and choosing which parts of religion she favored.

And really, she uses astrology in place of religion.  The stars as a substitute for scripture.

It wasn't bad or great.  It just was.

I've read many reviews that feel the ending of this book was a major cop out.  It didn't bother me in that way.  It was just the way these characters story ended.  I won't go further than that as I don't want to spoil it.

I can't say I enjoyed this, but I am glad I read it.  One of the best lines of the novel is this:

I realize then that we never have children, we receive them.  And sometimes it's not for quite as long as we would have expected or hoped.  But it is still far better than never having had those children at all. Pg 395.

I really got to thinking about some pretty serious stuff after reading this novel, and how much we all take for granted.  For that reason alone it's worth the read.  The fact that Picoult's a decent writer doesn't hurt either.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bitsy's Bait and BBQ

Bitsy's Bait and BBQ, Pamela Morsi

Emma and Katy and Katy's son Josh, are driving into the Ozarks to look at a Bed and Breakfast that Emma just purchased with her divorce settlement.  On eBay.  Turns out, B&B has different meanings, the girls find themselves learning about spinners, lures and smokers.

Several months in, just as they are getting settled in, Katy's mamma's boy ex-husband and mother-in-law show up wanting to take custody of 5-year-old Josh.

The usual is what happens, I guess.  The rich, urban, socialite Mom thinks Katy is down home trash and not good enough for her son.  She also happens to think her son isn't good enough to be her son, and sees a second chance in trying to raise her grandson.

Emma is the overprotective older sister who thinks the rich-boy Sean (ex-husband) isn't good enough for her sister, whom she secretly sort of resents because she's always making sacrifices for her.

The rest of the characters - the people who live in Warbler Lake - are brilliant.  And the stuff about fishing and barbecue was a lot of fun and made the other formulaic stuff tolerable.  The romance between Sean and Katy sort of felt contrived, and the last "epilogue" chapter was a hodge podge wrap up that I skimmed through.

Nadine and her three kids were more interesting than either of the two main characters, and I would have liked to see or hear more about her and how she resolved things.  In truth, I think the novel spent more time on backstory for the interesting side characters than it did the two leads.  Which maybe is a bit backwards?

Any who.  I liked it.  It's not really Southern but its very Fannie Flagg.  It was fun to read about the fishing and bbq, and some of it was realy brilliant.