Friday, June 25, 2010

52. Bread Alone by Judi Hendrix

"Not suited for teaching high school and hopeless at selling real-estate, thirty-one-year-old Wynter Morrison has long ago given up any pretense of being a career woman and drifted into the role of a trophy wife. So after seven years of marriage, when her husband David informs her that it was all a mistake, she is left emotionally devastated and directionless—wondering how she let herself become so dependent.

Desperate for a change of scenery, Wyn leaves behind her pampered life in Los Angeles and ventures north to Seattle, where she spends hours at a small local bakery sipping coffee and inhaling the aromas of freshly made bread. These visits bring back memories of her apprenticeship at a French boulangerie, when her passion for bread making nearly led her to abandon college for cooking school. When offered a position at the bakery, Wyn accepts, grateful for the comfort of a routine.

Turning her schedule upside down to work all night and sleep during the day, learning to coexist with Linda, the irascible bread baker; making friends with earth mother Ellen, her artistic partner Diane, and Tyler, the blue-haired barista—Wyn happens upon some truths that she apparently missed while living the good life in Hancock Park. And soon she finds that making bread—the kneading of the dough, the scent of yeast hanging in the air—possesses an unexpected and wondrous healing power—helping her to rediscover that nothing stays the same: bread rises, pain fades, the heart heals and the future beckons."  From Author's Website

I enjoyed the journey of Wyn changing from a selfish, spoiled society wife to a person who is aware of others and more aware of herself.  She is a fun character, sometimes exasperating, confusing, heart-warming, and just plain dumb.  But never boring. 
Rating:  4.5

Thursday, June 24, 2010

51. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling (audio)

I was able to purchase this used CD at a reasonable price and decided to give it a listen on my recent trip to Vegas.  I don't normally listen to audio books that have ten discs and so it took me considerably longer than the trip to finish this one.  I had just watched the movie a month ago and was surprised at the things that were left out.  It was a lot of fun reliving the whole adventure. 

I won't bore you with a synposis of the story.  Most people know what happens.  I'll just share what I liked and didn't like.  First of all, Jim Dale is an amazing narrator.  He has the gift of differentiating each voice so you recognize that character each time he/she speaks.  However, I found his voice for Hermione to be very annoying.  He makes her drag out the last syllable to Harry's name so it just got on my nerves.  But that is a very minor flaw.  I looked forward to listening to the book each time I got into my car.  The Harry Potter books are amazing and entertaining and so imaginative.  I really would like to listen to the entire set and don't even care if I do it in order. 
Rating:  5

Sunday, June 20, 2010

50. The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

This book is so reminiscent of Arthur Ransom's and E Nesbitt's books in which a group of basically good children have adventures and get into trouble along the way.  The grownups are on the sideline for the most part.  In a way, the story seems like it was written 100 years ago, when it was actually published in 2005.  There is a bit more angst than in, say, The Railway Children, but still pretty much a fun and light hearted story. 

The four Penderwick sisters go on vacation with their father and stay in a cottage on the Arundel estate.  They meet Jeffrey, whose mother owns the estate, and they have lots of summer adventures.  But Jeffrey's mother is a big snob and disapproves of the Penderwicks and their influence on her son.  Soon Jeffrey is facing leaving soon for military school where he will learn some discipline.  So there are a couple of mean adults in the book who make life difficult for everyone.  The oldest daughter, 12-year-old Rosalind, falls in love with a 17-year-old boy which makes for another intersting storyline that you wouldn't find in any of those older children's novels.  But the children are adorable, the dog is loyal and rambunctious, and the father is absent-minded.  What else could you wish for?  Fun story for children and adults who enjoy a light read.  There is a sequel but I haven't heard how good it is.
Rated:  4

Saturday, June 19, 2010

49. The Icing on the Cake by Elodia Strain

This book is a well-written LDS chick-lit.  Annabelle Pleasanton is the typical female heroine:  lacks self-confidence, gets into strange and embarrassing situations, prettier than she realizes, and has a heart of gold.  I liked her a lot.  She is a fledging writer at a magazine who drives two-hundred miles to buy a cake to impress her boss.  On this trip, she meets Isaac, a photographer, and a romance is born.  I found Annabelle to be very real in her relationships with her friends and with Isaac.  Isaac starts off as almost too good to be true, but with the conflict of the book arises, I found his reaction to be less believable but making him more human.  It was a slight stumbling block for me, and he overcomes it.  He really is the perfect guy.  Annabelle puts herself in all kinds of ridiculous situations trying to impress Isaac or her boss or someone else; but there is an integrity inside her that keeps her from completely losing herself.  Overall, the book is hilarious, I loved Annabelle, want Isaac for my daughter, and plan to read the sequel, Previously Engaged
Rating:  4

Friday, June 18, 2010

47-48 Silent in the Sanctuary and Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn

I read the first book in this series, Silent in the Grave, about a year ago and liked it, even though I found Lady Julia Gray a bit annoying.  But she grew on me and I really like her in these two books.  She come from a very unconventional aristocratic family who isn't very well accepted in society because of its idiosyncrasies.  She is a much more interesting character than if she had been a typical upper-class Victorian lady.  The other main character is Nicholas Brisbane who helped Julia solve the murder of her husband and influenced her to actually start living instead of merely existing.  She insists on helping with his investigation and her meddling continues with the next two books.  I really like Brisbane.  He is good-looking, intelligent, and athletic, as you would expect in any hero.  But he also suffers from debilitating migraines, has a nasty temper; and is often unreasonably contrary.  Very interesting man. 

In Sanctuary, Julia returns from Italy to her family home at Christmas.  She is surprised to find Brisbane as one of the guests.  The chemistry between the two grows although both fight the attraction.  A murder takes place; and Julia and Brisbane investigate, sometimes by cooperating and other times by going their own way. 

Moor continues the story several months later.  Brisbane has bought a home in isolated Yorkshire and proceeds to ignore Julia; in fact, forbids her from visiting.  She ignores that and shows up on the doorstep with her sister and brother in tow.  The family who previously owned the manor still live there as they are destitute.  The oldest brother who spent the family fortune had died leaving a room full of Egyptian artifacts.  There is an attempt on Brisbane's life which almost succeeds and Julia nurses him back to health.  The mystery in this book is who tried to kill Brisbane.  It's not hard to figure out; but the Allenby family are so odd and twisted, that it made the book hard to put down.

I enjoyed both books and especially liked that the series concludes after three books.  I'm not sure the kind of emotional tug of war involved in this romance would continue to be entertaining after too many more books.  I think Raybourn ended it at the perfect time.  I don't know if she has written any other books.  I hope so because I would love to read them.
Rating for both:  4.5

Saturday, June 12, 2010

46. Cordelia Underwood by Van Reid

"Reading Van Reid's first novel, Cordelia Underwood, is a little like moving to a small town where everyone knows everybody else and has for generations. Certainly the novel boasts a cast of if not thousands, at least dozens of characters ranging from the spirited title character, Cordelia, to a bear named Maude. The story, such as it is, begins in the year 1896 and involves a mysterious inheritance--a parcel of land in the north of Maine that Cordelia's Uncle Basil has left to her. But readers will find themselves less interested in Uncle Basil's bequest than in the kaleidoscope of eccentrics who involve themselves in it. The subtitle of Reid's novel is The Marvelous Beginnings of the Moosepath League, and it is with the formation of this secret club that much of the novel concerns itself. Every character has a story to tell and each fresh tale seems to spawn another; there are balloon ascensions, phantom sailors, mysterious notes, and determined suitors; fortunately, everyone is so charming and their yarns so entertaining that you don't really mind the many, many digressions from the purported main point of the book, namely Cordelia and her inheritance. Set in the 19th century, Cordelia Underwood exhibits some of that century's literary conventions, as well--originally published in serial form in a regional newspaper, it is a sprawling tale populated with singular personalities and intended to entertain. In short, it's perfect reading for those long, lazy dog days of summer." Review

This was a fun book to read, absolutely loaded with eccentric, funny characters.  Even the villain is likeable.  I disagree with the above review that the main point of the book is Cordelia's inheritance.  While she is a prominent character, the star of the book and subsequent sequels is Tobias Walton, a portly, older gentleman who loves adventures and loves to laugh.  I think the main point of the book is the forming of The Moosepath League and Walton's invitation to be the chairman of that club.  I like the book enough to add its sequel to my wishlist on Bookmooch.  I hope there is some conclusion to what happened to Cordelia, but it looks like it will be mostly about Tobias and his fellow clubmembers.  The ending is a bit of a cliff hanger which was a surprise to me as I didn't know about the sequels.  That is my only complaint.  Otherwise, it is a totally charming book.
Rating:  4.25

Friday, June 11, 2010

45. Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce (Audio)

I so enjoyed reading Framed by this author, that I was excited to find this audio version of another of his books as such a reasonable price.  It was only four CD's and barely got me to Park City and then down to Provo, but I enjoyed listening to the narrator's English accent.  Here's the description from the back cover:

"It was a one-in-a-million chance.  A bag crammed with cash comes tumbling out of the air and lands right at Damian's feet.  Suddenly, the Cunningham brothers are rich.  Very rich.  They can buy anything they want.  There's just one problem--they have only seventeen days to spend all the money before it becomes worthless.  And the crooks who stole the cash in the first place are closing in--fast."

Damian seems a bit too innocent to me for his age.  But such a sweet kid who wants to give the money to the poor.  He starts by stuffing several thousand into the mail slot of his next-door neighbors, the Mormon missionaries, thinking they will surely find some poor people to help.  The next day, he sees a van unloading a dishwasher, flat-screen TV's and various other items at the house.  I had to chuckle at that.  Damian and his brother, Antony, also pay the kids at school to do things for them, but find their prices skyrocketing as all the kids now have so much money.  They have to spend the money before England converts to the Euro and two young boys can hardly go into a bank and take care of that.  When they realize that the crooks are after them, they start taking the money with them everywhere they go.  The lesson of the burden that money can be is quite heavy-handed but still effective.  It just shows that your life can't be centered around money and taking care of it.  I think I've learned this lesson well and could probably be trusted to have a large sum of money without it taking over my life.  So when is my bag of cash going to fall at my feet?
Rating:  3.75

44. Leave It To Psmith by P G Wodehouse

This is the second Wodehouse book that I've read.  The other is part of the Jeeves series and very funny.  In the introduction, it states that this is the beginning of Wodehouse's comic books that made him so famous and, apparently the most important to him, very wealthy.  I thought the book was hilarious.  I giggled when Psmith leaves his name at a home he is calling on:
"Ah well," he said, "we must always remember that these disappointments are sent to us for some good purpose.  No doubt they make us more spiritual.  Will you inform her that I called?  the name is Psmith.  P-Smith."
"Peasmith, sir?"
"No, no.  P-s-m-i-t-h.  I should explain to you that I started life without the initial letter, and my father always clung ruggedly to the plain Smith.  But it seemed to me that there were so many Smiths in the world that a little variety might well be introduced.  Smythe I look on as a cowardly evasion, nor do I approve of the too prevalent custom of tacking another name on in front by means of a hyphen.  So I decided to adopt the Psmith.  The p, I should add for your guidance, is silent, as in phtisis, psychic, and ptarmigan.  You follow me?"
As you learn more about Psmith, spiritual is not a word that describes him well.  But confident, dandy, lucky, sly, dashing, and good-looking are fit quite well.  He is just one of those con-men that everything always works out for the best.  In the story, he is hired by Freddie, Mr. Keeble's nephew,  to steal a necklace from Mr. Keeble's wife who keeps a very tight grip on the household's purse strings.  The necklace will then be sold and the proceeds used to pay Psmith, payoff Freddie's gambling debts, and allow Mr. Keeble to finance a business venture for his stepdaughter and her husband.  Mrs. Keeble will only see a withdrawal from the account to buy her a replacement necklace.  It's a fun premise, laden with all kinds of pitfalls and pratfalls.  The book is great for a light, summer read.
Rating:  4.25