- Kelly McDermott-Bay
- Hello, my name is Kelly and I welcome you to the Bookend Diaries book blog. I created this blog to share my own reviews of existing and new books, to discuss with other readers what we’re currently reading, update you on my book club picks, and of course, to ultimately support the work of the authors we all enjoy. I am addicted to reading and I thought this would be a great way to reach out to other readers who are as obsessed with books as I am.
Friday, April 30, 2010
***Received an advance copy courtesy Simon & Schuster Publishing
Grissom's unsentimental debut twists the conventions of the antebellum novel just enough to give readers an involving new perspective on what would otherwise be fairly stock material. Lavinia, an orphaned seven-year-old white indentured servant, arrives in 1791 to work in the kitchen house at Tall Oaks, a Tidewater, Va., tobacco plantation owned by Capt. James Pyke. Belle, the captain's illegitimate half-white daughter who runs the kitchen house, shares narration duties, and the two distinctly different voices chronicle a troublesome 20 years: Lavinia becomes close to the slaves working the kitchen house, but she can't fully fit in because of her race. At 17, she marries Marshall, the captain's brutish son turned inept plantation master, and as Lavinia ingratiates herself into the family and the big house, racial tensions boil over into lynching, rape, arson, and murder. The plantation's social order's emphasis on violence, love, power, and corruption provides a trove of tension and grit, while the many nefarious doings will keep readers hooked to the twisted, yet hopeful, conclusion.
My Review Comments:
I couldn’t wait to read this book, the concept was so interesting to me. The story tells of Lavinia, an Irish orphaned indentured servant who, at age seven, lives on tobacco plantation in Virginia. She lives with all the black slaves in the kitchen house that stands outside of the big house on the plantation. They become her family and guide, protect, and shower her with unconditional love. As she grows up, she soon sees for herself the difference between races and the challenges that lie ahead for all of them. I found the book gripping and I couldn’t put it down. It was so well written and the character development was so strong, that I found them coming to life on the pages right in front of me, and I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next in their lives.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
***Purchased from Barnes and Noble
Country music star and bestselling cookbook author Trisha Yearwood is back with an encore of recipes that once again share her family traditions and warm home-grown cooking style.
In her debut cookbook, Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen, Trisha proved that there’s much more to her than an award-winning country music career, as she welcomed us into her kitchen and served up a feast of flavorful meals and heartwarming personal anecdotes. Now, in Cooking for Family and Friends, Trisha opens her life and her kitchen once more with a trove of recipes from a lifetime of potlucks and colorful gatherings.
Trisha has that southern hospitality gene and she’s a big believer that cooking for someone else is an act of love. From breakfasts in bed to hearty casseroles and festive holiday meals, Trisha’s delicious recipes are dedicated to her loved ones, including her husband Garth Brooks (who’s her number one cooking fan and the contributor of a few knockout recipes of his own).
Trisha knows how good it feels to bring something to the table. It brings everyone closer together if they’ve had a hand in preparing a meal. These recipes all come with memories attached—of potlucks with good friends, church suppers, family fish fries, and beach picnics, Mother’s Day, and Christmas gatherings. Many are handed down from her mother, her aunts and cousins, or longtime friends, while others are her own contemporary improvisations on classic southern fare. Each one—whether a main dish, a tasty side, or a decadent dessert—comes with a heartwarming story from Trisha’s life that may remind you of some of your own favorite family foods, or inspire you to create new traditions.
You don’t have to be a southerner to enjoy Yearwood family specialties such as:
• Hot Corn Dip
• Cornbread Salad with French Dressing
• Baked Bean Casserole
• Pumpkin Roll
• Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
Plus, Trisha (and her sister and mother) offer up loads of practical advice, on everything from easily icing a cake to cutting a slice of pie, time-saving tips; and ingredient substitutions. With full-color photographs taken at Trisha’s home, this soulful and sincere testament to a southern life well-lived will delight both country music fans and home cooks everywhere.
My Review Comments:
I was so excited to hear that Trisha Yearwood came out with a new cookbook, I had to run out and purchase it. I own her last cookbook and this one doesn’t disappoint either. There are so many wonderful recipes and it is full of colorful photos with lots of helpful tips too. This cookbook will be a great addition to your collection or it would make a wonderful gift.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
***Received an advance copy courtesy Riverhead Books
Introducing a fresh, exciting Chinese-American voice, an inspiring debut about an immigrant girl forced to choose between two worlds and two futures. When Kimberly Chang and her mother emigrate from Hong Kong to Brooklyn squalor, she quickly begins a secret double life: exceptional schoolgirl during the day, Chinatown sweatshop worker in the evenings. Disguising the more difficult truths of her life-like the staggering degree of her poverty, the weight of her family's future resting on her shoulders, or her secret love for a factory boy who shares none of her talent or ambition-Kimberly learns to constantly translate not just her language but herself back and forth between the worlds she straddles. Through Kimberly's story, author Jean Kwok, who also emigrated from Hong Kong as a young girl, brings to the page the lives of countless immigrants who are caught between the pressure to succeed in America, their duty to their family, and their own personal desires, exposing a world that we rarely hear about. Written in an indelible voice that dramatizes the tensions of an immigrant girl growing up between two cultures, surrounded by a language and world only half understood, Girl in Translation is an unforgettable and classic novel of an American immigrant-a moving tale of hardship and triumph, heartbreak and love, and all that gets lost in translation.
My Review Comments:
Dreams do really come true even without a Prince Charming at the end. Girl In Translation describes the life of Kimberly Chang, a Chinese girl who emigrated from Hong Kong with her Mother when she was only 11 years old to a promising life in America, where all dreams are possible as long as you wish for them, they will come true. But, everything isn’t as it seems. Instead of living the American dream, Kimberly is torn between two worlds that don’t seem to fit her. There are some twists that happen at the end of the book too. Sometimes true happiness is fighting through obstacles with perseverance to become who you were always meant to be. I really enjoyed this book and to me it was a modern day fairytale that came to live throughout the pages. I would highly recommend it.
***Received a courtesy copy from Grand Central Publishing
When Melody Grace McCartney was six years old, she and her parents witnessed an act of violence so brutal that it changed their lives forever. The federal government lured them into the Witness Protection Program with the promise of safety, and they went gratefully. But the program took Melody's name, her home, her innocence, and, ultimately, her family. She's been May Adams, Karen Smith, Anne Johnson, and countless others--everyone but the one person she longs to be: herself. So when the feds spirit her off to begin yet another new life in another town, she's stunned when a man confronts her and calls her by her real name. Jonathan Bovaro, the mafioso sent to hunt her down, knows her, the real her, and it's a dangerous thrill that Melody can't resist. He's insistent that she's just a pawn in the government's war against the Bovaro family. But can she trust her life and her identity to this vicious stranger whose acts of violence are legendary?
My Review Comments:
This was an interesting concept for a book, dealing with a tangled web between a mobster’s son who falls in love with the one person who is being protected in the Witness Protection Program that could take them all down. In this book it really goes into detail about how the Witness Protection Program works and how even with the best laid plan for someone with a new identity, things can still go terrible wrong. After Melody makes a foolish slip up, her parents are found and killed by the Mob. Only she survives and is being tracked by the son of a Mobsters family who witnessed the same killing back when she was a little girl. John Bovaro (aka Jonathan), is obsessed with making things right, and falls in love with Melody in the process and wants to run away with her. Only one huge problem- his family wants her dead, plus, the Government is looking for any excuse to have them all arrested and put behind bars. There are a lot of twists and turns in this book, but in the end you will be surprised at how everything is made right. I did enjoy this book and was surprised at the how the power of love can make you give the ultimate sacrifice to save a life in return for your own.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
***Received an advance copy of this book courtesy Penguin Group USA
Twelve-year-old CeeCee is in trouble. For years she’s been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille— the crown-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town. Though it’s 1967 and they live in Ohio, Camille believes it’s 1951 and she’s just been crowned the Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia.
The day CeeCee discovers Camille in the front yard wearing a tattered prom dress and tiara as she blows kisses to passing motorists, she knows her mother has completely flipped. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, a previously unknown great-aunt comes to CeeCee’s rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. Within hours of her arrival, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricities—a world that appears to be run entirely by women.
While Tootie is busy saving Savannah’s endangered historic homes from the wrecking ball, CeeCee encounters a cast of unforgettable, eccentric characters. From the mysterious Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in an outdoor tub under the watchful eyes of a voyeuristic peacock, to Oletta Jones, the all-knowing household cook, to Violene Hobbs, the loud-mouthed widow who entertains a local police officer in her yellow see-through peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.
But CeeCee’s view of the world is challenged in ways she could have never imagined: there are secrets to keep, injustices to face, and loyalties to uphold. Just as she begins to find her ballast and experiences a sense of belonging, her newfound joy collides with the long-held fear that her mother’s legacy has left her destined for destruction.
Laugh-out-loud funny, at times heartbreaking, and written in a pitch-perfect voice, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a spirited Southern tale that explores the intricate frailties and strengths of female relationships while illuminating the journey of a young girl who loses her mother but finds many others.
My Review Comments:
I absolutely loved this book and the beautiful description taken from the backdrop of Savannah Georgia. I believe Saving CeeCee is southern literature at its best. When CeeCee loses her Mother, her Great-Aunt Tootie comes to rescue her. Instantly, CeeCee is transported from her home in Ohio to an enchanted world of eccentric women that will shape her to become the girl that she was always meant to be. There are pearls of wisdom spread throughout the book that makes it even more special. In my view, Aunt Tootie was a cross between a steel magnolia disguised as a fairy godmother and guardian angel, and in her spare time is behind the restoration of the historical district and keeps up with her beautiful garden. She was truly an amazing woman. If only we all could have a Great-Aunt Tootie in our life, what a better world we would live in. I highly recommend this book. It shows the true essence of southern hospitality and charm at its best.
***Received an advance copy of this book courtesy Random House Publishing Group
Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth—but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.
My Review Comments:
This book was an enchanting, magical story with a quirky cast of characters, and is set in Mullaby, North Carolina, where unpredictable things happen. Emily Benedict returns to live with her Grandfather after her Mother dies, in an attempt to re-connect and find out answers about the Mother that she never really felt she knew. The only item Emily has to hold on to is a charm bracelet that was her Mother’s, that she cherishes. She is soon befriended by next door neighbor Julia Winterson who presented her with a homemade cake. Julia, who left Mullaby due to being considered a mis-fit, has returned to Mullaby since she inherited her Father’s BBQ Restaurant and is the baker there. Julia’s hope is to make is a successful business so that she can turn it around, sell it, and leave Mullaby for good. Her dream is to open her own bakery named, “Blue-Eyed Girl Bakery” back in Chicago. Julia also has her own modern day fairytale, undeclared love for Sawyer, a former love from high school. Emily finds her own love interest in Win Coffey, but there is disapproval of the relationship with the townspeople due to past scandal and tragedy between the Benedict’s and the Coffey’s. There are so many secrets that will unfold throughout the story, you will just have to buy the book to find out the rest.
***Purchased this copy from Barnes and Noble
On the brink of revolution, with a tide of hate turned against the decadent royal court, France is in turmoil - as is the life of one young woman forced to leave her beloved Paris. After a fire destroys her home and family, Claudette Laurent is struggling to survive in London. But one precious gift remains: her talent for creating exquisite dolls that Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France herself, cherishes. When the Queen requests a meeting, Claudette seizes the opportunity to promote her business, and to return home...Amid the violence and unrest, Claudette befriends the Queen, who bears no resemblance to the figurehead rapidly becoming the scapegoat of the Revolution. But when Claudette herself is lured into a web of deadly political intrigue, it becomes clear that friendship with France's most despised woman has grim consequences. Now, overshadowed by the specter of Madame Guillotine, the Queen's dollmaker will face the ultimate test. Infused with the passion and excitement of a county-and an unforgettable heroine–on the threshold of radical change, this captivating novel propels readers into a beguiling world of opulence, adventure, and danger, from the rough streets of eighteenth-century London to France’s lavish Palace of Versailles.
My Review Comments:
I absolutely loved this book and I thought it offered an interesting twist on the tale of Marie Antoinette. It takes place during the French Revolution. Claudette Laurent is a young French woman who moves to England after a fire destroys her home in France and also takes her parents from her in the process. She is left an orphan, who is penniless, with only one possession, her late Father’s doll making tools. She struggles as a maid, than little-by-little she starts her doll making business along with her friend Beatrice and her little daughter Marguerite. Eventually, her dollmaking business gets the attention of Maria Antoniette and she becomes the Queen’s personal dollmaker. She then becomes rich and famous. This book goes into so much depth on how dolls are made, through silk, wax and wood. It is interesting to note that in the eighteenth century dressmakers used to demonstrate fashion on dolls to potential customers. Claudette is a heroine of honor and integrity, caught between her admiration for an English gentleman and the memory of her lost love back in London. This is a wonderful, suspenseful, historical read where there are twists and turns throughout the book.
***Purchased this copy from Barnes and Noble
Alice in Wonderland tells the story of Alice, a young girl who follows the White Rabbit down a rabbit hole. At the bottom, she finds herself in a room with a tiny door and a bottle labeled "drink me." She grows and shrinks depending on what she eats and drinks, and as a small version of herself, finds herself swimming in a pool of tears. Swimming to shore, Alice and some other creatures decide that "'the best thing to get us dry would be a Caucus-race'" Alice continues to chase the White Rabbit and the White Rabbit sends her into his house for his fan and gloves. Once in the house, Alice gets into more trouble with an unlabeled bottle, quickly growing too big to move. The White Rabbit and Bill the Lizard try to get her out, and Alice only escapes by eating some small cakes. She runs into the woods and meets a hookah-smoking Caterpillar, who gives her some advice on ways to grow bigger and smaller. Next, she stops at the house of the Duchess with a pig for a baby; the pig escapes, and Alice asks the Cheshire Cat for help. Directed on to the March Hare's house, Alice takes part in the Mad Tea Party, perhaps the most famous scene in the book. Alice moves on to the Queen's croquet ground, where she encounters the Queen of Hearts and tries to play croquet with a flamingo and a hedgehog. Next, Alice encounters a Mock Turtle and a Gryphon, who tell her the story of the lobster quadrille. The book closes with a trial on the case of the stolen tarts, as the Queen accuses the Knave of Hearts. Alice is accused also, and she scatters the attacking cards, only to find herself awake on the river bank where the book began.
Through the Looking Glass picks up the story an unspecified amount of time later, as Alice steps through a mirror. The first thing that she does in the Looking Glass world is read a backwards book, and what she reads is no less than the famous poem "Jabberwocky." Alice leaves the house and stumbles upon the Garden of Live Flowers and also the Red Queen (not the Queen of Hearts from the first book). Alice takes a train ride and inspects some strange insects. Next she encounters Tweedledum and Tweedledee, who tell her the story of the Walrus and the Carpenter. The White Queen comes running wildly through the wood and talks to Alice, only to morph into a sheep before Alice's eyes. Humpty Dumpty explains the "Jabberwocky" poem to Alice, and the Lion and the Unicorn have their battle. An eccentric White Knight shows Alice several worthless inventions, Alice's last stop before becoming Queen herself. Queen Alice has a feast in her honor, which dissolves into reality as Alice wakes up once more. The second book seems to have less substance to it, but I find it to be my favorite of the two, and Humpty Dumpty is part of the reason.
My Review Comments:
I have to admit that I was one of the few that hadn’t ever read, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass.” So before I allowed myself to read, “Alice, I Have Been” I had to read the books that inspired them. All I can say is of course they should be required reading since they are both considered classics. Both were wonderful reads where you get lost in the world that makes up Wonderland and nothing is as it seems. In the first book Alice falls down the rabbit hole and there she meets White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. She attends the Mad Hatter tea party and plays polo with the Queen of Hearts. In the second book Alice returns to Wonderland by following through the looking glass. This book is set up more like a chess board. Both books were wonderful escapes for me, filled with Alice and all of her wonderful adventures. Lewis Carroll shares his incredible imagination with the rest of the world to enjoy it for all time.
***Received an advance copy of this book courtesy Bantam Dell Publishing Group
Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
But oh my dear, I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland. Does it sound ungrateful?
Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.
That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.
For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.
A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.
My Review Comments:
This was a beautifully written book describing the life of the real Alice behind Wonderland. The book starts out having Alice at the age of eighty-five looking back at her life. Alice was the daughter of a Dean of Oxford and was brought up in a privileged, intellectual atmosphere among scholars, students and the upper crust of British society. At Oxford, when she was just a little girl, she met Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll, a mathematics professor who became a close family friend. Lewis Carroll, as he would later be known, used to take young Alice and her sisters out for day trips. Alice inspired him to tell stories and he would often photograph the young girls on different occasions. The depiction of Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) is both fascinating and disturbing. Alice was Lewis Carroll’s little muse and when she begged him to write his story that he made up about her, he would later present it to her as a gift. Alice’s family suddenly broke off ties with Lewis Carroll when Alice was still just a child. But, they don’t go into the detail as to why this occurred it is just implied that there may have been something inappropriate going on. Alice develops into a young woman and has a love affair with a prince. Unfortunately their love affair ends badly when the rumors start to fly about her past and because of this, her hope of marriage to him fails. She eventually will marry, not for love but for money and because there is fear that she will become an old maid. She does find happiness with having three sons and eventually, although too late to appreciate, her husband, until he passes. Until her husband dies, she lives a life in obscurity and comfort. She loses two sons to the war and is faced with financial troubles that make her face her past with Lewis Carroll again. She must now sell her original copy of, “Alice In Wonderland “ through Sotheby’s in New York City to save her family fortune.