Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Lake of Dreams (Kim Edwards, 2011)


The Heroine: Lucy Jarrett, an American hydrologist living in Japan with her boyfriend, Yoshi. When her mother is injured in a car accident, Lucy returns home to the Lake of Dreams, a small lakeside town in New York state. Though it has been ten years since her father's death, Lucy can't seem to move past that moment, including her feelings for her first love, Keegan. Lucy's obsession with the past deepens when she discovers papers hidden away that hint to a unknown female relative that was left out of her family history. Stubborn, determined and relentless, Lucy searches through the history of her family, as well as her own personal past, to ultimately find peace with herself and move forward into the future.

The Highs: I loved the element of mystery in The Lake of Dreams. Lucy's quest to discover more about her ancestor Rose was suspenseful and as an amateur history buff, I really loved learning about the woman's suffrage movement in the Great Lakes region. I also liked the way the clues about Rose and her daughter Iris were revealed through stained glass windows, art sketches, written letters and personal accounts, as a variety of sources added interest.

I also enjoyed the family drama in the story. The Jarrett family, both past and present, is filled with estranged siblings, old arguments and ancient family secrets. I was really shocked by the way the family had twisted their history to focus exclusively on their male ancestors, leaving out the females except in passing. Lucy helps remedy this by exposing the history of her female ancestors.

Kim Edward's writing was very enjoyable. I liked her simple style and I also liked her use of imagery, as in the earthquakes in Japan reflecting Lucy's inner state. I especially enjoyed her beautiful descriptions of the lakeside scenery.

The Lows: I personally found Lucy, the protagonist, really irritating. Her refusal to move on with her life, her insistence on sticking her nose into her mother and brother's lives and her possessive attitude to her discoveries about Rose were all very annoying to me. In other words, if she was a real person, I wouldn't like her very much. Therefore, I felt a little distant when reading about her personal journey.

I also felt dissatisfied with the end results of her family's deep, dark secrets. I was disappointed that after all the dramatic build-up about Rose being cut out of the family tree, her actual crime wasn't very exciting and (though I do take into account the time period) I really don't think it warranted being basically abandoned by her family. I don't know whether that emphasizes how cruel her family was, or just makes the whole thing seem very unrealistic.

I also wish they had moved the family tree included in the book to the front of the novel instead of the back because I often got all the names, dates and events confused and tangled in my head.

Final Thoughts: The Lake of Dreams is well-written and interesting, but there were a couple big sticking points that I found quite irritating.

Rating: The Lake of Dreams earns six stained glass windows out of ten. 

Buy 'The Lake of Dreams' by Kim Edwards on Amazon here
Connect with author Kim Edwards here
Photo from here

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!


Since I began blogging in September, my entire experience in the book blogging universe has been truly wonderful, enriching and enjoyable. I am truly blessed to have been welcomed into the community by my fellow bloggers, as well as by the fantastic readers that make this all worthwhile by reading and commenting on my posts. I'm very grateful to share my thoughts with all of you and I just want to say thank you for the support, encouragement and interest. 

Merry Christmas to all of you celebrating today, and happy holidays to all! 

Adorable photo from here

Friday, December 23, 2011

Past Secrets (Cathy Kelly, 2006)


The Heroine: Past Secrets focuses on a group of women living on Summer Street, a picturesque lane in Dublin lined with beautiful old trees, well-groomed gardens and stately homes. Christie Devlin, a married empty-nester with a passion for art and a gift for seeing the future, ties together this story as she helps her neighbours through their struggles, finally realizing she must face up to secrets of her own. Her neighbour, Faye Reid, a single working mother who has suppressed her zest for life in order to raise her teenage daughter Amber, is devastated when Amber runs away to follow a boy to America. And Maggie Maguire, recently returned home after being betrayed by her boyfriend, is struggling to overcome her high school insecurities. All the heroines must face the consequences of keeping secrets, overcoming obstacles to discover their true selves.

The Highs: I fell in love with Cathy Kelly's wonderful writing within the first chapter. Humorous, light and effortless, the author weaves together description, action and dialogue beautifully. She painted each scene into my mind perfectly. Not only is her talented writing a joy to read, but I found it so inspiring that I was longing to pen a story of my own when I reached the end.

I also grew to be very attached to her characters, especially Faye and Amber Reid. All of the characters are well-rounded and realistic, as well as given compelling personalities that help bond the reader to them. There are no dull wallflowers here; Christie is passionate and caring, while Amber's adventurous and naive spirit was perfectly captured on paper. Faye's anxious temperament was expressed thoughtfully and I really enjoyed reading about her emotional journey from helicopter mom to a new, blossoming individual.

The settings throughout the novel are described gorgeously, with lush details about the plant life being my favourite. I felt that each described setting really represented a part of the character and told the reader a little more about them, just like it should. Christie's warm, well-cared for home reflects her welcoming and soft personality, while Maggie's apartment with each room decorated completely separate from the others, with no flow, represents her jumbled and confused outlook. Every new location brought beautiful descriptions that made reading this book even more pleasurable.

I always love stories about fresh beginnings. There is something so inspiring about reading of another's journey through hell, where they ultimately triumph. It lifts my spirit, and Past Secrets was definitely the great refresher I needed so close to the start of a new year.

The Lows: I felt that, out of the four protagonists, Maggie's character seemed a little bit ignored and rushed. Her story didn't include as many details as the others and I felt like she could have been explored more deeply. I would have loved to understand her choice of career – librarian – or her reasons for letting her boyfriend, Grey, get away with so much. I also felt like Maggie's high school bullying could have used some more drama as those scenes seemed lackluster. I know what bullying can be like and I have definitely witnessed more dramatic scenes in the real world than in this book.

I also wondered why Christie's character was given the ability to see the future. There was no specific reason or plot twist to include it, nor are there any other supernatural elements in the book. I would have preferred if Christie would have been simply very intuitive instead of psychic – not because I don't appreciate a little magic now and then, but because it seemed unnecessary and I really believe that writing is a skill that requires judgement on what to leave out just as much as what to put in.

Final Thoughts: I loved this book and I immediately wanted to recommend it to my female friends, my mother, my aunts and my grandmother. Alas, as none of them are big readers, I simply went to Chapters and bought an armful of Cathy Kelly's books.

Verdict: Past Secrets by Cathy Kelly earns eight antique white roses out of ten. 

Buy 'Past Secrets' by Cathy Kelly on Amazon here
Connect with author Cathy Kelly here
Picture from here

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday!


I was forced to stop participating in this weekly meme, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, but now that I have time again....here we go!

Top Ten Books I Hope that Santa Brings Me

1. The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen: I really loved her novel, Skipping A Beat (I actually reviewed it here) so I'm really excited to check out her other published book. Plus its about two sisters, a topic I always love to read about!
2. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton: I absolutely LOVED her other novels, The Forgotten Garden and The House at Riverton (once again, I reviewed them here and here) so I'm really looking forward to this one, as Kate Morton is a fantastic writer. 
3. When She Woke by Hillary Jordan: This book was mentioned in a magazine I picked up at the hairdressers and I am really intrigued by the distopian setting and the conflict about the contemporary debate about abortion. 
4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: This book has been literally EVERYWHERE and I want to find out what all the hype is about...plus the plot does sound quite interesting, too. 
5. The Last Nude by Ellis Avery: A jazz age story set in Paris, filled with art and a passionate love affair...right up my alley. 
6. Christmas at Tiffany's by Karen Swan: I love stories about new beginnings and fresh starts, so this one (about a woman starting over after her husband cheats on her) sounds very interesting. 
7. A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff: The back of my copy of  The Very Picture of You, there was quote after quote by authors such as Sophie Kinsella praising A Vintage Affair as a fabulous read. 
8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett: I've been meaning to read this book for ages now!
9. How to Dress for Success by Edith Head: This pick is a not a novel, but as an amateur fashionista, I love to read about style. 
10. Valley of the Dolls by Jaqueline Susann: I borrowed a friend's copy of this notorious book and I absolutely loved it. I'd love to read it again, so I want to get a copy for my own bookshelves!

And there you have it. Thanks for stopping by - and in case I forget - happy holidays to everyone!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Very Picture of You (Isabel Wolff, 2011)


The Heroine: Ella Graham, a thirty-something portrait artist at a crossroads. Abandoned without a word by her father at the age of five, Ella is shocked when she begins to receive messages from him, imploring her for forgiveness. At the same time, Ella finds herself falling in love with her newest portrait subject – her sister's fiance, Nate. While Ella has a gift for revealing her subject's inner selves through her art work, Ella must struggle to find her own truths in love and in her family.

The Highs: I was very drawn towards the family drama in The Very Picture of You. The mystery of Ella's father is intriguing and suspenseful; I was so eager to uncover the truth among the tangled web of stories told by Ella's mother that I had trouble putting this book down once I was about halfway through it. I also found the smaller mysteries contained in the subplots, the subjects of Ella's paintings, equally riveting, from the meaning behind Iris's antique watercolour to the cause of Mike Johns's depression to who killed Grace Clark.

I also enjoyed the complex characterization of Sue, Ella's mother, who is basically the main controller of the plot. Neurotic, determined and selfish, Sue manipulates her daughter's into living out her own dreams, though in a way that made me feel more sorry for her than outraged. I enjoy reading about interesting, unique and multi-dimensional characters and Sue was definitely one of those.

The Lows: I found The Very Picture of You to be a little too devoid of emotion. The characters, even Ella, seemed a little too mechanical and the story didn't really sitr up any strong emotions within me – it didn't make me feel anything. I felt Ella was a very passive character in the sense that it was difficult to get a good read of who she was and as a result, I found her a little boring to read about.

I also felt that the romance aspect was lacklustre and fell flat. While Ella falls in love with Nate, there is no real sexual tension or chemistry between the characters. I didn't really understand why she sudddenly fell in love with him, as in the author made no apparent effort to make Nate's character endearing, lovable, or even memorable. If it weren't for the added drama of the fact that Nate is Ella's sister's fiance, I probably would have forgotten there even was a romantic plot line to this novel. The mystery element of the story is much more prominent and interesting.

While I did enjoy Isabel Wolff's writing – simple, clean and to the point – I found a lot of grammer and punctuation issues within the novel that really annoyed me while I was reading. Perhaps it seems nit-pickity, but I expect that a professionally published book would be free of obvious errors like that.

Final Thoughts: I will probably read another of Isabel Wolff's novels, as I did find the book pleasant, but I don't think it is her best book.

Rating: The Very Picture of You earns five oil portraits out of ten. 

Buy 'The Very Picture of You' on Amazon here
Connect with author Isabel Wolff here
Photo from here

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Skipping A Beat (Sarah Pekkanen, 2011)


The Heroine: Julia Dunhill, a practical and hard-working party planner in Washington, D.C. Julia began life as the daughter of a broke gambling addict in small-town West Virginia; however, her fortunes change (literally) when Michael, her high school sweetheart's, vitamin drink company catapults the couple into millions. Julia has everything from a Jaguar to a jewelry collection worth six figures, but she is forced to examine her deteriorating marriage to Michael when a near-death experience causes him to create drastic changes to their life. Is money more valuable than love? Or is it true that you can't buy happiness?

The Highs: This novel surprised me over and over again, which can be a difficult to find for a reader who has read it all. While I was expecting Julia to be a shallow trophy wife and Michael to be a selfish and domineering egotist, I was shocked to find that their characters were extremely complex, deep and three-dimensional; there is not a single stereotype employed in the book (except for perhaps the minor character of Roxanne). The author managed to navigate the world of the rich and famous with surprising realism, seamlessly moving from the couple's private mansion to a rundown house in West Virginia without losing the down-to-earth feeling of the story.

I love Sarah Pekkanen's use of suspense. The story unfolds slowly and beautifully, revealing new layers of the plot just when you think you know everything. I'm extremely impressed by the impeccable timing and the complexity of the layers. It also provides the reader with a thorough understanding of who the characters are and the motivations that drive them; knowing their back story defines Julia and Michael and gives it that added sense of realism. The element of suspense kept me turning the pages long into the night!

I also found that I was fooled by the plot summary presented on the inside cover of the book; the story is presented as (rather shallowly) a woman's struggle to keep her money, while it is really a much deeper story examining the intricacies of marriage. This novel was about delving into the past's effect on the present and following the course of every small decision made by Julia and Michael that brought them to the moment of Micheal's near-death. I was jerked through every emotion, from joy to the brink of tears, and upon turning the last page, I was inspired to reach over to my boyfriend and hold him close. This one's a tear-jerker!

The Lows: I felt a great dislike for Julia at certain moments, though reading about her past did help to validate some of her emotions and actions towards her husband. I suppose I am a bit of a softie, so I found it hard to digest how cold-hearted she could be.

I also wish there would have been more about Julia and Micheal's relationship as teenagers, as well as more romantic moments as they re-evaluate their marriage. I know I am a hopeless romantic, but for a love story, I found it remarkably devoid of tender moments. I feel like the story could have used more "soft" scenes to balance out to roughness of Julia's emotional journey. It also would have made the ending more dramatic – though its already quite a stunner!

Final Thoughts: Skipping A Beat is a great book for anyone who believes that the power of love can conquer all.

Rating: Skipping A Beat earns seven tubs of chocolate ice cream out of ten. 

Buy 'Skipping A Beat' on Amazon here
Connect to author Sarah Pekkanen here
Photo from here

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Guest Blogger: Dani from Pen to Paper!


Hi Genny, thanks for having me! Ever since the first time I came across Books are my Heroine, I have been fascinated with the theme of the blog. You don’t see many blogs with themes running through all of the posts, so that makes this blog truly unique, and not only that, the theme actually works really well!

On Pen to Paper, I tend to blog about Dark Fantasy, Science-fiction, Urban Fantasy and YA books more often than general fiction, so I thought I would take the theme of this wonderful blog, and talk about some of my favourite heroines in my preferred genres.

The first heroine of fiction for me is going to have to be Sookie Stackhouse from the wonderful Sookie Stackhouse (or True Blood) series by Charlaine Harris. I fell in love with Sookie and her world from the very first page of the very first book, which isn’t surprising if you’ve gotten to know her too. She’s strong-minded, strong-willed, feisty (when it’s required), loyal and friendly. She’s also not abnormally strong (she doesn’t beat up every bad guy that comes her way), and equally, she’s not the damsel-in-distress type that is found all too often in this genre – so her character makes for a refreshing change.

The series is now 11 books long and it has been wonderful taking this journey with Sookie and watching her world change around her. Another positive Sookie trait is that despite everything that has happened to her, and despite the numerous changes in possible love interest, she always manages to work out what she wants from each guy, and then she sticks by it, unlike other female protagonists, who can’t seem to make up their minds and stop messing the guy(s) around! Although, saying that, another of my Urban Fantasy heroines is exactly this kind of character (to begin with at least).


Faythe Sanders is the heroine of the Werecats series by Rachel Vincent, and although in the first couple of books she’s immature, indecisive and (for want of a better word) whiney, she does eventually begin to decide what she wants with love interest, Marc – even though this may not necessarily mean that she stops messing him around, at least she no longer does so intentionally! Apart from this minor flaw, Faythe is certainly a feisty lady. In the first in the series, she openly rebels against her family’s wishes and against the tradition of her pride in order to get a sense of freedom and independence from a life that is otherwise already laid out before her, which I greatly admire in her. She decides to do this by staying on in education at college, but it doesn’t take long for her unwanted life to catch up with her anyway, dragging her back to her father’s ranch by the tail. This, though, is where the fun really starts! Although Faythe does come across danger and get herself snared in its trap during the first novel, she is still feisty enough and smart enough to keep herself alive and even do some damage to the bad guys herself, which is great fun to watch unfold, and gives her character much more depth than you might think.

Taking a step away from Fantasy now, and into the world of crossover YA/adult fiction, with Before I Die by Jenny Downham. As it’s easy to imagine just from the title of the novel, it’s a particularly sad read, and it will definitely have you in tears by the end, but what I’m interested in, is what comes before that. Tessa, the main character, is 16 and terminally ill, having just months left to live, decides to compose a list of all the things she wants to do before she dies. As she steadily works her way through the list, she shows just how strong her character really is – despite knowing that she’ll die so soon and so young, she doesn’t dwell too much on what will happen, but instead decides to live life to its full and go out with a bang – something I know I’d struggle with, so this makes her even more admirable. By the end of the novel I was completely in love with her character, so with the inevitable approaching fast, I became even more attached to her, which only added to the eventual upset of the ending. This novel and Tessa’s unbelievably strong character has stuck with me for a long time (I read this book in spring 2009), and I know will stay with me for a while still.

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Visit Dani on her blog, Pen to Paper, at http://vogue-pentopaper.blogspot.com/

Photo from here

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Secret Daughter (Shilpi Somaya Gowda, 2010)


The Heroine: The novel is split between three main protagonists: Kavita, a young woman living in rural India; Somer, a doctor in San Francisco; and Asha, their daughter. Kavita, poor and with little opportunity, is forced to give up her baby daughter to an orphanage in Bombay, in favour of the future son her culture dictates she must have. In America, after a series of miscarriages, Somer's Indian husband suggests they adopt the child that Somer is so desperate to have. Through the stories of Kavita, Somer and Asha, Secret Daughter explores the topics of family bonds, personal identity and what it means to be a mother.

The Highs: Secret Daughter was a powerful book for me because it addresses the fact that in many parts of the world, the capabilities and potential of women, both as individuals and as a collective, isn't acknowledged and is often purposefully suppressed. I wasn't actually aware of the disposal of babies of the "wrong" sex in India, though I have heard of it in other developing countries. Reading about this issue really brought up many feelings about the plight of women around the world. This is an issue I feel really passionately about and is ultimately the purpose behind Books Are My Heroine - to promote the idea of strong, independent women in media such as popular literature.

I loved the plot of this book because its a truly well-rounded reading experience, with a vast array of settings, characters and perspectives on the topics of motherhood and family. I liked have the double perspective of the slums of India and upper-class, academic California; the contrasting cultures and values was a really interesting reading experience. I also liked the multiple perspectives. As well as the three main female protagonists, the story also includes chapters from the perspective of Kavita and Somer's husbands and Somer's mother-in-law.

I found this book extremely touching and emotionally poignant. As a woman, I could relate to the feelings and thoughts of the female characters on what really makes you a mother and the complicated relationships between mothers and their daughters. Throughout the tragedy within the novel, there was a sense of hopefulness for the future that I found uplifting, though I also really felt for the characters and their trials. There were even some points of the story where I found myself holding back tears. Well-written and thoughtful, I found Secret Daughter to be an amazing read.

The Lows: I honestly do not have many complaints about Secret Daughter. I do wish the author would have taken more advantage of her platform in order to explain more about the conditions for poor women and their unfortunate daughters in India through an author's note or within the acknowledgements. I think media is at the point where we should promote it as a tool for educating AND entertaining, not just for pleasure. I think we have more capabilities of spreading the news about these important issues that way.

I feel that this book could have benefited from more content, in order to get deeper into Asha's experiences as an adopted child, Somer's experience as a sterile woman and Kavita's experience with raising her son in India. I also wish more chapters had been told from the perspective of Somer's mother-in-law, a wealthy philanthropist in India. I think her experience contrasted with Kavita's experience in the slums was a really interesting contrast that gave me a real feel for the juxtaposed sides of India.

Final Thoughts: Every woman – no matter who you are, your race, your socio-economic status – should read this book for a real reminder on how lucky we are and of all the work there is left to do in the world.

Rating: Secret Daughter earns eight silver bangles out of ten. 

Buy 'Secret Daughter' on Amazon here
Connect with author Shilpi Somaya Gowda here
Photo from here

To learn more about gender killing (gendercide), please visit http://www.gendercide.org/ or http://www.itsagirlmovie.com/ for the trailer and information on an upcoming documentary on the subject. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Girl Who Chased the Moon (Sarah Addison Allen, 2010)


The Heroine: Emily Benedict, a high school senior that returns to her mother's hometown after her death in order to live with her mysterious grandfather and hopefully discover the secrets of her mother's past. Introverted, intelligent and people-pleasing, Emily is confronted with a truth about her mother that she never expected, along with a group of unusual new friends and hints of magic lingering around the town.

The Highs: The concept of the book is original and unique and I found it a very refreshing change. Though the book deals with difficult issues such as alienation, isolation and loss, the touches of magic like the Mullaby lights (mysterious glowing lights spotted around the town at night) and the sense of sweetness able to detect a baking cake lend a sense of lightness and humour that keep the story from seeming too serious. The mood is instead uplifting, hopeful and encouraging – a great, easy read for anyone who needs a pick-me-up.

I adore the author's use of suspense throughout the novel. After the first few introductory chapters, I found myself entrenched in the story and longing to know what would come next. A real highlight for me was the slow, intense growth of the relationship between Emily and Win Coffey. The romance had the same sort of Twilight – esque sweet intensity as Bella Swan and Edward Cullen (with the same sort of supernatural twist!) The romantic relationship between Julia and Sawyer was also very sweet to read about, with many "aww"- inducing moments.

I found myself very attached to Julia, a woman that befriends Emily and is the focus of half of the novel. I really related to her hardships, trying to overcome the misfit status she had created for herself as a teenager and become the woman she wants to be. Her story encompasses many uplifting lessons, like overcoming personal demons and being proactive in creating your own happiness.

The Lows: I found this read a little too quirky for my traditional tastes. Though light, enchanting and airy, I found it hard to comprehend some of the magical elements and I became confused as to whether this novel is classified as fantasy or realistic fiction. Perhaps I need to spend more time developing my creative side, but for those of you with active and engaged imaginations, this shouldn't be a problem.

I had a little trouble connecting to the protagonist, Emily. She is perfectly kind, quiet and docile – in short, one of those girls who is so nice and bland that they become a little boring. Without her relationship with the mysterious (and may I say, sexy?) Win, I probably wouldn't have been too interested in what happens to her. I also found it odd how easily she accepted all of the magical elements around her, like the ever-changing wallpaper in her mother's old bedroom. Personally, that would have really freaked me out!

I also would have appreciated a little more depth in the story. An improvement I would have loved would be flashback chapters inserted between the present-day chapters to the time of Dulcie Shelby (Emily's mother) and Logan Coffey. I would have absolutely loved that and I think it would have provided some additional suspense, tension and much-needed depth to this book.

Final Thoughts: If you're looking for something new and different, this is the book for you!

Rating: The Girl Who Chased the Moon earns six magical cakes out of ten. 

Buy 'The Girl Who Chased the Moon' on Amazon here
Connect to author Sarah Addison Allen here
Photo from here

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Virgin Cure (Ami McKay, 2011)


The Heroine: Moth Fenwick, the young daughter of a gypsy fortune teller living in the slums of New York City in 1871. Naive, innocent and yearning for a life outside of her means, Moth runs away from her position as a lady's maid to join a brothel specializing in virgins – a girl's virginity is worth much more to the men who hire courtesans. Entering a life of luxury and sin, Moth must choose between the creature comforts of life as a high-class prostitute or her morality.

The Highs: I love the plot of this novel. I have never read a book from the perspective of a prostitute and I found the inside look at a nineteenth-century brothel to be fascinating and fresh. I also appreciated the historical details incorporated into the novel, mainly in the form of the margin notes by Dr. Sadie, including a diagram on a corset's effect on internal organs, notes on the signs of syphilis and the story of the fabled "virgin cure". It provided a realistic element to the story that greatly enhanced reading.

I also loved the many secondary characters that made the story lively and interesting: Miss Rose Duval, an Moth's mentor prostitute; Mrs. Wentworth, the lady who tortures Moth when she worked as a maid and many of the circus performers at the Bowery. This book is also peppered with women who support early examples of feminism before the twentieth century, including a female doctor and a female business owner (though it is a brothel). I found it an interesting study in early modern women.

The fact that the author was inspired by her great- great- grandmother, a doctor in the 1800s who treated poor women and children, a largely ignored sector of society. As someone quite interested in history and family studies, I found the author's personal story (written in the Author's Notes) enchanting and delightful.

The Lows: I did not really care for the protagonist, Moth. I found her dull and lifeless, as well as under-developed. She doesn't have much of a personality and, at the end of the story, I didn't feel like I had a really clear understanding of who she was. While this can happen easily when a book is written in first person (as The Virgin Cure is), I expected more from an author who got such high acclaim for her previous book The Birth House.

I also found that she didn't focus enough attention on expanding the most interesting parts of the story, which were the subplots like the romance between Alice and Cadet, the conflict between Mrs. Wentworth and her husband and the inner working of a prostitute like Rose Duval. The story never did explain why Mr. Wentworth was so disgusted with his wife! I wish the author would have discarded scenes where Moth is begging on the streets in exchange for the more interesting and dramatic stories going on in the background. Perhaps the novel would have been improved even more if it had been from the perspective of another character altogether rather than on the lacklustre Moth!

I personally found that the writing, while technically good, lacked emotion and suspense. I didn't feel enraptured in the story, with the exception of the very last chapters, and I certainly had no interest at what happened to Moth. The lack of suspense in the story really hurts its appeal; there is no mystery to keep you turning the pages.

Final Thoughts: While the plot and concept of The Virgin Cure is interesting and appealing, I found the story lacking and consequently it took me awhile to get through this book. Maybe I'm a cold-hearted witch, but I didn't feel anything for Moth's plight.

Rating: The Virgin Cure earns six cartes de visite out of ten. 

Buy 'The Virgin Cure' on Amazon here
Connect to author Ami McKay here
Photo from Favim

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Heroine's Closet

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Bookies and friends, I am really excited to announce my new spin-off blog, A Heroine's Closet! Created as a place to discuss my other loves, fashion, make-up, nail polish and all things shiny, I hope to provide some great content and giveaways for my readers. I hope to see all of you over there! And don't forget to say hi over on Twitter @heroine8addict or in the comment boxes...I'd love to hear your feedback on both of my blogs!

In other news, I'm also really pleased to share with you that Books Are My Heroine will be featuring a guest post by the fantastic Dani from Pen to Paper in the near future. If you haven't checked out her blog yet, head over there now! Something for us all to look forward to!

Also, you can now find me on Blog Lovin', for those of you who like to follow blogs that way. 

Cheers, Bookies!

NEXT UP: A review of "The Virgin Cure" by Ami McKay

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Inspiration from Kelly Cutrone


I recently picked up a copy of Kelly Cutrone's (Founder of the PR firm People's Revolution, a la The Hills fame) first book, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside. I was expecting a no-nonsense lesson on how to succeed in business, but instead I received an honest, no-holds-barred reflection on life, love and work that was both uplifting and reassuring. Kelly Cutrone has lived an extraordinary life, experiencing both the highs of fame and riches and the lows of poverty and drug addiction. The take-home lesson from If You Have to Cry, Go Outside is that success is based on following your own dreams, not on what other people may think or tell you. As this is a very relevant message at this point in my life, I personally loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who is currently at a crossroads in their life. 

I quickly bought and devoured Kelly's second book, Normal Gets You Nowhere upon completion of her first book. Normal Gets You Nowhere addresses issues in our larger society, specifically the idea that we as a world community have been desensitized to other people's suffering. Kelly encourages her readers to fight back against that attitude by helping those less fortunate and people we are close to in our own lives. Both of Kelly's books are great reads and I encourage all of you to go get your own copies!

On a relevant note of contributing to the fight against suffering, I'm very pleased to promote a new philanthropic effort called Gone Reading International. Gone Reading is a company that sells products such as t-shirts, mugs and other gift items - all with a cute bookish spin - with 100% of the profits dedicated for the building of new libraries in the developing world. Click here for more information on Gone Reading's mission and goals. And don't forget to check out Gone Reading's cute "Jane Austen for President" collection!

Buy Kelly Cutrone's books on Amazon here
Connect with Kelly Cutrone at her website, here
Click here to access Gone Reading


Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Paris Wife (Paula McLain, 2011)


The Heroine: Hadley Richardson, a young woman living in 1920s Chicago and known to history as Ernest Hemingway's first wife. Plain, practical and intelligent, Hadley is at a crossroads in her life when she meets Ernest unexpectedly and is swept up in a romance that takes her across the Atlantic to Jazz-Age Paris, where money, art and sex intersect into a story of corruption and disillusionment.

The Highs: The author makes Paris of the 1920s come alive with her historically accurate details and her subtle descriptions that allude more to the attitude and feeling of the time and location than just the physicality. Interspersed with characters that have become legend since (Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein), the novel provides a window into an endlessly fascinating historical period, so different from our own that it sometimes feels like the people are not human at all, but some other species entirely.

Hadley herself is an extremely relate-able character, for anyone who has ever felt like a background bit player. She is warm, smart and kind, but not quite artistic enough or rich enough or innovative enough or unique enough to be fully accepted into the Paris set of creatives that dominated the city in this period. Instead, she observes from the outside, providing the grounding perspective on events that seem unimaginable to the reader. She is extremely well-written and the first person perspective pulls you into the story and makes you feel as if you are part of it.

This book reminded me pleasantly of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The novel's themes speak to the idea that opulence and extravagance only lead to ruin, not happiness. Though it is dreadful to read about Hadley's downfall, you become so attached to her character throughout the story that you cannot stop reading until you know her fate (car-crash style). The writing is nearly as sumptuous and beautiful as in The Great Gatsby, as well.

The Lows: Though this only speaks to good writing on the author's part, I found myself loathing Ernest Hemingway (or at least his character) by the end of the book, along with most of the characters featured in the Paris set. Selfish and thoughtless, they made me mourn the loss of the good in humanity. Hadley is the only character who retains her kindness and goodness at the end of the novel, which only makes me love her more.

I also felt there were some parts of the novel that lagged, perhaps because the writing felt more literary than emotional at certain dramatic points in the story. I would have appreciated more tension and more emotion from all of the characters, because it seemed like some of the outrageous moments would have inspired a more dramatic reaction from myself. But maybe I'm just a drama queen!

Final Thoughts: This book is a great read for anyone who loves The Great Gatsby and other American classics, or appreciates a story with a lot of moral and social commentary.

Rating: The Paris Wife earns seven spilled cocktails out of ten. 

Buy 'The Paris Wife' on Amazon here
Connect to author Paula McLain here
Picture from here

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The House at Riverton (Kate Morton, 2006)



The Heroine: Grace Reeves, a former maid to the aristocratic Hartford sisters at the beginning of the twentieth century. Told from her death bed in present day, Grace reveals the secrets she had kept for her charges, wise and restless Hannah and the glittering socialite Emmeline, by recording her story on tape for her grandson. Loyal, self-sacrificing and kind, Grace recounts a story of mystery, romance and suspense that brings England in the era of war, tradition and sparkling parties to life.

The Highs: I simply love Kate Morton's way with words. Her prose is gorgeous, both simple enough to understand and descriptive enough to suck you in and enrapture you in her universe. She also has a great understanding of suspense; the way she slowly unfolds the story, revealing a little at a time, keeps you from putting down her books. For a debut novel, The House at Riverton is a piece of spectacular writing.

I adore her characters, specifically the sisters Hannah and Emmeline. The character of Hannah is written so realistically, with a juxtaposition of being both duty-bound and restless for change. Hannah's competing values make her unpredictable and exciting to read about. Emmeline, on the other hand, is fascinating in her slow decline to delusions. Both characters are the kind of beautiful, charismatic, tragic heroines that ignite my imagination.

The historical detail included in The House at Riverton give every location, setting and event a very vibrant sense of authenticity, so important in writing a historical drama. Not only is every gas lamp, petticoat and kid glove in place, but the novel also uses real historical events, such as World War I and the beginning of the Jazz Age, and thoughts, like worker's unions and socialism, to shape each characters perspective and view on the world. Furthermore, this book is written in the true Gothic tradition, the type of story popular in the Victorian era, including the English country manor, the haunted characters, the intersecting of the present with the past... Overall, a beautiful and haunting read whether or not you're a history buff.

The Lows: I felt the novel could have been made even better if the evolution of Hannah and Emmeline's relationship from close sisters to competitors would have been given more attention. I feel that Emmeline's thoughts, emotions and actions were made too subtle to notice, until suddenly the climax of the story pops up. I would have enjoyed spending more time reading about Emmeline. It would have made the sense of impending doom, suspense and unpredictability more dramatic.

I also would have felt more closure with the story if Grace's relation to the Hartford's would have been more solidified, though I understand why the story turned out the way it did. Since I enjoyed this book so much, it's hard to find anything wrong with it beside nit-pickity annoyances.

Final Thoughts: The House at Riverton is a must-read, no matter what type of fiction you enjoy.

Rating: The House at Riverton deserves nine shorthand letters out of ten. 

Buy 'The House at Riverton' on Amazon here
Connect with author Kate Morton here
Photo by Charlotte Rutherford, found here

NEXT UP: A review of The Paris Wife by Paula McLean

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How to Be an American Housewife (Margaret Dilloway, 2010)



The Heroine: Shoko, a Japanese war bride who left for America with her soldier husband in the 1940s and never returned to her home country again. Set in the present day, Shoko is now elderly and ill and is forced to ask her daughter, Sue, to return to Japan in her place in order to be reunited with her estranged brother. Honest, demanding and intelligent, Shoko hasn't always gotten along with her artistic and sensitive daughter, but the two must now find a way to bond over their shared lost heritage.

The Highs: The mother/daughter relationship between Shoko and Sue is very realistic and actually reminds me very much of conversations I've had with my own mother. While Shoko is well-meaning, Sue takes her critiques as insults and retreats into her shell – a common dynamic that is expressed beautifully in this story through a mixture of emotion and anecdote. I feel like I got a lot of meaning from this book just based on this relationship.

I really loved Shoko's flashbacks to growing up in World War II Japan. This is not a setting that I know much about, and it had actually never occurred to me what happened to the average young girl like Shoko at the end of the war. Shoko's struggles to find a successful life really touched me and I especially appreciated the story of her lost love, Ronin.

I was also very intrigued by Sue's character, a young single mother, stuck in a career she hates. Sue's lack of guidance really struck me, as I often feel similarly lost in life, and I found her personal journey to change and self-discovery very inspiring.

The Lows: I would have appreciated more suspense in the plot. Shoko reveals the novel's "shocking twist" quite early on in the story and that drains most of the interest out of the story right there. While it's still a lovely book, there's nothing much else to force you to continue flipping the page.

I also would have appreciated more depth to Shoko's relationship with Ronin. It didn't seem like her feelings were deep enough for him to inspire her to risk her family's reputation. Another character where more development would have been appreciated is Shoko's mother. Perhaps there would be more insight to Shoko and her parenting techniques if the novel explored more about Shoko's relationship with her own mother.

Final Thoughts: While this book was enjoyable, the lack of suspense made it feel dry at times.

Rating: How to Be an American Housewife earns five paper cranes out of ten. 

Buy it on Amazon here
Connect with author Margaret Dilloway here
Photo from We Heart It

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bride of New France (Susanne Desrochers, 2011)



The Heroine: Laure Beausejour, a poor young woman living in a Paris dormitory reserved for the women that French society has no place for. A skilled lace worker, Laure dreams of one day owning her own dress shop and marrying into high society. However, when Laure is caught breaking dormitory rules, she is sent to Canada as a filles de roi: a woman of France designated as a wife for the fur-traders in Canada. Adventurous, resilient and often ill-tempered, Laure's selfish temperment benefits her survival in the harsh Canadian wilderness.

The Highs: Laure is a very interesting character to read about because she is not the typical insprational woman. She is snobbish towards her roommates, scornful and bitter towards those who have more money than herself and takes advantage of her only friend Madeleine. However, she is such a realistic character that its easy to become to attached to her and hope for her survival. The author should be congratulated on creating such a life-like character, especially on her first endeavour as a novelist.

It is obvious that a lot of historical research went into the writing of this novel. The book is stuffed full of historical facts and details that make the world of seventeenth century France come alive, though in a very different way than most descriptions of Paris. Laure lives in the underbelly of Paris, a place that typically remains untouched by authors. If anything, this book is very unique in every way.

I also enjoyed the star-crossed love between Laure and her Iroqouis friend, Deskaheh. It was an unusual pairing, but it made sense for Laure, as an unusual girl, to be attracted to such an odd match for the time.

On a more personal note, I enjoyed this book just based on the fact that it taught me a lot about my heritage that I wasn't aware of. My ancestors arrived on one of the first ships from France to Canada and its likely that there is a filles de roi somewhere on my family tree. I would recommend this book to anyone with a French-Canadian background!

The Lows: There were quite a few plot points that probably held symbolical value that went right over my head, particularily a scene where Laure's stomach is cut. I didn't always find Laure's emotional state very clear and therefore her actions were sometimes a mystery to me. I wish this book had better clarity on why certain things happened the way they did.

While I liked the love story between Laure and Deskaheh, as I mentioned before, I wish the author had taken it further to the next level. It would have made the story much more interesting and passionate, turning this novel into the type of book that's hard to put down. As it is, I'm left wanting more from the interaction between Laure and Deskaheh.

I also felt that the story ended rather adruptly. I would have liked to know what happened to Laure and how her life ended up.

Final Thoughts: This book is based on a really original idea and is a great read for anyone whose a history buff like me!

Rating: This book earns six animal pelts out of ten. 

Click here to purchase this book on Amazon
Click here to connect with the author Suzanne Desrochers
Photo from Weheartit.com

Top Ten Tuesdays!


Top Ten Books that the Title or Cover Made Me Buy

1. The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas: The simple yet intriguing title forced me to purchase this book, a decision I later regretted. I had to push myself to finish this book and its now collecting dust at the back of my bookcase. 

2. Juliet by Anne Fortier: I love the antique-looking rose on the cover, not to mention the romantic connotations of the name Juliet. 

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: The title is a two-fold suspense: what's the thirteenth tale, and if there are thirteen, what are the first twelve all about?

4. The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho: I love books about magic and the contrast of the woman's red hair and blue background on the cover really caught my eye. 

5. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf: The figure of the little girl holding the necklace behind her back made me curious to read this book. 

6. The Summer Garden by Paullina Simons: Of course I would have read this novel anyway (being a devoted lover of her Tatiana and Alexander trilogy) but I thought I would include it for the striking model featured on the front cover. 

7. The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: This title is pretty fantastic, though I didn't enjoy this book.

8. Divine Evil by Nora Roberts: I love the cover of the 2009 edition printed by Bantam, with the beautiful woman in the deep red cloak. Simply fabulous. 

9. Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky: I love the vintage-looking cover of this book. 

10. Bride of New France by Suzanne Desrochers: This title really interested me, since my heritage stems from the first settlers in Canada from France. 

Click here to join the Top Ten Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Forgotten Garden (Kate Morton, 2008)



The Heroine: Cassandra, an Australian antique dealer who has recently lost her husband and son in a terrible accident. When her grandmother Nell dies, she is pulled into the mystery of Nell's unknown origins: where did she come from, and how did a child end up alone at the Queensland wharf? Cassandra is serious, lonely and grieving, but she uses Nell's mystery to help her find purpose in life again and ultimately turn over a new leaf in her life.

The Highs: The Forgotten Garden is full of interesting characters who are each given their time to shine. Even better, the majority of them are women who all contribute something important to the story. There is Eliza Makepeace, a poor orphan with enough spunk to unsettle the somber Montrachet estate. There is Rose Montrachet, the sickly debutante with romantic aspirations. And there is even the evil Lady Adeline Montrachet, who controls the estate with iron talons. Each character is colourful and left me flipping the pages to learn more about them.

I also adored the interwoven story plot. Cassandra's discoveries in the present day would lead into a flashback that made the story and the mystery itself richer and gave it more layers. The novel is laid out perfectly for maximum suspense and leaves you wanting more at the end of each chapter. The author's use of weaving in details in also fantastic. I especially adored the scene involving Frances Hodgson Burnett (author of The Secret Garden) viewing Eliza's hidden garden. Interesting and quirky details like that make me really impressed with an author's work.

I loved the setting, specifically the Montrachet estate on the Cornish coast. What girl doesn't dream of living in a breath-taking stately stone castle with sea views? I was very intrigued by the maze and the hidden garden, as well. Overall, I really had a very strong picture of the scenery in my mind.

The Lows: There were a few things I wish the author had elaborated on, specifically the purpose of the maze and Linus Montrachet. First of all, why was there a maze planted on the property to begin with? I feel like so much more could have been done with the maze, since it is such a dark and mysterious sort of place. And as far as Linus Montrachet goes, I am still curious as to the kind of relationship (so to speak) he had with his sister. I also wonder whether or not he had a mental illness. Either way, I wish I had answers to these questions.

I also wish Nathaniel Walker, Rose's husband, played a bigger role in the story. He comes off a little like a stock character or a prop. I found that he was sketched out as an interesting character (a poor painter with a deep love for illustration and his wife!) but in actual practice, he seemed a little flat. I know the author is capable of writing great characters, so I'm not sure what went wrong.

Final Thoughts: I loved The Forgotten Garden. It definitely appealed to my romantic tendencies and soft heart. I've already recommended this book to friends!

Rating: The Forgotten Garden earns nine plot twists out of ten. 

Click here to buy it on Amazon
Click here to connect to the author Kate Morton
Photo from I Heart Elegance

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