Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 14&15 – IT Had To Be You and This Heart of Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

I had to review these books together as they are two of my favorite in Susan Elizabeth Phillips Chicago Stars series.  I admitted before Im a sucker for a good romance and if its well written and has a great plot it goes on my bookshelf for numerous rereads.  These two were reread this spring with great enthusiasm and I decided to share a couple of my favorites with you.

It Had to Be You is the story of Phoebe Somerville, who inherits the Chicago Stars football team and a half sister Molly she didnt know, when her father dies.  He leaves her the team thinking she is a flakey bimbo who needs some responsibility and after a rough start, she settles in and takes on head coach Dan Calebow.  Dan is a legendary player turned head coach and goes toe to toe with Phoebe on how to run the team.  As the team heads toward a championship with Dan and Phoebe running the helm together, their love story blossoms. Molly is a lively character and blossoms with her sister.  When the championship game is on the line, Dan manages to recover after having his players try to throw the game in an effort to save Phoebe.   She gets away and in the end, Dan saves Phoebes life from a crazy fan and they settle into a happy ever after.

By the time SEP wrote This Heart of Mine, she was a much more experience writer and the characters were richer, brighter and more real life.  This Heart of Mine is the story of Molly and Kevin Tucker, one of Dan’s players-the daredevil star quarterback.  Molly, a childrens author, after giving away her inheritance from her hateful father, winds up with Kevin at a weekend lodge and hastily marries him when she finds herself pregnant.  After a miscarriage, Kevin resorts to bribery and takes her with him to visit his family campground.  While there, they fall in love and save each other; Kevin learns to settle down and be happy with his past and Molly learns to trust Kevin as they work the campground.  Molly’s childrens stories and the stories characters are featured throughout the book and are silly but engaging.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips manages to bring her characters to live on the page.  They arent all beautiful but they are real.  They arent all perfect but they learn how to combat their foibles.  Her writing draws you in and it doesnt stagnate but builds into a great ending where you get the happy ever after while the head coach is walking a poodle on its evening poop walk.


See you at the finish line!!

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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 12 – My Life in France by Julia Child

After watching Meryl Streep play Julia Child in Julie & Julia, I was determined to read My Life in France by Julia Child.  It was a wonderful book and I learned so much just reading the book.  To add to my Juila Child fascination, my best friend gave me my own copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I fell in love with cooking all over again.

Child based her book, which she co-writes with her nephew, on letters and correspondence that was written while she and her husband, Paul Child wrote home to family and friends as they were stationed oversees.  The book itself must be read due to the original pictures Paul Child took interspersed  throughout.

Julia Child, upon arrival in France, was thrilled with the wonderful cooking to be found in Paris.  She quickly falls in love with French cooking and attends Cordon Blue cooking school.  After mastering the program she starts teaching other ex pat wives in France and begins working on a French cookbook for American kitchens with her friends.  After many trial recipes, the book is eventually published and is quickly recognized as a seminal work in French cooking.

As the cookbook gained popularity, was reprinted and Child stepped in front of the camera to share with us her great passion, each word portrays an incredible life of two food lovers.  Bon Appetit!!

See you at the finish line!!


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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 11 – The Shoemakers Wife by Adriana Trigiani

I have read other works by this author and love how she engages her reader.  Adriana Trigiani’s latest offering, The Shoemakes Wife, is loosely based on her grandparents story and its very well done.

The novel starts off in Northern Italy at the turn of the century, telling the story of Ciro, a young boy who’s father died in America.  His mother left him along with his older brother with the local nuns and went down the hill.  The boys grew up in the church with the nuns to guide them.  When Ciro catches the Father in an illicit embrace with a young woman he likes, he is sent to American.

Enza lives with her family in the next town, and is the oldest child in the family.  When her youngest sister dies, Ciro digs the grave for the family and offers comfort to Enza.  She thinks of him often but when she looks for him, he is already gone.

Fastforward to NYC and Ciro and Enza again cross paths.  Enza is thrilled to see him again yet Ciro still isnt ready to settle down.  As a Dough Boy, he arrives just in time to stop her from marrying someone else and in short order wisks her off to the Iron Ore fields in Minnesota as they start their family.

I “read” this book on audiotape and loved the novel.  My only hesitation in recommending this audiobook is the readers. Halfway through the novel the author reads her own novel. The initial reader enchanted me with her inflections on this story.  When the readers switch, I was shocked.  It changed the novel and it lumped along.  The authors reading distracted me and quite frankly turned me off so badly I struggled to listen to the rest of this wonderful book.

All in all, this was well researched, beautifully entwined and written in an engaging manner.  I would recommend the book but not the audiobook.

See you at the finish line!!

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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 13 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I decided to read this book before the movie came out due in large part to its popularity with some of my students.  They were all very excited about the movie and I felt it was time for me to see what all the hubbub was about…so I cracked the cover.  And didnt move from the couch until I read the last page.  At which point, I resurfaced, looked around and wondered where to find the rest of the series now!!

This book was set in post war America where there were now only 12 areas that people occupy.  Katniss, a 16 year old girl who lives in (what appears to be) Appalachia in this new world, is whip smart, a skilled hunter, who provides for her mother and sister.  The area they live in is very poor and food is scarce.  Each year, the government selects a boy and a girl from each of the 12 areas to go to the Hunger Games.  The games are a reenactment, a sacrifice from each area to remind them that the government rules and to keep uprisings to a minimum. Katniss steps in and takes her sisters place at the games.

The games are a cross between Lord of the Flies meets Romeo and Juliet meets 1984 mets The Running Man.  They are vicious, bloody and controlled by the government who run the game to keep each district in line. The characters have a handler who had won in the past, and helped them understand what they needed to do to survive.  The world of the capital is all about how things look but there is no reality.  The games begin with all the boys and girls let loose in an arena.  The purpose of the games it to survive and kill off all competition. Katniss survives, and manages to bring home the boy from her district as well after outwitting the government.  It was a bloody, gorey, tragic, exciting, and heroic story and I can well understand the hubbub its created.  Its clever, realistic and lively.

See you at the finish line!

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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 10 – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I LOVED this book!  I just had to make that the first thing I tell you, dear reader! What a wonderful and marvelous story.  Alan Bradley is an extremely talented writer.  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first novel of Flavia de Luce but by no means the last. And I cant wait to get the next one.

This charming book is the story of the youngest de Luce daughter, Flavia, who is quite a bright young chemist-enthusiast living at Buckshaw, a rambling multi-centuried British aristocracy home.  The story is told from the 11 year old’s view of the world.  She is extremely bright, somewhat clinical, endearing, pragmatic, and full of energy and spunk.  The character of Flavia engages you from the very first.

Bradley’s use of the English language is brilliant.  He has a wonderful way of bringing this character to life on the pages of this book.  There is something about the way he orchestrates words on the page that remind me of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.   The use of language is not blousey and overblown, its a dance of images that engage the senses and put into place a beautiful concerto of literary imagery that few can truly master. I loved this book and highly, enthusiastically and whole-heatedly recommend it to both readers old and young.

See you at the finish line!

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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 9-The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood

In the Ideal Man by Julie Garwood, the typical romance begins with a shooting in a park.  Enter our hero and heroine.

Max Daniels is a FBI agent from Hawaii in hot pursuit of a modern day Bonnie-and-Clyde who open fire in a park full of people.  Enter Dr. Ellie Sullivan, brilliant young trauma surgeon (who happens to have legs up to here!).  Ellie had been sent away from her family at a young age after an older  local teenage boy escaped from an institution and manged to finally get her alone and after severely beating her, left her for dead.

Ellie has to go back home for her sisters wedding (her sister slept with Ellie’s fiance when Ellie brought him home to meet the family and is now marrying the looser). Max joins her for the wedding and manages once and for all to kill the evil, no-longer-instituionalized creepy neighbor who is living in his parents attic.

This book was not as good as the typical Garwood offering.  It lacked flow to the story but all in all, I enjoyed reading this book. I would have liked the plot to have been a little less choppy and the story to have flowed a little smoother.

And in the end, the Knight-in-shining-armor gets the pretty girl and they ride (ok-fly!!) off into the Hawaiian sunset to live happily ever after.  The end!

See you at the finish line!

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Rachelmarjne #CBR4 Review 8 – The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

I picked this book up based on a recommendation I read on Amazon.  The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane looked interesting and had some really good reviews.    I really enjoyed this book!

The book starts outin 1600’s Massachusetts.  A little girl who is sick is being attended to by a local woman.  Then there is a trial – the father accuses the woman of casting a spell on his sick daughter.  Enter Connie Goodwin, a Harvard grad student in search of a primary source for her dissertation thesis, who is asked by her mom to go close up her grandmothers house in Salem.  The house is old, overgrown, hand-built,  and has been in the family for many years.  Connie explores and finds a key with a piece of paper tightly rolled and slid inside that reads “Deliverance Dane.”  And so Connie begins to search out just who is Deliverance Dane.

This book is a little intense but the climax is beautifully built.  Rather than slam the witch trials right into the beginning, they are interwoven through Connie’s search for the book.  The trials are described through the eyes of the women on trial and the daughter of Deliverance so very poignant, rich with emotion and ripe with understanding.  I was a little concerned that the trials would be the focus of the book an intense, decidedly off-putting but that wasnt the case.  Connie’s does find the book, she cures her sick boyfriend with it and the story comes full circle when she realizes she is the great great (many more ) great granddaughter of Deliverance.

One of the things I thought most interesting was that the book is placed in the 90’s before cell phones and google were common to research.  It was a time before and it was set in a different pace than the one we live in 20 years later.  I would recommend this one highly to other readers. I have never been to Boston and I would like to travel there and visit Salem and some of the coast towns especially after reading this book.

See you at the finish line!

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