Thursday, July 28, 2011

Left Neglected by Lisa Genova

I was a HUGE fan of Still Alice (still am). When I saw that Lisa Genova had written a new novel Left Neglected I knew it would be good and I had to have it. I would still consider Still Alice my favorite of the two, but I loved this novel as well.

Sarah Nickerson doesn't have time to slow down. She works 60-80 hours a week, is married, and raises three kids. She isn't complaining. She loves her job and her family. Her lifelong ambition has put her right where she wants to be - great husband, great kids, promising career, house in the best neighborhood, house in the mountains. Life takes a major turn, however, when she is trying to juggle a work call while driving in the rain and is in a serious car accident. This accident leaves her with a brain injury that requires her to look at the world differently. Not because she wants to, but literally because she sees it in a new way - without the left side. She has a brain injury called Left Neglect and can no longer see or process anything to her left. In her fight to heal Sarah gets a fresh look at life and what's important. She finds herself healing more than her brain as she re-thinks her fast paced life and comes to terms with her relationship with her mother.

Left Neglected was engrossing, educational, emotional, and moving. In today's fast paced world most of us can relate to Sarah. We may or may not be working 60-80 hours a week, but job and family demands still keep us over-scheduled. I wish I could say I have never messed with my phone while driving, but that would be a lie. After reading this it has been much easier to make the decision to keep the phone tucked in my purse while driving. I keep myself listening to audio books and use driving as me time. Anyway, too many of us in search of "the good life" move fast and don' t slow down enough to enjoy life and our loved ones. And, unfortunately, most of us never even realize it. Left Neglected makes you reexamine the way we live our lives. It teaches us to appreciate the moments and to look at now instead of always reaching for tomorrow.

While reading I kept thinking that Sarah moved faced and dreamed big so she could forget about the pain of her past. Her brother drowned when she was a child and she and the rest of her family never really healed. This brings us to the relationship between Sarah and her mother, Helen, or rather the lack of one. Helen shut off after her son died and Sarah never really felt she had a mother. After the Sarah's car accident Helen rushes to be with her, but Sarah can't fathom why her nonexistent mother would suddenly want to be around let alone help. The novel does a great job of exploring depression and familial relationships after a loss. The story line drew me in and made me root for healing. Sarah's changed state puts her in a place to understand and know her mother in a way she never thought possible. They struggled to deal with the past and get through the intensive therapy Sarah must endure all while knowing each other for the first time in Sarah's adult life.

Lisa Genova is an amazing writer. She creates characters that are easy to relate to and pull at your heart. Her knowledge as a PhD of neuroscience really took this novel from good to phenomenal. I found the entire Left Neglect brain injury fascinating and scary. It is just crazy the things that can happen to your body in an accident. Sarah's struggles to function as a "normal" person were painful to read. At some points it felt a little monotonous, but I really think it was done this way to show that the process was on-going and it really was monotonous. It was written in a way that put you in the therapy with Sarah. She didn't just suddenly heal like a story in a book she worked hard for every step forward. She whined and she got mad and she was in denial just like you would really experience.

I actually listened to this novel as an audio book. It was narrated by Sarah Paulson. I thought Paulson did a wonderful job with her narration. She had a nice pace and portrayed the emotions well with her reading. I will admit that she has some type of lisp that made it hard to listen as first. As the story developed and I got drawn in I no longer noticed it. I would listen to another novel narrated by Ms. Paulson, but I would be crossing my fingers that it was as engaging as Left Neglected so I could forget the lisp.

I did receive a paper copy of this book from Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster) in an exchange for my review. I received an email stating they were looking for reviews while I was actively listening to it, and I thought why not! I was enjoying the audio so much that I wanted a paper copy on my shelf next to Still Alice. Thanks Gallery Books!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Help - Movie

I consider myself so lucky tonight. I got a pass to an Advanced Screening of The Help. I brought along my Man for a date. It was so, so good. I typically find myself disappointed by movie renditions, but not tonight! It stayed so true to the book and made me want to read it over again. Now, I have to keep in mind that I read the book quite awhile back, but nothing stuck out as out of place or new to my memories of The Help.

I loved, loved, loved it! I think I cried 3 times, and laughed a few more. The Man really enjoyed it as well. In fact, I didn't hear anyone leaving make a negative comment.

Interesting fact - I found out that the screening company sent out emails to all the area churches to ask staff to attend (how many secretaries do you think passed that on to the big Pastor boss - none that I met LOL). I know that it has a spiritual side, but I don't remember being overwhelmed by it when I read the book or thinking it was a religious book. I guess if you are religious it just may not stand out to you. Anyway, I found it very interesting that they had marketed to churches (and then gave them preferential seating even though I was literally the first in line). Luckily I ran into staff from my church and they saved us some prime seats. Thanks Melissa!!

I can't recommend the movie enough. You must go see it if you enjoyed the book.

Official Movie Trailer

Book Description courtesty of The Penguin Group

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women:

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chasing Amanda by Melissa Foster

Today I am hosting the blog tour for Melissa Foster's sophomore novel Chasing Amanda. Before I post my review I would like to let you get to know Melissa a little. Rather than ask her questions she has answered a million times or give her a boxed-in topic, I gave her free range of my page. (After reading two of her books I had no doubt that she would write something better than what I could try to pry out of her and I wasn't disappointed). So without further ado Melissa Foster...

The Reality of Character Development, by Melissa Foster

When Alison invited me to write a guest post, I really had to think about what I wanted to say. So many bloggers provide guidelines for guest posts, and Alison was kind enough to simply ask for whatever it was that I wanted to write. Thank you, Alison, for giving me such an open road.

I find myself staring at a blank page, and wondering what Alison’s blog readers might find interesting. I’m often asked about my characters, and if they’re based on real people. What I’m never asked about, is how real those characters become to me. Now, we’ve got a meaty topic!

As an author, I have the privilege of coming up with the setting, plots and subplot of my stories, which can be incredibly fun. The characters, however, offer a different type of fun. While I do have the role of developing each character, which is a very cool undertaking, there’s also a great responsibility that goes along with the creation of these people who I will live with for the next nine months to a year (or longer).

Typically, my characters appear with backgrounds, personalities, and even styles in place, making the physical side of development easy. The more difficult part of character development is making the characters flawed. In real life, all people have flaws and vulnerabilities. The trick in writing is to create flaws and expose vulnerabilities while continuing to develop the character’s strengths and likability.

I take the responsibility of developing three-dimensional, realistically flawed characters very seriously, going so far as to live with them for probably way too long. I think about my characters long after I’ve written the books. Their backgrounds and scenes play out in my mind like movies. Sometimes I even catch myself laughing (out loud) about what one of my characters might think about something that’s going on in real life.

The next time you run into me, if you see that I have a far-off look in my eye, you might want to sidle up and ask me which “friend” I’m thinking about. ‘-)

If you’re in a book club, or just want to chat about writing, email me: thinkhappygirl (at) yahoo (dot) com.

My Review:

Chasing Amanda is a complex novel full of characters wearing the mask of one life and living the turmoil of another.

Molly Tanner seems to have it all. Married for many years to her husband Dr. Cole Tanner, they are still in love and extremely happy. Her son Erik has gone to college, but phones regularly and remains close to his parents. However, Molly struggles with the gift (and curse) of "the Knowing". She can see and feel things that have happened or are going to occur. Nine years prior she ignored her ability and a child named Amanda lost her life. Unable to live with the guilt, Molly's family moved to the small town of Boyd's to start fresh. Now this seemingly safe community has been rocked by the abduction of a child. Molly's past comes back to torment her and her family as she begins to have visions of the missing child. She struggles to determine what she is really seeing and what is still haunting her from the past. As we follow Molly through her race to find the child we also see the development of many other residents of Boyds who harbor their own secrets.

Chasing Amanda is told from various character viewpoints, but is never difficult to follow. Each character gradually reveals a vital part of the mystery while adding another shocking detail to their life. I was initially worried that there may be "too much" happening, but it seemed to be just right. Each character was developed so fully that I felt like I knew them personally. I routed for them and feared as I read on that a character I had grown to love was going to be guilty of a heinous crime. As each of their stories grow so does your understanding of why they have made the choices that are now ruling them.

The mystery has so many twists and turns that it was impossible to figure out who was guilty of what. Heck, for awhile I wasn't even sure what they were doing to know what they could be guilty of. It all comes together beautifully in the end, but it had me guessing the entire time. As soon as I was sure that I knew what was happening another bombshell exploded. I was hooked from page 1.

Melissa Foster is a fabulous writer. I reviewed her first book Megan's Way here. It still continues to be one of my favorite reads as a blogger. On a very exciting note it is currently being adapted to film. I have very happily kept in touch with Melissa as she continues to write and I anxiously await each of her new novels. Melissa is also the founder of The Women's Nest a wonderful site for women.

Melissa did provide me with an e-copy of this novel for my review. However, I really enjoyed it and bought a copy to support her and to be able to easily read it across all of my devices.

Thanks so much Melissa for inviting me to participate in your blog tour.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon -- from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

(Includes Special, Never-Before-Solicited Opinions on Breastfeeding, Princesses, Photoshop, the Electoral Process, and Italian Rum Cake!)

If any book could bring me out of blogging hibernation I knew this was the one. I definitely wasn't disappointed when I started reading. If you enjoy Tina Fey's comedic style then this is the the book for you. If you don't well you have been warned. The wit and humor she is known for flows off the page. Personally, I was in HEAVEN! I think my laughter started on page 1 and never stopped. This was that book where you keep reading passages out loud to your significant other. You know while they roll their eyes, but then can't help but laugh because it really is funny.

In Bossypants Tina Fey manages to share bits of her personal and her professional life. It is part autobiographical, bust she just skims the surface of her actual life to set up her jokes. You will read about bits of her childhood, her marriage, Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, college years, etc. It just doesn't dive deep. It isn't full of life changing secrets or advice or political positions. It won't convert you to any religion or new diet. What is will do it make you laugh. It is a book for fun and joy. I would recommend it for anyone who likes Tina Fey.

I received this book free from Hachette Book Group in exchange for a review. However, I will say that I enjoyed this book so much that I am considering purchasing the audiobook. It is read by Tina Fey and I imagine hearing her timing of the jokes would make it that much better.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Total Randomness

It's like I want to blog, but every darn time I think about it I go running from the computer. It's that I stop and start. I feel like a failure. Then I realize. This blog is mine! I can come and go when I please. I may not be the "go to" blog for anyone, but I can still do it.

Life takes me in so many directions.

I got married in January. It was awesome!

I tote my kids from place to place (but a bit less now since my daughter drives). I have my kids and my stepkids here for the summer. That makes a house of 6. Besides toting them I just love spending time with them. I watch them play sports. At home we act silly and have fun. We will be going to the pool all summer.

Oh and now I have this obsession with trying to eat better. I am cutting back on meat and trying to eat more natural foods. Plant-based baby! Now, if I could just get immersed enough in it to lose weight.

I play soccer with friends every Wednesday night. I joined the Blondes v Brunettes Flag Football event for Alzheimer's again. What a great time for a great cause!

Oh and I read the crap out of some books! I usually read one on the Kindle, one paper book, and listen to one on audio at the same time.

Things I don't do:
Garden - to the dread of my neighbors spring comes and we are the only house without a pretty landscape. I would love to but...

Keep a spotless house - While I would like to walk into a spotless house who wants to spend their life cleaning??

Get up early - I hate waking up! Once I am out of bed I'm fine, but before that forget about it. I am perpetually late for work.

So maybe I'm back and for awhile. I do have some definite book reviews I want to post. Plus, now I think I will throw in other randomness. I might just post on occasion or I might get blog crazy. We'll see...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Got Books Giveaway

Ahhh!!! Late to the game, but here I am! This year has been a hard one for me to fit blogging into, but I still read my books. Books make all the difference for me. If I am stressed or just need to get away I open a book and it's instant transport to another time and place. I have had very little time to sit down and tell you about the books I am reading right now, but I am holding a contest for you to win your own transportation to another time and place.

Rules for Entry:
1. This one is simple. If the books I'm giving away look good to you then comment below. Make sure you leave your email so I can notify you if you win. I will pick a winner for each book so tell me which one you like.

2. This is a short contest. My winners will be chosen Sunday, July 25th. I will send an email and you will have 3 days to respond.

Book 1: The Passage by Justin Cronin
I chose this book because it is a must read of the summer. I received it as an ARC and loved it! Here is my review. This is the first book in a trilogy and it is one I think you will find yourself very quickly drawn into. For more info on the book visit the official website. For book related fun visit this site (also an official website).

Book 2: Rabbit: Chasing Beth Rider by Ellen C. Maze
Okay, I haven't read this book yet, but I am going to get to it very soon. I have read a sample of the first 100 pages and I have got to finish this book! You want to read the 184 page sample? Here it is...
Here's the other reason I am giving the book away - I won a contest by the author to help name a victim in the 2nd book of this series. LOL I used my ex-husband's name. Maybe that isn't nice, but I thought it was funny. So anyway, I want all of you to be ready read book 2! I am friend's with the author on Facebook, but I haven't told her I am giving away her book yet. I think she will be pleasantly surprised! Now my order to her will be asking for 2 rather than 1!

Book description from Amazon is here. BTW, the average rating for this book on Amazon is 5 Stars!! Or visit the book site Ellen would love to see you!

Okay, I know both of these books have a vampire type theme, but I promise they are completely different and worth the read!! What are you waiting for get your comment entered!!!