Monday, December 29, 2008

The Deep End of the Ocean

It's not that I haven't been reading over the holidays--I haven't been posting reviews! I've read several books this month, and am eager to share them with you.

The first one I have to recommend is general market fiction, The Deep End of the Ocean, by Jacquelyn Mitchard.
The Deep End of the Ocean, published in 1996, was not only Jacquelyn Mitchard’s debut novel, it was the debut novel in Oprah’s Book Club. I can’t think why it took me so long to get around to reading this gripping, suspenseful book, but having read it, I can’t get it out of my mind.
The Deep End of the Ocean hooked me from the first page. I picked it up one evening recently and 110 pages later finally gave in to my burning eyes and turned off the light. The story begins in a crowded hotel lobby, where Beth Cappadora is registering for a room. She leaves her seven and three-year-old sons together while she talks to the desk clerk, and when she turns around, three-year-old Ben is gone. How could he have disappeared in a hotel lobby filled with people, none of whom remember seeing him?
The novel explores the impact of his disappearance on Ben’s parents, siblings, and extended family. There are twists and turns throughout the plot. Suffice to say, Mitchard’s novel takes the reader in unexpected directions. The book is skillfully written, using the alternating points of view of Ben’s mother and older brother. Mitchard nails both viewpoints perfectly.
I think one reason I hesitated to read The Deep End of the Ocean for such a long time was that I feared it would be depressing. It isn’t. I completely recommend this book for adult readers. To use a film rating, I’d give it an “R” for adult themes and language, and an A+ for being one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
A note to my readers who are also writers: In the Author’s Interview at the back of the book, Jacquelyn Mitchard is asked what advice she would give to aspiring writers. Here’s her reply: “Two pieces of advice, and they’re in order of importance. One, read a lot more than you think you have time for. And two, never let anyone talk you out of your dreams.” I agree completely.
If you’ve already read The Deep End of the Ocean, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ruby Among Us by Tina Ann Forkner

Tina Ann Forkner's debut novel, Ruby Among Us, is the story of Lucy DiCamillo’s haunted memories of her mother, who died when Lucy was a child.
The opening chapter, titled "How to Measure Grief," is a stunning beginning to a mesmerizing story. The reader will be immediately drawn into world of questions without answers.
Many of us hunger to learn more about our mothers. In Lucy's case, this quest is thwarted at every turn by her well-meaning but fiercely protective grandmother, Kitty. Is Kitty hiding truths about her daughter, Ruby, or is she protecting her own past?
Forkner’s writing is skilled and spot-on, never more so than when she is in Lucy's point of view. One sentence I particularly loved, and underlined, reads as follows: “Tears didn’t make me an idiot or some breakable thing.” What woman among us hasn't felt the frustration of being treated like we were brainless because we cried?
Lucy's search for belonging takes her from Sacramento and San Francisco to the lush Sonoma Valley. Forker's descriptions bring each locale to vibrant life. I grew up in the area Forkner writes about, and could picture every scene. But a reader who has never set foot in California would be equally at home due to the author’s astute attention to detail.
Ruby Among Us had me racing through the chapters, as much caught up in the hunger to know Lucy’s heritage as Lucy herself. The satisfying climax of the story will resonate with readers long after they’ve finished this book.
This book is a solid addition to my bookshelf. I recommend it as a heart-stirring story of mother-daughter love.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Love Starts With Elle

In Love Starts With Elle, Rachel Hauck has come up with another winner. Set in the Low Country of South Carolina, Love Starts With Elle is one of those stories where the setting is almost a character. Reading about Elle's life makes me want to book a flight back to the warmth of Beaufort, especially right now when it's cold and rainy outside.

In Hauck's preceding book, Sweet Caroline, Elle was on a quest to date every eligible man in Beaufort in order to find a husband. Over thirty, she felt time was running out. Love Starts With Elle opens with Elle succeeding in her quest. Or does she? Jeremiah, the magnetic new youth pastor at Elle's church, asks her to marry him. But the proposal comes with strings attached, and Elle has to make some hard decisions.

How she works through the many crises that Jeremiah's proposal bring into her life kept me turning pages to read "just one more" chapter. Love Starts With Elle is a charming story--touching and funny at the same time. I highly recommend it. If you haven't already read Sweet Caroline, buy that one too, and read them both.
Please let me know if you've read this one, and what you thought.