Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Bloom by Kelle Hampton

A few weeks after Claire was born a birth story starting showing up on the internet.  It was the beautiful story of a birth, followed by the unexpected news that the baby had Down syndrome.  We were nearly certain Claire had Down syndrome so the news wasn't a shock to us like it was for the Hampton's, but the raw emotion in the post resonated with me, and I couldn't help but cry when I read it.  Even now, nearly three years later, my eyes prick with tears when I reread the post.

This birth story was my introduction to Kelle Hampton and her blog, Enjoying the Small Things.  Kelle had been blogging long before Nella's arrival, but that birth story introduced her blog to a whole new set of fans.  Because our girls were nearly the same age, and because Kelle seemed to be *the* Down syndrome blogger to keep up with, I started following along.

After reading her blog for a while I discovered Kelle and I are so very different.  Her world is (seemingly) filled with perfectly dressed kids, extravagant parties, beautifully staged photos and I often left her blog feeling a bit defeated.  She seemed to have it all together, and I was lucky to have time to do the dishes and take a shower.

Because I felt so far removed from her way of life I didn't read her memoir, Bloom, for quite a while. (I actually had to check it out from the library three times.  It kept expiring because I never made time to read it, even though it is a fast read.)  If you've read Kelle's blog, expect more of the same from her book.  If you are new to her...there are stories about her amazing group of friends and all their crazy times together, beer handed out liberally, and lots of dudes, bad asses and hot messes.

My main criticism of the book is that it's not particularly well written.  There are quite a few times I had to remind myself that this was a grown women, a mother, telling her story and not a high school student.  Parts of the book were incredibly juvenile, as if Kelle was mainly concerned about still being the cool kid, even though she now has this not quite perfect daughter.  I wanted the raw emotion that came through in Nella's birth story, and I just didn't have the same connection to Bloom.

Where Bloom shines is with the photographs.  Kelle is incredibly talented, her girls are beautiful and that helps Bloom appeal to people without children with disabilities.  People can easily glance through the photos and see that Kelle's life, and ours too, really isn't that different from anyone else's.

Recommended? Yes and no.  There are many, many people in the Down syndrome community who have read and fallen in love with this book.  Many seem to connect with the emotion in it, but I wasn't one of them.  I would read a sentence here and there are think YES!! I remember feeling that way.  But I wanted those moments of connection throughout the entire book, and I just didn't have that.

I think Kelle has managed to take away some of the fear surrounding Down syndrome with her photography, book and blog, and I appreciate that. Read this book for the photos.  As with any memoir, remember that this is Kelle's experience, not mine.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Books Read in 2011

updated 3/22/11

1. Shattered Dreams by Irene Spencer, finished 02/08/11, audio
2. Tick Tock by James Patterson, finished 02/13/11
3. Strategic Moves by Stuart Woods, finished 2/25/11
4. The Last Lie by Stephen White, finished 3/17/11
6. Coming Back Stronger by Drew Brees, fin 4/18/11
7. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Laarson, fin 4/19/11, audio
9. The Girl who Played with Fire by Steig Laarson, fin 5/15/11, audio
10. Bel-Air Dead by Stuart Woods, fin 6/10/11
11. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Steig Laarson, fin 6/25/11, audio
12. Storm Prey by John Sandford, fin 6/26/11

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason

Book Info: The King's Daughter by Christie Dickason
Author Extras: Website
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: TLC Book Tours, Publisher for Review
Rating: 4/5

Summary from the Publisher:

The daughter of a king – on sale to the highest bidder. As First Daughter of England, Elizabeth seems to live a life of privilege and luxury. Yet she is imprisoned by duty; a helpless pawn in the political machinations of her father, James I. She trusts only her beloved brother Henry until she is sent a slave-girl, Tallie, who becomes her unlikely advisor. As their friendship grows, the innocent Elizabeth must learn to listen to dangerous truths about her louche father and his volatile court. Can she risk playing their games of secrecy and subterfuge in order to forge her path to love and freedom?


It's been a little while since I've read any historical fiction, but this genre is one of my favorites when I just want to escape into a book.  So many HF books these days focus on the Tudors, and I was initially drawn to this book because it didn't.  I enjoy reading about different historical figures and time periods, instead of focusing on just one era.

Dickason really brought the Jacobean court to life.  The King's Daughter was rich in detail, but it wasn't overpowering.  I could really picture the clothes, the lifestyle, and those are the details that make a book special. 

I really liked Elizabeth, though I found myself feeling sorry for her for much of the book. Especially when it came to her father, she was simply a pawn to be used and manipulated.  King James was particularly unlikable, which made me that much more sympathetic to Elizabeth.  At times though, she did seem a little modern in her thinking.  It wasn't enough to be unbelievable, but just enough to make me pause.

The King's Daughter is a very enjoyable book, and a found myself staying up late to finish the book.  I will be reading more of Dickason's work, especially if she continues telling Elizabeth's story.

About the Author:

 Christie Dickason was born in America but also lived as a child in Thailand, Mexico and Switzerland. Harvard-educated, and a former theatre director and choreographer (with the Royal Shakespeare Company and at Ronnie Scott's among others), she lives in London with her family.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen

Book Info:
Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen
Author Extras: Website, Facebook, Twitter
Source: Library, Audio
Rating: 2.5/5

Summary from the Publisher:


She's young. She's beautiful. And her corpse, laid out in the office of Boston medical examiner Kat Novak, betrays no secrets -- except for a matchbook clutched in one stiff hand, seven numbers scrawled inside.

When a second victim is discovered, Kat begins to fear that a serial killer is stalking the streets. The police are sceptical. The mayor won't listen. And Kat's chief suspect is one of the town's most prominent citizens.

With the death toll rising, Kat races to expose a deadly predator who is closer than she ever dreamt. And every move she makes could be her very last.


The very first thing you need to know about this book is that it is a re-issue.  It was originally released in 1994 as Peggy Sue Got Murdered.  I listened the audio version, and it included an introduction explaining that Gerritsen sees this novel as her first book that blended romance with crime writing.  The introduction also mentioned that the book was updated for the re-issue.  I'm not quite sure what that means, but maybe the addition of cell phones...

I've been reading Gerritsen's books for years, and this is the first one I've been a little disappointed with.  If I'd realized it was a re-issue, and romantic suspense before I started listening, I probably would have skipped it.  It wasn't terrible, but I really prefer Gerritsen's grittier Rizzoli and Isles series.

My biggest complaint with the book is that some of the character's actions were unbelievable, and this kept distracting me from the story.  For example, at one point Kat, the medical examiner, is talking to a person of interest in the case.  He starts asking some questions about another body in the morgue, and she pulls out the file and tells him all of the findings on that case. 

It's been a few months since I listened to this one, so I don't really have any specific comments on the narrator.  While I didn't find anything about her delivery particularly memorable, I also don't really have any complaints.  If you like romantic suspense, Girl Missing is decent, but if you prefer series books, or more mystery and less romance, try the Rizzoli and Isles series.  2.5 stars, ok+

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Book Info:
Room by Emma Donoghue
Source: Publisher for Review
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary from the Publisher:

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.


It's been a while since I've read a book that I've felt was truly original, but Room is unlike anything I have ever read before.  There were a couple of instances where I thought the plot was a little weak, but in order to move the story forward, I think this was necessary.  This didn't impact my overall enjoyment of the book, but was a little distracting to me at the time.

Room is told completely from Jack's point of view.  His five-year-old voice took me a little while to get used to, but once I did, I loved it.  Through Jack's eyes I could easily see how confusing the world could be.  His Ma did a wonderful job of explaining things to him, but some things just need to be seen and experienced to be fully understood. 

I was completely invested in Room while I was reading, but it's one of those books I can't stop thinking about now that it's over.  The story was left open ended, not in an unfinished way, but rather it left me wanting more. Room has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.  4.5 stars, very good+

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Review: Leaving Before It's Over by Jean Reynolds Page

Book Info:
Leaving Before It's Over by Jean Reynolds Page
Author Extras: Website
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2010
Source: TLC Book Tours, Publisher
Rating: 4.5/5

Summary From the Publisher:

When Roy Vines married his wife, Rosalind, he traded his family and his inheritance for love—a painful choice that has blessed them with years of joy nestled in rural North Carolina with their beautiful daughters, sixteen-year-old Lola and little Janie Ray.

But their happiness is threatened when Rosalind suddenly falls ill. Desperate to get her the help she needs, Roy does the one thing he swore he'd never do—turn to his heartless and bitter identical twin brother, Mont, for help.


This is the third book I've read by Jean Reynolds Page, and I like each one even more than the last.  This last one has convinced me that, without a doubt, that I need to read the last two books in her backlist.

Page's characters are so very vivid.  Even if they are people I wouldn't normally hang out with, I couldn't help but be drawn to them. Roy is a solid and likeable man.  Lola and Luke are typical kids.  They may make mistakes, but are ultimately good kids, and I couldn't help but wish them the best.  The Vines family, as a whole is stand-offish and cold, but they are still characters that most people can understand. I loved how I could see the situation from many different perspectives and that

I also love the family dynamics in this book. I think a slightly dysfunctional family is something that everyone relates to on some level, and that gives the story a very accessible quality.  If characters and families are too perfect they are hard to swallow, but the Vines family isn't that way at all.  There are those in the family that are easy to dislike, and those who I changed my mind about by the end of the book. In so many books either the plot or the characters stand out, and in Page's books they are both able to hold their own equally.  4.5 stars, very good +
About Jean Reynolds Page

Jean Reynolds Page is the author of The Last Summer of Her Other Life, The Space Between Before and After, A Blessed Event, and Accidental Happiness. She grew up in North Carolina and graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a dance critic for more than ten years before turning full-time to fiction in 2001. In addition to North Carolina, she has lived in New York, Boston, Dallas, and Seattle. She and her family recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin.

Other TLC Book Tour Stops

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Book Info:
I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman
Author Extras: Website, Facebook
Publisher:  Harper Collins, 2010
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Rating: 4/5

Summary from the Publisher:

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquillity is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I'd know you anywhere.

In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she's never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She's always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he'll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.


The first time I picked up a Laura Lippman book I expected a mystery, with creepy serial killers, some blood and guts, and a crazy twist at the end of the book.  And since that wasn't what I got, I came away from the book disappointed.  Going into my second Lippman book I revised my expectations about what type of book I was getting, and this time it worked perfectly for me.

Lippman tells a captivating story, but her characters are really what stand out for me.  She is able to perfectly capture a sullen teenager in Iso, a distant sister in Vonnie, and a conflicted mother in Eliza.  And while I may not have always agreed with Eliza's decisions, I always understood why she did things.  Understandably the story focused on Eliza and Walter, but I did wish some minor characters (like Eliza's husband, Peter) had played a slightly larger role.

The psychological thriller side of I'd Know You Anywhere had me hooked right from the beginning, and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.  I can imagine discussions around the central ethical issue of the death penalty as well as the character's motivations and actions. 4 stars, very good

About Laura Lippman:

Laura Lippman grew up in Baltimore and returned to her hometown in 1989 to work as a journalist. After writing seven books while still a full-time reporter, she left the Baltimore Sun to focus on fiction. The author of two New York Times bestsellers, What the Dead Know and Another Thing to Fall, she has won numerous awards for her work, including the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Barry, and Macavity.

I’d Know You Anywhere is Laura Lippman’s 18th book.