NetGalley Top Reviewer

NetGalley Top Reviewer
NetGalley Top Reviewer

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Today's review...

The Sugarless Plum by Zippora Karz

4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and fascinating autobiography of a prima ballerina, November 25, 2009

This memoir of her career as a ballerina with the New York City Ballet is an insightful and moving look inside the life of Zippora Karz. Her association with this famed company began at age 18 in the corps de ballet and continued for the next sixteen years as she was noticed and groomed for principal and solo roles by the incredible choreographers of the NYCB. Her insider's description of the life of a dancer rising to the peak of her profession was fascinating and the details of the inner workings of the huge ballet company were really interesting.

Although Zippora was amazingly talented and was dancing her dream, her life was anything but easy. Her technique, passion, intensity, and perfectionism -- all part of the work ethic that a truly disciplined ballerina needs to have -- got her noticed and cast in many of the company's ballets at that time. The incredible class, rehearsal and performance schedule began to take its toll, however, and when Zippora first started experiencing symptoms of thirst, excessive urination, extreme hunger, sores that wouldn't heal, exhaustion and muscle fatigue -- she thought that's all it was -- overwork. Despite her denial that anything medically was wrong, Zippora did finally obtain blood work that provided her with a diagnosis of diabetes -- but, because she was 21 years old at the time, the doctor mistakenly assumed it was Type II rather than Type I DM and Zippora did not initially receive the correct treatment regimen. She went through years of illness but danced on despite her failing health and her dangerous blood sugar fluctuations. She tried all types of special diets, insulin injection (guesswork), homeopathic treatmets, and many other remedies until finally meeting the physician who would help her learn to control her diabetes and balance her exercise, diet, and insulin needs. After getting her blood sugar within normal limits, Zippora was able to continue her work with the NYCB and retired after having performed many incredible roles with the company. Her triumph over diabetes was made even more complete when she took on the roles of educator, advocate, and speaker for those affected with the incurable disease.

I liked this book particularly for the glimpse it gave into the heart and soul of a prima ballerina. The life sounds romantic and fantastic, but behind the scenes we see that the passion to dance must be translated into many hours of hard, grueling work in order to present the beauty of ballet that is seen on stage. To be a dancer on that level requires determination, self control, and discipline -- not to mention incredible physical strength and endurance.

I'd recommend this book to any aspiring dancer just for the descriptions of the life of a ballerina, but also to any young person who is diagnosed with diabetes. The book is a testament to Zippora Karz's ability to use her life experiences as a way to inspire and encourage others to dream big and to achieve physical and emotional balance -- with or without the threat of serious illness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Today's review

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes by Diane Chamberlain

5.0 out of 5 stars Secrets, lies and courage..., November 24, 2009

What a great read! I really enjoyed this mystery about a woman who risks everything to finally do the right thing.

The story takes the reader back to 1977 and unfolds over a span of 20 years, but starts when Corinne sees her mother, Eve, on television confessing to intimate knowledge about a long ago kidnapping and disappearance of a pregnant woman named Genevieve Russell. Construction crews have unearthed Genevieve's remains and have arrested and charged a man with her murder.

CeeCee Wilkes is 16-years-old when she is seduced by an handsome older man, Tim Gleason, and is manipulated into helping him and his brother with the crime. Left to guard the prisoner at a remote cabin in the woods, events transpire that force CeeCee on the run with the newborn infant in tow. Unable to bring herself to leave the little girl with her father, CeeCee makes a decision to raise the child as her own. Years pass. CeeCee, now known as Eve, has created a pleasant, comfortable life for herself and thinks she has moved far beyond those days in the forest -- so far that she has almost forgotten that they ever happened.

This is a wonderfully intimate portrayal of family relationships and the love a mother has for her daughter. I really liked the characters in this book -- flaws and all. (Also found it interesting that Eve had rheumatoid arthritis -- as does the author).

This is only the second novel I've read by Diana Chamberlain, and I can say that she has definitely become an author whose books I need to go back and find and read. Next up for me is Breaking the Silence.

I loved this story about secrets, lies, and courage. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Today's review

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass
3.5 stars for this moving novel about the connection between sisters..., November 18, 2009

This is a convoluted but well-written novel about the nature of a relationship between sisters and the capriciousness of life.
Two sisters -- as dissimilar as "chocolate and seaweed" -- grow up and go their separate ways into adulthood. One sister works in the promotion and critique of art and the other is a free-spirited biologist who roves the world to work protecting animals. The story spans the 25-year history of their lives both when together and when apart. We have a glimpse of how the sisters relate in person and how they communicate when the other is away and busy with her own life. Louisa and Clem try to stay connected without necessarily being close, honest without being brutal, involved without being present. But each woman is always evaluating and judging herself compared to her sister. Each has expectations of what the other should or should not be doing or how she should "be" and there are many disappointments.
Each chapter is told from the point of view of a sister and the book jumps around in time from chapter to chapter. I often had to read several paragraphs before I was sure which sister was speaking -- honestly, I find that annoying. I like my novels to proceed in an orderly fashion with a single narrator.
I did enjoy this somewhat depressing novel, and without giving any spoilers, it was an in-depth exploration of how life can catch a person by surprise. There are no guarantees or insurance against the fickleness of fate. The ups and downs in the lives of Louisa and Clem are rich with poignancy and the thread of connectedness that keeps the sisters bound. Recommended.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Today's review

The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner

4/5 stars What happened to Sandra Jones?, November 10, 2009

This is an entertaining, fast paced mystery thriller that delves into possibilities surrounding the middle-of-the-night disappearance of a young, pretty wife and mother. Sandra Jones, a teacher, vanishes while her husband, Jason, is at work leaving her purse and cell phone on the counter and her precious daughter, Ree asleep in her room. When the police arrive for the investigation, husband Jason is the initial suspect. But, wait -- a "neighbor" a few houses down is a registered sex offender! The list of possible persons of interest continues to evolve as an internet savvy 8th grade male student and his computer whiz uncle also appear suspicious. I won't rehash the rest of the plot as other reviewers have done an excellent job of that, but I enjoyed the changing points of view and the revelations of the back story that attempts to explain this interesting marriage and the childhoods of Sandra and Jason. Details are dealt out meagerly at first and then the loose ends come together for an interesting conclusion. Some unanswered questions remain, but I can live with that! This is a book that can be read in a day or two and it provides some information about computer hard drives, cell phone records, and the life of a sexual offender. I liked that the detective, DD, did not have a "romance" in the story and that the case stayed focused on the married couple and their lives. Recommended as a multilayered thriller that might keep you up past your bedtime.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's review

4.0 out of 5 stars One to read and savor..., November 7, 2009

This novel was an excellent multi-layered story. I loved how the point of view changed with each chapter so that the reader got to hear from each character in the novel. Although this is a sequel to Before The Storm, you do not need to have read it to appreciate this book.

Maggie has spent a year in prison for her intent to set a fire in order to allow her boyfriend to advance in the fire department. Her half brother, Keith was severely burned in the fire and was the one who tossed a lit cigarette into the fuel that caused the conflagration. Another half brother, Andy, was initially thought to be the culprit, but he was since absolved of any responsibility. These siblings, related through their mothers and their fathers, have a complicated relationship.

The story begins with Maggie's release. She returns home to find that the townspeople can't forgive her for the fire and the subsequent deaths. She has to do community service as part of her release, but everywhere she goes, she's scorned and dismissed. Keith, in severe pain from his burns, has taken to beer and Percocet for survival. Andy, with his fetal alcohol syndrome, is finding life difficult juggling a girlfriend and dealing with his sister. At the start of the story, Keith's mother disappears and he is left on his own to deal with both Maggie's release and his own well being. Enter a stranger who quickly endears herself to the fearful Maggie and to the lonely Keith. Who is Jen and why is she not being totally honest with these siblings?

The plot is revealed by chapter as Sara, Keith's mother, explains her life and dilemma. When she disappears, Keith has no choice but to accept financial help from Maggie's mother and uncle -- but he hates them! Their convoluted relationship baffles and distresses him -- but all the while he wonders why and where his mother has gone. Maggie, Keith and Andy all share the details of how they come to grips with the aftermath of the fire and their lives.

This is a wonderful novel and one to be savored. You don't need to have read the previous book to "get" this story but I can imagine that it would only add to the total enjoyment. The characters are well developed and the reader is drawn easily and completely into their lives.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Today's review...

2.0 out of 5 stars This book took forever to read..., November 1, 2009

I found this book tedious and long. I just wanted to get to the end. There weren't any surprises. I think the premise was ludicrous and that no matter how well you had studied someone, you would have been caught out right away trying to pass yourself off in a housemate situation. I really didn't care who killed the girl Lexie by the end. It was anticlimactic. I didn't care much about Cassie Maddox either and got tired of hearing about Operation Vestal and Rob and what went wrong, etc. I don't think I will read any more of these novels, just don't care. Skip it.