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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mexican Book Club

No, this isn't a post about Mexican authors or books that focus on Mexican themes, it's a summary of the books I read while in Mexico.  I like to say that I had my own little book club while I was gone.  Three books in six days is my idea of a perfect vacation.  Here's a quick review on two that I read.

At an intimate, festive dinner party in Seattle, six women gather to celebrate their friend Kate's recovery from cancer. Wineglass in hand, Kate strikes a bargain with them. To celebrate her new lease on life, she'll do the one thing that's always terrified her: white-water rafting. But if she goes, all of them will also do something they always swore they'd never do-and Kate is going to choose their adventures. (Amazon)

I loved the premise of this book and was excited to see what adventures each of the women experienced.  I often read the first paragraph or page of a book to decide if I want to buy it, I loved the quote by Mary Oliver that the author chose to begin this book "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"  Unfortunately, I never could get invested in the characters and wasn't all that impressed by their stories.  I think one of the real flaws for me was that it didn't seem like a cohesive novel for me, rather I felt like I was reading a collection of short stories - and in general, I don't care for short stories.  The book was perfectly fine for a vacation read and there were a few bright spots, but overall, not as good as I had expected.

Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?
At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again. But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover that there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.
Narrated by Grace and Ava in the present with flashbacks into Kelli’s troubled past, Heart Like Mine is a poignant, hopeful portrait of womanhood, love, and the challenges and joys of family life. (Amazon)

I packed at least three books and six or seven magazines, but during our layover in Houston I still was pulled to the bookstore in the airport.  When I read the back of this book I was immediately interested but put it down because I obviously didn't need any more books.  I'm pretty impressed, I resisted for about a half hour before going back so it does't count as an impulse purchase, right?
The book was almost exactly what I expected.   Despite the heavy topics, the book was pretty light reading and the story moved along with a good mix of present day narratives and flashbacks.  I did find the struggles of the blended family very familiar and it was interesting to see which of their issues were easily resolved and which continued to be a theme throughout the book.  Overall I liked the characters and more importantly, cared enough about them to be invested in their outcomes.  I passed the book along to a friend already, which for me, is a pretty good recommendation.

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