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Bre H. - Reviews

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The Beach House (Beach House, Bk 1)
The Beach House (Beach House, Bk 1)
Author: Mary Alice Monroe
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 235
Review Date: 8/16/2008
Helpful Score: 2


Nice, heartwarming story, but a bit contrived and the symbolism with the loggerheads made me think Monroe was trying too hard to warrant a comparison to Pat Conroy. It took me more than 100 pages to really get into this story, but I stuck with it because it was recommended and, ultimately, I'm glad I did. Cara, the lead character, bothered me, but when her attitude begins to change (and a man enters her life), I really got into it.


Beach Music
Beach Music
Author: Pat Conroy
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 65
Review Date: 4/29/2008


A quote on the back cover of my copy says "Reading Pat Conroy is like watching Michaelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel." PERFECT analogy for this novel- the writing is beautiful, and the book as a whole is a true work of art, but reading it is painstakingly slow.


Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Ya-Yas, Bk 2)
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (Ya-Yas, Bk 2)
Author: Rebecca Wells
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 170
Review Date: 8/20/2008
Helpful Score: 4


My all-time favorite book... I've read it three times, and it never gets old. By describing three generations of women, from Buggy to Vivi to Sidda, Wells creates a picture of the complicated mother-daughter dynamic, giving background glimpses to help us understand what makes them tick. Vivi especially is a character of depth - she makes me love her one minute and hate her the next, a pattern that adds to her authenticity. And oh, the Ya-Ya's. This is a group of girls who defy the common definition of "family," proving that the bond between friends can be the most powerful thing in the world.


Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane, Bk 1)
Firefly Lane (Firefly Lane, Bk 1)
Author: Kristin Hannah
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 1073
Review Date: 8/10/2010
Helpful Score: 1


One of my favorite books - the characters literally came alive in my mind, and how could they not? Hannah follows best friends Tully & Kate from the four decades of friendship, describing everything in such vivid detail, from their thoughts and emotions to their clothing and their favorite songs. Days after finishing this book (and halfway through another one) I found myself missing "Firefly Lane," wishing I could return to the story. Would love to see this one turned into a movie!


Love Walked In (Love Walked In, Bk 1)
Love Walked In (Love Walked In, Bk 1)
Author: Marisa de los Santos
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 977
Review Date: 3/12/2009
Helpful Score: 3


"My life - my real life - started when a man walked into it, a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, and, yes, I know how that sounds."

At first glance, "Love Walked In" has all the right ingredients for a sappy, conventional love story - at 31 years old, Cornelia Brown is a hopeless romantic, unmarried, yet dreaming wistfully of the kind of love that's fit for the movies and fostering an intense infatuation with Cary Grant. So when a tall, dark and handsome man - one who very much resembles Mr. Grant himself, if you ask her - walks into her Philadelphia cafe one Saturday afternoon, Cornelia psyches herself up for a happily-ever-after relationship with her very own Mr. Right.

In order to make up for a self-described "ordinary" existence, Cornelia uses classic movie references to paint the picture of her life and budding love with the charming Martin Grace, lighting her modern-day fairy tale in a haze of nostalgia. "It was one of those dropped-from-the-sky silvery moments when you stand there believing that every last thing in the world is delicate, lovely and precise, including and especially you," she gushes, describing a scene from one of their first dates.

But Cornelia's life is not a movie and these silver screen moments with Martin never materialize into the kind of love that transcends Hollywood grandeur. No matter how much she longs for the happy ending, Cornelia's Prince Charming comes with some serious baggage and a major character flaw that makes her realize love is not blind after all, but rather the world's most clear-eyed state of being. No, it is not Martin himself who marks the beginning of Cornelia's life - her real life. While his presence is integral to the changes that are to come, his role in the novel ultimately takes a back seat to the real love that walks into Cornelia's cafe in the form of 11-year-old Clare Hobbs.

Though Cornelia and Clare do not cross paths for the first 100 pages or so, the characters are immediately linked as the narration alternates between the two; at times, the similarities are so strong that Clare seems like a younger version of Cornelia herself. Both are compulsive organizers, making lists in attempts to construct a sense of control, and both are dreamers trying to compensate for what they do not have. As Cornelia clings to her movies, particularly "The Philadelphia Story," Clare turns to storybook characters like Anne of Green Gables to fill the voids of her isolated life. When extreme circumstances land the all but orphaned Clare in Cornelia's care, it is not simply a matter of adult rescuing child; rather, they become each other's salvation.

"Holding Clare, whispering soothing words, this seemed to make her feel better. Maybe that's just how children are. But, what was more amazing is that it felt pretty good to me, too. Twelve hours ago, I'd never seen this girl. I could count the number of words we had said to each other. She did not belong to me. But she fit inside my arms; she fit. I didn't love her. But, I suddenly understood, to my bewilderment, it wouldn't take much."

As Cornelia becomes the one steady figure in Clare's upturned world, her maternal instincts for the girl are automatic. And though Clare has been given every reason to mistrust the adults in her life, she clings to Cornelia instinctively as well, until neither adult nor child can imagine life without the other.

With her conversational tone and clever quips, author Marisa de los Santos creates an instant friend in Cornelia, a loveable character who becomes all the more endearing as the story progresses. It is, after all, Cornelia and not Clare who finally grows up along the way.

"My life - my real life - started when a man walked into it, a handsome stranger in a perfectly cut suit, and yes, I know how that sounds. Or I know how it might sound to the kind of person I used to be, one who spent her day skirting around the edges of adulthood, commitment, responsibility, accomplishment - whatever words you use to describe diving into the deepest part of a human being.

Breaking from the traditional mold of boy-meets-girl, "Love Walked In" offers readers a different kind of love story, one that is heartwarming, refreshing and anything but conventional.


Pieces of My Sister's Life
Pieces of My Sister's Life
Author: Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 334
Review Date: 7/15/2009
Helpful Score: 1


Easily one of my favorites. A story of the ultimate love triangle between two twin sisters and the boy next door. The characters in this book simply come alive, and I felt every emotion along with the narrator, Kerry - her insecurities, her dreams, her intense love and, later, her intense anger and the pain of betrayal. There's also suspense and mystery woven in as chapters bounce back and forth between past and present, the story of the girls at 16 and their reunion 12 years later. I could not put this book down, but hated for it to end.


Promise the Moon
Promise the Moon
Author: Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 43
Review Date: 1/11/2010
Helpful Score: 1


As with "Pieces of My Sister's Life," Arnold's character development in "Promise the Moon" is phenomenal, bringing to life a family struggling to piece themselves back together in the aftermath of tragedy. I especially loved the chapters from the perspective of 10-year-old Anna, whose thoughts were at once innocent and heartbreakingly mature for a girl of her age.


Rhett Butler's People
Rhett Butler's People
Author: Donald McCaig, Margaret Mitchell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 186
Review Date: 3/12/2009


He's tall, dark and handsome, a dashing man with a mischievous smile that radiates from his eyes. It's the smile, perhaps, that contagious smirk, that garners such fascination for this man, the literary character with the power to capture a girl's heart quicker than any other creation of ink and imagination. (Mr. Darcy, who?)

He's Rhett Butler, the rough point of Margaret Mitchell's infamous love triangle, and he is the archetypal "bad boy" - the charming rogue, exiled by his family, a rebel blockade runner and a contradiction to the traditions his Southern homeland holds dear. But it is his relationship with the fiery Scarlett O'Hara that creates one of the greatest love stories of our time, for his calloused exterior melts under the gaze of that green-eyed girl, and his feelings for her are portrayed so acutely in Donald McCaig's retelling of "Gone with the Wind" that female readers yearn to be the object of that deep an adoration. "Rosemary, in his heart, your brother is a lover," Melanie Wilkes writes in a letter to Rosemary Butler, her confidant and Rhett's sister. "The shrewd businessman, the adventurer, the dandy are but costumes the lover wears."

In writing the untold story of Rhett Butler, McCaig has put to paper what all book-lovers do after encountering a literary figure who so captivates us that they live on in our imaginations long after we've finished the novel. Commissioned by the Mitchell estate, "Rhett Butlers People" stays true to the facts of its predecessor while revealing the details of Rhett's life that give insight into the nuances of his character, as well as his inner thoughts and explanations for many unanswered questions. (Why was Rhett exiled from Charleston, and why was he imprisoned after the war?) Opening with the mysterious duel between Rhett and Belle Watling's brother, McCaig's tale begins 11 years before the first chapter of "Gone with the Wind," and continues for several chapters after the original conclusion, offering a reconciliation between Rhett and Scarlett after "Frankly, my dear" that differs from the scenario Alexander Ripley creates in "Scarlett," the storys first authorized sequel.

Aptly named, the novel tells not only the story of Mr. Butler himself, but those of other important figures in his life, devoting entire chapters to characters such as his baby sister Rosemary, whose relationship with her brother is quite touching, the unrefined yet endearing Belle Watling and her son Tazewell, many of Rhett's closest friends (and also some enemies) and even Melanie Hamilton Wilkes, with whom Rhett shares a mutual admiration and affection. McCaig was chosen for the job because his treatment of the Civil War in his most popular preceding novel, "Jacobs Ladder," and he weaves the war's progression into each chapter, bringing the fictional plotlines to life against a historical background. At the heart of the story, however, is the maddening attraction between Rhett and Scarlett, two characters whose stark similarities make them all wrong for each other yet so right all at the same time. They love passionately and fight passionately, yet even as she angers him, she leaves him vulnerable.

"I never said I loved you, you know," she said, as if she weren't quite sure. The air in the small space between them hummed His muscles ached from holding still, from not reaching out and taking her. In a husky voice, he managed to say, "I admire your candor." Because his hands ached to touch her, to ravish her, to close around her throat and murder her, Rhett Butler bowed stiffly, brushed past his wife, and walked out of the house onto Peachtree Street, hatless in the cold rain."

Though a bit slow in parts, the entertainment value of "Rhett Butlers People" is enough to warrant attention from any romantic historical fiction enthusiast, though its treatment of several significant events assumes that readers already know the framework and some of the details of "Gone with the Wind." The disclosure of little Bonnie Blue's accident, for instance, may seem almost flippant to the reader who knows naught of her fate. But for "Gone with the Wind" fanatics like myself, the novel reignites a fascination with the Old South and gives us many more reasons to adore the charming Rhett Butler.


The Same Sweet Girls
The Same Sweet Girls
Author: Cassandra King
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 135
Review Date: 3/12/2009


"Although we call ourselves the Same Sweet Girls, none of us are girls anymore. And Im not sure that any of us are now, or ever have been, sweet...The illusion of sweetness, thats all that counts. We dont have to be sincerely sweet, but by God we have to be good at faking it."

And so begins the amusing and honest introduction to Cassandra King's cast of friends, "the same complicated, screwy, mixed-up, love-each-other-one-minute and hate-each-other-the-next group of women [they] were when [they] met 30 years ago." The wife of acclaimed author Pat Conroy, King's own literary talent shines through in "The Same Sweet Girls" with candid witticisms and sincere characters that deliver a slice-of-life look at the complex relationship between female companions in the South.

From the outside looking in, this unlikely sextet has very little in common: Corrine is an eccentric gourd artist from rural, underprivileged Alabama; Lanier is a nurse who would be a doctor if not for her keen ability to screw up; Julia is the group's classic beauty, a girl from old money and current first lady of Alabama; flirtatious Astor is a former Broadway showgirl with exotic looks and cunning ways; Byrd is the maternal and loveable one, albeit a bit plain and simple; and Rosanelle, the Southern Belle archetype, still clings to her debutante days. But with a nickname they coined after their first encounter in college - a mischievous incident that immediately lends irony to the idea of the girls as "sweet" - the Same Sweet Girls have stuck it out through love and loss, keeping in touch through bi-annual reunions in the years following graduation.

Not since the Ya-Yas have we met such an endearingly quirky group of Southern women whose friendship stands the test of time. Rather than "divine secrets," the Same Sweet Girls have their own set of kooky traditions that allow them to maintain a perception of youth while poking good-natured fun at that required illusion of sweetness in the South. In fact, each year the group crowns a "queen," selecting by secret ballot the girl who has proved herself to be the sweetest of all through a blatant, year-long campaign. "Naturally, the first year everyone voted for herself, so we had to change the rules. Its not considered a sweet thing to do, to vote for yourself, and if you do so, you're disqualified."

Yet while most of the girls are friends by circumstance, linked however inextricably by the mere shared experience of college and the traditions they have since kept, three of the women share a bond that runs deeper than any ritual or habit. As the story alternates between the perspectives of Corrine, Lanier and Julia, King reveals the heart of a true friendship that only gets stronger in the midst of middle age and major life change. But the novel does not become a chick lit cliché with females gabbing daily over coffee or cocktails; rather, these women maintain a high level of independence, bearing their burdens separately in a way that is surprisingly refreshing and authentic.

As Corrine attempts to reconnect with her son and free herself from the power of an abusive ex-husband in the mountains of North Georgia, Lanier nurses a broken heart over a failed marriage at her childhood home on the Alabama coast, and Julia tries to find her true self among a façade of perfection and a haunted past at a remote lake house in the heart of the state, it is not physical proximity that ties them together but the assurance that a confidante is only a phone call away. But when illness threatens the life of one of their own, the fear of loss ripples through their core, prompting them to abandon their isolation to be together and forcing them to evaluate just how far they would go for a friend in need.

With a strong dose of humor interlaced with pangs of tragedy and heartbreak, "The Same Sweet Girls" evokes both laughter and tears in the way that is reminiscent of great Southern predecessors like "Steel Magnolias" or "Fried Green Tomatoes." As their relationships with men and family members waver, these women remain the one constant in each others lives, giving us a glimpse at friendship in its purest form.


The School of Essential Ingredients (aka The Monday Night Cooking School) (School of Essential Ingredients, Bk 1)
Review Date: 6/9/2010
Helpful Score: 5


A delicious read - made my mouth water! Love Bauermeister's rich descriptions and all the food references. I've even applied a few tips I picked up in my own kitchen! My only complaint is that the character's story's could have used a bit more conclusion - left me wanting more at the end.


Summer Sisters
Summer Sisters
Author: Judy Blume
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 307
Review Date: 4/29/2008
Helpful Score: 7


Since this is the first "adult" novel I have read from one of my favorite childhood authors, I was ill-prepared for some of the mature content, and found myself blushing, especially near the beginning of the book (this book is NOT intended for the audience of "Blubber!") However, Blume's writing style has changed very little from her young adult novels, making this an easy read, and I absolutely loved the story of two girls tied by a childhood bond, yet struggling through their relationship as they matured. Victoria's character is especially authentic and relatable, and my heart went out to her as she dealt with the betrayals of a friend she loved dearly.


Sundays at Tiffany's
Sundays at Tiffany's
Author: Gabrielle Charbonnet, James Patterson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 678
Review Date: 9/8/2008
Helpful Score: 13


Couldn't finish it - this was my second attempt at a James Patterson novel (after "Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas"), so maybe his style just isn't for me. After 100 pages, the tone was just too cheesy and the plot too contrived for me to go on.


Tales of a Female Nomad : Living at Large in the World
Tales of a Female Nomad : Living at Large in the World
Author: Rita Golden Gelman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 131
Review Date: 4/8/2010


Loved this book. As a travel writer, Rita's travelogue style is exactly what I aspire to achieve when describing a destination. I didn't connect quite as well to her experience in Bali, so that part dragged a bit for me, but I loved reading about her adventures in Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Israel, the Galapago Islands, New Zealand and Thailand - particularly her descriptions of local foodways!


Testimony
Testimony
Author: Anita Shreve
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 207
Review Date: 11/23/2009


Not my favorite Anita Shreve work, but still a great book - excellent character development, captivating story line and the short chapters make it a quick read. I especially liked how each chapter was told from a different perspective.


A Thousand Days in Venice
A Thousand Days in Venice
Author: Marlena De Blasi
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 124
Review Date: 4/28/2008
Helpful Score: 1


An American woman meets a man in Venice, falls in love and packs up her life to live with him in his homeland - synopsis sounds romantic, but the story line fails to deliver. The book is more of De Blasi's romance with Venice than with the Venetian (who she calls "The Stranger"). The writing, however, is beautiful. De Blasi, a food writer, had my mouth watering with her descriptions of the meals and the Italian marketplace.


A Wedding in December
A Wedding in December
Author: Anita Shreve
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 318
Review Date: 4/28/2008


One of my favorite novels from a favorite writer - in bringing together a group of friends who have, for the most part, lost contact since high school, Shreve deals with the question of "What if?" and reminds us all of the power of the past.


When Crickets Cry
When Crickets Cry
Author: Charles Martin
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 174
Review Date: 12/14/2009
Helpful Score: 1


The story is touching and kept me reading to the end; however, the book is often bogged down in medical jargon, and I was occasionally annoyed by the way important information was presented - sometimes Martin leaves you guessing too long, and other times he sneaks it in in a way that's confusing. All in all, I'm glad I read this book, but I'll be hesitant to read this author again.


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