Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)

November 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Oprah's Book Club

Editorial Reviews:

Amazon.com Review
Readers beware. The brilliant, breathtaking conclusion to J.K. Rowling’s spellbinding series is not for the faint of heart–such revelations, battles, and betrayals await

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows that no fan will make it to the end unscathed. Luckily, Rowling has prepped loyal readers for the end of her series by doling out increasingly dark and dangerous tales of magic and mystery, shot through with lessons about honor and contempt, love and loss, and right and wrong. Fear not, you will find no spoilers in our review–to tell the plot would ruin the journey, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is an odyssey the likes of which Rowling’s fans have not yet seen, and are not likely to forget. But we would be remiss if we did not offer one small suggestion before you embark on your final adventure with Harry–bring plenty of tissues.

The heart of Book 7 is a hero’s mission–not just in Harry’s quest for the Horcruxes, but in his journey from boy to man–and Harry faces more danger than that found in all six books combined, from the direct threat of the Death Eaters and you-know-who, to the subtle perils of losing faith in himself. Attentive readers would do well to remember Dumbledore’s warning about making the choice between “what is right and what is easy,” and know that Rowling applies the same difficult principle to the conclusion of her series. While fans will find the answers to hotly speculated questions about Dumbledore, Snape, and you-know-who, it is a testament to Rowling’s skill as a storyteller that even the most astute and careful reader will be taken by surprise.

A spectacular finish to a phenomenal series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bittersweet read for fans. The journey is hard, filled with events both tragic and triumphant, the battlefield littered with the bodies of the dearest and despised, but the final chapter is as brilliant and blinding as a phoenix’s flame, and fans and skeptics alike will emerge from the confines of the story with full but heavy hearts, giddy and grateful for the experience. –Daphne Durham

5 out of 5 stars A stunning and thoroughly satisfying conclusion July 21, 2007
T. Burger (Chicago)
596 out of 666 found this review helpful

This is arguably the most “hyped” book in history, and if J.K. Rowling had to sneak down to the kitchen for a glass of red wine to calm her nerves while writing The Goblet of Fire (as she said she did), one wonders what assuaged her while writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The collective breath of tens of millions of readers has been held for two years…and now…was it worth the wait? Did Ms. Rowling live up to the hype? (For that, amongst hundreds of questions, is really the only question that matters.)

The answer, most assuredly, is YES.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is told in a strikingly different style than the previous six books – even different from The Half Blood Prince, and, I daresay, it’s a better written, better edited, tighter narrative. And while the action is lively and well paced throughout, Rowling found a way to answer most of our questions while introducing new and complex ideas. What fascinated me was this: Some people were right, with regard to who is good, who is bad, who will live, who will die – but almost nobody got the “why” part correct. I truthfully expected an exciting but rather predictable ending, but instead was thrown for a loop. We’ve known that Rowling is fiendishly clever for years – but I didn’t think she was *this* clever.

Not since turning the final page of The Return of the King twenty-eight years ago have I felt such a keen sense of loss. My love affair (indeed, everyone’s love affair, I imagine) with all things Harry began somewhere in the first three chapters of The Sorcerer’s Stone, and has lasted, on this side of the Atlantic, three months shy of nine years. For all that time we have waited and wondered – was Dumbledore right to trust Snape? Will Ron and Hermione get together? What’s to become of Ginny and Harry? What really happened on that tower, when Dumbledore was blasted backwards, that “blast” atypical of the Avada Kedavra curse as we’ve seen it when used throughout the series. So many more questions than those listed here, and so many devilishly well-hidden hints. The answers, as I hinted above, will shock and awe you.

When first we met Harry Potter, he was “The Boy Who Lived”, with an address of “The Cupboard Under the Stairs”. Who could help but bleed sympathy for Harry, treated abysmally – abused, really – by the only blood relatives he had, and forced to live under said stairs by those awful Muggles, the Dursleys? It was a sensationally brilliant introduction, one that ensured that our heartstrings would be plucked and enchanted to sing. He was The Boy Who Lived.

Since reading that first book, we have enjoyed Rowling’s spry sense of humor – portraits that spoke, stairways that moved at any given moment, Hagrid jinxing Dudley so that a pigs tail grew from his behind, Fred and George’s fantastic creations, etc, etc., etc., and more etc’s. There was a sense of wonder and magic in Rowling’s writing, so thoroughly captivating that the recommended age group of 9-12 in no way resembled the book’s actual audience. It was common to see adults walking about with hardcover copies of the latest book, sans dust jacket (to hide the fact that they were reading a “kids” book, I suppose). It was also common to hear of eight year olds sitting down with a seven-hundred-plus page book! By themselves! If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed it.

As for Harry, we admired him. He wasn’t afraid to stand up for what he felt was right, even if he found himself in detention for it. He was brutally honest, and immensely courageous and loyal. Harry came to embody, at times, who we would like to be. He wasn’t perfect, of course. He suspected Snape of being the one who was after the Sorcerer’s Stone, and in The Chamber of Secrets, he thought that Malfoy was the heir of Slytherin. This didn’t diminish Harry in our eyes – it made him more human, more real, and even, perhaps, more enviable.

Endless fan sites have been erected. For an adult to go to any of them, and find that thirteen year olds are having an easier time parsing out the books plots, subplots, and mysteries, was (for me at least) humbling, but yet also a testament to Rowling herself, and her remarkable creation. She encouraged an entire generation of young readers to read and to think for themselves.

But the time has come to say good-bye, for this is truly the end.

So good-bye, Harry. Good-bye Hermione, Ron, Professor Dumbledore, *Professor* Snape, Professor McGonagall, Professor Hagrid, Ginny, Fred, George, Neville, Dobby (and all the house elves), even Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters. We will miss all of you, every character we encountered, from Muggle to Mudblood to hippogriff and owl, and everything about the world you all so vibrantly inhabit. And to Ms. Rowling: know that you have brought immeasurable joy to millions and millions of Muggles worldwide, and know that we cannot possibly thank you enough. What a tremendous gift you were given. Thank you for sharing it with us.

5 out of 5 stars Nice CD set! July 21, 2007
Julie Neal (Sanibel Island, Fla.)
86 out of 101 found this review helpful

This 17-disc audio version of the final Harry Potter book is a worthy way to experience the story without reading it. It features the rich baritone of narrator Jim Dale, who tells the tale with just the right understated touch, supplying all of the characters’ voices.

As for Dale’s accent, it’s appropriately British but not at all too thick. Each word is clear and easy to understand. If you’ve bought any of the earlier Potter audio CDs you know what to expect: Dale narrated all of those, too.

By the way, note that this is an UNABRIDGED audio book. Listening to it all takes 21 hours!

The story is dark, and too violent for younger kids, but overall one of the best in the Harry Potter series. Nothing seems forced or thrown together. Author J.K. Rowling wraps up her many plot points and reveals the fates of her characters in ways that almost always surprise you, but afterward seem inevitable.

And how she does it is so inventive! Many throwaway moments and whispered remarks from earlier books foreshadow what happens here, and devices that had little importance before, such as Sirius’s flying motorcycle, now play key roles. While creating yet another gripping tale, the author also ties her entire epic together with the skill of a true literary master. As a writer myself, I really admire her skill. (Last time I checked, Rowling was outselling me by about, oh, a billion to one.)

In addition, the book treats its title character with the complexity he deserves. It portrays the (now) young man as disillusioned, full of doubt, overwhelmed — a tortured soul who, though a responsible leader in an all-out war, often seems to yearn to do nothing more than sweet-talk Ginny Weasley.

Parents should know, however, that this one is a real creepfest, with the most explicitly violent scenes of any book in the series. It’s way too brutal for grade schoolers. Also, unlike the earlier Potter tales, the far-reaching vocabulary requires about a 6th-grade education.

Written by Lifestyle Review Editor - Creative Lifestyle Products

Gap Creek : The Story Of A Marriage (Oprah’s Book Club)

February 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Oprah's Book Club



Editorial Reviews:

Amazon.com Review
Oprah Book Club Selection, January 2000: Robert Morgan’s Gap Creek opens with one wrenching death and ends with another. In between, this novel of turn-of-the-century Appalachian life works in fire, flood, swindlers, sickness, and starvation–a truly biblical assortment of plagues, all visited on the sturdy shoulders of 17-year-old Julie Harmon. “Human life don’t mean a thing in this world,” she concludes. And who could blame her? “People could be born and they could suffer, and they could die, and it didn’t mean a thing…. The world was exactly like it had been and would always be, going on about its business.” For Julie, that business is hard physical labor. Fortunately, she’s fully capable of working “like a man”–splitting and hauling wood, butchering hogs, rendering lard, planting crops, and taking care of the stock. Even when Julie meets and marries handsome young Hank Richards, there’s no happily-ever-after in store. Nothing comes easy in Julie Harmon’s world, and their first year together is no exception.Throughout the novel, Morgan chronicles Julie’s trials in prose of great dignity and clarity, capturing the rhythms of North Carolina speech by using only the subtlest of inflections. Clearly the author has done his research too–the descriptions of physical labor practically leap off the page. (Suffice to say, you’ll learn far more about hog slaughtering than you ever dreamed of knowing.) Yet he resists the temptation to make his long-suffering characters into saints. Julie simmers with resentment at being her family’s workhorse, and Hank flies into a helpless rage whenever he feels that his authority is questioned. In novels like The Truest Pleasure and The Hinterlands, Morgan proved his ability to create memorable heroines. In Gap Creek, he writes with great feeling–but not a touch of sentimentality–about a life Julie aptly calls “both simple and hard.”

Product Description
The National Bestseller A New York Times Notable Book

There is a most unusual woman living in Gap Creek. Julie Harmon works hard, “hard as a man” they say, so hard that at times she’s not sure she can stop. People depend on her.

She is just a teenager when her brother dies in her arms. The following year, she marries Hank and moves down into the valley. Julie and Hank discover that the modern world is complex, grinding ever on without pause or concern for their hard work. To survive, they must find out whether love can keep chaos and madness at bay.

With Julie, Robert Morgan has brought to life one of the most memorable women in modern American literature with the skill that led Fred Chappell to say “Gap Creek is the work of a master.”

Customer Reviews: Read 358 more reviews…

5 out of 5 stars A real joy December 19, 2008
Sally Fallen
When a book is good, it’s good. There’s not much more that needs to be said. This is simply the perfect novel. The definition of a novel. When works like this appear there’s little to say. It all works. All cylinders are clicking.

The words pack emotion, from the first word to the last. That what it’s all about. A must read. A real joy.

1 out of 5 stars depressing October 5, 2008
pamela burk (springfield, Missouri)
I read books to learn about places and people and history–I already knew enough of what these people experienced and went through–I had a hard time finishing the book (I read at least one book a day)–but finished it because I never do not complete a book–I kept thinking maybe something would happen wonderful in the end–anyway, it is the most depressing book I’ve ever read & I have read 1,000’s of books!

5 out of 5 stars Vivid, elemental, relentless September 6, 2008
Nico (Cherry Hill, NJ USA)
“Gap Creek: the Story of a Marriage” by Robert Morgan relates the early marriage of 17-year-old Julie and 18-year-old Hank at the rustic start of the twentieth century. Julie is the narrator; sometimes her relatively uneducated, although perfectly fitting, first-person voice becomes a bit wearing.

“Whatever man marries you will be the lucky one,” Papa once said to Julie, “For you’re the best of my girls, the best one.” Papa had gotten gravely ill, and Julie hated that all the heavy work on the farm just naturally fell to her. Sister Lou helped some, but Rosie stayed in the kitchen, and young Carolyn was spoiled by everyone. The very young, only brother, Masenier, had recently died of a misunderstood and grossly disturbing condition.

Because of hard life on the farm, Julie had not been around boys much. But the first time she saw Hank she thought he was the handsomest she had ever seen. She was too embarrassed to speak, she says, but uncharacteristically she boldly looked right back at him and couldn’t take her eyes away.

Mama invites Hank to church. And afterwards, to dinner. In a very funny scene Julie, all nervous and clumsy, splashes hot coffee on his knee, thinking she has “ruined everything.” Not so. Less than a month later, they marry, and leave Mama’s mountain home in the North Carolina, and walk to a valley called Gap Creek, in South Carolina.

They move to a farm there and a house owned by Mr. Pendergast, who still lives in the front bedroom. Rent is the meals Julie fixes and the wash she does for him. The young married couple’s first night together is quite tender and humorous. As one might expect, the house situation becomes quite horrendous, even more so when Hank’s mother, Ma Richards, comes for an extended visit.

In relentless, elemental, unbelievable detail, Robert Morgan portrays the whole gamut of the human condition, in a year of strife, fire, death, deception, theft, raging flood, famine, and childbirth. Yet it is not without understanding, resilience, and unexpected reliance.

What came to my mind on finishing the last page, were the words of the Preacher (Ecclesiastes 1.9):
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be;
and that which is done is that which shall be done:
and there is no new thing under the sun.”

Still there is hope and promise. A stirring exposition.

5 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, must appreciate simplicity! August 25, 2008
I love Smarties! (Indiana)
This is by far one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The writing is simple, but deep. The heroine is young and nieve, but she learns many wise lessons while at Gap Creek. This is a story that any woman can relate to!

It made me want to get off the couch and get work done around the house!

5 out of 5 stars I liked this one…. June 19, 2008
A. Blaylock (in my house!)
2 out of 3 found this review helpful

Normally, I search out Oprah’s book club books just because 9 out of 10 are a good read. I’m a big reader. This one held me to the end, and really had me wanted another installment. If you are a fan of any of Jodi Picoult’s novels, Anita Shreve, or 9 out of 10 of those Oprah books – get this one.

Written by Lifestyle Review Editor - Creative Lifestyle Products

Breath, Eyes, Memory (Oprah’s Book Club)

February 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Oprah's Book Club



Editorial Reviews:

Amazon.com Review
Oprah Book Club Selection, May 1998: “I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to.” The place is Haiti and the speaker is Sophie, the heroine of Edwidge Danticat’s novel, “Breath, Eyes, Memory.” Like her protagonist, Danticat is also Haitian; like her, she was raised in Haiti by an aunt until she came to the United States at age 12. Indeed, in her short stories, Danticat has often drawn on her background to fund her fiction, and she continues to do so in her debut novel.The story begins in Haiti, on Mother’s Day, when young Sophie discovers that she is about to leave the only home she has ever known with her Tante Atie in Croix-des-Rosets, Haiti, to go live with her mother in New York City. These early chapters in Haiti are lovely, subtly evoking the tender, painful relationship between the motherless child and the childless woman who feels honor bound to guard the natural mother’s rights to the girl’s affections above her own. Presented with a Mother’s Day card, Tante Atie responds: “‘It is for a mother, your mother.’ She motioned me away with a wave of her hand. ‘When it is Aunt’s Day, you can make me one.'” Danticat also uses these pages to limn a vibrant portrait of life in Haiti from the cups of ginger tea and baskets of cassava bread served at community potlucks to the folk tales of a “people in Guinea who carry the sky on their heads.”

With Sophie’s transition from a fairly happy existence with her aunt and grandmother in rural Haiti to life in New York with a mother she has never seen, Danticat’s roots as a short-story writer become more evident; “Breath, Eyes, Memory” begins to read more like a collection of connected stories than a seamlessly evolved novel. In a couple of short chapters, Sophie arrives in New York, meets her mother, makes the acquaintance of her mother’s new boyfriend, Marc, and discovers that she was the product of a rape when her mother was a teenager in Haiti. The novel then jumps several years ahead to Sophie’s graduation from high school and her infatuation with an older man who lives next door. Unfortunately, this is also the point in the novel where Danticat begins to lay her themes on with a trowel instead of a brush: Sophie’s mother becomes obsessed with protecting her daughter’s virginity, going so far as to administer physical “tests” on a regular basis–testing which leads eventually to a rift in their relationship and to Sophie’s struggle with her own sexuality. Soon the litany of victimization is flying thick and fast: female genital mutilation, incest, rape, frigidity, breast cancer, and abortion are the issues that arise in the final third of the novel, eventually drowning both fine writing and perceptive characterization under a deluge of angst.

Still, there is much to admire about “Breath, Eyes, Memory,” and if at times the plot becomes overheated, Danticat’s lyrical, vivid prose offers some real delight. If nothing else, this novel is sure to entice readers to look for Danticat’s short stories–and possibly to sample other fiction from the West Indies as well. –Alix Wilber

Product Description
At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become one of our most celebrated new novelists, a writer who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti–and the enduring strength of Haiti’s women–with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people’s suffering and courage.

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.

Customer Reviews: Read 208 more reviews…

5 out of 5 stars Haitian horror story July 20, 2008
Melissa Niksic (Chicago, IL United States)
3 out of 3 found this review helpful

“Breath, Eyes, Memory” is the story of a young Haitian girl, Sophie, whose mother travels to New York when her daughter is very young, leaving Sophie in the care of her Tante Atie. Eventually Sophie’s mother sends for her child, and the girl must travel to the United States to start a new life. I thought this book would focus on the struggles of a Haitian girl adjusting to American society, but Sophie’s real demons lay with her family’s tragic history, which unfolds bit by bit as the years go by. Sophie ultimately breaks away from her mother but is unable to escape from the horrors of her past. She eventually returns to her home country in search of answers and redemption.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The subject matter is difficult to read, but this book depicts a lifestyle that was a reality for so many Haitian women. Although Sophie and her female relatives endure many tragedies throughout the course of this story, “Breath, Eyes, Memory” also celebrates strong family ties and the power that comes with being a woman. This is truly an amazing book.

5 out of 5 stars Great novel May 2, 2008
Christiane F. Alcant (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
This is a great novel about the diaspora of a Haitian girl to the US. Beautifully written, is the story of how mother and daughter come to terms in the new environment. I strongly recommend it to all readers.

5 out of 5 stars A story that transcends its setting December 4, 2007
Maxwell J. Asciutto (Boston, MA)
1 out of 1 found this review helpful

Danticat’s novel is written in a fluent style with a simple vocabulary. Although she won’t send readers digging through their dictionaries, “Breath, Eyes, Memory” will string your emotions as the life of Sophie Caco unravels from her childhood in Haiti to her parenting the early years of her own daughter’s life in New York.

As a middle-class college freshman guy, the hardships and joys (although seldom without the accompaniment of the former) are foreign to me. I have not experienced the pains of living without a father, the confines of Haitian culture that emphasizes family responsibility above all else, the horrors of sexual abuse, growing up a fatherless child, or heard the colorful and poetic language of Haiti’s people. And yet, I found this novel extremely compelling. In essence it is a story of life’s most important battles and how where we came from affects the way we deal with them.

I highly recommend this short but impactful and page-turning novel to everyone up for a poetic journey through a gamut of powerful emotions.

3 out of 5 stars Good start, fair finish July 13, 2007
Fuzzy Lizard (Georgia, USA)
“Breath, Eyes, Memory”…..first part was very good. Second part not so good. The rest went downhill.
I thought the story would focus more on Sophie’s childhood. If that were the case, maybe I would have understood her and the relationship with her Mother better. Maybe I would have cared about the characters.

5 out of 5 stars ENJOYED IT IMMENSELY January 25, 2007
Dawn Dellarocco (SHELTON, CT)
2 out of 3 found this review helpful

This book tells of a girl named Sophie who is raised in Haiti by her aunt Tante Atie, and later goes to New York to spend time with her mother. It is a very moving story and it tells about the culture of Haiti. It tells of Sophie growing up and some parts are sad but I really enjoyed this book, and read it in one day. I would read it again. I donated this one to a local supermarket for Juvenille Diabetes Research and it was gone within the hour. I hope that the next person enjoyed it as much as I did. This book was well-written, moving, and easy to read and understand.

Written by Lifestyle Review Editor - Creative Lifestyle Products

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Oprah’s Book Club

February 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Oprah's Book Club



Editorial Reviews:

Amazon.com Review
Oprah Book Club Selection, September 1998: What makes Pearl Cleage’s novel so damned enjoyable? At first glance, after all, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day seems pretty heavy going: HIV, suicide, sudden infant death syndrome, and drunk driving all figure prominently in the lives of narrator Ava Johnson and her older sister Joyce. It isn’t long before crack addiction, domestic violence, and unwed motherhood have joined the list–so, where’s the pleasure? The answer lies in the sharp and funny attitude Cleage brings to her depiction of one African American community in the troubled ’90s. Ava Johnson, for example, might be HIV-positive, but she’s refreshingly forthright about it: “Most of us got it from the boys. Which is, when you think about it, a pretty good argument for cutting men loose, but if I could work up a strong physical reaction to women, I would already be having sex with them. I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying I can’t be a witness. Too many titties in one place to suit me.”Ada has spent the last 10 years living in Atlanta. When she discovers she’s infected, she sells her hairdressing business and heads back to her childhood home of Idlewild, Michigan, to spend the summer with her recently widowed sister before moving on to San Francisco. Once there, however, she finds herself embroiled in big-city problems–drugs, violence, teen pregnancy, and an abandoned crack-addicted baby, to name just a few–in a small-town setting. Ava also meets Eddie Jefferson, a man with a past who just might change her mind about the imprudence of falling in love.

In less assured hands, such a catalog of disasters would make for maudlin, melodramatic reading indeed. But Cleage, an accomplished playwright, has a way both with characters and with language that lifts this tale above its movie-of-the-week tendencies. In Ava she has created a character who not only effortlessly carries the weight of the story but also provides entertaining commentary on African American life as she goes. Discussing the insular nature of the black community in Atlanta, she recalls, “I’d walk into a reception room and there’d be a room full of brothers, power-brokering their asses off, and I’d realize I’d seen them all naked. I’d watch them striding around, talking to each other in those phony-ass voices men use when they want to make it clear they got juice, and it was so depressing, all I’d want to do was go home and get drunk.” Later, she describes the preacher’s wife’s hair as “pressed and hot-curled within an inch of its life…. Hardly anybody asks for that kind of hard press anymore. Sister seems to have missed the moment when we decided it was okay for the hair to move.”

As the trials and tribulations pile on, the experiences of Cleage’s characters prove to be universal: death, love, second chances. Ava’s acerbic, smart-mouthed narrative keeps the story buoyant; by the time this endearingly imperfect heroine and her cohorts have negotiated the rocky road to a happy ending, readers will be sorry to see her go, even as they wish her well. —Alix Wilber

Product Description
In a remarkable debut novel that sizzles with sensuality, crackles with life-affirming energy and moves the reader to laughter and tears, author Pearl Cleage creates a world rich in character, human drama, and deep, compassionate understanding. After a decade of luxe living in Atlanta, Ava Johnson has returned to tiny Idlewild, Michigan — her fabulous career and power plans smashed to bits on one dark truth: Ava has tested positive for HIV. Bur rather than a sorrowful end, her homecoming is a new beginning. Because, in the ten-plus years since she left, all the problems of the big city have invaded the sleepy community of her childhood. Because dear friends and family sorely need her help in the face of impending trouble and tragedy, and Ava cannot turn her back on them. And because, most importantly, Ava Johnson is inexplicabley and undeniably falling in love.

Customer Reviews: Read 425 more reviews…

3 out of 5 stars Ordinary September 7, 2008
Brittania Stewart (New York, New York USA)
I didn’t have a problem reading the book from beginning to end, however the storyline was a bit predictable. Everything just came together so perfect and in such a cutesy romantic fashion, that it made the book less enjoyable. The character development could have been better. Its always good to read a happy ending, but the book was too happy and a bit unrealistic, even the terminal illness thrown in didn’t seem to shake the characters up.

4 out of 5 stars topic very interesting June 7, 2008
duer (bellmore,ny)
This book was basically a filler for me. I was waiting for another book to come in the mail and this one came first. I was impressed. I have never really touched on the topic of HIV and i think this opened my eyes and created a real person in my mind and their feelings. Ending is predictable but i felt good about it. Days after finishing I kept thinking about the book.

2 out of 5 stars is that it? March 28, 2008
missellen (georgia, usa)
This story started out strong but was incredibly predictable. I kept reading because I thought it would get better. It didn’t. What bugged me the most was that Eddie was ready to kill the teenage hoodlum for throwing a bottle thru the window – yikes!!! The teenager was completely unredeemable to him, which was totally weird since Eddie did much worse in his lifetime (that’s putting it mildly), and he seemed redeemed. In fact, he had become a saint of sorts. And what about crazy church lady’s motives? That part of the story was weak and just did not make much sense.

I wanted Ava to continue doing hair – that was much more interesting than her ridiculously perfect romance. I gave it two stars because I did chuckle a few times, and some of the story was original and interesting. Sorry, Oprah, this was a dud.

3 out of 5 stars A different kind of love story February 25, 2008
Mikeisha Best (Mitchellville, Maryland United States)
My cousin suggested that I read this novel a long time ago. When she told me what the title of the book was, I was immediately interested. First of all, it’s a lengthy title. Secondly, I was internally wondering, what does look like crazy on an ordinary day? I asked my cousin to give me a brief synopsis on the book, and she did, and I was even more interested after listening to the synopsis. After reading “What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day”, I was intrigued more so than anything. One critic said Pearl Cleage tells a story better than Terry McMillan. Terry McMillan? Really? I have read a plethora of books and not many authors can tell a story better than Terry McMillan, and honestly, Cleage didn’t even come close. However, the plot was brilliant. The story could have been executed better, though.

“What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day” is the story of Ava, a hairdresser living with AIDS who resides in Atlanta. She used to be a very promiscuous woman and decides that she wants to inform all of her sex partners of her diagnosis so they can get tested, too. The wife of one of her old sex partners reads the letter and comes to her salon and tells everyone that she has AIDS. Embarrassed, Ava decides to visit her sister, Joyce, in Idlewild, Michigan. While she is there, she meets Eddie, a Vietnam veteran and former murderer. Eddie is attracted to Ava, but shows her only subtly. Their relationship begins by the middle of the book. Pearl Cleage created one of the most beautiful literary love scenes I have ever read with these two people (when they have their first sexual encounter.) There are many subplots in this story. Joyce is the foster mother of a crack baby, Imani, and she does any and everything to keep her safe.

Collectively, this is a beautiful story and I highly recommend it. Cleage did a very nice job.

5 out of 5 stars ….. December 3, 2007
Ms Liz (Houston, TX USA)
1 out of 1 found this review helpful

I am currently working my way thru this book right now. So far, I am really enjoying it. It is a down to earth, REAL telling of what this woman is going thru. So far, so good. I would def. recommend to a friend.

Written by Lifestyle Review Editor - Creative Lifestyle Products

Black and Blue (Oprah’s Book Club)

February 27, 2009 by  
Filed under Books, Oprah's Book Club



Editorial Reviews:

Amazon.com Review
Oprah Book Club Selection, April 1998: “The first time my husband hit me I was nineteen years old,” begins Fran Benedetto, the broken heroine of Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue. With one sweeping sentence, the door to an abused and tortured world is swung wide open and the psyche of a crushed and tattered self-image exposed. “Frannie, Frannie, Fran”–as Bobby Benedetto liked to call her before smashing her into kitchen appliances–was a young, energetic nursing student when she met her husband-to-be at a local Brooklyn bar. She was instantly captivated by his dark, brooding looks and magnetic personality, but her fascination soon solidified into a marital prison sentence of incessant abuse and the destruction of her own identity. After an especially horrific beating and rape, Fran realizes that the next attack could be the last. Fearing her son would be left alone with Bobby, she escapes one morning with her child. Fran’s salvation comes in the form of Patty Bancroft and Co., a relocation agency for abused women that touts better service than the witness protection program. Armed only with a phone number, a few hundred dollars, and the help of several anonymous volunteers, Fran begins a new life. The agency relocates her to Florida, where she becomes Beth Crenshaw, a recently divorced home-care assistant from Delaware. Fran and her son adapt, meeting challenges with unexpected resilience and resolve until their past returns to haunt them. Quindlen renders the intricacies of spousal abuse with eerie accuracy, taking the reader deep within the realm of dysfunctional human ties. However, her vivid descriptions of abuse, emotional disintegration, and acute loneliness at times numb the reader with their realism.

Product Description
With daring and compassion, Anna Quindlen weaves a forceful, harrowing portrait of a woman and a marriage, capturing the profound intricacies of love and rage, passion and violence. At once heartbreaking and utterly riveting, BLACK AND BLUE is an extraordinary work of fiction and a brilliant achievement.

For eighteen years, Fran Benedetto kept her secret, hid her bruises, and stayed with Bobby because she wanted her son to have a father and because, in spite of everything, she loved him. Then one night, when she saw the look on her ten-year-old son’s face, Fran finally made a choice–and ran for both their lives.

With the repackaging of BLACK AND BLUE and One True Thing, Anna Quindlen takes her place alongside Dell’s Alice McDermott and Rosellen Brown bringing their beloved, acclaimed contemporary classics to a whole new audience of trade paperback readers in Delta editions.

Customer Reviews: Read 446 more reviews…

4 out of 5 stars A good read February 8, 2009
Teacher’s Pet (Lockport, New York)
This is well written and not as predictable as one would think. If you have ever lived in a dysfunctional relationship with fear, you will appreciate this one.

4 out of 5 stars Parts excellent, others less so July 20, 2008
An Anonymous Child
As an occasional reader of Anna Quindlen’s column (who often disagrees or doesn’t quite like what’s written), it’s hard to disagree with the fact that Quindlen is an excellent writer and has an intelligent mind. This was the first novel of hers that I read, and I’ll probably seek out more.

But I didn’t really love the book. I liked a lot of it, that’s true. But some parts bothered me quite a bit. The writing is really great – you’re immersed into this world wholly and feel like characters around you are warm and alive. From son Robert to neighbor Cindy, there’s this vivid and clear world. The story runs on a perfectly smooth track, alternating rather well (I felt) between past and present.

Meanwhile, I didn’t really like the end. I didn’t like the rather stereotypical situation with the husband and the husband’s character (abusive, possessive cop… overdone perhaps?). The description of abuse was laid on rather well but felt used and kind of dry. I thought main character Fran/Beth could have been drawn better. And most of all, I felt some parts of the book were a bit far-fetched.

I really liked the book until the very ending where, though it touched my heart, I felt a bit empty. Perhaps this was the intention, but with other far-fetched moments throughout the book it added up to being simply a four-star book – well-written, much better than most, but still lacking in some places. I enjoyed reading it all the way through and comparatively, it’s a high four or a four-and-a-half, but some parts were definitely weaker.

Good side-character characterization, excellent writing, extremely difficult and important topic, and very good presentation means that this book is fairly good. While it’s not a classic, it’s a deep and significant read that I would recommend and one that will lead me to seek out more of Quindlen’s novels.

1 out of 5 stars Boring, long winded and pathetically predictable May 29, 2008
Lady Liberty (USA)
2 out of 2 found this review helpful

The title of my review sums it up. Quindlen went all over the map, describing people, emotions and scenarios that were empty. I skipped dozens of pages of yawn-infused diatribe to get to something…anything…that would be interesting. The ending was so predictable it was laughable and an insult to her readers. Not her best effort.

4 out of 5 stars Blue on Black, a whisper on a shout February 22, 2008
Minna Minocha (Iowa, USA)
Anna Quindlen can really write well, and I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s the story of one woman’s daring escape after years of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, this tale has been told a couple dozen times in the last few years, but Quindlen works hard to make it feel fresh.

The characters are the best part of Quindlen’s writing. Their emotions seem real, which is the hallmark of good writing. My book club agreed that this is one of the best books that we’ve read recently, like Rabid: A Novel by T.K. Kenyon and The Handmaid’s Tale (Everyman’s Library) by Margeret Atwood.


3 out of 5 stars Just okay. February 22, 2008
Robin Wermuth (Chicago, IL)
I was never really captivated by this book until page 170 or so. That’s about when the story really got moving. There was a lot of switching back and forth between memories and present, and the transitions weren’t clear. So, I was often confused. In my opinion, the book was just okay. Nothing overly exciting, never got really attached to the characters.

Written by Lifestyle Review Editor - Creative Lifestyle Products

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