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girl-with-a-pearl-earringIn mid-career, the celebrated Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer painted a girl wearing a turban and a pearl earring. This famous painting, Girl With a Pearl Earring, has been called the Dutch Mona Lisa. Sometimes she appears to be smiling sensuously, the other times she seems unbearably sad.

In seventeenth-century Delft, a strict social order reigns, dividing rich and poor, Catholic and Protestant, master and servant. When sixteen-year-old Griet goes to work as a maid in th home of the city’s most renowned painter, she is expected to know her place.

But in the Vermeer household, dominated by his mercurial wife and her formidable mother, Griet soon catches the eye of the master. Captivated by Griet’s quiet manner, intuitive spirit, and fascination with art, Vermeer begins to draw her into his world. As Griet becomes a vital part of Vermeer’s work, their growing intimacy spreads tension and deception in the ordered household and even, as the scandal seeps out, ripples into the town beyond.

Girl With a Pearl Earring is very well written with beautiful descriptions, and an obvious amount of research done on the time period and the painter, as well as painting techniques of the 1600s. Chevalier does such a wonderful job describing her setting, painting her characters, and bringing the reader into the work. The colors, the sounds, the smells, the emotions-all of them are brilliantly captured and terribly engrossing.

The sense of class distinctions is portrayed well, and Griet’s personality quirks (such as always keeping her hair covered) make her a more personable protagonist. The pressure of supporting her parents and dealing with the internal politics of the Vermeer family leads her to make some life-changing choices, feeling subject to the will of others. I almost wish the last chapter hadn’t been included – although it does wrap up some loose ends.

However, the characters, with the exception of the main character, Griet, are very one-sided. I wondered why Griet seemed to know so much more about life than anyone else in the book. It was not a fault of the narration, but I think a real oversight in the writing and took away from the novel.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Chevalier, Tracy. Girl with a Pearl Earring. New York: Plume, 2005. Print. ISBN: 0452287022. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Plume. Retrieved: June 30, 2008.

sun-kissedNo one understands Kristen Carmichael anymore. Her mom’s career-obsessed, her dad’s marrying his secretary, and her friends have all turned on her because of a rumor. All she has now is her surfboard and the serenity of the ocean–until Nate Jacobs, a social pariah and the last person she would have ever imagined herself with, is suddenly there for her.

In order to appease my mom, I read Sun-Kissed by Belinda Ray. It’s an SAT vocabulary novel that is supposed to be “the painless way to learn SAT vocabulary.”

This is a book does help refresh or learn vocab and it has a pretty good plot. The book has such a great story teenage girls could relate to. After awhile, it’s second nature to look down for the words. Or, you can try to guess what the word is using context clues and quiz yourself. Enjoyable read, even if you don’t get anything out of it vocab-wise.

Book Mentioned:

  • Ray, Belinda. Sun-Kissed. New York: Sterling, 2004. Print. 200 pgs. ISBN: 978141100801. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Sterling. Retrieved: June 29, 2008.

did-i-expect-angelsJennifer Huffaker knows that grief is normal, but she thought she’d get over it–that’s what people do. But it’s been eighteen months since her husband Jack died, and she still can’t focus on her young daughter Kaitlin, can’t accept support from her family, and can’t allow herself to live without the love of her life. Jennifer is angry at everything and everyone–including herself for being so unprepared. But what did she expect? Angels?

On the day after Christmas her anguish finally becomes too much, and Jennifer’s pain culminates in a shattering decision. But this is also the night she runs into Henry, an elderly friend from Costa Rica who has seen more of life’s trials than anyone could know. Henry realizes the devastating depths to which Jennifer has sunk, and he decides that tonight is the night to tell her story.

Back in March, Trish at Hey, Lady! Whatcha Readin’? posted a review, and a giveaway, about Maughan’s book. The cover immediately interested me and when I didn’t win the giveaway, I asked for Did I Expect Angels? for my birthday.

I cannot flaw the writing. I loved the flow, the dipping in and out of Jennifer’s story as she heard Henry’s. But the ending felt rushed. I didn’t want it to be tied up with a bow, and while the bow wasn’t there, it felt like Maughan was in a rush to finish. I also didn’t get sucked into the characters or the story like I expected.

I can’t say Jennifer or Henry, or this story, will stick with me forever. In fact, I finished the novel Wednesday night and I’ve pretty much forgotten all of it. It’s a nice story that’s well-written but not anything really special.

Others’ Thoughts:

Book Mentioned:

  • Maughan, Kathryn. Did I Expect Angels? iUniverse, 2007. Print. 184 pgs. ISBN: 9780595402595. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © iUniverse. Retrieved: June 27, 2008.

“What, in your opinion, is the definition of a “reader.” A person who indiscriminately reads everything in sight? A person who reads BOOKS? A person who reads, period, no matter what it is? … Or, more specific? Like the specific person who’s reading something you wrote?”

I’m going to be easy here but a “reader” is a person who reads. Period. No matter what. The morning paper. The latest best seller. The phone book. The back of the cereal box.

the-guardianJulie Barenson’s young husband left her two unexpected gifts before he died-a Great Dane puppy named Singer and the promise that he would always be watching over her. Now, four years have passed. Still living in the small town of Swansboro, North Carolina, twenty-nine-year-old Julie is emotionally ready to make a commitment to someone again.

But who? Should it be Richard Franklin, the handsome, sophisticated engineer who treats her like a queen? Or Mike Harris, the down-to-earth nice guy who was her husband’s best friend? Choosing one of them should bring her more happiness than she’s had for years. Instead, Julie is soon fighting for her life in a nightmare spawned by a chilling deception and jealousy so poisonous that it has become a murderous desire,

Sparks is clearly a love-story writer. However, The Guardian has a different spin on it. his book starts off sounding like a typical love story about making the decision between the “down to earth” friend or the handsome “travel the world” man. However all of that changes when jealousy and anger comes into play, threatening the life of Julie and all the things important to her.

This book really made you care about the characters, even the villain(s). It wasn’t slow either, the story keeps moving at a very good pace, and when you near the end during all the excitement you don’t want to put the book down. I have to say that this book was one of my favorites of Sparks’. I couldn’t put it down and it had a more suspenseful twist with an unsuspecting hero than most of his others.

Book Mentioned:

  • Sparks, Nicolas. The Guardian. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2003. Print. 400 pgs. ISBN: 9780446696111. Source: Purchased.
Book Cover © Grand Central Publishing. Retrieved: June 26, 2008.
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