Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Review: Love Walked In and Belong to me- Marisa de los Santos

There are books you read simply because you love books. You flip through the pages, discovering the characters, and taking a look into their lives.

Then there are books that touch something inside your heart. The characters are more than just people on paper, they become a part of your life, their lives intertwine with yours. You can feel what they feel, their happiness, their fears, their apprehensions.

Love Walked in, and Belong to me belong in latter category. At least for me.

I read Love Walked In first. I had come across it while looking for books in Paperback Swap several months ago. In all honesty, it was the author's name that first incited my curiosity. I love reading Spanish/Latin authors, and her name made me wonder about her heritage. Still that wasn't enough for me to request the book. Months passed before I stumbled upon it again and this time I decided to give it a shot and see what it is about. I'm glad I did.

The main characters in this novel are Cornelia and Clare. Cornelia is a coffee shop manager in Philadelphia, and Clare is an 11 year old girl. In the first chapters in the book, we meet them and find out that Cornelia is still trying to figure out the rest of her life, loves her family even if they can drive her crazy at times (isn't that true of all families?). Clare is an only child who has never met her father. She has an eccentric mother and has begun to worry that her mom is off because of her erratic behavior.

I have to admit, the first few chapters I simply didn't understand how these two characters would find their way to each other. And that was the reason I kept on reading the book. I was hooked then.

A handsome man walks in the coffee shop one day and Cornelia, who is a fan of old Hollywood movies, believes this is the man of her dreams. We see how their relationship develops and how Cornelia begins to suspect that, perhaps, she was too quick on her assessment of him being the perfect guy.

So where is the love that walked in, as the title suggests? It isn't a romantic love. Clare turns out to be the daughter of Cornelia's boyfriend, the one he never mentioned until Clare showed at his doorsteps, having been abandoned by her bipolar mother.

It is the love between Clare and Cornelia that touched my heart, the love that walked in. Once she gets over the initial shock, Cornelia realizes that Clare has no one and needs her. And she begins to realize how much she needs Clare too.

Through the book, we see the bond between Cornelia and Clare grow stronger, until they become family. Don't we all have those people in our life, who weren't born into our blood family but are family nonetheless? I know I do.

Cornelia finds real love, Clare finds her mother again, and the book ends with Cornelia making the difficult decision to put some distance between her and Clare to allow Clare and her mom to bond once again. It was the love between these two strangers that touched my heart and made me realize that this same type love is still alive in this world.

Belong to me is not a sequel to Love Walked in. But Cornelia, her now husband Teo, and Clare are in this book also. I read the book because I could not wait to see what had happened to Cornelia and Clare.

Cornelia chooses to move out of the city into suburbia. Clare is living with her mom, being a typical teenager. Cornelia struggles making new friends in a place where people worry so much about appearances, about their kids attending the right school, having a manicured lawn, etc.

We meet Dev who is an incredibly intelligent teenager trying to fit in. His mother moves him across the country and they settle in the same neighborhood as Cornelia and Teo. Dev has never met his father. Cornelia becomes friends with Dev's mother Lake.

There is also Piper who is a model suburbia mother, trying to keep all things in order while trying to be there for her best friend Elizabeth who is dying of cancer. Piper is not an easy character to like. But through the illness and death of Elizabeth we begin to see her human side. She and Cornelia eventually become friends.

I guess this book is more about secrets, about pretending to be something you are not, and about letting people into your life.
We all have secrets, some darker than others. In this book, we see those secrets come to the surface. Piper has secrets and begins to realize she has not allowed herself to live her life because she has been too worried about what people would think of her. Lake has a secret that has dictated her cross country move and that shakes her relationship with her son Dev after it is revealed.

We see Cornelia and Clare still close, still family. And when everyone's secrets finally come out, it is that closeness, that sense of family that allows Cornelia to get passed the hurt, the shock, and embrace this new family that has opened up.

I loved every character in these two books. I loved their humanity. I'm sure everyone knows at least one person who resembles one of the characters. They are real, they have emotions, secrets, and aspirations as the rest of us. And their lives may resemble our own. They are human to me, and they reminded me of the good still left in this world.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review: Can you keep a secret? by Sophia Kinsella

I'm participating in a reading challenge this year. The fact is I love books but needed a way to "spice up" what I read. Hence my decision to do this book challenge. It has proven to be a good decision!

How did I come about this book? I guess I should start by saying this is not the type of book I normally would pick up at the library. In a normal day, I would have passed right by it without a second glance. But one of the categories for this challenge is a Random book. One you just stumble upon at random, without thinking.

I marched into the local library with the idea the chosen book would find its way into my hands. Isn't that how random works? I tried to recall all the theories about randomness I heard while in school. Alas, none came to me. Still I just knew the book would find its way into my hands.

And it did. As I was walking down the aisle, waiting for the book to say "pick me, pick me", this book with pink cover stood out. I had to pick it up. For starters, why a pink cover? I'm not a fan of pink, so that was clue #1 this book may be a contender. Under normal circumstances, the color of the cover alone would have made me pass right by it without a second glance. I read the title and I knew I had to read it. I had to find out what this secret was about.

The book I read is "Can you keep a secret" by Sophia Kinsella. I'll be honest, I had only heard of her at passing. I found out later she has a trilogy of Shopaholic books. I'm not a big shopper, so never had any desire of reading these books.

I read the book in 2 days, I simply could not put it down. It was the perfect book for the kind of week I was having. I had a house full of sick children and one adult, and needed something to help me unwind at the end of the day.
Call it chick lit, or whatever you want. The fact is the minute I met Emma Corrigan, I liked her. She reminded me of most every one of my friends, wrapped up in one. She is trying to get ahead in the corporate world, while trying to figure out what exactly she wants out of life. Haven't we all experienced that at some point in our lives? I know I have.

Emma happens to hate flying, not something I share with her, as I wish I could fly to work every single day. She is flying back home after disastrous work meeting and ends up telling all her secrets to a complete stranger on the plane. She thought she was going to die and felt the need to tell someone all those things. The plane had hit turbulence and she was absolutely certain this was it. So she spilled the beans, from how she is killing a coworker's plant by feeding orange juice to what type of underwear she despises, and everything in between.

To say I like Emma is an understatement. I liked her immediately, mostly because I cannot imagine ever sharing my secrets with a strange man on an airplane.

Turns out the stranger is the CEO of the company she works for. Of course, she has no idea who he is until he shows up at work the next day and she realizes that's the man from the plane.

Their story takes a lot of delicious twists and turns that could never be captured accurately in film. The type of stuff that makes you stay awake passed your bedtime (even though you have to be up before the crack of dawn) just because you have to know what's going to happen to Emma next.

I devoured this book as easily as I devour a Ghiardelli chocolate bar. Guilty pleasure. I enjoyed meeting Emma, rejoiced with her when she found love, and felt her pain when she had her heart broken on national tv.

As I said before, I love books. Some are easier to read than others, some have a complex plot line that requires you to pay attention so you don't miss a thing. If you are looking for a delightful story that will make you laugh out loud, and cheer for a unlikely heroine, this book is for you. If you want a break from big complex fiction plots and just want to read something lighthearted, this book is for you.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Reading Challenge

I love to read, and love books (as the collection of them all over my house will attest). So I've decided to participate in a reading challenge this year.

I found out about this challenge from a member of Paperback Swap (long story!) but I'm glad I did because I love challenges and this one should be fun. Wanna know more about the challenge? You can go to her page where it is all explained.

Every book I read I will review on this blog too. Maybe someone will want to pick one of these books, plus it will help keep track of all I've read so far.

Happy Reading!