Posts Categorized: reviews

The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About Books

January 23, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

The Ultimate Feel Good Novel for Those Who Love Books About BooksThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
Published by Sourcebooks Landmark on January 19th 2016
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: complimentary review copy
Goodreads
five-stars

People were strange like that. They could be completely uninterested in you, but the moment you picked up a book, you were the one being rude.

Feel good books were ones you could put down with a smile your face, books that made you think the world was a little crazier, stranger, and more beautiful when you looked up from them.

It all starts with Sara arriving in Broken Wheel, Iowa from Sweden. She’s there to visit pen pal Amy Harris who unbeknownst to Sara, has just passed away.

And now I’ve now read this books 3+ times since downloading, and each time it gets better and better.

Why?

Because there are so many under-lying stories that address true-to-real-life problems. The brilliance is in HOW the problems are approached. The wry humor, understanding and acceptance of all is woven into each storyline and character in such a way that even the most hard-hearted can appreciate.  There’s stories of race, religion, sexuality, immigration, relationships and age, loveless marriages and divorce – if you can think of it then this book probably touched on it.

While several of the characters are based off of stereotypes, the characters themselves are fully fleshed out and wonderful in their own right. There’s Caroline, the town’s moral compass and Christian Upholder; Andy, local boy who left to find himself and returned with gorgeous Carl and together they opened the local bar; ‘Poor George‘ who has had every knock life could dole out and I tend to think he stole the show, next to. . . . .Grace aka/Madeleine – Every town has one – the requisite strong female who proudly brings her shotgun to a wedding ‘to celebrate!’ Oh the characters were so much fun and quirky and real. I felt like I was sitting at the local diner.  Or plopped right down into the middle of an old favorite show Men In Trees. Or maybe “the book equivalent of a Meg Ryan film.”  Or even better, the book and movie-version of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-Stop Cafe!

I’ve also seen people so completely caught up in their problems that those problems practically creep in beneath their skin and eat them up from within, until it seems as though their reaction to the problem is worse than the problem itself ever was. Those people grow cruel and bitter too, so it’s difficult to remember to feel sorry for them.

How fun is it to read a fantastic book if you can’t tell others about it, talk about it, and quote from it constantly?

There’s always a person for every book. And a book for every person.

Overall, there’s no way I could fully express how much I think you should read this one. It’s got a little bit for everyone.

In trying to capture all of the authors and books mentioned in the book, I highlighted more sections than not!  There’s a passage on Dewey the famous Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World; the back story of how Penguin Books began in 1935 by founder Allen Lane; and oh so many quotes and references to books, all kinds of books!  One thing is clear – Katarina Bivald is a fan of the Brontë Sisters and Jane Austen! That’s got to count for something, right!

 

RBWR-Sweeps-600x150
Anyone can nominate their favorite bookstore at Readers Recommend Favorite Bookstore Sweepstakes. Sourcebooks will award the winning bookstore with a $3,000 prize; two additional bookstores will each receive a $637 prize (the population of Bivald’s fictional Broken Wheel, Iowa). In addition to bookstores receiving prizes, weekly giveaways for those who nominate will be held throughout the campaign. Voting began January 4, and runs until February 19, when the winning bookstores will be announced.

I’ll leave you with a couple of questions asked between the pen-pals Amy and Sara:

Do you think writing books makes you happier or unhappier?

Do you throw books away?

Do you think our dreams are subject to inflation? and does having dreams make us more or less happy?

on Jane Austen’s last unfinished novel, Sandition “Do you think Jane had stopped dreaming by that point?”

Stay warm friends!

signature
five-stars

Divider

Book Review: The Guest Room

January 15, 2016 Book Review, reviews 5

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Book Review: The Guest RoomThe Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
Published by Doubleday on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads
four-stars

 

What happens when every choice you make is wrong?

The latest by powerhouse author Chris Bohjalian has a bachelor party going catastrophically wrong in the suburban home of Richard and Kristen.  Richard reluctantly hosts his younger brother’s bachelor party thinking it will be much cleaner and tamer than going to a club.  He is so wrong.

The Guest Room follows Richard and Kristen as they learn to deal with two violent deaths occurring inside their home; Richard’s purported actions with one of the girls from the bachelor party; And the fallout with Richards’s job, neighbors, life.

[Tweet “Explosive thriller straight from headlines by @chrisbohjalian “]

In reading The Guest Room several thoughts and emotions came to mind. First, of course, the human trafficking aspect was horrific and all too real.  Bohjalian put a human face and back story to what happens to girls inside human trafficking.  He also brings to light how our choices come back to haunt us. The portrayal of a marriage, the mistakes one makes however big or small and how a couple overcomes, or doesn’t, felt very real.

Told from three alternating point of views:

  • Richard Chapman, investment banker, relatively great husband and father that makes the mistake of his life;
  • Kristen Chapman, wife to Richard, high school teacher and dedicated mother;
  • Alexandra, devoted dancer from Armenia, kidnapped into sex trade at age 15, brought to America at age 19 by Russian mobsters to continue working.

The pace is lightning fast. I couldn’t flip through or read fast enough. The ending is explosive and unexpected. And the storyline reads as though pulled from the CNN headlines. Although the ending wrapped up a little too neatly the fast action and storyline told made up for any small issues. One word of warning ~ be ready with tissues!

If you liked The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan or Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter then you’ll enjoy The Guest Room.

Read this free short story of Alexandra’s life shared by the author.

Visit Chris Bohjalian Website | Facebook | Twitter

To learn more or to support an end to human trafficking visit C.A.S.T. – Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.

 

signature

 

four-stars

Divider

Book Review: Some Luck

March 5, 2015 Book Review, reviews 9

Book Review: Some LuckSome Luck by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing on Ocober 7th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 395
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee.  I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!

Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town.  Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire.  Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family.    Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant.  Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot?  I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family.  That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.

Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.

Why I picked up Some Luck

I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.

What I would have liked better

There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit.  Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree!  Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses.   Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.

Please give me more

Henry!  It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.

Interesting to Note

The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means.  For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe).  If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.

If you like A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler or Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem then you may enjoy Some Luck.

What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?

 

Divider

Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You Today

February 18, 2015 Book Review, reviews 6

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book nor the content of my review.

Strengthen Your Relationship with Deb DeArmand’s I Choose You TodayI Choose You Today by Deb DeArmond
Published by Abingdon Press on January 6th, 2015
Genres: Christian, Non-Fiction
Pages: 208
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

It may seem a bit strange to my regular readers that I am reviewing a book on marriage.  Having failed at too many relationships to count I actually kind of think perhaps I am best suited to discuss a book on marriage.  As I’m typing this I’m hearing the Priest in The Princess Bride just beginning his discussion of “Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. . . . ”  A bit off topic but true, nonetheless 😉

So friends, marriage is what brings us here today.  Are you in one? Want to be in one? Planning one? Thinking one day, someday in a far-away distant future you’d like to be in one?  Then this book is for you.

Thirty-one chapters. Each dedicated to how you can make a choice to love your spouse, fiancée or significant other. It’s not a book to read through all at once.  I have been reading a chapter every other day or so and applying the key concept for the following day ~ After going through the book once I now plan to take a chapter a week and apply the concepts ~ I’m excited to see the results!  A key takeaway from this book is that love is a choice, not an emotion. Choosing to respect, love, honor my sweetheart makes all the difference in the world. Below is a sampling of a few chapter headings.  

  • I Choose to Bless You
  • I Choose to be Adaptable
  • I Choose to Share Your Burdens
  • I Choose to Serve You
  • I Choose to Be Generous With You
  • I Choose to Pray For You
  • I Choose to Help You Achieve Your Dreams and Goals
  • I Choose to Comfort You
  • I Choose to Live in Peace With  You
  • I Choose to Prefer You

[Tweet “Love is a choice, not an emotion. #IChooseYouChallenge”]

Each chapter ends with a quote, three questions and a short prayer, all geared to help the reader take the topic deeper.  While it is targeted to an already-married population, I can see this book being especially suited for small group discussions, premarital counseling and anyone contemplating marriage some day.

It does come from a Christian perspective that is spot-on in addressing the work it takes to make love last, to keep a happy, forever-kind-of marriage.  Deb DeArmond is conversational in her writing tone, and  she will definitely have you considering if you’re doing all that you can to make the relationship last.

[Tweet “The secret for hanging on to the happily-ever-after feelings from the day you said, “I do”? http://bit.ly/1EnkZCw #IChooseYouChallenge “]

You’re invited to participate in two marriage-strengthening challenges: one beginning February 1 and the other beginning in March. It’s not too late to join the February Challenge!  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to build your relationship with your spouse and enter to win some prizes along the way!

The Valentine’s Challenge: February 1 – 28

Tell your spouse “I Choose You” every day of the month. Sign up online at www.ichooseyouchallenge.com and receive a free downloadable February calendar to mark off the days of the challenge.

Deb will also be emailing participants 1–2 times throughout the month with giveaway opportunities and “keep going” encouragement.

The “I Choose You” Challenge: March 1 – December 31, 2015

Sign up online at www.ichooseyouchallenge.com to receive 10 weekly emails, each teaching one of the choices from Deb’s book along with practical applications. This challenge is broken up into three different sessions, covering all 31 choices from the book.

There will be giveaways and opportunities to win throughout the year. Participants can decide when to join—it’s not required to do all three sessions.

Many thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.

Divider

Book Review: The Unquiet Dead

February 9, 2015 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: The Unquiet DeadThe Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Published by Minotaur on January 13th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 352
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

I am a sucker for a mystery that incorporates religion or historical fact.  When a book includes all three I’m over the moon.  And if it has a bibliography then I’ve died and gone to heaven.  Such is the case with The Unquiet Dead.  {if you’re in my postal book club stop reading now}

When the Bosnian war broke out I was pregnant with my first child.  I can remember watching the news accounts, horrified at the victimization of so many, and appalled at how little the U.N. seemed to be able to help.  Little did I realize the news accounts were woefully under-informed.

Set in Canada, The Unquiet Dead follows Esa Khattak and his partner, Detective Rachel Getty as they navigate the delicate religious sects in an attempt to determine if a death is suspicious, or not.  Esa was appointed head of a unique task force that investigates crimes with religious leanings ~ he is especially qualified as a 2nd generation Canadian Muslim to wade the murky waters of religious acceptance.

Because of Esa’s familiarity with a witness to the possible crime, Rachel is called in to be both objective and protection.  She is given no information about the case and is expected to observe without bias.  She is given as much information as the reader, actually less, and it was so interesting to learn the facts of the case right along with her.

Ausma is a talented writer with impeccable timing.  Just as Rachel was about to get too frustrated with the lack of transparency from Esa, I, the reader, was also bordering frustration.  Then bam! The next kernel of evidence and information was revealed.  This bit of writing finesse kept the plot moving at almost break-neck speed.

What is but isn’t a complaint ~ I wanted to savor each small revelation and work at slowly figuring out what was what.  I couldn’t do that though, because I HAD TO read fast so I could unravel all of the layers of mysteries. One small issue was with Esa.  Without revealing any spoilers there’s a part where he acts out of character.  I get it though, taking into consideration the underlying storyline with Esa and the witness, but geez! I thought he was made of stronger stuff 😉

Please read this one.  The mystery, the underlying psychological subtleties, the religious intolerance {and acceptance} are all each and of themselves enough reason to read The Unquiet Dead.  Throw in the historical fact of The Bosnian War and that makes this book a knock out of the proverbial park.  Highly, highly recommended.

[Tweet “Mystery that tackles 3 world religions with sensitivity and a senseless war with deep respect.”]

As a side note, some of the actual historical statements from endless testimony regarding The Bosnian War is used throughout The Unquiet Dead.  It gives even more credibility to the sensitive, respectful manner in which the author portrays the horrors of war.

Putting money where my mouth is {well, really my fingertips that are typing away here} I am giving away two copies of The Unquiet Dead to my lovely readers.  Everyone is welcome and encouraged to enter as long as you are over the age of 13.

[promosimple id=”6a1c”]

Divider