Genre: Fiction

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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!

 

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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!

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five-stars

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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.

 

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four-stars

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Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

January 4, 2016 Book Review 12

Book Review: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-TimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Published by Vintage on May 18th 2004
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 226
Format: Paperback
Source: purchased
Goodreads

 

After having this one on my shelf for quite a few years I finally picked it up as my first read for 2016.

Christopher, the protagonist, has a form of autism. He seems brilliant when it comes to numbers and remembering facts; dealing with people and social situations, not so much.  The only touch he seems to be able to tolerate is that of an animal – his favorite pet rat or the next door neighbor’s dog – Wellington.

When Christopher discovers Wellington with a garden rake poking out of his fur, he loses it. No one seems to know who or why Wellington was murdered. So Christopher takes it on himself to detect the culprit. His favorite storybook character is Sherlock Holmes.  Christopher uses Holmes’ methods of deduction and reasoning to investigate Wellington’s death.

Christopher’s world is turned inside out as the progression of his investigation continues. We follow along in his head as he tries to make sense of the senseless. Several paragraphs I had to skip over. Whenever Christopher went off on a mathematical equation  my eyes would glaze over and brain would go into a deep, thick fog. But I had to keep reading because the mystery was compelling, the characters heart-breaking and Christopher, whom I wanted to envelope into a long mama hug, could not be touched. To be autistic sounds incredibly difficult, but almost even more so difficult, I think, would be the one to take care of an autistic child. God bless the saints who care for the autistic person.

Recommended for those who enjoyed Flowers for Algernon or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

Have you read this oldie?

 

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Book Review: The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

November 19, 2015 Book Review 4

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 Magic Strings of Frankie PrestoThe Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
Published by Harper on November 10th 2015
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 512
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonIndieBound
Goodreads

 

Having read all of Mitch Albom’s books, I was looking forward to his newest release, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto.  Mitch Albom has a way with storytelling that can completely immerse one into the lives of his characters.  His novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven I still hand out to friends and loved ones. It’s one of those books I’m an immense champion for and believe everyone should read.  along with Have a Little Faith. oh, and Tuesdays With Morrie. Haha! can you tell I love his books?

 

The secret is not to make your music louder, but to make the world quieter.

World-renowned musician, Frankie Presto, has just passed away in the most public of fashions – was it murder? or something else entirely?  “Music,” as the narrator, takes the opportunity to interview several important guests to Frankie Presto’s funeral {and influential in his life} sharing the story of Frankie’s life – how he became the musician and the man.

The book is filled with music references to both the actual playing of music and the musicians beloved by many. If you play music or just enjoy listening to music, especially classical, then you’ll feel right at home amongst the pages.  The entire book is a metaphor as to how music has the ability to heal.

Do not let go of your own music, chava. Or you will let go of yourself.

The storytelling aspect of The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is in typical Albom genius.  Each chapter leaves you wanting to learn more. Albom has the ability to reveal the motivations and inner recesses of the mind in a way that keeps you quickly turning the pages; however……personally, I did not like the narrator.  Music as the narrator was a bit confusing and frustrating and the music references went right over my head.  The story is great. The life lessons are superb. It’s simply the narrator did not work for me.

Have you read a book you expected to love but found the narrator to be annoying or obtrusive?

To see what other bloggers had to say about The Magic Strings follow along the blog tour.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for inclusion in the Book Tour!

tlc tour host

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What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?

October 2, 2015 Book Review 2

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.

What does The Shining Have to do with The Night Sister?The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
Published by Doubleday on August 4th 2015
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 322
Format: Hardcover
Source: complimentary review copy
Amazon
Goodreads

 

The first and only time I saw the movie “The Shining” I got to the part with the little kid on the tricycle and had to leave the room. . .I’m a huge scaredy cat when it comes to horror.  Add a creepy hotel and Jack Nicholson and to this day I have nightmares of “Red Rum!”

But. I’m human enough to thoroughly enjoy scaring myself to death. Having read The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon I knew I had to read her latest, The Night Sister.  Set in a creepy motel in rural Vermont with a replica of the London Tower at the entrance, The Night Sister has location, location, location in spades.  The setting drew me in and swept me along even more so than the characters.  Jennifer McMahon is a master at setting up an atmosphere of spooky without depending on blood and gore.

I was reminded of the old “Dark Shadows” episodes while I was reading The Night Sister – well, “Dark Shadows” and “The Shining!”  The book gives you that sense of dark and foreboding.  The characters were lightly drawn but engaging.  At times it was a little difficult to keep up with who was who but the plot kept me flipping pages as fast as I could.

If you’re looking for a creepy, atmospheric, plot-driven novel for your October reads, definitely pick up The Night Sister.  Then come back and tell me at one point you figured out who killed the family in the opening pages!

Linking up to Jenn’s Bookshelves for Murder, Monsters, Mayhem and the R.I.P. X challenge.

R.I.P. X

Many thanks to Doubleday Books for the review copy.

[Tweet “What does The Shining have to do with The Night Sister? “]

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