Genre: Magical Realism

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Book Review: Mercy Snow

January 29, 2015 Book Review, reviews 3

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: Mercy SnowMercy Snow by Tiffany Baker
Published by Grand Central Publishing on January 27th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Magical Realism
Pages: 368
Source: complimentary review copy
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Set in rural New Hampshire along the Androscoggin River, Mercy Snow is at turns a portrait of a prejudicial society and a testament to how one person can redeem a town.

The Snows have quite the reputation in this logging town that goes back several generations.  The McAllisters also have a reputation, as the owners of the mill and the town.  When a youth group bus crashes into the river a chain of events are set off that causes the town to implode.

At times my heart was breaking for the Snow family, Mercy, age 19, Hannah, the 8-year-old “wild baby sister,” and Zeke, the older brother intent on saving his sisters.  In a town where work was scarce and opinions rampant, being considered “backwoods,” was not a good thing.  Living off the land, illiterate, and poorer than church mice, the Snows were not welcomed in the paper mill town of Titan Falls.

After the bus rolls off of Devil’s Slide Road due to a maniac trying to pass on the ice, Zeke is accused and must disappear deeper into the woods.  This leaves Mercy with the bulk of responsibility caring for Hannah through a scarce winter.

While not stated, it seemed to me that the book was set in the early 80’s soon after the Clean Water Act was enacted.  It was interesting {and sad} to read how protecting the water source affected so many livelihoods.

There’s a touch of magic or what mountain folk call ‘the gift’  in Mercy Snow. Mercy comes from a long line of female healers ~ those who know which herbs and touch to use for all kinds of ailments.  Living in the Appalachian Mountains I can attest to that belief still going on strong.

My fave quote:

You know, there’s a difference between healing and saving.  Only one of them is God’s work.

My one fault with the book is that not everyone got his or her due.  Which doesn’t happen in the real world either, but I really really really wanted a couple of people to suffer for the evilness caused.

Truly a spiritual Southern gothic tale set in the mountains of New Hampshire, Mercy Snow is both rich in atmosphere and character.  Highly recommended to readers of Sarah Addison Allen, Angela Hunt and Beth Hoffman.

[Tweet “Lyrical spiritual southern gothic tale set in New Hampshire “]

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I’m honored to be a member of the She Reads Blog Network. Five lucky winners will receive the set of She Reads Books of Winter of which includes Mercy Snow. ENTER HERE by January 30th, 2015 {that’s tomorrow folks!}  The complete set includes The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister, Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker, and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

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Book Review: The Dress Shop of Dreams

January 13, 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.

Book Review: The Dress Shop of DreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna Van Pragg
Published by Ballantine Books, Random House on December 30th
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 336
Source: complimentary review copy
AmazonBarnes & NobleIndieBound
Goodreads

 

Having read and loved Menna van Praag’s novel The House at the End of Hope Street {review here} I had high expectations of The Dress Shop of Dreams.  Both books are steeped in magical realism and satisfy my yearning for fairy tales.  I collected fairy tales as a child and read them over and over {The recent movie “Into the Woods” was a phenomenal experience for me!}  I’ve been accused, quite often, of living with my head in the clouds and being too much of a dreamer.  All perfect reasons to immerse myself in Menna van Praag’s novels!

When Cora Sparks parent’s died mysteriously, Cora moved in with Etta, her Grandmother, above Etta’s fabulous dress shop.  Cora grows up as logical, a realist and becomes a scientist with a heart closed to love.  On the same street as the dress shop is a book store where Walt, a young boy infatuated with Cora, grows up immersed in the stacks.  Walt ends up buying the bookstore as an adult {what a dream come true that would be for me!} and Cora burrows deeper and deeper into her lab.

Etta’s sewing needles and expertise at finding the perfect dress for a client is nothing short of magical.  A woman can walk into the dress shop without any self-confidence, put on a dress from Etta and then sees herself as beautiful, self-assured and ready to make her own dreams come true.  When Etta decides to push things along between Walt and Cora by sewing a tiny heart into Walt’s shirt, chaos ensues.

Normally I enjoy books with several points of view; however, The Dress Shop of Dreams seemed to have a few too many that did nothing to further the plot.  The cast of characters are imaginative and real, making this character-driven story a treat.

[Tweet “a nora ephron-esque feel-good book for dreamers”]

As a feel-good novel with underlying magic The Dress Shop of Dreams shines.  Reading it was like sitting through a Nora Ephron film with copious amounts of popcorn and snowcaps.  A super sweet, imaginative love story with hearts all awry and characters who think they know what’s best until life, and a bit of magic, show them otherwise.  Recommended to those who enjoy a Nora Ephron film and readers of Sarah Addison Allen.

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I’m honored to be a member of the She Reads Blog Network.  Five lucky winners will receive the set of She Reads Books of Winter of which includes The Dress Shop of Dreams. ENTER HERE by January 30th, 2015.   The complete set includes The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag, The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister, Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker, and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

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Book Review: Lost Lake

May 7, 2014 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: Lost LakeLost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 21, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 296
Source: Giveaway Win
AmazonBarnes & Noble
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Sarah Addison Allen can take a situation that seems coincidental and turn it into a thing of magic.   That saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” applies to all of Allen’s novels.

When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone.  Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again. 

Kate has been in mourning for a year after losing her husband to a tragic bicycle accident.  While Kate has been in a fog, Her mother-in-law Cricket, a force to be reckoned with, has stepped in to help Kate by arranging the sale of her home, the bicycle shop, and the care of 8 year old Devon.

On the day Kate and Devin are to move into Cricket’s home in a ritzy neighborhood of Atlanta, Devon finds a postcard from Kate’s aunt welcoming her back to Lost Lake campground anytime.  On a whim, Kate & Devon drive to south Georgia in search of  Lost Lake and Kate’s Aunt Eby.  Weaving in and out of Eby and Kate’s story we learn how Lost Lake came to be such an integral piece in so many lives, from Jack, the introverted podiatrist who has visited for 30 years to Bulahdeen, the English Literature professor from “the end of the world” {also known as the wrong side of the tracks} to Lisette, the Frenchwoman who followed Eby and her husband from Europe to the humid heat of south Georgia and to Eby herself, with her calm reassuring ways and superbig heart.  Allen’s characters have such life breathed into them it’s as though I’ve known them all my life.

You can’t change where you come from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you can make up a new one.

It is the gentle method in which we learn the back stories of each character that Allen truly shines.  Allen is truly adept at revealing the plot layer at a time.   The magic-infused stories are filled with such hope and love and light, I always feel good about the world after reading one of her novels.  She seems to really “get” the slow easy way of life in the mountains and the uniqueness of an individual.  Highly recommended for anyone who likes a feel-good story and/or Southern Fiction.

Connect with Sarah Addison Allen | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

Free prequel to Lost Lake available as an ebook ~ Waking Kate

Many thanks to She Reads for the giveaway!

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Book Review: The House at the End of Hope Street

March 27, 2014 Book Review, Giveaway, reviews 14

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 House at the End of Hope StreetThe House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Pragg
Published by Penguin on March, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 320
Source: complimentary review copy
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Goodreads

 

What a fantastic dream ~ a house in which a woman can escape from the world for 99 days while she figures out what to do next.  A place where when one is at the end of her rope and it seems as though all hope is gone, the house at the end of Hope Street is there to bring you back round again.

Trust yourself and you shall know how to live.

We get a peek into the lives of three women who have lost their hope and the den mother who oversees all the goings on.  Alba has had the Worst Thing Ever happen;  Carmen has escaped a brutish and brutal husband;  while Greer’s career has lost its fizzle.  Peggy Abbot is the overseer and third generation of Abbot women to devote her life to the House.  When the story begins Alba is just finding the house and discovering the hundreds of famous women who have also stayed ~ the likes of which include Florence Nightingale, Sylvia Plath and George Eliot.

“Oh dear,” Stella smiles, “Doris Lessing wouldn’t be too impressed to hear that.  She actually stayed here while she wrote it, a few years before I arrived.  She now resides on the living room wall.  You should visit her, she’s an inspiration to any writer.”

As Alba settles in we learn of the house’s special quirks ~ like waking up to a roomful of books and personal messages to each of the residents floating down from the ceiling.  All of the wondrous things you could imagine in a haven for women {especially women who love to read} are included in this house.  The magical realism is like entering a dreamland in which women are nurtured, loved and inspired for 99 nights ~ if only there truly was a place such as the house at the end of Hope Street!  It would never be empty!

The writing is sweet, understated and pulls you in.  The differences among the women residing in the house were such that many women could relate to at least one of the characters either in age, season of life or circumstances.

There were a couple of aspects I did not particularly find believable/enjoyable ~

  • Peggy’s storyline ~ she gave up so much in order to be den mother to the women she found on her doorstep and yet there were pieces to her mothering that just didn’t sit well with me.  I wanted her to be more involved {not a helicopter mom, mind you} but she seemed to stay not quite as involved as I guess I would have expected.  And her love interest? Man oh man was he a patient man!
  • The house itself seems to evolve with these particular residents ~ why didn’t it evolve say 20, 30, 50 years ago?  Why did it find the need to change now?
  • And Blake?  Ugh! Blake! ~ that storyline aggravated me to no end.  Why? Why? Why Blake did you have to get involved?!?

Overall The House at the End of Hope Street was a book lover’s dream come true.  A house that would care and provide for my every need and desire while nurturing my creativity and soul ~ who could ask for anything more?  If you love novels by Sarah Addison Allen or Alice Hoffman, then you’ll definitely want to read this one!

A very cool addition to the book is a listing of the women whose photographs adorn the walls of the house along with her contribution to history.  The publisher has also included a wonderful resource for book clubs here.

With many thanks to the publisher I have one copy to giveaway to a reader from the United States.  Simply leave a comment with which female literary author OR character you would love to spend time with.  The giveaway will end on March 31st at midnight.  Winner will be notified by email.

I received a copy of The House at the End of Hope Street for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

In no way does this affect my opinion or review of the novel.

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Book Review: City of Lost Dreams

December 9, 2013 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: City of Lost DreamsCity of Lost Dreams by Magnus Flyte
Published by Penguin on November, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 368 pages
Source: complimentary review copy
Goodreads

That’s a nice girl, that.  But she ought to go careful in Vienna.  Everybody ought to go careful in a city like this.   ~Graham Greene, The Third Man

If you could drink a vial of liquid that would give you immortality, stopping your aging at this very moment, would you take it?

The second novel written by Magnus Flyte reunites us with musicologist, Sarah Weston (no relation to poet, Elizabeth Weston), Nico, the 400 year old dwarf, Pollina, Sarah’s friend, and 13-year-old blind protegé, and finally Max, Prince Maximilian made famous from City of Dark Magic with his eccentricities and sexual excursions in dark bathrooms.

In Book 2 we find Sarah, Nico and Max in a mad frenzy trying to find a cure for Pollina.  There is something not working quite right with Pollina’s chromosome 20 and she is dying right before them.  Sarah’s roommate from City of Dark Magic, the gorgeous Italian, Alessandro, is working in the field of neuroscience at the University in Vienna.  He knows a scientist who has performed miracles with patients who have chromosome 20 issues.  So to Vienna Sarah goes.  Meanwhile Max and Nico take care of Pollina at Max’s family castle-turned-museum in the last book and Nico continues to track down a way to end his bugged curse of immortality.

Many threads of story line are created in City of Lost Dreams.  At times the characters were more numerous than the words it seemed like.  This novel had elements of  most all genres; well, except the American western ~ I don’t recall any cowboys in City of Lost Dreams!  But there is fantasy, sexual escapades, time travel, science, love ~ of friends and romantic love and so much history!  Vienna is a city flooded with history!

I’m not sure if it was because I had to read this one in small pockets of time or if it was just that so much was going on in the novel, but I found it hard to keep track of who was where and what was whom.  The charm and charisma from the first novel seemed to be discombobulated.  Max and Sarah were separate in this novel so the sexually charged banter was not there.  I fell in love with all of the characters in the first novel and their idiosyncrasies and how they got along together but found there were so many new characters that I was a bit frustrated.  I still enjoyed City of Lost Dreams, very much so.  Nico is by far the most entertaining character and probably most developed one as well ~ I can see the magnificent Magnus Flyte giving Nico his own series at some point ~ he’s certainly done a lot of living to be 400 years old!

Magnus Flyte has certainly created a series that busts out of conformity which I find quite refreshing.  The wild break-neck-speed ride that these novels take you on is sweet reader confection!  I do recommend you read City of Dark Magic prior to City of Lost Dreams ~ you’ll miss out on the crazy, sexy, cool meeting of Max and Sarah otherwise.  Recommended for anyone who enjoyed A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, the Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, or The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Turn off your phone, hide out from the kiddies and significant others, pour a deliciously decadent drink and enjoy City of Lost Dreams!

*sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll all play a part ~ ok, maybe more like Mozart instead of ZZ Top, but still, this book is for adults.

 

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