Publisher: St. Martin's Press

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Book Review: A Fireproof Home for the Bride

March 25, 2015 Book Review 0

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: A Fireproof Home for the BrideA Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 10th, 2015
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
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A slow, yet methodical, building of the plot to an ultimate firestorm;

A coming-of-age novel with a strong female lead;

Issues of family secrets ~ how do you handle learning the people you love are not who you thought they were?

Racial tensions ~ the white man against anyone not white, male and Protestant.

Religious intolerance ~ strong intolerance by the Lutherans of the Catholics; I can’t even pretend to understand the conflict here, but I think that’s the point.

Why I Read A Fireproof Home for the Bride  the charm of the 1950’s with secrets & struggles & enough family strife to make it real + a heroine worthy of cheer = yes, please, give me more!

What I Would Have Liked Better Having read this one in a couple of days, it’s apparent that there wasn’t much I didn’t like!  The ultimate firestorm was a bit over-the-top taking away from the believability of the story but not so over-the-top that I didn’t want to finish.  At times it was hard to keep all of the characters straight between the Brann’s and the Nelson’s and which belonged to which family and then throw in her father’s extended family and it got to be a bit confusing.  I muddled thru, obviously!

Please Give Me More The characters were so fully drawn I felt I knew them.  I’ve always heard that Midwesterners were hard workers, especially the farmers.  The author did a fabulous job of making these Midwesterners real, not stereotypical – she showed  us rather than told.  I lived on my grandparents farm for a few years growing up and I know it’s hard work, long hours with very little pay.

Interesting to Note  I was not aware the Klu Klux Klan had such a prominence in Minnesota during the ’50s or that Mexican field workers from Texas would migrate to Minnesota to work the farms & in the sugar beet factories.  Fascinating the things one can learn from fiction!

If you liked The Swan House or The Boston Girl then you may enjoy A Fireproof Home for the Bride. Recommended.

What book have you read recently where you learned something new about history? 

 

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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
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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”]

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A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of War

September 15, 2014 Book Review 9

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.

A Novel Not to Be Missed by Anyone Concerned with the Consequences of WarIsland of a Thousand Mirrors by Nayomi Munaweera
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 2nd, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 256
Source: complimentary review copy
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Sometimes a book comes along so devastating in breadth and yet so beautiful in its prose you feel as though you’ve been immersed in a dream-like state while reading ~ Island of a Thousand Mirrors delves into the lives of two girls born in Sri Lanka – Saraswathi born into the Tamils and Yasodhara born a Sinhala.  I’m ashamed to admit but I didn’t even know there was a civil war in Sri Lanka…wasn’t even aware of the 25 years of hell Sri Lankans endured from 1983 til as recent as May, 2009.  The beauty of reading a book like Island of a Thousand Mirrors is the astonishing facts you learn about the world.

Nayomi Munaweera has written a fantastically lyrical novel of two girls on each side of the conflict and the direct consequences to each and her family.  There is no right or wrong bias written into the novel; there really is no deep philosophical debates about the hows and whys of the conflict which only adds to the impact of the novel.  About halfway through I had to stop and google the Sri Lankan conflict to see which side was in the wrong. . .why do we have this need for life to be black and white?  There is no black and white in the Sri Lankan war, only war crimes committed by both sides and horrific numbers of civilians killed during the 25-year war.  Such is the way of most wars.

Sometimes I get this breathless feeling that the war is a living creature, something huge, with a pointed tongue and wicked claws.  When the tanks rumble past in the far fields, I feel it breathe; when the air strikes start and blood flows, I feel it lick its lips.  I’ve grown up inside this war, so now I can’t imagine what it would be like to live outside it. {Saraswathi pg 130}

From the jeweled beaches of Sri Lanka into the hills of California, Munaweera not only creates characters you fall deeply in love with, she decorates the scenes with prose that immerses you into the flora and fauna.  The culture of both the Tamils and Sinhalians are adeptly revealed in the novel; the arranged marriages, distinct role differences between male and female, the tragic consequences of living in the midst of a war, and the subtle and not-so-subtle changes endured by immigration.  Munaweera tackles intensely deep subjects with finesse – my only complaint being I felt Yasodhara’s family and history were more prominent than Saraswathi’s.

Still, Island of a Thousand Mirrors is one of those novels that will leave you pondering the individual lives of civilians while enduring war as opposed to seeing just the numbers of those affected.  While based on the Sri Lanka civil war Island of a Thousand Mirrors could have easily been about two girls from Syria and Iraq or Moscow and Ukraine or any of the other many wars occurring around our world.  This is a book not to be missed.

Have you ever read a book that though a fictional version of an actual event had you researching and delving into the real-live account?

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Book Review: The Fortune Hunter

July 31, 2014 Book Review, reviews 7

Book Review: The Fortune HunterThe Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin's Press on July 29th, 2014
Genres: chick-lit, Fiction, Historical
Pages: 480
Source: Giveaway Win
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Recently our book club read The Fortune Hunter {thanks to a giveaway from Reading Group Guides}.   With a cast of characters to rival that of Downton Abbey, The Fortune Hunter wove in and out of the lives of bluestocking heiress Charlotte Baird, her ‘suspected’ fortune hunting beau, Bay Middleton, and Empress of Vienna, Elizabeth of Austria {known as Sisi throughout Europe}.  In 1875 Sisi visits England to escape stuffy Vienna and to pursue her passion of riding.  Bay Middleton is ordered to be her guide through the trails for the fox hunting events.  Bay has his eye set on Charlotte while Charlotte’s brother has plans for her betrothal that do not include Bay Middleton.  Ack, confusing I know, yet quite intriguing, yes?

Welllll, I really wanted to love The Fortune Hunter and I really wanted my book club to love it as well. . .especially since I entered us into the drawing!  Unfortunately neither happened.

Empress Elizabeth of Austria

Empress Elizabeth of Austria

What I thought would be a historical novel filled with intrigue and fact ended up not being a book I would normally read.  Y’all know I have a weakness for Downton Abbey and all things late 19th/early 20th century European history.  While The Fortune Hunter is set in the 1870s and there is a huge cast of characters, so many that I could not keep them all straight, this novel came across [to me] as more of a romance than historical literary fiction.  Romance certainly has its place but it is not a genre that I particularly enjoy.

While my book club felt pretty much the same as me we did enjoy discussing Sisi and her beauty regimen.  Sleeping with her hair tied up to the ceiling and the variety of things Sisi would do and use to maintain her beauty were jaw-dropping to say the least.  She is certainly beautiful and, while I like having long hair, there’s no way I could handle having that much hair!

It was fascinating to read about the monotony that women of means dealt with because they were not deemed smart enough, strong enough, ____ enough to have hobbies and interests.  Goodwin gives Charlotte Baird an interest in photography that puts her in the crosshairs of several of the characters.  A good bit of humor was interspersed by Charlotte reimagining her photography subjects as different animals.  From the first line of the novel “Was Queen Victoria a kitten or a codfish. . .”  I have to admit, I’ve played that game myself, although not by actually altering photos to reflect my imagination!

If you like a bit of romance with your European aristocrats then you will probably enjoy The Fortune Hunter.  It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Connect with author Daisy Goodwin.  Website | Facebook | Twitter

Reading Group Guide is Available Here.

Listen to a clip of the audio version.

curious – which cover do you prefer – the UK version on the left or US version on the right?

thefortunehunter

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Book Review: The Glass Kitchen

June 29, 2014 Book Review, reviews 7

Book Review:  The Glass KitchenThe Glass Kitchen by Linda Francis Lee
Published by St. Martin's Press Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: complimentary review copy
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For food lovers the world over The Glass Kitchen is the perfect summer read.  It’s light, refreshing, sweet with a touch of bitter – completely satisfying in the end.  Portia has the gift.  The gift of ‘knowing’ – the sensation of needing to cook certain items because something is about to happen.  She knows when the table should be set for 3 rather than 2.  She knows when to make special foods for loved ones, friends, and new acquaintances.  Of the three sisters, Portia is the only one who has ‘the gift.’  When Portia’s scheming unfaithful Texas-politician husband dumps her, Portia escapes to the NYC brownstone apartment left to her grandmother.  Portia’s two other sisters sold their apartment inheritance to Gabe who has renovated the upper two floors and lives there with his daughter, Ariel.

Part love story, part family dynamics, part intrigue and whole lot of sassiness and strong female characters, The Glass Kitchen is a must read for the summer!  The good feeling you’re left with after reading this novel is worth the read.  And doesn’t the cover just scream “summer read” and catching lightening bugs and family dinners and love?  It’s the love of food, family, neighbors and did I mention the food that makes this book a quality read.  Savor each chapter.

What’s your favorite summer meal?

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