Source: purchased

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Book Review: We Were Liars

May 17, 2014 Book Review, reviews 6

Book Review:  We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press on May 13th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

 

Once upon a time there was a book regaled throughout the land as THE must read of the day.  This book told the tale of young Cadence Sinclair, first grandchild of the Sinclair family and heir apparent to the private summer vacation island off the coast of Massachusetts.  Young Cadence had a terrible accident the summer of her 15th year but she cannot recall the details.  It is not until her 17th summer that she begins to piece the events of her 15th summer together.

Silence is a protective coating over pain.

Can I just say when you read this one, keep a box of tissues at hand.  All of the hype and love given to We Were Liars is true – this is one story you don’t want to miss.  The writing is sharp, on point, not an extra word added.  With just a few words the characters are completely understandable “Johnny, he is bounce, effort, and snark. . .Mirren, she is sugar, curiosity and rain.”  The plot is seamless, shocking – grabbing you from the first page and not letting go til long after the book is closed.  As someone who grew up loving fairy tales, the tales that Cadence writes during the two years she is trying to remember the accident are insightful and moving.

You’ll definitely want to add We Were Liars to your summer reading list.  Although We Were Liars is marketed as young adult, it should not be avoided by adults – don’t be scared of it!  Just whatever you do, READ IT!

marisaL-doodle01

Summer vacations with family can be wrought with angst, love, despair, laughter. . .just about every adjective under the sun.  Each year my children, my honey and me go on a family vacation and every other year we go with my entire extended family. . .so far it hasn’t been anything like National Lampoon’s Vacations nor do we have a private island like the Sinclairs.  What we do have is love, laughter and loads of fun.  As we head into summer I pray your vacation plans are planned and highly anticipated!

How do you family vacation?

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Book Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

January 22, 2014 Book Review, reviews 12

Book Review:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie SocietyThe Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann ShafferAnnie Barrows
Published by Dial Press on July, 2008
Genres: Fiction, Historical, Literary
Pages: 277
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

January Book Club had us reading The Guersney Potato Peel Pie and Literary Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  I kept putting off reading this one because I had it confused with a novel I had downloaded from Audible and found incredibly boring.  As it got closer to the date and time I panicked and knew I had to read at least a few pages so I could carry on a half-way intelligent conversation at book club.  So the day before we were to meet I downloaded a sample and quickly realized this was not the boring novel I thought it was.

An epistolary novel, so much was revealed about each character through the various letter writers.  Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows did a fabulous job of creating a unique “voice” for each character, a challenging undertaking given all the different letter-writers.  Learning about the German Occupation of the little island of Guernsey, the starvation of not only residents but the German soldiers as well, and how the residents sent their children away for FIVE years. . .the individual letters allowed me to feel like I was a good friend, a part of the Literary Society.  It was such a personal method of writing and supremely effective in capturing the reader.

Everyone in the book club seemed to thoroughly enjoy TGL&PPPS and one of the special treats was Laura our hostess, made an actual potato peel pie! And it was delicious!  A book for book lovers, a book for friends and a book to inspire community and feelings of good will.  If you like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford or On Folly Beach by Karen White then you’ll love The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Potato Peel Pie

Potato Peel Pie/Photo Courtesy of Laura F.

 

authorsphotoThe Authors:   Mary Ann Shaffer became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1976. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men’s restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands. 

Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write in the epistolary form because, “for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier.” Several years of work yielded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was greeted with avid enthusiasm, first by her family, then by her writing group, and finally by publishers around the world.  Sadly, Mary Ann’s health began to decline shortly thereafter, and she asked her niece, Annie Barrows, to help her finish the book.

Mary Ann Shaffer was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1934. Her career included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, but her life-long dream was to “write a book that someone would like enough to publish.” Though she did not live to see it, this dream has been realized in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Annie Barrows, whose career also included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, is the author of the Ivy and Bean series for children, as well as The Magic Half.

Have you read this gem of a novel?  Or tried a potato peel pie? Yummy!

 

 

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Book Review: City of Dark Magic

November 15, 2013 Book Review, reviews 8

Book Review: City of Dark MagicCity of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte
Published by Penguin on November, 2012
Genres: Fiction, Magical Realism
Pages: 448
Format: eBook
Source: purchased
Goodreads

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

This novel was way too much fun!  It was a rainy, dreary and cold day when I started City of Dark Magic.  I had received Book No. 2 the day before in preparation for a review in December and thought I would check out the first book {it’s not like I didn’t have stack and stacks of other TBR novels to choose from but I was in a mood}.  So I cranked up the fireplace, got my favorite plush, soft blanket, snuggled into my red recliner {next to the fireplace of course!} and downloaded City of Dark Magic.

Prince! what you are, you are by circumstance and by birth.  What I am, I am through myself.  Of Princes there have and will be thousands–of Beethovens there is only one.              ~Ludwig Van Beethoven, in a letter to Prince Lichnowsky, 1806

From the first quote, even before the opening page, I was captured.  Sarah is working on her Musicologist PhD. when she is contacted for an exclusive job in Prague.  As she’s deciding if she wants to accept the position, strange things start happening.  A  “little person” presents her with a small copper box then disappears; the apartment she shares with super-sexy hunk Alessandro is broken into with nothing taken ~ only a symbol left on the kitchen ceiling; and then worst of all ~ she is informed that her beloved mentor has committed suicide and was the musicologist on hand at the castle she is to report to in Prague.  With all of the strange happenings, she must go.

Allow me to interject a note here ~ I thought I was starting a young adult novel ~ the cover is what threw me.  Don’t get me wrong ~ I really like the cover; it just appeared more YA-ish to me.  And then I read the novel and realized all of the symbolism on the front cover….but it still looks YA-ish.  Truly, my only issue with the novel.

I finally figured out I was NOT reading a YA novel when Sarah meets her colleagues for the first time at the shared dinner in the castle’s kitchen and let’s just say her stress, angst and jet lag were all wiped out in one brief interlude in the bathroom.  At that point, I do believe I kicked off the covers, sat up a bit more and really started paying attention to what was going on! 😉

To say City of Dark Magic was a fun read would be quite the understatement!  The historical aspects seemed well-researched and read truthfully.  The cast of characters are quite diverse and bring with them a touch of humor (ok, more than a touch).  It’s a smartly sarcastic humor that’s thrown in times least expected, which, I believe, made the novel.  The sexual anecdotes also thrown in when I least expected were hilarious and at times true to form.  The mystery along with the magical realism kept me captivated and glued to my recliner until I read the last sentence.

If you’re looking for a deep, philosophical, literary novel, don’t read this one.  But if you want a novel that will take the doldrums away and have you sitting up to pay attention because you’ll be laughing one minute and then saying “oh my gosh did they really do/say that?!?”   then pick this one up ~ it’s a feel-good, be happy, have fun kind-of-read.

Now it’s another rainy dreary day here in North Georgia and I’m thinking I’ll go read book 2 now! Happy Friday my fair compatriots!

How about you ~ first have you read this one? and then, have you ever picked up a novel expecting one thing and then been completely taken by surprise with another? Was it a good/bad experience?

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R.I.P. Review: The Silent Wife

October 7, 2013 Book Review, reviews 12

R.I.P. Review: The Silent WifeThe Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
Published by Penguin on June, 2013
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 326
Format: eBook
Source: purchased
Amazon
Goodreads
four-half-stars

A chilling psychological thriller about a marriage, a way of life, and how far one woman will go to keep what is rightfully hers.

please note ~ the quote below is NOT a spoiler…..it’s from the first page!

In other words, she is deeply unaware that her life is now peaking, that her youthful resilience–which her twenty-year marriage to Todd Gilbert has been slowly eroding–is approaching a final stage of disintegration, that her notions about who she is and how she ought to conduct herself are far less stable than she supposes, given that a few short months are all it will take to make a killer out of her.

Jodi Brett and Todd Gilbert have been together twenty years ~ he’s a builder/contractor and she is an Adler-practicing psychologist.  He is an habitual cheater.  She in turn hides his keys.  He knows that she knows.  She knows that he always returns to her.  But things change when he “falls in love” with the “much younger woman.”

Life has a way of taking its toll on the person you thought you were.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Silent Wife.  Told in the alternating voices of Jodi and Todd, The Silent Wife takes us into the psyche of both characters.  I was so impressed with the depth of Jodi’s character as a psychologist ~ Harrison did a superb job in researching Jung and Adler philosophies and methods of counseling.  For someone who majored in psychology it was refreshing to see the portrayal as so fact-based.

Since finishing the novel I’ve thought long and hard about the plot, the ending, the choices each character made ~ while much of the novel was stereotypical in that the middle-aged man falls for much younger woman, falls in love and leaves the wife ~ the reactions to each change along the way and seeing it from inside the mind of Todd or Jodi helped to humanize the situation.

 Monogamy wasn’t designed for men.  Or men weren’t designed for monogamy.  However you want to put it.  Both things are true.” “You think so?” “I know so.”

A perfect book for book clubs or couples, this novel had me & my partner talking for a while about the nuances of each character ~ and that was just with me outlining the novel for him {he’s not a reader – I know! huge gasp!!}  The Silent Wife raises all sorts of questions relevant in today’s society ~ do all men cheat? or as my darling bf says – “it takes a woman for a man to cheat with!” so is it a 50/50 thing? and what about Jodi, standing by silent for 20 years while Todd constantly had a fling on the side ~ was she right or wrong in hiding his keys, throwing out clothes, doing subtle things to get back at him though never confronting him ~ is that the norm for women with cheating husbands?  And I love that Harrison had a psychologist as the wife ~ she’s the one who is supposed to be the saner of the two, the one trained to handle stressors in life and deal with everyone else’s stress.  And with an ending worthy of Gone Girl, The Silent Wife is tops in my book for psychological suspense!

Have you read it? What were your thoughts?

 

Images by Artists Jennifer Gordan and Roman Sirotin, used with permission.

Images by Artists Jennifer Gordan and Roman Sirotin, used with permission.

To participate in R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril or to find more spooky reads, please visit Stainless Steel Droppings.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Penguin Books for the complimentary review copy!

four-half-stars

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Faith in Fiction Friday: Elizabeth Musser

October 3, 2013 Book Review, reviews 1

Faith in Fiction Friday: Elizabeth MusserThe Swan House by Elizabeth Musser
Published by David C. Cook on July, 2011
Genres: Christian Fiction
Pages: 448
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble
Goodreads

FaithinFiction

It has been several years since I first met Elizabeth Musser at the Decatur Book Festival.  I recall her to be a lovely, soft-spoken woman engaging with talk of Atlanta, reading and books.  I purchased an autographed copy of The Swan House and after leaving the festival, drove by the actual mansion that is now home to the Atlanta History Center.

The Swan House

The Swan House

For the majority of my life I have lived near Atlanta, Georgia where most of The Swan House takes place, albeit quite a few years before my time.  I was intrigued by the novel and the local history brought to life in The Swan House.

The novel opens with 16 year old Mary Swan Middleton discovering her mother was on the tragic Orly Air Crash in Paris, France that killed 106 members of Atlanta society (considered to be the worse aviation disaster in history up to June, 1962).  The young girl is lost without her beloved mother and flounders for months in grief, unable to find solace in the privileges of her life.  It’s not until Mary’s maid, cook and friend, Ella Mae, suggests to Mary that she help out at Ella Mae’s church that Mary begins to find meaning and purpose for her life.  Of course it’s 1962 in Atlanta, Georgia, directly in the midst of the civil rights movement so when Mary befriends a young black man from the church she’s helping, major problems arise. . . for both of them.

A beautiful coming-of-age novel filled with lyrical prose as graceful as the mansion it claims.  Musser treats Mary’s growing knowledge of her parent’s shortcomings with a delicate pen and sensitive soul.  Although Musser wrote about places in Georgia I was familiar with, seeing those same areas through the eyes of Mary Swan brought Buckhead and downtown Atlanta alive.  The emotional roller coaster I stayed on throughout the reading of the novel spoke to the specific pacing of the plot ~ the immediate plunge into grief, the gradual building of suspense  and Mary’s eventual understanding and growth.  Part mystery, part history, and part learning to live with grief, The Swan House shares the timeless message of hope and the belief in a servant’s spirit.  Highly recommended for those who enjoy southern literature, coming-of-age novels and highly-developed literary christian fiction.  I loved it.

13207251And I’m happy to report Elizabeth Musser’s eBook Two Crosses (Book 1) is being offered free through October 4th at most online retailers or you can visit David C Cook’s Publishing site to download the novel.

 

 

Faith in Fiction Friday is a new feature at The Novel Life to highlight and discuss those novels with a faith element ~ anything from flat-up Christian fiction, to a Pulitzer Prize literary novel, or a suspense/thriller with a compassionate character.  I invite you to join FiFF!  FiFF is open to anyone who has a review or discussion to share of a novel with a faith element.  Feel free to grab the button and link up with Mr. Linky below.

Join me in delving deep!

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