RSS

Tag Archives: contemporary fiction

Review – Heart Like Mine – Amy Hatvany

heart like mineHeart Like Mine
Author: Amy Hatvany

Review Copy Provided By The Author Via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book

Description:
Thirty-six-year-old Grace McAllister never longed for children. But when she meets Victor Hansen, a handsome, charismatic divorced restaurateur who is father to Max and Ava, Grace decides that, for the right man, she could learn to be an excellent part-time stepmom. After all, the kids live with their mother, Kelli. How hard could it be?

At thirteen, Ava Hansen is mature beyond her years. Since her parents’ divorce, she has been the one taking care of her emotionally unstable mother and her little brother—she pays the bills, does the laundry, and never complains because she loves her mama more than anyone. And while her father’s new girlfriend is nice enough, Ava still holds out hope that her parents will get back together and that they’ll be a family again.

But only days after Victor and Grace get engaged, Kelli dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances—and soon, Grace and Ava discover there was much more to Kelli’s life than either ever knew.

Review:
I don’t know if its because this is the third book I’ve read by this author in a short period of time, or something else, but I didn’t enjoy this one as much as previous books. Maybe it was because I didn’t like how the story was approached, or just didn’t really connect with the main character…Don’t get me wrong – the writing itself was good and the story intriguing, it just didn’t work for me.

Like her previous books, in Heart Like Mine, Amy Havanty tackles a topic that shows up in social media, the desire to be childless. In fact, just this week, I realized that the most recent issue of TIME published in the US (although, not the other versions around the world) were discussing this issue (specifically, does that make people selfish, but that is a whole ‘nother story). But what happens when that desire is turned completely on its head when your significant others (in this instance, her fiancee’s) ex-wife dies and their kids end up living with you. Would you stay in the relationship? Would you decide that you can’t do it, no matter how much you love your SO? These are all questions that were faced by Grace during the course of the book.

While I think Amy did a good job exploring Kelli’s life (her fiancee’s ex-wife) prior to her death, I also felt that it was overdone. I wanted to know more about Grace and her decisions – which were key to the main storyline. Yes, it was mentioned through-out the book, but being told from her current POV, rather than the flash-back style that was used for Kelli’s story. I think that might have added to it – maybe duel chapters with both of their POV’s or something – maybe that was my biggest issue…

Overall, I’d give Heart Like Mine 3 stars – it was well-written and moving, it just didn’t quite work for me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Audiobook Review – Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

where'd you go bernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple

Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Run Time: 9hrs and 39 minutes
Producer: Hachette Audio

Description:
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Review:
Where to start, oh where to start…if I had to pick one word to describe Where’d you go Bernadette – it was would be quirky…not weird (although Bernadette really did have her moments), but not really funny either (in fact, it almost felt a bit overdone and trying too hard in places). I think that since I had to wait for it so long to come in at the library (I was on the reserve list for like 3 months) that I overhyped it to myself. But its not like I regret listening to it – in fact in made for a rather entertaining road trip.

Its hard to describe Bernadette as a character…maybe completely and utterly self-absorbed and quite possibly a narcissist. It was ultimately all about her – no matter who she hurt…in fact it actually started to piss me off. I don’t know if i’ve dislike a character as much as her since I listened to Gone Girl last year…and then there was Bee, her daughter…omg, all I can say is that in places, she needed a good spanking (yes, I said it!). Her husband was at least kind of redeemable but then he was such a minor character (as much as that is possible), that he was kind of an odd-ball. And then there were the gnats…or the other residents of the neighbourhood where Bernadette lived…it seemed at times that they took over the story, and then were left hanging. In fact that was probably one of my biggest gripes – there were several story lines that were just not tied up and i was left with questions – which was part of the reason, i only gave it 4 stars – if everything had been tied up, it might have come close to a 5 star listen.

The narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite was brand new to me and I can say for sure, that it won’t be the last time I listen to her. I loved the inflection that she used for the different characters – I thought she nailed Bernadettes quirky-ness and Bee’s at-times whiny teenage voice. Even her voice for Bernadette’s hubby was good – which I often struggle with (the female narrators doing male voices and vice versa).

Overall, I gave both the story and the narration a solid 4 stars – and i’ll be interested to see what the author comes up with in the future.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Audiobook Review – The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society – Darien Gee

avalon ladiesThe Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society
Author: Darien Gee

Narrator: Tanya Eby
Run Time: 14hrs and 16 minutes
Producer: Tantor Audio

Review Copy of Audiobook Provided from Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Welcome to Avalon, Illinois, Pop. 4,243

At Madeline’s Tea Salon, the cozy hub of the Avalon community, local residents scrapbook their memories and make new ones. But across town, other Avalonians are struggling to free themselves of the past: Isabel Kidd is fixing up her ramshackle house while sorting through the complications of her late husband’s affair. Ava Catalina is mourning the love of her life and helping her young son grow up without his father. Local plumber Yvonne Tate is smart, beautiful, and new to Avalon, but finds that despite a decade of living life on her own terms, the past has a way of catching up—no matter where she goes. And Frances Latham, mother to a boisterous brood of boys, eagerly anticipates the arrival of a little girl from China—unprepared for the emotional roller coaster of foreign adoption.

Enter Bettie Shelton, the irascible founder of the Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. Under Bettie’s guidance, even the most reluctant of Avalon’s residents come to terms with their past and make bold decisions about their future. But when the group receives unexpected news about their steadfast leader, they must pull together to create something truly memorable.

Review:
I’m really conflicted over my review for this book. I really enjoyed the premise behind the story and the story itself, but I really struggled with the writing style. There was something cozy about getting to know the citizens of Avalon, Illinois (although, I was kind of bummed to see that it wasn’t a real town because I wanted to pick up and move there). Darien Gee did a great job in developing her characters – I felt like I had grown up with them, that I was a citizen of the town.

But at the same time, I really struggled with the writing style. Specifically, that it was written in this weird third person, present tense – and it felt awkward. My editor in my brain wanted me to go through with a red pen and either put it in first person, alternating POV or third person, past tense. My other issue was that at the same time, while I loved the wide variety of characters, a few times there were too many…I wish that she had stuck to the main women – there were a few cameos where someone was introduced and then nothing was ever mentioned about them again…it kind of felt disjointed and missing something. I would also caution that if you haven’t read Friendship Bread, that you might feel like you are missing something – I know that I haven’t and there were a few places where I was scratching my head.

I also strugged a few places with the narration. I don’t know if its because I’ve been spoiled recently by multiple narrators in audiobooks, but I wanted more. This would have been, (IMHO) a great opportunity for a multiple narrator book – with each main character having a different person narrate it. My mind just wasn’t transiting well between the voice for Betty (a 70 year old woman) and Ava (a mid-20′s young woman) to Isabelle (early 40′s)…but I will admit that it could got better as the narration progressed – so maybe it was just a matter of re-accustoming my ears to a single narrator. It would probably also good that there were limited male voices and those that there were, were mostly cameos – there were no main male characters.

Overall, I gave the writing/story 2 stars (mainly due to my struggles with the writing style used) and the narration 3 stars, so 2.5 stars overall. Which is kind of disappointing because I thought it had so much potential (maybe I had hyped it up to myself a bit too much…)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Review – Best Kept Secret – Amy Hatvany

best kept secretBest Kept Secret
Author: Amy Hatvany

Review Copy Provided By Author via Sisterhood of the Traveling Book (Goodreads)

Description:
Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea.Her drinking snuck up on her – as a way to sleep, to help her relax after a long day, to relieve some of the stress of the painful divorce that’s left her struggling to make ends meet with her five-year old son, Charlie.

It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Cadence seemed to have it all—a successful husband, an adorable son, and a promising career as a freelance journalist. But with the demise of her marriage, her carefully constructed life begins to spiral out of control. Suddenly she is all alone trying to juggle the demands of work and motherhood.

Logically, Cadence knows that she is drinking too much, and every day begins with renewed promises to herself that she will stop. But within a few hours, driven by something she doesn’t understand, she is reaching for the bottle – even when it means not playing with her son because she is too tired, or dropping him off at preschool late, again. And even when one calamitous night it means leaving him alone to pick up more wine at the grocery store. It’s only when her ex-husband shows up at her door to take Charlie away that Cadence realizes her best kept secret has been discovered….

Review:
The opening line of the description says it all… Cadence didn’t sit down one night and decide that downing two bottles of wine was a brilliant idea. I won’t profess to know a lot about alcoholism, in fact, what I do know wouldn’t fill a cup – but that one line made me wonder about the progression towards becoming that alcoholic. Many of us just think, ahhh, one drink, just one glass…but what about when one becomes two, two becomes three, three becomes the bottle. As a society, it seems like drinking is encouraged, everywhere you go, there are ads for beer, for wine, for hard liquor. I can’t even imagine what an alcoholic grows through when they are out in town and confronted with these images…and yet, it isn’t talked about. Alocholism seems to be one of those taboo topics – yes, it might be mentioned in fiction, but normally only in passing, or as a tool for the “evil” person to use…I can’t (off the top of my head) think of a fiction novel that addresses it head on like Best Kept Secret did.

There is no doubt that BKS is a roller-coaster ride of emotions – at times, I felt like I wanted to drink with Cadence or felt her struggle as her body craved the alcohol that she had become addicted to. I was also thankful of the fact that there wasn’t the expected happy ending (in fact, I was dreading that everything was going to be tied up in a pretty little bow – but having read other books by Amy – I know I should have had more faith in her). There isn’t much more I can say without going into spoiler territory – just read it…think about it…hopefully you won’t be disappointed. 4.5 stars.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review – Tapestry of Fortunes – Elizabeth Berg

tapestry of fortunesTapestry of Fortunes
Author: Elizabeth Berg

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Cecilia Ross is looking for a change. She has decided to take time off from her job as a successful motivational speaker and sell her home. She moves in to a beautiful old house in St. Paul, Minnesota, complete with a big front porch, a wild garden, a chef’s kitchen-and three roommates. The four women are different ages, but all are feeling restless, and want to take a roadtrip to find again the people and things they miss. One woman wants to connect with a daughter she gave away at birth; another wants to visit her long-absent ex-husband; a third woman, a professional chef, is seeking new inspiration from the restaurants along the way. And Cecilia is looking for Dennis Halsinger, the man she never got over, who recently sent her a postcard out of the blue.

Review:
I have to admit that I am a sucker for pretty covers, and this one was eye-catching to me, the butterfly, the teacup and the flowers – I kind of wondering how (if at all), those elements were going to play into the story. And while they could have been symbolisitc, I think that in general, it was just supposed to be a pretty cover, that women would buy and hopefully talk about. That being said, I also enjoyed the story. It kind of reminded me of Kristin Hannah, but slightly less dramatic – it had some shades of Firefly Lane in it, but focusing more on the future, rather than the past/present.

I like Cecilia as a character in the beginning, although by the end, she was starting to get a bit annoying – I think she felt realer (is that a word) at the beginning when there was the emotional overload, and towards the end it was like, you saw the her that she had projected to people over the years, and I didn’t like her…I guess that is just the price you pay for private and public personas…

The road trip was the favorite part of the book for me – mostly because I am a sucker for road trip stories – and love going on them – finding the out of the way places around the country. Those little diner’s that are unique in their settings (yes, I love Guy Fieri’s Diners, Dive’s and Drive-thru’s…). One day I would love to just be able to jump in my car and travel like that…overall, i would give Tapestry of Fortunes, 3.5 stars, but rounding up to 4. I am curious to read some other books by the author, since some friends who also read this, said that they didn’t enjoy it as much…so i’m intrigued.

 
6 Comments

Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Review – An Echo Through the Snow – Andrea Thalasinos

an echo through the snowAn Echo Through the Snow
Author: Andrea Thalasinos
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: August 21, 2013

Description:
Rosalie MacKenzie is headed nowhere until she sees Smokey, a Siberian husky suffering from neglect. Rosalie finds the courage to rescue the dog, and—united by the bond of love that forms between them—they save each other. Soon Rosalie and Smokey are immersed in the world of competitive dogsled racing. Days are filled with training runs, the stark beauty of rural Wisconsin, and the whoosh of runners on snow. Rosalie discovers that behind the modern sport lies a tragic history: the heartbreaking story of the Chukchi people of Siberia. When Stalin’s Red Army displaced the Chukchi in 1929, many were killed and others lost their homes and their beloved Guardians—the huskies that were the soul and livelihood of their people.

Review:
Sometimes when I have a few minutes at the library, I love just browsing through the shelves and seeing the random books that look intriguing. The other day, I was doing just that on the new releases shelf when I came across An Echo Through the Snow. The first thing about it that caught my eye was the starkness of the cover, with just the picture of the dog and a woman. Then after reading the description, I decided to take a chance on it because I was sufficiently intrigued.

While this is primarily a story about rescuing of dogs, dog sled racing and the history of how the Siberian husky came to be in the US, it is also a story about finding your place in the world. How for so many people we bounce around from job to job, the day in drudgery making people unmotivated to succeed and just floundering…but when that place in the world is found, the all of the pieces click into place…and that was how Rosalie’s story played out. I loved seeing her blossom as a young woman and finding her place in the world. Originally, I thought that she was a bit older than she turned out to be (18, vice in her mid-20′s) – but I think that added to her innocence during parts of the book.

The use of the flashbacks to the early 20th century and a period of Russian history, I had heard of vaguely but didn’t know a lot about. It is interesting to see how different books are starting to encompass that period of history now that they are free to write about it. But at the same time, they were a bit disjointed – I didn’t realize for a while how exactly they were going to be linked – it wasn’t like they were person flashbacks in history/familial connections, but rather dream-time kind of stories, which I could see being linked into Rosalie’s Native American heritage.

I think that my biggest complaint was how quickly everything seemed to progress – ultimately, the entire story took place in just under a years time – but it felt like it was moving really quickly and that everything fell into place a bit too quickly…I would have loved to have seen it drawn out a little bit more, maybe even only a couple more months to a year. But for the most part, my complaints about the book are few and far between. I enjoyed reading it and learned a lot about the sport of dog sledding (and it kind of makes me want to read some more about it and maybe travel somewhere to see a race – yes, I am that insane…). Overall, I would give this a 3.5, but rounding up to 4 stars. I think that it is a book that would probably be enjoyed by women, but I think also older teenagers, might enjoy it.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 393 other followers