General Fiction

#BookReview
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
@WmKentKrueger

#BookReview Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger @WmKentKruegerTitle: Ordinary Grace

Author: William Kent Krueger

Published by: Atria Books on March 4, 2014

Genres: General Fiction

Pages: 307

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

Book Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author William Kent Krueger comes a brilliant new novel about a young man, a small town, and murder in the summer of 1961.

New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were at the ready at Halderson’s Drug Store soda counter, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a summer in which death assumed many forms.

When tragedy unexpectedly comes to call on his family, which includes his Methodist minister father, his passionate, artistic mother, Juilliard-bound older sister, and wise-beyond-his years kid brother, Frank finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal.

On the surface, Ordinary Grace is the story of the murder of a beautiful young woman, a beloved daughter and sister. At heart, it’s the story of what that tragedy does to a boy, his family, and ultimately the fabric of the small town in which he lives. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, it is a moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.


Review:

This is a really great story about the challenges we face in life and the ways in which we handle them.

It is a coming-of-age story, with a side of mystery, that touches on the power of perspective, the strength of familial relationships, friendship, loss, grief, forgiveness and faith.

It is exquisitely written. The prose is beautiful. The setting is vividly described. And the characters are well-developed and complex.

It is a subtle story that flows effortlessly, leaves an impression, and makes an impact.

I highly recommend it. It is definitely worth a read.

 

This novel is available now.

Pick up a copy of this story from your favourite retailer or from the following Amazon links.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon Canada

 

For more information on William Kent Krueger, visit his website at: williamkentkrueger.com

or follow him on Twitter at: @WmKentKrueger

 

#BookReview
The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

#BookReview The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina GeorgeTitle: The Little Paris Bookshop

Author: Nina George

Published by: Broadway Books on March 22, 2016

Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Pages: 416

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 6.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives.


Review:

As a book lover, I was really excited to read this book. I thought it had a great premise and great potential. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t live up to my expectations and I can’t really pinpoint exactly where it went wrong.

The imagery of Paris and the French countryside is vivid, bold, and extremely well done. The characters evolve, develop, and grow throughout the story. And the plot is unique and thoughtful.

It is, ultimately, a story about loneliness and longing, the ability to love and to be loved, and what it means to truly live.

However, saying all that, it just never seemed to capture my attention. It didn’t flow well and I found myself putting it down numerous times before pushing myself to pick it back up to finish it. 

This is probably one of those stories that some people will love, but I would have to say with all the other great stories out there I would give this one a miss.

 

#BookReview
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

#BookReview A Man Called Ove by Fredrik BackmanTitle: A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Published by: Hodder And Stoughton Ltd. on March 27, 2015

Genres: General Fiction

Pages: 294

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 9/10

 

 

Synopsis:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.


Review:

I was really surprised at how much I liked this book.

This is a really touching, funny, melancholy story.

It is, ultimately, a story about life. It takes us on journey through loss and grief, finding the will to survive, and the importance of being needed.

The characterization is extremely well done. The main character, Ove, is a quirky, quiet, stubborn, big-hearted man you can’t help but love. And the secondary characters are bold, unique, and entertaining, right down to the SAAB.

It was a delight to read this story about, Ove. I laughed. I cried. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thank you Allison for lending me this book. It was terrific and I can’t wait to recommend it to others.

 

 

About Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime. His books are published in more than forty countries. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

#BookReview
The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

#BookReview The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle ZevinTitle: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Published by: Penguin Canada Books Inc. on April 4, 2014

Genres: General Fiction

Pages: 260

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

Book Rating: 9/10

 

 

Synopsis:

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.


Review:

I am a little embarrassed to say that I purchased this book quite a long time ago and only just picked it up to read last night.

Saying that, this is one of my favourite books I have read so far this year. I loved it. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t put it down and read it in one sitting.

It is a lovely, warm, bittersweet story that touches on how life is short, and how the choices we make and the experiences we have shape us, and those around us, more than we may think. 

It is also a story about books, those who write books, those who sell books, and those who love books.

The prose is simple but elegant. The characters are unique and engaging. And the plot is insightful, funny, interesting, and a little sad.

This is a beautifully written book and I can’t wait to share it at book club. 

It really is a must read for all book lovers.

 

 

About Gabrielle Zevin

GABRIELLE ZEVIN is an internationally bestselling author whose books have been translated into over thirty languages.

Her eighth novel, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry (2014), spent months on the New York Times Best Seller List, reached #1 on the National Indie Best Seller List, and has been a bestseller all around the world. The Toronto Globe and Mail called the book “a powerful novel about the power of novels.” Her debut, Margarettown, was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program. The Hole We’re In was a New York Times Editor’s Choice title.

She also writes books for young readers. Her best known young adult novel is Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book. Of Elsewhere, the New York Times Book Review wrote, “Every so often a book comes along with a premise so fresh and arresting it seems to exist in a category all its own… Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, is such a book.”

She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (Helena Bonham Carter, Aaron Eckhart) for which she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best First Screenplay. In 2009, she and director Hans Canosa adapted her novel Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (ALA Best Books for Young Adults) into the Japanese film, Dareka ga Watashi ni Kiss wo Shita. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She began her writing career at age fourteen as a music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Zevin is a graduate of Harvard University. She lives in Los Angeles. Her 9th novel is Young Jane Young.

#BookReview
The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

#BookReview The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix SweeneyTitle: The Nest

Author: Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

Published by: Ecco on March 22, 2016

Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Pages: 368

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 7.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

A warm, funny and acutely perceptive debut novel about four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their choices and their lives.

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a nineteen-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs joint trust fund, “The Nest” which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems. 

Melody, a wife and mother in an upscale suburb, has an unwieldy mortgage and looming college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker, to keep his store open. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. Can Leo rescue his siblings and, by extension, the people they love? Or will everyone need to reimagine the future they’ve envisioned? Brought together as never before, Leo, Melody, Jack, and Beatrice must grapple with old resentments, present-day truths, and the significant emotional and financial toll of the accident, as well as finally acknowledge the choices they have made in their own lives.

This is a story about the power of family, the possibilities of friendship, the ways we depend upon one another and the ways we let one another down. In this tender, entertaining, and deftly written debut, Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love.


Review:

I enjoyed this story and I felt it got better as it went along.

For me what resonated throughout this novel is the ideology that “money is the root of all evil”.

The characters, in the beginning, are selfish, greedy and materialistic. They feel entitled and lack the ability to take responsibility for their own actions. And throughout the story as the plot develops, these characters each undergo a form of introspection to recognize what is truly important in life to them.

The story is well written. And the plot is full of drama, denial, deception, anger, heartache, loneliness, and acceptance. It is definitely captivating and a little sad.

It is a good, engaging, debut novel and I look forward to reading more from this author.

And from a book club standpoint, this novel is perfect. It is very thought-provoking and I think different perspectives will definitely lead to some great discussions.

 

#BookReview
The Winemakers by Jan Moran

#BookReview The Winemakers by Jan MoranTitle: The Winemakers

Author: Jan Moran

Published by: St. Martin's Griffin on April 5, 2016

Genres: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Pages: 368

Format: eBook, ARC

Source: St. Martin's Press

Book Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

A young woman
A family secret
A devastating truth that could destroy the man she loves

Many years ago, the Rosetta family’s hard-won dreams of staking their claim in the vineyards of California came to fruition. Now high-spirited, passionate Caterina Rosetta, who has inherited both her mother’s talent for crafting the finest wines and also her indomitable will, wants nothing more than to win her mother’s approval and work at her side. But that can never happen, because Caterina is keeping a secret that could ruin her: a daughter of her own, fathered by the love of her life, who left her without explanation. Just as she feels she has nowhere to turn, Caterina discovers that she has inherited a vineyard in the Tuscan countryside in Italy, from a grandmother she’s never heard of, and she seizes the chance to start a new life for herself and her child.

But the past is not so easily outrun. In the country of her ancestors, Caterina meets the family of the father she never knew, and discovers that her mother is also hiding her own secret—a secret so devastating it threatens the future of everything her family has worked for. As an old murder comes to light, and Caterina uncovers a tragedy that may destroy the man she loves, she realizes her happiness will depend on revealing the truth of her mother’s buried past—if she has the strength to face it.

From author Jan Moran comes The Winemakers, a sweeping, romantic novel that will hold you in its grasp until the last delicious sip.


Review:

This book was very engrossing and I had trouble putting it down.

The story takes place in the picturesque vineyards of Napa, California and Tuscany, Italy. And the descriptions are so vivid that at times it almost felt like I was sitting amongst the grape vines savouring the bouquet of the most divine wine.

The plot revolves around secrets, lies, deception, familial relationships, wine-making, and romance. It is a wonderful love story with enough twists and turns and drama to keep you throughly engaged.

Overall, this is a well written, compelling novel with believable characterization and it is truly worth the read. In fact, I think this would be a great addition to any book club.

 

This book is due to be published on April 5, 2016.

Pick up a copy you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this story in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview
The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall

#BookReview The Wolf Border by Sarah HallTitle: The Wolf Border

Author: Sarah Hall

Published by: Harper on June 9, 2015

Genres: General Fiction

Pages: 432

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 6.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

The award-winning author of The Electric Michelangelo returns with her first novel in nearly six years, a literary masterpiece about the reintroduction of wild wolves into the United Kingdom.

She hears them howling along the buffer zone, a long harmonic.
One leading, then many.
At night there is no need to imagine, no need to dream.
They reign outside the mind.

Rachel Caine is a zoologist working in Nez Perce, Idaho, as part of a wolf recovery project. She spends her days, and often nights, tracking the every move of a wild wolf pack—their size, their behavior, their howl patterns. It is a fairly solitary existence, but Rachel is content.

When she receives a call from the wealthy and mysterious Earl of Annerdale, who is interested in reintroducing the grey wolf to Northern England, Rachel agrees to a meeting. She is certain she wants no part of this project, but the Earl’s estate is close to the village where Rachel grew up, and where her aging mother now lives in a care facility. It has been far too long since Rachel has gone home, and so she returns to face the ghosts of her past.

The Wolf Border is a breathtaking story about the frontier of the human spirit, from one of the most celebrated young writers working today.


Review:

This is a hard book for me to review. I actually picked it up a few months ago, started it, put it down, and only now just picked it up again to finish it.

This story involves two plots that run simultaneously to each other. One is about the wolves. The other is about Rachel, the zoologist that oversees them.

The plot of the wolves was very interesting and the author did a great job describing their behaviour and their interaction with nature. On the other hand, the plot of Rachel was a little less intriguing and focuses on familial dysfunction, detachment, and motherhood. 

The vocabulary of this story is very rich and the imagery is incredible. However, for me, the lacklustre characterization made the story, as a whole, a little flat and slow.

 

#BookReview
The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson

#BookReview The Bookseller by Cynthia SwansonTitle: The Bookseller

Author: Cynthia Swanson

Published by: Harper Paperbacks on March 22, 2016

Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Pages: 368

Format: Paperback

Source: Purchased

Book Rating: 9/10

 

 

Synopsis:

The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . . 

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?


Review:

I loved this book.

This book was intriguing, insightful and intelligent. It gripped me from the beginning and it kept me enthralled till the very end.

It is a story that makes us think about the choices we make, the power of imagination, and our brain’s remarkable ability to cope.

This was well written and very unique. It is definitely a great choice for book clubs and it will certainly be on my “Must Read List” for 2016.

 

This book is available now.

Pick up a copy from your favourite retailer or from the following Amazon links.

Amazon UKAmazon USAmazon Canada

 

For more information on Cynthia Swanson, visit her website at: integritymodern.com

or follow her on Twitter at: @cynswanauthor

 

#BookReview
House Broken by Sonja Yoerg

#BookReview House Broken by Sonja YoergTitle: House Broken

Author: Sonja Yoerg

Published by: NAL on January 6, 2015

Genres: General Fiction, Women's Fiction

Pages: 336

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 8.5/10

 

 

Synopsis:

In this compelling and poignant debut novel, a woman skilled at caring for animals must learn to mend the broken relationships in her family.…
 
For veterinarian Geneva Novak, animals can be easier to understand than people. They’re also easier to forgive. But when her mother, Helen, is injured in a vodka-fueled accident, it’s up to Geneva to give her the care she needs.
 
Since her teens, Geneva has kept her self-destructive mother at arm’s length. Now, with two slippery teenagers of her own at home, the last thing she wants is to add Helen to the mix. But Geneva’s husband convinces her that letting Helen live with them could be her golden chance to repair their relationship.
 
Geneva isn’t expecting her mother to change anytime soon, but she may finally get answers to the questions she’s been asking for so long. As the truth about her family unfolds, however, Geneva may find secrets too painful to bear and too terrible to forgive.


Review:

I really liked this book.

This is a thought-provoking story that delves into the complexities and dysfunction of family relationships, including the long-lasting effects of secrets and the art of forgiveness.

It is written from the perspective of three different characters, Geneva, Geneva’s mother, and Geneva’s daughter, which allows the story to flow seamlessly between past and present.

It is a well written, insightful, bittersweet novel with real characters and a realistic ending.

This was part of my book club and I think it was a good pick.

 

#BookReview
Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

#BookReview Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma HealeyTitle: Elizabeth Is Missing

Author: Emma Healey

Published by: Vintage Canada on June 2, 2015

Genres: General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller

Pages: 288

Format: Paperback

Source: Borrowed

Book Rating: 7/10

 

 

Synopsis:

In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also a heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, who she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth’s mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud’s rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?


Review:

This was an interesting book for me.

On the one hand, I feel the author did a really good job narrating the story from the perspective of an elderly woman suffering from dementia and all the disjointed thoughts, actions and images that come along with that. A task I am confident is not an easy one. 

On the other hand, there were times that I was frustrated and confused with the overall flow. 

Saying that, I think the story shows a true reflection of the affects dementia has not only on the suffers but also on their caregivers.

I would say this book is good, not great, but definitely unique.

 

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