The Violets of March by Sarah Jio is a beautifully told novel of family, forgiveness, and second chances.
Emily Wilson thought she had it all. A blockb...moreThe Violets of March by Sarah Jio is a beautifully told novel of family, forgiveness, and second chances.
Emily Wilson thought she had it all. A blockbuster career as a writer, a handsome, successful husband, a life plucked from the pages of a fairy tale. But, ten years later, Emily is reeling from the fallout of divorce and perpetual writers’ block. So, when her aunt Bee invites her to spend the month of March with her on Bainbridge Island in Washington State, Emily quickly accepts on the notion that she will spend time researching her next book.
And walks straight into a mystery.
Bainbridge Island holds many secrets. When Emily discovers a diary written in 1943 by a woman named Esther Littleton, she is intrigued. Written as a “story within a story”, the reader is taken along with Emily as she tries to uncover the secrets of the diary and its relevance to her own life. Diary entries are included in the text so the reader gets a feel for Esther’s life; her troubles and heartaches; her longings and desires; and her anger and frustrations. What Emily doesn’t realize is how this red, velvet diary will change the course of her life in innumerable ways.
I really loved the telling of this story. It moves quickly and fluidly, without any odd interruptions or shifts in narrative, as might be expected with this type of book. I found myself trying to piece together the mystery in many different ways, but I ended up not being quite right in my assumptions, which is awesome! Who wants to read a book that you can figure out that easily? Great characters, dynamite mystery, beautiful setting. This is an all-around fabulous book! Plus, I love a good historical mystery with my contemporary tale, so this book is definitely high on my list of must-reads for 2011.(less)
I love novels centered around World War II and although this is a contemporary work of fiction, it is based on two grandfathers recalling...moreFrom my blog.
I love novels centered around World War II and although this is a contemporary work of fiction, it is based on two grandfathers recalling their stories from the front lines of the war against Hitler’s regime and the ultimate liberation of the Jewish people from one of the many concentration camps, specifically Mauthausen in Austria. In their 80′s, Grandpa Jack and his best friend and WWII buddy, Gran Paul, are fantastic characters, brimming with life. You can feel their emotional turmoil as they recount their numerous stories as the foursome make their way across Europe, from Paris to Belgium, through Germany into Austria. The angst lying under the surface as they watch their friends dying; their joy and horror at opening the gate to the Mauthausen concentration camp rings very true to life and I was very caught up in their tales. The side stories with Jack as he comes to terms with some of the things he had to do during battle were heartbreaking and I felt truly sorry for the young man that he was, having to experience what he did.
Although I loved the historical aspects of this novel, the rest of it fell flat for me. I did not care for the main character, Ava. She was not a likable character at all. I kept wanting to like her, but she kept doing silly and stupid things that made me dislike her even more. Eventually I just got tired of her. I never connected with her as a character or really knew what she was about. All she seemed to care about was her job and getting the next camera shot. It was agonizingly frustrating considering how much I enjoyed the other parts of this book. Her relationship with her grandfather, Grandpa Jack, seemed strained at best and I never really felt a connection between them, which is unfortunate.
Dennis and Ava’s relationship is pretty awkward. It isn’t until 230+ pages in that we learn the whole story of their past and why things are so weird between them. They are on a roller coaster of emotions with each other and it is frustrating trying to figure out what the issues are between them when neither of them will talk about anything!
Finally, considering this book is Christian Fiction and published by Guideposts, I was a little surprised that there wasn’t some conclusion to Ava’s spiritual development at the end of the novel. Prayer and God were touched on throughout the book (but not overly so), but I was expecting some kind of wrap-up to the journey I went though for 300 pages, or at least some type of “it’s in the works” statement. But, it seemed to solely focus on the relationship between her and Dennis and making sure all of those loose ends were tied up. It left me wanting more.
Overall, an okay read, especially for those who love the historical aspects of World War II. There’s a fantastic author’s note at the end regarding her interviews of veterans and some of her research.(less)
The synopsis above doesn't tell me much, so I had no idea what to expect from this memoir when I started reading it. I know it's about a marriage on t...moreThe synopsis above doesn't tell me much, so I had no idea what to expect from this memoir when I started reading it. I know it's about a marriage on the rocks. Apparently her husband left, but now wants her back, so Jamie lets him back in despite misgivings from her family. With that intriguing premise, I began Lost Edens.
This memoir is about co-dependency and emotional abuse. It's about a man who manipulates his wife into thinking everything is her fault. It's about a woman who is so enraptured by the idea of a perfect marriage and family that she will do anything to please her husband, including giving up her own sense of self-worth. I was appalled by the actions of Jamie's husband, Ben. I was flabbergasted by Jamie's reactions to Ben's obvious manipulations. I'm sure it is easy for myself, as the reader, to look into this situation and see how obvious the emotional abuse is. But, when you are in it, it is not so black and white. When you are in it, you just want to please your husband. You assume that what he says must be true, so you try to constantly be better, do better, revolve your life around him so maybe he will love you and want to stay with you. Unfortunately, I can easily see how a woman could get caught up in this type of relationship. It's sad yet frightening.
I had some issues with the author's writing. At times, it wasn't clear. For example, I had to read this passage multiple times and I still didn't understand it until a bit later in the chapter:
"I'm anxious to get moving, and I don't really want my brother to know where I'll be living. Either Ben can know where I live and no one else, or my family can know and Ben can't. I am choosing Ben. I am choosing my husband."
When I first read this, I thought Ben was her brother. From the end of the first sentence, "I don't really want my brother to know where I'll be living" and the beginning of the second sentence, "Either Ben can know...", I assumed Ben is her brother's name. And I was very confused - is her brother her husband? Shortly after, it became more clear that Ben is not her brother, but the wording of some passages like this gave me moments of confusion and interrupted the flow of the story. Other times, there would be a flashback in the middle of a scene and I wasn't sure if I was reading something that was happening now or something that happened in the past. The transitions were unclear to me.
This is a fast-moving story that will make you shake your head in disbelief. You will be angry and saddened all at the same time. But I have no doubt that relationships like this are very common. It's only through books like this that attention can be brought to the issue and people can begin to recognize the signs of an emotionally abusive situation. I commend the author for her bravery in telling her story.
Source: I received a free copy of this book from the publicist for review purposes.(less)
“Whatever has happened in your life up until now, whatever you have believed in, hoped for, or dreamed of, is in the past. A new meaningful life awaits you. You have the opportunity to clearly see it. I have written this book as if the two of us are about to walk through a gate into a deeper experience of life’s meaning. All you have to do is open the gate.” – pgs. 15-16
In her book Where Am I Going? Moving From Religious Tourist to Spiritual Explorer, Michelle Cromer provides a roadmap of her own individual spiritual journey and what she has learned while passing through seven distinct stages of inner transformation:
The Wake-Up Call Denial and Fear The Search for Deeper Spiritual Meaning The Dark Night of the Soul Spiritual Surrender The Clarity Moment Where Am I Going?
Although Cromer admits in the book that she was raised a Christian and there are moments throughout the book where this comes out, this book does not strongly follow any one religious faction. There is mention of God many times; but there is also reference to the “Higher Power” as well. Cromer’s book isn’t about what you call this supreme being; rather it focuses on an individual’s journey to understanding their own spirituality and how one can find this sense in oneself. Personally, there are some things in this book that sounded a bit New Age-y to me (mysticism for one) and some things that seemed a bit contradictory, but there were a lot more things that made a lot of sense (prayer, meditation) and made me stop to ponder my own spiritual transformation.
There was one thing that the author revealed at the end of the book that perplexed me and is probably due to our differing theology. I am a Christian. I believe that there is one path to God and that is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Based on what the author wrote through the course of her book, I was led to believe that the author is also a Christian (pg. 130, specifically — “I am a woman, I am a mother, and I am a Christian.”).
Yet, at the very end of the book, she writes: ”I understand now that there are many paths to God and enlightenment.” (pg. 156, emphasis mine). Perhaps on her spiritual quest, she came to a new understanding of her Christianity. If that’s the case, I would have liked to have seen that development through through the book. Instead, I am left wondering.
For those who do not identify with any known religion, this is a fantastic book to help you get started with your spiritual journey (or at least getting you started thinking about it!). For many people, just thinking about it raises the stress level. But, Cromer has written a book that will appeal to everyone. For those who shy away from texts that are specific to one denomination or another, this one is universal. It is not specific to Christians or Buddhists or Hindus or anyone else (although all are mentioned in some fashion or another). It can be of help to those who do identify with a “religion” and those who don’t. For me, I would have liked something geared more toward the Christian perspective, but I still got some great things from this book. There is a lot here that will make you stop and think. It is definitely a book that can and should be read more than once.
Check out some of my favorite quotes from the book below.
Quotes from the Book:
“I will never forget waking up in Kathmandu and not having any idea who I was. None. Zero. Zip. I don’t mean like Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity or one of those soap opera stars who gets bumped on the head and can’t figure out who she is. No, I’m talking about something far worse; waking up to the horrible reality that I had no idea who I was or what my life meant. I was stuck in the middle of a meaningless existence. And I wanted out.” – pgs. 8-9
“… Shouldn’t life be about more than just working, trying to make money, buying stuff, and traveling? What if there’s more to life than what we experience with our five senses?” – pg. 9
“…because once you begin to ask deep questions of yourself, you activate and open a dormant part of your brain, and like Pandora’s box, it is a part that may never be closed again.” – pgs. 14-15
“I discovered I was entering a period in my life that I call the Age of Meaning…it is the time in your life when you finally “wake up” and ask questions that propel you to discover who you were born to be, leading you to an understanding of your life’s deeper purpose.” – pg. 15
“You don’t have to be a person of a particular faith to know that there is more going on in the world than just the activities we can experience with the five senses.” – pgs. 25-26
“If we could order up a life like we do food in a diner, I am sure most of us would request, ‘One good life, please, and hold the pain.’” – pg. 41
“Trusting your feelings is the first step to processing them. Your feelings are trying to communicate with you, trying to tell you something. Accept them, own them, and try not to judge them. Feelings may simply be our soul’s way of getting our attention.” –pg. 48
“When I pray, I don’t ask of plead for things, I surrender the need to control the outcome of events.” – pg. 51
“Praying gives me a chance to talk to God, and meditating gives God the chance to talk to me.” – pg. 51
“We search everywhere except for the one place we need to go, deeper into ourselves. Perhaps because deep down we are afraid of who we really are.” – pg. 55
“I think most people try to worship a God that they can define so that God then behaves in a way they can expect, but God is a complete mystery.” – pg. 147
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”(less)
First, a little background. I have to admit - when I first saw the title of this book, I didn't have much of a desire to read it. And th...moreFrom my blog.
First, a little background. I have to admit - when I first saw the title of this book, I didn't have much of a desire to read it. And that was before I even read the synopsis! Have you ever done that? Have you made a snap judgment about a book just based on the title alone? Trust me, I will never make that mistake again!
After reading Meg's review (from Write Meg), I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had to read this book. Meg is one of my favorite book bloggers and her glowing review of this book sealed the deal. I got over my dislike of the title when I saw that the book was on a TLC Book Tour. I jumped at the chance to review it.
This book is a hidden gem. It is one of those rare finds in the publishing world that just makes you stop in your tracks and think, "Yes! This is why I love to read." Krissy is honest and forthright, giving all of herself in pursuit of Mr. Right, but never quite figuring out what she's supposed to be doing. So, she makes a life altering decision to move to Italy to rediscover herself and to learn more about her beloved grandfather and where he grew up.
When her grandpa comes to the end of his life and Krissy returns to her hometown to care for her grandma Gloria, life takes an unexpected turn. It is her grandmother who helps Krissy through the rough-and-tumble world of love and dating. It is grandma who offers advice with anecdotes from her own 60-year marriage to help Krissy in her quest to figure out what love really is. This book is full of little nuggets of wisdom that will make you stop, mid-sentence - and just ponder your own life. Here are a few:
Forgiveness is peace, when it comes. (Grandma Gloria to Krissy, pg. 171)
Maybe the secret to fulfillment is to stop wondering what we're lacking; to stop seeking love and instead to start accepting ourselves and loving the people we encounter. (p. 186)
I thought I had to be good at everything in order for somebody to love me. I've been trying so hard to get where I'm going before I'll let anybody in, but when my grandpa first noticed my grandma, she was walking down the street. She wasn't doing anything superlatively sexy or admirable; she wasn't in a huddle at a party responding cleverly to questions about living abroad; she wasn't wearing the dress that her designer friend in New York made that's been hanging in her closet for four years waiting for the right opportunity to be worn. She was going to meet her mom after work. . . she was just being. Grandma has taught me that a man doesn't love a woman because she strives; he loves her simply because she exists. (p. 235)
There is one main love interest through the course of the novel, Dr. Christopher. There are many ups and downs as Krissy and Chris try to figure each other out. It was hard to know where the relationship would end up (and where I wanted it to end up, to be honest!). I will admit that I had moments of screaming at the book ("Krissy, just tell him how you feel already!"; "Chris, just DO something!"). They are two strong characters and neither one of them wanted to put themselves out there to be hurt. I can understand that. The whole back-and-forth between them was agonizing at times, though.
However, these quibbles are minor. This novel is exquisite. It contains so much beauty and wisdom. It should definitely go on your must-read list. I can't wait to pass it along to my mom and grandma and others in my family. I highly recommend this memoir.
Lauren Mahdian and her brother, Alex have grown up haunted by the murder of their mother. Their father was convicted of the crime and has spent over 2...moreLauren Mahdian and her brother, Alex have grown up haunted by the murder of their mother. Their father was convicted of the crime and has spent over 20 years in prison. Lauren is convinced of his guilt; Alex of his innocence. Lauren allows this truth to run her life, most significantly her relationship with her long-time boyfriend, Gerry. She's refused his numerous marriage proposals, seeing first-hand what "love" can do. When Alex surprises Lauren with the news that he is headed to Baghdad, Iraq with Doctors Without Borders, Lauren is crushed. Alex is her only family and her center. He tries to convince her of their father's innocence before he departs, but she wants none of it. She prefers to numb her pain with alcohol and Tylenol PM.
When Lauren receives devastating news, she subsequently uncovers some files regarding her mother's death. Ready to learn and truth once and for all, she embarks on a journey to uncover her family secrets, whatever they may be.
This is a multiple viewpoint novel. It is divided into separate "books" with Lauren, Sylvia, and Mae narrating. Who are Sylvia and Mae, you ask? They mysteriously appear in book two. I wasn't quite sure what was going on when Sylvia's narration started. Her story seemed entirely separate and disconnected from Lauren's. I was intrigued by her story, though, and I couldn't wait to see how it connected to Lauren's (because obviously it did in some way!). Sylvia tells us that she is pregnant and is secretly leaving her abusive boyfriend. She is heading to New York City in hopes of staying with an old friend, Victoria or Victoria's mother, Mae. Through flashbacks we glimpse the friendship between Sylvia and Victoria and how it has shaped the women they are in the present.
Ward has written a page-turner that will keep you glued to the text wondering what will happen next; how these two seemingly separate stories are connected. This is a mysterious story with lots of twists and turns and raw characters who leap off the page.
My only negative thought about this book is that I would have loved a bit more closure at the end of the novel. I kind of felt like Sylvia was left hanging and I wanted more of her story. I did think the last lines of the novel were beautiful and brought a tear to my eye.
Josh has lived a difficult life. He and his two older brothers are ripped from the only home they have known when their neglectful parents die in a dr...moreJosh has lived a difficult life. He and his two older brothers are ripped from the only home they have known when their neglectful parents die in a drunk driving accident. It may have not been the best home, but it was their home. Trying to keep the boys together proves to be an exercise in futility as they are sent off to different foster homes, only getting to see each other off an on. Then a miracle. A family takes in all of them and they are happy for the first time in their young lives. They make friends. Their foster family truly seems to care for them. Everything is just perfect.
Until a horrible tragedy separates them forever.
Despondent and distrustful of most everyone, Josh ends up living out his teenage years in a home for boys. When he ages out at 18, he begins to try and make a life for himself. Sleeping in homeless shelters or on streets, eating beef jerky for dinner, he works up to three jobs a day in hopes of getting an apartment, a place to call his own.
Trying to get into a more lucrative construction job, Josh heads to a new town. There he meets his supervisor, Mike, who offers him a room to rent in his mom’s house. That decision would change Josh’s life forever. Josh begins to truly live and feel like part of a family; something he feels like he doesn’t deserve.
My heart ached for Josh throughout his story. For any of you contemplating foster care or adoption, I encourage you to read this short book. It gives such an honest and thoughtful portrayal, from a child’s perspective, of what it’s like to live without a family growing up and the destruction it can weave into the soul of a youngster.
Even though this book is classified as Christian Fiction, there is not too much discussion of God in this book, so if you are hesitant to read this book because of the description, I would urge you to give it a chance. There is some talk of going to church and such, but there isn’t a lot of deep spiritual growth in the characters, which is something I was looking for in this type of novel. With that said, I really loved this book and I read it fairly quickly. There is a lot of emotion packed into the ~170 pages, with some surprising twists and turns that were unexpected. Josh’s story is haunting, but so true-to-life for many children. His story is one that will profoundly impact you and stick with you for quite some time.
Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood friends at a time when the racial classes were not friendly – Mississippi in the 1970s. Being...moreFrom my blog:
Larry Ott and Silas “32” Jones were boyhood friends at a time when the racial classes were not friendly – Mississippi in the 1970s. Being children, it didn’t matter much to them. They just wanted to play together. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all go back to that time of innocence, before the world and other people told us what we should think?
But, I digress…
Larry Ott doesn’t quite fit in. He loves to read. His father barely tolerates him. When his father pulls over one cold morning on the way to school and picks up a young black boy and his mama walking alongside the road, Larry is perplexed. Why would his daddy do that? With that, Larry and Silas (the young black boy) begin a tentative friendship that is constantly put to the test.
When Larry goes out on his first date with the beautiful Cindy Walker, and she ends up missing, all suspicion falls on Larry. With no evidence, he is never convicted of a crime, but he becomes the town outcast, and grows into an adult who lives out on a farm, the target of teenage pranksters. With all eyes cast upon Larry, his friendship with Silas is severed, and the boys go their separate ways.
As adults, Larry and Silas are back living in the same town in Mississippi. Larry is still a social outcast, working in his daddy’s automotive shop, but rarely getting a customer. Silas is the town constable (police officer) with some demons of his own. When Tina Rutherford, a beautiful young woman from a well-to-do family, goes missing, Larry once again becomes the prime suspect. Will they be able to find the evidence to get him this time? Or is he really innocent? As Larry and Silas reconnect to tell their stories, the reader gets flashbacks of their childhood friendship and the case surrounding Cindy Walker. Will the truth come out?
Unfortunately, for me, this book was the victim of too much hype. I was expecting a phenomenal, amazing, cannot-put-this-book-down-until-I-finish-it type of experience based on the reviews I was reading. It just did not live up to it. It was an okay book. Will I remember it 3 or 4 books from now? Probably not. The relationship between Larry and Silas is intriguing and fascinating, but it lacked something – some emotional depth. I never felt like I connected with either of the characters and I never felt as if they connected with each other. The story is good and I found the mystery to be interesting, if not a bit predictable. But other than that, it just didn’t do much for me. Overall, it’s a good read, but not a knock-your-socks-off type of experience, at least for me.
"As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child. Thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me. . ." Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love—all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may be telling you only half the story. Welcome to Christine's life.
And so begins Before I Go To Sleep, the debut novel of the oh-so-talented S.J. Watson. Our protagonist is Christine Lucas, a 47 year old woman who suffered a terrible accident twenty years ago that caused an anomaly with her memory - every morning she wakes up not knowing who she is. Some days she wakes thinking she is a little girl; other days she believes she is back in college, before her accident. She never remembers that the man laying beside her in bed is her husband, Ben. Each morning he must remind her who she is, where she is, how old she is, and what happened to her. Post-it notes and pictures cover her bathroom mirror as a reminder of her life.
As the novel opens, Christine receives a phone call from someone named Dr. Nash who tells her that they have been secretly meeting him for quite some time in order to try and regain her memory. She agrees to meet with him. During the course of their meeting, Dr. Nash returns a journal to her, explaining that she has been recording her daily activities and that she may be able to find some of the answers she is looking for in the pages of her writings.
Intrigued, Christine rushes home and begins reading. This is what comprises most of the story - Christine reading back through her life over the past weeks. Some haunting and startling realizations begin to make their way to the surface. Christine is being lied to. Someone she trusts is not telling her the full story. But how will she ever find out the answers when each day begins like the previous one never happened? And who can she trust?
This book is riveting and taut with such undercurrents of psychological tension that you will not be able to put it down until all of the answers are revealed in the shocking conclusion. I absolutely loved this book and it is my favorite of 2011 so far. In the words of Tess Gerritsen, this is “Quite simply the best debut novel I have ever read.” Truly. I couldn't say it any better. Just read the book and see for yourself.
Don’t Breathe a Word is Jennifer McMahon’s fifth novel. She has quickly shown herself to be a phenomenal writer. She has the ability to create worlds...moreDon’t Breathe a Word is Jennifer McMahon’s fifth novel. She has quickly shown herself to be a phenomenal writer. She has the ability to create worlds that tantalize your senses; characters whom you love to root for (and love to hate!); and storylines that keep you on the edge of your seat, in joyful (or is it fearful?) anticipation of what’s coming next. Unfortunately, for me, Don’t Breathe a Word did not live up to the Jennifer McMahon I have come to know and love.
It’s probably because of the fairies.
It’s not really a secret that I’m not a fan of the paranormal/fantasy genre. There are minor exceptions and for an author that I enjoy (i.e. Jennifer McMahon), I am willing to give the book a chance. But I just didn’t get it. There is a lot of suspense; a lot of drama; a lot of action. But the whole fairy angle just threw me. And it might be because of how the novel wrapped up. I was kind of with it until the last third and then the book rushed to the end and I was left feeling completely bewildered. I still don’t completely understand how everything tied together. The author set the book up so intricately through the first 2/3rds and then seemed to rush the ending. The ending is the money, the payoff for the reader. We’ve gone along for the ride for 300+ pages and to feel disappointed at the end just made me feel like I wasted all that time.
I enjoyed the characters and the psychological suspense of the plot. It definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next. In that regard, Jennifer McMahon is a master. She reveals just enough to make you wonder what is going on and to keep you riveted at things to come.
I really wanted to like this book, but that wasn’t the case. There are definitely some great things about it, but the end just confused me and left me feeling like I missed something. I do suggest you read it for yourself, though, because it has gotten some great reviews – more positive than negative. (less)
Julien Losier is a typical fifteen year old boy. He just wants to fit in. When Hitler invades Poland during World War II, his family moves from Paris...moreJulien Losier is a typical fifteen year old boy. He just wants to fit in. When Hitler invades Poland during World War II, his family moves from Paris to his father’s childhood home in Tanieux, in southern France, where they will be safer. The village boys call him names and won’t give him the time of day. Things get worse when Julien’s family takes in a German Jewish boy named Benjamin, who is Julien’s age. Any thoughts of Julien fitting in now are rapidly diminishing.
Concurrently, in Austria, Nina and Gustav are tending to their father on his death bed. In his final instructions, he tells them to burn their papers and leave Austria. If at all possible they should try to get to France. Their story is one of heartache and perseverance. The daily struggle just to survive is enormous. They face a battle at every turn, not knowing who can be trusted and uncertain of what their future will hold.
It’s no secret that I love historical fiction centered around World War II. This is the first novel that I’ve read that takes place in France during that time period. This is also only the second book I’ve read from the viewpoint of a teenager during this war. The other one being The Book Thief, a classic and in a category all its own.
This book was a bit slow to start for me. It wasn’t until 100 pages in that I really started getting into the story and once I hit page 130, I couldn’t put the book down. I think the back cover blurb/Amazon synopsis is a bit misleading. I kept waiting for Julien and Nina to meet. And it takes almost the entire book for this encounter to happen. I found Julien’s relationship with Benjamin to be more of a driving force in the story rather than the Julien/Nina storyline.
Don’t get me wrong. Both Julien’s and Nina’s stories are powerful and will give you a lot to think about. I was just expecting the two of them to meet much sooner than they did and for that relationship to be the driving force for the entire story. And that wasn’t how the story played out. So I was left feeling a little short-changed based on my assumption from the back cover of the book.
With that said, this book is well-written and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are wonderfully drawn and you’ll find yourself really feeling for them as they struggle through this impossibly difficult time in their young lives. I especially loved Julien’s progression throughout the story, from a young boy who is mad at his parents for having to move at the beginning of the book, to a young man fighting for what he believes in by the end. Nina’s character arc is especially saddening, yet hopeful. A young girl, forced to leave her home, traveling on foot in unknown countries. It’s not something I can even imagine. I could feel her desperation, her helplessness, her hopelessness at times. She is a courageous, brave girl.
A strong component of this novel is each character’s faith journey, which I was not expecting, but added such depth to the story. The characters are searching, wondering if there really is a God amidst this horrific war. The faith components fit naturally within the context of the story and did not seem out of place to me. They added so much more to each character.
This is a fabulous novel that I recommend for people of all ages. There is something to be learned for everyone here. The most amazing thing about this book is that it is based on actual events. Tanieux is a fictional town, but it is based on the real village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. During the war, this small village of 3,000 people in central France saved the lives of more than 3,000 Jewish people. Amazing.(less)
Sarah Addison Allen is a magical writer. She has a way of creating an engaging, mystical story that sucks you in from the first page. The Peach Keeper...moreSarah Addison Allen is a magical writer. She has a way of creating an engaging, mystical story that sucks you in from the first page. The Peach Keeper is a delightful novel that follows in the lines of her previous works, Garden Spells, The Sugar Queen, and The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood are former classmates thrown together amidst a scandal. Paxton is renovating the Blue Ridge Madam, a historic building built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather. During the process a body is uncovered, igniting a mystery involving both Willa and Paxton’s families.
The novel takes place in the present day with reflections from Paxton’s grandmother, Agatha, to 1936. Through these flashbacks, the reader learns the history of both Willa and Paxton’s families and the relationship between their grandmothers. Concurrently, as the mystery is unfolding, the women are also struggling with budding romances of their own, which I found very sweet although a bit frustrating at times. Paxton’s “relationship” with Sebastian was a bit odd, in my opinion. I did not quite understand the dynamic between the two of them; the build-up; and then the final outcome. It was all just a tad strange for me.
Overall, this is a lovely story, with everything that a reader looks for in a great book – mystery, friendship, family, budding romance, with a dash of whimsy and mysticism. Ms. Allen has a way of creating a world that you know in your head is not believable, but in your heart it makes you wonder…(less)
This book provides a clear road-map for every woman who is trying to do it all - and feeling like she can't; feeling like she is a failure for not bei...moreThis book provides a clear road-map for every woman who is trying to do it all - and feeling like she can't; feeling like she is a failure for not being able to do everything and please everyone. That's what we want to do as women, isn't it? We want to be all and do all. But, what happens when we fail? We beat ourselves up and think we aren't good enough.
So, what exactly is a Life Ready Woman? She is a woman who knows who she is in God's eyes and follows His calling for her life. She doesn't try to do impress anyone other than her Creator. Whether He has called her to be a world traveler, a jet-setting corporate executive, a stay-at-home mom, or a single, unmarried woman, a Life Ready Woman embraces her calling and lives life to its full, because she knows who she is called to be.
But the bigger question is, in my mind, how do we know who God has called us to be? Isn't this one of life's greatest questions? In the first half of the book, the authors explore three types of callings, that they declare are the biblical road map to being a Life Ready Woman: 1. Core Callings - Our callings as humans designed in God's image 2. Feminine Callings - Our callings as women 3. Personal Callings - Our callings as individuals
I found these sections to be a very worthwhile read. They really made me think about my life and design as a human being first (Core Calling), then as a woman (Feminine Calling), and finally as a unique individual (Personal Calling). Have you ever thought about why you are in the body you are in? God made you female for a reason! There are some really enlightening and thought-provoking topics in this section centered around the three callings. I am looking forward to going back and re-reading these sections and soaking them in.
In the second half of the book, I was actually tempted to skip through parts of it, because I didn't feel like it pertained to me. I'm glad I didn't because I would have missed out on some very valuable information. The authors explore how we are to get the best out of each season of our life (i.e. single, single but engaged, newly married, married with preschoolers, married with grade-schoolers, married empty-nester, late-in-life widow, glorified saint) and the steps we should take during each season in order to live out our biblical road map.
This book is definitely worth the time spent reading it. There is a lot of information to digest and I think I need to go back and re-read it again to get a more full understanding of all the material presented by the authors. There is one tiny thing that annoyed me in this book, though. Since there are two authors and the book is written in the first person, I found the narrative presentation to be very clumsy. When Shaunti would be writing, her section would start something like: "When I (Shaunti) ..." or "I (Shaunti)..." When Robert would be writing a specific part, the section would start in a similar fashion: "I (Robert)..." or "This happened when I (Robert)..." It got incredibly annoying to read a book in this fashion. I think it could have been presented in a different way, such as in the third person.
In any case, I would recommend this book to any woman who is trying to do-it-all and feeling like she is barely keeping her head above water. This book will definitely put your life back into perspective and make you remember that you are God's child and He has plans for your life that are greater than any plans you could ever dream of!
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book to review for the Litfuse Publicity Group Blog Tour. This did not influence my opinion of the book.
Certain Women explores the sensitive issue of death and, more specifically, the fear of dying with unresolved issues. In this novel (which I did not f...moreCertain Women explores the sensitive issue of death and, more specifically, the fear of dying with unresolved issues. In this novel (which I did not finish), Emma Wheaton disrupts her successful stage career to be with her dying father, David Wheaton. David is also an actor, having performed in a number of plays during his long career. However, he is obsessed with the one play he never got to do - an unfinished play about the Old Testament King David, written by Emma's estranged husband, Nik.
As David Wheaton's nine wives and eleven children gather to say their final goodbyes to David, the stories of both him and King David are simultaneously woven together and unraveled. Since Emma is the main female protagonist, the novel focuses on her upbringing and experiences being raised by the great actor that was David Wheaton. As she is surrounded by her extended and eclectic family, painful memories resurface that begin to allow her to confront her past and start the process of healing. As David Wheaton faces his approaching death, Emma grapples with her future.
Although the premise of this book highly intrigued me, the final product was less than desired. I found that there were too many characters to keep track of and it was difficult to follow the author's shift from King David to David Wheaton. With that said, what little of this novel I read made me think about some serious issues that we all face. First, if you died today, is there anything left unresolved in your life that you would regret? I certainly have some stuff going on in my personal life that I need to resolve to feel at peace. Why should we continue another day letting those feelings eat us up inside? Life is so short here on earth. We can't live it with any regret. David Wheaton's biggest regret seemed to be his unfinished play. It is mentioned incessantly throughout this book. I also think he needs to know that he is leaving this earth at peace with all of his wives and children and there is no anger or bitterness among any of them.
The second issue that I considered while reading this novel is that of redemption. David Wheaton had NINE wives. Obviously, there was something wrong there. Now, I didn't get through over half of this book, so I don't know every detail that was going on in each of those relationships, but from what I understand, each of these women came back to see David at his deathbed, so obviously the relationships ended on somewhat good terms (even though he cheated, in at least one case that I know about). So, can anyone be redeemed, regardless of what he or she has done, as long as they atone for their sins? As a Christian, I know that God can redeem any situation. But, as a human who goes through difficulties and has had some very trying times in my life, I sometimes really struggle with this concept. If a person has wronged you in a devastating way, how can we truly just forgive and move on?
As I've mentioned, I only read about half of this book. The writing was very formal and not engaging. There were too many characters to keep track of and I just didn't care too much about the storyline to keep reading it. I am not too familiar with the story of King David, so I thought this book would provide me with some great insight, but the way it was presented was very confusing to me. The novel just did not flow well and it was a huge disappointment.
Susanna Daniel deftly weaves together the portrait of a marriage, amidst the backdrop of the coming-of-age of Miami throughout the 60′s,...moreFrom my Blog:
Susanna Daniel deftly weaves together the portrait of a marriage, amidst the backdrop of the coming-of-age of Miami throughout the 60′s, 70′s, 80′s, and 90′s. The author explores the highs and lows of a long-term relationship and how a couple (Frances and Dennis) can beat the odds despite many forces that try to separate them. The reader is taken on a journey from the beginning of the relationship to the end, chronicling the major life events in between (the initial meeting, the first kiss, the marriage, the baby, the empty nest, the son-in-law, etc.).
I wasn’t sure what I was expecting with this novel. At times I felt that it meandered a bit and was waiting for something to happen. Other times, I couldn’t stop reading, waiting to see what was around the next corner. I guess that is what real-life marriage is really like. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows and butterflies. It’s not all excitement and happiness and fearlessness. Marriage is hard work. The author lovingly captures the emotions of the characters and easily brings the reader into their lives, making us seem like a fly on the wall of a real marriage.
On the outskirts of the marriage is the coming-of-age of Miami, which I found fascinating. Topics such as the slow increase of drugs, murder, and Cuban immigrants are intricately weaved into conversations in the novel, which adds depth and character to the book. Miami is almost a character unto itself.
And then there is Stiltsville. Dennis’s father built a stilt house in the 1940′s, one of a handful of houses still remaining at the start of this novel (1969) after storms blow through each year. The house is an oasis for Frances and Dennis and is actually the place where they initially meet. It becomes the backdrop of their marriage; a place of refuge and relaxation; a place of hope and renewing. I could just picture them laying on the porches, dragging out mattresses to sleep under the stars each night. It sounds like paradise. It reminds me of my time spent on the Outer Banks each year and how I long for it when I’m away.
This is a beautifully written novel exploring a true-to-life marriage and the troubles it can face throughout all of life’s important struggles. I would definitely recommend it.