I received this book as part of the Goodreads first-read program.
There is just so much to enjoy about this book! On the surface it is an incredibly toI received this book as part of the Goodreads first-read program.
There is just so much to enjoy about this book! On the surface it is an incredibly touching story of John Saturnall, an Englishman in the 17th century who grows from nothing to become a well-renowned chef who's dishes grace the palates of kitchen boys and kings alike. As a child John grows up in a small, rural, highly superstitious village and is ridiculed and feared by many due to the fact that some believe his mother to be a witch. After John and his mother are run out of their village his mother begins to teach him the secrets of an ancient feast. As his hunger for knowledge and revenge - as well as his hunger for actual food - burns within him, his mother tries to teach John about not only the history and recipes of the feast but of the need to use his knowledge and advanced skills to keep the feast for everyone. But before John has all the answers he needs and craves, his mother dies and he finds himself sent to Buckland Manor, the great house of Sir William Fremantle, and finds himself moving up the ranks of the kitchens there. As the years pass, John discovers his mother had reasons she never told him for sending him to Buckland Manor. Mixed in with his search for the past is the development of his future, one that will find him at the head of the kitchens, on the fields of war, and in the arms of Sir William Fremantle's daughter, Lucretia. As the world continually changes around him, John will learn what he must fight for and what he must let go of if he is to not only accomplish what his mother wanted for him but survive to keep the feast.
John Saturnall's Feast is one of the most descriptive novels I have ever read. There are long passages dedicated to every aspect of cooking and preparing food. At times it feels like you can actually hear the crackle of various types of roasting meats as they brown on the spit and smell the delicate sugared concoctions as they cool. It is absolutely mouthwatering. Any foodie would love this book, even if they aren't that interested in the history. As the history takes a decided backseat to the food and character development, I wouldn't see this being a problem.
My favorite aspect of the novel would have to be the seemingly doomed relationship between John and Lucretia. Meeting as children they instantly dislike each other. John is angry and grieving his mother and Lucretia is snooty and still grieving her own mother (or the hole her mother's death left at Buckland Manor) who died giving birth to her. As they age a tentative relationship grows into something much more. But as Lucretia's marriage is the key to keeping Buckland in the hands of the Fremantles, there is little hope for her in being able to marry a mere cook, even if he is talented beyond all others. This storyline is quite bittersweet and I enjoyed watching John and Lucretia find a small bit of happiness in a terribly violent, chaotic world, even if that happiness might not last forever.
Not to be left out are the gorgeous drawings and snippets of recipes at the beginning of each chapter. I had a wonderful time looking over these and found them to add to the ancient feeling that reading about John's book of the feast gave to the story.
John Saturnall's Feast is sure to please history and food lovers alike. I highly recommend it! ...more
I won this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.
This book is a gothic suspense of the highest calibre, one that challenges the reader to deciphI won this book from the Goodreads First Reads program.
This book is a gothic suspense of the highest calibre, one that challenges the reader to decipher between what your mind and eyes want you to see and what is actually happening. The reader has to wonder what connections the mind is joining and what connections are occuring in reality, and it isn't always easy to guess right.
When Eve meets Dom in a garden labrynth by Lake Geneva she cannot believe her good fortune. She has been feeling bored and unmoored from her current job and life and has been wondering what she was really supposed to be doing with her life. Dom is older, rich and at free to do as he wishes when he sold his business for a great profit. He is kind and seems to really enjoy spending his time with Eve. When he alerts her that he is moving to the French countryside in Province she feels it is the right thing to do to go with him. After all, it will be so exciting renovating and repairing the derelict hamlet called Les Genevriers Dom as purchased and it will give her the chance to work on her dream project: translating some little known French gem of a text into English.
One point seems to be quite a thorn in Dom and Eve's relationship, however: Dom's ex-wife Rachel. He refuses to speak about her beyond saying that thier relationship ended badly and demands that Eve drop her from all conversations. When Dom lets slip that Rachel had been to Les Genevriers a black shadow seems to slowly begin to fall over them. Why has Dom brought her to this isolated but lovely hamlet? Where is Rachel and what happened between her and Dom?
As Eve and Dom's story unfolds and as their fresh beginnings of the summer begin to chill into the wintery landscape, Even begins to feel that she doesn't really know Dom at all. A local Provencal business woman, Sabine, seems intent on leading Eve down a path towards what happened to Rachel. But who is Eve to trust, when she is stuck out in a lonely countryside and not sure that she truly knows the man lying next to her? And what of the strange occurences that seem to be happening just outside of Eve's understanding? Are they not alone at Les Genevriers?
Interspered with Eve's story is the story of Benedicte Lincel, former occupant of Les Genevriers. Her family had owned the house and land for many generations, but a dark cloud hung over them as well. With a psychotic brother and a loving but sometimes distrant blind sister, Benedicte is left to try to keep Les Genevriers and her family from destruction. But when her brother demands that the farm and land be sold after the death of their parents and neither sister wishes to do so, how far will he go to get what he wants? Will Benedicte ever be able to forgive herself for her believed part in the destruction of their family?
I cannot recommend this book enough for anyone who loves a good mystery into what goes bump in the night and what our mind deciphers of the darkness in each corner. The descriptions of the landscape and the history of the harsh hillside life of France was simply breathtaking. If you don't smell the lavendar and feel the sharp stones underfoot than you aren't reading the same book. I cannot wait to see what Deborah Lawrenson has next to offer! ...more
I received this book as an advanced read from goodreads.com.
Young Minke van Aisma is excited and intrigued when a strange man, apparently a distant coI received this book as an advanced read from goodreads.com.
Young Minke van Aisma is excited and intrigued when a strange man, apparently a distant cousin, comes to their small fishing village in The Netherlands see about Minke's sister, Fenna, going with him to Amsterdam to take care of his ailing wife. One look at Minke and Sander DeVries decides to take her instead. She instantly begins to care for Elizabeth DeVries and is enthralled by her stories of Argentina, of the gauchos and great lightening storms. It sounds like nothing Minke could even imagine. She chooses to ignore the rude and assuming nature of Elizabeth's daughter and doesn't quite seem to understand her shielded warnings about Sander. When Elizabeth suddenly dies, Sander asks Minke to marry him right away, as he is due to leave for Comodoro Rivadavia, Argentina in mere days. The draw of this foreign country and her attraction to what Sander can offer her gets the best of her and she accepts.
On board the ship taking them to Comodoro, Minke becomes very close to Sander's doctor and business partner, Cassian, as Sander is often enraptured with is business plans. She has been thoroughly convinced that they are going to a brave, new world that will delight and tempt her senses. The reality of life in Comodoro is much different, in the beginning, and she finds herself lonely. She seems unbearably linked to another couple from the ship, Tessa and Frederick Dietz, who hold themselves better from everyone else in Comodoro, including Minke. She is also finally informed as to what Sander actually does for a living: he and Cassian produce and trade morphine. She feels lied to and slightly cheated to what has been promised to her.
It is only once she has her son, Zef, that she begins to feel a purpose and joy to life again. She learns to deeply love Comodoro and simply adores the wild, exciting life her and her son will be able to live, even if her life with Sander becomes less than enjoyable and a surprise visit from her bold and vicious sister, Fenna, threatens the tenuous bond this family has established. But one horrible day when Zef is approximately a year old, he is kidnapped right in front of Minke's eyes and Sander determines of his own volition that a young male friend of Minke, someone Sander has been jealous of for some time, is the culprit and kills him in the streets. Sander is forced to flee Comodoro for America and take Fenna along to establish a prosperous and beautiful home for them once Minke and Cassian can follow. Minke is not able to go right away, you see, because she has found herself pregnant once again. She has no choice once her baby girl is born but to follow behind her husband and hope she will one day be able to look for Zef again. It is assumed that he has been sold by the gauchos to a wealthy family somewhere in the world, and she will stop at nothing to somehow find him.
The reality of what Minke, Cassian and Elly (Minke's daughter) find in America upon arrival is once again a complete dissapointment to what has been promised to her. Sander has lost his money to gambling and Fenna has established herself as the woman of their dirty and derilict apartment. She seems to finally understand what Elizabeth's daughter had so cruelly alluded her to but did not come right out and say: Sander will do anything to get what he wants out of life, whether it be lying, stealing or murder. Minke is forced to make up her mind and decide what she needs to do to give her and Elly the best life possible. And what she will need to do to get her son back and make a family for them once again.
Under the cloudy mist of morphine, these characters float through life doing what they feel is justified to get what they want. Even Cassian, a sympathetic character, only speaks his version of the truth and hides much from those around them. Only Minke is willing to trudge through life with a clear head and an honest heart. Only she will be able to determine what she deserves as a life, and what she will do to get it.
This is an enjoyable read for lovers of historical fiction and novels set in exotic locations. I had trouble liking many of the characters, but really enjoyed the way that Minke seemed to be able to keep her spunk no matter what befalled her. Most women would have crumbled faced with what she was forced to go through, but she keeps moving and fighting and, ultimately, lives her life as she sees fit. While she is not a strong enough character in my opinion to make me love this book, she is still an admirable heroine. I enjoyed the story, but not to the extent that I will be reading it again. I enjoyed the ride but am ready to move on.
It feels right that I finished this book today, the 4th of July. This holiday always seemed to illicit strong feelings in Americans: it is because ofIt feels right that I finished this book today, the 4th of July. This holiday always seemed to illicit strong feelings in Americans: it is because of the brave men that have fought for this country that we are free and able to do what we please. But what of the aftermath of war for these men, and their families left at home?
Grace, Millie and Babe have been friends since grade school and all three are sending their loves off to "fight the good fight" in WWII. Grace marries her beloved Charlie and lives under the thumb of her rich and powerful father-in-law. Millie marries the firecracker of a young man, Pete, but Millie's sweet and charming nature seems to settle him. Babe follows Claude to a training camp when he sends her word that he cannot go off to war without marrying her, the love of his life. On the way to meet him a horrible incident occurs, but she does not tell Claude and they are happily married before he leaves for France.
The women are left behind to pine, worry and, as in the case of Babe, work the jobs the men are now not there to do. They receive and send off love letters and continue their married life via paper and pen. Babe is working in the Western Union office when the death announcements begin coming in. In the course of one afternoon two of these women will get the word that they are widows. The other, mournful but ecstatic, has no idea what is coming back to her when the war is over. The man she married does not come back, but an angry, frightened, deformed ghost takes his place.
This woman must learn to live with the shattered man the war has returned to her, and make the best of a life she no longer knows if she wants. One widow moves on too quickly to try to run from the grief. The other continues to mourn long after what is expected or safe for her sanity. None of them realise the damage they are doing to their children or others around them. No one is left untouched and everyone is forever changed when the men come home, whether that is of their own ability or in a coffin.
I loved this story! Ellen Feldman does a superb job of making you feel not only for the characters but with the characters. In a particular scene, one woman sees the bearer of bad news (the poor man who must give her the news that her husband is dead) and refuses to receive it. She grabs her daughter, swims across a pond and tries to outswim the knowledge that her life is irrevocably changed. I didn't realize that my heart was racing and my eyes were welling with tears until I turned the page and let myself breathe again.
This book is for anyone who has experienced war or what war leaves in its wake, or for anyone who just loves a great historical fiction story that leaves you changed when it is through, not unlike the new friends you have just discovered....more
I received this book as a first read from Goodreads.
I have to say I was disappointed in this book. From the description it sounds like a redemptive, hI received this book as a first read from Goodreads.
I have to say I was disappointed in this book. From the description it sounds like a redemptive, heart warming book that might showcase some dark times but, in the end, show that most people are good at heart. Instead I could only find one character in the book I didn't loathe, and that was the youngest member of this dysfunctional family that is only ten years old at the most recent part of the book (it skips back and forth over time and narrators). Everyone else comes off as selfish, immature and prone to wild impulses. Each one tries to screw the other one over and, in the end, they don't seem to resolve much of anything. It is more like a disquieting truce then a closure. Not one of the various relationships between the family is healthy. I honestly had to make myself continue to read it. I have a pet peeve that I cannot finish a book once I have started it, but I am pretty sure if this book was longer I would have made myself stop. To be fair, the book is written well and flows as steadily as a book that skips around can. In the end, whoever, the writing does not make up for a plot I really didn't like....more
I first reviewed Emily and Einstein for the blog Luxury Reading and won this book on goodreads as a first reads book.
Sandy Portman is rich, handsome,I first reviewed Emily and Einstein for the blog Luxury Reading and won this book on goodreads as a first reads book.
Sandy Portman is rich, handsome, charismatic and incredibly pompous. He has gone through life with ease and, when faced with adversity or discomfort, has talked or bought his way out. The spark he had felt for his wife, Emily, has dwindled and he is on his way to pick her up from her volunteer job at a vet’s clinic to take her out to dinner and announce he wants a divorce. Outside the clinic he is involved in an accident and finds himself beside his body, greeted by a “triage specialist” who gives him a choice: fade into nothing or agree to help Emily cope after his death. Reluctantly Sandy agrees to the man’s terms and is unpleasantly surprised when he wakes up in the body of an old dog. At the same time that Sandy is fighting his new life as a mangy canine, Emily is doing everything she can to keep her safe, orderly life from falling apart. Within a short amount of time she has lost the husband she loved, has learned her in-laws are reclaiming the beautiful apartment in the famed New York City Dakota building that Sandy promised to her and her job as a senior editor at a publishing house has begun spinning out of control. She brings Einstein home and steadily proceeds to fall apart. The break down seems to reach its zenith when she discovers that her perfect life with Sandy was very far from it. While both Emily and Einstein work through their current issues they are also forced to look at who they are and how the choices they have made have led them to this place in time. Both begin to explore and resolve their familial issues and to discover what is really important in life. Sandy finally learns that, while he didn’t give Emily the love and support he should have while alive, he can make sure she has the confidence and strength she needs now he is gone. Emily learns that what makes life perfect isn’t detailing it out on a spreadsheet and turning a blind eye to what doesn’t seem to fit but actually embracing the chaos and working it into the life she, and she alone, wants. When I first read that Sandy inhabited the dog Einstein and was going to help Emily move on I thought the book could only get worse. I was so wrong. In Emily and Einstein Linda Francis Lee has found a way to not only merge the mystical and ordinary but to meld family conflict, love, death and redemption into one neat little package. The only negative I found was that, at times, it seemed the author was trying a little too hard to make Sandy seem completely self-centered and devoid of a natural ability for affection. This withstanding, the book is truly magical and will keep you entertained to the very end. ...more
I received this book as a first-read from goodreads.com.
When I first requested this book on goodreads I thought it was a novel. When I received it andI received this book as a first-read from goodreads.com.
When I first requested this book on goodreads I thought it was a novel. When I received it and realized it was nonfiction I was worried I wouldn't like it as other nonfiction books based on the lives of authors (such as Becoming Jane about Jane Austen) I had trouble even finishing. They were dry and seemed to stick only to the facts which, while important for the type of work they were, did not stimulate my interest. This, in contrast, was very good! It read like a novel and was full of anecdotes that added to the joy of reading about the life of a woman that so many of us have heard of and even read but that we don't know much about her personal life (or at least this was my experience). She truly was a fascinating woman that seemed to go against the grain of contemporary standards on just about every level. She was widely considered to be ugly but highly intelligent and kind, she lived for 25 years with a married man as if they were actually married and she made an exorbinant amount of money in a time when many women did not seem to work outside the home. She was also very outspoken and highly learned in her nontraditional views of religion and science. Even with all of these forays away from the norm, she arose one of the most beloved and read contemporary novelists of her time. I am incredibly surprised there has not been more fiction written about her because her life is truly fascinating. a definite must read for biography lovers!...more
I received this book as a first read from Goodreads.
When I began this book I wasn't sure I would enjoy the story being told by two separate women 450I received this book as a first read from Goodreads.
When I began this book I wasn't sure I would enjoy the story being told by two separate women 450 years apart. They are not related and seeminly their only common thread is a ring. This book turned out to be wonderful. It deals with the choices we make and the limitations we, and others, put on those choices.
Jane Lindsay is managing an antiques shop in Manhattan and feels her life is fine. Seemingly out of nowhere her husband tells her he needs a break and moves to New Hampshire, where he has already secured a job. She feels lost and confused and struggles with how to handle this action that is out of her control. She worries about what those closest to her, especially her college-aged son and her parents, will think about her situation and what she can even do to change it. At the same time she acquires an extremely old prayer book with a beautiful ring hidden in the binding. She becomes slightly obsessed with the ring and sets out to find out where and who it came from. The strangest thing about the ring...it has a lovely inscription as well as her name, Jane, inside!
At the same time as we are learning Jane Lindsay's story we are following the life of Lucy Day, who has become a dressmaker for Lady Jane Grey in 1548. The author concentrates on her interractions with Jane Grey and the impressions of someone allowed within the intimate circle of this tragic young woman. Jane is young, lonely and closely controlled by her parents. She is fourth in line for the crown of England and, with the king always ailing, her parents use Jane as a tool to better thier families allegiances. She feels she has no choice in her own life and confides in Lucy her sadnesses as well as her wishes. For she is in love with Edward Seymour, someone her parents are thinking of betrothing her to. He seems to love her as well, and has given her a ring to show this. As Jane waits for a decision on the rest of her life and begins to hope she might end up with the man she loves, her parents decide to give her to Guildford Dudley, who's father has the ear of the king. She is left miserable and married to a man she doesn't love. When John Dudley, Guildford's father, conspires to put Jane on the thrown, she is in an unwanted position of power and alligned with people who do not have her best interest at heart. When Princess Mary overthrows Jane's rule to put herself on the thrown, Jane, along with her puppeteers, find themselves in the Tower of London. Jane finally feels she is able to make a choice in her life: she will not repent and convert to Catholicism just to save her neck. She will stay true to her Protestant roots, no matter what that means for her future. She entrusts her prized ring from Edward Seymour to Lucy's possession and faces her fate.
We find that the main thread running through these two stories is about choice. Both Janes seemingly let others make the decisions for them and feel unable to control their own futures. We learn that both do have the chances to make the choices, even if they are hard and wrought with the unknown and that, while this is often the hardest rode to follow, personal happiness can only be achieved if we control how we get there.
I really enjoyed this book and will be looking for other books by this author in the future....more
I received this book as a first-reads from Goodreads.com
This was the perfect end-of-summer read! A smart, fun reunion saga, Cathy Holton did the perfeI received this book as a first-reads from Goodreads.com
This was the perfect end-of-summer read! A smart, fun reunion saga, Cathy Holton did the perfect job of highlighting how four friends can be so close and still hide so much from each other. While I found some key points to be slightly predictable (what the real conflict between Mel and Sara is; the secret Annie has been hiding since college; Lola's current secrets) I enjoyed watching these "sisters" emotionally bond and separate as they played around the sins of the past and the truth of the present. She did a wonderful job of making you feel for these four women and their trials to bear. I will be happy to read more from this wonderful Southern writer!...more
I received this book as a first reads book from Goodreads.com
When Delilah Blue was eight years old her father told her they were going on a trip to DiI received this book as a first reads book from Goodreads.com
When Delilah Blue was eight years old her father told her they were going on a trip to Disney World in Florida. Lo and behold, they end up at Disney Land in California and Delila's father, Victor, tells her that her mother doesn't want her anymore and they are going to start a new life in California. So, from Toronto to LA Delilah goes, becoming Lila with a new hair color and a new existence. She grows up believing her mother never even cared enough to call her and she strives to be an artist like her mother (learning her skills through osmosis while posing as a nude art school model) in the hopes her mother will someday see how successful she has become and what she let get away. She is sad, aloof from society and determined to not let anyone get the better of her.
While Lila is just getting by, Victor is beginning to forget things and becoming more paranoid by the day. He loses his job, nearly gets in a car accident while forgetting the rules of the road and is even turned away when he tries to buy a puppy to keep him company. He refuses to concentrate on what is really going on with him and instead fights against the inevitable.
While Lila and Victor's lives unfold, in comes Lila's absentee mother, Elizabeth. Flighty, self-centered and totting along a young half-sister for Lila, she surprises her daughter with the news that she did not abandon Delilah, her father in fact kidnapped her. With this new news, Lila is put in the middle between the mother she hasn't seen in years and the father who, while doing this horrible thing, as always taken care of her and loved her. As she gets to know her mother better (which isn't necessarily a good thing) and her father's mental health deteriorates, Lila is forced to make the best of the life she has been given and tries to pull things together despite where she comes from.
I found this book to be okay. I could not stand Victor or Elizabeth and felt utterly sorry for the life Delilah is forced to overcome. This being said, I didn't feel any true resolution or discovery about "the Truth about Delilah Blue" and would have preferred a little more character development for this tragic character. I did, however, enjoy the writing style and look forward to reading more from Tish Cohen....more
I received this book as a first read from goodreads.com.
I was pleasantly surprised while reading this book. Being that the author is a descendant of tI received this book as a first read from goodreads.com.
I was pleasantly surprised while reading this book. Being that the author is a descendant of the main characters, as well as being known as a reality TV show bachelor, I wasn't too optimistic as to the quality of the story and writing style. I was sorely mistaken! This was a very well written and intriguing story and the author did not try to paint his ancestors in rosy colors. It is not only a loose history of the Napoleonic era in France and Italy it is also a tortured love story with two people who seem to love to hate each other (and vice versa). Also, the story is told mainly through a character removed from the immediate action of the storyline, which gives an intriguing "fly on the wall" sort of detail. My opinion and feeling for the characters seemed to shift often, which is exactly what I love to happen when reading a story.
Sophie Leclerc is sent to live with the recent widow of a relative. Her own mother is dead and the widow's brother, who happens to be Napolean Bonaparte, seems to think it will be beneficial for both Sophie and is sister, Pauline. Sophie arrives and finds that her cousin is not only extremely spoiled and self-centered but also unbelievably beautiful and appealing. Sophie just can't keep from being fascinated by this creature. Not long after Sophie joins Pauline Bonaparte's household, a suitor steps up that captivates Pauline as well as all the powerful people surrounding her: Camillo Borghese. He is a prince of Italy and would make a great match for this highly sexual and recently widowed mother. Afterall, it doesn't look good for Napolean's sister to be having lovers all over the city.
Life with Pauline isn't easy for anyone, though, including Camillo and Sophie. Over the course of decades both have to deal with Pauline's whims and wishes, none of which take anyone else into consideration. It doesn't make life any easier that, every once in a while, Pauline seems to show a kindness to those close to her that surprise and captivate the receiver. Will Pauline ever learn to truly care for anyone other than herself?
A great read for anyone wo loves historical fiction and a love story that is anything but traditional. ...more
I received this book as an ARC copy from goodreads.com.
Gwen Raine is your average upper/middle class stay-at-home suburban mom. She takes the kids toI received this book as an ARC copy from goodreads.com.
Gwen Raine is your average upper/middle class stay-at-home suburban mom. She takes the kids to after school activities, is on the PTA board and cooks her family healthy organic food. She has two smart, well-adjusted children and a loving and hard working husband. She also likes to smoke pot to relax and unwind. When she buys a bag from an old flame for her and her husband to enjoy on an upcoming trip to their lake house, she as no idea how that decision will have everlasting consequences. What could a little pot do?
First of all, the man she bought the pot from has unresolved feelings for Gwen. While he tries to unravel those feelings and decifer if Gwen might have feelings for him as well, he is also trying to expand his drug trade in order to make a large amount of money quickly in order to pay for his daughter's expensive college and retire early. But could going large also be more danger than he can handle?
After Gwen smokes a small amount of her stash she drives to pick up her kids from summer camp. On her way an elderly man plows into Gwen's car, injuring her and killing himself. The police find the pot in her car and arrest her for DUI. Even though she is not at fault, Gwen continues to feel she might have been able to do something to change the outcome if she had been smoling. While she is released, the police imply they must crack down hard on Gwen as there have been a lot of drug issues in their nice, upscale community that must be stopped. If Gwen gives up her supplier, they might let her charges dropped. But how can she give up her friend when he did her a favor and trusted her to keep his secret?
During this time, Gwen's husband Brian is facing trouble at work. He works in the marketting side of a drug company who has been promoting their anxiety drug off label as a weight lose drug as well. They are walking a fine line of morality that just might dissolve when patients who have been prescribed the drug for weight loss display signs of anorexia. Should they bring this news to the forfront and discontinue using the drug for weight loss, or try to continue as before?
This book brings up a lot of valid questions and issues that we as a society don't like to dwell on in our see-no-evil world. Should a mom be smoking pot at all, even if it doesn't seem to affect her life at large? Is selling drugs ever justifiable and can a good person be a drug dealer? Is it right for the police to do whatever they feel is right for the greater good? Where is the line of morality for big drug companies?
I really enjoyed this book. I could relate to Gwen in many ways, although I found her to be slightly vapid and could not believe some of the choices she continued to make. Even though I could not agree with Brian, her supplier, by the author adding his daughter into the storyline you feel his need to protect her even if it is at the expense of his integrity. This story opens the shutters of the middle class to display some of the dirty secrets lurking inside. The books points out, to me, that everyone, no matter who you are, has their secrets. What are yours?...more
I was blessed enough to receive an ARC copy of The Life You've Imagined from the author. It was so heart-felt and character-driven that I had a hard tI was blessed enough to receive an ARC copy of The Life You've Imagined from the author. It was so heart-felt and character-driven that I had a hard time putting it down. There is so much love, hurt and hopefulness throughout the pages that you have to simply keep reading to see where the characters will take their stories.
The book is broken up into four narratives: that of Anna, outwardly strong, slightly abrasive lawyer coming home for a visit after a close friend of hers dies; Cami, also coming home to Haven, Michigan after stealing her boyfriend's money to fuel her gambling addiction; Maeve, Anna's mother who has stayed stagnant in Haven waiting for her husband to return after a twenty year absence; and Amy, a former fat girl now skinny bride-to-be. Each character brings you into their own worries and problems while helping keep the larger narrative of their collective worlds flowing.
With each of these characters, I really think you can find a part of yourself or someone you know reflected in them. Anna has turned her back on Haven long ago for a better life but finds she cannot let loose once she comes back. Not only does she feel a need to help her mother from impending job lose and health problems but she feels an old love rekindle for her high school boyfriend. How far will she go for happiness? And can she be happy in Haven?
Cami has come home to her abusive father who torments her with his violence and his lack of interest in anything to do with her. She soon finds out that he has betrayed her far worse than a few black eyes. But what can she do to change her circumstances?
Maeve has continued to run her Nee Nance convenience store long after her husband disappeared to leave her to raise Anna all by herself. She has kept her heart open to this love of her life ever since, and when he suddenly resurfaces she must decide what the right thing to do is. And with her convenience store being ripped out from under her, how will she survive? Will she let her wayward husband back into her life for their happily ever after or will she have to pick up the pieces herself?
Amy is reveling in her new smaller self while still not believing what she sees in the mirror. She has the body she always wanted, the fiance everyone wishes they had and "friends" that used to make fun of her in school. But will all her hopes for a perfect wedding come true? What will she have to do or give up in order to find her dreams?
The connective thread between these characters, to me, is the fact that each thought they were living the life they imagined, or at least working towards that. Come to find out none of them really had what they wanted in life. Now, how can they get that?
In no way is this a happy, feel good book to me. There is so much heartache, hurt and abuse of all kinds running through it that I found myself wondering at times how the characters could put up with the mistreatment. None of them are completely happy with their lives even when they first appear to be. What this story is to me is an evaluation of how to lead yourself towards happy and how to figure out exactly what that means. When you can finally figure out what is most important to you you can begin walking down that path towards it. Great read!...more
This was a very good read. The author is open and honest about her difficult and tumultuous life and how it helped her become the writer/wife/cookie bThis was a very good read. The author is open and honest about her difficult and tumultuous life and how it helped her become the writer/wife/cookie baker she is! I wish the author had talked more about her children and her relationship with them (she focuses on her relationship with her parents but not her children) as this is one more aspect that would make her who she is. The book is funny, touching and inspiring for anyone who wasn't sure who they were or what they wanted to do. And there are recipes and pictures that help solidify the feeling that you know this woman. Perfect for a light read that makes you feel better about yourself and what you might accomplish, if you just try....more
I received this book as an ARC copy from Goodreads.com.
A short but poignant book about the terrors of the Holocaust and how one man survived the atrocI received this book as an ARC copy from Goodreads.com.
A short but poignant book about the terrors of the Holocaust and how one man survived the atrocities of the camps by building a thing of beauty.
Daniel is a prisoner in the Three Rivers Camp, a sub camp of Auschwitz. Like all the devastated prisoners, he does what he can day in and day out to survive. He is working as a carpenter in the camps (having not confessed to being a violin maker)and, after repairing a small crack in a violin, he is ordered to build a violin for the Commander in line with a Stadivarius. This task gives him a small glimmer of joy in his terror-stricken days and he can almost imagine he is back in his own workshop even if for only a few hours a day. Daniel soon learns that this project he has been given is actually a bet between the Commander and the sadistic doctor of the camp who uses prisoners to test his own sick experiments: if Daniel is able to build a perfect violin in the secret timeline established between the two monsters then the doctor must give the Commander a box of French wine...and if Daniel does not he will be handed over to the doctor. This violin now becomes more important that before, and becomes a true testament to the talent, love and determination that still lives within Daniel.
This was a wonderful book to read and my only complaint was that it was so short. I would have loved to learn more backstory about the many characters we get the chance to glimpse. In my opinion this book sits right up there with The Reader and Sophie's Choice....more
This book was a departure from anything I have read before. I received it as an ARC from goodreads.com and the letter it came with had a quote from VaThis book was a departure from anything I have read before. I received it as an ARC from goodreads.com and the letter it came with had a quote from Variety.com stating it was similar to The Time Traveler's Wife. I could see the similarities but thought this went one step farther. This is also a love story,but one that spans centuries. In the beginning it isn't even really a love story, but more a story of two souls that keep finding each other throughout the centuries with only Daniel, one of these fated souls, having any memory of being tied to Sophia (or Contance, Lucy, etc. depending on the time period).
When Daniel and "Sophia" first meet in 541 AD Daniel is a soldier that mistakenly burns down an innocent village, one that Sophia lives in. He sees Sophia for an instant before she goes back into her burning house to die, and it seems to leave such an impression on his soul that his soul keeps searching her out in life after life, but while he has complete memory of each life before and of Sophia and her connection to him, she doesn't seem to remember him. He keeps trying to make a connection with her, but often their ages or circumstances don't match and, even when he can reach her, she doesn't know who he is. Then during World War I he ends up being nursed back to helf by Sophia (now Constance) and this seems to be the first time he truly loves her and she loves him back (in a previous life, when she was actually called Sophia and she was married to his brother, he rescued her and road across the desert to safety with her, but I did not feel that she loved him back until she was Constance). To me, this is the real beginning of the romance and is an integral step to how Sophia (now Lucy) comes to finally know and love Daniel in the present day.
Ann Brashares does a wonderful job of weaving back and forth through time, so you really get a feel for the numerous times Daniel and Sophia have come into contact with each other. The idea of the "soul mates" was intriguing, and I loved how she had these two characters often coming into contact with other people they had known in the past (a kind school teacher in one life becomes Daniel's favorite mother in another life for example) giving you the idea that souls are often bunched up together throughout time, even if we don't know it. I felt sorry for Daniel, having to carry all those painful memories from one life to the next with very few people being able to relate or understand. Brashares does give us a few characters that are similar to Daniel so you don't feel like he is the only one, but his situation is still unique. My only complaint for this book is that it ends on a huge cliffhanger, so I am in hopes that Brashares is planning on writing a sequel. Otherwise I would be very dissapointed with the ending. I want to know if Daniel and Lucy can finally live happily ever after, or if they will have to, once again, find each other in another life. I will keep my eyes open for a sequel!...more
I received this free of charge in a first read giveaway on goodreads.com.
Katherine Patterson (who used to be Katie Boydell before changing her name) mI received this free of charge in a first read giveaway on goodreads.com.
Katherine Patterson (who used to be Katie Boydell before changing her name) moves to a new town after the tragic rape and murder of her younger sister. While trying to remain out of the spotlight, she befriends the beautiful and charismatic Alice Parrie and is simply enamored by her. Katherine soon discovers, however, that Alice isn't as nice and generous as she first appears to me. No, Alice can be down right cruel. And when Katherine begins to move on with a new love and a life without Alice, she discovers just how cruel Alice can be.
I can't say that I loved this book. I had the hardest time relating to any of the characters and found some of the plot contrived. While what happened to Katherine's sister was horrible, I felt a little let down when the truth was reveiled. You keep hearing how horrible it was and how the whole thing was Katherine's fault, but when I finally read what happened and how Katherine was involved I felt like it was a horrible thing but not something that would cause someone to move away and change their name. Then, Katherine puts up with the rudest behavior from Alice and just keeps being her friend. The relationship between Katherine and Mick was sweet, but it seemed so rushed and a little too "star-crossed lovers" for the plot. The book had potential, but just fell short for me....more
I received an advance copy of The Diviner's Tale from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The Diviner's Tale is, quite simply, like nothing I have read before.I received an advance copy of The Diviner's Tale from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
The Diviner's Tale is, quite simply, like nothing I have read before. It is part mystery, part thriller and part personal discovery. It seems impossible that a writer could combine the mystical and ordinary into one plausible plot, but somehow Bradford Morrow has.
Cassandra "Cass" Brooks is a part time teacher (a tradition following her mother) and a part time "diviner" (a tradition following her father and a long line of male Brooks before him). A diviner is someone who searches for something lost or hidden, using instinct and an inate skill and gift to find their intended purpose. For Cass, that has always been water.
On a job divining for water amongst undeveloped wildlife that will soon be turned into homes, Cass runs into what she believes in a young girl hanging from a tree. When she returns with the police there is no sign of this dead girl, but soon a living, if shaken, girl is discovered. Apparently another talent of Cass's has amassed itself: her ability to see something bad the future holds for somone else. This "monster" ability, as she sees it, has reared its ugly head again after many years of her attempting to squash it.
Interlaced with this mysticism is her very real and concrete wish to be a normal mother to her twin boys and to the world at large. She faces disturbing memories of her brother's death years ago as well as the current dementia and mortality of her mentor father. While fighting against her "monster" she is forced to not only divine the way to try and save the life of this young girl she found but also face the horrors from her past. Because while she is trying to be as normal as possible, she is being stalked by a menacing phantom from her past that will stop at nothing to have what he wants. But who is he and what exactly does he want?
She finally finds she must be who she was meant to be, the strange and ordinary alike. What does this mean for her life? You will have to read to see. Highly recommend!...more
I received this book as an advance-read copy from Goodreads.com.
The body of a dead college student is found weighed down in a lake in Grant County witI received this book as an advance-read copy from Goodreads.com.
The body of a dead college student is found weighed down in a lake in Grant County with a strange knife would in the back of her neck. The young man initially arrested as a suspect in the murder is found dead in his prison cell. Sarah Linton, a doctor whos roots are in Grant County and who is home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, calls in the GBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, feeling that something just isn't right. Will Trent arrives to work both the case of the dead college student and the dead suspect and the reader is brought along on a wild ride of clues, accusations and hidden evidence. Nothing is as it seems in Grant County, and the dead bodies count has not reached its limit.
Many characters who have showed up in previous books by Karin Slaughter are brought back for more in "Broken". I wish I had read the previous stories before I read this book because I tended to feel like an outsider looking in on a close knit group of friends and enemies who weren't quite telling me the whole story. This feeling dissipated as the story went on, but I will definitely go back and read those previous books now!
The book was well developed and did a good job of keeping the killer's identity a secret until the very end. We find many characters who could have done it (and many of them show black souls and hearts even if they aren't the killers) but I couldn't have guessed the outcome. I had trouble putting the book down as it kept you interested and guessing the entire time. I found a lot of typing errors in the book, but this might be due to it being an advance read copy. These errors aside, it was definitely an enjoyable read and I will hurry to read more from this author now. ...more
Jaspreet Singh's "Chef: A Novel" is haunting, lyrical and beautiful to read. It is the story of a man on his way back to Kashmir to be the chef for hiJaspreet Singh's "Chef: A Novel" is haunting, lyrical and beautiful to read. It is the story of a man on his way back to Kashmir to be the chef for his old general's daughter's wedding. But. The main character, Kip, first travels to Kashmir after his father's death on the strange battlefield of Siachen Glacier. He travels to Kashmir, this beautiful place filled with sadness, to find out more regarding this resting place of his fathers and to apprentice with General Kumar's chef, Chef Kishen. He not only learns how to cook from Chef Kishen, but about the strange relationships between the feuding countries of Pakistan and India as well as the underlying hostilities of the two countries Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, etc. inhabitants. He learns that this beautiful place is scarred, sad and devastating.
When he returns to Kashmir fourteen years after leaving, he has just learned he has cancer. Again he escapes to Kashmir under the ruse of working for the general's daughter's wedding. What he really wants is answers to the questions left unanswered when he left Kashmir quickly fourteen years before. Will he find the answers he needs? Will he be able to reconcile his past before dying? Can he ever truly understand the destruction and devastation these warring factions have done to the land and themselves?
Being unfamiliar with Indian cooking I was slowed down when reading the various culinary descriptions, which I found distracting to the flow and imagery of the book. My lack of understanding caused a block in perception which left the detailed food scenes less then spectacular. That being said, this book was beautifully written and I am glad I had the opportunity to read it as a first read. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Indian-Pakistan conflict, coming-of-age books or really anyone who is looking for a wonderful read. ...more