Friday, March 16, 2018

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own

About the book-

For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, this powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family—by the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting and When We Meet Again—tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.

Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.

Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.

When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

My thoughts-

I have been waiting for a while for a new book from Kristin Harmel, and I must say The Room on Rue Amelie was worth the wait. The first book I read by Harmel was The Sweetness of Forgetting which I absolutely loved so I was excited to see this new book was also set during WWII.  I found myself absorbed in the story from the first sentence. I love when authors utilize different time periods to make the story more whole, and while the present day story line was pretty small in this story, it definitely served it's purpose. The Room on Rue Amelie mostly focuses on Ruby, an American who marries a Parisian and finds herself in war torn Europe. Ruby's story takes some fascinating and heart wrenching turns. It was also about the French resistance during WWII which I always find myself wanting to learn more about. Harmel added some excellent notes at the end of the book about the resistance that beg to bed read. I will definitely do some further reading based on those notes. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and book clubs.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

My thoughts-

You probably have heard of Lisa Genova because of her excellent book turned movie Still Alice. What you might not know is that she has so many other great books, all dealing with different neurological issues such as Huntington's Disease, Autism, and in the case of this newest book, ALS. Every Note Played is a book full of emotion and hard truth. Not everyone that has a degenerative disease was a great person before their diagnosis, and I appreciate that Genova takes us through Richard's internal struggle of dealing with the past that now haunts him as his imminent death weighs on his mind. We see Richard from the beginning of his disease and watch it progress and get to be in his head to see how he is feeling about it all. Another aspect I really appreciated about this book was the focus on the primary care giver. It is never easy to be the care giver for someone so ill, so it was interesting to follow Karina's journey as well. Every Note Played is another great book from Lisa Genova. I hope that this one is given the Still Alice treatment and that we get to see it come alive on the big screen some day as well. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. With a pianist, a painter and a teacher among them, the friends are full of potential. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence. 

But Judith is protecting long-held secrets of her own – secrets that, if brought to light, could destroy her career as a travel writer and tear her away from her fireman husband and teenage son. If she chooses to help Casey, she risks losing the life she has fought to build and the woman she has struggled to become. In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?

Weaving deftly between 1980 and the present day, and told in an unforgettable voice, Long Black Veill an intensely atmospheric thriller that explores the meaning of identity, loyalty, and love. Readers will hail this as Boylan’s triumphant return to fiction.

My thoughts-

As I was reading this book I kept thinking this is really not a suspense novel, I would have labeled it more as an adult fiction novel, but looking at the description above and thinking back on the book over all it did have the elements of a suspense novel so maybe in some ways it was. I think the book is missing a big audience by providing too small a plot synopsis on the back of the book that makes it seem more suspense than anything,when truly there is a lot more to it than that. After I let go of labels or what the book was or was not, I actually really enjoyed it. I liked that there were those elements of suspense which I find really help make stories like this more interesting, but mostly I like that the book gave me a new point of view. I was able to view Judith's character and life through her own eyes which was important to the. I don't want to say too much about her and spoil any of the book, but I definitely think that this was an interesting story that so many people would like. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not  required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs, Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.

In “I Don’t Know,” Corrigan wrestles to make peace with uncertainty, whether it’s over invitations that never came or a friend’s agonizing infertility. In “No,” she admires her mother’s ability to set boundaries and her liberating willingness to be unpopular. In “Tell Me More,” a facialist named Tish teaches her something important about listening. And in “I Was Wrong,” she comes clean about her disastrous role in a family fight—and explains why saying sorry may not be enough. With refreshing candor, a deep well of empathy, and her signature desire to understand “the thing behind the thing,” Corrigan swings between meditations on life with a preoccupied husband and two mercurial teenage daughters to profound observations on love and loss.

With the streetwise, ever-relatable voice that defines Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a moving and meaningful take on thy thoughts-e power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.

My thoughts-

For the second year in a row, I am helping out my town library with their annual Trivia Night fundraiser. I assemble a small crew of people from my book club, and we decorate VIP tables based on books that the library will have donated in their name. One of the things I love about doing this is that I learn about books I might have never otherwise heard of! One of these books for 2018 is Tell Me More. When I read the plot synopsis I thought it sounded interesting and I enjoy reading about other people's real lives. The book layout is a fresh new take on a non-fiction book. Kelly Corrigan writes about her life, but does so by fitting stories from her life into common words and phrases. This set up allows us to relate to her stories even if we haven't had the exact types of situations happen. Most of the stories relate to her father, her husband, her kids, and a good friend of hers gone before her time. Even though I have never heard of Corrigan prior to this book, I felt like I knew a piece of her by the end. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading non-fiction and memoirs. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Mayflower Bride by Kimberly Woodhouse (Daughters of the Mayflower Series 1)

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Can a religious separatist and an opportunistic spy make it in the New World?

A brand new series for fans of all things related to history, romance, adventure, faith, and family trees.

Mary Elizabeth Chapman boards the Speedwell in 1620 as a Separatist seeking a better life in the New World. William Lytton embarks on the Mayflower as a carpenter looking for opportunities to succeed—and he may have found one when a man from the Virginia Company offers William a hefty sum to keep a stealth eye on company interests in the new colony. The season is far too late for good sailing and storms rage, but reaching land is no better as food is scarce and the people are weak. Will Mary Elizabeth survive to face the spring planting and unknown natives? Will William be branded a traitor and expelled?

My thoughts-

It's always exciting when I come across the first book in what is to become a series. I love staying in fictitious worlds so even though I love reading stand alone books, there is nothing like a good series that keeps me immersed with characters for some time. I thought The Mayflower Bride sounded intriguing because it isn't often you come across a book that is set on the famous Mayflower. I felt like this book gave me some good insight into what the journey to the new land might have been like. Part of the reason I felt that way is because a lot of the book uses real passengers from the ship and tells their stories, and the author gives some background information before and after the novel which I found very helpful and enlightening. I really enjoyed getting to know Mary Elizabeth, and her family. 
I am hoping to see more of them, even if just a brief glimpse or mention, in the coming books of the Daughters of the Mayflower series. I recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction. 

More to come in the Daughters of the Mayflower series:
The Pirate Bride by Kathleen Y’Barbo – set 1725 New Orleans (April 2018)
The Captured Bride by Michelle Griep – set 1760 during the French and Indian War (June 2018)
The Patriot Bride by Kimberley Woodhouse – set 1774 Philadelphia (August 2018)
The Cumberland Bride by Shannon McNear – set 1794 on the Wilderness Road (October 2018)
The Liberty Bride by MaryLu Tyndall – set 1814 Baltimore (December 2018)

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

A witty and emotionally charged novel that delves into the heart of a marriage, and how those we love and think we know best can sometimes surprise us the most—from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella
After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in. 
They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.
With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

My thoughts-

I think anyone who has been married for some time can relate to the situation put forth in Surprise Me. I have been married to my husband for almost 12 years now and we have definitely been in a rut before. I think that obviously Sylvie and Dan take things to the extreme in their reaction to realizing they would be together for a long long time (didn't they already know this when they got married? lol), but marriage is not always easy and sometimes there needs to be something to shake things up. I didn't like that these two characters, who had been married for quite some time, didn't seem to know the other very well, as evidenced by their surprises for one another...but if they would have known each other better there wouldn't have been any drama to help elevate the book. I loved the idea of the surprises and didn't like how those went down, but I STILL want to try Project Surprise with my husband. The difference is, I probably won't tell him or ask him to do the same. What I loved about the book was the characters learning more about each other and Sylvie ending up surprised after all in the end in a way she would have never expected. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys women's fiction. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Delusion by Laura Gallier

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy  of the book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

By March of Owen Edmonds' senior year, eleven students at Lincoln Forest High School have committed suicide. Amid the media frenzy and fanatical onlookers, Owen remains levelheaded - that is until he encounters his own near death experience and wakes to a distressing new reality. 

Everyone he sees appears shackled and enslaved. 

While frantically seeking to cure his crazed hallucinations, Owen's delusions become even more sinister when he witnesses what appears to be an unseen army of hideous, towering beings. These Creepers, as he calls them, are preying upon people, including his classmates and girlfriend, tormenting and inciting humanity to self-destruct. 

Owen eventually arrives at a mind-bending conclusion: He's not merely imagining forces of evil at work. Everyone else is blind to the evil that is. 

He must warn others and rescue those he loves -- a difficult mission when no one will believe him.

Take this heart-pounding journey through Owen Edmonds' eyes and decide for yourself: Are wicked forces after me?
Laura Gallier's debut novel will leave you on the edge of your seat and begging for more.

My thoughts-

The Delusion is the best Christian suspense novel I have read in a while. It was fast paced and the story line kept me aching to find out exactly what was going on. I like that the book creates imagery with the chains to represent spiritual warfare and what everyone might be going through. Even people you might not think are struggling most likely are. I feel bad for Owen because he has a difficult home life, and doesn't have faith, so it is good to see this particular character seeking the truth about what is going on around him. The Delusion isn't for the faint of heart, but I think it is an important book read. It is the first book in a series, so we don't really get any answers in it, but that is a great reason to look forward to book 2.