3/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2019

Review: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen

Harry’s Trees
by Jon Cohen

harry's trees

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 428

Read: Jan 4 – 14, 2019

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, he is unable to cope. Leaving his job and his old life behind, Harry makes his way to the remote woods of northeastern Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains, determined to lose himself. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragedy – Amanda stoically holding it together while Oriana roams the forest searching for answers. And in Oriana’s magical, willful mind, she believes that Harry is the key to righting her world.

After taking up residence in the woods behind Amanda’s house, Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana in a ludicrous scheme to escape his tragic past. In so doing, the unlikeliest of elements – a wolf, a stash of gold coins, a fairy tale called The Grum’s Ledger and a wise old librarian named Olive – come together to create a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wildest dreams and open Harry’s heart to a whole new life.

Harry’s Trees is an uplifting story about the redeeming power of friendship and love and the magic to be found in life’s most surprising adventures.


Review: This book is the January selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. As usual, this selection is way outside my normal reading. It’s billed on Goodreads as magical realism. I was a little leery to take this one on, but having skipped the last few months I knew I wanted to at least give this one a shot – it didn’t sound terrible, just not necessarily my norm.

So what did I think? Well, ultimately, it wasn’t a bad book. In fact the first half of the book really swept me up and I was really enjoying it. And then right around the time that Oriana and Harry put their “scheme” into motion it kind of dropped off for me. I think it was right around that time that I could see the obvious about how the ending would happen – and for the most part, I nailed it. I don’t like predictability in my endings, and this one was just a little too predictable for my personal taste.

The book itself is well written and thought out.  The characters were all well-developed and each had their own interesting story. The character development was definitely a big part of this book and that was probably my favorite part about the entire book. I can definitely see the “magic” of this book, but I had a hard time buying into it personally.

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3.5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, C, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Corner
by Jenny Colgan

The Bookshop on the Corner

Copyright: 2016

Pages: 332

Read: Dec. 6 – 10, 2018

Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Library

 
Blurb: Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling.

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.


Review: This book was the December selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I had honestly never even heard of this book before it was announced but it sounded like a cute read that I would enjoy even if it was a little bit out of my comfort zone. To be completely honest, after skipping the September book, DNF’ing the October book and skipping the November book, I was ecstatic for something that seemed like it might work for me again.

For the most part I did enjoy this book. However, it wasn’t perfect. The first 2/3 of the book was enjoyable and then the last 1/3 of the book there was another love interest thrown in there that felt forced and not vital to the overall storyline. It wasn’t even all that surprising, but it just didn’t work for me. Of course, romance and chick-lit novels are not my usual cup of tea, so that’s probably why I had an issue with it.

It definitely had a whimsical feel to it – how Nina just up and left everything she knew behind for an entirely different country. Not very practical, but it is fiction 🙂 I also had an issue with just how entirely wrapped up in books Nina was. I mean don’t get me wrong, I am a book lover – but I also have a life outside of books and it felt to me as if Nina lived only through her books … not entirely healthy, if you ask me.

I don’t know. It was a cute book and it read quickly and was enjoyable. It was also not something that I ever would have picked up on my own. And so while I can’t say that I absolutely loved it, I liked it well enough. Another win for Modern Mrs. Darcy for really helping me to explore outside of my comfort zone.

 

4/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, M, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

The Widows of Malabar Hill
by Sujata Massey

The Widows of Malabar Hill

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 375

Read: June 22-28, 2018

Rating: 4/5

Source: Library

 

Blurb: Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X – meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah – in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further dance.


Review: This is the July selection in the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club. I was initially a little hesitant to pick it up because of the setting. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything set in India and my knowledge of India and their customs are very limited, so I was unsure how I would take to this book. I can fully say that I am thrilled that I gave this one a shot! I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I absolutely adored Perveen’s character. She was so strong and I just loved her. I obviously do not want to say too much about the book here and spoil it, but there was one defining moment in this book that was really the turning point for me. Perveen stood up and did something for herself that had me literally wanting to dance across the room in jubilation. It was at that point that I realized just what kind of character Perveen was – and she’s definitely one that I hope we continue to see in future series installments! As a woman, I loved everything that Perveen stood for. Sure she made some boneheaded moves at times (who doesn’t?), but for the most part she was level-headed and intelligent. Just a well-written, well-developed character!

I actually enjoyed learning a little bit more about the culture of India, especially what women have to endure at times. As a woman in America, I am used to certain liberties that women in other countries are not allowed. I find it hard to fathom this, but I also understand cultural customs. I found it to be quite educational.

Overall this is a book that I never would have picked up by myself. I took a chance on it and am so glad that I did. I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers and historical fiction lovers alike. It’s a well-written and entertaining book. It was easy to read and enjoyable. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Definitely recommended!

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, H, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone

 

Copyright: 2018

Pages: 438

Read: May 25-June 2, 2018

Rating: 5/5

Source: Purchased New

 

Blurb: Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam War a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.


Review: This is not a book that I normally would have picked up on my own. In fact when it came out I actually passed it up on Book of the Month. I had never read anything by Kristin Hannah and I wasn’t sure about the Alaskan setting, so I figured it was better to be safe than sorry and I chose something else. So when I saw that it was going to be June’s selection on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s book club, I was a little nervous about it. I couldn’t access it from my library in time to read it for the discussion, so I purchased a new copy. I was all in by that point 🙂

And holy moly was I immediately sucked in by this! I mean from like the first page I was in love with the story. I immediately took to Leni’s character. She’s a wonderful voice in this story. The things that she has to see and live with can be heartbreaking at times. And let’s be honest – it would not be easy at all to be stuck in the Alaskan wilderness with no electricity and no running water in your house. I cannot even begin to imagine that! So it was no surprise just how strong Leni ended up becoming by the middle of the book – she had no real choice, if she wanted to survive.

This book deals with some pretty heavy hitting things. Domestic violence is at the heart of it. It was very difficult reading at times. I’ve been extremely lucky in that I have never been directly or indirectly impacted by domestic violence, but I know that’s not necessarily the norm. I felt like Ms. Hannah handled the situation in a very respectful manner. It was stomach churning at times, but it was also riveting.

At the end there were multiple times that I actually cried. Like legit cried my eyes out. It was that powerful to me. It made me feel things about a book like I haven’t felt in a very long time. I am not usually that attached to a book like I was with this one. And ugh, the book hangover – it’s real!

I just cannot say enough good things about this book! Like I said this book is way outside my comfort zone. And I devoured every single page. It was a great book with wonderful characters and an amazing setting. Just a wonderfully powerful book that really made me think.

HIGHLY recommended!

[Honestly, joining the MMD Book Club has been the absolute best thing I have done for my reading. June marks my 3rd month as a member and the three selections so far have been amazing in their own way for differing reasons. I have expanded my reading in ways that are way out of my comfort zone. It’s been wonderful and I am always looking forward to the next book!]

3/5, AUTHOR, B, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018

Review: What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

What I Saw and How I Lied
by Judy Blunder

What I Saw and How I Lied

Copyright: 2008

Pages: 281

Read: May 3-8, 2018

Rating: 3/5

Source: Library

 

 

Blurb: When Evie’s father returned home from World War II, the family fell back into its normal life pretty quickly. But Joe Spooner brought more back with him than just war stories. Movie-star handsome Peter Coleridge, a young ex-GI who served in Joe’s company, shows up, and Evie finds herself falling for him … until a tragedy occurs that shatters her family breaks her life in two.

As she begins to realize that almost everything she believed was really a lie, Evie must get to the heart of the deceptions and choose between loyalty to her parents and feelings for the man she loves. Someone will have to be betrayed. The question is … who?


Review: This is the May book selection for the MMD Book Club. I was excited to see it available at my library and immediately fell in love with that cover! I was really looking forward to it. Young Adult isn’t necessarily a genre I’m overly familiar with, and I had never heard of this book, but I was really looking forward to digging into it!

And … it fell a little flat for me. It was very readable but I had trouble reconciling the fact that this was a National Book Award winner. I think I expected a little bit more out of this book just because it had won that award. But my feelings overall are kind of …. scattered?

As I already stated, it was extremely readable. But I couldn’t exactly figure out what the author was wanting to do with the book. Young adult, historical fiction, romance … yes! All of the above. But then near the end Ms. Blundell added in a murder mystery and that’s the part that didn’t really fit the whole book. It also didn’t help that we had at least 3/4 of the book with all this build up and then BOOM here comes the mystery part and she wraps it up in a very short 1/4 of the book. It just felt almost as if she needed something to “happen” and that’s the direction she took? I don’t know. I just felt like that entire part of the book didn’t really fit in with the vibe of the rest of the book. At least that’s my opinion on it…

Maybe it’s just because being a 30+ year old woman, I’m not really the targeted audience for this book. Maybe it’s because coming-of-age stories are not my forte. I don’t know. It wasn’t bad. Not at all! It was a fun and easy read. Ms. Blundell made me feel like I was right in the 1940s with Evie and her parents. I really loved the post-war setting. My “problem” was really with the murder part of the book. It just didn’t work for me in this book.

5/5, AUTHOR, Book Review, Fiction, MMD Book Club, RATING, Read in 2018, S

Review: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire
by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fire

Copyright: 2017

Pages: 274

Read: March 31 – April 6, 2018

Rating: 5/5

Source: Library

 

 

Blurb: Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother’s death, she’s accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who’s disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When Parvaiz surfaces half a globe away, Isma’s worst fears are confirmed.

Then handsome, charismatic Eamonn enters the sisters’ lives. Son of a powerful political figure, he has his own birthright to live up to – or defy. Is he to be a chance at love? The means of Parvaiz’s salvation? Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined.

Internationally acclaimed for her riveting and ambitiously imagined novels, here Kamila Shamsie explores how secrets and family loyalty can both bind lives together and threaten to spin them out of control. Searing and suspenseful, Home Fire asks: What sacrifices will we make in the name of love?


Review: This is not the type of book I normally read. Not even close. But when I saw on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s site that it was her book club’s April selection I dug deeper into the book. I previewed the first page on Goodreads and knew immediately that I had to join the book club for this discussion and immediately get a copy of that book. (You can find that intro here if you’re curious to know what was so compelling to make me fork over money to join a virtual book club and head straight to the library.)

I had seen on the MMD website that this is actually a modern retelling of Antigone. I’m not going to lie, I had no idea what Antigone was even about. It was all I could do to not Google it before I finished the book! I’m ultimately glad that I avoided doing so since I think it would have definitely affected the way I viewed this book.

This book has so many different themes that are explored, but family and country relationships are definitely at the core. It brings forth a lot of feelings and made me really wonder what I would do in those situations. Let’s be frank: I’m an upper-middle class white woman who has no idea what the real world is really like to more underprivileged people. This book made me think more about what it would be like to be a woman trying to do everything in her power to avoid bringing attention to herself lest people think she was a terrorist. It made me think about what it would be like to be so driven in life that I would essentially deny my entire familial background. It made me think about what it would be like to be so driven in my grief that I would willingly manipulate seemingly innocent people in order to get what I ultimately wanted. It made me think about what it would be like to want to know who your father was so badly that you would (inadvertently?) join a terrorist group in order to get the answers you so desperately wanted.

Yeah, it’s that kind of book.

This book really made me think. And I’m not used to books like that. I’m used to murder mysteries where I just have to figure out who the killer is. This book opened my mind to a lot more things than I ever imagined. And it’s stuck with me. I finished this book nearly 2 weeks ago and am just now sitting down to write this review because I’ve been in a book hangover trying to wrap my mind around it.

I still do not think I can adequately put into words my feelings on this book. All I can say is that I was enamored by it. I was enthralled by it. I was engrossed in it. It’ll be in my mind for quite some time.

And I would recommend everyone to read it.