More Than Bones @CraigDSinger

More Than Bones will take you on a roller coaster ride that you won’t soon forget! It was not at all what I was expecting but far exceeded all of preconceived silly ideas! A tale of self-exploration with a steep learning curve, it is a perfect read to start your new year!

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Dr. Emily Norton has relocated to Baltimore to begin her residency program at a Catholic hospital in order to be closer to her fiancé. She has rented a room – the attic space – in a gorgeous older home owned by a rather odd, effusive gentleman also named Norton – his first name, not last – and immediately is charmed by the elderly next door neighbor, Frank, who insists on gifting her a large, rather chunky, but quite expensive amulet that is hanging around his cat’s neck. It’s all rather strange, I know, but told in a such an amazing manner that you get wrapped up in the story from the very first line. Trust me! The amulet comes with a warning never to take it off – ever! Of course, Emily’s only faith is in science and facts and she promptly hangs the necklace on her skeleton – a gift from her new landlord. She has lived her life having religion crammed down her throat and the only thing she believes in is the here and now – thank you very much. Aaaahhh, but soon Emily finds herself without a fiancé, friendless, in the middle of a city-wide scandal, jobless and the “bad luck” is increasing by the day. Finally, she puts the amulet on and, voila, her luck begins to change. Or does it?

While on the surface this appears to be a story of magical realism, a story about a magic amulet that has brought good fortune to its owners throughout history, it is more the tale of a person being the master of their own fate, of coming to terms with their own beliefs, either with or without religion, either with or without science, and what consequences those beliefs might lead to in our lives. It the coming of age story of a young woman who has been raised without a mother by a somewhat tyrannical father who has to find her own way as an adult. It a story of which I am quite familiar and many of the questions that Emily was asking herself were ones I have grappled with over my own lifetime.

The characters in More Than Bones are hilarious, quirky, humorous, hateful, vibrant and I loved them all – even Norton’s mother! Singer does an amazing job creating people that I feel like I have known my entire life. In fact, I think I have known someone just like them. There are so many areas covered from science to religion, suicide to health care, the LGBTQ community to breast cancer and yet each one of these topics is handled with a deft hand. I was raised on southern literature with eccentric characters from Flannery O’Connor and Fannie Flagg to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. More Than Bones reminded me of all of the good qualities of that genre – the humorous, somewhat over-the-top characters mixed with hell-fire and brimstone religion pulling against the modern world of science and religion – all combined to make a thoroughly marvelous, enjoyable, thoughtful book, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #TwinRabbitBooks and #CraigDavidSinger for allowing me to read this amazing book!

 

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It’s Publication Day – A Gift from the Comfort Food Café by Debbie Johnson

If you are searching for warm and fuzzy, feel good book that is perfect for the holidays and all year through, then look no further than A Gift From the Comfort Food Café.

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The book begins with the backstory of Katie, a single mum to an adorable toddler, Sean. We find Katie when she is just seven years old and “running away for the first time.” We soon learn that her home life is filled with abusive parents who care more about destroying one another than they do about caring for their young daughter. Over the continuing years, Katie continues to “run away,” first to her grandmother’s home, then to college and head first into a bad relationship, to new towns until, finally, she lands in Budbury – a quaint village filled with wonderfully quirky and loving residents who embrace Katie wholeheartedly, despite the fact that Katie is slow to embrace them in return. However, as the holidays approach – the worst time of the year for Katie – she decides to take small steps toward allowing others into her life, including the very nice Van, whom her son adores.

A Gift From the Comfort Food Cafe belongs to a series revolving around the cast of characters from Budbury who gather together at the Comfort Food Café. I had no idea I was stepping into a world that was ongoing but this book stands alone quite well. The only reason I even mention the series is because reading this book will make you want to know more about the village of Budbury and all of those who live within.

This particular story is wonderful. It has just the right amount of tension, the perfect amount of “cosy,” and a dash of the holidays to make it a wonderful read! I admit that the very beginning of the book had me scratching my head as we were given Katie’s backstory, but soon it flowed beautifully and the rest of the book was marvelous! The people are just quirky enough to make them interesting but not over-the-top so that they are unbelievable. Again – it was all “just right.”

This felt more like women’s fiction than a true holiday tale but in a good way. I highly encourage you to visit the village of Budbury this season. You will be glad that you did!

Thank you to @HarperImpulse, #Netgalley, @Dead-yJohnson and for my copy of this delightful book. On sale October 18, 2018.   (review published 10-18-18)

Kickdown by #RebeccaClaren

A hard, unvarnished look at America’s west during this modern era of climatic change.

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I appear to be making my way across the US as I read book after book concerning the middle regions of the nation – and let me tell you, the view is not a happy one. From Julia Keller’s horrifying, tale of the meth/opioid epidemic in West Virginia, to Stephen Markley’s book, Ohio, which examines the travesty of the “rust belt, I now have arrived in Colorado with Kickdown, a book that examines the hard decisions facing ranchers in America’s west.

When Jackie Dunbar’s father dies, she leaves medical school to return home to their family ranch. What she finds is a nightmare: the ranch is in disrepair and on the verge of bankruptcy; her sister is in the throes of a breakdown and everywhere she turns she sees the oil and gas companies raping the land. Jackie immediately begins work on the ranch in an attempt to bring it back to life. However, there is a “kickdown” at one of the gas wells nearby and Jackie’s world is immediately and irrevocably changed. A kickdown, by the way, is a build of gas in a well which sets off an explosion into the air which sends firebombs and noxious gas into the atmosphere.

Kickdown is the debut novel for Rebecca Clarren but it doesn’t read like one. The imagery and prose are intoxicating, the story is taut and vividly told. It is a tale of the growing economic crisis in the US and those who are affected by it most harshly – the people who have worked the land: ranchers, farmers, blue-collar workers. The book examines the tough reality of choosing between the land that you dearly love and the offers from corporations, gas hacks and others who have taken over the land in order to make a quick buck. Admittedly, I am not a fan of those who do this. However, Clarren walks a fine line of presenting both sides fairly well, perhaps too well for someone like me. I wanted more of a defining moment, a bigger stand against those who destroy the land; what we are given is, basically, what those who live in these areas are confronted with every day: a balance between loving the land and surviving. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book, I did very much, and because it is not polarizing I’m sure that it will reach a larger audience.

If you are a fan of character driven novels, those that are told slowly, deliberately and quite fully, then I’m sure you enjoy Kickdown.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #RebeccaClarren and #IngramPublisherServices for my copy of this book.

 

 

Hard Cider

Hard Cider is a meandering, tangled tale that takes you on an emotional path toward a beautiful resolution.

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Women’s Contemporary Fiction is not a genre into which I often delve. The scenarios in the book either are so far from my wheelhouse that I cannot relate, or they mirror my own problems so closely that there is no escape or joy in the reading for me. However, because I absolutely adore hard cider, I had to give this book a try. What a wonderful surprise I had in store for me within the covers of this book!

Abbie Rose Stone has retired from teaching, navigated the stormy seas of infertility, adoption, raising her somewhat eclectic family to adulthood and, now, is ready to begin the next chapter of her life – one of her own choosing – making hard cider. Neither her sons nor her husband are completely on board with Abbie’s plan, but this is her passion and something she wants to do, with or without their support. As she prepares her orchard, meets with other growers and learns her trade, she begins to feel confident in what she’s doing. That confidence, however, is threatened when a young woman comes to Abbie with a secret that could potentially destroy the tenuous threads of Abbie’s family.

When I began reading Hard Cider, I felt as though I was trapped in a maze that was going no where. There is a bit of skipping forward from one time to the next that left me rather confused. The author spends a great deal of time on minute daily details of Abby’s life and then skips entire months or years into the future. At first, this was frustrating; however, as I continued following along Abbie’s story, I found that this style worked really well. Not only did it work, the details and the flowing prose of Abbie’s thoughts, deeply pulled me into her life and that of her family. Soon realized that the conversations Abbie was having with her grown children were, in fact, some of the more difficult conversations I’ve had with my own adult kids. The messages she would tell herself in order to remain calm while discussing problems with her husband – yep, I had done, said and thought those things as well. Rather than boring me or pushing me to set the book aside as “too familiar” with my own life, I was further drawn into the story as I related more and more to Abbie and her life. I, too, began an “adventure” at mid-life, one that had no support from my immediate family. Watching as Abbie grew as a woman and as an entrepreneur helped me to see how I, too, could grow and change. It is, in essence, a “coming of age” story for women in the 21st century. It helped, too, that I love heirloom apples, cider making and hard cider because there is a lot of information about this process within the book which also highlights the incredible beauty of the Midwest that I have come to love so dearly.

I suspect that this might not be a great read for men; it is, after all, labeled as Contemporary Women’s Fiction. However, I would not categorize it as “chick lit” either. Hard Cider is a solidly written story about women, their strength, character and growth. It’s a short read, very enjoyable and one that I highly recommend.