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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The Shop Girls of Lark Lane @PamHowes

The Shop Girls of Lark Lane will tug at your heart-strings once again as we catch up with Alice and the gals of Lark Lane

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This is the second book in a series and  as the book opens, we find the war is over and the men are returning home. Alice, who was introduced in the first book, is reunited with her husband who is seeing his daughter for the first time. She isn’t exactly happy to share her mum with this new man and makes their adjustment rather difficult. But then, there are difficult adjustments for everyone as the women give up their factory jobs and independence and settle back into domesticity. Tragedy, sadly, does not escape Alice in this saga and her story holds more tears for her and requires much courage as she finds herself alone once again.

Although The Shop Girls of Lark Lane is part of a series, I had no trouble at all reading it as a stand alone. I suspect that it helped that I didn’t have preconceived ideas about certain characters, especially as they evolved into rather unsavory sorts as the book progressed It did start off rather slowly which, I think, partly was due to the fact that the author was laying down a lot of background information so that readers could catch up from the first book. A quarter of the way in I was hooked completely and fell in love with the characters, Alice in particular, and their stories. Normally I’m not a fan of this era but this tale was well told with a lot of historical detail and human emotions. If you enjoy historical fiction then you will like The Shop Girls of Lark Lane which is available now.

Thank you #Netgalley, #Bookouture and #PamHowes for my copy of this terrific book. The first in the series is titled #TheFactoryGirlsofLarkLane

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era.

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With the opening pages of Idra Novey’s sophomore novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.

On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled “accidental,” Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria. Her friend, bookshop/weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena that she only is imagining things. But Lena suspects the girl was pushed in front of the train by an up and coming Senator, Victor, with whom Lena once had a liaison and during which time Victor quite nearly killed Lena in a fit of rage. As the story progresses, we learn more of Victor and the machinations of his rise to power. We meet Victor’s brother, Freddie, a gay playwright, who also suspects Victor. The beginning of the book is filled with twists and turns and intrigue and is told from multiple points of view. One would think that it would get confusing or scrambled, however, the deft writing skills of Novey, smoothly transition from one person to the next, one thought to another beautifully.

The latter portion of the book reads differently from the first as the characters examine their past actions, what they have done; what they might have done differently and how those different actions might have affected a different outcome. It is here in which the beauty of the book resonates and the true talent of the author shines. I gladly would read this book multiple times over and again just to have the pleasure of reading the second half with its beautiful prose.

Those Who Knew is succinctly written and is, quite quick of a read and yet there is so much power and such a weighty message within so few pages that you will be left wondering how that could and also wanting more. Idra Novey is considered an “up and coming” American writer – I daresay that with Those Who Knew, she has arrived there already!

Thank you #Edelweiss, @VikingBooks, and @IdraNovey for my advanced copy of this book. Those Who Knew is available for pre-order now and will be published November 6, 2018.

The Girl Made of Clay

A woman’s journey from anger to forgiveness…

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First, let’s talk about the amazing cover artwork for this book. I just love it when authors and publishers put time and thought in the book cover. This was the entire reason I wanted to read The Girl Made of Clay.

Sara has a full life as a mom, wife, volunteer and her time is filled from morning until night. The last thing she needed was for her estranged father to re-enter her life, but enter he does after a devastating fire left him in the burn unit at a near-by hospital. TR, the father, is a sculptor whose most famous piece was based on Sara as a child. They once shared a very close relationship until he abandoned Sara, leaving her to care for her mentally ill mother. Caring for TR puts a further strain on Sara’s marriage which already was in trouble. How can she care for the man who left her – her husband or her father.

The author has given us an emotional story that explores the question of forgiveness and its healing powers. Unfortunately the characters that were drawn In The Girl Made of Clay were predictable and uninteresting. I never was able to fully connect with Sara and I couldn’t tolerate her husband, Charlie, or her father, TR. I did like her dog, Acer, very much. However, for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why she wanted to forgive this man who was and had been terrible throughout his life. So, her son wanted to connect with his grandfather… so what. In the real world it isn’t always beneficial to “connect” or to “forgive” and yet we, as women, often are asked to do just that – for our own good. Perhaps it’s time to write books where men are not contemptible in the first place so that women didn’t have to spend their time learning about “forgiveness. There are many good books out there about dysfunctional families and the restorative power of forgiveness, unfortunately this is not one of them.

This was an advanced read from #Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing.

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.

 

 

The Washington Decree

WOW – just WOW!! If there is one book that has knocked my socks off this year, it is The Washington Decree by Jussie Adler-Olsen! This is one action packed political thriller that must be read!

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Adler-Olsen is most well-known for his Nordic Noir, Department Q series, which I admit that I adore. He is an incredibly talented writer who gives depth to all of his characters and The Washington Decree is no exception. The characters are so well drawn that I, literally, had a picture in my head of what they looked like, who they reminded me of, what their next course of action might be. It was as though they were people I actually knew well.

The Washington Decree introduces us to the main characters several years before the actual story takes place. However, though this introduction, we begin to get a feel for these characters’ personalities and how closely they are tied to one another. When the actual tale begins to unfold, this background is key to the hopeful outcome in the end.

In essence, this is a story ripped from today’s headlines. A president, a wealthy businessman, is overwhelmingly elected to office. However, on election night his wife is assassinated. Overwhelmed with grief, the president initiates a series of executive decisions that will alter the foundation of America’s political, economic and constitutional foundations. The result, of course, is panic and outrage that grows worse with each day he is in office until the very (!) climactic conclusion. In case you suspect that the book is written with America’s current president for an example, keep in mind that The Washington Decree was originally written in 2006 and only now is being translated into English. In addition, the president in question is a Democrat and not a Republican. It does, however, mirror today’s current events very closely, taking them headlong to their ultimate, tumultuous outcome.

ALL US citizens are subject to arrest and imprisonment without charge in the event of a “state of emergency.” Freedom of speech and the right of assembly may be suspended and censorship of the media implemented.

Just a little something that was appended at the end of the book but is, in fact, part of the government’s right in the event of an “emergency.” It is the right that FDR used in the 30s when he shut down the banks and government while crafting his New Deal. The right to executive decision has long been part of the US Presidential powers but never used to the extent that it has been under Presidents Obama and Trump. This is the premise to the book. Its characters, their actions, the re-action of the various groups and organization in America, were so perfectly depicted that I truly believed that this could happen today, right now. It was/is a terrifying read!

The book is not without faults; it is a long book and there are passages that I thought were unnecessary to the overall theme of the book. I also felt so strongly at times about some of the political actions that I had to set the book aside until I could objectively begin reading again. Regardless of your party affiliation or nationality, remember Adler-Olsen is not American, this is an incredible, gripping read and well worth getting to the end – which will knock your socks off!! Just when you thought it was safe to come out from underneath the bed…… that ending. Just WOW! WOW-WOW!

Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains

There are days when one review simply is not enough so for Thursdays I give you Two…

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When my children were small, I purchased many, MANY, foreign inspired or authored books so that they would grow up knowing as much as possible about the world around them. My daughter’s favorite book still is a Russian fairy tale, Natasha and the Bear. Now that they are adults, all three are frequent world travelers and over the years we have hosted multiple exchange students. When I saw Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains, I knew this was a must own for our home library.

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Milisava Petkovic is a writer from Serbia and Xuan Loc Xuan is a freelance illustrator based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Together they have created a sweet, heartfelt tale of friendship, family, and the beauty of nature.

While playing in the mountains with her mother, hunters appear and threaten their tranquility. Snowy’s mother diverts the hunters and tells Snowy to run the other direction and meet her back at their home. Snowy runs so hard and for so long that soon she realizes she very lost. Trying to find her way home, she enlists the help of several forest inhabitants, each of whom teach Snowy their unique, basic skills for survival.

Snowy is a delightful book that introduces young readers to animals they may never have heard of before – or, at the very least – a different variation of those creatures. That is the beauty of this book, as well as learning about their co-dependency on one another for survival.

81QyGdytqOLIn addition, Xuan’s illustrations are both lovely and soothing and highlight the story line perfectly. At first glance, I thought the illustrations might be too muted for young readers to enjoy, so I shared the book with a young friend of mine and they were her favorite part of the story. They are created in an Asian style with perfect lines, wonderful colors but not the vibrant, perfectly edited photos of most North American children’s books. This style works well with the story and they are incredible illustrations to admire and enhance the story.

Snowy: A Leopard of the High Mountains is a perfect addition to our home library and I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates international work and, most especially, for parents of young readers.

I’m grateful for my advanced copy from #Netgalley and to Xuan Loc Xuan and Milisava Petkovic for sharing their work with me. Also, thanks to #FoxChapelPublishing for my copy of #SnowytheLeopard