Book Reviews · Recommendations

Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah

Comfort and Joy
By Kristin Hannah

Published: October, 2006
Published By: Ballantine Books
Format Read: eBook, Kobo
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis
High school librarian Joy Candellaro is just merely existing in the wake of a divorce. Then her entire existence is rocked when she learns that her own sister is pregnant with her ex-husbands baby. In a fit of desperation she flees looking for an escape from reality. On a whim she buys a plane ticket for a chartered flight that would take her deep into the Olympic rain-forest in the American Pacific Northwest.

My Thoughts

Comfort and Joy has a premise that may sound overly familiar to fans of cheesy Christmas movies. However this is not a happy, fuzzy holiday story, but one that is melancholy and ripe with tragedy.

Kristin Hannah’s descriptions were very vivid and beautiful. The lodge that Joy finds herself at reminded me in some ways, of William Paul Young’s The Shack, which is one of my favourite novels. The bond she would form with Bobby (son of the lodges owner) was really quite sweet and endearing.

Although this book wasn’t one that I absolutely loved, there were two main points that kept me reading and in turn factored into my 4 star rating. 1: I was able to really relate to Joy on a personal level. The emotions she felt as a result of her heartbreak really hit close to home for me. And 2. There were several passages that made me stop and reflect. Below I have included some of those quote that caught my attention.

I would recommend Comfort and Joy to those who enjoy contemporaries and fans of Kristin Hannah.

Notable Quotes

“I’m dreaming again for the first time in years, and it feels good.”

“This is my resolution for the New Year. I will be honest with myself. I’ll keep my eyes open. I’ll see what’s there, not just what I want to see.”

“..the silence has been like the in-drawn breath before a scream”

“It’s amazing how quickly a bone can heal. If only the heart were as durable. A little plaster, two months of bed rest, and voila! your broken heart is mended.”

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Book Reviews

40 Love by Madeleine Wickham

40 Love
By: Madeleine Wickham 

Published: August 2011
Published By: Macmillan Audio
Format Read: Audio Book, OverDrive App,
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 2.5/5
♥♥.5

Synopsis

Caroline and Patrick Chance have come a long way since their days on Seymour Road. To celebrate their wealth they invite some old friends to their country house for a tennis tournament. This contemporary novel follows the Chance’s and their friends who all vary in terms of success. Is it just their intention to show off their wealth or does Patrick have an ulterior motive behind this weekend of fun?

My Thoughts

Over the years I have read several Sophie Kinsella books, but this is the first one I have read under her real name Madeleine Wickham. I was curious to see how her older books compare to her more current releases and the tennis theme caught my interest as well.

What can I say about 40-Love? Keeping up with the Jones’s was definitely a theme here. From their expensive clothing, art and private schools, each character was more materialistic than the next. And their backstabbing snobbery became more infuriating as I read along.

Katherine Kellgren’s narration was spot on, when bringing a voice to the Chance’s and their guests. She did a great job expressing their selfish personalities and high brow accents. Wickham’s familiar contemporary style and the anticipation of confrontation kept me listening to this book.

Unfortunately I wouldn’t recommend 40-Love, but I would recommend Madeleine Wickham/Sophie Kinsella as an author to read.

 

 

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5) by Janet Evanovich

Plum Lovin’ (Stephanie Plum, #12.5)
By: Janet Evanovich

Published: January 2007
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: Kindle for PC, eBook

Rating: 3 Stars
♥♥♥

 

Synopsis

Plum Lovin’ is a holiday novella that falls between the full length novels Twelve Sharp and Lean Mean Thirteen. Set just before Valentines Day, business is slow in the bonds industry and there is only one large bail skip on Stephanie Plum’s list. In order to capture the skip, she must first help her friend Diesel and play cupid along the way.

My Thoughts 

The in between novellas in the Stephanie Plum series, aren’t exactly crucial reading, although it would have helped me to better understand Diesel’s character if I had read Visions of Sugar Plums (Stephanie Plum #8.5) first. I knew that he was a character from another series by Janet Evanovich, but I have yet to read any of those books.

It had been a while since I have read this series, so it was nice to revisit my favourite characters once again. Although a short story, it had the same humor I’ve come to enjoy. However I didn’t feel like the Diesel’s hint of paranormal powers fit into the Stephanie Plum world.

Still I would recommend Plum Lovin’ to fans of Janet Evanovich and the Stephanie Plum books.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Measure of Katie Calloway (Michigan Northwoods, #1) by Serena B. Miller

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The Measure of Katie Calloway
(Michigan Northwoods, #1)

By: Serena B. Miller

Published: October 2011
Published By: Revell 
Fromat Read: Kindle for PC
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis 

Katie Calloway makes a daring escape from her abusive Confederate Officer, husband. Fleeing north, she and her young brother Ned find themselves destitute in Bay City Michigan looking for a way to support themselves. Meanwhile, lumber camp owner Robert Foster is in a bind after his only cook is put out of commission due to injury. Although it was rare for a woman to work in a lumber camp among a group of men, he takes a chance on Katie. But will she be able to win them over and move on from her traumatizing past or will it catch up to her in the backwoods of Michigan?

My Thoughts 

Author Serena B. Miller was inspired to write The Measure of Katie Calloway after seeing  old photos of Michigan lumber camps in the 1800’s. In a workforce that was exclusive to only men, a female cook was very rare.

Even though Katie was the only woman working for Robert Foster, her past had made her strong and determined to forge a better life for herself and Ned. The way she adjusted to her new role showed a lot of character growth. Both Katie and Robert had their own reasons for escaping into the Michigan wilderness, which was interesting to discover.

The detailed explanations of the everyday operations in the 1867 lumber camp were really informative and well researched. I also enjoyed the camaraderie between the workers and how they abide their own code.

I would recommend this first book in the Michigan Northwoods series to fans of Christian historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Down, Then Up: A Novella by Beth Labonte

Down, Then Up: A Novella
By Beth Labonte

Published: November, 2016
Published By: Kindle Edition
Format Read: Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella

Rating: 4/5
♥♥♥♥

Synopsis

Lauren has worked hard to leave her past behind her. However she never could forget the one who got away. Ten years later, while throwing her sister a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, she discovers that her old flame happens to be the cousin of the groom.

My Thoughts 

I have been a fan of Beth Labonte’s books since reading her 2011 release What Stays in Vegas. Her novella Down, Then Up brings her readers back to “Sin City” in another humorous story, that didn’t disappoint.

Lauren’s former boyfriend Jamie is every nerdy girl’s dream. The popular culture references, especially those of the sci-fi variety are so current and will appeal to a lot of readers. I especially enjoyed how the title of this novella: Down, Then Up and its cover picture tied into the story.

I would definitely recommend Beth Labonte to fans of humorous contemporary fiction and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.

Book Reviews

TLC Book Tours: Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman

About Start Without Me

Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: William Morrow (October 17, 2017)

The author of the critically acclaimed The Book of Jonah explores questions of love and choice, disappointment and hope in the lives of two strangers who meet by chance in this mesmerizing tale that unfolds over one Thanksgiving Day.

Adam is a former musician and recovering alcoholic who is home for Thanksgiving for the first time in many years. Surrounded by his parents and siblings, nieces and nephews all who have seen him at his worst he can’t shake the feeling that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll always be the one who can’t get it right.

Marissa is a flight attendant whose marriage is strained by simmering tensions over race, class, and ambition. Heading to her in-laws for their picture-perfect holiday family dinner, her anxiety is intensified by the knowledge she is pregnant from an impulsive one-night-stand.

In an airport restaurant on Thanksgiving morning, Adam and Marissa meet. Over the course of this day fraught with emotion and expectation, these two strangers will form an unlikely bond as they reckon with their family ties, their pasts, and the choices that will determine their way forward.

Joshua Max Feldman focuses his knowing eye on one of the last bastions of classical American idealism, the Thanksgiving family gathering, as he explores our struggles to know and to be our best selves. Hilarious and heartrending, Start Without Me is a thoughtful and entertaining page-turner that will leave its indelible mark on your heart.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Joshua Max Feldman

Joshua Max Feldman is the author of The Book of Jonah. Born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, he has lived in England, Russia, and Switzerland, and currently resides in Brooklyn.

Find out more about Joshua at his website, and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

 

My Thoughts

I was sent a copy of Start Without Me by Joshua Max Feldman, from the publisher and TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review. 

My Rating: 2.5/5

Start Without Me follows two very different characters who spend Thanksgiving together following a chance meeting in a hotel restaurant. Former musician and recovering alcoholic Adam forms an unlikely friendship (for lack of a better word) with Marissa, a flight attendant with marital problems.

What I liked about this novel included the differences between Adam and Marissa. They both had very different up-bringing’s that contributed to their present situations and outlooks on life. It wasn’t until later in the book that I really began to understand the point behind this pairing. I couldn’t exactly relate to Adam and Marissa, but I was able to appreciate some of the social commentary and pop culture references.

The writing style felt choppy to me and took some getting used to. Unfortunately my interest wavered throughout, which resulted in my 2.5 star rating.

I would advise discretion to those who may decide to read Start Without Me as it does include course language and sexuality, that may offend some people.

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

TLC Book Tour: The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo

About The Fire By Night

 Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 3, 2017)

A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.

In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo single-handedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.

Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.

When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place and the hope of love in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Teresa Messineo

Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night,her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

Connect with Teresa on Facebook.

My Thoughts

I was sent a copy of The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo, from the publisher in exchange for an honest review for TLC Book Tours.

Teresa Messineo’s impressive debut novel The Fire by the Night follows two nurses serving their country on two different fronts during World War II. I have previously read quite a bit of historical fiction set in Europe, however this was the first time I’ve read about those on the Pacific front.

The immense amount of research that went into writing this novel, is evident in the details. This is especially prominent in the use of medical terminology, which was included much more than is typical for this genre. I didn’t realise how little is known about the horrors female nurses faced during this time and the conditions they were forced to live in as prisoners of war.

Jo and Kay’s separate stories interested me for different reasons. While I felt Jo’s perspective offered more from a psychological point of view, Kay’s kept my attention from a geographical standpoint.

Unfortunately I did have some trouble with the graphic descriptions, which still haunt me even after I completed the novel. For this reason I would advise caution to those who are interested in reading The Fire by Night. I would recommend this book to those who enjoy detailed historical fiction.

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Book Reviews · Read-a-thons · Recommendations

The Hangman (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #6.5) by Louise Penny


The Hangman (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #6.5)

By: Louise Penny

Published: 2010
Published by: Grass Roots Press

Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Mystery, Short Story, Series 

Rating: 3.5/5
♥♥♥.5

Synopsis

While out on a morning jog in the woods a man stumbles across the body of a man hung from a tree. What looked like a suicide is determined to be much more and Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to the small secluded town to investigate.

My Thoughts

The Hangman is part of a collection of short stories that is geared towards encouraging people to read. At under 100 pages, I picked this up for a read-a-thon and flew through it.

The Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series has been on my TBR for quite a while now, so I was pleasantly surprised when I came across this at my local library.

This was a fairly simple story, in the ‘locked room’ style. However instead of a ‘locked room’ it was set in a secluded town called Three Pines. The author included a detailed backstory for the suspects that fit well into its short length. Although I did enjoy it, I wish that there were more clues throughout instead of having the reader find out many facts when the truth is revealed. I am hopeful that the full length installments for the Armand Gamache series will allow for more of a build up.

I recommend The Hangman to mystery fans who are looking for a quick read.

Book Reviews

The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson

The Christmas Blessing
By Melody Carlson

Published: September, 2017
Published by: Fleming H. Revell Company

Format Read: NetGalley, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

I was sent a copy of The Christmas Blessing by Melody Carlson, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. 

Synopsis 

After a brief whirlwind romance, Amelia and James decide to marry, but are separated before tying the knot when he is called to report for duty as a pilot during the second world war. Shortly later she discovers that she is expecting his baby, then news arrives that his plane had been shot down over the Pacific. Alone and afraid, Amelia gives birth to a son she names Jimmy and decides to turn to James’ family for help. The Christmas Blessing follows her as she makes her way penniless to search for a family who doesn’t know that she or baby Jimmy exist.

My Thoughts 

The Christmas Blessing was a quick holiday story set in the home front of 1944 as war rages on.  Amelia’s life was riddled with tragedy, however the tone of the writing was quite light.

While I was able to relate to our main character was a single mother, but I didn’t quite feel enough emotion was conveyed as well as I would have liked. The World War II era time line was my favourite part of this story. However I enjoyed the characters and plot in Melody Carlson’s The Christmas Joy Ride, much more.

That being said it was a cute story that would make for a nice holiday movie and I would recommend it to fans of this author.

 

 

Book Reviews

The Islands of Doctor Thomas by Francoise Enguehard

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The Islands of Doctor Thomas
By Francoise Enguehard

 

 

Published: 2009
Published By: Breakwater Books

Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Canadian Literature

Rating: 3/5
♥♥♥

Synopsis

A successful architect returns to his childhood island home; St. Pierre et Miquelon. There he and a young family friend become fascinated with the discovery of a collection of photographs by a Dr. Louis Thomas dating back to 1913.

My Thoughts

I came across The Islands of Doctor Thomas at my local library and was intrigued by the setting. While St. Pierre et Miquelon are French islands, they are located very close to Newfoundland on the Atlantic Ocean. Even though it is on my bucket list to visit, I know very little about them.

So naturally this book interested me from a geographical point of view. It also compared the culture of these islands and how they differ and compare to that of France and North America (specifically Newfoundland).

The authors writing style (which was translated from French) is reflective and rich in metaphors. The story is very connected to the nature of the islands and the mood of those who live there.

Although the overall tone was quite melancholy it was still beautifully written. Unfortunately some of these traits went over my head and I don’t think that I was able to truly appreciate the meaning behind Enguehard’s words.

I would recommend The Islands of Doctor Thomas to those who enjoy literary fiction.