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Book Review: The Red Address Book – Best Book I’ve Read This Year

The Red Address Book

By Sofia Lundberg

As the book opens, Doris is a Swedish woman in the twilight of her life. She has a nursing service come in to help her once a day, but the caregiver is simply getting the job done without caring about the person she is paid to help. Doris is kind, but doesn’t bother to interact. The caregiver doesn’t notice. Doris’ body is betraying her with weakness, but her mind is still sharp and her memories clear.

There are two things Doris does interact with. One is the computer phone call to her niece in the States, which happens every day. Both of the women delight in seeing the other from around the globe and sharing their lives. The other is the red address book that her father gave her for her tenth birthday in 1928. Just by opening the pages and scrolling through, she can walk through her past and relive the good and the bad of all the years.

At this stage of her life, Doris’ red address book holds many names of the dead. As each friend or family member passes away, she draws a line through their name and writes in one word. DEAD. She has lived a full and interesting life and has accepted the fact that her life is soon to be over. Her niece realizes that her beloved aunt is failing fast, and makes the journey to see her one last time. Her bittersweet journey will open her eyes to the woman Doris once was and still is until her last breath.

Lundberg skillfully takes us from past to present by using the entries in Doris’ red address book to tell us of the people she has encountered and events that have happened in her long and interestingly colorful life. Not all of the experiences have been good – but each of them has shaped Doris into the strong woman she remains to be today.

Oftentimes as people get older they are not seen as the young, vibrant person they were before age slowed them down. I have been fortunate to have close older family members tell me about their lives, just like Lundberg does for Doris. By the end of the book, I had laughed and cried with her as if she was an Aunt I was truly fond of.

This is the first book Sofia Lundberg has written and I am excited to see what this promising author does next. The former journalist that resides in Sweden is an author to put on your radar. I have read hundreds of books this year. Some of them fantastic, some mediocre, some made me want to chuck them across the room for various reasons I won’t mention. But hands down, The Red Address Book is the best book I have read this year. Do yourself a favor and get it now. Share it with your friends and read it for your book club. Tell me what you think!

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Happy, The Journal – Find Your Inner Joy Daily

Happy, The Journal

By: Fearne Cotton

 Fearne Cotton gives the best description of this journal on the cover: “A chance to write joy into every day and let go of perfect” It is a journal that is so much more than blank pages. I don’t know about you, but I have journals that have more empty than full pages. January starts out fine, but about spring my inspiration gives way to spring, then summer and dribbles down to nothing the rest of the year.

Happy will inspire and encourage you to not only journal, but will help you embrace the joy in your life. Sometimes the joy in everyday life is hard to find when you are living it. Looking back to crazy days when my kids were little and money was tight I can see the joy now, but then it was hard to embrace.

There are no blank pages staring at you when you open Happy. January 1st begins with the simple instruction: “Time for that cosmic order list. Write out your wish list for the year ahead….but as if each one WILL happen.” How cool is that!? Every page has some type of inspiration to keep you feeling positive about your day, and consequently your life.

Some days you are asked to doodle a picture. Don’t worry, no one will see it if you make a stick figure or paint a Picasso. This is your journal to keep to yourself or share. Too often we are too hard on ourselves. This journal may give you the inspiration and encouragement to believe in yourself and become someone who is happy more often than not. Who knows what goals you can accomplish in 2019 and beyond? Sometimes we just need that Happy push to make some dreams come true.

There are also full pages of important things to contemplate each month – I like to think of them as profound billboards – throughout the book. A few of my favorites include the following:

           “The first step in getting what you want is getting rid of the things you don’t want”

            “Happiness is handmade”

            “Don’t call it a dream, call it a plan”

With January right around the corner, this is the perfect time to order this book. But there isn’t a year anywhere on this book so if you start it in August and let it roll into a different year, go for it! These are your dreams, your goals and your joy to find in your own way.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy from Dover Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: The Subway Girls – Things Have Changed – Or Have They?

The Subway Girls

By Susie Orman Schnall

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Charlotte is clever, bright and educated. She longs to work in Marketing. Even though she is about to graduate from college, she can’t get a job at any of the firms she has applied to. It isn’t that she wants to start at the top; as a matter of fact she is willing to start in the typing pool and work her way up. This is a long shot for a young woman in 1949. To add more misery to her world, her father’s hardware store isn’t doing well, so he wants her to work for him instead of getting a job that actually pays so he can fire his last employee.

Her age is another deterrent. No one wants to hire someone as old as twenty-one. It is almost a certainty that she is just waiting to get engaged, married and immediately after resign to take care of her husband, home and however many children they have in quick succession. Charlotte wants more from life, including a career at a marketing firm.

Olivia lives in a world where women can hold almost any job that a man can. They may not get equal pay, but in 2018 women are much more likely to be taken seriously. It appears to be true, but when Olivia’s job becomes a contest between the other manager at her marketing firm and her, only one of them will still be employed when all is said and done. It doesn’t seem to matter that she has brilliant ideas; the “good old boy” network is alive and well. Unfortunately, her competition will do anything to have the best campaign for the New York Subway system. To boost their ridership, the NY Subway needs something new with a twist of retro and even though Olivia comes up with great ideas, will she be heard?

Meantime, back in 1949, Charlotte has personal and professional issues. She wins a contest to be a Subway Girl that she entered on a whim. They are New York gals that are smart and pretty. Charlotte cleverly thinks if she can mention her father’s store during the campaign it will be on all of the subway cars, therefore free marketing so she won’t have to work in the family business and can further pursue her dream.

Olivia reads about the Subway Girls and feels it is a great idea that would stand up today. It will be retro with a new spin, landing right where the client wants it to be. After doing her research, she even locates a few of the gals who posed for the Subway Girl posters fifty years ago.

Susie Orman Schnall does a marvelous job melding 1949 with 2018. So much is different, and yet, so much is the same. She cleverly alternates chapters between Charlotte and Olivia, taking the reader seamlessly from one story to the other until they blend beautifully in the last few chapters. The struggles each girl experiences in her personal and professional life are universal through time.

The Subway Girls is a fast paced, interesting novel. The characters are well developed and the plot line is interesting and complex. Often times women’s fiction has too much romance and whining involved for me, which is definitely not the case with this fantastic book. There was a subplot of romance, but not to the extent of overtaking the story. This novel is just the right amount of everything. I loved it.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Contest Winner! Four More Book Giveaways Coming Soon!!

Congratulations Justice Swan! You have won a copy of Dover’s Creative Haven’s Fanciful Sea Life!

 

Please email me your home address so that I can mail your copy to you. 

Thanks to everyone that entered!

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Book Review: The Immortalists – Add to your Must Read List 2018

The Immortalists

By Chloe Benjamin

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and the publisher.

How would you live your life if, as a young child, you were given the day on which you would die? That is the struggle thirteen-year-old Varay and three siblings face in the pages of Benjamin’s powerful novel.

Children of Jewish immigrants, they are taught to work hard, obey their parents and follow the ways of their ancestors. Amidst the traditions and expectations of the family, each of the children has talents and desires of their own. The oldest son, Daniel, is expected to take over his father’s dressmaking business, but he is determined to become a physician. Varay wants to go to University instead of staying home to raise children and the youngest two siblings have far grander dreams of how they will live out the days the fortune teller allotted them that steamy July day in 1969.

Benjamin’s magnificent work of literary fiction is magical and down to earth, heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. Within a few moments the lives of four siblings changed forever or were their paths set in stone? Benjamin gives the reader all of the information, but the interpretation is up to the individual reader.

I literally walked around with my Kindle, sneaking stolen glances at the pages while doing other things because I could not put this story down. Reading late into the night, I cried for the fate of Simon – or was it the path he had chosen? Either way, the characters came alive for me in the first few pages and I wanted them to all live forever if only on the pages. But true to life, love and loss go hand in hand.

This is the first book I’ve read by award winning author Chloe Benjamin. Her first novel, The Anatomy of Dreams, won the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award. I cannot wait to read it and following novels by this talented writer.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Lisa Gardner’s Right Behind You Now Out in Paperback!!

If you haven’t read this yet, it is a gem. Now out in paperback! Check out my review below if you missed it. 

Right Behind You

Lisa Gardner

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from the publisher in connection with NetGalley in return for my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Lisa Gardner’s beloved characters, Rainie and Quincy are back in action. This time it is personal. Of all the unlikely couples in the world to adopt a troubled girl, it is them. They fostered her after she bounced from home to home. She didn’t seem to fit anywhere, most likely due to her past. Now she could be targeted by a killer.

Sharlah has had a rough start in life. Daughter of alcoholic/drug addict parents, she was raised by her brother. He was only a few years older than she was when he had to take charge of her wellbeing. He fed her; made sure she got to school on time and protected her. Even when he had to use deadly force, he did what he had to do to keep her safe.

It has been years since they have seen each other. Sharlah doesn’t let anyone get close to her since the night her parents died which was the last day she saw her beloved brother. The only breathing thing she has let herself get close to is Luka. A year after arriving at Rainie and Quincy’s as a foster child, he brought the retired police dog home to Sharlah. She and Luka are inseparable and the love they have for each other is evident. Sharlah loves her foster (soon to be adoptive parents) but has a much harder time showing them the affection that comes easy for her with Luka.

Then the fragile world they have created begins to cave in. Sharlah’s brother Telly Ray Nash could be in trouble. Serious trouble. Trouble so serious that the local authorities have called in Quincy to help find Telly even though he is a retired FBI profiler.

Rainie and Quincy are both concerned for the safety of the community and even more concerned for Sharlah. They can only hope he isn’t coming for Sharlah next.

Right Behind You is action packed with twists and turns that surprised me until the very end. Just when I thought I had this fast-paced novel figured out, a new wrinkle in the plot would take me down a different path. It was a fabulous read for any suspense lover.

Her characters are so real I expect to see some of them on the street. The setting was familiar due to my travels in the Northwest, I especially loved the reference to the cheese factory as I’ve been there several times just like the tourists in the story.

Lisa Gardner never fails to deliver, and this book is no exception. It is obvious to see that she has earned the crown as the #1 best-selling New York Times author of suspense. This is the eighth novel in her FBI Profiler Series. I have read a few of them, as well as several of her other books. Her books intrigue and entertain, if you haven’t read her novels, Right Behind You will make you an instant fan.

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Book Review: To Be Where You Are – The Latest Book in the Mitford Series

To Be Where You Are

By Jan Karon

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Mitford is a small town tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains. The locals know everyone and everything that goes on in the town. Information spreads faster than the cool mountain breeze of autumn when something good or bad happens to any of the inhabitants.

Like any small town, there are interesting stories of citizens that have been there for generations. They are kind to the new residents, whom they welcome with open arms. Karon shares many of them with her readers.

To Be Where You Are chronicles the lives of several of the families and individuals living in Mitford. One of them is an adorable little girl named Grace Murphy. She is writing and illustrating a book. Not an easy thing for a little girl who is six, but almost seven.

The local vet, Dooley Kavanagh and his wife Lace are up to their eyeballs in happiness and troubles. Like most young couples they are devoted to each other and have less money and time to relax than older couples often do. But they are happy, especially now that they are parents. Lace cannot have children of her own, but they are adopting a four year old boy who needs parents more than anything. Jack will be the son they have prayed for and Dooley and Lace are happier than they ever imagined with him in their lives.

There is a grumpy old man, Avis, who owns the local store. He is gruff on the outside but does everything that he can to help the local farmers. He does this quietly and gracefully, most people not knowing of his good deeds.

Karon writes spiritual books, To Be Where You Are does not deviate from the writing path she has chosen. She also writes books about real people, in real situations that most of us can identify with. That is one of the charming aspects of this series. There are no less than three priests in this book. One is retired, one is currently serving the parish and one has just felt the calling from God to become a man of the cloth. My favorite was the retired one, he seemed to do more work than the other two combined. His on the spot marriage counseling was spot on.

There is more than a smattering of animals that play a big part in the cast of characters. How can you not love a huge bull named Choo Choo? Several dogs and a few cats were additional bright spots I enjoyed.

This was an interesting book. It jumps from character to character, so the first few chapters were a bit confusing for me. Just as I was getting to know a character and situation, they would not show up for several chapters. The names were difficult to remember because the character list is so long. While by the end I had them figured out, the middle was muddled because I had to go back to see who was who.

I loved the ending. It wrapped up all of the story lines with satisfying endings. I anticipated the big surprise (which I will not reveal here – you will have to read the book!) it was not unexpected, but made me happy nonetheless.

I recommend this book to anyone that likes spiritual fiction as well as books that have a large cast of characters. It is heartwarming and charming.

Karon is a best-selling author of many books, including the Mitford Series. This is the fourteenth book in series, highlighting the third generation of Kavanaghs. It is the first one I have read, but I didn’t feel as there were any backstories that I didn’t know. It worked well as a standalone book.

 

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

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