Tag Archives: fiction

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

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Reincarnation Blues – Perfection is Elusive … I Loved This Book!

Reincarnation Blues

By Michael Poore

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

Milo only has a few more chances to get it right. He should be good at this living thing, since he has had almost 10,000 tries to live a life worthy of not having to come back and try it again. Unfortunately, he seems to mess it up one way or another every single time, leaving him to be reincarnated to try again. The problem is, his advisors in death tell him they won’t know what will happen to his soul if he doesn’t get it right by the 10,000 try – no one has taken this many lives to get to the perfection it takes to cross into the golden light.

He learns things in each life he lives, but unfortunately, he has not lived up to the standards required to cross over. So he is born again and again and again. Each time Milo dies, he wakes up in water, and death is there to greet him. Death is not one entity, he or she in Milo’s case – is many deferent beings. Milo’s death person is Suzie, he gave her the name several thousand lives ago since her real name is too hard to pronounce. Therein lies another problem. Milo and Suzie have fallen in love with each other. Maybe a part of Milo doesn’t want to become perfect because how could life – or death as it were – be perfection without the woman he loves?

This is the most interesting, quirky, funny book I have read in a long time. The lives of Milo are vastly different and read like short stories in the middle of the story that is part of the whole story. The beauty of it is, Poore’s masterful prose links all of the events so perfectly together, it reads like the novel that it is at the same time and isn’t confusing at all. Milo transcends time and space to live in the future, past and present. Sometimes he is rich, then he will be poor, then he has to be a bug or a slug or a fish if he does something really stupid or bad in a previous life. Each life and death is so entertaining I could not put this book down.

Milo is one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered. Because he is many people: old, young, brave, scared, cranky – you name it Milo has done it. One of his lives brought out almost any emotion or reaction a human could have, but all of them were distinctly Milo. His essence was always inside and managed to peek out when I least expected it. He is kind, smart and helpful even if sometimes he resents having to try and live up to the perfection level that seemed so elusive. He is often endearing like the grumpy old man that has a soft heart for the neighbor kids.

This is Michael Poore’s second novel. It is the first novel or short story of his that I have read. If you are a Christopher Moore fan, you will love Michael Poore’s writing. I love the wit and wisdom that Poore brings to life through his characters and the complexity of Reincarnation Blues. He packs a lot of punch into this novel, but it is packaged into an easy to read page turner. I loved Poore’s style and have ordered his first book, Up Jumps the Devil and cannot wait for it to arrive.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: The Best Kind of People – Add to your list now!!

The Best Kind of People

By Zoe Whittall

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

Sadie, a senior in high school, is on the fast track to the college of her choice and has a boyfriend that she adores. Her life has not been perfect, but the trauma of a childhood event that could have ended in her life is now a memory, like a bad dream. But it really happened, and her father became the hero, saving her life and undoubtedly many others in the process.

She has a great family. Her mom, Joan, is an ER nurse. Her dad, George, is a beloved teacher at the school she attends. Her brother, Andrew, is older, has moved away from their hometown and is in the process of finding happiness away from the ghosts of his past. Unfortunately, the entire family’s almost perfect life is about to come unraveled at the seams.

George and Joan Woodbury have a nice home in a gated community. Unfortunately, the fences are not high enough to keep the lions from the gates once George is arrested. He tells his wife there is a group of girls lying about him. They say he sexually assaulted them on a field trip. When the police unexpectedly arrive at their doorstep, handcuff George and execute a search warrant on their home, his family is devastated. He assures them it is only a formality and he will be home as soon as his lawyer clears up this misunderstanding. Unfortunately for George, he is seen as a flight risk due to his family’s money and bail is denied.

Joan is trying hard to hold things together. The press won’t leave them alone and almost all of her friends have abandoned her. Her sister is there to support her and her son Andrew is coming back on weekends to do what he can. But sometimes you need someone you are not related to in order to share what you are thinking and how you really feel. So even before the trial, she decides she needs to go to a support group for families of people who commit crimes like those George has been accused of.

Sadie can’t go to school because of the comments, stares and numbness inside of her. All of the sudden her life is no longer what she ever imagined and honestly is having trouble coping. Is her father guilty? Are the girls lying or telling the truth? Either way, will her family survive intact?

This novel is so real it is frightening. Sometimes monsters are ordinary people living ordinary lives. Lies are told, crimes are committed and they could be the next door neighbor that you invite over for a BBQ – until their secrets are exposed. Whittall’s characters come alive on the pages through little things that made them seem like people you work with, live by or live with. Conversations subtly demonstrated the growth and pain of each, drawing the reader into their thoughts and confusion.

This is the first novel I have read my Zoe .53Whittall; it will not be my last. She is the author of Bottle Rocket Hearts and Holding Still for as Long as Possible. It is no surprise that Ms. Whittall is a national bestselling author in Canada or that The Best Kind of People was a finalist for the 2016 Giller Prize. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult – you will love The Best Kind of People.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Beautiful Mess – Must Read Novel

Beautiful Mess

By John Herrick

Del Corwyn has been in the movie business since the 1950s. When he was 18 years old he was a lowly errand boy. But he was kind and compassionate even then, and caught the attention of one of the biggest stars of the era – Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn was a troubled woman. Many around her were merely attempting to ride along on her coat tails of success. Del was different; he cared about her as a person. She grew to love him as a trusted friend. He knew her secrets and was not about to share them. Right before her death, she shared a script with him that she had written. She wanted him to keep it safe in case something happened to her. He carefully stored it, and then promptly forgot it existed.

He went on to work steady as an actor. In fact, he eventually became as star. He was nominated for an Oscar for best actor and he was ready to take Hollywood by storm. Scripts rolled in and he was invited to every party. Sadly, he did not win the golden statue. His plummet from the limelight was almost as fast as his ascent. It only took a few bad roles in films that didn’t really go anywhere for new scripts to dry up.

Del still kept up the hope for the next big role that would bring him back to the status he once held. He continued to live in his home that had a spectacular view, went to places to be seen by others in the business and exercised dilegently. It was hard to believe he was a 78 year old man still waiting for the studio to call him.

While spending time at one of his favorite haunts, Del meets Nora Jumelle. She is the newest A-list actress to come along. Her movies can be seen everywhere. The unlikely couple became close, but Del is worried. Nora seems to be on the same path as Marilyn. Will history repeat itself?

But Del has more than Nora to worry about. He has spent most of his fortune and with no work, he may lose everything. That is until he remembers the script Marilyn gave him. Could she be his salvation?

I loved everything about this book. The faded star still holding onto his dreams, the parallel of Marilyn and Nora and the personal growth of the characters, especially Del. To see him changing and choosing what path his life will take was emotional and powerful.

The setting of Hollywood was interesting and well done. It was like looking into the window of fabulous parties and restaurants I could never afford to go to. Herrick liberally sprinkles stars about to give the real feel of Del’s former fame. It was fun to rub elbows with them via the story.

John Herrick is the author of several works of fiction as well as a non-fiction book. This is the first book I’ve read by him, but I don’t think it will be the last. There is nothing better than reading a book of fiction that can take you places you have never been, yet you feel like you are right there with the characters. Herrick does this masterfully.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Bookshop at Water’s End – Great Summer Read

The Bookshop at Water’s End

By Patti Callahan Henry

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

Lainey and Bonnie have been best friends since they were children. Bonnie’s parents owned a summer vacation home on a tidal river that surrounds a small town. Lainey’s family spent vacations with Bonnie’s family at the River House . As youngsters, they fancied themselves as a pair of modern day Nancy Drews. During their explorations around the tiny town they made notes in a notebook of unsolved mysteries and clues as to what and why things happened. The thing they never could fully explain was why Lainey’s mother had disappeared one night at the River House, never to return.

Fast forward to adulthood – Bonnie has become a renowned doctor and Lainey is a celebrated artist. They live on opposite sides of the country, but keep in touch. They rarely see one another. When Bonnie’s world comes crashing down around her ears, threatening everything she values, she calls Lainey to join her at the River House.

Lainey, fighting the demons from her past, agrees to come. She is bringing her small children with her. Bonnie is bringing her reluctant daughter Piper along to help her restore the River House for sale. Home from her first year of college Piper does not want to go, or babysit Lainey’s kids, but Bonnie has promised her services.

Ghosts from the past are stirring. They seem to arrive with the tides. When the past collides with the present, will Lainey and Bonnie survive? Will the answers they have searched for since childhood finally become clear?

The bookshop owner Mimi has an integral role in The Bookshop at Water’s End. She supplies the background narrative in many places to add depth and important facts about the past. Expertly spun together, the past and present emerge as one like the tributaries of the tidal river that flows around the town.

The realistic characters had flaws. Not just a little added issue, but real, glaring flaws. That brought them to life. Just like real people that have secrets, bad relationships and make mistakes – big mistakes that could be life changing. I loved that about them, all humans make bad decisions that seemed like a good idea at the time.

The story is deep and rich, without being heavy. It is a perfect summer (or anytime) read. The mystery isn’t the focus of the plot, but is always popping up as it colors the thoughts and actions of the main characters. This is not a cozy, but more of a women’s fiction with a vein of mystery running throughout.

Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling author. This is the first book I’ve read of Ms. Henry’s but it will not be the last.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings – Like Gardens, Relationships Must Be Tended

The Garden of Small Beginnings

By Abbi Waxman

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

Lili is many things, just like most women. She is a mother, sister, friend and an illustrator. But the identifying feature that overshadows everything is the quiet grief she carries with her due to the unexpected loss of her husband. Three years after the accident she is still grieving and little bit mad that he left her, even though she is a logical person and knows it isn’t his fault. She feels alone even when surrounded by people.

Her young daughters, Annabel and Clare, keep her going. She has to get up to get them ready for school and drag herself to work to pay the bills. Unfortunately, even though she loves being an illustrator, her job may be changing drastically or gone altogether very soon.  Like a lot of places in corporate America today, she may be the victim of downsizing and reorganization of the company no matter how talented she is.

Amid all the turmoil, she is called to her boss’ office who makes her an offer she can’t (or really dare not) refuse. She is given the task of illustrating a botanical book. Additionally, she has to attend a gardening class run by the head of the company that commissioned the book.

For moral support she makes her sister Rachel as well as both of her children to the class. The instructor is handsome, but not her type. No one is her type. The rest of the class members are quirky and lovable. The group would never have chosen to be together, but their friendships grew along with the gardens they were planting and tending.

I loved the way Abbi Waxman set up the chapters in this book. Each one starts with a gardening tip that very easily parallels Lili’s life. You must tend your garden as well as your relationships.  If you ignore either one, they may wither and die. And sometimes, no matter how well you tend either of them, something may happen to them, but eventually you need to move on.

It was interesting to see how Lili grew with each class, it wasn’t giant leaps of change in her personality, but subtle, gradual moments that allowed me to believe she was going to be okay after spending three years on autopilot drowning in her grief and guilt.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is Abbi Waxman’s debut novel. It is my hope that she is working right now on another fabulous work of women’s fiction right now. She has a voice that needs to be read.

Copyright © 2017 Laura Hartman

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review

Book Review: Escape Velocity – Office Intrigue Can Be Deadly

Escape Velocity

By Susan Wolfe

Escape Velocity has been described as being approximately 33 times the speed of sound on earth. That defines the pace of this second novel by Susan Wolfe.

Georgia Griffin is a daddy’s girl. She loved spending time with him at their home in Piney, Arkansas. Taking care of their horses and learning how to read and manipulate people were activities he taught Georgia and her younger sister Katie-Ann. They have his skills, but didn’t use them. But when one if his cons goes bad and sends him to prison, Georgia knows she has to make some drastic changes to survive. Things go from bad to worse after her mama takes up with a real creep. Georgia set a goal and is determined to see it through. Getting a job in Silicon Valley is the first step, and then saving enough money to get her younger sister out of harm’s way is the second. Katie-Ann is only in high school and too much of a temptation for her mom’s latest boyfriend, so Georgia is on a tight timeline to accomplish what may be near impossible with only a paralegal certificate.

Lumina Software could be her big break. She has interviewed with several companies, but nothing has panned out so far. But this interview is different. She is so convinced it might be the thrust she needs to begin her escape velocity, she is willing to put just a little of what her daddy taught her into play to give herself an edge. She immediately clicks with her potential boss, and finally getting the break she has been looking for; the job is hers.

The pay is great, her boss is even better than she first imagined, but some of the others in the company seemed to have personal agendas. The deeper she becomes involved; the more Georgia feels she needs to channel her daddy to make sure the company is a success. After all, if the company has problems, she might lose her job, then how would she get her little sister out of the mess of a life she has in Arkansas? Georgia is good at finding things out and using them to her advantage. If she pulls one small con to help the company, how could that be wrong? First she needs to find a vulnerable spot or two in a few obnoxious execs, then play them just like daddy would. But could she find out something that might put her in more danger than the business losing a bit of money? Certainly these boardroom bullies wouldn’t go as far as to kill someone – or are the stakes higher than Georgia imagined?

I love the mind games the characters play with each other. After working in an office for over twenty years, I could picture a few of my former unsavory co-workers taking things a step further than they should and then over the line. Fortunately in my life that never happened, but the realistic settings, events and characters in Wolfe’s book bring the schemers and scammers to life. I love hating the bad guys in this book and kept turning the pages to find out if and how they get what they deserved.

Anyone who likes twists, turns and intrigue will love this book. It was fun trying to figure out just who was bad and who was good until the very end. There is nothing better for a mystery reader than not knowing all of the answers until they are revealed in the final chapter, and then realizing the clues were there all along.

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review