Friday, September 15, 2017

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Midnight at the Bright Ideas BookstoreWhen a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel from an award-winning short story writer.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the 'BookFrogs'—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when youngest BookFrog Joey Molina kills himself in the bookstore’s upper level, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has been bequeathed his meager worldly possessions: Trinkets and books, the detritus of a lonely, uncared-for man. But when Lydia pages through his books, she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago—and never completely left, as she discovers.

I REALLY liked this book!  It's been a while since a book has really grabbed me like this one did.  It was intriguing and was a wonderful puzzle to watch come together.  The characters were complex and had dimension which just added a layer to the book that made it even better.  I was drawn in and then shocked in a way that I love.  If you are looking for a good mystery, with great character development, and a plot that was unique - this is the book for you!
* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

The Good Widow

The Good Widow
Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone.

For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancĂ©. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise.

Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not 
                                                         her husband. And most certainly not his death…

I have feelings about this book that are hard to put into words without giving too much away, but I felt like I had already seen a movie with pretty much the exact same plot.  It was a bit of a struggle for me.  I didn't make a great connection with the characters and couldn't stop comparing the movie from several years ago.  I think had the story been new and fresh, I would have enjoyed it more.  However, it just fell flat for me.  I think the premise has been done over and over and this didn't add a new twist.  I would pick up another book by these authors to give them a second chance, but I can't say I would recommend this title.    

  * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and LongerGrandpa and Noah are sitting on a bench in a square that keeps getting smaller every day. The square is strange but also familiar, full of the odds and ends that have made up their lives: Grandpa’s work desk, the stuffed dragon that Grandpa once gave to Noah, the sweet-smelling hyacinths that Grandma loved to grow in her garden.

As they wait together on the bench, they tell jokes and discuss their shared love of mathematics. Grandpa recalls what it was like to fall in love with his wife, what it was like to lose her. She’s as real to him now as the first day he met her, but he dreads the day when he won’t remember her.

Sometimes Grandpa sits on the bench next to Ted, Noah’s father—Ted who never liked math, prefers writing and playing guitar, and has waited his entire life for his father to have time for him, to accept him. But in their love of Noah, they have found a common bond.

Grandpa, Grandma, Ted, and Noah all meet here, in this peculiar space that is growing dimmer and more confusing all the time. And here is where they will learn to say goodbye, the scent of hyacinths in the air, nothing to fear. This little book with a big message is certain to be treasured for generations to come.

I almost feel bad reviewing Mr. Backman's work, because I don't think anything with ever live up to A Man Called Ove for me.  But I can say, that I enjoyed this novella for what it was, a story that was not really meant to be heard about a very personal family struggle.  I have never had anyone close to me diagnosed with the illness the main character is fighting, but it really tugged at my heart.  I felt drawn in and invested in such a short amount of time.  I ached for him and his family during moments of fog and celebrated when memories were remembered and cherished.  At this point, Fredrik Backman is an author that I will automatically read whatever he writes.  He tells a simple story, in a beautiful way, which in often rare.     

  * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello, Sunshine

Hello, SunshineSunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

This is one of those books that appears to be a quick, easy read that's defined as chick-lit.  All of that is true, but it was more than that as well.  I read this book in under 24 hours and I didn't want to stop.  It was funny, charming and didn't require my brain to work too much.  It reminded me that I actually miss reading fun books like this.  It made me start looking for more books just like it.  But, best of all, I actually took some lessons away from it.  I have been thinking a lot about the life we live on social media prior to this book but this really hit it home for me.  What image am I trying to portray about myself?  Is it true?  Do we really "know" someone because we are social media friends and followers?  Am I cultivating true relationships?  This book will have me reflecting on those questions for awhile.  Looking forward to reading other titles by Laura Dave and novels that have the same qualities that this one had because I just don't read them enough anymore.   

         * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable People

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable PeopleThis collection of inspirational vignettes, based on eight of the Bible's unlikely examples of faith, will give readers a fresh intimacy with Jesus.

REMARKABLE FAITH tells the stories of people whose faith was of such quality that Jesus himself marveled at it-people who were broken, needy, and dependent. These eight inspiring vignettes weave history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring relief and a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Written to encourage and relieve discouraged Christians who wonder if their faith is a disappointment to God, this book will demonstrate that remarkable faith-the kind Jesus marveled about-isn't about achieving or performing. Readers will discover they can exchange their performance-based evaluation of their faith with a fresh, life-giving intimacy with the Jesus who delights in transforming inadequacies into irrepressible affection. 

The description of this book was the main reason I picked it up, however something was just missing from me to give it my full attention.  I loved having the scripture and I really enjoyed the retelling of the story with more details.  I could picture it happening and it just gave me a wonderful image of each Bible story.  It was the application section that just fell flat for me.  I didn't relate the story to the application.  At times, it just seemed to not fit together.  I actually felt that those sections were not needed because the stories had enough impact on their own.  So that would be my only criticism.  I would have liked those sections to tie together better or just not have them at all.      

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *


BeartownPeople say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

Based on Fredrik Backman's other novels, this one came as a surprise.  A went into it expecting the tone to be different than his other works, but I was still caught of guard, in mostly a good way.   The story was beautifully told and it kept me engaged even though it took almost halfway through before anything truly happened.  This book made me feel sadness and anger in ways that most novels don't.  I felt a part of the Beartown and wanted to help the characters see the destruction they were creating.  My only criticism would be the overuse of foul language.  I take heat for saying this, but I find it detracts from the story rather than adds to it.  I realize this is my personal opinion, but I find myself disengaging when the language used becomes too much.  Sometimes a book makes me scared of being a parent, and this one did exactly that.  However, I must say that it opened my eyes to parent/child relationships and how you have to stay engaged with your children.  I'm looking forward to reading Mr. Backman's future works!
 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Here and Gone

Here and Gone 
Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother's desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they're gone than she must have done something with them... Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

Whew!  There were moments in this story that gave me goosebumps like no other!  It was gripping from the start and I found myself thinking about it even when I couldn't be reading it.  It made me stop and think about my two children and what lengths I would go to protect them as their mom. However, it also gave me pause in thinking that I need to be a little more watchful of people and situations that may not always be as they seem.  The writing was engaging and fast-paced, but my one problem would be towards the end it became a little to unbelievable and tied in a bow.  Don't get me wrong, I like a satisfying ending, but I think I wanted more.  The book could have been 50 -100 pages longer and explored additional details that could have made for a more interesting conclusion.  I wanted more of Danny's story and felt that the side of the Black Net could have been more developed.  Basically, I just wanted more!  Definitely enjoyed the book and would like to read more stories like this one in the future.

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *