Tag Archives: general fiction

Audiobook Review: Bloomsbury Girls

17 May

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner is a sequel of sorts of the author’s highly acclaimed novel, The Jane Austen Society. One character from the first book is part of the story as the reader is transported to a book store in early 1950s London. It’s a must read for bibliophiles, but it so much more than books. 😉 I liked it very much. Find all the details and my thoughts below.

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Natalie Jenner, the internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society, returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world in Bloomsbury Girls.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare bookstore that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiancé was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances–most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time–Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others–these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

BOOK TRAILER

AUDIOBOOK

Narrated by esteemed stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, enjoy the full unabridged edition of Bloomsbury Girls. “Stevenson delivers the satisfying triumph at the end with perfect polish.” —AudioFile Magazine

AUDIOBOOK EXCERPT 

PURCHASE LINKS:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

AUDIOBOOK

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

MY IMPRESSIONS:

I loved The Jane Austen Society, so when I heard Natalie Jenner had another book-related novel, I said yes, please! Bloomsbury Girls takes Evie Stone from Jenner’s first novel, and places her, along with a strong cast of characters, in the book shop Bloomsbury Books. Jenner does an admirable job of transporting the reader back to post-WWII England as many strive to find new lives in the ever-changing aftermath of the war. Class distinctions and the place of women and minorities in a new world are explored amid the bookshelves of a grand, but struggling bookstore. And for the bibliophiles among us, there are plenty of interactions with publishing notables and favorite authors. (My favorite, Daphne DuMaurier, plays an integral role.) The struggles of a society are mirrored in the microcosm of the bookstore. Characterization is a strong point of this book. Main and supporting characters alike are fully developed. I listened to the audiobook version of the novel which was excellently read by Juliet Stevenson. If you are a fan of audiobooks, I suggest you download this one soon.

Bloomsbury Girls is an outstanding general market novel that I won’t hesitate to recommend. Filled with historical detail, societal issues that make one think, and characters to love, it is a recommended read.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I received a link to the audiobook from AustenProse. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Natalie Jenner is the author of the instant international bestseller The Jane Austen Society and Bloomsbury Girls. A Goodreads Choice Award runner-up for historical fiction and finalist for best debut novel, The Jane Austen Society was a USA Today and #1 national bestseller and has been sold for translation in twenty countries. Born in England and raised in Canada, Natalie has been a corporate lawyer, career coach and, most recently, an independent bookstore owner in Oakville, Ontario, where she lives with her family and two rescue dogs. Visit her website to learn more.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

A message from the author:


Dear readers, I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of affection that so many of you have expressed for my debut novel The Jane Austen Society and its eight main characters. When I wrote its epilogue (in one go and without ever changing a word), I wanted to give each of Adam, Mimi, Dr. Gray, Adeline, Yardley, Frances, Evie and Andrew the happy Austenesque ending they each deserved. But I could not let go of servant girl Evie Stone, the youngest and only character inspired by real life (my mother, who had to leave school at age fourteen, and my daughter, who does eighteenth-century research for a university professor and his team). Bloomsbury Girls continues Evie’s adventures into a 1950s London bookshop where there is a battle of the sexes raging between the male managers and the female staff, who decide to pull together their smarts, connections, and limited resources to take over the shop and make it their own. There are dozens of new characters in Bloomsbury Girls from several different countries, and audiobook narration was going to require a female voice of the highest training and caliber. When I learned that British stage and screen actress Juliet Stevenson, CBE, had agreed to narrate, I knew that my story could not be in better hands, and I so hope you enjoy reading or listening to it. Warmest regards, Natalie

Top 10 Tuesday — Notable Books I Didn’t Review On My Blog

1 Mar

I started this blog in November of 2009. That seems so long ago! But having been an avid reader for much of my life, plus being the member of 2 book clubs (one that has been meeting for 20 years!), I have read a lot of great books that have never been reviewed here or anywhere else. I may have mentioned them from time to time, but no reviews. Many of the books on my list are old, and you may have trouble finding them except on Kindle or as used. But just know that they are books that have stuck with me. Several genres are represented, so there is something for everyone.

For more untalkedabout books, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Notable Books I Have Not Reviewed

Elvis Takes A Back Seat by Leanna Ellis

Elvis Takes a Back Seatby award-winning novelist Leanna Ellis is the endearing story of Claudia, a young widow determined to fulfill her husband’s last request by hauling a three-foot bust of Elvis Presley in the backseat of a vintage Cadillac from Dallas to Memphis to return it to its rightful owner. The road trip—taken with an eccentric aunt who actually knew the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” and a temperamental teen with a suspicious mind of her own—hits some royal roadblocks and detours as these women uncover pieces of their past along with the bust’s mysterious history. What they find along the way changes their lives forever, inspiring readers to also step out in faith.

Original Sin by Brandt Dodson

Colton Parker was just fired from the FBI, has a teenage daughter who blames him for her mother’s death, and now that he’s hung out his shingle as a P.I., his first paying client—Angie Howe—has enough money for only one day’s worth of investigating. But Angie looks like she could use a friend, so Colton has his first case. 

When the mystery is finally resolved, Colton is resigned to improve his parenting skills with his daughter—and while the pair still struggle with each other, hope finally gets a chance to grow.  

First in the Colton Parker, P.I. series, from Brandt Dodson—a compelling new author with a family history in law enforcement spanning several generations.

A Place Called Wiregrass by Michael Morris

Erma Lee is on the run . . . Running from an abusive husband . . . running from a mother who doesn’t care — never cared. Running from a soul-numbing factory job that has held her down her entire life …

Erma Lee and her granddaughter, Cher, flee to the town of Wiregrass, Alabama, to escape the past and start over — or so Erma Lee thinks. Erma Lee forms an unlikely friendship with Miss Claudia, an elderly socialite who is hiding a few details about her own past. Life in Wiregrass is different for Erma Lee and Cher, for here they find mercy and promise — until, that is, the day Cher’s convict father arrives in town, forcing all three women to come to terms with buried secrets.

Searching for Eternity by Elizabeth Musser

French-born Emile de Bonnery lands in the strange environment of 1960s Atlanta with decidedly mixed emotions. Some memories make Emile want to believe the best of his father. Others cause him to fear the worst. Does his mother know more than she’s willing to tell?

Determined to learn the truth, Emile finds an ally and friend–who seems to be hiding secrets of her own. Together they search for answers…and what they find changes everything.

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Sober Justice by Joseph H. Hilley

Life in the low country of the Gulf Coast can get pretty steamy. But life just got a lot hotter for Mike Connolly, a divorced, alcoholic, 50 something attorney. Usually content when he just makes it through another day, Mike’s life takes a dangerous and unpredictable turn when a judge appoints him to defend an indigent man accused of murdering a prominent plaintiff’s attorney. Just when he thinks that things can’t get worse, Mike stumbles onto a conspiracy and finds himself in the midst of a complicated web of intrigue that will take a miracle to survive. Trouble is–Mike’s fresh out of miracles. Or is he?

Uncharted by Angela Hunt

It was supposed to be an adventure. A little time off to honor the memory of a friend and complete a service project in the tropics. Do good deeds while getting a tan.

But when a storm rocks their plans, five long-time friends from college find themselves hurled onto a desolate island, and relief fades to fear. Here nature rules with a vengenance. The lone shelter from raw conditions is a sinister cave. Are they victims of a bizarre psychological experiment? Or could this godforsaken place have the power to maroon them forever?

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Velma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright

As the town’s chief cook and part-time janitor for Jerusalem Baptist church, Velma Brendle has never done anything more outstanding than putting on a good meal at Velma’s Place, the one restaurant in Leeway, Kansas, but she takes good care of her customers, neighbors, and friends. However, in the midst of these two jobs, Velma’s husband stops talking, Cousin Albert comes to live with her, and she finds herself dealing with the town’s problems. As memories of past troubles plague her, she grows weary from even the tasks she loves the most. Old Sunday School lessons take on new meanings, and new problems illuminate trials Velma thought were long over. In sudden leaps of faith and moments of tragedy, Velma and all those she loves journey toward facing their sins and finding forgiveness.

The Wedding Machine by Beth Webb Hart

Welcome to Jasper, South Carolina. A place where Southern hospitality thrives. Where social occasions are done right. And where, for generations, the four most upstanding ladies of this community ensure that the daughters of Jasper are married in the proper manner.

Friends from school days, “the gals” have long pooled their silver, china, and know-how to pull off beautiful events. They’re a force of nature, a well-oiled machine. But the wedding machine’s gears start to stick during the summer their own daughters line up to tie the knot. In the lowcountry heat and humidity, tempers flare, old secrets leak out . . . and both love and gardenias bloom in unlikely places.

Top 10 Tuesday — All The Feels

15 Feb

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely loved, but had a difficult time putting all the feelings into words. Yeah, me too. This week I am featuring books that had everything — knock-out plotting, relatable characters, truths galore, made me think, kept me pondering. These are the ones I struggled reviewing. I’ve given you an even dozen — I hope you find a new favorite book!

For more TTT fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books With All The Feels

Before I Saw You by Amy K. Sorrells

Folks are dying fast as the ash trees in the southern Indiana town ravaged by the heroin epidemic, where Jaycee Givens lives with nothing more than a thread of hope and a quirky neighbor, Sudie, who rescues injured wildlife. After a tragedy leaves her mother in prison, Jaycee is carrying grief and an unplanned pregnancy she conceals because she trusts no one, including the kind and handsome Gabe, who is new to town and to the local diner where she works.

Dividing her time between the diner and Sudie’s place, Jaycee nurses her broken heart among a collection of unlikely friends who are the closest thing to family that she has. Eventually, she realizes she can’t hide her pregnancy any longer―not even from the baby’s abusive father, who is furious when he finds out. The choices she must make for the safety of her unborn child threaten to derail any chance she ever had for hope and redemption. Ultimately, Jaycee must decide whether the truest form of love means hanging on or letting go.

The Church Ladies by Lisa Samson

Competition for church members in Mount Oak has reached a furious peak. When tragedy strikes one of their hometown sons, the church women are drawn together through compassion. The Church Ladies is a contemporary tale illustrating how women can have a major impact on the church. Through friendships that reach beneath surface level — and trials more severe than simple — they unite with common purpose: to pray, share, and comfort. Slowly, the community of believers learns that the church grows when it is rooted in love. Characters you’ll laugh and cry with, in situations every woman will instantly relate to, light up this page-turner about a miracle that could happen.

The Devil Walks in Mattingly by Billy Coffee

It has been twenty years since Philip McBride’s body was found along the riverbank in the dark woods known as Happy Hollow. His death was ruled a suicide. But three people have carried the truth ever since—Philip didn’t kill himself that day. He was murdered.

Each of the three have wilted in the shadow of their sins. Jake Barnett is Mattingly’s sheriff, where he spends his days polishing the fragile shell of the man he pretends to be. His wife, Kate, has convinced herself the good she does for the poor will someday wash the blood from her hands. And high in the mountains, Taylor Hathcock lives in seclusion and fear, fueled by madness and hatred.

Yet what cannot be laid to rest is bound to rise again. Philip McBride has haunted Jake’s dreams for weeks, warning that he is coming back for them all. When Taylor finds mysterious footprints leading from the Hollow, he believes his redemption has come. His actions will plunge the quiet town of Mattingly into darkness. These three will be drawn together for a final confrontation between life and death . . . between truth and lies.

Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson

The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.

Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.

The Last Year of The War by Susan Meissner

In 1943, Elise Sontag is a typical American teenager from Iowa — aware of the war but distanced from its reach. Then her father, a legal U.S. resident for nearly two decades, is suddenly arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to an internment camp in Texas, where, behind the armed guards and barbed wire, Elise feels stripped of everything beloved and familiar, including her own identity.
 
The only thing that makes the camp bearable is meeting fellow internee Mariko Inoue, a Japanese-American teen from Los Angeles, whose friendship empowers Elise to believe the life she knew before the war will again be hers. Together in the desert wilderness, Elise and Mariko hold tight the dream of being young American women with a future beyond the fences.
 
But when the Sontag family is exchanged for American prisoners behind enemy lines in Germany, Elise will face head-on the person the war desires to make of her. In that devastating crucible she must discover if she has the will to rise above prejudice and hatred and re-claim her own destiny, or disappear into the image others have cast upon her.
 
The Last Year of the War tells a little-known story of World War II with great resonance for our own times and challenges the very notion of who we are when who we’ve always been is called into question.

Maggie Bright by Tracy Groot

England, 1940. Clare Childs knew life would change when she unexpectedly inherited the Maggie Bright―a noble fifty-two-foot yacht. In fact, she’s counting on it. But the boat harbors secrets. When a stranger arrives, searching for documents hidden onboard, Clare is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation that could shed light on Hitler’s darkest schemes and prompt America to action.

Across the Channel, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg has the entire British army in retreat with little hope for rescue at the shallow beaches of Dunkirk. With time running out, Churchill recruits civilian watercraft to help. Hitler is attacking from land, air, and sea, and any boat that goes might not return. Yet Clare knows Maggie Bright must answer the call―piloted by an American who has refused to join the war effort until now and a detective with a very personal motive for exposing the truth.

The fate of the war hinges on this rescue. While two men join the desperate fight, a nation prays for a miracle.

Missing Isaac by Valerie Fraser Luesse

There was another South in the 1960s, one far removed from the marches and bombings and turmoil in the streets that were broadcast on the evening news. It was a place of inner turmoil, where ordinary people struggled to right themselves on a social landscape that was dramatically shifting beneath their feet. This is the world of Valerie Fraser Luesse’s stunning debut, Missing Isaac.

It is 1965 when black field hand Isaac Reynolds goes missing from the tiny, unassuming town of Glory, Alabama. The townspeople’s reactions range from concern to indifference, but one boy will stop at nothing to find out what happened to his unlikely friend. White, wealthy, and fatherless, young Pete McLean has nothing to gain and everything to lose in his relentless search for Isaac. In the process, he will discover much more than he bargained for. Before it’s all over, Pete — and the people he loves most — will have to blur the hard lines of race, class, and religion. And what they discover about themselves may change some of them forever.

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray — the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser — faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones–the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge’s top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she’s stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. This story explores the implicit biases impacting American society, and asks the ultimate question: What does it mean to be human? Why are we so quick to put labels on each other and categorize people as “this” or “that”, when such complexity exists in each person?

The Secret Keepers of Old Depot Grocery by Amanda Cox

Present Day. After tragedy plunges her into grief and unresolved anger, Sarah Ashby returns to her childhood home determined to finally follow her long-denied dream of running Old Depot Grocery alongside her mother and grandmother. But when she arrives, her mother, Rosemary, announces to her that the store is closing. Sarah and her grandmother, Glory Ann, make a pact to save the store, but Rosemary has worked her entire life to make sure her daughter never follows in her footsteps. She has her reasons–but she’ll certainly never reveal the real one.

1965. Glory Ann confesses to her family that she’s pregnant with her deceased fiancé’s baby. Pressured into a marriage of convenience with a shopkeeper to preserve the family reputation, Glory Ann vows never to love again. But some promises are not as easily kept as she imagined.

This dual-timeline story from Amanda Cox deftly explores the complexity of a mother-daughter dynamic, the way the secrets we keep shape our lives and the lives of others, and the healing power of telling the truth.

Stories That Bind Us by Susie Finkbeiner

Betty Sweet never expected to be a widow at 40. With so much life still in front of her, she tries to figure out what’s next. She couldn’t have imagined what God had in mind. When her estranged sister is committed to a sanitarium, Betty finds herself taking on the care of a 5-year-old nephew she never knew she had.

In 1960s LaFontaine, Michigan, they make an odd pair. Betty with her pink button nose and bouffant hair. Hugo with his light brown skin and large brown eyes. But more powerful than what makes them different is what they share: the heartache of an empty space in their lives. Slowly, they will learn to trust one another as they discover common ground and healing through the magic of storytelling.

Award-winning author Susie Finkbeiner offers fans a novel that invites us to rediscover the power of story to open the doors of our hearts.

The Swan House by Elizabeth Musser

Mary Swan Middleton has always taken for granted the advantages of her family’s wealth. But a tragedy that touches all of Atlanta sends her reeling in grief. When the family maid challenges her to reach out to the less fortunate as a way to ease her own pain, Mary Swan meets Carl — and everything changes. For although Carl is her opposite in nearly every way, he has something her privileged life could not give her. And when she seeks his help to uncover a mystery, she learns far more than she ever could have imagined.

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

If You Liked . . . The Edge of Belonging

31 Jan

My book club read The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox this month. It is a novel with themes of belonging, worthiness, and identity. We haven’t discussed it yet due to the virus that shall not be named, but tomorrow we will. From conversations with individuals from my group, I think we will have a great conversation.

My recommendations if you too liked Cox’s book include novels that explore discovering missing pieces from the past. I hope you find another great book to love.

Let It Be Me by Becky Wade

The one woman he wants is the one he cannot have.

Former foster kid Sebastian Grant has leveraged his intelligence and hard work to become a pediatric heart surgeon. But not even his career success can erase the void he’s tried so hard to fill. Then he meets high school teacher Leah Montgomery and his fast-spinning world comes to a sudden stop. He falls hard, only to make a devastating discovery–Leah is the woman his best friend set his heart on months before.

Leah’s a math prodigy who’s only ever had one big dream–to earn her PhD. Raising her little brother put that dream on hold. Now that her brother will soon be college bound, she’s not going to let anything stand in her way. Especially romance . . . which is far less dependable than algebra.

When Leah receives surprising results from the DNA test she submitted to a genealogy site, she solicits Sebastian’s help. Together, they comb through hospital records to uncover the secrets of her history. The more powerfully they’re drawn to each other, the more strongly Sebastian must resist, and the more Leah must admit that some things in life–like love–can’t be explained with numbers.

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

In 1975, three thousand children were airlifted out of Saigon to be adopted into Western homes. When Mindy, one of those children, announces her plans to return to Vietnam to find her birth mother, her loving adopted family is suddenly thrown back to the events surrounding her unconventional arrival in their lives.

Though her father supports Mindy’s desire to meet her family of origin, he struggles privately with an unsettling fear that he’ll lose the daughter he’s poured his heart into. Mindy’s mother undergoes the emotional rollercoaster inherent in the adoption of a child from a war-torn country, discovering the joy hidden amid the difficulties. And Mindy’s sister helps her sort through relics that whisper of the effect the trauma of war has had on their family–but also speak of the beauty of overcoming.

Told through three strong voices in three compelling timelines, The Nature of Small Birds is a hopeful story that explores the meaning of family far beyond genetic code.

Out of The Water by Ann Marie Stewart

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

When I Close My Eyes by Elizabeth Musser

Could she ever share the secret of The Awful Year? 

There is one story that novelist Josephine Bourdillon shirked from writing. And now she may never have a chance. Trapped in her memories, she lies in a coma. 

The man who put her there is just as paralyzed. Former soldier Henry Hughes failed to complete the kill. What’s more: he never received full payment – funds that would ensure surgery for his son. 

As detectives investigate disturbing fan letters, a young but not-so-naive Paige Bourdillon turns to her mother’s turbulent past for answers. Could The Awful Year be worse than the one they’re living now? 

Set against the flaming hills of North Carolina and the peaceful shores of the Mediterranean Sea, When I Close My Eyes tells the story of two families struggling with dysfunction and finding that love is stronger than death.

Book Review — The Edge of Belonging

20 Jan

My book club chose The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox for discussion this month. I am eager to find out what my group thought. I found this split time novel to be a poignant read that focuses on the importance of identity with a family unit — even if the family is very unconventional. This novel won 2 Christy Awards in 2021 — Book of The Year and Best Debut. It is very deserving. Find out all the details and my impressions below.

When Ivy Rose returns to her hometown to oversee an estate sale, she soon discovers that her grandmother left behind more than trinkets and photo frames–she provided a path to the truth behind Ivy’s adoption. Shocked, Ivy seeks clues to her past, but a key piece to the mystery is missing.

Twenty-four years earlier, Harvey James finds an abandoned newborn who gives him a sense of human connection for the first time in his life. His desire to care for the baby runs up against the stark fact that he is homeless. When he becomes entwined with two people seeking to help him find his way, Harvey knows he must keep the baby a secret or risk losing the only person he’s ever loved.

In this dual-time story from debut novelist Amanda Cox, the truth–both the search for it and the desire to keep it from others–takes center stage as Ivy and Harvey grapple with love, loss, and letting go.

Before becoming a stay-at-home parent, Amanda Cox spent her time counseling children, families, and individuals through life’s challenging moments. Now she uses those same skills to develop layered characters and stories, bringing them on a journey of hope and healing. A journey she hopes her readers experience in their own lives as they read.

A few of her favorite things are the sanctuary of the great outdoors, the feeling of pen on paper, the sound of her children’s laughter, and exploring new places with her husband of 15 years. (Oh, let’s not forget good fiction and good coffee. She’s addicted to both.) You can stay connected with her latest writing updates at http://www.amandacoxwrites.com. You can find her on social media by searching Amanda Cox Writes.

To get a free short story featuring characters from The Edge of Belonging visit: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/fuj7mlfd83

My Impressions:

The Edge of Belonging won two Christy Awards in 2021. It is easy to understand why — this book is excellent. This is a split time novel with a present day storyline and one that occurred 24 years before. The two are wonderfully interwoven as the reader discovers the secrets behind Ivy’s adoption. Family members all hold keys to the truth that at 24 she now wants to know. Yes this is a story of a child found and cherished, but also a story of the importance of identity, a deeply felt truth of being known and seen. The characters are all wonderful, but the two that stood out the most to me were Harvey and Pearl. The persistence each has in protecting and nurturing touched my heart. You may think that the book is all about Ivy, and her story is central to the novel. But all the characters are impacted by the confirmation that they belong. The truth of how God draws His children to Himself and adopts them is beautifully illustrated throughout the narrative. There are also themes of finding peace and acceptance. Not all situations resolve in a happy ending — this book doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of life — but I felt that the book ended with a rightness.

As you can probably tell from my ramblings that I found The Edge of Belonging not easy to describe. Just know that it is really, really, really good. 😉

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased this book from Amazon. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Mini-Review — Winter Solstice

7 Jan

Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher was the December/January selection for one of my book clubs. We opted to take a break in December and have 2 months to read the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the audiobook version. It was a nice accompaniment to holiday chores. I actually took a break from listening before Christmas and began anew after the New Year. It’s an easy book, but one with heartfelt moments. Recommended. (Please note: this is a general market novel containing some adult situations. By and large, I found it a clean read.)

In Winter Solstice Rosamunde Pilcher brings her readers into the lives of five very different people….

Elfrida Phipps, once of London’s stage, moved to the English village of Dibton in hopes of making a new life for herself. Gradually she settled into the comfortable familiarity of village life — shopkeepers knowing her tastes, neighbors calling her by name — still she finds herself lonely. 

Oscar Blundell gave up his life as a musician in order to marry Gloria. They have a beautiful daughter, Francesca, and it is only because of their little girl that Oscar views his sacrificed career as worthwhile. 

Carrie returns from Australia at the end of an ill-fated affair with a married man to find her mother and aunt sharing a home and squabbling endlessly. With Christmas approaching, Carrie agrees to look after her aunt’s awkward and quiet teenage daughter, Lucy, so that her mother might enjoy a romantic fling in America.

Sam Howard is trying to pull his life back together after his wife has left him for another. He is without home and without roots, all he has is his job. Business takes him to northern Scotland, where he falls in love with the lush, craggy landscape and set his sights on a house.

It is the strange rippling effects of a tragedy that will bring these five characters together in a large, neglected estate house near the Scottish fishing town of Creagan. 

It is in this house, on the shortest day of the year, that the lives of five people will come together and be forever changed. Rosamunde Pilcher’s long-awaited return to the page will warm the hearts of readers both old and new. Winter Solstice is a novel of love, loyalty and rebirth.

My Impressions:

I very much enjoyed Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher and found it to be a great choice for my December reading. While it really isn’t a Christmas book, meaning there is no faith message pointing to Christ’s birth, it is a book of new beginnings in the midst of a cold, dark winter. The setting is primarily Scotland in December, although there is back story for two of the main characters, Elfrida and Oscar, that takes place in the months leading up to the main part of the book. Pilcher did an excellent job in her description of the small Scottish town located near a firth (a narrow inlet of the sea). The weather is cold and snowy, the people are warm and cheery, and the characters find a home in the most unexpected place. I liked all of the characters. They were well-developed and came with unique sets of experiences, disappointments, and tragedies. However, Oscar was by far my favorite. His loss of faith and journey back to a sense of normalcy, and even contentment, was encouraging. The last scene of the book was expected, but it still brought a tear to my eyes. The themes of loss and second-chances are explored, and I found that I could relate to many of the characters’ struggles. The narration of the audiobook was good, and I soon became lost in the story.

Winter Solstice was recommended by someone who re-reads the book every December. Not sure if I would do that, but I did like the book very much and would recommend it to anyone.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(I purchased the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — 2022 Book Club Selections

30 Nov

This week’s TTT is bookish memories. Again, I wasn’t feeling the prompt, so I am looking ahead instead of back with a post listing what my book club will be reading in the new year. 😉 While we read every month, as a group we choose only 9 titles — they let me surprise them with 3 more throughout the year. I hope you like our list. What will you be reading in 2022?

For more TTT fun, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Books on my Book Club’s 2022 List

As Dawn Breaks by Kate Breslin

Breach of Honor by Janice Cantore

The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox

The Lady’s Mine by Francine Rivers

Life Flight by Lynette Eason

Relative Justice by Robert Whitlow

A Stranger’s Game by Colleen Coble

Sunrise by Susan May Warren

Until Leaves Fall in Paris by Sarah Sundin

First Line Friday — Out of The Water

22 Oct

Happy Friday! This week I am featuring Out of The Water by Christy Award-winner Ann Marie Stewart. This book is so good! Multi-generational and featuring thought-provoking themes, you will not want to miss this one.

Here’s the first line:

Siobhan Mason stepped out into the cold March air and headed for the barn to gather the few eggs her hens still laid.

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and is a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. She originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, she’s now a huge HOO basketball fan. When not writing, Ann teaches voice or takes care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.

Book Review: Out of The Water

20 Oct

When I saw that Christy Award-winning author Ann Marie Stewart had a new novel out, I knew I had to read it. Her debut, Stars in The Grass, was excellent. Out of The Water is another outstanding book. The multi-generational story explores the complex subject matter of adoption. With carefully drawn characters, rich historical context, and a complex narrative, this is one book not to be missed. Recommended.

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and is a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. She originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, she’s now a huge HOO basketball fan. When not writing, Ann teaches voice or takes care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.

My Impressions:

Out of The Water features a diverse cast of characters from across the decades. While it took me a bit to get my bearings with the various threads and timeframes, this novel was worth the extra concentration. Stewart tells the tale of several women who struggled with hard choices. Siobhan is a young Irish immigrant who longs for family, Genevieve seems to have everything in her life and marriage, yet desperately wants a child, Erin and Claire, mother and daughter, face the uncertainties of Claire’s search for her birth mother, and Anna struggles with guilt and shame as she attempts to build a life. Added to the women’s stories are the backdrops of WWI, the immigrant experience of early 20th century America, the Great Depression, and 1950/60’s America. The historic details are naturally added to each story thread providing important context to the choices that are made. All the women share lost hopes and dreams and the feelings of rejection and abandonment. What is unique about Out of The Water, aside from the complex narrative and the varying timelines, is the way Stewart addresses all sides of adoption — those who choose to give up their child, those who give those children a home, and the adoptees themselves. I became engrossed in each woman’s story — they all became very real to me. And if you are book nerd like me, you will love how Siobhan stays in contact with a friend from the past. The book’s ending was beautiful — yes, I shed a few tears!

Filled with heartbreak, sacrifice, hope, and redemption, Out of The Water is a novel you will not want to miss. There is so much to contemplate, making this book a great choice for book clubs. I guarantee after reading it you will want to talk about it!

Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Happy Release Day! — Out of The Water

19 Oct

Wishing Ann Marie Stewart a very happy release day for Out of The Water. This multi-generational novel explores the complexities of adoption from the viewpoints of adoptive parents, biological parents, and adoptees. The unique situations gave this reader a lot to consider. Find out all the details below.

Irish immigrant Siobhan Kildea’s impetuous flight from a Boston lover in 1919 leads her to a new family in an unfamiliar Montana prison town. After a horrific tragedy impacts her children, her land, and her livelihood, Siobhan makes a heart wrenching decision – with consequences that ripple for decades to come.

Mysteriously linked to Siobhan is Genevieve Marchard, a battlefront nurse in France who returns stateside to find the absence of a certain soldier is her greatest loss; Anna Hanson, a music teacher who tucks herself away in a small Washington town, assuming her secrets are safe; and Erin Ellis, who thinks she and her husband won the lottery when they adopted their daughter, Claire. 

These interconnected stories, spanning three continents and five generations, begin to unravel in 1981 when Claire Ellis sets out to find her biological mother.

With puzzling suspense, unforgettable characters and uncanny insight, Out of the Water is an intoxicating novel of motherhood, secrets, and the profound ramifications our decisions have. Readers will be left wondering: ultimately, is it always better to know the truth?

Ann Marie Stewart grew up in Seattle, Washington and is a die-hard UW Husky (and Wolverine) after earning a Masters in Film/Television from University of Michigan. She originated AMG’s Preparing My Heart series, and writes the column “Ann’s Lovin’ Ewe” for The Country Register. With two recent UVA grads, she’s now a huge HOO basketball fan. When not writing, Ann teaches voice or takes care of the many sheep of Skyemoor Farm.