SheReads April Book of the Month: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Publisher:  Algonquin Books

Published Date: April 1, 2014

Length:  272 pages

ISBN-10: 1616203218

Genre:  Contemporary Literature

Source:  She Reads & Publisher

Format:  Ebook

Synopsis:

The #1 Indie Next Pick and the #1 Library Reads Selection for April 2014!

In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books—and booksellers—that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  

On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

quick mix review

  •  Rent/Buy/Borrow:  Definitely a keeper!  Buy the book-it’s worth the price!
  • Themes:  widowhood, adoption, family secrets, community, relationships
  • Quick or Long Read:  It was a quick read!
  • The Cover:  The cover doesn’t do the story justice.  However, I absolutely love the U.K cover and it gives a great picture to the idea of what the story is about.
  • Overall Thoughts:  It’s a book about a bookstore owner, who has decided how he will live the remainder of his life.  However, fate has a different idea.  Working in the bookstore, and living above it, the story mainly takes place in the small store that becomes a community meeting place.  A.J. Fikry becomes the father to a little girl, left at his store, which is when he gets a new lease on life and love.  A true gem of a book, it’s a book that many will love!
  • Audience:  Anyone that loves contemporary fiction, a love story wrapped up in a little book, a story about the relationship between a father and his daughter, a great read for an afternoon or two.

my book thoughts

I absolutely loved this story.  From the first few pages, I was immediately hooked and wanted to know more about the quirky, “old” bookseller, A.J. Fikry.  He is an Edgar All Poe collector, and an old copy of EAP’s book, “Tamerlane”.  One night, that is book is missing and a little girl appears in his bookstore with a note attached from the girl’s mother.

The story is so cleverly written, almost like a fairy tale, because of the oddity of a little girl being left in the bookstore and the magical relationship she and A.J. have.  However, it goes far beyond a fairy tale. There is heartache, lessons learned, and love reborn.  Above all, the cranky and detached A.J. creates a family consisting of the townspeople and his little girl.

I loved Amelia’s character, too.  She is a young woman, who loves books so much, that she takes a low paying job of being a publicist rep.  She has to take the long trip to Alice Island, where she meets A.J. for the first time.  From there, a relationship grows as both her passion of books and A.J.’s gives them much in common.  Even, their commonality of feeling lonely.

With nods to some great literary works and book clubs, this book will easily become a favorite for many bibliophiles.  More than anything, it will make readers more curious when they go to their own little bookstore and wonder what magical finds are awaiting them, too!

supreme cupcake rating 6

Author Links

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HFVBT Book Review: Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Released: March 18, 2014

Format: Kindle

Pages:  320

Source:  HFVBT & Publisher

Synopsis:

Mistress Mary Shelton is Queen Elizabeth’s favorite ward, enjoying every privilege the position affords. The queen loves Mary like a daughter, and, like any good mother, she wants her to make a powerful match. The most likely prospect: Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford. But while Oxford seems to be everything the queen admires: clever, polished and wealthy, Mary knows him to be lecherous, cruel, and full of treachery. No matter how hard the queen tries to push her into his arms, Mary refuses.

Instead, Mary falls in love with a man who is completely unsuitable. Sir John Skydemore is a minor knight with little money, a widower with five children. Worst of all, he’s a Catholic at a time when Catholic plots against Elizabeth are rampant. The queen forbids Mary to wed the man she loves. When the young woman, who is the queen’s own flesh and blood, defies her, the couple finds their very lives in danger as Elizabeth’s wrath knows no bounds.

My Review:

Two words: BLOWN AWAY!  First of all, I absolutely love the book cover.  It is the perfect illustration of Mary and Queen Elizabeth’s relationship: Mary was often in her shadow, as she should be, however the heart always has another direction it wants to go!

Before I started the story, the author writes a little bit of a prologue. I am in awe of Anne’s courage, fighting spirit as she battled cancer, and that she was able to write this book in the midst of her own struggle.  Also, she is a descendent from Queen Elizabeth’s lineage, which makes this story even more fascinating for the readers, as I am sure it was for her when she researched the people in her book.

While I have read a lot of historical fiction novels about Queen Elizabeth I, and even saw the movies, this book sheds light on another side to the Queen.  In this book, readers will see a vulnerability that other books may not show.  While she is Queen of England and being courted by suitors, she manages to make time for her beloved Mary.  Queen Elizabeth also experiences the heartache of loving her “Sweet Robin”, Robert Dudley, who she can never marry.  Robin is also like a father or dear uncle to Mary, who she looks to for guidance and favor with the Queen during a moment most needed.

Mary is a young woman, who is quite similar to Queen Elizabeth.  Unlike the other maidens, she maintains her “virtue” with the other courtiers and does believe in love, rather than fortune.  She has an opportunity to marry for fortune, but chooses not to marry the Earl of Oxford, which Queen Elizabeth supports.

Throughout the story, readers see what court is like, how Queen Elizabeth handles issues with other countries, Catholics vs. Protestants, as well as the Queen Mary of Scots and the Duke of Norfolk.  It was quite interesting to see how Queen Elizabeth handled all these pressures, dealt with the people in her court, and maintain the relationships she had with her maidens.

Mary has her own challenges of falling in love with a Catholic widowed father of 5 and pleasing the Queen.  I was stunned…just stunned with the way the events unfolded at the end and saddened by Mary’s relationship with Sir John and how their story ends.

This is an incredible book, one that many will love! If you love historical fiction, Tudor history, interested in another aspect of Queen Elizabeth’s history, young love, and just want a great read-then this book is it!  Anne does a remarkable job with keeping the book focused more on the characters and their struggles, rather than just get bogged down with historical facts.  It’s a beautiful story and one that is now an absolute favorite of mine!

*A huge thanks to HFVBT for allowing me the opportunity to join this tour!

About the AuthorAnne Clinard Barnhill

Anne Clinard Barnhill has been writing or dreaming of writing for most of her life. For the past twenty years, she has published articles, book and theater reviews, poetry, and short stories. Her first book, AT HOME IN THE LAND OF OZ, recalls what it was like growing up with an autistic sister. Her work has won various awards and grants. Barnhill holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Besides writing, Barnhill also enjoys teaching, conducting writing workshops, and facilitating seminars to enhance creativity. She loves spending time with her three grown sons and their families. For fun, she and her husband of thirty years, Frank, take long walks and play bridge. In rare moments, they dance.

For more information, please visit Anne Clinard Barnhill’s website. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, March 10
Review at Words and Peace
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Wednesday, March 12
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, March 13
Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Friday, March 14
Review at The Lit Bitch

Monday, March 17
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, March 18
Spotlight & Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, March 19
Review at One Book at a Time

Thursday, March 20
Review at Book-alicious Mama

Friday, March 21
Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Monday, March 24
Review at She is Too Fond of Books

Tuesday, March 25
Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 26
Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 27
Review at Book of Secrets

Friday, March 28
Review at Scandalous Women

Monday, March 31
Review at HF Book Muse – News
Review & Giveaway at WTF Are You Reading?

Tuesday, April 1
Interview at HF Book Muse – News

Thursday, April 3
Review at Books in the Burbs

Friday, April 4
Review at The True Book Addict
Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Monday, April 7
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Tuesday, April 8
Review at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, April 9
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Thursday, April 10
Review at The Most Happy Reader

Friday, April 11
Review at Silver’s Reviews
Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

 

 

 

 

 

She Reads March Book Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

Publication Date: January 21, 2014
Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press
Pages: 304
Obtained:  She Reads & Publisher
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes a novel about heartbroken people finding hope at a magical place in Georgia called Lost Lake.

Suley, Georgia, is home to Lost Lake Cottages and not much else. Which is why it’s the perfect place for newly-widowed Kate and her eccentric eight-year-old daughter Devin to heal. Kate spent one memorable childhood summer at Lost Lake, had her first almost-kiss at Lost Lake, and met a boy named Wes at Lost Lake. It was a place for dreaming. But Kate doesn’t believe in dreams anymore, and her Aunt Eby, Lost Lake’s owner, wants to sell the place and move on. Lost Lake’s magic is gone. As Kate discovers that time has a way of standing still at Lost Lake can she bring the cottages—and her heart—back to life? Because sometimes the things you love have a funny way of turning up again. And sometimes you never even know they were lost . . . until they are found.

My Review:
Being a bit of a realist, this new kind of genre: whimsical fiction, is new for me.  I don’t even know if it is really a legitimate, certifiable, been approved by the book readers and writers of the world-kind of genre.  But, it fits for this book.

Kate is a recent widow, and having basically given her life over to her mother-in-law, to manage and control, Kate one day snaps out of it.  Going through boxes, her daughter comes across a post card from Lost Lake and both decide to venture over there as a one last thing to do, before living with Cricket (the mother-in-law).  Eby is Kate’s aunt and has made the decision to close Lost Lake and sell it to a big time developer.

Throughout the story, readers will become more acquainted with the visitors of Lost Lake, as will Kate and her daughter Devin.  Devin notices the magical qualities of Lost Lake, talks with an alligator (telepathically), and both help Kate, Eby, and others from Lost Lake make peace with their past and embrace their future.

I loved the storyline, the way Kate and Jack reconnect, and the interesting story of the alligator.  I loved the quirky characters in the book, such as Lisette and Selma.  The story weaves together so well, and even had me wishing I was there with them!

I loved the book and would highly recommend this to those who love a great story, enjoy fairytales, love women’s literature, and just want a great read.  I am also most amazed by the author.  As she was fighting her diagnosis of cancer, she created such a beautiful place with a storyline that deals with real issues, and characters we’ve all met or have in our life.  I am truly in awe of Sarah’s work and am glad she wrote a book with happy sprinkles to share with everyone!

 

 

Click here for book giveaways!

New Cover Reveal & Book Giveaway: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna van Praag

Early LibraryThing Book Review & Giveaway: Starter House by Sonja Condit

Early LibraryThing Book Review & Giveaway: Starter House by Sonja Condit

Publisher:  William Morrow

Release Date:  December 31, 2013

Pages:  384

ISBN: 0062283057

Source: Publisher & LibraryThing

Genre:  Mystery

Summary:

Promising talent Sonja Condit makes her debut with Starter House, an eerie and mesmerizing tale about a young couple whose new house holds deadly secrets from the past, sure to appeal to fans of Heart-Shaped Box and The Thirteenth Tale.

From the moment Lacey sees the house with the beautiful wood staircase, she knows she’s found her dream home. Growing up rootless with her flighty mother, Ella Dane, a self-proclaimed psychic, Lacey is determined to give her unborn baby the stability she never had.

But shortly after she and her husband, Eric, move in, the warm and welcoming house becomes cold and dark. There is something malevolent within these walls that wants to hurt her unborn child—a terrifying presence that only she can sense. And there is Drew, a demanding and temperamental little boy who mysteriously appears when Lacey is alone.

To protect her unborn child and save her family, Lacy must discover the truth about her dream house and the troubled Drew—a decades-old mystery involving secrets, violence, and guilt—and confront an evil that has lingered in wait for years.

My Review:

I loved the cover! It’s the window of the “starter house”, and gives the impression that someone is looking out the window…guarding the house.  In order to give my review, I need to include 2 disclosures.

First, I absolutely HATE, yes, hate, when books are compared to other masterpieces.  I can understand there are books that may be similar, evoke the same emotions, and possibly have a similar storyline….but unless the book is a rewrite-it should be a stand-alone and not compared to other books. Period.

Secondly, when I read a book, I don’t like to guess what will come next or poke holes in a storyline.  Sure, some books may be a little obvious, while others may be a little too hokey and simply unrealistic.  However, that is the beauty of books: they are a great escape.  It’s not 48 Hours, the TV show.

With my two disclosures not shared: I can honestly say that I LOVED this book!  I’m a big scaredy cat and definitely will not read any demonic stories.  While it’s not a demonic storyline, it’s definitely creepy and kept me reading through the very last page.

If you’ve read my posts about e-readers, then you know that I prefer any kind of e-reader device over a paperback.  I typically read at bedtime, so finding the “perfect” book light hasn’t happened for me yet.  However, I managed to read this book at night, took it everywhere with me, and enjoyed the book to the very end!

It has all the elements of a great mystery: flawed characters, who are disconnected, so that they don’t share what they know until the very end (when it’s almost too late), an old house with a history of murders, a neighbor that knows more than he’s willing to share, a realtor that doesn’t want to sell the house but gives in because of a hefty commission, and a mom tuned into the supernatural….as well as the daughter (wife and homeowner).

Don’t rush through the book, realize it’s not Amityville House of Horrors (although it comes close), and know that everything will unfold as it needs to-leading up to a great ending!

Without giving too much away, I will answer these questions:

Why does Lacey seem intent to stay in a home that is obviously haunted?  First, she is wanting to give her unborn child what she never had: roots.  Also, by the time she realizes she needs to get out, she learns that where she goes-the ghost does too.

Why doesn’t Eric leave?  Because he’s mounted high in debt and doesn’t want to disappoint his wife, and he also doesn’t want to believe that there is any truth to what is presented to him by Lacey and others.

I enjoyed this book and loved how each chapter had a picture of the book cover…..just to remind you that someone is always watching!  The only suggestion I have is for the author: please be more visible on FB & Twitter, as well as amping up the website.

It’s such a fantastic book, that I’ve decided to offer this book as a giveaway!

A huge thanks to LibraryThing and the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review the book!

Scroll down to get the info!

About the Author:

Sonja Condit received her MFA from Converse College, where she studied with Robert Olmstead, Leslie Pietrzyk, R. T. Smith, and Marlin Barton. Her short fiction has appeared in Shenandoah magazine, among other publications. She plays principal bassoon in the Hendersonville Symphony Orchestra and the Greater Anderson Musical Arts Consortium. She teaches at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.

Book Details:

Enter your name, email, and answer this question in the comment section:

What’s the name of the scariest movie you’ve seen?

Giveaway ends: March 30, 2014.

(US entries only).

SIGNATURE 2

Book Giveaway: The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

 

THE COMFORT OF LIES

by Randy Susan Meyers

_____________________________

 My Review:

This is a FANTASTIC book to read!! It makes for the PERFECT book club book to discuss, too! Oh, the many topics you could chat with amongst book members and the points of view each of the member would support/not support. I would love to be a fly on a wall to hear what everyone has to say.

This is also a fantastic s we all know someone that has had an affair at one time or another. This is a very raw and emotionally charged book.  The author really did her homework and truly left no stone uncovered with the emotional, physical, and relational m not talking about the pregnancy/baby.

Even before the baby, just having the affair really left everyone involved vulnerable and the author addresses every s point of view is also explored, through her so her questions are going to be more basic than those of the adults, which I loved.   t saturate the little girl with so much complexities and thoughts that are really beyond a child so young. She kept each character as realistic and vulnerable as possible, while showing the good/bad parts to each relationship and how they all move past the affair.

I could not put this book down and thought this was a perfect book for anyone that loves contemporary fiction. Their is mystery, drama, and such an authentic realness, that it almost read like a non-fiction book. It is easily the best book for me of 2012…although it won’t be available until February 2013.

*I reviewed this book back in 2012.  This is the post I wrote on LibraryThing, and wanted to add it here, because I ABSOLUTELY view this book as a must read, an awesome read for a book club or group discussion, and a book that will leave you with hard to forget characters!

Scroll further down for the giveaway details!

“Sharp and biting, and sometimes wickedly funny…Meyers writes beautifully about a formerly good marriage.”

The Boston Globe

“Meyers’ complex characters feel familiar yet flawed, and this sharply woven tale demonstrates her uncanny ability to explore and illuminate the nuances of life’s most thorny dilemmas.”

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle

 “Meyers’ carefully told story is a satisfying examination of the imperfect paths we all walk.”

BookPage

 

“The characters crackle with both intelligence and wit…Meyers’ women resonate as strong, complicated and conflicted, and the writing flows effortlessly in this sweet yet sassy novel about love, women and motherhood.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Meyers has crafted an absorbing and layered drama that explores the complexities of infidelity, forgiveness, and family”

Booklist

_____________________________

Since the release of her debut The Murderer’s Daughters in 2010, international bestselling author Randy Susan Meyers has earned glowing critical praise, award nominations, and a devoted readership around the globe for her thought-provoking, emotionally-resonant novels.

Now available in an affordable paperback format, Meyers returns with her bestselling second novel, THE COMFORT OF LIES (Washington Square Press/Atria Books; On-sale: January 28, 2014; $16.00), a richly textured story that explores the complications of love and collateral damage of infidelity, as well as universal themes of motherhood, identity, trust, and forgiveness.

Told in alternating points of view, THE COMFORT OF LIES reveals the darkest and most private thoughts of three very different women all connected to a five-year-old girl: Tia, the birth mother; Caroline, the adopted mother; and Juliette, the wife of the birth father. The year their lives collide, the women must confront their choices while discovering sobering truths about their relationships and most importantly, themselves.

Five years ago, Tia fell into obsessive love with a man she could never have. A married man and a father, Nathan was unavailable in every way. When she became pregnant, he disappeared and Tia gave the baby up for adoption. Five years later, she struggles with the decision and yearns to connect with her daughter—and her former lover.

Caroline, a dedicated pathologist, had always been a bit ambivalent about motherhood, much preferring the freedom of her childless, work-addicted lifestyle, but attempting to please her husband, she agreed to adopt, hoping her misgivings would disappear. However after five years, she’s questioning whether or not she’s really cut out for a domestic life.

Juliette thought she had it all—a loving husband, two healthy sons, and a successful business. Then she discovered Nathan’s affair. He promised he’d never stray again and she trusted him. Five years later, when Juliette intercepts a letter meant for Nathan containing photos of his daughter, her world crumbles, again. How could he keep this from her? What else is he hiding? Most importantly, how could he deny his daughter?

Desperate for the truth, Juliette goes in search of the little girl. Her quest leads her first to Caroline, then Tia, and before long, the women are on a collision course with consequences none of them could have predicted.

THE COMFORT OF LIES: A Novel

By Randy Susan Meyers

Washington Square Press/Atria Books || January 28, 2014 || $16.00 || Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-45-167302-9

Photo credit, Jill Meyers.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, where I quickly moved from playing with dolls to incessantly reading, spending most of my time at the Kensington Branch Library. Early on I developed a penchant for books rooted in social issues, my early favorites being Karen and The Family Nobody Wanted. Shortly I moved onto Jubilee and The Diary of Anne Frank.

My dreams of justice simmered at the fantastically broadminded Camp Mikan, where I went from camper to counselor, culminating in a high point when (with the help of my strongly Brooklyn-accented singing voice), I landed the role of Adelaide in the staff production of Guys and Dolls.

Soon I was ready to change the world, starting with my protests at Tilden High and City College of New York . . .. . .  until I left to pursue the dream in Berkeley, California, where I supported myself by selling candy, nuts, and ice cream in Bartons of San Francisco. Then, world weary at too tender an age, I returned to New York, married, and traded demonstrations for diapers.

While raising two daughters, I tended bar, co-authored a nonfiction book on parenting, ran a summer camp, and (in my all-time favorite job, other than writing) helped resurrect and run a community center.

Follow Randy Susan Meyers

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Giveaway Details:

Enter your name & email address in the comment section.

Answer the following question: What interests you most about this book?

1 random winner will be selected and notified.

The book will be mailed directly to the winner by the publisher.  US entries only. Sorry!!

Giveaway ends: February 14, 2014.

ARC Book Review: Safe with Me by Amy Hatvany

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Literature

Publisher:  Washington Square Press

Expected Publication Date:  March 4, 2014

Pages: 352

Source:  Publisher

Synopsis from Goodreads:

A novel about two mothers and one daughter who are linked by tragedy and bound by secrets, from the acclaimed author of Heart Like Mine. Now, in the provocative Safe with Me, Amy Hatvany explores controversial and timely issues with astonishing emotional complexity.
The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she…more A novel about two mothers and one daughter who are linked by tragedy and bound by secrets, from the acclaimed author of Heart Like Mine. Now, in the provocative Safe with Me, Amy Hatvany explores controversial and timely issues with astonishing emotional complexity.
The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. Even a year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose child, Maddie, survived only because hers had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.
The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him as never before in the wake of the successful transplant that saved their fifteen-year-old daughter’s life. Meanwhile Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape.
A masterful narrative, shaped by nuanced characters whose fragile bonds are on a collision course with the truth, Safe with Me is a triumph.

My Review:

First word that comes to mind, when I think of this book, is “WOW”!  There is so much that happens with each character: Olivia is an abused wife, trying to stay in an unsafe marriage for the sake of her daughter; Maddie is a teenager, given another chance at life through organ donation; and Hannah-a mom coming to grips with the reality that her only child is gone and other’s have survived from her daughter’s gift of life.

However, this is just the beginning to a group of women, who will each face their own reality and realize that they do have a choice to make that can only be made in due time.  The authenticity of the way organ donation is handled with families is quite accurate, having worked with families-who have chosen the gift of life through the form of organ donation, and the way each person feels thereafter, is so real, quite raw, that this book dives right in to the real issues people face everyday.

Now, add into that mix, spousal abuse.  The form of abuse that Olivia faces and comes to expect from her husband, who is quite established and powerful in the community, certainly adds a level of danger, suspense, and will keep the reader riveted to what happens next.  Having also worked with victims of domestic violence, been the daughter of a parent who was also abused, the scenes were so realistic that I had to put the book down at times just to breathe.  Thankfully, I have been in enough therapy to overcome my own issues of growing up in a violent home, and yes, these are characters…however, the emotions of these women are so real, that I am sure many will identify with one of these 3 women and reflect on their own shared experiences.

It is so easy to judge, give advice, say, “just leave”, but when someone like Olivia has been so conditioned to be a certain way-it becomes impossible to think of an alternate way of living.  I loved that Amy Hatvany also included tidbits on ways to leave a destructive marriage by calling a hotline, reaching out to someone and not being isolated in one’s own pain, and making a plan…even when that plan doesn’t go as expected.

This is a fantastic book for any book club to discuss, for a support group to use as a springboard for discussion on organ donation, spousal abuse, and self-esteem issues, as well as just a great read for someone.  However, I promise you…once you read this book-you will want to discuss it with someone who has also read it, because there is so much to process afterwards.

This is definitely one of the best books I’ve read in 2014 and I highly recommend this book!!  Pre-order this book!! It is due for release on March 4, 2014, and will be worth it!!

  *This book was provided by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

Amy was born in Seattle, WA in 1972, the youngest of three children. She graduated from Western Washington University in 1994 with a degree in Sociology only to discover most sociologists are unemployed. Soon followed a variety of jobs – some of which she loved, like decorating wedding cakes; others which she merely tolerated, like receptionist. In 1998, Amy finally decided to sell her car, quit her job, and take a chance on writing books.

The literary gods took kindly to her aspirations and THE KIND OF LOVE THAT SAVES YOU was published in 2000 by Bantam Doubleday. THE LANGUAGE OF SISTERS was picked up by NAL in 2002. (Both were published under her previous last name, Yurk.)Amy spends most of her time today with her second and final husband, Stephan. (Seriously, if this one doesn’t work out, she’s done, kaput, no more husbands.) She stays busy with her two children, Scarlett and Miles, and her “bonus child,” Anna. Their blended family also includes two four-legged hairy children, commonly known as Black Lab mutts, Kenda and Dolcé.

When Amy’s not with friends or family, she is most likely reading, cooking, or zoning out on certain reality television shows. Top Chef is a current favorite. She eagerly awaits auditions for the cast of “Top Author.” (“Quick Edit” instead of “Quick Fire” Challenge? C’mon, producers! That’s gripping television!

Connect with Amy:

Facebook

Blog

Twitter

Review: The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford

Synopsis:

When Jane Austen dies at the age of just 41, Anne, governess to her brother, Edward Austen, is devastated and begins to suspect that someone might have wanted her out of the way. Now, 20 years on, she hopes that medical science might have progressed sufficiently to assess the one piece of evidence she has – a tainted lock of Jane’s hair. Natural causes or murder? Even 20 years down the line, Anne is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious death of the acclaimed Miss Austen.

Review:

My most favorite author of all time is Jane Austen.  I chose this book as my first read for January 2014, because of my love for anything Austen, the cover is stunning, the title grabbed my attention, and the first few pages grabbed my attention!!

Lindsay Ashford is a phenomenal writer, and the storyline is weaved with fiction and fact, that it’s quite difficult to separate the two.  Jane Austen befriends a governess, Anne, and through the years, Anne watches Jane’s writing evolve. The questions and  conclusions that Anne comes to regarding the living arrangements, relationships between Jane and her siblings, and raises interesting questions regarding the death of Jane Austen.

If you love a great mystery, love Jane Austen, or just want a great read-then pick up this book! It’s by far one of the best books I’ve read about Jane Austen’s life!!

Have you entered the book giveaway, yet?

Review: The One Year Book of Amish Peace: Hearing God’s Voice in the Simple Things by Tricia Goyer

Click on the pic to read a sample!

Click on the pic to read a sample!

Book Information:

Pages: 384 pages

Published:  Tyndale House Publishers,  September 20th 2013

Synopsis:

In our instantly connected world, it’s surprisingly easy to lose our connection to God. This devotional taps Amish wisdom in order to help us draw closer to God and hear his voice. In “The One Year Book of Amish Peace,” you’ll get a daily taste of Amish values and wisdom. Tricia Goyer shares her fascination with the Amish in a way that will inspire and encourage believers to carve out more time in each day to listen to God and experience his presence. This daily devotional contains interesting facts about the Amish, recipes, and information about the way the Amish handle money, rear their children, and center their lives on faith in God. You’ll be inspired to slow down and find ways to simplify so that you, too, can experience God in the ordinary.

My Review:

Let’s face it, there are devotionals for any topic, any gender, any age, any religion…sold every year.  So, what makes Tricia Goyer’s a stand-out above the rest???  First, if you are a reader-who loves Christian fiction, Contemporary fiction, Women’s fiction, love the simplicity of the good ole’ days, love the Amish culture, wish you could scale back on the demands of this contemporary, every so fast world….then you will want to pick up this book.  Now, I am the first to tell you, I love e-books.  As a matter of fact, I prefer them to any hardback/paperback and will often turn down reviews if they are not in e-format.  However, this is a book that you will to feel, highlight, use as a companion to your Bible, and paperback is the way to go.

I absolutely love the layout of this incredibly, beautiful, and well written devotional.  It is dated, so you can use it based on the day of each week, on any year.  However, if you are like me-I like to start from the beginning, and that is fine, too.  Each devotional starts with a scripture, some personal insight from Tricia, and ends in a prayer.  Then, on the side bar, there is a little tidbit of Amish culture, faith, and tradition.  The scriptures are very readable, no “thou” or “thy”, very contemporary and so relatable to any person reading and applying this devotional.

I HIGHLY suggest this devotional as a gift for any occasion, a must have for your daily reading, and perhaps to use as a group study because the insight is so contemporary that you will want to discuss it with someone.  If nothing else, to journal about.

*This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for an honest review.

     Click here to read more about the author, Tricia Goyer!

SimpleAmishRecipes (2)

*Don’t forget to enter my book giveaway, Joshilyn Jackson’s, Someone Else’s Love Story!

HFVBT Book Review: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen by Mary Sharratt

 Synopsis:

Skillfully weaving historical fact with psychological insight and vivid imagination, Illuminations brings to life one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages: Hildegard von Bingen, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath.

Offered to the Church at the age of eight, Hildegard was expected to live in silent submission as the handmaiden of a renowned, disturbed young nun, Jutta von Sponheim. But Hildegard rejected Jutta’s masochistic piety, rejoicing in her own secret visions of the divine. When Jutta died, Hildegard broke out of her prison, answering the heavenly call to speak and write about her visions and to liberate her sisters. Riveting and utterly unforgettable, Illuminations is a deeply moving portrayal of a woman willing to risk everything for what she believed.

My Review:

Ever so often, I will come across a book that not only captivates me, but truly impacts me as a person.  This is one of those books.  Understanding that this book is based during a time when it was common for young girls to be married to older men or dead at an early age, young girls with hefty dowries were given to the Church to live their lives as nuns.  Such is the life of Hildegard, only her life wasn’t to be a nun, but of the handmaiden to an Anchorite.

Feared by her mother for the visions Hildegard had, she was given to Jutta-a young girl, who had her own demons to contend with.  Hildegard’s was the 10th child and her mother saw that giving Hildegard to the Church was her way of giving to God, His 10%, in hopes of sparing their family from God’s wrath (as she saw Hildegard’s visions as a curse).  Hildegard was loved by her brother, Rorich, and her nurse, Walburga.  Being given unconditional love from them, and her faith in her visions and God, gave her the ability to sustain being locked away, underneath the Church.

I was absolutely saddened and horrified to learn of the self-mutilation and self-hate Jutta had for herself.  Due to the abuse she endured at the hands of her brother, Jutta never came to a point where she could forgive him, herself for blaming herself, and truly seeking the grace and love only God can give.  It was absolutely saddening to read how she lived her life, and while the monks and people revered her, Hildegard had first glance at the true devastation and self-hatred her life was.

Hildegard, given at 8 to Jutta and the Church, served and used her visions, music, and love to help other young girls, who became nuns. She is a woman of devout faith and it was quite interesting to see how in the small place she lived, that she was able to maintain an herb garden and helped people with ailments (as they came to her).  Her visions were quite interesting to read about and motivated her to continue doing the work she felt she needed to do, even at the expense of her own freedom.

There is so much in this story that is difficult to explain it all.  The amount of research and detail is exceptional and Mary Sharratt is a phenomenal writer, who deserves to receive positive recognition for an incredibly well written book!  Despite all the detail and information, the storyline is smooth, written beautifully, and I was just in awe at the end of the book.

I highly recommend this book, as this is definitely one of my all time favorite books!

*A huge thanks to HFVBT for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

Book Trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rz6DAIX6Szk

About The Author:

The author of four critically acclaimed historical novels, Mary Sharratt is an American who lives in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. She also lived for twelve years in Germany, which, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. Illuminations won the Nautilus Gold Award for Better Books for a Better World and was selected as a Kirkus Book of the Year.

For more information, please visit Mary’s website and blog.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, October 14 Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, October 15 Review at Plum Creek Peddler Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Wednesday, October 16 Review at Bitches with Books

Thursday, October 17 Review at Flashlight Commentary Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Libraria

Friday, October 18 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Monday, October 21 Review at Book of Secrets

Tuesday, October 22 Review at The Most Happy Reader Review & Giveaway at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, October 23 Review at Books, Belles and Beaux Review & Giveaway at Confessions of an Avid Reader

Thursday, October 24 Review at Just One More Chapter Guest Post at Books, Belles and Beaux

Friday, October 25 Interview & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter

Monday, October 28 Review at Bloggin’ ’bout Books

Tuesday, October 29 Review at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Wednesday, October 30 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Friday, November 1 Review at Jorie Loves a Story Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Monday, November 4 Guest Post & Giveaway at HF Book Muse – News

Tuesday, November 5 Guest Post & Giveaway at The True Book Addict Interview at Erika Mailman Blog

Wednesday, November 6 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, November 7 Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!

Friday, November 8 Review at History and Women

Monday, November 11 Review at A Bookish Affair Review & Giveaway at Closed the Cover

Tuesday, November 12 Review & Giveaway at vvb32 Reads Guest Post & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair

Wednesday, November 13 Review at The Musings of ALMYBNENR

Thursday, November 14 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews Feature & Giveaway at Book-alicious Mama

Friday, November 15 Review at Books in the Burbs

CLP Book Tours Book Review & Excerpt: Blogger Girl by Meredith Schorr

Synopsis from CLP Blog Tours:

What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out. A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” Kim, with her
blog, “Pastel is the New Black,” has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that “chick lit is dead” once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm. While Kim’s day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that’s turning heads—and pages—a cross the land. It’s also popped into Kim’s inbox—for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim’s coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.

My Review:

About time!! America finally has their own version of Britain’s, Bridget Jones! I absolutely loved this story and it reminded me why I love chick-lit fiction so much.  The book has a similar take on Helen Fielding’s, Bridget Jones Diary, however with its own great twists!

In a new age of social media and blogging, Meredith takes the reader into the very demanding, and oh-so comical life of Kim.  Kim’s quit wit and snarky sense of humor had me entertained and kept me engaged throughout the story.  It’s definitely a homage to Fielding’s own character, Bridget Jones, and will have readers loving the American version of BJ!

Kim is a legal secretary by day, blogger all day.  Literally.  While Kim works, she has the flexibility to blog at her job, because her “career position” isn’t really challenging.  Kim also has a desire to become a writer, and begins to draft a novel that doesn’t get completed fast enough.  Her high school arch nemesis, Hannah, has written her own book and Kim not only hears about it from her friends and the blogging world, but has to review it!!

While Blogger Girl isn’t true to plot with Fielding’s book, such as the absence of a love triangle, there is a lot of growing that Kim does with the rally of her ever supportive friends.  While I loved Kim’s circle of friends, I didn’t necessarily like the name “Bridget” as one of them.  It kept me going back to Fielding’s main character and I really didn’t want to be reminded of that book so much.  However, it is a fantastic read!! I loved everything about it, even the cheesy karaoking scene that made me cry!!

Meredith’s writing style is so light, easy to follow, with such great spins, that this book will keep you engaged the whole time.  It’s one of those books that you want to hurry up and read, so that you know what happens….but you really don’t want to hurry up, because you know there isn’t a sequel.  Yeah, it’s that good! She was also spot on about the life of a book blogger, in the reading world!!

I loved seeing the relationship between Kim and Nicholas develop, too! It’s such a great book that I am hoping Meredith will consider writing a follow-up!!

*Scroll down to read an excerpt of Blogger Girl, then go out and buy the book! It’s only $ .99 on Amazon!

 *A huge thanks to CLP Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

Excerpt:

“Penny for your thoughts, Blogger Girl.”

I snapped out of my list making and faced Nicholas, silently praying he was not a mind reader.  He looked at me expectantly.
I swung my free hand in dismissal and lifted my drink towards him. “Nothing important. Cheers!”
Nicholas clinked his glass against mine, said, “Cheers” and took a sip of his drink.
Following his lead, I took a sip of mine.  Nicholas inched closer to me. Speaking in almost a whisper, he said, “Having fun yet?”
Very aware that we’d never stood this close to each other and that these were practically the most words we’d ever exchanged one on one, I replied with faux nonchalance, “Can’t really complain about free drinks. You?” The cuffs of his shirt sleeves had been pushed up to his elbows and I pondered whether the dark hair on his arms was coarse or soft. I wondered what it would feel like to run my fingers up and down his arm. I also wondered if he could hear my heart beating through my chest.
“Definitely can’t complain about that,” Nicholas agreed. “And a break from work is always welcome, especially these days.” He smiled. “Doing anything good this weekend?”
I had practically forgotten it was Thursday night, which was odd for me since I lived for the weekends when my secretarial duties did not get in the way of my reading. “Not sure yet. Probably drinks with friends. And I need to catch up on some reading. For the blog. What about you?” Please don’t mention a girlfriend. 
“Oh, this and that.” His eyes glowed, almost like he was holding back a secret.
 I bit down on my lip and without thinking, blurted out, “Do This and That have last names?”
Nicholas gave me a once over before shaking his head laughing. “I’ll probably spend most of it at work actually. So, tell me more about this blog.”
I tipped my head to the side. “What do you want to know?”  “I don’t know. Like, what made you start it?”
“The condensed version or the truth?”
Nicholas cocked an eyebrow. “How long of a story is the truth?”
“Why? Do you have a date to rush off to?” I swallowed hard. Nice, Kim. 
Laughing, he said, “It’s just that your answer was rather mysterious, you know?”
I shuffled my feet. “Well, I usually tell people I started the blog because I’ve always loved to read, blah, blah, blah.”
“Blah blah blah. Gotcha.”
After he said that, he winked at me and when my knees wobbled in response, I grabbed the bar with my free hand. “The truth is that one day I was bored at home surfing the internet and I found all of these blogs dedicated to romance books, like Harlequin stuff, and then I found some more devoted to science fiction, thrillers and so on. But I could barely find anything dedicated to chick lit and it pissed me off because I love it. I figured if I love it, there must be other girls who love it too and maybe if I started this blog, I’d find them and we’d bond.” I paused. “Aren’t you glad you asked?”
As his phone rang, Nicholas distractedly responded, “Yeah, that’s cool,” before bringing it to his ear. He whispered, “Sorry” before answering it.
I wondered if it was from “This” or “That.”
_____________________________________________________________________________
Author Bio:A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After dabbling in children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real chick lit for real chicks.” When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal at a law firm in New York City. Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. She also loves to read and is always on the lookout for her new favorite author. A State of Jane is her second novel.