Tag Archives: General Fiction

Recent Release Review- The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

Title: The Versions of Us

The Versions of Us

Genre: General Fiction

Author: Laura Barnett

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 3, 2016)

Pages: 416

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 2.5

Sexy Rating: not explicit

Description from Amazon.com:

In one moment, two lives will be changed forever . . . and forever . . . and forever. The one thing that’s certain is they met on a Cambridge street by chance and felt a connection that would last a lifetime. But as for what happened next . . . They fell wildly in love, or went their separate ways. They kissed, or they thought better of it. They married soon after, or were together for a few weeks before splitting up. They grew distracted and disappointed with their daily lives together, or found solace together only after hard years spent apart.

 

With The Versions of Us, Laura Barnett has created a world as magical and affecting as those that captivated readers in One Day and Life After Life. It is a tale of possibilities and consequences that rings across the shifting decades, from the fifties, sixties, seventies, and on to the present, showing how even the smallest choices can define the course of our lives.

**

I have enough frustration in life without having a book adding to it.  I could not keep track of which “version” I was reading and had to repeatedly go to the chapter heading to see where I was. And even after doing that, I was trying to remember what the characters did in the other chapters’ versions.

I thought the premise was intriquing, the what-ifs that we all wonder about in that road not taken, but I had no idea it would be so difficult for me to follow.

You just may need to take notes if you read this one and then you may not be able to keep your Jims, Evas and Davids straight.

 

 

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Review: Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

Title:  Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight hundred Grapes

Genre:  Fiction/Romantic Elements

Author: Laura Dave

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, June 2015

Pages: 272

Source: Free for review from the Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 3

Description from Amazon.com:         

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…. Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands. But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever. Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets….

**

Once you start this book there will be no snack and potty breaks.  You will be compelled to continue reading so shut off the phone.  Laura Dave sucks us in immediately when we want to find out why Georgia Ford is driving furiously north from L.A. to Sonoma County. After that it is one surprise after another for both the reader and Georgia.  Just when you start to get comfortable with how you figured things out there is another twist.  Then there is all the truly fascinating information about winemaking.  Delightful, that’s what this book is.  True book readers’ joy. So why did I knock off half a point in my rating?  As much as I enjoyed every twist and bump the drama got to be a bit excessive by the end.  I also couldn’t follow a line of thinking between Georgia and Ben at times.  It was as if the author expected me to intuit what each was thinking or feeling and I was just a bit lost.  That may have been me, just being slow on the uptake. However you slice it this is a good read. I’m sure you’ll agree.

P.S.- Let’s hope that in Ms. Dave’s next book they give her a better cover.

 

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Recent Release Review- Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Title: Perdita

Perdita

Genre: Eco-Gothic

Author: Hilary Scharper

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark. Jan. 20 2015

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 4.5

Sexy Rating: 3

Description from Amazon.com:

Marged Brice is 134 years old. She’d be ready to go, if it wasn’t for Perdita . . .

The Georgian Bay lighthouse’s single eye keeps watch over storm and calm, and Marged grew up in its shadow, learning the language of the wind and the trees. There’s blustery beauty there, where sea and sky incite each other to mischief… or worse…

Garth Hellyer of the Longevity Project doesn’t believe Marged was a girl coming of age in the 1890s, but reading her diaries in the same wild and unpredictable location where she wrote them might be enough to cast doubt on his common sense.

Everyone knows about death. It’s life that’s much more mysterious…

**

This is a novel about love, mythology, nature and beliefs. This novel is set in the present but also takes us into the past through Marged’s diaries. Marged claims to be 134 years old but Garth, Professor and interviewer for The Longevity Project, can’t believe she could be that old. Marged gives him her diaries to try and convince him. Through the fascinating diaries we are introduced to mythology that seems to manifest itself, the romantic yearnings of a young woman and a sincere appreciation of the nature and power of the waters, trees on the shore and winds of the Georgian Bay.

This is a novel of enigmatic and intelligent prose that will sweep you and the protagonist into the swirling cocophony of emotions. Marged is in tune with nature to the point of conjuring mythological beings but is down to earth enough to fall in love with a man who thinks he should love elsewhere. I kept turning pages to discover all the secrets and solve the mysteries and find out if Miss Marged Brice ever found love.

 

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Recent Release Review- The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Title: The Rosie Effect (Don Tillman, book #2)

The Rosie Effect

Genre: General Fiction

Author: Graeme Simsion

Publisher: Simon and Schuster, Dec. 30, 2014

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 5

Sexy Rating: 3

Description from Amazon.com:

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again. Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are back. The Wife Project is complete, and Don and Rosie are happily married and living in New York. But they’re about to face a new challenge because— surprise!—Rosie is pregnant. Don sets about learning the protocols of becoming a father, but his unusual research style gets him into trouble with the law. Fortunately his best friend Gene is on hand to offer advice: he’s left Claudia and moved in with Don and Rosie. As Don tries to schedule time for pregnancy research, getting Gene and Claudia to reconcile, servicing the industrial refrigeration unit that occupies half his apartment, helping Dave the Baseball Fan save his business, and staying on the right side of Lydia the social worker, he almost misses the biggest problem of all: he might lose Rosie when she needs him the most. Graeme Simsion first introduced these unforgettable characters in The Rosie Project.

**

The first book in this series, THE ROSIE PROJECT, was a favorite of mine last year. So naturally I jumped at the chance to read and review this sequel. OMG! This is terrific stuff! Laugh out loud, and I do mean loud, hubby kept quizzing me on what was so funny. This book takes Rosie and Don on a journey to parenthood that is nothing like what I assume you or I have experienced. Don with his Asperger’s Syndrome and Rosie with her own issues are two ships that are not going to pass but collide. Don’s heart is always in the right place but his literal mind and inability to be “average” lead him into one mess after another. Rosie, riding high on pregnancy hormones misinterprets most of what Don is trying to do. Don trying to minimize Rosie’s stress gets himself in tons of trouble. Side characters are absolutely wonderful. Gene the psychologist friend who moves in, Dave and Sonia who also are expecting, George the rock star landlord, Lydia the Social worker with issues and Rosie’s dad, Phil who has his own PTSD.

Graeme Simsion has penned another wonderful book and we can only hope there are more to come. Do I recommend this one. You betcha! Big time. Do yourself a favor, start the year off right , read this one.

 

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Recent Release Review- Hello From The Gillespies by Monica McInerney

Title: Hello From The Gillespies

Hello from the Gillespies

Genre: General Fiction

Author: Monica McInerney

Publisher: Penquin/Berkley, Nov 2014

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 2

Sexy Rating: 3

Description from Amazon.com:

For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself she tells the truth…. The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken away from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together and pull themselves together in wonderfully surprising ways.

 

**

Perhaps if I could have liked one of these main characters I would have liked the book more than I did. I never felt a connection to any of the Gillespies. Angela, the mother, was trying to cope with a demanding family and an inattentive husband. She doesn’t do the obvious and do some demanding of her own she just plods along. Nick, the husband, is a real loser. I mean he nearly loses the family estate. And to cope he has a Skype, non-affair with a genealogist in Ireland instead of working out the problems with his wife. The twins Genevieve and Victoria are making huge personal mistakes that both should have known better about at their age of 33. Lindy is 30 and acts like a 15 year old and Ig the 10 yearold is the most mature of the entire family. Joan the friend of Angela is also the only adult who seems to have her head on straight. With this family making so many stupid mistakes all the time, I was about ready to toss in the reading. In the end I didn’t care if any of them had a happily ever after I was just ready to be done with the book.

Amnesia? Really? Pages and pages and pages of will she come out of it or not. Actually total pages of over 600 count and way too many. Hand embroidered pillow making as a career move? Really? Bringing the crotchety old Aunt, who has nothing good to say about Angela, to stay with Angela while Nick is out of the country. Really?

I wish I could say there was something that I truly liked about this book and the only thing that comes to mind is Ig. He was always a welcome relief from the rest of his family.

 

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Review- The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Ship of Brides

The Ship of Brides

Genre: Literary Fiction/Romance

Author: Jojo Moyes

Publisher: Penguin group

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 5

Sexy Rating: 2

Description from Amazon.com:

  1. World War II has ended and all over the world, young women are beginning to fulfill the promises made to the men they wed in wartime. In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other war brides on an extraordinary voyage to England—aboard HMS Victoria, which still carries not just arms and aircraft but a thousand naval officers. Rules are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier’s captain down to the lowliest young deckhand. But the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined despite the Navy’s ironclad sanctions. And for Frances Mackenzie, the complicated young woman whose past comes back to haunt her far from home, the journey will change her life in ways she never could have predicted—forever.

**

Jojo Moyes writes superbly nuanced characters. There is Margaret, pregnant and leaving behind a loving family. There is Frances, harboring secrets. There is Joan, too young and immature to know the ropes. Finally there is Avice, a society lady who has much to learn. All are brought to life in exquisite prose that leaves the reader enthralled with each woman, and captivated by their fates.

Jojo Moyes has obviously researched the life aboard this type of ship so that we the reader also feel the rolling sea and the vastness of the huge ship.

I highly recommend this book as well as Jojo Moyes’ other novels.

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Review- Adultery by Paulo Coelho

Title: Adultery

Adultry

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Knopf, Aug. 2014

Source: Free for review from the Amazon Vine Program

Rating: 3

Sexy Rating: 5

Description from Amazon.com:

Linda knows she’s lucky. Yet every morning when she opens her eyes to a so-called new day, she feels like closing them again. Her friends recommend medication. But Linda wants to feel more, not less. And so she embarks on an adventure as unexpected as it is daring, and which reawakens a side of her that she – respectable wife, loving mother, ambitious journalist – thought had disappeared. Even she can’t predict what will happen next…

**

This is the psychological study of a woman’s decent into sadness , boredom and ridiculousness. Okay that last is my considered opinion. For a supposedly intelligent woman she makes some rather stupid social mistakes all in the name of getting over her feelings of restlessness and boredom. She has an attitude that it is okay to possibly throw away her family just to assuage her problems by having an affair. She tries to convince herself that she is in love with her lover but there is no emotional connection for either of them. The author’s use of language is to be lauded even if his grasp of a woman’s emotions leaves something to be desired. The ending of this book is worth the read for what goes around, comes around.

Deet’s note:  I chose to read and review this book because I had heard so much buzz about the author.  Perhaps his other books were more spot-on than this one.  I do have trouble with male authors writing first person as a woman.  Although he got a lot right, he got a lot wrong also.

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Review- The Next Breath by Laurel Osterkamp

Title: The Next Breath

the next breath

Genre: General Fiction/Romance

Author: Laurel Osterkamp

Publisher: PMI Books, Sept. 2014

Source: Free for Review From the Author

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: 5, not explicit

Description from Amazon.com:

“I kiss him, choosing love over honesty, which is a choice nobody should ever have to make…”

Robin loves sweet, responsible Nick, with his penchant for Beethoven and Ben Folds Five. But she also still loves her college boyfriend Jed, an irreverent playwright plagued with cystic fibrosis. Now Robin is struggling to reveal her secrets and confront her past, as she finally performs in the play that Jed wrote for her, eleven years ago. Will Robin have the strength to keep her promise and stay true to her heart?

Alternating between present-day scenes, college flashbacks, and segments from Jed’s play, this tear-jerking yet uplifting tale illustrates how life is finite but love is infinite, and the road to recovery begins with the next breath.

**

This is a profound study of love and loss. We met Robin in Osterkamp’s book HIDDEN. This book is a continuation of Robin’s search to find herself and put her past to rest. Resting the past is not easy for Robin since it means letting go of a man she loved and embracing the man she now loves. Laurel Osterkamp delves into the subject of Cystic Fibrosis and how it affects family and friends. There are moments of heartbreaking sorrow along with moments of joy and renewal. This is not a light hearted book but a wonderful study of love, grief, survival and perserverance.

 

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Recent Reissue Review- Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley

Title: Season of Storms

Season of Storms

Genre: General Fiction/Mystery/Romantic Elements

Author: Susanna Kearsley

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark, Sept. 2014

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 2.5

Sexy Rating: 3

From Amazon:

A mystery trapped in time

In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D’Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D’Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather’s masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands-at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D’Ascanio’s magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake’s disappearance-and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.

But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia’s fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back…

**

This novel is a reissue of a book written in 2001. I’m finding it difficult to come up with an original view on this book. Having read many of Ms. Kearsley’s novels and enjoying them immensely I was disappointed in this offering. The story was so very slow with most of the action and romance coming at the end of the book. There are pages of description that seem repetitious. The plot would have been interesting in a shorter book but the pacing here almost killed my interest in finishing. But I did plow through because even though I found it difficult there is always that seed of something-will-happen-to-change-my-opinion but sorry to say that never happened here.  And yet I must give Ms. Kearsley her due accolades; she can write description of place and time beautifully.  If you want a truly wonderful Susanna Kearsley book then pick THE WINTER SEA, MARIANA, THE SHADOWY HORSES OR THE ROSE GARDEN all of those are just wonderful.

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Recent Release Review- Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland

Title:  Lisette’s ListLisette List

 

 Genre: General Fiction/ Romantic elements

Author: Susan Vreeland

Publisher: Random House, Aug. 26, 2014

Source: Free for review from the publisher

Rating: 4

Sexy Rating: behind closed doors

Description from Amazon.com:

In 1937, young Lisette Roux and her husband, André, move from Paris to a village in Provence to care for André’s grandfather Pascal. Lisette regrets having to give up her dream of becoming a gallery apprentice and longs for the comforts and sophistication of Paris. But as she soon discovers, the hilltop town is rich with unexpected pleasures.

Pascal once worked in the nearby ochre mines and later became a pigment salesman and frame maker; while selling his pigments in Paris, he befriended Pissarro and Cézanne, some of whose paintings he received in trade for his frames. Pascal begins to tutor Lisette in both art and life, allowing her to see his small collection of paintings and the Provençal landscape itself in a new light. Inspired by Pascal’s advice to “Do the important things first,” Lisette begins a list of vows to herself (#4. Learn what makes a painting great). When war breaks out, André goes off to the front, but not before hiding Pascal’s paintings to keep them from the Nazis’ reach.

With German forces spreading across Europe, the sudden fall of Paris, and the rise of Vichy France, Lisette sets out to locate the paintings (#11. Find the paintings in my lifetime). Her search takes her through the stunning French countryside, where she befriends Marc and Bella Chagall, who are in hiding before their flight to America, and acquaints her with the land, her neighbors, and even herself in ways she never dreamed possible. Through joy and tragedy, occupation and liberation, small acts of kindness and great acts of courage, Lisette learns to forgive the past, to live robustly, and to love again.

**

It is always a special treat to pick up a book and learn about something new.  For me it was all about mining and the preparation of ochre from the earth into pigments for painting.  That lesson was wrapped up in the beautiful story of a young bride on the verge of WWII.  The story tells of the hardships the French dealt with during the war, and especially those of this young woman, Lisette, living alone and struggling to get by.  It also touches on the confiscation of paintings by the German’s.  The heart of the story is the hiding of the paintings and Lisette’s pursuit of them.

I have been a fan of Susan Vreeland since reading her book, THE GIRL IN HYASENTH BLUE.  Blue must be a favorite of Ms. Vreeland for she also makes Lisette’s desire a blue dress.  This book is long, 433 pages, it could have been shorter but the length does submerge the reader in the environment of the village in Provence.  The author is especially adept at creating visions of landscape and mood with her lovely prose.

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