Review: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

October 19, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

 

Becoming Mrs Lewis

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Romance, Christian

Summary:

Struggling with an unhappy marriage, her writing career and health, and matters of faith, Joy Davidman begins writing to well-known author, C.S. Lewis (Jack). Joy and Jack are both writers and poets and experience a robust and heartfelt correspondence through which they develop a warm and intellectual friendship. Soon, Joy takes a break from her unpredictable, angry, drunken husband and travels to England in hopes of restoring her health, finding inspiration for her writing projects, and meeting C.S. “Jack” Lewis. After spending time with Jack and enjoying a mutual fondness, Joy begins to realize her growing love for him. Despite a lack of personal financial resources and continuing heartbreak over her circumstances, Joy finds the courage to risk it all and the voice to end her marriage and move permanently to England. Through her great friendship with Lewis she finds enduring love, a trusted friend and confidant, and a true writing partner. During this time in history (50s), Joy’s independence and decisions regarding her marriage and children were most likely questioned. In addition, Jack received critism for his involvement with a divorced woman. However, we know that Jack called her “my whole world” and upon her death he wrote his popular “A Grief Observed.” In this biographical historical fiction you will be treated to a poignant love story along with beautiful descriptions of England and bookish references.

Amazon Rating ()ctober): Early Ratings: 4.6

My Thoughts:

Many of us read the beloved classic The Chronicles of Narnia as youngsters and some of us have read more of C.S. Lewis’s work. Maybe you’ve heard of the remarkable love story between C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman or have seen the movie Shadowlands.

In this well researched story, I wasn’t sure what to think at first of Joy Davidman and had difficulty reconciling the Joy we know as the great love of C.S. Lewis with her early portrayal in the story. These are a few of the statements by Joy Davidman about her early love life that caused my concern:

Whom did I choose to first seduce?

I’d thought that…conquering him would satisfy me.

It wasn’t love. It was obsession. The compulsion to own him along with a clawing need to prove I was worthy of such notice.

I’d pursued men with embarrassing veracity. Obsession and possession confused with love.

My design included needing men who could not and would not have me, especially older men.

In addition to questioning Joy’s motives when it comes to love, it’s easy to criticize Joy for decisions in her first marriage and family, but she’s remarkable in her independence, her pursuit of meaning, her courage to take a risk, and her honest reflection about her past history with love. As we learn about Joy’s childhood home and parents, we grow to understand more about Joy and appreciate the actions she takes and her desire to grow. I think her sincere efforts at self reflection are admirable.

Life is complicated for Joy Davidman and C.S.Lewis. Although separated by an ocean, seventeen years difference in age, and individual traumas, love is powerful. She observes:

With Jack it’s not the list or conquest or obsession, “It’s the feeling of finally coming home.”

If you’re familiar with the C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman narrative, I can promise you that there’s more to learn in the pages of this story. It’s fascinating to explore their relationship which involves a respect and admiration for the other’s intellectual and creative endeavors, a shared love of nature and the mystical, a deep friendship, as well as romance. Jack and Joy are soul mates!

Recommended for fans of C.S. Lewis, for readers who appreciate stories of determined, risk taking, and independent women, and for those looking for a new historical fiction read or an inspiring romance. You will enjoy descriptions of the English countryside and discussions about books as well.

Additional Materials to supplement your reading experience:

If you read and are fascinated by the real life relationship portrayed in Becoming Mrs. Lewis, you will want to watch or rewatch Shadowlands (click for movie trailer).

A Grief ObservedIn addition, you may be interested to read A Grief Observed, a work by C.S. Lewis documenting his grief journey.

Written after his wife’s tragic death as a way of surviving the “mad midnight moment,” A Grief Observed is C.S. Lewis’s honest reflection on the fundamental issues of life, death, and faith in the midst of loss. This work contains his concise, genuine reflections on that period: “Nothing will shake a man — or at any rate a man like me — out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” This is a beautiful and unflinchingly honest record of how even a stalwart believer can lose all sense of meaning in the universe, and how he can gradually regain his bearings. ~Amazon

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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becoming mrs lewis

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan

Patti Callahan (who also writes as Patti Callahan Henry) is a New York Times bestselling author. Patti was a finalist in the Townsend Prize for Fiction, has been an Indie Next Pick, twice an OKRA pick, and a multiple nominee for the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Novel of the Year. Her work has also been included in short story collections, anthologies, magazines, and blogs. Patti attended Auburn University for her undergraduate work and Georgia State University for her graduate degree. Once a Pediatric Clinical Nurse Specialist, she now writes full time. The mother of three children, she lives in both Mountain Brook, Alabama, and Bluffton, South Carolina, with her husband. Visit her online at patticallahanhenry.com; Instagram: pattichenry; Facebook: AuthorPattiCallahanHenry; Twitter: @pcalhenry.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

To supplement my review of The Tattoist of Auschwitz found here, I have found this brief YouTube video clip of Lale The Tattooist of Auschwitz in his own words.

It’s timely (considering this week’s post) to announce that Netflix is set to develop a series and films based on C.S. Lewis’ beloved THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA.

Under the Sycamore: International Day of the Girl
(conversation starters)

Do you plan to see The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer.



EXTRA Review!

Dear reader, I’m not sure if we share a mutual love for Middle Grade fiction or not, but in case we do, here’s a recent review!

4.5 stars.
Louisiana's Way Home.jpg:::::sigh::::: I LOVE a great middle grade read from time to time! Do you? If you are experiencing a reading slump I think reading fabulous middle grade titles is a great remedy! Stories like Louisiana’s Way Home explores heavy content without the YA angst or offensive language or graphic violence of adult literature. Usually these middle grade stories can be read in one day (2 at the most). Check my middle grade Goodreads shelf for more great MG recs!

Louisiana’s Way Home is an engaging and ultimately heartwarming story that explores themes of homelessness, belonging, abandonment, finding a family to love you, foster care, friendship, caring adults, determination, loss, hope, disappointment, etc.

A suspension of belief is required to classify this story as realistic fiction. Goodreads reviewer Joe suggests that this story is a modern fairy tale in which a young person experiences danger, evil, and unfortunate circumstances but in the conclusion all ends happily.

Reading this story challenges me to be that adult who watches out for kids…to be the person who is ready and willing to secure their welfare, to offer a safe place or warm gesture, to offer kindness instead of disapproval or criticism.

You will love Louisiana, a unique, wily, memorable, and unforgettable character.



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!



Looking Ahead:

I’m reading and will be reviewing next week The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I’ve read mixed reviews from trusted reviewers so I’m eager to see what I think.

Clockmaker's Daughter

I’m also reading The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay (ARC from #stmartinspress).



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Are you familiar with the C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidman love story? Have you seen Shadowlands or read A Grief Observed?

Are you a Kate Morton fan?

Do you read Middle Grade Fiction?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

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The Tattooist of Auschwitz

October 12, 2018

Review: The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Tattooist of Auschwitz 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Holocaust, WW11

Summary:

Based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who meet at Auschwitz, this is a story of the determination to survive, hope, sacrifice, courage, and love. Lale is assigned to tattoo identification numbers onto the prisoner’s arms as they arrive in camp, and this is where he first meets Gita. This assignment gives him some privileges such as a bit of freedom and some extra food which he shares with the most desperate prisoners as he is able. His actions are extremely risky but he is able to save the lives of many prisoners. In the course of his time at camp, he falls deeply in love with Gita, and he is determined to ensure her survival as well. After liberation, Lale and Gita marry, have one son, and establish a home in Australia. They live a private life, and it is after Gita dies that Lale chooses to tell his memorable story.

Amazon Rating (October): 4.6 Stars

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a great deal of WW11 historical fiction. Each story is as compelling as the next. All the stories need to be heard. What makes The Tattooist of Auschwitz even more compelling is that the author was able to spend three years interviewing Lale Sokolov.

Despite being caught in a desperate and heartbreaking situation, Lale is able to survive in the camp because of his pleasant and positive personality, his sheer determination to live, his cunning and courage, and his remarkable attitude. Throughout this compelling story, Lale takes risks, makes sacrifices, and generously shares what he can to help others. Lale’s personality reminded me a little of Pino’s positive attitude in Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

A page turner, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is written in a straightforward way and in a simple story telling style. Its tone is lighter in comparison to some other Holocaust stories I’ve read (although there are obviously some sad passages).

Recommended for fans of WW11 historical fiction, for readers who appreciate fictionalized  versions of true stories, and for those who enjoy an unforgettable character and an unputdownable story filled with courage and hope.

Here’s a brief YouTube video clip of Lale The Tattooist of Auschwitz in his own words. Tissues required.

My Rating: 4 Stars (3 stars for writing, 4 stars for a compelling story)

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tattooist of auschwitz

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Heather Morris

Heather MorrisHeather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

Under the Sycamore: International Day of the Girl
(conversation starters)

Maple-leaf1

Several years ago I visited the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, CA and was privileged to hear a Holocaust survivor give her talk. It was memorable and unforgettable. I hope that you can hear a similar first hand account if you haven’t already.



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!



Looking Ahead:

I’m reading and will reviewing Becoming Mrs. Lewis next week.

becoming mrs lewis

These two books are patiently waiting their turn: Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen and The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay (ARC from #stmartinspress). Just a couple of the good ones I have my eye on!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you read frequently in the WW11 histfic genre? Even though I love the genre, it’s not easy reading and can take an emotional toll.  Each time I think I may be finished with the genre for a while, another compelling story from an interesting perspective comes along!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Where the Crawdads Sing

September 28, 2018

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

where the crawdads sing 2

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Coming of Age, Family Life, Survival

Summary:

Living in the marsh outside a quiet, small town on the coast of North Carolina, Kya Clark, later known as the “Marsh Girl,” is abandoned by her entire family and learns to survive in the marsh on her own from the age of ten. One by one her older siblings abandon the family, her mother leaves when Kya is about seven, and finally her father, a difficult, unreliable, and drunk man, leaves when she’s ten. Kya attends school for one day after a truant officer catches her. On that day, she is teased by the students, knows she’s hopelessly behind academically, and never returns. Preferring the isolation and safety of the marsh, she learns what she can through observing nature. Although she can survive on her own, she begins to long for companionship as she reaches her teen years. Two boys from town attract her attention. One of them turns up dead, and she is suspected of murder. The other becomes a life long supporter and friend. A coming of age story with a fair share of tragedy, mystery, and grit, this is an unforgettable read you’ll want to devour and recommend.

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

While I loved Where the Crawdads Sing, this story might not be for everyone and comes with trigger warnings for some child neglect and abandonment.

What I loved most about the story is its structure and style. It is atmospheric and engaging from the first page to the last. In addition, it’s an easy reading narrative that flows well and is pleasingly balanced between character driven and plot driven. The author creates an amazing sense of place and a memorable and unforgettable character. As a bonus, the author’s background as a wildlife scientist enables her to include many fascinating scientific facts and details about the marsh.

This story came to me at the right time as I was in the mood for an intriguing, well written, page turner, and Where the Crawdads Sing did not disappoint! It will most likely appear on my best of 2018 list.

Along with an emphasis on science and the marsh habitat, the author creates vivid and colorful local characters that enhance the story and includes a surprising plot twist at the end!

compelling character

Kya Clark is certainly September’s most compelling character. Resourceful, brave, cunning, a gritty survivor, and clever, Kya creates a life for herself despite the most difficult and disheartening circumstances. There is a person in town that she learns to trust and who becomes as important to her as a father. He watches out for her the best that he can which is difficult because he’s African-American and is dealing with issues of hate and segregation in his own life. He understands Kya and respects her freedom and her need to live her life on her terms even though she’s so young. Despite Kya’s ability to create a life for herself as a wildlife artist and illustrator and is eventually able to trust herself to love, there is a plot twist at the end that will force you to reevaluate Kya and the decisions she’s made.

Themes in the story include belonging, abandonment, survival, trust, coming of age, family, and caring for others. There’s a great deal to reflect on or to discuss (if this is a book club pick) as the story unfolds.

Recommended for readers who are looking for an engaging and unique story with a strong female protagonist. It would make an excellent book club selection because of the various discussion possibilities. *Triggers for child neglect and abandonment.

If you have a blog post about your most memorable character of the month, please use the link below or share in the comments.

My Rating 5 Stars

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where the crawdads sing

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Delia Owens

delia owensDelia Owens is the co-author of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa including Cry of the Kalahari.

She has won the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing and has been published in NatureThe African Journal of Ecology, and many others.

She currently lives in Idaho. Where the Crawdads Sing is her first novel.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Fall TBR

I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!



Looking Ahead:

This week I’m reading an ARC of The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain (pub date: 10/2). It’s different from my usual genres: heavy on science fiction (time travel), a bit of hisfic (as the characters travel between 1970 and 2018), and some suspense. I would characterize this as an escapist read! Full review coming soon.

dream daughter

I’m also ready to begin The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris because my library hold came in. (taking a deep breath for this heavy read)

tattooist of auschwitz



A Link I Love

Books to movies this fall.



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What have you been reading in September? Who is your most memorable or unforgettable character from your recent reading? (link up a blog post or share in comments)



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: Clock Dance

September 7, 2018

Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

clock dance 2

Genre/Categories: Women’s Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Domestic Life

Summary:

In Clock Dance, Anne Tyler provides a compelling characterization of Willa Drake from a childhood with an unpredictable mother, to her college years and engagement, to her later years as a young widow rebuilding her life, and, finally, to her senior years which find her longing for attachment, family, and a place to belong. In this bittersweet journey, readers root for Willa as she experiences grief, renewed hope, and new direction for her life.

Amazon Rating (September): 3.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Background. Sometimes it helps to go into a read with low expectations. I had read only two of Tyler’s works before this and I was left underwhelmed. Even though Anne Tyler masterfully creates well drawn characters and is well-known for her beautiful, nuanced writing, I need a bit of a plot to keep me engaged.

Because I admire Tyler’s writing and one of my favorite literary reviewers (Modern Mrs. Darcy) recommended this book on her Summer Reading Guide, I decided to give it a try…but with low expectations.

Surprise. It was a pleasant surprise to find myself engaged with this quiet, bittersweet story of an ordinary woman’s life. I was able to relate to her on several levels and the author provided just enough plot to keep me reading.

Read Alike. In some respects this story reminds me of Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman. If you’ve read both, please let me know what you think of this comparison! One difference is that, for me, the resolution is more satisfying in Clock Dance than it is in Britt-Marie.

Connections. Reading is a personal experience and the ability to make some connection with a character or a situation makes all the difference! That’s why I always encourage readers to give books a try for her- or himself. I’m glad I gave this a chance!

Recommended. Although there are mixed reviews of this book and it’s not one I recommend for everyone, it’s one that I recommend trying if you love beautiful, nuanced writing and well drawn characters. Readers who appreciate a quiet story of an ordinary woman finding her voice might appreciate this. Also recommended for fans of Britt-Marie Was Here.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars (rounded to 4 stars on Goodreads)

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clock dance

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Anne Tyler

Anne TylerAnne Tyler was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1941 and grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of more than twenty novels. Her twentieth novel, A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2015. Her eleventh novel, BREATHING LESSONS, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.



Happy Reading Book Worms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read all but three on the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

This week I plan to finish Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson and bring you a review next Friday.

just mercy

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy quiet, character driven stories? What are some that you’ve read and enjoyed? Are you a fan of Anne Tyler? Do you have favorite books by her?

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

Review: The Map of Salt and Stars

August 31, 2018

The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

The Map of Salt and Stars 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Mythology, Folk Tale, Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Syrian

Summary:

The Map of Salt and Stars is really two stories. One story is contemporary and the other is a mythological folk tale that takes place 800 years earlier. In the contemporary story, Nour’s mother, a Syrian-American, a cartographer and painter of beautiful maps, decides to move Nour and her sisters from New York City back to Syria after the death of Nour’s father. The mother feels a strong desire to live closer to her family. After they arrive in Syria, they experience effects of the civil war evidenced by protests and shelling in their quiet neighborhood. When a shell destroys Nour’s home and neighborhood, she and her family and a close family friend of her father’s are forced to flee as refugees across seven countries of the Middle East and North Africa in search of safety.

The story within the story is a favorite folk tale that Nour’s father told her over and over again as a young girl. Nour loves the main character in the folk tale, Rawiya, who becomes an apprentice to al-Idrisi, commissioned by King Roger II of Sicily to create a map of the region. Rawiya follows al-Idrisi on a journey across the Middle East and the north of Africa where they encounter a mythical beast and fight epic battles.

There are strong connections between the two stories as Nour and her family are forced from their home to travel the identical route that Rawiya traveled eight hundred years earlier. Throughout the journey, Nour remembers and is inspired by the heroine of her favorite folktale as she faces similar challenges and fears.

Early Amazon Rating (August): 4.5

My Thoughts:

There’s a lot to like about this story!

Favorite Quote: “[King Roger] explained that he often came to the library at night. He motioned to the shelves of books, their spines polished gold, tawny brown, and russet leather. ‘Anyone who wants company and knowledge will find what they seek here,’ he said. ‘We are among friends.’ ”

Connections. Throughout the larger story, the two separate stories are connected in several ways. A few examples:

  • The characters in each story take a journey, have adventures, experience heartache, redefine the meaning of family, and hold out hope for ‘home.’
  • Both characters disguise themselves as boys.
  • Both girls grieve over the loss of a beloved father.
  • Nour’s mother is a map maker and painter while Rawiya is an apprentice to a map maker.
  • Both girls leave home and face grief on their journey.
  • The stories have some similar plot devices (one example among many is that Nour leads her family to safety [remembering the way to her father’s friend’s house] after their neighborhood was bombed and Rawiya saves her small expedition from a huge white attacking bird).

Themes. The story is filled with poignant themes including grief, beloved fathers, dangerous journeys, the comfort of stars, faith, and the search for home.

The Writing. Beautiful descriptive writing and sensory details fill every page of this story creating a memorable sense of place. Readers who appreciate figurative language will enjoy creative and descriptive phrases including fresh and unique similes, metaphors, and personification. The symbolism of salt and stars also encourages thoughtful reflection.

compelling character

Each month I designate the most compelling character of the month, and in August I’m honoring Nour and Rawiya  from The Map of Salt and Stars as this month’s most memorable characters. ***Link Up below

Meet Nour and Rawiya

Both main protagonists in The Map of Salt and Stars are young girls (coming of age). Nour and Rawiya are strong females with leadership qualities and are compelling characters (Cooler reviewers than me would call them “badass girls.”)

  • Nour is a bit melancholy, seriously reflective and thoughtful, has color Synesthesia, appears to have a photographic memory, exhibits leadership abilities, and is brave and daring.
  • Rawiya is fearlessly confident. She is best described in the following quotes:

When Khaldun (a young man) doubts that he can throw a stone high enough to kill Roc, the giant white mythological bird, Rawiya quietly and confidently says, “Perhaps I can.”

When she was discovered as a girl, she challenged her critics, “You once said I had courage, heart. That heart still beats. The body that cradles it is no large matter.”

…and my favorite….

I am a woman and a warrior,” Rawiya said, her blade cutting into his club. “If you think I can’t be both, you’ve been lied to.

Recommended. I highly recommend The Map of Salt and Stars for readers who appreciate historical fiction and stories set in diverse cultures, for those who seek stories of strong, independent, confident girls, for readers who would like an ambitious blending of a contemporary and a mythological story (with a bit of magical realism added to the mix), and definitely for readers with Syrian heritage. Even though this story is categorized adult fiction, I think mature middle grade girls and young adults who are looking for literary role models would be engaged by this story and be inspired by the female protagonists.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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map of salt and stars

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

Jennifer Zeynab JoukhadarJennifer Zeynab Joukhadar is a Syrian American author. Originally from New York City, Jennifer was born to a Muslim father and a Christian mother. She is a member of the Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) and of American Mensa. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Kenyon ReviewThe Saturday Evening PostPANK MagazineMizna, and elsewhere. Jennifer is a 2017-2020 Montalvo Arts Center Lucas Artists Program Literary Arts Fellow and an alum of the Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA) and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net.



Link Up for August’s Most Compelling Character

(Please share your most memorable character from your August reading by Linking Up a blog post or in the comments)



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



 Links I Love

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Over the weekend, look for my August Wrap Up post.

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of Anne Tyler’s Clock Dance.

clock dance

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy the story within a story structure?  One book I read with this same story within a story structure was Fredrik Backman’s And My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She Was Sorry. 

Are you looking ahead to fall reading? I have quite a fall TBR list that I’m eager to share with you!



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.

I Was Anastasia

August 24, 2018

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon

I Was Anastasia 2

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Biographical, Mystery

Summary:

For nearly a century, many have speculated about the survival of Anastasia Romanov after her famous political family was forced into a basement in Siberia and executed by firing squad in 1918. Bolshevik executioners claim that no one survived, but in 1920 a young woman surfaces and claims to be the Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia. People who don’t believe her call her Anna Anderson. For years, rumors that Anastasia did survive circulate through Europe. In this story, readers have an opportunity to form their own opinion.

Amazon Rating (August): 3.9 Stars

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed reading the history of Anastasia Romanov and exploring the controversy surrounding her death. Although well written, extensively researched, and creatively structured, I struggled with the backwards telling of Anna’s story. From a writer’s viewpoint, I can imagine that the creative and ambitious structure of the book earns many accolades. From a reader’s viewpoint, I can report that it was challenging and difficult to remain engaged with Anna’s story because of the backward telling. In fairness, others have given it rave reviews.

Structure. There are two characters, Princess Anastasia Romanov who is rumored to have been killed along with her family and Anna Anderson who claims to be Anastasia (assuming that Anastasia miraculously survives the attack on the family). While Anastasia’s story is told in a straightforward, linear manner, Anna’s story is told backwards from when we first meet her as an elderly woman in the beginning of the book (each chapter after that takes the reader backwards in her life). While Anastasia grows older, Ana grows younger until, at the end of the book, the timelines converge and the massacre occurs. At this time Anna is Anastasia’s age and assumes her identity….or is she really Anastasia? The backwards telling of Anna’s story was disorienting and challenging for me….it’s like reading a book starting at the end….so different from our usual expectations. However, I can understand how this helped serve the purpose of the story. Although it’s brilliant, it makes the reader work hard!

Don’t Google. If you are not familiar with the true life story, don’t google it before you read the book. I think it is more engaging to read this without a lot of prior knowledge.

Recommended. I Was Anastasia is recommended for readers who love a well written, fascinating histfic story and for those who would appreciate the challenge of an unusual story structure.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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I was anastasia

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is a critically acclaimed author of historical fiction. She is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, Indie Next, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her husband, four sons, black Lab, and a deranged Siamese cat. She splits her time between the grocery store and the baseball field.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



A Link I Love

Do you enjoy TV and/or a Netflix binge as well as reading? Do you have a favorite series or favorite episodes? I thought this was a great link to explore to see if the episodes listed match yours! 100 Best TV Episodes of the Century



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read a good portion of the list (crossing off one more next week), some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

Next Friday, I hope to bring you a review of The Map of Salt and Stars by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar

map of salt and stars

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Have you enjoyed some extra reading time in August? How are you doing on your Summer TBR goals? Are you already looking ahead to fall reading?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Boat People

August 10, 2018

Refugee or terrorist?

The Boat People by Sharon Bala

Boat People

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Refugee Crisis, Canada, Legal, Cultural Heritage, Sri Lanka, Family Life

Summary:

Refugees or Terrorists? This is the urgent question that faces Canadian officials when a rusty cargo ship carrying five hundred refugees from Sri Lanka appears on Vancouver’s shores. As the “boat people” are thrown into a detention center, rumors circulate that terrorists might be posing as refugees and could create a threat to Canada’s national security. This complex, compelling, and heartfelt story, loosely based on true events from 2010, is told fairly from three perspectives: Mahindan (a refugee), Priya (a lawyer and second generation Sri Lankan Canadian), and Grace (an adjudicator and third generation Japanese Canadian).

My Thoughts:

Relevant, compelling, compassionate, and fair.

What’s at stake: refugees looking for a safe place to start over versus the safety of current citizens. In order to gain asylum, refugees need to prove that their lives are in danger in their home country as well as satisfy the new country that they are not a safety threat. In The Boat People we become acquainted with one refugee, Mahindan, his lawyer, Priya, and an adjudicator, Grace. The adjudicator is torn between compassion and the fear that a refugee (posing as a terrorist) might harm the citizens of Canada. How can one determine if Mahindan is lying or telling the truth? Readers grow to understand and appreciate Grace’s dilemma and wonder about her final ruling in Mahindan’s case.

Mahindan. In this timely story, I think there might be a third choice in labeling Mahindan as a refugee or terrorist, and that would be as a “victim.” Mahindan and his young son are refugees but as their story unfolds, we see that they are also victims of circumstance and war. Mahindan had to make unfortunate choices in Sri Lanka to ensure his survival which come back to haunt him now during the Canadian interrogations. Consider this scenario: if, as a Sri Lankan mechanic, you are forced to service the vehicle of a terrorist who uses that vehicle in a terrorist attack, does this make you a terrorist by association? Mahindan’s life is complicated by war, hunger, fear, violence, desperate people, and uncertainty, and he has to make tragic choices to protect his family. Will he be granted asylum? As a further complication, Mahindan is separated from his young six-year-old son at the detention center, and the story explores the consequences and implications of this decision.

What I liked. I appreciated the opportunity to read this refugee/immigration story from multiple perspectives, and I thought all sides were presented fairly. It’s sobering to consider what refugees are willing to sacrifice as they hang on to hope for a better future. Even though this is fiction, much of it reads like narrative nonfiction as we learn a great deal about the government process of granting asylum. It is certainly an informative,  thought provoking, and timely read in which it’s apparent that immigration issues aren’t as black and white as readers imagine. This is a story that builds empathy, understanding, and compassion.

What could have been better. Although it’s well researched, a compelling read, and a compassionate look at world-wide current events, I thought the author might have attempted to cover too much.  In addition, I would have liked a better resolved ending. Last, I was a bit distracted by the lack of punctuation for dialogue. Is this a new trend? If a reader is reading at a fast rate, it’s difficult to discern the difference between the narrative and a character’s direct words. In fairness, others have read it and reported that they hadn’t even noticed. So consider the punctuation critique as coming from a former 5th grade teacher who tortured children to learn proper punctuation of dialogue and file it under “personal preferences.”

Recommended. I highly recommend The Boat People for fans of compelling historical fiction, for readers who appreciate an in-depth look at a relevant issue in an easily accessed fiction format, and for those who desire to read more diversely. (and for those avant-garde readers who don’t worry about quotations marks!)

My Rating: 4 Stars

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the boat people

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sharon Bala

sharon BalaSharon Bala’s bestselling debut novel, The Boat People, was a finalist for Canada Reads 2018 and the 2018 Amazon Canada First Novel Award. Published in January 2018, it is available worldwide with forthcoming translations in French, Arabic, and Turkish. The unpublished manuscript won the Percy Janes First Novel Award (May 2015) and was short listed for the Fresh Fish Award (October 2015).

In 2017, Sharon won the Journey Prize and had a second story long-listed in the anthology. A three-time recipient of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Arts and Letters award, she has stories published in Hazlitt, Grain, Maisonneuve, The Dalhousie Review, Riddle Fence, Room, Prism international, The New Quarterly, and in an anthology called Racket: New Writing From Newfoundland (Breakwater Books, Fall 2015).

Sharon was born in Dubai, raised in Ontario, and now lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland with her husband, the mathemagician Tom Baird.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

 Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix today!

1000 Books Before Kindergarten



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 Needing a change of pace, this week I’m reading Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan and I am eager to bring you a review next Friday.

Tell Me More

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read The Boat People, how did you feel about the ending? Has reading The Boat People changed your thoughts about the refugee crisis?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

 

An American Marriage

August 3, 2018

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage 2

Genre/Categories: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, African-American, Cultural Heritage, Family Life

Summary:

Celestial and Roy are newlyweds living in the New South. While Celestial is an aspiring artist, Roy is a young executive. Early in their marriage, Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime he didn’t commit. Can their marriage survive the tragic circumstances and the separation? Soon after incarceration, Celestial begins to accept comfort and companionship from Andre, her childhood friend and Roy’s best man at their wedding. When Roy is released from prison five years later, he expects to pick up his life where he’s left off, but a great deal has changed. This is a thoughtful and heartfelt story of love, marriage, family, and friendship, of hope and heartbreak, of loss and starting over.  Amazon Rating (August): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

At first I was reluctant to read an Oprah Book Club selection because of the hype and I was concerned that it might be primarily an issues driven book. However, when my IRL book club chose it for our August read and after reading some positive reviews from respected bloggers, I became more interested. An American Marriage is probably the most surprising good read of the year for me …… I’ve been disappointed before by books that don’t live up to their hype. This one has likely earned a spot on my favorites of the year list.

Themes. If you’ve followed my reviews, you know that one element that endears me to a book is its themes. An American Marriage is filled with relevant themes such as the importance of fathers (absent or present), sustaining marriage through difficult times, troubling incarceration rates of young African Americans, women setting aside traditional roles, stigmas attached to women whose husbands are incarcerated, educated middle class young African Americans and their views of community and family, southern traditions, etc. Issues are presented in this story, but it’s not an issue centered read. I appreciate what the author says about her writing:

“My mentor used to tell me, ‘Write about people and their problems. Don’t write about problems and their people.'”

This is what I loved about this story….it’s about people and their problems and not simply a vehicle for the author to promote opinions or agendas.

Characters. This is not a story filled with all likeable characters. Yet they are authentic, realistic, and well developed. We see their positive and negative attributes and understand their motivations as the story progresses. Throughout the reading, I was unable to predict how this story would resolve and this kept me engaged until the last page.

Recommended. I highly recommend this easy reading, engaging, realistic, and heartfelt story for readers who are looking for a contemporary, diverse read with relevant and timely issues. An American Marriage would make an excellent book club selection and I’m eager to hear what my IRL book club thinks next week.

 My Rating: 4.5 Stars.

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An American Marriage

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Tayari Jones

Tayari JonesTayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Silver Sparrow was named a #1 Indie Next Pick by booksellers in 2011, and the NEA added it to its Big Read Library of classics in 2016. Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, she is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.



Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Links I Love

Counting the days until Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society releases on Netflix! August 10!

People who read books live longer!



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read more than half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 This week I’m reading The Boat People from my Summer TBR and I am eager to bring you a review on Friday.

the boat people

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss

What are you reading this week? Do you enjoy reading diversely?

If you’ve read An American Marriage, how did you feel about the ending?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

July 29, 2018

July’s Most Compelling Character

At month’s end I enjoy identifying the most memorable, compelling, or unforgettable character from the month’s reading. In addition, I’ll provide a Link Up (below) if you’d like to add your own blog post.

compelling character

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Genre/categories: Contemporary Fiction, Friendship, Life Reflection

Summary:

Harold Fry is recently retired and lives in a small English village with his wife. After a long marriage, they have their differences but have settled into an amicable, predictable, and manageable daily routine. One day, a letter arrives for Harold from a woman (former co worker) that he hasn’t heard from in twenty years. Queenie is writing from a hospice to say goodbye. In the process of mailing his reply, Harold decides that he must deliver his message in person and decides to walk. As Harold impulsively sets out on his quest, he figures out the logistics of the six hundred mile journey as he goes. On the way he meets interesting people, finds plenty of time to reflect back on his life, and confronts some unsettling thoughts and feelings that he has buried. Amazon Rating: 4.3 Stars

Meet Harold Fry

Like many of us, Harold has managed to survive life’s circumstances. His mother abandoned him and his father had little time for him and shoved him out the door when he was sixteen. Harold survived a less than meaningful job, an angry boss, and his marriage has lost its shine. Despite difficult circumstances, he was a responsible employee, a faithful and loyal husband, and did the best he could. Like some of us, he also suffered a personal tragedy (which I can’t describe here because it is a spoiler). On this pilgrimage to deliver his letter to Queenie, Harold finds that the solitary act of walking offers a new perspective and this new pace gives him time to notice things and the time to thoughtfully reflect on the past and evaluate his actions and decisions. On this sometimes treacherous journey, he examines regrets and accepts loss, wrestles with grief and faith, and finds joy, healing, and acceptance.

“Life was very different when you walked through it.”

The journey itself is a metaphor for life. Despite life’s disappointments, he’s determined to do something about it. Harold sets a goal, is faced with challenges, overcomes difficulties, meets an assortment of people, and benefits from the help and compassion of many good people along the way.

“He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others.”

Honest and authentic, Harold is truly an unforgettable and compelling character.

Recommended for readers who appreciate poignant themes, a quest for meaning and purpose, and beautiful, thoughtful, and reflective writing. Even though it’s character driven, this endearing story has just enough drama and plot to keep me engaged. This story might appeal more to older readers who have faced more of life’s challenges and disappointments.

Rachel Joyce, author of The Music Shop, has become one of my favorite authors, and I’m glad I read this back title that I missed somehow when it was first published.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars (rounded up to 5 Stars on Goodreads)

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Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Rachel Joyce

Rachel JoyceRachel Joyce is the author of the Sunday Times and international bestsellers The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Perfect. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was short-listed for the Commonwealth Book Prize and long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was awarded the Specsavers National Book Awards New Writer of the Year in 2012. She is also the author of the digital short story A Faraway Smell of Lemon and is the award-winning writer of more than thirty original afternoon plays and classic adaptations for BBC Radio 4. Rachel Joyce lives with her family in Gloucestershire.



Link Up

July’s most compelling character: add your blog link here or leave a comment. Click on the Blue Frog to see Link Ups.



Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



Give Away!

There’s still time to enter my giveaway for A Place For Us. This link will take you to the Blogiversary Give Away post.

My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read about half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 I look forward to providing a July wrap up on 7/31. I’m currently reading An American Marriage (I’ve read mixed reviews of this Oprah Book Club selection so we’ll see how it goes).

An American Marriage

Amazon Information Here



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.



 Let’s Discuss!

Who was the most compelling character from your reading this month? Join the Link Up (above) or leave a comment.

What are you reading this week?



***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price. This money will be used to offset the costs of running a blog and to sponsor giveaways, etc.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Widows of Malabar Hill

July 20, 2018

Perveen Mistry and a challenging case…

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

the widows of malabar hill 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Bombay

Summary:

In this recent release set in 1920s Bombay, India, Preveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected family, joins her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Educated at Oxford, Perveen has a tragic personal history that causes her to be extra vigilant on her new case so that the widows of Malabar Hill are treated fairly after the death of their husband.  As she examines the paperwork, she discovers that the widows who are living in purdah (strict seclusion) have signed over their inheritance to a charity, raising suspicions that they’re being taken advantage of by their guardian. Tensions build and a murder occurs. Because the widows feel uncomfortable speaking with male investigators, Perveen takes responsibility and great personal risk to determine what really happened on Malabar Hill. Throughout the story, readers are also filled in on Perveen’s back story as readers are introduced to her family and friends and learn about her education. Amazon Early Rating (July): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

What I liked:

  • Diversity: I love reading stories from other cultures, and the setting of 1920s Bombay, India is vastly different from my own experiences. In addition, I gained more understanding and awareness of women who live in Purdah.
  • A woman and her dream: Perveen’s professional goal is to work as a lawyer, and although she is allowed to work as a solicitor in her father’s law office she is not allowed to present in court. This part of the story is historical fiction and based on the real experiences of the first woman to practice law in Bombay, India. In the investigation of the Malabar Hill murder, Perveen can speak directly to the widows who live in Purdah more effectively than the male investigators on the case. Because of her past, she’s passionate about protecting the rights of women and children and is determined to help the widows of Malabar Hill, putting her own life at risk in the process.
  • The protagonist: Perveen, an ambitious woman who courageously works toward paving the way for women in the legal profession, is feisty, smart, independent, determined, brave, thoughtful, resourceful, and respectful of her culture. I adore the character of Perveen and rooted for her to solve the murder and to protect the widows’ rights. Furthermore, she is an encouragement for women who are not willing to accept an abusive relationship (not even one time).
  • Father/daughter relationship: This is one of my favorite parts of the story! Perveen has an excellent, trusting, and loving relationship with her father (and her mother). I appreciate reading about great fathers in literature, and it was especially pleasing that the author chose to include him in the context of this male dominated culture.  He respects her personhood and as a solicitor in his practice; he supports and believes in her. At the same time he helps Perveen accomplish her goals, he is also able to respect their culture and operate within cultural and religious expectations. As well as being brilliant in her defense when she seeks a divorce, her father respects her views and passions. He is her biggest cheerleader.
  • Culture: The author creates wonderful visual images of the culture in 1920s Bombay, India, from food to religious groups to family traditions to descriptions of the city itself….so much to enjoy and learn!
  • Favorite Quote:

“The boundaries communities drew around themselves seemed to narrow their lives–whether it was women and men, Hindus and Muslims, or Parsis and everyone else.”

What I’d like you to know:

Although I enjoyed almost all aspects of the story, there is one element that affected my rating:

  • Slow buildup: The mystery in the story appears at about the 50% mark, and the pace of the story picks up at about the 75% point. It’s categorized as a mystery, so I waited somewhat impatiently. The character development, the relationships, and setting descriptions help keep the reader engaged during the early part of the story. Despite the slow build up, I wanted to stick with the story because of the uniqueness and because of some high reviews it has received from trusted reviewers. Some readers who love the story were not affected by the slow build up. Elements like that are certainly subjective. It’s a story I’m glad I read even though the mystery was a small part of the multi faceted story and the beginning was slow-paced. It’s still a solid read. My Rating: 3.5 stars (rounded up to 4 stars on Goodreads).

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Recommended:

This story is recommended for readers who love historical fiction, for those who appreciate a strong, determined, independent, clever, and ambitious female protagonist, for readers who want to immerse themselves in a different culture and expand the diversity of their reading, and for fans of a little mystery and intrigue. Although this is the first book in a series, it can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone.

the widows of malabar hill

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Sujata Massey

sujata masseySujata Massey is an award-winning author of historical and mystery fiction set in Asia.
However, her personal story begins in England, where she was born to parents from India and Germany who began reading to her shortly after her birth. Sujata kept on reading as she grew up mostly in the United States (California, Pennsylvania and Minnesota) and earned her BA from the Johns Hopkins University’s Writing Seminars program. Her first job was as a reporter at the Baltimore Evening Sun newspaper, where she wrote stories about fashion, food and culture. Although she loved her work, she left when she got married to a young naval officer posted to Japan.

Sujata and her husband lived in the Tokyo-Yokohama area which forms most of the settings of her Rei Shimura mysteries. The eleven novel series has collected many mystery award nominations, including the Edgar, Anthony, and Mary Higgins Clark awards, and even won a few: the Agatha and Macavity prizes for traditional mystery fiction. The Rei Shimura mysteries are published in 18 countries. The first book in the series is THE SALARYMAN’S WIFE, and the eleventh is THE KIZUNA COAST which was listed as the most-borrowed ebook is the Self-E Library reads borrowing program for 2016. Rei Shimura mystery short stories are in MURDER MOST CRAFTY, MALICE DOMESTIC 10, AND MURDER MOST CRAFTY.

In 2013, Sujata began writing about India. THE SLEEPING DICTiONARY is a historic espionage novel set in 1930s-40s Calcutta told from a young Bengali woman’s point of view. It’s also out as a Dreamworks audiobook, and is published in India, Italy and Turkey under different titles. This was followed by INDIA GRAY HISTORIC FICTION, an ebook and paperback collection of stories and novellas featuring strong Asian women heroines throughout history. Included is a story featuring Kamala from THE SLEEPING DICTIONARY and a prequel novelette featuring Perveen Mistry. A Perveen story is included in THE USUAL SANTAS, a story anthology to be published in October 2017.

Sujata’s next book is THE WIDOWS OF MALABAR HILL, a historical mystery set in 1920s Bombay that comes out in January 2018 from Soho Press in the US. It also releases as THE MALABAR HILL MYSTERY in February 2018 from Penguin/Random India. The first in the new Perveen Mistry series, it’s an exciting story about Bombay’s first woman lawyer. Perveen, the 23-year-old daughter of a distinguished Parsi family, is convinced her clients–three widows and four children–are in danger. Can she use the law to save them, or will it take more action?




Happy Reading Bookworms!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection!
Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text



My Summer TBR

I’ll be updating my Summer TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often!
(So far I’ve read about half of the list, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Looking Ahead:

 I look forward to providing a July wrap up, choosing the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipating my first blogiversary with a give away (next Friday). My next read will be An American Marriage (I’ve read mixed reviews of this Oprah Book Club selection so we’ll see how it goes).



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Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

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