The Widows of Malabar Hill

July 20, 2018

Perveen Mistry and a challenging case…

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

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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).



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 or seek out diverse reads?

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.

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A Place For Us

July 13, 2018

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

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Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Muslim, Family Life, Cultural Heritage

Summary:

A Place For Us shares the story of an Indian-American Muslim family whom we meet as they gather to celebrate a family wedding. Through flashbacks, readers are filled in on the family dynamics, family history, and become acquainted with the parents, Rafiq and Layla, and their three children, Hadia, Huda, and Amar. Told mostly from the perspectives of Layla, Hadia, and Amar, readers begin to appreciate the complexity of family relationships, understand the bonds that draw the family together, and become acquainted with the personalities along with the insecurities and rivalries that cause conflict. In light of the parents’ conservative Muslim faith and living in California, the children must find their way in reconciling the faith of their parents and their traditional ways with the reality of day-to-day lives, and individual hopes and dreams. At the wedding of the oldest daughter, which breaks with tradition and is a union of love and not arranged by parents, Amar, the prodigal son, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. The last part of the story is told from the father’s heartfelt perspective. This is a story of love, identity, parenting, coming of age, faith, and belonging. Amazon Rating (July early reviews): 4.5 Stars

My Thoughts:

This is by far the best story I’ve read this year! It shattered my 5 star rating scale! In addition to being a favorite this year, it will likely end up on my list of lifetime favorites. A Place For Us includes all the elements I really love in a great story; however, I know reading is personal and you may not feel the same.

Why all the love?

  • Two of the elements I love best in a great story are important themes and well drawn characters. This story features well-developed characters, complicated family dynamics, complex relationships, issues of faith, parenting woes and joys, diversity, moral dilemmas, regrets, compassion, grace, loyalty, finding one’s voice, etc. I love that at the end of conflict, misunderstanding, best intentions, and brokenness, there is grace and mercy and love.

What about the themes?

When I first considered the book, I wondered what I would have in common with a Muslim family and ended the read filled with compassion, empathy, and understanding…and thinking that we have more similarities than differences.  Here are some of the themes that were the most thought provoking:

  • Conservative religious values: I was raised in a conservative religious home and I relate to some of the concerns the children experience when reconciling the strict expectation of the parents with the secular culture in which they are growing up.
  • Parenting: worrying about each child for different reasons, striving to make things fair while meeting individual needs, trying one’s best (having good intentions) and still making mistakes, failure, heartache and grief if there’s estrangement, etc.
  • A woman’s independence and voice in a male dominated culture.
  • Parents that are broken by regret and grief.
  • Children seeking parental approval and blessing.
  • Sibling competition, achievement, support, loyalty.
  • A parent’s helplessness and concern over a struggling child.
  • A young adult’s need to differentiate from the family.
  • Fathers that are broken by regret and grief.
  • Traditions.
  • Faith
  • Prodigal son.
  • The immigrant experience causes me to consider what my great grandparents faced as immigrants.

What did I appreciate?

I appreciate the multi faceted, multi layered, kind, insightful, compassionate, and gentle look at family and faith. I find it refreshing that it wasn’t a dysfunctional family….just a real one with authentic and relatable problems. At the end, though, it seems like it’s the son’s story (Amar), and I’d love a sequel!

Favorite Quote:

“Of all my mistakes the greatest, the most dangerous, was not emphasizing the mercy of God.”  ~Rafiq

Recommended:

I highly recommend A Place For Us for readers who love well written, thoughtful, and poignant family drama, for those who desire more diversity in their reading life or for those who are in a Muslim family, and for readers who don’t want to miss out on one of the most talked about and highly rated books of the year.

What I’d like you to know, though, is that the author’s use of flashbacks makes the reader work hard in the beginning to construct understanding as the flashbacks move swiftly from character to character and hop between time periods; one reviewer remarks that it is like looking through a kaleidoscope and every time it turns we see the story change, creating a new picture that allows readers to see different facets that provide a deeper understanding. It was my experience that as the story progressed and I became more comfortable with the author’s style and became better acquainted with the characters, the reading became easier.

My Rating: 5+ Stars

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a place for us

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Fatima Farheen Mirza

fatima farheen mirza

Fatima Farheen Mirza was born in 1991 and raised in California. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship.

 

 



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 a handful, some I’ve been more thrilled with than others, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Two Links I Love:

Castle of Water, a favorite read from last year, as been picked up for a movie!

The Novel Endeavor: Summer Reading Guide For Families: Adoption Stories



Looking Ahead:

 For the remainder of July I’m expecting to review The Widows of Malabar Hill, provide a July wrap up, choose the most compelling character from July reading, and also anticipate my first blogiversary with a give away (tbd).

the widows of malabar hill

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 some of the most memorable family stories that you’ve read? Do you enjoy or seek out diverse reads?

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 Convenience Store Woman

June 22, 2018

Quirky character…Japanese culture…finding your niche……conformity…

The Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata

convenience store woman

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Japanese Culture, Conformity, Short Fiction

Summary:

Keiko Furukura grows up labeled a “strange child,” and her parents worry about her ability to function in the real world and about her future success.  While at university, Keiko begins a job at a local convenience store. After eighteen years, her parents and friends worry that she doesn’t have a real career and has never had a boyfriend. Even though Keiko is successful as a convenience store worker and enjoys her job, she feels the pressure to live up to her parents’ expectations. What will she do?

In addition to an interesting character study, the story also provides readers a glimpse into the Japanese popular convenience store culture.

Pressure to conform versus self fulfillment is a strong theme in this short fiction work.

My Thoughts:

“What does society do with people who live on the edges who don’t pursue what others have declared as acceptable? Who don’t live according to the unwritten manual? Are they disposable and useless?”

Quirky characters striving to live their best lives interest me, and Keiko captured my heart. As we get to know Keiko as a convenience store worker, readers learn a bit about convenience stores (konbinis) in Japanese culture as a bonus. Different from U. S. 7-Eleven Stores, well-stocked Japanese convenience stores (konbinis) offer healthier prepared food, pride themselves on excellent customer service, and offer services not offered by U.S. 7-Elevens. Here’s one link you can follow to find out more.

Despite being labeled as a strange child, Keiko feels secure and safe at work, and she loves that all the workers are equal when they’re in their uniforms. The routine tasks of the store help her feel normal. She buys most of her meals at the convenience store and doesn’t know how to be normal outside of her work environment. Keiko is dedicated to her job and the sounds of the store comfort and calm her and become the soundtrack of her life.

It occurrs to me that Keiko might fall on the autism spectrum (undiagnosed and not mentioned as a possibility in the story). Keiko knows she’s not “normal” and copies clothing styles, mannerisms, and speech patterns of her peers in smart, valiant, and courageous attempts to gain acceptance. Keiko loves her job as a convenience store worker and excels in the position (organization, stocking, customer service, selling, etc). Her job is everything to her. After eighteen years, her family and friends think she should get a real career or at least get married. Keiko earnestly and bravely attempts to meet their expectations. Will she find happiness outside the comfort and security of the convenience store?

The only part of the story I am less than thrilled with is a certain male character (former employee in the convenience store) whom she “adopts.” I’m certain he’s an important symbol that we’d all have a great time discussing in a lit class! He goes beyond quirky and in my opinion is creepy, a manipulator, and an opportunist. I’d love to hear the author expound on why she chose this character for her story.

Overall, I love Keiko and admire her self awareness and determination. Days after reading the last page, I still think about her and wish her the best.

Recommended for readers who have lived in or are from Japan, for those who love quirky characters fighting against the odds, and for readers who might be looking for a short fiction read set in another culture.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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convenience store women

Buy Here

Meet the Author,
Sayaka Murata

sayaka MurataSayaka Murata is one of Japan’s most exciting contemporary writers. She still works part time in a convenience store, which was the inspiration to write Convenience Store Woman, her English-language debut and winner of one of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, the Akutagawa Prize. She was named a Freeman’s “Future of New Writing” author, and her work has appeared in Granta and elsewhere. In 2016, Vogue Japan selected her as a Woman of the Year.

 



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 a handful, and I’ve only abandoned one)



Links I Love:

SAVE THE DATE: Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society movie is releasing on Netflix August 10!!!

This might be fun for summer: SnapShop Kids: Online Photography Class For Kids (and the entire family!)

More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids

In case you missed it: my post highlighting some diverse reading recommendations for MG children here.

If you are a fan of the Louise Penny “Inspector Gamache” series, here’s a new interview with the author who has a new installment in the series coming out in November.

This is an interesting podcast featuring an interview with Gail Honeyman, author of “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.”



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be revealing my most memorable and compelling character from my June reading. Link Up opportunity available.

Also, I hope to be reading The Ensemble and reviewing it soon. I’ve been #1 on the library hold list for at least 3 weeks, so it should be coming in any day.

ensemble.

***Cover Love***

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 like reading about quirky characters? My recent favs are Eleanor (Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine), Ginny (Ginny Moon), Ove (A Man Called Ove), Britt-Marie (Britt-Marie Was Here), and Frank (The Music Shop). Who are yours?

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 photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

Force of Nature

June 12, 2018

Lost in the Australian Bush….what would you do?

Force of Nature
by Jane Harper

force of nature 2

Genre/Categories: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Detective, Suspense, Australia

Summary:

Five women go on a hike in the Australian forested wilderness and only four return. As the women grab their backpacks and reluctantly set out, not one of the five women attending this three-day, mandated, corporate, team-building retreat is thrilled about the prospect. When four of the five women emerge from the woods battered and bruised, an investigation is launched to find the fifth woman. Federal agent Falk returns to help the investigation, and the story alternates between the present day investigation and the women’s experiences as the hike unfolded a few days earlier. Was the fifth woman murdered? Amazon Rating (June): 4.2 stars

My Thoughts:

If you’ve read The Dry, you’ll recognize Jane Harper’s ability to develop intriguing characters and a tangible and distinct sense of place, which in the case of Force of Nature is mountainous, wet, cold, dark, desolate, and windy. Described as an atmospheric thriller, Force of Nature was a just right read for me as a highly sensitive person. There is tension, but not too scary or unbearable. A person is missing, but it’s not overly terrifying for the reader. For me, the most dynamic parts of the story are the complex and strained relationships, the plot driven story, and the setting.

My only (slight) disappoint is that the romantic in me wished there had been more personal closure for Agent Falk since I am under the impression that his appearances are limited to her first two books. That being said, I did appreciate the “adult” way Falk’s attraction to his colleague was written by Harper; i.e. no YA “insta love” or overly passionate or unrealistic romantic escapades.

Jane Harper is a new author (this is her second work), and I’m confidant I’ll enjoy following her for years to come! Although the two books can be read as stand alones, I think it’s a richer reading experience to read The Dry first as it introduces the character and background of Agent Falk. Also, I think The Dry is slightly more suspenseful with more plot twists. However, I rate each book as a solid 4 star read.

Recommended for readers who are fans of Jane Harper and The Dry, readers who enjoy atmospheric mysteries and crime fiction, those who are looking for an undemanding, easy reading yet engaging, well written, and unputdownable vacation read, readers who are looking for clean reads (limited vulgarity, violence, etc), and readers who might have visited the Giralang Range of Australia. Her second work is on par with her first, and I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

My Rating: 4 Atmospheric Stars

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Force of Nature

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Jane Harper

Jane HarperJane Harper’s debut novel The Dry is an atmospheric thriller set in regional Australia.
The novel won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2015 and rights have since been sold in more than 20 territories.
The Dry was a No.1 bestseller in Australia and has been optioned for a film by Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea’s production company, Pacific Standard.
Jane worked as a print journalist for 13 years both in Australia and the UK and lives in Melbourne with her family.



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



Links I Love:

More about summer reading for children in this link: The Ardent Biblio: How to Design a Summer Reading Program For Your Kids

In case you missed it: my post highlighting some diverse reading recommendations for MG children here.



Looking Ahead:

Us Against YouFriday, I’ll review Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown.



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?



***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 photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

The Music Shop

May 25, 2018

The Music Shop
by Rachel Joyce

the music shop

Genre/categories: Fiction, Friendship, Music

Summary:

Set in the 1980s on a run-down street in a forgotten suburb of London, there is a small indie music shop that is jam-packed with vinyl records of every kind. Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with the exact piece of music they never knew they needed, he welcomes the lonely, and he goes out of his way to help others. One ordinary day, a beautiful young woman in a green coat, Ilse Brauchmann, comes into his music shop and changes his life. Frank feels an attraction to her and yet he fears developing any closeness; in spite of his reservations, he begins to teach her about music and they develop a close friendship based on their common musical interests. Frank is terrified of his feelings for Ilse, yet he’s drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. It’s complicated because Ilse has secrets and Frank has a past that haunts him. Readers find out about Frank’s life with his eccentric mother through flashbacks; however, Ilse remains mysterious. While Frank and Ilse contemplate the risks of a relationship, there are events in the community that threaten the livelihood of all the small, independent shops including Frank’s music shop. A further complication for Frank, is the growing popularity of cassette tapes and CDs while Frank cherishes the world of vinyl.

Themes:

Despite the probability of a relationship between Frank and Ilse, the main theme of the book explores healing more than romance. Other themes involve music appreciation as readers are treated to a variety of musical discussions; in addition, the theme of friendship is strong as readers meet loyal, delightful, memorable, and flawed characters. As a bonus, there is a spotify playlist for the music selections mentioned in the story so that you can listen as you read.     bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist

Amazon Rating: 4.4 Stars  (*Language Alert)

May compelling character

Join the Link Up below.

Meet Frank, May’s Most Compelling Character

I have a soft spot in my heart for a quirky character who is overcoming a difficult and turbulent past and taking risks to create a better life. In the spirit of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, A Man Called Ove, and Britt-Marie Was Here, readers come to understand and love Frank. Through this gentle and heart-felt story, we notice that Frank has a gift of listening to each customer and recommending a perfect piece of music to touch that person’s soul. In spite of a fear of love and connection, we see that Frank has gained the love and support of the small community on Unity Street. On this aptly named street, these small, independent shop owners stick together, form a community, and care for one another in tough economic times and tragedies. Like many people who are busy loving their neighbors, Frank has difficulty accepting their love and attention in return. As with many independent store owners, he carefully provides personal service to each customer (paying or not). His greatest gift is the ability to listen, his greatest heartache is his devotion to and preservation of vinyl, and his greatest fear is having what he most wants, the love of mysterious Ilse.

Recommendation and Rating:

In this heartfelt story, Frank and Ilse take risks and the healing power of music and love is poignantly illustrated. This book may not be for everyone, but I loved it! Highly recommended for readers who love music, readers who appreciate quirky, flawed characters struggling to make a better life despite their past, and for readers who love memorable themes of healing, persistence, risk taking, loyalty, friendship, music appreciation, and community. I had it rated a solid 4 stars until the ending which had me in tears, and that’s when I knew this story had earned 5 stars. (*language alert)

Remember to listen to The Music Shop Playlist on Spotify as you read!  bit.ly/TheMusicShopPlaylist

My Rating: 5 romantic stars

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music shop

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 shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and has been translated into thirty-six languages. Joyce was named the Specsavers National Book Awards “New Writer of the Year” in 2012. She is also the author of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Music Shop, and 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.



May’s Most Memorable Character Link Up



 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



PBS: The Great American Read

How many books have you read of the hundred on the list? Which ones will you vote for? Were you surprised by any on the list? Do you plan to vote on your favorite reads? I’ve already voted once for Gone With the Wind!



Links I Love

Modern Mrs. Darcey: Summer Reading Guide (books by category)
*I linked to this list last week, but Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcey) has sorted the books on the list into categories which is helpful and interesting…..several titles on my summer TBR are from this list (and there are a few that I’m not reading based on descriptions).

The Novel Endeavor: Summer Reading Guide for Families: Fairy Tale Retellings

Perspective of a Writer: Passport to international Travel Through Reading (book recs to take you around the world!)



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting some summer recs for kids (while I’m reading Backman’s new release Us Against You……sequel to Beartown….. releasing 6/5).



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!

I’d love to hear about the most memorable character from your May reading in the comments or in the link up above.

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately and/or your thoughts about The Great American Read sponsored by PBS.



***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 photos are credited to Amazon or an author’s website.

A Rec For You, Mom!

May 11, 2018

mom and me mother's day

Here’s a book recommendation I think you’ll like, Mom!

Mom didn’t grow up loving to read, but she always made sure that her three girls were surrounded by library books and read to us when we were little. Mom admits that when she was in high school, she bribed her older sister to write her book reports. After graduation she went to business school in preparation for secretarial work. As a new wife and young mother, she had limited free time as most of her time was spent on labor intensive and time-consuming farm chores (in the days before our modern conveniences). Later when my father became a pastor, she spent her free evenings ironing his white shirts. Finally when her daughters were in high school and she went back to college, she began reading for her own pleasure. After she discovered the joy of reading and found herself with more free time, she was always in the middle of a book and today she reads all of my recommendations; in fact, we share an Amazon kindle account. In addition to a myriad of individual titles, we’ve read and loved the Louise Penny Inspector Gamache series and the Alexander McCall Smith #1 Ladies Detective series. Sharing books is a joy! It’s difficult for me to imagine a time in her life when she didn’t read.

I think you’ll like the title I’m recommending today, Mom!

The Way of Beauty
by Camille Di Maio

the way of beauty 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Family, Romance, New York City, Penn Station

*Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, Welcome!

Summary:

As a child in the early 1900s in New York City, Vera Keller falls in love with a childhood friend who is nine years older than she. Through the years, they remain close. Although Angelo acts like her older brother, Vera is convinced that someday they will marry. One day she is shocked when he introduces her to his fiance, Pearl. Despite her heartbreak, Vera and Pearl become friends and Pearl introduces her to the Suffragette Movement. As Vera becomes entangled in their lives, her love for Angelo never dies. As a result of her love for Angelo and her commitment to Pearl’s cause, Vera has many challenges and difficult choices to make. The latter half of the book is told from Vera’s daughter’s perspective. Her daughter, Alice, enjoys benefits from the Suffragette Movement but also faces her own challenges in caring for her ailing father and in choosing between two men whom she loves. Early Amazon Star Rating (May): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Do you have fond memories of a certain landmark that you associate with a memorable event in your life? (For my husband and I, it’s In ‘N Out hamburger stands!) Are you old enough to have grieved the demise of certain landmarks or symbols? Have you ever remarked “Remember when…”? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, you may find this story especially meaningful.

Although romance plays a large role in this story, there’s so much more. Readers gain historical insight into and appreciation for New York City’s historic Penn Station and for the daring and visionary women who led the Suffragette Movement. At the center of everything, there’s a sweet and heartfelt story of family and individual determination.

In addition to poignant themes of friendship, true love, family loyalty and support, hopes and dreams, class distinctions, privilege, strong and independent women, sacrifice, perseverance, progress, and preservation of the past, you will find lovable and memorable characters and an engaging story line.

Highly recommended for fans of historical fiction and multi generational stories, for those who love descriptive historical perspectives of the time period and architecture, for New Yorkers, and for readers who are looking for an engaging, captivating, unputdownable, and enjoyable read.

My Rating: 4 Stars

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I hope you enjoy this week’s recommendation, Mom!

mothers-day

candle for mom

 

the way of beauty

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Camille Di Maio

camille di maioCamille recently left an award-winning real estate career in San Antonio to become a full-time writer. Along with her husband of twenty years, she enjoys raising their four children. She has a bucket list that is never-ending, and uses her adventures to inspire her writing. She’s lived in Texas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and California, and spends enough time in Hawai’i to feel like a local. She’s traveled to four continents (so far), and met Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II. She just about fainted when she had a chance to meet her musical idol, Paul McCartney, too. Camille studied political science in college, but found working on actual campaigns much more fun. She overdoses on goodies at farmers markets (justifying them by her support for local bakeries) and belts out Broadway tunes whenever the moment strikes. There’s almost nothing she wouldn’t try, so long as it doesn’t involve heights, roller skates, or anything illegal. “The Memory of Us” is Camille’s debut novel and is a finalist for the Holt Medallion Award for Literary Excellence. Her second, “Before the Rain Falls” was released in May 2017. Her third, “The Way of Beauty” is available now.



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



Links I Love

The Novel Endeavor: Books for Mom: A Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Love, Peace & Raspberry Cordial: Anne of Green Gables, My Daughter, and Me

A Lovely Photography Blog @ A Rosy Note

Recipes and thoughtful reflections from The Thankful Heart



In Case You Missed It…….Last Week’s Post Listing Bookish Gift Ideas For Mom



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I plan to talk about summer reading (in eager anticipation of Modern Mrs Darcy’s 2018 Summer Reading Guide to be released in a few days!). I’m also selecting something from my Spring TBR list to read (still waiting for library holds).



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!

I’d love to hear about your memorable landmarks!

Also, please share what you’ve been reading lately!



Happy Mother’s Day to my followers who are celebrating! 

happy mothers day wreath

candle for mom



***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.

My Dear Hamilton

April 27, 2018

open book graphic

My Dear Hamilton
by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

my dear hamilton 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, U.S. History, Revolutionary War, Founders, Biographical

***Linking up today with Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over from there, welcome! Enjoy your stay and look around!

Summary:

A general’s daughter, Elizabeth Schuyler meets and marries Alexander Hamilton amid the union’s fight for independence and the uncertainties of war. Eliza and Alexander find themselves establishing their life together at the same time as they are at the center of our nation’s founding. Authors Dray and Kamoie used thousands of letters and original sources to imagine Eliza’s story as a patriot, loving wife, political partner, loyal friend, supportive sister, and devoted mother of eight. Amazon Rating (April Early Reviews): 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

Meet Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton:

If you’ve seen Hamilton the Musical or read Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton or if you’re a fan of historical fiction and the American Revolution, trust me, My Dear Hamilton needs to be your next read! Currently, it occupies first place in the “best book I’ve read in 2018” category. 5+ stars

As modern women, it’s amazing to immerse ourselves into the stories and lives of strong and independent women living at a time when a woman’s well-being, success, and status were subject to a husband’s or father’s control, permission, and blessing. As Eliza Hamilton looked to her mentor, Martha Washington, it’s inspiring to hear about her influence and achievements despite the constraints.

Supportive and Faithful

Feisty and adventuresome by nature, Eliza is expected to be a quiet and supportive wife. Although she struggles with the quiet part (sometimes using it to her advantage), she is certainly supportive and loyal and holds dearly to her father’s military motto of “semper fidelis” meaning ‘always faithful’ in Latin. Throughout her life, this motto is one of her most highly held values.

“Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Intelligent and Independent

As an intelligent woman and independent thinker, Eliza is revealed as a participant with Hamilton in personal debate on difficult issues, as his sounding board, and as a collaborator and writing partner. She holds definite views on slavery and earnestly strives to reconcile her personal ideals with the realities of the world in which she lives.

Determined Restorer

Alexander is a complicated and complex man, and Eliza and Alexander have a complicated relationship. Forgiveness is a major and poignant theme in the story as Eliza struggles to comprehend and forgive her husband’s betrayals. Authors Dray and Kamoie provide vivid details of Hamilton’s traumatic childhood experiences and imagine well constructed, dramatic, and tender dialogue between Eliza and Alexander that allows readers to truly understand the motivations that might drive some of his actions and also to fully appreciate and comprehend the source and sincerity of Eliza’s forgiveness.

“But the measure of a man, of a life, of a union of man and wife or even country is not in the falling. It’s in the rising back up again to repair what’s broken, to put right what’s wrong. Your father and I did that. We always did that. He never stopped trying until the day he died. And neither will I.”
Eliza Hamilton

Partners

Eliza is Hamilton’s most valued and treasured partner as she’s able to help him strategize, think, and write. She is strong enough to calm him, challenge him, and help him reason out the best actions and plans. She becomes his only personal confidant whom he learns to trust.

Compassionate

We also see that Eliza is a compassionate person. Most compelling is the compassion she shows to her husband after agonizing about his betrayal, eventually deciding that all the good outweighs the bad and that he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Her compassion extends to those in need, and even though she is the mother of several children, she takes in a young child whose parents have died and raises this child as her own. In addition, she invests a great deal of time establishing and supporting orphanages.

As I stared at this man who’d once been an abandoned child, I became even more certain of my decision to take Fanny into our household. “All children need love, and we are blessed to have more than enough to spare.”

My husband had a gift for government, but I had a gift for charity. A talent for it, if there be such a thing. I’d already helped to found a society to care for widows, an orphanage to shelter children, and a school to provide guidance and learning….. “Then what is this school? What is your orphanage? These things seek to expand the promise of America. To give opportunity to all as free citizens.”
~Eliza Hamilton

Hostess

Eliza is a gifted hostess with a warm sense of hospitality. Not only does she host political meetings for her husband, but everyone who comes to her door is welcomed, cared for, treated to baked goods, and entertained regardless of their points of view.

Advocate

Eliza is committed to preserving Hamilton’s legacy and spends decades creating a record of her husband’s contributions to the Founding. It seems fitting that a woman who is devoted to telling her husband’s story and recording his achievements should also have her story told because it’s truly their story and legacy. Dray and Kamoie are committed to sharing Eliza’s story of heartache, hardship, endurance, determination, and devotion so that we can appreciate and recognize her vital participation with Hamilton to establish the ideals and structures upon which our country was founded.

Recommended

This is one time I wish I could award more than 5 stars to a story. Not only has Eliza earned a spot in my reading as April’s most memorable character, she is likely one of the year’s most memorable characters.

Highly recommended for fans of America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie, Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow, and Hamilton the Musical. Also, this is a valuable read for all fans of well-researched and well written historical fiction about ordinary women doing extraordinary things in the most difficult circumstances. Add this title to your favorite reads about the Founding, and to your collection of stories featuring strong, independent women. It makes history come alive! It’s a perfect companion read with Chernow’s.

I’d love to hear in comments or link up a post about your favorite and most memorable characters from your April reading.

My Rating: 5+ stars

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my dear hamilton

Buy Here

Meet the Authors,
Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

Stephanie Dray

Stephanie Dray is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal & USA Today bestselling author of historical women’s fiction. Her award-winning work has been translated into eight languages and tops lists for the most anticipated reads of the year. She lives near the nation’s capital with her husband, cats, and history books.

MORE ways to connect with Stephanie:
* Website: StephanieDray.com
* Facebook: facebook.com/stephaniedrayauthor

 

Laura Kamoie

A New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of historical fiction, Laura Kamoie has always been fascinated by the people, stories, and physical presence of the past, which led her to a lifetime of historical and archaeological study and training. She holds a doctoral degree in early American history from The College of William and Mary, published two non-fiction books on early America, and most recently held the position of Associate Professor of History at the U.S. Naval Academy before transitioning to a full-time career writing genre fiction. She is the author of AMERICA’S FIRST DAUGHTER and MY DEAR HAMILTON, co-authored with Stephanie Dray, allowing her the exciting opportunity to combine her love of history with her passion for storytelling. Laura lives among the colonial charm of Annapolis, Maryland with her husband and two daughters. http://www.LauraKamoie.com




Link Up

Please join the Link Up by submitting a blog post about the most compelling character from your April reading or leave a comment.

 



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



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting a few suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts.



Sharing is Caring

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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading and who you thought was the most memorable character from your April reading! You are welcome to link up or leave a comment.

Author Spotlight

April 21, 2018

authors spotlight

Do you like to attend author events? Or is an author event something you’ve always wanted to do?

This weekend I was thrilled to attend a Historical Fiction Author Brunch sponsored by a local library where (l to r) Michelle Gable (A Paris Apartment & The Summer I Met Jack), Susan Meissner (As Bright As Heaven), and Laura Kamoie (America’s First Daughter & My Dear Hamilton) were panelists.

author panel

It was a delightful morning surrounded by bookish peeps, delightful bookish conversation, and delicious food. I eagerly looked forward to this event because I had read two of the three authors’ works.

 

 

Highlights

Research

Interesting discussion among the panelists included how much all three enjoy the research part of writing historical fiction (sometimes more than the writing!), and they also mentioned the perils and the pleasures. Perils included going down rabbit trails and accumulating too much information or not enough. For example, as they approach reading a book as part of their research, they realize it’s common to take away only one small fact or detail from the entire book that they’ve read. All three of them emphasized that the research process is extremely pleasurable for them. I’ve always appreciated the quantity of research that goes into writing histfic. Now I won’t feel sorry for them!

Authors & Their Work

 It’s wonderful to hear authors speak of their work, and here are a few highlights. In addition, I’ll indicate which of their works I’ve read along with my review or Amazon summary and star rating.

Author: Laura Kamoie

A unique fact about Laura Kamoie’s most recent books is that she wrote them in partnership with Stephanie Dray. Co-authorship is a strategy their editor advised against; however, it has worked well for them. In fact, their editor reports that he can’t tell which one has written which section. Laura is a historian (previously taught history at the Naval Academy) and spoke extensively about the amount of research she conducts for her writing. She indicates that she and Stephanie had so much information for My Dear Hamilton that their editor made them cut thousands of words (and it’s still 652 pages!). Laura spoke earnestly about her passion for writing stories about women in history whose contributions have been overlooked. She is not surprised that when she researches men that there are thousands of primary source documents available; whereas for women there might be only 200 available. I appreciate hearing stories about independent and strong women and will continue to be interested in her work.

American’s First Daughter (Full Review Here)    

America's First Daughter

 My Rating: 5 Stars twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

My Dear Hamilton (I’m in the process of reading this…review coming soon)

my dear hamilton

Amazon Rating: 4.8 Stars



Author: Susan Meissner

As Bright As Heaven is the only Meissner book I have read. I’d like to read her back list some day. Whereas Laura Kamoie focuses on writing biographical historical fiction, Susan likes to create fictional characters and families and keep the historical focus on the location, time period, and events. She greatly enjoys creating imaginary people and families. One interesting fact about As Bright As Heaven is that she structured it in a similar way as The Poisonwood Bible (one of her favorite books) in that the story is told from a mother’s and her girls’ perspectives. She reports that she read Poisonwood Bible several times in preparation for writing a book like As Bright as Heaven (the only way they are similar is in the structure).

As Bright As Heaven (Full Review Here)

As Bright as Heaven

My Rating: 4 Stars   twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star
(I always debate between 4 & 5 stars….this could easily be a 5 star read for me because I keep thinking about this story and recommending it!)



Author: Michelle Gable

I haven’t read any of Michelle’s work. A Paris Apartment received mixed reviews and I’m still on the fence about it. I’ll probably read it now that I’ve met the author. Look at the reviews to see what you think! One interesting fact that Michelle shared with us is that she wrote it (every word!) entirely with pencil using a pad of paper sitting behind the screen at her children’s softball games. Multitasking at its finest! She wrote The Summer I Met Jack the same way and its release date is 5/29/2018.

A Paris Apartment (not yet read or reviewed)

a paris apartment

Amazon Rating: 4.0 Stars

The Summer I Met Jack (release date: 5/29/2018)

the summer I met jack



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



Looking Ahead:

Come back Friday when I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



Sharing is Caring

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!

I’d love to hear about authors you’ve met or would like to meet!

I was excited to hear that Fredrik Backman is doing an author event at the Barnes & Noble (in Huntington Beach for SoCal peeps), but was discouraged that attendees have to get there by 9:00 a.m. to get a wrist band which will give them a place in line for the evening event. No thanks! I’d much rather buy a ticket on line than to spend all day trying to get one. But if you’re in SoCal and want to see him, the information is on the Huntington Beach Barnes and Noble website. He’s also at different locations in the U.S. as part of a book tour. I imagine they’ll be quite popular events!

Rash: A Memoir

April 20, 2018

Rash: A Memoir
by Lisa Kusel

Rash 2

Genre/categories: memoir, Indonesia, travel, expat

Summary:

In the midst of living a comfortable life in California, Lisa Kusel encourages her husband to consider a teaching position at an international school in Bali. In six weeks, the family makes a “rash” and radical move to “paradise.” Looking for happiness and inspiration for writing, all Lisa finds in Bali are challenges that threaten her peace of mind, her marriage, her husband’s professional happiness, and her daughter’s safety. Throughout her candid, engaging, and well-told memoir, Lisa explores the difficulties of relocation and assimilation into a different culture and the pursuit of happiness. Adding to the pressure, Lisa’s husband’s position as a teacher in a start up international school is not all that had been promised. Will Lisa find happiness? Amazon (early reviews) 4.8 Stars

My Thoughts:

“Eat, Love, Pray” gone wrong…

The grass is always greener…

No matter where you go, there you are…

Privilege….

Memoirs always intrigue me! Thank you to Lisa Kusel for sending me her memoir in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

How many times have we each thought how much happier we’d be if only…. If only I had a different house….. If only I could lose 10 pounds….. If only I could take a vacation this year…… If only I could win the lottery…..  If only…..

This was Lisa’s frame of mind as she contemplated a move to Bali:

“I would reinvest myself. I would find contentment. I would be present. Victor and I would fall in love all over again. Bali would make that happen. Bali. How tropical and flowery that sounded. Yes, if we moved to Bali, all would be light and golden and I’d……..

I think if I moved to Bali, I’d learn how to stop searching for something new all the time and be grateful for what I have.”

Although I have enough life experience to predict where this memoir would likely lead, I was pleasantly surprised by the conversational, casual, chatty, and witty writing style. Lisa has an incredible ability to tell an engaging story filled with humorous details and vivid descriptions. Reading it felt like meeting her for coffee and hearing the story in person. On a few occasions, I laughed out loud. My only difficulty with the narrative was her use of profanity. I realize that this is a personal preference and that other readers may be fine with it; however, I prefer to experience a more limited use of profanity in my reading.

Readers who have expat experiences or have visited Bali (not the resorts) may find this memoir especially interesting as Lisa provides a great deal of cultural details and observations in her honest and reflective narrative.

While Lisa’s husband and five-year-old daughter take cultural adjustments in stride and try to make the best of a difficult and new situation, Lisa dwells in unhappiness. She fears that they might have made a “rash” decision to relocate to Bali but also worries that her daughter might develop a “rash” indicating dengue fever. Lisa’s excessive and persistent unhappiness and her inability to assimilate lead to tension in her marriage and a less than positive reputation among the locals and the school staff. Readers can appreciate her predicament based on her idea that moving to Bali would make her a happier person. Many of us realize that circumstances cannot provide real happiness because it’s an inner state of being. Can one choose to be happy in a difficult cultural environment and in a less than ideal living situation?

I appreciate the author’s honest reflections and her struggle toward rediscovering happiness:

“When had I stopped being just happy? …..  I’d been moody. Too quick to anger and accusation. I was often a dark presence, hovering over Victor’s life like a bitch balloon; a Pigpen cloud of ugliness following me around. Sometimes, I remembered, no one, not even me, wanted to be with me……I no longer knew how to appreciate all that was good and beautiful in my life. I was stuck. Could that be why I was so desperate to move to Bali?”

Have you, too, chased happiness? I think the theme of happiness is one to which most us can relate. In my younger years, as a mom with littles, struggling along trying to make ends meet on my husband’s meager salary, I remember thinking one Sunday that if only we had money to go to a fast food place for tacos after church (as many of my friends did) that I’d be happy. It seemed like that would be the secret to my happiness and a well-lived life. I wasn’t asking to win the lottery–just a few cheap tacos. I was sure that the happiness quotient of my life would greatly increase when we could drive through and get tacos after church instead of going home to make lunch. I clearly remember feeling cheated and miserably sorry for myself.

In addition to a theme of happiness, there is also the theme of cultural differences and privilege. As the author describes the Bali culture in great detail, readers can imagine themselves living in that environment. Lisa has a difficult time accepting the lack of air conditioning and flushing toilets, windowless huts, inadequate medical care, spotty electricity and internet, etc that she is privileged to have access to in the U.S. I follow the blog of a missionary in Haiti and she often writes about her happiness and contentment factor and cultural assimilation as she reflects on safety concerns and what her family may be missing by not living in the U.S. Her family proactively works on creating experiences within the Haiti culture that will meet the needs of their growing family. I admire expats who experience a few rough years of adjustment in the beginning and can create a lifestyle of contentment and happiness despite very difficult circumstances. Lisa reminds us of the challenge.

“I must stop looking to others for happiness. It’s right here, always available for the taking, and I have to stop blaming Victor and the rest of the planet’s inhabitants for any and all that goes wrong. There was only this one moment. This now. And I needed to embrace it.”

In the memoir, Lisa comes to an intellectual grasp of happiness; however, she falls short of showing the reader what that looks like in her life when she returns to the U.S. I wonder today if she is truly happy. Is she able to put into practice the insights she gained? Can happiness be learned through disciplined practice or will it always elude us?

Rash: A Memoir is recommended for readers who appreciate candid, reflective writing exploring themes of happiness and cultural differences, for expats (especially those who have lived or traveled in Bali), and for readers who love engaging memoirs.  ***Language***

My Rating: 4 Stars

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rash

Buy Here

Meet the Author, Lisa Kusel

lisa kuselLisa was born in New Jersey two miles from where Thomas Alva Edison first recorded sound. She went to college and studied biology and theater arts. She went to graduate school and studied environmental anthropology. After years of writing copy for non-profits, selling surplus cosmetics in Russia, and living off rich married men, she accepted an editorial position at that little-known Open Office competitor, Microsoft. There she created MATTER, the company’s first online magazine read by the 34 people who were patient enough to wait the twelve minutes it took the GIFs to download through their 56K modems.

She got married. Left Microsoft. Went to Africa. Moved back to California. She wrote two books: “Other Fish in the Sea” and “Hat Trick.” Wrote another one after that about WWII–not yet published. Then she moved to Bali to save her wounded marriage, and wrote a memoir about her time there. It’s called “Rash,” and it’s a funny poignant tale about a woman who mistakenly believes that running away to paradise is the only way to find true happiness.

She presently lives in Vermont, where she is writing her first young adult novel. Follow her writing at http://www.lisakusel.com. Feel free to drop her a line at lisakusel<@>gmail.com because she loves to hear other people’s stories.



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



Extra:
The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

room on rue Amelie

“Cruelty is the weapon of the ignorant.”

If you’re looking for an easy reading WW11 histfic selection, you might enjoy “The Room on Rue Amelie, a story of people who see injustice and have the courage to stand up and fight against it. For me, it was mediocre compared with other reads in the same genre. Although the dialogue could have been better written and the events better developed, the topic of rescuing downed English pilots over war town France was interesting and seemed to be well researched. I felt that the insta love story lines (2 of them!) were definite weak points of the story (insta love is more common in the YA genre and is usually stereotypical). Even though I would rate the writing 2.5 and skimmed several sections, I’ve rounded this to 3 stars for a compelling topic. Overall, it’s an enjoyable read.

My Rating: 3 stars

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Links I Love:

Modern Mrs Darcy: 15 Literary Novels That Will Have You Compulsively Turning The Pages
(How many have you read? Even though this genre is made up, it’s my favorite: great unputdownable literature!  I’ve read 6 on the list [some I liked better than others: e.g Homegoing, The Mothers, and Little Fires were my favorites; I DNF Americanah]. I would add News of the World to this list!)

The Novel Endeavor: A Gift Giving Round-Up For Book Lovers



Looking Ahead:

Next week, I’ll be highlighting my favorite, most compelling character from my April reading and offering a Link Up opportunity.



Sharing is Caring

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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your reflections on finding happiness? Do you think it’s found within or can it be chased?

From Sand and Ash

April 13, 2018

From Sand and Ash
by Amy Harmon

From Sand and Ash 2

Genre/categories: Historical Fiction, Romance, Jewish, WW11, Spiritual

*Linking up with Modern Mrs Darcy: Quick Lit/April and Words on Wednesday. If you’ve clicked over, Welcome! 

Summary:

From Sand and Ash is engaging historical fiction with generous servings of romance, faith, determination, hope, loyalty, inter-faith relationship struggles, and a violin….A thoughtful story of love, survival, life, death, faith, and sacrifice.

In 1943, Italy’s Jewish population is in imminent danger from the forces of hatred and prejudice. Raised like brother and sister, Eva and Angelo enjoy childhood best friend closeness which later blooms into a romance. Although they are devoted to each other, Eva, an accomplished violinist, is Jewish and Angelo chooses to follow a calling to become a Catholic priest. As the Gestapo arrests Jewish residents of Florence, Angelo convinces Eva to follow him to Rome to hide in a convent under his watchful eye while he serves nearby at the Vatican. Eva discovers that the Catholic Church is hiding hundreds of Jews and facilitating their escape when possible. Angelo has made a promise to Eva’s family and feels a duty to keep her safe, which is complicated by romantic feelings. This page turning story follows Eva and Angelo as they face trials, take risks, and make agonizing choices.  Amazon Rating (April): 4.7 Stars

My Thoughts:

Faith: Unputdownable, From Sand and Ash is a unique and beautifully written story. For me, the most engaging part of the story is the focus on the inter-faith aspect of their relationship. As they navigate their romantic feelings, they also extensively debate the nature of God, the methods and habits of prayer, and the personal importance of his/her individual faith. I found the honest and relevant spiritual content in the book refreshing and realistic. I appreciate knowing about the Catholic Church’s role in saving Jews in Italy and exploring Eva’s and Angelo’s personal crises of faith. Their dialogue and subsequent understanding and acceptance of the other’s faith was thoughtfully written, and this aspect of the story pushed it beyond 4 stars for me.

Romance: Some reviewers have cited a frustration with an over abundance of romance for a histfic selection; however, there is a great deal more to the story than the romance. Typical of histfic, readers find ordinary people doing extraordinary things under incredibly difficult circumstances. Romance is a part of Eva’s and Angelo’s story and deepens the inner conflict and becomes one of many challenges in the midst of overwhelming and impossible circumstances. I view the romance as an integral part of their life experience, and I do not see it distracting or detracting from the story. But be cautioned: there is romance!

Resistance: Both Eva and Angelo chose to resist in small and large ways. Their fear took a back seat to their need to DO something. A recurring and powerful theme in the story is that they could not NOT act.

Resistance’s Companions are Fear and Hope:

“Fear is strange. It settles on chests and seeps through skin, through layers of tissue, muscle, and bone and collects in a soul-sized black home, sucking the joy out of life, the pleasures, the beauty. But not the hope. Somehow hope is the only thing resilient to the fear, and it is that hope that makes the next breath possible, the next step, the next tiny act of rebellion, even if that rebellion is simply staying alive.”

Heartbreaking: Despite warnings, the trusting Italian Jewish people couldn’t believe that the situation could or would escalate. Their desire to believe in good and reject the concept of evil was heartbreaking and sobering. It causes me to wonder at what point my family would take a threat seriously and take action to escape.

The Writing: Throughout the story there is an abundance of beautiful prose and creative writing, with a great deal of attention paid to character development and the advancement of plot. The story reads easily and is told fluidly and it found me busy turning pages quickly! *Reading tip: my husband reports that the audio is excellent!

Themes and Rating: Of course, if you follow my reviews you know that themes are incredibly important for me in determining a final star rating. I’ve already mentioned several important themes such as survival, hatred, loyalty, hope, resistance, fear, determination, resiliency, and faith. In addition, any story and/or characters that I’m still thinking about days and weeks later will likely earn 5 stars from me.

Recommended: Highly recommended for readers of histfic who love a captivating and inspirational story filled with faith discussions and unforgettable characters that causes readers to become personally engaged. You will deeply care about Eva and Angelo.

My Rating: 5 Stars

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From Sand and Ash

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Meet the Author,
Amy Harmon

Amy HarmonAmy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Her books have been published in eighteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Utah.
Amy Harmon has written thirteen novels, including the USA Today Bestsellers, The Smallest Part, Making Faces, and Running Barefoot, and the #1 Amazon bestselling historical, From Sand and Ash. Her novel, A Different Blue, is a New York Times Bestseller. Her USA Today bestselling fantasy, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Best Book of 2016 finalist. For updates on upcoming book releases, author posts and more, join Amy at http://www.authoramyharmon.com.



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



Extra:
White Rose, Black Forest
by Eoin Dempsey

white rose black forest

What actions would you take to resist an evil regime?

I always find histic interesting because of the different perspectives that each story provides and for the knowledge I gain. In this story, we experience WW11 from the perspective of a German girl (who is a resistor at one time associated with the White Rose resistance organization). As she spends time at her family’s isolated cabin in the Black Forest struggling through some personal losses, she discovers an injured soldier and proceeds to provide urgent medical attention and to determine his true identify. It takes a while to decide if they can completely trust each other. He needs her help, and the end of the story finds them making a desperate escape attempt. While the last part of the book is tension filled and fast paced, the first half is a slow build up…unfortunately the author breaks up the narrative by including long passages that read like history lessons. The story could have included better written character development and dialogue, but overall this is an interesting, engaging, page turner.  My Rating: 3.5 Stars (Amazon Rating: 4.6 Stars)

Favorite Theme: resistance

Favorite Quote:
“It required supernatural strength not to do the Gestapo’s bidding. That was the genius of their system–it took fortitude of an almost unimaginable scale to do the right thing.”

Recommended for hisfic fans who enjoy fast paced thrillers and quick reads.

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A Link I Love:

10 Ways To Woo a Reluctant Reader



Looking Ahead:

I plan to read and review The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel
(and check it off my Spring TBR).

room on rue Amelie

Amazon Summary and Purchase Information Here



Bummed

This meme fits my current mood!

bah humbug

I am a little distraught to realize (am I late to this party?!) that the movie release date for Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is for the U.K. only. Evidently, the U.S. is getting it via Netflix. (date to be determined) This is disappointing news because I have been looking forward to seeing this on the big screen! I wonder if I can buy it from the UK on DVD or stream it from somewhere before it’s available on Netflix??? Another alternative is to fly to London!?!?!

As a fan of the book. how do you feel?



Sharing is Caring

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!

I’d love to hear all about what you’re reading!

What are your favorite WW11 hisfic reads?