Promises to Keep [Book Review]

April 30, 2021

Promises to Keep by Nan Rossiter

Promises to Keep by Nan Rossiter (cover) Image: a man, woman, and dog sit on a pier overlooking a lake

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Southern Fiction, Family Life, Romance

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Thanks #NetGalley @HarperPerennial for a complimentary eARC of #PromisesToKeep upon my request. All opinions are my own. Promises to Keep is a sequel to Promises of the Heart in the Savannah Skies series. It can be read as a stand-alone (although it’s always a richer reading experience to have read the first in the series).

Set in the South (Georgia), this story finds thirty-something Maeve working in a private nursing home and enjoying a relationship with her handsome boyfriend, Gage, who works construction and adores his dog, Gus. Complications arise when they realize that they’ve been keeping secrets from each other about their past. Can they save their relationship?

My Thoughts:

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A Place For Us [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

November 4, 2020

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
#throwbackthursday

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (cover) Image: black text over a white moon behind a house in silhouette

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m thrilled to share my review of A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza…a thoughtful and complicated family drama.

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links

My 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.”

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

A Place For Us is my favorite read of 2018, and you can find my full review here….



QOTD:

Have you read A Place For Us or is it on your TBR?

Transcendent Kingdom [Book Review]

September 18, 2020

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (cover) Image: gold text over a light pink (top) and black (bottom) background

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction, Faith and Science, Drug Addiction, Ghana-American, Immigrant

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

While Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the multi-generational big picture of a family over three hundred years, Transcendent Kingdom is a microscopic look at one Ghanaian family in Alabama. Their son, Nana, was a gifted high school athlete who died from a heroin overdose as a result of being addicted to pain meds after an accident. Dad returns to Ghana and Mom becomes severely depressed. The beginning of the story finds the daughter, Gifty, at Standford Medical School studying depression and addiction as she desperately hopes to find answers that will help others in similar situations. At the same time Gifty studies the hard sciences she also questions her faith and the religious experiences of her childhood. This is a story of immigration, faith, science, questions, and family devotion.

My Thoughts:

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From Sand and Ash [Book Review] #throwbackthursday

September 3, 2020

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon
#throwbackthursday

From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon (cover) Image: a young woman in profile looking reflectively over a city

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, WW11, Jewish, Catholic, Love Story

I’m linking up today with Davida @ The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog for #throwbackthursday.

This year as part of Blog Audit Challenge 2020 I’m going back to update older review posts. On Thursdays, I’ll be re-sharing a few of these great reads, and today I’m sharing my review of From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon, a thoughtful story of love, survival, life, death, faith, and sacrifice…

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

…faith, sacrifice, and survival…

My Summary:

“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.”

Continue here for my review of From Sand and Ash

QOTD: Have you read From Sand and Ash or is it on your TBR?

Ordinary Grace [Book Review]

August 28, 2020

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger

Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (cover) Image: a wooden railroad trellis over a river underneath a partially cloudy sky

Genre/Categories: Adult Literary Fiction, Coming of Age, Faith

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

The summer of 1961 should have been another ordinary summer for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum, but it was a summer of hardships, tragedy, grief, adult problems, and questions of faith. Told from Frank’s perspective forty years later, Ordinary Grace is a poignant coming-of-age story with elements of mystery and suspense.

My Thoughts:

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The Amish Newcomer [Book Review]

August 20, 2020

The Amish Newcomer by Patrice Lewis

The Amish Newcomer by Parice Lewis (cover) Image: a young womens kneels in a fielf to pick carrots and potatoes from a garden putting them in a brown wicker basket

Genre/Categories: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, Amish/Mennonite, Family Life

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Thanks #netgalley @harlequinbooks for a complimentary e ARC of #theamishnewcomer upon my request. All opinions in this review are my own.

Because of dire circumstances, an English city girl finds herself living in an Amish community with an Amish family. A former television reporter whose career is suddenly jeopardized when she inadvertently witnesses a murder, Leah is living in witness protection without a phone (and its access to 24 hour news) and adjusting to a different culture. Even though Leah is an outsider and is lonely for her friends, routines, and lifestyle, she is warmly welcomed in the Amish community. As she begins to adapt and feel useful, she also develops a friendship and fondness for an Amish bachelor, Isaac.

My Thoughts:

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Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion #eightcandlebooktag

December 25, 2019

 Celebrating a Bookish Hanukkah With Our Jewish Friends: Fourth Candle–Foregone Conclusion

#eightcandlebooktag

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I’m linking up today and for the next few days with Davida at The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog (information on the meme link up here) to celebrate a bookish Hanukkah with our Jewish friends.  #eightcandlebooktag  Join us! (find my first candle here, find my second candle here, third candle here)

Happy Hanukkah to my friends, followers, and book buddies who are celebrating!

8th-candle

 

1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

1 candle

Fourth Candle: Foregone Conclusion

A book that you read that you knew you’d like or dislike before you began reading.

Are you drawn to certain genres or authors? If you’ve followed my reviews for a while, you know that Fredrik Backman is an auto-buy/auto-read author for me and it’s a foregone conclusion that I will like his work. However, what about other books by lesser-known or debut authors? How can I know I will like it before I’ve read it?

The first time I heard about The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall, I knew I had to read it! The synopsis and early reviews sounded exactly like the type of book I love: an interesting premise, real-life family drama, complicated relationships, thought-provoking themes, and well written.

On the other hand, are there books I know I’ll dislike before I read them? The short answer is “yes” and I usually avoid reading them. I dislike dark, scary, horror, most magical realism and fantasy, paranormal, occult, witchcraft, most romcom (don’t @ me!), science fiction, time travel, unlikable characters behaving badly, and erotica. Because FOMO is real, I will give certain titles a chance (usually because of reviewers with similar tastes). Even though I might read a book from these genres, they are usually not among my favorite reads. One recent example is Recursion by Blake Crouch. I read it because of FOMO but I didn’t like it as much as others who love the science fiction genre. If there were a sequel, I wouldn’t read it, but I’m not unhappy I gave it a chance.

As I deliberately track genres and themes I like or dislike, I significantly raise the chances of my next read being satisfactory or even great.

For today’s prompt, I’m choosing to highlight a book that I knew I would like before I started reading it: The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall. 

The Dearly Beloved

The following is my review of The Dearly Beloved that was published earlier on this blog:

Summary:

Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout Christian. In this tender character-driven story that covers decades of life, we also learn the backstory of each individual.

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The Dearly Beloved: A Review

September 19, 2019

A thoughtful story of faith and doubt, hope and disappointment, friendship and marriage, career and family….

The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall

The Dearly Beloved Review

Genre/Categories: Literary Fiction, Faith, Marriage and Family

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Four very different individuals (two couples) navigate relationships, marriage, children, faith, career, ministry, crisis, joy, friendship, forgiveness, uncertainty, understanding, and heartbreak. The couples meet in the 1960s when the men, Charles and James, accept positions as co-pastors of the Third Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. The relationship between the couples is strained because the wives are polar opposites: Lily is a loner and an atheist and Nan values connection and is a devout Christian. In this tender character-driven story that covers decades of life, we also learn the backstory of each individual.

My Thoughts:

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We Hope For Better Things: A Review

March 8, 2019

We Hope For Better Things by Erin Bartels

We Hope for Better Things Review

Genre/Categories: Historical Fiction, Civil War, Detroit Race Riots, Interracial Relationships, Prejudice, Racism, Domestic Life

Thanks to #NetGalley #Revell for my free copy of #WeHopeForBetterThings by @erinbartelswrites @ErinLBartels in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Summary:

Readers of We Hope For Better Things are treated to three distinct stories about three white women who live at different times on the same farm in Michigan. The three women are from three different generations and experience war, civil unrest, and prejudice in their respective stories (Civil War/Underground Railroad, 1960s Detroit Riots, and present day). This engaging and multi layered story includes family drama, secrets, old pictures, a 150 year old farm house, locked rooms, a mysterious trunk, and interracial relationships.

My Thoughts:

Engaging. I like stories that capture my interest from page one, and I enjoyed the easy to follow and fast pace of this multi layered story told from three perspectives. I think the story lines from the past (Underground Railroad especially) were the most intriguing and offer the most opportunity for discussion.

Themes. In addition, I like how the themes were interwoven and connected the stories. Important themes include family conflict, tragic choices, racism, family history, resilience, and faith. We can certainly see that overt prejudice has shown improvement over time….and “we hope for better things” in our present day and future.

Plot. Even though the plot is fast paced and engaging and I liked how the stories intersected, I felt occasionally that the events might be a bit contrived to promote certain themes or move the story line along. This is a minor concern and falls under personal preference.

Diversity. I would like to read reviews of We Hope For Better Things from people of color and gain from your impressions and insights regarding the portrayals in this story (please leave your review link or thoughts in comments). I think I would have appreciated that one of the perspectives had been from a woman of color, but that’s probably difficult for a white author to write. As a reader, does it concern you that a white author writes about racism and prejudice from a white perspective? It might have been interesting for the author to have coauthored this with an author of color. The author candidly addresses the issue of writing this as a white author in her Author’s Note.

Recommended. I recommend We Hope For Better Things for readers who love historical fiction, for fans of family stories with likeable and strong main characters, and for those who desire to read more diversely to explore themes of prejudice and racism. This will make an excellent book club selection because of many discussion possibilities.

*possible trigger warning: still birth

My Rating: 4 Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

We Hope for Better Things

We Hope For Better Things

Meet the Author, Erin Bartels

Erin BartelsERIN BARTELS is a copywriter and freelance editor by day, a novelist by night, and a painter, seamstress, poet, and photographer in between. Her debut novel, WE HOPE FOR BETTER THINGS, released in January 2019 and will be followed in September 2019 with THE WORDS BETWEEN US, the manuscript of which was a finalist for the 2015 Rising Star Award from the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. Her short story “This Elegant Ruin” was a finalist in The Saturday Evening Post 2014 Great American Fiction Contest. Her poems have been published by The Lyric and The East Lansing Poetry Attack. A member of the Capital City Writers Association and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, she is former features editor of WFWA’s Write On! magazine.

Erin lives in the beautiful, water-defined state of Michigan where she is never more than a ninety minute drive from one of the Great Lakes or six miles from an inland lake, river, or stream. She grew up in the Bay City area waiting for freighters and sailboats at drawbridges and watching the best 4th of July fireworks displays in the nation. She spent her college and young married years in Grand Rapids feeling decidedly not-Dutch. She currently lives with her husband and son in Lansing, nestled somewhere between angry protesters on the Capitol lawn and couch-burning frat boys at Michigan State University. And yet, she claims it is really quite peaceful.

Find Erin Bartels on Facebook @ErinBartelsAuthor, on Twitter @ErinLBartels, or on Instagram @erinbartelswrites. She blogs semi-regularly at http://www.erinbartels.com and her podcast, Your Face Is Crooked, drops Monday mornings. Find it on iTunes or at http://www.erinbartels.podbean.com.



Let’s Discuss

Do you enjoy multiple perspective and/or multiple timeline stories?

If you are a person of color and have read or reviewed this, I would love to hear your thoughts or read your reviews (leave thoughts or links in 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



Looking Ahead:

Look for a post about 10 Books That Need a Sequel for next week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a post for Women’s History Month soon, and a review of Sold on a Monday next Friday.

Sold On a Monday



Winter TBR Update

I’ll be updating my Winter TBR as I read and review selections. I have three more quick reads to check off the list before spring! So check back often!



Sharing is Caring

Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow. Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

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.

A Place For Us [Book Review]

July 13, 2018

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (cover) Image: black text over a white moon behind a house in silhouette

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

***This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

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:

A Place For Us 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. A Place For Us 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 A Place For Us, 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.

A child's brightly colored kaleidoscope

A brightly colored Kaleidoscope pattern

My Rating: 5+ Stars

twinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-startwinkle-twinkle-little-star

a place for us

A Place For Us Information 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.



 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?



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)



A Link I Love:

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



Let’s Get Social!

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

Find me at:
Twitter
Instagram
Goodreads
Pinterest



***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.

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 (or publisher’s) website.

© ReadingLadies.com