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Mailbox Monday

[ 0 ] April 20, 2014

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

For Review – Paper Copies

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For Review – NetGalley and Edelweiss eBooks

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Review: Tempting Fate by Jane Green

[ 0 ] April 20, 2014

wowReviewed by Karen Waskewich

Jane Green is still one of my favorite authors of all time and has been for quite some time. I can never get enough of her novels and every time I hear that she is coming out with a new book, I find myself counting down the days until it is published. Jane Green never disappoints and Tempting Fate was no exception – it surpassed all of my expectations and was everything I hoped it would be (plus more).

Tempting Fate was one of the darkest Jane Green novels I’ve ever read. The story centers on Gabby, a woman who has been happily married for 20 years to her husband Elliott and has two young daughters. When Elliott is out of town with their daughters on vacation, Gabby goes out with her friends for a ‘girl’s night’ at a local bar where she is instantly noticed by a much younger and attractive man, Matt, who only has eyes for Gabby. In one night, Gabby shifts from being (in her mind) a dull and unappealing 43-year old housewife and becomes a young and ferocious woman who is aching with pleasure and need.

Gabby treads a very difficult and dangerous line with Matt; what starts out as a harmless flirtation quickly turns into a reckless obsession including late night emails and texts. The plot takes you through Gabby’s betrayal and her emotional journey of lust, heartbreak and her quest for redemption and true happiness. As you read through the chapters, you start to feel the pain and emotional toll something like cheating takes on everyone involved; not just Gabby, but also her husband, daughters, and friends. Even though I highly disapproved of Gabby’s actions in the story, I still liked her and through Green’s writing, could understand every emotion she felt including her desire to be wanted and the gut wrenching guilt she felt after she betrayed her husband and family.

Jane Green’s writing is pure perfection. This is a page turner like no other; I was dying to know what happened at the end of the book that I stayed up until 2 am the other night finishing it. Tempting Fate at times was very unnerving and even a bit uncomfortable although it exemplifies real life issues that are thrown at women every day. Tempting Fate is another winner from Jane Green and it’s no wonder this book has already received such wonderful reviews. It explores all aspects of marriage, motherhood and the ultimate betrayal – I highly recommend reading this book!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Karen is a fiancee to a wonderful man and a mom to a beautiful brindled boxer in Rockville, MD. When she’s not working as an IT consultant, she opens up a good book (or turns on her Kindle) or makes her way into the kitchen to cook for her family and friends. Find her at her blog or Twitter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow

[ 0 ] April 20, 2014

9780545578004_b0fd0Reviewed by Holly Madison

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began reading Sorrow’s Knot, but I was instantly hooked by the unusual story line and flawless writing of Erin Bow.

The story combines fantasy with horror in a non-traditional way, maintaining a distinct Native American feel throughout the entire book. Perhaps it is because of the actual act of the characters tying knots, or maybe it is the unusual character names such as Otter, Cricket, and Willow that brings this feeling to mind – whatever it is, I love it.

The characters exist in a world that is intertwined with nature and the everyday workings of their tribe of people, each person taking on a distinct job that is necessary for the tribe to survive. The women rule the tribe and the “jobs” involve tying distinct magical knots that each serve different purposes. This sounds like a rather silly idea for a story, but once you read the book you will realize how completely this idea works. There are various jobs within the tribe, but the most important is the role of the Binders – those who tie knots to send the dead away from the world of the living. In addition to shuttling departed spirits from this world, Binders also have a great deal of power which is used to keep the evil spirits, known as the White Hand, at bay.

The main character in this story is Otter, and she is from a long line of powerful Binders. Otter possesses an unusually strong power, but her mother refuses to teach her the ways of the binder because she sees a darkness in her, claiming that the knots have turned on themselves. This leaves Otter alone with her power and no knowledge of how to harness it, so she has no choice but to try to figure out her path on her own, and thus begins the story.

Throughout the story, Otter is accompanied by her two best friends Cricket and Kestrel. These characters have their own flaws and strengths, and their relationship with each other and with Otter is incredibly powerful and, above all else, human. The characters did feel a bit separate from me as the reader… I feel like there is so much more I could know about each of the characters, and I am left with nothing more than an impression of each of them. If you are really into character-driven books, that might be a problem for you, but I felt that it was perfect for the type of book that this is. Some books suck you into the characters so deeply that the events going on outside of them are only a fraction the story. This book is the opposite – you get to see what the characters are doing but you are nothing more than an observer, and you only read what is relevant to the story. And it works for this book.

It is important to mention that this story is not as light as I imagined it would be – in fact, it is very dark. It tackles serious feeling and raw emotions that are tied in with death and grief, and there were several points in the book where I had to sit back and collect myself before continuing on, having been so touched by what I had just read. There is a lot of sorrow in this book.

In addition to the raw emotion tied in with sadness, there is horror in this book that is difficult to describe. I found myself covered in goose bumps several times when the White Hand comes into the picture – it is just incredibly eerie. I found the book delving into the full-blown horror genre more often than I thought it would, but it strengthened the book rather than hindering it.

I loved this book. It is fantasy and horror and folklore all at the same time, and the writing is exquisite and consistent.  I cannot think of a single thing I would change about it. As soon as I was finished with the book I began reading it again – it’s that good! This book will be a permanent resident on my favorites shelf. I can’t wait to see what Erin Bow does next!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Holly has a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science and owns a small business with her husband selling fleece and hand-spun yarn. When she is not spinning yarn, she does freelance work as a graphic design artist and is highly involved in animal rescue.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Malena Public Relations. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

[ 0 ] April 19, 2014

download (1)Reviewed by Jax Kepple

Despite the twee cover, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a heart-wrenching story. In fact, the cover was the worse thing about this book, as it led the reader to believe the story was full of fluff when in reality, author Gabrielle Zevin was able to create this beautiful world with great, lively characters, and this marvelous bookshop all while dealing with abandonment, alcoholism, love, death, business, and most of all, family.

Island Books, the only bookstore on the fictional Alice Island off of Cape Cod, is owned by A.J. Fikry who mainly stocks literary fiction and turns his nose up at “postmodernism, post-apocalyptic settings, postmortem narrators or magic realism,” along with a litany of other stipulations. Amelia Loman is a book agent for a small press and is taken aback by Fikry’s limited propensities but persists in pushing a book that speaks to her about a man who married at age eighty-five.

Fikry,whose wife had died two years earlier, feels as though he has nothing to lose and goes on a bender. He wakes up to realize that he has been robbed of a very valuable book. Feeling as though he literally has nothing else to lose, he goes out for a run and leaves the door to the bookstore open. He comes back to find an abandoned baby and his life changes forever. The rest of the story follows Fikry’s life as it involves the baby – now his daughter – Maya, Amelia, his former sister-in-law Ismay and his friend the Police Chief Lambiase all on this beautiful New England island.

Zevin has a lot of plot packed into a small amount of pages, and is able to bring some surprising twists easily and effortlessly, especially the resolution to the stolen book story line. The beginning of each section is a small blurb about some of A.J.’s favorite books, and they are flawlessly written in A.J.s voice. In the end, the reason for A.J. to have written these blurbs becomes clear and it is excruciating, as Zevin was able to make a character that the reader falls in love with.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: A Month in India by David Mellonie

[ 1 ] April 18, 2014

A Month In India cover copyReviewed by Alysia George

If your wanderlust needs a kick start, you should be pleased to discover the gorgeous photographic book, A Month in India, by David Mellonie. As someone who has long desired to experience the wonder of India firsthand, this work of art has definitely had that effect upon me. Mellonie’s talents, as both the photographer and the author, work together perfectly to inspire the reader to want to have a deeper understanding of this beautiful country. As a westerner, India seems to be the epitome of exotic and mystical travel destinations, and this book reinforces that point of view.

A Month in India is a travel journal, a memoir, and a commentary of a terribly impoverished, yet incredibly stunning country. It chronicles Mellonie’s time spent there – 28 days, 28 photographs. Each vibrant photo is accompanied by prose, describing the scene and offering insightful observations relating to Mellonie’s experiences in India. Reading the essays and admiring the accompanying pictures of the people and sites of India, the rich diversity of the country becomes evident.

Being a lover of photo journals, I thoroughly enjoyed perusing every one of the more than 28 photographs included in A Month in India. The colors, the faces, the clothing, the scenes, both picturesque and sometimes sad in their glimpses of extreme poverty, drew me in. I studied them over and over, and every time I looked I found details I had missed previously. Although I read a digital copy, this is the type of book that would make a lovely, glossy coffee table masterpiece, to be read often and admired by guests.

While the pictures are outstanding, what makes this photographic book really stand out is the prose. I really appreciated reading what the author had to say about each photo. As a travel journal, it is unique. Often times I find one or the other, but to have both striking images and a story to go along with them is something special. Mellonie’s experiences visiting different, diverse areas of India are interesting to read about, and eye opening. A Month in India is something I would love to add to the collection of travel books on my bookshelf.

A Month in India is available through the iBookstore

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Alysia lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and four children. She writes about family life, parenting issues, and other things of interest to her on her blog, Michigal.

Review copy was provided by David Mellonie. Compensation was received but in no way influenced the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review.

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Review: Raising John by Jennifer Lesher

[ 3 ] April 18, 2014

20650308Reviewed by Lindsay Yocum

Raising John was an interesting read. It follows a young boy, John, whose mother died tragically in a car accident when he was a baby. After his mother’s death, he was taken in and raised by his grandmother, Barbara. As John grew older, his questions regarding the past became more and more persistent, and his grandmother was torn between leaving the past behind her, and setting the record straight with her grandson.

The book takes us back and forth between past and present, and we really get to know John’s mother, Mary, fairly well. She was quick witted, highly intelligent, and had finally overcome issues with her abusive father that had hung over her for most of her adult life. The author takes us on a journey of a submissive wife and mother who often turned the other cheek. In a way, it makes your heart ache for Mary, because Barbara could never be like that when Mary really needed her to.

The book jumped back and forth between past and present to really give you the full picture of what happens. It’s what made a twist in the book difficult to imagine because it was so heartbreaking.

As John grew older, he began to question why he didn’t have a grandfather. Once he reached school age, the more he saw his peers with a father or grandfather the more he grew restless. He asked about meeting his grandfather daily. After all, it was only him and Barbara for his entire life. So when John’s grandfather, Robert, finally emerges, Barbara is challenged with protecting John in a way she could never protect her daughter.

Overall, I liked this book. It was well written and the story line always kept me wanting to know more. The main themes of the book dealt with overcoming the struggles of one’s past and the power of forgiveness. There were a couple twists that helped you understand the entire story, but there were some pieces in it that I felt were a little over the top. The dialogue between the characters in the book seemed unnatural at times, but it was easy to overlook that.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Lindsay Yocum resides in California with her 5 year old firecracker daughter, Bear, and her hilarious husband. She spends her free time traveling, baking, ruining DIY crafts she finds on Pinterest, and running, when she isn’t nose deep in a book. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Virtual Author Book Tours. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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