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Review: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

[ 2 ] August 25, 2015

heart goes last book coverReviewed by Sarah Lelonek

When I was in high school, I was subject to the dreaded AP reading list. Unlike most high school students, I was able to choose what books I read from the list. That is how I ended up reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I instantly fell in love with her writing style, and I have been attempting to keep up with her work ever since. When I was given the opportunity to read Atwood’s latest novel The Heart Goes Last, I was ecstatic. I had read the previous three novels centered on Positron, and I found the fourth installment to be as unsettling as the first three.

The Heart Goes Last is set in a near future where America is crippled by the fall of capitalism. People who were once comfortable in the middle class find themselves living in cars. I know many of you may think this is where we currently are as a country, but I assure you, Atwood’s America is scarier and deadlier than our America. What is probably the most unnerving quality to Atwood’s description of her America is that I could see our country heading down the same path very soon.

The story follows Stan and Charmaine, a married couple who lost everything in the financial collapse. At their wit’s end, the couple decides to enter a gated community – a gated community that offers middle class bliss at the exchange of living in a prison every other month. Once in the community, they both find that secrets and lies are common no matter where you live, except in most circumstance, you can leave. In Positron, there is no leaving, except in a body bag.

Atwood has a way with words that I will always admire. She takes the bleak realities of living in a dystopian society and adds sarcasm and wit, making me laugh at the most odd situations. Atwood takes what’s bad in our society and turns it into a sort of cruel joke. She also knows how to hone in on a good plot device, this one being the blue teddy bears Charmaine knits. While I don’t usually find myself reading too much regular fiction, I will always make an exception for Atwood, and I am glad that I did this time because The Heart Goes Last was definitely a riveting read.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Sarah Emily Lelonek has a BA in English Literature from Kent State University. She is currently enrolled at Tiffin University in their Master’s of Education program. She enjoys traveling and gaming while on breaks from working on her novel.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Nan A. Talese. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Finding Paris by Joy Preble

[ 2 ] August 24, 2015

finding paris book coverReviewed by Lauren Cannavino

Joy Preble’s novel, Finding Paris, is a soul-searching, exploratory and intriguing story of two sisters, Paris and Leo Hollings. Paris and Leo are polar opposites. Paris is artistic, ethereal, beautiful and a bit impulsive, where Leo, (short for Leonora), is serious, bookish and dedicated to breaking free from her current life by going to college. The girls live in Las Vegas with their absentee, blackjack dealer mother and their gambling addict stepfather Tommy. Paris and Leo both seem to be fixated on escaping certain aspects of their home and themselves and as the story grows, these ideas of escape and the reasons for the emotions, will become very real for everyone.

Suffering from a breakup, Paris decides in the middle of the night that she needs pie to mend her broken heart and forces Leo to go to the Heartbreak Hotel Diner where Paris also works as a hostess. Settled into a booth under the watchful eye of the night shift server Maureen, the sisters talk about the breakup, school and the cute boy who also happens to be in the diner at 2 am. When Leo gets up the courage to go speak to the good looking stranger, a door opens for the next section of the story. Max is smart, engaging and curious and Leo enjoys talking to him, so much so that she doesn’t find it strange when Paris says she’s stepping out for a bit. When Max and Leo emerge into the parking lot, they notice that Paris and her car are nowhere to be found. Paris has vanished and her phone is going straight to voicemail. Leo is in a panic and soon discovers a note inside the diner from her sister that explains that she had to do this and that Leo needs to find her. Max graciously takes Leo home and the pair are met with indifference from Leo’s mother and stepfather on the missing Paris. The task of searching for Paris seems to rest solely on Leo and Max.

The search for Paris leads to more notes and more discoveries with every turn. The relationships and conversations in Finding Paris are expressive, real and potent. The reader will feel as if they are standing in a tense living room with Tommy and Leo or riding in a car with Leo and Max. The twisted, emotional scavenger hunt that Paris sends Leo on is a journey to save not only Paris, but also Leo from something that she needs to face, yet also escape. For Paris, fleeing was the only logical choice that she had in order to make Leo see what she needed to do to set herself free. Joy Preble’s novel is different, exciting, heart wrenching, but also heartwarming. The story moves quickly into its own special place and the characters are strong, even when they are vulnerable. Finding Paris is an emotional, touching read that acts as a reminder that everyone has demons or is fighting for something or someone in their lives.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Balzer + Bray. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 7 ] August 24, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

wedding at the orange blossom inn book coverguttenberg's apprentice book covercome hell or highball book covermendicino fire book coverher lucky cowboy book coverpokergeist book coverthe last september book coverthe admissions book coverwhat a girl wants book coverthe human age book coverrare bird book coverart of crash landing book cover

Digital Review Copies

white collar girl book coverunder different stars book cover

Additions to My Personal Paper Library

life of robert peace book cover

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Blog Tour: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

[ 2 ] August 21, 2015

irish meadows book coverPlease join Susan Anne Mason as she tours the blogosphere with her new book, Irish Meadows

Enter to win a Kindle Fire below!

Reviewed by Charity Lyman

As an avid reader, I come across many styles of books. It isn’t just the genre or the author’s writing technique that makes a favorite book unique. Sometimes something just stands out that causes me to fall in love with a book from the beginning, and other times I have to read a bit before truly enjoying the read. Irish Meadows by Susan Mason was a book that I enjoyed from the very start. I was totally intrigued by the world the characters moved in and wanted to know how their lives would turn out by the end of the book.

The novel revolves around the Irish Meadows horse farm and the O’Leary family who has owned it for years. But when the safety of the farm becomes dependent on the marriages of the family members, some grumbling and troubles arise. Will they follow their hearts no matter the cost? Or choose to keep the farm alive and running even if that means suffering in a miserable marriage?

There are two O’Leary sisters, Brianna(or Bree to her friends) and Colleen. Brianna is being urged towards marriage with a respected man but in her heart she loves another. Her heart belongs to a lowly banker who was raised in their family and reciprocates her feelings but will back off and honor her father’s wishes in the matter. I have to admit that Gilbert, the business man, took me a bit to like. He knows she loves him, he loves her and yet he won’t get in the way for anything. He would rather keep relations right with her father than step in and be a man who will fight for the woman he loves.

Colleen, on the other hand, is a headstrong and impetuous young lady. She has a tough exterior but on the inside is quite sweet and I quickly loved her character. And I also loved Rylan, the poor priest who shows her a different way of living. His sense of humor was hilarious and the things he said? Amazing! I truly fell in love with his character.

If you are looking for a book that is intriguing, full of fun characters and important decisions to make, you will definitely want to pick up Irish Meadows. A 5 star rating for sure!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Charity lives in Illinois and is the oldest of 6 children. The family also has 3 dogs and a cat. Reading is a hobby when not cooking, baking, sewing or enjoying music. She reads many different genres but Christian fiction is a favorite. Charity can be found often at her blog, Giveaway Lady

Review copy was provided by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

Join Susan in celebrating the release of Irish Meadows by entering to win her Kindle Fire giveaway and RSVPing to her September 1st author chat party!

irishmeadows-400

One grand prize winner will receive:

A Kindle Fire HD 6
One copy of Irish Meadows

Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 9/1. The winner will be announced at the Irish Meadows Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Susan and other readers, as well as for a chance to win some great prizes!

irishmeadows-enterbanner

RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK, TWITTER, or PINTEREST and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 1st!

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Review: The Fog Diver by Joel Ross

[ 3 ] August 20, 2015

the fog diver book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Fog Diver is the first book in a new young adult series by Joel Ross. I have to say I found it to be a great beginning! We meet Chess and his salvage crew while Chess is ‘diving’ for things to collect from from the ‘Fog’. A couple generations earlier a nano-tech was set loose to fix many of the issues affecting the planet in order to save it. Turns out it got wise enough to understand that humans were the constant problem that needed to be cleaned up after. So the little buggers started killing people.

In the end, people had to move to mountain tops to escape the ‘Fog’ of nanites that to all humans, looks just like a fog covering the entire Earth other than the mountain tops.  However, it did not seem to impede the daily lives of plants or animals.

People had to abandon much or died too quickly and left many things behind. This is what the salvage crews were used for. Young kids were tied to tethers and reeled down like bait on a hook to wander around looking for stuff to bring back to the ‘Bosses’. Unfortunately, the nanites killed people who spent too much time in the fog. That is, of course, if what hid in the fog didn’t kill them first.

Chess was different. He’d been fog diving for a couple years and still hadn’t had any adverse effects. He was pretty sure it had to do with his birth defect–his cause for worry. He had a cloudy eye, full of nanites. Since he was actually born in the fog, it marked him.

Chess and his crew were collected by Mrs. E. who taught them all kinds of different skills and put them together to be a great salvage crew. But Mrs. E. knew certain secrets and Chess was in the middle of the whole mess. Mrs. E had been their ‘mother’ but now she was dying because of the fog sickness and needed special care. Only the rebels might have the cure. They needed a big score to get enough money to pay someone to smuggle them all out to save Mrs. E. while not attracting the attention of Lord Kodoc.

I thought this was an excellent book for young adults. It was fun and fast reading. As a matter of fact, I thought it was a rather ingenious premise for  a story, though I had some reservation before I started reading. I think The Fog Diver will appeal to both boys and girls; while Chess is the main character, he has two crew mates that are impressive and admirable in their own right. I truly think this is a good book for anyone who likes a little adventure!

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review and giveaway copies were provided by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

[ 4 ] August 19, 2015

little beach street bakery book coverReviewed by Amanda Schafer

After financial ruin and a messy breakup, Polly moves to the tiny little island of Mount Polbearne where she takes residence in a rundown old building with an apartment on the top. The roof leaks, the plumbing barely works, and on top of it all she’s essentially running away from all of her problems. Her best friend, Kerensa, tries to talk her out of it, but Polly is determined to get away and figure out herself and her situation. As time goes on, Polly meets several new people who have an impact on her daily life but Polly has an impact on them as well with her freshly made bread that she shares with the townspeople. The local baker, Mrs Manse, puts up a fight regarding Polly’s bread because she feels that Polly is infringing on her turf. But what ends up happening is they work together and form a special friendship that helps to grow Mount Polbearne into a welcoming and gossiping community.

There’s a group of fishermen that especially take to Polly’s bread and their leader, Tarnie, takes a shine to Polly herself. However, when that turns sour Polly has to work through her heartache and turns to Huckle (the local American beekeeper) to help distract her. Huckle has come across the pond in an effort to run away from his life in America and is very quiet and reserved in telling about himself, but he opens up to Polly. Grief and tragedy strike the sleepy little island-town and cause them all to pull together and fight for what they believe in.

Little Beach Street Bakery is a great story about friendship, community ties, small towns, and bread! I really like that Jenny Colgan didn’t include so much cooking/bread details so as to be boring to someone who doesn’t want to read that part, but has just enough to make a bread-loving person hungry as they read. While the book seemed a bit slow to start for my taste, it finally got to a point (about halfway through the story) where I really wanted to keep reading and not stop until the end. I really enjoyed the wedding ceremony near the end of the book….it actually made me giggle a bit! My *one* critique is that the cover really doesn’t match the story….the cover has a cupcake on it and there’s really never any mention about cupcakes. It’s ALL about bread…yeasty concoctions, not sweet. It would have been really great to see some bread on the cover instead of a cupcake!  But really, that’s a minor annoyance.  All in all a great story and well told.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Amanda lives in Missouri with her engineering husband, two sons, and one daughter. In between homeschooling and keeping up with church activities she loves to read Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, and any Chick-Lit. She never goes anywhere without a book to read!

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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