Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Second Chance Grill, by Christine Nolfi

After the death of her best friend, Mary needs to take a break from her medical practice.  She finds herself in Liberty, Ohio, having inherited her aunt's restaurant.  Mary decides to reopen the restaurant, and takes on the task of running it, temporarily, until she is able to return to medicine.  But, something unexpected happens when Mary befriends a young girl named Blossom, and Blossom's father Anthony.  Suddenly, nothing is going as planned, for everyone involved.

I was so excited to learn a second book was being released in this series set in a small Ohio town.  Having grown up in a small Ohio town, the setting is one that speaks to me quite deeply.  The characters are so vivid, and reminiscent of the people I knew growing up.  I really liked Mary's character, I found her genuine and robustly developed.  And the interactions between Mary, Blossom, and Anthony are really quite touching.

I liked that this story has the aspects of romance, and passion, but were still moderately tame and in good taste.  I also liked that the romance was merely one aspect of the story.  There are several subplots which are rich stories in their own right, while still contributing well to the overall story of the novel.  The book was an engaging read, prompting me to read it cover to cover in one sitting.  I think that this book will appeal to fans of small town stories, as well as romances and dramatic novels.  All in all, an excellent read.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Love, In Theory, by E. J. Levy

Love is never simple.  Sometimes love means sacrifice.  Sometimes love means forgiveness.  Sometimes love can not be conform to social constraints.  Sometimes love is temporary.  In this collection of short stories, we are are able to view love in many forms, new love, lost love, destroyed love, and theoretical love.

This collection of short stories is unlike anything I have ever read.  These stories are so smart, so deep, so powerful.  Not all literature needs to be highly intellectual in order to be good, but it just so happens that this particular collection is so intellectual, so philosophical, I had to consume these stories on a one by one basis, reflecting on each one before moving on to the next.

The characters on these stories are raw and real.  I see so much of myself, and the people I know, in the variety of characters and situations in these stories.  I really appreciate the fact that a wide variety of love and romantic situations are explored, heterosexual, homosexual, fidelity and infidelity, the complexity of love intersecting with religious faith.  We see several themes reoccurring across different stories, but playing out differently depending on the story.

I find Levy to be an incredibly gifted writer.  I was amazed with each story in this collection.  If you are someone who typically does not like short stories, I encourage you to still give this book a chance, as it is far from typical.  I found more depth and meaning in just one of these stories than I have found in some full length novels.  I really think this book will appeal to many readers.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for an honest review.  You can view the rest of the tour here.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Unclaimed Legacy, by Deborah Heal

Abby and Merri discovered an odd computer program that allows them to view history in real time.  But it only works at certain times and places.  The program begins working again while they are house sitting for a friend, and allows them, along with their friend John, to solve a family mystery for the elderly twins that live next door.  In the process, they all get a little more than they bargained for.

This is the second book in a series, and I must say that I enjoyed this even more than the first.  We see the return of two major characters in Abby and Merri.  We also see further development of the character of John, and get to watch his relationship with Abby unfold.  Furthermore we are introduced to a whole new cast of characters who are quite endearing.  I love the characters of Eulah and Beulah.  I find them adorable, and can truly see them in my mind's eye.

I found the writing on this follow up book a bit tighter, and I think the story flowed nicely.  I find the parts of the story where the reader is thrust into history to be incredibly compelling and educational.  This is so much more than your standard time travel story, and the book spans so many genres that I think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

I see a lot of growth in this talented author from her first book to her second.  I am excited to see where her writing takes us all in the future.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the author in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

War Stories, by Elizabeth Doyle

War means different things to different people.  There are literal military definitions, such as Vietnam, as well as more metaphoric definitions, such as the wars found in everyday life.  We all have our own wars to face, and we all carry the scars of battle, both inside and out.  Set against a variety of backdrops, the stories in this collection explore the reasons behind and the implications of many different types of war.

Despite it's diminutive size, this collection of short stories packs a walloping emotional punch.  With the turn of each page, pain, despair, regret, hope, and youth all pour out onto the reader with so much intensity, at times I found it hard to breath.  I found that I could really only read one story at a time, so as to absorb the full meaning.  

Although these stories are short, the characters within them a memorable and richly developed within just a few pages.  These characters seemed real, they could be your neighbor, a person at your church, or in some instances, they could be you.  I think this relatability of the characters really heightened the emotional impact of the writing.

I found the writing to be simple, easily flowing, but it was clear that each word was chosen for a specific purpose.  A large, flowery vocabulary was not necessary for the author, her style alone was impactful.  I think that this book would be great for fans of short stories, and this book would be an excellent addition to high school literature curriculum, to introduce students to the modern short story.

I received a review copy courtesy of Tribute Book Blog Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the rest of the tour here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Virgins, by Caryl Rivers

Growing up Catholic girl can be a little trying, as Peggy is able to prove.  Not only does she have to worry about the trials of her all girls high school, but her main squeeze is someone who plans to be a priest.  How will she ever lose her virginity this way?  Add to this a sudden loss, a change in her closest friendships, and the upcoming high school graduation, and you will see that coming of age, while uproariously hilarious, can also be a bit painful.

I really enjoyed this book, and found myself able to relate to parts of it.  While I grew up Catholic, I never attended Catholic school, and I came of age after Vatican II, but at the heart of things, all Catholic girls, to some extent, were a little like Peggy.  I think that is why I related to her character so well.  I dated a few boys who considered the priesthood, and trust me, it is pretty trying.

While the story is set in an unfamiliar era, so much of the things at the heart of the story are quite familiar.  The main focus of the story is Peggy's ability or inability to resolve the changing relationships in her life, with her family, friends, and boyfriend.  She is stuck in an awkward place between little girl and grown woman, and throughout the story we watch her slowly cross the divide.  

While there is a lot of discussion of sexuality in the book, I did not find it smutty, nor did I think it inappropriate for older teen readers.  While some teens may find the story a little hard to relate to, due to the timeframe of the setting, I still think many would enjoy this book.

I received a review copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion.  You can view the rest of the tour here.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Me Who Dove into the Heart of the World, by Sabina Berman

Karen has spent the early part of her life living the life of a wild, feral child, not conforming to the norms of hygiene, socialization, or typical human behavior.  When her aunt discovers Karen's existence on the family estate, she attempts to teach Karen how to be a part of the world, and involves Karen in the family tuna canary business.  It is apparent that Karen has high functioning autism, with the mind of a child in many ways, but the mind of a genius in many others.

This book was so odd, in so many ways.  First, I have to note that this book was originally written in Spanish, and that this is the English translation.  As far as translated books go, this is much better than many I have read, in terms of syntax and grammar, but I suspect a great deal of the beauty in the writing is lost in translation.

Secondly, the fact that the book is written in the narrative voice of Karen makes it seem a little odd, due to Karen's autism.  The way Karen views and interacts with the world is different, stilted, so it makes a great deal of sense that her discussion of it will seem stilted as well.  It can be a bit jarring to read, but in several instances, it really helped me understand Karen as a character, and gave me a glimpse at how some people with autism process the world around them.

There are pretty obvious similarities between Karen's character and that of the actual person Temple Grandin.  Karen's interest in and amazing insight of animal husbandry and humane slaughter practices is extremely similar to Grandin's.  There is a significant portion of the book that discusses the family tuna business, which was interesting to a point, but once it got to the animal protesters, it got just a bit heavy handed for me.

This was an unusual and unique novel.  While it was not an easy read, nor was it a fast read, it was an interesting and worthwhile novel.

I received a review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Blogfest 2012 Winner

Well the numbers are in, the entries have been tallied, and a winner has been drawn.

Congrats to 
You have won an Amazon Gift Certificate, and a mystery box of books.  The prizes will be heading your way!