Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Yesterday's Sun, by Amanda Brooke

Everything is happening in Holly's life according to her 5 year plan.  Marriage?  Check.  Career?  Check.  Home?  Check.  And the new home is a great adventure.  During this adventure, Holly discovers the moondial, and its ability to tell the future.  It's a future that is troubling to Holly, showing her own death during childbirth is looming.  Unable to choose between her life and her unborn child, Holly struggles with the reality of her future.

This book was a fascinating and fresh story.  I was enthralled with the concept of the soothsaying moondial and its history.  I thought it made for a rich and complex story, but with any complex story, I felt like some things went unexplained or lacked the depth of explanation that I was craving.  I am speaking, specifically, of  the ability to change the future shown by the moondial, and how difficult it was to make that change.  This kind of defied every conventional notion I have ever heard of time travel, namely that one small change can have huge repercussions (i.e. the butterfly effect).  I felt dissatisfied with the explanation regarding how to change one's future.

I really liked Holly's character, and I certainly felt her pain.  The scenes where she interacts with her future daughter are particularly poignant.  I cannot imagine being in this position, and I did not envy Holly one bit.  I wish we had learned more about the husband as a character, so that I would have been able to relate to him emotionally, particularly in light of his future according to the moondial.

In summation, this is a solid read, sure to tug on the heart strings.  It will appeal to fans of contemporary fiction, particularly stories written about women by female authors.

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

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Another Forgotten Child, by Cathy Glass

Despite the fact that she has been on a child protection "watch list" since birth, Aimee has suffered severe abuse, neglect, and molestation in her 8 years on earth.  Child protective services removes her from her mother's care and places her in foster care, with a care worker named Cathy Glass.  Cathy works hard to help Aimee adapt to a healthy, safe life, to make educational strides, and to begin putting together the fragments of a normal life.  Aimee's mother continues to make this difficult, however.  What does the future hold for poor Aimee?

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book, and I am still processing through most of them.  In general, this type of book, dubbed the "misery memoir" genre, is difficult to read.  Books dealing with the physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse of a child are extremely difficult to read, and it is hard to feel as if you "like" these kinds of books.  Yet this is the reality of life for so many children, and it is important that these stories get told.  I, personally, am more comfortable when the story is told by the victims themselves, as opposed to someone charged with their care, but perhaps these victims are not in a position to tell their own story.

The book is written under a pseudonym, and personal details have been changed.  I suspect, as well, that some literary liberties have been taken for the sake of the writing.  I find Aimee a fascinating character, but for a girl who is described as such a spitfire, she was much more compliant than I would have expected her to be, and certainly more compliant that any children I have ever encountered in protective custody.  It is sad to think that an 8 year old child has never had a hot bath, does not know basic self care skills, and is so terribly delayed academically, all because of parental neglect, yet I know this is the sad reality for so many children.

In general, the book was pretty engaging.  The writing style makes the book easy to read; before I knew it I was halfway finished with the book.  And in some ways, the book is very inspiring, knowing that these poor children can go on to have happy and healthy lives.  However, I would have a difficult time reading too many of these types of books.

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

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Echoes from the Infantry, by Frank Nappi

James McClearly was like so many other men who went into battle during World War II- young, brave, and anxious to return to his sweetheart.  The sights and sounds of war change him, however.  He returns home to live his life, lucky to be alive and physically unmarred.  Yet he has war wounds too, wounds that, while unseen, will affect not only him, but his children, and possibly even their children.

This novel was an honest and eye opening view of the repercussions of war.  With modern military technology often putting a wide distance between soldiers and their enemies, we often forget that the enemies are human too, with families, dreams, desires.  In the past, when war meant more face to face combat, soldiers watched the life drain from the eyes of enemies and friends alike.  Those experiences had tremendous long term impact, as we see in the character of James.

James is well developed as a character, but his development occurs in a subtle way.  We see who he is, and how he became that person, not through descriptions, but through the life he has lived upon returning from the war.  We do not need James to wax poetic about his emotional pain; we instead see it firsthand in his relationship with his wife and children.  It is not until his wife is gone, and his children are grown, that anyone sees who James really is, and how the war affected him.  I think this story is common, and echoes the experiences of many baby boomer children.

I found the story compelling, and intimate in a way that was unexpected.  I really felt like I was able to understand the pain, not only of James, but of his whole family.  This story is really honest about how terrible experiences can leave a lasting impression on a man.

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

Monday, February 25, 2013

Allister Cromley's Fairweather Belle, by Shane Portman

Allister is a man of mystery.  He has met many an interesting person, yet he has no idea when his own birthday is.  Throughout his life, he amasses a collection of stories that rival the fairy tales of old.  Each tale is more incredible than the last, but all will leave you at least a tiny bit likelier to believe in magic.

I, for one, believe that there are far few fairy tales and bedtime stories for adults.  I am so happy that this author has sought to correct this grave injustice.  Alliter's tales are, in a word, enchanting.  I loved reading the snippets of his life, and was immediately pulled in.  I want to know more about Allister and his fascinating life.

The character development of Allister is quite unique.  We do not learn a lot about him as a character, but the things we do learn make him seem like someone we know quite well.  And in fact, I think there is a little bit of Allister in all of us.

In addition to solid and enchanting stories, the writing is accompanied by some truly superb illustrations.  Even the typography adds to the overall reading experience.  The result is simply magical.  I really look forward to more installments in this series, as it shows considerable promise.  

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

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Demi-Monde, by Rod Rees

The Demi-Monde is a sophisticated computer program created by the US Military for training purposes.  In this virtual world, major historical figures, many of them evil, reside in a truncated version of the world, in the worst possible combinations of social, political, and economic conditions.  However, it has been discovered that if a real world person enters the Demi-Monde and dies there, they die in real life as well.  This has recently become a problem, as the daughter of the President of the United States has been lured into the Demi-Monde.  Will the she get saved in time?

This book is, in a word, explosive.  I was intimidated, at first, that this book would be to difficult for me to follow.  I sometimes struggle with technological dramas and action packed stories, because I cannot follow the line of the action.  Not so in this story.  The author has done such a superb job in creating this alternate, virtual reality of the Demi-Monde, including maps laying out the different territories.  The story mostly consists within this virtual world, and it has been brilliantly, and vividly created.  I had absolutely no difficulty imagining it in my mind.

Similarly, the characters in the book, particularly the personalities residing in the Demi-Monde, are frighteningly realistic.  The figures based on real historical figures were most striking to me, particularly the psychopathic "singularities".  There is a tremendous amount of word play involved in the naming of the territories, ethnic groups, religions, and philosophies that make up the Demi-Monde, and it is all wonderfully clever.  

The book is a dense read, full of nonstop action and many plot twists and turns.  There were times it was so intense, I had to walk away for a few moments, yet I found myself pulled back.  While not totally dystopian in nature, it will certainly appeal to fans of that genre, as well as those who enjoy technological thrillers.

I received a review copy of the book courtesy of TLC Book Tours.  See the entire tour off books from this series here.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Truth About Love and Lightning, by Susan McBride

 Gretchen told a lie in her youth, one that just may be coming back to haunt her.  When she got pregnant as a teenager, she told everyone that the father of the child was her good friend, Sam, who had gone missing.  Now, forty years later, Gretchen's baby is a grown woman getting ready to have a baby herself.  She comes home to visit Gretchen at the same time a wild storm deposits a strange man on their land, a man that reminds them all of Sam.  Will Gretchen be forced to own up to her lie?

This book has a magical, mystical quality to it that I found completely endearing.  The characters are  are unique and written in such a vivid way.  Gretchen is a very sympathetic character.  Finding herself in trouble, while watching Sam's parents mourn his disappearance, it is easy to see why she told the lie.  I got the sense that the gravity of this lie has weighed on her since it left her mouth.  I also really enjoyed learning Sam's ancestral background, and watching how it played a role in the present day story.

The story  is on a very fluid timeline, shifting from present to past and back again in a lyrical dance.  I found the writing in the book to be almost mesmerizing.  The story seems almost mythological, with the way it touches on Native American lore and how nature plays such a huge part in the story.  I also like that the ending is not definitive.  We think we know the identity of the strange man, but is that really who he is, or just who we so desperately want him to be?  

In short, I think this book was tremendous.  I could not put it down once I got started.  It is a quick, highly engaging read, and fans of contemporary literature will really enjoy it.

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

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Sunday, February 17, 2013

The DUFF, by Kody Keplinger

Bianca really hates Wesley, the biggest Lothario in her high school.  She hates him even worse when he tells her she is the DUFF of her group of friends.  DUFF, designated ugly fat friend.  The weak link.  Wesley eventually nicknames her Duffy, further fueling her hatred.  Oddly enough, Bianca's complete and utter disdain for Wesley translates into unbridled passion, and they secretly begin hooking up.  It starts out as a way for Bianca to use Wesley to run from her problems, but before she knows it, it becomes more.

This book was all the rage among young adult literature fans a couple of years ago.  I purchased it, and it sat on my shelf until this weekend.  I could not bring myself to read it.  Why would I need to read about the DUFF?  I was the DUFF for many years, at least that is how I felt.  After reading the book, I understand that many, if not all, girls have felt like this at some point in their lives.  Girls are raised to see each other as competition, to be hardest on ourselves, and to downplay our own value.  This book does a great job of taking all these inaccurate thoughts and smashing them to bits.  

Because this book is written by a young adult author, the characters are incredibly realistic.  They talk like real teens, think like real teens, and act like real teens.  The situations encountered in the book are also quite realistic; these are the real kinds of things teens are dealing with in high school.  Because this book is such an accurate portrayal of teen life, I was really engaged and connected as a reader.  I saw so much of myself in Bianca, it is no wonder I ran from this book for so long, just like she ran from her problems.  

Teen sex plays a big part in the storyline of this book, and I know this makes a lot of adult readers uncomfortable.  But I think the reality is, teen sex, particularly casual teen sex and frequent changes in sexual partners, is quite common, and avoiding the topic in teen literature will not solve the problem.  Instead, this book tackles it head on, and also points out why casual teen sex can be detrimental (there is mention of the possibilities of both STDs and teen pregnancy, as well and discussion about how this negatively effects self esteem).

The book is a quick and easy read, but still tackles some tough subject matter.  So many teen girls spent time calling each other names and cutting each other down, usually in an attempt to make themselves feel better.  The book examines this type of self loathing, and tries to correct some of the flawed thinking.  All in all, I really enjoyed the book, and can see many young adult readers relating to the story.

This book is from my personal library, all opinions are honest and original.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Straightjacket, by Meredith Towbin

Caleb is convinced he is an angel, sent into the world to rescue Anna, an 18 year old girl who has suffered abuse at the hands of her parents.  The pair meet in a mental hospital, where the doctors and staff chalk Caleb's heavenly beliefs up to delusion.  He slips into periods of deep catatonia during which he meets his guide, Sam, in heaven.  Anna is touched by Caleb's tender, artistic nature, and slowly begins to believe he actually is an angel, sent to change her life, and not merely the troubled young man the doctors claim he is.  What if she is wrong?

This book had a truly mystical feeling about it, one which drew me in from the very beginning.  From the moment we are first introduced to Caleb as a character, it is implied that he is an angel, and he has times where his spirit transcends Earth to Heaven, leaving his physical body trapped in a somewhat frozen state, much to the dismay of those in his presence.  We get two views of Caleb, his own and Anna's.  Similarly we learn of Anna from both her own view and Caleb's, though Anna has up a lot of protective walls as a result of the abuse she has suffered.  These dual views of both main characters allow them to be richly developed; we see their flaws and their emotional depth.  Both characters are strong, but of the two, I found myself much more drawn to Caleb.

I like that the writing leaves much open to reader interpretation.  Is Caleb really an angel, or merely a disturbed teenager?  Does he have views of heaven, or just powerful delusions and hallucinations?  The book really made me reflect.  As someone who worked in the mental health system, I strongly believe that treatment for mental illness can allow individuals to live happier, healthier lives.  However, many are quick to diagnose anyone who is a little different (creative, artistic, free spirited) as mentally ill, and I wonder if this is accurate.  Consider the lives of the saints, and mystics from all the major religions in the world.  Often they went into fugue-like states, but instead of calling it mental illness, we called it religious ecstasy.  Instead of a curse, it was a blessing.  Were these same saints and mystics to come into the world today (or prophets, sages, and philosophers) would they be put in mental hospitals and filled with drugs?

The enigmatic nature of the writing intentionally draws the reader deeper and deeper into the story.  I became incredibly invested in Caleb and Anna's story, and found myself rooting for their success.  I wanted Caleb to be an angel.  I wanted Anna to get rescued.  The story seemed mythological in a way, prophetic even.  I am a person who believes angels come in many forms, and often walk among us unknown.  The story is dreamy, and romantic, but also incredibly thought provoking.  While this is a young adult book, it has mass appeal for adult readers as well, particularly fans of paranormal romance and mystical stories.  As a debut novel, this is simply stunning and gorgeous.  I am excited to see what this author will continue to bring to the table.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author and publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Promise of Stardust, by Priscille Sibley

Matt has known Elle, literally, since she was born.  Having grown up next door to each other, Matt and Elle have always been a part of each other's lives; now they are married.  The only issue is that they have been unable to successfully start a family.  When Elle suffers a tragic accident that leaves her brain dead, Matt is prepared to follow her wishes and cease life support.  When it is discovered that Elle is pregnant, Matt must struggle with which desire Elle holds more dear- the desire to die with dignity, or the desire to give life to a child no matter what the cost.

Very rarely do books make me cry, but this book left me a soggy, blubbering mess, and I loved every moment of it.  The word intense does not even begin to describe this book.  The story is complex on so many levels.  First and foremost, the choices Matt must make are heartbreaking.  The choices of those around him are equally difficult and often enraging.  And the back story is no walk in the park either.  Matt and Elle have been through so many difficulties, both separately and together, prior to the current crises, you wonder how much more they can take.  The story is full of legal and medical technicalities which are so important to the story, without being overly distracting.  The narrative moves around on the timeline of events, but when there is a shift in time, it always makes sense, and it is always relevant to the current action of the story.

I love that we meet Elle's character through the lens of Matt's memory, the emotional responses of her family, and her own diaries.  It feels incredibly intimate, and is some of the most earnest character development I have ever read.  Matt's character is developed through his actions; the character shows us who he is, rather than just telling us.  I personally enjoyed that.  There were a lot of extraneous characters, most of which I cared very little about, or simply felt angry at, but Matt and Elle were always at the center of the story.  

These are intense issues covered in the book.  Terminal illness, teen pregnancy, right to life, right to death, alcoholism.  Yet there is something, ultimately, uplifting about the book.  Do not get me wrong, you will need tissues, but you will feel glad that you read the book when it is all said and done.  For people who have suffered fertility issues, miscarriages, stillbirths and other forms of infant loss, or loss of a loved one due to traumatic brain injury, this book will most likely serve as trigger, so be aware of that.  Even though the book left me emotionally exhausted, I feel thankful to have read it, and the story simply will not leave my mind; a brilliant showing for a debut novel.

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

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Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Cupid Kind of Day, by L.A. Dale

Lily is so not into Valentine's Day this year.  Still nursing a broken heart from her last serious relationship, she would rather sit at home than be around mushy couples in love.  When her favorite pair of shoes lands her in front of a dreamy man, however, her prospects for the holiday begin to look up.

What an adorable little novella this is!  Most people have suffered through at least one Valentine's Day as a singleton, I know I have.  It can be depressing, and it does get a little obnoxious seeing your workmates with their flower deliveries and giant stuffed bears.  So, I really felt myself relating to Lily right from the start.  It is amazing how in so little time, the author is able to fully develop Lily as a character, including her backstory, and endear her to the readers.

The story is full of good old fashioned Hollywood style romance.  The plot of the story is as sweet as a box of chocolate and not nearly so hard on the hips.  I found myself really enchanted by both the story and the characters, despite the short length of the story; the writing is that engaging.  And the ending is simply adorable.

Now that I am married, romantic stories like this appeal to me so much more.  However, this story is perfect for people who find themselves single on Valentine's Day, because it gives them a shot of hope.  Well done.

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

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Book of Why, by Nicholas Montemarano

Eric made his life as a self help author.  His specialty was the power of positive thinking in one's ability to get their heart's desire.  Yet when Eric suffers some terrible blows in his life, he no longer believes in his own mantras.  When a fan of his writing finds him in self imposed seclusion, she forces him to find faith and perhaps a little closure.

I really struggled with this book.  In reality, it is two books. One, a novel, as it claims, about a man who lost his path in life.  The other is a book full of self help platitudes that are the exact reason I hate self help books.  So I will address each separately.  As a novel, I found the book to be deep, reflective, and somewhat endearing.  It had a fuzzy, dreamlike nature to it.  I certainly felt for Eric as a character, and was saddened by the troubles in his life.  I was particularly touched by the stories of his childhood, and how they really shaped the man he would become.  So the plot and writing of the novel was great.

The self help aspect, on the other hand, drove me bonkers.  It was based on the very popular idea that if you believe in something enough, it will happen.  Think positive things, and positive things happen; think negative things and negative things happen.  Yet the book, just like the philosophy in real life, is unable to answer the gaping questions within this belief structure.  Do people who get cancer just not think positively enough?  Did the children who died in concentration camps think negatively and that is what made the Nazis decide to murder them?  It seems to suggest that we have ultimate control over every aspect of our lives, something I think is false.  So, the self help nature of the book, for me, was terrible.

Because these two natures of the book are crammed into one story, it ended up being just a lukewarm read for me.  Personally, I would have liked it much more if the actual self help philosophy was left out of it; I did not see where it contributed to the plot that much.  

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Scent of Darkness, by Margot Berwin

Evangeline had a special relationship with her grandmother, Louise, a gifted scent-maker.  When Louise dies, she leaves her home to Evangeline, along with a small vial of a scent made specifically for Evangeline.  Louise also leaves a warning that this scent will change Evangeline's life forever, and it does.  Upon touching the scent to her body, she becomes irresistible to all those who smell her.  Evangeline quickly learns how tiring it can be, being desired, and how much that desire can cloud the mind, leading to a place of darkness.

I found this book to be incredible.  There is certainly much more of an emphasis on the story than on the characters, but the characters themselves are also fascinating.  Although Louise, as a physical presence, is only in a small portion of the story, the idea of Louise carries throughout the book, making her the most compelling character.  I never felt as deep a connection to Evangeline as I would have liked, but I think that served a purpose; like everyone else in the story, the only thing I was interested in was her scent.  I think this was an intentional form of development by the author.

The premise of the story is so unique.  I loved the extreme symbolism surrounding the emphases on scent, blood, darkness, and the starkness of the color white.  The portion of the book that takes place in New Orleans has a dreamy, sultry feeling to it.  Overall, I found the book to be extremely erotic, much more than some so called erotica out there.  The book certainly has a romantic quality to it, with a decided love triangle, so fans of that type of story will enjoy that aspect of the book.  I loved the dark, seductive nature of the story, and I think many other readers will enjoy it as well.

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

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Heart Like Mine, by Amy Hatvany

Kelli had a difficult adolescence, so when she fell in love and married Victor, she finally had someone to love her.  Two kids and 13 years later, her marriage has fallen apart, she is divorced, and constantly reliving the pain of all of her losses.  Meanwhile, Victor has fallen in love with a new woman, Grace.  Just as Victor and Grace prepare to announce their engagement, Kelli suddenly dies, leaving Victor and Grace to raise the children.  The daughter, Ava, is approaching adolescence herself, and is determined to learn more about the mother who left her so suddenly.

This book mesmerized me from the very moment I started reading.  When a book starts off with a death, you cannot help but fall down the rabbit hole so to speak.  I thought the story was well constructed, with just enough layers to propel the story swiftly, but not so many that the plot got cluttered.  The balance of past and present was very skillfully maintained.

The points of view switch between Grace, Kelli, and Ava.  I adored Grace as a character.  I found her to be very real, and honest.  As a woman in my thirties who has no children, I certainly was able to relate to her choices in life, and the reactions she got from people concerning those choices.  I admire her strength as a character.  Ava's narrative bothered me a little.  As a character, I really liked her, but her narrative just was unconvincing.  Half the time, she did not talk like a 13 year old girl but instead like a middle aged woman.  When she did talk like a teenager, it range false; all in all her narrative (though not her choices in the story) seemed rather inconsistent.  As for Kelli, I had a hard time sympathizing with her character, and I am not sure why.  She was a good person who made bad choices, and I did not hold that against her.  I think I just saw her as a weak person, a cliche' of what women are told they need to be (particularly a line where she says she stuck her chest during an interview to get the job).

Despite the fact that I had difficulties with some of the characters, I still think this is a fabulous book.  I think we are meant to have difficulties with this story; you simply cannot root for both Grace and Kelli, since their desires are directly at odds.  Some readers may adore Kelli and hate Grace, and I think that is perfectly ok.  The point is that the story elicits a strong emotional reaction.  I simply could not put the book down, and read it in a 5 hour marathon sitting.  It was that good.  The story is engaging, and a bit heartbreaking.  Fans of contemporary fiction, particularly women's fiction, will enjoy this book.

I received a review copy courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher, in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Alone, by L.N. Cronk

In this 8th and final book in the Chop, Chop series, we hear Tanner's side of the story.  We learn how he lived with a lifetime of unrequited love, we learn about his regrets, we learn about his struggles.  We also learn that Tanner is a man of depth, and he, perhaps more than any other character in this series, fully understands the meaning of love and sacrifice.

Wow, what a powerful book.  I will start off by saying that it is completely vital that you have read all 7 of the previous books in this series.  This book moves at a fast pace, and you must be familiar with the characters and storylines that have already been covered in order to keep up.  Tanner states at the beginning that he is not going to re-tell any of the stories, he is simply going to fill in the gaps from his point of view.

I absolutely fell in love with Tanner's character in this book.  While he was prominently featured in some of the past storylines, we never saw into is soul the way we do now.  I was surprised, really, at how much emotional depth there was to Tanner; in the past stories, he seems to have hidden behind a dumb jock persona, to protect himself.  Now, we see see rawness and vulnerability.  We always knew Tanner cared for Laci, but I was amazed, and a little heartbroken, to read how deep his love for her truly was, to the point that he had to let her go.

I am also amazed to see Tanner's difficulties with substance abuse, depression, the impact of premarital sex, and David's illness.  Again, we have seen some of these things hinted to in past stories, but never have we gotten the full impact of the situation.  The book sends a strong message about faithfulness in many forms, particularly faithfulness when it goes against our own wishes.

The book is chock full of struggles, mostly because it covers a span of fifty years.  Yet with all the struggles, heartaches, and losses in the book, the ultimate message is so incredibly uplifting.  The story is one of Christian fiction, yet the characters are flawed, the situations difficult, and the topics heavy.  Just like the real life of a Christian.  And while the message of the gospels is clearly spelled out in the story, it is done in a way that will still allow the book to interest (and witness to) non-Christian readers.

I cannot think of a more perfect way to end this series full of characters I have come to know and love like friends.

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

Friday, February 1, 2013

Baker Towers, by Jennifer Haigh

Bakerton is a small Pennsylvania coal mining town.  During WWII, and the days shortly after, coal is still in full swing, which is good news for the Novak family.  Mr. Novak works in the mines, until he suddenly passes away, leaving his wife and children to deal with the effects of a changing world in a small town.  Over the next twenty plus years, the family deals with health issues, bad marriages, births, deaths, and heartbreaks.

I was absolutely fascinated by this book.  As someone living in a small town in Pennsylvania where coal mining is still a major industry, a lot of this book hit close to home; I could have been reading a story about the history of my own town.  I was fascinated to read about the evolution of all the characters, but especially the members of the Novak family.  I felt like these characters were all so vivid, I actually could see them in my mind.  I particularly thought the female characters were incredibly strong and fascinating.

Because the story covers over twenty years of this family's story, the book moved at a quick pace.  It made me stay glued to the story.  It was fascinating to watch this town, and the people in it, develop and grown in an attempt to deal with the rapidly changing world in the post war years.  I will admit, portions of the book were a little bleak, but I imagine that is pretty accurate to how life in a coal town would be during those times.

I think the book in beautiful and engaging, and there is something a little haunting about the author's style.  I look forward to reading more from this author.  I think the book will appeal to fans of historical fiction, particularly post WWII stories, as well as stories about small town life.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest review.  See the tour of this and a second book by this author here.