Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Secrets both big and small but nonetheless difficult to keep.  

Nicole and Charlotte who had been friends since grade school and who hadn’t seen each other for ten years had secrets they couldn’t tell each other.  Nicole’s secret did come out, but it was good that it did.  Charlotte’s secret was definitely better left unrevealed but eventually does come out.

Sweet Salt Air is set in Quinnipeague, an island filled with quaint citizens and great cooks with wonderful recipes for Nicole’s cookbook and Charlotte’s accompanying narratives.  The island’s characters were diverse and filled with generations of families who lived and worked using their talents in many areas, but specifically cooking and baking.  They also knew everyone’s personal business, and if they didn’t, they would make it their business to find out.  Everyone on the island was family.

The description of the island was heavenly and sounded like a perfect place for a vacation even though some Quinnies were not pleased with outsiders.  What brought the entire book together was the characters. The storyline fell into place around them more than the storyline falling around the characters.  Leo, the son of the town’s herbal genius, was quite odd, but very likable.  Charlotte and Nicole shared a friendship that was good for both of them.  Julian, Nicole’s husband, was an ok character, but you will find out why he was the way he was when you delve into this appealing book.

I enjoyed the book because of the beach setting, the wonderful, homey town, Ms. Delinsky’s writing, and of course the recipe hints.  Warning:  Don't read this book while you are hungry.   I have never read a Barbara Delinsky book before and truly enjoyed SWEET SALT AIR. 

This book is a dream for all readers.  It has books, bloggers, authors and is set in a beautiful location with appealing, unique characters.  It is about life's choices and decisions, families, triumphs, and tragedies, along with a love story thrown in.  It is a quick, delightful and VERY engaging book.  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge by the publisher without compensation in return for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

To lose your mother and then your sister in an already lonely, abandoned land made Talmadge the person he was.  He had his orchards and his kindness to keep him going.

Talmadge lived alone in his family home that really had no family except Talmadge until one day two girls, Jane and Della, arrived on his land and began stealing his fruit.  Talmadge let them steal the fruit, and he also fed them.  They stayed away from him for the most part and only made an appearance when he put food out for them.  Both girls were pregnant, and Talmadge had the midwife stop by to try to get the girls to warm up to her since they would be needing her.

These girls became his family or the best semblance of what a family could be. The book follows Talmadge through the stages of the girls' lives and how their being present in his life helped him be happy as well as allow him to experience the heartache of their growing up and his being a concerned parent.  His concern for Della became an obsession. 

As you continue reading, you will become completely involved in the plot and the lives of each character.  You will become attached to Talmadge, Della, Caroline, and Angelene and  hope things turn out for all of them.  Talmadge was an odd person and one you would like to tell to wake up even though he was such a good person.  Caroline was the character who held everyone togetherDella was not a likable character.  And wonderful Angelene was adorable, kind, and a character you will fall in love with.

The book had marvelous descriptions of feelings, landscapes, and characters.  It was beautifully written for a first novel.  It was as outstanding in writing style, interest, and development of the story and characters as a seasoned author.
I can't give enough praise for this book.  It was touching, tender, brilliantly written, mesmerizing, and one you will remember long after you turn the last page.  

THE ORCHARDIST is not an uplifting book but the prose and the storyline are so exceptional that regardless of the book's mood it instantly grips you.  5/5

This book was given to be free of charge by the publisher without compensation for a blog tour with TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Paradise Guest House by Ellen Sussman

Returning to beautiful Bali and reliving a nightmare was something Jamie had to do.  The previous year she was injured in and her boyfriend was killed in the bombings in a night club in Bali.   She still hadn't forgiven herself for saying no when her boyfriend, Miguel, asked her to marry him and for being the cause of Miguel's running into the night club that was bombed.  Jamie also had another mission.  She had to find Gabe, the person who saved her and helped her heal. 

The book went back and forth in time right inside a sentence or paragraph...very clever.  It was a bit tricky to keep track of what was going on, though.  The writing was mostly dialogue.  Each character had a death to deal with whether it was a child's death or another loved one, and each character felt responsible for the death.

THE PARADISE GUEST HOUSE is a book about healing, caring for others, and believing in another person.  Despite this, it was just an ok read.  The author did do a wonderful job with descriptions of the beautiful Bali landscapes and its caring people.  3/5

This book was won in a giveaway on Library Thing's website and in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

All Woman & Springtime by Brandon W. Jones

Betrayal, brainwashing, corruption, hardships, fear, innocence, and poverty.  

These words make up the life of Il-sun and Gi.  Il-sun was wealthy at one time, but the death of her parents left her with no songbun and no status.  Gi was poor from birth and her family was accused by the government of not being loyal to the Great Leader and put into prison.  Both girls ended up in an orphanage and worked in a sewing factory.  When a slick trafficker deceives Il-sun, she and Gi end up in South Korea and are put into the sex trade.  These two girls, not even twenty years old, move from one horror to another.......their difficult life of fearing their government to the fear and lies of their captors.

Despite the book's gritty topic, it was quite interesting but heartbreaking to learn about the life of the citizens of North and South Korea and how the government had each citizen fearing for his/her life on a daily basis if they didn't work and devote themselves for the Great Leader.  The result of the harsh government and brainwashing caused illegal activities and even harsher circumstances for unknowing, innocent young women. The unethical men who took advantage and had control over Il-sun and Gi and other women were despicable.  You will feel the shame and hopelessness of these women enslaved in this type of life.  You will hate Mr. Choy and feel the pain of these girls.

The author did an excellent job with scene description, with character development, and with portraying the feelings of the characters.  There are some graphic parts dealing with the acts performed in the sex trade, but this book is an excellent representation of life as it was for citizens and these girls.  More can't be said without giving away the entire story.  If you liked Memoirs of a Geisha, you will like this book. 

I can't say I liked it, and I can't say I didn't.  It was horrible reading the descriptions of the girls' lives who were in Mr. Choy's "camp" and where they were after that, but the history of North and South Korea was fascinating.  It is difficult to believe this type of activity goes on.  The ending was redeeming...give it a try.  4/5

I received this book from the publisher free of charge and without compensation in return for an honest review.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney

What really was Lola's secret?

Was her secret something that she needed to keep from her family because they didn't need to know or was her secret something that she does that secretly helps others?

Lola was an 84-year-old mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother and a woman who had a mind of her own and was a person whom everyone loved and looked up to. But....Lola did have unique ideas and one in particular that her family definitely shouldn't know about especially since it was Christmas. She wanted something different for this Christmas even though it included complete strangers.

LOLA'S SECRET was funny, hit close to home in family matters, and made you think about your life. Lola will make you think about the beauty of life and of living your life to its fullest with no regrets.   

You will absolutely love Lola, absolutely hate Geraldine, and enjoy all the other characters. Lola held them all together. You will wish you had someone like Lola in your life....she was wonderful.

LOLA'S SECRET is a sweet, nostalgic read that has a feel good theme taking place in a small town where everyone knows each other and everyone helps each other with Lola and the Valley View Motel and its owners being the center of it  all. 

I really enjoyed this book because of the homey, family-oriented theme and the reminder of enjoying life. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

Publication date is:  March 5, 2013

Could it be true?  Could Majella have inherited the "crazy" gene from her mother's ancestors?
From present-day New York and then back to Ireland in the 1800's, THE CROOKED BRANCH, covers a family's history and tells of a mother's love as well as the heartaches it brings.  Majella, the New York mother, and Ginny, the Irish mother, are distant relatives but share the same things every mother wants for her children and also all of the things a mother fears about motherhood and raising a family.  

Majella is experiencing a fear of having a family link of craziness after she read of a murder committed by her mother's great-grandmother, Ginny, in a diary she found hidden inside the hem of a dress in the attic of her childhood home.

THE CROOKED BRANCH takes the reader through the potato famine in Ireland to present-day New York.  The book allows you to spend a day with Majella in New York and then back to a day in Ginny's life during the potato famine in Ireland.   

You will follow Majella as she struggles with being a stay-at-home mom dealing with postpartum depression.  Both women have their families uppermost in their minds with Majella also struggling with her relationship with her own mother. You will follow Ginny as her family struggles to stay alive because there is no food in Ireland and where people are dying on a daily basis.  You will follow Ginny as she has to bear the pain of leaving her four young children alone to find work as a chambermaid in an estate that won't allow her to go home at night and whose mistress becomes involved in Ginny's family life. 
The book is fast paced and has detailed descriptions of the characters, the scenes, and the character's feelings.   I enjoy books that go back and forth in time and especially ones that tell of written accounts from ancestors...especially diaries and also in this case a recording by Ginny's son telling of the events in Ireland and their passage to New York.  I was quickly pulled into this moving historical fiction book through Ginny's story.  

Ginny's story was much more appealing than Majella's perhaps because of the historical aspect, while Majella tugged more at the heartstrings of modern-day mothers who have to deal with leaving the work force and becoming an isolated, stay-at-home mom.  The tale was a bit humdrum through Majella's story, but quite fascinating during Ginny's.

My rating is 4/5.  

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.