Friday, July 26, 2013

Seaside Harmony by Evangeline Kelley - Book Review

BookSeaside Harmony
AuthorEvangeline Kelley
Genre: Fiction 
Publisher/Publish DateGuidepostsBooks / January, 2012
Source: Publisher, through GoodReads
Pages: 333
Rating: 3.5/
GoodReads  •  Amazon

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, but it in no way effects my review of the book.

The first book in a series, Seaside Harmony introduces us to sisters Caroline, Gracie and Sam, who are vacationing together in Nantucket. They had recently lost their mother, so they returned to the site of their childhood family vacations to reconnect.

As they are on the beach one day, they notice Misty Harbor Inn, which their mother loved so much. As the go to visit it, they discover that it's been left uncared for, the garden overgrown, and a for sales sign. After much haggling between the sisters, they decide to all pitch in to purchase and restore the Inn.

As this is the first in which is currently a three book series, this novel doesn't cover much more than getting the inn up and running. This book wasn't as juicy as books I usually read (ie: it was published by Guideposts), but it wasn't overly spiritual and I really enjoyed the characters. Their stories of having a dream, acting on it, and all moving in together, in a small town seems idyllic to me. It sounds like a fun way to spend your retirement years.

If I didn't have such a long list of books to read I would probably read the other books in the series. This book does leave a couple relational cliff hangers, and it would be nice to see how those turn out.

This would be great for a laid back summer day of reading in the hammock.

FYI: Evangeline Kelley is the pen name for the writing team of Patti Berg, Pam Andrews, Barbara Hanson, and Camy Tang.

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If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan by Jonathan Kirsch - Book Review

BookThe Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in Paris
AuthorJonathan Kirsch
Genre: History
Publisher/Publish DateLiveright / May 6, 2013
SourceARC courtesy of publisher
Pages: 352
Rating: 3.5/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

A fascinating story of a 17 year old Jewish avenger and the Nazi regime that lead him to murder. This is a longer than normal review, and mostly an overview of the story the book is about.

Herschel Grynszpan grew up a Jew in Nazi Germany, but escaped to France in 1936 to live with hi aunt and uncle. A series of events leads to him to the German Embassy, where he shot and killed an Embassy official, Ernst vom Rath, to avenge the atrocities done to the Jews.

The news of the murder spread quickly with lots of people finding his story engaging. American radio broadcaster and journalist Dorothy Thompson, the second most influential woman in America in 1939, was sympathetic to Herschel. Her radio program about him lead to over $40,000 in donations, enabling the hiring of top quality lawyers for his case. British composer Michael Tippett composed an oratorio in Herschel's honor, titled A Child of Our Time.

Herschel sat in prison waiting as the trial was delayed over and over again. In September 1939, after France declared a state of war with Germany, the trial was put on the back burner, as his lawyers and the trial's judge were call upon to serve in the army. Herschel urged the new judge to move ahead with trial, as he had been in prison for two years, and he was afraid if the war was over quickly, people would care less about the trial and he's be more likely to be found guilty.

As Germany took control of Paris, the prison guards transferred the prisoners, including Herschel to prisons in southern France. But since no one really wanted the responsibility of housing him in their prison, they kept sending him off to the next prison south of them, usually forcing him to walk from town to town. He would show up at the next prison, begging to be let in and fed.

Eventually France handed him over to Germany, and while they were wanting to hold a show trial, the date kept on being put off due to the war. What exactly came of Herschel as the war went on may never be known. His last known communications with his parents was in 1940, and German documents lead researchers to believe he was alive until at least 1942. Many rumors surround his death, with no clear story of how he died.

His short life was full of twists, scandal, mystery, and provided the Nazi regime with pretax for the escalation in the persecution of the Jews.

I've read a lot of books about the Holocaust, but from this book I learned more about the time in Nazi Germany before the concentration camps as well as Germany's political relations with other European countries, specifically France. The book is heavy on history with a little juicy inside information here and there. I think anyone who enjoys reading about history would find this book gripping.

*Please note that we receive affiliate income from any books purchased at Amazon.

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks! 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Kneading to Die by Liz Mugavero - Book Review

BookKneading to Die (Pawsitively Organic Mysteries)
AuthorLiz Mugavero
Genre: Mystery 
Publisher/Publish DateKensington / May 7, 2013
Source: ARC courtesy of publisher 
Pages: 343
Rating: 3.5/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Please forgive the slightly cheesy title of the book:) I requested this book planning to pass it on to a friend who I thought might enjoy it, decided to read it before I passed it on, and was pleasantly surprised. Be warned there may be some spoilers in the review.

The first in a series, Kneading to Die introduces us to the protagonist, Stan, who is new in the small town of Frog Ledge. After losing her highly paid PR job, she decides to have a fresh start in what she believes to be a quite town. Within a few days she's meet some new people, made some homemade doggie treats to share with their dogs, and she's coerced into an appointment for her cat with the local vet. Surprisingly things don't go as planned, and when she arrives at the clinic, she finds the vet murdered.

Stan is not one to sit still, especially with the small town sherif marking her as the main suspect, so she starts asking questions and poking her nose in where it doesn't belong. At this point the story gets a little silly, but it never takes it self too seriously, and it's a breeze to read.

Stan has a boyfriend, who still lives in her old city, maybe a 40-60 minutes drive. From the get go the seem like an odd paring, so while it may add some romantic drama to the book, it feels a little forced at times. Many of the town's characters are friendly, and realistic, though a few seem over the top. It makes the book a bit less "real world" believable, but not really in a negative way.

This is the perfect book for vacation or the beach. For me this book came at a great time, between some more serious, historical books, it was a nice, lighthearted, break and only took me 2 days to read. Not sure if I will read the next book in the series, but it wouldn't be the most surprising thing.

*Please note that we receive affiliate income from any books purchased at Amazon.

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks! 

PS: My new digs in Portland has a beautiful backyard, which is a lovely place for blog writing:)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Coyote Lost at Sea by Julia Plant - Book Review

BookCoyote Lost at Sea: The Story of Mike Plant, America's Daring Solo Circumnavigator
AuthorJulia Plant
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir 
Publisher/Publish DateInternational Marine Publishing / February 27, 2013
SourcePublisher, NewGalley
Pages: 256
Rating: 4/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

Coyote Lost at Sea tells the story of Mike Plants rocky life and successful sailing career told by the person who probably knew him best, his sister Julia Plant.  Along with journals and memoirs that Mike had started writing, she pieces together the life of someone who was a risk-taker, charismatic, intense, and liked to hide from the limelight. This is not just a book about adventure, but a look into who he really was, and what lead up to his disastrous final trip across the Atlantic.

What drew me to this book was the adventure of singlehanded ocean sailing, but what I really enjoyed is how much Julia shared about her life growing up with her brother. She using the writing of the book to process what his life and death meant to her, and tries to uncover what lead him on his unending travels and dangerous endeavors.

About half of the book covers his childhood, growing up on a lake, travels through South America in his early twenties, and trying to balance his life against the expectations of his father. At 35, while living in Rhode Island, he decides to build a sail boat and enter a singlehanded, around-the-world yacht race. I won't give away the result of the race, though it's easy to find with a quick internet search. He was so in love with singlehanded sailing, by the time he died at age 42 he was one of only five people to have completed three solo circumnavigations.

I recommend this book to anyone who really loves memoirs or adventure books.

*Please note that we receive affiliate income from any books purchased at Amazon.

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link to the review in the comments and I will add your review to the main post. All I ask is for you to do the same to mine — thanks! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Woke Up Lonely by Fiona Maazel - Book Review

BookWoke Up Lonely
AuthorFiona Maazel
Genre: Fiction 
Publisher/Publish Date: Greywolf Press / April 2013
Source: Copy courtesy of publisher
Pages: 336
Rating: 3.5/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon
Thurlow Dan is the founder of the Helix, a cult that promises to cure loneliness in the twenty-first century. With its communes and speed-dating, mixers and confession sessions, the Helix has become a national phenomenon—and attracted the attention of governments worldwide. But Thurlow, camped out in his Cincinnati headquarters, is lonely. And his ex-wife, Esme, is the only one he wants. They were a family once; they had a child together. For Esme’s part, she’s a covert agent who has spent her life spying on Thurlow, mostly in an effort to protect him from the law. Now, with her superiors demanding results, Esme recruits four misfits to botch a reconnaissance mission in Cincinnati. [via GoodReads]
A unique novel, with lots of heart and dark humor. The author weaves together the story of Thurlow, Esme, and the four "agents" to tell a fascinating story about a misguided cult and the lives it affects. While the cult was originally created as a way to connect lonely people, it has spiraled out of Thurlow's control, and has got him into a heap-load of trouble. Unbeknownst to him, the love of his life, Esme, has been following and investigating him since they day they meet. Not complicated at all, hu?

Throughout the novel they tell the story of how they fell in love, how the Helix came to be, and how their lives started to fall apart.

This is a book that took me awhile to warm up to. It has a very unique writing structure, and a lot of characters are introduced in around about way. Though once I figured out the rhythm to that, I started to really enjoy the book. So if you don't like it at first, keep reading, it might grow on you.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling - Book Review

Book: The Casual Vacancy
AuthorJ.K. Rowling
Genre: Fiction 
Publisher/Publish Date: Little, Brown and Company / September, 2012
Source: Personal copy
Pages: 512
Rating: 3/5
GoodReads  •  Amazon

There are a lot of mixed reviews about this book, so I wasn't really sure what to expect when I started reading. This is first adult novel by J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books. It was quite the detour from those books, so I think lots of the readers when into it assuming it might have a hint of HP in there, and I think the Amazon reviews show this (around 800 for each of the stars). I've read a lot of witty, British novels, and compared to those this was a pretty good book.

Based in a quiet, pretty, little English town, a member of the parish council suddenly dies, and the town is left to battle out who will take his spot. This novel is heavy with characters, and thought I often got confused as to who was who, Rowling writes incredibly strong personalities, creating a very believable dramatic plot line.

It's a big book, and I struggled through some of it, but over all enjoyed it. I think this shows the breadth of styles in which Rowling can write, so it will be interesting to see if she writes another book in this genre, or something else entirely.

I would suggest this for fans of Sophie Kinsella novels, Gone Girl, and Bridget Jone's Diary.

Monday, July 1, 2013

June - What I Read

After a few months of heavy reading, June wasn't so great. But I have some pretty valid reasons. I've spent the last two weeks packing and moving, and read a book and a half that were pretty awful I will spare you the reviews. The three books I did finish I really liked though, and would especially recommend the first one.
Archipelago, by Monique Roffey
An amazing book about a father and daughter sailing on a trip of a lifetime around the Caribbean islands. Be sure to check out my review for more information on the book.

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
Rowling's first adult novel since the Harry Potter series, Very, very different, but I enjoyed it.

Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel
A fascinating book about a cult leader and his CIA ex-wife. This book has an interesting plot structure, so I recommend it if you are looking for something a little different.

Working on getting through a few more books in July:)