Book Review: The Life Intended by Kristin Harmel

I’ve been only reading on the Kindle these days thanks to a combination of not having any time for a library run and managing to get hold of some interesting e-books. I had never thought I would go for so long without picking up a real book. Well, never say never seems to be the theme around here, these days. I did manage to go to the library this week, finally, but it was a quick 10 minute stop, so have had to grab what I found. This is another Netgalley book that I got approved for. Have I said how thankful I am for having discovered Netgalley?

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Katie has just got engaged a wonderful man, Dan. A man who everyone thinks is perfect for her. All her friends and family are delighted, but something is nagging at Katie.

Katie’s husband, Patrick, had died over 10 years ago. She had been mourning for him since then. Her family had been worried that she isn’t letting go and moving on until she got engaged to Dan. Something however isn’t quite right.

Katie starts having vivid dreams about Patrick. She gets transported into a different world where Patrick is still alive and they have a daughter. A life that she doesn’t want to leave. A life that she yearns for. The life she should have had. The life where the love of her life doesn’t die. The life where things are the way she wants them to be. The dreams leave Katie confused and purposeful at the same time. Convinced that Patrick is sending her messages, Katie follows her heart to go on the most unexpected and yet the most fulfilling journey possible. Katie discovers a world unknown to her, people who she gets involved with who move her in ways that she never imagined.

A book that had me in tears, which had me wanting to flip to the end just because I so wanted to know how it all ends up. A heart-wrenching tale that has your heart go out to Katie. A beautiful read. One that I would go for, armed with tissues.

The book also deals with the a lot of difficult topics like living with the loss of a loved one, the life of a hard of hearing person and foster care of children. All these have been handled so sensitively and beautifully. I love books like these which open up a perspective which I had never come across before. A beautiful book. The first I’ve read of this author, but having read this one, I’m sure it won’t be the last.

A 4.5/5 read for me and one that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

This book can be ordered from Amazon.

Book Review: One Step Closer to You by Alice Peterson

I’ve enjoyed Alice Peterson’s books previously (reviewed here and here). Needless to say, I was very excited to lay my hands on One Step Closer to You courtesy Netgalley. 48790_One Step Closer To You_PB.indd

Polly is a young single mother. Her only focus is her young son Louis. She had a troubled relationship with Louis’ dad and wants to put it all behind her. She is also an alcoholic who is determined to stay clean for the sake of her son.

Ben’s sister died and he ended up becoming his niece’s guardian. Ben is clueless about children, and between coping with his own grief at losing his beloved sister, and looking after a five-year old, he is struggling. His little niece, Emily, isn’t talking, or eating properly and he doesn’t know what to do. Ben is also an alcoholic.

Ben and Polly come across each other and turn into good friends. Life is perfect for Polly, her life with Louis and her friendship with Ben are enough for her.

Everything seems perfect until Louis’ dad who had disappeared, suddenly turns up. Polly’s ordered little world is turned upside down and she is forced to confront the demons of her past. A beautiful story. One that had me hooked from the word go. Narrated by Polly, the book has flashbacks to Polly’s past, giving us glimpses into her life, the reasons why she is so complicated and troubled. Polly’s story is a heart-breaking one, one which you empathise with, one which has you rooting for her, hoping for her to find her way out of the mess she gets into, cheering for her when she does the right things.

The story also gives us a perspective into the life of an alcoholic, of how easily things can go wrong. Of how tough it can be for an alcoholic. The author also explores the possibility of alcoholism being genetic in nature.

It was shocking in places, had me in tears in places. I loved Polly’s character,her strengths and her weaknesses, and her brother Hugo. If anything I loved Hugo even more than Polly. I was enraged at times by the way she took him for granted, and despite all that, the strong, unbreakable bond between them was so beautifully portrayed.

All the characters had depth, and felt very real. I had an inkling of one of the revelations that came towards the end, but even that did not detract from the book.

A book I would strongly recommend. A 4.5/5 read for me.

About the Author
At the age of eighteen Alice had been awarded a tennis scholarship to America when she experienced pain in her right hand. It was rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and she hasn’t picked up a tennis racket since, a sadness that shall always be with her. The theme of disability features in her fiction, but there is nothing gloomy about Alice or her work. Rather this gives her fiction the added dimension of true poignancy.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Three Amazing Things About You by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell is one of those authors whose books never disappoint me. I love the combination of a touching story and Jill’s wonderful sense of humour that never fails to come through in her books. When I saw that this book was up for review at Netgalley, I just had to request it.

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The book is based around three sets of characters Hallie, Flo and Tasha.

Hallie is a 28-year-old, with cystic fibrosis. She knows that she doesn’t have long to live, unless they find a donor for her failing lungs. She is secretly in love with her doctor Luke, but knowing that no good can come of it, given the small chances of her survival, she keeps it to herself, and devotes herself to doling out advice anonymously on her blog.

Tasha has just met with the love of her life while rummaging around in a bin, on Christmas Eve. She and Rory are head over heels in love with each other. The only fly in her ointment is that Rory love adventure sports, and Tasha, try as she might, is finding it very difficult to not worry about him when he goes off on his adventures.

Flo, has just been bequeathed a flat to live in, by Elsa, an elderly lady. The only condition being that she has to stay in and look after Jeremy. Jeremy, being Elsa’s cat, a cat with an attitude and very strong preferences. Needless to say, Elsa’s granddaughter Lena, is not pleased. She had been expecting to get the flat. Lena is bound to be even less pleased if she knows that Flo and Lena’s brother Zander might be more than just friends.

How does such different characters all tie into the story? You will have to read to find out, but I can assure you that it will be well worth the read. A brilliant book, a story that touches your heart. I love the way the author has crafted the characters, so believable, and yet so brave, especially Hallie. I loved her spirit, so generous, so giving, and yet she felt real, she didn’t feel like a character, too good to be true. Their stories run in parallel, but never feels disjointed. The story flows just perfectly. I love the way the author makes even the side characters stand out, and be memorable. I particularly liked Joe and Margot.

Hallie’s life and the challenges her condition brought with it, was a very touching and enlightening read. It is heartbreaking as well as brave at the same time. Her struggle to be noticed just as a girl, and not as an ill person, with an oxygen tank, and the special treatment that comes along with it, had my eyes welling up.

This was a book I couldn’t put down. I read it on a particularly busy Saturday and I still read it in one day, because I just couldn’t stop. A 4.5/5 read for me.

About the Author
Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full-time. Jill Mansell’s books have sold over ten million copies and her titles include: Making your Mind up, Fast Friends, Good at Games, Sheer Mischief and Solo, among many others.

This book is available to pre-order at Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Hark — A Christmas Collection by Justin Bog

I love Christmas themed books. There is something about them, that draws me. The cheery spirits, the happiness, the general feeling of everything being in place. Of course, nothing can be better than reading a Christmas book during the Christmas season. So when Sage asked me if I wanted to review Justin Bog’s book, I was all for it.

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Having said that, Hark — A Christmas Collection, is a different sort of Christmas book. It is a beautifully written set of 6 stories, each of them exploring the various emotions that form part of the holiday season. Emotions aren’t normally part of traditional Christmas stories. Loneliness, sadness, hope, forgiveness, despair feelings that we rather tend to try to forget during the festive season. It is a season for happiness, and yet, so often it is sad time for many, for a many a reason.

Each of the stories are different, strongly emotional, Christmas being the common thread, running through all the stories. Beautiful stories, from the injured police officer’s reminiscences of how one Christmas changed his life forever, another story about a woman who has misplaced a present she bought for her sister, who seems to have very little interest in her lonely sister. My favourite was the one with Mr and Mrs Claus, both beautiful and heart-wrenching, brave at the same time.

A very different and yet very ‘Christmassy’ set of stories, not the usual saccharine sweet stories but one that will stay with you, haunting you, as you watch the merry festivities around you. Having said that, it is a book that you could read anytime of the year, and feel just as moved. A 3.5/5 read for me.

About the Author

Justin Bog lives in the Pacific Northwest on Fidalgo Island. Justin Bog was Pop Culture Correspondent and Editor for In Classic Style. He is an experimental cook, a lawn mower who colors outside the lines, and treat master to two long coat German shepherds, Zippy and Kipling, and two barn cats, Ajax The Gray and Eartha Kitt’n.

Book Review: The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes has been an author, some of whose books I have enjoyed immensely, while some I’ve been very lukewarm to. I came across this book in Netgalley’s titles, and couldn’t requesting for it. Luckily enough for me, I got approved as well.

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Stella Sweeney is back in Dublin. After living the dream in New York for a year – touring her self-help book, appearing on talk shows all over the USA and living it up in her 10-room duplex on the Upper West Side – she’s back to normality with a bang. And she’s got writer’s block.

Stella wants a clean break as she didn’t exactly leave New York on a high. Why is she back in Ireland so soon? Who is it who keeps calling? Stella wants to get back to being the woman she used to be. But can she? And should she?

The story goes back and forth to the Stella’s past and present, so in effect, you know what’s been happening, and only slowly do you get to understand how she got to where she did. Stella has separated from her husband, and back in Ireland after a flashy trip to America. Her daughter has chosen to get married to a man she met in America, and her teenage son, unlike other ‘normal’ teenagers does yoga and loves cooking. Stella can’t understand where she’s gone wrong. And of course, there is this tiny problem of having to write a book that she just doesn’t seem capable of writing anymore.

Over all, I was disappointed by this book. None of the author’s trademark humour nor was the plot engaging enough. Stella came across as someone who just gets carried along by the tide, sometimes an outright doormat, which made it difficult to empathize with her. I might have been disappointed because I have read much more engrossing and fun books by this author. Even her twitter updates are more fun.

The one thing that stood out for me, was the way Stella’s medical condition was described. It was vivid, and felt very real. That was one part of the book, where I could completely empathise with Stella. It made me cry and then rejoice when she recovered completely. The author must have done a tremendous amount of research to understand what patients with this sort of condition/disease go through. I did feel that she did a great job at portraying Stella’s feelings at that time. What I’ve always liked about Keyes’ writing is that they are not just ‘fun’ books, they have tackled hidden issues, like domestic violence and depression and in this book, it is the parts with Stella’s disease that I liked the most. That Stella somehow went missing when she recovered, or at least that was what I felt.

All in all, it isn’t a bad book, a 3/5 book for me, mainly because I think the author’s previous books made me expect more.

About the Author
Marian Keyes, born September 10, 1963, is a popular Irish writer, considered to be one of the original progenitors of “chick lit”. Keyes’ first novel, Watermelon, was published in Ireland in 1995. Since then she has published seven further novels and two collections of non-fiction, and has sold 15 million copies of her books in 30 languages.

This book is available on Amazon(UK).

Book Review: A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place for Us is a four part saga. Part 1 and 4, I got as a review copy from NetGalley in return for an unbiased review. Part 2 and 3, I just couldn’t resist buying from Amazon. Instead of posting separate reviews, I’ve decided to consolidate the four reviews into one post. Yes, lazy me. Also busy me.

Part 1
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This book came pre-approved for me from Netgalley. I had no expectations from the book, never having read the author.

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

Martha Winters is having a party. She has invited her whole family, which is spread out across the world and the invitations she sent has made most of them nervous. Each of them seem to know that something is up, and they even seem to know what Martha is about to announce, but we as the readers are clueless. The story goes on through each family member’s view point. Each of them have a story, each of them have something to hide or something to protect. Sometimes in the present, sometimes jumping back to the past. Conflicts, differences, disagreements,disatisfactions that have seemed to have lingered on for years. As it reached the end, I realized why it was called ‘Part 1’. The author left it at a stage where I was gasping for more. I so wanted to read the next part!

It was interesting, sometimes a bit confusing, as there are loads of characters. I have had to go back and re-read parts of the book, but I enjoy such books. Books that ramble, and still make me yearn for more.

A 4/5 read.

Part 2

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I had received the first part of this series as a review copy from NetGalley and had thoroughly enjoyed it. When I found part 2 on Amazon, I just had to order it.

I was a tiny bit worried that I might have to go back to part 1 to refresh my memory, but as I started to read, everything just fell into place. Martha Winters has asked her entire family to come back to Winterfold, for her birthday. Everyone seems to know that there is something Martha wants to share. Each of the family have their own baggage with them. Some with scars from their past, some with new issues and problems. What will Martha’s announcement do to them? You will have to read to find out.

All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved the way the author has created her characters, each with very distinct personalities, each character stands out. Whether you relate or empathize with them or not, despite a vast array of characters in the story, each of them are memorable.

A 4/5 read for me.

Part 3
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I got approved for this book at NetGalley, but by the time I ended up picking it up, it had got archived. Now after reading the first and second parts, I couldn’t stay away from part three. Amazon, thankfully came to the rescue.

Martha’s secret is out at the end of the second book. This part mainly deals with the aftermath. The way each of the family deals with the information in front of them. It affects them all in some way. Some more than the others. Martha’s revelation leaves nobody untouched.

A slower paced, and slightly bleaker read. It’s painful to see what each of them go through. The flash backs to the past reveal the story in just about enough detail to make us want to read on.

Still interesting, and gripping, just not as much as the first two parts. It still made me go straight on to the final part of the story. One thing I was happy about was that I managed to read the last three parts back to back. It made it much more engrossing, and knowing that I would soon (instead of having to wait for the release of the next part) know the whole story was nice.

A 3/5 read for me.

Part 4 – The Final Part
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The concluding part of the four part saga ‘A Place for Us’, picks up from where it left off at the end of part 3.

Martha’s family has scattered once again, some driven away by the secrets that have been disclosed, some by the power of their own pasts. It is once again up to her to bring them all back, to the place which they all can call their own.

A touching end to the tale, and a fitting one as well. The only reason for me to rate it a 3 is because it was very predictable. I did however love the epilogue. It was such a perfect end, and yet very different from what we would normally expect from an epilogue.

On a general note, I really liked the covers. I’m not sure what exactly appealed to me, but I felt they brought out the essence of the book, the place called home. I hadn’t read the author before but would definitely look out for her books. She weaves a tale beautifully. A 3.5/5 read on the whole, if you consider the 4 parts together.

Book Review: The Temple is Not My Father by Rasana Atreya

Most of the books I’ve loved in recent times have been recommended by friends. This one was recommended by IHM.

Luckily for me, I found it in the Kindle store immediately, but getting to read it, took longer as I had so many books piled up to read. I finally read it, loved it, drafted a review but it took a FB group to remind me that I still hadn’t posted it. The last few weeks have been busy. At work and home and the last thing I have energy for is to write a blog post. I’m so knackered that all I want to do is head to bed. And that’s what I end up doing, most days.

So. Back to the book.

‘The Temple is Not My Father’ is a short novella based on the system of Devadasis in Southern India. Devadasi literally translates into ‘Servant of God’, and girls used to be dedicated to the worship and service of deities in temples. This used to be a position of privilege and most of these girls went on to become accomplished dancers. The system continued until the British outlawed the kings and kingdoms in India, leading to the temples losing the patronage of the kings, and consequently their biggest source of income. This ended up in devadasis getting forced into prostitution. This is the story of Godavari and her daughter Sreeja. Godavari was tricked into becoming a devadasi by her own father. It is a heart-wrenching story of a woman, caught in circumstances out of her control, treated like vermin by the same society that forced her into the situation she was in. All she wants is for her daughter to have a good life, a life as far removed as possible from her own.

The author does an amazing job with the story. In a short, simple story, she packs in so much. So many emotions, so many motives and people of all sorts. The ruthless father, the determination of two mothers, Godavari and her own mother, the callousness and hypocrisy of society and also the open-mindedness which sometimes comes with innocence. Beautiful characterisation, beautifully articulated situations, which call out to the reader. And the last line of the book, that was one killer line. One that will stay with me forever. It is a book I will re-read, even though I know it will make me cry, all over again.

A beautiful book, an absolute must-read, in my opinion. And for me, an author, I will be following. A 5/5 from me.

About the Author
Rasana is the author of Amazon bestseller ‘Tell A Thousand Lies’, which was also shortlisted for the 2012 Tibor Jones South Asia award. UK’s Glam magazine calls this novel one of their five favourite tales from India (June 2014).

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: The Dance of the Spirits by Catherine Aerie

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Another book tour by Sage. I have to be honest, this book took a little time before it could capture my interest at all. There was a point where I was wondering if I should email Sage and let her know that I wouldn’t be able to review it. Thankfully, the story did pick up and I did get through the book.

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Jasmine Young is a Chinese woman, part of the Korean War, one of the few to have volunteered into it, unlike most others. Born into a rich and privileged family, Jasmine had the best of education and had not known the lack of anything until her mother died and changed everything for her and her family.

Personal circumstances weren’t the only things that changed for Jasmine. Soon the political climate changed too and circumstances landed her right into the war. Jasmine had just completed her medical training and her first opportunity to work as a doctor is in the war. The book is the touching story of Jasmine as she lives through the horrible war, when people lose love, belongings, and most of all dignity and liberty.

The book is interesting in parts, but in some sections I found it hard to keep reading. Especially the descriptions of war. I suppose it must just be me. All the descriptions of bloodshed and wounded people was a bit too much for me. However given that the book revolves around a medic in a war, it makes sense. I did feel that the author tends to be over descriptive. I love descriptions normally, of the sort that transport you into the places which they talk about, in this book however, it was a struggle. I struggled to read them through.

The snippets of history that the author provides gives a nice context to what is happening in the book. Given that I was completely ignorant about the political situation surrounding the war, it made sense. The class hierarchy and the huge class divide in China that helped in welcoming a Communist wave is brought out very well. I also enjoyed Jasmine’s childhood and the account of her life before the war. It gave us an insight into Jasmine as a person.

Some books are not for you, unfortunately. This was one of those. A book that might well appeal to others, but a book that I struggled to read. A 2.5/5 for me.

I got this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

About the Author

Catherine Aerie, a graduate from the University of California, Irvine with a master degree in finance. She was inspired to write ‘The Dance of Spirits’ while researching a family member’s role in the Korean War, deciding to revive an often overlooked setting in fiction and heighten the universality go love and liberty. Her debut novel was completed after about two years of research.

This book is available from Amazon.

Book Review: Our Orbit by Anesa Miller

image I get to be the host at Sage’s Blog Tours again. This time with Anesa Miller’s book, Our Orbit. Sage sent me this book in exchange of a honest and fair review. image image Nine year old Miriam Winslow has had enough trouble to last a lifetime. If losing her mother wasn’t enough, within months of her mother’s death, her father, Levi, gets thrown into prison for being a tax protester. Miriam and her siblings get separated as each of them have had different arrangements put in place by the authorities. Mirium, the youngest get Rick and Deanne Fletcher as her foster parents. Rick and Deanne wholeheartedly welcome Miriam into their family. Miriam is different from them though. She had been brought up in a different way, no new clothes, no luxuries, extremely ostentatious ways of showing remorse in church. Her father believed in all this, and her mother had gone along with it. Her older brother Issac lived with his wife, away and wasn’t all that affected but her other brother Josh was as fanatic as her father. Rachelle her sister, rebelled and went the other way, landed in juvenile prison.

As all this came to fore, Rick and Deanne struggle but continue to do the right thing for their new foster daughter. Miriam has her own struggles too, having come to live in a family that is strongly secular, where children don’t live in fear that their actions could cause harm to the rest of the family, and a house full of nice beautiful things. For Miriam, it’s a life far far different from the one she left, and one she isn’t sure she ought to be living in, any way, given that she has learned that luxuries of this kind are not right, all her life. Josh, her brother’s strong views do not help at all. Neither does her unbelieving sister’s actions.

A touching story of how two families with conflicting ways of life and beliefs are thrown together by tragedy. A well crafted book, with small insightful incidents, showing how each family and each person responded to things.

All the characters were well-rounded, people who you could understand, even if you didn’t agree with their motivations. Relationships between them explored beautifully, be it Miriam’s relationship with her foster parents Rachelle’s with their aunt and cousin, the siblings themselves or Josh and his girlfriend. The flow of writing was perfect. The book progressed at a very good pace, not too slow, not too fast,perfect for the kind of topic it addresses. I liked the way it ended as well, with just enough for the reader to ponder over.

What I liked most about the book is the way it handled and explored the hypocrisy that comes with blind faith. Of how easily wrongs can be justified for, just because it’s part of our faith. The risk that blind faith or blind belief in anything entails. The book also makes you think about the role of poverty in the way people react to religion. The author tackles the subject with sensitivity and compassion, with an understanding of why people behave the way they do in these circumstances, rather than just being judgmental, which I think makes the book a pleasure to read.

A book that I’m so glad I got to read, a 4.5/5 rating from me.

About the Author

Anesa Miller is a Ph.D. in Slavic Languages and has been awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship in Creative Writing from the Ohio Arts Council in 1998. Her poems and prose have been published in The Kenyon Review, The Cream City Review, The California Quarterly, Spoon River Poetry Review, and many others. She now devotes herself to writing full-time. More about her here.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf

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Ellen Moore is a conscientious social worker. A mother of three, she works with troubled families and several times, has had to make difficult decisions regarding her clients. Of taking children into care, because their parents were incapable of caring for them. A difficult decision, but one she has had to make, as that seemed the right thing to do for the children’s well-being. As a social worker, Ellen has seen the worst kind of things that people could do to children. She has fought to keep children safe, to bring the guilty to justice. Some cases she’s been successful, but in others criminals have got away, those are the ones that continue to haunt her.

In a sad twist of fate, Ellen finds herself in the same situation as her clients. She had a momentary lapse and faces the possibility of her child being taken away from her.

As a ferocious children’s rights and protection advocate she finds herself trapped in the same situation as her clients. Her former colleagues have no option but to follow the rules, especially when its one of their own who is the one facing charges.

As Ellen goes through the worst ever nightmare, her family rallies around her. Her husband with his unstinting support and her mother, with more practical means like providing her two older children with a home while their mother battle out with the authorities. Ellen’s mother has another unexpected charge, ten years old Jenny, who had ended up separated from her dad. Jenny has a story of her own. Living with her loving but alcoholic dad has exposed her to dangers as well as a survival mechanism way beyond her years. The one thing she has learnt in her short life is to stay clear of social workers, and funnily enough, she ends up in a social worker’s mother house of all places.

Ellen’s and Jenny’s stories is narrated in parallel. A very interesting narrative, one that makes you think. It could happen to any of us. Despite being the best of parents, what if we commit one mistake, just one innocent mistake, that makes us a criminal. One mistake that could end up separating you from your beloved child. A very scary prospect. That’s what it is. And yet, possible. Even if we are very careful most of the time, it could be that one tiny mistake that might turn into the worst mistake of our life. It was a situation, I as a parent, could easily relate to.

A book that affected me, and a book that I enjoyed reading. Well etched characters, an interesting premise and a fast paced narrative. A book I would recommend, if you like reading this genre of books. I do, and would rate it 4/5.

About the Author

Heather Gudenkauf is a NY times and USA Today bestselling author.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).