Book Review: The Truth according to Us by Annie Barrows

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It is 1938, and Layla Beck has been cast adrift into the world by her father when he cuts off her allowance to punish her for refusing to marry the person her father picked for her.  He has arranged for her to work with the Federal Writer’s project and earn her living.

Layla gets sent to Macedonia, West Virginia, far removed from the life she is used to. Macedonia is a quiet little town, and she has the job of writing the history of Macedonia.

Willa Romeyn lives in Macedonia, with her sister Bird, aunt Jottie and father Felix. She also has two rather eccentric aunts who ‘almost’ live with them, although they both have husbands and homes of their own. There is nothing Willa likes more than ‘finding out’. She loves finding out stuff, secrets..

Layla finds herself lodging with the Romeyns and before she knows it, drawn to the whole family. Layla herself is an object of curiosity for the Romeyn, and indeed the whole town, and definitely so, for curious Willa.

As Layla delves into the history of Macedonia, she finds out more than just that, and like Willa, finds out that sometimes things are better left unknown, that every story has multiple facets to it. Just like the librarian tells her, history can be anything you want it to be. The truth, according to us, is what it ends up as.

A interesting book, in the style that it is written. Narrated from the points of view of twelve year old Willa, Layla and Jottie, it maintains momentum and interest throughout. Part of the story progresses through letters, a style that I have come to love. It gives stories that extra charm, when authors pull it off – it really worked in this case. I love the letter exchanges between Layla and her uncle in particular. I really liked the characters, each different and memorable. I particularly loved Willa’s uncle Emmett.

I requested this book on Netgalley based on the fact that the author has co-authored ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved. While this wouldn’t be in the same league, it was a good read, and one that I would recommend, if you like this style of writing.

My Rating: 3.5/5.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy of this book.

About the Author

Annie grew up in Northern California, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Medieval History. Unable to find a job in the middle ages, she decided upon a career as an editor, eventually landing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, where she was in charge of “all the books that nobody in their right mind would publish.” After earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Mills College, Annie wrote (as Ann Fiery) a number of books for grown-ups about such diverse subjects as fortune-telling (she can read palms!), urban legends (there are no alligators in the sewer!), and opera (she knows what they’re singing about!). In 2003, Annie grew weary of grown-ups, and began to write for kids, which she found to be way more fun

Book Review : The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Some times the names of books call out to you. This was one such book. Until I read the description, I absolutely had to read it.

So I requested it on Netgalley. Got rejected. I planned to buy it but I had so many books to read already that I decided to wait (and also because I’m a cheapskate, I could buy it during a sale).

Normally on netgalley, once you’ve been rejected you can’t request for it again. This book, when I checked on an off chance, came up with the request button. I wasn’t going to let it go, and requested it again and forgot all about it. I hadn’t been in the frame of mind to request books during Sept/Oct/Nov time frame.

In December, I got this lovely surprise when I got an email from the publishers that they approved me for this book! Talk of Christmas presents!

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Amy Harris and Sara Lindqvist are pen pals. They’ve been exchanging letters for two years, and Amy has invited Sara who lives in Sweden to visit her in Broken Wheel in small town America. Sara, a girl who prefers books to people, who has never stepped outside of her country, lands in Broken Wheel only to find out that Amy has just died and Broken Wheel isn’t the most exciting of places. Sara doesn’t know what to make of things but when the rest of the town assure her that Amy would have wanted her to stay the duration of her vacation, she stays.

Broken Wheel is a town which has given up hope, almost. Most young people have moved away as soon as they possibly could. Most businesses have shut shop. She gets acquainted with the very interesting characters that remain. Living in Amy’s house rent free and unable to pay for anything at all because of the generous and warm folk of Broken Wheel, Sara decides to do the only thing she knows enough about – she sets up a book store with Amy’s books. In a town where nobody seems to read, this is not quite welcome, however it changes things up.

A delightful book, full of literary references, a book about books and a story that is partly narrated through letters, it is a charming book to read. A book that could easily be cheesy but just about manages to steer away from. Full of vibrant and distinct characters, the book was a pleasure to read. I’ve highlighted so many portions of the book, in many ways I could identify with Sara, although I wouldn’t call myself as oblivious to the real world as her or as dismissive of the real world as she is.

A lovely book. If there is something to detract from the book, it would be the ending. It became a bit melodramatic for my taste, but all in all, a delightful book.

My rating : 4/5

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for the review copy of this book.

About the Author
tarina Bivald grew up working part-time in a bookshop. Today she lives outside of Stockholm, Sweden, with her sister and as many bookshelves she can get by her. She’scurrently trying to persuade her sister that having a shelf for winter jackets and shoes is completely unneccessary. There should be enough space for a book shelf or two instead. Limited success so far. Apparantly, her sister is also stubbornly refusing to even discuss using the bath room to store books. 

Katarina Bivald sometimes claims that she still hasn’t decided whether she prefer books or people but, as we all know, people are a non-starter. Even if you do like them, they’re better in books. Only possible problem: reading a great book and having noone to recommend it to.

Book Review: The Way We Were by Sinéad Moriarty

Every January, for the last few years, I’ve been doing a blog marathon (primarily on the other blog) with friends. It’s normally great fun even if can never really complete it. Every year I promise myself that next year, I wouldn’t take part, especially on days when I struggle to post. But it’s become a tradition now, and a tradition that’s become rather hard to break.

So here I am, posting on either of my two blogs, every day, for the whole of this month. Or so I hope. I also plan to get through all my reviews pending from last year during this month. Lets see how many of my plans actually materialise into action. Fingers crossed.

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Alice and Ben are a regular couple with two daughters. Pre-teen Holly is an almost angelic eleven-year-old while fifteen year old Jools is a different story. Alice has her hands full balancing her work as a GP and her family.

Ben is a busy surgeon who has been feeling a little restless with his life. He yearns for more challenges at work and when offered a chance to go to Eritrea for a surgery, he grabs it. It looks like the perfect solution to his problem. A few jobs here and there to break the monotony. Alice, of course, is not thrilled, neither is Jools because Ben would miss her sixteenth birthday, but the prospect of a big present wins her over and Ben is off.

Unpredictable as life is, Alice and the girls get the news that Ben has been killed by a landmine. The life that Alice has known for the last nineteen years has come to a sudden halt. Her partner, the love of her life is gone. The girls are lost as well. Each of them finding ways of coping, and not always the best of ways. Their little family was in danger of being cast adrift. Alice had to find the strength in her to stay strong and focussed to give her girls the stability they need.

Three years have passed and finally Alice and the girls seem happier, they made their peace with what happened, Alice has also to met a wonderful man who has asked her to marry him. Not just that, the girls are happy for her too.

Of course nothing in life is that simple. She gets the news that Ben was not killed. He is alive and coming back to them.

Once Ben is back, he and the girls expect every thing to go back the way they were. What about Alice. Can her emotions be turned on and off at will? After all that she went through she now has to find the strength to deal with this change.

A book that I absolutely loved. I loved the storyline, loved the characters, and loved the way the author handled it. You feel for every character, even the less nice ones. There are no black and whites, so many dilemmas and so beautifully narrated. I especially loved the girls Holly and Jools. Holly reminded me of my own little girl.

A book that had me in tears, that had me rooting for every character, even when they all wanted conflicting things. A book with a complicated storyline, but laced with just the right amount of humour and fun. It is narrated from Alice, Ben and Holly’s points of view and helps us see the whole picture. It is of course more than about just the four of them, it is about their extended family and close friends, a book that brings it all together in a beautiful way. A book that I would recommend wholeheartedly.

My rating: 4.5/5.

Funnily enough this is the first book of the author’s that I have read. She certainly goes on my list of authors to read more of. As if I didn’t have a long enough list already!

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for the review copy.


About the Author

Sinéad Moriarty was born and brought up in Dublin. She grew up dreaming of being an author and is now a successful author with several best selling titles to her name.