Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

The First Christmas (ARC Review) by Stephen Mitchell

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Essentials for the early reading copy of The First Christmas by Stephen Mitchell!

Have you read any books recently that made you think of something from a new angle?  Stripping away the lens of Catholicism through the decades, Mitchell takes em objective look at the Nativity and Annunciation as they may have actually looked. How would a traditional Jewish couple take the news? What about a simple shepherd or stressed innkeeper? He even lightens the mood by sharing the views of the Ox and Donkey in the stable.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The First Christmas
  • Author: Stephen Mitchell
  • Publisher & Release: St. Martin’s Essentials, 11/02/21
  • Length: 224
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for interested readers, secular and non

Here is the description from Amazon:

In The First Christmas, Stephen Mitchell brings the Nativity story to vivid life as never before. A narrative that is only sketched out in two Gospels becomes fully realized here with nuanced characters and a setting that reflects the culture of the time. Mitchell has suffused the birth of Jesus with a sense of beauty that will delight and astonish readers.

In this version, we see the world through the eyes of a Whitmanesque ox and a visionary donkey, starry-eyed shepherds and Zen-like wise men, each of them providing a unique perspective on a scene that is, in Western culture, the central symbol for good tidings of great joy. Rather than superimposing later Christian concepts onto the Annunciation and Nativity scenes, he imagines Mary and Joseph experiencing the angelic message as a young Jewish woman and man living in the year 4 bce might have experienced it, with terror, dismay, and ultimate acceptance. In this context, their yes becomes an act of great moral courage.

Readers of every background will be enchanted by this startlingly beautiful reimagining of the Christmas tale.

It was fun to see which stories, psalms, passages Mitchell was pulling his ideas from as well as his own thoughts. Some of his interpretation was tangential and distracting but overall it was an interesting mix of story, analyzing, and asking the reader to reflect and think for themselves.

There is a running theme of finding God, light, hope, etc, inside yourself before finding Him in the outside world, which I can appreciate as a fact since it’s one’s own lens that shapes their world view.

The one fascinating point that I hope makes it to the final copy, is where a character separated his hurtful and angry thoughts into a separate entity and simply said “no” to them. This idea of separating certain lies that one’s brain tells them, like an outside evil, is a fairly new concept to me but I’m interested!

Some parts were pretty far out there, but I’m comfortable recommending this one to interested readers, whether secular or non, for a well described tale of the times and journey of personal reflection on your own beliefs as well.

Thank you again endlessly to the publisher for my free review copy, all opinions are my own!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

We Are the Brennans (ARC Review) by Tracey Lange

Thank you so much to my partner Celadon Books for the advanced copy of We Are the Brennans! This is a complicated family drama that explores life in a large Irish family, the effects of shame and secrets, poor decisions, and how much love holds everyone together at the end of the day.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: We Are the Brennans
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Tracey Lange
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, 08/03/21
  • Length: 271 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🍀🍀🍀🍀 Sure for fans of family dramas

Here is the Book Blurb from Amazon:

In the vein of Mary Beth Keane’s Ask Again, Yes and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Tracey Lange’s We Are the Brennans explores the staying power of shame—and the redemptive power of love—in an Irish Catholic family torn apart by secrets.

When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together

The synopsis does a fantastic job of summarizing the story.  What happens after one generation’s morals and misgivings seeps down into the lives of their children?  Is running away the answer to a terrible event, and what will it take to bring everyone back together?  I think the author drew a lot on her own family experiences to make this story work, I don’t feel like it’s something that can be well written without growing up in a large Irish family yourself.

The characters are really everything in this novel.  Mickey is the father, suffering from early dementia, and it was always his job to take care of the family.  The mom is now deceased but I got the impression that she made up a lot of medical ailments for attention, to the point where it nearly ruined Sunday, the daughter’s, life.  Shane is the youngest child and has some kind of developmental disorder that took up even more of the siblings’ time and attention, but they all rallied around him as kids. 

Now as adults, Sunday took off to California in a hurry, and the two remaining middle brothers (5 siblings total) as well as Sunday’s ex, an adopted family member more or less, are left to shoulder the family responsibility.  They are also managing near financial ruin while expanding their pub business. Enter Sunday coming home in the midst of all of this after a drunk driving crash …. and you have the beginning of We Are the Brennans.

I think the staples of Irish family drama are secrets – check.  Shame – check.  Irish Catholics covering up bad decisions – check. Maybe some undercover or shady business – check.  What set this one apart to me was the strength of the characters, the sibling bonds, the size of the hearts capable of forgiving and moving forward together after the secrets are aired… and who inadvertently saves the day at the end.   The writing is also very smooth and flows well from chapter to chapter despite the different view points, and I do like how each character’s voice is so distinct.

The ending left a lot of things open to interpretation but the main storylines were wrapped up – and this may be added in the final copy but I think it could have used an epilogue.  Give us a glimpse of how everything settled 10 years down the road.  Did true love or duty win out? Did everything work out for better or for worse?  How did the one little boy make out with the family changes? I don’t mind having these questions at the end but I would have 5 starred it with an epilogue.

Celadon puts out some very distinctive literary fiction, I would recommend for fans of family dramas, general fiction, and literary fiction!

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction

Pulse by Judy G. Walters (Book Tour & Review)

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours and Judy Gaman for having me on the book tour for Pulse! I received a wonderful signed paperback in exchange for an honest review and feature, all opinions are my own!

This is a fast paced medical drama that reminds me of Scrubs mixed with Life in the ER.  I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it in two sittings!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Pulse
  • Series: Vital Signs, #1
  • Author: Judy G. Walters
  • Publisher & Release: 64 Squares Publishing, 06/4/21
  • Length: 291pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡for fans of medical and family dramas!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

The world has no shortage of moral ambiguity, especially in the emergency room. Dr. Jackson is the emergency room physician who seems to have the big house, beautiful wife, and an impeccable reputation as one of the most respected emergency physicians in Dallas. As the author peels back the layers, Dr. Jackson’s life isn’t so perfect after all. Filled with unique twists, complex medical cases and personal issues, Pulse proves that there is always more to the story! Pulse is the first book in the Vital Signs Series

Coming to you in between shifts to say that I totally flew through this book. I loved the bond that the ER staff have, whether they are joking about Dr Elohssa (😂😂😂) or kicking butt saving lives. Most of the patients and case studies are pretty realistic, the characters feel real, and there is more than a little moral ambiguity to go around.  

I could totally plug myself into that team and go to work with them any day!  The drama and teamwork, friendship and friendly rivalries, joking and tears, people just needing ten damn minutes to ourselves after a code … it’s real!

Dr Jackson is a leading emergency medicine physician but his home life is a mess. His wife is absolutely crazy and I loved his daughter.  The main characters are pretty complex, as in Dr Jackson and his daughter, while the rest are pretty shallow.  They’re nice, smart, a great team, and I’m rooting for them, but we don’t get too much into the rest of the team.  In future books maybe! I definitely want to see more of the other characters based off the glimpses in Pulse.

The home life vs work balance is the other thread in the book. No one is perfect but no one deserves a life of torture either, and there is little room for error and distraction in medicine.  I was really hoping Dr Jackson and BJ ( daughter) would be able to get away from the abusive wife. BJ is a strong young lady and I loved the father daughter parts.

I just love medical dramas. I was at 1000 stars until the big event – and in the vein of honestly I’m going to bluntly say that the big event didn’t work. It just did. Not. Work. Seriously ***** the terrorist, at a mall in Texas? Why? I found it hilarious but I guarantee someone is going to call it offensive.  I want a different catastrophe (Jacqueline could have caused a car accident trying to run Elizabeth off the road? Yeah? Literally anything else)!! so badly, but the results were the same, and I loved the ending anyway. I still totally recommend the book though! Thank you again for having me on the tour, all opinions are my own ❤

Categories
Contemporary Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz (and a word on bullying)

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for the ARC of The Plot in exchange for an honest review! I participated in the Little Free Library drive and then requested on #NetGalley so I could finish reading! Here is my review, a little meet the author blurb at the bottom, and then my Real Talk on author bullying!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Plot
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Publisher & Release: Celadon Books, May 11th 2021
  • Length: 336 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 sure for fans of suspense, fiction, publishing!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written―let alone published―anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that―a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

My Thoughts:

This is a slow burning story that starts out detailing Jacob Finch Bonner’s sad writing career, and his cynicism towards it. I think his ranting about student writers was hilarious and probably pretty accurate, I can’t even imagine.  Jake is a great character, a bit of a troll himself but he felt so real to me.

One cool thing I will say first is that as a Plattsburgh native who spent some time in the Cooperstown/Oneonta/Cobleskill area, I freaking love the setting in these towns 😂 Why Yes, I *have* been to the Price Chopper in that town, thank you!

As we start learning about “The Plot”, the mystery develops when Jacob loosely steals an idea from a now deceased former student. The book then took on a bit of a tribute aspect to the greatest plot ever written (cue Tenacious D music) *THIS IS JUST A TRIBUTE* heh heh.

But…then… An internet troll attacks Jacob. It seems pretty benign at first then gets more serious. Thus begins my favorite aspect of The Plot which is a mocking but also kind of true conversation about the publishing industry, reviewer culture, and people trolling authors. The damage it can do (even though it really shouldn’t), and how Jacob and the legal team handle the issue. I dropped the book and clapped when his publicist was ranting about GoodReads trolls and author morale, because someone finally said it.  What is the industry coming to??

Seriously though, who could possibly be this upset about the book? Who has access to Jacob’s house to leave threatening letters? What … Really … Happened… In the “fictional” plot? Read to find out, it’s a slow burn but I promise it’s worth it as Jacob starts tracking down the truth


Meet the Author: (from Amazon)

Jean Hanff Korelitz is the author of the novels YOU SHOULD HAVE KNOWN (adapted for HBO as “The Undoing” by David E. Kelley, and starring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland), ADMISSION (adapted as the 2013 film starring Tina Fey), THE DEVIL AND WEBSTER, THE WHITE ROSE, THE SABBATHDAY RIVER and A JURY OF HER PEERS. A new novel, THE PLOT, will be published on May 11th 2021. Her company BOOKTHEWRITER hosts “Pop-Up Book Groups” in NYC, where small groups of readers can discuss new books with their authors. http://www.bookthewriter.com


I also wanted to just touch on GoodReads trolling and the bullying of authors.  This is fully and solely my opinion and does not reflect that of the author or publisher in any way.

I think the main thing I want to say here is that Korelitz is pretty timely in satirizing this issue. It is out of hand.  Jacob (in the book) did the right thing at first by “not feeding the trolls”, not engaging, and hoping the troll would peter itself out – then the publisher’s legal team got involved.  Honestly I encourage authors going through these things to first  consider letting it go away on it,s own without feeding the fuel, and if it doesn’t, consider  seeking cease and desist letters from a lawyer against people slandering and bullying on social media. I also encourage reviewers to … Well.. Just stop this mob behavior and state your opinion, then let others form their own.  What happened to literary criticism?  Everyone is entitled to an opinion but that doesn’t entitle anyone to bully or attack.  I also would go a step further and put out there that publicists, publishers, merch companies, and other businesses should stop working with these bullies and stop seeking them as reviewers, and we can all try to bring the book world back to an appropriate level of civility and conversation. 

That’s my Real Talk for the night, what do you think??

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Paranormal Romance

Book Review: River Magic by M.A. Philips (local author alert)!

I am glad this month to have some to read books from my own backlogged TBR!  One book that I have been meaning to get to is River Magic, because I try hard to support local authors!

The book is a new adult coming of age/romance, and takes place in the area my mom’s side of the family is from. The tippy top corner of Northern NY, St Lawrence / Alexandria Bay / Watertown region.  It was so cool to read a book featuring places I’ve been, a hospital I’ve worked at, etc! I’m just picturing the highway scenery as the characters drive along!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: River Magic
  • Series: Rituals of Rock Bay, #1
  • Author: M.A. Philips
  • Publisher & Release: Shadow Spark Publishing, October 2020
  • Length: 366 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ yes but be aware of mature romantic content

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Budding clairvoyant Lacey Moran seeks to understand her dreams and find her life’s purpose along the St. Lawrence River. If only her visions of silver arms and Cian O’Connor’s blue eyes were easier to understand! The pieces begin coming together when she encounters a mermaid in the river, joins a group of Druids, and opens herself to romance with an old friend.

Can Lacey overcome her doubts, or is she in over her head?

I was so thrilled to see a book set in the Alexandria Bay and Watertown area!  A story of finding oneself as an adult, embracing life choices, finding one’s faith, and reconciling adult friendships. I loved how everyone worked together and supported one another.

This is a romance (low steam level but it’s there), and coming of age story. I wasn’t expecting bedroom content so it threw me a bit, but it’s easily skimmable without missing storyline.

The main character, Lacey, is a sort of pagan who discovers Druidism and feels like she found a new home. It was interesting to learn about the rituals as Lacey did, and some of the Irish Mythology attached. Her eventual boyfriend, Cian, is trying to find his own way as well. His family is traditionally Catholic but it doesn’t seem like the right road for him. Man the struggle was real for his parents too, I felt for them. The relationships were level headed and real, with the characters talking through things instead of losing their minds.  Very refreshing to not have conflict without undue drama. The other characters were supportive and interesting as well.

One other theme I appreciated was how hard it can be to change and accept new viewpoints and changing culture, especially from a religious standpoint. The Catholicism vs Pagan interactions were handled realistically, I think, and a lot of the novel is about embracing instinct and one’s own path in life.  Trust me that Catholics know it’s 2020, they don’t need to be reminded in argument.  Changing times are a little bit much sometimes but I think Cian’s parents handled things well for how much was thrown at them at once.

It was interesting to learn a little about Druidism and rituals too, and all the other mystic elements in the book. I thought the mermaid was going to be one of the lost island residents but that storyline surprised me! A twist of mystery and danger was fun to read as someone is threatening a local endangered species.

All in all, a great new adult aged novel about finding your own paths, adult friendships and relationships, community and conservation. All set along the gorgeous St Lawrence River!

Will be reading book two!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Suspense

ARC Review: Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Thank you so much to Milford House Press for the digital ARC of Dead on the Delta!  Seeing as I live in frozen western NY, this armchair safari to Botswana was a good pick for me right now

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Dead on the Delta
  • Series: Alexa Williams, #5
  • Author: Sherry Knowlton
  • Publisher & Release: Milford House Press, 2/16/21
  • Length:254 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡ for fans of the genre!

Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

Alexa Williams is about to spend four months doing lion research in the African bush with her boyfriend Reese. She looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the wild, but she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the remote Okavango Delta.

Botswana protects its wildlife with strict policies and an entire army deployed to combat poaching. So Alexa and Reese are shocked when poachers wipe out an entire herd of elephants. At the site of the mass slaughter near their lion project, they promise authorities that they’ll watch for suspicious activity as they travel the Delta.

When the country’s strict wildlife conservation policies come under debate in the capital, tensions flare and Alexa begins to suspect the ongoing poaching incidents may be about even more than the illicit ivory trade. Especially when a close friend dies when caught in the crossfire.

After an alarming series of near escapes, gunmen attack the safari camp where she and Reese are staying, and Alexa must brave wild animals and the dangerous labyrinth of Delta channels in a desperate attempt to save the hostages, including the man she loves.

The book definitely has two strong points: setting and atmosphere.  I never had trouble picturing the sights, smells, and animals of Botswana.  Whether they were bouncing along in the camp vehicle or hanging out on the deck at the lagoon, Knowlton exceeds at providing even the sounds of the environment.  The prevailing mood was always apparent as well which was a great way to keep me immersed in most of the scenes.

Alexa, Reese, and the other characters are a good bunch and they seemed to have realistic relationships.   I liked that none of them were perfect and they all had real life issues to work through as well.  The romance is pretty cute too, I can tell they care deeply for each other.

This is Alexa Williams book #5, and my first read of the series.  That said, I don’t expect an info dump but I spent the first few chapters not knowing if Alexa was a researcher, tourist, detective, Interpol or what the heck. Come to find she is a lawyer.  A very brief introduction to Alexa and Reece was definitely needed, I felt like the characters were moving shadows in the environment as everyone except Handsome Harry lacked physical descriptions as well.

The book had plenty of harrowing danger and political intrigue, although Alexa was only involved peripherally in the poaching investigation.  She stumbled upon them by accident at every encounter and we never really knew if the Defense Force was making any progress with the poachers.

I also tuned out a bit when the commission was discussing conservation policies.  It was interesting to learn about poaching and some of the wildlife conservation issues though, I think more detecting, poking around by Alexa, and overall suspense would have made it a better read for me.  It seemed like either total disaster mode or everyday life with little between mood wise.

Overall – I totally enjoyed the reading experience.  I might have even googled safaris to see what was involved in booking one.  I would like to go back and read the first Alexa novel to learn a little more about her, but I can definitely safely recommend the book for fans of good characters, strong settings, lawyers, animals, and conservation efforts!  

Free book received in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are my own

Here are some links for the book and author!

Categories
General Fiction Historical Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan

Thanks so much to Bookish First and HMH (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) for the advanced copy of The Arsonists’ City in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own.

This is an extremely rich and nuanced look into family, life, heritage, and identity, but I struggled with whether or not to feature this one on the blog.  I try really hard to stick to cleaner content these days and there are more than a few mature sexual situations & adultery in this one, but there’s also a discourse on humanity, immigration, and reconciliation that as a 30-something, I could appreciate, and hey, we are all adults here.

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Arsonists’ City
  • Author: Hala Alyan
  • Publisher & Release: HMH, 03/09/21
  • Length: 464 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟 yes for fans of the genre

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

A rich family story, a personal look at the legacy of war in the Middle East, and an indelible rendering of how we hold on to the people and places we call home

The Nasr family is spread across the globe—Beirut, Brooklyn, Austin, the California desert. A Syrian mother, a Lebanese father, and three American children: all have lived a life of migration. Still, they’ve always had their ancestral home in Beirut—a constant touchstone—and the complicated, messy family love that binds them. But following his father’s recent death, Idris, the family’s new patriarch, has decided to sell.

The decision brings the family to Beirut, where everyone unites against Idris in a fight to save the house. They all have secrets—lost loves, bitter jealousies, abandoned passions, deep-set shame—that distance has helped smother. But in a city smoldering with the legacy of war, an ongoing flow of refugees, religious tension, and political protest, those secrets ignite, imperiling the fragile ties that hold this family together.

I was originally interested in this book because allegedly my grandfather was a random Syrian exchange student’s brother, and I sometimes feel interested in Syrian books assuming he came from the actual motherland.

So let’s just discuss content first because it’ s the first thing that anyone reading the book encounters.  A man is murdered in the prologue, and it sets the whole book up to be super dramatic and interesting and I am thinking “oh boy this is going to be good!!”  Then the next thing you know one of the characters is on her stomach thinking about a deflated condom, like, shit.  So now I have to remember her depressing sex life throughout the rest of the book, and it’s a theme through all the characters’ chapters, including a heavy discussion of the gay sibling’s sexuality, which is tied to Beirut’s youth culture in general somehow. Between that and pretty much everyone either contemplating or committing adultery at some point, I am like… Well sex is not what I want to read, and it’s depressing.

But it’s part of life, which along with death, are major themes of the book.  Idris and Mazna immigrated to America on asylum when he started his surgical residency, leaving his ancestral house behind.  Years later once Idris’ father dies and the house is empty of family he decides to sell it – which brings the scattered family all back together.  In Beirut.  For one very enlightening summer.

Each of the three siblings and Mazna the mother, were the chapter points of view. This sorted into the present (the kids) and past (Mazna).  It is always interesting to see people struggle bus through their 30s in slice of life style, because that’s me, but a big part of me just didn’t care.  Mazna’s story was legitimately interesting with her life between Damascus and Beirut, and seeing the war, plus being brown in America once they immigrated.  None of the characters were really likeable for me though, like I wanted to like Mazna but she’s so stubborn and then hooked up with that film guy, plus she took Idris (a heart surgeon) for a total moron.

The book spent a LOT of time building each character. It is kind of the point of the book, but some parts involving the siblings were just boring to me.  I didn’t care about Marwan’s band or Ava’s cheating husband, or even Naj, even though she had the most interesting life by far it was all flings and drugs and music. Once they got to Beirut and all the secrets started coming out, it got more interesting.  

There were so many side characters mentioned too that I just couldn’t keep track… Many of them not horribly relevant but still.  Also I liked Alyan’s writing style and language use overall but occasionally just lost her train of thought.  She would get philosophical/ profound at times and drift off into left field to the point where I had no idea where the train of thought ended up.

One thing that I thought Alyan did really well was setting – she gave a good feel for the sights and smells and weather, food, even the knick knacks in rooms, plus the atmosphere in general. 

I can relate a lot of the book to real life though – for example – being entitled to our secrets, and maybe not needing to know all of our parent’s secrets.  Also learning that we (as adults) are maybe a little bit more like them than we like to admit.

I know this is a book that a lot of people are loving for Alyan’s fantastic writing style and the story of love, loss, immigration, and familial reconciliation that she tells, and I don’t blame them at all. I think fans of the genre will love this. I just found it to be a 12 day long snooze fest when the kids were featured and I was limited to one rather long chapter at a time.

Overall: definitely recommend for fans of family dramas, sagas, and character based books!

Categories
Biographies, Memoirs, Nonfiction Fiction General Fiction Historical Fiction

Book Review: Open Heart by Gregory D. Williams

Thank you so much to Grand Canyon Press and Bookish First for the finished copy of Open Heart in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!  I just want to say first how real this book felt – this is why I love books about medicine and life written by medical people

Quick Facts:

  • Title: Open Heart
  • Author: Gregory D. Williams
  • Publisher & Release: Grand Canyon Press, December 18th 2020
  • Length: 418 pg
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 yesss

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads: 

Life is fleeting. Love is a gift.

In this coming of age novel set in the 1970s, Gene Hull is whitewashing the trunks of Arizona citrus trees when he spots a beautiful girl and falls instantly in love. The girl is vulnerable and shy. Though Gene breaks through her reserve, a date at a wave park turns into a near disaster, and Gene must call on the one person he can always rely on—his doctor father.

Although the girl survives and Gene wins her over, what will happen when they leave for college? Is she truly “the one,” or will distance drive them apart?

When a freak accident blows a hole in Gene’s freshman year, his grades tank, and he bobbles the ball with the love of his life. She’s gone forever. Not only that, but he’ll never get into med school on grades alone.

Hoping to improve his chances of admission, he spends the summer trailing a famous heart surgeon. But can Gene, determined to live up to his father’s legacy, turn his summer in the “Heart Room”—an operating theater of chilling cold, bone saws, and macabre humor—into an experience that would make his father proud? Will he ever love again?

If you like novels where family life is complicated, and parents’ expectations trickle down into their children’s lives, then you’ll love Gregory D. Williams’ roman à clef about life, love, and finding one’s own true path.

Buy Open Heart today for an inside look at a team of surgeons healing broken hearts and a young man trying desperately to heal his own.

I always thought The House of God was the quintessential fiction so read for people coming into medicine, but Open Heart has it’s place right alongside it

I’m inordinately sad that the author passed away, the book feels like his legacy and love letter to medicine. Kind of Ironic considering that Carl’s death had a huge impact on the book – I wonder if the author knew it was coming, or if he died suddenly? I want to take the text in context if he thought he was writing his legacy!

Williams really touches on what it means to trust each other and lean on your family / “family” in healthcare. He even mentions death breakfast (death cheese anyone?) I feel like every hospital has a Jesse. And an Irene. And heck, there’s a Dr Harrington too. I feel like there’s something in the book that every medical person out there can relate to.

*That patient you just felt helpless about for so long, even though there’s nothing you could have done for them

*Or that time you f*cked up and it’ll haunt you just the same

*Have you ever lost your shit over an outcome?

Like I said, this will hit medical people right in the feels

There is a lot of medical talk (1970s style) about heart surgery and bypass that I am not sure laypeople would get through without skimming, but I found it fascinating. Gene’s life, growing up, taking ownership of your mistakes, and learning all about love should be enough to keep anyone interested in the book.  Being accountable and owning your actions are hard concepts for young folks to learn.

I obviously liked the OR chapters the best, and the parts about forgiving yourself for mistakes, growing up, moving forward, letting your heart “come off bypass” so to speak

Jesse the tray guy and Rui’s bad elephant jokes were more perfect additions. Honestly the doctors and nurses were really great characters and I liked the parallels between the OR family life and Gene’s family.  Reconciling what you think your parents are like and learning the truth is always a hard lesson.

100% recommend Open Heart for anyone in medicine, and anyone looking for a good coming of age story as well. This is a superbly written novel for anyone that likes reading about characters learning hard and real life truths.

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Literary Fiction

ARC Review: The Butchers’ Blessing by Ruth Gilligan

Thank you so much to the publisher for my Advanced copy in exchange for an honest review! All opinions are my own!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Butchers’ Blessing
  • Series: n/a
  • Author: Ruth Gilligan
  • Publisher & Release: Tin House Books, November 10th 2020
  • Length: 312 or
  • Rate & Recommend: 🌟🌟🌟⚡sure,  because I think it’s a personal problem

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Every year, Úna prepares for her father to leave her. He will wave goodbye early one morning, then disappear with seven other men to traverse the Irish countryside. Together, these men form The Butchers, a group that roams from farm to farm, enacting ancient methods of cattle slaughter.  

The Butchers’ Blessing moves between the events of 1996 and the present, offering a simmering glimpse into the modern tensions that surround these eight fabled men. For Úna, being a Butcher’s daughter means a life of tangled ambition and incredible loneliness. For her mother Grá, it’s a life of faith and longing, of performing a promise that she may or may not be able to keep. For non-believer Fionn, The Butchers represent a dated and complicated reality, though for his son Davey, they represent an entirely new world—and potentially new love. For photographer Ronan, The Butchers are ideal subjects: representatives of an older, more folkloric Ireland whose survival is now being tested. As he moves through the countryside, Ronan captures this world image by image—a lake, a cottage, and his most striking photo: a single butcher, hung upside-down in a pose of unspeakable violence.

A widow’s grief after losing her 7 sons and husband in a war, led to the curse: no cattle can be slaughtered without 8 men present and touching the cow at the time, to celebrate her grief and keep it alive. Enter the butchers – a squad of men that go around Ireland, leaving their families behind to slaughter cattle for people that believe in the old traditions.

First off – I made the mistake of thinking this is historical fiction – and it is definitely more literary fiction and coming of age than historically true, as the curse and butchers are fictional.

I was 100% on board with this as fiction set in 1990s Ireland, until the last page, which made me re evaluate the whole entire book. I can’t say why it threw me without spoilers, but it was so out of character for the entire book. What did I miss? What happened next? I also wasn’t following some of the things that happened in the last few chapters, the finality didn’t make sense and I felt like the aim of the story unravelled a bit as it was coming to a close. I was at 5 stars until i finished the book and dropped to 3-3.5, and it didn’t help that I originally read it thinking “historical fiction,”

Set in a time of Irish cultural change, The Butchers’ Blessing is a meditation in faith, growing up, growing apart, and changing culture. My brain had it pegged as historical fiction but its just stereotypical of Irish legends, in a more modern setting. Regardless, this is a great story (minus the last page). It is labelled as a literary thriller and while definitely dark and poetic at times, I don’t think its really a thriller. There is the ever present issue though of how the heck a Butcher got hung up by his feet and left in a cold storage. Tension in the country surrounding BSE and old vs new in general, is a huge ongoing theme in the novel.

The chapters bounced between Gra, Una, Davey, and Fionn, four characters at different life stages. Una is probably the main character and has to cope with growing up while her dad is off slaughtering 11 months out of the year, targeted by her classmates, and wanting to follow in her dads footsteps. Davey is learning who he is before he heads off to college. Gra and Fionn both are dealing with growing apart from their kids, difficult parenting, and various senses of desperation and loss. Each character has to come to terms with the changes brought to their personal lives as Ireland and it’s people modernized.

For a meditation on growth, self discovery, a bit of corpse defamation and mystery, Irish legend, beautiful writing, and a whole lot of growing pains, this is an excellent read for anyone I would say 14+. I just didn’t like the ending and felt like it brought the whole book out of character, as well as some events occuring that I just don’t personally care to read about. I would still recommend to anyone interested in Irish folklore, life, and some 90s throwback culture!

Categories
Fiction General Fiction Mysteries

Book Tour Review! The Green Beach File by K.A. Perry

Thank you so much to Kate Rock Book Tours and K.A. Perry for having me on the Instagram tour for The Green Beach File! I posted yesterday but wanted to post a full review here because so many people were saying that they wanted to check the book out! Yay! I may be primarily a SF/F blogger but I absolutely love branching out when the opportunity presents itself!

Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Green Beach File
  • Series: No
  • Author: K.A. Perry
  • Publisher & Release: Permuted Press, July 2020
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: *FOUR Stars* and YES for mystery fans!

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

A funny, engaging legal mystery for all those who love and enjoy nature—and reading at the beach.

First, an amphibian expert is found murdered in the fancy shoreline town of Mayfield, Connecticut. Then, a second, shocking murder of a well-respected community leader occurs. Why are there murders happening in a town as peaceful as Mayfield?

Jenn isn’t the perfect clever attorney. She doesn’t love her job, has no innate ability to solve mysteries, no superpowers, and no awesome legal skills. But she does have her love and respect for nature—which tends to distract her from her legal work, yet still somehow guides her. Along with her entertaining and dysfunctional family, Jenn weaves her way into the midst of a momentous fight over land preservation.

The murders appear to be tied to the development of the largest parcel of pristine beachfront land between Boston and New York. Most folks in Mayfield want the unique beachfront preserved for the public and object to the construction of expensive homes, but are any of these folks extremist enough to murder for the environment and save coastal land? And how much will Jenn stretch the law to solve the mystery?

The book is smarter than your average cozy mystery, so I guess it’s just a mystery?  The protagonist, Jenn, is a lawyer with a love for the outdoors and multiple beverages at once.  She is quirky and feels like a real person to me. There are concerns regarding the competency and professionalism of the local detective/police force, so Jenn uses her environmental and legal expertise to help reason out the case. Her sister, community members, other lawyers, and one handsome policeman are also on the cozier side of the case.   I liked the characters a lot, I could relate to a lot of Jenn’s issues as a 30 something year old workaholic who likes her “pet trees” more than most people.  I can’t count how many people have tried to set me up with their friends or someone they know, so I feel Jenn’s pain.

The mystery itself was interesting because there were so many potential suspects.  Most locals don’t want the stretch of beach in question to be developed, and there are so many people with a stake in the profits and action.  There is one kind of obvious red herring, then at least 4 or 5 other suspects who totally could have committed the murders, with equally as many motives floating around.  It wasn’t busy though and I could easily keep track of the people and plot lines.  I made a good guess but it wasn’t the right person or motive.

I definitely recommend for fans of mysteries that are looking for a good summer read, beach book, or mystery to cozy up with next to at a winter fire.  The book is funny and on the lighter side but definitely also interesting with real life issues and a small twist of romantic interest.   Oh gosh I also love how awkward Jenn is with Matt, likening his eyes to potting soil! That’s something I would blurt out too 😀

Anyone want to recommend their favorite mystery to me? Have you read this one? Drop a comment!

Thanks again to Kate Rock Book Tours and KA Perry for my book in exchange for a feature and honest review!