Book Reviews–November 2019 Part One

Welcome!  I have large stacks of books TBR (To Be Read) on my nightstand, plus electronic stacks of books lined up in my Kindle, as well as books on hold at the library.  As I read these books, I love to share my thoughts and opinions of what I’ve read here in this space, because I enjoy sharing my passion for books with others.  I do have an eclectic taste in books, and will choose books based on my mood, or what’s going on in my life that week.  Finally, the page numbers I list here reflect the number of Kindle pages, not paper pages.  Thank you!)  I hope you enjoy this series.

Book #1: 

Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and CafeThe Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop and Cafe by Mary Simses (Length: 354 pages).  This was a cute little palate cleanser of a book that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while.  As palate cleansers go, it’s better written than most.  I found the plot to be VERY predictable, as most romance type books are, and there wasn’t sufficient depth to the characters and their backstories.  Specifically, I wanted to learn more about the protagonist’s grandmother’s story (which presumably forms the mystery at the center of this book).  However, I adore the Maine setting of this book. While I was reading I was picturing this as a cute little Hallmark Channel movie, and lo and behold, there is one based on this book (called “The Irresistible Blueberry Farm.”) 

From the publisher:

A high-powered Manhattan attorney finds love, purpose, and the promise of a simpler life in her grandmother’s hometown.
Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish–to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough. THE IRRESISTIBLE BLUEBERRY BAKESHOP & CAFE is a warm and delicious debut about the power of a simpler life.

Book #2: 

UnwrittenUnwritten by Charles Martin (Length: 331 pages).  I do love this author, and his books, even though they’re categorized as “Christian fiction”.  I don’t find them to be overly religious at all, instead they are non-offensive in terms of cursing and sex.  I find the plots to be satisfying in resolution, and I always learn something new when I read these novels (whether it’s about the setting or something intrinsic to the characters’ ways of life).  Here, the reader will receive an in-depth education about fishing and the 10,000 Islands off the coast of Florida.  The author’s skill is how he develops his characters enough to make you care about what happens to them, which propels you forward in your reading.  That absolutely occurs here as I couldn’t put this one down.  I will say that one issue I tend to have with Martin’s novels is that one character will have an unlimited source of TONS of money so they really don’t have to deal with the vagaries of real life.  That’s a bit annoying but again, it IS escapist fiction.  Definitely recommend this as a vacation book, or even a book to waste a Saturday afternoon reading.  

From the publisher:

An actress running from her past finds escape with a man hiding from his future.  When someone wants to be lost, a home tucked among the Ten Thousand Islands off the Florida coast is a good place to live. A couple decent boats, and a deep knowledge of fishing and a man can get by without ever having to talk to another soul. It’s a nice enough existence, until the one person who ties him to the world of the living, the reason he’s still among them even if only on the fringes, asks him for help.
Father Steady Capri knows quite a bit about helping others. But he is afraid Katie Quinn’s problems may be beyond his abilities. Katie is a world-famous actress with an all too familiar story. Fame seems to have driven her to self-destruct. Steady knows the true cause of her desire to end her life is buried too deeply for him to reach. But there is one person who still may be able to save her from herself.
He will show her an alternate escape, a way to write a new life. But Katie still must confront her past before she can find peace. Ultimately, he will need to leave his secluded home and sacrifice the serenity he’s found to help her. From the Florida coast, they will travel to the French countryside where they will discover the unwritten story of both their pasts and their future.

Book #3: 

The Girl Who Reads on the Metro.jpgThe Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Feret-Fleury (Length: 168 pages).  This is a short little novel, translated from the original French, which I picked up because of the blurb about how it’s appealing to those who love the movie Amelie, which I do.  Very cute book about “passeurs” who match books to readers on the street or the Metro.  I adore the Paris setting, and found it’s a very quick read and beautifully written.  (I have a feeling it reads even better in its original language).  I wouldn’t go out of my way to read this, but it’s a fun little novel about books and the people who love them.  

From the publisher:

Juliette leads a perfectly ordinary life in Paris, working a slow office job, dating a string of not-quite-right men, and fighting off melancholy. The only bright spots in her day are her métro rides across the city and the stories she dreams up about the strangers reading books across from her: the old lady, the math student, the amateur ornithologist, the woman in love, the girl who always tears up at page 247.

One morning, avoiding the office for as long as she can, Juliette finds herself on a new block, in front of a rusty gate wedged open with a book. Unable to resist, Juliette walks through, into the bizarre and enchanting lives of Soliman and his young daughter, Zaide. Before she realizes entirely what is happening, Juliette agrees to become a passeur, Soliman’s name for the booksellers he hires to take stacks of used books out of his store and into the world, using their imagination and intuition to match books with readers. Suddenly, Juliette’s daydreaming becomes her reality, and when Soliman asks her to move in to their store to take care of Zaide while he goes away, she has to decide if she is ready to throw herself headfirst into this new life.

Big-hearted, funny, and gloriously zany, The Girl Who Reads on the Métro is a delayed coming-of-age story about a young woman who dares to change her life, and a celebration of the power of books to unite us all.

Book #4: 

The Dead Don't DanceThe Dead Don’t Dance by Charles Martin (Length: 321 pages).  This blog is starting to read as a Charles Martin fan page, and it really isn’t, I promise!  This author happens to be pretty prolific, and my type-A personality doesn’t let many booklists go unread if I enjoy a particular author’s writing style.  Anyway, I wanted to read this particular selection as it is Martin’s first published novel.  Wonderful storytelling here, as usual.  There are a few difficult themes here, but mentioning what they are will give away the plot.  I will say that I am not a fan of how the African-American characters are portrayed here as I found they are too stereotypical in terms of their speech and their athletic talent, etc.  (However, I will say I find this author has grown quite a bit given his later novels.)  This is not my favorite novel of Martin’s (my favorite that I’ve read so far has to be Intercepted), but it is a satisfying, and fast read overall.  

From the publisher:

Experience Charles Martin’s debut novel, a story of loss and undying love written in his signature emotive and heartrending style. 

A sleepy rural town in South Carolina. The end of summer and a baby about to be born. But in the midst of hope and celebration comes unexpected tragedy, and Dylan Styles must come to terms with how much he’s lost. Will the music of his heart be stilled forever—or will he choose to dance with life once more, in spite of sorrow and heartbreak?

The Dead Don’t Dance is a bittersweet yet triumphant love story—a tale of one man’s journey through the darkness of despair and into the light of hope.

Book #5: 

MaggieMaggie by Charles Martin (Length: 321 pages).  This is a sequel of sorts to Martin’s The Dead Don’t Dance.  I didn’t think that book really needed a sequel while reading the first quarter of this book, because the major plot point of the previous book had been totally resolved.  But then, a new plot point started and the plot as well as the pace of the book picked up.  This was a really fun read and would recommend it for sure . . . but be aware of some potential triggers (violence, and violence against women).  I did appreciate how the ending of this novel wasn’t pat and perfect.  

From the publisher:

“When Maggie opened her eyes that New Year’s Day some seventeen months ago, I felt like I could see again. The fog lifted off my soul, and for the first time since our son had died and she had gone to sleep—some four months, sixteen days, eighteen hours, and nineteen minutes earlier—I took a breath deep enough to fill both my lungs.”

Life began again for Dylan Styles when his beloved wife Maggie awoke from a coma. A coma brought on by the intense two-day labor that resulted in heartbreaking loss. In this poignant love story that is redolent with Southern atmosphere, Dylan and Maggie must come to terms with their past before they can embrace their future.

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