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Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Jane Austen Society - by Natalie Jenner: Book Review

Title: The Jane Austen Society. A Novel
Author: Natalie Jenner
Pages: 320
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: May 26th 2020
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle



This novel made me miss Jane Austen's novels. By the half point of the novel I finally figured out that the characters respected the Jane Austen novels typology: the man who looks down on women; the man who is afraid of his feelings; the woman who denies herself the chance at love. The couples that form as the novel progresses were references to her novels, but also modern and with a twist. Every main character was a darling, and the villains were to be expected and had their part in the story. You knew whom to love and whom to dislike.

And speaking of couples, just like in Austen's novels, there's a rush of declaration of love and weddings at the end. A lot of time was spent dealing with the financial and inheritance aspects, and just hints and snippets of romance. The characters circle one another, but don't say their piece directly.

The plot was not far fetched for a historical novel, but when the characters started talking about Jane Austen's novels they sounded scholarly. It was a bit too much, although they were educated people (Dr. Benjamin Gray and teacher Miss Adeline Lewis). I liked the choice of setting the action in post World War II and not during the War. This way the attention was on the importance of the books and Jane Austen's legacy. For a reader who enjoys books about books, this is a good choice, especially if you're an austenite.

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner was a sweet read that made me miss the classics and the British settings of the novels I enjoyed over the years.

I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

#MyYearInBooks2019

One of the things I like about Good Reads is the end of the year graphic statistics. Here's mine for 2019.
Compared to 2018 (not that I'm into comparing myself!), I read way more books. In 2018 I read 48 books, and in 2019 77. 

The shortest book was also my last book of 2019, The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey. It's a darling Christmas book. I got it from the library and it was the perfect read on a chilly morning in December. For some reason, the plot was so familiar, but my GooReads stats don't show it in read shelf. Maybe I had heard it before somewhere.
The longest book was a Harry Potter, the fourth in the series - The Goblet of Fire. For this one I needed some time to get into the plot, but it was worth it. I enjoy the Harry Potter series, especially because I read them in English, but they are doorstoppers and I need some pep talk to start reading.

I think I was a bit stingy with my ratings this year. They avarage at 3.6, which is not bad, but not ideal either. I hope I'll read books that are more interesting to me and impact me more. 

My first review of the year was Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. I enjoyed reading this one, and I am glad I read it because it introduced me to Lois Lowry and so I discovered the The Giver series by her and it was one of my favourite series. I loved them all!

Every December I create a list of Christmas themed books that I want to read from. The Nutcracker was on the list this year because I wanted to finally see what the deal is with this one. I didn't like this that much as my 2* rating shows. I am glad I finally read it, though, because now I know the plot and the whole thing. I didn't know it will be a story within a story, and I had missed reading one of those. However, why this is a Christmas book and we celebrate that Nutcracker is beyond my power of understanding...


And on to 2020! I haven't set a reading challenge since 2011, as the above printscreen shows. I saw some bookstagramers on Instagram saying that they liked the statistics shown by GoodReads even if you have one book set as your reading goal. Well, I wouldn't be me if I didn't have a serious number. Considering that in 2018 I read 48 and last year 77, but this year I want more quality and personal interest in books, I thought 40 would be nice number, and it's connected to 2020, and it has a nice ring to it. 

Here's to a good reading year to come! I have some reading resolutions and plans, but first I'd like to look over my books read last year, and organise my reading a bit. What a joy reading and planning to read is!

Thursday, December 26, 2019

12 Days at Bleakly Manor - by Michelle Griep: Book Review

Title: 12 Days at Bleakly Manor
Author: Michelle Griep
Series: Once Upon a Dickens Christmas
Pages: 192
Publisher: Shiloh Run Press
Release Date: September 1st 2017
Genre: Christmas, Fantasy
Format: Kindle


Goodreads Synopsis:
When Clara Chapman receives an intriguing invitation to spend Christmas at an English manor home, she is hesitant yet compelled to attend—for if she remains the duration of the twelve-day celebration, she is promised a sum of one thousand pounds. That’s enough money to bring her brother back from America and reinstate their stolen family fortune. But is she walking into danger? It appears so, especially when she comes face to face with one of the other guests—her former fiancé, Benjamin Lane

Imprisoned unjustly, Ben wants revenge on whoever stole his honor. When he’s given the chance to gain his freedom, he jumps at it—and is faced with the anger of the woman he stood up at the altar.

Brought together under mysterious circumstances for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Clara and Ben discover that what they've been striving for isn't what ultimately matters. What matters most is what Christmas is all about . . . love
.

This is a Christian Christmastime romance. If any of these three words is not what you want your novel to be about, move on, this is not for you.
This is the love story of a man who's apparently Christian because at the very end he prays to God for help after throughout the events of the novel he didn't even mention God. I need to add that this man is handsome and broadshouldered, despite coming from middle/upper class, and therefore hasn't worked that much physically in his life. His name is Benjamin Lane, but we'll call him Ben. It's also the story of a woman who's lost her status because the men in her life are unwise and she's the victim. This woman is rather short, but beautiful, and her height makes is so that she perfectly fits into the man's embrace. Her name is Clara Chapman. Of course the two share a history, and they will end up patching this back together and declaring their love for one another. But how will they get there?

Despite my salty tone, this is a sweet story, perfect for a lazy winter afternoon or a train ride, as it was the case for me. It read like a mystery novel that reminded me of Agatha Christie. I enjoyed the glimpses in the past and the not too preachy Christian tone, as some novels of this type tend to have. The collection of characters gathered at the Manor is interesting, and I had the impression that there was something ominous looming over the house. 

The plot is rather simple, but it creates enough mystery and suspence to keep you reading. I must admit there are still moments when I think about this novel, probably because I don't read a lot of Christian novels, and this one is different from what I've read so far.

It's the perfect read for those looking for a novel set around Christmas time, and told from a Christian point of view. Of course the cheesyness specific to this genre is there, but if this doesn't bother you, you might give it a try. 

2.5*

I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

A Walk Around the Neighbourhood

 


 I like seeing Christmas wreaths on people's doors.
 No Christmas wreaths on the door of this house, but that colour is beautiful!
 
 It may be late December, but the weather is early spring-ish and there are fresh flowers in the ground!
 If this doesn't make you think of summer and summer beach holiday, I don't know what does!

Such a lovely pop of colour on the curb.

I like going on solo walks around the neighbourhood, and sometimes I am in the mood for taking photos of little, overlooked things. It was a sunny day on Sunday when I took this walk and the walk did me good. I hope this is just one of the many I'll take this winter. 

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Back to Christmas - by Dennis Canfield: Book Review

Title: Back to Christmas
Author: Dennis Canfield
Pages: 128
Publisher: Well-Spoken Books
Release Date: August 1st 2019
Genre: Christmas, Fantasy
Format: Kindle


It is a short read, and by that I mean don't expect depth of character for anyone in the story. It would be best read as a family out loud book around Christmastime. It's cute and nice, but simplistic, almost cliche: a happy end that finds little to no resistance to happen. If it had been a longer novel, I would have enjoyed more depth, more exploration of the going-ons at the North Pole and South Pole (RC is more interesting than Santa, if you ask me). RC as well as the atypical elf who is in danger of losing his Christmas spirit adds diversity to the all too familiar world of Santa Claus. However, everything is very predictable, but for a quick middle grade read it could pass. The book could also be a starting point for deeper conversations. I wish there was more to this, to be honest.

It was my first Christmas book of the season, and I am glad I started with this one since it eased my transition into the season.

I received a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Six Goodbyes We Never Said - by Candace Ganger: Book Review

Title: Six Goodbyes We Never Said
Author: Candace Ganger
Pages: 416
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Release Date: September 24th 2019
Genre: YA, Teens
Format: Kindle

Over two months ago I finished reading this novel and I still think about how little I liked Naima, one of the main characters.

Before I proceed with this review, let me just say that that cover is on point. Kuddos & well done, person responsible!

I wanted to read this book because the premise was that it dealt with mental illness and I wanted to read more about that. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, but books should make you feel & see things outside your reading zone.

What made the novel scattered at times is that we find important information about Naima so far apart that it kept reconstructing the character for me. That's usually fun, but this time it was confusing. 

The characters' relationship felt unnatural. I am talking about Naima's family. Through throwbacks we learn about her father and mother, but the present day family of JJ, Kam, and Nell is not something to be desired. Naima is cruel to Nell, despite having been raised by her for years! I understand that Naima is keeping her at a distance, but that mean attitude and that tone were not necessary. I understand this does happen in real life, but it was uncomfortable and unpleasant to read about it. Also, Nell as a step mom was made to seem frail and an extra, as if always OK to overlook. For all she's done for Naima, that's unfair.

Dew is a darling and so are the Brickmans. I rooted for Dew and Faith, and especially for Stella and Thomas in their openness to help the two kids grow roots and feel safe. 

Overall the story was just OK for me. I liked it as I was reading it, but still have that feeling of not liking Naima, though. At times it was confusing to understand where the time line was and to piece the story parts together, but it's doable. Maybe it'd work better if read on paperback, not on Kindle as I did. 

I am sure this would appeal more to younger readers, someone who could relate more to the confusing feelings Naima and Dew have. 


I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.


Characters List (might contain spoilers):
Naima Rodriguez - main character - OCD, GAD, PTSD; biracial
Staff Sergeant Raymond Rodriguez - Naima's dad - US Marine Corps - died
Josephine - Naima's mother, died when Ima was born
Penelope/ Nell - Naima's step-mom
Joelle/ JJ - grandma
Kameron/ Kam - grandpa
Hiccup - JJ and Kam's dog
Christian - step-brother
Caroline - Christian's girlfriend
Andrew/ Dew - his parents died; social anxiety; panic attacks triggered by his parents' death
Faith - Dew's sister
Phillip and Alejandra Diaz - Dew and Faith's parents, they died in a car accident
Stella and Thomas Brickman - Dew and Faith's foster parents
Baked and Caffeinated - Dew's workplace
Liam "Big Foot" Thompson - manager
Violet - employee B&C
Dodge Teagarden - senior at East Clifton High
Dr. Rose - Ima's therapist in Ft. Hood
Dr. Tao - Ima's doctor
Dr. Peterson - Dew's therapist

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris - by Jenny Colgan: Book Review

Title: The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris
Author: Jenny Colgan
Pages: 416
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Release Date: 06.08.2019
Genre: Women's Fiction, Food Novels
Format: Kindle



Although the novel promises to deliver a romantic story, it's flat; the romance comes as an afterthought. Once we get past the 50-60% mark in the novel, it seems the author remembered there was too little of the love aspect and hurriedly adds it. It reads artificial. Anna falls in love, presumably, with a man she suddenly finds attractive or handsome, but we're not buying it. It's not natural, it's too sudden, and... well... unromantic.

Not even Claire and Thierry's love story impresses. She fell in love with a selfish man and she basically pined after him her whole life. He did nothing to get her back. Now that I've finished reading the novel, I can clearly see how unlikeable Thierry is as a person. As a charismatic chocolate maker and seller, sure, he is the most charming. But I'm not fooled. I'm not buying his and Claire's love story either. However, comparing the two love stories, I found Anna and Laurent's worse.

Anna, the main character, has the aura of the perfect undercover woman. She knows not about her abilities, clearly. She can change Laurent, she is the trigger that leads to the two men's relationship mending. And how sudden that happens! We learn so much about it because it happened towards the end of the novel and we were too busy trying to wrap our minds around Anna and Laurent's new found passion for one another. Let us not forget, Laurent is attracted to Anna because she acts not interested in him and she likes to eat. That she finds herself physically attracted to him and jumps into impromptu kissing... well, this comes past the 85% mark. Of course she knows she loves him because he's good looking. Sound reason to jump into a... thing? relationship? We don't know.

Speaking of we don't know... Does Anna decide to stay in Paris for the foreseeable future? Is this her life? We're left guessing, just as she was doing before Paris and after the hospital stay. I guess it's enough if you find a love partner and you work in a chocolate shop, but just say this is what she decides. It was vague.

If it's not clear so far, the ending is rushed. Claire's preparations to visit Paris one last time were more interesting to read about than the actual visit and time spent there. Not to mention, they took longer to tell about than the visit.
Honestly, what I wanted to read more about was the chocolate shop in Paris. I was more interested in seeing where the shop will move forward and I like the path - Laurent becoming the governing force and giving Thierry a much needed slower pace.

I think this novel tried to present two Paris rose-colored love stories, but neither convinced me. It dawned on me that for Jenny Colgan the love stories come as an afterthought, a second priority. Her love of food is contagious and I am more interested in that aspect in this novel. Of course I can only base this opinion thinking of the other novels of hers I've read: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and The Cafe by the Sea. The Cafe was the one I liked best.

I can't recommend this one. I am sure there are other better Jenny Colgan novels, with more character development, as this one lacked in that department.


I received a free e-book copy of the novel from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.


Characters List (might contain spoilers!):
Kidinsborough, UK - Anna's hometown. her parents live there. Claire's hometown. She lived there with Richard and their boys
Anna Trent - chocolate taster at the Braders Family Chocolates factory
Cath - Anna's best friend
Darr - Anna's ex-boyfriend
Dr. Er - Anna's doctor after her work accident
Mrs. Claire Shawcourt - Anna's French teacher. the two become good friends. Claire sends Anna to Paris after her release from the hospital to work at a chocolate shop. Claire has cancer. she's divorced
Thierry Girard - Claire's lover when she was 17 and travelled to Paris to work as a nanny for the two children of her mother's pen pal. he's now sick and very fat
Le Chapeau Chocolat de Thierry Girard - Thierry's chocolate shop
Mme Marie-Noelle LeGuarde - Claire's mother's pen pal
Benoit - works for Thierry. a family job for generations
Laurent Girard - Thierry's son with an Algerian woman. she died. A fued between the two because they can't agree on the best flavour to add to chocolate
Alice - Thierry's wife. English
Rev. Marcus - Claire's father
Ricky and Patsy - Claire's son and daughter-in-law
Cadence and Codie - Ricky and Patsy's children
Richard Shawcourt - Claire's ex-husband
Sami - Ann'a flatmate in Paris