Someone Else’s Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
(Summary taken from the first page of the book) “At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station minimart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son. Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god, Thor, has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: it’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know. Someone Else’s Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson’s funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem–or what we hope they will be. It’s  a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.”
The characters in this book are well done. Each has a distinctive voice and personality. I had a bunch of guy friends in high school and college, so I could definitely picture the relationship between Shandi and Walcott. I loved the love that Shandi had for her son. I loved that she was trying to finish college and not let a teenage pregnancy rule the rest of her life. Walcott was one of my favorite characters. I thought he just seemed so nice, helpful, kind, considerate, patient, and gentlemanly. William was harder to read. I couldn’t ever quite figure him out, but at the same time I thought he was genuinely sincere and had a good heart. I liked the impulsively nice things he did, like putting himself between the robber and Shandi’s son Natty. Oh, Natty. I loved him. So cute and smart!!! Three is a hard age, but a fun one too. I had a hard time getting used to Ms. Jackson’s writing style, and had to reread a few sentences to understand them, but by about half-way through I didn’t notice it as much, and got sucked into the story. It’s not the easiest writing style to read, but it got easier the more I read. I didn’t like how she jumped from character to character. Sometimes it was in the character’s mind and sometimes it was not in the other character’s mind. I think it felt choppy and it took me a few sentences each time to figure out where we were. I ended up liking the story, ok. It came together well and there were some surprises at the end that completely got me! I liked how Shandi and William were able to move past some very difficult situations to find what they needed. Both of them showed personal growth; it was good to see. Although, I’m not quite sure her decision to maybe forgive at the end was realistic, especially without the whole truth. The lessons of accepting the past and moving forward, and figuring out what you really need are poignant. I wished it went on just a few more pages….I wanted a little bit more info at the end, but it was ok. I did enjoy the story in the end, but it did take me awhile to get into her writing style. I also figured out half the ending. I know, half, right? Well, the other half was one of the surprises.
It’s a good thing the story was good because the language was awful. There is a lot of profanity in this book, especially the “f” word. There is also a lot of talk of, and discussions about, “intimacy.” There is a rape that is discussed and a lot of “intimacy” scenes and discussion. It’s not put delicately either. College frat initiations, high school boys that have reputations, that kind of thing, and it’s quite detailed. You’ve probably read enough of my reviews to know that I’m not a huge fan of this. I did find parts of this book offensive, and the language was too much for me. But, I know I’m kind of by myself in this regard. The story was good, but it would have been so much better without the language and “intimacy.” I know, some of it may have been necessary to set up histories and personalities, but for me it was too much. Putting all that aside, I did enjoy getting sucked into Shandi and William’s worlds. I think I can learn their lessons and try each day to make my marriage stronger, not take for granted the loved ones in my life, and help make the world a better place.
**Update!!! I originally posted this review on 11/12/13, but I’m reposting it today because it comes out in paperback this week, and the publisher asked if I could help her get the word out!!!**
Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, especially the “f” word, rape, intimacy scenes and discussions about, a robbery with a gun, and violence.
Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Shadow Year

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Lila, a young woman who’s just suffered a terrible loss, finds a welcome distraction when she mysteriously inherits a ramshackle lake house in need of a major renovation. Scraping away layers of old walls, she unexpectedly stumbles upon cryptic notes and other clues that offer an intriguing glimpse into the lives of her home’s previous residents. Slowly, she begins to piece together the story of a group of idealistic university graduates who’d thrown off the shackles of bourgeois city life to rely only on one another and the land for one year. But as she delves deeper, it becomes clear that their experiment ended in tragedy. In untangling the house’s web of shocking secrets and lies, Lila will have to come to terms with her own loss and find a new path for herself.”
This is one of those books that you finish and immediately want to call someone to discuss it. I was so upset that I couldn’t discuss it with anyone. Ahhhhhh……at least I get to write my feelings. Then when you read it you can post comments and we can discuss it. Wow. You all know me fairly well by now, I think. I do not read summaries before I read the book. I want the surprise. You also probably know that I usually don’t sit and ponder books and try to figure out where they’re going. I don’t try and figure out who did it or how it all happened, I just read. I just read the book and enjoy it. This book, though, was different. Every time I put it down (which wasn’t very often), I kept thinking about it. How did these two stories connect? There’s got to be something to connect them, right? And then as I read more I started to get glimpses and think maybe I had it figured out. Nope. Okay, well maybe this instead? Nope. I’d go back and check to see if something earlier gave it away but I didn’t realize it when I read it……Nope. So, I just had to keep reading until I finished. And the shock at the end. Wait, what?? What? Really? I haven’t been as shocked by an ending in a long time. Who knows. Maybe you are all a lot smarter than I am and will figure it out, but I did not see that one coming. Obviously, this book is well written. It’s engaging, intriguing, creative, and addictive. Her descriptions are right on. They are well done yet not over-the-top. I felt like I was right there in that cabin with Lila. The characters are also very well done. Each of them has a distinct personality and I felt like they stayed true to themselves all the way through. There were some character traits that I did not expect. You’ll see. I felt like I related to Lila more than I did the other characters. Even though I didn’t really relate to the other characters, it didn’t matter this time. The story was so interesting that I got lost and didn’t even think about it. Lila made me nervous though. Here she had just lost something so precious, and I didn’t want her to lose the one thing she had left by running away. She definitely put herself in some situations that made me nervous, and I kind of agreed with her husband. I never liked or trusted Simon, and that dislike got even greater the more I read. There were times in the book that I liked Kat, and times that I didn’t. She was a little too infatuated for me; it clouded her judgement. She had a quick temper and tended to trust those she shouldn’t more than she trusted those she should. The dynamic of the group was interesting, to say the least. It’s an experiment that would definitely try the best of relationships. 
With all that, you’ll be surprised I liked it when you find out what is in it. Normally I don’t think I’d like or read a book that contained so much drug use. Wow. It was 1980 and these college graduates definitely believed in the 60’s mentality of free love and drug use. They definitely didn’t see those commercials with the fried egg that said “This is your brain (picture of an egg), this is your brain on drugs (picture of a fried egg).” Do you remember those? Well, I’m pretty sure these kids didn’t see them. So, lots of drug use in this book. There is also a lot of “intimacy.” As I said, they believed in free love, and when you add the drug use to the free love mentality, guess what happens? There is also quite a bit of language in this book. There are several “f” words along with some other language. And yes, after all that, I actually really liked the book. I’m still not sure about the ending, but I did like the book. I was so engrossed in it I’m pretty sure I ignored my children and laundry for a couple of days. But, you know, they understand. 
Rating: R (Language, including several “f” words, lots of “intimacy,” and lots of drug use.)
Recommendation: Adult (This book is NOT appropriate for the YA crowd, it is definitely an adult book.)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Scent of Butterflies

Scent of Butterflies by Dora Levy Mossanen
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Such audacity she has, Soraya, a woman who dares to break free of the diamond-studded leash of her culture. A woman who refuses to accept the devastating betrayal her husband perpetrated. A woman who refuses to forgive her best friend. Soraya turns her back on Iran, fleeing to America to plot her intricate revenge. The Shah has fallen, her country in in turmoil, her marriage has crumbled, and she is unraveling. The cruel and intimate blow her husband has dealt her awakens an obsessive streak that explodes in the heated world of Los Angeles. Yet the secret Soraya discovers proves far more devastating than anything she had imagined, unleashing a whirlwind of unexpected events that will leave the reader breathless.”
I just finished this book and I’m almost speechless. I liked the character development. I definitely felt like I knew and understood each character well. Even though I didn’t really like any of the characters, I did think they were well developed. I can’t even imagine how I would react if I saw my husband in my bed with my best friend. It would be awful. Terrible. Horrible. But, I can’t imagine I would react the way Soraya did. Wow. She seriously went crazy. I just couldn’t relate to her and her very dark side. She was over-the-top crazy, and it bothered me because it didn’t seem real. I mean, I have to imagine that seeing what she did would throw her for a loop, but I definitely think she took it too far. It made me uncomfortable reading about it. I thought a lot of it at the beginning had unanswered questions, like where did she get the money to just go to LA and stay there? Those questions were answered eventually, which made the story at least a little more plausible. Aziz, Parvaneh, Baba, Madra, and Mamabozorg were all interesting characters. I didn’t really like or relate to any of them, but I thought they were well thought-out and had interesting stories and histories. There was a lot of Iranian history and culture, and I’m, unfortunately, not smart enough to know if it was all accurate. If it is accurate then I thought she painted the picture well. Her writing style is difficult to read. It is full of descriptions, metaphors, similes, and metaphorical language, which you would think would be good, but at times it overpowered the story and I had to go back several times to re-read passages because I really had no idea what she was talking about. It seemed choppy also. Unfortunately, this book was too dark and bitter for me to really enjoy it. Soraya became seriously overcome with revenge, hatred, and bitterness. She ended up making things way worse than they should have been. I read the last page at least three times and I think I understand what happened, but because her language is so busy, I’m not quite sure I’m accurate in my conclusion. Maybe it’s just me and I’m not smart enough to read this book, but it was so busy (like a home littered with nick-knacks on every shelf, table, and cupboard) that it was hard to see past that and into the story line. 
There is language in this book, especially the “f” word. There are many of those. There is also a lot of “intimacy.” There are scenes, innuendos, suggestions, affairs, details, thoughts of, longings for….a lot. There is premeditation of murder, and the deaths of thousands of butterflies. How she fits the butterflies into the story is a little strange and morbid. 
Rating: R (Many “f” words and other language, lots of “intimacy” scenes, innuendos, thoughts of, affairs, etc.)
Recommendation: Adult
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Lost Lake

Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
(Summary taken from inside the book jacket) “The first time Eby Pim saw Lost Lake, it was on a picture postcard. Just an old photo and a few words on a small square of heavy stock, but when she saw it, she knew she was seeing her future. That was half a lifetime ago. Now Lost Lake is about to slip into Eby’s past. Her husband, George, is long passed. Most of her demanding extended family are gone. All that’s left is a once-charming collection of lakeside cabins succumbing to the southern George heat and damp, and an assortment of faithful misfits drawn back to lost Lake year after year by their own unspoken dreams and desires. It’s a lot, but it’s not enough to keep Eby from calling this her final summer at the lake, and relinquishing Lost Lake to a developer with cash in hand. Until one last chance at family knocks on her door. Lost Lake is where Kate Pheris spent her last best summer at the age of twelve, before she learned of loneliness and heartbreak and loss. Now she’s all too familiar with those things, but she knows about hope, too, thanks to her resilient daughter, Devin, and her own willingness to start moving forward. Perhaps at Lost Lake her little girl can cling to her own childhood for just a little longer…and maybe Kate herself can rediscover something that slipped through her fingers so long ago.”
I really liked this book! I loved the feeling of magical fate in this book. I loved the feelings of letting go (Hahaha…..guess what is playing on my ipod right now?? Yep, “Let It Go” from “Frozen.” Funny.) and moving on. I loved the lesson of not being a victim and of taking control of your own life. The characters are very well done and I loved almost all of them. Kate is such a good character. I loved the first words of the first chapter: “‘Wake up Kate!’ And, exactly one year to the day that she fell asleep, Kate finally did.” Wow, right? I was intrigued from the start. Why had she been asleep for a whole year? What had caused that? Was she in a coma? And as I read I became more and more entranced with Kate’s story. I loved her daughter Devin. You know that sleep Kate had been in? Well, it was more of an indifference for the world around her. She was in mourning after the death of her husband. She had functioned almost normally, she just hadn’t been quite as awake as normal. She had thought her daughter hadn’t noticed. She had. I love this line: “‘I’ve missed you,’ she said, then ran away again, leaving Kate standing there, shocked. Kate didn’t think anyone knew. But Devin did. She knew Kate had been asleep all this time.” I love the writing in this book. It’s easy to read and understand, and it just pulls you in. It’s very well done. I love many of the other characters as well. I loved Eby and George and their relationship. Their honeymoon was awesome. I wish my husband and I could have done that! I love the love that Eby has for him, and him for her. I love all the ladies at Lost Lake. They are a fun and eccentric group! Hahaha……it makes me wonder what kind of old lady I will be. 🙂 I really enjoyed watching the growth and coming alive of both Kate and Devin in the story. There’s a hint of magic in the book, and it caught me as corny at first, but then I just got lost in the story. There are some surprises that caught me off guard, and they brought the story together. It was a little slow in parts, but not enough to make me stop reading. I love personal interest stories. I’m amazed at how different people live. 
There are only a few profane words in this book, and they are minor ones. I’d say it’s 99% clean. There is an attempted suicide, but you don’t know that until after, and there is a suicide, but it is kind of more background information. There is also a house fire that ends up killing two people, but it happened before the story takes place, so it is also a background story. There is one character, Selma, who is quite the “lady.” She has had seven husbands, and they were all married when she seduced them. With her comes the aura of all things “intimacy” related. There aren’t any scenes, but there are innuendos and she talks about it. 
I really liked this book. I liked the hint of mystery, romance, and magic. I loved the lessons of family, moving on after bad things happen, finding yourself, not letting others run your life, and loving those around you. I definitely recommend this book!
*Favorite quotes*
“You can’t change where you came from, but you can change where you go from here. Just like a book. If you don’t like the ending, you make up a new one.” (pg. 254)
“When your cup is empty, you do not mourn what is gone. Because if you do, you will miss the opportunity to fill it again.”
Rating: PG-13+ (Minor profanity; suicide; “intimacy” innuendos and talk of, including seducing married men; a house fire that kills two people )
Recommendation: 14-15 and up, depending on the maturity of  the reader. Parents should read it first to decide if their child is mature enough.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Love Water Memory

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “At age thirty-nine, Lucie Walker has no choice but to start her life over when she comes to, up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay, with no idea how she got there or who she is. Her memory loss is caused by an emotional trauma she knows nothing about, and only when handsome, quiet Grady Goodall arrives at the hospital does she learn she has a home, a career, and a wedding just two months away. What went wrong? Grady seems to care for her, but Lucie is no more sure of him than she is of anything. As she collects the clues of her past self, she unlocks the mystery of what happened to her. The painful secrets she uncovers could hold the key to her future–if she trusts her heart enough to guide her.”
I loved this story. It is written so well (except for the profanity, which I will get to later…..). The language of the story is beautiful and captivating. I was hooked from the first paragraph. How could you not be? I mean, a very well dressed woman finds herself in the water searching for something, and she can’t remember anything about herself. What happened to her to cause this? Who is she? Does she have a family? Friends? A job? Where is she from? I had to find out. The first part kind of reminded me of the old movie “Overboard” with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. Do you remember that movie? So cute. Anyway, this woman can’t remember anything, and it intrigued me from the get-go. Not only is the writing beautiful and the story captivating, but the characters are so well done that you just fall in love with them. I couldn’t get Lucie off my mind, even when I wasn’t reading. I wondered about her and her past. I did kind of find it hard  to believe that she had these fancy clothes and an expensive bag and she decided to dump them for a mini denim skirt, a t-shirt with a saying on it, and a bag from Guatemala. But, what would I do with a new start? That’s just it…..I never stopped thinking about Lucie while I was reading this book, and even after I finished. I just kept wondering what I would do, and how would I feel if I were Lucie, or how would I feel if I were Grady? Grady, now he is another character that comes to life on the pages. I felt bad for him because here he had this fiance and now she doesn’t remember him or anything about their life together. I felt his frustration, but at the same time, I think he handled it fairly well. I loved that they got a fresh start. I loved that they could both start over. The story of them re-finding their love is both maddening and beautiful, but fascinating all the way around. I never really liked Helen. I know she had endured a difficult life, but she was so angry and mean. This story is crafted so well. It has mystery, intrigue, romance, and a fresh look at life.
One of  the only things about this book that I did not like was the profanity. Oh. my. I LOVED the story, but I can’t recommend it to any of my friends because the language is terrible. Awful. The kind of every day, common, swear words aren’t that bad. However, there are so many “f” words that it made me sick.  Ahhhhhhh!!! Why do authors feel the need to ruin such incredible stories by using such awful words? I don’t get it. I don’t. I’m sorry. When the profanity is that bad it totally detracts from the flow and quality of the story; it’s disappointing to say the least. The other thing I didn’t like was the sexual language. I know, they’re consenting adults and they had at one time been quite “intimate.” I also know it’s a real issue in relationships, but that doesn’t mean that I want to read very descriptive details about when a man gets excited (that’s the nice way of putting it) or all the explicit details about what goes on. 

I wish I could recommend this book to my friends because it’s an amazing story. I just wish it didn’t have the profanity or the explicit details of their “intimate” relationship. It is crafted so well, the language of it is so beautiful (if you take out the profanity), and the characters come to life on the page. Lucie’s past turns out to be not-so-pretty, so there are some disturbing, graphic, and violent scenes as well. However, if profanity doesn’t bother you, you will love the story.

Rating: R (This is not appropriate for younger readers.) Profanity (especially the “f” word), explicit “intimacy” details, domestic violence, murder.

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Husband’s Secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret–something with the potential to destroy not just the life your built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all–she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But a letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia–or each other–but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.”
I have to admit, I really wanted Cecilia to open that letter. I wanted to know what it said. As I was reading, I thought a lot about what I would do, and decided I didn’t know. Hahaha…..but I’d probably open it. There were parts of this book that I liked. As a whole, I liked the characters and thought they were well crafted. I liked the epilogue at the end because it was quite thought-provoking. It is so true that we never know how the decisions we make affect our lives. We don’t know what changes come about in our lives because of the choices we make. I liked that the book really made me think in that regard. However, other than that, this book is really not my style or taste. Think back to when you were 13 years old and you would sneak downstairs with your BFF to watch “Days of Our Lives” while you thought your mom wouldn’t notice. Do you remember how scandalous it all felt and how you knew you should turn it off but you couldn’t because you had to know who had an affair with whom, and if so-and-so would come back to life? And you had to keep looking over your shoulder to make sure your mom wasn’t standing there? Well, that is how I felt reading this book. It felt like a big ol’ soap opera. Scandals and affairs and murder. The language was terrible and the content was not my favorite. There was a lot of “intimacy,” and not in a good way. It took awhile for the characters and different stories to come together. Maybe it was just me, but it took me forever to figure out how they fit in the story, and even then, I’m still not sure how Tess fits in. She’s kind of connected, but not like Rachel and Cecilia. I haven’t watched a soap opera in years and years, and I don’t want to. I really don’t care to read one either. However, if you like the style, you may really enjoy this book. 
Rating: R (This book is not for younger readers) Murder, affairs, intimacy, language.
Recommendation: Adult
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. (This book was supposed to be reviewed for a few months ago, but I did not receive it in time to do a review at the correct time.)

The Rent Collector

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
(Summary taken from an email from the publicist)Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the ill-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money–a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption. It demonstrates that even in a dump in Cambodia–perhaps especially in a dump in Cambodia–everyone deserves a second chance.”

Wow! That about sums it up. Wow. This story is amazing. I was hooked from the first paragraph, and could not put it down. I laughed, cried, got angry, felt so blessed, and fell in love with these characters. Sang Ly may live in a dump, but she is an inspiration to me and those around her. Teachers across the world would give anything for more students like her. Her journey and her drive to learn are simply incredible. Sang Ly’s attitude about life at the dump is realistic. Some days she hates it, and some days she feels blessed to be there. I can’t even imagine. The love she has for Nisay and Ki Lim brought me to tears several times. I know that love. I feel it in myself. Ki Lim is also an inspiration. The love he has for his family also brought me to tears. When he ran around the city looking for Sang Ly and Nisay at all the different hospitals it made me cry. He sticks by Sang Ly, even through all her crazy investigative work and dreams, and supports her always, even though sometimes he may want to roll his eyes and walk away. Sopeap Sin is an amazingly complex woman. She evokes many different emotions in this book. At times I hated her and her gruff ways, and others times her kindness and selflessness humbled me. Thinking of Lucky, a mere child, living by himself at the dump, made me sick to my stomach. How sad. The mother in me just wanted to bring him home with me and take care of him. As you can tell, the characters in this book are so well done. They became my friends, my neighbors, and an inspiration to me. If they can have a positive attitude and a grateful heart while living in a tiny shack in a dump, then I should never have reason to complain. I live in a beautiful home in a beautiful area, I have a fabulous husband and four incredible children. We have doctors and grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies nearby. I have food to eat and to give to my family. My husband has a good job and I am able to stay at home with my children. We have wonderful families and great neighbors. I am truly blessed. 

I thought the story was amazing. It is a novel, but to find out that Sang Ly, Ki Lim, Nisay, Lucky, and the Healer are all real people brought tears to my eyes. There are pictures at the end showing these people actually living like the characters in the story. I know there is a lot made up, but to know it is based on these real people somehow made it all the better. The writing draws you in and holds you captive, and the lessons this book teaches are priceless. It did jump around quite a bit, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out. I loved this book and highly recommend it! There is a little bit of language in this book and some violence. There are beatings and other gang violence, and there is a girl the gangs want to sell into prostitution. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen. They live in a harsh environment, so there are a few instances that are hard to read about, but they are some of the moments that the characters grow the most from. This is definitely one of my new favorite books.

Rating: PG-13 (Some language, gang violence, beatings, living in a harsh environment)

Recommendation: 12-13 and up. I’ve been debating since I finished if I’ll let my 12 year-old read it. I think it is okay for him to read, but I don’t know if the lessons will be lost on him. And that is a huge part of the story. I’ll let you know.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of the World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie decides to risk everything–her family, her reputation, and her life–for the chance to see her husband again. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins over its troubled history. Was the painting looted during the war? Who is to pay retribution? And who is the true owner now? As the layers of the painting’s dark past are revealed, Liv’s life is turned upside down all over again. And her belief in what is right is put to the ultimate test…”
I loved this book! It is reminiscent of The Firebird, with a twist of The Hiding Place. I didn’t like it as much as I liked each one of those books individually, but it was really good. I thought the writing was excellent. Most of the characters were developed very well, and they each fit right where they needed to in the story. Liv is kind of a hard character to grasp onto at first, but as you get to know her better she grows on you. She becomes much softer and you can see the reasons why she is who she is. I liked Paul a lot. He just seems like a good, down-to-earth, normal guy. He made a difficult choice at the end that I applauded, but was scared for him too. I think he did the right thing. Both Paul and Liv had flaws, which is good because I don’t like it when characters are too perfect. Mo was an interesting character. I’m still not sure what I think of her. She added some humor and a flair of color to Liv’s clean and white lines. I really loved the other half of the story, though. Sophie and Helene were excellent characters. Their depth and strength was inspirational. I don’t know if I could have done what they did. I don’t agree with the decision Sophie made, at all. I thought a lot about it, and I just couldn’t have done it. I don’t think that is what my husband would want me to do either. Now, I won’t tell you if it paid off in the end, but knowing the consequences doesn’t change my mind. I can’t imagine the inner battles that went on in these women’s minds. The Germans had taken almost everything from them, and then they are asked to cook for them. Awww, what a struggle it must have been. I loved Liliane. I didn’t like the decision she made at the end either, but I don’t blame her. The strength she had to go behind the German’s backs was also inspirational. Would I have been brave enough? I wasn’t sure how the two stories would fit together, but, in the end, it was almost seamless. I liked the ending and thought it brought everything together well. I thought Ms. Moyes did a really good job of wrapping it up, but not too perfectly. I do like the perfect ending sometimes, but I don’t think it would have fit the book. I really enjoyed seeing it all come together, and thought the surprise guest at the end was a fabulous touch.
There is language in this book, especially the “f” word. There are several of them. There is  a bunch of other language, and the Lord’s name is used as well. There is a mostly rape scene. I say mostly, because she kind of knew what she was getting herself into, and purposefully went, but she didn’t realize how bad it would really be. There is a very violent and gruesome suicide. There is also war violence and poor treatment of the people by the German occupiers. There are some deaths. Happy, right? There are actually some happy moments, some inspirational people and experiences, and it makes it worth the sadness and harshness of the rest. It makes me so thankful to be where I am, at the time I am. I am so blessed! I definitely recommend this book.
Rating: R (This rating does not follow the movie ratings, exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, including the “f” word, rape, suicide, war atrocities, death.
Recommendation: 18 and up.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

A Light To My Path

A Light To My Path by Lynn Austin
(Summary taken from, a house slave, always figured it was easiest to do what she’d always done–obey Missy and follow orders. But when word arrives that the Yankees are coming, Kitty is faced with a decision: will she continue to follow the bidding of her owners, or will she embrace this chance for freedom? Never allowed to have ideas of her own, Kitty is overwhelmed by the magnitude of her decision. Yet it is her hope to find the “happy ever after” ending to her life–and to follow Grady, whom she loves–that is the driving force behind her choice. Where will it lead her?”

My book group chose to read this book this month, and I am so glad they did. I love Ms. Austin’s writing! I loved it in A Woman’s Place, and I loved it in this book. Her writing is so real in this book. The images she portrays with her words are so vivid and full of life. I got sucked in from the first page, and I only put it down when I had to feed my kids or sleep….you know, the important things. Of course, as you all probably know by now, I love American history, especially the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. So, any historical fiction around these times usually piques my interest. It took me a few chapters to figure out which characters belonged to which city and time, but once I did, it wasn’t a problem. From there I just fell in love with some of the characters and absolutely detested others. There were definitely some very extreme emotions there. I hated white people (and I am one) throughout most of this book. Their actions made me physically ill and very angry. The extreme hatred and anger that Grady carried in this book transferred to me. Missy Claire, Missus Goodman, Coop…..nope, didn’t like them at all. However, Anna, Delia, Joe (soldier), a bunch of military personnel, and even Massa Fuller, at times, I really liked. I had a very difficult time with Grady throughout a good portion of the book. His anger and hatred are contrary to my personality, and I felt bad for him, but I also didn’t trust him. I didn’t want Anna around him at all in the beginning. The character development in this book is very well done. Whether I liked them or not, I felt like I had known them all for a long time.  

The story may be quite depressing a lot of the time, (It reminded me a lot of The Kitchen House) but there is so much to gain from this book. The lessons that Grady and the other slaves learned through their experiences are lessons we all need to learn. Holding on to anger and hatred and revenge only ends up hurting us in the end. Learning to forgive is difficult, but through forgiveness we gain freedom from the burden of hatred. There is also a lesson of faith in something greater than yourself, and also faith in yourself. Surrounding yourself with good people, and the help that others can give you during difficult times are also wonderful lessons to learn. The power that music has to heal and bring out different emotions at different times in our lives has a big part in the book. There are some things in this book that are hard to read because of their harshness, and because of the emotions they provoke in the reader. This is a book about the reality of slavery in early American history, and it isn’t a pretty, happy fairy tale. It’s awful and painful to read about. However, I think it is important that we all remember what took place so that we can make sure it doesn’t happen ever again. To anyone. It’s important to look at the way we treat the people around us and be a little more patient, a little more kind, and a little more understanding. It’s also important to stand up for what we believe in, and help those around us that have fallen on hard times. Even though it provoked a lot of negative emotions, I did like this book. The growth that takes place in the characters is amazing, and made it worth the read. 

Rating: R (This doesn’t follow the movie ratings exactly, it is my way of saying that it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Rape, murder, mistreatment of slaves, war, and other atrocities. Minor profanity.

Recommendation: 18 and up

The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “London, 1955: Grace Monroe is a fortunate young woman. Despite her sheltered upbringing in Oxford, her recent marriage has thrust her into the heart of London’s most refined and ambitious social circles. However, playing the role of the sophisticated socialite her husband would like her to be doesn’t come easily to her–and perhaps never will. Then one evening a letter arrives from France that will change everything. Grace has received an inheritance. There’s only one problem: she has never heard of her benefactor, the mysterious Eva d’Orsey. So begins a journey that takes Grace to Paris in search of Eva. There, in a long-abandoned perfume shop on the Left Bank, she discovers the seductive world of perfumers and their muses, and a surprising, complex love story. Told by invoking the three distinctive perfumes she inspired, Eva d’Orsey’s story weaves through the decades, from 1920’s New York to Monte Carlo, Paris, and London. But these perfumes hold secrets. And as Eva’s past and Grace’s future intersect, Grace realizes she must choose between the life she thinks she should live and the person she is truly meant to be.”
This book fascinated me. The characters were very well developed and complex. Grace seemed like your typical 1950’s wife, but she actually had dreams for herself beyond being a socialite. It reminded me of some of the women in A Woman’s Place. She didn’t care about the parties or the big events, she wanted to go back to school and feel more important. Her husband seemed like the typical 1950’s husband who wanted his wife to be in her place and didn’t want her to be too smart or think for herself. I did not like him, and it made me very grateful for my husband, and that I live right now, not back then. I really felt for Grace. She was in a very difficult position. When she went to France and began learning about Eva, I got completely lost in the story. It is written very well. I loved Ms. Tessaro’s writing style. I enjoyed reading about Eva’s experiences as a child and the people she met. Some of the ladies at the hotel like Sis and Rita seemed like hard working, great women who took care their own. I liked them. I didn’t like Vanessa or Mr. Lambert from the first time I saw them, and I wish Eva had made different choices with both of them. However, something about Madame Zed and Andre Valmont intrigued me from the start. Neither one of them were wholesome or perfect, but they were fun characters because they had a little bit of mystery and drama surrounding them. The story line had so many interesting twists and turns, and I couldn’t stop thinking of the characters, even when I put the book down, which wasn’t very often. I enjoyed learning about the art of making perfume, and thought it fascinating how the ingredients came together. It was just like Eva’s life: so many different people and experiences shaping her into who she became. Just like the different perfumes that had layers and depth, so did her life. 
There is some language in this book, including one “f” word at the very end. There are a lot of innuendos in this book. “Intimacy” is laced throughout. There isn’t necessarily a big scene or anything, but it is a theme that runs throughout. There is a scene where two men are in bed together, but you don’t see anything happen. You also know that a girl was raped, but it isn’t described. Relationships are described, and you know that “intimacy” is there, but it is more just hinted at and talked about, rather than described. I didn’t love the choice that Grace made at the end. I understand where she was coming from and why she did it, but I didn’t love the choice. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I loved the glamour and glitz, the characters, and mystery of this book.
Rated: R (This doesn’t follow the movie ratings exactly, it is my way of saying that it is inappropriate for younger readers.) Language, including one “f” word, and a definite theme of “intimacy” laced throughout. There is a rape and a scene with two men asleep in a bed.
Recommendation: 18 and up, at least. 
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.