Saturday, June 23, 2018

Between Two Sisters

A Fist Around the Heart by Heather Chisvin 


Goodreads says that “The story of Anna Grieve and her fragile older sister, Esther, begins in Russia in the 1880s. The vicious persecution of Jews has come to such a point that the girls’ mother makes the decision to send her children to Winnipeg with her wealthy employers.” They also add, “When Anna receives the unexpected news of Esther’s possible suicide on “If Day,” an unusual day in WWII history when a simulated Nazi attack took place in Winnipeg in order to raise funds for the war effort, she immediately returns to Canada. Only she can piece together what really happened all those years ago in Russia…” 

I must admit that after I got this book, I almost regretted the request and avoided reading it for a while. With all the depressing news across the globe, I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for something that sounded depressing, and for some reason I thought this was going to be more about the Holocaust. However, after realizing that this debut novel is something of a family history Chisvin, I decided to put my trepidation aside and get on with it, mostly because I like to read new authors, and partially because I’ve had a family history novel in my own head for a while now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Q&A with Eric Houston, author of The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1)



I recently heard about Eric Houston's memoir "The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1)" and was immediately intrigued. While I couldn't fit this book into my reading list, I decided instead to feature this work here, by asking him one question. Here's his answer to:


What was one of the most interesting experiences you had when researching this book? 


I was stunned by much of what I found while researching The Lost Artist: Love Passion War (Part 1). My father knew they were all going to die at El Alamein, Egypt. It was July 3, 1942, the first two lines were wiped out, and his third line, the last line of defense, was out of ammo. But they all stood firm. If Rommel had broken through there was nothing to stop the Nazis. In Berlin, they were celebrating having won the war, and the Grand Mufti was setting plans to murder every Jew in Palestine and the Arab nations. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Opening Lines

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland 


Loveday Cardew hasn’t had an easy time of it. When she was only 10 her life fell apart, but 15 years later, she has a job in a bookshop in York, which is ideal for her, because she likes books much more than she likes people. Although Loveday thinks she’s escaped from her past, now it seems like its coming back to haunt her. 

I’ve never read anything by Butland before, but apparently, she’s published several novels already. As a book reviewer, the opportunity to read any book with the word “bookshop” in the title is immediately enticing. The fact that the novel takes place in one of my favorite British cities, York, was also a huge draw for me. Add to this the aspects of a strong female protagonist and a touch of a mystery, and you’ve got me completely sold. I mean, who wouldn’t love a young woman who gets tattoos with the first lines of her most beloved novels (including one of my own all-time favorites, “The English Patient”). 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Leaping Late in Life

The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George 


When 60-year-old Marianne Messmann is visiting Paris on vacation with her husband, she decides to commit suicide by jumping off the Pont Neuf bridge. Her failed attempt leads her to let her husband go back to Germany on his own and search out the Breton town of Kerdruc. Why Kerdruc? Only because it looked so lovely on a painted tile she found while in the hospital, so why not. What she finds there is far more than she bargained for. 

I truly appreciate a coming-of-age story that involves someone my age, rather than a young person. These types of stories remind us that finding ourselves is not related to age or chronology, and that no matter how old or young we are, there is always something new we can learn about ourselves. This is the biggest reason I wanted to read this book, but also because I found George’s previous novel, The Little Paris Bookshop, to be so charming and fun. That’s was a good enough reason to pick this novel up, if you ask me, but I’m afraid that although I loved the premise, and enjoy George’s writing, I was a touch disappointed with this book, and liked it less than I did her previous novel. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Storms and Longings


Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

Goodreads summarizes Backman’s sequel to his 2017 novel Beartown, saying “After everything that the citizens of Beartown have gone through, they are struck yet another blow when they hear that their beloved local hockey team will soon be disbanded. What makes it worse is the obvious satisfaction that all the former Beartown players, who now play for a rival team in Hed, take in that fact.”

All my readers already know that I am addicted to Fredrik Backman’s novels, and there is good reason for that. However, to prove to them that I don’t automatically adore every word that Backman puts on the page, I’m going to start this review by noting the reasons I almost gave this less than five stars. The biggest reason was foreshadowing. Admittedly, this is a personal pet peeve of mine, which to my chagrin, Backman employed many times throughout this book. I must admit that although it bothered me to begin with, each time he did this, I felt slightly less annoyed. This was probably because he only allowed himself a short sentence of foreshadowing each time.