Tag: fiction

Book Review: Convenience Store Woman, by Sayaka Murata

csw
Image belongs to Grove.

Title:   Convenience Store Woman
Author:   Sayaka Murata
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   3 out of 5

Growing up, Keiko was a strange child. She didn’t react like everyone else—two students fighting, and everyone wants them to stop? Bashing one of them in the head is the solution, right?—and she never understands why her reactions are so wrong. So she learned to mimic everyone around her, creating a nice, normal persona with nice, normal reactions.

For 18 years now, she’s worked part-time at a convenience store. She’s never had a boyfriend. She has only a few friends—who don’t know she’s playing a part. Her family doesn’t understand her. But the routine of the convenience store gives her structure, and the employee handbook gives her rules to follow—she knows the part she must play to look like everyone else.

When she meets a fellow convenience store worker who also doesn’t seem to know how to react, she decides to take action to make everyone finally believe she’s normal once and for all. But will change be for the better?

I’ve been fascinated with Japanese culture since the first time I read Shogun. That’s why I picked this up. However, this book ended up being pretty meh for me. I like feeling a connection with the characters, and I just didn’t get a sense of connection at all. I felt sorry for Keiko, but she felt so distant that I couldn’t really care. (Part of this may be due to the novel being a translation, part to the fact that Keiko may be on the spectrum, so she just isn’t easy to relate to.)

Sayaka Murata is an award-winning Japanese writer. Convenience Store Woman is her newest translated work.

(Galley provided by Grove in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: The Bookshop of Yesterdays, by Amy Meyerson

bookshop
Image belongs to Park Row Books.

Title:   The Bookshop of Yesterdays
Author:   Amy Meyerson
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Miranda Brooks loves her job as a teacher in Philadelphia. She loves her boyfriend, Jay, whom she just moved in with, and she’s looking forward to their first summer together. Until she receives a package in the mail and a clue and knows that one of her uncle Billy’s scavenger hunts has started. Except the clue is closely followed by a call from her mother:  Billy is dead.

Growing up, Miranda loved her uncle, a seismologist. He taught her so many things using scavenger hunts, and she always loved the adventure. But when she turned 12, her mom and Billy had a fight, and she never saw him again. When she returns to California for the funeral, she finds that Billy has left her Prospero Books—his beloved bookstore, now teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Her mother will barely mention Billy—she didn’t even go to his funeral—and Miranda knows the scavenger hunt will lead her to the truth about the fight when she was twelve, the truth her mother doesn’t want her to know. Miranda works to untangle Billy’s clues while she searches for a way to save Prospero Books, the legacy Billy left her. Soon she realizes just how deep the secret her family has hidden for years goes—and wonders if happiness looks different than it did at the beginning of summer.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that I love a book about a bookstore, a book filled with literary clues and references. I enjoyed everything about this novel:  the setting (Can I just move into Prospero Books?), the clues, the mystery, and especially Miranda herself. I loved how her mind works, and how determined she is to unearth her family’s secrets. An excellent, engrossing read!

Amy Meyerson lives in Los Angeles. The Bookshop of Yesterdays is her first novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Emperor of Shoes, by Spencer Wise

emperor
Image belongs to Harlequin/Hanover Square Press.

Title:  The Emperor of Shoes
Author:   Spencer Wise
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4 out of 5

Alex Cohen is a 26-year-old from Boston who lives in China. His father, Fedor, runs their shoe-making business with an iron first; profit is everything and Fedor isn’t about to change a thing. Until Alex gets involved with a Chinese seamstress named Ivy—at the same time his father names him heir to the company and places him in charge—at least in name.

Now Alex finds out the truths kept hidden by his father:  the obsession with productivity—workers’ times are assessed and anyone wasting even 8 minutes a week is a problem—as well as the cruel conditions the workers live in—hot water only at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., no safety measures in place to protect the workers. And Ivy is determined to start a movement for change.

Alex learns a lot from Ivy, but is the change she seeks really based on truth? The more Alex discovers, the more he wonders, until ideas meet action in a showdown at the shoe factory.

This is not a fast-paced novel. Instead, it moves at a slow, languorous pace, taking time to explore the nuances of culture as it exposes the ugliness behind business and commerce in China. Alex becomes a completely different person through the course of the book, and his relationship with his father is at the core of that. A book to sip and savor, taking in all the flavors of the culture it’s set in.

Spencer Wise was born and raised in Massachusetts but now lives in Florida. The Emperor of Shoes is his new novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Hanover Square Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman

us against you
Image belongs to Atria Books.

Title:   Us Against You
Author:   Fredrik Backman
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   5 out of 5

Beartown lives and breathes hockey. Always has, always will. Last year, after the unthinkable happened and tore the town apart, the team split, with most of the players leaving Beartown for neighboring Hed. The rivalry is real—and vicious.

Peter Andersson, GM of the Bears, spends his days—and his nights—focused on the team. Word that the club is closing rips his world apart, but when a new sponsor steps in, Peter will do anything—even risk the support of those who have always been by his side—to keep his team alive.

Now a new coach is in town, putting together a team of misfits in an effort to rise to greatness—again. Beartown residents might not support an outsider—especially a woman—coaching their team, but they do support the team. No matter what. As conflict with Hed grows from harmless pranks to malicious acts, tensions rise in the two towns, until one person dies and the entire community trembles on the brink of bursting into flames.

Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown, and takes readers back to that hockey-obsessed, small town home of bitter rivalries. This is a continuation of the story, an answer to what-happened-next-? Just as well-written, engrossing, and immersive as the first novel, Us Against You will leave the reader flying through the pages to find out which beloved character will die. I loved this—and Beartown—and I’m not even a hockey fan! If you love realistic, flawed characters and compelling storylines, this one’s for you!

Fredrik Backman is a New York Times-bestselling author. Us Against You is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

 

More reviews at <a href=” https://tamaramorning.com/”>Tomorrow is Another Day</a>

Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, by Preston Norton

neanderthal
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author:   Preston Norton
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Cliff Hubbard tries to stay in the background at Happy Valley High School, a difficult task for someone who’s 6’6”, 250 pounds, and called Neanderthal by the whole school. Cliff’s life sucks:  he has no friends and his home life in a ratty trailer park has only gotten worse since his older brother committed suicide last year. He can’t stand the popular kids, and he doesn’t even know what to say to the druggies who hang around outside of school.

The guy he hates the most is Aaron Zimmerman, the perfect star quarterback who can do no wrong. All Cliff wants is to beat that smug look off Aaron’s face. Until Aaron has a near-death experience and returns to school with a message:  while unconscious, he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley better…and Cliff is the only one who can help him.

To his own surprise, Cliff agrees, and he and Aaron start on the List which includes the meanest English teacher ever, a computer hacker intent on exposing the entire school’s secrets, the local drug dealers, the school’s most sadistic bully, and a group of teens who are Christian in name only. But soon Cliff will realize the List is more personal than he ever suspected—and he must act if he’s to prevent tragedy from striking Happy Valley High again.

I’m just going to say it:  I LOVED this book! I generally prefer female YA protagonists, but Cliff was wonderful! His voice and humor brought this story to life, and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. Cliff’s family life is sad and hard, and I felt so sorry for him at times I wanted to cry. But at heart, he’s such an optimistic, good-hearted person. Even the minor characters in this book are vivid (and somewhat over-the-top, making them completely realistic), and I loved every page.

Preston Norton’s newest book is Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How to Walk Away, by Katherine Center

how to walk away
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   How to Walk Away
Author:   Katherine Center
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Margaret Jacobsen was on the cusp of everything she’d dreamed of:  her dream job, a fiancé who’s absolutely perfect, and her wonderful life about to start. Until a plane crash leaves her burned and paralyzed, and that wonderful life disappears from view.

In the hospital, Margaret has six weeks of healing time; after that, she must go home, and the optimal healing time has passed, meaning if she can’t walk by then, she never will. So Margaret throws herself into her efforts to heal, with the help of a surly physical therapist who pushes her to do her best—and whose bad attitude is a challenge.

Along the way, Margaret must deal with heartbreak, family secrets, and the realization that life sometimes doesn’t turn out like we plan—and that’s okay.

I enjoyed this so much that I read it straight through in just a couple of hours! Margaret is an inspiring person I’d love to hang out with. What she goes through after the plane crash is captured in blistering detail, and I can relate to the mental reevaluation that’s necessary when you wake up in the hospital with your whole world changed. If you like smart fiction with a bit of romance, a heroine whose determination will inspire you, and a quirky family, this book is for you!

Katherine Center lives and writes in Houston, Texas. How to Walk Away is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Crossing, by Jason Mott

the crossing
Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Crossing
Author:   Jason Mott
Genre:   YA/dystopian
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

At first, the disease only took those over age 90, putting them into a sleep they never awoke from. Gradually, the victims grew younger, and the world realized eventually no one of childbearing age would be left awake—or alive. Accusations of blame arose, followed by the war.

Virginia and Tommy have spent most of their lives in the foster care system, fighting to stay together. But now the draft threatens to keep them apart forever. So they run away, headed for Florida and a space shuttle lunch that could be the last hope of mankind.

In a world gone mad, people try desperately to forget the truth, but Virginia remembers everything:  ever single detail of everything she’s ever seen or heard. The Memory Gospel brings the past alive for her, but it makes her blind to some things. As Tommy and Virginia flee across the country, they have only themselves to depend on, but can they bear the cost of the truth?

This was an intriguing novel, with a premise unique in the dystopian books I’ve read. The world, filled with war and the Disease, is frankly terrifying. Virginia and Tommy’s history is sad, yet their love for each other remains strong.

I found Virginal pretty unlikable. Her perfect memory makes her think she’s smarter than everyone around her, and, while that may be true in some cases, she only remembers her memories, not necessarily the truth. She’s a selfish person whose intellect makes her push people away. Despite that, this was an engrossing read.

Jason Mott is a New York Times bestselling author. The Crossing is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo

the way you make me feel
Image belongs to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR).

Title:   The Way You Make Me Feel
Author:   Maurene Goo
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Clara Shin and her friends are rebellious and anti-anything-too-trendy-and-popular. Clara is always pulling pranks and cracking jokes to keep people at arm’s length, but when a school prank goes too far, Clara ends up sentenced to work her dad’s food truck with her enemy all summer long.

Rose Carver is an uptight goody-two-shoes, but as Clara is forced to spend time with her, she realizes Rose is really just from a family of overachievers and she is scared to fail. She’s never had a friend, and she and Clara work to figure out their relationship while working the KoBra.

When Clara meets Hamlet, the boy who works the coffee shop near one of their stops, she’s intrigued, but he’s not her usual type at all; Hamlet is much too nice and polite for that. Then Clara realizes the way things have always been may not be all there is out there, and who she’s always been may not be based on the truth.

I loved this book! Clara’s relationship with her single dad is funny, open, and absolutely perfect. She’s always thought her social influencer mother was the thoughtful parent, but she learns that things aren’t always what they seem.

Clara’s sarcasm and biting humor were over-the-top in the beginning, but as her summer “punishment” opened her eyes to the truth, she truly changes as a person. Hamlet is almost too good to be true, and he serves as a great foil for Clara’s pessimistic worldview. Lots of humor and social commentary in this one, making it a fun, enjoyable read.

Maurene Goo is a young adult author who lives in California. The Way You Make Me Feel is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Song of Blood and Stone, by L. Penelope

song
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Song of Blood and Stone
Author:  L. Penelope
Genre:    Fantasy
Rating:   4.5/5

Jasminda lives in an isolated cabin in Elsira, where her Earthsong, though weak, makes her an outcast—as does her being half Elsiran and half Lagrimaran. She has no one, and she prefers it that way, as too many people have always treated her like trash. When a dangerous group of soldiers from nearby Lagrimar invade her home to escape a storm, she must convince them she’s not a danger—and that she’s one of them.

Their prisoner, Jack, captures her attention. His mission to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagrimar is about to fall at the hands of the True Father almost cost him his life. Only Jasminda’s power kept him alive, and now he needs her help to escape, and to save all Elsira.

As the power of the True Father grows stronger, Jasminda and Jack must uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps if they are to stop his despotic power from overwhelming their land. But the enemies they face are not just outsiders, and they must choose between what they want and what they must do if they are to survive.

Because I choose to read books on whether the plot is appealing to me (okay, and depending on how much I like the cover), I didn’t realize going in that this book is, as the author says, “a fantasy romance about brown people.” I also didn’t really pay attention to this fact while reading it, and only noticed while reading some of the publicity surrounding it, and the author’s site. However, the truth of what it is lent the story some incredible nuances and layers that brought the entire world to vibrant, shimmering life.

I was hooked from the very first page. Jasminda is a strong character, but she’s hiding her hurts behind many protective layers because society just isn’t receptive to her existence. So, she lives alone, survives on her own, and is determined to continue living life the way she sees fit. Until fate steps in and turns her world upside down, when she meets—and saves—Jack, a soldier on an undercover mission, pursued by enemy soldiers, who turns himself in to keep Jasminda safe.

The worldbuilding is complex, and I love how the history is layered in with flashbacks. This helps to give a very real feel to the setting. I loved the diverse cast of characters and read this straight through in one sitting. Can’t wait for the second book!

Leslye (L.) Penelope is an award-winning writer. Song of Blood and Stone is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Circe, by Madeline Miller

Circe
Image belongs to Little, Brown, and Company.

Title:   Circe
Author:   Madeline Miller
Genre:   Fiction, literary fiction, mythology
Rating:   4.5/5

Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and the mightiest Titan. Her mother is both cruel and alluring. Circe is not like either of them. Nor is she like her three siblings, striving for power and fame.

Circe prefers the company of fragile mortals to that of the powerful—and cruel—gods. In her search for companionship, Circe discovers she does have power:  that of witchcraft. Her power to transform her rivals into monsters makes the gods fear her, and she is banished by Zeus himself to a deserted island.

There, Circe learns her craft, growing in power and knowledge as she comes to know some of the most famous individuals in mythology:  The Minotaur, Medea, Daedalus, and especially the mighty Odysseus. But Circe draws the anger of one of the most powerful god in existence, and it will take all of skills and cunning to survive—and to decide if she will be a god, or a mortal.

I’ve always loved mythology, and I knew a tiny bit about Circe from a year spent studying mythology in high school (Thank you, Mrs. Skidmore!), but this novel is a riveting and personal journey into Circe’s life. Her treatment at the hands of the gods made me sad—kind of like the behavior of a lot of society these days—and her fumbling attempts to find friends and figure out her own truths drew my sympathy.

I loved reading about mythology from an insiders’ view—I truly felt I was part of the tale, experiencing Circe’s pain, grief, horror, and happiness right along with her. Well-written and engrossing, this book is a journey readers will love to take!

Madeline Miller is the award-winning author of The Song of Achilles. Her newest novel is Circe.

(Galley provided by Little, Brown, and Company in exchange for an honest review.)