Tag: relationships

Book Review: If You Want to Make God Laugh, by Bianca Marais

if you want to make God laugh
Image belongs to G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

 

Title:   If You Want to Make God Laugh
Author:   Bianca Marais
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

In the 1990s, Zodwa is a 17-year-old girl living in a squatter’s camp on the outskirts of Johannesburg with her mother. The constant threat of civil war and the disappearance of her brother years ago haunts their every step. Overwhelming poverty casts its shadow over their lives—as does the growing AIDS epidemic. And Zodwa, once the hope of her mother, is pregnant.

Ruth might be wealthy, but she’s far from happy. She knows her husband wants a divorce, and when her drinking leads her places she never intended, she ends up living on the empty family farm outside Johannesburg…where the sister she hasn’t seen for decades arrives unannounced. Delilah is a disgraced former nun haunted by a past she’s never spoken of, a past her sister knows nothing about. When they find an abandoned baby on their porch, they are confronted with their own beliefs about motherhood, race, and the secrets of the past.

If You Want to Make God Laugh is not a book meant for light reading. There are some very heavy topics here, and these three women have experienced truly terrible things. They might be broken, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t strong. Poverty and violence shadow their lives and the life of their community. The setting, on the cusp of Nelson Mandela’s presidency in South Africa, is torn by conflict, war, and disease. However, this is a wonderful, wonderful read.

Bianca Marais is from South Africa but now lives in Toronto. If You Want to Make God Laugh is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Smitten by the Brit, by Melonie Johnson

 

smitten by the brit
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Smitten by the Brit
Author:  Melonie Johnson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Bonnie Blythe is an English professor with her life planned out:  her fiancé is about to finish grad school, so now they can start planning their wedding. If he’ll ever settle on a date, that is. So she helps her best friend plan her wedding and tries not to be bitter about her own lack of wedding planning. And she tries not to think about Theo, the handsome, dashing Brit she met last year, who’s straight out of an Austen novel.

Theo knew Bonnie was engaged when he met her, so he kept a polite, respectful distance, even when all he wanted was the fiery redhead. When Bonnie’s engagement ends badly and she takes a teaching position at Cambridge, only an hour away from Theo, he’s happy to be the friend she needs. Theo would like to be more than friends, but family duty—and a secret he’s keeping from Bonnie—make that impossible.

I love the lighthearted and fun voice of this series. Getting Hot with the Scot foreshadowed the attraction between Bonnie and Theo, and I love when series allow you to find out more about characters from previous books. Theo is handsome and charming, and Bonnie deserves better than her wishy-washy fiancé anyway, so this was an enjoyable read.

According to her website, Melonie Johnson is a “Redhead. Writer. Drama Mama.” Smitten by the Brit is the second book in her Sometimes in Love series.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This is Not a Love Scene, by S.C. Megale

 

this-is-not-a-love-scene-cover

Title:  This is Not a Love Scene
Author:  S.C. Megale
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maeve and all her friends are obsessed with their senior film project and their portfolios to get into film school. Maeve would be, too, but having MS means her options are different than her friends. Maeve loves filmmaking. And guys. Especially the guy starring in their senior project:  Cole. But leading men don’t go for girls in wheelchairs, right?

But the chemistry between Maeve and the always-in-motion Cole is intense, and suddenly Maeve is dealing with typical dating mishaps and juggling the film project and her disease. Maeve is so used to being rejected, that she’s just not sure she can trust Cole, who seems far too good to be true. But Maeve will have to deal with her own fears if she’s ever to find out the truth about Cole’s feelings for her.

Maeve is an incredibly strong character, but she does have some issues that made her a little hard for me to read. I loved seeing how she viewed the world and her experiences in a life with MS, but she can be quite awkward and a little needy. She also comes across as very selfish, to the point where she completely ignores the sometimes-major problems her friends are having in favor of obsessing about her own issues. I didn’t find her all that likable, but she is a very strong character.

S.C. Megale is a writer, a filmmaker, and a philanthropist. This is Not a Love Scene is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson

the book woman
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
Author:  Kim Michele Richardson
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

In 1936 Kentucky, Cussy Mary Carter is the last living woman of the Blue People. With her blue skin, she’s taunted and ridiculed and treated as inferior, but Cussy Mary is a proud member of the Kentucky Pack Horse library service. This job is her way out, an escape from needing to marry in order to survive.

For Cussy Mary, delivering books to the backwoods people on her route is more than a job. For people who rarely see a newspaper—and who are unlikely to be able to read one if they did see it—the Book Woman is a Godsend, a deliverer of outside news, and a glimmer of hope in the darkness of the woods amidst prejudice and poverty so devastating it destroys entire families. Cussy Mary is determined to continue delivering hope to those around her—along with books.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is an incredible read! Yes, the blue-skinned people in Kentucky were real—they had methemoglobinemia, which caused a decrease in oxygenation of their skin. The prejudice and abuse Cussy Mary experiences in this book is heartbreaking, but so is the poverty that surrounds her. This book is vivid and lovely, with every page engraved with the strength of Cussy Mary—and her courage.

Kim Michele Richardson lives and writes in Kentucky. The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Unmarriageable, by Soniah Kamal

unmarriageable
Image belongs to Random House Publishing Group.

Title:  Unmarriageable
Author:  Soniah Kamal
Genre:   Fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal.”

This is the belief that Alys Binat, second of five daughters and a literature teacher, faces in her students, girls who will likely marry instead of finishing school. That’s just how things are in Pakistan in the early 2000s, but Alys hopes to influence some of her students, nonetheless. Then her family is invited to the society wedding of the year, and her mother sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase her five daughters.

The eldest, sweet Jena, catches the eye of “Bungles” Bingla, a wealthy entrepreneur, and Mrs. Binat is convinced a proposal is imminent. Alys and her best friend, Sherry, who is determined to marry so she can escape her home life, watch in amusement—and horror—as Aly’s mom and other three sisters—uber-religious Mari, flighty Lady, and artistic Qitty—make a less than stellar impression on Bungles’ sisters and very rich Valentine Darsee, his best friend. Alys hears Darsee’s scathing remarks about her and writes him off as a jerk.

But fate—and Jena and Bungles’ romance—keep throwing Alys and Darsee back into proximity, and Alys discovers the haughty man might not be quite as horrible as she thought. When Lady’s antics destroy the Binat family’s chances of ever holding their heads up in public, no one can save them. Except, maybe, Mr. Darsee.

Fact:  I love Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen had a phenomenal insight into people and portrayed them very well. Fact:  I know basically nothing about Pakistani culture.

Unmarriageable is a close re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, but it’s still its own story. The characters’ names made me laugh—Bungles—but there’s enough of the original in them to make them feel like old friends. I found Mr. Binat much more ineffectual than Mr. Bennet, but everyone else I enjoyed. Even Lady, annoyingly oblivious as she was. Alys was much more of a feminist than Elizabeth Bennet, but I love how her mind worked, and how quick she was to grasp her own mistakes. I highly recommend this!

Soniah Kamal was born in Pakistan, but grew up in England and Saudi Arabia and now lives in the U.S. She is an award-winning author and a creative-writing teacher. Unmarriageable is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, by Don Zolidis

theseventorments
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig
Author:   Don Zolidis
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.8 out of 5

Craig is awkward. He plays Dungeons & Dragons, which, in 1994 Wisconsin, does not make you part of the cool crowd. He’s had a crush on Amy for a while. But a geek with the super-smart student body president? That’s never going to happen. Until it does.

Then Amy breaks up with Craig. And gets back together with him. Then breaks up with him again. Over and over again. Seven times.

Senior year is hard enough without adding heartbreak—repetitive heartbreak at that—into the mix. Craig wants to escape his hometown and hopes to find a quirky college to feel at home at. Amy doesn’t know what she wants—she just knows it’s not what she has. It might be Craig. It might not. But both of them are fighting to figure out what really matters—and what they can do about it.

I liked Craig. He’s quirky and fun and definitely awkward. His group of friends are all nerdy but vibrant. Craig and Amy together, however…Well, I was Team Craig in this one. Except he was basically selfish and oblivious of what was going on around him, so focused on himself and what he wanted that it never occurred to him to think about what other people wanted. But he does grow and develops an awareness of others that is both fledgling and blooming, making this worth reading.

Don Zolidis is a playwright and former teacher. The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig is his first published novel.

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

Book Review: God Speaks Your Love Language, by Gary Chapman

God Speaks
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:   God Speaks Your Love Language
Author:   Gary Chapman
Genre:   Christian
Rating:   4 out of 5

Millions of people say The 5 Love Languages saved their marriage. Now Gary Chapman applies those love languages to God and those who follow Him.

Some people see God as an impersonal, far away deity, but He is really an up-close-and-personal Father who chooses to speak to us in the language we are most comfortable with. This book both reveals ways that God speaks to us in each love language and shows us ways we can speak to Him and learn new love languages.

I’ve never read The 5 Love Languages (Yet. But I did just buy it, after reading this), yet the author speaks so candidly and simply that all the concepts are easy to understand and relate to. I loved the sections on different forms of worship!

Gary Chapman is the author of The 5 Love Languages. His newest book is God Speaks Your Love Language.

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

Book Review: The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews

The Matrimonial Advertisement

The Matrimonial Advertisement
Image belongs to Perfectly Proper Press.

Website:  Title:   The Matrimonial Advertisement
Author:   Mimi Matthews
Genre:   Historical romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Ex-army captain Justin Thornhill needs someone to make his life a little bit easier. Orphaned and growing up in poverty, he’s spent 20 years paying back old grievances, making his fortune, and getting tortured in an Indian prison. Now he just wants to get along with the local villagers and have someone run his isolated household. A matrimonial advertisement seems the perfect way to accomplish that.

Helena will do anything to escape London, even traveling to the back of beyond and marrying a stranger. It’s a small price to pay for her freedom. She even starts to think she and Justin can be happy together. But when secrets from her past show up, will Justin keep her safe? Or will he listen to his own fears and walk away?

Occasionally I’ll read a book marketed as romance. Not often. And only if the premise and characters sound fairly unique and promising. Which is why I picked this one up. I’m glad I did. Helena’s secret was perfectly horrible and completely believable, given what I know about her era, but I loved her strength. Justin is deeply wounded, but so willing to help everyone around him. I loved how their relationship grew and developed.

Mimi Matthews writes about 19th century English history, historical romances, and she’s a lawyer. The Matrimonial Advertisement is her newest book.

(Galley provided by Perfectly Proper Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Firebrand, by Sarah MacTavish

firebrand

Way back in…March, I think…I went to a local author event, mainly because Rachel Caine was going to be there, and I love her writing. I’d heard her speak before, and was pleased to have another opportunity. There was another author there, Sarah MacTavish, and I really enjoyed her talk as well. So, I ended up buying her debut novel, Firebrand. And it’s been sitting in that particular TBR pile until last week. Yes, I stockpile books…and then don’t have a chance to read them for months. I have a problem, okay?

When I did pick it up, I finished reading it in less than 24 hours. It was that good. It’s set right before the Civil War, and its about two young abolitionists and the struggles they face. I like historical fiction, but I thought this YA historical was extremely well-written, and I found myself rooting for the characters. (Also, I’m from Texas, not too far from where part of the book is set, and I had no idea about some of the things in the novel.) This book deals with difficult events and topics, but it’s history:  if we don’t learn from it, we’re doomed to repeat it.

Saoirse Callahan and her family are struggling to survive on their small Texas farm that’s a far cry from their home in Ireland. Tempers are short, and after the death of one of her brothers, the whole family seems on the verge of collapsing. Then a series of fires sweep the region, and rumors of a slave uprising spread, leaving vigilante justice in their wake. Saoirse is desperate to find out what really happened, but her questions land her family in even deeper trouble.

Westleigh Kavanagh is safely an abolitionist in Pennsylvania, until he realizes his father’s new boarder is a runaway slave. Westleigh is determined to keep the man’s secret, even from his father, who, as sheriff, is bound to uphold the law, no matter what his personal beliefs are. Then Westleigh finds an old journal, and uncovers secrets his father has long kept hidden from him, secrets that lead him to the Callahans in  Texas.

Book Review: Lilac Lane, by Sherryl Woods

lilac lane

Keira Malone raised her three kids alone when their father decided drinking was more important. When she finally allowed herself to love again, her fiancé died of a heart attack. Now she leaves Ireland behind for Maryland to spend time with her daughter and new granddaughter, and to help her son-in-law with his Irish pub.

She butts heads with Bryan Laramie, the moody chef at the pub, and more than sparks fly as the two try to decide who knows best. Once they reach a truce, Bryan’s long-lost daughter shows up, and he must deal with unresolved issues from the past, when he last saw his daughter as a baby. And Keira has her own issues:  having been so unlucky with love twice, is it even worth the effort? While the two try to sort out their problems, the rest of the town takes sides for the upcoming Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, where they will match up to decide who’s really best in the kitchen.

Sherryl Woods is the author of more than 100 novels. Lilac Lane is her newest novel, the 14th book in the Chesapeake Shores series.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/MIRA via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)