Tag Archives: literary fiction

Book Club Selections for January!

1 Jan

I am so excited! Both of my book clubs are meeting this month. By The Book meets regularly every month, but Page Turners has been hit or miss for a while. But, we’ve got great books scheduled for both groups. Yoo hoo! What about you? What are you reading this month?

 

By The Book’s January Selection — Chosen People by Robert Whitlow

During a terrorist attack near the Western Wall in Jerusalem, a courageous mother sacrifices her life to save her four-year-old daughter, leaving behind a grieving husband and a motherless child.

Hana Abboud, a Christian Arab Israeli lawyer trained at Hebrew University, typically uses her language skills to represent international clients for an Atlanta law firm. When her boss is contacted by Jakob Brodsky, a young Jewish lawyer pursuing a lawsuit on behalf of the woman’s family under the US Anti-Terrorism laws, he calls on Hana’s expertise to take point on the case. After careful prayer, she joins forces with Jakob, and they quickly realize the need to bring in a third member for their team, an Arab investigator named Daud Hasan, based in Israel.

To unravel the case, this team of investigators travels from the streets of Atlanta to the alleys of Jerusalem, a world where hidden motives thrive, the risk of death is real, and the search for truth has many faces. What they uncover will forever change their understanding of justice, heritage, and what it means to be chosen for a greater purpose.

 

Page Turners’ January Selection — Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

From New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan comes an exquisite novel of Joy Davidman, the woman C. S. Lewis called “my whole world.” When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C. S. Lewis — known as Jack — she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. 

In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice — and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. 

At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story — a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.

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Top 10 Tuesday — Bookish Bookshops

16 Oct

Ok, I know that the title of my Top Ten Tuesday post is a bit redundant, but I have a reason for this somewhat silly title. Today, bloggers are supposed to share the bookstores and/or libraries they would love to visit. A very bookish bucket list. 😉 There are a number of real life bookstores that I would absolutely love to visit. Powell’s in Portland comes to mind. But those destinations will have to wait. So I thought I would share the bookstores I have already visited, however fictionally. Yes, my list consists of bookstores that reside in books, hence bookish bookshops. Some of the books are cozies in which bookstore owners double as mystery solvers, while others share stories beyond the covers of books and walls of stores.  Have you visited any on my list? I’d love to know what you thought.

Be sure to head over to That Artsy Reader Girl to find out just where other bloggers want to visit.

 

Top Bookish Bookstores

 

Bay Books — Camino Island by John Grisham

The Book Depot — Strangled Prose by Joan Hess

Charming Books — Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

Death on Demand Bookstore — Death on Demand by Carolyn Hart

Island Books — The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Magic Balloon Bookshop — Hidden Among The Stars by Melanie Dobson

Oak Tree Bookstore — The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

 

What bookish location do you want to visit?

 

Book Review: Where Hope Begins

28 May

Sometimes we’re allowed to glimpse the beauty within the brokenness . . .

Savannah Barrington has always found solace at her parents’ lake house in the Berkshires, and it’s the place that she runs to when her husband of over twenty years leaves her. Though her world is shaken, and the future uncertain, she finds hope through an old woman’s wisdom, a little girl’s laughter, and a man who’s willing to risk his own heart to prove to Savannah that she is worthy of love.

But soon Savannah is given a challenge she can’t run away from: Forgiving the unforgivable. Amidst the ancient gardens and musty bookstores of the small town she’s sought refuge in, she must reconcile with the grief that haunts her, the God pursuing her, and the wounds of the past that might be healed after all.

Where Hope Begins is the story of grace in the midst of brokenness, pointing us to the miracles that await when we look beyond our own expectations.

 

Catherine West writes stories of hope and healing from her island home in Bermuda. When she’s not at the computer working on her next story, you can find her taking her Border Collie for long walks or reading books by her favorite authors. She and her husband have two grown children and one beautiful granddaughter. Catherine is the winner of the 2015 Grace Award (Bridge of Faith) and the Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope & Love Reader’s Choice Award (The Things We Knew). Her most recent novel, The Memory of You, released March 2017 and Where Hope Begins releases in May 2018. Catherine loves to connect with her readers and can be reached at Catherine@catherinejwest.com.

 

My Impressions:

As it always seems to happen with books that blow me away, I have difficulty expressing how deeply they move me. Where Hope Begins is another excellent novel by Catherine West. Her previous novels touched my heart, but Where Hope Begins grabbed me where I’ve been and where I am certain to go in the future. The book is about loss — loss of a child, loss of a marriage, loss of dreams — and the hope of a second chance extended by those we love and the God that loves above all others. This one was a difficult read emotionally (make sure tissues are close at hand), but so worth it. Highly Recommended.

Savannah Barrington thought her life was okay. Not great because of the difficulties of the past and the uncertainties that face anyone’s future, but okay nonetheless. But that changes when her husband of 20+ years decides to leave. Devastated, she escapes to her family’s lake house in the Berkshires to right herself. Her journey is hard and painful, but God is faithful to bring beauty again where none exists.

I need to first mention the writing style of Where Hope Begins. The book is told in the first person voice of Savannah, her recollections of the past, and the third person point of view of other characters. It is a complex framework, but works so well to tell Savannah’s story and to show her impact, intended and unintended, on events in others’ lives. Without the additional 3rd person POV, the reader would never have the whole truth of the situations past and present. Characterization is strong. I identified with Savannah, fell in love with Maysie and Clarice, cried for Zoe and Adam, and Brock and Kevin, well, I’ll let you decide which one is the best man. As stated above, one predominant theme is loss. You don’t have to have experienced what Savannah has to know how she feels. Unfortunately loss is common to all in varying degrees. West knows how to make it real. But second chances are what this novel is all about. Our God is the Master at offering second (sometimes third . . .) chances, and Where Hope Begins shows it in fresh and sometimes startling ways. My favorite quote from the book appears towards the end. The characters have to learn to push aside what the world would deem impossible and hold out for the miracle. 

I loved Where Hope Begins — an emotionally packed reading experience you won’t soon forget.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Audiobook Review: The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society

25 May

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Mary Ann Shaffer who passed away in February 2008, worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel.

Annie Barrows was born in 1962 in San Diego, California, but quickly moved to a small town called San Anselmo in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spent most of her childhood at the library. She wouldn’t leave, so they hired her to shelve books at the age of twelve.

Annie attended UC Berkeley and received a B. A. in Medieval History. She knows more than the average person about 3rd century saints. Under the impression that a career in publishing meant she’d get to read a lot, Annie became a proofreader at an art magazine and later an editor at a textbook publishing company. In 1988, Chronicle Books hired Annie as an editorial assistant, from which platform she became successively assistant editor, managing editor, Editor, and Senior Editor. Somewhere in this trajectory, she acquired Griffin & Sabine, Chronicle’s first New York Times best seller.

In 1996, Annie received her Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Mills College and had a baby, a confluence of events that persuaded her to leave editorial work and move into writing. She wrote several non-fiction books on topics ranging from fortune-telling to opera before turning her attention to children’s books. In 2006, the first book in her children’s series, Ivy + Bean was published. This title, an ALA Notable Book for 2007, was followed by nine others. The Ivy + Bean series appears with some regularity on the New York Times best-seller list and a number of other national best-seller lists. The Ivy + Bean books have been translated into fourteen languages; in 2013 Ivy + Bean: The Musical premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A novel for older children, The Magic Half, was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2008. Its sequel, Magic in the Mix, came out in 2014.

In addition to her children’s books, Annie is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published by The Dial Press in 2008. A New York Times best-seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been published in thirty-seven countries and thirty-two languages.

Annie lives in Northern California with her husband and two daughters.

 

My Impressions:

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society was an immediate success, becoming a world-wide bestseller. Ten years after its publication it is still going strong, especially with the release of the movie this summer. My book club, Page Turners, selected it for our May discussion. Well, due to traveling members and other obligations, our meeting had a sparse attendance. And the two others besides me that were there hadn’t yet finished the book. But that certainly didn’t keep me from talking about this excellent book. Told completely in letters, the novel unfolds the story of Guernsey, a little thought of island in the English Channel. I was fascinated by the background of the story and the setting. But it was the characters that emerged and their resilience and courage in the face of enemy occupation that captured my heart. The two others that attended our meeting found the epistolary style hard to connect with. I think that by listening to the audiobook, that obstacle was removed for me. I immediately connected with Juliet, Dawsey, Isola, Elizabeth, and the others that had their voices heard through their and others’ letters. The book has some wonderfully funny parts, but poignancy as well. I felt myself part of the Guernsey community as they faced privation and uncertainty, yet never lost hope that their release from the the German occupation would come. Besides being a wonderful look into a place and time unknown to me, I felt the book was relevant for my life today.

I highly recommend The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society. It quickly captured my imagination and has stayed with me long after the final page.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(I bought the audiobook from Audible. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

May Book Club Selections

1 May

May is looking like an excellent reading month! Both my book clubs are active again, and we have chosen two great books. By The Book is reading If I Live by Terri Blackstock, the last in the series and a highly anticipated novel for my group’s members. Page Turners, after a few months hiatus, is reading The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Have you read either of these books? We would love to know your thoughts.

THE HUNT IS ALMOST OVER.

Casey Cox is still on the run after being indicted for murder. The hunt that began with her bloody footprints escalates, and she’s running out of places to hide. Her face is all over the news, and her disguises are no longer enough. It’s only a matter of time before someone recognizes her.

Dylan Roberts, the investigator who once hunted her, is now her only hope. Terrifying attempts on Dylan’s life could force Casey out of hiding. The clock is ticking on both their lives, but exposing the real killers is more complicated than they knew. Amassing the evidence to convict their enemies draws Dylan and Casey together, but their relationship has consequences. Will one life have to be sacrificed to protect the other?

With If I Live, Terri Blackstock takes us on one more heart-stopping chase in the sensational conclusion to the If I Run series.

 

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb . . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island — boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.

Written with warmth and humor as a series of letters, this novel is a celebration of the written word in all its guises and of finding connection in the most surprising ways.

Book Review: Lead Me Home

29 Mar

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

 

 

Amy K. Sorrells is a long-time believer in the power of story to change lives. Her diverse writing career includes more than two decades of freelance writing, including medical journal publications and a popular op-ed newspaper column. The driving mission behind all her writing is to bring words of hope to a hurting world. Praised by reviewers for the way they both poetically and accurately portray real-life hardship and hope, Amy’s novels are inspired by social issues that break her heart and the Bible stories that reflect God’s response to those issues. Her first novel, How Sweet the Sound, was a response to her personal questions about how God redeems the pain of sexual abuse. How Sweet the Sound won the 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest. Since then, she has published two more novels, Then Sings My Soul and Lead Me Home. Amy’s novels have been short-listed for various fiction awards. In addition to being a writer, Amy is also grateful to be a practicing registered nurse at a busy suburban hospital. She loves doting on her husband, three young-adult sons, and their golden retrievers at their home in central Indiana. If there’s leftover time after that, she enjoys up-cycling, gardening, binge reading, exercising, and Bible journaling.

Connect with Amy at amyksorrells.com, or find her on Facebook (@amyksorrells), Twitter (@amysorrells), and Instagram (@amyksorrells).

My Impressions:

The first book I read by Amy K. Sorrells, How Sweet The Sound, made a big impression on me. I knew that after reading it, I would have to get busy and dig into her other books. So on my recent spring break trip I decided to take Lead Me Home along. I am so very glad I did! Lead Me Home is a complex novel full of wonderful characters that grab and sometimes break your heart. Set in a small Indiana farming town, this book examines things we lose — people, purpose, dreams. While it could easily have been a depressing book, it was instead a story of the hope and the possibilities of wonderful futures. Just like How Sweet The Sound, Lead Me Home is a book to savor, think about, and discuss with others. A great book club book, this novel is a highly recommended read.

Sycamore, Indiana is a town on the verge — small family farms are disappearing, people are moving on to bigger cities, and those that stay are afraid that life is leaving them behind. Main characters James Horton and Noble Burden know what its like to live with loss. Widowed and left to raise a teenage daughter alone, James is the pastor of a dying church. An aspiring musician, Noble is forced to run the family dairy farm after his father leaves him with responsibilities too great for a 19 year old. Both question their decisions, their futures, and the seeming silence of a God that promises rest.

I loved all the characters, flawed as they are, that Sorrells has created in Lead Me Home. Their main attraction is how real they are — real in their doubts, fears, and struggles. Like me, they often try to go it alone, forgetting that God has them in the palm of His hand. The community in which the novel is set is rich in its American-ness — self-sufficient and proud, seeking to survive and flourish. Sorrels’s examination of the church is spot on as well. The ridiculous reasons someone leaves a church are juxtaposed against the real picture of Christ’s church that comes together in the end. The struggle to trust God is portrayed realistically too. At one point Noble thinks about the relationship he has had with God — It was in the wrestling and holding tight and trying to pin him down that Noble had come to know God as true, though he still had a hard time trusting him. Those words mirror an active faith; one that isn’t afraid to question God.

Lead Me Home is a novel meant to be savored — don’t rush through this one. You will want to spend time with James, Noble, Shelby, Eustace, and the rest of those that inhabit the pages. It’s full of simple wisdom and deep thoughts that will continue to speak to you long after you close the covers.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE. (It is currently only 99 cents on Kindle!)

(Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells

23 Mar

Lead Me Home by Amy K. Sorrells has been on my TBR shelf for way too long. I intend to remedy while I am at my mountain cabin for some R&MR — reading and more reading! There’s a storm in this book, so it meets the in like a lion, out like a lamb prompt for this week, too. How about you? What is your first line?

Leave a comment with the first sentence in the book closest to you, then head over to Hoarding Books to check out all the First Line fun!

 

Amid open fields and empty pews, small towns can crush big dreams.

Abandoned by his no-good father and forced to grow up too soon, Noble Burden has set his dreams aside to run the family farm. Meanwhile, James Horton, the pastor of the local church, questions his own calling as he prepares to close the doors for good.

As a severe storm rolls through, threatening their community and very livelihood, both men fear losing what they care about most . . . and reconsider where they truly belong.

 

Amy K. Sorrells is a long-time believer in the power of story to change lives. Her diverse writing career includes more than two decades of freelance writing, including medical journal publications and a popular op-ed newspaper column. The driving mission behind all her writing is to bring words of hope to a hurting world. Praised by reviewers for the way they both poetically and accurately portray real-life hardship and hope, Amy’s novels are inspired by social issues that break her heart and the Bible stories that reflect God’s response to those issues. Her first novel, How Sweet the Sound, was a response to her personal questions about how God redeems the pain of sexual abuse. How Sweet the Sound won the 2011 Women of Faith Writing Contest. Since then, she has published two more novels, Then Sings My Soul and Lead Me Home. Amy’s novels have been short-listed for various fiction awards. In addition to being a writer, Amy is also grateful to be a practicing registered nurse at a busy suburban hospital. She loves doting on her husband, three young-adult sons, and their golden retrievers at their home in central Indiana. If there’s leftover time after that, she enjoys up-cycling, gardening, binge reading, exercising, and Bible journaling.

Connect with Amy at amyksorrells.com, or find her on Facebook (@amyksorrells), Twitter (@amysorrells), and Instagram (@amyksorrells).