Review: The hour I first believed

A friend of mine loaned me the book, The hour I first believed by Wally Lamb. I had to have it read quickly because she needed it back. At over 700 pages, it’s not a tiny book, still I gave it a go…and I got hooked.

It’s odd because this, again, is not my type of book. I’ve never read Wally Lamb and the characters suffer so much that I wanted to stop reading; I’m a big wimp when it comes to characters not being happy. But the story and the writing refused to let me go. This book haunted me for the two days it took me to read it.

The story is about Caelum Quirk who starts out as an unhappy man in his third marriage, stumbling around life and not being very successful at living it. Then, while things around him unravel, Caelum slowly starts to confront the knots that are keeping him prisoner in his own life.

A lot of books are great stories, but few are an amazing experience. This one is. I can see why Oprah would have chosen this author as one of her favourites and picked his books a couple of times. I can see why he made the Bestseller list.

Wally Lamb manages to write the ordinary, haphazard occurrences of Caelum’s life into a masterpiece of miracles. Along the way, Caelum is transformed. His beliefs and doubts have completely changed. And, as the reader, I got to see it all.

His wife, Maureen is a nurse at Columbine when tragedy struck. This book is based on that fact but the story is only born around it. Maureen suffers from severe PTSD and becomes one of Caelum’s challenges. Along the way, Caelum meets other characters who teach him and push him further along his journey.

There are many things that I absolutely loved about this book. Though I had to read it quickly, I can see how sitting with it and savouring it would be divine. It’s got details and little nuances that need to be noticed along the way. Nothing is really left to chance, this book is written carefully and with clear attention to detail. It took the author 9 years to write and, in my humble opinion, it was worth every moment of those years. From the tone of the narrator, to the pace, to the twists and turns, this is a book to cherish.

(credit: goodreads.com)

 

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

It’s happened to me before, I grab a book and, a few pages later, I have to buy it. Well, it happened again. This time it was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It’s a negative dystopian novel, so definitely not my usual read but it was still incredibly addictive. I couldn’t put the thing down.

It was also terrifying. I dreamt about the book for two nights in a row.

Without giving too much away, the story is about Offred who is a Handmaid in the future of the US. In this setting, humankind is suffering from the inability to have children and, among other things, they have forced women who have working ovaries into being surrogates.

I say among other things because the entire civilization is incredibly controlled. With high-level monitoring, people only have to say the word and a black van comes and takes someone away. The entire country runs on a mixture of cultish religious mix and political agenda that’s really scary.

To better subdue the women they capture into willing handmaids, the women are taken to a centre where they get a dose of brainwashing mixed with a healthy amount of ‘religious beliefs’ and some physical torture to finish the deal. Everything from their name to their rights are completely taken away. They are named after the couple they are given to and are to pray that they get impregnated quickly so they can bear their couple a healthy baby.

The Handmaid’s Tale is part warning, part narrative. Offred is our guide through this terrifying world. She’s trying to survive so that she can find her daughter (also taken away) and escape.

I loved how well thought out the world was. Pretty much everything from the shopping stores to the clothing was carefully designed to fit into the story and it completed the picture perfectly. I particularly loved their dialogue and scripted answers to greetings. It depicts cults perfectly and gives a very real impression of what total control of government/cult can look like.

I also have to add that the book was actually written in 1986, where computers, the web and all our technological advances were mere figments of the imagination. The book still does a very competent and accurate projection of what the future will look like. There were no jarring shocks of mistakes along the lines of computers or technology.

To boot, there’s a new series on TV based on this book running right now and it’s getting great reviews. I saw the first episodes of it and it seems like a great adaptation of the book; really faithful to the writing and storyline.

So, absolutely, this one is a book I’d highly recommend. If you’re into dystopian society or just interested in a fun, entertaining read, check it out. I honestly couldn’t put the thing down until I had read the last page. It was mesmerizing.

(credit: amazon.ca)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Review: Victoria

Victoria by Daisy Goodwin is not my usual genre of books. It’s the story of Queen Victoria from the time she became Queen to when she married Prince Albert. It’s written by Daisy Goodwin who has a degree in history from Cambridge and has written other New York Times bestselling novels all about historical figures. I have never read a book by Daisy Goodwin and I rarely read nonfiction. I picked this one up for a moment, read a paragraph and was hooked. I tried to put it down, I actually did slide it back on the shelf, then I walked away and I knew that paragraph would be haunting me for the rest of the weekend and I’d have to return to find out what happened.

I bought the book instead.

I’m glad I did because Victoria was just delicious. I’ve gone and done a bit of searching since just to see if it was accurate and the truth is Daisy Goodwin got all the facts straight. On top of that, she wove them into a wonderful story. That certainly takes talent.

One of my favourite parts about this story is the transition of Victoria from the shy, protected girl we meet at the beginning of the book to the Queen we have in the end. It was quite the transformation. Her mother kept Victoria ‘protected’ while she was a child by not allowing her to see or meet anyone. She was carefully schooled by people she chose and saw only those she approved, which meant that, by the time she was eighteen, Victoria was so sheltered she was very ill equipped to reign.

Her mother’s plan had been to make her daughter dependent on her and so reign through her, but Victoria refused to become her mother’s shadow and to bow to her wishes. Instead, she tries to do things on her own. How she manages to not only succeed but to do so well is the meat of the story.

Queen Victoria was the longest reigning monarch in England until Queen Elizabeth II just surpassed her only a few years ago. She also married Prince Albert not out of necessity but out of love, something unheard of in that time period and had 9 children with him though she hated being pregnant. She was an incredible queen, something that was due to her determination, perseverance and talent because she started off with odds severely against her.

This isn’t a romance story, it’s historical fiction. But I was looking for something different. I like women’s lit and, in spite of the time period change, this is certainly the story of a woman coming of age and finding her purpose and role from a very challenging set of circumstances. It’s incredible how fast those pages turned when I read this book. It seemed to end too quickly.

I would absolutely recommend it. It’s got a fantastic story of triumph over adversity, historical facts, a love story and historical kings and queens all in one great book. Plus, it has a ton of intrigue but not a lot of fighting, which I adore. If you’re a fan of fiction or history, this one is a great one to try. If you do, let me know what you think of it.

(credit: goodreads.com)

(credit: goodreads.com)

Review: Waiting on you by Kristan Higgins

Waiting on you is the third Blue Heron novel by Kristan Higgins. It’s still a complete stand alone story and well worth picking up by anyone interested in contemporary romance. It’s the story of Colleen, one of the two twins who run their own little business in the tiny town.

Waiting on you tells the story of Colleen, a happy, beautiful girl who specializes in giving advice about love. She has made matches around the little town she lives in and they have all ended up at the altar. However, Colleen stays away from matching herself. She was burned years ago and once was enough. Now she’s happy with helping her brother run their pub and keeping others happy. Herself? She has her big, silly Rufus, her adorable Irish Wolfhound, to keep her company.

Lucas is our hero and the man responsible for Colleen’s heart break all those years ago. Lucas has been glad to stay away from the only girl who’s ever mattered to him. Years ago, life made him leave and he’s not one to ignore duty. He’s been dealing with it, working away for years.

Life, however has other plans for both Lucas and Colleen and suddenly, Lucas is back in town. Neither is prepared for what meeting again face to face will do to them. Easy-going, never quiet Colleen is at a loss for words and Lucas can’t seem to find his reasons for leaving the town again.

These two have a history, a beautiful delicious history that we get to see as the book goes on. They also have more than one reason to be together but they seem unable to see it.

Colleen and Lucas have to work out their history, unravel what happened to mess up their first attempt at love all while surviving the issues of their quirky families. The story of how they do just that is hilarious, touching and beautiful. I loved it so much I had to go back to the store to get the next book in the series. I just couldn’t go without another book by Kristan Higgins.

This one is certainly one I’d recommend to contemporary readers of romance but also to those who would like a book with humour and a great family story. Kristan Higgins’ secondary characters are absolutely a delight and in this instalment they certainly don’t disappoint. This one is a great read and a keeper on that wonderful keeper shelf.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

I read the back cover of this book a while ago and I’ve been waiting and waiting for the soft cover for months. It just sounded sooo good.

This is the cover of the book:

“Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, she revealed her father’s horrible crimes and made him infamous. No matter what she does, Naomi can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

“Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kidney residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up–especially Xander Keaton.”

There’s more to the cover, but I didn’t need to read it, I was already caught. I loved the premise of a woman with a wound from her past that was trying to find herself, define her future in her own terms in a small town. I loved that she was trying to renovate a massive, old, rambling house and that she was a photographer with a flexible job. To boot, this book was written by Nora Roberts–if there’s one unfailingly reliable Queen of Romance out there, it’s got to be her. I could barely wait until it came out on paperback.

I got it this Friday and, by Saturday, I had read the entire thing. I gobbled it up. Still, I’ll add that it was sooo delicious that I forced myself to take breaks and savour the writing, the description and the story. It was really, truly superb.

There are many parts of this book that I adored.

I loved the back story. Usually, it’s a deterrent and something that I want to get through as quickly as possible in order to get to the main story but this time, I couldn’t get enough of it. I loved young Naomi, born in tragedy and battling to find her own way even as fear ate away at her. I loved her wise and strong brother, Mason. Realistic, cute and even funny, he became a hero after my own heart and I wished he would get his own book every time I met him in the book.

The abuse and patterns of behaviours in the story were solid. There were no sudden changes of behaviour, no unbelievable defeats of addiction or cures that could never take place in real life. I honestly and truly believed they would have happened just as described and that made the book all the more gripping for it’s realistic zeal.

The renovation of the old house, built slightly outside the small town was incredibly appealing. I’d love to have the chance to do just that, to sit by a beautiful view with a cup of coffee and stare at the rising sun. And the characters in the little town were cute, funny and so real I could see them.

One of the best parts was Tag, the dog Naomi rescues and falls in love with. A mutt with a gold heart, I loved him from the moment he came into existence and adored both the rescue and the funny bits he added to the story.

Of course, Naomi and Xander are the leads and are fantastic leads at that. Nora Roberts is known for her strong female leads and Naomi didn’t let me down. She was strong, confident, hard working and determined to stand up for herself. An amazing heroine worthy of hottie Xander.

Nora Roberts is an ace at contemporary romance and I, for one, believe this her at her best. I have read other books by her that weren’t as fascinating, fun and enjoyable and I was delighted to find her writing back to her amazing, winning style. It might be an old recipe for her, but it’s a winning one for me. This book is staying home with me, kept in its spot on the shelf for future reading. It’s just that good. Whether you’re a fan of her or a fan of romance, this one is one you don’t want to miss.

(credit: goodreads.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: The next best thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing is an absolute gem. It’s slightly different than the other Kristan Higgins books I have read and the differences are all good. It’s still got her fantastic humour and great characters but this one has a little bit more. I had to read it in one go. There was no way I could put this one down, I read it and I cried and laughed. It was just incredible.

The Next Best Thing tells the story of Lucy who is a widow while being in her early twenties. Her late husband was Jimmy and we get to know him well in the book, because Lucy still adores him.

Lucy met Jimmy through his brother Ethan, a friend she knew at cooking school. They met, saw each other and that was it. One look was all it took. They were married not long after and Jimmy died only months after that.

To say Lucy was devastated by the loss is to put it mildly. The book picks up the story five and a half years after Jimmy’s death when Lucy decides to start moving on but her heart has other ideas. She has panic attacks and crying bouts. It’s not easy to leave behind the love of your life.

Helping her through the entire mess is Ethan. He’s like a rock for her. Over and over, she insists that she and Ethan can’t take things to another level because she’s not ready and he respects that. It takes Lucy a long time to figure out what her heart has been waiting for and to find the courage to act on it.

Being happily married myself, I can’t imagine the sort of loss that Lucy bravely faces. I cried for her broken heart and the pieces that were gone. I truly believed someone would go through the grief and dark places that Lucy goes through. I understood her stumbling attempts at trying to put her life back together. Grief isn’t neat and orderly, it’s gripping and devastating. People don’t emerge from that sort of loss complete and without scars.

But the moving, incredible part of the story, was Ethan. Solidly supportive, he hides his own feelings in order to be there for her. And, though I was pretty ready to not like Ethan for taking Lucy away from Jimmy, by the end of the book, I adored this hero, who had stood by her for years waiting for his happily ever after.

There are also great secondary characters here, in Lucy’s family and friends. I won’t spoil the book by giving away too many details, but I will say that they were warm, funny and inviting. I would have loved to visit and meet them all.

There are twists and turns in the story. Things are revealed at the end that made me stare at my dogs in awe and get goosebumps up and down my arms. I cried and laughed and rejoiced when the book arrived at the ending. I couldn’t wait for Ethan and Lucy to get together.

I can tell this is one story where Kristan Higgins has put a lot of work. It’s not just a happy, go lucky contemporary book. This is one that would definitely win awards.

If you haven’t already realized it, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone. I really believe this is an example of romance writing at it’s best. Not simple fluffy story, this is a true love story in all its glory. It’s one to treasure.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: All I ever Wanted by Kristan Higgins

All I ever Wanted was not just another hit by Kristan Higgins, it was really special. It has the usual great elements I expect from this author, a great story, fantastic characters and hilarious humour but there was something really special about this one that made me want to start to re-read it the moment I finished it. Looking back, I can’t decide what is the one thing that made it stand out for me. There are quite a few.

For one Callie, the heroine, was so nice she might have gone over into the silly area if she hadn’t been called on her overly-nice issue. She’s literally nice to those who are mean to her. Thankfully, she wises up and even doses out a little revenge. Callie stayed happy, nice and safely away from being too sugary.

Ian is our hero and he’s just hilarious. He’s formal, tense and just about every awkward attribute you can imagine. He’s truly good looking but he seems unable to know what to do with all the attention that gets him and more than once he ends up tongue-tied and staring like a deer in the headlights.

The way they meet is delicious because, at the get-go, they actually dislike each other. That in itself created more than a few fireworks and the chemistry didn’t let up. Ian isn’t one for romance or poems. This is no Cyrano. He’s a great vet, realistic in that he gets alone with animals and freezes in front of a gaggle of little girls. I have to be honest and add that he reminded me of my hubby. I absolutely adored him.

Callie has an adoring dog and lives with her grumpy grandfather. I was cautious about this living arrangement at first. How could a grandfather be funny or interesting? This guy was absolutely hilarious. He’s grumpy and really funny.

In fact, one of the things I loved the most about this book were the secondary characters. This was a town I wanted to live in. Callie’s family, from the icy mother to the quirky sister are awesome and I looked forward to their interactions with each other and with her. They deliver great lines and drew more than one chuckle from me as I read.

Finally, Callie gets herself into some fixes that are just awesome in how comical they are. There are limitations to how funny an author can make a situation due to the fact that everything has to be translated into written words. Expressions, noises, smells, in real life they are powerful contributors to humour. Kristan Higgins does an amazing job with humour. I felt like I could hear, smell and see every hilarious detail. And they were simply delicious.

An absolute keeper, I can easily recommend this one as one of my favourites from this author. If you haven’t tried Kristan Higgins yet, do it and do it with this book. I know I was glad I found it and even gladder I tried her. She’s one of the best out there.

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

 

Review: In your dreams by Kristan Higgins

In your dreams was another gem by Kristan Higgins. Hard to know how she comes up with not only a great couple but a new, fantastic set of quirky secondary characters. Add a great plot and you have a great book.

Emmaline Neal not only has an adorable German Shepherd puppy, she also has an invitation to go to the wedding of her ex-fiance. Now, going to a wedding of an ex would be something I wouldn’t do because it’d be too difficult and I wouldn’t put myself through that, but Em is just a sweetie and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, even her ex’s. So, off she goes. Still, she can’t go alone, so she asks super hottie, Jack Holland to go with her.

Jack has his own reasons to go. He’s in a bit of a private version of torture. A while back, he saved four children from drowning in icy water and the result has left him with attention he doesn’t really handle well and a bad case of PTSD.

I immediately loved that Jack wasn’t perfect. I don’t do well with characters that don’t have flaws and Jack certainly has them. I take off my hat to Kristan Higgins because she does a fantastic job of explaining PTSD from a male point of view. It was realistic, authentic and, at times, even funny.

Of course, there’s a twist and, this is a love story after all, Jack and Em end up together. Still, there is a wonderful story here with that hilarious humour I adore from Kristan Higgins and a ton of awesome characters to enjoy. From Jack’s ex-wife to Em’s family, there are just fun parts everywhere and I enjoyed every word.

I certainly would recommend this one. To be honest, just about every book I’ve found from Kristan Higgins has ended up with my recommendation. She’s a super-reliable author and has made it to my automatic-buy list because as soon as I finished this one, I was in withdrawal and the only thing that would end that pain was another book by Kristan Higgins. She’s just awesome.

(Credit: kristanhiggins.com)

(Credit: kristanhiggins.com)

Note: to go to site, click on cover.

Late Post – Review: Friction by Sandra Brown

Friction is another nail-biter from Sandra Brown. From the very first paragraph, to the last sentence, I was caught by the story and could not put the book down. Every time I got to the end of a chapter, something monumental would be revealed and I had to keep reading. A roller coaster of a book, this one is a definite keeper.

Friction is the story of Holly, a judge and Crawford, a Texas Ranger who’s trying to get his daughter back. They meet inside the courtroom where Holly is ruling on his custody plea. Before she can try and do that, there’s a commotion and a gunman enters the courtroom shooting.

I hadn’t read much about the back, I just started on the book and it pays to not know what is going to happen, because each turn and twist left me gasping, staring at the book in disbelief–and there are a lot of turns and twists.

I loved that Holly was a professional woman in a job that’s not usually reserved for the heroine. I liked that she had a job in law enforcement. And Holly takes that responsibility very seriously, further endearing her to me.

Crawford, on the other hand, has had a few too many punches from life and is a little cynical. He doesn’t care who understands him or who hates him. When he’s trying to help Holly out, his attitude sometimes backfires and causes more difficulties. He’s still hard to resist. Under all that tough bravado, he’s got a heart of gold and will give everything in his power to help out someone in distress. That’s hard not to like.

This one is a well-written, powerfully addictive book. One that I loved reading during the hot summer days and will enjoy again and again. If you haven’t tried Sandra Brown, check this one out and, if you’re a fan, don’t miss out. This one is a keeper.

(credit:sandrabrownbooklist.com)

(credit:sandrabrownbooklist.com)

Note: click on cover to go to site.

Sneak Review: The Girl on the Train

I have to admit, the book is not romance and not on my list of books to read this year or even on my radar when I saw it. I shouldn’t have read it. I’m a romance fan and I should have integrity…but a friend lent it to me if I wanted to give it a try. It was free and in my hands. I just couldn’t resist.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller. It’s the story of Rachel, who travels back and forth on the train every day to London and, one day witnesses something on one of the houses nearby that makes her a witness to a tragedy.

Because it’s a thriller, I don’t want to reveal what happens, not even a little bit. You can go on line and find those spoilers there for you, but I don’t want to harm the reading experience of those potential readers by disclosing too much. Instead, I’ll ramble on about what I liked about this book and what I thought of it.

For one, the tone. It’s written in the first person and, when done right, that’s captivating. My impression of Rachel was both powerful and personal. I knew her inside out within a couple of chapters.

The other thing that’s done really well is the pace. It grew slowly and picked up speed gently, almost without letting me realize it, I was suddenly flipping pages and things were going nuts. I stopped doing anything else and ignored my husband because I had to finish this book.

Since it’s set in London, the tone and expressions of every character is very British. I loved that. It was so accurate that I could practically hear the accent. I particularly loved the setting and the tea references. So UK.

It was realistic. That was something else I appreciated about it immensely. It didn’t have a radical, extraordinary ending that threw everything else I had read into question. No, the ending actually answered questions and fit like a beautiful final piece into the rest of the story.

Now, if you’d like to try this book, I think you can already tell that I would definitely recommend it, it’s written by Paula Hawkins and it’s her first book. It’s a bestseller, so there are definitely a lot of people out there who’d recommend it but, since it’s her first book, there aren’t any more to read until she comes out with the next one. I have a solution to that dilemma. If you like this book, I’d recommend Sandra Brown. I know she writes romance but it’s thriller romance and absolutely a page-turner. If you like this one, you’ll also love Sandra Brown.

(credit:wikipedia)

(credit:wikipedia)