The Prodigal-a review

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The Prodigal

by Michael Hurley

published by Raggerbag Press

2013

I received this books through Goodreads Giveaways programs in exchange for an honest review.

Summary

The Prodigal tells the story of Aidan Sharpe, a troubled lawyer trying to rebuild his life on Ocracoke Island, who finds love and destiny when an abandoned schooner thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago drifts ashore. While struggling to come to terms with his own failures and his growing affection for Molly, an enterprising towboat captain, Aidan is drawn into a 2,000-year-old mystery that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

In this debut novel from author Michael Hurley, the story of the mysterious ship named the Prodigal is intertwined with a cast of characters on Oracoke Island, NC.  We start with what seems a fable, of a gypsy princess who runs away with her true love, a salior, on board an amazingly powerful boat.  we then switch to present day.  When hot shot lawyer Aidan Sharp makes a mistake in a major case, he finds himself suddenly left with nothing.  His mentor sends to him stay with Father Marcus, a Roman Catholic priest in charge of a tiny congregation in Oracoke Island, on the Outer Banks.  Father Marcus is a bit of a renegade himself, and feels it is his job to help the lost souls who find themselves on the island with nowhere else to go.  One of these is Sarah, a woman who showed up years before on the beach totally naked.  Father Marcus gives her a small boat to live on and helps her survive.  Also helping Sarah is Molly, a spunky tug boat captain who is trying to survive in a man’s world.  When Sarah disappears into the Atlantic on her small boat, Aida, Marcus, and Molly, along with their friend Ibrahim ( a Bahamian on the run boat worker) set out to search for her.  As she disappears before them, they happen upon an abandoned boat.  Father Marcus digs into the origins of the boat and is amazed at some of the stories surrounding her.

This was a very well written book that surprised me with the changes in the story.  Just when I thought I had a good idea what type of book this was, the story would change, subtly, and head in a different direction.  I thought the characters of Aidan and Father Marcus were very well written-these felt like men I might have known.  As I grew up on a boat every single weekend fishing with my dad, I loved the descriptions of being on the water.  As the story moved into sailing and racing, I was a little confused by all the terminology, but never felt lost, as I moved along with the feel of the words.

Rating 4 out of 5

Sunset on a northern island beach (Ocracoke Is...

Sunset on a northern island beach (Ocracoke Island, Outer Banks, North Carolina, United States) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wishing Tree- a review

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The-Wishing-Tree

The Wishing Tree

by Marybeth Whalen

published by Zondervan

2013

Downloaded to my Kindle (borrowed from lovely daughter) from Amazon

Summary

Savvy, determined Ivy Marshall discovers that her husband has cheated on her on the very same day her sister’s perfect boyfriend proposes on national television. When Ivy’s mother asks her to return to her family’s beach home to plan her sister’s upcoming wedding, she decides to use the excuse to escape from the pain of her broken heart. When her return to Sunset Beach, North Carolina, brings Ivy face to face with her former fiance, old feelings are rekindled and she wonders if there is a future for them. However, when Ivy refuses to talk to her husband, he resorts to tweeting to her, expressing his remorse and making it clear he doesn’t want to give up on their marriage. As she helps prepare the wishing tree for her sister’s wedding, she must examine her dreams for her own future and what true love should be.

My Review

This book was one of the featured summer reads listed on She Reads, which led me to choose to read it on my recent vacation to Bermuda. The author, Marybeth Whalen is also the co-directior of She Reads.  I downloaded it and a few others and off I went, thinking that with 4 days and 5 night, I was going to get in lots of reading!  Instead, I spent more time having fun, swimming and sunning, relaxing and reconnecting with my husband.  This was the only book I finished-and I read it all within a 24 hour period.   That being said, I think this is a great summer read.  It tells the story of Ivy, who, going through a very difficult time in 5 year marriage, decides to return home to Sunset Beach, to help her estranged mother and sister plan the sister’s wedding.  While there, she begins to question her choice to marry her husband Elliot, rather than her childhood sweetheart (and jilted ex-fiance) Michael.  This story showed very well the seldom spoken of dark side of young marriage-that it requires a constant amount of attention and work or it will wither and die like a delicate plant.  Actually, I think it requires work no matter how long you have been married (hence the reading of only one book on vacation).  I thought this book was very well written.  If you are looking for an easy summer read, I would definitely recommend this book.

You can read more about this author at-

http://www.marybethwhalen.com

Rating
3.5 out of 5

Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach (Photo credit: stepol)

Sight Reading-a review

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Sight Reading 

by Daphne Kalotay

published by Harper Collins

2013

I received this book through Goodreads Giveaway program in return for an honest review.

Summary

On a Boston street one warm spring day after a long New England winter, Hazel and Remy spot each other for the first time in years. Under ordinary circumstances, this meeting might seem insignificant. But Remy, a gifted violinist, is married to the composer Nicholas Elko-once the love of Hazel’s life.

It has been twenty years since Remy, a conservatory student whose ambition may outstrip her talent; Nicholas, a wunderkind suddenly struggling with a masterwork he cannot fully realize; and his wife, beautiful and fragile Hazel, first came together and tipped their collective world on its axis. Over the decades, each has buried disappointments and betrayals that now threaten to undermine their happiness. But as their entwined stories unfold from 1987 to 2007, from Europe to America, from conservatory life to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, each will discover the surprising ways in which the quest to create something real and true–be it a work of art or one’s own life–can lead to the most personal of revelations, including the unearthing of secrets we keep, even from ourselves.

Lyrical and evocative, Sight Reading is ultimately an exploration of what makes a family, of the importance of art in daily life, and of the role of intuition in both the creative process and the evolution of the self. (from Goodreads)

My Review

I received this book through Goodreads (thank you!)

Sight Reading is a lyrical well written story that follows Hazel, Nicholas, and Remy.  Through these well defined characters, we see the marriage of Nicholas and his beautiful wife Hazel end, when he falls in love with his young conservatory student/colleague Remy.  Hazel struggles terribly to come to terms with her new life and the accompanying loneliness she feels.   “For a moment, Hazel thought she might burst into tears.  Sometimes things were hard, she reminded herself, that’s all:  being told you were unable to be with, it was just a bit hard, especially when she wanted so badly for things to work out, and thought they might, thought there might be a joy for her that was something beyond herself.  ”

Hazel is confronted with the seemingly happy marriage of Nicholas and Remy throughout the book, as  the three of them co-parent their daughter Jessie.  As Hazel eventually transforms from despair to contentment, and then true happiness, Nicholas and Remy’s lives suffer sadness and disappointment.  The fate of their marriage looks bleak, until Nicholas’ composition shows Remy what she really means to him.

“Just a little string of notes.  But to Remy they were a secret message just for her.  She saw that now, as she began to play the solo section of the final movement.  With each stroke of her bow she felt Nicholas’ love course through her, immense and many colored, nothing he could have put into words, nothing he could speak aloud.”

The author has written a beautiful story that gives the reader a glimpse into the world of classical music.  I did not feel overwhelmed by the descriptions of music, despite the fact that I have very little knowledge of the subject.  I especially enjoyed Remy’s journey through her musical life.

“The thought came to her, clearly, as she crossed Boylston Street.  Her dedication to her violin meant she could love something complicated and demanding and extremely difficult, and that she could do so with enthusiasm and without resentment.  It meant that she knew what devotion was, and commitment, and the sublime satisfaction of working hard at something until she accomplished it.  She knew how it felt to achieve what at times seemed like miracles; she had witnessed beauty that left her speechless.  She had known amazement up close, knew the glorious things this world held for anyone who chose to stop and listen.”

I would recommend this book.  It was very well written and beautifully descriptive.

Rating

4 out of 5

The Book of Secrets

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The Book of Secrets

by Elizabeth Joy Arnold

published by Bantam Books

2013

I received a copy of this book though Net Galley in return for an honest review.

Summary

National bestselling author Elizabeth Joy Arnold brings us a compelling new novel about four friends bonding over beloved literature and the very different paths it leads them down. This thoroughly engaging story full of suspense, wonder, and surprise is a captivating combination of Eleanor Brown and Gillian Flynn.

After more than twenty years of marriage, Chloe Sinclair comes home one night to find that her husband, Nate, is gone. All he has left behind is a cryptic note explaining that he’s returned to their childhood town, a place Chloe never wants to see again.
While trying to reach Nate, Chloe stumbles upon a notebook tucked inside his antique copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Written in code, the pages contain long-buried secrets from their past, and clues to why he went home after all these years. As Chloe struggles to decipher the notebook’s hidden messages, she revisits the seminal moments of their youth: the day she met the enigmatic Sinclair children and the increasingly dangerous games they played to escape their troubled childhoods; the first time Nate kissed her, camped out on the beach like Robinson Crusoe; and the elaborate plan she and Nate devised, inspired by Romeo and Juliet, to break away from his oppressive father. As the reason for Nate’s absence comes to light, the truth will forever shatter everything Chloe knows—about her husband, his family, and herself.  (from Goodreads)

My review

I love that this story centered around books!  I love those type of novels, like The Book Thief, The Bookman’s Tale, and Mr. Penumbra’s 24 hour Bookstore.   In The Book of Secrets, we see how Chloe befriends the Sinclair children.  Their growing years is told through the eyes of the stories they read together, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Lord of the Flies, The Catcher in the Rye, and Romeo and Juliet.  We begin with Chloe and Nate married and in their forties.  They have suffered the devastating lose of their son and we unwind the story through flashbacks.  Chloe finds a book hidden by Nate in which he tell their son the story of their lives, written in code.  As Chloe unlocks the code and reads Nate’s story, we understand what happened from the first day they met.  I don’t want to go into too many detail and give anything away.

This is a wonderful, well written book, and I would recommend reading it!

“Cliche to say these books felt like my friends, but at times, the lonely times, that’s exactly what they were, my only and best.  They were my shelter, I could enter and tuck myself against the margins facing in, forget my loneliness.”

“I ran my fingers over the text then held the book up to my face, closed my eyes and inhaled the sweet-sour scent of old paper and binding glue.  Did everyone who loved books do this when they encountered a new one?  I loved the physicality of books just as much as the stories inside, the feel of pages between my fingers, the intricacies of classic fonts winding along the neatly lined rows of words.”

Rating~ 4 out of 5

The Next Time You See Me

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The Next Time You See Me

by Holly Goddard Jones

published by Simon & Schuster

2013

Summary

Thirteen-year-old Emily Houchens doesn’t have many friends. She finds more comfort playing make-believe in the woods near her house in Roma, Kentucky, than with her classmates, who find her strange and awkward. When she happens upon a dead body hidden in the woods one day, she decides not to tell anyone about her discovery—a choice that begins to haunt her.

Susanna Mitchell has always been a good girl, the dutiful daughter and wife. While her older sister Ronnie trolled bars for men and often drove home at sunrise, Susanna kept a neat house, a respectable job, a young daughter. But when Ronnie goes missing, and Susanna realizes that she’s the only person in Roma who truly cares about her sister’s fate, she starts to question her quiet life and its value.

The Next Time You See Me is the story of how one woman’s disappearance exposes the ambitions, prejudices, and anxieties of a small southern town and its residents, who are all connected, sometimes in unexpected ways. Emily; Susannah; Tony, a failed baseball star-turned-detective, aspiring to be the county’s first black sheriff; and Wyatt, a fifty-five-year-old factory worker tormented by a past he can’t change and by a love he doesn’t think he deserves. Their stories converge in a violent climax that reveals not just the mystery of what happened to Ronnie but all of their secret selves (from Goodreads).

My Review

I received this book from Goodreads as a free giveaway, and I am very glad I did.  The author has given us a very well written, gripping debut novel.  This is the story of a murder in a small town where the lives of all the character intersect.  Among the very well developed characters are: Susanna, the Middle School teacher, dissatisfied with her job and marriage, who leads the search for her missing sister Ronnie; Emily, the awkward 13 year old girl who is bullied relentlessly at school; and Wyatt, the over 50 factory worker who has never found love and lives alone with his dog, Boss, also bullied, but by the younger men at the factory.  The chapters shift points of view between these and other character, and show just how interconnected life in a small town is.

I thought this book was very well written, with great character development.  The only problem I had was how sad and depressing most of their lives were, and that is why I will give it a 3.5 instead of a 4.  I was drawn in, but couldn’t find one character to really sympathize with, except maybe Sarah the nurse.

I would definitely recommend this book and will look forward to reading more from this author!

rating- 3.5 out of 5

Maya’s Notebook

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Maya’s Notebook

by Isabel Allende

published by Harper Collins

2013

Summary

Isabel Allende’s latest novel, set in the present day (a new departure for the author), tells the story of a 19-year-old American girl who finds refuge on a remote island off the coast of Chile after falling into a life of drugs, crime, and prostitution. There, in the company of a torture survivor, a lame dog, and other unforgettable characters, Maya Vidal writes her story, which includes pursuit by a gang of assassins, the police, the FBI, and Interpol. In the process, she unveils a terrible family secret, comes to understand the meaning of love and loyalty, and initiates the greatest adventure of her life: the journey into her own soul.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

Isabel Allende is one of my favorite authors.  I don’t think I have read anything from her that I haven’t really liked, or more likely, loved.  That being said, I did not love this book.  The beginning was a little slow for me, I lOVED the middle, and the end sort of fell flat.  I actually feel bad writing this, since I think I didn’t like it as much as I might have, if I hadn’t had such high expectations.  Since I love all I have read from her, I expected Allende’s new book to be fabulous, when it was merely good- or ok to me.

The story started slow for me, as I had a problem warming up to Maya.  I LOVED the middle so much, especially getting to know all the inhabitants Chiloe.  Allende has an amazing talent for weaving the history of her setting, especially Chile, into her story.  She makes the people and places come alive, inviting you in with such amazing descriptions.  I wish most of the story took place in Chiloe, but it went back and forth, almost haphazardly, between Maya’s time in Chiloe, where she is laying low at 19 years old due to some bad living, and the times and events in the U.S. that led up to her “escape”.  I especially like the other main characters in the story- Maya’s Nini, her grandmother that raised her, and Manuel, who opens his home to her in Chiloe.  The end, for me, was unexpected.  It was not in Allende’s usual style, but seemed like an attempt to wrap things up neatly.

Honestly, I would recommend this book- it was very well written, has very well developed characters, and is an interesting story.  It just did not live up to what I had hoped for from one of my favorite authors.

Rating- a begrudging 4 out or 5

“It’s easy to judge others when we are not going through the same thing.”

-Maya Vidal

Chiloé Island, Chile

Chiloé Island, Chile (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let It Be

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Let It Be

by Chad Gayle

published by Bracket Books

2013

Summary

After Michelle Jansen moves to Amarillo to get away from her abusive husband, she struggles to meet the emotional needs of her two children as she continues to rebuff the demands of her overbearing ex. She finds love and support in the arms of a coworker who is as much of a Beatles fan as she is, and she begins to gain the confidence and the strength that she needs to stand on her own, but her ex can’t bear to see her happy, and Michelle is blindsided by an unexpected betrayal as her ex turns her very own son against her. When this family that has already been split down the middle is thrown into chaos, it’s up to Michelle to find a path toward healing and forgiveness, a way to right the wrongs that have hurt them all.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

This is the debut novel for Chad Gayle,  a photographer and write originally from Texas.  Let It Be is a complex story of a woman starting over after leaving her volatile husband.  Michelle Jansen moves to Amarillo with her children Pam and Joseph.  She is starting over, trying to find a job to support herself and the children, while having to continually push away her estranged husband, who is intent on getting her back.  When she finally thinks things are going well- a new job, an interesting man- everything falls apart.

What I really enjoyed about this book was the author’s attempt to tie the story into the music of The Beatles, specifically their last album Let It Be.  Each chapter  is titled after on of the songs on the album, which I found interesting.  The only problem was that I didn’t actually know ALL of the songs, so I just had to wing it for the ones I didn’t know.  The author wrote the character of Michelle the strongest.  I think she was the character I liked best, since I felt I knew who she was and why she did what she did.  Joseph, the son, is also well written and defined, but I could not relate with him as well as I could Michelle.  She struggled day after day to make a life for her and the kids, knowing it would be easier to give in and return to her husband-easier and wrong.  At the end of the story, I was left with this ache of sadness for her, knowing and understanding too well how we make choices and decisions based on our love for our children.

Mr. Gayle’s debut work was a very enjoyable book that I would definitely recommend.

I received this book from Bracket Books in exchange for an honest review.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0988661004

rating- 4 out of 5

Cover of "Let It Be (1990)"

Cover of Let It Be (1990)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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Its Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly bookish meme held on Book Journey by Sheila. It’s a great place to discuss your week in reading and see what others are reading too.

Books I read~

This week I was able to finish reading:

Z- A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler

The Family Mansion by Anthony C. Winkler

Let It Be by Chad Gayle

Z: A Novel of Zelda FitzgeraldThe Family MansionLet It Be

Reviews Posted~

I posted reviews for:

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey-https://turnthepagereviews.com/2013/05/09/while-we-were-watching-downton/

Z- A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald-https://turnthepagereviews.com/2013/05/11/z-a-novel-of-zelda-fitzgerald/

What I am Reading Right Now~

I have just started Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende-one of my FAVORITE authors!

Maya's Notebook

 

What’s Up Next?

Next on my reading list is

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood and The Next time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones ( which I received from Goodreads-yeah!)

The Penelopiad (Canongate M...The Next Time You See Me

While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

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While We Were Watching Downton Abbey

by Wendy Wax

published by Berkley Books

2013

Summary

When the concierge of The Alexander, a historic Atlanta apartment building, invites his fellow residents to join him for weekly screenings ofDownton Abbey, four very different people find themselves connecting with the addictive drama, and—even more unexpectedly—with each other…

Samantha Davis married young and for the wrong reason: the security of old Atlanta money—for herself and for her orphaned brother and sister. She never expected her marriage to be complicated by love and compromised by a shattering family betrayal.

Claire Walker is now an empty nester and struggling author who left her home in the suburbs for the old world charm of The Alexander, and for a new and productive life. But she soon wonders if clinging to old dreams can be more destructive than having no dreams at all.

And then there’s Brooke MacKenzie, a woman in constant battle with her faithless ex-husband. She’s just starting to realize that it’s time to take a deep breath and come to terms with the fact that her life is not the fairy tale she thought it would be.

For Samantha, Claire, Brooke—and Edward, who arranges the weekly gatherings—it will be a season of surprises as they forge a bond that will sustain them through some of life’s hardest moments—all of it reflected in the unfolding drama, comedy, and convergent lives of Downton Abbey. (from Goodreads)

My Review

I originally wanted to read this book because I am completely in love with Downton Abbey.  The movie centers around three very different women who lie in the same building in downtown Atlanta.  They find themselves attending a weekly screening of the first two seasons of the wildly popular BBC series Downton Abbey, arranged by the concierge of the building, Edward.  Claire, Brooke, and Samantha slowly become friends, each week bringing them closer together.

I really enjoyed this book.  While it can be labels chick lit to some degree, it is clearly written in a more mature voice than many out there.  Wendy wax is a wonderful writer who really brings her character-good and bad-to life.  I would love to see a sequel- especially more about Edward!

rating-4 out of 5

The Best of Us

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The Best of Us

by Sarah Pekkanen

published by Washington Square Press

2013

Summary

Following a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, a group of old college friends leap at the chance to bring their husbands for a week’s vacation at a private villa in Jamaica to celebrate a former classmates’ thirty-fifth birthday.
All four women are desperate for a break and this seems like a perfect opportunity. Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie needs to escape from the shattering news about an illness that runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her husband an unforgettable birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks that have already formed in their new marriage.
The week begins idyllically, filled with languorous days and late nights of drinking and laughter. But as a hurricane approaches the island, turmoil builds, forcing each woman to re-evaluate everything she’s known about the others—and herself.  (from Goodreads)

My Review

This was a really fun book to read.  Just the idea of an all expense paid vacation to a beautiful villa in Jamaica was enough to hook me!  The characters of Allie, Tina, Savannah, and Pauline were so written so well, you really felt you knew these women personally.  The friends get together, relive old times, retell old stories, and generally let their hair down and escape their everyday lives-no work, kids, etc to worry about.  Old hurts and feelings resurface, and by the middle of the week, these adults all start acting like they are kids again.  Looking back, I am reminded a little of the movie “The Big Chill”, though these characters are celebrating a birthday, not mourning a dead friend.

All in all, a good book-a quick and fun read-I would definitely recommend reading it-and I will keep an eye out for Sarah Pekkanen’s other works!

rating- 4 out of 5