Small Blessings

From debut novelist Martha Woodroof comes an inspiring tale of a small-town college professor, a remarkable new woman at the bookshop, and the ten-year old son he never knew he had.Tom Putnam has resigned himself to a quiet and half-fulfilled life. An English professor in a sleepy college town, he spends his days browsing the Shakespeare shelves at the campus bookstore, managing the oddball faculty in his department and caring, alongside his formidable mother-in-law, for his wife Marjory, a fragile shut-in with unrelenting neuroses, a condition exacerbated by her discovery of Tom’s brief and misguided affair with a visiting poetess a decade earlier.
SmallBlessingsThen, one evening at the bookstore, Tom and Marjory meet Rose Callahan, the shop's charming new hire, and Marjory invites Rose to their home for dinner, out of the blue, her first social interaction since her breakdown. Tom wonders if it’s a sign that change is on the horizon, a feeling confirmed upon his return home, where he opens a letter from his former paramour, informing him he'd fathered a son who is heading Tom's way on a train.  His mind races at the possibility of having a family after so many years of loneliness. And it becomes clear change is coming whether Tom’s ready or not.A heartwarming story with a charmingly imperfect cast of characters to cheer for, Small Blessings's wonderfully optimistic heart that reminds us that sometimes, when it feels like life has veered irrevocably off track, the track shifts in ways we never can have imagined.

My review..........3.5 stars
Overall,I liked this book, but it was divided into two sections, and my feelings about the book were divided along with them. I thought part one (about a third of the book) was a bit slow moving. The writing was very well done, and the characters well developed, but something was just a bit ho-hum for me. The second part of the book picked up considerably. Once we got into the story of Henry, and all the other people of the town, I was hooked. This book does have a rather predictable ending, but the way it gets to that end is all sorts of happy reading! At the end of the book, I found myself wanting to get a followup to find out how all of the characters were doing 🙂 It was an excellent character study of some ordinary people, all of whom had some sadness in their life that they were working through.
I got the chance to hear Martha promote this book at my local bookstore. While she has written many articles for many publications over the years (NPR, NY Times, Washington Post), this is her first novel. The publishing of this book is a dream come true for her, and she spoke about never giving up on a life goal!
This is well worth a read, especially after the first 100 pages.

This past Sunday evening, I had the pleasure to attend an evening with Jan Karon at my local Indie bookstore (Quail Ridge Books & Music). IMG_0117

Jan's newest novel Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good was recently released. It's been 5 years since we've had a Father Tim novel, and 10 years since we've been back in the loveable town of Mitford. For those who follow the series (10 books total), there have been two Father Tim books where he has traveled outside of Mitford, but he is back in this latest novel! It was fun to hear Jan talk about how many letters she received from people wanting the story to be back in Mitford.....she definitely listens to her readers, that was very evident at this event. Truly a delightful sprite of a thing (I look like the Jolly Green.....er.....purple Giant in my pic next to her), she was lovely, and very humbled by all of her success. She talked a lot about some of her favorite characters, two of whom she had to "let go of" when they died in the novels (Uncle Billy and Sadie).  She revealed that there is another Mitford novel in the works, which will hopefully be released next fall.

I have not had the chance to read the new novel yet, but stay tuned for my review soon.

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A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

 

In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon; the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell. But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, Fredrik Backman's novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

 

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My Review........5 stars!!!!

I adored this book! Being a fan of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, as soon as I saw that this was recommended to readers of that book, as well as a 5 star review from one of my fellow book bloggers, I knew that I had to read this. I am SO glad that I did!

Ove really was a curmudgeon, but I just knew that he had a heart under his gruff exterior, and loved how it was gradually brought out as the novel progressed. Parts of his personality remind me of a lot of older men in my Dad's generation. His relationship with his wife Sonja was so lovely, and drives much of the story forward.

I laughed, I cried (more than once), and I wish I could read this all over again! Definitely a must read!

 

The Girls of August

Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.
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My review........2 stars
The good thing I have to say about this book is that it was a quick read. And the beach house they stay at sounded wonderful. Unfortunately, it paled for me in just about every other way.
The story was so predictable, I felt like I had read it all before! The women were shallow, and never really developed in the story. They all had some secret that they brought to the beach weekend, very predictable to guess as the story progresses. I really didn't find myself liking any of them. I felt that the description of the house was better written than the women.
Overall a disappointment for me. I think there are lots of chick lit books out there to read, this is not one to bother with unless you want a quick read about a beautiful beach house 🙂

Elizabeth Is Missing

by Emma Healey

In this darkly riveting debut novel—a sophisticated psychological mystery that is also an heartbreakingly honest meditation on memory, identity, and aging—an elderly woman descending into dementia embarks on a desperate quest to find the best friend she believes has disappeared, and her search for the truth will go back decades and have shattering consequences.

Maud, an aging grandmother, is slowly losing her memory—and her grip on everyday life. Yet she refuses to forget her best friend Elizabeth, whom she is convinced is missing and in terrible danger.

But no one will listen to Maud—not her frustrated daughter, Helen, not her caretakers, not the police, and especially not Elizabeth's mercurial son, Peter. Armed with handwritten notes she leaves for herself and an overwhelming feeling that Elizabeth needs her help, Maud resolves to discover the truth and save her beloved friend.

This singular obsession forms a cornerstone of Maud's rapidly dissolving present. But the clues she discovers seem only to lead her deeper into her past, to another unsolved disappearance: her sister, Sukey, who vanished shortly after World War II.

As vivid memories of a tragedy that occurred more fifty years ago come flooding back, Maud discovers new momentum in her search for her friend. Could the mystery of Sukey's disappearance hold the key to finding Elizabeth?


My Review.......4 stars

This was a wonderful read! My heart was breaking for the main character Maud, who is in the later stages of dementia. The author did a wonderful job of giving us a sense of what it's like to live in this world. I also loved the supporting characters of Maud's daughter Helen, and her granddaughter Katie. The struggles they went through in dealing with Maud to help her maintain some sense of dignity, while keeping her safe, were very well written. The parallel story of Maud's sister Sukey, who also went missing years before, kept the story moving back and forth in time, but it was not confusing to follow.

The only reason that I gave this 4 stars instead of 5, would have to be the ending. I just didn't feel like it summed things up sufficiently for me. Since this was written from the perspective of Maud, I realize that it was the only way it could have ended, what with her confusion taking over her mind. I still wish I could have followed some of the other characters just a bit farther, to see how things ended for them. I guess that's what happens when you get so invested in these characters, which is of course, the sign of a good writer 🙂

Definitely worth a read!

 

Hi there, and welcome!

I'm Donna, and I've decided to delve into the blogging (specifically book blogging) world. I've been reading so many great blogs by readers, and it's given me a great selection of new books to read (to say nothing of the amount my "to be read" pile has grown!). I thought I would like to start reviewing the books I've read, to hopefully help others discover if a book sounds like a good fit for them. While I occasionally go outside of my normal style, I mostly read literary fiction, and chick lit books. I will also add any fun articles I find relating to the book world.

So if that is of interest to you, by all means keep coming back to check out what's new on "D" bookshelf 🙂