The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom by Alison Love: A Book Review

9781101904510ABOUT THE GIRL FROM THE PARADISE BALLROOM

The first meeting between Antonio and Olivia at the Paradise Ballroom is brief, but electric.

Years later, on the dawn of World War II, when struggling Italian singer Antonio meets the wife of his wealthy new patron, he recognizes her instantly: it is Olivia, the captivating dance hostess he once encountered in the seedy Paradise Ballroom. Olivia fears Antonio will betray the secrets of her past, but little by little they are drawn together, outsiders in a glittering world to which they do not belong. At last, with conflict looming across Europe, the attraction between them becomes impossible to resist–but when Italy declares war on England, the impact threatens to separate them forever.

The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is a story of forbidden love and family loyalties amid the most devastating war in human history.

My Review:

I can’t recall if I’ve ever read a book set during World War II, but I definitely enjoyed the setting of this book as well as the perspective. I love historical fiction, but I prefer if a book focuses more on the characters and uses the historical aspect as more of a backdrop. I feel like this book did a pretty good job of that.

There were, however moments that dragged for me, and were just a little dull. Other than that, the story held my interest and the characters were well-developed. I really liked the characters of Olivia and Antonio, but I felt sorry for them. Their story seemed so tragic. In actuality, I believe at the heart of the story, was Filomena. I know this book was primarily about Olivia and Antonio, but I really loved the character of Filomena. She was strong and smart and loving. Her story with Stan was what captivated me most in this book.

In a lot of ways, this book was quite beautiful, but I don’t feel like it was as captivating as it set out to be. I enjoyed it, but I don’t think it will stay with me for a long time to come.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALISON LOVE’s short stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and in 2013 her story Sophie Stops the Clock was shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize. Alison has worked in the theater, television, and public relations. The Girl from the Paradise Ballroom is her American fiction debut.

April Reading Round-Up!

Five seems to be my monthly average, as this is the third month in a row that my total books read has equaled five. Let it be known that I can do better, since January held six books! Dare I take that as a self-induced challenge to make May a six or even SEVEN book month?

Challenge accepted!

So, for April, my five books read are as follows:

Three out of five of this month’s selections were for review purposes. These include: Room for Hope, The Inheritance and That’s Not Hay in My Hair. The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder was one I decided to read because I had recorded the film adapation (Starring Alison Sweeney) and I wanted to read the book first. I have to say the book was really good, but the movie…not so much. Sorry Ali! I still love you though! The last book I read was Pepper Pike and that was to fulfill my April Reading Challenge.

My favorite book this month was probably The Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. Not only was it just a fun, cozy read, but it also caused me to bake lots of cookies! It actually included recipes at the end of each chapter. Though I’ve yet to try any of those recipes, I really loved that they are included. Food-themed mysteries could be a very dangerous thing for my calorie-consumption! I also really enjoyed Room for Hope. The title was very fitting, as it was a very uplifting read. Pepper Pike was pretty good too, and a quick read. By the way, the challenge for April was to read a book by a local author. Les Roberts lives in Northeast Ohio and has written an entire series on Milan Jacovich that takes place in Cleveland. The last two books, The Inheritance and That’s Not Hay in My Hair were both just “okay” reads.

I’m looking forward to hopefully coming back at the end of May with a total higher than five!

I have currently read 21 of my 75 book goal for 2016!

Room For Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer: A Book Review

9780307731371In a desperate time, can Neva find forgiveness for a grievous wrong—and make room for hope?

Neva Shilling has a heavy load of responsibility while her husband travels to neighboring communities and sells items from his wagon. In his absence, she faithfully runs the Shilling Mercantile, working to keep their business strong as the Depression takes its toll, and caring for their twins.
 
When a wagon pulls up after supper, Neva and her children rush out—and into the presence of the deputy driving a wagon carrying three young children. The deputy shocks her with the news that Warren and his wife have died, insisting it was their last request that the three children go live with “Aunt Neva.”
 
Neva’s heart is shattered as she realizes that Warren’s month-long travels were excuses for visits with his secret family. She wants nothing more than to forget Warren, but can she abandon these innocent children to an orphanage? Yet if she takes them in, will she ever be able to see them as more than evidence of her husband’s betrayal and love them the way God does?

My Review: When I first read what this book was about, I was instantly intrigued. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a situation such as Neva’s. The sense of betrayal she must  have felt, knowing the person she shared her life with, shared another life with another family.

I think the author did an excellent job weaving together this story. The characters are very relatable and I think their emotions and reactions were approached very realistically. My heart broke for Neva and the circumstances her husband left her in. She was such an inspiring character. A true example of grace and strength. I also felt her son’s pain as he struggled with his father’s death and the sudden appearance of unknown siblings.

This book is a wonderful picture of what God can do in a situation. So often, we are faced with circumstances that are painful, unexpected and just plain hard. This book is a great reminder of what God can do in our lives when we are open to him. He redeems and restores situations, he brings beauty out of the ashes and he grows us in wisdom and strength when we allow him to move in our lives and our hearts.

I don’t know if this book is the start of a series, but I hope that it is. I would love to explore more of the characters and their journeys.

*I received a copy of this book free of charge from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

 

Kim Vogel Sawyer is the highly acclaimed, best-selling author of gentle stories of hope such as When Love Returns and Room for Hope. With more than one million books in print, Kim has garnered numerous awards including the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. She lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband Don. She enjoys travel, quilting, and spending time with her daughters and their families.

The Inheritance by Michael Phillips: A Book Review

9780764217487The death of clan patriarch Macgregor Tulloch has thrown the tiny Shetland Islands community of Whales Reef into turmoil. Everyone assumed Tulloch’s heir to be his much-loved grandnephew David. But when no will is discovered, David’s calculating cousin Hardy submits his own claim to the inheritance, an estate that controls most of the island’s land. And Hardy knows a North Sea oil investor who will pay dearly for that control.

While the competing claims are investigated, the courts have frozen the estate’s assets, leaving many of the locals in dire financial straits. The future of the island–and its traditional way of life–hangs in the balance.

Meanwhile, Loni Ford enjoys a rising career in a large investment firm in Washington, D.C. Yet, in spite of outward success, she is privately plagued by questions of identity. Orphaned as a young child, she was raised by her grandparents, and while she loves them dearly, she feels completely detached from her roots. That is, until a mysterious letter arrives from a Scottish solicitor. . . .

Past and present collide in master storyteller Michael Phillips’ dramatic new saga of loss and discovery, of grasping and grace.

My Review: This is the first book I’ve read by Michael Phillips. I loved the setting for this book and I think the story-line is very interesting, but I felt like the book was a bit too long and for me, it dragged a little. It took me quite a while to become invested in the story and when I did, it was more enjoyable reading, but it was still just a bit lackluster for me.

I really liked the characters of Loni and David and I’m curious to see where the story is going to go as the series unfolds, but I’m not sure if I’m curious enough to continue reading the series. I feel like there are so many books to read, and so little time and I’m just not sure if I’m feeling drawn into this story enough to take the time to invest in it further.

It’s clear that the author is a good writer, and I’m sure this book would be compelling for some, but for me, it was just okay.

*I received this book free of charge from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author:

Michael Phillips is a bestselling author who has penned more than seventy books, both fiction and nonfiction. In addition, he has served as editor/redactor of nearly thirty more books. Over the past thirty years, his persistent efforts have helped reawaken interest in the writings of nineteenth century Scotsman George MacDonald. Michael and his wife, Judy, spend time each year in Scotland, but make their home near Sacramento, California.

March Reading Round-Up!

Where did March go? I have no idea!! I’ve spent much of my reading time this month on review books. I enjoy reviewing books, but I need to make sure that I don’t become so overloaded with review books, that I neglect my ever-growing TBR pile! This month, I read a total of 5 books and they are:

Four out of five of these were for review purposes. The only one that was not was The Kitchen House. That book fulfilled my March Reading Challenge (Read a book from the bottom of your TBR pile) and was easily the best book I read this month. I greatly enjoyed it and I’m super excited to see that she just released a sequel. Of the four review books, all were fiction with the exception of This is Awkward. My favorite of the four review books was Dressed for Death. (This is a series that I’ve kept up with and have enjoyed thoroughly ) My least favorite was Shylock is My Name. I can’t say that I enjoyed reading it at all, and I hate saying that about any book.

Since I’m a little late in posting this, I’ve already finished my first book in April and I’m looking forward to a successful and productive month of reading! My total read for the year thus far is 17, which is apparently one behind schedule. I guess I need to step it up a notch!

That’s Not Hay in My Hair by Juliette Turner: A Book Review

_233_380_Book.1859.coverNew York City life had crammed sidewalks, gasoline-filled puddles, and angry taxi drivers, but Juliette enjoyed the towering sky-scrapers, the half-block walk to school, and the restaurant smells wafting into her bedroom. She had never cared for a horse, let alone a long-horn, when her mother announced their imminent move to a 300 acre ranch in Texas, where they would be caring for three horses, five dogs, twenty-five longhorns, and a cat … all by themselves.

Juliette couldn’t help feeling excited, even though she’d have to climb a hill to get a bar of cell-phone service. Soon she was running from bats and snakes, rescuing a calf from a twenty-foot ditch, medicating ponies, and having adventures so crazy it’s hard to believe they’re for real—but it all happened exactly how it’s written.

Get ready for side-splitting laughs, heart-wrenching tears, and surprising life lessons learned down on the farm and shared by fourteen-year-old Juliette Turner.

My Review: As an adult, I still enjoy a good bit of YA and Juvenile Fiction, so I was looking forward to reading this book. I loved the storyline for this book. A young girl moves with her mom from big city New York life, to a ranch in Texas. I thought this could be a really interesting story, but I feel like it fell quite short.

There really was no plot to this book. It seemed like every chapter was just full of varying scenarios in which the animals escaped, ran off, got sick or fell into a precarious situation. The characters, while likable, were not developed and I would have loved to get to know them better. The story was sweet and simple, but even for juvenile fiction, I feel it could have held much more content and character development.

I am impressed overall, as this novel is written by a seventeen year old girl. It’s not easy to write a book, and it takes talent. This story lacks in a lot of ways, but it has heart and that in itself is a wonderful thing.

* I received a copy of this book free of charge from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson: A Book Review

9780804141321 ABOUT SHYLOCK IS MY NAME

Man Booker Prize-winner Howard Jacobson brings his singular brilliance to this modern re-imagining of one of Shakespeare’s most unforgettable characters: Shylock

Winter, a cemetery, Shylock. In this provocative and profound interpretation of “The Merchant of Venice,” Shylock is juxtaposed against his present-day counterpart in the character of art dealer and conflicted father Simon Strulovitch. With characteristic irony, Jacobson presents Shylock as a man of incisive wit and passion, concerned still with questions of identity, parenthood, anti-Semitism and revenge. While Strulovich struggles to reconcile himself to his daughter Beatrice’s “betrayal” of her family and heritage – as she is carried away by the excitement of Manchester high society, and into the arms of a footballer notorious for giving a Nazi salute on the field – Shylock alternates grief for his beloved wife with rage against his own daughter’s rejection of her Jewish upbringing. Culminating in a shocking twist on Shylock’s demand for the infamous pound of flesh, Jacobson’s insightful retelling examines contemporary, acutely relevant questions of Jewish identity while maintaining a poignant sympathy for its characters and a genuine spiritual kinship with its antecedent—a drama which Jacobson himself considers to be “the most troubling of Shakespeare’s plays for anyone, but, for an English novelist who happens to be Jewish, also the most challenging.”

My Review: I had recently read Vinegar Girl, another in the Hogarth Shakespeare series and I had really enjoyed that one, and so I was eager to read another modern day retelling of a classic Shakespeare work.

Sadly, my feelings toward this retelling are far different than my previous read. I had not been familiar at all with The Merchant of Venice, and I don’t know if it would have helped if I was. I just found this book so boring and honestly had to force myself to finish it. The story-line went nowhere.  I did not find any redeeming qualities in any of the characters and I don’t know what the original Shakespeare is about, but this one was full of obsession over being Jewish, circumcision, bad jokes and painting Christianity in a negative light.

I don’t doubt that Jacobson is a good writer, and I’m sure this book may appeal to some, but I found it utterly horrid. Easily one of the worst books I’ve ever endured.

* I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books free of charge, in exchange for my honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Howard Jacobson is the author of four works of nonfiction and several novels, including The Finkler Question, which won the Man Booker Prize;The Mighty Walzer, which won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for comic writing; and Who’s Sorry Now?which was long-listed for the Booker Prize. He has a weekly column for The Independent and regularly reviews and writes for The Guardian, The Times, and The Evening Standard. Jacobson has also done several specials for British television. He lives in London.