Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: The Funeral Dress by Susan Gregg Gilmore

Here is a summary of the book from the publisher's website

Emmalee Bullard and her new baby are on their own. Or so she thinks, until Leona Lane, the older seamstress who sat by her side at the local shirt factory where both women worked as collar makers, insists Emmalee come and live with her.  Just as Emmalee prepares to escape her hardscrabble life in Red Chert holler, Leona dies tragically.  Grief-stricken, Emmalee decides she’ll make Leona’s burying dress, but there are plenty of people who don't think the unmarried Emmalee should design a dress for a Christian woman - or care for a child on her own. But with every stitch, Emmalee struggles to do what is right for her daughter and to honor Leona the best way she can, finding unlikely support among an indomitable group of seamstresses and the town’s funeral director. In a moving tale exploring Southern spirit and camaraderie among working women, a young mother will compel a town to become a community.

My Review:
This was a lovely story that is told between two women and also two different time periods.  It starts out in 1970s Tennessee while also giving glimpses of 1950s Tennessee.  Although the story is mostly about young Emmalee we also get to know what made Leona the woman she was.

Emmalee didn't have much of a life living in Red Chert with her father who spent most of his days in a drunken state.  Her life was cast in a new direction when she took a job at the Tennewa Shirt Factory.  Most of the women worked there for years, but they took Emmalee under their wings, teaching her the ropes and becoming one of them.  She needed to earn money to support her new baby because her father certainly wasn't any help in that department.  She didn't expect to develop such close friendships with her co-workers, but working side-by-side next to Leona created a relationship similar to a mother and daughter.

Leona has lived a hard life up on Old Lick mountain and has had more than her share of heartache.  She and her husband, Curtis, live in a small trailer on the mountain, nothing fancy but they get by fine with their love of the Lord and each other.  They don't have much, but never having children of their own they decide to take Emmalee and her new baby into their home.  They know Emmalee doesn't receive any form of support at home and they have enough love to help both of them get a start in life.

A turn of event puts a crimp in the plans to move Emmalee into Leona's home, setting Emmalee on a new path of self-discovery.  Emmalee doesn't know much about mothering, but expects Leona to help her in this area.  I have to tell you that Emmalee is not a good mother throughout the book and that was quite disturbing for me.  I know she was young, but I do believe that some things just come natural for mothers.  But I also know that if there isn't anyone to offer assistance parents can make big mistakes.

Although I was often frustrated with Emmalee, I also couldn't help wanting her to come out on top.   I enjoyed reading this story and couldn't help but read certain parts over again that made me smile.  With themes of motherhood, friendship, and losses, I'm sure many of you will enjoy this book as much as I did.  I don't hesitate in recommending this novel for personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mailbox Monday-April 14

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive. You can check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see what everyone else found in their mailboxes.

Here is what showed up at my door recently:
China Dolls by Lisa See

Since I haven't been doing much reading lately I have been refraining from requesting books.  That all went to the wayside when I caught of Lisa See's new book.  I was jumping for joy when I was notified from Librarything that I was receiving an advance copy.  

So did you receive some interesting books in your mailbox?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

When Truly Plaice's mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother's death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of femine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated--Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane's beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book--containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers--has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly's biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly's brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling--the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques--hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan's family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly's reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

My Review:
Baker created a beautiful story for us about young Truly, who is born as an outcast and looked down upon her entire life.  When her mother dies giving birth to Truly, the entire town seems to blame the girl for her existence.

Life is hard for Truly, having to deal with her enormous difficulties without a mother, but at least she has her older sister Serena Jane to help her through some of it.  Disaster will strike their family once again, sending the girls in different directions. Although they will be living in the same town, circumstances will keep them apart, causing a rift between their relationship.

Truly becomes the butt of many jokes as she continues growing throughout her life.  When she does not get any taller her body just grows in other directions.  Her proportions are so unreal she does not have any choice but to have clothing specially tailored for her.   Through all of Truly's trials and tribulations she longs for Serena Jane to be a part of her life again.  Remembering Serena Jane's dreams and goals she knows their relationship is in the past as Serena Jane will be leaving this small town the first chance she gets.
As hard as Truly's life was, she never really had a pity party for herself.  She accepted the hand that life dealt her and embraced the things in life that gave her happiness.  One day she stumbles upon a secret that the whole town considered a myth.  This secret made people look upon her more favorable giving her a higher standing within the community.

A few of the ladies in my book club thought this book had a dark theme to it, so they didn't enjoy it as much as I did.  With themes of secrets, family, and forgiveness, you may love this book also.  I highly recommend this novel for either personal leisure or as a book club discussion.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal library and I read it for my own entertainment and as a book club discussion.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Teaser Tuesday-April 8

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from Fallout by Sadie Jones:
People were happy to watch now; now that she was captive.  Stopping and staring, talking about her.

pg. 128
***Please note that this is from an Advanced Reading Copy so the final printing may change.

I was on vacation in Mexico last week and was able to get through most of this novel.  The writing in this book is awesome!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Teaser Tuesday-March 25

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley:
She loved to shoot with a long lens, catching me unaware.  She said that's when you find a person's spirit, their truth.

pg. 133

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Audiobook Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Title:  The Rosie Project

Author:  Graeme Simsion

Narrator:  Dan O'Grady

Unabridged Length:  7 hrs, 34 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

An international sensation, this hilarious, feel-good novel is narrated by an oddly charming and socially challenged genetics professor on an unusual quest: to find out if he is capable of true love.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

The Rosie Project is a moving and hilarious novel for anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of overwhelming challenges.

My Review:
Let me start by saying this is the most sweet and delightful story I have read, or listened to, in a long time.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story about Don Tillman, as we embark on a journey with him as he discovers feelings and emotions that are totally new to him.  Dan O'Grady was a perfect narrator for this book as he brought the character of Tillman to life for me.

Tillman is a quirky college professor who has made the best out of his life as he lives with Aspberger's Syndrome.  He has had a few relationships that just haven't seemed to work out, but a fellow colleague and friend seems to have found the logical solution for finding Don Tillman a suitable mate.  One cannot be considered for the Wife Project until they pass the first assessment of course.   

After the Wife Project is underway, Don is introduced to Rosie, who is looking for help in finding her biological father.  Being a DNA expert, Don looks favorably upon the challenge, knowing he should be able to help this young lady.  He briefly considers Rosie as an applicant in the Wife Project, but after realizing she doesn't possess the qualities needed as an applicant, he quickly crosses her name off the list.

As Don and Rosie search for her father, Don finds himself in unknown territory.  He is willing to put himself in uncomfortable situations, even changing his schedule at the last minute or learning something new.  He doesn't understand the feelings that develop for Rosie as she isn't even a qualifying applicant in the wife project.  He knows the two of them could never have a future together.

This was such a fun book to listen to that left me laughing out loud many times.  With themes of love, challenges, and secrets you will probably enjoy this novel as much as I did.  I'm sure it would make an excellent book club selection and I don't hesitate in recommending this novel.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Audiobook Review: Red Hill by Jamie McGuire

Title:  Red Hill

Author:  Jamie McGuire

Narrators:  Emma Galvin, January LaVoy, Zachary Webber

Unabridged Length:  9 hrs, 38 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Goodreads website:

When the world ends, can love survive?

For Scarlet, raising her two daughters alone makes fighting for tomorrow an everyday battle. Nathan has a wife, but can’t remember what it’s like to be in love; only his young daughter Zoe makes coming home worthwhile. Miranda’s biggest concern is whether her new VW Bug is big enough to carry her sister and their boyfriends on a weekend escape from college finals.

When reports of a widespread, deadly “outbreak” begin to surface, these ordinary people face extraordinary circumstances and suddenly their fates are intertwined. Recognizing they can’t outrun the danger, Scarlet, Nathan, and Miranda desperately seek shelter at the same secluded ranch, Red Hill. Emotions run high while old and new relationships are tested in the face of a terrifying enemy—an enemy who no longer remembers what it’s like to be human.

Set against the backdrop of a brilliantly realized apocalyptic world, love somehow finds a way to survive. But what happens when the one you’d die for becomes the one who could destroy you?

My Review:
I am not usually a big fan of young adult fiction, but I did listen to Beautiful Disaster by McGuire and found it enjoyable.  When I requested this book I think the summary roped me in with Scarlet's story-fighting for life and freedom for her and her daughters.  Had I known this would be a zombie apocalypse novel, I probably wouldn't have requested it.  But boy, am I glad I did, because this book turned out to be more than that!

The story is told from basically three different perspectives, Nathan, Miranda, and Scarlet.  There is a different narrator for each of these characters and I think all of the narrators did a wonderful job of interpreting their personalities.  Each of our main characters come from different walks of life, but through their journey they find a common destination.

Nathan is a married man who notices things going awry throughout the day.  He quickly goes to his young daughter's school, pulling her out of class so they can seek safety.  When they arrive safely at home he is greeted by a letter from his wife, indicating she has had enough of this life with him and will not be returning.  So now it is just him who must protect young Zoe against the unknown forces.

Scarlet works in the medical field at a local hospital and she becomes concerned when patients are suddenly being admitted with odd symptoms.  When she sees a girl that was healthy just a couple of days ago suddenly facing her unexpected death, she knows things are not right.  She hears news updates throughout the day about a fatal outbreak overseas, but they have been assured it is not taking place in the United States.  Fearing for the safety of her girls she leaves the hospital right after her shift, finding only chaos in the outside world.  Her daughters are with her ex-husband so she must find a way to get to them.

Miranda is a college student and she and her sister are on their way home for a visit.  All they have to protect them on their journey is the outer shell of the VW bug when things get out of control.  Their boyfriends are with them but even they cannot protect the girls from the creatures, that were once humans, when they are ready to attack. 

As you can see, all of these characters come from different walks of life but they all have one thing in common.  The will and desire to survive.  They all have an inner drive that sets them on a path that will unexpectedly send them all to the same destination.  Red Hill.  They can only hope that Red Hill will be the place that will keep them safe until the chaos is over.

This book was an unexpected but welcome surprise for me.  Although I don't usually enjoy this type of novel I found myself looking forward to the next time I would be able to listen to it.  With themes of survival, endurance, love, and loss, you may enjoy this book too.  Although I don't think the ladies in my book club would have appreciated this one, I'm sure it would be a good fit for others.  I don't hesitate in recommending the audio version of this novel, especially for those that enjoy a plot laced with zombies.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure: This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.