Friday, August 11, 2017

[Book Review] The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingThe Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: As a member of NetGalley, I received this galley in exchange for an honest review.

Part 1: From The Book Cover

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Part 2: Recommendation

Amanda Prowse does it again. This is the second book of hers that I've read, thanks to Net Galley and it's powerful… emotional… triumphant even. I want to read more about Nina, Tiggy, Connor and Declan, Gilly and the girls.

The plot is simple but emotionally charged beginning with Finn's death and discovering the financial difficulty they are all in. Nina's reaction to everything was believable and readers can't help but cheer her on as she tries to put the remaining pieces of their lives together in a less posh neighborhood aka the life she's known before Finn. I love that there's more to Connor than the usual teen angst and its lovely to see both boys grow into people with character and integrity and kindness. I feel that the boys from Kings Norton College could definitely learn and grow into.

In the scene where Kathy Topps was asking Nina if Declan would like to join her son Henry for tennis lessons and saying that, "…they learn so much better when there's an element of competition in it, …" I quite agree with Nina when she thought, "… it's the worst way to teach things. Who needs that added pressure?"

On p.15 the words "Oh no… That can't happen now. That won't happen again. There it was: the realization like a door slamming in her mind… bang!" resonated so much with me as my family is still grieving over the loss of my mother-in-law, and it does feel like that every time you thought of or do something and make a mental note to share that with your dearly departed loved ones, it does feel like a door slamming once you realize they're not physically there anymore.

On p.25 when Connor asked Nina "That's nowhere near my school. It's on the other side of town. He was heading out of the city. He wasn't on his way to watch me play rugby, was he?" it adds to Mr. Monroe's supposition when he said, "And I hate to think that I am the one who might be shedding light on Finn's untimely death…"

On p.28 when Declan said to Nina and Tiggy, "…but I hope that people [when they die and go to heaven] get to have a rest, either because they are very old and tired or because they were very busy, like Dad" made me very sad and hopeful at the same time that when our time comes and we die, that we too get to rest and that we don't have any spiritual chores to do.

My heart was filled with both sadness for Nina and rage at Finn when I came across the note Finn left behind, "My Nina, Things are hard for me — I feel like I am living in a world made of glass and with every day comes a new pressure that is pushing down down down and I don't know what will break first, me or my world…" If only Finn was strong enough, brave enough to share this burden with Nina and the kids, maybe together they all will be able to find a way to fix it. But Finn broke first.

And my favorite lines from the book first appeared on p.85 when Nina remembered the words from her own mother upon receiving a glass marble, "This is a little world, Nina. And if ever the real world feels too big or too scary, remember that it is nothing more than a little ball traveling through space and it fits right into the palm of your hand and the more courage you have, the braver you are when facing it, the easier it is to conquer!" which was repeated at the end.

As always, Amanda Prowse, is a gifted storyteller and writer. Emotions leap out at you and grabs hold of you until the very end. A quick read and all the characters feel real. I love seeing Nina grow from a timid mousy character into a brave, confident woman with friends she actually enjoys. I enjoyed seeing Connor and Declan also grow from feeling entitled to learning and showing compassion and kindness to others. I love how Nina's relationship with her sister, Tiggy, grow warm and affectionate as sisters ought to be. It's not easy but you sure have to try, just like with any relationship.

If you like a well-written, emotionally charged book with a good ending and memorable characters, set in Bath and Southampton and marketed as Women's Fiction, you will not regret picking this one up.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

[Book Review] The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

The Little Paris BookshopThe Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Part 1: From The Book Cover

"There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies — I mean books — that were written for one person only… A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that's how I sell books."

Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can't seem to heal through literature is himself; he's still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country's rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people's lives.

Part 2: Recommendation

I feel like I can't properly review books when I listen to audiobooks. Why? Because I can't take down notes and memorable quotes or lines from the audiobook version because my memory is not that great and I can't write or type fast enough and usually, I'm crocheting or working at my day job when I listen to audiobooks. But I will try my best here.

I finished this book last June 26, 2017 and a month later, I'm still not sure how I feel about this book enough to write a coherent review. By this time, I have listened to a lot of audiobooks and I do enjoy them especially when I'm driving for more than 30 minutes. This book was narrated by Steve West, Emma Bering and Cassandra Campbell and they were excellent. The book was well-written, the plot is a bit on the slow, relaxed and meandering pace and the two main male characters: Jean Perdu and Max Jordan, a young novelist are very realistic to me. Jean Perdu is a little sad character but you can see him change and finally move on while Max Jordan is a very adorable young man, always helpful despite his own issues. As for Perdu's greatest love, Manon, the chapters that are from her point of view, presented as journal entries never failed to startle me mainly because I just want to get back to Perdu's and Max's adventures and who they get to meet next. I honestly did not want to hear about Manon and as each of her journal entries came to light, the more I found her to be selfish, untrustworthy and definitely not worthy of Jean Perdu's undying love and devotion, even after Jean finally read her last letter to him. In my eyes, she was deemed unworthy of the good-hearted, literary apothecary. And here comes Catherine, Perdu's second chance at love and romance and she was portrayed as another broken-hearted woman, crying over how her ex-husband left her and that was the last thing that was mentioned about her before the great adventure and sure, Jean was constantly sending her a postcard from wherever port they ended up anchoring in but it's always been one-sided. We never get to picture Catherine growing and overcoming her heartache and divorce and we never knew what she was thinking and feeling every time she received a postcard from Jean. Even though she was brave in the end to go and be with Jean, in my head, she will always be that vision of a broken woman whose husband left her for another woman. I wish there was more to Catherine in this book other than that sad, crying image seared in my brain.

If you want a sweet, slow, meandering book and to savor it, and take your time with, this would be it.

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