book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, reading, theater

The Spotlight is on Books!

Before we start I just want to thank you all for the outpouring of love, support and prayers you showered upon me after my last blog post.  (https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Ny) It was so encouraging and it helped me regain my footing for this week.
 
 
My Goodreads account taunts me as it tells me I’m 32 books behind my reading goal for this year! Yikes! 32?? I don’t think I have the ability to catch up and actually I’m rather disappointed in myself. Although, I did have a super rough year. My reading stopped when my husband and I were able to purchase a rental property in Florida. I was so excited, but as my husband explained it, “I just bought you a job.” He was right. I love it and it is super exciting to have that next step in our lives, but it took quite a bit of attention in the beginning.
 
A little before that we got the news that my mom was going into hospice and the other part of my free time was spent going back and forth to spend time with her. There were a few other things that distracted me (as you faithful readers of this blog know.)
 
Now, here I am with only a month and a half left to read….hmmm one book every two days….maybe I could do it….(insert ridiculous laugh.)
 
What keeps me sharing these books with you? This week alone I had one person call me and ask what book she should buy and several others tell me they had just bought books I recommended. Okay. That’s fun.
 
Maybe one of you will enjoy one of these that I read last month. Please let me know if you do!
 
Book #1 A New York Secret by Ella Carey
From the cover:
 
1942, New York. As war rages in Europe, Lily Rose is grateful for her perfect life: a wealthy family who love her and a dream job working uptown as a restaurant chef. Times are changing for women and Lily is determined to run her own kitchen one day. She hopes handsome Tom Morelli, son of Sicilian immigrants, will be at her side. Together they work late, dreaming up delicious meals for New Yorkers struggling with wartime rationing and the threat of sons and sweethearts being called up…

Then Tom receives a devastating telegram that changes everything: he is drafted to fight in Italy.

Suddenly alone, Lily turns to her parents for support. But when her mother finds out about Tom, she is furious. When the war ends, Lily’s duty is to marry the man picked for her, keep house and raise children. They give her a heartbreaking ultimatum: end her relationship with Tom or lose her family and inheritance forever.

In the middle of the war, Lily is left in an impossible position. Will she choose to stay with her family and live the safe life she has always known, or will she follow her heart and her dreams?

 
I have done quite a lot of reading about WWII in my life time. It is difficult to find an angle to tell a new story in a creative way, but this one by Carey does just that.  It didn’t engage me in a way that might make me think about it day and night, but it did teach a powerful lesson about friendships and the tragedy of a society that still places certain rules of society higher than happiness.
 
Sad to say that the idea that Lily Rose might not be able to follow her dream of being a chef because it wasn’t the plan her parents had for her is a reality that many people still face today. My parent’s approval was always very important to me. I didn’t date guys they didn’t like. I went to the school they wanted me to go to and it broke my heart if they ever said, “Reba, be ashamed.” I felt for Lily. I sensed her torment as she longed to not cause her parent’s pain, but yet knew she could not give up the dreams of her heart.
 
What I liked about this book:
 
Lily. She is written creatively as a smart woman that has the courage to make bold choices. In spite of being brought up by a mother who is a snob, she is still loving towards people who don’t have the same luxuries  that she does.
 
Josie. I would love to be a grandmother like she is. One who is proud of their grandchildren and supportive, loving, and leads and teaches with a kind heart.
 
I like the fresh approach Carey used to tell this story. I never even considered what happened to the male chefs during the war or how restaurants got their food. I guess realistically I never thought that the wealthy would indulge themselves in that way when a country was all sacrificing for the common good.
 
I thought it was going to be a love story and although it is–I like that the story teaches and focuses on so many other attitudes and lessons. I do believe that I would have enjoyed a little more of the love story between Tom and Lily. I will not give details because I don’t want to give a spoiler, but I find a part of their relationship to be very confusing and perhaps a little unrealistic. If you choose to read this–please drop me a note and let’s talk about this!
 
Other reviews I read said this book was emotional. To be honest, I didn’t connect with the characters in a way that made it an emotional read for me.
 
Who should read this book?
 
Read this book if you are interested in history, World War II, or cooking!
 
Favorite quote:
 
“in order to cope with old age, she needed a purpose, because if she didn’t have one, then she may as well be dead.”
 
Rating:
 
4/5
 
Book #2 Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
 
 
From the Cover:
 
The Slabaugh family are model Amish farmers, prosperous and hardworking, with four children and a happy extended family. When the parents and an uncle are found dead in their barn, it appears to be a gruesome accident: methane gas asphyxiation caused by a poorly ventilated cesspit. But in the course of a routine autopsy, the coroner discovers that one of the victims suffered a head wound before death―clearly, foul play was involved. But who would want to make orphans of the Slabaughs’ children? And is this murder somehow related to a recent string of shocking hate crimes against the Amish?

Having grown up Amish, Kate is determined to bring the killer to justice. Because the other series of attacks are designated hate crimes, the state sends in agent John Tomasetti, with whom Kate has a long and complex relationship. Together, they search for the link between the crimes―and uncover a dark secret at work beneath the placid surface of this idyllic Amish community.

I continued my new habit of listening to books this month. It does take a bit of getting used to, but when the book is good I find that I love it almost as much as holding the book in my hand.

It took me a chapter or two to figure out the main character. There was a great deal of bad language in it and it caught me off guard right from the start. I was so distracted by it that I had to go back and really listen to hear that the main detective was indeed a female. There was something about the way the book was read that I felt right away that she was a guy. Oops. That leads to other problems when her character started talking about dating one of the other men. Yep. I needed to go back and figure out what was what.

I must admit that I didn’t really enjoy the first half of the book. Remember, my last Chirp book was a book I LOVED (you can read about that book here:https://wp.me/p9JkzU-Mm ) So, I was constantly comparing this book to that one. I also wasn’t gripped by the Amish story. It seemed too simple to me.

Man, was I wrong. Just when I thought I had this book all figured out Castillo threw me for a loop. This book is anything but predictable. She sets the stage with perfect descriptions of the Amish and their lifestyles–makes you love the characters in a way that you actually feel sorry for the pain they are all feeling–then-wow. I will not tell you anymore because you need to read or listen to this one for yourself. It is deep and well paced.

Embarrassment number two….I had NO IDEA this was part of a series. It is actually book number 3 in a 14 part series. Maybe that is why I was a little lost in the beginning. Don’t let that stop you though because honestly, I never knew I was missing anything. It could totally stand alone.
 

What I loved about this book:

I loved the mystery and that it was totally unpredictable. I love Castillo’s vocabulary. Seriously, I have never read a book that used so many words I was unfamiliar with. She’s amazing. Castillo is  also a master at describing a scene not just the way it looks, but the way it smells and even feels. The book has a well-layered plot that is certainly a page-turner.

Who should read this book?

Lovers of mysteries. People interested in the Amish way of life.  Lovers of thrillers and detective stories.

Warnings:

Lots of language. Violence. Sexual situations. 

Rating:

4/5

Book #3 Look Again by Lisa Scottoline
Look Again
 

From the Cover:

When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops―the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth

And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life―and that of the son she loves.

I am not sure why I look at other people’s reviews of books before I start writing mine. It’s kinda crazy. I don’t read them before I read the book..I read them after I read the book. Maybe because I feel like I’m discussing it with them somewhat. Anyway, I could not disagree more with the majority of reviews I read. I’m not quite sure how people could have hated the book so much….when I say I couldn’t stop listening and that I listened EVERY spare moment I could, it wouldn’t be a stretch. I would even listen to it as I was falling asleep–trying to enjoy every single second of this book. It was my first Scottoline book, but it will not be my last.

There were a few things I DID NOT like. I thought Ellen needed to get a grip. Once she started worrying about her adopted son, and if he could indeed be the one on the postcard of missing children, she started making mistake after mistake and indeed her reporter nose was lacking in tying the pieces of the mystery together. In honesty, I am a worrier so I rationalized that I would be exactly the same way. How in the world do you deal with the fact that you might have an abducted child? What if you have to give him back? The moral questions that this book raises are numerous and fascinating to think about.

What I loved about this book?

I could not figure out how Scottoline would end the story. I was terrified it would be heartbreaking and she kept me engaged the entire time. I loved Ellen and her son. Honestly, I also loved Mary Stuart Masterson, who narrated the book. She was amazing and probably half the reason I loved book. I will look for more books that she has narrated as I have discovered the narrator makes a huge difference in how quickly I become engaged in the story.

Who should read this book?

Everyone if I had my way. Seriously, Lovers of mysteries, stories about families, crime stories.

Favorite Quotes:

“Even people who counted their blessings never counted them in the morning. For one thing, there wasn’t time.”

Writing had always helped her, before. It always clarified her feelings and her thoughts, and she never felt like she could understand something fully until the very minute that she’d written about it, as if each story was one she told herself and her readers, at the same time.

Warnings: I would not want to read this if I had a child I had adopted. It would make me dwell on all those fears.

Rating: 5/5

That’s it for this month! What are you reading? Now it’s your turn to talk and perhaps share this blog!

Until next time–

Reba

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