Ordinary Grace- A Review

51T9oIbeddL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’m so grateful for this book. I received Ordinary Grace as a Christmas gift, and I’ll admit that I was skeptical to read it at first. It’s been a REALLY long time since I’ve read a book that rocked my world, and I didn’t want to waste any more time reading something that I would abandon midway.

Ordinary Grace, written by William Kent Krueger, is set in New Bremen, Minnesota in the Summer of 1961. For 13 year-old Frank Drum, the son of a Methodist minister, it’s a summer filled with lies, secrets, and death. When tragedy hits home Frank is thrown from the innocence of youth into an adult world he needs to somehow navigate on his own.

The story is told from Frank’s perspective as an adult decades later. I was worried that the story would be “preachy,” considering that one of the main characters is a minister. There is some talk about God, but Krueger definitely wasn’t heavy-handed. The balance was actually quite nice, since the characters actually do quite a bit of struggling with their faith throughout the course of the novel.

I was sucked into the story from the first chapter. Krueger’s language is beautiful, the story was evenly paced, and the characters and their conflicts were well developed. I actually hugged the book when I finished it, sad that it all had to come to an end. I haven’t done that since Harry Potter.

This is the book I’ve been recommending everyone in my life to read. Now I’m recommending it to you.

The Dream Lover: A Review

Up this week: The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg.

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

22716467I was hoping that this time around, I’d fall in love with the book I was reviewing. The Dream Lover, a novel based on the scandalous life of the 19th century writer George Sand, seemed promising. Even better was the idea that I would be reading a novel based on an actual person. I’d read the book Frog Music by Emma Donohue recently and really loved it, and that was a novel based on a person too.

The story started out interesting enough, with Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin leaving her husband and children behind to pursue a life of literature in Paris with her writer lover. She adopts the pseudonym “George” to publish her first novel, which brings her instant fame.

Berg uses beautiful, poetic lines and quote-worthy phrases that immerse readers into the feeling that Berg is trying to evoke. I teared up when a character in the book died because the scene was so vivid and well written.

I didn’t finish the book though. Frankly, I got pretty bored.

Each chapter switched back and forth between the past and present, which left me disoriented. I might have had an easier time coping with this if I had a paperback copy of the book, but I only had an ebook to work with. It was hard for me to keep track of what was happening during each time period unless I was reading for hours at a time.

I also think that the ratio for showing vs. telling was a bit skewed towards telling. I would have liked to have been thrown into the middle of the action instead of being told that the character got this job or left on a trip to visit that person. The telling made the story seem more redundant.

This is not the worst book I’ve ever read. I would suggest, however, that those who want to attempt it obtain a hard copy of it in order to make the transitions easier to follow.

Seeker: A Review

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448 pages. Delacorte Books for Young Readers. Release Date: February 10, 2015

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

I always worry when new books are compared to bestsellers with a cult-like following. After all, shouldn’t writers strive to find their own voices and be proud of them? So when I saw a blurb comparing Arwen Elys Dayton’s newest book Seeker to Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Divergent, I had the sinking sensation that a lot of readers would be disappointed by the literary world’s version of false advertisement. Comparisons like these tend to make readers form preconceived notions about what they’re about to read.

I start reading each and every book with an open mind and try to review accordingly. Unfortunately, there were too many flaws for me to overlook, and as a result I’ve stopped reading Seeker midway.

The story started out strong and captivating. I wanted to know more about the three young warriors and their quest to become seekers. The problem is, I was halfway through the book and still didn’t know what a seeker was. Or what time period the story was set in. And while the characters started off strong, they became more shallow and unbelievable with every new page. Their relationships to one another felt forced. As I read farther, things just stopped fitting together. There were too many unanswered questions, and while I’d like to believe that the ending ties up some loose ends, I was too frustrated to try and get there.

I loved the concept of Seeker, but this just didn’t work for me.

 

Book Review: Publishing, A Writer’s Memoir by Gail Godwin

226 pages Bloomsbury USA Release Date: January 15, 2015

226 pages
Bloomsbury USA
Release Date: January 15, 2015

As the title of this post indicates, I’m reviewing a memoir this time around. And, as always:

I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

Gail Godwin would fit the definition of a successful writer. After all, she is the author of 14 bestselling novels, two short story collections, and two nonfiction works. Her newest nonfiction work, Publishing: A Writer’s Memoir, is the story of how Godwin became the writer she is today. Regretfully, it is the only work of hers that I’ve read to-date.

Initially I was worried that this memoir, like a few others I’ve read, would be nothing but a platform for bragging and snobbery. Thankfully, it was nothing of the sort. Godwin is a very down-to-earth individual. She opens the piece with her first rejection as a writer and continues to mention her mistakes and failures as much as she discusses her achievements. I appreciated the balance, both as a reader and as a writer. Publishing reminds us that though writing is a challenging profession, it is still an attainable goal so long as one is willing to work through the frequent disappointments. Even the best writers don’t always get it right.

I personally found this inspiring, and there were many instances when I felt compelled to drop the book just so I could go and work on my own writing. Regardless of what her reason was for writing this, Godwin serves as an inspiration for all of us struggling to make it in this competitive and ever-changing field. This is a great book for all, both writers and book lovers who would like more insight into how books come to be.

 

 

Book Review: Since You’ve Been Gone by Mary Jennifer Payne

Disclaimer: I received an uncorrected proof of this book through the publisher. I am not being compensated in any way for this review. All of the opinions expressed here are my own.

 

224 pages Dundurn Group Release Date: February 17, 2015

224 pages Dundurn Group
Release Date: February 17, 2015

I hate to give negative reviews of anyone’s published work. I know the amount of effort that goes into writing and the sting of rejection that comes with it. Unfortunately, no matter how much I’d love to give every book I read a raving review, I would much rather be honest.

The back matter for Mary Jennifer Payne’s new young adult book, Since You’ve Been Gone, intrigued me. Edie and her mother are on the run. Things seem to be going well after their sudden move to London until Edie’s mother disappears. Now Edie is on her own and can’t run to the police for help.

Despite its interesting subject matter, I was disappointed. Payne uses mostly simile when giving any kind of description, but the similes are not very original or interesting. They’re also quite frequent, and at some points are found in every other sentence. They throw off the flow of the story rather than add to it.

The story as a whole, strangely, is both rushed and slow moving at the same time. The overall plot did not move fast enough to keep me entertained; I was halfway through the book and still had no information as to why they were running or why I should care about Edie’s life. On the other hand, smaller events in the book happened so quickly that they felt unrealistic.

I really disliked Edie as a character. So much so that I couldn’t connect to the story. Her inconsistencies made it hard for me to believe anything about her. Actually, I would love to see all of the characters in the book developed more fully.

So, overall, this one’s a no for me. The concept had great potential, but the execution left something to be desired. Of course, that’s just my personal opinion. There are plenty of positive reviews for Since You’ve Been Gone floating around, so give it a shot if this hasn’t deterred you.

Writing fiction is hard work. The same rules we’re told to follow are also rules we’re told to break. We have the task of creating complex plots and even more complicated and believable characters. Sometimes writers nail this formula. Many don’t, at least not on the first try. It’s a learning process. Maybe I’ll review Payne’s next book sometime in the distant future, and I’ll be pleasantly surprised when she blows me away.