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Book Review: The Beauty of the Fall by Rich Marcello

Title: The Beauty of the Fall

Author: Rich Marcello

Published: 2016

Pages: 358

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction

Format: Print copy mailed by author in exchange for an honest review

My rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

Dan Underlight, a divorced, workaholic technology executive, suffers lingering grief over the death of his ten-year-old son, Zack. When Dan’s longtime friend and boss, Olivia Whitmore, fires Dan from RadioRadio, the company that he helped create, he crashes and isolates himself.
Willow, a poet and domestic violence survivor, helps Dan regain his footing. With her support, Dan ventures on a pilgrimage of sorts, visiting Fortune 500 companies to flesh out a software start-up idea. When Dan returns home with a fully formed vision, he recruits the help of three former RadioRadio colleagues and starts Conversationworks, a company he believes will be at the vanguard of social change.
Guided by Dan’s generative leadership, Conversationworks enjoys some early successes, but its existence is soon threatened on multiple fronts. Will Dan survive the ensuing corporate battles and realize the potential of his company? Or will he be defeated by his enemies and consumed by his grief?


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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

nightingale

Title: The Nightingale

Author: Kristin Hannah

Published: 2015

Pages: 440

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Book borrowed from the library

My rating: 5/5

Synopsis:

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another.
Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real–and deadly–consequences.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.


Review:

I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank vaguely from back in middle school. Even though this is a work of fiction, Hannah has painted a haunting image of the vicious reality of the time of the Holocaust – both inside and outside the camps. Knowing the history of World War II, the story became more painful both with what I have read in history books and with the two narrations of the sisters. After I completed it (the last 2/3 in one day, I couldn’t put it down), I had to go for a walk, it was that powerful – right up until the end.

The most I feel that we hear about wars comes from the battlelines and/or the male perspective. Or if it does take on the female perspective, there are nurses or aids (nothing wrong with that at all!). I appreciated these views of Vianne and Isabelle, 2 sisters that could not be more different when we started but have the same fight in them when it comes down to doing what is right – real powerhouse heroines at a time where they were overlooked and not appreciated for their talents.

I reflected a lot about what we do for the ones we love. Almost every page was filled with sacrifice and caring for others so selflessly, especially after knowing we have made life-altering mistakes. The symbol of the Nightingale is much bigger than Isabelle’s code name. It’s a movement, an aspiration, working on what is natural day and night yet also risky. As much as Vianne disapproved of Isabelle’s vivacity, she ends up being her own kind of Nightingale as she saves 19 Jewish children in a humbling manner. Isabel wanted to be remembered as a heroine, Vianne a mother who’d do anything for her own children and children of Jews who were on the list. 

Learning that it’s never too late to tell/show someone you love them was an overarching theme. So many times that the characters wished they told each other how they feel for them and fortunately were able to do so when it mannered the most. War, death, and danger can put some things into perspective.

This novel will sure stay with me for some time as it was raw and felt more real than I could’ve imagined. 


Read The Nightingale if you like the themes of:

  • World War II/The Holocaust
  • Women empowered
  • Sisters/Family
Book Reviews

Book Review: Fractured Angel by Ken Williams

angel

Title: Fractured Angel

Author: Ken Williams

Published: 2014

Pages: 354

Genre: Historical Fiction

Format: Review copy from Sakura Publishing

My rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis:

How would you go about trying to help your daughter who, suffering her first psychotic break at fifteen, is chased by her wounded mind to the streets of Santa Barbara? That is the dilemma that Lynne Swanson faces. Out of her element, and definitely out of her comfort zone for this professional woman, she is forced to seek the help of Kerry Wilson, a social worker for the homeless. Unfortunately for her, Kerry is a rough-necked loner that has no inclination to hold the hand of a woman who he feels is out for a lark at the expense of his homeless clients. The harsh and deadly realities of the streets in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and an attempt to close a homeless shelter just as winter sets in produces a dramatic race against time with the life of Lynne’s daughter in the balance.


Review:

A humbling novel detailing the lives behind the faces of those experiencing homelessness and hunger. As someone who has grown up near the streets of major cities like Philadelphia and New York, the outsider experience is all too real for me, passing people sleeping on the sidewalk or looking for spare change or food. Unfortunately, there is judgment there – and I would say from both sides – as it is natural. This novel pushes the envelope on looking past the surface and acknowledging that we are all people with the same basic needs at the end of the day.

If you can overlook the splintering effect of glass breaking on each page as a quick distraction from the content, the story gives life to what can seem to be a taboo topic in America – homelessness. We all want to see the success stories – the rags to riches, some may say. However, there are stories in this novel that portray getting by and getting through the day and worrying about tomorrow, tomorrow. Sometimes the story ends as the human body and mind give way. I feel that there is discomfort, when experiencing or, in this case reading, something that we may not experience every day, and that is exactly why it is needed. Shedding light on the social work and shelter system was an added detail to give a full picture to what people experiencing homeless have as challenges along with those working in the system.

Aside from the overarching theme of homelessness, the brief love story is hackneyed and does not develop as an in depth aspect of the main content. A strong friendship between the two adult main characters would have sufficed with a promise of a relationship in the future versus a rushed love. I do wish there was more development of Tracy (Lynne’s runaway daughter) with her mental health and diving more into what that looks like in combination of fending for oneself. I believe the messages and themes that come out of this story are the most powerful beyond the content.

Two quotes that left me with more to ponder, I will leave for you:

“Hearts broke, all because mental illness snuck in like a thief in the night, robbing the child of its mind. It was a form of kidnapping. One where the victim was never to return. Cruelly, ransom was irrelevant. The sweet memories of childhood were suddenly replaced with the terror of losing a child you loved”

“We’re in denial because of our prejudices. Ones created and conditioned by Hollywood. Think who our role models are for the mentally ill: Jason. Psycho. Freddy Krueger…Of course they don’t mention that Abe Lincoln and others like him suffered from mental illness, now do they? That many creative and great people have not only overcome their illness, but just maybe they are who they are because of it”


Read Fractured Angel if you like the themes of:

  • Social Work
  • Mental Illness
  • Hunger and Homelessness
Book Reviews · new release

Book Review: That Other Me by Maha Gargash

other me

Title: That Other Me

Author: Maha Gargash

Published: 2016

Pages: 384

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Format: ARC sent by PR from Harper Collins

My rating: 4/5

Review:

From the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Sand Fish,Maha Gargash’s second novel is set in mid-1990s Dubai and Cairo and tells the story of how secrets and betrayals consume three members—an authoritarian father, a rebellious abandoned daughter, and a vulnerable niece—of a prominent Emirati family.

An exhilarating look at the little-known Khaleeji (Gulf-Arab) culture, That Other Me explores the ways social mores contribute to the collapse of one family.

A look into family structure in the Arab world, I felt transported to Cairo and Dubai. The culture, language, lifestyle, all painted eloquently to provide the backdrop for familial engagements and how it all intertwines. I consumed the entirety of this book in one weekend, feeling empowered to stand up to those who may treat me unfairly or hold me back from my dreams. Being from a supportive family, I cannot imagine what it could be like for Dalal and Mariam, being constantly directed into what is expected of them by the head of the household. Having to act a certain way, blend into the family despite unique talents and qualities, and

Don’t get me wrong, Dalal is quite bold and thinks too highly of herself as her career starts to take off in the entertainment world and Mariam playing cat and mouse with a young man in her school. However, I find their dedication and spirit encouraging. To be honest I have struggled with accepting what’s said to me without complaint, yet seeing how these young women defied their fatherly figure, inspires me to fight back (bit with more tact and maturity then what Dalal and Mariam express 😉 ).

The pace between each character’s first person narrative every chapter was pretty quick so sometimes it would be challenging to figure out where the story picks back up again and/or when it picks up where the last chapter ends and their perspective is tagged in. I also felt that towards the end, there was a quite a bit of a jump in time (3 years), without a preface for doing so – I feel as if it was slightly rushed and would be interested to see what the parts Gargash summarized quickly would look like spelled out in more detail.

Read That Other Me if you like the themes of:

  • Rebelling
  • Family ties
  • Authority/Patriarchy
  • Determination
  • Fame/Fortune
Book Reviews

Book Review: Thirty-Three Cecils by Everett De Morier

cecil

Title: Thirty-Three Cecils

Author: Everett De Morier

Published: 2015

Pages: 288

Genre: Fiction

Format: ARC sent from the author

My rating: 4/5

Review:

“In 1992 — when Amy Fisher dominated every news channel — there lived two men. The first was a once prominent cartoonist who had a very public fall from grace. The other was an alcoholic who worked in a landfill. Both lived in in different parts of the country and led completely separate lives — until their paths crossed.

You know their names. And for over twenty years, you thought you knew their story — until their journals were found and authenticated in 2014.

And what we thought we knew — what the old news clips and the old stories wanted us to think — were all wrong.”

I will admit, I believed this book to be a recount of actual events and Googled the title and names several times trying to figure out if this story of everything happening for a reason happened in real life! Unfortunately (and fortunately!) it is a work of fiction brilliantly laid out by Morier. I felt immersed in the story created by aligning two journals within the same time in two different places (both geographically and in life).

The prologue completely drew me in as it disclosed how these journals were brought to light and the mystery and history behind them. Right from there, I was hooked (even though you know what is going to happen because Morier straight up tells you!) by the development of characters and plot. Both narrators speaking in first person provided depth in each of their journal entries, giving context and background to how they’ve found themselves in their current predicament. Walker and Dutch have wonderful imaginations and creativity that invite us as readers into their world and the dreams they have for it.

Though simply written, Morier embellishes with well-thought out and sometimes insignificant details that add up later for a well-rounded, thought-provoking experience for readers. Such a pleasure to have read and immersed myself into this work of genius.

Read Thirty-Three Cecils  if you like the themes of:

  • Complete 180
  • Happenstance
  • Creativity
  • Picking up and going
  • Good will
  • Unlikely friendship
Book Reviews

Book Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

tbr royal

Title: The Royal We

Author: Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Published: 2015

Pages: 454

Genre: Fiction, Romance

Format: Book borrowed from the library

My rating: 3.5/5

Review:

“American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it’s Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain’s future king. And when Bex can’t resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick’s sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he’s fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she’s sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.”

Perfect timing as Valentine’s Day is right around the corner <3!

Parties, sex, alcohol, relationships, love, family, loyalty, loss and everything in between. Definitely not what I expected, as I had anticipated a fluffy love story. However, that makes it seem somewhat more realistic that it’s not a typical love story – and I should have known that as the plot is an American marrying a British Royal. Don’t get me wrong, there was still some fluff and cheesy moments that we would expect in a fairy tale, but more often than not, moments of jealousy, hatred, and manipulation reigned. The story is told in Bex remembering everything leading up to the big day – which didn’t waver my thoughts that they wouldn’t end up together in times of turmoil. I was somewhat living my fantasy of studying abroad at Oxford and later living in London as  I read through, putting my shoes in Bex’s when I saw fit.

A fairly easy read, although much longer than expected for a love story and in first person narration. It felt never-ending and I’m not sure if that was a strength or a challenge of the story. I wasn’t completely blown away by the plot and the predictable character development, but was not deterred either. Some elements were a little slower and drawn out then others and yet the romantic notions were elegant. When you’re in want of a read that is charming and involves several emotional and trying relationships, I’d pick up this pseudo- Will and Kate story.

Read The Royal We if you like the themes of:

  • British Royals
  • Will and Kate
  • Drama
  • Love
  • Duty and Sacrifice
  • Sibling roles and dynamics