Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Father, Son, Stone

Allan H. Goodman

Father, Son, Stone blends history and mystery to reveal the secret of the most controversial religious site in Jerusalem - known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

In the year 2035, a grandfather and his grandson enter the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The grandfather, speaking Arabic, tells his grandson why Jews no longer pray at the Western Wall.

The grandfather's story begins in 1967 during the Six-Day War, with three Israeli paratroopers fighting in the battle for Jerusalem. The tale continues fifty years later, in 2017, after a catastrophic event near the Temple Mount brings together the same three men - now the Prime Minister of Israel, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel, and a Mossad agent. As the crisis unfolds, the three seek to discover the reason behind mysterious events that occurred on the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War. The truth, when finally revealed, changes Jerusalem, and the people who live there, forever(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This piece of historical fiction has to do with the Jewish capture of the Temple Mount and it’s immediate return to the Waqf.

I know nothing about the Jewish or Muslim faith. From a historical perspective, I found this book to be very educational. I liked the fictional piece the author added to give the story a personal feel. What I came away with after reading this book is that we are all the same - we love, we struggle, we mourn the loss of loved ones and we are proud of our heritage.

I wasn’t sure where this book was going to take me when I first started reading. I’m glad I decided to finish it, as it was well written and informative.

Thanks to Smith Publicity, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Saw A Man

Owen Sheers

An utterly stunning novel of love, loss, the insidious nature of secrets, and the enduring power of words. I Saw a Man fulfills the promise of Owen Sheers's acclaimed novel, Resistance.

When journalist Caroline Marshall fails to return from assignment in Pakistan, her grief-stricken husband, Michael, leaves their cottage in Wales and returns to London where he quickly develops a friendship with his neighbors, Josh and Samantha Nelson, and their two young daughters. Michael's friendship with the Nelsons marks the beginning of a long healing process, until a terrible accident adds yet more grief, and the burden of a shattering secret, to Michael's life. How will Michael bear this weight as he navigates his persistent doubts on the path to attempted redemption? The answer, revealed with nerve-wracking suspense, is eloquent, resonant, and completely unforgettable. (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Caroline Marshall is a foreign correspondent. She gives up traveling when she marries Michael. When a once in a lifetime chance surfaces to interview rebels in Pakistan, she cannot resist the opportunity. She is one of several people killed by an unmanned drone strike. To overcome his grief, Michael moves and end up the neighbor to Josh and Samantha, who have two young daughters. Just as he starts to feel better about the loss of Caroline, he is involved in an incident that results in a tragic loss of life. Now, he must overcome this obstacle as well.

Boy, this premise sure was enticing. I thought it was interesting that the author incorporated the story of the pilot who was operating the unmanned drone that killed Caroline into the plot. I would have liked this part of the story and the relationship he had with Michael developed a bit more. Mr. Sheers did do a great job of writing about Michael’s journey toward healing. It was not an easy road.

Many thanks to Doubleday Books, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Library at Mount Char

Scott Hawkins

A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.

Carolyn's not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts. After all, she was a normal American herself once. That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn't had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father's ancient customs. They've studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they've wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own. But Carolyn has accounted for this. And Carolyn has a plan. The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she's forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

Populated by an unforgettable cast of characters and propelled by a plot that will shock you again and again, The Library at Mount Char is at once horrifying and hilarious, mind-blowingly alien and heartbreakingly human, sweepingly visionary and nail-bitingly thrilling—and signals the arrival of a major new voice in fantasy.

My Thoughts

Carolyn is one of several young kids suddenly orphaned and adopted by a man they call Father. Over many years, he teaches each kid a skill. For example - talking to animals or bringing someone back from the dead. Father is a strict disciplinarian and often uses cruel methods to get his point across. One day, Father disappears. Chaos ensues. What exactly happened to Father?

I had requested this book several months ago and when time came to read it, I had forgotten what the synopsis said about the story. Within the first couple of chapters I was thinking - boy, this is one weird book. Guys wearing tutus, a girl in bike shorts and a Christmas sweater, a boy being roasted alive in a bull shape BBQ grill, only to be brought back to life. When I rechecked the synopsis and saw this was sci-fi, I thought - uh oh. Sci-fi and I don’t always get along.

But there was something just intriguing enough to keep me reading. Once I got to the part on exactly what Carolyn had pulled off I was pretty impressed. Actually, when it all fell into place, I decided the plot was pretty smart and it changed my whole opinion about the book. There were several characters that I liked and the author added some nice humor.

The epilogue leaves me with the impression that there could be a sequel. I’ll be at the head of the line to read it should we be so lucky to get one (or maybe two?).

Thanks to Crown Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Truth According to Us

Annie Barrows

From the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society comes a wise, witty, and exuberant novel, perfect for fans of Lee Smith, that illuminates the power of loyalty and forgiveness, memory and truth, and the courage it takes to do what's right.

Annie Barrows once again evokes the charm and eccentricity of a small town filled with extraordinary characters. Her new novel, The Truth According to Us, brings to life an inquisitive young girl, her beloved aunt, and the alluring visitor who changes the course of their destiny forever.

In the summer of 1938, Layla Beck's father, a United States senator, cuts off her allowance and demands that she find employment on the Federal Writers' Project, a New Deal jobs program. Within days, Layla finds herself far from her accustomed social whirl, assigned to cover the history of the remote mill town of Macedonia, West Virginia, and destined, in her opinion, to go completely mad with boredom. But once she secures a room in the home of the unconventional Romeyn family, she is drawn into their complex world and soon discovers that the truth of the town is entangled in the thorny past of the Romeyn dynasty.

At the Romeyn house, twelve-year-old Willa is desperate to learn everything in her quest to acquire her favorite virtues of ferocity and devotion—a search that leads her into a thicket of mysteries, including the questionable business that occupies her charismatic father and the reason her adored aunt Jottie remains unmarried. Layla's arrival strikes a match to the family veneer, bringing to light buried secrets that will tell a new tale about the Romeyns. As Willa peels back the layers of her family's past, and Layla delves deeper into town legend, everyone involved is transformed—and their personal histories completely rewritten.(from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

Layla Beck is sent to Macedonia, WV as part of the Federal Writers’ Project. She boards with the Romeyn family. Under their roof lives Felix, his sister Jottie and his two daughters Willa and Bird. His other two sisters, Mae and Minerva (both married) are part time residents. We also spend time with another brother Emmett and a childhood friend, Sol. As Layla researches the town’s history, she uncovers several secrets. Not just about Macedonia, but also about the Romeyns.

I absolutely love when a story involves the point of view of a youngster. Usually, young people are honest and frequently funny as they try to navigate around the adults in their lives. Willa exemplifies this behavior. When we first meet her, she has a burning desire to know everything. But by the end of the story, she has discovered that sometimes knowing everything is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I was sad when I came to the end of this truly lovely tale. Not because it was a sad story - far from it. But because it was over. I loved spending time with the characters. Ms. Barrows sure has a way pulling the reader into their lives and making us feel like we are living it with them. Part love story, part mystery, told with humor and grace, this is on my list of best reads for 2015. A true gem!

I am grateful to Random House Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Sound of Glass

Karen White

It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country.

My Thought’s

Merritt is a widow who lost her firefighter husband Cal in tragic accident. Loralee is the stepmom she barely knows. Owen is her half brother that Merritt initially wants nothing to do with. Gibbes is the brother-in-law that Merritt did not know existed. These four people come together in Beaufort, SC after Merritt inherits a house from Cal’s grandmother.

To say that Merritt is uptight would be paying her a compliment. But she does come by her standoffishness legitimately. A sad upbringing and an even sadder marriage has left her weary of close relationships. Loralee does not have one mean bone in her body. She is all Southern charm and graciousness. While I think this was her true personality, she has a hidden reason for wanting Merritt to like her and Owen. And then there is Owen. Being a kid is not easy, but being a nerdy kid is even worse. He just wants people to like him for who he is. Finally, Gibbes. A kind-hearted and honest individual who has his own wounds to heal.

How the author wove these four characters in and out of this story is magical. This is such a heartwarming story of sharing and trust building. I remember how I felt after reading an earlier book by Ms. White and this one was no different. She always leaves me with a smile on my face and a true belief in the power of love.

My thanks to Penguin Group Berkeley, NAL, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.