The Secret of Spellshadow Manor, by Bella Forrest

spellI’d like to say that I’ve never succumbed to the lure of clickbait. Usually I’m a strong person on Facebook. Clickbait? That’s for simpletons. But … well, there was this kind of ad post with a cool-looking book cover for The Secret of Spellshadow Manor that said “If you loved Harry Potter, you will LOVE this new series! Get the kindle deal today only!” And unfortunately, I’m a huge HP fan, and, well, anyway it was a great kindle deal. I mean, yeah, the author is known for a ton of cranked-out vampire mysteries, but this could be her Shining Star … right? Continue reading

What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty

Review by Meg 

When I was a college freshman, I wrote a “10 year” letter to myself – to be read when I was 29. It was full of the usual stuff – who my friends were, what classes I was taking, the guy that I currently had a crush on, etc. I put it away in my keepsake box and proceeded to forget about it. Then, when I was 28, right after having my first child, I found it – and decided 9 years was good enough to wait, and re-met my 19-year-old self. By this point in my life, it was mostly funny to read, maybe mildly embarrassing (I liked THAT guy – Really? And thought I might MARRY him??). But that whole instance brings up an interesting question: Do you know what your life will be like 10 years from now?

What Alice Forgot begins with Alice waking up (with a very sore head), thinking she’s 29 years old, madly in love and about to have her first baby – only to be told that she’s actually 39, has 3 kids, and is about to get a divorce. Shealice has absolutely no memory of the last ten years of her life, and cannot imagine how on earth she got to where she is now.

The next 476 pages unfold with Alice trying to remember her life and repair the damage she’s done. But without her memory, she is, as she puts it “floating helplessly above the calendar like an escaped balloon.” I flew through this book – IN ONE DAY (that’s how much I just needed to help Alice resolve her issues). In one sense, the premise is similar to other memory-loss stories like Remember Me, but what’s unique about this story are the close-to-home issues that many “ordinary” people experience – about marriage and divorce (and custody battles), and about the grief and heartache of infertility. The story unfolds with 3 narrative voices – mostly through the 3rd-person omnicient author, but also through the journals of Alice’s sister, Elisabeth and the letters of Frannie, Alice’s surrogate grandmother, to her long-dead fiance. I know that may sound confusing, but I thought the change-up in narration helped weave some interesting texture into the plot (and gave us that special, inside look into Elisabeth’s infertility).

The story’s ending seemed to “work out nicely” – and I’m sure some readers will be disappointed that it wasn’t more shocking and post-modernly heartbreaking – but I really appreciated the fact that the resolution (for all 3 women) had true goodness and what I would call the kind gifts of God winning the day.

Purchase What Alice Forgot here.

NOTABLE QUOTES: 

“It’s Mother’s Day next Sunday. That’s the most painful day of the year for an Infertile. I always wake up feeling ashamed. Not sad so much. Just ashamed. Sort of stupid. It’s a version of that feeling I had in high school when I was the only one in my class who didn’t need to wear a bra. I’m not a proper woman. I’m not a grown-up.” 

“But maybe every life looked wonderful if all you saw was the photo albums.”

“Each memory, good and bad, was another invisible thread that bound them together, even when they were foolishly thinking they could lead separate lives. It was as simple and complicated as that.”

“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It’s light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you’ve hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you’ve seen the worst and the best– well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.”

 

Snapshot: 3 quick reviews on 3 celebrity memoirs

By Meg
I didn’t mean to binge on celebrity memoirs the past few weeks, but as I’ve requested various ones from the library the past 3-6 months, they all became available for me AT THE SAME TIME. And of course books that you wait 6 months for cannot be renewed … so blitz through them I did. All were enjoyable to a degree, but one definitely rose above the crowd. So here are 3 really quick reviews (with star ratings)  of memoirs by Carrie Fisher, Cary Elwes, and Megyn Kelly.

PDbookThe “meh”moir:
The Princess Diarist,
by Carrie Fisher. ***

I’m always interested in people’s diaries, so reading Carrie Fisher’s actual entries in her handwriting was fascinating. But for the most part, this was the story of an older teenager with a crush on her much-older, married co-star having meaningless sex with him during the weekends of their filming of the first Star Wars movie. She admits her own immaturities; but with the excess of the vulgarities and her lack of ultimately pointing to anything beyond her memories, I came away from this read (which took less than a day to finish) just feeling kind of “meh.” I’d hoped for more. Continue reading

A Loving Life, by Paul Miller

Review by Meg
Genre: Christian Growth – 4.5 stars

couple-260899_1280Hopefully you aren’t sick of the concept/phrase/ theme of “love” yet (at the end of the week of our dearly beloved Valentine’s Day). I set this book up in my reading challenge to finish for this week, just to see what Paul Miller had to add to the love discussion.

His discussion of love may just be life changing for me.

I’m really not trying to resort to hyperbole as a means to get you to read this book – and I know I gush about a lot of books at times (I just really do love good books!). But truly, this book has done – is doing – a work in me. I’ve done several very in-depth studies on love – from I Corinthians 13 (the famous “love passage”); and I’ve read plenty of Shakespearean sonnets and E.B. Browning poetry in my time. I’m not a feelings-oriented person to begin with, so I’ve never gone for phrases like “falling in love” (or out of love). I prefer the concept that love is a choice of commitment. But A Loving Life just goes so much deeper, using the biblical story Ruth as an explanation and demonstration of genuine hesed love (translated “loving loyalty” or “steadfast love”). Continue reading

The Light of the World

Meg's reading challenge #1

By Elizabeth Alexander      Genre: poetic Memoir
Reviewed by Meg                 4.5/5 stars

“Ficre did not paint what he saw. He saw in his mind, and then he painted, and then he found the flowers that were what he painted. He painted what he wanted to continue to see. He painted how he wanted the world to look. He painted to fix something in place. And so I write to fix him in place, to pass time in his company, to make sure I remember, even though I know I will never forget.”

I didn’t realize it would be inauguration day when I reviewed this book. But the timing is perfect – because Elizabeth Alexander, the author of this memoir, was the poet laureate who recited “Praise Song for the Day” at Obama’s first inauguration 8 years ago.

img_8719As part of my personal “reading challenge” for this year, I began with a book very much out of my comfort zone of preferred literary genres – a poetic memoir, one that I serendipitously learned about in a free edition of our local newspaper. I’m thankful newspapers still review books. Now, before you just completely ignore the rest of this review, hear me out: this is not just a book of poetry, nor is it a really boring narrative of a person’s life (although if you made me try to describe the “plot” right now, you might not believe me).

Instead, what Alexander has done is capture both the sheer beauty and utter pain that was and is her grief in losing her husband, Ficre, unexpectedly several years ago – in carefully crafted prose that is both deeply insightful and wild with color and imagery. Continue reading

2017 Book Challenge (with so many book ideas)

by Meg

Last year, Tim Challies (a favorite blogger of mine) posted a reading challenge for his followers, with leveLogo_FrenchPressls of reading goals (like “Light Reader,” “Avid Reader,” etc.) and categories of books. I really, really wanted to take the challenge. But in typical Emma Woodhouse fashion, I started out with great plans, but made little headway as far as the chart went.

I did, however, find a few book friends and start a book blog.

And that has gotten me reading in a more disciplined way again. So for this upcoming year, 2017, I’m going to take a modified challenge from Challies’s idea chart. What I’ve listed for you all below is my combined list of books I read LAST YEAR highlighted in blue (ideas for you), and books for me to read THIS YEAR highlighted in red. And that way it fills out almost all of the categories. All books have links so you can read the synopises online (and see if the covers catch your eye). Books that we’ve reviewed this past year also have links to the articles.  Continue reading

4 Reasons to get JJ Heller’s New Christmas Album

No, it’s not a book. We’re promoting music today, but that’s because we know that most of you bibliophiles probably enjoy some sort of music/background atmosphere. And with the Christmas season beginning in just a few weeks (ie. more reading time, right?) and JJ Heller’s new album releasing TODAY, we thought you all might appreciate a review of this fresh and fun holiday compilation. (Note: I helped fund her kick-starter campaign to pay for this album, so I got an advanced copy.) So here are 4 reasons why we believe you should try out Unto Us. Continue reading