Tag Archives: book review

little beach street bakery

Review: The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Ok, I’ll admit it.

littlebeachstreetbakery

It took me entirely too long to finish The Little Beach Street Bakery, not because the book wasn’t enjoyable, but because a million other things got in the way. I started it after finishing Dark Matter in Mexico, and read about half of it the last day of our trip. After that, I needed to finish Arthur Pepper, then my library hold on You Are A Badass came through, then I had to read If There’s No Tomorrow, and then my library hold on Jenny’s newest, The Cafe by the Sea came through (spoiler – I only made it like 25% of the way through before my hold expired, so now I’m waiting again). Excuses, excuses, I know. All that to say, the poor little bakery sat unattended for weeks.

ANYWAY.

I mentioned in my beach reads post how much I loved the first book I read by Jenny Colgan, The Bookshop on the CornerI had high hopes that it wasn’t a one-time love, either; that I’d be just as thrilled with any of Colgan’s other works. While The Little Beach Street Bakery wasn’t *quite* as fantastic as The Bookshop on the Corner, I’m happy to report that Jenny Colgan has won a spot on my must-read-authors list.

Storywise, this one has some similarities, in that it’s a woman looking for a fresh start. She finds it in an unexpected town, where she knows no one, and somehow manages to turn something she loves into a way to earn a living. There’s a love interest, but that’s not the central part of the story. There’s a best friend, and best of all, there’s a PUFFIN named Neil.

Seriously, how much more could a girl want?

puffin

What I imagine Neil the puffin looks like. And now I want my very own puffin.

Paperback: 416 pages    Published: March 2014 by Sphere    Source: Purchased

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The Little Beach Street Bakery on Goodreads

Amid the ruins of her latest relationship, Polly Waterford moves far away to the sleepy seaside resort of Polbearne, where she lives in a small, lonely flat above an abandoned shop.

To distract her from her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, olives and chorizo, and the local honey-courtesy of a handsome local beekeeper. Drawing on reserves of determination and creativity Polly never knew she had, she bakes and bakes . . . and discovers a bright new life where she least expected it.

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sharonstruth

Blog Tour: The Sweet Life by Sharon Struth

I’d never read one of Sharon Struth’s novels when I agreed to join the tour for The Sweet Life. I’m not a huge romance reader – I enjoy them, but they’re not my go-to genre. However, the premise sounded right up my alley – a woman looking for adventure and change in Italy? Yes, please.

So I said I wasn’t a big romance reader. Keep that in mind, then, when I tell you The Sweet Life is your pretty standard “roll-your-eyes” romance. By that, I mean that the characters are instantly smitten with each other, and over the next 200 or so pages all you hear is why it won’t work or he’s just not into me or I’m still raw from love gone wrong or so on and so forth. I have absolutely no problem with this, but it’s why you’ll never see a romance rated higher than 3 stars for me. The drama that’s necessary to create a good romance story gets on my nerves!

Please don’t think I’m criticizing. I thoroughly enjoyed The Sweet Life, and for me, that makes a book a winner. I was engaged, I rooted for Mamie, I rooted for Julian, and I rooted for Italy. I loved the cast of characters and they way they bonded. I loved the setting – if anything, I’d have loved more of it – and I loved/hated the food descriptions. (Hated, because now I want nothing but Italian food.) Mamie is a lot of fun, if a little…rash? The contrast between her and Julian is interesting, and it was fun to watch them sort each other out.

Bottom line? Likable characters, a gorgeous setting, and a cheesy-good romance? I’ll take it.

Paperback: 225 pages    Published: September 2017 by Lyrical Press    Source: Publisher via TLC

 

The Sweet Life on Goodreads

In Italy, the best attractions are always off the beaten path . . .

Mamie Weber doesn’t know why she survived that terrible car accident five years ago. Physically, she has only a slight reminder—but emotionally, the pain is still fresh. Deep down she knows her husband would have wanted her to embrace life again. Now she has an opportunity to do just that, spending two weeks in Tuscany reviewing a tour company for her employer’s popular travel guide series. The warmth of the sun, the centuries-old art, a villa on the Umbrian border—it could be just the adventure she needs.

But with adventure comes the unexpected . . . like discovering that her entire tour group is made up of aging ex-hippies reminiscing about their Woodstock days. Or finding herself drawn to the guide, Julian, who is secretly haunted by a tragedy of his own, and seems to disapprove any time she tries something remotely risky—like an impromptu scooter ride with a local man.

As they explore the hilltop towns of Tuscany, Mamie knows that when this blissful excursion is over, she’ll have to return to reality. But when you let yourself wander, life can take some interesting detours …

 

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About Sharon Struth

Sharon Struth believes you’re never too old to pursue a dream. The Hourglass, her debut novel, is a finalist in the National Readers’ Choice Awards for Best first Book, and her Blue Moon Lake Novels include the bestseller, Share the Moon.

When she’s not working, she and her husband happily sip their way through the scenic towns of the Connecticut Wine Trail, travel the world, and enjoy spending time with their precious pets and two grown daughters. She writes from the friendliest place she’s ever lived, Bethel, Connecticut. For more information, including where to find her published essays, please visit www.sharonstruth.com or visit her blog, Musings from the Middle Ages & More.

Connect with Sharon

Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter

 

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Lyrical for the chance to participate in this tour! 

arthurpepper

Book Club: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

August Theme and Book Selection

Our July/August theme was Firecracker or dynamic characters. When we started looking at books for that theme, we realized it was a whole lot harder than we’d thought. Most characters, or at least most good characters, are dynamic! So we decided to go with a character who experienced a life change, and that led us to The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick. We all thought it sounded fun.

Paperback: 331 pages    Published: January 2016 by MIRA    Source: Purchased

Buy it on Amazon

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. It reminded me some of A Man Called Ove, one of my favorite books. Ove is a little darker though; Arthur Pepper has that same goofy stuck-in-a-rut lovableness, but he’s less grumpy. Safe to say if you liked Ove, you’ll probably enjoy Arthur.

Arthur’s journeys are somewhat less exciting than I’d hoped for, or perhaps less adventurous by my standards. I could have read more of them – I didn’t need more in terms of telling the story, but I wanted them to keep going. In particular, there’s a story about a man who owns a bunch of tigers. I could have read a whole book on that, I think. Truthfully there’s not a whole lot of depth to Arthur Pepper, but in this case, it works. You’re left with a light, uplifting read.

Book Club Discussion

Everyone who read book liked it (summers are hard!), and we all kind of agreed that it was a fluff read. One of the girls mentioned that she’d expected Arthur to go traipsing all over the world and was a little disappointed that he doesn’t.

We talked some about what would be on our own charm bracelets, and that quickly led us away from the book discussion as we talked about our travels and dogs and hobbies. One girl described her grandmother’s charm bracelet, and wondered if she’d had any fun secrets like Arthur’s wife.

September Book Club Theme: Bucket List, or a Book You’ve Always Wanted to Read

September Book Club Book: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper on Goodreads

In this poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met–a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a curiously charming debut and a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.

darkmatter

Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

darkmatter

Drinking a mudslide while totally engrossed in Dark Matter

Holy Hell.

Blake Crouch’s Dark Matter is a total mind-f*ck, guys.

It’s also incredibly absorbing.

Dark Matter intrigued me from the moment I first read the description, and I picked it up in the bookstore at least three times before finally deciding to buy it. I knew it would make a great beach read, and as soon as my toes hit the sand I plopped myself down and got to it. Two days and 27 mudslides later, I was finished.

Jason’s story is so crazy, so compelling, so….OUT THERE… that I just couldn’t put it down. I had to know, even when I suspected I already knew, what was going to happen. I had to know how Crouch would resolve the situation, how he’d manage to explain what was going on in terms a non-science-geek like me could understand. And he managed that well enough – I won’t say I grasped everything, but I caught enough to keep up.

Similar to Andy Weir’s The Martian or Sylvain Neuvel’s Sleeping Giants, Dark Matter is a sci-fi lover’s dream, but it’s one that can also appeal to just about anyone. It’s a great adventure mystery with a bit of the impossible thrown in. The story is grounded in science, real science, and that goes a long way in helping you suspend disbelief. It also makes it somewhat easy to predict, but the best part is – I didn’t care in the slightest.

Paperback: 342 pages    Published: July 2016 by Crown    Source: Purchased

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Dark Matter on Goodreads

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

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Blog Tour: If There’s No Tomorrow by Jennifer Armentrout

About If There’s No Tomorrow

Hardcover: 384 pages
Published: September 2017 by Harlequin Teen
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Lena Wise is always looking forward to tomorrow, especially at the start of her senior year. She’s ready to pack in as much friend time as possible, to finish college applications, and to maybe let her childhood best friend Sebastian know how she really feels about him. For Lena, the upcoming year is going to be epic—one of opportunities and chances.

Until one choice, one moment, destroys everything.

Now Lena isn’t looking forward to tomorrow. Not when friend time may never be the same. Not when college applications feel all but impossible. Not when Sebastian might never forgive her for what happened.

For what she let happen.

With the guilt growing each day, Lena knows that her only hope is to move on. But how can she move on when she and her friends’ entire existences have been redefined? How can she move on when tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed?

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About Jennifer Armentrout

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout lives in West Virginia.

When she’s not hard at work writing, she spends her time, reading, working out, watching zombie movies, and pretending to write. She shares her home with her husband, his K-9 partner named Diesel and her hyper Jack Russell Loki. Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent her time writing short stories, therefore explaining her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes Young Adult Contemporary, Urban Fantasy/Paranormal and Romance. She writes New Adult and Adult romance under the pen name J.Lynn.

She is the author of the Covenant Series (Spencer Hill Press) the Lux Series (Entangled Teen) and the upcoming YA Don’t Look Back (2014) and untitled YA (Fall 2014) from Disney/Hyperion. She is also published with Harlequin Teen and HarperCollins.

Connect with Jennifer

Website | Facebook | Twitter

My Thoughts

I’ll just start off by saying that If There’s No Tomorrow is one of those books I love to hate and hate to love. It reminded me so much of how I felt reading Beautiful Disaster or Ten Birthdays – I couldn’t put them down, but I also wanted to throw them across the room. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Seriously, though, despite some of my better judgement, I really enjoyed If There’s No Tomorrow. It’s YA through and through, from the overly dramatic characters to the adorably-naive conflicts. There are friendships and boys and summer jobs, and there are bullies and bad things and fights with parents. Really, what more could a girl want?

What drove me nuts, though, was the way Lena’s parents – and half the other adults in the book – handled what happened. (Which I can’t really tell you because it’d be a spoiler…) Anyway, there seemed to be a lot of disappointment and blame going around that frankly seemed inappropriate and unrealistic. Having never been in the situation Lena finds herself in, I could be totally wrong – but I can’t imagine any of the parents I know reacting quite the way Lena’s did at first. Shrug.

Even that wasn’t enough to keep me from reading If There’s No Tomorrow in one night. Like I said, I couldn’t put it down! Sometimes I think we get so wrapped up in what makes a book good or bad or whathaveyou. The best stories transport you to a different time and place, and that’s what this one did for me. For one evening, I forgot everything and just lost myself in Lena’s story. If that’s not a book worth reading, I don’t know what is.

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harlequin Teen for the chance to participate in this tour! 

Review: You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

About You Are A Badassyou are a badass

Paperback: 256 pages
Published: April 2013 by Running Press
Source: Library via Overdrive

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Goodreads DescriptionThe #1 New York Times Bestseller YOU ARE A BADASS IS THE SELF-HELP BOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY WANT TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES BUT DON’T WANT TO GET BUSTED DOING IT. 

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

If you’re wanting to kick some serious ass in the money department (you wanna?) and start making the kind of dinero you ain’t never made before, pre-order the next book in the series that’s all about your financial badassery: You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, coming April 2017 from Viking Books.

My Review

You Are A Badass seems to be EVERYWHERE lately. So everywhere, in fact, that I thought it was a recently published book, not one published 4 years ago. Ah well, not that it matters, I suppose.

You Are A Badass is a self-helpish book about really going for it, whether that “it” is starting a business, traveling the world, starting a family, or just putting down the potato chips. There’s no shortage of motivational “kick in the pants” books, but somehow, Jen Sincero manages to keep hers short, sweet, and fresh.

A lot of self-help/motivational books fall short in the “action step” department. They focus too heavily on the need for improvement, and spend very little time actually telling you how to improve. I understand the difficulty, and many of these books are still worthwhile reads. However, when an author gives you concrete suggestions for putting your money where your mouth is, it really sticks out to me.

Jen Sincero does that with You Are A Badass, and she does it in a way that isn’t overbearing. Her suggestions are more like guideposts – she leaves it open enough that everyone will get something different out of her suggestion, but she still sets a direction. (That said, I did get tired of being told to love myself in every single chapter.)

For me, You Are A Badass wasn’t earth-shattering and really didn’t contain anything new and unusual. But, Sincero’s no-nonsense talk and to-the-point snippets were just what I needed. I’ve let a few areas of my life slide, and have been living the “Big Snooze” as Sincero calls it. Reading books like You Are A Badass helps keep me focused, and gets my wheels turning. In my mind, that’s what makes a self-help book a success – it inspires.

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Review: Potions and Pastries (Magical Bakery Mystery #7) by Bailey Cates

About Potions and Pastriespotionsandpastries

Series: Magical Bakery Mystery(#7)
Paperback: 320 pages
Published: November 2017 by Berkley
Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Preorder it on Amazon

Goodreads DescriptionIn this New York Times bestselling mystery series, witch Katie Lightfoot bakes enchanted treats–and faces more than her fair share of toil and trouble…. 

It’s been exactly two years since Katie and her aunt and uncle opened the Honeybee Bakery, where they serve delicious–and bespelled–treats to the good people of Savannah. After a dinner celebrating the bakery’s anniversary, they all take a stroll along the waterfront and meet Aunt Lucy’s friend Orla, a colorful character who has been telling the fortunes of locals and tourists alike for years.

The next day, Orla meets with what seems like a terrible accident, but Katie’s witchy intuition tells her it was something more sinister. Together with her trustworthy coven and her firefighter boyfriend, she’ll race to find out what happened to the unfortunate fortune-teller before the piping hot trail goes cold….

My Review

 

Guys, I was so excited for this book. There’s a small handful of cozy series that I keep up with, and this is one of them. I’ve had it on my watch list for months, and actually squealed when I saw it on Netgalley.

The Magical Bakery Mystery series is one of my favorites because it’s got a bakery, witchy-powers, and an adorable familiar named Mungo. I love the characters, and I love the setting. I’ve come to expect a good, solid mystery with a fair amount of character drama, and Potions and Pastries didn’t disappoint.

Katie is still one of my favorite sleuths, because she’s pretty even keel. She doesn’t wildly jump to conclusions, she doesn’t really accuse people, and she follows every lead. Her relationship with Declan continues to grow and mature, and I’m really excited to see what happens in the next book. As for the rest of the cast of characters, I love the spellbook club, and was a little saddened they weren’t bigger players in this one!

As always, the book came with several scrumptious recipes – maybe one of these days I’ll give one a try!

 

Big thanks to Berkley and Netgalley for the ARC!

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Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

About American Godsamericangods

Hardcover: 635 pages
Audio: 19 hours
Published: June 2011 by Harper Audio
Source: Purchased

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Goodreads DescriptionFirst published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. Now, discover the mystery and magic of American Gods in this 10th anniversary edition. Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text, this commemorative volume is a true celebration of a modern masterpiece by the one, the only, Neil Gaiman.

A storm is coming….

Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path.

Relevant and prescient, American Gods has been lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose.”

My Review

I finally finished!!!! Whew, that was long.

I’m really, really torn about American Gods. I really liked some of it, and I really hated some of it. I’ve heard that you either love the book or hate it, but that’s not really true for me. I just sort of…read it.

No doubt, that statement just lost me serious street cred from some of you.

But seriously, I understand why so many people love American Gods. And why so many hate it. For me, all the fantasy God-related stuff was…boring. Hard to follow. Hard to care about. And yes, I realize that’s the whole point of the book.

But it isn’t, really. Sure, in some ways American Gods is a fantasy novel, a metaphor for American culture. But it’s also a travelogue, an ode to America. That’s the part that I loved – Shadow’s time spent traversing the country, the people he met, and the circumstances he found himself in. I didn’t care about Laura, I didn’t care about most of the Gods, but I did care about the people of Lakeside. I also cared about Wednesday, about Jackal and Ibis, and about Czernobog, oddly enough.

This review is all over the place, but that’s kinda how I felt reading it. A lot of the “talkable” stuff was lost on me, simply because I couldn’t focus on half the story.

Jimmie read American Gods right before I did, and he enjoyed it but also didn’t care much for the Gods. I told him that I was somewhat sad American Gods was his first taste of Gaiman, and perhaps that’s the best thing for me to say. The book isn’t terrible, by any means, but I don’t think it’s the kind of book that everyone will love. To me, The Graveyard Book is a lot more accessible, and Norse Mythology is a much better look at mythology.

If you’ve read American Gods, where did you come down on the love it/hate it spectrum?

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Review: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

About Exit Westexitwest

Hardcover: 231 pages
Published: March 2017 by Riverhead
Source: Library via Overdrive

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Goodreads DescriptionIn a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

My Review

We are all migrants through time.

Those six words perfectly sum up not just Exit West, but humanity today. What are we, but migrants through time?

I don’t even really know what to tell you about Exit West . It’s hard to describe. In some ways, it’s a love story. In others, a social commentary. In yet other ways still it’s a travelogue. But I think that’s the point – Exit West is one of those rare stories that doesn’t have to fit in a box, that shouldn’t fit in a box. It’s a powerful and heartbreaking novel about the power of love and loss and identity.

Exit West follows a young couple, Nadia and Saeed, as they flee their home country in search of a better life. They’re lovers, and friends, and family. The country they flee is never identified, but that isn’t important – what’s important is their home has become a place where it is no longer safe to live. And so they run, through a metaphorical door, to another country and another life. Their journey takes them first to Greece, then to London, and then to the United States. Along the way they grow and change, and their relationship does as well. In their migration, they become truer versions of themselves.

I’ll be flat out honest and admit Exit West is not the sort of book I typically enjoy. Immigrant fiction just hasn’t been something that speaks to me. I talked about this some in my review of Behold the Dreamers, but it generally comes down to the fact that I just can’t relate to the characters. And for me, not being able to relate to the characters is a huge problem. I’m a character reader.

But Exit West grabbed me, and wouldn’t let me go. There’s something incredibly powerful in Nadia and Saeed, and in Hamid’s writing. Suddenly, it didn’t matter that I’ve never left my home for a better life, that I’ve never felt oppressed or threatened or unsafe. I was right there with them, going through those doors, carving out a new way of life. I hurt for them, and I hurt for the millions of people around the world experiencing their story every day. I mourned their losses, and celebrated their victories. And so Mohsin Hamid has done what I thought was impossible – he has made me care about a population I have absolutely nothing in common with. And I thank him for it.

Exit West is short, but don’t mistake it for quick. It took me a week to read, and it’s only a little over 200 pages. The writing isn’t intense, but the story is, and Hamid is the kind of writer who gets the most out of the words he uses. Exit West has been Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize (alongside Lincoln in the Bardo and The Underground Railroad, among others). Will it win? We’ll see, but in my mind, it definitely deserves to be shortlisted.

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Blog Tour: The Sworn Virgin by Kristopher Dukes

About The Sworn Virginswornvirgin

Hardcover: 352 pages
Published: August 2017 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Dukes’s gripping historical novel tells the tale of a desperate Albanian woman who will do whatever it takes to keep her independence and seize control of her future…even if it means swearing to remain a virgin for her entire life.

When eighteen-year-old Eleanora’s father is shot dead on the cobblestone streets of 1910 Albania, Eleanora must abandon her dream of studying art in Italy as she struggles to survive in a remote mountain village with her stepmother Meria.

Nearing starvation, Meria secretly sells Eleanora into marriage with the cruel heir of a powerful clan. Intent on keeping her freedom, Eleanora takes an oath to remain a virgin for the rest of her life—a tradition that gives her the right to live as a man: she is now head of her household and can work for a living as well as carry a gun. Eleanora can also participate in the vengeful blood feuds that consume the mountain tribes, but she may not be killed—unless she forsakes her vow, which she has no intention of ever doing.

But when an injured stranger stumbles into her life, Eleanora nurses him back to health, saving his life—yet risking her own as she falls in love with him…

“It’s hard to believe that the culture Dukes describes was ever real, but the amount of research she put into this book definitely shines through. The story remains fascinating throughout; readers will definitely find it difficult to put this novel down.”—San Francisco Book Review

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Kristopher Dukes

Kristopher Dukes was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has been a nationally published writer since she was in high school. Her work has been featured in the bestselling book series Written in the Dirt and fashion bible WWD. She has been profiled in Vogue.fr, NY Times.com, Fast Company, Forbes.com, and WWD. The Sworn Virgin is her debut novel. She lives in Manhattan Beach, California, with her husband, Matt, and Doberman, Xena.

Connect with her on Facebook.

My Thoughts

Eleanora meant for each day to be an adventure, whether she traveled on foot or merely in her mind.

I just love that quote from the beginning of the book. It shows the person Eleanora could have been, should have been, and maybe would have been if her life had been different.

I’ve been really excited to read The Sworn Virgin ever since signing up for the blog tour a few months ago. I haven’t read a good historical fiction in a while, but it’s a genre I typically enjoy quite a bit. The idea of Eleanora’s story was right up my alley – a woman who swears herself a virgin in order to escape a terrible marriage, who then (of course) falls in love. But, I was also a little skeptical. It’s easy for that kind of story to go horribly wrong. And while I won’t go that far, though I enjoyed it, ultimately The Sworn Virgin left me wanting more.

My biggest beef was the pacing. The first 50 or so pages dragged so slowly for me. There’s a lot of exposition that’s important, but there’s also a lot that isn’t. That said, once the story finally got going, staying engaged was easy.

I didn’t like Eleanora, exactly, but I rooted for her. She struck me as sort of an unlikeable Cinderella at first – spoiled by her father, then has her whole life turned upside down by his death. (Without the singing animals, of course!) In fact, let’s talk about Eleanora for a minute. She’s only 18 years old in the story, but it’s really easy to forget that and think she’s older. Often I caught myself rolling my eyes at her or thinking she was ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time she WAS being ridiculous, but that’s a lot easier to accept – and forgive – when you remind yourself she’s 18.

Back to the pacing, I thought Eleanora’s interactions with Cheremi were entirely too rushed. Dukes spent a lot of time building up Eleanora as this semi-self-reliant, strong-willed sworn virgin, only to rush through her transition into “woman/wife.” For me, that created a distinct lack of tension that felt at odds with the rest of the story. I also struggled to see Cheremi as a love interest, and never truly cared about their relationship. The conflict resolved hastily, and in my mind, left a lot of loose ends (what happened to Meria!?). I do have to give Dukes credit for her ending though – while in a way it felt like the book just sorta stopped, I also think the ending worked.

I’m glad I read The Sworn Virgin. I enjoyed getting back into the historical fiction realm!

Check out the rest of the Blog Tour stops, and show your fellow readers some love!

 

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Wave for the chance to participate in this tour!