Seven months ago now, my friend Christina and I started a book club. The point of that book club was to read what I was needing to read for school, but that failed pretty quickly (my friends are supportive, but most aren’t that supportive). Since then, it has changed and morphed into a science fiction book club, which is more or less just an excuse for us to read fun books and hang out with some of our closest friends.Read more
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review with Blogging for Books. I’ve had my most recent book, It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell, sitting on my bookshelf almost all year. I just haven’t had time, or motivation, to pick it up until recently. When I did, I simply could not put it down....Read more
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review for Blogging for Books. I’ve had the book St. Peter’s Bones: How the Relics of the First Pope Were Lost and Found…and Then Lost and Found Again by Thomas J. Craughwell sitting on my bedside table since I moved into my new house…and for months in my old house before that....Read more
I recently read the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I had bought it a while back on Kindle because it was on sale and after I started it I devoured it. And by devoured, I mean that I read it in two days, staying up until 4am to finish it because I just couldn’t put it down.Read more
A Breathe of Eyre
by Eve Marie Mont
(Cover from Goodreads)
I’m not really sure why I bought this book. It was a Kindle Deal of the Day, but I bought it before I ever read Jane Eyre. I waited until I read the classic before diving into this one. That said, I read it in one sitting (and stayed up until 5am doing so!).
This book has both good and bad points.
At first, I loved the character. A typical outsider, Emma loves to read, has few friends, and is socially awkward. A true loner with really no friends, I was interested to see how the novel would play out. However, within the first few pages, she suddenly has a love interest and two new best friends who stick with her through thick and thin. Great for the character, but not very realistic. She is today’s heroine, the girl every little girl wants to be, who magically finds best friends and acceptance with little effort.
In fact, there is a great deal of suspension of disbelief in this novel. A lot of it is highly unlikely (how many high schoolers do you know who almost drown, get struck by lightning, get knocked unconscious in a burning stable while trying to save horses, and then almost die saving a friend from an attempted suicide, all in one year’s time? Yes, all of this does happen in this novel.) Plus, this is yet another tale written about a girl in boarding school where the boarding school sounds a little unreal.
Yet, if you can get past all of that, it’s actually a pretty good book. In spite of how unrealistic Emma is, she is pretty lovable. She has great internal conversations and she grows as a character, finding courage both through her friend Michelle and her adventures being transported into her new favorite book,
Yes, this lucky little girl does indeed get transported inside her favorite book, but what happens there is a great (perhaps not so) new take on a beloved classic.
Which leads me to the only point about this book that actually ticks me off: if Charlotte Bronte were alive, I’m pretty sure she would sue for copyright infringement. While Mont has re-written the story from Emma’s perspective of being trapped inside her novel, once Emma starts to lose track of herself and truly become Jane, Mont is basically just retelling entire chunks of
I, having read through that story once (in the much better written original version), decided I didn’t really want to read those sections again, so I skimmed. Perhaps the retelling is necessary for readers who haven’t read
, but really, who would read a novel entitled
A Breathe of Eyre
if they haven’t read
? It seems sort of like cheating to me and looks sort of like plagiarism. I mean, if this was written for a creative writing course I was teaching, I would probably fail her for using so much straight from the original. Not okay.
But, if you skip those parts and accept the suspension of disbelief, it’s actually a great young adult novel. A great protagonist, a rocky romance, and family secrets—it includes all the makings of a great weekend read for when you need to relax. This is my version of a guilty pleasure kind of book and, in spite of the aforementioned weaknesses, I’ll probably read it again.
And, if you’re a fan of
, so should you.
I give it 4/5 stars.
A Breathe of Eyre
is apparently one of a series. I haven’t read the others, but it seems that in the second novel, she finds herself in
The Scarlet Letter
and in the third novel, in
Phantom of the Opera
. I’m sort of tied between wanting to
this character falling into her favorite books all the time and being glad that I don’t have to deal with the drama of being stuck in these particular books!
A while back, I read the book
The Lion in the Lei Shop
by Kaye Starbird. It was recommended by Modern Mrs. Darcy. It happened to be one of the Kindle deals of the day, so I read it on my kindle.
I think this was a hard book for me to read because, in many ways, it hit strangely close to home. It was a novel that was written from two perspectives, telling the story twice. The two characters are mother and daughter and the story explores the question of perspective and how the perspectives of adults and children differ.
Marty is five years old when her home in Hawaii is thrown into chaos by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Her mother, April, who is pregnant at the time, reacts with the dutiful obedience of an army wife and helps organize the women, including her sister, Liz, who is also pregnant and farther along than April. Yet, in the midst of the chaos around them, neither woman seems to communicate with or even pay attention to their children. And that, friends, is the theme of the story.
Starbird tells of how Marty and April travel to Boston to live with April’s parents before ending up buying a small house out in the country. Throughout the story, Marty is expected to take more and more responsibility, all the while April apparently ignores her daughter in her distress. The different perspectives are interesting because you hear Marty’s honest, childlike version of what happened, and then you hear her mother’s version, which rarely matches up with what Marty thought happened.
The story is really good, but the storytelling becomes really infuriating. The characters waver between enchanting and annoying as Marty becomes obsessed with a lion in her nightmare and April spends a good portion of the novel ignoring her daughter (and after the second baby is born, daughters) and the obvious problems she is having adjusting to life after the bombing. Typical of family life in this era, there is no communication between the mother and her daughters, leaving the little ones confused and angry.
This is a hard book to rate because the story and writing are so good, but the characters so infuriating at times. I don’t think I would reread this one, but I will give it
3.5/5 stars. I think it would be a good book for a book group or discussion.
I was recently in Barnes and Noble. When I was browsing the bargain section, I found this lovely little novel,
The Recipe Club
by Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel.
At first, I was primarily drawn to the beautiful cover. The best of 1970’s hues in kitchenware, the book simply looked beautiful. Then, picking it up and reading the back cover, I read this: “Loyalty, loss, and the ties that bind: These are the ingredients of
The Recipe Club
, a ‘novel cookbook’ that combines an authentic story of friendship with more than eighty delicious recipes.”
Now, for those of you who don’t know me, you might not be aware that I’m completely addicted to cookbooks and food-related stories. So, obviously, I had to pick up a copy.
I have to admit that, at first, I was a little disappointed in this novel. The first few pages were not particularly alluring or well written. But, as I persevered, I got hooked on the story of these two very different little girls who were best friends and rivals all at once, whose relationship revolved around food, and who were the only members of the Recipe Club and therefore, each letter that the girls wrote the other included a recipe (all of which sound delicious, by the way).
The basic plot is that Lilly and Val have been lifelong friends. The novel begins with an adult Val writing an email to adult Lilly to tell her that her mother, who loved Lilly as well as her own daughter, has died. The reader quickly learns that these two women, who the back cover asserts as lifelong friends, haven’t spoken in years. The story continues a bit, then stops after another fight. Then, the book takes us back to the 60’s when, as children, their relationship grew mostly through writing letters after Val’s family moved to another part of New York City, away from Lilly and her own family.
The writing is not masterful, but the story is good and the characters intriguing. I have to admit that before I even got five pages into the older letters, I turned the pages to the back section that took up the modern day again to find out if my hunch about a major plot twist was right. It was. So, I’m guessing most readers anticipate the same plot twist I did. It was, however, a good one.
One thing that makes this book stand out against other similar fiction made of letters is that there are two authors, and therefore the letters have a distinct feel to them that makes the character more real.
So, while the writing style is less than stellar (acceptable, given that both authors are cookbook writers who have never done fiction before), I love the characters. I love the story, too, and the aforementioned plot twist is one that explores much about childhood, friendship, and the role that secrets can often play in families. Mental illness, teenage rebellion, and loyalty are other themes that are explored.
While I don’t think this book could be seen as life changing, I do think it is a decent book and a good read. I give it three stars. If you like food literature or books about long enduring friendship, check this out (and if you’re near a Barnes and Noble, you might be able to pick up a copy for $5!).
The following is an excerpt from a review I have published in Spiritual Uprising Magazine.
Almost two years ago, my friend Lorna told me that I just had to read this book called Sensible Shoes. I added it to my list of books to read, but I never got around to it. So, I was pleasantly surprised when, as a part of a wonderful “PhD Survival Kit,” she gave me a copy. When I was packing to go on my retreat, I slipped the book into my bag without really thinking about it. I figured, why not? It might be a good read.
It was so good that I couldn’t set it down.
To read the rest of this review, download the June issue of Spiritual Uprising Magazine. The e-magazine is available for free! You can find it at http://www.up-ministries.org/current-issue.html
Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin
This review was originally published in Spiritual Uprising Magazine's May 2014 issue and is reprinted with permission. I encourage you to check out Spiritual Uprising at www.up-ministries.org/spiritual-uprising-magazine.html
I started reading Twelve Apostolic Women by Joanne Turpin as part of my Providence Circle. The goal was that we would read the book chapter by chapter and then get together to discuss. While we haven’t been able to meet as often as we would like, I have read the book on my own.
I think that this book has great insight. For those Christians who are bothered by the seemingly male-dominated quality of Christian history, reading a book about twelve women in the New Testament and learning about their role in the Apostolic era is eye-opening.
Turpin’s writing is good. You can tell in reading her work how much she has studied the Apostolic era—the research she has done into ancient Christian tradition (most of which have been forgotten by all but the academics in the Church) is phenomenal. Most Christians know little about Salome, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, or Tabitha. Most of us have never even heard of Prisca or Lydia. Turpin tells the stories of these women with devotion and full belief.
My primary critique of this book comes from her lack of citations. She will say something and cite it in tradition, but usually never mentions which text to find the story in. She puts complete faith in obscure texts that the Church has never claimed to be true or infallible. Like many Catholics, she tries to get rid of the discomfort of mystery by giving credence to unsubstantiated traditions. Yet, her work allows the reader to connect with scripture in a whole new way. In addition, while some of the traditions she cites might be suspect or have been completely cast off by most Christians (the stories of Mary’s childhood, for example), she also uses finds from modern archaeology to help her tell the story—and that works beautifully.
Turpin’s book is not only educational, but spiritual. She includes great discussion questions that are useful both for a group reading and a personal reading. Each chapter ends with a prayer, making it a great choice for spiritual reading.
In the end, while I would caution readers new to the study of Biblical History to not take everything Turpin says as fact, I would definitely recommend this book as a great read for a group or personal spiritual reading.
When We Were on Fire
by Addie Zierman
I received this book for free from
for this review.
In her memoir about life as an evangelical teen in the WWJD-ridden church of the ‘90s, Addie Zierman reminds us all that sometimes you don’t have to be in a cult to experience a brain-washing, manipulative, and abusive cult-like atmosphere.
When We Were on Fire
, Zierman is open and honest about her past. Her writing goes back and forth between telling her story in first person and setting up the scene in the second person, making the reader feel like they are Addie in the story. An unusual but well employed writing style, Zierman helps the reader to relate and identify with both the painful and wonderful experiences about which Zierman writes.
While it’s hard to write a review about someone’s memoirs, I can say that I think this book is brilliantly written. Zierman puts her soul into it, openly sharing the pain and joy of her life with the reader.
I relate to a lot of what she writes. While the Evangelical Church of the 1990’s is well known for brain-washing, no faith tradition is completely free of that experience. What stuns me about her story is how deeply Zierman’s wounds impact her later life. Her memoir is like a combination story and warning: “Find a way to deal with this before you find yourself in my shoes. Work it out. See a counselor before you’re drunk and tempted to cheat on your husband because Church People are coming between the two of you.”
The one thing that really gets me about Zierman’s writing is that she holds nothing back. She is blatantly honest about driving drunk—no apologies, no self-defense. She just states it, the same way she states that as a child sanctity was measured by how many WWJD bracelets you wore. It is a brutal honesty, an honesty that, in my humble opinion, should be forgiven and loved rather than judged. This book is her confession in a sense—and it ends as all Christian stories should end, in hope and resurrection.
For more information about this author, see her website at
To read the first chapter of this book for free, visit http://www.convergentbooks.com/book/when-we-were-on-fire/
When We Were on Fire
a solid 4/5.