5-Star Reads: No More Mulberries and Atonement, Tennessee

My writing break has freed up some precious time for reading, and I have two more reviews to share. These books are quite different. I hope you give one or both a try. 😀

Click on Cover for Global  Amazon Link

No More Mulberries

by Mary Smith

My Review: Where do I even start with all the things I loved about this book? The story is about Miriam, a Scottish midwife who first fell deeply in love with an Afghan and then with his country. It’s a story about love and loss, fear and courage, and the strength of family and the human spirit.

In many ways, this story could be told anywhere in the world as individuals, couples, and families aren’t that different from each other no matter where we find them. Miriam’s story and her emotional struggles are deeply relatable. Her search for self, her struggle to balance her various roles, to fill expectations and have her expectations filled, and her commitment to her family and community could be anyone’s story.

But Miriam’s tale doesn’t take place anywhere in the world. It unfolds in 1995 Afghanistan. The book portrays a multi-dimensional country with remote villages that haven’t changed in hundreds of years to more modern communities with a forward-leaning vision of the future. And though it’s clear in the story that love is love, family is family, and people are people, the narrative reveals the stark differences in the lives of those people marked by isolation and all it entails, and those who have high hopes for education, healthcare, and their country. Miriam’s story is deftly intertwined with the story of a country and its people, and I loved it all.

Smith’s years in Afghanistan give the read it’s undeniable authenticity, and her skill as a storyteller shines. She doles out the backstory details in small doses. They’re little gems that slowly illuminate the present story and build understanding while increasing tension and a desire for resolution. Settings are well described, the pace is steady, and characterization is flawless. I stayed up late and lost some sleep over this one.

One beautiful book that I highly recommend.

Click on Cover for Global Amazon Link

Atonement, Tennessee

by Teagan Geneviene

My Review: Esmeralda is a new arrival in the town of Atonement. She’s purchased an old estate that comes with its own cemetery and some interesting trespassers – a marvelous gang of gal-pals, an irresistible florist/handyman, and a mysterious, handsome neighbor. The magic starts off almost immediately while “Ralda” waits for the moving van and starts settling into her new life.

The tale is full of whimsy as ancient magic threads through the home and cemetery. Ralda is curious but not particularly fearful, and I enjoyed her level-headed, low key approach to the strange noises and events happening around her. The story is told mainly from her point of view. The exception is Lilith, her cat, who witnesses some of the magic but isn’t able to fill her owner in on the details.

For me, the best part of the book was the characters. If you enjoy strong female characters and genuine friendships, you won’t be disappointed. Ralda has a wry sense of humor and authentic voice. Geneviene does a great job with her internal dialog and with character interactions as a whole. The gal-pals are a delight, well-rounded individuals with a nice balance of wit and sensitivity.

Alongside the unfolding mysteries that inhabit the property, a second plotline centers on a darker “real”-life theme, which wraps up cleanly in the end. The main plot around the home’s magic and Ralda’s role in the mystery leaves a few loose ends and questions that might lend themselves toward a sequel. The minor danglers did not impact my delight in the overall story.

A light and magical read for all ages.

I’ll be taking a short break (offline) to head north and visit family.
Have a great week. ❤

Ordinary Handsome Review – A Stunning Read

Steven’s New Cover! Global Link to Amazon

With my shift into some breathing room, I’ve begun indulging in some overdue reading. My TBR pile is teetering, and I’ve had to purchase more books to prop it up. I’ll be posting reviews now and then when I surface from a really great read. I read this one a while ago, and it’s a book I still think about. If you love the beauty of words, I highly recommend it. 

My Review of Ordinary Handsome

I just finished this book and sit here collecting my thoughts. From the first page, I knew I had happened on something special, something that would sweep me into the otherworld offered by a talented author and his beautifully written book.

The story is grim, about the dying lives that labor on in the dying town of Handsome, Oklahoma. Ghosts in a ghost town. The book follows ordinary men dealing with the epic struggles that shape human experience: love and death, failure, fathering, poverty, murder, and lost hope. It revolves around a young man, Euart Monroe Wasson, and the men who participate in the tragedy made of his life.

The book isn’t one to speed through. Baird writes with a style that requires one to pay attention. He slowly draws aside the veils that reveal the interconnection of each man’s story. I had the impression that I was piecing together a mosaic, the tale assembled from the shards of shattered lives, memories, impressions, and illusions.

The narrative is informal and appropriate to the rural landscape. At the same time, the writing is textured, rife with precise detail, stunning imagery, and raw emotion. Baird is a master at finding the perfect word and painting a picture that shifts and clears with each new perspective.

I highly recommend Ordinary Handsome to any reader who wants to get lost in an exquisitely written tale. This book will stick to your heart.

***

I picked up Ordinary Handsome after following Baird’s blog and falling in love with the quality of his writing. I’ll also happily recommend his book, A Very Tall Summer.

hey__steve__by_angeink-d813x0kSteven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens. He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Global Link to Amazon: Ordinary Handsome Amazon

Link to Steven’s Website: Ordinary Handsome Website

 

Review: Just an Odd Job Girl

Vacation time is my favorite time for reading – no distractions, no housework, no responsibilities that count. I had a glorious week on a Hawaiian beach, pretending it was summer. If not for the sun’s glare on my iPad, my adventure in reading would have been perfect.

Note to summer readers: stock up on paperbacks!

One of the books that flew west with me was Sally Cronin’s Just an Odd Job Girl. In more ways than one, it’s a great summer story.

A quick read at 156 pages, the book begins with an older Imogen. At 50, she’s on her own, traded-in by her husband for a younger “fast-tracker.” After 25 years of raising children and keeping house, she feels frumpy and bored, and decides to find a job.

The temp agency asks for a resume of her work experience, and all she has is a long list of pre-marriage odd jobs, starting with a summer stint as a teenager at a seaside gift kiosk and rambling through temporary positions with a dental office, department store, bar, funeral parlor, boys school, and country inn.

As the reader joins Imogene on a reflective journey through her odd jobs, it’s impossible not to laugh at her antics, the colorful characters she meets along the way, and the predicaments she gets herself into and out of. What I enjoyed most, was young Imogene’s humanity. She’s a wonderful combination of funny, compassionate, resourceful, and fearless. I couldn’t wait to see the fix she got into next.

In addition to laughs, Just an Odd Job Girl has a lovely message for young adults as well as those of us getting on in age: that life is full of opportunities, that wonderful people are everywhere, and that you are never to old to grow. Get your copy for the beach or backyard hammock. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy Just an Odd Job Girl book HERE

About the Author

Sally CroninBy her own admission, Sally Cronin has led an eclectic life, and I suspect there’s a bit of Imogene in her history. She’s written short stories and poetry since a young age and started publishing her work in 1996 when she combined her experience as a Nutritional Therapist with her love of writing. Over the last ten years, Sally’s talent has delivered nine titles and a wonderfully active blog. 

Sally Cronin Books

Follow Sally:

Blog: Smorgasbord Invitation
Twitter
Facebook: Sally Cronin
Facebook: Sally Georgina Cronin
Linkedin