Category Archives: Book Review

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (Summer Reading and Book Club Worthy!)

Little Mercies, Heather Gudenkauf, Book JOurney, Social work, Sheila DeChantal

Social Worker Ellen Moore is used to seeing the worst side of the human race.  It has been her job to protect the children of her community and it is a job she does well while also managing her busy family life with a husband and children of her own.

One blistering hot day while trying to help a family in need, one moment of distraction, one slip while trying to do too much at the sale time, Ellen’s world comes tumbling down around her putting her on the other side of her world in the craziest of ways.  Suddenly life is speeding by as a blur as events unfold and her careless actions could cause the life of one of her own.

 

In another story line, ten year old Jenny Briard lives moment to moment.  Since her mother disappeared one day she has lived with her abusive father and lives moment to moment wondering where she will be sleeping that night and if there will be food.  When Jenny takes to the streets in search of where she believes her mother may have gone, her life becomes entangled with Ellen’s.

Ellen can not explain the appearance of this wayward child who has wormed her way into her life but she does not have time to deal with that in the midst of her own turmoil.  Jenny certainly does not want a social worker looking to closely at her and fears being sent back to the man she is trying to escape.  What neither Ellen or Jenny knows is that the timing of their encounter is right on time.

 

 

 

I simply adore Heather Gudenkauf’s writing.  She writes true feeling life stories that could be anything you would see in your local newspapers.  Tragedy.  Justice.  Truth.

When this book was offered for me to read I was super excited to have a chance to dig into another of these amazing stories.  I had no idea that once I opened the book, I was not going to put it down until I closed the last satisfying page.  (*note that during this reading there is some awkward making of lunch with one hand while my other held the book open)  ;)

Interesting, fast paced, heart pumping action, what unfolds in this story line is truly something you can imagine really happening.  Heather Gudenkauf’s Little Mercies grabbed me and made for gush worthy summer reading.

 

 

  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin MIRA (June 24, 2014)

 

 

Book clubs – this book would make for an amazing discussion.   Download the Book Club Kit (PDF)

 

I have a giveaway going for a package of Heather Gudenkauf’s books.  Please comment on that post for an entry and receive a bonus entry for commenting on this one as well.  I will announce the winner of the package on Friday July 18th.

The Three by Sarah Lotz (Hoo Baby!))

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Forcing the world into a fearful silence, four planes around the world crash almost simultaneously in Japan, Florida, Portugal, and South Africa.  Our of these flights there are only three survivors each from a different flight and each are children.  A Pastor of a church that one of the congregation was on the Japan flight and died, feels that these children are a sign from God of the coming Apocalypse, referring to them as the four horseman and saying that there is a fourth child but he or she has yet to be discovered.  As the children are given to surviving family members things become stranger and stranger and these children do no seem to be themselves.  But if not themselves…

then who…or what are they?

 

 

The Three is the type of book that captures my attention right away.  Fantastic book cover, a title that makes you want to know more and a synopsis of “WHOA”. ~ Sheila

 

Not only is The Three a fast paced novel that will grab you right from the start but the format is also brilliant and refreshing.  Written in corresponding letters, phone conversations, blog posts, internet discussions and texts, Page by page The Three unfolds a thrilling tale that will hold you all the way through to the chilling end.

A brilliant first book by author Sarah Lotz.  I for one will be watching for more from her.

 

 

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (May 20, 2014)
  • Language: English

 

The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus

Beekeepers Lament, Hannah Nordhaus, Book Journey, Sheila DeChantal

The Beekeeper’s Lament follows John Miller, a multi generational bee keeper who moves his over 10,000 hives around the US to farmers who need the pollination that only the honey bee can provide.  Beekeeping, as one can imagine, is a lot of work and not for the faint of heart.  John will be stung frequently, deal with mites, weather, semi trucks loaded with bees turning over on highways, theft, and the CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) epidemic that came about in 2004 and still is as mysterious today.

Miller moves onward with a sense of humor, a gift at writing, and a desire to help feed America despite all the obstacles.

 

 

 

Why did I want to read this book?  I am fascinated by bees.  I have a friend who raises honey bees and occasionally I get to go and help her out and I enjoy learning about the bees and all they can do!

 

I really enjoyed reading The Beekeepers Lament.  The fascinating things that honey bees provide (beside the obvious honey) by providing pollination to flowers, berries, fruit, and the big one… almond trees.

Author Hannah Nordhaus follows John Miller through all the steps to bee keeping.  She writes of the communications between herself and John between visits.  John likes email.  And jokes.  And Author Hannah Nordhaus writes as I would hope if I were writing about something similar, that I would write.

This book would be appealing to those who enjoy foodie books, fans of nature, and of course the fascination of bees.  I learned so much by reading this and found every page to be filled with fascinating (and occasionally funny) information.

 

 

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (May 24, 2011)

 

 

 

 

The Young World by Chris Weitz – AWESOMELY GUSH WORTHY!

The Young World, Chris Weitz, Book Journey, YA, Sheila DeChantal

Expect big things from this amazing book… I don’t think this is the last we will hear from Chris Weitz ~Sheila

 

It has been two very long years since the mysterious virus had wiped out all children and adults leaving only the teens to try to  survive in this new unsteady world.  In New York as the teenagers have battled for food and space it seems as though it has turned into a city of tribes; each protecting their own.

Jefferson and Donna are part of the Washington Square Tribe.  Jefferson the leader by default, and Donna the teenage in-house “doctor”, are finding it harder and harder to come by supplies and food to keep their group going.  It is no secret that a tribe without the proper supplies is a weak tribe, and a weak tribe may as well be a dead tribe.

When a member of the group nicknamed “Brainbox” for his skills at coming up with ideas to create electricity and more believes he may have an idea of what has caused virus and may be able to reverse what has happened to the world if he could just look at a book that is in the library way across town, Jefferson, Donna, and another tribe-mate Peter, all join in the cause.  Something has to be done before they too die…

but what dangers lie out beyond the sanctuary of their area?  And what truths are trying to be protected at any cost?

 

 

Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.

After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.
The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

- See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/chris-weitz/the-young-world/9780316226295/#desc

I first picked up a glimpse of this book at the Book Expo in May.  I seen it in the women’s bathroom.
he Young World, Chris Weitz, Book Journey

Nicely played Little Brown… Nicely played.

This (above) was the advertising in the women’s bathroom at the expo.  I seen it.. and went to the Little Brown booth immediately (I did not pass go, did not collect $200) and requested an advanced copy of it.

I am so glad I did.

This book is not released until July 29th and normally I would not review a book this far ahead of release date…

but…

I want to get you as EXCITED about this one as I am.  I want YOU to be aware of what is coming that is super awesome sauce so you can put it on your radar and know that if you enjoy YA Dystopian fiction with the more than likely potential of being a movie as well, then hang on… you are in for a treat.

I LOVED the layout of The Young World.  Set in New York in the futuristic pit of a world.  The protagonists are diverse and engaging.  I enjoyed the concept of the different tribes made up of teens.  Each had their own skill sets that they embraced – some were for good…. some – not so much.

The Young World is a great ride and do not pass on this first book of The Young World Trilogy (don’t groan – the book is fast paced and engaging and you will not want to wait!)

Fun Fact: 

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Chris Weitz is the director of Twilight: New Moon, About a Boy, The Golden Compass, Antz and American Pie. His most recent film is A Better Life, which was nominated for an Academy Award. THE YOUNG WORLD is his first novel. – See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/authors/chris-weitz-teen/#about

Chris Weitz is the director of twilight, New Moon, About A Boy, The Golden Compass, ANTZ, and American Pie.  His most recent film is A Better Life, which has been nominated for an Academy Award.  The Young World is his first novel.

So now that I have GUSHED all over this review… here is a list compliments of Hachette Book Group – as to where you can plan to purchase this book:

Where to buy!

  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Imprint: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Release Date:  July 29, 2014
  •  

    Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.

    After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.
    The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

    - See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/chris-weitz/the-young-world/9780316226295/#desc

    That Night by Chevy Stevens

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    Toni Murphy was your typical 18 year old teenage girl.  She quarreled with her parents, had drama at school, and had the boy the in turn had her heart; Ryan.  By far the worst of it – were the group of girls at school who were set on making Toni’s life a living hell.  (Think mean girls on steroids).  As the girls became meaner, and bolder, Toni’s life begins to unravel, and when they become friends with her younger, innocent sister Nicole… the battle really begins.

    One night at a party that Toni, Ryan, and Nicole are attending, Nicole turns up dead.  Her body found in a nearby lake with appearances of a struggle.  As Toni and Ryan were the last to see Nicole, the two teens are pinned for the murder.

    Now at 34, Toni is released on parole with the knowledge that she in never to be in contact with Ryan again who also should be released around that same time.  As Toni makes her way back to her home town to try to piece together what is left of her life, clues start coming together to what really happened…

    That Night.

     

     

    It is no secret that I adore Chevy Stevens.  When I listened to Still Missing on audio I was floored at how engaged I became with her well written story of a missing girl.  Since then I have eagerly awaited each release of her books.

    That Night was a twisted read that hits hard on the hot topic of bullying.  The girls in the book made Toni’s life unbearable and I could not imagine being in her shoes.  As you will find out if read the book, things are not much easier for her in prison; it’s just a different level of mean girls.

    There were aspects of this book I really enjoyed – and some not so much.  Toni is not an easy protagonist to like, but you will find yourself rooting for her anyway.  In the end author Chevy Stevens breaks through with another “WHOA.” from me.  Just when you think you have it all figured out.. you will discover that you know nothing… NOTHING, about That Night.

     

     

    Thank you to St. Martin’s Press Publicity for sending me a

    copy of this book for an honest review.

     

     

     

    FACE OFF – Authors face off their protagonists against each other! Edited by David Baldacci

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    Ever wonder what your favorite thriller authors are doing between books?  They are imaging how their protagonists would stand up to the likes of other thriller writer protagonists… ;)  ~Sheila

     

    Imagine if the protagonists from your favorite thriller writers teamed up to work together (or not).  What level could you take a storyline?

    What if Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenvie ran into Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch while apparently on a stake out for the same man?

    Or John Sanford’s Lucas Davenport finds himself in the vicinity of Jeffrey Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme?

    Or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is hanging out with Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller?

    And add-on a total of 22 characters facing off in 11 short stories, collaborated by the two authors to make each short story.  And, (I think this is fun) each story starts out with a page or two blurb of how the authors worked together to create a short yet engaging thriller story in about 20 pages or less.

     

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    I have to say, I loved the idea of this book, and then actually reading it made me love it more.  This is one of those remarkable ideas of bringing authors together with their protagonists for a big party!  Always the fan of Dennis Lehane I rad his story that was created with Michael Connelly first and loved the quick paced thriller with a humorous edge to it.

     

    Bosch looked over Patrick. “You like baseball Patrick?”

    “Big time.  Why?”

    “You’re the first guy I have seen in this town not wearing a sox hat.”

    Patrick pulled off his hat and considered the front of it as he ran a hand through his hair.  “Imagine that.  I didn’t even look when I left the house.”

    “Is that a rule or something around here?  You’ve all got to represent Red Sox Nation or something?”

    “It’s not a rule per se, more like a guideline.”

     

    Fans of thrillers this book is a must.

    Each author has donated his or her story and all of the proceeds from the book go to fund ITW (International Thriller Writers), which charges no dues to its members.

    Bob Harper Skinny Meals / Weekend Cooking

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    You know him from the show Biggest Loser when he is pushing contestants to their limits.  Bob is also a personal trainer, as well as some one who takes care of their own body and what they put in it.

    As Bob says in the forward of this book, what he is sharing here is the same foods and meals he eats and encourages those he works with to eat.  Healthy eating habits and working out are the keys to a fitter, fuller life.

     

     

    As soon as I seen this book on-line I knew I wanted to own it.  Lots of delicious looking recipes that did not seem to be above my cooking skills.  No recipe over 350 calories and balanced so your carbs are eaten by mid afternoon and your suppers are balanced with the fiber and calories you need for burning them through the night. 

     

    The forward to the book are basic steps for balancing your meals and not over eating.  Bob says always drink a full glass of water before any meal.  Even take a glass of water by your bedside so first thing in the morning you can drink it.  Not only does it help you feel fuller before you eat, it also helps flush out the things your body does not need.  He also suggests no eating after 8 pm and go to bed hungry.  Your body starts to burn fat around 3 hours after eating.  Why not deal with those “hungry hours” while you are sleeping?  ;)

    Since purchasing the book I have made several recipes out of it, planning to use it more in the future as well (there is a spaghetti squash recipe filled with vegies I have my eye on to try).

    Here is the Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce I tried.  Or I would like to call it, “you had me at avocado!” 

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    Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Cream Sauce

    Ingredients

    • 1 large zucchini (approx. 2 cups worth)

    Avocado Cream Sauce

    • 1/4 avocado
    • 1 cup arugula
    • 1/4 cup chopped basil
    • 1/4 cup low sodium broth (either veggie or chicken)
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic
    • 2 teaspoon grated Parmesan cheese
    • 4 oz roasted, boneless, skinless chicken breast

    Directions

    1. Slice zucchini very thinly lengthwise. Then cut each piece into thirds, lengthwise so that they are like thick noodles. Steam “noodles” for 2-3 minutes or until they are just cooked through.
    2. In the meantime, blend avocado, basil, broth, lemon juice, garlic, and Parmesan in a processor or blender.
    3. Toss “noodles” with sauce and cubed chicken, and serve.

    Nutritional Information

    • 258 calories, 27g protein, 19g carbs, 11g fat

     

    My thoughts – I love the use of strips of zucchini as the “noodle”.  It just felt fresher.  The avocado sauce was delicious!  I enjoyed this very much, it was easy to make and I will make it again. :)

    This recipe was posted for Weekend Cooking.  Stop over and see what other people are cooking up!

     

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    The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

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    Bay Singer knows nothing of her past.  She lives alone with her mother Nan who is mocked by the community as a “witch” of sorts, putting out shoes all over the lawn with flowers planted in them.   While Bay is protective of her mother, she is getting to the age where she wants to know more about her life and about her secretive mother. Nan is just not sure if Bay really knows what she is asking… the secrets of her birth… the caul… the box… and of course Nan’s own teenage past and the tragedies it holds within. 

     

     

    Reading The Memory Garden was like walking through a fairytale that shimmers with fantasy but at the same time feels so real.  I liked Bay, and I liked Nan, and I really liked the two mysterious friends of Nan’s who come popping out of the past to help set things right after so many years.

    The chapters each start with a flower or budding plant and gives you a little sample of what this flower can be used for:

     

    PUMPKIN The round, edible fruit of a trailing vine, pumpkins are a symbol of fertility. Dead spirits are invoked by the pumpkin when faces are carved into it, and it is lit from within. The spiral of life is represented by the pumpkin; the harvest brings death, but the seeds bring birth.

     

    It is a delightful fun romp of friendships and fantasy, secrets and celebrations, and well worth a read!

    The Accidental Book Club by Jennifer Scott

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    Recently widowed Jean Vison never dreamed she would be running a book club.  Yet when you gather a few friends together to come over and bring food and wine, you pick a date, and you talk about a book…

    Jean guessed that it what it was.

    Loretta finds what she is lacking in her marriage within the pages of the books she chooses to read.

    Dorothy’s home life with her out of control sons makes book club the idea l place to take a break from the norm.

    May is always good for sharing her latest dating disasters.

    Mitzi who always finds some underlying political agenda in every book – EVERY book.

    And quiet Janet who keeps her voice low, her nose in the book, but can speak up when she needs to.

     

    When Jean’s life takes an unsuspected turn and she is asked to take care of her delinquent granddaughter Bailey while Bailey’s parents try to salvage their marriage… things in book club become real very fast.

    There’s something about a book club that brings everyone to a deeper level….

     

     

    It’s not hard to please me.  Put a word in a book title like “book Club, book store, _____________’s wife”, and I take a closer look.  Yes, The Accidental Book Club drew me in by its title…. but it held me, with the story line.

    Set with a cast of mismatched characters (as any book club will have) The Accidental Book Club is just what it should be…. a hot mess of women centered around a good or not so good book.  Toss is a little teenage angst and you have yourself a story!

    Our protagonist Jean is still recovering from the loss of her husband.  Inviting a group of women in to her home and into her life is a big step for her but she is enjoying it.  Add in a granddaughter she barely knows and things become a bit crazy not only for Jean, but for the rest of the book club as well.

    Hey… we all have our stuff right?

    The Accidental Book Club is a quick fun read with a cast of assorted characters that will keep you wondering, what will they read next?

     

     

     

     

    The Storied Life of A.J.Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

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    “Endings can be happy or sad.  I don’t care anymore as long as they are earned”.  ~ The Storied Life of A.J. Fikrey

     

    A.J Fikrey once had it all.  He and his amazing wife Nic’ ran the book store, Island Books together and the store, as they, thrived.  Now, after Nic’s untimely death, A.J. Has taken to drinking and the store is suffering for a lack of vibrancy as it once had.  A.J. has given up on everything and is planning to sell a very rare book of poetry he owns to take him away from the book store to start somewhere new.

    When A J discovers that the book that was supposed to be his ticket out has been stolen, he despairs that there is nothing good left in the world.  And just as he has reaches his lowest of lows…  something incredible happens. Something; that changes everything.

     

     

    As someone who has often dreamed of owning a little book store in a remote place such as described in this book (and also when this dream began for me when I read Dance Upon The Air so many years ago…), the setting of this book is all so appealing to me.  

    The Storied life has a simple setting to it, yet drew me in to it with surprising dialogue that I liked the feel of on my tongue.  There are several passages that are quotable and I savored every one if them.

    Kudos to Author Gabrielle Zevin who wrote this delightful book in a way that has left me still thinking about it after that final page was turned. 

     

     

    Interestingly enough, there is a certain buzz around this book.  Since I mentioned I was reading it, people are curious about it and asking what I thought.  It is hard to say what I thought, while I didn’t find the story itself to be anything exception – there is something about the writing that is.  I can not quite put my finger on it but I have a feeling this is a book I could read again and come away with an even deeper appreciation of it.   ~  Sheila

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