On the Sickle’s Edge

On the Sickle's Edge

Summary:

A sweeping masterwork of love and loss, secrets and survival, “On the Sickle's Edge” is told through the voices of three characters who lay bare their family’s saga: the endearing, scrappy South-African born Lena, transported to Latvia and later trapped in the USSR; her granddaughter Darya, a true Communist whose growing disillusionment with Soviet ideology places her family at mortal risk; and Steven, a painter from Boston who inadvertently stumbles into the tangled web of his family’s past. Against the roiling backdrop of twentieth-century Russia and Eastern Europe, the novel delivers equal parts historical drama, political thriller and poignant love story. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of TLC Book Tours and I voluntarily chose to write a review

Review:

This was a fantastic book that had a fairly slow start.  The book follows the history of three main characters: Lena (great-grandmother), Darya (grand-daughter) and Steven (a missing cousin).  The build-up is a little more of a meandering story giving the history of the each individual characters within the context of the historical changes in the USSR.  It is fascinating to see how things unfold, the decisions that people are forced to make and then how the political climate drove the decisions for survival.

As someone who doesn’t know very much about the internal workings of Russia, I found this extremely interesting both within the story and historically.  It is hefty, so it’s a commitment, but  I believe it is worth the time to become invested with the characters.

Warning: Contains sexual content and violence.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone with interest in history and would enjoy a family sweeping multiple generations.

Where’d You Go Bernadette?

Where'd You Go Bernadette?

Summary:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Please note: I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher and I voluntarily chose to write a review

Review:

Now this is definitely a book I plan to read again in the future.  It had me cracking up, I loved the characters and ultimately I found the method of the story telling fantastic.  The best part about the approach was that we got to know different characters in different ways, which created some distinct impressions that were both proven and disproven as the story unfolds.

The best part was seeing how Bee handled the outside world’s picture of Bernadette and refusing to let it corrupt their relationship.  I could have easily seen this book going in many other directions, but ultimately the way it unfolded was perfect.  The added bonus of having the story including the context of Antarctica was an absolutely delight to me.  It’s on the list of places I will definitely be trying to go!

Warning: Contains mild violence.

Rating: 5 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone looking for a laugh, a book told in an interesting format or just something to change the pace.

Manga Classics: Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Summary:

Great Expectations has it all: romance, mystery, comedy, and unforgettable characters woven through a gripping rags-to-riches tale. Naive Pip, creepy Miss Haversham, beautifully cold Estella, terrifying Abel Magwitch, and the rest of Dicken’s fantastic cast are perfectly envisioned in this new adaptation in this 300-plus page volume featuring artwork by artist Nokman Poon. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

Review:

This was my first reading of “Great Expectations” so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but eager to give it a shot through a graphic novel approach.  Perhaps because I was not previously familiar with the story, I found it quite odd.  There are some very odd choices that the characters make and frankly didn’t like Pip for pretty much the whole story.  He didn’t have appreciate what he had been given and the squandered it away.

The artwork I found fantastic and was a great description of the story.  I am eager to try other books in the same format.  This also would be a fantastic way for younger readers to have their first introduction to the overall story before giving the full novel as shot.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Anyone who enjoys graphic novels and classic novels.

The Baker’s Secret

The Baker's Secret

Summary:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Hummingbird and The Curiosity comes a dazzling novel of World War II—a shimmering tale of courage, determination, optimism, and the resilience of the human spirit, set in a small Normandy village on the eve of D-Day

On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country. 

Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.

But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers. 

But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.  (Summary and cover courtesy of goodreads.com)

I received a free copy of this book and chose to write a review on my own volition courtesy of Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours.

Review:

This book takes places during WWII portraying the day-to-day life of the occupied forces.  I absolutely love Emma’s practical down-to-Earth view as she tries to make it day by day.  One of the things that has been a struggle about other historical novels are that they’re always about the heros.  In this case, Emma doesn’t want to be involved and is somewhat of a begrudging hero.  She does what she thinks she must, one step at a time.

The book surprised me with twists and turns.  Just when I thought I had a sense of where things were going, things changed again.  I’m not sure the book has a traditional plot line, yet I found the read highly enjoyable and would certainly recommend it.

Warning: Contains repeated violence and scenes of war.

Rating: 4 stars!

Who should read it? Fans of historical novels and unlikely stories.