Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘relationship stories’

Becoming: A Chronicle of Metamorphosis

By Mark Lichterman

Metropolis Ink (June 15, 2008)  

Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Becoming-Mark-Lichterman/dp/0646492160

“Do you remember your radio and “Captain Midnight,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Junior Miss” and “Let’s Pretend”? The first time you inhaled a cigarette? Your first swallow of hard liquor? The thrill of the first exploration of the body of your boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife… your own body? Your first orgasm? Remember when as a people we loved America, and showed it? Then you might be ready for a nostalgic, funny, romantic, sexually frustrating novel. A novel that may remind many of us of ourselves, “way back then,” when God’s most mysterious creation was the opposite sex. A novel about life and the often funny, sometimes sad, day-to-day things that stir the memories of our lives…”

The above is a quote from the blurb for Mark Lichterman’s Becoming and I put it there because it so aptly describes the novel. When I decided to review this book, I was worried because number one, I rarely have time to sit down and read a book as long as this one and two, because I stupidly felt I’d never be able to connect with anything in it. I’m female, Christian, grew up in the country, and the time period was before my time. I was wrong, wrong, wrong! The subject matter is timeless, the characters so genuine they jump from the pages and into your heart, and being the mother of boys—I could even relate to the male point of view.

The story begins in 1939 on Chicago’s eastside and follows five-year-old Mitchie for the next seventeen years of his life. A true coming of age story told in graphic detail. And the humor—did I mention the humor? I found myself laughing out loud many times. I especially loved when the humor came at a time when it was totally unexpected, the way it is in ‘real life’. I can’t say all I’d like to say about the book because it needs to be experienced first hand and I don’t want to spoil that experience for the reader by saying too much.

Mr. Lichterman is a talented storyteller with a beautifully unique writing style and strong voice. His characters are delightfully flawed, giving them an unsurpassed charm and authentic quality. Becoming transcends all gender, ethnic, and geographical backgrounds, so no matter where you’re coming from, if you love truly great coming of age stories, give this one a try.

My one complaint is I felt the book ended too soon. Yes, even at 736 pages, I was sad when reading that last page and know these characters will be with me for a long time.

–Willow

       

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

bunco-babes-tell-allBunco Babes Tell All

Maria Geraci

Penguin/Berkley – May 2009

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Bunco-Babes-Tell-Maria-Geraci/dp/0425227588/

Author Site: http://www.MariaGeraci.com

 

Okay, I have to confess to never having heard of Bunco until I received Maria Geraci’s Bunco Babes Tell All for review. What fun! You don’t have to know the game to enjoy this delightful story filled with humor, warmth, hot romance, and the loyalty of long time friendships.The Babes of Whispering Bay, Florida have set aside every Thursday night for Bunco. A night when they can gather to roll the dice, eat great food, drink signature drinks, and share secrets—a night to let it all hang out and totally de-stress. Because ‘what happens at Bunco, stays at Bunco’.

Real estate broker Kitty Burke is living in her grandmother’s vintage home with the intention of making repairs before putting it on the market, as her mother wants. But Kitty’s secret wish is to buy the home for herself. Unfortunately, although the most successful broker in the area, Kitty has never managed her spending and the repairs are straining her financial resources. Add that to the slow market and she fears she’ll never have the money to make the down payment.

Of the twelve babes, only Kitty is still unmarried and at thirty-five she feels it’s time to let go of her idea of the perfect man. Eighteen years earlier Kitty fell in love with Kevin Costner’s character from Bull Durham, and she’s never met a man in reality who can measure up to that image. Then she meets Steve and that first meeting is anything but perfect. No woman wants to meet what may be the sexiest man ever while her panties are around her ankles and she’s squatting in the bushes to relieve herself. Once Kitty has overcome her embarrassment at being caught in such humiliating circumstances, she decides to do something totally out of character. She goes after substitute plumber, Steve, for a one-night stand.

With three failed marriages behind him and between jobs, Steve isn’t exactly great husband material, but then Kitty isn’t planning a wedding, she only wants great sex. But there’s a lot more to Steve than Kitty ever planned on. Will she be able to let go of her preconceived notions of the perfect man and grab hold of true love?

Ms. Geraci paints a fascinating portrait of small town life and its inhabitants in Bunco Babes Tell All. The characters are well drawn. Kitty’s best friends, Pilar and Shea, are everything you’d ever want your friends to be, even if they are a little too honest and drive you crazy at times. There’s enough intrigue surrounding our hero, Steve, to keep you turning the pages. The town of Whispering Bay is in an uproar over new beachfront condominium plans from an out of town developer and stuck in the middle is Kitty. Lovely, charming and real, I loved her from page one. This story is at time hilarious and at others, heartwarming and tender. The love scenes are just hot enough and tastefully done by the author.

Bunco Babes Tell All is a fast, lighthearted, feel good read perfect for busy readers. I truly enjoyed my time with the Babes and heartily recommend it to all. As a bonus, in the back of the book are tips for playing Bunco, setting up Bunco clubs, recipes, and an excerpt from Maria Geraci’s Bunco Babes Gone Wild. Enjoy!

 –Willow

fiveshoebanner4

Read Full Post »

sentence-of-marriageSentence of Marriage

By Shayne Parkinson

Genre: Historical Fiction

Original Publication Date: 2006

Book I in the three-volume saga, Promises to Keep

Buy Link: http://www.lulu.com/content/472164

I’m a very lucky girl in regards to the books I’ve been getting for review. They just keep getting better and better. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson is no exception. It’s book one in a three-volume set titled Promises to Keep and one of the best historical novels I’ve had the pleasure to read in years.

New Zealand farm life in the 1880’s is hard and twelve-year-old Amy dreams of a life beyond the boundaries of her small community. Although snug in the warmth of her family’s love, Amy wants to be a teacher and experience the excitement of living in a city far from the isolated valley she calls home.

When losing her mother shortly after her birth, Amy and her older brothers are raised by an adoring father and strict, but loving Granny. Six months after Granny’s death, Amy is adjusting well to managing their home alone. When her father returns from a business trip with a new wife in tow, Amy and her brothers are shocked, but determined to make the best of it. Unfortunately Susannah finds farm life less than appealing and generally makes life miserable for all, especially Amy. Two and a half years later, Susannah’s younger brother comes to stay for the summer and Amy makes a choice that will change her life forever.

Although some of the plot is predictable in Sentence of Marriage, this in no way diminished the impact the story had on me because of the fresh way it was presented. The characters come alive on the page and with the breathtaking imagery drawn by Parkinson, the cinematic effect is undeniable. I felt as though I were watching the events unfold on a large movie screen. The author has a special gift for using specific words and phrases to bring the period and location into reality without it being overdone. The fact that I sat up reading until three-thirty in the morning, knowing I had to get up before six, speaks for how riveting the story is. I found it impossible to put down.

Not many people are totally good or totally evil and the author offers a superb mix of both good and evil characters with both good and bad traits existing in both. I was fascinated by Amy’s father, Jack, and enjoyed watching as different facets of his personality emerge. But one of the best characterizations I’ve ever seen is in Ms. Parkinson’s portrayal of Susannah—a selfish, conniving, self absorbed woman who seems, at times, to be on the verge of madness. Yet the author wisely gives the reader small glimpses of Susannah’s humanity, making her even more frighteningly real.

Negatives?? I screamed when I realized I’d read the last page. I wanted more, more, more, and I wanted it very badly. That’ s not a true negative though, is it? I have a feeling the story is about to take a decidedly even darker path, but I’m not worried about that. Sentence of Marriage has a darker storyline, but the warmth, humor, love and affection emanating from the characters make it both appealing and captivating. I’ll be buying a download of Book II in the Promises to Keep saga later this week and I heartily recommend this series to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and even those who don’t usually.

–Willow

golden-slipper-award

Read Full Post »

Belva-Plain-WhispersWhispers

Belva Plain

Dell, March 1994 (Mass Market Paperback)

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Whispers-Belva-Plain/dp/0440216745

 

Since I have read and enjoyed many of this author’s books in the past I was pleasantly surprised, while browsing at my favorite used bookstore, to come across a title I hadn’t seen before. Knowing without even reading the synopsis that I was going to like the book, I took it home and started reading it that same afternoon. As always, I was hooked by the opening sentence:

    ‘In dodging Robert’s hand, the furious hand aimed at her face, she fell and struck the edge of the closet’s open door instead.’

So begins WHISPERS, a gripping story of love and abuse in modern-day America.

When pretty, naive Lynn is swept off her feet by her handsome and charming boss, Robert Ferguson, at age twenty, it seems like a fairy tale come true. A rising star in a fast-growing company, the ambitious and loving Robert promises to make all of Lynn’s dreams come true. She has no reason to believe he won’t make good on those promises. However, as early as their tropical paradise honeymoon, the storybook romance is tarnished as Lynn discovers another side of Robert — a violent temper she never would have believed lurked beneath his charming exterior. Wanting to believe in his goodness and hoping for the best, she forgives his brutality and moves cautiously ahead into their future.

The years pass and the couple experiences all of the good and bad of life– the birth of children, the tragic loss of a child, friendships, success, and beneath it all, the ever present threat of Robert’s anger. Lynn tells herself the abuse is a small price to pay for all of the goodness the marriage holds, a lovely home, healthy children and the comforts of being the wife of a successful executive. Knowing she must be strong and keep the marriage intact for the sake of her children, she hides the scars, wipes away the tears, and goes on. But when her carefully concealed secret is discovered and her children begin to hear the faint whispers of gossip Lynn realizes she must look within herself and find the courage to leave.

With her classically eloquent writing style, Belva Plain paints a startling portrait of spousal abuse in corporate America and creates a realistic heroine in the character of Lynn Ferguson. So realistic that I found myself struggling along with her, almost believing with her Robert’s empty promises that things would get better. I was outraged at his cruelty, not only toward his wife, but toward shy, overweight Annie, his eleven-year-old daughter. I cried with Lynn through the bad times and cheered with her through the good. I was that wrapped up in the story.

Inspiring and evocative, WHISPERS is a story of a family’s heartbreak and redemption, and of a woman’s long journey back to herself. I recommend WHISPERS to anyone who enjoys finely crafted, resonating women’s fiction.

— Honeybee

 fourandhalfshoebanner

Read Full Post »

what-we-keepWhat We Keep

By: Elizabeth Berg

Ballantine Publishing, May 25, 1999

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/What-We-Keep-Ballantine-Readers/dp/0345423291/

I acquire books in many ways: A few are given to me as gifts, some I buy brand new, others I swap for at the used book store, occasionally I trade books with friends and many times I pick them up at yard sales. I am always on the lookout for a good read. I don’t know how I came across What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg nor do I remember how long I’ve had it sitting on my shelf. Inside the front cover is an address label for Helen B. Sawyer from the state of Vermont. I don’t know Helen and wonder when she put her label in the book. Did she take it on vacation and mistakenly leave it behind? Did she loan the book to a friend in hopes of getting it back? I will never know, but I set aside my twinge of guilt for reading her book realizing that if she thought it was worthy of a return label I should give it a try. I’m glad I did. I had never read any Elizabeth Berg books before this one, but I know I will be looking for her next time I visit a yard sale or book store.

What We Keep is a book about mothers and daughters, sisters and friends. It portrays evolving family dynamics, choices and changes. The book is mostly about a mother and her daughters, but my favorite relationship in the book is the one between the two sisters, Ginny and Sharla. Maybe it’s because I grew up sandwiched between sisters, but I always enjoy reading sister stories. In this case the relationship between the sisters comes across as very realistic. The story had some funny parts and in some sections I smiled to myself because I could see my sisters and I doing some of the very activities described by the author. The book is also sad and thought provoking. In this book the girls are having a carefree preteen summer until events align and the lazy days of a summer are interrupted by adult decisions that affect children in a life changing way. As the story unfolded I was captivated by the girl’s devotion to each other. Sure, they had their share of sibling rivalry and jealousy, but underneath it all they were fiercely devoted to each other. I love that relationship. On the surface it seems the Young’s have an ideal family but when free spirited Jasmine moves in next door, mother’s feelings of dullness and depression come to the surface.

The story flips back and forth between two perspectives. We hear from twelve year old Ginny who experiences the abandonment of her mother alternated with 47 year old Ginny who has been coaxed into flying to visit her mother, whom she hasn’t seen in 35 years. Ginny and Sharla were abandoned and betrayed together. Ginny and Sharla together travel the road to understanding and forgiveness. Both girls had given up on a relationship with their mother (Marion) years ago, but are making the trip nonetheless. It was Sharla’s idea to reconcile and Ginny only agrees to go because she suspects her sister might have cancer. Devoted as she is, she can’t let Sharla face mother alone after all these years. As Ginny’s flight wings its way west, she spends her time remembering her childhood: the time of happiness before things fell apart, the events that led to mother leaving and even her part in the prolonged estrangement. Most of the novel is told in flashbacks to childhood during the plane ride.

While reading the book I found myself sympathizing with Ginny and Sharla. I felt terribly sad that they went through their teen years without their mother. I really wanted them to reconcile with their mother early on. They desperately wanted her back at first, but she was off finding herself. As time passed they settled into a new routine and grew angry and distant. When mother felt ready to try again it was a case of not wanting the same things at the same time. I understood Marion’s plight but not her decision. I was angry with her choice but still felt compassion for her in her sorrow for her loneliness. She walked out and left her family and by the time she came back the circle had been closed and her efforts to regain a position in the family were not accepted. Of course the girls didn’t know the whole story and we eventually learn that what they thought to be true was tainted with a childlike perspective and purposeful omission of facts. In an effort to leave them one stable parent, mother took the blame for the breakup of the family. By not adding sordid details or mentioning their father’s actions the girls saw her as the sole villain. Father’s silence and her omission led the girls to place 100% of the blame at her feet. The truth comes out at the end of the story and looking back with a fresh perspective isn’t easy for the girls. Sometimes one has to look back to move ahead. The story reminds us that there are always two sides to every story and it is never too late to reconcile with a loved one.

I felt most of the characters were well developed and enjoyed getting to know them. For me the only drawback in character development in this book was father. Throughout most of the book he was just kind of there and pretty passive. We never really get a sense of his feelings, his struggles or his decisions. We learn things about him toward the end of the book ,but we don’t really know him. Since I didn’t know him or what he was thinking I could only be disappointed that he never admitted to his part in the breakup. It would have been nice to learn what he was thinking, as he sat in silence all these years. It seems cowardly of him to go to his grave content for his daughters to be alienated from their mother due to a partial truth. I may be taking it too far, but the revelation of his actions is something his adult daughters will now have to reconcile without the chance to talk to him: The hero dad they grew up with vs. the dad that played a real part in the destruction of the family. Nothing happens by itself and I think dad’s character could have been written a bit stronger and perhaps more insight given into his relationship with his wife and daughters.

Jasmine is a colorful character who adds a lot to the story. I enjoyed the addition of the teenaged character of Wayne to the story line and what it brought to the girl’s relationship. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t reenter the story, as I was hoping we would at least get to see how his life turned out. I became sad when reading how dad tried to carry both roles after mother left. His attempts at cooking, shopping and listening were hard for the girls to accept because they so desperately wanted their mother for these duties. It was easy to understand how Ginny felt when her mom wasn’t there to go school shopping or to confide in the day she got her first period. The author drew the reader in by dealing sensitively with these emotions, which I believe are felt by all daughters who lose a mother.

This book touches on many issues affecting women in their relationships with each other. It explores the role of mother, sister, wife and friend. It touches on the hidden woman behind the happy smile, the artist within and the darkness of depression.

I found What We Keep to be an interesting story from start to finish. I enjoyed Berg’s descriptions in the story. I could visualize the town and the time period as she detailed houses, stores, clothing, cars and food of the 1950’s. It is a short book that could easily be read in one or two sittings. When I was about three quarters of the way finished, I thought I knew just how it would end. I was pleased to see that it was not as predictable as I thought. Although not a new release I think this would be an enjoyable summer novel for those who have not yet read it.

–Pearl

fourshoebanner

Read Full Post »

jewelJewel

by Bret Lott

Washington Square Press (c) 1991

Buy Link 1999 edition: http://www.amazon.com/Jewel-Oprahs-Book-Club-Bret/dp/0671038184

 A couple of weeks ago our town had its annual village-wide rummage sales. With the promise of one man’s junk becoming this gal’s treasure, I emptied out my piggy bank and set off for a day of “sale-ing.” My first few stops yielded the usual rummage sale fare: fishing poles, pots with missing handles, mountains of baby clothes. Nothing much of interest. Persevering, I headed on down the road, and at my fifth stop, struck pay dirt. At the bottom of a table piled with paperback books I discovered Bret Lott’s JEWEL, a novel whose title says it all.

The story opens as thirty-nine year old Jewel Hillburn and her husband, Leston, are expecting their sixth child. Living in the backwoods of Mississippi with five healthy children in a house Leston built with his own hands, the Hillburn’s lead a rich, but simple life. As both the pregnancy and the story line progress, the reader is introduced to a cast of colorful characters, as well as given glimpses into Jewel’s past, lending a deeper understanding of who this simple but remarkable woman is, and who she was. I couldn’t help falling in love with this family as it eagerly awaited its newest member. When, after twenty-some grueling hours of labor, baby Brenda Kay is born, little does Jewel know her well ordered life is about to turn upside down. When she is five months old Brenda Kay is diagnosed with Down Syndrome and Jewel begins a lifelong journey in which her baby daughter will be her heaviest cross, her greatest blessing.

I cannot stress enough how beautiful this story is. JEWEL is the story of a family’s sacrifices, its joy, and its struggles. But mostly, it is the story of a mother’s all consuming love. Bret Lott’s writing style is poetic, each word and sentence perfectly placed. More than a story, JEWEL is like a symphony of love, one you will want to hear again and again. Told from a country woman’s viewpoint, the story imparts truths that are simple, and at the same time, utterly profound. To say this story touched me deeply would not begin to cover it. This book is a lifetime keeper, a masterpiece created by a master craftsman. I happened on this treasure by accident, but I definitely won’t leave it to a chance rummage sale to discover more works by this amazing author.

— Honeybee

golden-slipper-award

Read Full Post »

simplewishesSimple Wishes

By Lisa Dale

Hachette Book Group

January, 2009

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Simple-Wishes-Lisa-Dale/dp/0446406899 

 

 

This lovely story is a story of relationships: relationships between mothers and daughters, between lovers, and between friends.

 

When she leaves her lonely childhood in rural Pennsylvania at age seventeen for the big-city lights of New York, Adele Matin swears it is never to return. But when a foolish mistake causes her life to come crashing down around her at age thirty, Adele finds herself with no option except the little cottage on Notch Lane that was left to her in her mother’s will. Broken in spirit, she sees the cottage as a temporary prison, a place to hide out and lick her wounds until she can regroup and resume her life in the city. What Adele isn’t counting on is the depth of feelings the cottage evokes in her, her instant attraction to her reclusive neighbor, Jay, or the bond of friendship she quickly forms with Beatrice, the older and wiser Korean woman who spends her weekends at the Lucky Moon, the cottage just down the lane.

 

Lisa Dale has done a phenomenal job of developing the characters within this story. Entering their worlds, I quickly got the sense of real people with real problems and very real personalities. I was immediately drawn to Notch Lane, a charming community snuggled against the breathtaking beauty of the Pennsylvania mountains. The story is definitely character-driven. The external plot moves at a deceptively leisurely pace, while at the same time, what is happening inside Adele is so gripping I found myself turning the pages as fast as I could to see how things would turn out for her as she struggled to resolve the hurts of her childhood and move on to discover the true meaning of friendship and love.

 

Simple Wishes is an emotional and romantic read that I recommend to anyone who likes a good, relationship story.

 

fourshoebanner6 

— Honeybee     

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »