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review 2018-06-14 09:23
Ecstasy
Ecstasy: A Novel of Alma Mahler - Mary Sharratt

by Mary Sharratt

 

Near the turn of the 19th century, Alma Schindler yearns to make her mark as a composer. Female composers are unknown at the time, though new possibilities for women are opening up. She marries Gustav Mahler, who insists she give up her music as a condition of their marriage.

 

I liked the writing voice on this one right away. Alma had such enthusiasm that I wanted to see her achieve her dream from the start. The story takes us through her life as a young girl, her first love and her relationship with her various family members, but especially with her music.

 

It's not all upbeat though. Alma sacrifices a lot for her marriage and it's inevitable that she will question her decisions as time goes on. Mahler himself is a challenge to deal with and it was an era when women were expected to suppress their own needs and be supportive of a husband. Alma is a naturally passionate and creative person and this state of affairs can only clash with her natural inclinations.

 

I enjoyed reading this, despite the unhappy parts. The narrative kept my attention, even if at times I wanted to shake Alma and tell her she was making some bad decisions.

 

The historical note at the end was as interesting as the story itself. Alma was a woman ahead of her time, though her unfaithfulness in her marriages would bring a lot of criticism. She weathered some difficult times and gave her love to some of the top composers of her time. Some of her own compositions can be found on YouTube and I couldn't resist having a listen after reading this story. I found her 5 Lieder for voice and piano pretty amazing and can only imagine that if her music had been supported earlier in her life that she might have been recognised in history as one of the great composers herself, rather than just a shadow of her husband's accomplishments.

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review 2018-06-08 03:26
My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan
My Purple Scented Novel - Ian McEwan

A special thank you to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

McEwan pens a wonderful short story about the perfect literary crime to celebrate his 70th birthday!

Written as a confession from Parker Sparrow about his friendship and betrayal of celebrated novelist, Jocelyn Tarbet, this short is riveting from the first word. He is so clever, McEwan actually makes you root for the narrator even though he has plagiarized his best friend. Gah! So brilliant.

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review 2018-06-04 20:47
Sin Walks into the Desert by Matt Ingwalson
Sin Walks Into The Desert - Matt Ingwalson

Sin Walks into the Desert by Matt Ingwalson, (Sin & Nicki Book 1) is an unusual story. Sin is off into the desert to find his mentor, el Viejo who is missing. Sin received the news from Catrina, aka la Calavera, who is an ex-federal agent living in a retirement home near the border. I gave it five stars.

 

El Viejo had saved Sin's life, when he was a 12-year-old kid. Even though diabetes and arthritis have crippled him, el Viejo had been bad and brave.

 

When Sin met Petr, la Calavera's husband he was thin enough to look like an aspen. He told el Viejo: "'Thought you said he was stone cold Viking killer.' 'No, I said Petr was Swedish intelligence, Sin. Not everyone who works in MLE pulls triggers for a living. I believe he analyzed satellite imagery.'

 

'Whatever,' Sin said, because that was what he always said when he wasn't saying nothing."

 

Sin further describes Petr: "Petr reached one hand out past her shoulders. His fist had thick blue veins tunneling all across it, as brightly colored, in their own way as the tattoos on Sin's hands."

 

Sin describes when the first met la Calavera: "If she didn't have the plastic tube pumping little bursts of oxygen into her nose, she would've been about the most beautiful woman Sin'd ever seen....She was an old woman and her skin showed it, but her eyes were so bright and hard that they sparkled like stars magically visible in daytime skies."

 

El Viejo is talking to La Calavera and Sin as he brought their dinner: "'We'd best dig in. The sun goes down quickly when you're in a valley,' he said. La Calavera nodded, 'But the stars, they will shine so bright.'"

 

Regret Things is a new novel about Nicki and Sin that I look forward to reading.

 

This is Book 1 in a series of three books. I received a free kindle copy of Sin Walks Into the Desert by Matt Ingwalson in an Amazon promotion. That did not change my opinion for this review.

 

Link to purchase: https://www.amazon.com/Walks-Into-Desert-Nicki-Book-ebook/dp/B00K3E3YJC

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review 2018-06-03 17:24
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
The Favorite Sister - Jessica Knoll

A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.   

Five strong, successful women make up the Goal Diggers reality show cast set in New York City. The producers will get more than they bargain for this season when one of the women is murdered.

Brett is the fan favourite. She is only 27 and has launched a highly successful spin studio. That, coupled with her recent engagement, has only increased her popularity and made her the envy of her cast since they are all vying for the spotlight.

Kelly is Brett's older sister, business partner, and the newest cast member. The veterans of the show think she's a cling-on not understanding that growing up, it was Kelly who was the favourite, not Brett.

Stephanie is the oldest on the show, and the first black woman. She is a published author of erotic novels, but her success has come from her memoir in which she has taken some liberties and is afraid of being found out. Stephanie is married to an attractive, non-working actor with a wandering eye. Sounds like the perfect storyline for a reality show, but this season, the focus is on the rift between Stephanie and her former best friend, Brett.

Lauren a successful start-up story whose out-of-control drinking has her poised for a recovery storyline.

Finally Jen, rich and famous from her vegan food line is actually not vegan, and is incredibly ruthless behind the scenes. I pictured her to be like Gwyneth Paltrow chowing down on burgers.  

Can I tell you how riveting this was? Knoll has an incredible knack for writing conversation which is why the premise worked so well—we are also a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and social media, and this story plays right into that hand.

There are multiple characters introduced in the beginning and I had to keep referring back to the character synopsis to keep them all straight and I really hope that this is included in the published book. Certainly not a criticism, but I wanted to mention it because I found it useful. Knoll develops intriguing and complex characters with several layers and once you get into the story, you easily can tell who is speaking and whose point of view it is.  

The title of the book is clever—it speaks to the obvious sisters in the story as well as a nod to the sisterhood of women. It is these relationship dynamics that are present and integral to the narrative.  Knoll's view of the sister/sisterhood is multi-faceted and downright ruthless at times. But she's not wrong. Women are all about coming together and supporting one another however, the flip side is the incredible hypocrisy as women will turn on each other on a dime! Women have to be younger than their male counterparts, thinner, smarter, and so on and unfortunately, we are our worst critics both to ourselves and each other.  Knoll explores all of this through the lens of a reality show. I thought this was a fantastic read.  

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review 2018-06-03 17:21
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The ... The Next Person You Meet in Heaven: The Sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven - Mitch Albom

A special thank you to Edelweiss and Harper for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Mitch Albom has done it again.  In this delightful sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we once again meet up with Eddie only this time he is reunited with Annie, the little girl he saved.  This is a story of how we are connected in life and loss.

In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, we meet Eddie, a war veteran that worked at an amusement park as a mechanic.  Eddie died a hero when he saves Annie's life.  Forever scared emotionally and physically (Annie's hand was surgically reattached), Annie's life is forever changed when she endures a life of bullying even though Annie cannot remember what happened to her.  She further struggles when her guilt ridden mother suddenly uproots them and moves away.

Finally finding happiness, as an adult, Annie reconnects with her childhood love Paulo.  The novel opens with the two of them marrying.  Unfortunately their wedding day ends in terrible tragedy and Annie finds herself on her own journey to discover her five people that will show her how her life mattered—one of those people is Eddie.

I can't believe it has been fifteen years since The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published. Fans of the book have always wondered what ever became of Eddie and Annie—this is a testament to an inspiring story when it stays with readers and keeps them wondering.  

In true Albom style, this book is full of life lessons and grace.  Whether you are a spiritual person or not, this book will touch you in some way and is a gift.  The lesson that I took away was that every ending is also a beginning, sometimes we are simply just unwilling to see it as such.

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