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review 2017-04-28 00:35
A Good Yarn
A Good Yarn - Debbie Macomber

I just finished listening to the audiobook for this today. I'm loving Hoopla digital.  Up until last weekend, I rarely left my house.  I ordered books on amazon.com or from paperbackswap.com.  My books showed up in the mailbox and one of my sons would bring them to me and even open the box for me.  I spend a lot of days in bed in too much pain to move around much.  I send out my used books using paperbackswap's printable postage so I don't have to go to the post office. I just print the wrapper, wrap it up well and stick it in the mailbox.  In the wintertime, my boys take the books out to the mailbox for me.  If you've never heard of paperbackswap, it is a great website for swapping used books.  When someone requests one of my books I wrap it up like I mentioned above, paying media mail postage, and then I get a credit that I can use to request a book I want. I don't have to pay anything other than the credit to request a book.  

 

Anyway, last weekend I was feeling a bit better and wanted to go out for lunch with my husband. He was surprised.  After that, we went to the library and renewed our library cards. I haven't used mine for years. My husband's card was so old he had to get a new card but I just needed to update and get a sticker for mine.  When I got home that day a friend online mentioned Hoopla digital and I downloaded the app.   I've now listened to 2 audiobooks and it was nice to be able to just rest in bed when I wasn't feeling well and just listen.  

 

A Good Yarn

 

 

Linda Emond does a wonderful job reading.  Her voice is easy to understand and easy to listen to.  This is a heartwarming story of Lydia's second year running her knitting shop, A Good Yarn. She decides to have another knitting class, this time teaching how to make socks using two circular needles. When I read this book the first time I also made the sock pattern from the front of the book which has instructions for the 5 needle method also. It is neat when you understand exactly what they are talking about when they are at the knitting class. When they were struggling I understood.

In this story, the characters are all dealing with their own struggles. Elise, a retired school librarian, invested in a new home only to learn the contractor filed for bankruptcy. Now she is wrapped up in a class action suit and she had to move in with her daughter. Bethanne woke up on Valentine's Day to her husband asking for a divorce and now has to find a job so she can help support her 2 teenaged children. Courtney, a young girl whose mother died in a car accident, has to move to Seattle and live with her grandmother for her senior year. She is overweight and is feeling so sad and alone. She misses her family and her friends in Chicago. Lydia and her sister also have their own issues to work through but they are there for each other. Lydia never thought she would be so close to her sister. She also has the 3 ladies from her first knitting class that has become great friends. Together, these women all help to support each other through their difficult times and grow closer in the process.

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review 2017-02-12 19:35
A beautifully written novel about loss, meaning and relationships, with its heart in the right place.
The Beauty of the Fall - Rich Marcello

I received an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team.

This beautifully written novel touches on many subjects that are important at different levels: some, like loss (be it the death of a child, a divorce, the loss of not only a job but also a life-project) can be felt (and there are heart-wrenching moments in the novel) understood and managed at a very personal level, others, like the role of communications technology (who must control it? Should it remain neutral or become involved in the big issues? Should it ally itself with governments or be creatively independent?) or domestic and gender-related violence, although no doubt having a personal component, also seem to require global solutions.  This ambitious novel tries to give answers to many of these questions and it does so through a first person narrative interspersed with poetry.

The novel is narrated by Dan Underlight, whom we meet at a particularly difficult time in his life. His son died a couple of years earlier and he feels guilty about it (we learn the details quite late in the novel), he is divorced, and now, the technology company he helped to create, and by extension his business partner and the woman he’d been closer to than almost anybody else for many years, fires him. His job, the only thing that had kept him going, is taken away from him. He has no financial worries. He has a good severance pay, a huge house, two cars, but his life is empty. Through the novel, Dan, who still sees his son, has conversations with him and wants to start a project in his memory, meets many people. Most of them are enablers. He has known Willow, a woman who works helping women victims of domestic violence, and herself a survivor (although she doesn’t talk much about it, at least with Dan) for some time and eventually, their friendship turns into a romantic relationship for a while. He has also been attending therapy with Nessa, a very special therapist (as a psychiatrist I was very curious about her techniques, but working in the NHS in the UK I must admit I’d never even heard of a Buddha board) since his son’s death, and during his peculiar pilgrimage, he gets ideas, encouragement, and a few brushes with reality too.

Much of the rest of the novel is taken up by Dan’s creation of a new company, based on his idea that if people could converse about important subjects and all these conversations could be combined, they would reach agreements and solve important problems. As conversations and true communication in real life amount to more than just verbal exchanges, there are technical problems to be solved, funding, etc. I found this part of the novel engaging at a different level and not having much knowledge on the subject didn’t detract from my interest, although I found it highly idealistic and utopian (not so much the technical part of it, but the faith in the capacity of people to reach consensual agreements and for those to be later enforced), and I also enjoyed the underhand dealings of the woman who had been his friend but seemed somehow to have become his enemy. (I wasn’t sure that her character came across as consistent, but due to the subjective nature of the narration, this might have more to do with Dan’s point of view than with Olivia herself).

Dan makes mistakes and does things that morally don’t fit in with the code he creates for his company, or with the ideals he tries to live by (he is human, after all) and things unravel somewhat as life has a few more surprises for him, but, without wanting to offer any spoilers, let’s say that there are many lessons he has learned along the way.

As I said before, the language is beautiful, and the poems, most of which are supposedly written by Willow, provide also breathing space and moments to stop, think and savour both the action and the writing style.

First of all, let me confess I was very taken by this novel and I couldn’t stop reading it and even debating the points with myself (I live alone, so, that was the best I could do). I also was touched by both the emotions expressed and the language used. As a sensorial reading experience, it’s wonderful.

Now, if I had to put on my analysing cap, and after reading some of the reviews on Goodreads, I thought I should try and summarise the issues some readers have with the novel.

The themes touched are important and most people will feel able to relate to some if not all of them. Regarding the characters and their lifestyle, those might be very far from the usual experience of a lot of readers. Although we have a handful of characters who are not big cheeses in technology companies, those only play a minor part in the book. The rapid expansion of the technology and how it is used in the book is a best case scenario and might give readers some pause. Personally, I could imagine how big companies could save money using such technology, but charitable organisations, schools or libraries, unless very well-funded, in the current financial times when official funding has become very meagre, would have problems being able to afford it all, and that only in theoretically rich countries. (The issue of world expansion is referred to early on in the project but they decide to limit their ambitions for the time being).

Also, the fact that issues to be discussed and championed were decided by a few enlightened individuals (although there is some debate about the matter) could raise issues of paternalism and hint at a view of the world extremely western-centred (something again hinted at in the novel). Evidently, this is a novel and not a socio-political treatise and its emphasis on changing the US laws to enforce legislation protecting equality, women’s rights and defending women against violence brings those matters the attention and focus that’s well-deserved.

For me, the novel, where everything that happens and every character that appears is there to either assist, hinder, or inspire Dan (it is a subjective narrative and one where the main character is desperately searching for meaning) works as a fable or perhaps better a parable, where the feelings and the teachings are more important than the minute details or how we get there. It is not meant to be taken as an instructions manual but it will be inspirational to many who read it.

In summary, although some readers might find it overly didactic (at times it seems to over-elaborate the point and a word to the wise…) and might miss more variety and diversity in the characters, it is a beautifully written book that will make people think and induce debate.  This is not a book I’d recommend to readers that like a lot of action and complex plots, but to those who enjoy a personal journey that will ring true with many. It is a touching and engaging read to be savoured by those who enjoy books that challenging our opinions and ideas.

 

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review 2017-01-17 09:26
A gentle story about families, with no scandals, major shocks, histrionics or extremes
All I Ever Wanted - Lucy Dillon,Hodder & Stoughton

Thanks to NetGalley and to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel tells the story of a family, as unique as all families, and it starts seemingly at a point of crisis. What is supposed to be a fun trip to London for the kids, just ahead of Christmas somehow marks the beginning of the end for of Caitlin and Patrick’s marriage. In the aftermath of the separation between them, Patrick’s sister, Eva, who was widowed a couple of years ago, ends up becoming roped into the situation and making interesting discoveries about herself.

The story is told in the third person, mostly from the alternating points of view of Caitlin and Eva, although there are a couple of fragments from the point of view of little Nancy. This is a book dominated by the female perspective, although it is not chick-lit. Each character is very distinctive and the reader gets to share in their point of view, although the alternating voices help to give more perspective to the story and to create a fuller understanding and a richer picture. Whilst at times we might identify completely with the characters and share in their thoughts and feelings, they are not presented as perfect or always right. In fact, it is easy to feel annoyed and frustrated at times with some of the decisions they take, and we start questioning our alliances. But, as is the case with real human beings, nobody is perfect, and in this case, the story helps us understand their circumstances, why they behave as they do. By the end, we conclude that they all love each other, sometimes even if they are not aware of it, but they needed to work through their difficulties communicating and to get rid of the secrets they kept from each other.

The novel offers us two very different female protagonists, Caitlin, reckless, impulsive, disorganised, with a big heart, a fierce mother who’d do anything to protect her cubs, but less than perfect, and aware of her weak points, and Eva, a far more rational, business-like and determined woman. Both of them thought they’d found the perfect husband but they discover things aren’t quite as they think. As mentioned, we might feel closer to one or the other, but they both come through the pages as real people. We share their fears, hopes, puzzlement, even if at times we might not agree with what they do. The two children, Joel and Nancy are beautifully depicted, with their very different temperaments, and they also function well as stand-ins for children in similar situations, trying their hardest to cope and make sense of what’s going on around them. In a way, Nancy and her predicament, when she stops talking, is an embodiment of the difficulties between the adults, who are also keeping secrets and are unable to communicate effectively their feelings, even if they are still talking. The men in the story, although only seen through the perspective of the women, are neither knights in shining armour (no matter how hard they try), nor villains, but good people trying their best to be worthy of their partners and their families. And if you love pets, the two pugs, Bumble and Bee will melt your hearts, with their individual personalities, their ways of communicating and providing a safe haven to humans, and their winning ways.

This is a touching novel that makes us think about families (standard and alternative), about the impact of expectations and childhood experiences on our adult behaviour, and about the risks of trying to impose impossible standards on others. We need to remain true to ourselves to be the best for our families. The author invites us to become members of this extended family and we feel a bit orphaned at the end. I recommend it to anybody who loves . A feel-good story with the heart in the right place.

 

 

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review 2016-10-17 02:13
The Great Divorce - C.S. Lewis

The allegory in it went over my head more often than in some of his other works, but it was interesting. Another one I'll have to try again with some kind of companion.

 

*Review written on February 18, 2016.*

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review 2016-04-20 22:33
Deliberate
Deliberate - Dixie Burns

Title: Deliberate
Author: Dixie Burns
Publisher: Under the Live Oak
Reviewed By: Arlena Dean
Rating: Five
Review:

"Deliberate" by Dixie Burns

My Thoughts....

What a life Leigh Blackburn had and it definitely was not a easy one! Who would have thought that after she had been called to serve on a jury that her eyes would be opened about her life..with her husband and even her mother. But one thing that is for sure Leigh knew that she had to get it all together not only for herself but for her son Ben. This was not a happy read... definitely a tough one, however, there were a lots of lessons to be learned from this well written story that will leave you thinking about long after the read. What will happen when Leigh comes to believe it is time for a change?

Be ready for lots of drama and suspense as Leigh deals with being summoned for jury duty, her husband and mother. What will happen as Leigh decides to take charge and move on with her life?
I did enjoy some of the witty humours time while she was on jury duty[in the courtroom], with her son and her neighbor and four dogs. This was quite a interesting read of how this main character [Leigh] was able to 'deliberate her own life while deliberating the fate of an accused person.' If you are looking for a poignant and touching story the reader will have one here..for "Deliberate" will bring it all to you in one relatable story.

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