5 star reviews, activism, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

If You Want to Make God Laugh by Bianca Marais

We have been having kind of a crappy week around here, so last night, after dinner, my daughters ran to Whole Foods for some Abe’s Vegan Blackout Cupcakes and Cashewmilk ice cream. Because sometimes you just need to change the energy, do you know what I mean? You need something good to happen to chase away the bad.⁣

When I originally heard this book, If You Want to Make God Laugh, was about apartheid, I thought it would be upsetting and depressing and I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. But after so many people raved about it, I decided to try it and I’m so glad I did! The writing is like putting on a comfy sweater, it envelops you and cocoons you and you never want to stop reading this story of two estranged white sisters and a young poor Zulu girl in South Africa in 1994, just as Nelson Mandela wins the election and apartheid ends. Politics play a small role in the book, it’s mostly about friendship, caring for those you love and being true to yourself. There is an abandoned baby. The AIDS epidemic touches the lives of the characters in a beautiful and human way. There are power play politics. I learned more about canned trophy hunting (which is something I’d already been vehemently opposed to). This book is anything but depressing, this book makes you glad to be alive. It makes you remember the importance of family. It makes you remember that even with the bad in the world, there is still good.⁣

4.5 star reviews, activism, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

4.5/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.

Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.

One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.

My Review:

Jodi Picoult is one of my go-to authors.  I love how she takes relevant, timely and often controversial issues and shows them from the perspectives of many people on different sides of the issue.

A Spark of Light is about abortion and a woman’s right to choose.

Both the gunman and the hostage negotiator are struggling with their teenage daughters growing up.  Both of their daughters have been to the clinic.  We don’t know Hugh, the hostage negotiator’s position on abortion, but we know that when his college girlfriend got pregnant, she had the baby and derailed his dreams of becoming an astronaut and we know he wants to save his daughter.

Jodi Picoult allows us to go inside the mind of an abortion activist who has gone undercover in the clinic on the day the hostages are taken to try to get some incriminating information about the clinic.  We also go inside the mind of a woman who was raised in foster care and is struggling to put herself through college when she gets pregnant.  And we get inside the head of the nurse, who is pregnant herself and was raised in poverty but now has a devoted boyfriend from a different background and she lacks the confidence to believe he could love her.  We get to see the pain that each of these women is in as they come to grips with their situation.

We also get to understand the position of the doctor, who is a Christian, but whose mother died having an illegal abortion.  I found his perspective to be the most interesting and the most different and things that I had never thought of before.  At the end of the book, he takes one of the pro-life activists out for breakfast and they have a talk and he explains his position.

I think this is an important book.  It’s easy to be on the side we are on, it’s more difficult to understand someone else’s perspective but we need to be able to do that.  So often I feel that our country is becoming more and more divided.  Twenty-four hour news and the de-personalization of social media and I find myself angry with people that I have been friends with for thirty years because they don’t understand my side of things or because they don’t agree with me.  Politics and religion were always two things we didn’t talk about in polite company, yet now we seem to feel free to put those things on social media and it is dividing us more and more.  I am guilty of it myself.  I feel strongly about things and I want my voice heard.  I think it’s ok to use social media as a political platform, as long as you are open to the perspectives of other people.  That is what I love about Jodi Picoult’s books, she makes it easy to understand the perspectives of other people.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Random House Ballantine for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

 

Book reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

3/5 stars – a Perfect Beach Read

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From the Publisher:

A trio of college friends who reunite aboard a cruise ship experience an unforgettable vacation in this compelling novel from the author of The Summer of Good Intentions,which was hailed as “everything a summer read should be” by Elin Hilderbrand.

Three college roommates are celebrating a twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Bermuda. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to lounging by the pool, sipping sunset cocktails, and reminiscing. Abby, the mother hen of the group, will be celebrating her wedding anniversary in style, even as she and her husband keep a secret from the group. Ambitious career woman Caroline happily anticipates several stress-free days away from her magazine job with her boyfriend, Javier, who may or may not be finally inspired to propose. And single mom Lee (annoyingly gorgeous and irresistibly popular in college) hopes she’ll win back the affections of her formerly sweet daughter Lacey, who after her first year in college, has inexplicably become a little bit of a monster.

As the balmy pink shores of Bermuda come into view, tensions simmer, and old jealousies flare, sending the temperature from soothing to scorching in this engrossing tale of three best friends on a vacation they won’t soon forget—but not for the reasons they expect.

My Thoughts:

This was a sweet summer read that set a nice tone for summer.  I wanted something to read that put me in a summer state of mind and this did the trick!  This book will have you dreaming about pink sand beaches and clear water!

This is a character driven novel about friendship, marriage, family, life and love.  It is told from multiple points of view.  Abby, who is celebrating her twentieth anniversary with her husband Sam and has twin boys, has a secret which is revealed in the second part of the book.  Caroline, who has a big career as a magazine writer, wants her boyfriend to propose–I found the way she carried on about it to be shallow and immature.  Lacey is a single mom struggling with her relationship with her college-age daughter; Lacey was my favorite character and the one that I found least annoying and most relatable.  What Lacey really needs is to focus on herself.  As a mom of two girls about to start college, I think that revelation is very spot on.  As moms we spend years focusing on our kids and when they grow up we feel empty, we don’t know what to do with ourselves (so we start a book blog!) or in Lacey’s case, realize we need to focus on ourselves.

This book is a perfect beach read.  The characters have issues, but it’s like Disney, you know everything is going to be ok in the end.  I did enjoy the characters and watching them evolve and come to terms with things.  Getting caught up in these women’s lives and friendships as they cruised the Caribbean waters and enjoyed life aboard a cruise ship was a nice way to spend a few summer evenings!

4 star reviews, Book reviews, Women's Fiction

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

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Release date:: June 26, 2018

Pre-order a copy now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or visit your local retailer.

I was so excited that Barbara Delinsky had a new novel!!  I am a big fan of her work and it has been a couple of years since she came out with a new book.  I was so pleased to be given an advance copy from Netgalley and Saint Martin’s Press in exchange for my honest review.

Barbara Delinsky has changed her writing style over the years.  Originally she was a romance writer.  Then she wrote detailed, beautiful, compelling books such as one of my all-time favorite books Coast Road.   Then she changed her writing style to be a lot more spare and less-detailed and she wrote some very wonderful, compelling, timely books such as While My Sister Sleeps.  With this novel, she has returned to a more detailed style of writing, giving a lot of background and backstory.

Mackenzie Cooper – who now goes by Maggie – was in a car accident that killed her daughter and she has not forgiven herself for it.  The media hounded her, her marriage dissolved and she fled to Vermont.  She’s made a nice life for herself in Vermont until her friend’s son is charged with a crime and her ex-husband buys a business in town.

Maggie’s friend’s son is accused of hacking into social media accounts of prominent people.  Maggie struggles because she wants to be there for her friend, but she wants to stay out of the spotlight.  I enjoyed the dynamic between the two women just as much as I enjoyed the uncovering of her friend’s son’s involvement in the social media scandal.

In many ways Before and Again is a study in human relationships.  Husband and wife.  Mother and daughter.  Brother and sister.  People move away from each other for valid reasons but find their way back to each other.  I loved that part of the story and the reminder of how important it is to have people in your corner when the going gets tough.

At first I found Maggie’s ex-husband buying the Inn where she works to be a little too convenient, but the love story was beautiful.  The ending gave me hope that healing is always possible.

I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for my digital arc in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Mackenzie Cooper does not want to be who she was – the one who was driving and had her eyes on her phone just long enough to cause an accident that resulted in the loss of her adored daughter, her family and friends, and ultimately her marriage. Thanks to the nonstop media coverage, she lost her privacy as well. Fleeing that past, she now lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid, in a small house with her cats and dog. She’s thankful for the new friends she’s made—though she can’t risk telling them too much. And she while she was once a successful sculptor, she is now a makeup artist at the luxurious local spa, helping clients hide the visible outward signs of their weariness, illnesses, and injuries. Covering up scars is a skill she has mastered.

Her only goal is to stay under the radar and make it through her remaining probation. But she isn’t the only one in this peaceful town with secrets. When a friend’s teenage son is thrust into the national spotlight, accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, Maggie is torn between pulling away and protecting herself, or stepping into the glare to be at their side. As the stunning truth behind their case is slowly revealed, Maggie’s own carefully constructed story begins to unravel as well. As the past inexorably seeps back into her life, her future is suddenly at stake – not only her career, her physical freedom, and her new home, but her relationships with the brother who was too frightened to stand by her before, with the mother who chose to turn away to survive, and with the only man she has ever truly loved.

Before and Again is a story of the relationships we find ourselves in—mothers and daughters, spouses and siblings, true companions and fair-weather friends—and the courage it takes to sustain them.