The Room on Rue Amelie

I’ve always enjoyed World War II fiction, so when I read the synopsis of Kristin Harmel’s Room on Rue Amelie, it caught my attention right away.

It follows American Ruby Benoit as she follows her husband to Paris. But soon after, war comes and the Nazis invade and take over.

Ruby befriends her young neighbor girl, Charlotte, who is Jewish, and when the police begin rounding up Jewish families, their lives become inextricably linked.

Finally, RAF pilot Thomas Clarke enters the picture when he is shot down over France. In saving his life, Ruby and Charlotte are drawn down a dangerous, but purposeful new path.

While it was an enjoyable story of family, friendship and love, this book read more like a Hallmark story than I had expected, or wanted. With the potential to be a moving drama, I feel like it fell a little flat, written very simply and without the depth of character I look for in this kind of book.

The ending, however, was very different thank I would have expected.

While I wouldn’t recommend it as historical fiction, for those looking for an easy read or a romance story, this would certainly fit the bill.

Keep an eye out for it when it hits the shelves in March.

Advertisements

Hiddensee

I decided I wanted to read Gregory Maguire’s latest book because it seemed perfect for the holidays, “A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker.”

Dirk is a foundling, an orphaned, abandoned child who was raised by stranger and never had a last name or a childhood. As a young boy, he sets out on his own, believing the couple who raised him had tried to kill him.

Dirk bounces from place to place, spending some time at a church where he’s given a surname, moving on to be a servant in a rich family’s summer home, a paper maker’s apprentice and finally settles himself down as a toy maker. But it seems sorrow and trouble follow him wherever he goes.

Hiddensee wasn’t so much a story about the Nutcracker as the story of the man who created him, though I suppose it does go in to the why of it. And the familiar story for Fritz and Klara turned out to be much darker than our familiar childhood story.

While it was an enjoyable book, I had expected a little more from it. I had expected it to be something more Christmassy. And perhaps it’s just because I’m not familiar with the back story of the Nutcracker and all it’s lore. But with the subtitle “A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker,” I thought it would be about him, not Drosselmeier.

That said, the book had lots of underlying themes and was quite allegorical, and I confess I probably missed half of the underlying meanings.

So, maybe when I’ve got a little more time, I’ll read it again to get some of the deeper meanings. In the meantime, if you’re a fan of Maguire, certainly check it out. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Anansi Boys

First of all, how are you really supposed to pronounce that first word? Of everything about this book, that’s the question that haunts me. Though, what else would you expect from Neil Gaiman, whose last name is also in dispute regarding pronunciation. But, anyway.

Anansi Boys begins looking back on Fat Charlie Nancy’s childhood, in which he suffered from an extremely embarrassing father. But when he gets a call informing him of his father’s death, Charlie goes home to Florida for the funeral, and learns more about his father and himself than he’d ever dreamed. First, that his father was a god, and second, that Charlie has a brother.

Back home in England, Charlie invites his brother for a visit, and is catapulted into a much more interesting and dangerous way of living. For Charlie, just about anything that could go wrong does; for his brother Spider, everything is going right. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and Charlie is certainly desperate to be rid of Spider, no matter the cost.

Anansi Boys is a funny story that’s fun to read and easy to relate to. Written in Gaiman’s conversational style, it’s a quick read that will make you smile and appreciate your family, quirks and all. Part comedy, part mythology and part action, it’s a book for all readers.

Cat Shout for Joy

It probably comes as no surprise to most people that I’d find myself reading about talking cats.

Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s Joe Grey is about a feline detective, Joe Grey, who helps the local police solve crime in Molina Point, California.

In Cat Shout for Joy–which happens to be quite a ways into the series, so there were a few things I didn’t quite follow–someone is preying on the elderly population of Molina Point. It seems like vicious pranks, pushing them down and running away, until it becomes a homicide. The police are struggling to link the attacks together, and the cats seem best equipped to find the missing clues.

The police, however, don’t know the cats are sleuths, nor that they can talk. So, once they uncover the clues, they anonymously call and give tips to the police. Amid the hunt, Joe Grey and his lady Dulcie are expecting kittens.

While I don’t really enjoy jumping into the middle of a series, I must say, I did enjoy reading Cat Shout for Joy. Murphy’s writing is easy to read and enjoyable. While the cats are talking cats, and thereby a little more human than a normal cat, Murphy’s cats retain their feline personalities, despite being a little human.

I can tell the series is largely episodic, with themes that run through the whole thing. It’ll be interesting to dive into the series at the beginning.

So if you’re looking for something fun in the mystery vein, and you like cats, check out the Joe Grey series. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

The Unnaturalists

When we moved, all my books got boxed up (again). 😦 But recently I’ve dug out some of my more recent snags and remade my reading list.

First up was The Unnaturalists, by Tiffany Trent. I first thought this book was going to be really steam punk, based on the cover. But it wasn’t really that, more dystopian fantasy.

Vespa Nyx has enjoyed her life thus far cataloguing magical creatures (Unnaturals) in the museum overseen by her father. But when she is pressured to start thinking of a future with a husband and family, she finds herself catapulted into more danger and intrigue than she ever expected.

It falls to Vespa to save New London, its people, and the Unnaturals. To do so, she has to understand and embrace who she is, a secret that’s been kept from her for her whole life.

The Unnaturalists was a quick, fun read. A nice break from the thrillers that I love. While not really filled with unforeseeable twists and turns, the story had lots of various subplots that kept the action moving and kept the story engaging.

The story has a little bit of everything–magic, adventure, romance, and heartbreak. It’s definitely a fun read for anyone wanting something that feels reminiscent of fairy tales.

November: A Recap

I completely forgot to write a blog post last week. I think I remembered when I was going to bed on Monday night, and I just never got to it.

November is over (duh), and I’m proud to say I’ve got yet another first draft of a story done. The Thanksgiving week was tough but I pushed through and stayed on target. The hardest part, I think, was the last 5,000 words or so. And that always seems to be a struggle. My stories seem to fall into one of two camps: either I put off writing the end because I don’t think it’s time yet, or I have to drag it out because I didn’t plan quite enough to get my word count where I needed it to be. But that’s ok. This year, I finished. And I wrote just about every day (I missed November 30, I was done with my project and I needed a break.).

My story this year turned out to be very different than what I’d intended. While on the surface it stayed mostly the same, my characters surprised me. I didn’t mean to when I set out, but I wrote several misunderstood characters. But that made the process that much more fun, because I got to enjoy the journey of discovery as I went.

For December, I plan to try to revisit the nameless project I’ve been refining all year. Then perhaps in January I’ll be ready to dig into the hot mess that is my NaNo 2017 novel. But even if all I do this month are some writing exercises from my Writer’s Notebook, that’s ok too. I think I have earned a little break. I’ve worked hard this year.

The Obsession

The last time I picked up a romance book, I was pleasantly surprised to find it was mostly a thriller with a sub-theme of romance. When I picked up Nora Roberts’ The Obsession, I thought I was getting into something similar.

As a young girl, Naomi Bowes followed her father into the woods one night and discovered his dark secret–kidnapping and murdering young women. For the rest of her life, Naomi’s been trying to outrun her past and its horrors.

She settles into a small town, living under the name Naomi Carson, and begins to build a home, the one thing she never thought possible. She finds friendly people who want to know her, and she finds herself getting pulled deeper into a life she believes isn’t possible for her. But her sense of security is shattered with a string of crimes reminiscent of her past. Everything seems about to fall into a million pieces, but Naomi is tired of running and she’s ready to hold on to what she’s got.

I had high hopes for this book, and while it was good, and well written, it wasn’t quite everything I’d been hoping for. It was definitely more 50/50 thriller and romance, which wouldn’t be bad, except that I was not keen, at all, on the love interest. Though he turned out to be OK in the end, I have a hard time liking a character who, when a woman says she won’t sleep with him, responds with “yet.” Eww. It felt a little bit like a hook-up turned love story, which is not what I’m looking for on those occasions when I do want romance a little more front and center.

Having read this book, though, I can understand why people like Nora Roberts (plus, it’s valuable to read lots of different things so I can recommend them to others). Perhaps I would like her mystery books as J.D. Robb a little bit better. And I’m sure all her love interests aren’t the same, so perhaps some of her other books would be a little easier for me to stomach. All in all, not bad if you’re looking for something in between what your grandmother reads and 50 Shades.