The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea by Susanna KearsleyWhere to start on this one? First of all, The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley had me bursting into tears with a sudden plot twist that I DID NOT expect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not uncommon for me to get emotional when reading, but I usually see it coming. You know a book is good when you are so invested in the story that you feel for the characters and their hardships and that’s what happened to me with this one.

The Winter Sea is a great book and I’m excited to have found it, it being the first novel I’ve read of Kearsley’s. This is an interesting story, the narrative switching between author Carrie, who is writing a historical fiction novel focusing on the 1708 Jacobite invasion into Scotland, and Sophia, the woman Carrie is writing about. In a twist of fate, it turns out that Carrie is more deeply entangled in Sophia’s story than she could have imagined. Carrie and Sophia’s lives seem to mysteriously mirror each other, both making a life for themselves and finding love along the way.

Kearsley has written a beautifully sculpted novel that portrays the passion an author has for her characters and how their story becomes engrained in her own life.

I really recommend this one, especially to all those historical fiction lovers out there!

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Library Lovin’

I’ll come right out and say it; I LOVE the library. The public library is a dear friend of mine; always sharing books with me without asking for anything in return. Besides a request for timely book returns, which I try my best to follow through on, the library is a giver.

During one holiday season, most of my on-hold books all became ready at once, leaving me to check out 30 books during one visit. To many staring eyes, I carried my 3 bags of books out with a beaming smile. Although I’ve been raised to be familiar with the library (thanks mom!) I still feel like I’m getting away with something when I walk out carrying the newest Liane Moriarty novel at no cost to me. In my head I’m thinking, “I can’t believe they’re letting me read this new hardcover book listed at $27.95 for free!”

Besides the free books aspect (definitely the biggest draw), the library brings all sorts of people together in the union of book love. The sticky fingered five-year-old standing behind the curly haired retiree standing next to the business suit clad gentleman carry the latest iPhone. The library is a community and a getaway all rolled into one.

I should point out that my city’s library system is very well stocked and makes it pretty easy to find the books that I want. Do any of you use the public library??

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay AsherI haven’t been reading many young adult books these days, but I’m glad I started again with Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Hannah Baker, a high school junior, has just committed suicide and classmate Clay Jensen is sent reeling when a box of anonymous cassette tapes show up on his doorstep. Hannah has left behind 13 haunting tapes that explain her story and the events that led to her depression. The tapes are passed from one person to the next, each having a role in Hannah’s tapes and her life.

Through her tapes, Hannah explains how seemingly small events spiraled out of control to create a snowball effect on her life. It was quite sad to hear how alone she felt and the impact a rumor had on her life as it grew and changed how her peers viewed and treated her.

This book brings light to suicide and shows us how much our actions, no matter how small, can affect those around us. While a rumor can hurt, a seemingly small gesture of kindness can make a world of difference as well.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne TylerA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler is a well-written novel, but I couldn’t really see the point. What’s the punch line? What is Tyler trying to tell us? Why did she write down this story in particular? I’m still not quite sure.

In this story, Tyler brings us the Whitshank family, in a novel spanning four generations who have lived in the same well-loved Baltimore home. Through these characters we experience the emotional ups and downs that come with life.

I enjoyed the interactions between the family, the good, the bad and the ugly. On the other hand though, there were sections of the book during which I caught myself glazing over. It seemed like Tyler was building up to some major event but then the “huge” event didn’t happen.

In the end, the Whitshanks learn that no matter what happens, they can always go home.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieAmericanah, written by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, is an excellent read and I hope to do it justice with this review.

Americanah brings light to issues of race and self-discovery through the story of Ifemelu and Obinze. Growing up in military-ruled Nigeria, Ifemelu and Obinze were raised looking towards futures abroad, moving to America or Europe to study and begin a career.

 

One of my favorite quotes from the book explains this mentality of searching outside their native country for opportunities:

“…the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness. They would not understand why people like him, who were raised well fed and watered but mired in dissatisfaction, conditioned from birth to look towards somewhere else, eternally convinced that real lives happened in that somewhere else, were now resolved to do dangerous things, illegal things, so as to leave, none of them starving, or raped, or from burned villages, but merely hungry for choice and certainty,” (pg. 341).

This is a smart novel that really made me think. I was engaged and eager to see where both Ifemelu and Obinze’s journeys would lead them. The frustration and helplessness of their experiences starting out in new countries had me gripping the book. Despite working incredibly hard, they seemed unable to get their footing.

One particularly interesting aspect of this book is the blog that Ifemelu creates to discuss issues of race and life as an immigrant in America. She has always had a problem containing her opinion, especially in inappropriate situations, but that’s what makes her so great- her ability to speak up when others won’t.

Americanah is a love story, a story of self-discovery, and a story of speaking honestly and openly.

Sunday Spotlight: Kate Morton

I’m really excited today because it’s the first post of my Sunday Spotlight series! Through these posts, I want to showcase incredible authors and spread their stories.

First up: Kate MortonKate Morton

Kate Morton is a wonder, her stories transporting readers into other worlds and times. I have read two of her historical fiction novels and was very impressed by her ability to sweep me away with the story. An incredibly talented author, Morton brings us stories set across the globe including settings in both England and Australia.

Morton’s books are not short, but she gives them the space needed to develop and creates twisting plotlines that keep you hooked.

The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton was an incredible read with shocking plot twists. The story focuses on Laurel, a modern day woman attempting to trace her mother’s mysterious past after remembering a crime she witnessed as a child in her family home. The story switches between Laurel in the present and flashbacks of England during the chaotic aftermath of World War II. I was completely STUNNED by a twist at the end of the story, a jaw dropping finish that left me with my mouth hanging open.

That fact that I couldn’t put The Secret Keeper down while studying abroad in Italy, only goes to show how great this story is.

The Forgotten Garden By Kate MortonThe Forgotten Garden is another great story of Morton’s with a woven plot split between narratives of 3 women, Cassandra, her grandmother Nell and a mysterious woman from Nell’s past.

The death of her grandmother sends Cassandra on a journey to trace Nell’s past, who was found abandoned on a dock at four years old. Not only does Cassandra find the truth about her ancestry, she finds a way to heal after a heartbreaking accident that left her alone in the world.

I highly recommend reading Kate Morton’s novels and I would love to hear whether any of you have read her work!

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I’m a bit behind the game and only just finished Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg. Despite being reminded of this one by friends and business professors for the past couple of years, I only just got to it. Throughout the book, Sandberg shares many personal insights into the high power business positions that she has held, at places including Google, Facebook, and the United States Treasury Department. She is a strong role model for all, both women and men, young and old, to be ambitious in whatever you do and to lean in. Regardless of whether that ambition is to stay home or to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

One of the key points that Sandberg makes is to pick a partner who supports your decisions and vice versa. She mentions her husband Dave many times throughout the book, explaining that he is the reason that she is able to do what she does. It is heartbreaking to read these passages of love and gratitude while knowing that her husband, Dave Goldberg, passed away earlier this year. My heart goes out to Sandberg and her family.

Lean In is a great read (and not too long, a bit under 200 pages) teaching us to lean in with everything we’ve got.

To watch Sandberg’s TED talk (with over 5 million views!) click here.