Book Review: For Love of Anna

For Love of AnnaI found For Love of Anna on the Cheap eBooks reading list. James Lawless’s book is an interesting blend of genres: romance, political thriller, revolutionary (not exactly a genre, but you get the idea).

Synopsis

Guido Van Thool is a student at the university studying philosophy. He is close friends with Phillippe, a leader in the anarchist movement. He meets and falls in love with Anna, a beautiful ballerina who does not support Guido’s involvement with the anarchists. She thinks it’s too dangerous. After celebrating the new year, Guido and Anna walk home from a club and are hit by a car driven by a drunk, powerful, and corrupt judge, Jeremiah Delahyde. Guido is determined to prove Delahyde’s guilt and corruption, driven by his desire for justice after the life-changing injuries inflicted on Anna.

Strengths

The relationship between Guido and Anna is beautifully developed. The pacing for the story is quite slow, the author taking time to notice details and let the reader get a comprehensive taste of the main characters. When Anna was hit by the car, I felt genuine anxiety over her well-being. For a moment I even decided that if she died I would hate the book, for what was the purpose of making me care about her and Guido if they could not be together? It seemed unnecessarily cruel. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but suffice it to say I did NOT hate the book, regardless of what may or may not have happened to Anna.

The judge was a poignant reminder of how powerless I feel sometimes about things in the world or my life that I cannot change, despite how much I want to or how unjust they are. I think Guido was remarkably patient and intelligent in how he exacts his revenge–er, justice.

Weaknesses

I wish the book had been a touch shorter, or that the pace was sped up a little. I found myself skimming entire pages because nothing was happening. The setting was a touch confusing; I still cannot tell you exactly what time period or country this story takes place in. If I had to guess, it would be near Russia and close to present day.

Also, the book is in dire need of another edit or proofread. Simple mechanical issues, like errant quotation marks or oddly-placed commas, drove me nuts. I was influenced by the specific digital copy that I read, a pdf file that changed fonts in seemingly random places. I finally determined that anytime there was an apostrophe or quotation mark, the font changed. This was highly annoying, tempting me at the beginning not to even start reading because the pages looked so unpolished. If I were to go back in time and start over, I would have insisted on reading either a hard copy or find a digital copy that had been formatted correctly. It’s amazing how visually influenced we are. If something looks beautiful, we are more likely to think well of it.

Conclusion

Despite the mechanical and formatting issues, this was a good story. The pacing could have been a little quicker and the setting a little clearer, but the three main characters (Guido, Anna, and Judge Delahyde) are well-developed and interact with each other in intelligent ways. If you like reading stories about political revolutions, you’ll enjoy this one!

4 out of 5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”four” width=”220px”]

 

Contact the author on Cheap eBooks

Buy the book on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Advertisements

Book Review: The Marijuana Project

The_Marijuana_Project_Brian_Laslow_t580It took me a little longer than I had anticipated, but I finished Brian Laslow’s The Marijuana Project! Now, to be clear, I needed more time for reading due to several factors, mostly being that I had another big project I was working on that took up a lot of time. Also, The Marijuana Project is not a quick one-day read, but is loaded with fascinating backstory. I found this realistic novel on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

The Marijuana Project is about a successful security consultant named Sam, a conservative family man who is staunchly opposed to drug use of any kind. When a medical marijuana company offers him a well-paying job running security for their new facility, Sam doesn’t know if he should take the job. He accepts the position, albeit a little tentatively, but is resolved to do his job to the best of his ability. Then Sam starts receiving anonymous notes: on his windshield, while out of town on business, and to his email inbox, all targeting his ethical insecurity, trying to persuade Sam to help an anti-marijuana activist group burn his client’s supply of product.

Strengths

The quality of writing throughout the book is strong and clear. The main protagonist, Sam, is very cool. He’s smart, thorough in his work, has impeccable integrity and makes sure every decision he makes is in line with his personal code of ethics. I think integrity is an increasingly rare quality. It was refreshing to read about a character who continually strives to do what he believes to be right.

“Sam was a man of principle. He believed there was good and evil in the world and if good did not fight evil then it was as responsible for the result as evil itself.” (pg 167)

The Marijuana Project was also, at least for me, quite educational. I live in Colorado, a place where marijuana can be obtained from vending machines, yet I’ve somehow stayed relatively ignorant of many of the arguments on both sides of the debate. It was interesting to witness Sam’s journey as he wrestled with the pros and cons of protecting a substance he personally disagrees with. vending machine

The ending was a great twist, something I did not see coming.

Weaknesses

The main thing I wanted from this book was more action. The prologue is a flash-forward to the end where Sam is defending the marijuana facility from unknown assailants, bullets flying and a truly dire situation. With such an exciting beginning, I was expecting a little more action throughout the story and especially at the end. There were parts where Sam is describing aspects of his security systems that got lengthy and–I hate to say it–a little boring. Also some parts where Sam is doing research about the person or group who might be sending him notes or his internal ethical debates really slowed the story down.

Conclusion

Definitely an interesting book, different from anything else I’ve read. I learned a little more about the marijuana industry, a very current and relevant topic, and more about how much goes into security–something I can say I’ve never given much thought. If you are interested in learning more about the marijuana debate, are interested in security, enjoy ethical dilemmas, or stories with a healthy dose of mystery, then you will definitely enjoy The Marijuana Project!

4  out of 5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”four” width=”220px”]

 

Schedule the author for your next book club meeting on Book Club Reading List

Buy the book on Amazon

Add it to your shelf on Goodreads

Book Review: A Chick in the Cockpit

A Chick in the CockpitI just finished an amazing and inspirational biography. A Chick in the Cockpit is the story of Erika Armstrong’s life as a female pilot and her experiences living with an abusive husband. This tale is perfect for book clubs, it even comes with a list of discussion questions at the end, and can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

The aviation industry is, even to this day, dominated by men. Women pilots are rare, and Erika shares her struggles overcoming prejudice and her desire to prove that a chick can fly an airplane just as well as a man. The reader is taken on a journey through Erika’s life and given a unique view about a sector in our society where women are still fighting to be seen as equals. More compelling yet, we are given a front row seat to what abusive relationships look like, which come in many different forms. Aviation is used as a metaphor throughout the book for Erika’s personal journey. Each chapter starts with a checklist, something pilots use constantly, to guide the reader along. It is both a heart wrenching and heart warming tale of hard work, resilience, and the strength of women.

“Our mistake as feminists is thinking we should be or think more like men. There is nothing feminine about feminism, and that’s where we all got it wrong. We should be acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses, not denying them.” (page 65)

Strengths

The best part of this book is its copious amount of heart. As Erika experienced each new trial, I was right there, experiencing it right alongside her, feeling her pain. I was angry when she was mistreated, incredulous when she was wrongfully arrested, and frustrated that there was no one she could turn to for so many years. I was overcome with joy at the quiet strength of her book club heroes who stepped in when she needed them most. This book makes you feel, and that is the best gift literature can give.

I also think it should be said that this is not a bra-burning, man-hating feminist book. I wouldn’t have even finished it if it was. It’s the story of someone who worked hard despite discrimination, and for years dealt with a spouse who was both controlling and emotionally and physically abusive. It is a celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

Weaknesses

Really the only thing that can be said here is that perhaps the sections about aviation are a touch long-winded, but even they add to the overarching metaphor. I have nothing more to add here. 🙂

Conclusion

In my interview with Erika, she promises that,

“…this story will make you pee your pants with laughter, cry with anger, and smile at the power of women.”

I can tell you now, A Chick in the Cockpit absolutely delivers. I was teary-eyed in a few places, and by the end was so proud of all that she accomplished and the strong women that buoyed her up during her darkest hour. It made me proud to be a woman, a mother, and a wife. This is a perfect choice for any book club, especially because Erika’s heroes in the book were her own Book Club Warriors. Such an inspirational story. Go get a copy!!

5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”five” width=”300px”]

 

Schedule the author for your next book club meeting at Book Club Reading List

Buy the book on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Book Review: The Angel of Innisfree

angel of innisfreeI’m not sure how to begin this post. I’m in a sort of reading coma–like a food coma, but experienced after over-indulging on a good book. The Angel of Innisfree, by Patrick F. Rooney, is a seriously fantastic read and can be found on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

The story begins in Ireland in 1848 during the Irish Potato Famine. Landlords are ruthlessly evicting their tenants and thousands are dying in the streets. When 16-year-old Elizabeth Reilly nurses Brian O’Rourke back to health after nearly starving to death, the young lovers’ fates become intertwined. After Brian’s family is killed by English soldiers, he and his sister Mary are forced to flee to America on a famine ship and start a new life, but not before promising Elizabeth that he would find her someday. Elizabeth moves to France to study with Chopin and pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. Elizabeth and Brian each take incredible journeys that give the reader a glimpse into the rich history of the telegraph, the Underground Railroad, and the American Civil War. Will Brian and Elizabeth find each other in a country ripped apart by war?

Strengths

I’m always excited when I find a really good historical fiction novel. I detest history books but I enjoy learning about the past. Historical fiction, for me, is the best way to learn history because it makes those time periods come alive in ways that text books can never achieve. I don’t know if I can express emphatically enough how much I loved The Angel of Innisfree. There was so much action–far more I would ever expect from this genre!–and the story line was consistently moving along at the perfect rate: slow enough to savor the setting, but quick enough to keep me interested in what was going to happen next.

The main characters were phenomenal; I couldn’t believe the hardships both Brian and Elizabeth endured and overcame so that they could be together. Brian refers to Elizabeth throughout the novel as his angel of Innisfree. My favorite quote of the book came in the very last paragraph:

“I remember him playing his violin on the Viking rock to comfort the dying then, how he rescued Mary, how he helped the Negroes escape on the Underground Railroad, how he helped the wounded soldiers at Antietam, and a hundred other kindnesses over the years, and it occurs to me that he may have been the angel of Innisfree all along.” (Elizabeth, epilogue.)

The writing style is clear and strong, the history is fascinating and informative, the characters are compelling, and the love story is one for the ages.

Weaknesses

In a book this strong it is hard to come up with any weaknesses. It was perhaps a little long, but it really was a story I wanted to savor and take my time with. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have that luxury!)

Conclusion

I am at a loss for why this book only has a few reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. It is as good a book as any I have ever read. Readers, let’s band together and share the word about this good tale! If you haven’t read it yet, go get a copy now. I promise you won’t regret it!

I give The Angel of Innisfree a full 5 stars, wishing I could give it more.

[stars color=”aqua” number=”five” width=”300px”]

 

Schedule the author at Book Club Reading List

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Book Review: Guarding Shakespeare

guarding-shakespeare-coverJust finished the noir novella “Guarding Shakespeare” by Quintin Peterson, found on Book Club Reading List!

Synopsis

Lt. Norman Blalock has worked at the Folger Library guarding priceless Shakespearean artifacts for 25 years. Shortly after being passed up for promotion yet again, Norman is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: steal a small, virtually unknown artifact in exchange for enough money to retire and live comfortably for the rest of his life. Why should he be loyal to employers who systematically underestimate his abilities? Could he really pull off the heist of a lifetime?

Strengths

I love the idea for this novella! It’s like Ocean’s 11 meets National Treasure with a dash of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Norman lives a lonely life–estranged from his adult children, single, deceased parents, and has lived with a distrust of others his entire life, making it hard for him to be close with anyone. So when Kavitha, a young, gorgeous British woman, comes around representing her employer and offering Norman incomprehensibly large amounts of money to do a job, I was cautiously hopeful that she might be the solution to his loneliness. I think Guarding Shakespeare does a great job at making the reader care about its characters, particularly Norman. I was very much invested in his outcome, worried he would be double-crossed but hopeful that everything would work out  in the end.

“When the truth is too painful, we choose to live a lie. Norman chose to live the lie for now.” (pg 89)

If that quote doesn’t make you want to root for Norman, I don’t know what will!!

A cool thing about this story is the amount of historical trivia it contains. Any history buff will enjoy this book! I’m thinking the author, Quintin Peterson, is either a history enthusiast himself or did tons of research to write this story. Probably both.

Weaknesses

I think the biggest weakness for me was the flow and writing style of this novella. While the content was great, descriptions of locations, people, and historical events are described in extremely long run-on sentences. When sentences are too long, my eyes skip ahead and I miss out on information, making me confused and have to back-track to try and catch up. Here is one example of a run-on sentence that was hard to follow, right at the beginning of the story:

“Lt. Blalock, clean-shaven, tall, dark, and trim, wearing a fresh uniform consisting of navy blue slacks riding just right on the tops of spit-shined combat boots, a heavily starched white shirt choked by a navy blue necktie, and a navy blue commando sweater bearing on each sleeve blue, yellow and white circular Folger Shakespeare Library Police shoulder patches embroidered with Shakespeare’s family crest and a shiny gold metal badge and matching name tag on either side of its half-bust circumference, was hiding in the storage/elevator service room on the Gamma Deck of the Folger’s underground complex, evading detection by a fellow officer with a K-9 conducting a random interior security sweep.” (pg 4)

Whew!! What a mouthful! Why not just say Lt. Blalock was hiding from an officer doing a security sweep, then state in separate sentences what he was wearing and how he looked? I think that would be easier for reader comprehension.

Conclusion

Overall, I really enjoyed the idea behind the story and the main characters Norman and Kavitha. I think Norman is very easy to relate to; he has flaws and seems like a normal person, making me emotionally invested in his well-being. I also enjoyed the bits of historical trivia. Unfortunately, the run-on sentences and lengthy descriptions interrupted the flow so much that I had a hard time following the story in places. I wanted more of the dialogue between Norman and Kavitha, more of Norman’s history with his father, more suspenseful action scenes, and less lengthy descriptions of history or what a character is wearing. The core of a really great story is there; with a little editing it could really shine!

3 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”three” width=”220px”]

Book the author on Book Club Reading List

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Book Review: “Miss?”

miss-coverBefore I had my own kids and got into book reviewing, I was a behavior counselor to inner-city elementary school students. It was a hard and thankless job; I lasted less than 2 years before I was burned out. The stories told in “Miss?”, by Laurel McHargue, remind me of my own time working with troubled youth. It is heartbreaking subject matter, but I’m so glad McHargue has told her story because it’s important. This is an especially great read for book clubs. You can find “Miss?” on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

Maggie McCauley is fresh out of the army and lands a job at a failing middle school teaching 7th grade English in Denver, Colorado. With the looming threat of their school closing, Maggie does her best to teach students who have far more serious issues on their minds than expanding their vocabularies. “Miss?” provides a heart-wrenching account of many of the challenges faced by both teachers and students in public schools today.

Strengths

I think the biggest strength to “Miss?” is its obvious heart and realism. Maggie’s students face challenges daily that no child should ever have to deal with. They are children of drug addicts, live in homes with little to no supervision; some parents are abusive, while others are working too many jobs trying to make ends meet and are simply not present. Some speak no English at home. Upon hearing about one student whose mother was a drug addict and was being raise by his grandparents,

“Maggie was incensed, and an abrupt surge of what could only be described as a maternal instinct lit a fire in her chest and made her want to scream.” (Chapter 17)

I have felt this before in my job as a behavioral counselor. Even when the kids drive you crazy with their antics and continued disrespect, frustration can melt away in a moment and be replaced by a fierce love and desire to protect them from the injustice they have been dealt in life. “Miss?” showcases these students and makes the reader fall in love with them through Maggie’s eyes.

Weaknesses

While I was reading I kept hoping to learn more about Maggie outside of school and her present teaching life. We learn very little about her family and I wondered how she fit in with them. There were opportunities where McHargue could have added that layer of depth to Maggie, like when she visited home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but only mentioned briefly that she had visited home rather than giving the reader a glimpse into that aspect of her life. There were other characters as well from which I wished for more: Grant, her boyfriend for part of the novel, and many of her co-workers were somewhat shallowly developed. I understand the focus of the story was Maggie’s relationship with teaching and her students, but adding more depth to supporting characters would contribute to a more vibrant and realistic story.

Conclusion

Overall this was a very well written story. If you have ever been a teacher, worked in a school in any position, have a child in public school, will ever have children in public school, have ever attended public school, or have any interest in learning about the school system then you should read and will enjoy this book. Ha, so really, everyone should read it. 🙂

McHargue has taken a difficult subject matter and presented it in a way that will both educate and entertain readers. Most importantly it makes you care about and be aware of what many teachers are dealing with in our schools. Go find yourself a copy and enjoy an enlightening read!

5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”five” width=”220px”]

 

Book the author for your next book club meeting through Book Club Reading List

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads

Book Review: Again, Alabama

Again, AlabamaWhat a delightfully cozy feel-good story! Just finished Again, Alabama by Susan Sands last night and I loved it. The perfect book to curl up with under a warm blanket on a cold day with a cup of hot cocoa and a slice of pecan pie. Now doesn’t that sound wonderful?? You can find Again, Alabama on Book Club Reading List.

Synopsis

Cammie Laroux is on her way back home to Alabama to help her mom with the family business while she recovers from hip surgery. It’s pretty good timing, considering she’s out of a job after being blamed for setting her celebrity boss’s hair on fire while cooking flambé during their nationally televised cooking show. What she doesn’t expect to find back home is her ex-boyfriend Grey, now single and handsome as ever. It’s been 10 years but some wounds never seem to fully heal. Can Cammie forgive Grey and find the courage to take a chance with him, again?

Strengths

“If everything else fell to pieces, they had each other. After all these years, she was just now realizing the vital role of family in her life.” (Cammie, chapter 13.)

I loved this book! The writing is clear and descriptive, the characters are genuine and lovable, and the plot is continually progressing. I especially enjoyed experiencing Cammie’s journey. She starts the story as an emotionally battered and abused woman as a result from the cooking fiasco at her job. Travelling back to her hometown, which is full of painful memories, is hard for her. She temporarily takes over the family business, becomes a pillar of strength for her family, and starts to heal from the trials life has dealt her. Her relationship with Grey is highly satisfying–full of conflict and sizzling chemistry–they work very well together. And yet, even with all of the things Cammie had to deal with, I found her to be a very relatable character. Even though my personal life experiences aren’t in the same ballpark as hers, I was able to connect with and care about her, which is vital to a successful story. I liked Grey a lot too; I think he’s the real victim of this book. He makes one mistake and pays for it the rest of his life.

Another strength is the story line. Every time I thought I knew how the rest of the book was going to play out and wondered how on earth another x number of pages were going to be filled, another element of the story was added, creating depth to the characters and Cammie’s journey. This isn’t a fluff-filled love story, which is somewhat unusual in the genre of romance. Add to all this a touch of humor and you have one strong book.

Weaknesses

The only issue I had with Again, Alabama is Cammie’s fiancé Jason. She is engaged to a man she met while living and working in Virginia when she goes to Alabama to help her family. She remains engaged while she reconnects with Grey. This is problematic because I didn’t feel like I could fully root for Grey while Cammie was engaged. Then when she did break things off with Jason it seemed too convenient that he was no longer invested in their relationship, like she got off too easy. This made it so the story could be wrapped up all nice and neat, but I think there could have been a little more depth to their relationship and break up.

Conclusion

Overall, I very much loved this book. If you are looking for a feel-good love story, you will enjoy Again, Alabama. There is one sex scene, but it doesn’t get too explicit. I am cautious in reading romance stories because they tend to get very graphic. This one is probably a PG-13 rating in terms of sexual content and language. As the weather turns cooler, go find a warm blanket and your favorite comfort food and settle in for a good read!

5 stars

[stars color=”aqua” number=”five” width=”220px”]

 

Book the author for your next book club meeting on Book Club Reading List

Buy it on Amazon

Add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads