Review: The Gendarme

Why I picked it: Doesn't the book cover pull you in?  It's a stunning photo that made me pick up the book and read the synopsis.  I read over half of this book in commute to/from the city, I was so interested in Axarie's story and what was going to happen to her.

Synopsis: Emmett Conn is an old man, near the end of his life. A World War I veteran, he's been affected by memory loss since being injured during the war. To those around him, he's simply a confused man, fading in and out of senility. But what they don't know is that Emmett has been beset by memories, of events he and others have denied or purposely forgotten. 

In Emmett's dreams he's a gendarme, escorting Armenians from Turkey. A young woman among them, Araxie, captivates and enthralls him. But then the trek ends, the war separates them. He is injured. Seven decades later, as his grasp on the boundaries between past and present begins to break down, Emmett sets out on a final journey, to find Araxie and beg her forgiveness.

Mark Mustian has written a remarkable novel about the power of memory-and the ability of people, individually and collectively, to forget. Depicting how love can transcend nationalities, politics, and religion, how racism creates divisions where none truly exist, and how the human spirit fights to survive even in the face of hopelessness.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Emmett is an old man, 92 when the novel begins.  He has a brain tumor.  His daughter and the doctor want to treat the tumor, stating the success rate is very good.  This is when Emmett starts dreaming.  Is he dreaming or awakening old memories that will haunt him? 

Emmett's tumor/treatment brings him on a journey, physically and emotionally.  He is hospitalized for treatment, has seizures, and to avoid spoilers I will say several odd things happen to keep the story moving forward.  When he is dreaming we learn about a piece of history seldom talked about and discover what happened to Axarie.

There was a lot that I didn't like in the book but I learned a lot about while reading this book.  My struggles were with the daughters and the desicions they made for Emmett (I also didn't like the ending). 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Source: Review Copy
Challenge: Historical Fiction Challenge
Country: Turkey/America

Review: The Mistress of Nothing

Why I picked it: This book appears on my goodreads webpage all the time.  Targeted advertising at it's best!  I wonder how long it will stay there once I mark this book as 'read'.

Synopsis:  When Lady Duff Gordon, paragon of London society, departs for the hot, dry climate of Egypt to seek relief from her debilitating tuberculosis, her lady’s maid, Sally, doesn’t hesitate to leave the only world she has known in order to remain at her mistress’s side. As Sally gets farther and farther from home, she experiences freedoms she has never known—forgoing corsets and wearing native dress, learning Arabic, and having her first taste of romance.

But freedom is a luxury that a lady’s maid can ill afford, and when Sally’s newfound passion for life causes her to forget what she is entitled to, she is brutally reminded she is mistress of nothing. Ultimately she must choose her master and a way back home—or a way to an unknown future.

Based on the real lives of Lady Duff Gordon and her maid, The Mistress of Nothing is a lush, erotic, and compelling story about the power of race, class, and love

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I loved this book.  I knew nothing about Lady Duff Gordon or her mistress and wanted to read about living on the Nile in the 1800's.  This is the mistresses story (Sally Naldrett) and it's quite a story, Sally's story is fiction but based on letters and documents from the time.

If your book club is looking for a historical fiction novel to read and discuss, I recommend this  book.  It's fast paced and you want to know how it ends.  Filled with so much to discuss!

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy (iTunes audio)
Challenge: Historical Fiction Challenge, Audio Book Challenge
Country: England/Egypt

Review: Poser: my life in twenty three yoga poses

Why I picked it: I'm a yoga practicing gal who loves memoirs so this sounded like a good choice for me.  I discovered this book when it was referenced in a few interviews so I had high expectations.

Synopsis:  Ten years ago, Claire Dederer put her back out while breastfeeding her baby daughter. Told to try yoga by everyone from the woman behind the counter at the co-op to the homeless guy on the corner, she signed up for her first class. She fell madly in love.

Over the next decade, she would tackle triangle, wheel, and the dreaded crow, becoming fast friends with some poses and developing long-standing feuds with others. At the same time, she found herself confronting the forces that shaped her generation. Daughters of women who ran away to find themselves and made a few messes along the way, Dederer and her peers grew up determined to be good, good, good—even if this meant feeling hemmed in by the smugness of their organic-buying, attachment-parenting, anxiously conscientious little world. Yoga seemed to fit right into this virtuous program, but to her surprise, Dederer found that the deeper she went into the poses, the more they tested her most basic ideas of what makes a good mother, daughter, friend, wife—and the more they made her want something a little less tidy, a little more improvisational. Less goodness, more joy.

Type: Memoir

Quick Take: I enjoyed most of this book but thought the ending fell short, which happens with many memoirs.  How do you wrap up your life story with a bang when you are still living it? 

I would be interested in reading a review from someone who doesn't practice yoga, I understand the poses, the benefits, and what can happen to someone while in a pose.  If you don't practice yoga you might struggle to realize that when you do 'camel' pose... if you are holding in emotions you may feel nauseous since you are opening your heart to the sky.  I wouldn't believe it if it didn't happen to me.  In fact... it still happens to me!

So I enjoyed this book but it's not for everyone...  it's one woman's story of self discovery and how yoga helped guide her (and her family).

Rating: 3.75/5 stars

Source: Audio (iTunes)
Challenge: Teresa's Audiobook Challange

Review: Healer

Why I picked it: Manic Mommies Book Club Selection

Synopsis:  Claire Boehning faces a bleak future when her privileged life ends abruptly in Cassella's second novel (after Oxygen). Addison, her biochemist husband, created a lucrative drug that secured the family's fortunes, but when tests on a new drug go awry and Addison's backing disappears, he loses everything. After the couple is forced to move from Seattle with daughter Jory, 14, to live in a rural, ramshackle house originally bought as a fixer-upper project when money was not an issue, Addison travels in search of new investors. Claire, meanwhile, searches for a position as a doctor, a profession she left after Jory's birth. But with her lack of experience and board certification, she finds few opportunities until she lands a job at a nonprofit clinic that serves poor, uninsured migrant workers. There Claire meets Miguela Ruiz, a Nicaraguan native with a mysterious background, and as the Boehnings struggle to reclaim some piece of their past life, Ruiz affects them in unexpected ways. Cassella (a real-life doctor) takes a hard look at a faulty health-care system to illustrate the power of money and class in this timely and multifaceted novel.

Type: Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - Sometimes books reveal a life changing event in chapter one and the rest of the book is spent overcoming said event, Healer is not one of these books. 

We discover Claire's story slowly as we read, but we feel the weight of financial distress on her family on every page.  The family is forced to move to a remote town, having lost their family home after Claire finds out that her husband has gambled more than his business (losing everything). Like so many women she chose to stay home to raise her child and never imaged that she would have to find work one day, especially under these conditions but she is strong and finds work in a low income clinic.  At the center of these sub-plots is the story of drug testing, on immigrants and what happens if side affects turn deadly.

We had a wonderful discussion with the author.    As always... I enjoy a book so much more after discussing it with friends and the author!  Carol Cassella is working on a third novel, this time from a patients point of view.  Our book club discussion is available on iTunes, search Manic Mommies Book Club.

Source: Review Copy

Review: Wildthorn

Why I picked it: I'm sorry to say I don't remember where I discovered this book but it was from a book blog.  I received an email saying that I just had to read it so I decided to buy a copy for my Nook and bring it with me to Australia.

Synopsis: They strip her naked, of everything—undo her whalebone corset, hook by hook. Locked away in Wildthorn Hall—a madhouse—they take her identity. She is now called Lucy Childs. She has no one; she has nothing. But, she is still seventeen—still Louisa Cosgrove, isn't she? Who has done this unthinkable deed? Louisa must free herself, in more ways than one, and muster up the courage to be her true self, all the while solving her own twisted mystery and falling into an unconventional love . . .

Originally published in the UK, this well-paced, provocative romance pushes on boundaries—both literal and figurative—and, do beware: it will bind you, too.

Type: Historical Fiction (age 12 and up)

Quick Take: Recommend - First let me say this book is original (nice).  I don't read YA often, in fact I tend to shy away from it but I'm happy I gave this one a chance.  It doesn't read like YA, and the subject matter is adult in nature. 

Louisa is sent to live with a relative after her father dies, only to discover that she's been dropped off at an insane asylum.  Everyone there tells her that her name is Lucy. We follow Louisa as she learns to navigate the rules, pushing boundaries to reach her family (she's sure this is all a mistake) and find a way to get home to her mother.

This was a great book for me to read on the Nook (only my second time using it). It's fast paced, I walked around Sydney with my Nook... catching a few minutes here and there to read a chapter or two.  If you are looking for something new (unique), compelling yet easy to read over a weekend this is a great choice!

I should probably give this book 4 stars but there are a few things that I struggled to believe.... we all know I get hung up when imagination is required!

Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Source: Personal Copy (Nook)

Review: The Winter Sea

Why I picked it: If I'm honest... the cover drew me in and reading a review along with an email exchange with Staci (Life in the Thumb) confirmed that I needed to give this one a try. Bonus... I bought this and a few other books online with a Borders gift card (I didn't have to leave the house to shop)!

Synopsis: History has all but forgotten... In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

Type: Historical Fiction

Quick Take: Recommend - I really enjoyed this novel for it's originality and interesting rhythm, moving back and forth from current day to chapters of a novel being written by the main character Carrie.

Carrie's writing a historical novel about a distant relative, hoping to learn more about her family.  Under a deadline from her publisher, she rents a house in Scotland where she hopes to find the creativity she needs to begin writing.  Channeling the past through dreams she finds herself writing at a rapid pace, much to everyone's surprise.

While she's writing/researching she does become friendly with the landlord and his two sons, adding another element to the story (one I enjoyed).

I felt Scotland and cold of the sea while reading this book.  I did enjoy Carrie's story a little more than the fictional story she was writing but overall I really enjoyed the book which is filled with Scottish dialect, history and so much more.  If you enjoy historical fiction you will love this one, read it!

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Source: Personal Copy
Challenge: Historical Fiction Challenge
Country: Scotland

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