June 18, 2018

Book Review: Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancĂ©’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.

When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.

And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

Matchmaking for Beginners is a very charming book, much like the eccentric and otherworldly Blix.  She sees people’s auras and colors and has a sixth sense of which person should go with whom. Knowing that she’s about to die, she bequeaths her Brooklyn house to Marnie, her nephew’s ex, whom she’s only met once. Along with the house, Marnie inherits Blix’s friends and Blix’s magical matchmaking gift. Marnie is at first resistant but eventually, she finds that she was meant for this life.

“You need to forget what society has told you about life and expectations, and don’t let anybody make you pretend.  You are enough, just the way you are – do you hear me? You have many gifts.  Many, many gifts.”

Although the book ends happily, some aspects of the story just felt wrong to me. First is Blix’s declaration to Marnie that she was meant for a “big life” as opposed to the ordinary life Marnie saw for herself – being married, domestic bliss, a job, children, etc. But by “big life”, Blix meant a life in Brooklyn in a charming brownstone with a collection of bohemian friends.  That doesn’t sound very “big” to me.  To me, “big life” means she’s going to find the cure for cancer or have adventures in the Amazon or jump out of planes. Suburbs = small.  Brooklyn = big.  I found nothing especially “big” about the life the author described.  

Secondly, it really grated on my nerves when Blix, and then Marnie, insisted on the introverted Patrick attending parties. The author made it seem like preferring to be around one person at a time versus lots of people as pathetically sad.  Only when he came upstairs to go to their parties was he deemed saved by their extroverted ways.  As an introvert, I found nothing wrong with Patrick preferring to hang with one friend at a time. I hate it when people insist that something must be wrong with me for not wanting to be around lots of people all the time.  This of course is my personal preference. I just saw these scenes in a different way than the author intended. I felt really bad for Patrick being forced to be sociable when he did not want to be.  Blix and Marnie should just have accepted Patrick just the way he was – the way true friends should.

“There is so much fear to wade through before you get to love.”

“The subversive truth about love is that it really is the big deal everyone makes it out to be, and it’s not some form of security or an insurance policy against loneliness.  It’s everything, love is.  It runs the whole universe.”

June 11, 2018

Book Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

I dare you to read the first 3% of Half Bad and not immediately want to drop everything else in your life. Because that happened to me and unfortunately, I was at work so spent an unbearable but delicious few hours until I got off, anticipating how I was going to tear into the following 97% for the rest of the night.

What hooked me so hard and so fast? I knew very little about this book before downloading it.  Witches.  That’s it. That’s all I knew. So when the novel opened with an arresting second person POV– putting me in the place of the boy in the cage - I was instantly riveted.  How was this poor creature going to escape his impossible situation and how did he end up in a cage in the first place? I literally woke up at 1:00 a.m. in the morning just to continue reading this book. 

The white witches are considered “good” and the black witches “bad.” The dichotomy is very stark and troubling as it seems to be along racial lines as well. The white witches seem to be, well very white Caucasians and the baddest of the black witches is darker-skinned. Green stops short of making an overt statement about good/bad white-skinned/dark-skinned, but perhaps she’ll develop this further in the sequels.  

Inspite of the great amount of wince-inducing violence, mostly directed at our protagonist, Nathan, and my not-so-clear understanding of how this magical world operated, Half Bad was an exciting discovery. Doubly so because I instantly got the next book, Half Wild, as soon I finished reading the last page.  

April 30, 2018

Book Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers—a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father’s death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia’s loyal customers have become like family, and she can’t imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There’s Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there’s a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage—she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future—and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.

All the diamonds in the world are nothing in comparison.  Books are more precious than jewels.

Every once in a while, I just crave a novel about or set in a book store because 1) I know it’s going to celebrate books and speak my language and 2) I sometimes pine for the days when I used to work in a book store and the close friendships I formed there. Book people are the best people there are.

"'It must happen to you all the time,' said Sarah. 'People telling you how much a book has meant.'

"'Yes,' said Julius. 'Its why I do what I do.  There’s a book for everyone, even if they don’t think there is.  A book that reaches in and grabs your soul.'”

So of course when I heard the title of this book I immediately perked up – I just had to read it. I thought I knew what it was going to be like and how it was going to go – but in the most pleasant way, it surprised me. With a title like that, you think it’s going to be all meet-cutes in a small town but in actuality, there are some sad moments.  Unrequited love, tragedy, and messy details of real life. But there’s also enchantment and, yes, happily ever afters, some of which were unexpected. 

And she knew from all the books she had ever read, that life was complicated, that love sprang from nowhere sometimes, and that forbidden love wasn’t always something to be ashamed of.

Not only did this novel satisfy my itch for novels set in bookstores, but it also spoke to my love for food and makeovers. If that combination sounds appealing – then you MUST read this book!