The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

Dear Fellow Reader,

Have you ever read a book that you think might be mis-titled and that the description seems, well, off? That is the way I feel about the following book. I am not talking about books that claim to be like other books. By the way, I hate that. It never fails that I don’t think the books that are compared are anything like each other. I am usually disappointed in the second book that is just like (fill in the blank). Or, for fans of _________, you’ll love __________.

Anyway, The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins is an interesting read. I would just not call it The Book Charmer. Yes, there is a character in the book that feels that books talk to her. And I have no problem with that. It is a very interesting talent for a character to have.  But the book is not mostly about that person. The book is about Grace Wheeler and her life and her move with her Foster mother and niece to the small town of Dove Pond.

Grace is in a transitory place in her life and she ends up in this small southern town. Her whole intent is to leave the town in a year. She has a lot on her plate and she is making it from day to day. She doesn’t need what she considers to be a nosy neighbor telling her that she has to stay and help the town. She isn’t interested in that. She doesn’t need or want friends. She just wants to keep her head above water.

But Grace learns that help doesn’t come at a cost.

I enjoyed the story very much. As I said, I was irritated but don’t let my irritation with this influence your enjoyment of the book. I do have an affinity to books with crazy southern women. I find the characters have charm and they are so interesting. For some reason, southern women seem to have a craziness all their own.

A good summer beach read.

I was given a copy of the book in return for my review of the book.

Thanks for reading!

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The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

reading at beach


Dear Fellow Reader,

I seem to have lost track of time again! I apologize. I have been reading but not writing about it. Although I will admit that while I was WAY ahead on my goodreads goal for the year, I am down to being just three books ahead. (Do you set a goal with for the year? I started a few years ago and am glad that I do. Now I keep track of the books I have read. Not always the number but mostly the titles. It is easy to forget that you read a book when you read frequently. I think it is a great way to push yourself to read AND to keep track of what you have read.)

This week’s book is a book that I received as an ARC (advanced review copy) and it was published on May 14th. I like to do the review on the day the book comes out to try and give the author a boost on that day but somehow getting this review out got lost. (This also means that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. And once again I ask the question, “Can there be an unbiased review?”)

UnhoneymoonersThe Unhoneymooners is a good beach read. It has all the elements that make it a good beach read. The main character is a bit unsure of herself, she must face conflicts and has a man in her life that drives her crazy and makes her feel terrible about herself.

Olive Torres is a twin. Her twin, Ami, does everything right and, in Olive’s eyes, has all the luck. Her sister will work to win contests. As a matter of fact, her sister is about to get married and has financed most of the wedding through her winnings. She even has a fabulous honeymoon trip to Hawaii that she won. The only issue at the wedding for Olive is that the groom’s brother and best man, Ethan, seems to hate her. She isn’t sure what it is that has made him so set against her, but he doesn’t seem to hide it. On top of that, her dress for the wedding is just awful. She trusted her sister’s impeccable taste, but she underestimated the dress her sister would win for the wedding. It is just awful. She compares herself to a 7-up can. Except that a 7 up can doesn’t have boobs that are about to fall out of the dress. So, not exactly feeling her best, she proceeds with her maid of honor duties. One of which seems to be to make sure the best man (her nemesis) is going to get his special meal at the buffet. It seems that he won’t eat buffet food. He finds the concept repulsive. At the same time, it is a seafood buffet and Olive is terribly allergic to seafood, so she also has a special meal. (You guessed it; Ami won the buffet meal.)

Not long after dinner, the guests all start getting sick. The seafood was tainted, and people are terribly sick. Olive and Ethan are the only ones who aren’t sick. The bride and groom are so sick that they cannot possibly go on the honeymoon. Enter Olive and Ethan to take the trip. Olive has no desire to go with Ethan and he isn’t warm to the idea either. But off they go.

Now, since I have said this is a beach read, you might have an idea as to what happens next. But while I’m not going to say you are wrong, I will say that there are some twists that might not be expected in the rest of the book.

So, you can read the book to find out what happens on the trip and beyond.

Thanks for reading!

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The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Dear Fellow Reader,

One day after my library book club meeting, I was talking to the librarian. She was talking about several books and authors that she has read. Since she reads fantasy and I generally don’t, I had not heard of most of the books and authors she was talking about. But she mentioned one that caught my interest.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde is the first in the Thursday Next series. Thursday Next is the female detective in the series. The book takes place in an alternative universe in 1985 England. In the world of this book, there are police but there are also Special Operations agents. The Special Operations agents work in levels with each level having a different job. As the book opens, Thursday is a SO-27, which is a literary detection. The department investigates claims of discovered manuscripts, provides security systems for original manuscripts and prosecutes forgers. The story takes a turn when Thursday is recruited to help as a SO-8 because she knows who Acheron Hades is and what he looks like. He is a particularly slippery, dastardly bad guy. Acheron kidnaps Thursday’s uncle Mycroft and steals his invention. By using that invention, he goes into the world of the novel, Martin Chuzzlewit and removes a character and kills him. Because he has does this using the original manuscript, the character disappears from the story never to return. When Acheron does not get the ransom he demands, he announces that he is going to go a step further and kidnap and kill a major character.

Acheron has so many tricks up his sleeve that even though they are carefully guarding it,  he steals the original manuscript for Jane Eyre and kidnaps Jane Eyre. Thursday has to think fast in order to return Jane to the book. (Since Jane Eyre is written in first person, there is essentially no book if Jane is gone.)

I’ll admit that this sounds like a spoiler alert and in some ways it is but there is so much going on in the book that while telling you about what happens with these two books is a spoiler, it is nothing compared to everything else that goes on.

The book is so clever. It is so much fun to read. I kept laughing. If you are a fan of Jane Eyre and literature in general, you will enjoy this book. Thursday has her hands full with her family and Acheron Hades and even her pet dodo. (It was an early clone.)

I don’t usually read fantasy, but this book was well worth making an exception. I think you will find it to be an enjoyable read. This is also the first book in a six book series. Yes, they need to be read in order.

Thanks for reading!

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Evicted by Matthew Desmond


Dear Fellow Reader,

I am sure that I have told you before that one of the best parts of belonging to a book club is that I read books that I would not normally read. There have been several that I am so glad that I read but I know I would not have ever picked them up.

This month is another example of a book I would not have read on my own. I had heard about Evicted because I live in Wisconsin and the book is centered on Milwaukee, but the book could be written about any city.

Evicted by Matthew Desmond is a nonfiction work about – as it states on the cover – “poverty and profit in the American city“. Desmond refers to himself as an ethnographer, which is when the researcher observes society from the point of view of the subject of the study. In the book, eight families are followed through their journey of trying to find a place to live. The book points out the factors that are against them in this search and what happens to families caught in poverty.

“…the presence of children in the household almost tripled the tenant’s odds of receiving an eviction judgment.”

It is hard to know where to start to talk about this book. It is a hard book to read. The book makes you want to help the people stuck in sub-standard housing and bad neighborhoods but at the same time, it is hard to know where to start. The system is broken but it seems that the things that have been done to fix it have caused other problems. For example, the Milwaukee Code of Ordinances (Section 80-10) allows for the police to charge a landlord if there are more than three nuisance activity calls within a 30-day period. The charges are itemized down to even $4 for a 911 call. If the activities continue, the landlord can be subject to a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 or thrown in jail. The landlord then must write back to the police and tell them what is going to be done to abate the problem. In the case in the book, writing back to say that they are going to work with the tenant is not an acceptable answer. The acceptable answer is to send a copy of the eviction notice to the police. One of the families in the book had called 911 for a medical emergency. They were then notified by the landlord that it better not happen again or they would be evicted. So while I can see that there could have been good intent for the ordinance, in many cases, it works against the tenant.

The eviction process seems to be arbitrary and retaliatory in many cases. If your plumbing doesn’t work and you call the housing people because your landlord doesn’t fix it then you can be evicted. It doesn’t matter if you have paid your rent. The tenants don’t seem to understand that if you are being evicted and you don’t go to court to fight it that you will have an eviction on your record. But going to court to fight your eviction takes time from work that most people at the poverty level can’t afford. Also, fighting your way through all the different programs is confusing and takes a lot of time. The book shows the progression that happens when a person is evicted and how it just spirals down and down the housing food chain.

“Some of the most important findings to come out the Milwaukee Area Renters Study have to do with eviction’s fallout. The data linked eviction to heightened residential instability, substandard housing, declines in neighborhood quality and even job loss.”

The book serves to open a dialog about the problem and what can be done to help the people caught in the eviction spiral. It is well written and informative. I urge you to read the section at the end “About this Project.”  I felt this section was important and think it is a shame it is at the end of the book, where it could be skipped over. The book is well worth reading.

Thanks for reading!


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Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly


Dear Fellow Reader,

I have signed myself up to read more than I can read. I don’t know how I got in this position, but I don’t like it. I hate feeling that I am behind with my reading. Between the book clubs and the Library Adult Reading Challenge, I would be reading plenty. But there are so many books that I want to read. The reading life isn’t a box of chocolates, it is a never-ending smorgasbord. I have decided that I am going to read my TRB pile that is staring at me in the living room. I will complete those books this year. Do you have a pile of books to read staring at you?

This is a long explanation that I did not read my book club book for last month. It was Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I understand that it is to be very good, but I ran out of time. It is on my TBR pile and I will get to it this year. But while I didn’t get to Lilac Girls, I did receive a promotional copy of Lost Roses and I read that. Lost Roses is the new book by Martha Hall Kelly and today is its publication date. Happy new book day to Martha Hall Kelly!

The story, Lost Roses, starts in 1914. Sofya Streshnayva is in New York visiting her friend, Eliza Ferriday. The two friends are about to leave to go to St. Petersburg. The two friends met in Paris years ago and are happy to continue their friendship. Sofya is a cousin of the Tsar of Russia. She lives with her husband, son, father, step-mother, and sister. They are wealthy and have always been wealthy.

The two friends get to St. Petersburg, but times are turbulent for the Tsar and his supporters. Then as it had been threatening, World War I starts. Eliza Ferriday rushes home to New York. In the meantime, Sofya and her family flee to their summer home to escape the violence that is overtaking the city. The family needs domestic help and hires the daughter of the local fortune teller, Varinka, to help with the care of Maxwell, Sofya’s son.

The story follows how the friend’s friendship survives turbulent times. Eliza loses contact with Sofya and is anxious to find her. She goes to Paris as soon as it is safe to search for her friend. She doesn’t know if Sofya is alive, but she knows that she has to find out.

I found that it was a very entertaining tale of friendship, family bonds, and how war can bring out the best and the worst in people. It is a book worth reading. (And I promise to read Lilac Girls and let you know what I thought of it.)

Thanks for reading!

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