Review: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (Phaedra Patrick)

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Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication date: January 29, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
Page Count: 352
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Blurb:
In this poignant and curiously charming debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure

Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.

But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met–a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a joyous celebration of life’s infinite possibilities.

REVIEW:

“But there are always some people that you keep in your heart, yes?
That you never forget.”

I was so excited to stumble across this book on my way home at London Heathrow airport. I bought it on a whim, thinking that any story about the elderly going on an adventure was bound to have me captivated.

And I was right!

From the very beginning, Arthur delights us in his quest to find the meaning behind each charm on his late wife’s gold bracelet. After finding out the unique story behind the first charm, Arthur became determined to uncover his beloved’s past life…a life which he knew nothing about after having been married for 40 years. We see his tribulations in discovering a different life of his wife, which because the reason for both his sorrow and ultimately, his happiness.

This is the story of discovering new depths of love and how willing we are to accept one’s past and move on in the future. I love the message behind this book which encourages us to not live in the past, but to cherish the time we’re given to enjoy one another’s company.

The endearing story of Arthur having his own adventures after the anniversary of his wife’s death made me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I truly enjoyed flipping through the pages and meeting all the wonderful characters scattered within the book! Each character brings a wonderful story of friendship, hardship and kindness that we’re able to find in every day lives.

Which is what made me love this book so much: its honesty. I found the characters and stories read in this book totally believable and they are being lived out around the world. Arthur was lucky to have found friends in many of the kind strangers he met. You can’t help but to root for Arthur from the beginning, to complete his adventure and anticipate what story lies behind each charm. At one point, I felt sadden by his late wife’s past but her resilience in living in the present and not letting the past haunt her was very inspiring.

RATING: ★★★★

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a wonderful, light read that will leave you feeling good and enjoying life a little bit more because of the friends and family you have.

Brilliant read for fans of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and A Man Called Ove.

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Review: Britt-Marie Was Here (Fredrik Backman)

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Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Sceptre
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Format: Mass Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
From the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

Review:

I was more than thrilled to find out that Fredrik Backman released a new book. He is one of my favourite authors after I’ve had the pleasure of reading A Man Called Ove (one of my favourite 2016 reads!) and My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes (yes, his titles are always a mouthful). Stories of old people finding their way again in this world after suffering the death of their loved one or a crisis always gets me in tears and a bubbling mess of emotion!

Britt-Marie Was Here tells the tale of Britt-Marie who played a significant character in My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologizes, where we last saw her heartbroken after discovering her husband’s affair. This book takes place after Britt-Marie left her husband and finds herself thrust into a new situation that threw her off after 63 years of living life quietly.  She finds herself in Borg and meets various kinds of misfits and outcasts, including children who are obsessed with football, and befriends them.

“If you can be heard then you exist.”

In the beginning, we see Britt-Marie as a stern and stiff woman, with strict values on how to live one’s life. She’s the kind of prim and fussy elderly woman we always have the unfortunate time of meeting at supermarkets or during the festive season. So it was no wonder that she had trouble starting her life all over again, alone and devastated.

But, as the story progress, we see a side of Britt-Marie that will surprise us. Underneath all of those proper exterior and obsessive cleaning habits lie a sweet and kind hearted woman just wanting to make life comfortable for those around her. The children who love football convinces her to become their coach and she learns the value of hope and innocence in doing what you love, even when the odds seem against you.

As usual, the writing is very well done, even for an English translation from Swedish. I laughed out loud and I was deeply touched by Britt-Marie’s bond with the children she ‘coaches’. Her interaction with the other adults was also great that it makes you imagine easily what she’s going through. I can only imagine how difficult it is to begin your life again when you least want it to. And Britt-Marie teaches us that not everyone knows what they’re doing and that life almost never go the way you want it too.

From infidelity to friendship, this book has a wonderful sense of humor to take life as it is, despite meeting people who insist you use a coaster every time you drink.

“All marriages have their bad sides, because people have weaknesses. If you live with another human being you learn to handle these weaknesses in a variety of ways. For instance, you might take the view that weaknesses are a bit like heavy pieces of furniture, and based on this you must learn to clean around them. To maintain the illusion.”

I love the ending of the book despite there being so many heartbreaking moments. I believe it to be realistic, that sometimes we take the unconventional path in order to do the right thing. Because Britt-Marie taught me that whatever your situation, you do get to choose how to act and overcome any challenges.

“A human being may not choose her circumstances, but she does choose her actions”

I truly enjoyed Britt-Marie was here and I would highly recommend this to you if you have a soft spot for elderly stories. This book may be a little slow for some for the lack of plot, but the characters you meet and the true Britt-Marie revealed will have you all mushy with a mixed of emotions! 😀

RATING: ★★★★

Review: Wolf Hollow (Lauren Wolk)

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Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Dutton Books
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Personal
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Blurb:

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience, strength, and compassion help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

Review:

“The year I turned twelve, I learned that what I said and what I did mattered. So much, sometimes, that I wasn’t sure I wanted such a burden. But I took it anyway, and I carried it as best I could.”  

Wolf Hollow is a middle grade historical fiction based in Pennsylvania, US during the second world war and focuses on the devastating impact of bullying, neglected childhood, and the importance of bravery to stand up for those unable to do so for themselves.

I fell in love with the cover of Wolf Hollow in an instant. This story had the perfect mix of 1940’s America caught between one of the most brutal wars of our time and the simple farm life that became the setting of this story.

It tells the tale of Annabelle, an 11-year old girl who comes into contact with a mean and evil-spirited girl, Betty, set on ruling her school and her life. This story gave us a complicated insight to fighting prejudice, facing conflict in the best way possible and having courage to help others when all hope seems lost.

Annabelle developed a beautiful friendship with Toby, the war veteran that eventually became the target of Betty’s torments. To see that kind of friendship develop in the most trying of times was emotionally gripping and allowed us to see that beyond appearances and judgement, each person has a story to tell. A worthy one, too. Annabelle teaches us the power of kindness, resilient and firm believe in the kindness of strangers and the good human condition that makes us the people we are today.

I love how well written this book was emotionally and plot-wise. The characters were so well presented that they were created simply for the young readers to easily identify bullies and how they create conflict in a society. How sometimes, bullies and tormentors look innocent and can spew lies against those who are odd or a bit strange.

This book is meant for middle graders but I believe it appeals for adults as well. Because sometimes, we need books with simplicity such as Wolf Hollow to remind us that prejudice has existed for the longest of time. And only kindness and bravery can endure it.

“And I decided that there might be things I would never understand, no matter how hard I tried. Though try I would. And that there would be people who would never hear my one small voice, no matter what I had to say. But then a better thought occurred, and this was the one I carried away with me that day: If my life was to be just a single note in an endless symphony, how could I not sound it out for as long and as loudly as I could?”

I would recommend Wolf Hollow for all lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and Pax (Sara Pennypacker)! They have similar vibes to Wolf Hollow and this book will leave you in emotional heartbreak at what awaits you at the end of the book.

RATING: ★★★★★

Have you read this? What did you think about it? 🙂

Review: Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty)

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Genre: General/Speculative Fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Publication date: July 29, 2014
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

Review:

If you’re ever looking for a juicy and scandalous read, look no further because Big Little Lies has all the suspense and thrilling essence that will make you not want this book to ever end! This is my first book by her and I must say I was blown away..

“Oh, calamity!”

There are so many things about this book that I just love! From the wonderful characters that played such a big role in uncovering the truth, to the wonderful plot twist(s) that was embedded within the story. Never have I read a 500-page book so fast!

The Plot

Big Little Lies tell the story of 3 women who befriend each other in a small state in Australia. And from the very first page, you will get hooked into the lives of these very different but amazingly strong ladies. Madeline, Celeste and Jane bonded early on from their experiences with motherhood and how to survive in a high end suburb filled with pre-school politics, cheating husbands, ex-spouse and juicy secrets not meant for the public eye. And now, they all connected in a death of a person from their neighbourhood. And the whole book is based on revealing who died and how.

Pretty suspense, trust me.

“It had never crossed her mind that sending your child to school would be like going back to school yourself.”

The format was a bit weird to get into at first, the story alternated between the flashbacks to previous months before the death took place and the present where various parents and teachers living in the high-end neighborhood gave their statements to an interview for a police investigation.

Which made the whole book pretty unique considering the past and present were so well tied together!

This book literally kept me on my toes. From the beginning, I kept trying to guess who the victim and killer are. But with each chapter and more secrets revealed, I figured I was going to fail guessing anyway! The story took place in so many twists and turns that you are sent spiraling out of control while keeping up with the juicy scandals.Just when I thought I had the story figured out, I flipped the page andliterally screamed “What. The Hell??!” when the truth was revealed.

I kid you not. I screamed.

I was glad no one heard me.

It was so much fun to be sent on such a whirlwind adventure. Moriarty is a master in keeping her readers hooked from the beginning.

The Characters:

I simply adore how well the characters were presented here. From Madeline with her zesty personality and grudge against her ex-husband and his much younger new wife, to Celeste the elegant and beautiful blonde that everyone envies.

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”  – Madeline

We also get Jane, the new mom on the block who has such a weight on her shoulders and a dark past. Who also happens to be exceedingly smart but because of a drunken mistake, her life takes a different turn that led her meeting the other 2.

“I mean a fat, ugly man can still be funny and lovable and successful,” continued Jane. “But it’s like it’s the most shameful thing for a woman to be.”

All 3 ladies I found to be relatable as human beings with realistic problems and a lot of secrets hidden from the world. This book was great in a sense that made you understand the emotional burden women everywhere are experiencing, the heartbreak that comes with marriages or divorces, and the fierce love each mother has in protecting her child.

You can’t help but to root for these 3 ladies and hope that none of them becomes the victim of Moriarty’s evil scheme. Their personalities are so well-written and distinct that leave you wishing you could join their clique and gossip with them over coffee and cakes by the seaside.

Hands down, Big Little Lies is one of the most exciting speculative fiction I’ve ever read for adults! I will be looking for Moriarty’s other books soon. This book has the perfect mix of Gossip Girl and Desperate Housewives elements, and is perfect for matured readers who enjoyed The Thousandth Floor (Katherine McGee)!

RATING: ★★★★★

4 Highly Anticipated Books of 2017

Hey there book lovers! I hope 2017 is going great for you so far! I have here a list of my top 4 books I’m anticipating this year. I’ve never really looked forward to book releases as I don’t really keep up to date on these things. But I realised there are so many series installments coming out this year that I can’t help but to get excited 😀

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

This is the debut novel by Garber which is part of a series. Anyone who doesn’t think this cover is gorgeous seriously need to take a step back and evaluate their priorities. BECAUSE THIS COVER LOOKS AMAZING! With magical elements and adventure scattered in the book, I’m super excited to buy this and read it!

Caraval is set to be released on 31st January 2017.

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A Conjuring of Light by V E Schwab

A Conjuring of Light is the third and final installment to Shades of Magic trilogy which I started last year. This is one of my favourite seris and I’m so excited (and scared!) to see what disaster and heartbreak Schwab will trust on us this year. It’ll be pretty amazing to revisit the 4 Londons and see how Kell Maresh has been 😉

A Conjuring of Light is expected to be released on 21st February 2017.

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Our Dark Duet by V E Schwab

Another Schwab book I am so excited to read soon! Our Dark Duet is the final installment of the Monsters of Verity duology and the first book, This Savage Song, blew my mind away! Schwab’s books are always jam packed with adventures and the moralley gray situations that you can never distinguish bad and good. I love it!

Our Dark Duet is expected to be released on 13th June 2017.

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A Court of War and Ruins by Sarah J Maas

I can’t say I wasn’t teeny tiny bit disappointed with the title. But I do hope the cover makes up for it! The final covered has yet to be released for ACOWAR. ACOWAR is the final installment of the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. I know I surprised so many people when I loved A Court of Mist and Fury but what can I say? Rhysand is hot.

A Court of War and Ruins is expected to be released on 2nd May 2017

So those are my 4 top picks? What are the books you’re looking forward to buying and reading this year? 😀

Review: What Light (Jay Asher)

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Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication date: October 18, 2016
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon—it’s a bucolic setting for a girl to grow up in, except that every year, they pack up and move to California to set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other.

Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life eclipses the other.

By reputation, Caleb is not your perfect guy: years ago, he made an enormous mistake and has been paying for it ever since. But Sierra sees beyond Caleb’s past and becomes determined to help him find forgiveness and, maybe, redemption. As disapproval, misconceptions, and suspicions swirl around them, Caleb and Sierra discover the one thing that transcends all else: true love.

Review: (Contains some spoilers!)

Well…where do I begin with this book?

Let me just start off with how much I love Thirteen Reasons Why and how it brought so much light to bullying issues among high school students and surfaced many important questions about mental illness.

What Light is the opposite of how enlightening Thirteen Reasons Why was. Oh how I wish I had known this beforehand!

I bought this book on a whim thinking “Jay Asher wrote a new book? Sign me up! This is gonna be fantastic”

Boy, was I wrong. Dead wrong.

Apart from the festive Christmas-y feels which I genuinely enjoyed (even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, it does remind me of the wonderful winter I spent in London back in 2015), this book fell very flat for me. Like, iPhone-drops-on-your-face-flat.

It’s a miracle that I eventually finished this because I thought about DNF-ing this several times (per day).

The Plot

Though I’m not a huge reader of YA novels, I am well aware of the cliche tropes contained within it. And What Light has the ultimate cliche of nice white girl-next-door falls for dashingly  good looking white male teen who, lo and behold, has a troubled past in need of a redemption!

Quite the package isn’t he.

The entire book is about Sierra coming to terms with Caleb’s past and how forgiveness and the holiday spirit brings out the best in everyone, and basically how a Christmas fling is never really a good idea for young people.

There’s not much else to the plot asides Sierra making a stand for herself and proving to her parents of how nice a guy Caleb is. Honestly, I do not understand the extent of her efforts.

Sierra also has some minor high school drama with her friends back home, which was resolved pretty quickly without any issue. And this made me realise how lackluster the plot is surrounding her romance with Caleb. It’s like Jay Asher only thought about Caleb as the main focus of What Light and threw the other characters around to decorate Sierra and Caleb.

The Characters

Both Sierra and Caleb lack any personality traits I could relate to. I understand how magical first loves can be, and whilst their relationship was pretty well written in the book, everything else was very blunt, including the characters themselves.

I do however admire Sierra’s selectivity in choosing a guy to date but making her fall in love with the troubled and hot dude in town doesn’t really say improve her standing on guys.

Caleb was strangely much affected by how the town treats him because of his past, given how it was years ago and as I recall from various global disasters, humans forget the mistakes of others pretty quickly. So yeah, to see him getting backlash from his community after all this time, sounds a bit surreal to me.

The Ending

Well tied off although the story was left a bit hanging. I guess that was the point of it. To show that relationships go beyond the endings in books…

Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend this unless you just absolutely love cliche festive love stories and the YA tropes mentioned above. I do know many people who enjoyed this because of the Christmas-y vibe so give it a go if you want! I definitely hope you’ll enjoy it more than me 😉

RATING: ★★

Review: Grief is a Thing with Feathers (Max Porter) 

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Genre: Short Stories, Poetry
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication date: September 17, 2015
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal
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Blurb:
In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.

In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This self-described sentimental bird is attracted to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. As weeks turn to months and physical pain of loss gives way to memories, this little unit of three begin to heal.

In this extraordinary debut – part novella, part polyphonic fable, part essay on grief, Max Porter’s compassion and bravura style combine to dazzling effect. Full of unexpected humour and profound emotional truth, Grief is the Thing with Feathers marks the arrival of a thrilling new talent.

Review:

Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a novella with 3 POVs: Crow, Dad, The Boys. I was drawn into reading this after hearing wonderful reviews about it. I didn’t really know what it was entirely about other than the fact it revolved around the theme of grief and it somehow linked to Ted Hughes’ famous work Crow.

So I picked this up at my local bookstore and immediately I loved the writing style of this book. It consists of short passages from each POV that brings us a new perspective on grief. Crow happens to be the product of the family’s imagination that manifests in helping them cope with the Mother’s death. This book captures the essence of grief and how difficult it is to cope with it. You can’t help but to feel sorrow and heartbroken reading the Boys and Dad’s monologues surrounding the death of the Mother. From little boys to grown up young men, we’re shown how the death of their mom affected their emotional well being as they grew up. The Dad felt like he lost his other half and spent his entire life grieving for his lost partner. And the Crow is there the entire time to make sure this family comes to terms with their grief and learn not to be hopeless anymore in spite of it.

This book had the nice balance of emotional burden, humour and happiness. Some parts of the book had me chuckling, especially the dialogues between Crow and Dad. Though this book was wonderfully written,  I can’t say I loved this book to death. I didn’t, or rather couldn’t, grasp how or why this book blew away everyone’s minds. I have experienced my own grief when my maternal grandmother passed away when I was 12, so my lack of enjoyment is not from the lack of grieving experience. But rather, the book just wasn’t for me and I couldn’t connect with the book emotionally.

RATING: ★★★

I still enjoyed this as a whole, and I believe that if you are looking for an unconventional novella that questions how to cope with grief, this is definitely for you!