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.

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: 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: ★★★★★

Review: Harmless Like You (Rowan Hisayo Buchanan)

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Genre: General Fiction

Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis:

Written in startlingly beautiful prose, HARMLESS LIKE YOU is set across New York, Berlin and Connecticut, following the stories of Yuki Oyama, a Japanese girl fighting to make it as an artist, and Yuki’s son Jay who, as an adult in the present day, is forced to confront his mother who abandoned him when he was only two years old.

HARMLESS LIKE YOU is an unforgettable novel about the complexities of identity, art, adolescent friendships and familial bonds, offering a unique exploration of love, loneliness and reconciliation.

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Review: How to be Both (Ali Smith)

Genre: General Fiction

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis:

 How to be both is a novel all about art’s versatility. Borrowing from painting’s fresco technique to make an original literary double-take, it’s a fast-moving genre-bending conversation between forms, times, truths and fictions. There’s a Renaissance artist of the 1460s. There’s the child of a child of the 1960s. Two tales of love and injustice twist into a singular yarn where time gets timeless, structural gets playful, knowing gets mysterious, fictional gets real—and all life’s givens get given a second chance.

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