Category: Domestic Fiction

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Categorized as Christian/Domestic Fiction, Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good returns to Karon’s fictional town of Mitford, NC (think Mayberry), to continue the story of Father Timothy Kavanagh’s ordinary life in an ordinary town.  It’s a peaceful town, a storybook small town where people are kind and life is sweet.  The Mitford series has been extremely popular, with many of the later books landing on the New York Times Bestseller List, some even debuting at #1.  Karon appears to have a loyal fan base!

This post does not contain spoilers.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon (2014)

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

What’s Wrong?

 As Roberta mentioned in her #BookBeginnings post, reading a book that is placed in the middle of a well-established series isn’t always the easiest.  Often you really need the backstory of all the characters to be able to follow the current story, and I found that to be the case with Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good.  There are so many characters to get to know in the town of Mitford and I didn’t feel that Karon did a very good job of providing us enough backstory for each, which meant it was extremely easy to confuse who was who and why they were saying this or that.

I also disliked Karon’s writing style.  It felt choppy and disjointed.  I often couldn’t follow who was saying what in long sections of dialogue.  And there were many times that it seemed Karon was writing for a movie instead of a book and expecting her actors to show what she meant, rather than actually writing what she meant to show.  Here’s an example:

While shaving, he had an impulse toward the ridiculous. He scarcely ever did anything ridiculous.

Puny’s ten-month-old twin boys were in the kitchen in their bouncing chairs, each with a pacifier. He was not a fan of the pacifier but it would be politically incorrect to express that opinion in his own household.

‘Tommy,’ he said, standing near the door while Puny swept the side porch. ‘What do you think?’

Tommy burst into tears, the pacifier fell to the floor; Violet pounced and skittered it to the corner of the room.

Puny opened the door a crack. ‘What’s goin’ on in there?’

‘I asked Tommy a question and he started crying. Sorry.’

‘Could you please pick ’im up? I got to get these steps cleaned off, you wouldn’ believe th’ raccoon poop out here.’ She closed the door.

He picked up Tommy, all eighteen pounds, jiggled him as he had jiggled Puny’s first set of twins, Sissy and Sassy. Jiggling was good—Tommy stopped crying.

Puny opened the door again. ‘What did you ask ’im?’

‘Oh, nothing much. He’s fine now.’

She closed the door; he put Tommy in the chair, went after the pacifier, washed it under the hot water tap, and stuck it back where it belonged.

Timmy, his very own namesake, looked up at him with Carolina-blue eyes.

‘What do you think, Timmy?’

Timmy took the pacifier from his mouth, laughed, and handed it over.

‘Thanks for sharing,’ he said. ‘Maybe later.’

Out of the mouths of babes, so to speak. He kissed both boys on the tops of their heads.

So, what exactly did Father Timothy do while shaving that was “ridiculous?”  Did he shave only one side?  Did he make a weird face with the shaving cream to scare the babies?  Who knows?  I kept reading, watching for reactions from others in the subsequent scenes that would indicate if he’d done some weird shaving of his head or something, but no comments were made, so I finally surmised he must have done something with the shaving cream itself.

Unfinished

I tried, I truly tried, but I couldn’t finish this book.  This is the very first one on our challenge that I’ve not been able to finish.  I made it 45% of the way through and my patience wore out.  Too many scenes like the one highlighted above just wore me down.  Not knowing the backstory of all the characters led me to not care about their current stories.  Perhaps it would have been different if I started with the very first book.

I know small town people and events can be interesting – I used to live in a small town.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s why Somewhere Safe With Someone Good was a bestseller.  One of the topics that The Bestseller Code’s algorithm found to be most useful in identifying best-selling novels was the topic of human interactions and relationships, human closeness and connections.  Karon’s novel is all about human connections and relationships. In the end, though, that wasn’t enough for me.  Her writing style that left me cold and confused and I decided there are simply too many good books out there to waste another moment reading one that I disliked so.

 

Have you read Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 57.  Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James (2011) – Discussion begins June 25, 2018

#BookBeginnings After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

Today I’m starting After Anna by Lisa Scottoline for Book Beginnings on Fridays.

Book Beginnings is a fun meme hosted by Rose City Reader blog. To participate, share the first sentence or so of a novel you are reading and your thoughts about it. When you are finished, add your URL to the Book Beginnings page linked above. Hope to see you there!

 

book-beginnings-button-Lisa Scottoline

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Genre:  Domestic thriller

Summary:  After Maggie Ippolitti marries Dr. Noah Alderman and becomes mother to his young son Caleb, she is surprised when she gets a call from her long-lost teenage daughter, Anna. She and her husband are happy to welcome Anna into their family, but things do not go smoothly. Before long someone murders Anna and the police accuse Noah. Maggie must put aside her grief and search for the truth about what really happened.

First Sentence:

Dr. Noah Alderman watched the jurors as they filed into the courtroom with their verdict, which would either set him free or convict him of first-degree murder. None of them met his eye, which was a bad sign.

Discussion:

The chapters skip back and forth in time. This one is labelled “Noah, After.” The next is “Maggie, Before.”

I hope this is a fast read. I signed up to attend a conference in the fall and, because I want to to read a novel written by each of speakers, my TBR pile just became a TBR skyscraper.

Have you read anything by Lisa Scottoline? What do you think?

#amreading Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray

A lovely woman from my writers’ group passed me a copy Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray (2003) last week. “You have to read it,” she said. She was right!

Eat Cake* by Jeanne Ray

(Amazon Affiliate link)

Main character Ruth is the position so many people find themselves. She is at the point of her life when her children are about to fly from the nest when suddenly her parents can no longer live on their own and move in with her. To complicate matters, Ruth’s parents are divorced and her mom can’t stand the sight of her dad. Add the fact her husband is unexpectedly laid off after twenty years, and chaos is bound to ensue.

Jeanne Ray does an excellent job of setting up a believable scenario. In fact, because it told from the first person point of view, this book reads like a memoir. The voice is just the right tone of light humor, what you’d expect from someone who manages to see the ridiculousness of the situation she finds herself in.

Public domain photo from Best Running

The Cakes

The title comes from Ruth’s tendency to bake cakes when she’s stressed. Under these circumstances, she bakes a lot of them. It is best not to read this book on an empty stomach.

If you would also like to bake the cakes Jeanne Ray mentions, the back matter has over ten full recipes, ranging from Almond Apricot to Lemon Layer cake. The paperback copy I read also included a Reader’s Guide.

That’s not to say the story is absolute perfection. Although I don’t want to give away details, the ending was not as clean as the set up in the beginning, and the wrap up of the husband’s story was probably the weakest.

Regardless, Eat Cake is a sweet confection that doesn’t take long to read and leaves you with a satisfied feeling. Pick up a slice copy today.

#BestsellerCode100: Number 74. A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 list, A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

A Day Late and a Dollar Short*


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary: A peek into the dynamics of a complex and frankly dysfunctional family.

You might recognize some of Terry McMillan’s other novels, such as Waiting to Exhale and How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

Have you read A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about A Day Late and a Dollar Short by Terry McMillan? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 73. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (2009) – Discussion begins November 13, 2017
Genre:  Suspense

#BestsellerCode100: Number 88. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listThe Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

This post does not contain spoilers.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

What it’s about: Three grown sisters return to their hometown when their mother falls ill. Although they grew up together and all were named after characters in Shakespeare’s plays by their father, the three sisters couldn’t be more different. Will the crisis pull them together or break them apart?

Quirky fact:  This book is written in the first person plural.

 

weird sisters

 

Have you read The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first few lines of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown? Feel free to add a link to your review here.

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 87. World War Z by Max Brooks (2006) – Discussion begins May 8, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans, is next up on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

 

The first line in The Horse Whisperer sets up the tone of the book quite well:

There was death at its beginning as there would be death again at its end.

After reading that line, how can you not read quickly through the first chapter to see who is going to die and how?

Horses And More

This story has all the components needed to suck you in: forbidden love, a life-threatening accident, a ruggedly handsome cowboy (Tom, the horse whisperer), a driven professional woman seeking healing for her daughter and herself (Annie), a teenage daughter in emotional pain (Grace), a supportive husband who fears he’s losing his family (Robert), and the big sky of Montana. Oh, and horses.  Lots of horses.

While I’m not exactly a horse person, I liked almost everything about this novel.  The characters were multi-dimensional, the storyline compelling, and the descriptions of Montana made me want to hop in the car and go see it for myself.

Initially I was shocked and angry with the story resolution.  I wanted a fairytale ending, which, of course, wasn’t possible.  “There would be death again at its end,” remember? (By the end of the book, I’d forgotten that tidbit of information.)  The only question was, who would die?

Philosophy Of Life

Early in the book we learn Tom’s philosophy of life:

“I guess that’s all forever is,” his father replied. “Just one long trail of nows. And I guess all you can do is try and live one now at a time without getting too worked up about the last now or the next now.” It seemed to Tom as good a recipe for life as he’d yet heard.

In the next to the last chapter, Tom is brought face to face by the “next now” that his living “one now at a time” has created.  Author Evans is pretty clear that Tom had options – he’s just not clear why Tom made the choice that he did.  I was left wondering if Tom was really being altruistic in his final scene or if he took the easy way out of what had become a very messy situation.

Notwithstanding the ending, I really liked this novel.  The writing was lyrical and I highlighted many quotes throughout that I thought had real depth to them.  Here are a couple:

In chapter eight, Tom explains to his soon-to-be first wife why he is leaving college and going back to being a cowboy in Montana:

“When I was working as a hand, I just couldn’t wait to get back in at night to whatever I was reading. Books had a kind of magic. But these teachers here, with all their talk, well . . . Seems to me if you talk about these things too much, the magic gets lost and pretty soon talk is all there is. Some things in life just . . . are.”

Acceptance

In chapter twenty-two, Tom has just forced Grace’s horse Pilgrim through a process that both Annie & Grace perceived as emotionally cruel and designed to break Pilgrim’s spirit.  Tom wants them to understand what really happened:

“He [Pilgrim] had the choice to go on fighting life or to accept it…. It was hard as hell, but he could have gone on. Gone on making himself more and more unhappy. But what he chose to do instead was to go to the brink and look beyond. And he saw what was there and he chose to accept it.”

“Sometimes what seems like surrender isn’t surrender at all. It’s about what’s going on in our hearts. About seeing clearly the way life is and accepting it and being true to it, whatever the pain, because the pain of not being true to it is far, far greater.”

Perhaps, at the end, Tom was simply seeing clearly the way life had to be for those he loved and being true to it.

 

Have you read The Horse Whisperer? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Related posts:

  1. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  2. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  4. After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

Join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

90. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson (2012) – Discussion begins March 27, 2017

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review One Day by David Nicholls

One Day by David Nicholls is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

David Nicholls’ One Day*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

One Day follows the lives of Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley over the course of about twenty years, beginning July 15, 1988, the day they both graduate from university.  In the opening scene, they are lying in bed together, discussing the future and what they see for themselves now that college is over.  Even though they seem to have little in common and their lives take divergent paths, “Dex” and “Em” maintain a connection that is revealed as each subsequent chapter covers the events on the same date each year, July 15th.

It was interesting to read this book right after Olive Kitteridge.

In Olive Kitteridge, the main character, Olive, is revealed through her interactions with others and her own inner thoughts.  Each chapter introduces new characters and settings that in some way impact Olive, an ungainly and cranky woman who has difficulty finding her place within her community and difficulty connecting on an intimate, emotional level with those closest to her, including her own husband and son.  It’s only at the very end of the book that Olive realizes she has let opportunities for intimacy pass by and decides she doesn’t want to be alone anymore.  Unfortunately, I never really connected with Olive and thus didn’t really care at the end what her self-revelations were.

In One Day, we learn about Dexter and Emma through their own thoughts and actions and their interplay with each other in each chapter.  In the very first chapter, where their relationship begins with what Dexter intended to be a one-night stand, we see their short-comings, their fears, their loneliness.  For the most part, they already know who they are.  Throughout the book we see how they navigate adulthood and try to follow their dreams.  We follow the ups and downs of their relationship and wonder if they will ever admit to each other the true depth of their feelings.

I was able to connect with Dexter and Emma.  Their uncertainties, their dreams, their actions, all seemed believable.  I’ve felt them; I know friends and relatives that have done and acted similarly.  What wasn’t clear to me, and wasn’t revealed until the very end of the book, is why their bond formed on that very first day.  Exactly what did Emma see in Dexter that led her to hang on to their friendship through the difficult times (although she did ultimately break off communications for a couple of years).  Those last chapters in the book revealed new depths to Dexter, depths we might not have believed if we had seen them at the beginning of the book, given his subsequent actions.

I really liked One Day and thought it was the book that Olive Kitteridge wanted to be.

Both Olive Kitteridge and One Day were made into movies and I’m looking forward to watching both and comparing the movies to the books.  Have you read the books?  Seen the movies?  Tell me what you thought of either, or both!

 

What did you think of One Day? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. One Day landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 91 on the list, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans (1995) – Discussion begins March 13, 2017.  This books is classified as Literary Fiction.

#BestsellerCode100: Reader’s Review Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout is next on our 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge.  You can read Roberta’s kick-off description here.

This post contains spoilers.

Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge*

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

 

Olive Kitteridge won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2009.  It was reviewed with phrases such as “Perceptive, deeply empathetic,” (O: The Oprah Magazine); “Glorious, powerful stuff,” (USA Today); “gutsy emotional punch,” (Entertainment Weekly); and “Mesmerizing,” (Tampa Tribune).   And, it was liked so well that it was made into an HBO mini-series.  Mesmerizing?  Really?! Did they read the same Olive Kitteridge that I read?

Olive Kitteridge consists of a series of short stories involving the residents of fictional Crosby, Maine.  The stories span twenty-five years and each story introduces new characters; however, in each story Olive Kitteridge herself makes an appearance.  Olive is a retired middle-school math teacher who is married to the town’s pharmacist, Henry.  Olive and Henry have one son, Christopher, who appears in a couple of the thirteen chapters.  Olive is a very difficult person to like.  She’s gruff, abrupt, and emotionally volatile. In some of the short stories we see glimmers of more positive characteristics, but throughout the book, Olive rarely takes the high road in any situation and rarely sees the positive in any situation.

Small Town Lives

The small town lives that author Elizabeth Strout presents are sad, depressed, and lonely – lives filled with jealousy and adultery.  Only rarely are we given glimpses of love, hope, faith, happiness.  I have spent the majority of my life living in small town America and it saddens me to think that people reading Olive Kitteridge will believe that fictional Crosby is representative of small town life.  Yes, people in small towns can be petty and it is impossible to avoid the rumor mill.  Adultery does exist, as does suicide, another running theme throughout Olive Kitteridge.  But my experience is that small town America is also filled with hopeful, helping, optimistic, and loving people.  It is possible in small town America to live a good and happy life, positively affecting those around you and bettering the world.  Olive Kitteridge shows us none of that.

It was only the very last chapter that I felt made the book possibly worth reading.  In the last chapter, Olive overcomes her fears and loneliness to reach out to another, admitting that she needs love, even admitting to herself that she squandered the love she had with her husband Henry.  Only in the last chapter did I feel there was any real character growth.  Maybe it took twelve chapters to show us the true Olive, warts and all, so we could appreciate her choice in the final chapter?  For me, it wasn’t enough.

 

What did you think of Olive Kitteridge? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

  1. Olive Kitteridge landing page
  2. Book-beginnings, a discussion of the first line of the novel
  3. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective

After you finish the book, you might want to drop by to take our survey.

 

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

_________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog.

The next book is number 92 on the list, One Day by David Nicholls (2009) – Discussion begins February 27, 2017.  This books is classified as Contemporary Fiction.

#amreading Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult, who is one of The Bestseller Code 100 challenge authors, did an online interview on Facebook this week promoting her latest, Small Great Things (Amazon affiliate link).

Did you catch the interview? If not, I figured out how to embed it here. The interview is about 45 minutes long, but well worth the time. Note: It takes a minute or so for the interview to start.

Summary:

The novel is about a nurse named Ruth who is told she shouldn’t touch one of the babies in her care because the baby’s parents are white supremacists and they requested no African Americans care for their child. What does she do when an emergency comes up and she is alone with the baby?

Discussion:

Picoult says it took her twenty-five years to find a way to write about racism in America. She went to a racial justice workshop, interviewed a number of African Americans about their lives, and also spoke to a former white supremacist. Because she writes from three points of view;  as Ruth the African American nurse, as the white supremacist father, and as the white lawyer who defends Ruth, Jodi had to create three different voices. The author says that after writing as the supremacist, she felt the need to take a shower.

During the interview, she also discusses some of her other books and the process of writing. I smiled when she disclosed her daughter protested because she found out her mother had used one of their conversations in the book.

If you watched the interview, what did you think?

 

Hardcover: 480 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (October 11, 2016)
ISBN-10: 0345544951
ISBN-13: 978-0345544957

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