‘The Wartime Sisters’ by Lynda Cohen Loigman

the-wartime-sisters-loigman

War tears people apart, but so do lies, jealousy, and misunderstanding. In Lynda Cohen Loigman’s new novel The Wartime Sisters, Ruth and Millie find this out firsthand.

Millie has always been the golden child: beautiful, charming, and adored by everyone, including Ruth and Millie’s parents and all the boys in town. As long as Ruth can remember, Millie has been shattering her sister’s perfect and ordered life. So, when she gets the chance, Ruth runs as far away as she can with her family, hoping to leave everything about Millie and their past behind.

Millie, though, doesn’t embrace her beauty and seemingly mystical charm over men. She wants to find true love, sure, and she appreciates her parents’ affection, but she doesn’t want to only be seen for her looks. She feels wronged by Ruth. She sees Ruth’s constant taunting and accusing tone as one that is meant to make her feel inadequate. Millie is torn between wanting to repair the relationship she’s never really had with Ruth and forget it ever existed.

When World War II starts, things become even more trying for the sisters as they grapple with the effects of the war on their family and loved ones. When Millie’s husband disappears in battle, Ruth takes the first step in breaking down the wall between the two sisters and invites Millie to live with her and her family. Millie, though, starts embodying all of the labels and fixed ideas that Ruth has set out for her, and soon the sisters are back at war where they started.

Loigman takes us on a journey of what it means to repair a life after a deep-set trauma. She does this not only through Ruth and Millie’s eyes, but through the eyes of other female narrators who have similar stories to tell. Through it all, the message is clear: be strong, fight for what is right, and forgive.

Being pulled out of the novel by a constantly shifting narrator could at times detract from the pace of and investment in the novel. It felt hard to get close enough to any one character to feel their plight acutely enough to be wholly invested in them as a character. I found myself wanting to return to Ruth’s point of view most often, because that was the one that felt most fleshed out and palpable. Nonetheless, The Wartime Sisterswas an overall satisfying read, with simple and eloquent prose. The Wartime Sistersis a quick read that is perfect for fans of The Orphan’s Tale or Girl in The Blue Coat.

Slated for related from St. Martin’s Press on January 22, 2019, you can preorder a copy ofThe Wartime Sistersby Lynda Cohen Loigman at your local bookstore.

Read more historical fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

 

‘Kindred Spirits’ by Rainbow Rowell

kindred-spirits-rowellRainbow Rowell’s short story, Kindred Spirits, is one of the most laugh-out-loud, hilarious books of the year. Rowell tells the story of a teenage Star Wars fanatic who stands in line four days early for a seat at the new Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens. Kindred Spirits, though, is much more about the relationships that form during those four days than it is about Star Wars.

Elena is 18 and obsessed with Star Wars, mostly because of her dad’s obsession with Star Wars. And now, it’s 2014 and The Force Awakens is about to be released. Elena has heard of the lines that formed for Star Wars movies in the 1980s and even the 2000’s when the prequels were released, and she is ecstatic to be able to join in the comradery of this tradition. So, she has her mom drop her off at the theater four days early. And, there are two people in line…for the entire four days.

Throughout their four days together, Elena, Gabe, and Troy form something like a friendship. Elena, though, discovers more about herself and the unpredictability of life. Things might not always turn out like she imagines they will, but they often turn out in a way that still brings joy and unexpected life changes.

Released by St. Martin’s Press in 2016, a special release hardcover edition of Kindred Spirits was released for this year’s Independent Bookstore Day.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘Extraordinary Adventures’ by Daniel Wallace

extraordinary-adventures-wallaceExtraordinary Adventures is the forthcoming novel from Daniel Wallace, author of Big Fish. Wallace brings all the wit, humor, and superb writing style from his former works to Extraordinary Adventures.

Wallace’s main character, Edsel Bronfman is a thirty-four-year-old recluse of sorts. Bronfman has a job, sure, and an apartment of his own, but he has virtually no friends besides his ailing mother. When Bronfman wins a trip to Destin, Florida, though, he begins to make a change, or at least to want to. The thing is that in order to cash in on his trip to Florida, he needs to bring a companion, a romantic companion.

Suddenly, extraordinary things begin happening to Bronfman: he speaks to a woman at the reception desk at his work, his house gets robbed and who appears but yet another woman, a police officer no less. Such out of the ordinary things continue to happen, and Bronfman sees them mostly as acts of destiny, not his own freewill.

The book continues in this manner weaving unforgettable characters in and out of the story. There’s Bronfman’s mother who is suffering from dementia, and who is perhaps the most spectacular character of all. She is a strong willed, oddity of a mother to say the least, her biggest concern always being that her son has fun, messes around with women, and lives his life. There’s also Thomas Edison, Bronfman’s criminal, next-door neighbor, and his cohort of vagabonds and drug addicts. Among them is Coco, a young Japanese girl who Bronfman befriends though he’s sure the woman and has stolen his hat. He’s seen her wear it.

Bronfman himself is often a loveable, pitiful character who the reader cheers for throughout. However, there are aspects of “typical” male behavior that detract from Bronfman’s appeal, especially because they seem so out of character for the kind and caring man. Things like instantly falling for any woman who is pretty. Things like his constant attraction to women even while dating someone else. Though these aspects of Bronfman can be frustrating, if you take a step back and realize the man has never had a serious relationship and thinks every new feeling of lust is love, it’s a bit easier to understand his thoughts and actions.

In sum, Extraordinary Adventures is a fun, fast-paced, and extremely well-written novel.

Slated for release by St. Martin’s Press in May of 2017, you can pre-order your copy of Extraordinary Adventures by Daniel Wallace at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

‘The Best of Adam Sharp’ by Graeme Simsion

the-best-of-adam-sharp-simsionAmazing.

There’s a tendency to leave The Best of Adam Sharp simply there: amazing. Graeme Simsion’s forthcoming novel is more than amazing though. It is beautiful, heart wrenching, nostalgic, and absolutely enthralling.

The Best of Adam Sharp is a story of unrequited love that seems to always be moving in the expected direction until it’s suddenly not. Adam and Angelina found each other in their mid-twenties in Australia and lived out a love affair that only lasted the few months that Adam worked a temp job there. Things never really ended for Adam though, who has thought of Angelina ever since, despite his now twenty year relationship with Claire. Twenty-three years after his relationship with Angelina has ended though, an email message pops up out of the blue from his lost love, and Adam isn’t sure how to respond.

With characters so relatable and problems so palpable, it’s hard not to get drawn into The Best of Adam Sharp immediately. Simsion has a way of making the story more about the human condition than anything else. While not everyone has a lover they wish things would have gone differently with, everybody has regrets, and Simsion doesn’t let readers forget it.

To add to the allure of an already brimming novel, Simsion includes a musical component to The Best of Adam Sharp that adds an extra element of nostalgia. Not only is most of the music from the 1960’s through the 1980’s, but if readers are familiar with the songs that pervade the novel, The Best of Adam Sharp’s soundtrack becomes something that moves the book in an even more emotional direction. Each song that comes up not only fits its scene too perfectly, but if you play it in your mind’s background, the musicality, the movement of the music, fits the mood even more perfectly.

Simsion evokes so much in The Best of Adam Sharp that it’s a challenge to leave the book at the end. You’ll just want more.

Slated for release in May of 2017 by St. Martin’s Press, The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion is available for preorder at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

“Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe” by Mick Wall

Black Sabbath biography by Mick WallBlack Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe (St. Martin’s Press) by Mick Wall is a fully comprehensive biography of not only the legendary self-same titled metal band but of each of the core band members of the group.

The 320 page book spans the entire career of the band and its diverging members up through their reunion tour in 2013. Perhaps the most interesting time periods portrayed, though, cover the lesser known years of the band’s youth before they were Black Sabbath. To learn that guitarist Tony Iommi bullied Ozzy Osbourne in primary school or that when Ozzy first joined the band he had a shaved head were interesting, odd facts that made the narrative more fully engaging, especially for a Sabbath fan who might know a good deal about the band to begin with. Though fans might be aware of the fact that Iommi lost the tips of two fingers in a factory accident, they are less likely to know that he made substitute fingers out of a melted down bottle so that he could continue to play guitar.

At first the reader is drawn into the emotional pull of the band’s inception and the excitement of their finally being recognized for their obscure and novel style of music. However, since the book covers such a large expanse of time, reading about the continual rise and fall of the band can become a bit burdensome and repetitive. This though, a fact of the band’s existence, was something that couldn’t be avoided by Wall.

Wall, a writer, editor, and press agent, writes Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe almost as if it were a novel. His descriptive language and storytelling style, though, does err to the side of grandiose and can be rather overbearing. There is a sense of hyperbolic animation that at times detracts from the pure sentiment that could have been conveyed in merely telling the story rather than interposing adjectival descriptions in a scene where the emotion and verve are obvious to the reader.  Wall does his best to tell the band’s history from as many viewpoints as possible, lending a level of intrigue to the text in the dissimilarities portrayed. Though he clearly shows bias in terms of which perspective he favors, he still strives to include multiple viewpoints that the reader is able to interpret on her own.

The story of Black Sabbath, of Ozzy Osbourne, of Ronnie James Dio, and of the numerous other band members who played a part in the history of both Black Sabbath’s success and demise is told in a complete and linear manner that leaves little left to be imagined.

Slated to be released by St. Martin’s Press April 14, 2015, you can preorder Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall at your local bookstore.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher in return for a fair and honest review of the text.

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