Book Review | A French Wedding by Hannah Tunnicliffe

french wedding cover.jpegUsing chapters with alternating character focus, A French Wedding tells the story of a group of university friends from the UK who are reunited in France for one of their 40th birthday celebrations. Max, a musician, plans to propose to his friend Helen. They’ve always shared a close connection. Max’s chef and housekeeper Juliette is drawn into the group as events progress. Plans go awry as faults in the friends’ marriages and relationships are revealed and surprise events lead to a shift in the plot.

Well written and easy to follow, Tunnicliffe’s novel offers an entertaining read with enough depth to be thought-provoking. The story is more character driven than plot driven, and can be considered women’s fiction. Perhaps the cover image does not do justice in attracting all readers who may enjoy this book. Central themes include relationships, cooking and life challenges. Check it out from a library near youI received this bound galley as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*If you’ve enjoyed reading A French Wedding, you may be interested in Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler (2014).

Film Review | The Daughter starring Sam Neill & Geoffrey Rush

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After many years away from his birth town and father, middle-aged Christian returns home to attend his father’s second wedding. The relationship between father and son is tense, owing to something other than the fact that the upcoming wedding involves the 31 year old housekeeper his father had previously employed. As Christian reunites with his old friend Oliver, he pieces a few old secrets together that threaten to break apart Oliver’s family.

This Australian drama based on Henrik Ibsen’s play provided much more than I’d bargained for. The story line was intriguing and the characters were easy to relate to. The acting was very realistic without anything being overdone. Music set to the film worked quite well and served to enhance the movie overall. While the budget for this film couldn’t have been too much with it’s rural setting, I’m actually surprised it hadn’t drummed up more attention in the film world. Though it may bring on a few tears, The Daughter is certainly worth checking out from your local library!

Book Review | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

book cover Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki MurakamiMore than a year after its release in Japan, Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, debuted in English last month. The wait had been a long one for Murakami fans who quickly devoured the previous tome, 1Q84, after its English release in 2011. Colorless currently tops the New York Times hardcover fiction list, just as Japanese sellers struggled to keep up with buyer demand for the release in April last year. The sales may be more of a nod to Murakami’s successful career and fan following than a reflection of this book’s greatness in comparison to others he’s written.

Main character Tsukuru Tazaki is an engineer in his mid-30’s working to update and build railway stations near Tokyo. He’s dating a slightly older woman and finds it to be one of his first meaningful relationships, but seems stuck with how to progress. As they get to know each other better, she deduces that his current emotional troubles have deep roots going back to friendship bonds formed in high school. Through the book, we witness Tsukuru battling past and present demons in a meaningful and mostly straight-forward way.

This book left me wanting more. Of course, as a fan, I’d like each new Murakami book to be better than the last, but this novel wasn’t better. Murakami does a great job laying a difficult story line and keeping the serious and somber tone without over-dramatizing, but something seems missing. Colorless does not have some of the same elements of magical realism or surrealism as other Murakami favorites like A Wild Sheep Chase or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it has a few missing connections that don’t quite come together, like in After Dark. Overall, I enjoyed the book. The characters were realistic and many Murakami-isms came through – classical and jazz music, Cutty Sark, swimming, dreams and interpersonal relationships. The novel allowed the reader to pass into the life of another (slice of life), a realistic portrayal of what someone else might have struggled with. For Murakami fans, or those interested in a serious, somewhat psychological read, check out Colorless from the library if you can handle the hold queue, or buy the ebook on Google Play.

Book Review | Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

book cover Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas ButlerBeing a Wisconsin native, I was looking forward to Shotgun Lovesongs, a book taking place in Wisconsin, written by a fellow Wisconsinite and alum of my alma mater. Truth be told, having grown up in Milwaukee I couldn’t relate to this small town tale and at page 65 I was trying to decide whether to continue reading or quit the book. I kept reading and the book did get a bit more interesting. The book focuses on a group of friends who grew up together in a small town south of Eau Claire. After high school they went their own ways – one took over the family farm, one a traveling rodeo star, a mainstream musician, a big city broker, and the lovely girl next door. The book begins as the characters drift back to their hometown and experience challenges of adulthood – marriage, money troubles, divorce, and bites from the past.

Other readers have praised the big heart and love that shines through in the text. Sure the love does show among these tight knit friends, but the book just wasn’t that special. That said, Butler does paint a positive picture of small town Wisconsin and I do think this book would be very appealing to readers from small towns who can relate better to a small cast of characters. The struggles do seem realistic, but in a way they are all glazed over since the book seems to be more about the big picture. If you’re still interested in this homegrown Wisconsin novel, give your local library’s copy a try. By the way, the musician character is loosely based on Bon Iver.

Book Review | A Vampire Book with a PG Rating

Vampires have become a vibrant aspect of today’s media culture. Are your kids asking you to let them watch or read the Twilight Series or see the HBO series True Blood? Perhaps you’ve had trouble explaining to your children why some vampire books, shows or movies aren’t quite appropriate for them. Here is a book that may be able to help you.

Though this book was not recently published, this vampire tale is still a worthy read. “My Friend the Vampire” by Angela Sommer-Bodenburg is the first book in “The Little Vampire” series of several tales about the nine year old boy Tony and his vampire friend Rudolph. This book begins with Rudolph visiting Tony’s room, and continues on as their friendship develops and they go on small adventures together. Meant for middle-aged readers, this book as well as the other books in the series, is a good fit for that age group. Parents would find no cause for worry in passing this book on to their child. This series would also serve well as a read-aloud book since chapters are fairly short, and the story is engaging enough to entertain adult readers.

If you like this book, also check out the library’s copies of “The Vampire Moves In” and “The Vampire in Love.”