Book Review | The Coincidence Makers by Yoav Blum

coincidence makers cover.jpgSomewhat surreal, The Coincidence Makers is a fictional fantasy where what seems to be happening by chance is actually carefully planned. Protagonists Guy and Emily have gone through training together and work as coincidence makers who receive special projects that they must enact. Whether making a piano fall from a window unto a passerby or sparking the urge in an accountant to write poetry, the coincidences they create are often life altering. A romantic undercurrent helps drive the novel forward.

Blum has penned a quick and enjoyable read. His relatable characters and relaxed tone make the book easy to get into and maintain the reader’s interest. Some of the concepts he’s developed are a little complicated or convoluted, but the text flows well and the story comes out a winner. This book would be great for fans of surreal fiction or those interested in the inner workings of the universe. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance readers’ edition of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

*Fans of The Coincidence Makers, may be interested in The Room by Jonas Karlsson.

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Book Review | Points North : Stories by Howard Frank Mosher

points north cover.jpgSet in Kingdom Common, an area in Vermont bordering Canada, Mosher’s Points North shares stories of the Kinneson family. These tales, taking place over the course of a century, focus on various family members at different points in their lives. Themes include men searching for their lost loves, relatives at odds, family business, religion and nature, among others.

Published posthumously, this final book by Mosher will be enjoyed by many fans. For those new to the Northeast Kingdom chronicles, this may not serve as the best introduction. New readers may have trouble keeping track of the many Kinneson family members. The first story is hard to break into, but the tales do improve as the book continues. These non-chronological stories amble along, with a relaxed pace making it easier to put the book down at points than to continue reading. Points North will appeal to those interested in small town slice of life stories, family sagas, and general Mosher fans. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an advance uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Book Review | 5 types of people who can ruin your life : identifying and dealing with narcissists, sociopaths, and other high-conflict personalities by Bill Eddy

5 types of people who can ruin your life.jpgEddy’s subtitle sums up the book he’s delivering. This quick read will help the reader in his/her daily interactions to identify individuals exhibiting characteristics of a personality disorder, to distinguish between various disorders, and to more aptly deal with these sometimes challenging people. Examples and anecdotes presented also serve to foster personality awareness that would likely be helpful to all readers. Eddy has clearly devoted a lot of time to working with challenging personalities and is sharing some of his important findings here.

Non-fiction psychology books are not something I would generally think of as enjoyable reads, but this text proved to be interesting and thought-provoking from the start. Although the text is repetitive at times, it seems Eddy is just trying to drive important points home since this will be most people’s first time addressing the subject matter. The book is appropriate for all audiences and all concepts are explained clearly. 5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life would be a good read for anyone who is concerned they may be dealing with someone who has a personality disorder, those hoping to learn more about personality disorders, or those looking to gain general insights regarding interpersonal relationships. Check it out from a library near you.

I received an uncorrected proof of this book as a Goodreads giveaway in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to the author/publisher for participating in the giveaway.

Best & Worst of the 46 Books I read in 2017

During 2017 I expanded my reading horizons to include many books I wouldn’t normally choose. The selection contained mostly novels, a few memoirs, other various non-fiction works, an art book and a screenplay. In an attempt to make this post useful to readers, I’ve created sections to group the books based on my overall enjoyment of the texts. Most, but not all of the books I read during 2017 were released in 2017. The overall selection was heavily influenced by copies I received freely from publishers through Goodreads giveaways. A full list of titles appears at the end of the post.

My six favorite books:

Taduno’s Song – An African musician must find his lost voice in order to rescue his lover from a corrupt government.

The Clairvoyants– A Cornell student who sees spirits of the deceased unravels the mystery surrounding a missing persons case.

Songs of the Baka* – A writer and photographer share their travels to several uncommon destinations.

Spaceman of Bohemia* – A man on a solo mission in space is abandoned by his wife and encounters a strange creature aboard his ship.

Shelter in Place – A bipolar man falls in love with a woman who comes and goes after his mother is imprisoned for killing a man with a hammer.

The Fortunate Ones* – A painting stolen from a Jewish home by the Nazis during World War II resurfaces in Los Angeles decades later and brings together an unlikely pair of women.

After those six, my next nine top picks:

Under the Harrow – A suspense thriller involving the murder of a woman in England.

The One Eyed Man – After becoming a widower, a man lets his true self shine through resulting in his own reality TV show.

Brussels Noir* – Short stories, some bizarre, that take place in Brussels.

Soldier Boy* – Based on a true story, this YA book relays the stories of two boy soldiers in the Ugandan civil war.

Men without Women – Short stories from Japan focused on men without women.

Oola* – Thought-provoking story of boy meets girl and their hermetic existence.

Twig* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s America deals with life’s struggles.

A Fortune Foretold* – A woman coming of age in 1950’s Sweden deals with life’s struggles.

Sourdough – A tech industry workaholic is transformed into a breadmaker after being gifted a unique sourdough starter.

Four books that should have been better:

The King is Always Above the People* – Short stories involving Latinx characters.

O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – A collection art commissioned for the anniversary of San Francisco’s City Hall.

A Loving, Faithful Animal* – A girl in Australia comes of age in a broken home.

As Red as Blood* – Scandinavian teens find a bloody bag of money.

Four books I feel would be better to pass on:

We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – An Italian media mogul plots and schemes to hype an upcoming film failure.

Malafemmena – Short stories focusing on female protagonists in untraditional situations.

Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – A memoir by a German major about her time abroad and PhD struggles.

A Life of Adventure and Delight* – Short stories of everyday life involving characters of Indian descent.

All titles appear below in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Title links above and below are to book reviews I’ve written. Carey, Currie, Maksik, Murakami and Sloan are the only authors I’ve read before this year. I’m happy to answer any questions about these books or provide suggestions for further reading if there’s a certain title you’ve particularly enjoyed.

So Much I Want to Tell You* – Anna Akana
The King is Always Above the People* – Daniel Alarcón
The Leaf Reader* – Emily Arsenault
Taduno’s Song – Odafe Atogun
Mexico Stories* – Josh Barkan
Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
The Clairvoyants*- Karen Brown
Wrong about Japan – Peter Carey
The Hanging Girl*- Eileen Cook
We’ll Sleep When We’re Old* – Pino Corrias
Book of Moon* – George Crowder
The One Eyed Man – Ron Currie Jr.
The Slave* – Anand Dilvar
Brussels Noir* – Michael Dufranne
Malafemmena – Louisa Ermelino
The Sunlight Pilgrims* – Jenni Fagan
O Glorious City : A Love Letter to San Francisco – Jeremy Fish
Soldier Boy* – Keely Hutton
Songs of the Baka* – Dennis James
Spaceman of Bohemia* – Jaroslav Kalfar
White Fur* – Jardine Libaire
Bluebird, Bluebird* – Attica Locke
The Infinite* – Nicholas Mainieri
Shelter in Place – Alexander Maksik

The Beauty of the Fall* – Rich MarcelloBright, Precious Days* – Jay McInerney
Leopard at the Door* – Jennifer McVeigh
Men without Women – Haruki Murakami
Wolf Haven* – Annie Marie Musselman & Brenda Peterson
The Gun – Fuminori Nakamura
Oola* – Brittany Newell
Twig* – Madelon Phillips
A Fortune Foretold* – Agneta Pleijel
Rebels like Us* – Liz Reinhardt
A Loving, Faithful Animal* – Josephine Rowe
Fantastic Beasts Original Screen Play* – J.K. Rowling
Schadenfreude, A Love Story* – Rebecca Schuman
Lola* – Melissa Scrivner Love
A Life of Happiness and Delight* – Akhil Sharma
As Red as Blood* – Salla Simukka
Sourdough – Robin Sloan
Our Own Private Universe* – Robin Talley
A French Wedding* – Hannah Tunnicliffe
The Fortunate Ones* – Ellen Umansky
Fraulein M.* – Caroline Woods

*These titles were given to me through Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review | A Life of Adventure and Delight by Akhil Sharma

IMG_0753.JPGThis collection of short stories, each previously published by The New Yorker, deals with Indian characters, mostly involved in love or interpersonal social issues. The eight included stories share common themes including love, physical relationships, arranged marriage, sickness and other threads of daily life.

These stories of varying lengths are direct and the writing easy to follow. The subject matter is best suited for adults, though scenes of intercourse are brief. Despite being a fairly quick read, I did not find this book to be very enjoyable. The dark humor I was hoping for seemed quite sparse. Certain reader’s may also find some of the female character’s situations to be depressing. That said, the book could serve to increase Indian cultural knowledge for an outsider. Check it out from a library near you!

I received an advance reading copy of this book 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 Life of Adventure and Delight, you may be interested in Malafemmena by Louisa Ermelino (2016).

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).

Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).