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Britt-Marie Was Here is the second book I have read by Fredrik Backman. He is an incredibly gifted writer with the ability to capture and convey the human spirit in a way I admire.

The novel takes place in a small town in Sweden which is rapidly declining due to a downturn in the economy. Enter Britt-Marie, a middle-aged woman who has left her husband of many years after discovering he was having an affair. She is a persnickety woman with unique mannerisms. She likes everything “just so”. Told in the omniscient voice, we get to know Britt-Marie from the inside-out and her character is flawed and complex. Overly concerned about appearances, Britt-Marie struggles to change the way in which she reacts to others when she takes a position as the manager of a recreation center for three weeks in the remote dying town.

She is a lost soul with obsessive compulsive tendencies trying desperately to reinvent herself amid a group of young adults who love to play and watch football.

There are many interesting characters in this novel. All are well-defined and memorable. There is so much more I could say about the book, but I think it is best to lead you to it rather than to ruin it for anyone. I became emotionally invested in this book to the extent that I felt like I was holding my breath as I read toward the conclusion. It is amazing, and in my opinion, one of the best books I have ever read.

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Resurrection

To the Stars Through Difficulties by Romalyn Tilghman is a new fiction release slated for April. The book’s title is also the Kansas state motto. Knowing the tendency for tornadoes in this part of the U.S., it makes sense. Remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz?

This novel is about a number of tornadoes — literal and figurative. It is also a story about libraries and the importance of them. Much of this book contains interesting information about libraries across America funded by Andrew Carnegie and his background.

Told through the eyes of a few female characters in Kansas, all adrift in their own way, the story highlights what great accomplishments can and have been achieved by women united by a common cause.

I enjoyed the many historical references to Carnegie libraries. Overall, I think book and art lovers will appreciate this story. I am sorry to report I did not feel connected to any of the characters. I thought the book needed more “showing” and less “telling”. I do however, believe it has merit and would be a good choice for book discussion groups; especially because of all the group participation contained in the plot and the focus on the importance of books.

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Miss Holmes

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley is a Sherlock Holmes type mystery series which just crossed my path. I am hooked!

What a delight this story is! The main character, Flavia de Luce, is a 12-year-old English girl with an interest in chemistry and a knack for solving crimes. Although I once again entered a “series” mid-stream, it was fairly easy to understand without having read the previous books. I will however, add them to my list of books to read in the future.

As the story begins, Flavia has just returned from Canada where she was sent in punishment for bad behavior. She arrives home to discover her father, a widower, is gravely sick in the hospital. Left to her own devises while he is absent, Flavia becomes embroiled in the solving of the murder of a local wood carver. Much like Holmes, her powers of deduction and keen observation skills lead her on a treacherous journey. She’s one brave little girl; much wiser than her years.

If you enjoy Holmes, you will fall in love with Flavia. It’s elementary!

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Identity

I have been wanting to read Swing Time by Zadie Smith for a long time. I am sorry to report I struggled to read only half of the novel and threw in the towel.

Having read other books by Smith, I admire her work and especially, her style. This book however, seemed too choppy and disconnected. I just couldn’t make sense of it and felt lost.

The story is about two girlfriends in London. It is also about race, parenting styles, feminism, and friendships. Maybe it was too jam-packed with themes for me personally.  There were things I liked — musical references and dance. The writing is impressive; I just couldn’t follow the story.

If any of my followers made it to the end of this novel, please let me know how it turned-out!

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Sing Your Worries Away

The Chilbury’s Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan turned-out to be an appropriate book to read in honor of International Woman’s Day. It is a fictional novel about a small town in England and the people who, over the course of approximately six months in 1940, learn to cope with changes brought about by World War Two.

When Chilbury’s men go off to war, the ladies left behind find hidden strengths. The all female choir they form and their combined voices become a path through difficulties. Told in the form of diaries and letters, the author captures innermost thoughts and feelings of the townsfolk. I enjoyed reading the varying viewpoints and perspectives. It made the story very personal.

I think this is a wonderful novel. I read it in two days for the pure pleasure of it and was sorry to see it end!

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Where’s Papa?

51kvu1h931l._sy400_.jpgThe Other Daughter by Lauren Willig is a fictional novel about a girl named Rachel Woodley who, as the story begins, is a governess in France. When she receives a telegram informing her that her mother in England is very ill, she rushes home only she is too late and her mother is dead.  From there, the story takes a number of unexpected twists and turns which lead Rachel on a quest to confront the father she knew up until the age of four. She had been told he died only to discover upon her mother’s death, that he is alive and well.

What I liked about this book is the fact that, much like the character Rachel, it surprised me all the way till the very end. I enjoyed the unexpected outcome. Perhaps you will as well!

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Cards We Are Dealt

51ugryl5c6l._sy400_.jpgUs by David Nicholls is a 2014 novel about the Petersen family. Doug and Connie of Great Britain are about to embark on a grand tour of Europe with their 17-year-old son Alvie when Connie informs her husband that her future plans don’t include him.  What follows is a narrative in George’s voice which flips between past and present as he desperately tries to save his marriage.

This is an incredibly well-written story which is very true to life. Not only does it focus on marriage, but also on parenting. I laughed and cried and nodded my head throughout the novel finding much I could relate to. I highly recommend it.

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