Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson
Title: Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel (Dear Daphne # 1)
Published: June 2013 by B&H Publishing Group
Pages: 304
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
My Rating: 4/5!

Blurb from the cover!
With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

My Thoughts!
This book was a very different Melody Carlson that I read, the previous reads being Harsh Pink and Deep Green from the Truecolors series. Though this book doesn't have teenagers as protagonists, all these books are categorized under the label 'Christian', because all of them have this underlying theme relating to God, prayers and living life as a believer in the Almighty. It is subtle, not too overpowering and comes into the picture only towards the end when the protagonist and characters need support. Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel is a contemporary story of a young woman, Daphne Ballinger, living in New York since the past 12 years, writing wedding stories for The New York Times. She belongs to a small town called Appleton, but moved to New York with big dreams, including climbing to the top of the ladder as a journalist. Just that she seems stuck and unable to do much, mostly because of her cautious personality. She'd had her heart broken once while in New York, which makes her overly cautious and an 'avoider'. 

When she learns that her Aunt Dee in Appleton has passed away, she decides to move back into Appleton, especially after learning that she's the heiress to everything her aunt owned. This is when she discovers how little she truly knew about her aunt. Aunt Dee is a mystery with secrets left behind, known only to the lawyer and now, Daphne. She isn't really all she made people believe. She was much more than that, and it is truly fascinating. I mean, as it mostly pertained to literary stuff, I felt really excited about those prospects, about the possibility of stuff like that actually happening. So cool! The writing style is descriptive and simple. Not too simple, but it seems to have a nice flow and ring to it that you get used to the way you're understanding the story without any intermissions in between. I like books that successfully recreate the aura of a place I haven't seen, so that I can easily imagine and 'be there' as if I'm a close observer. This book does all that beautifully! I would almost like to live in a place like Appleton. Such a sweet town! 

I liked all the characters, who seemed to have clear distinctive personalities, so that you can try hazarding guesses about their actions. Fun people! Except for Ryan, Daphne's heart-breaker-ex-lover, who is such a snob! Sometimes I did wish Daphne would stop being so under-confident and be clearer about her feelings. And it was pleasant to see how she grew as a mature person in the book. I didn't find myself rooting for any one guy to be her future love interest, though. They all seemed nice enough, but not the perfect kind of guy I wished she had. True, that's what the book wants to convey, it's not all dreamy-dreams in reality. Sometimes you gotta settle for what's available. Maybe. Then there's this wonderfully mysterious Dear Daphne column, the secret to which I can't divulge here, but I found the questions and answer-giving very enjoyable and meaningful. This book's got some solid meaning! 

Overall, the essence of the book is simple. The life of an ordinary girl who wants to fulfill her dreams, who gets heart-broken, who gets the opportunity to revive her life again, who feels confused because she's human and she's got to deal with many different personalities and trying to figure them out in light of the situation, dealing with secrets and making decisions, being given tremendous responsibilities, wanting to feel loved, then understanding and realizing that life is meant to be lived, whatever the circumstances, it is important to focus on being happy and believing that God would take you there, that everything has its own course, that things take time to settle sometimes, that it's important to have faith. There is no over-dramatization of any sort, even though I felt it seemed a bit underplayed. The blurb focuses on Aunt Dee's secrets and the book gives off a vibe that it'll be oh-so-exciting! For me it was slightly less exciting than I had anticipated, mostly because the 'secrets' thing is not the essence of the book. 'Life isn't perfect but how some people choose to deal with it is what matters', is what the book truly stands for. 

There is an important clause in Aunt Dee's will which just wasn't getting any closer to completion as the book neared the end and I was anxious, because that was something that you can't just deal with in the last few pages! Turns out it has been left for the next book in the series! Which didn't make me particularly happy, but it's okay. The wait would be worth it! ;) I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a light yet meaningful contemporary read, it's easy and fast. Young Adult readers, Adult readers, anyone. There isn't any explicit content as such. 

Thank you B&H publishers for this book! :)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review: Things We Never Say by Sheila O' Flanagan

Sheila O' Flanagan
Title: Things We Never Say... But Maybe We Should
Published: June 2013 by Headline Publishing (Hachette)
Pages: 504
Find it at: Flipkart / Amazon
Genre: Family Drama/Fiction
My Rating: 4/5!

The sweet, simple cover of this new title by Sheila O' Flanagan, author of many bestsellers, gives off a nice, homey effect. It isn't too appealing, the kind you'd be attracted to in a bookstore, but maybe you might. It's something like a combination of look-at-me and something that can easily be overlooked, depending upon the person who's looking at it. I found it sweet, calm and simple. 

The Blurb!
Abbey Andersen is the last person to go looking for change. Yes, it's tough that she barely sees her mother these days - but in San Francisco she has great friends, a steady relationship and a job she enjoys. When Abbey is contacted by Irish lawyer Ryan Gilligan she learns in an instant everything she believed about her roots is a lie. She must travel to Dublin to find out more - but she's scarcely off the plane when she's plunged into a new crisis. One that will change everything not just for Abbey but for the family in Ireland who had no idea that she even existed. Now Abbey has to make a choice that will affect everyone she knows. How can she be sure she makes the right one? And can life ever be quite the same again?

My Thoughts!
Things We Never Say is a story based in Dublin, Ireland as well as in San Francisco. Abbey is a twenty-something girl living in San Francisco, away from her mother, working in an art gallery and then as a very talented nail artist. When she's contacted by Ryan Gilligan, a lawyer a very good-looking Irish lawyer  who's been looking for her mother, things change for Abbey as well as everyone involved in the family, a family she didn't even know existed. There is definitely drama, but the book isn't full of it. It's a big book with a storyline and many characters and it deals with the story at its own pace. I found it very detailed as far as the story and the characters are concerned. There's adequate background to every character so that you know them fully well before judging them for their actions. Even if you don't know initially, you get to know them over time and I found that really good. 

Initially it seems like the plot is dragging and there is some confusion due to different chapters telling stories about different characters and you can't figure out who is whom and what role they play in each others' lives. After about a 100 pages or so, you understand most of the linkages and you've been acquainted with everyone's introductions. That's when the plot seems to start developing pace. There are a series of events that take place in Abbey's life, she's confronted with information she finds hard to believe or deal with, she's already tense dealing with a broken relationship and career decisions and then she's faced with an entirely new set of problems. This is a family issue. She finds out she's related to another family in Ireland and there's a lot of conflict and drama as she tries to live with the the way her life takes turns. I took my sweet time reading this book. It wasn't gripping-engaging, but it was engaging enough to make you remember certain parts even after you've read them and to make you think of it when you're not reading. You can't "not" think much about it. 

I found the writing style simple and easy. It's got that flow which keeps you inside the story like you're a part of it. Once you're used to the different characters, it's easy to read about them and their actions one after the other. It's a big family with their problems and different views and lifestyles. The descriptive part is all cool. Neither too much, nor too little. Although I can't say that for when it comes to talking about the characters in the story. That is because I personally found it like a detailed account of 'people'. Every person was different, with their own story, their own reasons for being like they were. There are ego issues, under-confidence issues, trust issues and a lot of things. Why is it that you don't even say the things you mean to say to your loved ones? Why do you assume so much? Before you know it, you'll die without letting them know what you meant, what you really felt, leaving problems in their wake. 

I have to mention Abbey's character, which was so close to real that I just loved it! I found Abbey to be so much like me. Not in terms of physio-graphic stuff, but more so psychologically. She's confused and under-confident about her career and the way she feels when she says, 'I can't be the best artist, so I'll not do this' is so relate-able. I loved how she transformed and developed her confident personality with the support of all those who cared for her, became more assertive and open and learned to trust herself. There's a past involved, one which has been responsible for all the latest tension in the family, one which is disturbing, but those who're already dead. So how does it affect the ones who're having to face the consequences? Reaching the end of the book made up for all the drag that was in the beginning. It's an interesting end, the kind of which I like. ;) I marked a few lines from the books. Some of those are:

'It was funny, she thought, no matter how much you got over things that happened to you, you never forgot how people made you feel.'

'That was the trouble with looking back. You couldn't help doing it from the perspective of where you were now.' 

'She wondered how many people came home for a funeral and then had to face people they'd rather not bother having to talk to at all. And how many others felt cheated when someone died before they had a chance to say the things they'd always meant to say.'

'People can be very judgmental about religion. They can be equally judgmental about choices.'

'I can never leave a part of myself behind. Nobody can. Everything's that happened to us makes up who we are today.'

Recommended if you are interested in family drama and big, complete stories with a lot of different issues and messages.! :) 

Thank you Hachette publishers for this book! :)


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