Everyone knows about the explosion of the Hindenburg. We've seen the old newsreel footage. If you have young sons, you may have watched it multiple times. But what I never realized was just how many people were on board the Hindenburg the night that it was engulfed in flames within seconds. I didn't know that the Hindenburg was a flying hotel, carrying passengers across the Atlantic. I certainly didn't know a thing about those passengers.
In Flight of Dreams, Ariel Lawhon takes a historic tragedy and gives faces and stories to the people aboard that fateful day. Emilie Imhoff was famously the only female crew member. Torn between her own plans and her developing feelings for the navigator, Emilie spends the trips assisting passengers and trying to make important personal decisions, while becoming tangled in the plots of the passengers.
There are others aboard with their own agendas, including a mysterious American who always manages to be in the parts of the ship where he isn't allowed and a sullen Colonel who was especially worried about leaving his wife behind and seems rather distracted.
Set in those tumultuous years before World War II, Flight of Dreams captures all the elements of unrest and nervousness that many felt as the Nazis and Hitler rose to power in Germany. Displaying swastikas of the regime, the Hindenburg was representative of that power. Lawhon gives emotion to those feelings by letting her passengers, many who had their own run-ins and concern with the Nazis, shape their own decisions. She captures the emotions of the time and allows the people aboard the zeppelin to become living, passionate characters.
Lawhon's research is immaculate and blends seamlessly with the fictional story she tells within the blanks of the mysterious events leading up to the explosion. Her story is a constant page turner. Though the reader knows what tragedy is coming, it is no less explosive and heart rending. Perhaps it is more so as Lawhon tells of the deaths and escapes and pandemonium of characters that now mean something to the reader. I watched the newsreel footage again after finishing the book and it was a much more emotional experience.
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon is an amazing story that fully presents the history and the people of the Hindenburg in an unforgettable, riveting novel.
Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon was published by Doubleday and released on February 23, 2016. **I received a complimentary copy of Flight of Dreams. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**
My friends and I already know exactly where we will be June 3, 2016--in the theater watching the movie adaptation of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
The official movie trailer was recently released and I'm even more excited than before--though I need some more time to emotionally prepare myself. I'm already reaching for the tissues. Don't you just love the casting? To celebrate, I'm partnering with the publisher to give away a copy of both Me Before You and After You by Jojo Moyes.
Entering to win is absolutely simple. Leave a comment on this post before Friday, February 26, 2016, 11:59pm MST. Open to US residents only. The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments and announced on Saturday, February 27th.
I loved Naomi Munaweera's first novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors. It was one of my very favorite novels in 2014. So, when I saw that she'd written another novel, I was thrilled to be able to read it. What Lies Between Us takes the reader back to Sri Lanka, where a young girl grows up surrounded by the tenuous love of her parents. Her relationship with her mother is at times loving caresses and tenderness but often her mother withdraws and is distant and emotionally unavailable. At the same time, the girl loves her homeland--the lush surroundings and dear friends. However, under it all, she hides a terrible secret that is threatening to destroy her entire family. When disaster sends them to America, she must now try to fit in within a completely different society and culture.
In What Lies Between Us, Munaweera again delights with stunningly beautiful language and haunting imagery. I was enraptured as she wove her tale of familial love and its power for complete destruction. The narrator is a sensitive character who endures so much and has a way of observing and describing situations that shows her keen insight.
Munaweera exposes parts of human nature that we wish to hide and wish they weren't true. It is at times uncomfortable and yet so very valuable to recognize and understand. She never lets the reader off the hook and doesn't shy away from painful topics. She writes a novel that will make you feel and think and maybe even squirm. What Lies Between Us is an unforgettable novel.
What Lies Between Us by Naomi Munaweera is published by St. Martin's Press and released on February 16, 2016. **I received a complimentary copy of What Lies Between Us. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**
Anna is not yet forty years old when she is diagnosed with the same early-onset Alzheimer's disease that killed her mother years ago. As her memories and cognitive abilities deteriorate, Anna and her twin brother decide it is best if she is checked in to an assisted-living center. The one they finally choose, Rosalind House, is a high-end place with very few residents that just happen to include another "young" patient--Luke who also has a degenerative brain disease. Anna and Luke begin a relationship that makes their time happier but worries their respective families.
Because of unfortunate family circumstances, Eve is desperate for a job. She practically begs for the cook job at Rosalind House. She is just being introduced to the residents when Anna begs Eve to help her. As Eve gets to know Anna, she is able to come to understand just how she can help.
I really enjoyed Sally Hepworth's novel The Secrets of Midwives last year. Hepworth is a skilled writer and spins a good story. I was happy to have the opportunity to read her newest novel The Things We Keep. Novels about early on-set Alzheimer's disease have been popular lately. I haven't read Still Alice yet but I have read We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas and The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman. Throw in other novels dealing with other degenerative diseases or life changing accidents like Five Days Left and Me Before You, and it feels like a subject that I've read a lot about in the past few years.
I wanted The Things We Keep to bring a new perspective and in many ways it did. I appreciated the author's tone and story. Without giving anything away, this tale brought a new angle to the discussion and it was refreshing. It challenges perceptions and preconceived notions about disease, life and death.
The problem with this particular novel, for me, was that there were too many things going on. It was ambitious. The characters started out strong but as the story went along, the ending felt rushed and incomplete. Clearly, as Anna's brain deteriorated it would be difficult for her to continue narrating her own story but the reader is suddenly pulled in to side plots/tangents with lesser characters. I became less and less interested. The level of emotion one expects from a story like this was lacking.
Though there were issues, The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth tells an interesting story and adds a new dimension to the discussion. For every person that suffers from this disease, there is a different story.
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press and released on January 19, 2016. **I received a complimentary copy of The Things We Keep. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**
Paula is a tough divorce attorney who is thrown off her game when she receives a note from her estranged mother. Her mother is dying and does not want Paula to come to her. Yet as overwhelming panic and anxiety threaten Paula's career, she discovers some of her mother's darkest secrets and the desire to change her own life.
Raised by a story-telling mother who mixed Hindu mythology with her own Southern stories, Paula is raised in a nomadic life as her mother moves from boy friend to boy friend. Angry and hurt, Paula made a choice that changed her mother forever and deeply damaged their relationship. Paula has been trying to pay her mother back ever since.
I adored Someone Else's Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson and was so thrilled to be able to read her newest novel. I didn't realize until I was finished reading The Opposite of Everyone that Paula is the same Paula who was friends with Will in Someone Else's Love Story. It's a stand-alone novel but it was still fun to finally make the connection.
Written in Joshilyn's special flavor of story-telling, I was immediately intrigued by tough-talking, relationship-fearing, gritty Paula. Her back story of life with her free-spirited mom and her years in foster care, helped me to better understand her character. Joshilyn successfully combine emotional and meaningful stories with dynamic and rich characters to completely entrance the reader. Is it possible that Joshilyn creates the very best male protagonists in her tales?
Reading of Paula's emotional journey through redemption and "karma" was a complete joy. Fans of her previous novel will not be disappointed by The Opposite of Everyone.
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson was published by William Morrow and released on February 16, 2016. **I received a complimentary copy of The Opposite of Everyone. All opinions are my own. I was not compensated for this review.**
Rand and I met; went on our first date; met each other's families and got engaged to be married within two weeks, so I was anxious to read the story of Fisher and Ivy. After just 18 frenzied days of romance, they know there is something different about this particular relationship. Like the cover of the books says: "Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most it what happens next..." The Two of Us by Andy Jones is the story of what happens next to Fisher and Ivy.
The Two of Us is a darling read with lovable characters. I got a ebook copy and though I don't prefer to read on a device, it is the perfect kind of book for reading under the covers, during the Super Bowl or on the dark, car ride home (I wasn't driving). It's cute and funny and at times rather poignant.
Fisher, as narrator, is an honest and open character who shares his deepest concerns and worries about his new relationship. The Two of Us begins where most love stories end. How will these two different people make this relationship work in the face of trials and roadblocks? I admired Fisher's determination to make it work and his sincere love for Ivy that kept him focused on his ultimate goal. He's witty and occasionally self-deprecating and endearingly loyal in his occasionally fumbling attempts to create a family.
Just so you know, there is a fair amount of swearing. There are no actual sex scenes but the topic comes up regularly. Occasionally, I wanted to be like Fisher's dad and give him a scolding.
The Two of Us by Andy Jones is well written. It made me chuckle. It almost made me cry. It's sweet and tender. I wanted to read it all in one big gulp. The Two of Us by Andy Jones is published by Washington Square Press and released on February 9, 2016. **I received a complimentary copy of The Two of Us. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**
After the tragic death of her husband and problems in her career as a historian, Lia Carrer goes home to Languedoc in the South of France to heal. However, it isn't long before Lia's best friend is trying to set her up with the lonely and kind widower from a nearby vineyard and a local photographer is persuading her to help him with a book about Languedoc.
In the meantime, Lia's real passion is finding supporting evidence for her theory that in 1208 the Archdeacon Castelnau was assassinated as an excuse to start the crusade against the heretical Cathers. As Lia's researches the events from hundreds of years ago, she begins to discover that the three men in her life: the widower, the photographer and the priest all have their own secrets and know much more than they're telling.
Among other ideas that the Catholic church did not condone, the Cathers believed in reincarnation. Playing on this element of their faith, Julie Christine Johnson spins a tail of murder, intrigue and romance in In Another Life. Reminding me of last year's The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack, the idea that someone can live another life is a fun idea to explore in fiction. Johnson does it relatively well in her debut novel.
It took several chapters for me to fall into an easy reading grove. I had to go back and reread several sections because the back and forth between present and past was initially confusing. However, it begins to make more sense and I was finally able to keep characters straight and plot lines from tangling. Honestly, the entire book is a tangled web of past lives and loves.
As with any fantasy novel, one must suspend reality. I don't read in this genre very often and I prefer believable explanations even for the unbelievable. Make me want to believe. In Another Life had trouble pulling it all together in the end. I was completely entertained and caught up in the story but there were some holes in her reincarnation explanations.
I was definitely most interested in the historical aspect of the Cathers and the intrigue that may have led to their demise. Presenting a fascinating theory, Johnson only skims the surface of that history and left me wanting more.
In Another Life is fun and ambitious and I liked it much more than I expected in the first few chapters. It is mystical and intriguing and captivating.
In Another Life by Julie Christine Johnson is published by Sourcebooks Landmark and released on February 2, 2016.
Faye's husband has been gone for months. The kids are holding out hope that he'll come back but Faye knows better. Running out of money, Faye moves her three kids to live with her mom in Los Angeles.
Adorably cute and witty, four year old Molly is filmed dancing at a mall and immediately becomes a YouTube sensation. Launched into fame, Molly's career is set to take off. Faye feels the nagging thought that it's not the right direction for her family, but how can she resist the money and the excitement surrounding her daughter's potential stardom.
Caught up in the world of Hollywood and backstage drama, Faye's family and life is spiraling out of control. Who knew that when she signed that lucrative deal, she'd have the reins of her family's future taken out of her hands. Can she get them back and save her family?
It took a few chapters to get into No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn but once the story is going, it moves along at a breakneck pace and takes the reader along for a wild and fun ride. Who hasn't dreamed of fame and stardom at some point in life? Or at least admired and become intrigued by a celebrity? Redfearn takes the reader behind the scenes of Hollywood and shows the allure and excitement as well as the dangers and drama of being a child star. Is it fair to take away a child's childhood?
But more than just an expose, No Ordinary Life tells an engrossing tale of a family caught in an undertow. Just like I sometimes can't look away when the grisly and messy details of a celebrity's life become tabloid fodder, I couldn't put down Redfearn's newest novel. The adult characters were completely believable people who often made horrible decisions that disgusted and appalled me but I couldn't help cheering for them or at least watching their destruction.
No Ordinary Life is a thrilling novel that examines the price of fame and who can and should actually handle it.
No Ordinary Life by Suzanne Redfearn is published by Grand Central and released on February 2, 2016.
I love spending my days as a mom to my five brilliant, beautiful and busy kids. Once they're in bed, I love rejuvenating by reading a really great book.
Book Reviews, give-aways, stories about my kids and fun things to do around Utah--just a little of what you'll find on Utah Mom's Life.
"If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will — to your surprise — miss them profoundly."
— "Finding Joy in the Journey," Pres. Thomas S. Monson, October 2008 LDS General Conference