Review: George’s Grand Tour by Caroline Vermalle

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About George’s Grand Tour

At the age of eighty-three, retired butcher George Nicoleau is about to set off on the greatest adventure of his life. George and his neighbor Charles have long dreamt of a road trip, driving the 3,500 kilometres that make up the stages of the Tour de France. And now that George’s over-protective daughter has gone to South America, it’s time to seize the moment.

But just when he feels free of family ties, George’s granddaughter Adèle starts calling him from London, and he finds himself promising to text her as he travels around France, although he doesn’t even know how to use a mobile.

George is plagued by doubts, health worries, and an indifference to modern technology. And yet—might the journey still prove to be everything he had hoped for?

My Review

What a moving story, quite a gem.

I loved the way George embraced life once again through his travels, discovering technology and through his relationships with family, old and new friends.

All the loose ends to the relationships in George’s life came together nicely. Sharing the road trip with Charles as well as the true importance of the trip bridged the gap from neighbors to friends. Technology as well as sharing his travel experiences with Adéle lovingly reunited granddaughter and grandfather from a very distance relationship. I also understood the bond George shared with Françoise and their delicate tether. Secondary character George was a delight to the story.

Despite the tenderness of the story much humor was scattered through the narrative. A few scenes will leave you belly laughing. I also enjoyed the travel portion, lovely to read of the stops, sights and local flavor as these two travel partners suffer woes and comforts a travel duo endures.

I loved the ending, bittersweet, poignant, brings the entire story together. Such a marvelous story from start to finish. George is memorable.

A wonderful story gently forcing you to reflect on the relationships you’ve ignored or easily dismissed from a myriad of poor excuses. Caroline Vermalle penned a touching and uplifting story you won’t forget, very well done.

About Caroline Vermalle4872649

Caroline Vermalle was born in France in 1973 to a family whose French roots go back at least as far as the 16th century. Yet, she is a vegetarian who can’t cook, doesn’t drink, finds berets itchy and unpractical and would rather eat yesterday’s snails than jump a queue.

After graduating from film school in Paris, she became a television documentary producer for the BBC in London and travelled the world, at speed and off the beaten tracks, in search of good stories. In 2008, then on maternity leave, she penned her first novel George’s Grand Tour, whose international success allowed her to quit her job and indulge in her three passions: books, interior design and travel – slowly this time.

After writing seven novels in different genres and different languages, going on a world tour with her family and building a wooden house in a forest, Caroline now lives between a small seaside town in Vendée (France) and a small seaside town in the Eastern Cape (South Africa) with her son, a black cat and her husband, South African architect-turned-author Ryan von Ruben.

Follow Caroline on Website | TwitterFacebook

Published May 26th 2015 by Gallic Books (first published March 18th 2009)

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Review: The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr

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About The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt

This is the story of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie.

Lena is Music’s Most Modern Musician; the first theremin player of the twentieth century.

From the obscurity of a Perth boarding school to a glittering career on the world stage, Lena Gaunt’s life will be made and torn apart by those she gives her heart to.

My Review

A potent story of passion, love and loss mixed with stunning prose. Tracy Farr’s stunning mesmerizing language will captivate your attention. Clearly an author telling a story masterfully, her words a tactile experience. Her description of the theremin is outstanding, you visualize as well as hear the instrument at the hands of Lena. She delves headfirst emotionally into Lena leaving you spent.

Lena Gaunt a woman of quiet strength, you understand her pain as she reflects on her past. A bohemian, fearless, goes with the wind until the unfairness of life strikes. Compartmentalization, her strength lessening, she’s a woman exhausted, tired of living stoically, self-medicating fails to sooth her prolonged agony. Farr knits a profound emotional connection with this protagonist, she’s dimensional and every emotion and feeling hidden resurfaces with extreme visibility.

“We all thought of ourselves as bohemian, as modern, as artists apart from the workaday world around us, and free from its morals and strictures, its curtain-twitching and mouth-pursing.”

The narrative was centered around music and art which I enjoyed. I’m not a fan of split narratives but in this instance it was done wonderfully. The premise of filming Lena emphasized her losses and heartbreak to both Lena and the reader, opening the proverbial Pandora’s box.

Between Farr’s marvelous writing and the in-depth sketch of Lena, this is one moving story, a story penetrating your heart and senses, memorable evocative and intense. Impressive debut from Farr, her originality, historical references marrying with fiction form a enthralling contemporary read.

About Tracy Farrtracy-farr-2013-colour-web-660

Tracy Farr is a novelist, short story writer, and former research scientist. She grew up in Perth, and has degrees in Science and Arts from the University of Western Australia. Since 1996 she’s lived in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tracy’s debut novel was The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt. Her short fiction has been published in anthologies and literary journals (including Westerly, Indigo and Sport). She’s been awarded writing residencies and fellowships in Australia and New Zealand, including the inaugural Mildura Writers Festival Residency and a Varuna Second Book Fellowship in 2015.

Awards
Varuna Second Book Fellowship (2015)
Barbara Jefferis Award (Shortlisted 2014)
Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award (Winner 2014)
Western Australian Premier’s Book Award (Shortlisted 2014)
Miles Franklin Literary Award (Longlisted 2014)
R.A.K. Mason Writers’ Fellowship (2014)
BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award (Runner-up 2001)

Connect with Tracy:   Website | Twitter | Facebook

Published September 1st 2013 by Fremantle

Review & Giveaway: Dog Medicine: How My Dog Saved Me From Myself by Julie Barton

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About Dog Medicine

At twenty-two, Julie Barton collapsed on her kitchen floor in Manhattan. She was one year out of college and severely depressed. She called her mom, who raced from Ohio to New York, picked Julie up, and took her home.

Psychiatrists, therapists and family tried to intervene, but nothing reached her until the day she decided to do one hopeful thing: adopt a Golden Retriever puppy she named Bunker.

Dog Medicine captures in unforgettable language the anguish of depression, the slow path to recovery, and the astonishing way animals can help heal even the most broken hearts and minds.

My Review

I didn’t know this then, but depression can be like a slow leak. Once the dam’s hit, water starts to seep through and as the days and weeks go by, the crack grows bigger.

Thank you Julie Barton for sharing your touching story. Reading of Julie’s battle with depression was quite affecting. Depression is ugly, often glided over, reading this young woman’s downward spiral you understand its seriousness. I hope this story serves as a slap in the face to a term most are desensitized to. As she discloses her turbulent and abusive relationship with her brother you begin to grasp the origin of Julie’s pain. Her suffering and struggle with depression brought me to tears, in fact I cried through the entire book, yes, it impacted me greatly. No doubt Julie and Bunker were meant for each other, they really were each other’s salvation. As an animal lover, a dog owner, no wonder Julie and Bunker penetrated my heart, I understood their unbreakable connection. I applaud her for her candor in sharing the very intimate details of her life, her missteps and successes. Julie demonstrated the capacity of acceptance, to give and receive love, and forgiveness. I’m happy she finally found the peace, love and happiness she deserved. A bittersweet story etched in my heart, memorable and tender, with all certitude an unconditional love story.

About Julie BartonJulie.Bunker

Julie Barton is a writer, mother of two and animal lover who lives in Northern California. Her memoir, Dog Medicine, How My Dog Saved Me From Myself was published in November of 2015 by Think Piece Publishing.

Julie has a B.A. in English Literature from Kenyon College, an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a M.A. in Women’s Studies from Southern Connecticut State University.

Julie’s writing has been published in Brain Child Magazine, The South Carolina Review, Louisiana Literature, Two Hawks Quarterly, Westview, The Huffington Post, and more.

Mostly she just tries to be kind to people and animals, avoid judgement, appreciate nature, and write every chance she gets.

Connect with Julie: Website | Facebook | Q&A 

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Dog Medicine. Open to US residents only. Ends 12/15/15
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Published November 10th 2015 by Think Piece Publishing

Review & Giveaway: Divorce Turkish Style by Esmahan Aykol Translated by Ruth Whitehouse

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About Divorce Turkish Style

Kati owns Istanbul’s only mystery book store and, as usual, gets involved in a case that is none of her business. Every day, a beautiful woman lunches alone in the restaurant next to the bookstore. When the woman is found dead in her apartment, Kati immediately recognizes the stranger from the restaurant in images in the newspaper photos. Although the police believe it was an accident, Kati suspects something more sinister has happened. Sani Ankaraligil was an attractive young woman, in the middle of a divorce from her wealthy husband and a politically active ecologist. So who would benefit from her death? The industrial companies Sani had accused of polluting the rivers of Western Turkey, or her jealous husband seeking revenge through an honor killing, or a Thracian separatist group? The investigation pulls Kati into the murkiest of waters.

My Review

The mystery aspect was mild. The search for the culprit(s) is slow and as expected enlightening. The victim was a distant acquaintance of Kati’s and as she peels back the layers and inner circle of this woman’s life things become very interesting as secrets and possible motives are exposed. The drawn out narrative can drag a bit, however Kati’s often brash personality keeps you entertained. Fofo, Kati’s best friend and fellow amateur gumshoe have their share of witty repartee allowing for plenty of chuckles. Momentum ebbs and flows, other scenarios interrupt causing minuscule subplots.

Kati Hirschel possesses a strong personality. At times she grates on your nerves with her jagged edges, other times her edges are smooth and you appreciate her softer side. I have a better grasp of her by the end of the book, although the road was bumpy. Once you learn of her past, concerns, and there is enough presented, you understand this fiercely independent, strong woman much better.

The fact Kati is the owner of the only crime/mystery book store in Istanbul is clever. She reads so much crime she’s confident she can solve local crimes of merit, and she does. Kati is so adept at sleuthing she impresses the police, in fact they quasi consult her, adding to her over abundant level of confidence.

Another interesting aspect I enjoyed, seeing Turkey through Kati’s eyes. Kati is an expatriate from Germany, still adjusting to Turkish ways and people despite residing in Turkey for quite some time. Interesting to learn the intricacies of Turkey along with Kati as well as her comparisons of Germany vs. Turkey.

Mild mystery filled with numerous and electric characters. A few surprises along the way to solving the murder. I was off base as to the culprit, which was welcomed. Not until the very very end did all the pieces come together. Kati and Fofo will entertain you both on and off the case. Given Turkish is a difficult language to translate I found the translation strong. I still wish I could read every language to fully experience each story in their original tongue.

This is the third book in a series. I have not read the previous books, however it did not deter from my reading experience. This book is fine as a standalone, although bits and pieces of the previous books are scattered throughout the narrative gleaning enough insight into previous exploits protagonist has been involved in.

About Esmahan Aykolimage

Esmahan Aykol was born in 1970 in Edirne, Turkey. She lives in Istanbul and Berlin. During her law studies she was a journalist for a number of Turkish publications and radio stations. After a stint as a bartender she turned to fiction writing. She has written four Kati Hirschel mystery novels. Hotel Bosphorus and Baksheesh are the first two and have been published in eight languages.

Giveaway

Enter to win a copy of Divorce Turkish Style by Esmahan Aykol. US residents only. Ends 12/9/15
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Published November 3rd 2015 by Bitter Lemon Press (first published October 13th 2015)

Spotlight & Excerpt: Steady is the Fall by Emily Ruth Verona

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General Fiction / Literary
Date Published: October 29, 2015

About Steady is the Fall

Holly Dorren can’t breathe. Think. Feel. Her cousin is dead. Nothing will bring him back. And nothing will ever make her whole again.

In the days following Larry’s funeral, Holly begins to reflect on the childhood they shared. She looks for answers in both the past and the present, convinced that understanding his fascination with death might somehow allow her to cope with his absence. She doesn’t want to disappear, but already she’s fading away from the life she’s led.

Holly knew her cousin better than anyone, she was his best friend, and yet there is still a great deal she cannot accept in their relationship. In him. In herself. She doesn’t know how to move on without him, but refusing to accept his death carries it’s own devastating price.

READ AN EXCERPT Steady Is the Fall

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About Emily Ruth Verona31bw (3)

Emily Ruth Verona is the author of the novel Steady Is The Fall. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Cinema Studies from the State University of New York at Purchase. She is the recipient of the 2014 Pinch Literary Award in Fiction and a 2014 Jane Austen Short Story Award. Previous publication credits include work featured in Read. Learn. Write., The Lost Country, The Toast, and Popmatters. She lives in New Jersey with a very small dog.

Connect with Emily Ruth Verona: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

 

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Review: Boxes by Pascal Garnier, Melanie Florence (Translation)

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About Boxes

Brice and Emma had bought their new home in the countryside together. And then Emma disappeared. Now, as he awaits her return, Brice busies himself with DIY and walks around the village.

He gradually comes to know his new neighbours including Blanche, an enigmatic woman in white, who has lived on her own in the big house by the graveyard since the death of her father, to whom Brice bears a curious resemblance..

My Review

The language is beautiful only complimented by the stellar translation. The momentum of darkness purposefully unfolds as Brice precipices on the brink of depression to madness. You’re almost sucked into the darkness, the abyss of despair palpable. Intuition dismissed as Brice senses something isn’t quite right with Blanche. Mixed feelings regarding Blanche’s appearance, her confession came to quickly feeling untidy. No doubt her backstory was darker than I anticipated, nice touch to the overall plot and demented characterization. I enjoyed the suspense, however I felt the ending was abrupt, it left me wanting more. The journey was enjoyable more so than the destination, still well shaped.

About Pascal Garnierimage

Pascal Garnier, who died in March 2010, was a talented novelist, short story writer, children’s author and painter. From his home in the mountains of the Ardèche, he wrote fiction in a noir palette with a cast of characters drawn from ordinary provincial life. Though his writing is often very dark in tone, it sparkles with quirkily beautiful imagery and dry wit. Garnier’s work has been likened to the great thriller writer, Georges Simenon. Read an article by Pascal Garnier, describing his path to becoming a writer.

Review & Giveaway: Integrity by Anna Borgeryd, Cynthia Kite (Translator)

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About Integrity

Vera is a nurse from Sweden who, while delivering a dangerous birth in the Colombian jungle, makes contact with indigenous people who give her a wholly different outlook on life. A traumatic experience takes her home, her life in pieces just like the world as she now sees it. Her quest to put her life back together becomes tied up with her vision of a more sustainable world.

She meets the corporate heir to a company specializing in luxury travel who has a predatory attitude to women. Could such opposites really attract? And, if they came together, could they actually do something to halt the global march to self-destruction? An exploration of the inter-connectedness of human life, an unexpected love story, Integrity delves deep into the choices and emotions of a woman trying to change the world, and a man trying to change with her.

My Review

Borgeryd initially captured my attention a quarter of the way through the story, Vera’s story of narrowly escaping with her life while volunteering in Columbia was the incipient hook causing my antennae to quiver, however, it was short lived.

No complaints with the writing and translation, both very well done, the issue is with the characters and narrative. My attention was pulled and pushed equally. The narrative was monotonous as well as redundant. Vera, Peter along with the supporting cast were unappealing. They came across has mere figures on paper no dimensionality whatsoever. Numerous starts and stalls where Borgeryd reined in my focus until the pedestrian narrative pushed my focus far far away, repeating this vicious cycle until the very end. I’m confident if the length was pared down by 200-250 pages or so my attention could have been held to a higher level. Vera and Peter are lifeless and annoying, a clear case of much too much telling and definitely not nearly enough showing, benign characterization didn’t help fuel the fire.

If Borgeryd controlled the disarray and stayed on path, not to mention breathed life into her characters I would have been more receptive, than again this might be best enjoyed in its native language or perhaps it all boils down to a matter of taste. An awful lot to inhale until you reach the end leaving this reader exhausted and frustrated.

A detailed mature part coming of age story, part opposites attract romantically with a few very interesting subplots and points tossed in, you’ll enjoy Borgeryd’s effort, writing and translation softens the labor.

About Anna Borgerydimages

Anna Borgeryd has a PhD in conflict management and is chair of the family business Polarbröd. She is a musician and film-maker and this, her first novel, started life as a screenplay which won several awards in Sweden. She has been an adviser to the Swedish government’s Future Commission. She has given a TEDx lecture on The Dawn of a New Economy and in 2014 she was named among the fifteen most influential environmentalists in Sweden. She blogs at Wood and Blue.

Giveaway

Enter to win my ARC copy of Integrity by Anna Borgeryd, please complete the giveaway form below. Open to US residents only. Ends 11/24/15
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