Review: Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

20140417-215356.jpg The edition I read was comprised of two separate stories: Call Me Mrs. Miracle, and The Christmas Basket.

What I love about Debbie Macomber’s books (similar to Deborah Smith and Melody Carleson novels) is the magic. I don’t mean wizardry or sorcery. I mean a spiritual, magical change of heart that the characters undergo. It fills my own heart and reminds me of the beauty of my fellow man.

These stories are Christmassy, and I enjoyed reading them as much now as I would have in December. In Call Me Mrs. Miracle, Holly meets Jake Finley, heir to the successful Finley’s department store. With a little help from Mrs. Miracle, Holly and Jake develop a friendship, Holly’s nephew gets a Christmas surprise, and old Mr. Finley gets the best Christmas present anyone could wish for: peace.

The Christmas Basket illustrates how a petty grudge between two families turns into an embarrassing feud, one that undermines the romance of two beautiful people. One loving person arranges for two disputing women to work on a project together: filling a Christmas basket for charity. Aggression, blame, and making a scene at the discount store ensue. I cried and laughed with these poor women, knowing that at times I too have been too proud to change my tune.

These are feel-good family stories with distinct romantic subplots. I liked them for their sweetness, their love, their faith in humanity. And for their magic.

-Calliope

Buy CALL ME MRS. MIRACLE

Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

20140414-233216.jpg I loved the writing in this book, and I liked how three stories started out separately and then collided. I’m not sure about the characters… They were unlikeable and annoying. But maybe that’s how we humans are in real life sometimes?!

In any case, Liane Moriarty did a phenomenal job capturing character flaws and insecurities and putting them out on a table for us to inspect.

And my very favorite part was so meta. Moriarty has Cecelia brainstorming as to what her husband John-Paul’s secret could be. And every single idea was in line with my own guesses. If you found a secret letter from your spouse, what do you think it would say? Cecelia thinks those VERY THINGS. I think Moriarty is clever to speak to the reader through Cecelia… in a way saying, “I know what you’re thinking, but nope. Guess again.”

I never did guess. But it was pretty juicy when I found out.

There’s more than one husband in this story, by the way. There are three, plus one wannabe. There are also mothers-in-law, cousins, and children. And by the end, they all become part of the same story. I wouldn’t call it a happy ending, either. But it’s probably a pretty realistic one.

–Calliope

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Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

1q84I started this book when it first came out and I enjoyed it, but wasn’t absolutely in love with it. I became busy with life…or disenchanted with life…whatever….but for whatever reason, I set it aside after book one to pick up again at a later date…..that never happened…..until now. All I can say is I was a total fool for setting it aside. Book one was just a prologue for the real action in the second and third book. By the middle part of the 2nd book, I was enthralled with the entire thing. By the last part, I was in love.

This still might not be my favourite Murakami book, however, as always, I will have to soak it in and think about it before I can say that for certain. I love the concept of this book. I realise that some of what I am feeling is personal. Murakami doesn’t know me, so of course, this can’t be true…however, it amazes me how many of the things found within the cover of this book are things I have believed either now or at some point in my past. I don’t think one should ever be too old to believe in the unexplainable. No, I am not really saying that I believe there is some alternate universe. However, I do believe that we have connections with others that can’t always be explained. I also am okay with this enough now to just accept it for what it is…and no longer trying to rationalize it or explain it. Simply put, what is…is….

What strikes me most as I walk away from this book….having read the last page…..is that like him or not, Murakami is like no other. Truth be told….Murakami isn’t even like Murakami! Each book I’ve read by him has been so very different. Yes, he has reoccurring things that take place…mention of moon(s), sex, cats, alternate worlds…and love…most importantly love….but the style….the types of books…well they are just so different.

I love reading. I love discovering new writers. I can’t imagine a world that didn’t include reading. Of having a life that isn’t surrounded by books….

But I have to say, there might be an author or two that I love more…..there might be books that I love a bit more than some of Murakami’s works….but all that aside, if you told me I could only read one author for the rest of my days….well there is no hesitation in my mind that I would have to pick Haruki Murakami. There is no author that surprises me more with his beautiful writing. There is no other author that makes me *feel* more than Mr Murakami. It’s amazing just how much I feel whilst reading his books. I think Murakami is an author that the more you read, the more you appreciate and love…and seriously…I feel the same about his works as well. In other words, I think that if I ever read 1Q84 again that I will love it even more than I do at this moment…..and I am seriously in love right now…just saying….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Review: Seeing Stars, by J. Sterling

01 saving I don’t know why I waited so long to read this, but I’m so glad I finally did. Ever since I read J.Sterling’s The Perfect Game, I’ve been hooked. And when she came out with this shorter, non angst filled story, I wanted to give it a whirl. But I heard different people complain, so I was a bit nervous. But after reading it, I just don’t understand how someone can’t like this story.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Walker Rhodes is a hot singing sensation who never settles down, spends too much money gambling and gets in trouble on the daily- at least if you believe all the tabloids.

Madison Myers is a hard working talent agent assistant thrust into the spotlight one day after Walker pulls her on stage during one of his concerts. She tries to stay away from him, but he keeps chasing her. She is strong in her resolve and he is relentless in his pursuit. The question is… WHY?!?!

Tabloid Headline Reads: Walker Rhodes pulls woman on stage during LA concert and serenades her with stars in his eyes and we watched as the sparks flew! But just who is this mystery woman who has stolen Walker’s heart? And will she be the one to finally tie down our favorite womanizing gambler?

Our readers poll:
80% say no way!
The other 20% wish they were her!

Read more inside…

Just the description sounded perfect. It was the right amount of sweet and not all the drama. When I got to 75%, I thought there was going to be some major drama and angst, but I was totally wrong and WAY off. This story needed none of that. It made me realize that you can have stories that make you feel happy and not require you to have your heart ripped out first.

Sometimes you need a break from all the drama in your life. This was that perfect little break. Now I can’t wait until the next story!

~Melpomene

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Review: Children of the Knight by Michael J. Bowler

20140330-090851.jpgPretend, if you will, that the legendary King Arthur has magically and mysteriously arrived in present-day Los Angeles. Gangs, poverty, despair, crime, children abandoned to the streets…these are all very real current problems in any major city, and Los Angeles has more than its fair share.

The story centers around fourteen-year-old Lance. A classic street child, he’s experienced every form of abuse and neglect at his young age. With the exception of his English teacher, when he does go to school, nobody sees his potential. But isn’t that true of so many of these throwaway kids? When he meets Arthur, his world changes and he becomes part of a mission. A mission to save the kids that nobody seems to care about, even their parents. A mission to clean up parts of the city that have been allowed to fall into neglect thus perpetuating an attitude of crime. A mission to change the way society treats children who, at first glance, don’t appear to have much to offer. Along the way Lance and Arthur recruit a ragtag group of youngsters who truly are representative of today’s youth.

Part Arthurian legend and part urban fantasy, this very ambitious novel by Michael Bowler addresses a very real and shameful problem. Why are so many children, and some very young ones at that, left neglected, abused, and abandoned? And even more importantly, whose responsibility is it to save these children? All too often it’s seen as “not our problem” but Mr. Bowler and I seem to be in agreement on this issue. It truly is society’s responsibility, for the children are the future.

This story resonated with me on so many levels. As a mother, I can’t imagine a parent treating their child in such a harmful manner although I’m completely aware that it happens far too often. As a teacher, it touched me deeply and reinforced my deeply seated belief that we cannot overlook any child, no matter how insignificant their contribution may seem. And as a human being, which we should all be able to relate to, it shames me that so often children are thrown away like this. Not every child is fortunate enough to be born into a loving, caring family. But does that means they’re not deserving of every opportunity to make something of themselves? It takes just one person to make a difference in the life of a child.

~Thalia

Buy it Now: Children of the Knight

Musing: The Three-Star Review

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The whole book-rating thing isn’t so helpful, I’m afraid. I don’t blame Urania for avoiding a star rating whenever she can help it. It’s not accurate in so many cases, and frankly, there are so many reasons to give a book three stars instead of four, that who even knows if you’d like the book unless you actually read a review?!

So, why do I give a book three stars? Because it’s a nice, enjoyable, straightforward way to pass the time. Usually a three star book is somewhat predictable, evenly written, maybe a little bit superficial. I always like a three star read. (If I didn’t, I’d give it two stars.) I just don’t love a three star book.

Three stars means it didn’t pull me in and make me live in the story. It means I probably didn’t cry or laugh out loud. Likely, I didn’t need to go off and tell people about it when I was done.

But the three star reads still have a place in my weekly reading. Most notably, they are relaxing. I don’t have to put a lot of intellectual or emotional effort into a three star book. I can just veg out and read, and let the story wash over me.

So if you’re about to pass by a book that I gave three stars, reconsider. Read the review before you decide. Maybe you need an easy-on-the-heart-and-easy-on-the-mind book. I know I often do.

Check out recent reviews by Pegasus and the Muses.

Happy reading!
–Calliope

Review: A Simple Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson

20140408-222046.jpg A Simple Christmas Wish is about a family broken apart by tragedy, an Amish family who tries to fix it, and Aunt Rachel, whose love for niece Holly is like a mother’s love.

I enjoy Amish fiction, and this story had an excellent balance between the Amish and English worlds. I loved the glimpses of Amish fun and farmwork, as well as the challenges of managing a household without electricity!

Though it begins with a tragedy, this is a feel-good story with a heavy dose of family love. Because I’m a romance junkie, I can’t help but denote my favorite part when Aunt Rachel decides to explore a romantic possibility… a happily ever after in its own way. :)

-Calliope

Buy A SIMPLE CHRISTMAS WISH