Thursday, December 31, 2015

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

I saw a picture of this book on Tumblr and the caption mentioned that the book would be released on November 10th.  That intrigued me, so I decided to find out what November 9 was about.  The description of the book intrigued me even more, so I bought the book as soon as I could get out to the bookstore.  I am very glad I did.  Having never read a book by Colleen Hoover, I wasn't really sure what to expect.  In all honesty, I had never heard of this author up until I saw the picture of November 9.  However, I do believe I will be reading more Colleen Hoover books now.

Overall Ms. Hoover's writing style is pleasing.  She uses a good mix of varied sentence structure and complexity to keep the reader from becoming bored and her vocabulary is satisfactory.  I found her writing easy to follow but thankfully not simplistic.  The only thing that I had to get used to was the story switching from one narrator to the other.  Thankfully it was easy enough to follow as each chapter had its own narrator and did not switch between narrators in the middle of a chapter.

I enjoyed the characters in this book.  They were well written and easy to identify with.  Even when I really wanted to dislike a character, in the end, I couldn't.  The characters were real.  In each character the reader can find a bit of themselves.  Even the most unlikeable character, Fallon's father, I ended up at least understanding and being able to peacefully coexist with. 

As far as the story goes... Wow.  That's really all I can say.!  The story explores so much and the characters grow so much!  This book beautifully illustrates the complex dynamics between individuals and family members.  Ms. Hoover does a great job of giving the characters a story that allows them to develop and learn about themselves.  And the plot?  Let's just say I never saw it coming.  I suppose perhaps I should have, but I didn't, and that made the end of the book have so much impact.

I really can't say enough good things about this book.  If you read no other book in the coming year, you must read this book.  My only caution is that this book does have certain topics that are not suitable for younger readers.  Nothing that is terrible or over the top, but nevertheless, I would not recommend this book for anyone under the age of a mature mid-teen reader.  But don't let this scare you off!  This book is amazing and should be one of the first books you read in 2016.  I enjoyed the book so much, I will likely read November 9 again in the new year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Gift From Bob by James Bowen

Anybody who reads this blog regularly, or knows me even a tiny bit, knows I love reading Christmas books.  Nothing beats curling up with a seasonal book on a cold day.  I also enjoy books about animals.  A Gift From Bob fulfills both criteria.  I admit at first I was a little leery of a book about a man on the streets.  I wondered how on earth a book about a man who is one minuscule step above homeless could possibly make for good holiday reading.  I'm glad I took a chance on this book.  A Gift From Bob truly is one of the most uplifting books you could read this season.  And the best part?  It's non fiction!

I have to admit I like the author's writing style.  James Bowen's style is not pretentious nor is his style elementary.  I would say Mr. Bowen's style is simple but compelling.  At no time did I find myself distracted by the author's style.  I appreciated the fact that it felt as though he were sitting in front of me telling his story.  This conversational style pulled me in and really helped me enjoy the book.

I especially enjoyed how well he enabled me to know the other people populating his story.  Not only did he do a very good job of helping me visualize where this part of his life took place, he also made it very easy for me to make a connection with the people who were an integral part of his life. 

The story itself, if you will, had me completely engrossed.  I can't say that I know anything about the struggle of the homeless.  I certainly never gave much thought to how, or even if, they celebrate the holidays.  Neither have I considered how one goes from sleeping in the park to reintegrating into a more traditional mode of living.  Mr. Bowen's story gave me a glimpse into the life of the homeless and certainly made me far more aware of the role I can play in assisting those that I encounter.

Additionally, A Gift From Bob made me think about what "Christmas spirit" really means.  This book also helped me to refocus on the important things of the season.  It really is less about the price tag on the gift and much more about the thought that goes into it.  And truly, when things look as though they are at their worst, if you just slow down for a moment and refocus, it turns out things aren't ruined after all.  But most of all, this book helped me remember that the gifts really aren't that important.  It's all about who you spend your Christmas with.

All things considered, I would recommend this book to everyone.  There is nothing at all bad in this book.  In fact, I would encourage everyone to read this book regardless of the time of year.  Of course if you can read the book during the Christmas season, I would certainly encourage you to do so.  I will be reading this book again next Christmas and I will probably do so first thing in the season.  Just like A Christmas Carol, this book should be read every year and should kick off the beautiful season that is all about love, joy, peace and the greatest gift man has ever known.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Trading Christmas by Debbie Macomber

'Tis the season!  Well the season for reading Christmas books, that is.  And believe me, I have plenty in my stack to read!  Because I like Hallmark Christmas movies so much, I decided to start with a sappy sweet Hallmark-esque book.  As Trading Christmas had been made into a Hallmark movie, I figured this was a good one to start with.  Let me just say, the book and the movie only share very loose similarities.  Very loose similarities!

Overall the book was fine.  It really is only a short story, not even a full length novel.  The author's ability to write clear, concise sentences with acceptable vocabulary was about what I would have expected from a bestselling author in this genre.  Certainly, the writing isn't scholarly, but I don't expect scholarly from romance.  In fact, from a purely technical aspect, I find Debbie Macomber to be one of the better romance writers.  Her style isn't complex, but it is sound and enjoyable. 

Likewise, I found the characters in this book appealing.  Although this wasn't a full length novel, I had no problem enjoying the characters.  I found the characters to be real and easy to identify with.  The only character that wasn't as well developed was Heather, Emily's daughter.  Of course, she was a supporting character, but she was still flat and, frankly, not very likable at all.  I truly enjoyed the character of Bernice Brewster.  Although another supporting character, she was quite enjoyable and entertaining.  Flamboyant and dramatic, she was still lovable and made me smile every time she showed up in the story.  As Charles and Ray's mother, she brought fun and humor to a story that would otherwise have suffered from being too serious.

The story itself was also easy to identify with, in as much as, it is a story about the changes a family faces as a child grows up and Christmas traditions are turned upside down.  Now perhaps few people would have dealt with these changes quite on the level of trading residences, but that doesn't matter.  It does happen in "real life" so at least it is still believable.  And honestly, I enjoyed this perhaps unorthodox way of dealing with change.  It opened up a lot of avenues for the story to develop that otherwise simply wouldn't have been there.

Perhaps my only real complaint is that the story felt rushed.  I attribute this to the fact that this isn't a full length novel.  However, that does detract some from my enjoyment of the story.  I do believe the story would have been better served had it been written as a full length novel. 

All things considered, I do recommend this book as an enjoyable Christmas read.  Due to its abbreviated nature, it would be very easy to cozy up in a blanket and read this story in one sitting.  There really isn't anything objectionable in this book so I can safely say anybody could read Trading Christmas with no worries whatsoever.  However, that being said, I do believe this book will appeal mostly to the mid-30s and beyond set.