Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik BackmanA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Published by Atria Books on 2014-07-15
Genres: Fiction, General, Humorous, Literary
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Atria Books
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In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet lovable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon; the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell. But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry andMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand, Fredrik Backman's novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful and charming exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others

I received this book for free from Atria Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I don’t know when Fredrik Backman met the men in my family, but he had to have met my grandfather and my father at some point in order to portray them so well.  Now, granted, A MAN CALLED OVE is dealing with a 59 year old man who has lived a full life and now is ready to take steps to move on to… the next step – and that’s not something I see my father doing any time soon, but the rest of it?  Spot. on.

When I started to read A MAN CALLED OVE, I knew I’d happened on a winner because I wanted to read everything out loud to my dad.  I’d read a paragraph, laugh about it with him, then continue on to the next paragraph silently only to pause and read that one out loud to my dad as well.  This continued through all of chapter 1 and into chapter 2 before life stepped in.

I grew up in a family that loves reading out loud.  My earliest memories of visiting my grandparents include my dad reading Patrick McManus books out loud in my grandparents living room.  I remember the redness that would infuse my grandpa’s face as he struggled for breath through the laughter.  I remember the painful stitch in my side as I watched these two men in my life, the two steadfast, strong, pillars brought low with laughter.  I knew at that point that McManus had done something right.

So when I saw my father, now at the age my grandfather was in some of those memories, laughing in the same way I knew that Backman had done something well.  A MAN CALLED OVE is a story filled with humor, with heart-touching moments, and with life.  This book is, hands down, in my top five for this year and I expect it will be a book I pass out many, many times to the loved ones in my life.

Check out these reviews!

  • I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but this is a really good book. It makes you think, and the twist and turns keep you on your feet. –  TexasSwede
  • It’s a “Feel Good” read which I recommend. ” – A Musing Reviews
  • Looking for a good book?  This is it.  If you read only one book this year, or you want that perfect book to read on the beach, this should be your first choice.” – Looking for a Good Book

Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell

Book Review: While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth BlackwellWhile Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
Published by Penguin Group USA on 2014
Genres: Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fiction, Gothic
Pages: 424
Format: ARC
Source: Penguin Group USA
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I am not the sort of person about whom stories are told. Those of humble birth suffer their heartbreaks and celebrate their triumphs unnoticed by the bards, leaving no trace in the fables of their time....

And so begins Elise Dalriss's story

When she hears her great-granddaughter recount a tale about a beautiful princess awakened by a handsome prince, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has long kept locked. For Elise was the companion to the real princess who slumbered - and she is the only one left who knows the truth of what happened so many years ago.

As the memories start to unfold, Elise is plunged back in to the magnificent world behind the opulent palace walls. Fleeing a hardscrabble existence and personal tragedy, she builds a new life for herself as a servant to the royal family and quickly rises within the castle hierarchy. As Elise proves herself a loyal confidante, she is drawn into the lives of an extraordinary cast of women: a beautiful queen who wakes each morning with tears on her pillow, an elderly spinster who in heartache shuts herself away, a princess who yearns to be free, and the ambitious and frightening sister who cannot accept the fact that she will never rule. Elise has guarded their secrets - and her own - for a lifetime. While Beauty Sleeps is her story.

In this rich and compelling novel of love and terror, friendship and fate, we are introduced to a heroine of extraordinary determination - the true heart of a legend - who reveals what it really takes to reach happily ever after.

I received this book for free from Penguin Group USA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I’ve said time and time again that I have a special fondness for fairy tale retellings.  I’ve been fascinated with The Brothers Grimm since I was a teenager and, having grown up on Disney cartoons and musicals, it’s no surprise that I leap for anything that looks to have even a hint of an association with fairy tales.  That’s, unfortunately, led to some pretty gnarly reads (Ninja Cinderella, anyone?) but I’m happy to say that WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT was just nearly perfect.  So nearly perfect that I may have shed a tear when it came to an end.

Let me give you an example of how engrossing this book was.  The hardcover edition has 432 pages.  Last night, I curled up in bed having read 70ish of those pages throughout the day.  I thought… how in the world will I put this book down? And that was the last thought outside of the story I can remember having.  I closed the book at 1am with a tear and a sigh and I woke up this morning completely engrossed in the story, still.  The book may have finished last night at 1am, but my imagination is still blooming.  That, my friends, is what I love about a good book.

Now, WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT is not perfect – don’t get me wrong.  There were some issues I struggled with, such as the cheesy way the narrator continued over, and over, and over again to foreshadow some great tragedy ahead.  I also struggled a bit with the ending as everything seemed to tie up very neatly for a story that had been so convoluted.  Also, by the end of the book, I wasn’t sure who exactly the story was being narrated to and why and I had to revisit the beginning to get a sense of that (although I’m still not really sure).

But all those things aside, WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT is a strong re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty story that fits magnificently into a world that’s welcomed Frozen and Maleficent into being in the last year.  Strong female characters, an intriguing way of dealing with the fabled curse, and a story that is more real than the fairy tales of my youth, WHILE BEAUTY SLEPT reads like a strong, historical fiction novel that will ring very, very familiar in the imagination of the person reading it.

Check out these reviews!

  • While Beauty Slept is a gorgeous retelling of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, fleshed out and made whole through Elizabeth Blackwell’s words. –  S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Overall, While Beauty Slept was a well written and compelling fantasy novel, and I await Blackwell’s next work, although whether I read it depends on what it’s about. ” – The Literary Flaneur
  • Even with my minor reservations, While Beauty Slept swept me up completely. It was the first reading experience I’ve had in a while where I felt like I was being carried along by the story’s current, unaware of what might happen next or which character it would happen to.” – Alexa Loves Books

Book Review: The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

Book Review: The Fortune Hunter by Daisy GoodwinThe Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin
Published by Macmillan on 2014-07-29
Genres: Biographical, Fiction, Historical
Pages: 480
Format: eARC
Source: Macmillan
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In 1875, Sisi, the Empress of Austria is the woman that every man desires and every woman envies.

Beautiful, athletic and intelligent, Sisi has everything - except happiness. Bored with the stultifying etiquette of the Hapsburg Court and her dutiful but unexciting husband, Franz Joseph, Sisi comes to England to hunt. She comes looking for excitement and she finds it in the dashing form of Captain Bay Middleton, the only man in Europe who can outride her. Ten years younger than her and engaged to the rich and devoted Charlotte, Bay has everything to lose by falling for a woman who can never be his. But Bay and the Empress are as reckless as each other, and their mutual attraction is a force that cannot be denied.

Full of passion and drama, THE FORTUNE HUNTER tells the true story of a nineteenth century Queen of Hearts and a cavalry captain, and the struggle between love and duty.

I received this book for free from Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

Having had my fill of British Royalty, at least in my historical fiction reads…I still check out Prince Harry now and then because, well, you know, I decided it was time to turn my eye to other monarchs/royal families/emperors/etc.  THE FORTUNE HUNTER by Daisy Goodwin fit the bill perfectly.  Going into this story, I knew very little about Sisi, the Empress of Austria and a grandmother (!) at 38 years old.  A quick glance at Wikipedia showed me pictures of a beautiful young woman with a wealth of hair… so you could say my interest was piqued.

Unfortunately, what I got in THE FORTUNE HUNTER was a romance novel dressed up as an historical fiction.  The majority of the story was not about Sisi, as I had hoped, but rather was split between Sisi and a young woman named Charlotte.  While I’d been warned about Charlotte in the synopsis, I had no idea that she would have such a focal point in the story.  In fact, as I write this review, I’m looking back at the synopsis and wondering how in the world anyone could think this book was about Sisi.  So, please, do not be fooled.  I have nothing against a romance, but I very much object to being marketed a story about something or someone when the book cannot live up to that promise.

That said, the story was still interesting.  The bits and pieces we are given into Sisi’s life were fascinating, I just wish there’d been more of them and less focus on Charlotte.  Charlotte’s life, while interesting in its own right, paled in comparisons to what Sisi’s must have been like and I resent it a bit that I was forced to read so much about Charlotte.  The love story, as a result, seemed a bit forced and the ending very choppy and thrown together.  I believed much more in the chemistry between Sisi and her lover than, for example, I believed in Charlotte and hers.

I won’t say that you should avoid THE FORTUNE HUNTER, but I do think that if you are looking for serious historical fiction that’s interested in actually exploring more of history than just a love story or two, then I would give this one a pass.  But, if you are looking for a book that will entertain and amuse you as you pass your summer, then this would definitely fit the bill – provided you don’t mind a story that takes its own, sweet time.

Check out these reviews!

  • While it is a bit of a romp and not entirely serious, it is a great story about the independence of women and the determination (of all people) to be free and live as they choose. –  These Little Words
  • The Fortune Hunter is an intriguing and satisfying read with strongly drawn characters and sprinklings of humour provided by lesser characters. ” – Write Note Reviews
  • “Honestly, I was hoping for a slightly more sophisticated, less tongue-and-cheek version of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series…What I got was a limp story, characters that don’t deserve my time let alone my respect, and sloppy and bad writing.” – The Next Book on the Shelf

Book Review: The Young World by Chris Weitz

Book Review: The Young World by Chris WeitzThe Young World by Chris Weitz
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-07-29
Genres: Action & Adventure, Dystopian, General, Survival Stories, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Brown Books for Young Readers
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Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens.After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he's secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park...and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

I received this book for free from Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I’m about done with dystopia these days.  It seems like every storyline bears strong resemblances to a storyline I feel like I just put down.  That said, I’d requested a copy of THE YOUNG WORLD by Chris Weitz several months ago and, as such, I felt like I needed to at least give it a shot.  I am very, very pleased to say that it had me laughing out loud throughout the book and, honestly, when I’m that amused, I don’t give a fig if it’s a story that has been overdone to death.

THE YOUNG WORLD is narrated by two young people, Jefferson and Donna.  Jefferson has big shoes to fill when placed in charge of a group of teens by his older brother, Washington.  Donna is, as she says right off the bat, a “reliable narrator,” and in doing so, immediately makes her reader wonder exactly what can be trusted.  Between the two narrators, the story moves quickly, but it was Donna who, ultimately, had me laughing (to the point of tears) and thoroughly enjoying this book.

The story is a familiar one.  Adults have all been wiped out by a virus (as have young children).  All that’s left are the teens.  They’ve split into factions and now are trying to figure out a world where breeding no longer exists, rules are gone with the adults, and they have a limited amount of time before the last of them witness the end of the human race.  Enter Donna and Jeff and a mission, posed to them by a brainy boy in the group who has a far-fetched idea.

What makes THE YOUNG WORLD stand out from the other stories along these lines is the humor.  I’ve said a few times now in this review that I was laughing out loud, and let me say it again…this book will have you laughing. out. loud.  The pop-culture references are fantastically placed, the snarky remarks about certain things our society has embraced that we should be embarrassed by – yeah, they are called out and mocked ferociously.  I found myself nodding and vehemently agreeing when a comment is made about fifty shades of grey – for example.

If you are anything like me, you are also over this genre of young adult fiction.  But please, don’t let that hold you back from giving just one more book a try.  Even if you are tired of the same story being told, it’s always nice to see it just one more time through fresh, witty, and downright funny perspectives.  THE YOUNG WORLD is worth a shot and I bet you will enjoy it just as much as I did.

Check out these reviews!

  • I don’t know if I can totally pigeon hole it, dystopian? young adult? whatever it is if you like teenage angst, a bit of unrequited love with some badass shoot em ups then this is for you. –  Random Redheaded Ramblings
  • The Young World is a great ride and do not pass on this first book of The Young World Trilogy (don’t groan – the book is fast paced and engaging and you will not want to wait!)” – Bookjourney

Book Review: Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen

Book Review: Evergreen by Rebecca RasmussenEvergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 2014
Genres: 21st Century, Fiction, Friendship, Girls & Women, Social Issues
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Source: Knopf Doubleday Publishing
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From the celebrated author of The Bird Sisters, a gorgeously rendered and emotionally charged novel that spans generations, telling the story of two siblings, raised apart, attempting to share a life.

It is 1938 when Eveline, a young bride, follows her husband into the wilderness of Minnesota. Though their cabin is rundown, they have a river full of fish, a garden out back, and a new baby boy named Hux. But when Emil leaves to take care of his sick father, the unthinkable happens: a stranger arrives, and Eveline becomes pregnant. She gives the child away, and while Hux grows up hunting and fishing in the woods with his parents, his sister, Naamah, is raised an orphan. Years later, haunted by the knowledge of this forsaken girl, Hux decides to find his sister and bring her home to the cabin. But Naamah, even wilder than the wilderness that surrounds them, may make it impossible for Hux to ever tame her, to ever make up for all that she, and they, have lost. Set before a backdrop of vanishing forest, this is a luminous novel of love, regret, and hope.
My Review:

There’s an otherworldly quality to Rebecca Rasmussen’s writing and it really shows in Evergreen, her sophomore novel.  I loved The Bird Sisters, but it was Evergreen that tipped me over the edge and really made me sit up and pay attention.  While it still had its flaws, by and large, it was one of the most thoughtful books I’ve read this year.  While set in Minnesota, it still had a touch in it that reminded me of some of my favorite southern stories; a touch I can only describe as magical.

In Evergreen, we’re introduced to a young bride on her way to join her husband in a hard land that does not take pity on anyone, regardless of station.  There’s literally no backstory at the start of the book.  Instead, the reader is thrown into chaos, much like young Eveline, in a land that is unfamiliar and frightening.  And to top it all off – there’s a war about to start.

The majority of Evergreen is about Eveline’s steadfastness and her ability to survive through some of the most horrifying things that could happen to a woman.  Alone, save for a friend who lives relatively close by, Eveline learns how to manage on her own while her husband is away to see his dying father in Germany.  There’s quite a bit of survival tale in this book in addition to an interesting look at the dynamics of a family when something has happened to threaten its very being.

But only half of the book is about Eveline  – the rest being about her two children – a son, Hux, and a daughter, Naamah.  Both children come with their own issues, as evidenced by their later lives, and my heart felt like it was being pulled and tugged in every which direction as I read their stories.

I really enjoyed Evergreen.  There were moments when things felt a little far-fetched (Eveline’s book-learned talent, for example) but those moments were overshadowed by the power of Eveline and her children’s story.  This is one that should definitely be picked up upon its release next month.

Check out these reviews!

  • “Although themes of abandonment and loss permeate this novel, and characters often struggle with cruel circumstances, tragedy and abuse, this is not a sad or unhappy story. –  Bookdiscovery

So as far as that absence goes….

Things have been busy around here.  My reading has taken a hit, but it’s one I was willing to take in order to experience life in May and June.  In the last several weeks I’ve had family here, my nephew had a hospital stay, I’ve visited another island (Kauai), and I’ve been wrapping up piano lessons here before heading to Nebraska in August.  Yes, it’s been busy.

Still, I’ve been reading some and I have quite a few reviews to catch up on so I am holding myself accountable for them.  For streamlining sake, I’m making a few small changes to my review format (no more additional book recommendations, I’m trusting my plug-in to point you in that direction), and some other small changes that will hardly be noticeable (new plugins, etc).

But I wanted to say I’m back – and to apologize for my absence, let me give you a few pictures of the glory that I got to see this past week.









Book Tour: The Frangipani Hotel: Stories by Violet Kupersmith

Book Tour: The Frangipani Hotel: Stories by Violet Kupersmith

Book Tour: The Frangipani Hotel: Stories by Violet KupersmithThe Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
Published by Spiegel & Grau on 2013
Genres: Short Stories (single author), War & Military
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Source: Spiegl & Grau
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Based on traditional Vietnamese ghost stories told to the author by her Vietnamese grandmother but updated to reflect the contemporary ghost of the Vietnam War, here is a mesmerizing collection of thematically linked stories, united by the first and last story of the collection.

Violet wrote these unusually accomplished stories as an undergraduate at Mt. Holyoke College in an attempt to update the traditional Vietnamese ghost stories her grandmother had told her to incorporate the more relevant ghosts of the aftermath of the Vietnam War on a generation of displaced Vietnamese immigrants as well as those who remained in Vietnam. From the story about a beautiful young woman who shows up thirsty in the bathtub of the Frangipani Hotel in Saigon many years after her first sighting there to a young woman in Houston who befriends an old Vietnamese man she discovers naked behind a dumpster to a truck driver asked to drive a young man with an unnamed ailment home to die, to the story of two American sisters sent to Vietnam to visit their elderly grandmother who is not what she appears to be, these stories blend the old world with the new while providing a new angle of insight into the after-effects of the war.

I received this book for free from Spiegl & Grau in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

I’m a fan of short stories.  I think I say that at least once a month when reviewing books, but it still sometimes amazes me – because back in the day I couldn’t stand them.  A good short story, in my opinion, is like a snapshot of time and in that snapshot, gives the reader a good sense of what happened before and after.  In a way, The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith does that, but in some ways, it does not.

First, Kupersmith does a beautiful job of putting pen to paper and communicating the history of the Vietnamese people as connected to the Vietnam war.  The idea is inspired, using older ghost stories and updating them to show a stunning, if a bit bleak at times, “snapshot” of those terrifying years.  But what it felt like, in parts, was also like I was sitting in one of my advanced creative writing courses at school and reading the stories there.  I think it was a lack of polish? Or maybe just that the first story, with its reference to “Grandmother” and the dialog between the 1st person narrator and his/her grandmother, just did not work at all for me.  Unfortunately, that was just the first story and since it held that prized position, it set the tone of the entire book for me.

However, Kupersmith showed some fantastic humor and a deft writing style with some of the great sentences scattered throughout the stories.  I remember in class hearing about lines that just worked hard, i.e. “Swanky name, shitty place” as describing the hotel named in the title.  With just a few simple words, Kupersmith is able to convey the erstwhile glory (or want-to-be glory?) of the place while embracing what it is when one takes off the rose-colored glasses.

I still rate The Frangipani Hotel high, however, because of its uniqueness.  I’ve not read or experienced stories written like this before and I enjoyed the exposure to older ghost stories as well as the education of what it would have been like to be on the other side of the Vietnam war.  I’d recommend this book as interesting reading for a book club – it would make for some great discussion.

About the Author


Violet Kupersmith

Violet Kupersmith was born in rural Pennsylvania in 1989 and grew up outside of Philadelphia. Her father is American and her mother is a former boat refugee from Vietnam. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2011 and then spent a year in Vietnam on a Fulbright teaching fellowship.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten (Eight) Books to Read If You Like Lost (The TV Show)


Top Ten Tuesday is a fantastic meme hosted and created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Okay, so I’m a huge survival fan lately.  Like.. it’s what I crave in my books and it’s killing me that I can’t get to certain books due to other commitments (I’m looking at you, The Martian).  But I have read my fair share of survival stories so check these books out if you, like me, love a good snail and grub dinner… okay, not really that last part, but still!  I’m a bit tired, so I’ve only come up with eight good titles (that fit the theme of Lost anyway!) so here we go -

1. Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson

It doesn’t get more survivalist than this.  This is the most recent of the survivor type stories that I’ve read and it thoroughly gripped me – I was entranced throughout the whole thing and… how cool is it that it’s set in the ice age??

2. The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne

This book always ends up on my Top Ten Tuesday posts – I think it’s because it’s a favorite of mine.  The ultimate in survival guides, Verne applies his scientific knowledge (and primate knowledge) and creates a fantastic tale.

3.  Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

I don’t know that it’s really PC these days to love this book, but I grew up with it and I remember watching the old Disney movie and wishing I, too, could live in a treehouse.  There’s no denying that it’s a heck of a story.

4. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Another not really popular author in literature classes, still Tarzan is quite the story.  My dad is a huge fan of this series and had me reading them when I was young as well (and when I was a teenager – hey, I grew up in a very strict household, this was as racy as it got for me, folks!)

5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Not a fiction book, but still – a pretty epic tale of survival.  This story was hyped so much that I was worried it wouldn’t stand up to all the talk, but it did and I loved it.

6. Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

Speaking of non-fiction, here’s another one that really hit me in the right spot.  While the ending is heart-breaking, the story of survival told here is a fascinating one, and one we can all learn a lesson from.

7. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

This one needs no explanation (but have you noticed now that there are THREE Robinson’s on my list?  Strange).

8. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

Yup, I’m throwing some science fiction into the mix – because I love Atwood and I love this trilogy.

What books have you read with that great survivor feel??

Book Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison

Book Review: The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban AddisonThe Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison
Published by HarperCollins on 2013-03-26
Genres: Fiction, General
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: HarperCollins
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Lusaka, Zambia: Zoe Fleming is a young, idealistic American lawyer working with an NGO devoted to combatting the epidemic of child sexual assault in southern Africa. Zoe’s organization is called in to help when an adolescent girl is brutally assaulted. The girl’s identity is a mystery. Where did she come from? Was the attack a random street crime or a premeditated act?

A betrayal in her past gives the girl’s plight a special resonance for Zoe, and she is determined to find the perpetrator. She slowly forms a working relationship, and then a surprising friendship, with Joseph Kabuta, a Zambian police officer. Their search takes them from Lusaka’s roughest neighbourhoods to the wild waters of Victoria Falls, from the AIDS-stricken streets of Johannesburg to the matchless splendour of Cape Town.

As the investigation builds to a climax, threatening to send shockwaves through Zambian society, Zoe is forced to radically reshape her assumptions about love, loyalty, family and, especially, the meaning of justice.

I received this book for free from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I also recommend:

My Review:

Last Spring I was in a class that focused heavily on the issues surrounding the continent of Africa.  There were a lot of misconceptions, there was a lot of ignorance (myself included) and there was quite a bit of curiosity.  We watched movies, read short stories by South African authors, and were each assigned one country to thoroughly research – both the history as well as current events.  I was given the country of Nigeria – an assignment that has awakened a love for Nigerian literature (I just wish it wasn’t so hard to come by).  The Garden of Burning Sand by Corban Addison is a story involving Zambia, a country is in the southern part of Africa.   Much like many of the other countries on the continent, Zambia struggles with corrupted politicians, massive amounts of crimes, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic – although the improvements in the last area are intense.

What Corban Addison does in The Garden of Burning Sand is shed light on the corrupt system and some of the issues that are very prevalent today.  Namely, the rape and abuse of young Zambian girls.  One of the focuses is on the myth that a young man with HIV can “transfer” the disease to a virgin girl – and who better to be a virgin than a child, in their minds.  Corban approaches the story from the point of view of Zoe, a young, American woman with a love gifted to her from her mother, for the people of Africa, and whose father is currently on the campaign trail to become the President of the United States.  There’s politics surrounding all of Zoe’s life, but her focus is on those who cannot defend themselves.

The Garden of Burning Sand is part legal thriller/part social justice commentary.  It’s interesting, quite unputdownable as far as stories go, and definitely does not pull punches. What I struggled with, a bit, was how neatly the story wrapped up – but that may be just personal taste, since many of the books and stories I’ve read out of other African countries do not end so neatly.

I would say if you are looking to learn more about Zambia or enjoy legal stories and want to branch away from more well-known places, then pick this one up.  I’m looking forward to reading Addison’s previous novel as well.

Check out these reviews!

  • The story was good with a great deal of suspense, mystery, and twists that did mean the ending was not a foregone conclusion. –  Books for my Briefcase
  • ‘”All the same, this is a fast paced legal crime book that cares.” –  Telling Stories
  • ” Corban Addison has woven a masterful tale, and it is hard to believe this is only his second novel.” – Christian Fiction Addiction

After the Book Deal – Guest Post by Jonathan Auxier

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The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!


AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!



Day Four: A Night at the Movies


Yesterday, we talked about using social networks to spread the word about your book, today we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of book trailers.


Book trailers are a strange animal. Many casual readers don’t even know they exist, but within the book industry they can be extremely effective at building buzz. Case in point: super-librarian Mr. Schu has built a huge online following from sharing and spreading book trailers … if it’s good enough for Schu, it’s good enough for me!


Who’s Going to Make It? – before you embark on a book trailer, you’ll probably need to figure out who will be contributing the money and time to make it happen. Some possibilities …


Publisher: If your publisher is paying for a book trailer—congratulations! That’s a rare thing, and you should enjoy the support. For the vast majority of authors, however, book trailers are considered the domain of the author. (Whether this is fair is an entirely different question… which I’ll talk about in week four.)


Homebrew: If you like a challenge, you can always make your own trailer. Sometimes this takes the form of a talking-head video (easier) or a full-blown mini-move (hard). In the case of Peter Nimble, I decided to learn Adobe Flash and animate my own trailer which you can watch here. If you’re interested in this route, you might want to check out my blog post Five Things I Learned from Making my own Book Trailer, which goes into detail of the technical side of flash animation.


Going Pro: I get weekly emails from companies that produce book trailers for authors. The fees range anywhere from $500-$5000. I’ve seen demos from many of these companies, and have never been impressed with the product. While book trailers have some value, they do not justify this sort of expense.


Cheap Labor: Author EE Charlton-Trujillo recommends that authors get help from film school students—many of whom need a final project to graduate. Here’s an example of her most recent trailer for Fat Angie. While a good technique, I think it requires some serious know-how on the part of the author (lucky for EE, she’s a filmmaker herself).

Other Thoughts – Once you’ve figured out who will make the trailer, you now need to figure out what you want in your trailer. Some considerations …


Audience: Book trailers are perhaps even more valuable for younger readers. Not only are they internet natives, but some of them are reluctant readers—the excitement of a book trailer might be needed to help them get over reading anxiety. Take a look at your specific market and see if the books that succeed have trailers.


Length: Having watched a lot of book trailers, I would strongly recommend that your trailer fall under one minute. Usually after the first minute, trailers start accidentally giving reasons why not to read a book.


Timing: The ideal time to release a book trailer would probably be 2-3 weeks before launch. And don’t just uploat it to YouTube and wait for the crickets. Instead reach out to a blogger you respect and ask them if they will do an “exclusive” release of the trailer … turn its release into an EVENT!


Art: If you have an illustrated book, a trailer is much easier to make. Just use iMovie to throw together a little music, text, and floating images and you’re good to go. In this case, I would definitely say it’s worth your time.  (The master of this technique is the brilliant Dan Santat.)


Interest: This may seem obvious, but don’t waste time and energy on a book trailer unless you will ACTUALLY ENJOY doing it. If the thought of making a video makes you suicidal, then skip it. Many books succeed despite having no trailer.


Final Thoughts - Making my own book trailer for Peter Nimble was a huge pain, but I was glad I did it. It has 14,000 views, which is a lot of impact for the time and cost. Moreover, I have found the book trailer to be an invaluable tool for school visits (more on that in Week four).


So what about my Night Gardener book trailer? You’ll have to wait and see!

NightGardener Cover



That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEALTomorrow at Smack Dab in the Middle, where I’ll be talking about Giveaways! Please-oh-please spread the word!


Jonthan Auxier Headshot - web square (1)JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May. You can visit him online at where he blogs about children’s books old and new






PeterNimble Cover (1)