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Melinda Ott has commented on (140) products.

Away by Amy Bloom
Away

Melinda Ott, November 18, 2014

I really, really thought I would love this book. The summary sounded fascinating and I was quickly pulled in by Bloom's writing. She has a poetic voice that I found hypnotic. Unfortunately, that was not enough to save this book for me.

I tried to put my finger on what went wrong for me and I came up with two big problem areas. The first was the story itself. From the summary, it sounds like this is one of those vast novels, but then you look and the book is less than 300 pages. There are basically 3 sections of this book--New York, Seattle, and Canada/Alaska and Bloom just sort of drops the reader in each one--and I had a lot of trouble buying how Lillian got to Seattle and then to Alaska. Bloom also dives a bit in to the world of the soap opera dramatics, which did not appeal to me. I felt that a lot of what happens to Lillian just wasn't necessary and I would have rather that Bloom had used those pages for something else.

The other problem was Lillian herself. I just never felt any connection with or sympathy for her--which is strange because I can understand the desire to find your child, but it just didn't ring true for me with Lillian. I never felt that I was able to get into her enough to feel her compulsion to go on her trek to find her daughter. Instead, she seemed like such a survivor (and I don't mean that in an entirely positive sense) that I couldn't see her give up her comforts to return for a daughter she was told was dead.

It's a shame as I think that Bloom is a fantastic writer and this book sounded great, but it just didn't work for me.
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The Language of Sisters by Amy Hatvany
The Language of Sisters

Melinda Ott, November 14, 2014

I have to be honest, I almost put this book aside. It was not due to any fault of the book, it was just that the subject matter was incredibly distressing to me. I guess it is a credit to Hatvany that she could write about the situation so well that it left me physically shaken.

So, yes, let's just say this is not a "fun" read. Trust me, it's far more intense than the summary would lead you to believe. It's pretty raw and heartbreaking--but I soon went from wanting to stop to not being able to put it down. Hatvany does well with highly emotional material and this is no exception.
I felt for Nicole--she had it coming from both sides. Not only did she have to take over the care of her sister, but she also had a bevy of unresolved issues with her mother. Her childhood friend comes back into the picture, who becomes a lifesaver to Nova (and she's kind of a kick--right when the reader needs something a little lighter going on in the story!). Hatvany said in the afterward that she has a sister with the same disability as Jenny, so I'm pretty sure that much of this came from the heart with her...and you can tell.

There is a bit of romance in the novel, but not so much that it overwhelms the plot. I think the story could have stood on its own legs without the romance, but its presence didn't really distract me. I think the more important aspect was the relationships Nicole had before she returned to Seattle.

I wouldn't recommend this to anyone looking for something "light" to read. However, this is something I would heartily recommend it to someone looking for something that will hit their emotions with both barrels.
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Milk Glass Moon (Big Stone Gap Novels) by Adriana Trigiani
Milk Glass Moon (Big Stone Gap Novels)

Melinda Ott, November 12, 2014

So, yeah, I gave this book 3 stars--but I feel I have to explain that rating a bit. I actually liked this book more than I enjoyed any other 3 star book, but I just didn't feel I could give it 4 stars. I gave he two books that precede this one the series (Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler) 4 stars each and, despite the fact that I enjoyed this book, it just wasn't as good as the other two.

First off, this is not a stand alone book. If you haven't read the two previous books, this one will make no sense. I'm not counting that against Milk Glass Moon, but I do feel I should say that. However, for those of you who have read (and enjoyed) Big Stone Gap and Big Cherry Holler, Milk Glass Moon will feel like coming home. The characters are still as lovable and quirky as ever .... which is both good and bad.

It's great if you want something familiar. Yes, the fact remains that no one has really changed--including Ave Maria. Because of that, this book felt a bit stalled as the characters haven't really developed since the first and second books. Ave Maria is still dealing with the same feelings that she doesn't belong that she did in the first book, feelings that I felt had been (or should have been) resolved already.

This book also seemed to lack any real plot. It takes place over about 4 or 5 years and at times it really feels like Trigiani is just skipping through time. Without a strong plot to hold such a long time period together, an author has no choice but to write only on the topmost layer of things.

I guess what I'm saying here is that it was like visiting old friends who are always the same, but it wasn't a satisfying read. I'm glad I read it, but I think I could only recommend it to people who are fans of the first 2 books and want a "check in" with the characters. There is one more book in the series, which I will be reading at some point in the not-so-distant future, and I hope that Trigiani returns to storytelling with the conclusion to this series.
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The Way Life Should Be by Christina Bak Kline
The Way Life Should Be

Melinda Ott, November 7, 2014

The only other book by Christina Baker Kline that I had read before this was Orphan Train, which I loved. The Way Life Should Be is an entirely different kind of book. It is firmly in the women's fiction genre, bordering on chick lit. I don't say that derisively, as I feel both are valid types of reading material. So, it became clear to me early on reading this book that I had to banish Orphan Train from my mind in order to give The Way Life Should Be a fair shake.

I definitely find this book to be more "Women's Fiction" than "Chick Lit." While these two genres are sometimes used interchangeably, for me the line is that Chick Lit is more romantically based while Women's Fiction tends more towards introspection in the characters. There is a small romantic element in this novel, but it is more a plot convention than anything (and leads to what I found to be a rather amusing exchange about halfway through the novel).

I liked Angela as a character and I could relate to her--I understand that feeling of not being in the right place and still trying to find home. While I found her family situation less than unique, it still fit with the character. I could completely understand why Angela would move to Maine almost on a whim and, more importantly, I could understand why she stayed.

I like Kline's style of writing, but it is different here than I expected after reading Orphan Train. In this book, she is lighter and more prone to humor. Part of this I expect is due to the subject matter, but it is still markedly different from her most recent (and successful) novel.

The Way Life Should Be is definitely a lighter read and I think that readers expecting something meatier would be disappointed. However, I think one must judge this book on its own merits and, for me, it is one of the more successful Women's Fiction titles I've read recently
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The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
The Ship of Brides

Melinda Ott, November 4, 2014

Jojo Moyes has become of the "it" authors nowadays, yet this is the first of her novels I've read. I say this because, whenever I mention to anyone that I'm reading this, they ask how it stacks up to Me Before You--and I just don't know.

The premise of The Ship of Brides was interesting to me, but I will say that it isn't unique. I've read several "war bride" novels and I usually enjoy them. This was no exception. This is one of the better war bride novels I've come across. Moyes has an inviting voice and paces her novel quite well--just when you think you might have a chance to put it down, she draws you right back in.

It wasn't a perfect book--the plot was a bit predictable, but that may be because I've read so many War Bride novels and there is only so much variation one can realistic do with that framework. Margaret and Frances were great characters, but I felt that Avice was more one-dimensional and I felt that Moyes didn't fully finish her story line.

Still, it was an enjoyable book and something I would recommend to someone wanting something a little heavier than chick lit, but lighter than some other historical fiction.
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