Book Recommendations: Fiction

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Patrick, Phaedra. 2017. Rise and Shine, Benedict Stone. Park Row Books. Ontario: CN

I read Phaedra Patrick’s first book, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, and enjoyed it; so when I found her most recent book on the library shelf, I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.  I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed it even more than her first.

Benedict Stone’s wife has left him, and his jewelry store has been losing business. Though he wants to win back his wife, he doesn’t know how to start.  He’d like to get back his customers, but is in a creative rut. The only comfort for his sadness is food. 

Enter Gemma, his niece; the daughter of his estranged brother. She appears at his doorstep one night, unexpectedly and suddenly, his quiet, boring life turns upside-down.   

I enjoyed this book because it was about self-discovery – Benedict realized he could step out of his comfort zone, and he was able to face some truths about his relationship with his wife. It was also about family and forgiveness.  Benedict and his brother were able to resolve old issues, thanks to Gemma.  And of course, I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending.  Phaedra Patrick has once again brought readers a witty and feel-good book. As an added bonus, the reader learns something about the power of gems. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepperby Phaedra Patrick

I love a book in which the main character takes a figurative journey which makes his or her life bloom.  And that is exactly what happens in Phaedra Patrick’s book, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper.  Arthur, a widower who is facing the one year anniversary of his beloved wife, Miriam, finds a charm bracelet among her possessions. He had never seen it before, and he begins to wonder about Miriam’s life before they met.  This curiosity is enough to rouse him out of his mundane routine and take a trip of discovery. 

What Arthur discovers give him a better understanding of his wife and her secret past; and also helps him discover himself, opening his mind to a new outlook on life.  His journey also leads him to a new relationship with his adult children. 

The book warmed my heart, made me shed a tear or two, and made me laugh out loud at times.  Three factors that lead up to giving The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper a 4-star review. 

Beartown: A Novel  Fredik Backman. 2016

I got hooked on Fredrik Backman’s books when I read A Man Called Ove, a book about a curmudgeonly old man who just needed some love and kindness to bloom.  Backman hasn’t disappointed me since then. 

I recently read his novel, Beartown, which was a birthday gift from my daughter.  This book is 415 pages, but I could have read it in one sitting, had I not been interrupted by work, sleep, and other silly stuff.

Beartown is a small, isolated town in the middle of nowhere. The town is slowly dying, being choked by a broken economy. The hopes of the townspeople hang on Beartown’s hockey team; made up of a group of teenage boys whose dream of a better future is based on winning the national semi-finals.  Tragically, a violent act by one of those boys, involving a teenaged girl, changes the course of the dream, turning it into a nightmare for the town and its inhabitants.

I enjoy Mr. Backman’s books so much mainly because of his empathy and compassion for his characters.  Beartown was no exception. There was no evil character, nor was there a perfect character.  They were all just people, trying to survive in a tough environment.  I was able to find something I liked in every character in the book, even those who weren’t officially the “good guys.” 

Beartown’s ending was a strong one, convincing the reader that even tragic events can help people change their perspective, along with the future of a struggling town.  

If you like novels, be sure to check out Beartown and Fredrik Backman’s other books. You won’t be disappointed. 


Under the Influence: A Novel  Joyce Maynard. 2016

I love finding a book by an author that makes me want to read his or her other books.  This is what I found when I read Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard.  The title provides a double meaning; the main character, Helen, an alcoholic, loses custody of her son because of an alcohol-related driving arrest; soon after, she falls under the influence of a charismatic, wealthy couple. This leads to a tragedy involving her young son.

Helen learns a difficult lesson about trust and love in this book; she trusts the wrong people, thinking of them as “family.” She loses the person who truly loves her. But the book ends on a hopeful note, which is always enjoyable in a good read.

I liked Under the Influence for its short chapters (simply my preference in books) and credible characters. It was readable, not bogged down by too many words or excessive descriptions.  I didn’t lose my way in this book; I wanted to keep reading it to its conclusion.  Finally, I liked Helen, the main character, and her son.  For me, it’s always good to be able to connect with the main character(s) in a good way.

I’d recommend this book to readers who like modern day novels, unencumbered by lengthy, descriptive prose.  Along with anyone who enjoys reading about relationships between people and the complexities of friendship and love.