The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

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My Review:

LOVED THIS BOOK! The Great Alone is an epic story of love of family and love of home –  full of emotion with picturesque descriptions of the beautiful and dangerous Alaskan landscape and the depiction of a non traditional way of life. Powerful and heartbreaking, author Kristin Hannah tells the story of passionate yet struggling husband and wife, Ernt and Cora, and teenage daughter Leni in 1974, showing the capacity for endurance, tolerance, strength, and dedication to family.

When Ernt returns home after being a POW in Vietnam, he is not the same happy husband and father he once was.  Angry and on edge, privately suffering, he is continually searching for freedom, a new and peaceful place to call home with his supportive wife and young daughter.  A perfect opportunity arises and he impulsively moves his small family to a remote village in Alaska.  With no running water or electricity, wild animals and harsh weather, this new way of life is focused on survival, and with some reservations but with dedication and devotion, 13 year old Leni and her mom, Cora are supportive and go all in.  With support from the small, neighborly Alaskan community, they learn to hunt and live off the land and adapt to the challenging lifestyle in hopes of having a happy family life.

When the endless Alaskan summer days turn dark and frigid, Ernt’s PTSD is triggered and his anger and violent behavior put Leni and Cora in grave danger.  Living in isolation, with secrets and fear, mother and daughter must be physically and mentally strong and make some life changing decisions before it is too late.   The hopes for fresh beginnings and endless love turn to misguided obsessions and uncontrollable domestic violence, causing a whirlwind of emotions and making this an exceptional book.

If you loved The Nightingale, where Kristin Hannah shows us the strength of brave women risking their lives for others in the French Resistance in World War II, you will love The Great Alone, fiercely independent women who fight to survive, risking their lives for the love of family, community and each other.  A story of resilience, nature and human nature, this is a must read!

If you would like to read an incredible, true story about a girl who grew up in the mountains, CLICK HERE.

The Great Alone Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Kristin Hannah is the award-winning and bestselling author of more than 20 novels including the international blockbuster, The Nightingale, which was named Goodreads Best Historical fiction novel for 2015 and won the coveted People’s Choice award for best fiction in the same year. Additionally, it was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon, iTunes, Buzzfeed, the Wall Street Journal, Paste, and The Week.

Kristin’s highly anticipated new release, The Great Alone, was published on February 6, 2018 (St. Martin’s Press). The novel, an epic love story and intimate family drama set in Alaska in the turbulent 1970’s is a daring, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival and the wildness that lives in both nature and man. It has been listed as one of the most anticipated novels of the year by The Seattle Times, Bustle.com, PopSugar, Working Mother, Southern Living, and Goodreads.

The Nightingale is currently in production at Tri Star, with award-winning director Michelle MacLaren set to direct. Home Front was optioned for film by 1492 Films (produced the Oscar-nominated The Help) with Chris Columbus attached to write, produce, and direct. Movie news on The Great Alone is coming soon.

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The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

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My Review:

Kick off your summer reading list with The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner, author of The Forever Summer, one of last year’s favorite beach reads. 

There is nothing like young love that has so much passion and hope for the future. In this powerful story of love and loss that takes place at the Jersey Shore, teenage Lauren commits her heart to high school ice hockey star Rory, and with stars in her eyes she expects a long life of togetherness and fun. The college years separate them by distance and they struggle to keep their connection.  Against all odds the two get married but Lauren’s plans to be together don’t work out the way she expected.  Rory heads to the NHL, is a star player, and then suffers a concussion.  His hockey career ends abruptly and he joins the military while Lauren is left behind trying to justify and come up with explanations for his questionable decisions and behaviors leading to his departure.   She is angry and their relationship is on the rocks…and then he dies in combat.

Lauren, now a young widow, has been living at the shore in her grandparents’ beach house for the past four years paralyzed by her guilt and confusion regarding the downfall of her marriage and the death of her husband, avoiding the challenges of moving on with her life, when her parents and older sister and young son decide to spend the summer with her to work out their respective life problems.  Not accustomed to company, Lauren is unhappy with the intrusion and to make matters worse, a film maker has tracked her down to interview her for his movie about the life of her hockey and military hero husband.  Living a reclusive life, Lauren has avoided speaking publicly about her high profile husband, but as the persistent filmmaker, Matt, begins to pursue Lauren and her sister for information, buried secrets are revealed, one so drastic it could change everything. 

With suspense and secrets, The Husband Hour is about love and loss, deceit, healing and forgiveness.  Last summer I read and enjoyed The Forever Summer, and now Jamie Brenner treats us to another heartfelt story centered around family and the bonds that hold them together.  Put a copy in your beach bag!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Jamie Brenner grew up in suburban Philadelphia on a steady diet of Norma Klein, Judy Blume, and Judith Krantz novels (more on that here).  After studying literature at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Jamie moved to New York City where she started her career at HarperCollins Publishers, then later Barnes&Noble.com and Vogue.com before returning to books and becoming an author.  Her novel The Forever Summer is a national bestseller. Her new book, The Husband Hour, publishes April 24 with Little, Brown.  Jamie  lives in New York City with her husband and teenage daughters.  For contact info, tour dates, and book clubs please visit www.jamiebrenner.com

White Houses by Amy Bloom

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My Review:

I haven’t stopped thinking about this gem of a book, the powerful telling of an unconventional love story by author Amy Bloom.  White Houses is historical fiction, based on research and letters exchanged between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok, a journalist who was invited to live in the White House in an adjoining bedroom to the first lady’s room during FDR’s presidency.  A story of soulmates – two, independent, bright and powerful women in a lesbian relationship – a hidden secret to the world yet happening right in front of everyone’s eyes and seemingly accepted, by Eleanor’s known to be philandering husband, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and their close social circle.

Lorena Hickok grew up in poverty in South Dakota and became a well known reporter.  She met Eleanor in the early 1930s while covering the Roosevelt campaign and the two women develop a friendship that flourished into a more intimate relationship.  Hick was a protector and admirer of both FDR and Eleanor and was forced to quit her high profile job at the Associated Press in order to stay true to them both.  The middle aged women’s relationship was challenging, complicated and on again off again, and with Eleanor in the public eye, there was pressure to withhold affection and then steal time away privately to be together.  FDR and Hickok had a friendship and an understanding, and Eleanor had loyalties to them both.

The complexities of this enduring love between this unlikely twosome is intriguing and author Amy Bloom has created a compelling story with a strong voice and beautiful writing.  Don’t miss this one!

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Author of two New York Times best-sellers and three collections of short stories, a children’s book and a ground-breaking collection of essays. She’s been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad. She has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, O Magazine and Vogue, among many other publications, and has won a National Magazine Award for Fiction. Her work has been translated into fifteen languages.

She has written many pilot scripts, for cable and network, and she created, wrote and ran the excellent, short-lived series State of Mind, starring Lili Taylor. She lives in Connecticut and is now Wesleyan University’s Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing.

A Marriage in Dog Years by Nancy Balbirer

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My Review: 

AVAILABLE IN JUNE! PRE-ORDER NOW! Author Nancy Balbirer takes us with her on the rocky journey of life as we see her joy filled marriage filled with hopes and dreams blossom then fizzle, at the same time her beloved, terminally ill beagle, Ira struggles to defy the odds and live another day.  From LA to NYC, single to married with a child, from puppy to old dog, and dreams of second chances, so much of life’s ups and downs happen and Nancy keeps you laughing through your tears.

A Marriage in Dog Years is a touching true story is told with honesty and humor, stirring up so many different feelings including love, anger, forgiveness and hope, well written in the author’s unique voice. Balbirer’s story is reminiscent to Sarah Jessica Parker’s hit show, Divorce on HBO – the good, the bad and the ugly truth about the slow death of a marriage, a complex relationship crumbling with regrets and infused with hope for peace and a bright future, with the added bonus of actual puppy love – unconditional and unwavering mutual support and devotion in man’s/woman’s best friend. If you love love, and if you love your pet, this emotional ride is for you!

Amazon Prime members can download A Marriage in Dog Years for FREE on May 1st and Book Nation by Jen will be hosting a GIVEAWAY for a copy hot off the press COMING SOON!

As Seen on Goodreads:

When Nancy Balbirer learns her beloved eleven-year-old beagle has kidney failure, she’s devastated. She and her husband had gotten Ira as a puppy—a wedding gift to each other, and their first foray into “parenthood.” Now, her dog is terminal, her marriage is on life support, and Nancy is desperate to save them both (whether they want it or not). In a single year, she loses her two best friends, but Nancy’s life is about to take yet another unexpected turn.

With humor and heart, Nancy Balbirer shares her story of relationships, loss, and canine friendship in this illuminating memoir about the lengths people will go to keep love alive…and the power of finally letting go.

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About the Author:

Nancy Balbirer is a writer and performer of stage and screen. She is the author of “Take Your Shirt Off and Cry.” She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

*SPECIAL GIVEAWAY* UPDATE: Hum if You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais WINNERS are Linda J. and Book Gypsy!

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This is one of my favorites (my review is here) and I have 2 copies to give away to lucky winners!  How to enter:

1. Like Book Nation by Jen Facebook page
2. Like and Share this post
3. Tag a reader friend
*bonus if you sign up to receive my blog Book Nation by Jen via email
Good Luck! Winners will be chosen by Friday 5pm.  (US residents only)

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

 

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My Review:

A wonderful coming of age story about a 22 year old Mexican man, told with wit and humor, Lawn Boy author Jonathan Evison brings to light the struggles based on race and socioeconomic class.  Mike Muñoz mows lawns for a living.  He has limited education, lives in a dilapidated home, has no money and although all he wants is the American Dream, he has so many strikes against him.  Through trials and tribulations, Mike moves one step forward and two steps back as he makes choices to better his future and tries to achieve his goals.  He is extremely likable and although he makes some questionable decisions, I was always rooting for him.  A disabled older brother, a shady businessman and a sleazy real estate agent are some of the people in Mike’s life that create havoc, but he takes the good with the bad and learns along the way.  I love that he finally felt energized and supported and conjured up the power to live his authentic self through his relationship with Andrew, a wacky activist who works in the library.  Andrew generates great conversation, brings Mike new experiences and opens up his world to possibilities that could lead to happiness and success.

Mike enjoys reading, has great passion for tree sculpting and landscaping, loves his family and is persistent… and despite his faults, you will love him too!  A heartwarming story with many colorful characters – fun and entertaining, while at the same time bringing to light how ethnicity, education, money and perception all play a role in success.  I highly recommend it!

Goodreads summary

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About the Author:

Jonathan Evison is the author of four previous novels, including All About Lulu, West of Here, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, and This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Born in San Jose, California, he now lives with his wife and family in Washington State.

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy

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My Review:

The Rules Do Not Apply is a well written memoir about real life, disappointments, successes, grief and joy.  Ariel Levy has a compulsion for adventure, drawn to  untraditional relationships and the need to become “the kind of woman who is free to do whatever she chooses.”  She was a writer, following stories of powerful women around the world, and during this time she also experienced much drama and trauma.

At 5 months pregnant Ariel agreed to take a business trip to Mongolia, a choice she later regrets.  “When I got on the plane to Mongolia, I was pregnant, living with my spouse, moving to a lovely apartment and financially insulated by a wealthy man.  A month later, none of that was true.  Instead, i was thirty-eight, childless, alone, emotionally and monetarily unprepared to be a single mother.”  Grief and sadness expressed so eloquently in this memoir yet Ariel Levy writes with a sense of hope and trust in nature.  Powerful and heartbreaking, this honest memoir is infused with humor and I highly recommend it.

Goodreads summary

 

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About the Author:

Ariel Levy (born October 17, 1974) is a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine and author of the book Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Vogue, Slate, Men’s Journal and Blender. Levy was named one of the “Forty Under 40” most influential out individuals in the June/July 2009 issue of The Advocate.

Levy was raised in Larchmont, New York, and attended Wesleyan University in the 1990s. She says that her experiences at Wesleyan, which had “co-ed showers, on principle”, strongly influenced her views regarding modern sexuality. After graduating from Wesleyan, she was briefly employed by Planned Parenthood, but claims that she was fired because she is “an extremely poor typist”. She was hired by New York magazine shortly thereafter.

At The New Yorker magazine, where Levy has been a staff writer since 2008, she has written profiles of Cindy McCain and Marc Jacobs. At New York magazine, where Levy was a contributing editor for 12 years, she wrote about John Waters, Donatella Versace, the writer George Trow, the feminist Andrea Dworkin, the artists Ryan McGinley and Dash Snow, Al Franken, Clay Aiken, Maureen Dowd, and Jude Law. Levy has explored issues regarding American drug use, gender roles, lesbian culture, and the popularity of U.S. pop culture staples such as Sex and the City and Gwen Stefani. Some of these articles allude to Levy’s personal thoughts on the status of modern feminism.

Levy criticized the pornographic video series Girls Gone Wild after she followed its camera crew for three days, interviewed both the makers of the series and the women who appeared on the videos, and commented on the series’ concept and the debauchery she was witnessing. Many of the young women Levy spoke with believed that bawdy and liberated were synonymous.

Levy’s experiences amid Girls Gone Wild appear again in Female Chauvinist Pigs, in which she attempts to explain “why young women today are embracing raunchy aspects of our culture that would likely have caused their feminist foremothers to vomit.” In today’s culture, Levy writes, the idea of a woman participating in a wet T-shirt contest or being comfortable watching explicit pornography has become a symbol of strength; she says that she was surprised at how many people, both men and women, working for programs such as Girls Gone Wild told her that this new “raunch” culture marked not the downfall of feminism but its triumph, but Levy was unconvinced.

Levy’s work is anthologized in The Best American Essays of 2008, New York Stories, and 30 Ways of Looking at Hillary.

📚BOOK GIVEAWAY!📚 The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – Winners Chosen!

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WINNERS HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AND POSTED ON BOOK NATION BY JEN FACEBOOK POST! 

 

Thanks for entering. Check back for more giveaways next week!

 

 

I am giving away a copy of Chloe Benjamin’s NY Times Bestselling novel, The Immortalists to TWO lucky readers on my Book Nation by Jen Facebook Page.  Winners will be chosen by end of day Wednesday, April 18th.  Please:

  1.  Like Book Nation by Jen on Facebook
  2.  Comment on the 📚BOOK GIVEAWAY📚 Facebook post and tag a friend
  3.  Share the post

If you would like to see my review CLICK HERE.

GOOD LUCK TO ALL! (US Residents Only)

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

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My Review:

I am a huge fan of Lisa Genova’s and have enjoyed and highly recommend her four previous novels, Still Alice, Inside the O’Brien’s, Left Neglected and  Love Anthony.  Genova has a degree in Biopsychology and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, and her medical knowledge adds powerful enrichment to her heartbreaking and life affirming stories that tackle real neurological diseases.

In Every Note Played, concert pianist, Richard, experienced life’s joy through playing piano, his expert fingers on the keys were his livelihood and his passion.  Once given the detrimental diagnosis of ALS, Richard started losing the use of his hands, then arms.  His ex-wife, Katrina was leading an unfulfilling life, teaching piano to disinterested kids after school.   Years ago her career was put on hold for Richard, and she never faced her fear to pursue her dreams.  Feeling like she has little choice, Katrina reluctantly decides to be Richard’s caretaker.

Genova expertly explores regret, guilt and forgiveness as we witness the progression of this deadly disease. Richard and Katrina tip toe around their past while they attend to the growing responsibilities and challenges ALS demands of them.   Fighting their feelings of denial and anger, Richard, Katrina and their daughter use their fleeting time together to work through the disappointments of their relationships from the past and try to connect again one last time before it is too late.

Every Note Played is a tragic and upsetting story about a horrible degenerative disease, but with the eye on human relationships and great insight, Genova explores life choices and their consequences, giving us incentive to be less selfish, and strive for peace and understanding amongst family and friends before we run out of time.  I highly recommend this book.

As Seen on Goodreads:

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

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About the Author:

Acclaimed as the Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, Lisa Genova is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels STILL ALICE, LEFT NEGLECTED, LOVE ANTHONY, and INSIDE THE O’BRIENS.

Lisa graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology and has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. She has captured a special place in contemporary fiction, writing stories that are equally inspired by neuroscience and the human spirit. Her books focus on people living with neurological diseases and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood, portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public. Through fiction, she is dedicated to describing with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by neurological diseases, thereby educating, demystifying, and inspiring support for care and scientific research. She has written about Alzheimer’s disease, traumatic brain injury, autism, Huntington’s disease, and ALS.

STILL ALICE was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish. Julianne Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.

In 2015, Lisa was named one of the U.S. Top 50 Influencers in Aging. She received The Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square,The Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, The Global Genes RARE Champions of Hope Award, and The American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Media Award for Informing the Public about Treatment and Ongoing Research in Medical Illness.

In 2016, she received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bates College, The Alzheimer’s Association’s Rita Hayworth Award, and The Huntington’s Disease Society of America Community Awareness Award.

Her 2017 TED talk, “What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimer’s,” was seen by over 2.5 million viewers in its first few months and was one of the most popular TED talks of 2017.

Her fifth novel, EVERY NOTE PLAYED, is about ALS and was published in March 2018.