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Friday, April 14, 2017

#CJSReads REVIEW: Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik

Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik
The University of Minnesota Press

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set adrift when her mother sells the salon which has been a neighborhood institution for decades, Nora Rolvaag takes a camping trip, intending to do nothing more taxing than roast marshmallows over an open fire and under a starry sky. Two chance encounters, however, will have enormous consequences and her get-a-way turns out to be more of a retreat from her daily life than she ever imagined. But Nora is the do-or-die-trying daughter of Patty Jane, who now must embrace the House of Curl’s slogan: ‘Expect the Unexpected.’

With her trademark wit and warmth Lorna Landvik follows Nora and an ever-growing cast of characters between city and wooded retreat, Minnesota and Norway, a past that’s secret and a future that’s promising, but uncertain. Responding to a mysterious letter with a Norwegian postmark, Nora's grandmother Ione travels to her native land to tend to a dying cousin and her husband--two people who played a painful, pivotal role in her past. Nora, accompanying her, is surprised by her grandmother's long-ago love story—but even more surprised by the beginning of her own.

A book about making new beginnings out of old endings,
Once in a Blue Moon Lodge invites readers to check in, set down their baggage and spend time with the kind of people who understand that while they can't control all that life throws at them, they can at least control how they catch it. And as anyone who’s stopped in at Patty Jane’s House of Curl will tell you: you're in for a rollicking good time with characters whose strengths, foibles and choices will have you laughing and crying. Hankerings for coffee and gingerbread cookies may also be experienced.

Jessica's Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik was a change of pace from the typical #CJSReads selections. A more lighthearted fiction choice!

We follow Nora and her quest for some rest and relaxation after her mother closes her salon (which was a neighborhood institution for decades). Before she can for too long, a mysterious letter with a Norwegian post mark shows up and Nora soon finds herself accompanying her grandmother Ione to Norway. They go to help a dying cousin and her husband - both of whom played a pivtoal and painful role in Ione's past.

Throw in a pending love story, triplets, and Nora purchasing a lodge and you start to get a little confused. There are a lot of characters to keep straight and timelines (present time and Ione's past). I didn't know going into this that it was the sequel to Patty Jane's House of Curl, so that definitely took away from the backstory.

I think the reason why I gave this a better review was because it took place in Minnesota - and this made it much more relatable for me. The places and how the characters talk (definitely guilty of some of those phrases). Lorna did a great job giving every character a  voice, even though there were a lot of them! Overall, I think things would have played out better and flowed in my mind if I had read the first book!

I give this 4/5 stars - oh ya, you betcha!

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Sam's Thoughts:

Sometimes a book and a reader just don't mess and unfortunately that was the case with Sam.  How boring would it be if we all liked the same things anyway right? 😊

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My Thoughts:
2 / 5 Stars

Nora has a one-night stand on a camping trip which results in getting pregnant with triplets. Say what? Ok, you snagged me, Lorna! Before she learns of her impending trio of baby fun, she accompanies her grandma to Norway, unfolding the story of Ione. A chance encounter with an eccentric lady has Nora purchasing a lodge. Families, new friends, long time friends, acquaintances, lovers, so on and so forth come in an out and we get to learn about each and every one of them. 

Sound all over the place? That's how I felt reading this novel. I had absolutely no idea going in that this was a sequel to Patty Jane's House of Curl! I think that had I read this first, I wouldn't have felt the disconnect that I did with these characters. Let me just say that they are quite the cast and each have a very distinct voice that the author wants you to hear. What I liked about this book is that it felt like you were basically watching their lives unfold with a bowl of popcorn (or a plate of gingerbread cookies) and a fancy tea (the iced variety). The ties that bind the family and the truths that come out over time are evident and true to form for what you would expect from a feel-good contemporary novel. I definitely appreciated some of the wit and humor that was brought into play. And anyone who brings up the Newlywed Game, making whoopee and Chuck Woolery (well, he goes hand in hand with the first two), has my seal of approval!

What didn't work for me, unfortunately, was the abrupt change throughout the book - are we in the past? Are we in the present? Wait, who is this and how do they integrate into this story line? I wanted to make a family tree and and add saplings on the side to try and remember the whole cast but invariably I ended up lost most of the time and thus not caring too much what happened or didn't happen. My favorite characters though were the triplets and my how they grow up so fast! Everything seemed to go by so quickly, but it was kind of nice to see the progression of the family. I think I just wanted something more substantial behind it - this is where I think maybe the first book would've helped? Maybe not? Personally, I think this was mostly a mismatch of book to reader.     

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