This is going to be a hard book for me to review. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other, though, it fell short.
Let me start out with what I li...moreThis is going to be a hard book for me to review. On one hand, I really liked it. On the other, though, it fell short.
Let me start out with what I liked about When Autumn Leaves. Avening was such a cool little town. Personally, I've always been fascinated by small towns, where all is quaint and everyone knows everyone. There is a little twist with Avening, though, as it is a magical sort of town. Things happen in Avening that don't happen elsewhere, and everyone there has no problem buying it. Fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman will enjoy the magical realism sprinkled through these pages.
Amy S. Foster's writing is not the best I've read, by any means, but this is an easily readable book, if you are looking for something lighter to read. She is a little heavy on the mundane details at times, but for the most part, I got a clear picture of what was going on. I loved Autumn. I always love those wise, older female figures who have lived through the ages and are full of intelligence and advice. I loved that Autumn was the central figure to this story. And I guess on that note, I ought to add that every chapter is sort of a loosely related short story, with Autumn as the focal point.
This is where When Autumn Leaves started to lack for me, however. I don't have anything against short stories. I liked how we got to know each of the women that Autumn was considering for her replacement. Each woman was going through something different, and their stories were all very poignant. I liked that. What I didn't like was how open-ended this book was! Just about every story was left completely open, and often times, there was no resolution at all. I get it, most of this book is based off of the premise of leaving things up to faith. But with a book, you can't just leave a reader hanging like that! Now, I did some outside research, and it looks like Amy S. Foster has plans to write sequels, specifically one book about each of the women introduced here. However, When Autumn Leaves has been out since 2009, and it seems that she has run into some publishing problems, so I can't say that by the time we get the next books, I'll still be interested.
All in all, I think I liked the idea of this book more than I actually liked this book. This was a good book to get me out of a slump, it is a light read. And like I said, I think that fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman will like all of the magical things that happen in When Autumn Leaves. However, personally, I can't take that much open-endedness. (Yes, I just made that word up.)
Who knows, maybe by the time future sequels are out, I might consider reading them. For now, this just sits in the "okay" pile for me. (less)
The Bridges of Madison County is a love story that it short, sweet, and to the point.
It seems like the reviews for this book are both up and down, bu...moreThe Bridges of Madison County is a love story that it short, sweet, and to the point.
It seems like the reviews for this book are both up and down, but I, for one, really enjoyed this book. The writing is what really did it for me. Sometimes, I got a little caught up over some awkward phrasing, but for the most part, I thought he wrote beautifully. I could picture everything perfectly, and I felt like I was really there. I fell for the love story of Robert and Francesca. I thought it was breathtaking. It was slow and languorous, yet innocent at the same time.
Robert and Francesca were both characters I felt like I knew, even though this was a short novel, and we really didn't get more than a glance of either one of them. I particularly felt for Francesca. Coming from a small town in central PA, I can relate to her feelings towards her small town and its people. You get the sense that she often wonders if "this" is all there is, and I could understand that.
As much as I liked the story of Robert and Francesca, I wasn't crazy about his method of storytelling. He presents their story as a true story that was sent to him from Francesca's children. I've read books before where the "pseudo-true story" method works, but I didn't quite like it here. I think he could have told their story without including that extra framing. There were also times where I felt like there wasn't enough "meat" to the story. As I've mentioned, this novel is pretty short. I'd even venture to call this one a novella. It could easily be read in one sitting. But at the same time, I think that if this would have been much longer, I probably would have found it to be too drawn out. As much as I wanted either more background or aftermath to their story, in reality, the "point" of the story was the meeting of Robert and Francesca and their time together--their "collision" in time, if you will.
Overall, this was a pretty good short read. I'm not going to say that you all should run out and read this, but if you're looking for something slower, simple, but still a sweet love story, I'd recommend this one.
Favorite quote: "The people of Madison County liked to say, compensating for their own self-imposed sense of cultural inferiority, "This is a good place to raise kids." And she always felt like responding, "But is it a good place to raise adults?" (less)
This was my first Neil Gaiman read, and now I have to say, I see what all the fuss is about! Neil Gaiman is an excellent author, and I definitely want...moreThis was my first Neil Gaiman read, and now I have to say, I see what all the fuss is about! Neil Gaiman is an excellent author, and I definitely want to check out his other works.
This was such a uniquely imaginative story. Honestly, it seems like so many authors are writing the same books these days but with different characters in different places. After having read Coraline, I feel it's safe to say that I have never read anything like it before. It was deliciously creepy, but it had that old-time fairytale feel to it. Coraline begs to be read aloud, like a tale you would tell sitting around a campfire on a spooky night.
I really liked Coraline as a character, too. She was just an average kid. Sure, she was intelligent, but she didn't have any unusual superpowers or anything. You couldn't put a label on her, and I liked that. What kid hasn't become bored with their life or their parents or their house? What kid hasn't wished for an "other" life? Unfortunately for Coraline, she learned the hard way that you have to be careful for what you wish for. Her "other" mother was downright scary. There was something deeply unsettling about those button eyes and how desperately she wanted Coraline to stay with her forever. I adored the other characters, too. They were so quirky, and that's what makes them unforgettable.
Neil Gaiman's writing is just incredible. I see why he is so popular. In the case of Coraline, he's written a children's tale, but at no point did I ever feel like he was writing "down" to children. This tale is just as enjoyable as an adult as it would be for a kid. Considering all of the times I've read a book as an adult and thought, "Eh, this was okay, but I would have liked it better as a kid," I'm glad Neil Gaiman didn't disappoint.
This was full of excellent quotes, as well. My favorite was when Coraline says: "You really don't understand, do you? I don't want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted? Just like that, and it didn't mean anything. What then?"
Overall, I thought this was a great read, and I'm anxious to read his other books. (less)
I loved this book. This has most definitely become one of my favorite recent reads.
Historical fantasy/fiction is one of my top 3 favorite genres, and...moreI loved this book. This has most definitely become one of my favorite recent reads.
Historical fantasy/fiction is one of my top 3 favorite genres, and let me tell you why. I read for many reasons, but the main reason I read is to escape. I'm blessed with a good life, but on any average day, I don't have to face getting thrown back in time to 14th century Italy like Gabi does in this story.
And this really is an excellent historical fantasy. Even though something as unbelievable as time travel is a huge part of the plot, I never felt like I couldn't believe what was going on. I think most of that is because Gabi made for an excellent narrator. I loved her character. She behaved like you would expect a normal person would after being transported back in time almost 700 years. She was awkward and out of place, unsure of how to act, but she was able to think on her toes and prevent herself from being exposed.
Bergren's writing in this book was spot-on. From the very first chapter, I just fell into her story. Her writing was such that I could sink into, look up seemingly seconds later and be a hundred pages farther into the novel. I was completely transported to 14th century Italy, along with Gabi.
I also loved the relationship between Gabi and Marcello. there was slow burn, and thankfully, no insta-love. Instant attraction, maybe, but that's natural when you (almost) literally fall into the arms of a hot Italian lord who happens to be saving your life. I liked that their relationship wasn't the focus of the story, either. Rather, the focus was Gabi's search for Lia, as well as the political rivalry between the Forellis and the Paratores. This was not dry at all, though, but intriguing enough to keep me reading, especially with everything going on with Marcello and Gabi.
The only minor complaint I had was that the ending seemed a little rushed, but this obviously wasn't that big of a problem for me because I want to read the next book now. I had a hard time putting this book down as I was reading it, and overall, it was a great, entertaining beginning to a promising historical fantasy series. (less)
If I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be "realistic."
This was, in essence, a love story--the story of a "first love" between two...moreIf I had to pick one word to describe this book, it would be "realistic."
This was, in essence, a love story--the story of a "first love" between two teenagers. There were no frills, there was no insta-love, no drama or supernatural elements. This was just two kids figuring out what it meant to love someone else--two kids up against whatever obstacles day-to-day life brought them.
To me, this felt less like a story with a point or a plot, and more like a page out of their book (excuse the pun). This was a glimpse into their story, starting with their meeting and ending without a clear answer as to what their future held. I liked it, and it really took me back to my high school days and the first time that I found myself crazy in love with someone. Other than that, I didn't really relate to Wes or June or really feel for them. In a character-driven book, this was a problem. I felt like I was told rather than shown that they were in love.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was something unique in this day and age of so many nearly identical YA books, but for me, this wasn't a book that I "couldn't" put down, making this a 3-star read. (less)
This was a fun, middle grade read that would be great for fans of mythology tales or for fans of series like Percy Jackson.
I particularly enjoyed the...moreThis was a fun, middle grade read that would be great for fans of mythology tales or for fans of series like Percy Jackson.
I particularly enjoyed the mythology aspect in this adventure tale for a number of reasons. As a kid, I was obsessed with Disney's Hercules when it came out. I know it's only a Disney movie, but it was my first exposure to mythology, and I was enthralled by it. And Pegasus was always one of my favorite characters, so it was interesting to see him here. I thought he was portrayed well, although I won't lie, I wish that he would have had a "voice." I also thought it was interesting to see Roman mythology represented, instead of the usual Greek.
Unfortunately, this was an "okay" read for me. It's not that it was a terrible read, this was just one of those books that I probably would have loved as a kid, but not so much now. It was action-packed and definitely entertaining. Plus, who doesn't love a series? But the plot is what fell flat for me. The first chapters had me excited to see where the story was going, but as it went on, it felt like some things were drawn out for far too long. I did like the ending. Everything was tied up nicely enough to leave me satisfied, but left me wondering enough to want to pick up the next book.
I do think this would do well with younger readers, especially for those interested in getting into and learning about mythology. (less)
Emily Giffin is one of my favorite authors. This is the third book of hers that I have read. She writes intelligent chick lit with a certain depth. He...moreEmily Giffin is one of my favorite authors. This is the third book of hers that I have read. She writes intelligent chick lit with a certain depth. Her writing is not fluffy. I love her writing. So as much as I hate to say it, this one was not a favorite of mine. I still enjoyed reading it, and I didn't hate to read it. But with this one, first and foremost, I didn't really care for the subject matter. On top of that, I didn't connect with her characters as much as I have with some of her other books. And finally, I didn't care for the ending, but we'll get to that in a minute.
Let me start off with the strengths of this book. As I mentioned, although this is chick lit for sure, there is no fluff to this story. Emily Giffin looks at somewhat dark issues: infidelity, marital problems, ugly social hierarchy/competitiveness. She has a talent for putting intangible feelings and emotions into an articulate series of words, and I love that. I love that I could read a sentence of words and know exactly what a character was feeling, even if I, myself, have never been in their shoes. Going off of that, I also liked how thought provoking this read was. No one really wants to read about infidelity and think about it in their own life, whether it could happen or what you would do, but that's exactly what Emily Giffin makes her readers do. In this book, her focus, and I think her whole point, was to examine the power of forgiveness and what it means to forgive, both for the forgiver and for the "forgivee." Fluffy chick lit, this is not.
As far as the writing style goes, Emily Giffin has an easily and compulsively readable way with words. This one started off a little slow for me, but as I got into it, I found myself lost in her pages and in the family saga that was happening. However, one thing that I wasn't crazy about was the switch in the point of view. Each chapter switches back and forth between Valerie and Tessa, which is normally not a problem for me. But Tessa's chapters were written in first person, while Valerie's were written in third person. I didn't hate it, but sometimes it was a little jarring. The setting was something I really liked about this book: Boston. It was intriguing, because I feel like most "city" books are in NYC or L.A., so it was cool to have a story set somewhere I'm not used to reading about.
Character-wise, I didn't connect with any of these characters the way I have before with Emily Giffin's other books. I really adored Charlie, I thought he was an absolutely adorable little boy, who had the tendency to either melt my heart or break my heart with the things he said. What I did find interesting was that I found myself pulling for both women, and not just one or the other. I honestly wasn't sure how I wanted the story to end, but when I got there, I still wasn't crazy by it. For Valerie, I didn't like how we were left to wonder. She made what seemed like an abrupt decision to contact someone (I don't want to give it away), that I had been waiting for for the entire book, and then it seemed like it was brought up all of a sudden and then dropped. I liked her side of the "forgiveness theme," though. It felt like an appropriate way to end her story. As far as Tessa's ending, it was more believable, but I wasn't sure I bought Nick's sudden change of heart. It made me think "what was the point?" for the entire plotline. But, I did like how (view spoiler)[they made the decision to work through the issue of Nick's infidelity. Not too many times do we see couples working together, which is in essence, what a relationship or a marriage is supposed to be about. I think the easy way out would have been for either Nick or Tessa to leave, but they decided to work through it and past it, which I admired. It's not something we see too often in literature or elsewhere (hide spoiler)].
Overall, this wasn't my favorite of Emily Giffin's books, but it was still a good read. However, I wouldn't recommend starting with this one to someone who hasn't read anything of hers before. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I hate to say this, but this was just an "okay" book for me. I didn't hate it, I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, but at the end of the day, it wasn...moreI hate to say this, but this was just an "okay" book for me. I didn't hate it, I enjoyed it enough to keep reading, but at the end of the day, it wasn't my favorite.
My favorite part of the book is the idea behind Ghostland--a realm where the living live alongside the dead, which has its own set of issues and rivalries. I was so excited when I started reading about it because it seemed so cool, like something that hasn't been done a hundred times in YA literature. It had so much potential, but for me anyway, from the beginning where I was dropped right into the middle of the action, there wasn't enough world building or character development to suck me into the story. It was good and entertaining, and I enjoyed what I read, but I didn't love it. It wasn't enough to leave a lasting impression unfortunately. But maybe that's just me. It seems like a lot of other readers have enjoyed this, so don't base your decision on whether to read this just on what I have to say. Part of the problem for me might have been that it's been a while since I read Mistwood. This is only a companion novel, but I don't remember much about Clarisse, other than I remember liking her in Mistwood. I just never connected to the story or to the characters here like I usually like to do. I do remember really enjoying Mistwood though, so I will most likely read Leah Cypess' other works.
Overall, a decent, entertaining read that had potential to be something completely awesome but unfortunately didn't follow through for me. (less)
I'm just going to throw this out there and address the elephant in the room right off the bat--you can tell that Joe Hill is hi...more What a fantastic read.
I'm just going to throw this out there and address the elephant in the room right off the bat--you can tell that Joe Hill is his father's son. Without a doubt. Stephen King obviously has an influence on his son's writing. It's inescapable. There were times when I was reading this book where I had to remind myself that I wasn't, in fact, reading a Stephen King novel. But I will say, Joe Hill does stand on his own. He very much has his own voice and style. He is able to stand on his own merit. If Stephen King passed anything down, it was his talent, more than anything else. Joe Hill is an incredible writer.
It usually takes a lot for me to say this about an author, but now having read this and Heart-Shaped Box, Joe Hill has made his way onto my "author to buy/follow" list. Let there be no mistake, I plan on reading anything he has out already and anything he plans to put out.
I think where he truly shines, and this is always my favorite part about a book, is the character development. (Which is why I adore Stephen King so much.) Hill takes Vic (Victoria/"The Brat"), who is <i>not</i> a likeable protagonist, and he makes me pull for her throughout the novel. She has very few redeeming qualities, but I was rooting for her the whole time anyway. She has a very "hard" personality--she's bitter, sometimes selfish, harsh, self-destructive. The list goes on. One of the only things that really made me like her was her all-encompassing love for her son. For as messed up as her relationship was with her own parents, she never fails to put her son before herself and her own safety. At the end, she literally goes through hell to ensure his safety and his return. And that really made her more human to me.
Another thing about this novel was that even though this is pretty long (it rounds in at about 700 pages), this is by no means a slow read. I could easily sit down and read 100 or so pages in a sitting. And even though there were sections of backstory or sections without a lot of action, I never felt like giving up the story. In fact, it was hard to put down. It was a compelling story--one of those ones where you find yourself saying "just one more chapter" again and again and again...
I never felt like this novel was scary, per se, but it definitely has the creep factor. It's odd, and it's unsettling. It definitely gives a new perspective on Christmas, and truth be told, I don't know if I'll be able to hear Burl Ives' "Holly Jolly Christmas" without a chill come Christmas-time this year. Honestly, this book got to me so much that I had the craziest, wacked-out dreams the entire time I read this, even when I wasn't reading it before bedtime. It just settles into your bones and takes you along for the ride. Part of that, I think, is that he has the same knack as his father for creating just absolutely evil villains--the kind you have to remind yourself that he's just a bad guy in a book, who can't hurt you...or take you to Christmasland.
Something else I really enjoyed was how Joe Hill, through the use of various characters, really examines the parent-child relationship, from all angles. You have parents feeling like they failed their children, and children feeling like they disappointed their parents. But at the end of the day, both sides still love each other fiercely and are willing to do whatever it takes for them. I find that interesting, because I see that pop up in a lot of Stephen King books, as well (think The Shining, for starters). It makes me wonder what sitting around the King dinner table would be like.
This is a rare thing for me to say, but honestly, I think my favorite part of this book was the ending. I <i>loved</i> it. As I started into the last section/chapter, I thought I knew what was happening. I thought I knew what was coming. I saw the story going one way, and I started thinking, "Really? Ugh." I was truly getting disappointed with how I thought he was going to end the story. However. He smoothly took the reins from my hands, and turned it in a direction that I did <i>not</i> see coming, and I just loved it. I don't want to say too much. I don't want to give it away. But if you find yourself in the same position that I did...hang in there. You'll be rewarded in the end.
Overall, a great read, and I'm definitely looking forward to more from Hill. I have definite plans to go back and read 20th Century Ghosts and Horns, while I'm waiting on his next work to come out.(less)
This was just an okay read for me, which is unfortunate because it seems like so many people really liked it. The biggest problem for me was that I ne...moreThis was just an okay read for me, which is unfortunate because it seems like so many people really liked it. The biggest problem for me was that I never connected to any of the characters. Especially Ember. She was too whiny for my taste. And it's not that it was a bad story. I didn't hate it every time I picked it up or anything like that. I just never found myself caring about the story. Another problem for me was that I felt like the world that Ember and Chase were living in was not very developed. I got a good sense of the world as it was in the current state of the book, but I never understood why or how it had gotten that way. Maybe that's just my curiosity getting in the way of the story. Like I said, this isn't a bad book, and I enjoyed Kristen Simmons' writing, I just never felt invested in the story. I probably won't read the next book in the series, but I would recommend this to fans of dystopians. (less)
The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards From the reviews I've seen on here, it seems like you either love this book or you hate it. Personally, I...moreThe Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards From the reviews I've seen on here, it seems like you either love this book or you hate it. Personally, I really enjoyed it, and I know I'll be looking forward to more from Kim Edwards.
What stood out to me the most about this book was her writing. Some people have said that it's too descriptive, but I didn't find it to be. I think her writing is beautiful and lyrical, and I found myself just swimming in her words (and I mean that in a good way).
The story itself was so thought-provoking, and really made me think about what I would have done in that situation. Fans of Jodi Picoult would like this one. My initial reaction to David's decision was total and complete outrage: how COULD he, I asked myself. But as I read, and I began to learn more about David and how his life almost molded him to make that decision, I started to understand more of where he was coming from. Not only that, but this story began in 1964. Not much was known about Down Syndrome, and I had to remind myself that David made the best medical decision that he could given what was known at that time. I'm not saying he was right or that I would have done the same, I just found it interesting that Edwards made me <i>think</i> so much about it.
I also found it completely fascinating and enthralling how one literally split second decision had major repercussions on the rest of David's life, particularly involving his relationship with his wife and son. I found myself wondering what would have happened differently if David had made the other choice. I love it when an author can make me examine a story so closely. Some books it's easy for me to put down, walk away, and not think about it until I pick them up again. Not so with this one. Edwards also deeply and thoroughly examines her characters, which is another thing I love. As I mentioned before, the more Edwards revealed about David, the more it was evident why he made the choice he made, and how living with that secret choice affected everything he did from that point forward. It was heartbreaking to watch Norah as she dealt with her ever present grief and coped with losing a daughter, and it was frustrating to see Paul's anger and his desire to feel good enough for his father. If anything, the family saga is enough to make anyone want to read this.
On the flip side of the situation, there's Caroline and Phoebe, and it was interesting to see Phoebe grow and be raised by Caroline. Just as we saw David and his family live with the decision he made, we saw Caroline live with the decision she made that night. I thought her side of the story was very insightful and informative about Down Syndrome and what challenges and obstacles were (and still are) present, not only for those living with it, but how the rest of the world sees it as well. It was interesting to watch Phoebe grow into a young woman and get to see just what David missed out on.
What stirred the most thought out of me was Edwards' metaphorical use of photography. I finished this book hours ago, and I've been thinking about it ever since, through dinner and a long shower to help me gather my thoughts. Towards the end of the book, Norah pointed out that David's photos are moments and memories of life as David (and David alone) saw them. Then Paul recalled a memory where his father was talking to him about photography, saying something along the lines of the fact that each person behind the camera is living in their own "isolated universe," I think he called it. Which made me think that even though each and every one of us can interact with the people in our lives on a daily basis, we are the only ones who truly know what is going on behind our own lens, if you will. And I think that's what Edwards is trying to get across in describing the relationship between all of these people in this book. Based off of experiences that are uniquely ours, we are shaped into the people we become, and no one else can fully understand what we alone are going through. I apologize for the long ramble, but as you can see, this book gave me a lot to think about, which I love!
Overall, this is not a light read, by any means. I mentioned earlier that I think fans of Jodi Picoult would like this one. Between breathtaking writing and a compelling storyline, this is not one to miss!(less)
I always loved "animal" stories when I was little, and this is one that I would have loved. A sweet, short read, this would be fun to read aloud with...moreI always loved "animal" stories when I was little, and this is one that I would have loved. A sweet, short read, this would be fun to read aloud with children. (less)