Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Kengsington Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my hon...moreDisclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Kengsington Books for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: The Right Thing is, in essence, a coming of age story for two unlikely friends, Annie and Starr. It's a story about friendship, learning to love yourself and that all of our choices have consequences.
We see Annie struggle between doing the 'right thing' and doing the right thing for her own happiness. Starr, on the other hand, came off a little to clichéd for my tastes and didn't have nearly the character development that we saw in Annie. She was refreshing, to say the least, but I would have loved to have gotten her side of things as the story weaves back and forth from the present day to the girls' childhood in the 1960's.
Normally I'm not an overly emotional reader so I was pleasantly surprised at how well The Right Thing pulled emotional feelings out of me. From laughing at the Queen for a Day incident, to seeing a glimpse into Starr's family life, to feeling Annie's devastating loss the author was able to get me to feel for what the characters were going through.
I suppose the one thing that would have upped my rating is if their 'eventful road trip' was a bit more exciting. I was expecting the road trip to be more of a Thelma and Louise-type trip but in the end it was just OK and a lot briefer than I was expecting. With the predictable ending that packaged things up a little too nicely, I just couldn't give this book higher marks.
I will say that the writing in this debut novel was solid, the character development was fair and the premise was promising. This was a very easy, laid back read and people with connections to the South will especially love the southern touches.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to the Real You Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchang...moreDisclaimer: My sincere thanks to the Real You Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: In The Mirror is an honest look into the life of someone with cancer. How this disease not only ravages a person's body, but their sense of self and impacts the lives of those they love. As a mother and wife it tugged at my heart strings to see how Jennifer struggled to continue to be a part of her family even though she was living away from her husband and young children. The toll of the cancer on Jennifer was more than the expected exhaustion and pain. We see her struggle to maintain some semblance of her former self. But we also see how people's perception of her, people she knew well and loved, changed as her health deteriorated and they started to view her by her disease, not as the person they love. That aspect of the book, as well as her friendship with her fellow cancer patient Ralph, and her struggles within her marriage felt authentic.
When a person from her past enters her life and treats her like her old, healthy, attractive self it's no wonder that Jennifer jumps at the chance to be treated normally. But some of Jennifer's choices had me feeling a little skeptical. She seemed overly naïve for such a smart woman.
This was an emotional read but it also had me on the edge of my seat as one of Jennifer's choices comes back to bite her. One scene in particular was unexpected and I really liked having the tables turn on me.
Overall, this was a good, quiet read that looks into relationships of people dealing with cancer. How these people are treated by those that love them, how isolated they feel but also the inner fight they to conquer the disease that has taken so much from them already. It also brings to light the stress, fear and emotional baggage of the family members of cancer patients.
In The Mirror shows the strain that a terminal illness takes on a marriage and family. It also shows how people with serious illnesses want to be seen for who they are, not their illness. They want to be treated normally, feel valuable, attractive and above all important in the lives of their loved ones.
My Review: After reading the description on the book jacket while perusing the library for new reads I was eager to crack this book open. It sounded l...moreMy Review: After reading the description on the book jacket while perusing the library for new reads I was eager to crack this book open. It sounded like a family drama wrapped up in a suspenseful read. A missing sister and a brother hunted by the FBI for domestic terrorism? Sounds good but after reading this book I could describe this book in one word ... strange.
The book started off strong with me anxious to find out what happened to Fern, Rosemary's missing sister. And then, fairly early on, we learned who Fern is and I was utterly gobsmacked and felt almost betrayed and tricked by the surprise. This revelation changed the entire book for me from then on. I was expecting a mystery of sorts to figure out where the sister went and I suppose there is one but not what I was expecting.
Without giving anything away, there were some issues brought up in the book that were heart-wrenching and the inclusion of the psychology-based information throughout the book helped me feel like I was using my psych degree just a bit. ;) But even that seemed to get tedious and overdone quickly.
Unfortunately Rosemary and the other characters weren't engaging at all. Rosemary was a confusing protagonist as she tells her story but often wasn't sure if what she was telling was in the present, past or something from a dream. This made it very confusing for the reader. Then there were the secondary characters who just didn't seem to fit into the plot well. There were a couple of truly odd characters, namely the marionette (yes, a puppet) and the CIA-wannabe landlord, who both felt out of place within the main story. I'm still not sure why they were added.
The writing also felt disjointed and the plot just plodded along so much so that I ended up skimming passages less than half way through. I finished the book, but just barely. I can't help but feel that the controversial aspect of the book and the case studies took precedence over the quality and interest of the storyline. While I did find some of the scientific/psychological aspects of the book interesting the fictional writing was less than captivating.
I think the author was going for a unique plot and it is unique. Just not interesting and verged on being tedious and very grim. I do believe that the issues brought forth are very important and this is shown with some emotional and disturbing situations in the book. I have no issue with forcing the reader to look at something uncomfortable and in need of change. Unfortunately, there were just too many other hurdles in this book to overcome and overall I just didn't like this book.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to St Martin's Press and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: There are a lot of online reviews of this book stating how similar Precious Thing is to Girl Gone by Gillian Flynn. Fortunately for me, I haven't yet read Girl Gone so I won't have those outside influences as I review this book.
When I read the book description of Precious Thing on NetGalley I was intrigued. I love me a good suspense read with loads of twists but I think that there were some issues with the book that kept me from loving it. As with any suspenseful read, I'm going to review it without divulging the plot twists so bear with this scant review.
First off, I'm not a big fan of the majority of a book being written in a series of letters. Granted, this writing style was a good opportunity to get into Rachel's head and not knowing how Clara felt about things upped the suspense. But often times I felt the writing got confusing and limited how far the author could go with the plot because we were stuck with just Rachel's take on things.
It didn't help matters that I just didn't know how to take Rachel. I was almost instantly suspicious and untrusting of her as the narrator. I'm not sure if that was the author's intent but it would have been good to have had even a bit of Clara's viewpoint to spice things up a bit in regards to suspense and not keep me focused on trying to find fault in the protagonist.
Unfortunately, even though the reader gets Rachel's side of things I never felt connected to her. Her paranoia, odd possessiveness and her take on things never really allowed me to get to know her. So when the big reveal happened at the end (which, honestly, wasn't that big) it wasn't as climactic as I was hoping because by that time I just didn't like Rachel and I kind of expected it from her. Having my suspicions confirmed was, I will admit, a let down for me. I was hoping to be wrong about my assumptions of how this book would end but, unfortunately, I wasn't far off the mark. The ending seemed too tidy which isn't the twist I was hoping for at the end of the book.
While I can't say that I loved this book it was a decent debut novel. It kept me engaged pretty much throughout but I didn't enjoy the resolution or the main character. While I'm much more of an action packed suspense lover, people who enjoy psychological thrillers may enjoy this read a lot more.
My Review: There has been quite a lot of talk surrounding this book and, honestly, when I picked it up at my local library I really didn't have any idea of what it was about. When I learned that it focused on a man who had Asperger tendencies (although this is never confirmed that he actually has Asperger's) I thought it sounded interesting. What I got as a quirky, cute read which unfortunately came off as a little unrealistic and a slightly mocking tone.
Don't get me wrong, Don was a good protagonist and his quirky characteristics totally made me love him. That said, for a man with (assumed) Asperger's I feel that he came off as more of a caricature with every stereotypical Asperger's symptom known to man. In fact, the image that almost immediately came to my mind as I was reading was my beloved Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory. And like Sheldon, Don seems to be at the far, far end of the Asperger's scale which makes him come off as more of a cliché. We all know that I loves me my Sheldon Cooper on Thursday nights but I guess I was expecting more than a TV comedic version of a person with Aspergers in this book.
I am not in line with the popular vote. This book has received very high ratings on GoodReads and Amazon and I did find it to be a light, easy read but not nearly as wonderful as I was hoping. I think that author was going for more of a romantic comedic feel for this book. There were numerous romantic comedy movie references and that this book was supposed to be in the same vein. Unfortunately, for me anyway, reading about Don's repeated social faux pas never felt funny to me. Seeing how others mocked him bothered me and the fact that he considers himself to be 'an expert at being laughed at' made me sad. My heart went out to this man who knows he has odd behaviours, is overly scheduled and just generally 'different' from those around him. He was just a guy who was trying to fit in and find his own happiness.
This was a very easy read and well written and while I didn't like the mocking tone or the clichéd look at Asperger's, Don was a very likeable character and very easy to get behind. He's a great guy who just doesn't get social intricacies and he's brilliant (although why he doesn't realize he has Asperger's is beyond me). Rosie was the antithesis to dear ol' Don and she was refreshing but her very negative feelings towards her stepdad were based on a very simple omission decades before felt very silly and trite.
I would recommend this book to someone looking for a light, easy beach-type read. It's quirky, predictable and Don will be a character that I will remember for a long time.
Note: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy of this book in exchanged for my honest review.
My Review: I loved this book. How's that for an opening line of a review?
It not only had me on the edge of my seat a few times but the short chapters kept the pace high and the emotions that Ms Redfearn's writing pulled out of me surprised even me. Let's just say that it takes a lot to get an emotional response out of this reader but this book did.
As Jillian's home life is described at the beginning of the book I found myself making stereotypical generalizations of Jillian -- the battered, powerless wife (I had failed to remember, after quickly skimming the book synopsis, that Jillian was a successful career woman). Due to this oversight I'm ashamed to say that I made assumptions about Jillian from the get go. That is, until the author turned those assumptions upside down. Well played, Ms Redfearn, well played. I loved the fact that this book put me in my place and helped me to open my eyes to the truth about spousal abuse. It can affect anyone. You just never know someone else's story.
Hush Little Baby is filled with shorter chapters and I think that this helps to propel the storyline and keep the reader engaged. It takes off right away on an emotional and suspenseful rollercoaster with the reader seeing and feeling Jillian's fear, uncertainty and abuse. Reading certain passages, I felt myself tensing up and willing Jillian to make a different choice. You can feel the tension that Jillian and her children, especially her son Drew, live with on a daily basis.
But it was her conflicting emotions regarding her husband Gordon that got to me the most. Her self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness were palpable and made me want to reach in and get her to realize, before it's too late, that it doesn't have to be this way.
The mental abuse and degradation that Gordon commits against Jillian are just as appalling and hurtful as the physical marks he leaves on her. To see this powerful woman denigrated and reduced to the point where she only views herself as a bad mother, useless and ugly was heart breaking, frustrating and maddening.
What I found frustrating was seeing how quickly Jillian's mindset reverts to forgetting about the horrible parts of her marriage when she's in a calm/peaceful time with her husband. During those times she chooses to believe the image that Gordon portrays to everyone else. The cop who coaches Little League and the hands on Dad who's a devote Christian. It may be self-preservation and/or fear but seeing her talk about missing foot rubs and Gordon asking about her day even after he brutally hurts her was hard to read ... and yet I could see where she was coming from at the same time. I think that Ms Redfearn truly got into the head of an abused woman and helped me to better understand what it's like to be in that position.
I really don't have any negatives about this book but I do have more of a 'wish list' of sorts. I think adding the points of view of Drew and Gordon could have added an extra layer to the book. Seeing how Drew truly views his dad and his mom as well as how he feels when he witnesses his mom being abused/denigrated would have possibly given a broader understanding of spousal abuse.
As for Gordon? I hated Gordon but he was such a pivotal character and I would have loved to have gotten inside his head at least a bit. Why does he do what he does? The way he uses manipulation, shame and sabotage against the woman he supposedly loves was astounding and eye-opening but how did he view his actions?
I also wish that we could have found out what happened to Paul, Goat etc. They helped play an important part in revitalizing Jillian's sense of self so I would have loved to have heard if they were still a part of Jillian's life.
My 'wish list' is meagre and I had to really hunt for things that could have possibly made this book even better. Like I said earlier, I loved this book. It's filled with emotion and edge-of-your-seat action that had me rooting for Jillian and so scared for her too. This was a hard to put down book and I'm very eager to read more from this new author.
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Favourite Quotes: "I'm surprised at the depth of his cruelty, amazed how irrelevant I've become. Even as I hate him, I'm hurt by him, and a perverted part of me wants him to still love me." - Jillian
"A beautiful day. A beautiful family. I'm happy to pretend." - Jillian
"Fear paralyzes. It replaces logical thought with a numbing inability to alter your destiny."
"Until you've almost died, you don't appreciate the tenuous tether you have to life, but when you come within a breath of your mortality, suddenly you become very aware of its precariousness. And as insane as it is, and I acknowledge it's insane, I'm never so grateful for my life than the moment I realize Gordon didn't kill me." - Jillian(less)
Disclaimer: I sincerely thank Kensington Books and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: Since October is Down's Syndrome Awareness Month I thought that this book was very apropos and quickly requested to review it from NetGalley. While I do have one distant cousin with Down's, I don't have a lot of firsthand experience with people with Down's and thought that this book may be a good way to enlighten myself.
This book successfully balanced educating the reader about all that Down's Syndrome entails (the good, the sweet and the frustrating) but it never felt like it was teaching and came off as very real and heart-felt. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that the story is told through the eyes of Alicia along with little snippets from Chloe's viewpoint.
The characters were what sold me on this book. Alicia was a believable character and I loved that. While she could be frustrating at times I could also relate to her misgivings and hesitancies involving letting her daughter grow up. She and I are cut from the same proverbial parenting cloth.
Alicia was an imperfect protagonist. She has always been Chloe's biggest, and often only, advocate. Sure, she did things that I didn't agree with at times but underneath it all you knew that she loved her daughter. I think it was her struggles as she comes to terms with Chloe's relationship with Thomas that really got me on board. She's just a woman doing the best she can.
Some of her fears are (to me) well-founded based on how Chloe deals with her daily life. We see Alicia struggle on a daily basis with Chloe's outbursts and people staring and judging Chloe before they've even spoken to her. Chloe is very sweet young woman who adores Disney movies but she's also very head strong and prone to temper tantrums. Alicia's misgivings and concerns were things that I could see myself having in the same situation. Alicia adores her daughter but that doesn't make living with her or letting her become more independent any easier for Alicia.
Chloe is a sweet, innocent yet stubborn young woman and she felt very real to me. She just wants to be treated like everyone else and I loved getting her view of certain events as the story progressed. Sometimes her point of view was just a little snippet showing her view of a certain scene that we'd just seen through Alicia's eyes. That addition of Chloe's feelings and view of the situation really helped me to get to know her and maybe rethink how I felt about some of Alicia's actions.
The secondary characters held their own and felt very well-rounded and not segregated to the outer edges of the main storyline. I loved seeing how Randall, Chloe's father, struggled with his feelings about Chloe's Down's. Not everyone in her life was able to accept her fully and I appreciated the fact that the author didn't sugar coat it. He was not the perfect father by a long shot but I think he was, sadly, realistically portrayed.
I would have liked to have heard more from Thomas' mom and dad and how they felt about their son's relationship with Chloe. Thomas' mother, Margaret, was the most frustrating person in the book for me. I'm not sure if she was in total denial, just overly optimistic or saw a way for herself and her husband to get some time to themselves but she came off as believable even though I wanted to shake the woman out of her floral frocks a few times.
I have very few negatives about this book. The main issue I have is that I felt that the ending was much too abrupt. I would have at least have preferred to have an epilogue to see what happened to the characters later on. I also found the breaks between Alicia's point of view and Chloe's could have been separated a bit better.
Overall I enjoyed this book. Although it was a slower paced book than I was expecting I found it to be a very touching read that will, no doubt, help to educate people to the day to day realities for people with Down's and those who love them.
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for providing me with a complimentary Kindle e-book copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
My Review: From the cover photo of a woman holding a stack of books (bliss!) to the short book description I knew that requesting this book from NetGalley was a no brainer for this bookworm.
The things that I loved the most about this book were the descriptions of New York City and The Owl -- the bookstore where Emse works. Author Deborah Meyler has a unique talent in describing the sights, sounds and smells of Emse's little corner of NYC and the quaintness of The Owl. It was so clearly described that I could almost smell the old books stacked precariously all over the store and could easily envision myself wandering through the stacks in the search of a new read.
Unfortunately, I cannot say that the animate characters of the story appealed to me as much as the city or the bookstore. Esme was not a main character that I connected with. She was the clichéd overly naïve academic who was book smart but shows the reader that education does not automatically mean a person is 'street smart' too. I have nothing against a naïve character. They can be charming and a beginning point for an authentic self awareness journey. But, there's naïve and then there's gullible and I'm afraid that Esme came off to me as more and more gullible as the story went on. It got to the point where I just wanted to shake some sense into her.
For me, Esme's gullibility stems from her wishy-washy decision making and her toxic relationship with the utterly nasty Mitchell. The man has no redeeming qualities unless you find obscene amounts of money redeeming (I don't). He's sardonic and utterly self-centred and can easily manipulate Esme. I just didn't understand why such a smart woman like Esme would be so stupid in 'love'. I realize that love is blind and that it is admirable to stick out the bad times in the hopes for the good times ahead. I get that, I do. But after awhile of reading about Esme being used by the overly pompous, despicable Mitchell we quickly move from Naïve Esme to Doormat Esme. And I do not like Doormat Esme. Not one bit. She frustrated me.
Esme comes off as fragile and a 'fish out of water' since she's been transplanted from England. In the beginning she has her PhD but as the story progresses we see less and less of a personality with Esme and more of her wondering again and again how she'll cope without Mitchell in her life and a baby on the way. In effect, Esme loses her personality and likeability. She refuses to stand up for herself and therefore we don't get to witness much growth in Esme. I can stomach a doormat of a character if I can eventually get to the happily ever after (or close enough to it). But Esme at the beginning of the book strongly resembles the Esme at the end of the book and I needed more of a self discovery from her.
The secondary characters at the bookstore (as well as Stella, Esme's neighbour) were quirky and stood out for me. I would have loved to have heard more from Stella who balanced Esme's naivety with a healthy dose of reality and honesty. The eccentric group of men who frequent The Owl were varied and each had their own brief background story.
As I was reading this book I got the feeling that the author was going for more of an intellectual contemporary fiction/mild chick lit read but some of the obscure art/literary references went over my head. A few references here and there are fine but there were so many that it just left me feeling a little frustrated that I wasn't getting the reference being made.
It feels like the book just touched on some of the issues and didn't quite delve into them as much as I was hoping. I kept waiting for the 'big twist' to come and surprise me but this book was predictable right up until the end which itself felt too abrupt for me. I would have loved to have more resolution.
Going into it I was hoping for a quirky and charming read but I ended up feeling frustrated and bored since the pace never really took off. Overall, I'm sad to say, this book just didn't resonate with me.