Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. SouthernThis review will go live on the blog09/19
Wilds Cards is, unfortunately, a prime example of an intriguing plot that had a horrible execution. Southern boy Derek has found himself in the headmaster's office after a prank-gone-wrong. The prestigious school have given him numerous chances and this is the last straw. After fessing up and taking all of the blame, Derek's told he has 48 hours to gather his things and leave. With his dad stationed overseas and a spacey 25-year old stepmother, Derek isn't exactly looking forward to heading home. Things go from bad to worse when Brandi announces she's pregnant and until Derek's father returns, they'll all be heading to Chicago to move in with Brandi's estranged family.
As the only girl on the high school football team, Ashtyn has developed a tough skin. She had to earn the respect of the guys and now she's considered one of them. Her boyfriend is the star Quarterback and it's all but guaranteed he'll be elected Captain come their senior year. Ashtyn's sights are set a little further in the future: she's aiming for a football scholarship and the chance to play on a college team.
While things have never looked better on the field, Ashtyn's home life has seriously declined. Her mother abandoned the family years ago, her sister vanished as well, and her dad just doesn't seem to care anymore. Now her sister has returned, bun in the over, and with her son and stepson in tow. They simply arrive at the door and announce they're moving in.
Wild Cards had two things going for it: its BLINDINGLY fast pace and football. The football plot especially interested me, even moreso that it was a girl who played. YES PLEASE! Sadly, that's where the good ends. This is a book that suffers from an extreme case of telling rather than showing. We're told Derek is a bad boy, we're told Ashtyn is some super awesome fantastic football player/tough chick. I never got a feel for just who these characters really were and their relationship was downright confusing.
It seems all Derek does is paint the shed and cut the grass. I wouldn't have batted an eye if he helped a little old lady cross the street or rescue a kitten in a tree. Yep. Real troublemaker there. As far as Ashtyn's football prowess goes, she never actually plays. Or, sure, she practices, but that's it. There aren't any games - the novel takes places during summer vacation - so that angle was a complete letdown. At one point Ashtyn goes to a week-long football clinic where only the best high school players from around the country go, but even there we only read about a handful of drills (of course each one is sabotaged by boys who aren't interested in having a girl play).
I read a lot of YA and am getting into New Adult. I know how it goes and I've come to expect quick romances if not flat out instalove. What baffled me about Wild Cards is that, while the character are in love (in a weird quasi-incestuous way - she's his stepmother's sister after all), they refused to voice their feelings for nearly the entire book and they aren't in a relationship at all. The dual narrative allows the reader to know exactly how Ashtyn and Derek feel and it's very love/hate. Ashtyn thinks Derek's hot. Derek thinks Ashtyn has a great body. Ashtyn wants Derek to hold her. Derek wants Ashtyn period. Ashtyn hates how Derek is flirting with her friends and thinks he's a jerk. Derek hates how guys look at Ashtyn. This went on and on the entire book and their only interactions were arguments. Somehow this was supposed to be romantic? I just couldn't get into it.
The ending really took the cake though. (view spoiler)[After all the talk of Ashtyn being an amazing football player - and not seeing any proof - it turns out that Derek is the one who is really the star. Prior to the death of his mother he took his team all the way to the state championship and had a really promising career ahead of him. In the end it was about Derek's phenomenal skills rather than Ashtyn's. (hide spoiler)]
Wild Cards was such a disappointment. I went in fully prepared to love every moment, but nothing worked for me. The characters were flat, the football plot just wasn't there, and the romance was borderline aggravating. This is the first in a series, but I'm tapping out of this one. I have no interest in seeing what's in store for these characters. If it wasn't for the easy-to-read pace, I doubt I would have finished.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I couthis review will go live on the blog05/27
I Am Pilgrim is a sweeping 700-page behemoth of a novel that spans multiple decades and continents and I could have easily read another 700 pages. I'm typically hesitant to give in to hype, I've been burned in the past, but with this novel, the hype is not only deserved, but actually doesn't do the book justice. I Am Pilgrim is greater than the hype. It's the kind of book that rocked me to my core and left me breathless. It took me over a month to finally come up with a review but even after a month's thought, nothing I say will be good enough. This book is that good.
I'm purposefully leaving the summary vague; uncovering the details is half the fun! What initially starts out as a routine - albeit rather gruesome - murder investigation in a seedy New York hotel quickly spirals into a whirlwind race across Europe and the Middle East to stop a crazed zealot from raining destruction down on America. Throw in some ultra-secret government divisions, biological warfare, and a main character with severe mommy issues, and you've got the backbone of I Am Pilgrim.
It's never fully revealed just who our main character is. He was adopted as a child and later on recruited for an agency where he was given a new name and a new past. With each case he took on a new identity. He's a ghost, living on the fringes of society, never getting close to anyone. After he left the agency, he wrote a book detailing various crimes and unique methods of killing. He becomes involved in the murder investigation after it becomes clear the killer used his book as a blueprint, a checklist of what not to do and how to get away with it. From there I Am Pilgrim takes on a life of its own and I happily buckled in for the ride.
This is a novel where there's So. Much. to say but saying it will give away the book's secrets and I refused to ruin it for anyone! I Am Pilgrim is definitely not for the queasy and makes that clear with the opening scene. Thankfully I'm the kind of person who can't resist watching horror unfold and was thoroughly ensnared in this book's web. I'm convinced Hayes is something of a genius - the way he introduced multiple stories that, on first look, appeared completely unrelated only to have everything come together at the end had me in awe. It takes a special kind of author to turn a book of this length into a frenzied page-turner, and Hayes is clearly a master of his craft.
I Am Pilgrim kept me up late, got me up early, and had me sneaking in some reading time whenever I could throughout the day. When I wasn't reading this book I was thinking about it and counting down the minutes until I was able to get back to it. I realize this review is little more than me rephrasing "I LOVE THIS BOOK" over and over again, but when it comes down to it, that's all I can say (without spoiling anything, of course). I Am Pilgrim is a highly ambition novel that fully lives up to those ambitions and I'm counting on it becoming a huge hit this summer. It appears this is going to be a series, and if that's truly the case, I desperately need the next!...more
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I begReview goes live on the blog9/20!
I don't want to jinx myself, but I've been having insanely good luck lately with Young Adult Thrillers. Before I began blogging, thrillers were my go-to reads, but I never thought to try them in a YA flavor.
Wick Tate doesn't have a whole lot going for her: her felon father is on the run, cops are trying to squeeze information out of her, she's on her fourth set of foster parents, and her best friend acts like Wick no longer exists. The two bright sides to Wick's life are her little sister Lily and her hacking business - women hire her to get the dirt on their cheating boyfriends/husbands.
The morning following a detective's usual late-night stakeout, Wick finds a diary on the doorstep. Flipping through she recognizes the handwriting of her former best friend, Tessa. Scrawled on the cover however, are the words find me. That day at school Wick learns Tessa died - jumped off a building - and Wick refuses to believe the story ends there. The diary entries talk of more: a man Tessa was seeing, someone who learns Wick picked up his scent and now he's after her.
YA Thrillers might just be my new favorite thing. Find Me captivated me from the very first page and didn't let go until well after I finished. There's a sense of foreboding throughout the novel that I found riveting and more than once my breath caught and I lost myself to the scene. When I read thrillers or mysteries, I like to guess at Who Did It and I tend to be right. The same can be said for Find Me, but the way the mystery was revealed was so expertly done that I didn't mind one bit! I had actually been hoping for a different character to be the killer and was disappointed I was wrong, but the truth came out and when it did I immediately changed my tune; the bad guy was truly awful and I began to panic and had to set the book down. Having your reader experience such intense emotions takes some serious talent and Ms. Bernard let hers shine.
As per YA there's a romance involved, but what sets Find Me apart is that there was NOT a love triangle nor was this a case of instalove. Their relationship blossomed over time and it was such a welcome sight. Even better: the romance didn't take center stage. In the hands of a lesser author, this book about a killer-going-after-the-younger-sister could easily have turned into a starcrossed romance with a hint of an actual plot. No so here!
That this is Ms. Bernard's debut novel both impresses and excites me! Find Me enveloped me in its mystery - Who was this man Tessa was seeing? Will he get to Wick's sister? - and its hold refused to give. I highly recommend this book and you can bet I'll be waiting to see what Romily Bernard writes next!...more
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last yearthis review will go live on the blog06/03
Newcomers to Carter's work take note: this is not an author who's afraid to tackle heavy subjects. Last year's Me, Him, Them, & It focused on pregnancy and now her latest, My Best Friend, Maybe sheds light on sexuality and what happens to a friendship when it's called into question.
Until three years ago Colette and Sadie were best friends and virtually inseparable. Then everything changed just before high school. Suddenly Sadie went out of her way to avoid Colette and, while the two could have talked non-stop for hours just a few years before, any chance encounters in the school halls are now met with awkward and forced hellos. For Colette this sudden change in Sadie is met with confusion and hurt - what did Colette do? Was there something Colette didn't do that made Sadie all but abandon their friendship? What - if anything - can be done to fix things?
The hole left by Sadie has been hastily patched over with a church youth group and a new boyfriend, Mark - a boy Colette's parents heartily approve of; Sadie's free-spirited mother and laid back attitude toward rules never failed to raise an eyebrow. Colette's relationship with Mark is practically perfect: he always treats her like a princess, showers her with gifts, and never goes further than the chastest of kisses. With a youth group trip quickly approaching, Sadie presents an invitation that changes everything. Colette must choose between spending the summer with Mark on a retreat or visiting the Greek Islands with her ex-best friend - and possibly find some answers.
Slowly but surely GLBT themes are emerging in Young Adult literature and I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, all too often a character's sexuality is glossed over or revealed for little more than shock value and adds absolutely nothing to the story. Even worse is the sitcom-style ending: everything is wrapped up nicely in a pretty bow and any bullying/harsh remarks/bigotry is forgiven and forgotten. While My Best Friend, Maybe left me wanting more, the portrayal of the characters was wonderful and heartbreaking.
My Best Friend, Maybe is told through Colette's perspective and until the ending we only know her side of the story as to what happened the night her friendship with Sadie fell apart. What Carter did extremely well was keep me guessing. The back cover of my ARC states: "A beautiful and multi-layered story of friendship, romance, and sexuality..." and, naturally, I expected these would all come into play between two characters. Carter caught me off guard though and I really enjoyed that. Yes, there's friendship, romance, and sexuality, but the storylines aren't one and the same.
Over time the reader discovers more of Sadie's side of the story as well as her reasoning for inviting Colette along. While I was rooting for Sadie the entire time, her motives gave me pause. Colette's Bible-thumping mother also plays a large role and her actions were appalling and gut-wrenching. Although I finished the book in a single sitting (something I rarely do) I had to walk away more than once because of Colette's mother. It certainly says something about Carter's abilities as a writer that she was able to stir up such emotion in me.
Even though I felt the ending was a bit too sweet and sitcom-y, I devoured it in a handful of hours. The day I received My Best Friend, Maybe in the mail I immediately sat down to read it and didn't stop until I was finished. Caela Carter made a name for herself with her debut and her sophomore effort proves she's not a one-hit wonder. My Best Friend, Maybe is an absolute joy of a novel and definitely one to pick up! ...more
Ugly Girls lays everything out in the open from the very beginning. There's no glossing over or pretty little bows. Instead, this is a story with a stUgly Girls lays everything out in the open from the very beginning. There's no glossing over or pretty little bows. Instead, this is a story with a stark portrayal of two unhappy and bitter girls. There's no one to root for, no team to cheer on. At times overwhelming, and without a doubt tough, Ugly Girls held me captive. Despite the gritty feeling I had when it was over I enjoyed this one immensely and I do recommend it - though have a sappy love story on deck. Trust me, you're going to need kitten videos by the time Ugly Girls is through with you.
I wish I had something better to say, or at least something more to comment on. Truth be told, nothing about The Night Garden grabbed me. I didn't carI wish I had something better to say, or at least something more to comment on. Truth be told, nothing about The Night Garden grabbed me. I didn't care about the setting, I didn't care about the characters. I didn't care that instead of a bed, Olivia's sleeps outside in a garden full of poisonous plants. The magical aspect did nothing for me. If you're new to Magical Realism, please don't start with this novel. If you're a fan of the genre, I'd still say give this one a pass. Maybe if I was stuck in a waiting room for an hour and had nothing better to read I might be inclined to give this one another shot, but as it stands, I simply didn't care enough to continue.
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to readthis review will go live on the blog05/13
Let's take another look at that summary, shall we? In just a single sentence I was hooked and needed to read Bellweather Rhapsody. Not only did the plot sound delightful (or as delightful as a murder/suicide can be), but then to be thrown references to The Shining and Agatha Christie! Unfortunately, when all was said and done, I felt this novel relied too much on those references and lacked its own spark. Take away Jack Nicholson and all that's left is a book with many, many (too many!) characters and far-reaching aspirations it can't quite attain.
In its heyday, the Bellweather hotel was THE place to be. Its rooms were constantly rotating with girlfriends and wives - never at the same time! - and every day was a party. Fifteen years ago, however, a bride shot her husband and then hung herself. Since then the hotel has been in a slow state of decline, the only time its rooms are mostly full is once a year for Statewide, a high school music festival. Careers can be made at Statewide and the best musicians from across the country show up to put their talents on full display. This year, however, a girl goes missing - and no one's quite certain whether or not she's dead - and the events from fifteen years ago seem to be replaying once more.
I wasn't joking when I mentioned the sheer number of characters. Usually I follow a 'the more the merrier' adage when it comes to characters and storylines. Here, however, I had a hard time keeping them straight and in one case didn't figure out two characters were completely different people until 100 pages from the end. While I'm not entirely blameless, I do think the novel suffered for not having clear-cut characters: readers shouldn't be confused as to who's who. In my case, I was thoroughly convinced Minnie's sister/brother-in-law was the couple from fifteen years ago; they were all at the Bellweather for the wedding and it was Minnie who discovered the bodies. Imagine my surprise then when Minnie's reintroduced over one hundred pages later with her family alive and well. There was simply too much to keep straight; characters and storylines that were mentioned in the beginning of the novel were completely forgotten about by the time the ending rolled around.
I felt Bellweather Rhapsody tried too hard to be too many things and tackle too many topics: Rabbit's sexuality was the focus of his chapters from the get-go - he's decided to come out to his sister - and by the time the climax rolls around, it's SO anti-climatic that I wasn't sure what the point was the begin with. In a single throw-away remark April mentions she knows he's gay and that's that. The entire book was spent waxing poetic about the boys he's crushed on in the past, the moment he realized he was different, what will his parents say!, there's a cute boy at Statewide and Rabbit's ready for a new beginning...it all culminated into one whispered question and then never brought up again.
There's a Scottish conductor who was once a prodigy until he lost three fingers in a barfight, a former prodigy who grew up to be evil incarnate and has groomed her prodigy of a daughter to be the best, a chaperone who had once loved music and carries a world of guilt on her shoulders, the hotel concierge who's slowly losing touch with reality - the list goes on. I honestly enjoyed these characters and their stories - I especially liked Fisher and Rabbit - but the focus quickly blurred toward the end to the point where I truly have no idea if certain characters even existed or if certain scenes ever happened. Perhaps that was the point of the novel and I missed it entirely. That said, when it comes to mysteries I like - and expect! - clear-cut answers and, sadly, Bellweather Rhapsody failed to deliver.
I don't want to give the impression that the novel was all bad - it certainly wasn't! When it was good it was great and I was thoroughly ensnared. Unfortunately, those moments of brilliance were dampened by the multitude of narratives and plot points and readers should never be confused. I'm positive Bellweather Rhapsody will find its audience - I wanted so badly to love it! - but it just wasn't for me. This year I took a long look at publishers and which imprints work for me. When it comes to Houghton Mifflin, I tend to enjoy their Young Adult novels far more than Adult, and Bellweather Rhapsody further proves my findings....more
I'm going to keep this short and sweet since SO many other readers have sung Trish's praises and have done so far more eloquently than I could ever hoI'm going to keep this short and sweet since SO many other readers have sung Trish's praises and have done so far more eloquently than I could ever hope to. Just let it be known that, for someone who doesn't really read YA, I am now utterly and completely in love and the moment I finished I immediately called my sister to demand my ARC of Where the Stars Still Shine be returned! After a few weeks of fairly lackluster and disappointing reads, Trish descended from above and showed everyone how it's done. All it took was one book for Trish's army to gain a new recruit and you better believe I'll be devouring her other work very soon.
On a seemingly ordinary day, a Hello Kitty lunchbox is washed ashore on Ruth's small island in Canada. Inside she discovers old letters and a diary written in Japanese along with a few other mismatched items. At the prompting of her husband Oliver, Ruth begins to translate the diary and soon both husband and wife find themselves deeply invested in the life of a sixteen-year old suicidal Japanese girl.
Nao used to have a good life. Her father was a hotshot programmer and provided a wonderful childhood for Nao in Sunnyvale, California. Unfortunately, when the dot-com bubble burst, Haruki Yasutani was let go and the family moved back to Japan. Because she had been so young when the family took off for America, Nao never fully considered herself Japanese and to say her classmates treated her horribly would be putting it lightly. It started out small: pinches and hurled insults. Things quickly escalated and Nao found herself dealing not only with her fellow students, but also with her teacher. Even when they pretended she wasn't there they were still cruel, going so far as to stage a funeral for her. One particularly heartless attack led to Nao nearly being raped. With each attack videos were posted online and Nao's parents had no idea just how harsh the bullying became.
I don't mind thinking of the world without me because I'm unexceptional, but I hate the idea of the world without old Jiko. She's totally unique and special, like the last Galapagos tortoise or some other ancient animal hobbling around on the scorched earth, who is the only one left of its kind.
She decides her best course of action would be to commit suicide (and get it right, unlike her father's multiple failed attempts), but before she does, she wants to share her great-grandmother's story. Now old Jiko spends her days living the life of any other 104-year old: she's a nun and maintains her temple. However, before she took her vows, she was a novelist, an anarchist, an independent New Woman. She outlived her children and her son's death hit her especially hard. Haruki Yasutani #1 (Nao's father had been named after him and dubbed #2) was a brilliant student studying philosophy and reading French literature while the second World War played out around him. He was eventually drafted and quickly learned he would be a Sky Soldier - a kamikaze pilot with a guarantee to never return home alive. Despite his certain death, Haruki continued with his studies and, as Ruth and Oliver learned through his letters, he remained a gentle, peaceful man to the very end.
"I got confused," she said. "In my mind, she's still sixteen. She'll always be sixteen." Oliver sat down on the edge of the mattress and put his hand on her forehead. "The eternal now," he said. "She wanted to catch it, remember? To pin it down. That was the point." "Of writing?" "Of suicide." "I've always thought of writing as the opposite of suicide," she said. "That writing was about immortality. Defeating death, or at least forestalling it."
As Ruth and Oliver learn more and more about Nao, they begin to care deeply for her and her well-being. They anguish with each new bullying attack, become angry with her parents' blindness. Through it all, the question remains: how did that Hello Kitty lunchbox reach their shore? Oliver's theory is that it's the first in a wave of debris from the 2011 tsunami that is heading toward Canada. In the end, they never find an answer, and I like that. Normally I prefer concrete answers - no open endings for me. But A Tale for the Time Being and Nao's story can only have an open ending. What eventually became of Nao? Did she go through with her plans to commit suicide? Is she still alive? What about her father? It works and I can't imagine any other way for the story to be told (although I'm sure Oliver would kindly remind me of Schrödinger's cat and that, in fact, there are numerous other outcomes).
Print is predictable and impersonal, conveying information in a mechanical transaction with the reader's eye. Handwriting, by contrast, resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly, and is as intimate as skin.
I usually finish a book in a day or two. With A Tale for the Time Being I wanted to keep reading, but I also wanted to spend as much time with these characters as possible. I learned so much from old Jiko, I wanted to hug Nao and take her away from the awful children in her school, I wanted to sit down and have a conversation with Haruki Yasutani #1. When I finished the book, I held it close as though by doing so I could hold on to the story inside.
Normally with dual-narratives I tend to favor one narrator over the other. That definitely was not the case with A Tale for the Time Being. I yearned for Nao's chapters just as much as I craved Ruth's and devoured every single one. Just like Ruth and Oliver, I soon found myself emotionally invested in Nao's life and - again, like Ruth and Oliver - can't picture her as anything other than a sixteen-year old girl.
Just a few chapters into the novel I started singing its praises and didn't let up for a moment - especially now that I've finished. A Tale for the Time Being is a book I've already forced upon others and will continue to do so for many, many years to come. Ruth Ozeki created a tale that's absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out (I will never get enough of that cover! Breathtakingly beautiful and velvety soft) and I feel honored to have read it. With one single story, Ms. Ozeki has earned a coveted spot on my extremely tiny Auto-Buy Authors list and rightfully so. A Tale for the Time Being is so much better than I'm able to express and I know it'll stay with me long after I move on to other books....more
YES, I enjoyed it immensely. YES, I finished it in a single sitting. YES, I'm positive it'll show up again in June as part of my Top Reads of 2015 (paYES, I enjoyed it immensely. YES, I finished it in a single sitting. YES, I'm positive it'll show up again in June as part of my Top Reads of 2015 (part one!) post. While the layers weren't quite as deep and far-reaching, I couldn't help but be reminded of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life (a top read of 2013 and one I need to revisit before the companion novel comes out later this year). In Some Other World, Maybe is sure to receive buzz and bestsellers spots and it wholeheartedly deserves each and every mention and I can easily see myself recommending this one to customers looking for something a little off, something a little quirky and different, but full of emotion with characters that pack a punch.
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review tThis review will go live on the blog10/14
BEWARE: this review amounts to little more than an incoherent, rambly love letter.
You know that one review that you sit on until you come up with the right words to say, only to wind up writing - and rewriting - the entire thing? That's how I was with My Basmati Bat Mitzvah. This is the novel I want to hand to Middle Grade/Young Adult naysayers who claim kids' books can't be thought-provoking and powerful. Even now I want to scrap this review and simply have a giant 72-pt blinking font that just reads "GO BUY THIS NOW."
Tara Feinstein is just like every other 12-year-old: she loves having Movie Nights with her best friend Ben-o (who just might like-like her), she has to deal with all the hurt and jealousy that comes with her other best friend Rebecca becoming friendly with Tara's sworn enemy, and the best thing about the new school year is getting to be in robotics class.
Unlike the majority of the kids in Tara's class however, Tara comes from a multi-cultural home. While both her parents are Jewish, her mother practiced Hinduism before converting. Apart from Tara's aunt and cousin, the rest of her mother's side of the family still lives in India. Even though she attends Hebrew School, Tara strongly identifies with her Indian side and a classmate's nasty comments raise some doubts about whether or not she wants to go through with her Bat Mitzvah. Will she have to abandon her Indian heritage in order to truly be Jewish?
When I first started reading this book I sat down on my couch and didn't move until I had finished. My Basmati Bat Mitzvah is such an incredibly lovely book that had it all: diverse characters (!!!), humor, a beautiful message. Tara came across as a real person, someone I could pass on the street. Her jealousy over playing third wheel to her bestie's new friend, panic over accidentally ruining a precious heirloom, all the confusion that comes with her best boy friend kinda-sorta-maybe wanting to be a boyfriend. It was all beautifully done. Tara had such wonderful character development throughout the novel - and she wasn't the only one! Other characters had an amazing amount of depth, particularly Mean Girl Sheila. & get this: not only were Tara's parents ever-present, but her grandmother, aunt, and even her friends' parents played key roles!
Perhaps what really won me over was that I could relate to Tara. I come from a Jewish-Catholic family and while I was raised Catholic, my family still observes certain Jewish traditions and holidays. I understood Tara's conflicting emotions. If she had her Bat Mitzvah, would she have to forget all about her beloved grandparents, her Nana and Nanaji? Would she be unable to enjoy her favorite Bollywood movies? Tara's personal journey to discovering herself was beautiful and I was cheering her on every step of the way. And if I didn't already love her to pieces, the fact that she wanted to wear a sari and serve traditional Indian food at her Bat Mitzvah totally would have won me over.
As an added bonus, at the very end of the book there's a multi-page glossary that covers a variety of Yiddish/Hebrew/Punjabi terms and of course I thought that was awesome! Seriously, I could prattle on about My Basmati Bat Mitzvah for days. It was a delightful, beautiful story about a girl discovering who she is and I loved it. I strongly recommend buying a copy!...more
A few months ago I discussed imprints and I mentioned one of my go-to imprints (according to my ratings) is Viking. Steal the North is one of Viking's latest releases and, once again, proves just how well that imprint knows me.
Steal the North is not a happy story by any means. Instead it's a story of a family brought together by lies and tragedy and shows how they cope with the past and, ultimately, struggle to move on. Sixteen-year-old Emmy thought her only family was her mother. Her world shatters when she finds out that, not only is her father alive and well, but she also has an aunt and uncle living in Washington. Even more shocking is when Emmy's mother tells her she'll be spending the summer with her new-found family. Kate was just barely out of her teens when she became pregnant. Having been raised in a fundamentalist church, Kate's pregnancy cast her out of the only thing she knew. Her father disowned her, the church disowned her, the boy she planned on marrying took off. In order to support herself and Emmy, Kate did unspeakable things and, when she couldn't take it anymore, left Washington for California in order to start a new life. It's been sixteen years since she last spoke to her sister and now her family needs her help.
When Kate left, Bethany lost a huge part of herself. Her older sister was her rock and the year she was able to spend with Emmy was the happiest she'd ever been. Since she was a child Bethany's dream was to have children of her own, but she's suffered miscarriage after miscarriage and realizes she has one more chance. While Matt can't convince her to see a doctor, Bethany has started looking into alternative medicine - herbs, plants, but not to the extent that her fellow worshipers would become suspicious. The new pastor has agreed to do a healing and Bethany's niece is needed for a vital role. Next door to the Millers lives a Native American family. Life on the reservation might provide them with family, but the trailer court holds far more stability and a life away from gangs and poverty. Theresa supports her kids as best as she can and her younger brother Reuben helps out whenever she needs him. The summer Emmy spends in Washington brings together two wildly different families and she discovers what it truly means to be home.
Steal the North is beautiful. It's heartbreaking. It's emotional, raw, real. The story is set in the late '90s and, in the easiest way to get to my heart, features numerous points of view. I don't want to say Emmy is the standout character, though the story is very much about her. Bethany, Reuben, and Kate are every bit as important to the story and each chapter shows a side to the story that wasn't there before. Bethany, with her homemade dresses and long hair. Kate's bitterness and regret. Reuben's desire to hold onto his Colville traditions. I was pleasantly surprised that even minor characters were given a chapter or two: Jamie, Emmy's father, isn't quite the deadbeat he's originally made out to be. Spencer, Kate's boyfriend, loves her and Emmy more than anything and is determined to become a family. Every single character, big or small, was beautifully written and felt like people I could easily pass on the street or stand behind in line at the grocery store.
Be warned, though: this isn't a lazy day read. It's not a novel to be devoured in an afternoon. I spent well over a week with this book and I feel that truly helped me get a real feel for the place and the characters that I would have missed had I raced through it. I also feel that my slow reading pace subconsciously mirrored the slow story-telling - and I don't mean that in a bad way! Steal the North was not a novel that dragged its feet or one that bored me. Instead, it was a story that simply wasn't ready to give up its secrets; instead I had to earn them and when I finally discovered the truth it hit me hard. My heart broke a hundred times over for these characters and while my life isn't anything like theirs, by the end of the book I wanted to reach out to my family. That is the sign of good story-telling, ladies and gentlemen.
My only - only! - complaint about the novel has nothing to do with the story itself, but with the cover. Personally I find the cover stunning, but what you can't see on the screen is that, because of the camera angle, there's a clear view down the model's dress. It would have been so easy to fix: a different angle, different lighting, a different dress.
It floors me that Steal the North is Bergstrom's first novel. With a debut like this there's no telling what the future holds - but I look forward to it! Steal the North was filled to the brim with emotion: heavy subjects like loss and race were handled with grace and the love coursing through these pages hit home. This is definitely a novel I'll be talking about for a long, long time and certainly one I'll be recommending to friends, family, and customers. Pick up a copy of this novel - trust me....more
And suddenly I realized the difference between me and my colleagues. I was ahead of them the whole time. By about two weeks. It took them numerous att
And suddenly I realized the difference between me and my colleagues. I was ahead of them the whole time. By about two weeks. It took them numerous attempts to understand what I could see at the first go. Was it the same thing with the room? Would they stand there one day and discover what I had tried to show them such a long time before? Maybe they were just too immature to see what seemed utterly obvious to me? Was this how Copernicus felt?
I can literally open this book to any page and find a line where he's thinking he's better than everyone or belittling a coworker. Maybe I just don't get it, perhaps this humor is going completely over my head. I'm all for dark humor, but I saw nothing funny about Bjorn. Readers who enjoy his characterization are practically guaranteed to be a fan of The Room, but I couldn't stand him.
Just as Diane Chamberlain likes to pile on the drama (I had compared The Silent Sister to a Lifetime movie - but NOT in a bad way!), so does Karen WhiJust as Diane Chamberlain likes to pile on the drama (I had compared The Silent Sister to a Lifetime movie - but NOT in a bad way!), so does Karen White. Anything that can happen does, but I was more than willing to go along for the ride. The Sound of Glass isn't highbrow literature, but it isn't trying to be. If you like your beach reads to have a whisper of disaster and crime (but with twists you can easily spot coming), this is the book for you. I enjoyed it to the point where I'm now actively seeking more of her novels!
Guys, this book is over 400 pages and I read it in ONE DAY. That alone speaks volumes to King's mastery of his craft and his power over words. The jacGuys, this book is over 400 pages and I read it in ONE DAY. That alone speaks volumes to King's mastery of his craft and his power over words. The jacket hails Revival as a throwback to Classic King, with shout outs to Gothic powerhouses like Melville and Poe, with "the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written." While I didn't quite get that (and I was VERY disappointed I didn't lose sleep over the ending - this is Stephen King we're talking about!), Revival was a damn fine novel and one that left me feeling both mentally and emotionally drained upon finishing....more
The best way I can think of to describe The Rules is a B-movie played on a cable network on a Saturday afternoon. Something you would never seek out oThe best way I can think of to describe The Rules is a B-movie played on a cable network on a Saturday afternoon. Something you would never seek out on your own, but since it's already there you're just bored enough to settle in and enjoy the ride. This is not a book I would ever pick up in a bookstore, but since it was literally delivered to my door, I figured I might as well see what it was about. I doubt I have to actually tell you this, but don't go into this one expecting highbrow literature. Instead, imagine a slasher flick in book form, complete with severed hands, a budding rock band, a student impregnated by her teacher, teenagers who would rather make out than freak out over the killer in their midst, and a mountain lion. I love that The Rules took two people to create.
When I first heard about The Paradox of Vertical Flight I was intrigued: an 18-year old & his 21-year old ex jusreview goes live on the blog9/16.
When I first heard about The Paradox of Vertical Flight I was intrigued: an 18-year old & his 21-year old ex just became parents, the baby is named Socrates, and they take off for Grandma's house. That's certainly unlike anything I had ever read before! I allowed curiosity to get the better of me and was horribly let down.
Jack and Jess were a summer fling. Once her college friends came back into the picture, Jack was cast off to the side and it wasn't until she found out she was pregnant that she got back into contact with him. Now the baby has been born and Jess made the decision to give him up for adoption. Initially Jack was on board. Once he saw his son however, his feelings changed and he jumped out a hospital window with his newborn baby.
Whatever. I can totally get with wacky, slightly unrealistic plots. While Jack's extreme irresponsibility made me cringe (leaving his HOURS-OLD son in a sink while he uses a public restroom, for instance!), what ultimately made me put this book down 45% of the way through was the writing:
"Overthrowing the patriarchy is not incompatible with romanticism, Jack."
This gem is taken from a conversation Jack and Socrates have. Socrates the baby, not the Greek philosopher. Also, Socrates is the one who offered up this statement.
Existential angst about the pointlessness of our mundane existences, case in point, the immutability of school schedules.
These are just a few examples of the overly-pretentious writing. At first I thought it was just how the book was written, but after seeing the author's 'review' on goodreads as well as his blog, I've realized it wasn't the book. I also learned the author is only 22. Hopefully he'll cut the crap soon and simply write. He definitely has potential - this novel could have been so much better! - but for now, I have to walk away....more
Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club.Chock-full of metaphory goodness, 2AM at The Cat's Pajamas beautifully weaves together three storylines gravitating around a past-its-prime jazz club. The novel's Old World feel perfectly suited the smokey barroom. The secondary characters were just as intriguing as the key figures and the foul-mouthed nine-year-old at the center of it all quickly became a favorite of mine. With it's catchy title and gripping characters, I can easily see this novel gaining a following, maybe not in the mainstream media, but underground - and I don't see that as a bad thing at all! This is a special novel that I'll have at the ready whenever someone asks for a solid story, but without all the hype and fanfare.
If you're one of the few people who has yet to read this one, don't be put off by the blurb you'll come across. Yes, it's about domestic abuse. Yes, iIf you're one of the few people who has yet to read this one, don't be put off by the blurb you'll come across. Yes, it's about domestic abuse. Yes, it's about a young single mother and her bullied son. Yes, it's about a woman dealing with her ex-husband's new wife. But it's also SO MUCH MORE than this. Please, please don't write this one off as fluff. It's amazing and incredible and I truly can't say enough about it. READ THIS ONE. Those other novels that I own? You can bet they won't be sitting unread for much longer!
While the ending didn't quite work for me (it felt so sudden and out of the blue) and there were threads that either didn't go anywhere or were quicklWhile the ending didn't quite work for me (it felt so sudden and out of the blue) and there were threads that either didn't go anywhere or were quickly written off, I enjoyed Pretty Baby and tore through it VERY quickly. "Just one more chapter" turned into 100 pages, 200 pages, and before I knew it the book was finished. So much for savoring this one! Pretty Baby is an intense and engaging thriller, perfectly suited for poolside lounging or a rainy, isolated cabin.
Enchanted August certainly lives up to its 'modern retelling' angle - there are entire conversations quoted verbatim here that were from The EnchantedEnchanted August certainly lives up to its 'modern retelling' angle - there are entire conversations quoted verbatim here that were from The Enchanted April! There were a few moments when I felt a little iffy about that, obviously there would be similarities, but here the original story was lifted in its entirety and transplanted to present day Maine. Instead of a castle, it's a giant cottage. Instead of a carriage bringing them to their destination, it's a ferry. Rather than send letters home to their families, they shoot off texts and e-mails when the spotty wi-fi cooperates. While I wasn't entirely comfortable with such minor tweaking, I ultimately enjoyed this one and it makes for a perfect beach read. There's enough substance to sink your teeth into without being overwhelmed - Enchanted August is equally as enchanting as its predecessor with a fun, modern twist and a delightful surprise I didn't see coming!
Though I was delighted by the mystery (which actually doesn't happen until the very end of the novel) Murder at Honeychurch Hall had the one trope I cThough I was delighted by the mystery (which actually doesn't happen until the very end of the novel) Murder at Honeychurch Hall had the one trope I cannot stand: the killer decided to tell Kat every single detail. Why, book, why?! Still, a solid start to what is turning out to be a fun and intriguing series! M. C. Beaton has a blurb featured on the cover stating this this novel is "just the thing to chase the blues away" and I have to say she's right!
With a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut rightWith a title like The Promise of Amazing, the jokes come all too easy - particularly when the book isn't quite what was, well, promised. To cut right to the point, the book fails to deliver on its intriguing premise. If you're a long-time reader of the blog you might recognize the phrase Matthew Pearl Effect, a term I've applied to novels that sound fantastic, but just don't live up to expectations (after numerous attempts at Matthew Pearl's novels I've finally come to terms that it's definitely an It's-Not-Me-It's-You situation - Pearl's story ideas are incredible, but his execution is severely lacking). It certainly didn't help that early reviews were less than stellar.
Sadly, the ridiculously adorable cover wasn't enough to save The Promise of Amazing and it was only its fast pace and short chapters that kept me from filing it away in the DNF folder.
Wren is the typical Good Girl: she maintains good grades, helps out at the family's King Arthur-themed dining hall, and wouldn't ever think of going against her parents' wishes. Definitely the kind of girl you'd take home to meet your parents. Grayson, however, is the boy your mother warned you about. A self-professed playboy, he was kicked out of his academy after a term paper scheme was discovered. Then there's the little crime ring he and his buddies hatched: using false names they 'hunted' for rich girls and seduced them in an attempt to gain access to the mansions filled with jewelry and fancy electronics. Through connections they would sell the stolen goods and begin saving the money for a trip to Amsterdam.
Once Grayson was kicked out of St. Gabe's phone calls from his friends came less and less frequently until it was just Grayson, his father, and his stepmother. Visits to his mother are few are far between; although Grayson adores his two young stepsiblings, it's his stepfather he's not exactly keen on. His prowess on the lacrosse field once made him the apple of Laird's eye. His recent expulsion suddenly turned him into an embarrassment, someone never to be discussed with colleagues and golf buddies.
Wren and Grayson had two completely different lives and although Wren's brother attended St. Gabe's, her path would have never crossed Grayson's were it not for a cocktail weenie. When Grayson began choking at the Camelot, Wren did the first thing she could think of: she performed the Heimlich Maneuver. It was this scene, twenty pages into The Promise of Amazing, that kicked off a series of eyerolls:
Then I thought of Wren; her body pressed against my back, soft but strong, and fighting for me.
Connecting with her had felt different.
...burning up at the thought of how intimately I'd already touched him.
Since the night I saved him, I'd felt a magnetic pull toward Grayson so strong it scared me.
All of those quotes took place between pages 22 and 36 of my e-ARC. These quotes were only the beginning of my issues with this book. Someone choking is not sexy. Performing the Heimlich should NEVER be viewed as an intimate act. I have seen people choke. I have witnessed the Heimlich being performed in order to save a life. None of these instances got me all hot and bothered and it's disgusting that this was the case for The Promise of Amazing.
The moment Wren realized Grayson was choking she immediately leapt into action. She saved him, he promptly threw up all over her shoes, and then began thinking about the "connection" they just shared. Also, his father doesn't feel the need to take him to a hospital or have him checked out in any fashion. Nope. All good here. Instead the two take off - I honestly forget where they headed, either back home or out on the town, but it certainly wasn't somewhere I'd want to go if I had nearly died ten minutes beforehand.
This "magnetic pull" was so strong between Wren and Grayson that they only needed to go on one date before declaring their love for one another. Prior to their date this scene was the ONLY TIME the pair had interacted.
So The Promise of Amazing wouldn't be seen as solely romance (I'm guessing), Constantine decided to throw in an extremely weak subplot regarding a SOOPER SEKRIT PLAN. Unfortunately, like the rest of the book, there just wasn't anything there of substance and a plot that had the potential to be interesting took a heavy hit in favor of the lackluster romance. Using the name Mike ...something (I already forgot his assumed alias), Grayson ~wooed the laydays~ and when a girl brought him back to her house he immediately set to work planning his method of attack. How would the guys be able to get in - were the parents going on a trip? would the house be empty at some point? was there a keycode he could memorize? He also began snooping about, looking for things worth taking.
The previous summer Grayson had slept with a girl named Allegra and, in the process, stole a large flat-screen television. Instead of calling the police/doing ANYTHING about it, Allegra's parents simply shrugged it off and bought a new one. Grayson and his friends would party in their pool house whenever the family wasn't there and thought nothing of it. Shortly after Wren and Grayson begin dating (maybe three interactions at this point) Wren walks in on Grayson/Mike putting the moves on Allegra at the mall. Instead of breaking up with him or, you know, being angry or upset, Wren makes out with him in a dressing room. A+ move there, book!
There are even MORE subplots, one involving Grayson's friend kissing Wren, and when the climax happens, the boys (minus the one toting some pot) get off scot-free. These boys face NO punishment or consequences for their actions. In the end everything is a-okay.
"What he did was awful, but he sort of got karmic payback getting kicked out of school. Don't you think? And, well, he hasn't done any of this in a while, right? Like months. A guy with a past is hot."
Just remember girls, catching your boyfriend cheating and stealing only makes him even more swoon-worthy!!
The Promise of Amazing was a book I was looking forward to, but turned out to be such a disappointment. Steer clear of this one....more
Those Girls surpassed all expectations and I'm thrilled I didn't write off Stevens after one book. She's clearly at the top of her game here and I wasThose Girls surpassed all expectations and I'm thrilled I didn't write off Stevens after one book. She's clearly at the top of her game here and I was riveted. I want to go on and on about the story, but I also don't want to give it all away - this book reads like a movie and the breakneck pace only added to it. So many times I wanted to reach into the book and grab these characters; I wanted to hug the girls, I wanted to do horrible things to Brian and Gavin, I wanted to shake the sheriff and scream 'You're so close GO IN THE HOUSE!!' Though the climax was a little sitcom-y, it went right along with the whole movie feel and if this was aired on Lifetime in the middle of the afternoon on the weekend, I would be all over it. Those Girls is an excellent rebound from my first attempt at Chevy's work and a perfect thriller for a rainy day.
In a note to the reader Brooke Davis discusses how Lost & Found came to be: while in her twenties, she went on a backpacking trip across Asia. AftIn a note to the reader Brooke Davis discusses how Lost & Found came to be: while in her twenties, she went on a backpacking trip across Asia. After receiving a message from her brother telling her to call home immediately, she learned her mother has unexpectedly passed away and without a moment's hesitation, she's on a plane. Her anger and hurt and confusion became Lost & Found and the novel was written for her PhD thesis on grief. I'm not sure if that note will be included in the finished copy, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed. If I hadn't read it, I'm sure I would have still loved Lost & Found, but because I was given that background info, these characters took on another meaning for me. Their fears and worries were Brooke's fears and worries and that's really what took this book to a new level and set it apart from others.
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famousthis review will go live on the blog7/31
Ten years ago, Janie Jenkins had the world in her hands: a fabulously wealthy It Girl famous for being famous, she was dating a British musician, and had just landed her first magazine cover. Unfortunately, her mother ruined it all by dying. Or, rather, by being horrifically murdered - and writing out Janie's name in her own blood. Those five letters cause Janie to lose it all, she was hauled off to prison (what other reason would her mother have for leaving Janie's name beside her on the floor?) and now the only letters she received are full of hate.
Due to a technicality, a mix-up in a lab, Janie is released into a world much different than the one she left. Once word gets out, the media launches its own manhunt. Despite there being no evidence, everyone believes Janie to be guilty - even Janie herself isn't sure whether or not she actually did it. Armed with broken bits of memories, a fake ID (courtesy of her layer, Noah Washington), and a new hair cut, Janie heads for a tiny town in South Dakota in the hopes it will give her the answers she seeks.
Prior to blogging, I lived and breathed Thrillers. Since then, I've branched out and discovered truly wonderful authors and genres, but every so often I love revisiting the one that started it all. I had high hopes going into Dear Daughter - especially since TANA FRENCH (!) has a blurb featured on the cover - and I'm thrilled to say the book didn't disappoint!
Does a main character need to be likable for the book to be a hit? I don't think so. 27-year-old Janie is a spoiled brat - even after a decade in prison. She grew up in Switzerland and had a rotating stock of tutors, nannies, drivers, stepfathers. From an early age she knew how to get what she wanted and was never very good at taking no for an answer. Jail did nothing to change her attitude. If anything, it made it worse, but there was something about her I couldn't help but watch. I suppose that's the case with any young socialite: even if they're rude, nasty people, they still hold that spark that you can't look away from. Bravo, Ms. Little.
The media are convinced Janie got away with murder and I was caught up in the action. In between chapters there were transcripts from court documents, trial notes, police reports, and celeb gossip blog posts that I thought were amazing. These gave more insight into Janie's character, the night her mother died, the media circus trying to tail her (reports of Janie sightings are extremely popular)...I ate it up.
Janie's arrival in South Dakota (under the guise of a dowdy and frumpy Rachel Parker) reveals far more than she ever bargained for. As she uncovers the history of this tiny mining community, she discovers just who her mother was - and exactly what happened that horrible night ten years ago. As someone well-read in Thrillers, I'd like to think I know the 'formula' well enough by now to see what's coming. I'm pleased to say there were a few reveals that genuinely surprised me and some twists I hadn't guessed! Marion's past was fascinating and I loved learning her secrets with Janie.
I feel that romance can never be a total win for me. If there's romance in a book, it'll happen to quickly for my liking. If it's not there at all, I'll be disappointed. Clearly I just can't win! Dear Daughter isn't romance and doesn't put any focus on love, but I thought something was going to happen with Janie and a character and it never did. Perhaps I was reading into it too much?
Dear Daughter is a stunning debut novel and I'm excited to see where Ms. Little goes from here! It's extremely readable with a quick pace, intriguing mystery, and characters you'll love to hate (and I mean that in the best way!). This is certainly one I'll be recommending and you can bet I'll be eager to see what Ms. Little does next....more
this review goes live on the blog02/03 along with a giveaway!
Shortly after obtaining her PhD yet still unable to findedited January, 2015:my reread
this review goes live on the blog02/03 along with a giveaway!
Shortly after obtaining her PhD yet still unable to find a job, Lee Lien returns home. Her relationship with her mother is frosty at best, yet her beloved grandfather always finds a way to smooth things over. The family's latest restaurant, the Lotus Leaf, has a steady string of customers, and Lee is more than ready to try a few changes, switch things around in an attempt to really get business booming. The Liens' world comes to a halt with the unexpected return of Sam, Lee's brother. As the oldest (and the male), Sam is the golden child, the one who is set to inherit the restaurant (whether he wants it or not), and his actions are always forgiven. In his mother's eyes he can do no wrong. So when he empties the cash register - and his mother's jewelry box - to start a new life out west, Mrs. Lien cleans the entire house and waits for the day when he'll return.
With Sam's departure, Lee discovers a token he left behind for her: a small pin from a lifetime ago in Vietnam. Since she was a child, Lee has heard her mother and grandfather tell stories about their cafe in Saigon and how they were visited by a nice American woman. Whether she purposefully left the pin behind they can't say, but it has remained with them decades later, making the trip to America and a new life. As Lee digs deeper into the pin's story, she uncovers a hidden history that could potentially link her family to Laura Ingalls Wilder.
I had been looking forward to Pioneer Girl since I first heard about it last year and I'm thrilled to say it did not disappoint! In fact, it exceeded all expectations and then some! Essentially there are two stories in this novel: Lee's and Rose's. When I read novels where the focus is on multiple characters, I usually find myself preferring one over the other but I'm pleased to say that was not the case in Pioneer Girl. I was as invested in Lee's story as I was in Rose Wilder Lane's and because of that, I wound up breezing through the book much quicker than I would have liked (this is a novel to be slowly savored).
As interesting as Lee's family was, Rose was an equally fascinating woman in her own right. Prior to Pioneer Girl I had a rough idea of who the Wilder family was and what The Little House on the Prairie series was all about. Somehow I managed to skip these books as a child, but Pioneer Girl piqued my interest. Especially with the rumors that Rose was actually the writer, not Laura, and that Rose would fudge details and expand upon anecdotes for the sake of a good story. She even demanded that Laura write solely in third person in their letters!
Despite being a history buff (and spending many elementary school computer classes playing Oregon Trail), I tend to see the Old West and prairie life through rose-colored glasses. While reading Pioneer Girl it became all too evident that times were hard - if not downright brutal - for pioneers. Rose was the only child of the Wilders to survive to adulthood and she herself lost her only child after a few days. Her relationship with Laura was hardly affectionate and she wound up leaving home to make it on her own in a city. Rose married for sex and divorced the man a few years later, determined to lead an independent life. As her journalism career took off, Rose traveled the world - most notably to Vietnam where she covered the war in the 1960s. Her vocal political stance took on a life of its own and she's now considered to be one of the founders of the American Libertarian Movement, along with Ayn Rand.
If I could go back and read Pioneer Girl all over again (I definitely see a re-read of this book in the future!) I would take my time with it and really sink into this world of Vietnamese cuisine and farmsteads. Nguyen doesn't have many books to her name at this point: Short Girls and a memoir entitled Stealing Buddha's Dinner, but they're now on my radar and I can't wait to track down my own copies! Whether you're looking for diversity (her novels feature Vietnamese families and culture) or simply want a good book, Bich Minh Nguyen is an author to keep your eye on....more
Last summer my life as a reader changed when I discovered Jojo Moyes. Until then it was virtually unheard of for me to read books in a single sitting or stay up later than normal to squeeze in just one more chapter. It was even rare for me to read an author's entire backlist - unless it was someone I truly adore, I would have my favorite series or standalones and not worry about the rest. Then Jojo came along and I found myself staying up later, reading longer, and tracking down old titles. At this point it's a given that she'll be a 5-star read and she hasn't let me down yet (not that I expect her to).
Liza McCullen lives with her 11-year-old daughter in the tiny seaside town of Silver Bay. She makes a living giving whale and dolphin tours and doesn't envy the larger (and louder) tourist destinations in the area. Her aunt is something of a local celebrity, 50 years previously Kathleen caught the largest shark on record and the fame helped keep their small hotel and whale museum afloat. Unfortunately, while the residents of Silver Bay might like the peace and quiet, it's the other islands that are bringing in money.
Mike Dormer is a corporate hot shot, having worked his way up the ladder and has his eye on becoming partner. He's engaged to the boss's daughter, has a swanky flat in London, and is granted the kind of peace that only comes from never having to worry about money. His latest project nearly tanks until he volunteers to find a new location for a resort. His research takes him to Australia, more specifically, Silver Bay. The bay would be perfect for a water park, a spa, a hotel. The longer he stays in the town, however, the more he comes to see just what Silver Bay really means to its residents and when he gets the chance to see whales up close his once-firm resolve begins to falter.
Let's get this out in the open: I love Jojo. Absolutely love her. That said, Silver Bay wasn't my favorite and for a good part of the beginning, I actually had a hard time getting into the story. I became overwhelmed with the technical terms the whalers were using and Mike's trysts with the secretary didn't impress me. I have complete faith in Jojo, so I stuck with it and am so glad I did! Once Mike flew to Silver Bay I was hooked.
As with Jojo's other novels, Silver Bay features a wide cast of characters and they're all given screen-time, so to speak. I'm a HUGE fan of multiple narratives, so you know this was totally okay by me! Not only was it a treat to get inside the heads of some of the secondary characters, but it was also a great insight into Liza's past. Only Hannah (Liza's daughter) and Kathleen know the true story of what really occurred that made Liza flee London, but the other characters know something happened. Why was she so cold? Why did she close off her feelings? What on earth was she so afraid of? The other whalers speculate and over time the details are told. I won't give any spoilers, but I'll just say I think all of Jojo's books should come with a box of tissues. I have yet to make it through one dry-eyed!
There were twists I didn't see coming and some I could have done without, but overall, this is Jojo Moyes and she's phenomenal. If you're brand new to her, 1) you should seriously fix that! and 2) Silver Bay shouldn't be the book you go with for an introduction. If you're a long-time fan, however, by all means pick this up! Any Jojo is a great Jojo and Silver Bay is no exception. I laughed, I cried, I was thoroughly captivated....more
There's no crime in copying a painting - obviously, as this is how I make the money I dutifully report to the IRS every April - the criminal part doesn't come until a copy is put up for sale as the original. Ergo, the seller, not the painter, is the crook.
A few years ago Claire Roth had been blacklisted by the art world. Once an up-and-coming artist with the very real opportunity of having her own show, she's now living in her tiny studio and making ends meet by selling copies of famous works for Reproductions.com.
One day she receives a visit from Aiden Markel, renowned art dealer and owner of the famous Markel G gallery. The two hadn't spoken in years - not since her plummet from grace. Markel offers her the chance of a lifetime: paint a copy of one of Degas' works that had been stolen in the 1990 heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Have her copy authenticated and not only will she receive a nice wad of cash, but Markel will also give her the show she's been dreaming of.
I'll be the first to admit I know virtually nothing about the art world - I can rattle off names like Michelangelo, Monet, The Scream, but when it comes down to it, I'm clueless. This book takes the very real theft (in 1990, over ten works of art were stolen and to this day, the pieces haven't been recovered and even with the $5 million reward, no one has stepped forward with any information) and uses it as the backbone of the story.
Claire had always been a Degas fan and when she was little her mother would take her to the museum and she would spent hours in front of After the Bath, staring at it, drawing it, marveling over it. Obviously she hadn't seen it since 1990 when it was stolen, so when Markel mails it to her door, she's more than a little shocked. Naturally she battles with herself over what to do. Markel assures her that after they sell her copy he'll give the original back to the museum where it belong. In the end, and multiple reassurances that she's doing nothing illegal, Claire agrees.
"We can only talk about the bad forgeries, the once that have been detected. The good onces are still hanging on museum walls."
Interspersed with the main story are two side-plots. One is Isabella Gardner's, told only through letters to her niece. I'm a big fan of historical fiction, so this story I really enjoyed. Isabella tells about her introduction to Degas, which eventually turn into lunches with Degas, trips to Degas' house, visits to the racetrack with Degas, and ultimately Degas' request that she pose for a painting. Not just any painting, but one in his Bath series.
The other story is one I also really enjoyed and would have loved to have seen a little more of: Claire's backstory and What Really Happened. When Claire was in grad school she was involved in a relationship with one of her professors. He left his wife for her and, for a while at least, they were happy. Every so often, however, Isaac would go into terrible bouts of depression. Unfortunately, one of these episodes happened to coincide with a deadline and he had neither the motivation or the inspiration to paint. Claire stepped it and painted 4D. Neither of them expected it to receive the attention it did. Isaac's career skyrocketed - there were trips to the Today show, shows in galleries, MoMA was even interested in 4D becoming part of their permanent collection. Everyone wanted to know more about Isaac Cullion.
At first Claire was thrilled for Isaac. After he broke up with her and returned to his wife, however, she decided the truth needed to be known. She was 4D's painter, not Isaac. Her accusation rocked the art world and split it in two, leaving only a tiny handful of people who believed Claire. It only gets worse when Claire discovers Isaac took his own life.
The main bulk of The Art Forger is equally fascinating! Claire eventually discovers the 'original' she had been copying from is itself a copy. Things swiftly move from bad to worse once the painting is sold - and discovered during an airport security check. The police and FBI step in and the trail leads back to Markel and Claire.
The only way to free themselves is to find out just what happened to Degas' original and time is quickly running out.
A writer friend once told me that when she walks into a library anywhere in the world, the smell makes her feel instantly at home.
Guys, seriously, The Art Forger is phenomenal. What's even more mind-blowing is that the author is not an artist! WHAT. Shapiro wasn't messing around when it came to her research.
Despite The Art Forger being a novel, this book isn't an action-packed, edge-of-your-seat nail biter. Even still, I devoured this book in just two sittings; it's that good....more
I didn't read No One Else Can Have You until just a few days before its release partly because I was a little hesitant to begin. Reviews started coming out and they weren't good. At all. There were even a few bloggers who share a very similar taste in books with me that couldn't stand this debut - some couldn't even finish it! Despite the reviews declaring this novel weird and odd I was still curious. Anyone who follows Kathleen on twitter can easily get a feel for her sense of humor; I personally love both it and her, so in true Leah fashion, I ignored the naysayers and dove in.
And you know what? No One Else Can Have Youis weird. It is odd. But it worked beautifully to create an overwhelming sense of unease that was PERFECT for a murder mystery. For a good portion of this novel I felt extremely uncomfortable and I loved it. Hats off to you, Ms. Hale!
There was a time when the tiny Wisconsin town of Friendship lived up to its name. Everyone knew everyone by name, families stretched back for generations, and no one locked their doors. One night - and one girl - changed everything. When Ruth never showed up at Kippy's house, Kippy thought she bailed on their sleepover. It wasn't until the following morning that the truth came out: Ruth had been brutally murdered - suffocated with straw - and posed to look like a scarecrow in a cornfield. Fingers immediately start pointing to Ruth's boyfriend, but Kippy isn't completely convinced he's responsible. Armed with Ruth's diary (Ruth's mother asked Kippy to read it first and Sharpie out all the sex parts) Kippy sets out to uncover the truth behind her best friend's death.
Kippy, with her wardrobe full of turtleneck sweaters, was far too awkward for me to connect with, but that only made her more intriguing. There were many scenes where she seemed very young both emotionally and mentally and her voice came across as strange. Also, for a good chunk of the book I was under the impression that Kippy had been in love with Ruth. It's not a stretch at all to say Kippy was obsessed with her best friend - and for a while I entertained the thought that perhaps Kippy had been the murderer.
I will admit this book definitely is NOT going to be for everyone. One of the main characters, Ruth's brother, has recently returned from Afghanistan minus a finger and suffers from PTSD. There's talk of domestic violence and abusive relationships. At one point Kippy is sent to an institution and the characters there are all shown for comedic effect.
Readers looking for an eerie, character-driven thriller will find just that in No One Else Can Have You. There's certainly no lack of deeply flawed townsfolk in Friendship, Wisconsin. While this novel may not be for everyone, the readers who enjoy it will really enjoy it. It's gruesome and dark and I couldn't get enough. Also: if that cover was an actual sweater I would be all over it....more