the dilemma of reading

the dilemma of reading

"Oh, all stories are the same, aren't they? Men and women fall in love or out of love. People are born; people die. It all ends happily or it all ends sadly, and the difference matters only to the people involved.”

--Gabrielle Zevin, Margarettown

Review
4.5 Stars
All the Best People/Sonja Yoerg
All the Best People - Sonja Yoerg

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family's auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.

But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won't reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn't the television. She ought to seek help, but she's terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives.

I thought this book was really beautiful and eloquently written and a fine example of how women's fiction can be literary fiction, deep and moving with a great portrayal of mental illness.


It did take me several chapters to become engrossed in this novel and to get my bearings regarding who was who. Even then I felt I could have stepped away; however, the characters were intricately developed and crafted with each having their own and I thought of them affectionately.


This story has its origins in a real law case and though the rest of it is fictionalised I was impressed by the way that Yoerg set up the effect of the case on the generations to come. Additionally, the setting of Vermont was well done and I felt like this could have been memoir at points.


Classism was portrayed in such an incredible manner. I was fascinated by how we saw it slowly creep through the story to play a huge role, and the way that prejudice was so easily dismissed and explained away. The concept of bad blood coming back later through Carole's illness was so incredibly poignant and ironic, and I loved the way the last twist of information worked against those who'd used the idea.


The connection between Solange and Alison was honestly so sweet. Alison was an absolute delight to read about and was incredibly well-written; I could see aspects of my twelve-year-old sister in her. The way she talked about feeling lonely and forgotten leading up to how she comes to really appreciate her mother was incredibly touching.


Not all characters were 'good' and I appreciated the way this showed all facets of people--the good, the bad, and the ugly. I loved how even when I adored a character, they showed their flaws and did something I wouldn't expect.


Finally, and most importantly, I loved how this talked about mental illness. So often literature does no justice to this very important matter, but this showed how mental illness is real, how it needs to be talked about, and how it is something that we can live with.

Beautiful, beautiful novel. I highly recommend for those looking for a deeper women's lit read.

 

Review
4 Stars
The Girl Who Was Taken/Charlie Donea
The Girl Who Was Taken - Charlie Donlea

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

 

Simply for the forensic pathology element, this book is worth the read. And the mystery was pretty great, too.

 

I absolutely adored the clinical perspective of this book. Dr. Cutty starts looking at living people and seeing how they might die, which was grotesque but at the same time terribly intriguing to read about and gave her a unique perspective on characters.

 

I was intrigued by the disconnect between how Megan viewed herself, how her parents viewed her, and how society viewed her. The way that the public so desperately wanted her to be okay was so heartbreaking, and it was also harrowing to see how it was hard for her to truly have her thoughts heard. Her psychologist hypnotises her in an immensely fascinating process to watch and learn about.

 

I thought the organisation was confusing and I found it hard to follow the separate timelines at points. There are a lot of characters to keep track of and a lot of girls that are hurt. I think it would have benefitted from seeing fewer points of view.

 

The ending was highly satisfactory, though sad and not at all what I expected. This book had my emotions going and the mystery led me in several different ways, yet the ultimate resolution was not as I expected, though it made total sense.

 

The relationships that the various characters form was the icing on the cake for this book. I didn't expect them to evolve as they did, yet all details were satisfying to hear about.

 

This book is definitely worth the read.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
3.5 Stars
The F Word/Liza Palmer
The F Word - Liza Palmer

Olivia Morten is perfect. Maybe her high-flying publicist job has taken over her life, but her clients are Los Angeles' hottest celebrities. Maybe her husband is never around, but he is a drop-dead-gorgeous, successful doctor. Maybe her friends are dumb, but they know how to look glamorous at a cocktail party. And maybe her past harbors an incredibly embarrassing secret, but no one remembers high school…right?

When Ben Dunn, Olivia’s high school arch nemesis and onetime crush, suddenly resurfaces, Olivia realizes how precarious all of her perfection is. As she finds herself dredging up long-suppressed memories from her past, she is forced to confront the most painful truth of all: maybe she used to be the fat girl, but she used to be happy, too.

 

How fun this book was! And it had a great message of self discovery and self love also.

 

This wasn't comedic enough for me to really call it a chick flick, but it was a light women's fiction read that, though fairly simple and a little predictable, was very pleasurable leisure reading and brought me a lot of enjoyment.

 

Olivia's relationship with herself is something that a lot of us can relate to. She's been suppressing "Fat Liv" for many years and seeing how this interacts with "New Liv" is intriguing. She's putting on a facade for so many people, even her husband, and her realisations about how she treats other people are intriguing.

 

I would have liked to have seen more of how she lost her weight. She talks about having surgery scars, but she also puts a lot of effort into her diet and into going to the gym, so she made some lifestyle changes too. It's interesting to see how this doesn't affect her life terribly much. I did adore her commentary about noticing people on first dates because the girls would eat a lot to show they were low maintenance.

 

I also appreciated how she had anxiety and suffers from a severe panic attack--this is something I'd like to see more of in books. It fit in with Olivia's character and gave her more merit for being as strong as she is.

 

I adored Caroline Lang, the celebrity of the book whose life is falling apart in a way that greatly parallels Olivia's. Seeing Olivia do her publicity magic was really interesting; she and her assistant had a great grasp of how the public viewed events and how they could effectively turn this around.

 

This was a fabulous light read and I highly recommend it.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4.5 Stars
Beartown/Fredrik Backman
Beartown: A Novel - Fredrik Backman

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream—and the price required to make it come true.

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.

 

Backman has really gone and done it again with this heart-wrenching novel that has characters that will resonate with all readers.

 

"Why does anybody care about hockey? Because it tells stories." I was a little apprehensive when I realised that this book would revolve around hockey; however, some of the characters in this book were apprehensive when they realised that they were living in a town where the world revolved around hockey. There's a character for everyone here.

 

Only about a quarter of the way through I had realised that I was reading a gorgeous depiction of what it meant to be a parent, especially to be a mother. A striking scene was one mother counting her children at night, remembering to include the one that was in heaven. Little did I realise how much more intense it would get before the end.

 

The myriad of characters in this book was absolutely delightful and while I am normally horrid at remembering a main character's name, I kept everyone in this book straight because they were all so distinctly important and memorable. Benji was definitely my favourite but in their own ways they all had really sweet or interesting aspects to them.

 

This tells such an important tale about people's priorities and the way that they will see certain events. It battles a huge topic but depicts it with thoughtful accuracy. It portrayed the reasoning behind these perspectives without ever justifying them. The ultimate ending was interpretive yet satisfying.

 

I loved this book mainly for its class commentary and for the way it depicted hope, trust in adult figures, and the way that kids are forced to grow up. This is a must-read.

 

This is Backman's best work yet and is ever so important.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
3.5 Stars
One Perfect Lie/Lisa Scottoline
One Perfect Lie - Lisa Scottoline

A handsome stranger moves to the small Pennsylvania town of Central Valley, and his name is Chris Brennan. He’s applying for a job as a teacher and varsity baseball coach at the local high school, and he looks perfect, on paper. But his name is an alias, his resume is false, and everything about him is a lie. And he has a secret plan - for which he needs a pawn on the baseball team.

Susan Sematov loves her younger son Raz, the quirky and free-spirited pitcher of the team. But Raz’s adored father died only a few months ago, and the family is grief-stricken. Secretly, Raz is looking to fill the Daddy-shaped hole in his heart.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who’s dedicated to her only son Justin, the quiet rookie on the team. But Justin’s shy and reserved nature renders him vulnerable to attention, including that of a new father-figure.

Mindy Kostis is the wife of a busy surgeon and the queen bee of the baseball boosters, where her super-popular son Evan is the star catcher. But she doesn’t realize that Evan’s sense of entitlement is becoming a full-blown case of affluenza, and after he gets his new BMW, it’s impossible to know where he’s going – or whom he’s spending time with.

The lives of these families revolve around the baseball team – and Chris Brennan. What does he really want? How far will he go to get it? Who among them will survive the lethal jeopardy threatening them, from the shadows?

 

Well, this book really surprised me time after time. Scotterline has a knack for thrilling books that also present some interesting thought about life, and this was indeed the case here.

 

And this one definitely threw me for a total loop. I'm used to not being able to guess what will happen in a book; however, I'm not used to books crossing over to entirely different genres than I thought they were in.

 

Chris as a character had much more depth to him than I initially thought. The way that his background led him to be the type of person he was really sad to read about but made him a more well-rounded person. At first, I definitely thought that he'd be pretty flat and predictable, but he was far from it, and the kind of psychopathic tendencies he had were fabulous.

 

I can't say I adore Scottoline's writing style; there's something a little bit too fatalistic to it though I can't place my finger on why. However, the curves this threw me for (one so much so that I had to reread five pages to make sure I hadn't missed something) were a lot of fun. Still, though there was some gore, I didn't feel completely on edge.

 

There were politics to this also that were intriguing. I'm not going to add much more so as not to spoil anything, but yeah.

 

This is a pretty solid thriller. Would recommend.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2 Stars
The Idea of You/Amanda Prowse
The Idea of You - Amanda Prowse

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

 

This book just did not do it for me, unfortunately. I found it melodramatic and never became invested.

 

Let me start off by rewriting the blurb for this book: 40-year-old Lucy, recently married to successful car salesman Jonah, is upset when her new stepdaughter moves in for the summer, interrupting her desire to conceive a healthy baby after several miscarriages.

 

By ten percent in, I was bored and wanted to move onto another book. There's a "twist" near to the end of this one that the book builds up to through little asides. I wasn't impressed. I think I was supposed to be more so, but I hadn't realised that there was a mystery, so I was kind of like "oh okay cool."

 

I honestly just could not with Lucy. She makes me feel like a bad person because I should be sympathetic towards her, but I instead thought that she was melodramatic and selfish, always caring about herself. I can in no way relate to the pain of a miscarriage. But her friend could! And when her friend mentioned that she had had a miscarriage, Lucy's like "I don't care." Ugh.

 

Camille was the saving grace of this book and the one thing that made reading this not a complete drag. She's a teenager and she's very true to character. Her background ties into the way she acts, and I loved seeing her change around different people. She's melodramatic, too, just like Jonah and Lucy are, but she owns it. She works it. She is it. Lucy and Jonah are pretending to act like adults while secretly being super melodramatic which was boring.

 

I swear, the author mentioned at least ten times that Jonah likes soft rock and Lucy likes eighties. It was cute the first time. It was cute when Camille then joked about it. It was aggravating the third through tenth times. There were a lot of factors like this (I get it, chicken Kiev is a family joke...), a lot of tropes that were just endless. Poor Lucy, poor Lucy, poor Lucy. I want to see her stand up and appreciate something for once or do something good for the world other than bemoaning her life.

 

If you've been trying for a child or have considered adoption, this might be for you. Maybe even if you're a mother you'll have more of a heart or this than I did. If not, then I don't recommend this.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3 Stars
Letters to the Lost/Brigid Kemmerer
Letters to the Lost - Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

 

I didn’t find this to be a particularly outstanding YA but it was very sweet and an easy read.

 

The book is predictable in the typical manner of YA romances, though it did have some depth to it. I enjoyed hearing the way that Juliet and Declan challenged each other’s stereotypes and found the way they grew as a result to be heartwarming. Though it does follow the good girl goes for bad guy archetype, it did so enjoyably.

 

The strongest point of this was really their parents—Declan’s relationship with his stepfather evolved in a thoughtful way and their interactions felt extremely real. Similarly, Juliet’s dealing with her grief over her mother and the decisions she had made was insightful. These aspects really made the book a strong read.

 

If you’re looking for an easy read, this is a good choice.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3 Stars
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley/Hannah Tinti
The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley: A Novel - Hannah Tinti

A father protects his daughter from the legacy of his past—and the truth about her mother’s death—in this thrilling new novel from the prize-winning author of The Good Thief.

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter, Loo, to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife’s hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother’s mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past—a past that eventually spills over into his daughter’s present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. This father-daughter epic weaves back and forth through time and across America, from Alaska to the Adirondacks. Both a coming-of-age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the cost we pay to protect the people we love most.

 

Eloquently written, this book was lyrical and lovely yet for some reason I was never fully captivated.

 

The web of characters was well twined--from Loo's principal to her grandmother, I felt like they all fit into the web of a greater picture. Each had their own clear motives and intriguing backstories and in my opinion that was the most successful element of this book.

 

The timeline in which it is told works very well, and I had a lot of fun piecing together thoughts from the past and the present and seeing how pieces of the puzzle fittogether. In this regard, it's almost a mystery in that I was guessing while reading about how Hawley had come to be as he was, and about the mysteries of Lily's life.

 

This book contained a lot more action than I normally read, with violence and epic chases and very many guns. The latter was lost on me as I can barely tell a revolver from a shotgun, but the book definitely kept moving with a lot of excitement.

 

I have never had a child, yet I feel like this book was one of few that gave me a glimpse into the all-consuming love that parents have for children. The author portrayed this magnificently throughout various characters--normally I feel as though it is assumed that I understand this love, but this book actually showed me.

 

Yet I was never truly captivated by this book, and I put it down to read others and was easily able to forget about it. It didn't captivate me as much as I thought that it would. I liked the characters, but didn't love them. I was intrigued by the how Hawley had ended up in the present, but not enough that it kept me thinking after I closed the book.

 

I definitely recommend this, even though I failed to fall in love with it.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
4 Stars
The Promise Girls/Marie Bostwick
The Promise Girls - Marie Bostwick

Every child prodigy grows up eventually. For the Promise sisters, escaping their mother’s narcissism and the notoriety that came with her bestselling book hasn’t been easy. Minerva Promise claimed that her three “test tube” daughters—gifted pianist Joanie, artistic Meg, and storyteller Avery—were engineered and molded to be geniuses. In adulthood, their modest lives fall far short of her grand ambitions. But now, twenty years after the book’s release, she hopes to redeem herself by taking part in a new documentary.

Meg, who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in years, adamantly refuses to participate, until a car accident leaves her with crushing medical bills. While she recuperates in Seattle, the three sisters reluctantly meet with filmmaker Hal Seeger, another former prodigy. Like them, he’s familiar with the weight of failed potential. But as he digs deeper, he uncovers secrets they’ve hidden from each other—and a revelation that will challenge their beliefs, even as it spurs them to forge their own extraordinary lives at last.

 

This book had a lot of heart and a lot of spunk and really drew me in.

 

I envisioned this to be a simple but unspectacular read and was surprised by how deeply I felt towards the characters and the extent to which they enveloped me.

 

The plot contained a little bit of a mystery, some strings that hadn't previously been pulled together that eventually came out in a very satisfying way. This increased my intrigue while reading and really kept my interest peaked.

 

Meg suffers from memory loss in her car accident. Usually this medical condition is extremely gimmicky, but Bostwick did a fabulous job of making this poignant and relevant. I loved seeing the way that she was able to revaluate her life and develop new relationships with her daughter and her husband.

 

The documentary that Hal creates adds another lens to the book that really works. Again, this could have been gimmicky, but the layer this contributed was immensely satisfying and I loved viewing the way that he created things.

 

The family dynamics of the book were gorgeous. All the characters were very different, normal but extremely quirky. They were rational and made decisions that for them made sense and I felt like by the end these people were friends I would have in real life--kind of all over the place, but spirited and alive. From the two teenagers and their teenage angst to motherly Joanie and sporadic Avery, I really fell in love with them all.

 

This book was absolutely adorable and I recommend it highly. Definitely going to look for more of Bostwick's books.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review
4 Stars
Waking Gods/Sylvain Neuvel
Waking Gods: Book 2 of The Themis Files - Sylvain Neuvel

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she's dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer now than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.
 
Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.

 

While I preferred the first book, this was a stunning sequel.

 

I have issues with series. I like to bingeread them. Even with the absolute best series, if I've forgotten the plot, I won't be excited about it. Though I knew I that I'd enjoy this, I put off reading this one because I kept meaning to go back and reread the first, which I loved, but then I found myself on a plane with no WiFi and sick of thrillers, so.

 

This book, however, could be read without the first and stand alone fine. It would be better, of course, to read the two in a row, but it would work. There was only one real act of deus ex machina that ruined the continuity, and, quite frankly, kind of ruined a lot of the believability for me as well as causing me to kind of be less invested or fearful of death.

 

Neuvel's writing style is still gorgeous and it caught me immediately. I enjoy the file aspect still, though I felt that this brought in fewer perspectives than the previous book. There are some points where it can be a tad confusing to follow dialogue without any tags, but I think that the payoff is worth it. When reading about "military squirrel applications" doesn't phase you, you know you have a winner.

 

I have no idea how the end worked. Well, perhaps an idea, but no certain knowledge or comprehension of how it operated. It was extremely exciting to read and I was on my toes throughout, but the actual concept of it went over my head. I'm not sure if that was because of the science aspect or if it just wasn't worth my brainpower.

 

Kara and Vincent are my favourites and are super cute for a science fiction novel. I love the personalities of the characters all the way through and how they deal with family and the idea of bringing kids up in the world.

 

Some of this book was confusing and I'm not exactly sure of how some characters came in, but this worked and was a gripping read.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
It Happens All the Time/Amy Hatvany
It Happens All the Time: A Novel - Amy Hatvany

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have been best friends since they were teenagers—trusting and depending on each other through some of the darkest periods of their young lives. And while Amber has always felt that their relationship is strictly platonic, Tyler has long harbored the secret desire that they might one day become more than friends.

Returning home for the summer after her college graduation, Amber begins spending more time with Tyler than she has in years. Despite the fact that Amber is engaged to her college sweetheart, a flirtation begins to grow between them. One night, fueled by alcohol and concerns about whether she’s getting married too young, Amber kisses Tyler.

What happens next will change them forever.

In alternating points of view, It Happens All the Time examines the complexity of sexual dynamics between men and women and offers an incisive exploration of gender roles, expectations, and the ever-timely issue of consent.

 

Ugh, this book was so important and covered such an important and rare perspective that although I didn't actually like it that much, I so highly recommend it.

 

Hatvany does an extraordinary good job of transitioning between sections. The book is told from two perspectives across multiple stretches of time, and although the chapters didn't indicate explicitly which part of the year they were being told from, it was always completely clear to me, which I found to be incredibly effective. I didn't get lost ever and I felt like the author guided me very clearly through the story.

 

I think this book is important. I think it tackles huge topics. I think Tyler's perspective sheds so much light on similar people's thought processes. I think today's society needs this book.

 

But I didn't appreciate the events that prompted the ending. I didn't like how one incident, the one that opens the book, influenced my entire thinking. I would have liked to have seen the actions that one character would have taken had he not had this outside event impacting him. And for me, that seriously detracted from the book.

 

And I didn't find Tyler's character to be as sympathetic as perhaps I was supposed to. His friendship with Amber as he grew up didn't strike me as particularly meaningful. I wished Amber had reached out and found other friends, and I felt like when she was at university, she would have.

 

Mainly, I just never get particularly engrossed in this book. It was easy enough to read, but even though Amber was an extremely motivated and well-rounded character, the type I normally love, I found it hard to really get involved, and I felt like there were many points where I could have stopped reading and simply forgotten about the book.

 

So I recommend this book, I do, because it's important. But I think it could have been better executed.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2.5 Stars
If Not For You/Debbie Macomber
If Not for You: A Novel - Debbie Macomber

An emotionally stirring novel that shows how obstacles can be overcome, differences can be strengths, and sometimes a choice can seem wrong even though it’s absolutely right

If not for her loving but controlling parents, Beth Prudhomme might never have taken charge of her life and moved from her native Chicago to Portland, Oregon, where she’s reconnected with her spirited Aunt Sunshine and found a job as a high school music teacher. If not for her friend Nichole, Beth would never have met Sam Carney, although first impressions have left Beth with serious doubts. Sam is everything Beth is not—and her parents’ worst nightmare: a tattooed auto mechanic who’s rough around the edges. Reserved and smart as a whip, Beth isn’t exactly Sam’s usual beer-drinking, pool-playing type of woman, either.

But if not for an awkward setup one evening, Beth might never have left early and been involved in a car crash. And if not for Sam—who witnessed the terrifying ordeal, rushed to her aid, and stayed with her until help arrived—Beth might have been all alone, or worse. Yet as events play out, Sam feels compelled to check on Beth almost daily at the hospital—even bringing his guitar to play songs to lift her spirits. Soon their unlikely friendship evolves into an intense attraction that surprises them both.

Before long, Beth’s strong-willed mother, Ellie, blows into town spouting harsh opinions, especially about Sam, and reopening old wounds with Sunshine. When shocking secrets from Sam’s past are revealed, Beth struggles to reconcile her feelings. But when Beth goes a step too far, she risks losing the man and the life she’s come to love.

 

Maybe I'm at the point where I've read too many Macomber novels, but this one just didn't quite sit right with me. I expect to be completely absorbed by her books, but instead I found myself rolling my eyes.

 

The conflicts between Sam and Beth felt really juvenile. I never had any doubt about whether they'd stay together. Sam acts like a grumpy bear and Beth takes it all in stride. And, spoiler alert, he has another woman's name tattooed across his chest. He is portrayed as kind of a playboy, but hadn't explained that to anyone until Beth. I don't buy it. He holds double standards to her and is passive aggressive when he has a problem. Sure, I'd buy their relationship long term, but they needed to work on it and grow together.

 

I couldn't help agreeing with Beth's mother when she commented on how Beth's spreading her wings led her straight into the arms of another saviour. I wish we had seen more of Beth moving to start with, about her getting her own job and teaching. There was a pair of students mentioned twice that I would have loved to see more of that would have given Beth more of her own personality.

 

And maybe I'm not the romantic I was, but I found it terribly challenging to believe the Sunshine subplot, of two very smart and capable people holding flames for thirty years over a relationship that lasted less than a year.

 

I wasn't a big fan of Macomber in a city setting. Her writing thrives with small communities where everyone knows each other. Here, she writes about Portland and Chicago but it feels like it could be absolutely anywhere else. Though I appreciate her branching out, I wish she had done more research into the feel of the cities to really capture the environment.

 

The role of the female in this book was another issue I had. There was very much the sentiment of thinking that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has children or love, preferably both. And that just drives me up the wall. There's talk about the independence of having a job, but the general sentiment is that a woman must have a man to be happy, and that really bothers me.

 

If you generally like Macomber, you'll probably enjoy this. I absolutely adored her last book and was really excited for this one, but I found it falling into the typical tropes of her older books.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3 Stars
Next Year, For Sure/Zoey Leigh Peterson
Next Year, for Sure: A Novel - Zoey Leigh Peterson

In this moving and enormously entertaining debut novel, longtime romantic partners Kathryn and Chris experiment with an open relationship and reconsider everything they thought they knew about love.

After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another’s sentences, and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman—certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance.

As Kathryn and Chris stumble into polyamory, Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris’s romance with Emily grows beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new romantic possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris will be forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.

Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey L. Paterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining, Next Year, For Sure shows us what lies at the mysterious heart of relationships, and what true openness and transformation require.

 

This was a rather intriguing story with an ending I very much enjoyed.

 

The writing was challenging. It had little punctuation, with no quotation marks offsetting speech ever. While I think this can be an incredibly effective technique, it distracted from the actual premise of the book. Instead of adding meaning to the story, it made it feel as though the author were trying to be overly literary.

 

Emily as a character felt too perfect. I wanted her to screw up, to do something wrong, but she instead continually did what one would expect her to be doing as the perfect version of her character type would.

 

Kathryn felt a tad uninvited, and I was sad for her, too. She had lost friends because of a previous relationship and it took this book to see her really socialise again and even then she lost one of the few people who she had been close to prior. Reading about her felt a little bit depressing.

 

I really appreciated the honesty in Kathryn and Chris's relationship. It was refreshing to see characters talk about their crushes on other people and to understand that love isn't always linear. I was almost disappointed by the ending though I think it was well deserved.

 

If the concept really intrigues you, read this book, but despite enjoying the plot I found the actual telling to be dry.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
3.5 Stars
Close Enough to Touch/Colleen Oakley
Close Enough to Touch: A Novel - Colleen Oakley

One time a boy kissed me and I almost died...

And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a young woman with a rare and debilitating medical condition: she’s allergic to other humans. After a humiliating near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become a recluse, living the past nine years in the confines of the small town New Jersey house her unaffectionate mother left to her when she ran off with a Long Island businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world—and the people in it—that she’s been hiding from.

One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage who is no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son, Eric’s struggling to figure out how his life got so off-course, and how to be the dad—and man—he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee, with a unique condition...

An evocative, poignant, and heartrending exploration of the power and possibilities of the human heart.

 

Though strange, this was a sweet book with an ending I adored that kept me engaged.

 

The concept of a woman who is allergic to people was quite fascinating, and I was impressed by the amount of research the author must have done in order to gain an understanding of the topic. It felt well researched and the challenges seemed quite realistic. I wasn't quite as skeptical of everything as I thought I would be.

 

I expected that there would be more to learn from this book than there was. Jubilee adjusted surprisingly well to society, and where I thought there would be more conflict, quite a few things went well for her. The biggest conflict was indeed the romance which seemed like a bit of a lost opportunity.

 

Eric's son was probably my favourite character of the book--though a middle school aged boy, he was an absolute delight and I was amused by his interactions with various characters. I think there was a lot to be gained by seeing his relationships with the adults and how they interacted with him. I also loved Jubilee's friend and the way their acquaintance evolved.

 

The ending of this was superbly written. Unlike other romances, I was never quite sure exactly how it would end, but it did a lovely job of wrapping up previous aspects of the story and bringing them together.

 

I recommend this to those looking for a chick-flick read with a little more depth.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
2.5 Stars
Gardenia/Kelsey Sutton
Gardenia - Kelsey Sutton

Kelsey Sutton, winner of a Best Teen Book Award from Kirkus, pens a suspenseful, heartfelt young adult novel, perfect for the readership of Rachel Ward and Kimberly Derting.

Seventeen-year-old Ivy Erickson has one month, twenty-seven days, four hours, fifty-nine minutes, and two seconds to live. Thoughtful and brooding, Ivy has been harboring a secret her entire life—she can see countdown clocks over everyone’s heads, watching their life grow closer and closer to the end with each passing second. She can’t do anything about anyone else’s clock, nor can she do anything about her own, approaching a zero hour before she even graduates high school. A life cut short is tragic, but Ivy tries to make the most of it. She struggles emotionally with her deep love for on-again, off-again boyfriend Myers Patripski. She struggles financially, working outside of school to help her mom and her sister escape the realities of trailer park life. And she struggles to discover who murdered her best friend, another life she couldn’t save. Vanessa Donovan was murdered in the woods, and everyone in town believes it is Ivy who did it. In what time she has left, Ivy must put her own life in order as she pieces together the truth of who ended Vanessa’s.

 

This book was a lovely excuse to not get out of bed all afternoon, though I did have Nickelback's Savin' Me stuck in my head the entire time...

 

A delightful mystery, I found myself in suspense through most of the book, which was quite realistic despite the supernatural elements. Ivy's bitter cynicism was ironically a breath of fresh air and I found her voice to be quite unique, for YA. She showed herself to be secretly, underneath it all, optimistic, and I felt like she'd be someone I'd really want to get to know in real life.

 

The romance was thrilling. I didn't analytically think it would be good due to my detesting of instalove, but the way Ivy talked about her significantly-more-off-than-on boyfriend Myers had my stomach in butterflies. Their history comes out slowly, but it's clear that the emotions Ivy feels are incredibly deep.

 

I loved the setting of this book. I loved that Ivy lived in a trailer park. I loved that her sister ran a website for men in order to have an income. I loved the nitty gritty elements of the family struggling yet, in one scene, each taking a day off to go bowling together. (Also, they have a parrot. Many kudos to the parrot.) I loved Ivy's art and the role it played.

 

A true suspense, I didn't see the ending coming until it happened. This was a mystery alongside a coming-of-age story and I was intrigued to read about how Ivy found clues and eventually came to the conclusion she did.

 

This was solid. Not spectacular, and I felt like there were some deaths that were glossed over, but a solid way to pass an afternoon, and I recommend for YA fans.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review
1.5 Stars
Beautiful Broken Girls/Kim Savage
Beautiful Broken Girls - Kim  Savage

After two teenage sisters, Mira and Francesca, drown themselves in a neighborhood quarry, their next-door neighbor Ben receives post-mortem letters from Mira. This letter challenges Ben to track down the hidden, cryptic notes hidden in seven places alluding to where the two secretly touched. As Ben uncovers each note, he starts to unravel the hidden lies and secrets that these girls kept, and just how complicated their bonds with the outside world were.

 

This one fell flat. What did I just read? I'm not entirely sure. Lovely premise, but I think this author would find some talents with poetry over pose.

 

I'm still confused about Francesca and her role in the world. She has a strange relationship with a teacher and a strange relationship with her father, and just a strange overall personality. I'm not sure if she made the book fall into a fantastical world or if it was real world with religion, but I was just confused.

 

I never grew emotionally attached to Ben. He doesn't seem very emotional himself, so I never really deemed him worthy of becoming emotionally attached to. His background is unique, but is mentioned as a trope and I'm not really sure how it exactly contributes to this book. I don't really see why he's so obsessed with Mira; their relationship isn't really developed, although she does remember him after death.

 

At the beginning, I tried hard to pay attention because I feel like all the extraneous minor details probably have some purpose and were all connected to a bigger theme or symbol, but I got pretty bored relatively quickly and it took me a long time to get through.

 

Perhaps I simply missed the deeper message of this book, but I found it a chore to get through. Unfortunately, Savage's writing is not for me.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.