Monday, December 11, 2017

Odd Child Out by Gilly MacMillan

My rating: 3.2

Best friends Noah Sandler, a British boy, and Abdi Mahad, a Somalian refuge, have always been inseparable. But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol's Feeder Canal, Abdi can't--or won't--tell anyone what happened.

Unfortunately, this wasn't as good as the first book in this series. The characters were very flat and one dimensional.  Noah's family is not especially sympathetic and despite having a terminal disease, it was hard to feel compassion for Noah. There was no mystery here ...just the usual refugees are good and white people are bad. I am tired of these political agenda one dimensional books that seem to be all the rage lately. Definitely do not recommend.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

My rating: 4.8

This is about 2 very different Muslim families and how they choose to show/display their Muslim beliefs as well as how they are perceived.  It revolves around three siblings who never knew their jihadist father before his death. When their mother dies, Isma has to step in and raise her younger siblings. They are now 18 years old and Isma is free to leave London and pursue her education in America. She leaves her siblings, twin sister and brother, back in London never imaging what will unfold.

I have to admit that the first 2/3rds of this book dragged in spots for me.  Then the last portion was so riveting I couldn't put it down. After I finished it, I understood why the first portion built so many details that were relevant later on. The ending was ....well, you will have to read it but, I had so many varying thoughts on 'who knew what' with the ending. Wow. I think this would make an amazing book club discussion.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Never Coming Back by Alison McGhee

My rating: 5.0

After being gone more than a decade, Clara is moving back home to the Adirondacks to take care of her mother Tamar. Tamar has early onset Alzheimers.

This is a beautiful slow moving story that is meant to savored. As it unfolds, you flash back and forth between Claire's childhood, college years and present day. You gradually understand the many threads that weave into the years of the mother / daughter relationship as well as Claire's friendship with Brown and Sunshine. This is not an action or plot based book. It is very beautiful, honest and emotional look at the nuances and assumptions that are made and only when re-examined, can we see things differently. I want to rate this higher. Definite 'Best Of'. Incredible writing and I will be buying this for Mum (which is one of the highest accolades a book can get from me).

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

My rating: 3.2

Noa gets pregnant by a Nazi officer and her family tosses her out in disgrace. She is forced to give up her baby and then rescues a Jewish infant out of a boxcar of children headed for a concentration camp. She flees with the baby to a German circus and ends up in a trapeze act and forms a friendship with the other woman.

I wanted to like this better than I did. It is a book about WWII and it had an ok story line. The flaw was in the writing and lack of character development (and perhaps the audio voice?) The characters were flat and not plausible and a lot of the story was VERY contrived. So many details were explained (as apparently readers are stupid and can't think) that it was frustrating. I did enjoy parts of this but there are so many books out there that I wouldn't recommend this one.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Into The Water by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 3.2

Many women have drowned in a river that runs through town. Now another woman turns up dead in the river and her teenage daughter and sister are looking for answers.

This had WAY too many characters for my liking. Still, I went with it and it sort of came together (but not entirely). The pieces I enjoyed were the understanding of miscommunication and needing to make a reality that someone could deal with and also how parents, even when they are wrong, do things to protect their children. Definitely not a must read but then, I didn't care for Girl On The Train either so maybe you will like this one?

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

My Rating: 4.9

Naomi is known as the Child Finder and frequently called in when all other avenues have been exhausted. Madison disappeared when she was 5 years old and her family took her out to a remote wooded area of Oregon to chop down a Christmas tree. Madison would now be eight years old and the family calls in The Child Finder in a last ditch hope of finding their daughter.

This was quietly suspenseful and very well told. Yes, it is heavy and disturbing and yet it is also hauntingly beautiful. There are so many touching scenes including Naomi's childhood with Mrs. Cottle and things that the snowgirl says. Wondrous. I am buying this book for Mum. Stunning writing yet so readable.

Friday, November 24, 2017

The Dog Lived (and So Will I) by Teresa Rhyne

My rating: 4.7

After her two dogs die, Teresa isn't planning on getting another dog but when the adoption agency calls, she finds herself head over heels in love with the most incorrigible Beagle Seamus. When Seamus is diagnosed with cancer and given over a year to live, Teresa and her much younger boyfriend Chris decide to fight it and give Seamus every opportunity.....not knowing that they were preparing Teresa for her upcoming battle with cancer.

How can a book about both a dog and a person getting cancer be funny and uplifting? I have no idea but, Teresa pulled it off. There were a lot of stories in here that had me chuckling out loud. I thought she handled the stories about Chris' parents with such delicacy, honesty and integrity - so well done. This is about love, laughter and life and she nailed all three. Well done.

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth Wein

My rating: 4.6

WARNING: This is not for everyone

Medraut, the eldest son of High King Artos, would-be heir to the British throne—if not for an unfortunate circumstance of birth. Instead, his weak and unskilled half-brother, Lleu, is chosen as successor. Medraut cannot bear the thought of being ruled by the boy who has taken what he believes is rightfully his.

This is nothing like Wein's other novels Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire. There were times while reading this I wasn't sure what I thought or if I was going to stick with it. I am glad that I did. This is a fantasy book with incest and mild S&M (more erotic than explicit) Definitely not what I expected from Wein but she is such a skilled writer and dazzles with her ability write such varied genres - all done fabulously. I will definitely read more in this series.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

My rating: 2.8

Sixth grade Miranda starts receiving mysterious anonymous messages from someone who is able to predict the future.

This is a light book that other than exploring time travel, it really doesn't go anywhere...if that makes sense. I felt there was pointless story lines and a lot of plot holes and, worst of all, I didn't care about any of the characters.. Definitely not the best Y.A. book that I have read.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Second Life by S.J. Watson

My rating: 3.5

When Julia learns that her sister has been murdered, she wants to know why and proceeds to do what she can to research what happened..

This woman makes BAD decision after BAD decision - UGH! If you can get past that, then this is an entertaining book. I am not sure why this book is classified as a thriller as it definitely didn't keep me on the edge of my seat or feel suspenseful. I did like that everything wasn't wrapped up in a bow at the end.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan

My rating: 3.4

17 year old Zoe is a musical prodigy. Three years ago, she was involved in a tragic incident that left three classmates dead. She served her time, and now her mother, Maria, is resolved to keep that devastating fact tucked far away from their new beginning, hiding the past even from her new husband and demanding Zoe do the same.

Tonight Zoe is giving a piano recital when Zoe's past comes rushing into the present and, by the end of the evening, her mother Maria is dead.

Like so many others, I find it difficult to capture my feelings about this book. I enjoyed it. I liked Zoe and some of the other characters. It didn't feel like a thriller. Being told so early that Maria dies but not having much in between that point and the ending it felt anti climatic.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

11/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 3.2

If you could go back in time and change something, what would it be.....JFK's assassination. Jake steps through a portal that takes him back to the era of Ike and Elvis and stop JFK's assassination. Like 'Back To The Future' anything you change has ripple effects on the future.

I felt that this book was written by different authors.  The first portion of the book built the premise of time travel in a very plausible and intriguing way. It taught me things about history/JFK's shooting that I didn't know and yet, every item I googled turned out to be true! I was riveted. Then it felt that the writer changed to someone else and it was horrible. Such minutia of irrelevant detail on characters you don't need to know about and couldn't care less about. The back half dragged horrifically. Where was the editor? This 800+ page book should have been closer to 300 pages. I alternately slogged and skimmed my way through the back half but it never recovered the flow it had in the first half. So sad when the first portion was so enjoyable but I definitely would not recommend.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The River At Night by Erica Ferencik

My rating: 3.4

Four girlfriends go to Maine on a white water rafting trip that goes extremely wrong and turns into them trying to survive. The writer did an amazing job at capturing the white water rafting, the wilderness and try to survive in the woods.

I listened to this book and really enjoyed the voice of the narrator, and the storyline and yet most of the characters felt flat for me. I like the main character Winnie but the rest of them didn't come to life as much for me. While the action does a lot to make up for the lack of character development, I did find that without caring about the characters that the book didn't feel as gripping or suspenseful and I was wanting it to end. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum

Rating: 4.8

It has been two years since Jessie's mother died. Her father is off on a supposed 'business trip' and returns to tell her he has eloped with someone he met online and they are moving from Chicago to LA. The book opens with Jessie having been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son, and to start at a new school where she knows no one.

She gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

I have to admit that when Jessie starts emailing with SN, I wasn't sure if I had bought into the premise but, it didn't take long until I was hooked. I absolutely loved the banter, wit, flirtation and the mix of comedy and tragedy. I think every teen would love this book and I will be getting it for my niece. In the epilogue, when the author said she had also lost her mother when she was 14 years old, I understood that this book was written with passion from a place of having been there - and it showed.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Widows House by Carol Goodman

My rating: 4.7

Hoping to rejuvenate their marriage and their writing careers, Jess and Claire move from Brooklyn back to their college home town in the Hudson Valley. They take a caretaker's job at Riven House, a crumbling estate and the home of their old college writing professor.....that is also haunted. Clare soon hears babies crying at night, sees strange figures in fog at the edge of their property. Clare starts exploring the history of the area and the house and realizes this menacing force that destroys the inhabitants of the estate seems to be after Clare next.

This had me intrigued all throughout the book and, at the end, I was guessing and second guessing as to the angle of the ending.