Monday, December 29, 2014

Down River by John Hart

Adam Chase hasn't been back home to Rowan County, North Carolina in over five years.  After being tried for a murder and found not guilty, he left his hometown and moved to New York City to start over. Just when he thought he had left his past behind, Adam receives a mysterious phone call from his closest friend asking him to come back home and help him with a situation he refuses to expound upon. Adam finally makes the journey home after spending weeks trying to decide if he could ever face the demons he left behind. Within hours of returning, Adam is beaten up and is forced to confront family and friends he hasn't spoken to since he moved away.  To make things worse, crimes begin happening on his family farm and many citizens of the county immediately turn to Adam as the prime suspect.   

My Thoughts: 
Down River is the story of a sleepy southern town that is definitely not lacking in excitement. This "who done it?" novel is sure to keep you guessing.  John Hart, a lawyer from Rowan County where most of his novels take place, is an excellent storyteller and does a fantastic job keeping his readers in suspense as his stories unfold.   If you are in the mood for an easy mystery read, Down River will not disappoint! 

*Also check out Hart's novel Iron House

Monday, December 22, 2014

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Big Little Lies is the story of three very different women whose children attend the same preschool. One is a gorgeous, wealthy woman with the perfect set of twins. Another is an all around great mom who really seems to have it all together, except for the fact that her teenage daughter chooses to live with her father. And the third is a quiet (and a bit mysterious) single mother that just doesn't quite fit in. Circumstances throw the three together and they become fast friends as they help each other navigate the tricky social dilemmas of preschool moms.

From the beginning of the story we know that one of the characters will end up dead. The fun of the story is getting there. As Moriarty uses her wit and craft to attach you to each character you have to keep reminding yourself that someone is not going to make it. Ultimately it's a story that shows us that we all tell lies- big and little- to others and more often to ourselves.

I enjoyed the story very much. Just when you think the book is about to get predictable, a twist shows up in perfect timing. There are a few little mysteries that start from the very beginning and leave you searching for the answers throughout the story right alongside the characters. I thought the ending may have wrapped up a little too neatly, but in this age of constant trilogies it felt kind of nice to just read a book and let it end cleanly. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Seventeen year old Mia has a pretty great life.  She has a loving family, a great boyfriend, and is pretty sure she will be accepted to Juilliard for the fall semester. On one unexpected snow day, her family decides to go for a drive and everything changes.  They are hit head on by an oncoming vehicle and Mia is the lone survivor.  Shortly after the accident Mia realizes that she is having an "out of body" experience as she witnesses her comatose body being loaded into the ambulance.  As her extended family members and friends gather at the hospital waiting for her to wake, Mia has to decide if she actually wants to go on living.   
My Thoughts:  
I have wanted to read a Gayle Forman book for a while and decided on this one since the movie is coming out later this summer.  Maybe it was because I had pretty high expectations, but I was a little disappointed.  While I don't want to give away the ending, I felt that it really left me hanging.  I also had a hard time with the concept of Mia walking around in a ghost-like form trying to decide if she wanted to live or die.  While I believe that many young adult novels can be enjoyed by people of all ages, I am coming to find that some are just not for me as an adult.  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Cadence Sinclair-Eastman, known as Cady, has grown up in a wealthy, prestigious family. Every summer her whole family heads out to a private island to vacation.  Cady's cousins plus a family acquaintance (The Liars)  are her companions each summer.  Cady looks forward to spending the summer with them until one summer when everything goes wrong.  All she can remember about that summer is that she was in some sort of accident.  Convinced that she had a swimming accident where she hit her head on a rock, Cady can't understand why her mother won't let her return to the island the following summer.  Two summers later, Cady's mother believes she might be ready to return and see her family.  Everything seems normal, until Cady begins to remember little pieces of what really happened the summer of the accident. 

My Thoughts:
We Were Liars is an extremely well written novel.  From the beginning, I knew that something wasn't right about Cady's story.  As things began to unravel, the book became more and more intriguing.  I would definitely categorize this novel as a mystery, but it also focuses a lot on the dynamics of Cady's family.  I am hesitant to say too much about the story line because this is definitely a book where you don't want to give away the ending.  Those of you who turn to the back of a book and read the last chapter before reading the rest of the story, let me implore you to not do that with this book. Let the ending be a surprise.  You won't regret it. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

After a terrorist attack, thirteen-year-old Theo Decker is left orphaned and the sole guardian of a small painting that was placed in his hands after the explosion. Unable to part with the painting because it is the only connection he has left to his mother, Theo hides it away as he navigates the twists and turns of his new orphaned life. The book follows Theo's journey into adulthood where the book takes a dangerous turn into the underworld of art. 

The Goldfinch is the recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize and was also hailed as one of Amazon's most important books to read. The book is long, ringing in at over 800 pages, so if you decide to read it be sure you are up to the task.

I have heard so many mixed reviews of this book. I don't think anyone can argue that it isn't well-written. Tart is best known for weaving long intricate stories. This one reads like a large meal that you have to sit back and digest for awhile. Interestingly, I truly disliked this book until I took time to discuss it with my book club. After really dissecting the pieces of the story, I have to agree with all the praise it is receiving. On a personal level, I couldn't really find one character that I liked or could relate to and I felt that parts of the story were too detailed and cause the momentum to lag, which can really feel defeating in such a long book. However, the themes of the story are very real and moving. 

My only real advice on this one is that if you decide to take it on, don't quit halfway through. If you start it, hang on to the end. It's worth the closure you will feel from it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A.J. Fikry is an independent book store owner in the small town of Alice Island.  After purchasing the book store with his wife, things don't quite turn out as he expected.  His wife dies in a car accident and A.J. finds himself turning into an angry man prone to drinking his cares away.  To top it off, his extremely valuable copy of Edgar Allen Poe's Tamerlane and Other Poems is stolen right from underneath his nose.  As time passes, A.J. comes to find that he has isolated himself from almost everyone in Alice Island.  His only regular acquaintances are his late wife's sister, Ismay, and Lambiase, the police officer looking for his stolen book.  

A.J.'s life changes drastically when he returns from an evening run to find that a baby has been left in his store with only a note from its mother including the baby's name: Maya.  While initially annoyed, A.J. comes to see that Maya may be what saves him from his own demise.   

My Thoughts:
This heartwarming story by Gabrielle Zevin is a must read for book lovers.  Even in his angry phase, A.J.'s ability to pick out the right book for the right reader is fascinating.  A.J.'s love for books and stories help him through a difficult time and his ability to share his love of books with others eventually bring people back into his lonely life.  Filled with heartache, laughter, and love, Gabrielle has written a story that is sure to be passed along from reader to reader.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Middle aged Georgie's marriage is in trouble.  She has known this for a while, but hasn't been sure what to do about it.  Georgie's husband, Neal, is still madly in love with her but doesn't know how to deal with her crazy work schedule. Just a few days before Georgie and Neal plan to take their kids to Omaha to visit family for Christmas, Georgie backs out because of a big project at work.  Neal takes the kids and heads for Omaha anyways and Georgie is sure she has ruined things for good.

Being alone brings all of her family problems to the forefront and Georgie has no other option but to face them head on.  Not wanting to be alone, Georgie ends up staying at her mother's in her old bedroom.  Her cell phone is on the fritz so she decides to use the landline.  When she is finally able to get in touch with Neal, she realizes that the Neal she is speaking to isn't from the present, but is a past version of her husband.  This "magic" landline may be just the thing to save their marriage. 

My Thoughts: 

If you have read any of my other Rainbow Rowell reviews, you know that I am a big fan.  She currently has one adult (Attachments) and two young adult books (Eleanor and Park and Fangirl) published.  Needless to say I was extrememly anxious to get my hands on this newest book of hers.  It is not set to release until July 2014 and I planned to not write my review of it until closer to that date, but I just couldn't wait to share this book with fellow readers.  This is probably my favorite of her four books.  I think it is probably because I am close to Georgie's age and married.  Georgie and Neal deal with real life issues that many married couples face. Sometimes love just doesn't feel like enough, and working through those issues can be hard.  I love how Georgie and Neal decide that fighting for their marriage is worth the work. 

If you haven't read Rainbow's other books, I defintely recommend reading those while you wait for Landline to be released in July! 

Friday, February 7, 2014

One Plus One by JoJo Moyes

Jess Thomas is a single mom just trying to get by.  Her ten year old daughter, Tanzie, is a math genius whose only wish is to attend an elite school for math.  Jess' teenage stepson, Nicky, wears eyeliner and is constantly bullied by neighborhood kids. Jess works two jobs to support Tanzie and Nicky after her husband decided to leave her to find something better.  When the dean at the math school tells Jess about a math competition with a prize that would pay for Tanzie's first year at school, Jess concocts a plan to get them all (including their enormous dog Norman) to the competition.  

When Jess' plan fails, they are left stranded on the side of the rode only to be picked up by one of her cleaning clients.  Because his life has basically fallen apart, Ed decides to give them a ride to the competition.  Three long days of traveling offer up the occasion for Jess and Ed to really get to know one another and both are surprised by what they find. 

My Thoughts:  
In this much anticipated novel, Jojo tells a very unconventional love story.  Ed and Jess live in two different worlds and are thrown together unexpectedly.  True to Jojo's style, she tells a love story that isn't just fluff, but has well developed characters and a plot that will keep you reading all night long.  

Note: I received an advance release copy of this book via Edelweiss. The U.S. expected release date is July 1, 2014.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen

Due to some very bad behavior, Andrew Yancey has been demoted from police investigator to health inspector. In a related incident, Yancey also has an arm in his freezer. How the arm got there is explainable, but what he can't explain is who it belonged to and how it became unattached. Yancey believes that if he can solve this mystery he might just get his spot back with the Monroe County Sheriff's department. With an unbelievable cast of characters, Andrew Yancey sets out on an adventure that is entertaining, hilarious, and suspenseful.  
The characters in this book are charmingly bizarre, each one more flawed than the next. Hiaasen does an excellent job of writing people that could be real people if they weren't in such an unusual situation. I found the mystery of the story delightful, and for once I truly did not figure out "whodunnit" until it was revealed to me.  I kept wondering how this ever-growing cast of characters were going to relate to one another, and Hiassen did a masterful job of weaving them all together. Bad Monkey is an entertaining read for lovers of the odd, funny, (possibly a little offensive), and mysterious.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes

The Girl You Left Behind begins in 1916 France when Sophie Lefevre is left by her husband, Edouard, to go and fight in the war.  Not wanting to be alone, Sophie moves back to her hometown to live with her sister and brother in their family owned and operated hotel.  Not long after her return home, her town is occupied by Germans and their hotel is commissioned to serve dinner to the soldiers every night. Hanging in the lobby of the hotel is a portrait of Sophie painted by Edouard.  Against better judgement, Sophie refuses to remove the painting and insists that in remain on the walls as a reminder of her husband.  The beautiful painting quickly catches the eye of the local German Kommandant and recognizing his fascination with her, Sophie risks her own life and the lives of her family in attempts to be reconciled with her husband.  

Almost a century later, the painting of Sophie hangs on the wall in Liv's home. The painting has become something that she truly cherishes, as it was given to her as a gift by her late husband. Nearly four years after his death, Liv is struggling to pay her mortgage and is knee deep in debt. One evening when in the pit of despair, Liv heads to a gay bar (in hopes that no one will bother her) to drink her sorrows away.  While in a drunken state her purse is stolen and she receives assistance from Paul, an ex-cop, who now specializes in returning art that was stolen during wartime to its rightful owners.  

The Girl You Left Behind is a dual-time narrative that tells the story of two women living in completely different worlds connected only by a painting.  

My Thoughts: 
Jojo Moyes has managed to capture me once again. In this novel, she beautifully tells the story of two women wanting to find love or love lost.  She weaves historical fiction in with the present day and shows how stories of the past are truly important.  Fans of historical fiction will not want to pass this one over. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Longbourn by Jo Baker

In the novel Longbourn, Jo Baker takes the setting and plot of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and re-imagines the story by focusing in on the lives of the servantry.  Downstairs at Longbourn, the housekeeper, Mrs. Hill, lives with her husband who acts as both butler and chauffeur.   Longbourn also employs Sarah, ladies' maid to Elizabeth and her sisters, and Polly, who helps with many different chores around the estate.  The servants spend their days washing clothes, scrubbing floors, preparing meals, and attending to the Bennett family.  Things are pretty mundane until a new, mysterious footman arrives.  Sarah is quite curious about James and his past and is determined to find out more about him.  

My Thoughts:
It is apparent that much research went into the creation of this story.  Jo Baker does an amazing job of retelling Pride and Prejudice through the eyes of its servants.  She closely follows Austen's original plot, but gives readers an entirely different perspective.  While I am often skeptical of classical retellings,  I quickly became entranced with the characters in Longbourn and found myself plowing through the novel.  Fans of Downton Abbey are sure to devour this one! 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

As soon as she receives her roommate assignment from UC Berkeley, high school senior Elizabeth shoots off an email to introduce herself to her roommate and figure out all the logistics of rooming together.  While Elizabeth is super excited to converse with her new roommate during the summer months leading up to their freshman year, Lauren does not initially show the same enthusiasm.  Alternating perspectives from both Lauren and Elizabeth give readers a glimpse into the lives of their families. Growing up with a single mom and an estranged father, Elizabeth's home life is very different from Lauren's.  While Elizabeth is a bit envious of Lauren's big family and parents who are not divorced, Lauren is jealous of the time that Elizabeth has to herself without siblings running around.  As the novel progresses and their first face-to-face meeting approaches, both Lauren and Elizabeth realize that having a roommate may not be as easy as they once thought.  

My Thoughts:  
While I am obviously not in the same stage of life as Lauren and Elizabeth, I remember the summer before my freshman year of college and all of the unknowns that went along with those summer months.  This easy to read, face-paced novel is one of those books that you just won't want to put down. I highly recommend it to female teens about to embark into the new world of college and to female adults wanting to reminisce a little. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Flavia de Luce Giveaway!

The new Flavia de Luce novel by Alan Bradley has just been released!  The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the 6th Flavia novel. If you haven't read any of the previously released Flavia novels, be sure to check out our review of the first book: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  While the Flavia novels are part of a series, each one is a story on its own and you could easily jump in with book 6.  If you enjoy mystery mixed with laugher, you will love this series.  Use the widget below to enter. Good luck!