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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Idiot by Elif Batuman: A Review

When I put The Idiot on my to be read list, I believed that it was going to be a quirky novel with cultural interests.  It is somewhat quirky but Selin's Turkish heritage plays little part in the story and the only references to Turkish culture are about the language.  Selin has just started her freshman year at Harvard and tries to make friends while navigating the strange academic environment.  In a Russian class, she meets Svetlana and the pair become friends while she begins a friendship with Ivan through an email exchange.  Even though the emails coming from Ivan are strange, Selin begins to fall in love with Ivan, even though he already has a girlfriend and is planning on attending graduate school in California a year later. 

I couldn't wrap my head around this book.  There were some funny parts in it and I would say that Batuman has a gift for satire.  Where I fault the book is that it moves so slowly, one can't enjoy the satire.  This reads like a college student's journal, filled with every unimportant detail of her day.  There are too many descriptions of things that have nothing to do with the story and don't move it along.  The  characters were pretty flat and stereotypical but it does add to the satire so it didn't bother me.  The story had potential but it didn't go anywhere.  It was simply too slow for me to enjoy.
                            

Reviews of books like this one:
Who You Think I Am by Camille Laurens
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

This book is available on March 14th and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

The Education of Dixie Dupree by Donna Everhart: A Review

Young Dixie Dupree and her brother AJ, mother, and father live in rural Alabama.  Dixie's relationship with her mother is strained and always has been and Dixie doesn't really know why.  Dixie always seems to drive her mother into a rage and, sometimes, her mother reacts with violence that Dixie is then asked to keep secret to protect the family.  Dixie's mother is originally from New Hampshire and misses home which causes a rift between her and her husband.  When Dixie's father breaks down and winds up severely hurt, Dixie's Uncle Ray pays the family a visit in order to help the family through their troubled times.  Soon, Dixie realizes that Uncle Ray may be in Alabama for his own reasons.      

One of my reading goals for this year was to read more books by local authors.  Considering Everhart was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is about fifteen minutes from where I currently live, I was enticed to read what the book was about.  The synopsis is what hooked me.  I love coming of age stories and this is a great one!

You can really hear the different voices in this novel.  The story is told by eleven-year-old Dixie and it sounds very much like a story told by an eleven-year-old southern girl, albeit one that has been through enough to make her grow up quickly.  The writing will plant you right in the heart of the land of sweet tea, the Piggly Wiggly and the swimming hole.  When you read this book you will feel Dixie's pain and anguish but also her strength and resilience.  The characters were some of the best I have come across.  At first, I felt extremely angry an frustrated at Dixie's mother but she turned out to be a hero in the end, protecting Dixie when it mattered most.

This story can be triggering for some (most) people.  It is about family secrecy but also physical and sexual abuse.  The abuse scenes are detailed and graphic.  They are incredibly hard to read but I do believe that this book is very important.  It is honest about how dysfunctional families tend to operate and how abusers behave.  Everhart is very brave to write about such a horrible part of life in too many families.      

I liked this book and I would recommend it to just about anyone.  Readers that enjoy very complex characters with unique voices will like this book.  Fans of southern fiction will be thrilled with this one.


A Piggly Wiggly in North Carolina
Watch the author describe the book with UNC TV here:





Donna Everhart's second novel, The Road to Bittersweet, is expected to be released in December of 2017.

Reviews of books like this one:
One of the Boys by Daniel Margariel
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
The Child by Fiona Barton

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What's Become of Her by Deb Caletti: A Review

Former editor at a publishing company, Isabelle, has returned to her home and the family airport on a small, tight-knit island after her divorce and mother's death.  While welcoming a client, she meets Henry North, a charismatic professor on sabbatical who is making a go at writing a poetry anthology.  The couple quickly become inseparable even though memories of her ex-husband's infidelity and abusive childhood leave her wounded and slow to warm up.  Professor Weary, an ornithologist, covertly alerts Isabelle through a series of anonymous tips to local police and strange trinkets in the mail that Henry was investigated in relation to, not one, but two deaths of a fiance or spouse.  Unfortunately, Isabelle has already moved in with Henry and Henry has asked Isabelle to marry him.  Will Isabelle be savvy enough, despite Henry's controlling nature and put-downs, to find out what happened to Henry's former wife and fiance before she becomes his third victim?

This story moved very slowly for me.  I kept reading because I thought that the suspense was building and that something amazingly surprising would happen at the end.  Something surprising did happen at the end but I can't say that it was amazing.  I enjoyed the lesson on bird behavior but it did add to the slowness of this book.  The story had real potential but it just fell flat with the lack-luster ending and the building of suspense that ended up going nowhere, leaving one bored.  The characters were rather flat.  I didn't see Henry as the twisted character that he could have been and I also didn't see Isabelle as particularly savvy.  The only character who ended up surprising me was Sarah.  I did like that the themes of the banality of evil and that people can evolve and become someone they didn't know that they could were addressed but the examples of it in the book were not well told.  Rather, the themes were spelled out literally instead of being interwoven into the story.  I didn't really like this book as it just wasn't as exciting or surprising as I would have hoped it would have been.  I think it would be a good book for a reader who enjoys reading mostly romance novels but would like to take a break from them with a mystery or thriller that is not too suspenseful. 

Watch a book trailer for Deb Caletti's book He's Gone:

 

Reviews of books like this one:
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner
I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Marlena by Julie Buntin: A Review

Buntin's Marlena is how a coming of age story is supposed to be told!  Fifteen-year-old Cat has moved to an economically depressed area with her mother and brother after her father leaves for a younger woman.  Her new next door neighbor is Marlena, a seventeen-year-old who lives in a barn with her younger brother and meth-cooking father.  Cat idolizes Marlena and aims to become friends with her, despite Marlena's drug abuse.  When everything spirals out of control for Marlena and she ends up drowned in one of the local bodies of water, Cat is left with problems of her own and a will to make things better for herself.

I decided to read Marlena after seeing that it was one of Book of the Month Club's March selections and I am so glad that I did.  I have been disappointed by coming of age stories before but I really enjoyed this one.  Some of the newer coming of age stories or New Adult fiction books out seem to glorify the drugs, alcohol and mental illness but Buntin did not do that, at all.  She was able to show drug abuse and the like as problems while remaining non-judgmental, at the same time.  

I really liked this quote from Cat, "I've never believed in the idea of an innocent bystander.  The act of watching changes what happens."  I have always believed that all of the people that we associate with shape us and we shape them.

Both Marlena and Cat are very relate-able characters, despite their shortcomings.  None of the characters are stereotypical and the focus was on just a couple of characters, making it easier to keep track of them.  The story could move a bit slowly, at times, but it was still a very compelling and moving story.  A lot of readers may be turned off by the fact that there were no surprises in this book, that one knows from the get-go what is going to happen, but I still felt that this was a really good example of a coming of age story and think that it would be good for any reader that enjoys those types of books.

Marlena was a March Book of the Month Club selection.  Subscribe to the Book of the Month Club by following this link.

Reviews of books like this one:
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur: A Review

Linnet and Myna have drifted apart due to their mutual involvement in a traumatic event and the untimely death of their mother.  Myna teaches at a community college in Florida while Linnet runs the family bed and breakfast and looks after her retired ornithologist father who is suffering from dementia.  When the geese that draw in tourists start to drop from the sky, Linnet's father has a theory but the local university feels that they can better handle the testing.  The ornithologist that the university sent over to the bed and breakfast works with Dr. Jenkins but is found dead on the property the next day.  What was the secret that the sisters have kept all these years?  Who killed the young ornithologist?  What is killing all the geese and are all of these tragedies somehow tied together?

This really didn't read like a mystery for me.  I would categorize it more as women's fiction than a true mystery.  There are some questions that are raised in the book but it moved so slowly that it felt more like women's fiction or literary fiction.  There were also not too many shockers in the book, either.  The reader is kind of led to the answer to what the secret that Linnet and Myna have kept from the very beginning and there were a lot of hints dropped about who killed the professor.  The characters were not that interesting, with the exception of Dr. Jenkins.  He is such a likeable character and the only shocker in the end is who Dr. Jenkins is and what he really understands about the world.  The story was an interesting one but the story just moved too slowly and the writing was not suspenseful enough to make me want to put this one on my list of favorite books.  It is not a bad book, I was just a bid bored by it.  I think it would be enjoyed by a reader who frequently reads women's fiction and some lighter, less suspenseful mysteries. 

Reviews of books like this one:
Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Rise: How a House Built a Family by Cara Brookins: A Review



I am normally a sucker for a good memoir but Brookins' account of building a house after suffering from domestic violence didn't do it for me.  Cara Brookins is a mother of four who has suffered immensely in her life.  Her disabled brother was an easy target for bullies and she keeps finding herself in relationships with the wrong men.  Adam is incredibly smart and talented but he also suffers with schizoaffective disorder, an extremely difficult to treat mental illness.  Matt is physically and verbally abusive.  Cara decides that she must protect herself and her children by moving away from the men and finding a new place to live.  Short on money, Cara decides that she will build her own home using advice gleaned from YouTube videos and people she meets at the hardware store.

Brookins claims many times to be an optimist in her book and she must be in order to build her own home with four children in tow, one a toddler.  The story is very depressing, though.  I have read a lot of memoirs that center around the author's horrific past and they were able to maintain some semblance of lightness and hope but this book did not even though it had great potential to do so.  The author is very black and white in her representation of the different personalities in the book.  Her children are written as lovable, responsible and gifted whereas her ex-husbands are written as villains with no redeeming qualities.  I could have forgiven all of this if this were an interesting book to read but it was not engaging, at all.  I had to push myself to finish it and the story moved very slowly.  I really wanted to like this book and I believed it to have a lot of potential when I put it on my to be read list but I just didn't enjoy this book.

Watch an interview with Cara Brookins about her home build:


Reviews of books like this one:
Disaster Falls by Stephane Gerson
The Stranger in The Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge: A Review


Barry Bleecker is a New Yorker who works in finance but he longs to be an artist.  He wants to follow in the footsteps of Gauguin who escaped to Tahiti in order to paint.  Sophie Ducel and her husband, Etienne, have been holding off on a honeymoon until they can get their architectural firm off the ground but Sophie wants to visit the home of a singer, Jacques Brel.  There separate desires lead to the trio allowing a twice terminated pilot nicknamed "Ding Dong" to fly them to the Marquesas.  When the inebriated pilot is unable to avoid a lightening storm, the plane goes down, Etienne passes, and Sophie and Barry wash up onto a deserted island.  In order to survive, the two must learn how to get along and work together.

Castle of Water was such a sweet little book.  I am not usually a fan of romance novels but this book was recommended to me and I thought that I should give it a chance.  Fortunately for me, this book had more to love than just romance.  I loved reading about how the couple make the island their home.  Some of Sophie and Barry's creations seemed a bit fantastical (it is unlikely that an architect and a someone who works in finance would know how to create coconut vinegar and where were all the nails to build the furniture and structures?) but it was a interesting, nonetheless. While one would think that a story about just two people on a deserted island would be boring, that person would be wrong.  The island provides many exciting adventures (and terrifying realities) for the couple and it was a fun book to read.  I also enjoyed the very short history lesson on the Polynesians use of the island that the book provided.  The characters were very engaging.  Both Barry and Sophie were very likeable and interesting.  Sophie started off as pretty prickly but softened towards the end and Barry came off as an oaf in the beginning but turned out to be built for the castaway life.  Overall, I think this was a really fun read and I would recommend it to those who enjoy romance novels or castaway stories.  It would be a great beach read for this spring and summer.

Reviews of books like this one:
Once in a Blue Moon Lodge by Lorna Landvik
June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.

The Child by Fiona Barton: A Review

Angela and Nick's daughter Alice disappeared years ago but Angela still hasn't allowed herself to forget the day that the child went missing while she took time for herself for a shower in the hospital after giving birth.  When the bones of a baby are unearthed during a construction project, Angela can't help but think that it might be Alice.  Kate is looking for a way to assure that she avoids the layoffs that seem to have become routine in her newsroom and is looking for a story that will put her back on the front page when she decides to investigate the story of the remains of the baby.  Who is the baby and why was it buried there are just the first of the questions the discovery leads to.

I was not a huge fan of the character Kate.  She seemed to be a bit of a cliche of a reporter; the ambulance chaser that tries to get the picture of the mother who falls apart after hearing about the death of her child.  At one point, Kate ponders, "It seemed everyone was jumping up and down about the press and their methods of getting information" but then Kate proves the stereotype correct by forcing the release of information provided to her off the record.  While it added an interesting element to the story, I think it was a little bit predictable.  Most of the other characters were not very complex, either and cliches are common in this book.  Joe is a burgeoning journalist and a millennial who can't stop looking at Facebook on his phone and uses Wikipedia as a primary research tool.  The old men are grouchy and the old women are nosy neighbors and they just weren't very complex or authentic.

Barton's writing was very easy to read and encouraged me to read on to find out what happened in the story.  The authenticity of the relationship between Jude, Emma and Will was shocking but I appreciated the honesty.  There was more mystery and more of a background story to this novel than just a mystery about what happened to the baby that was found at the construction site.  It is also about family betrayal and what happens when a child is forced to grow up too quickly.  I can't say that I was completely shocked by the twists in the story (or the ending) but they were important topics to read about and it was a fascinating story.  The first part of the story was a little bit slow but towards the end, I realized why it was necessary to build the suspense so slowly.  It was completely worth the wait!  I really enjoyed this book and I think that any lover of mystery will, as well, especially if they enjoy mysteries that center around family drama.

Watch a video of Fiona Barton talk about how much she loves libraries:


Reviews of books like this one:
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson


This book will be available on June 29, 2017 and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin's First to Read program.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind. 


I do not track activity of visitors beyond that which blogger already does.  If you click on an outside link, those websites may track your activity but I do not actively share any information with third-party websites.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline: A Review

                                                
Nobody really knows who Chris Brennan is.  Sometimes Chris Brennan doesn't really know who Chris Brennan is.  He has just accepted a job as the new AP Government teacher and assistant baseball coach at Central Valley High School, an emerging suburb in Pennsylvania.  His aim is to get close to three local boys on the varsity baseball team, Jordan, Evan and Raz, so that he can gather information on them.  Chris believes it should be easy because Raz is struggling after the death of his father and Jordan never knew his.  Evan is simply struggling with being an overindulged teenager or, as his mother says, afflicted with affluenza.  Who is Chris Brennan and what information is he trying to gain from his interactions with these young men?

I really enjoyed Scottoline's approach to writing.  Even though this is a mystery novel, I find that it is very similar to Liane Moriarty's light approach to writing.  It feels sunny and fresh.  I feel like I am on the baseball field with all of the characters as I am reading it.  It was easy to read and I finished is very quickly because of that.  The characters were also sublime.  They were all very different and well described.  I think I might have a little bit of a crush on Chris Brennan!  Heather and Jordan's relationship as mother and son was very much like that of a real single-mother and son.   

The story was awesome.  I thought that the twist was being revealed when I got through about a third of the book but it was just one of the twists.  I really didn't know what was going to happen until the very end and it was a shock!  It was also refreshing that this was not just a mystery novel.  When I say that, I mean that there is enough family drama (plenty of family drama) and romance to keep readers of other genres interested, as well.  The government jargon and bureaucratic procedures felt very authentic and gave an interesting touch to the novel.  I really enjoyed this book and I think that anyone who likes mysteries or who enjoy books with very strong characters will love this book.

Watch the book trailer for One Perfect Lie here:




Reviews of books like this one:
The Travelers by Chris Pavone
Ill Will by Dan Chaon
Little Deaths by Emma Flint

This book is currently available and can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  Read more reviews on this book on Goodreads.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in order to review it but that did not have an effect on my review of the book.  This is my honest opinion of this book.  I am a participant in the Amazon Affiliates program.  By clicking on the Amazon link and purchasing this product, I receive a small fee.  I am not associated with Goodreads or Barnes and Noble in any way and the links provided are available strictly for your convenience and not to imply a relationship of any kind.