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Book Review: Life Drawing by Robin Black

Book Review: Life Drawing by Robin BlackLife Drawing by Robin Black
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2014-07-15
Genres: Family Life, Fiction, Literary, Psychological, Sagas
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Random House
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four-stars
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In Life Drawing, her gorgeously written first novel, Robin Black unfolds a fierce, honest, and moving portrait of a woman, and of a couple's life — the betrayals and intimacies, the needs and regrets, the secrets that sustain love and the ones that threaten to destroy it.

Augusta and Owen have moved to the country, and live a quiet, and rather solitary life, Gus as a painter, Owen as a writer. They have left behind the city, and its associations to a troubled past, devoting their days to each other and their art. But beneath the surface of this tranquil existence lies the heavy truth of Gus's past betrayal, an affair that ended, but that quietly haunts Owen, Gus and their marriage.

When Alison Hemmings, a beautiful British divorcée, moves in next door, Gus, feeling lonely and isolated, finds herself drawn to Alison, and as their relationship deepens, the lives of the three neighbors become more and more tightly intertwined. With the arrival of Alison’s daughter Nora, the emotions among them grow so intense that even the slightest misstep has the potential to do irrevocable harm to them all.

With lyrical precision and taut, suspenseful storytelling, Black steadily draws us deeper into a world filled with joys and darkness, love and sorrows, a world that becomes as real as our own. Life Drawing is a novel as beautiful and unsparing as the human heart.

I received this book for free from Random House in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I made a mistake in reading LIFE DRAWING by Robin Black.  The mistake was not in the reading of the book, but the reading of the book after a piece of fluff that had my mind going 100mph.  The first half of LIFE DRAWING had me groaning out of boredom and struggling to calm my racing thoughts, but then.. once I was able to calm down, I began to see just how beautiful the scenery was.

Here’s the thing about LIFE DRAWING.  It’s actually a word-painting of life and the struggles that come, inherent, with any close relationships.  Who do you trust outside of your partner?  What do you trust your partner with?  Can your partner handle if it you decide to go ahead and spill?  If not, what do you do from there?  These are just a few of the questions being addressed in Black’s story about a husband and wife and their neighbor next door.

August, or Gus, is an artist in her 40′s and she and her husband, Owen (a writer), came into some money that, by their standards, is a fortune.  This money enabled them to move away from the city and all of the issues that plagued them there and try to start over in a quaint home that has excellent light for Gus and a perfect barn for Owen to write in.  Their life is not idyllic, but it’s comfortable for them.

Then everything is disrupted when a woman moves in next door.  The woman, Alison, is also a painter, and with that bit in common with Gus, a friendship is formed.   Gus, who has never had a close friendship with a woman, is left to navigate some tricky waters and trouble starts to brew.

August also comes with her own special set of baggage.  I thought I knew where the story was going to take me, but to be honest, I should have known better.  The weaving of the stories becomes so complex that LIFE DRAWING really becomes quite the masterpiece by the end.  Black is extremely patient in her storytelling and paints a very intricate, very detailed picture of the lives of Owen and Gus.  The result was surprising and had me completely floored.  And here I thought the book was going to be boring.

Check out these reviews!

  • Life Drawing is truly a gorgeous novel. The writing is outstanding. Intense, emotionally wrought, and with an attention to detail that rivals Gus’ own, Ms. Black makes readers become part of the story.  -  That’s What She Read
  • “Masterfully written with exquisite prose, Life Drawing is compelling to its very last page.” - The Unlikely Bookworm
  • “The book is taut, smart, a closed and inexorable world, a stunning page turner.” - Beth Kephart Books

Book Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth Little

Book Review: Dear Daughter by Elizabeth LittleDear Daughter by Elizabeth Little
Published by Viking Adult on 2014-07-31
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, General, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
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three-half-stars
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As soon as they processed my release Noah and I hit the ground running. A change of clothes. A wig. An inconspicuous sedan. We doubled back once, twice, then drove south when we were really headed east. In San Francisco we had a girl who looked like me board a plane to Hawaii.

Oh, I thought I was so clever.

But you probably already know that I'm not.

LA IT girl Janie Jenkins has it all. The looks, the brains, the connections. The criminal record.

Ten years ago, in a trial that transfixed America, Janie was convicted of murdering her mother. Now she's been released on a technicality she's determined to unravel the mystery of her mother's last words, words that send her to a tiny town in the very back of beyond. But with the whole of America's media on her tail, convinced she's literally got away with murder, she has to do everything she can to throw her pursuers off the scent.

She knows she really didn't like her mother. Could she have killed her?

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I honestly don’t know what possessed me to send in a request for a review copy of DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little.  Books about “It” girls are not really my thing, and I really waver on whether I actually enjoy suspense/thrillers or whether they are just good to pass the time with.  Still, no matter what possessed me at that point in time that I requested a copy, I do know that total boredom and needing to read something out of my norm possessed me to pick up DEAR DAUGHTER last night.

So let me say, right off the bat, that this book does not pull punches.  In a way that really reminded me of NIGHT FILM by Marisha Pessl (a book that I loved, by the way), Elizabeth Little incorporates various parts of the large amount of media in our world today into the world of this book.  Also, as I know by association someone who is currently being completely torn apart by the media, the book was made even more real to me and the result was a sort of horrifying fascination.

DEAR DAUGHTER is the story of Jane (Janie) Jenkins and her desire to start life again after being released from ten years of imprisonment for the murder of her mother.  Determined to figure out the real story behind her mother, and her mothers death, and to fill in the missing blanks from that horrifying night, she sets off on a quest to follow a clue she heard her mother speak moments before dying.

Jane is anything but sweet and innocent and pure.  The character is an extremely unsympathetic one and at no point in time does she make any excuses for her behavior, nor is her awful relationship with her mother ever fully explored or explained.  Instead, we get the same bits and pieces of Janie’s mothers past that Jane does and together, reader and protagonist, progress toward the ultimate goal.  The “who done it.”

The ending of DEAR DAUGHTER puts me in mind of GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn.  I glanced around at online reviews and found what I expected – people upset and disappointed and not understanding of just why DEAR DAUGHTER ends the way it does.  I’m somewhat in the minority, because it made perfect sense to me.  DEAR DAUGHTER isn’t about happy endings or perfect love stories.  It’s the story of a daughter and her messed up relationship with her mother and the consequences of choices made by both.

Check out these reviews!

  • All in all, an excellent debut novel and I look forward to more from Elizabeth Little. -  Debbishdotcom
  • Dear Daughter is a novel of our time, particularly with the current fascination with the trial of Oscar Pistorius, but it’s also just a great read. This is an indulgent summer read that will leave you feeling you’ve spent your time well.” – Girl!Reporter
  • Interesting twist. Unsolved crime. Good debut. Missing the WOW factor though.” - Literary Marie’s Precision Reviews

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Book Review: We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press on 2014-05-13
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, General, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Format: eARC
Source: Delacorte Press
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three-stars
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A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.


And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

I received this book for free from Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I’ve been putting off reading WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart for a few reasons.  The first reason is that I really, really loved THE DISREPUTABLE HISTORY OF FRANKIE LANDAU-BANKS.  Like.. I adored it.  The second reason is that, for some reason, this book made all the bloggers out there go nuts and that really put me off.  I figured there was no way that this book could be that good and so, I prolonged what I was sure to be disappointment.

While there is definitely an oh my goodness moment in WE WERE LIARS, I’m relieved that I put off reading it long enough for the disappointment to not sting so much.  I was enthralled at the instructions at the start of the book.  It’s marketing genius for sure.  “Oh! You should read this book, I can’t tell you what happens in it but, well, I could but I’d have to lie, so you can go into it completely blind.”

That’s what the book actually depends on.  It depends on you going in knowing absolutely nothing about it.  And, accordingly, the reviews are very careful (or, at least, the ones that I saw) to not spoil things for you.  So, I am going to respect that and not spoil it, but I do want to give a warning here.  The book is about some very privileged children and their family.  There’s no social justice or rough subjects taking on world issues here except for what is mentioned in passing by one of the characters in an effort to tie the story into the real world.  In short, WE WERE LIARS is the perfect book if you enjoy suspenseful, drama-filled TV… only this time it comes in a book setting.

Lockhart knew what she was doing when she was writing.  The book is designed in such a way that some pretty graphic visuals takes your mind places you weren’t aware that it could go to.  Lockhart’s ability to write down what pain feels like is admirable and had me thoroughly admiring sentences two or three times longer than I normally would have.  Her craft is definitely there and it’s a testament to why I loved her previous book so much.  Still, the substance is missing and there is no re-readability factor even possible in this book for me.  It’s been read, spoiled, and now I move on.  That in itself is so much a disappointment that I wish I hadn’t picked it up last night and just lived a few more months in anticipation.

Check out these reviews!

  • You should absolutely go in blind, with no expectations and let this book take your feels as it sees fit.  -  Cuddlebuggery
  • “Frankly, I don’t think We Were Liars deserves the hype it gets.” – Effortlessly Reading
  • “This book is like a bomb and it exploded in my hands! It shattered my mind and made me cry like a baby in the end! “- Rotten Apple Reads

Book Review: The Art of Adapting by Cassandra Dunn

Book Review: The Art of Adapting by Cassandra DunnThe Art of Adapting by Cassandra Dunn
Published by Touchstone on 2014-07-29
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, General
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Touchstone
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three-half-stars
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In this warm and winning first novel, a recently divorced woman rises to the challenge and experiences the exhilaration of independence with the unlikely help of her brother with Asperger's, who she takes in to help pay the rent.

Seven months after her husband leaves her, Lana is still reeling. Being single means she is in charge of every part of her life, and for the first time in nineteen years, she can do things the way she always wanted to do them. But that also leaves her with all the responsibility. With two teenage children—Byron and Abby, who are each dealing with their own struggles—in a house she can barely afford on her solo salary, her new life is a balancing act made even more complicated when her brother Matt moves in.

Matt has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes social situations difficult for him and flexibility and change nearly impossible. He only eats certain foods in a certain order and fixates on minor details. When Lana took him in, he was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to numb his active mind enough to sleep at night. Adding Matt’s regimented routine to her already disrupted household seems like the last thing Lana needs, but her brother’s unique attention to detail makes him an invaluable addition to the family: he sees things differently.

Complex, smart, and genuinely moving, The Art of Adapting is a feel-good story that celebrates the small moments and small changes that make one big life.

I received this book for free from Touchstone in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I struggled with THE ART OF ADAPTING because in some ways, I really loved it and in others I found it predictable and a bit boring.  In this story by Cassandra Dunn, a newly-separated mother of teenagers has to deal with putting herself back out there, adapting to life without her husband (but still with him in it some, as they are only separated), and watching out for a grown brother who has struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome.  It seems like it’s almost too much for one book to handle, but that’s where the beauty of the story came in.

THE ART OF ADAPTING is told from four different viewpoints.  Lana, the mother mentioned above, her brother Matt, her daughter Abby, and her son Byron.  In reading the synopsis, I figured Abby and  Byron to be the secondary characters but what I found instead was that they shone – quite a bit.  In fact, I became very quickly attached to Abby and I continuously craved more of her story.

What I was disappointed in was the somewhat limited view we have of Matt.  Very little is explained about his lifestyle or how he managed to fall as deeply as he did into a life with Spike (or who Spike even was to him?  I first thought a lover but then later wasn’t so sure).  Instead, Dunn latches on to some Asperger’s traits and uses them to tell the story of Matt.  The result was that I felt I was reading the story of a diagnosis and not the story of a man.  I really struggled with it, and it’s hard to put my finger on just what didn’t work for me but that’s the best that I can explain it.

In spite of its failings, THE ART OF ADAPTING is a read that caught my attention from the first set of narratives.  Each character teased me with just enough to keep me turning the pages until I saw them again and before I knew it, I’d come to the end of the book.  I will say that the story did drag a bit as well about 250 pages in – I was somewhat surprised to check my pages and saw that I still had over a hundred more to go.  Dunn took the story further, involving some characters in it at the last minute and, while it worked, it also led to an ending that was a bit too clean-cut to be realistic.

Still, if you are looking for a good, end-of-the-summer, poolside book, you wouldn’t be disappointed in THE ART OF ADAPTING.  Just don’t go into it expecting a lot from the Asperger’s angle and maybe you won’t be as disappointed there as I was.

Check out these reviews!

  • Told through the voices of each of the family, the story of how Lana gets her groove back is by turns humorous and touching, and infused with reality, which is a refreshing change for women’s fiction. -  BrodartVibe

Book Review: Our Happy Time by Gong Ji-young

Book Review: Our Happy Time by Gong Ji-youngOur Happy Time by Gong Ji-young
Published by Atria Books/Marble Arch Press on 2014-07-01
Genres: Fiction, General, Historical, Literary
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
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Already a wildly popular bestseller in South Korea, this gripping and passionate debut novel is a death row love story of crime, punishment, and forgiveness; vividly told by the exquisitely talented Gong Ji-young.

Yu-Jung, beautiful, wealthy, and bright, is lying in her hospital bed, recovering from her third suicide attempt, when she receives a life-changing visit. Her no-nonsense aunt, a nun, appears by her side and suggests Yu-Jung accompany her on a charitable visit to death row. At her lowest ebb, Yu-Jung is resistant. But something compels her to go to the prison. There she meets Yun-Soo, a convicted murderer who will soon be put to death. Though she is repulsed by his crimes, something about the depth of his suffering strikes a chord in her. Shaken by their encounter, she returns to visit him the next week. And the next.

Through their weekly, hour-long meetings, Yu-Jung and Yun-Soo slowly reveal to each other the dark secrets of their pasts and the hidden traumas that have shaped their lives. In doing so they form a deep, unbreakable bond, helping one another overcome their demons. But Yun-Soo's hands are always in cuffs, the prison officers are always in the background, and they can never lose sight of the fact that their happy time together is tragically brief.

Gracefully poetic and ideal for fans of Kyung-Sook Shin's Please Look After MotherOur Happy Time is a passionate and heartbreaking love story as well as an important, hard-hitting, and compassionate fable.
My Review:

This has been the year of delicate, perfect, death-row stories for me.  Stories that gripped me and held tight, even when I was crying angry tears and railing against the injustice of it all.  OUR HAPPY TIME by Gong Ji-young is the perfect knitting together of the stories of two people who could not be more different:  Yujeung and Yunsu.  My initial impression is that both of these characters were young, but as the story develops it is revealed that they are, in fact, adults.  The rich development and emotional tension of this book depends on that age, so don’t let initial impressions fool you.

OUR HAPPY TIME is told in two alternating narratives.  Yunsu’s “Blue Notes” usually have a relevant quote at the start of them and, by contract, Yujeung’s journal is a bit more detached and shows a perspective that’s set a bit away from the emotion of the story.  What connects both of their stories, however, is one of the best characters in the book, Yujeung’s Aunt Monica.  Monica is a nun who has made it her mission to visit those on death-row and try to bring them to a place where they can make peace with their lives and those who are still in it.

Secrets and dark pasts are revealed, both in Yunsu and Yujeung’s lives – and even Monica and Yujeung’s family come into play.  The differences between the rich and the poor are marginalized as two people who suffered from similar circumstances have to face life (and in Yunsu’s case, death) with a shrugging off of their burdens.  I’m not going to lie, you will reach a point half-way in the story where hope steps in and you start to think, improbably, that your hope will be enough to change the course of events.  Let me warn you, don’t let that hope overshadow what is happening in the story because I almost did and almost lost sight of what was really beautiful here.

OUR HAPPY TIME is a deceptive name for this book, I think.  It fits, but not in the way you would think it would fit.  I loved the look into life in South Korea and I always appreciate any book that makes me think, hard, on what I value in my life.  It makes me realize just how privileged I am and how much I could be doing with that privilege, and it makes me want to learn more and teach more and love more.

Check out these reviews!

  • This is definitely not a novel to miss out on. Even though it is hard to read at times, it is also a beautifully written book about a subject often overlooked. It will make you question your opinions, make you appreciate your life and loved ones, and even give you a hope that anyone can be forgiven. -  Novelicious
  • This is one book that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I won’t forget the characters.” - Random Book Muses

Book Review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Book Review: One Plus One by Jojo MoyesOne Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Published by Viking / Pamela Dorman Books on 2014-07-01
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, General, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Viking / Pamela Dorman Books
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four-stars
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One single mom. One chaotic family. One quirky stranger. One irresistible love story from the New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You
 
American audiences have fallen in love with Jojo Moyes. Ever since she debuted stateside, she has captivated readers and reviewers alike, and hit the New York Times bestseller list with the word-of-mouth sensation, Me Before You. Now, with One Plus One, she’s written another contemporary opposites-attract love story that reads like a modern-day Two for the Road.
 
Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.
 
One Plus One is Jojo Moyes at her astounding best. You’ll laugh, you’ll weep, and when you flip the last page, you’ll want to start all over again.

I received this book for free from Viking / Pamela Dorman Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

I’ve been a fan of Jojo Moyes since THE LAST LETTER FROM YOUR LOVER came out.  She consistently gets 4-star ratings from me, even though I’ve found myself drifting away from contemporary women’s fiction these past few years.  I think, what it boils down to, is that Moyes writes with heart.  She takes real issues and she makes me care about her characters.  ONE PLUS ONE is another book in Moyes arsenal that hits hard and doesn’t apologize for what it is: a story about the strength of a family being a one family – no matter how strange and seemingly unfitting ways the pieces go together.

In ONE PLUS ONE, Moyes introduces us to two people who are in a downward spiral.  There’s Ed, a man who could be loosely classified as a bit of a geek, and there’s Jess, a woman who ended up with quite the mis-matched pair of children and one heck of a wayward ex.  I can hear what you are thinking right now – sounds like a typical love story: richer man meets poor, working mom and needs help and he sweeps in to save the day.  Let me save you the trouble and say that, while some of that might be true in a sense, you really have to give Jess credit here.  She works hard and I found myself rooting for her from the first page.

That’s not to say she’s perfect.  Between trying to help the son of her ex who she has assumed responsibility for, trying to do what’s best for a daughter who is a whiz when it comes to math, and trying to give her ex the time he needs to get back on her feet, she somehow manages to juggle quite a few jobs.  Quite frankly, Jess is barely hanging on.  And when you are barely hanging on, decisions are made that one might regret later.

Ed, in a sense, is also barely hanging on, and due to a very poor judgement call, he does something that puts everything in danger – his company, his life, his wealth, and his family relationships.  So what better way to hook a reader than to throw these poor, tired individuals together in an Audi and send them on a road trip that can go no faster than 40mph along with a teenager, a girl who gets carsick at fast speeds, and a farting dog.

Even if contemporary lit isn’t your thing and you roll your eyes at “Best-selling” on the front of any book, please do me a favor and give ONE PLUS ONE a try.  I think you may find yourself hooked, much like I did.  Every time I pick up a book by Moyes I dread it until I read the first page and then I remember why I put it on my pile to begin with.

Check out these reviews!

  • One Plus One in particular is a bit of a comedy of errors, with laughable circumstances and occurrences on every page, but what makes it so amusing is that you legitimately care about these characters and can imagine them in these situations. -  S. Krishna’s Books
  • “Highly recommended for readers who want a charming and romantic summer page-turner. ” - Kindles and Wine
  • One plus One wraps you up in a cozy afghan with a cup of tea, makes you giggle, take a deep inhalation and trudge forward. ” - Fueled by Fiction

Book Review: Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Book Review: Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie YaniqueLand of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
Published by Riverhead on 2014
Genres: African American, Fiction, General, Historical, Literary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Riverhead
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four-stars
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A major debut from an award-winning writer—an epic family saga set against the magic and the rhythms of the Virgin Islands.

In the early 1900s, the Virgin Islands are transferred from Danish to American rule, and an important ship sinks into the Caribbean Sea. Orphaned by the shipwreck are two sisters and their half brother, now faced with an uncertain identity and future. Each of them is unusually beautiful, and each is in possession of a particular magic that will either sink or save them.

Chronicling three generations of an island family from 1916 to the 1970s,Land of Love and Drowning is a novel of love and magic, set against the emergence of Saint Thomas into the modern world. Uniquely imagined, with echoes of Toni Morrison, Gabriel García Márquez, and the author’s own Caribbean family history, the story is told in a language and rhythm that evoke an entire world and way of life and love. Following the Bradshaw family through sixty years of fathers and daughters, mothers
and sons, love affairs, curses, magical gifts, loyalties, births, deaths, and triumphs, Land of Love and Drowning is a gorgeous, vibrant debut by an exciting, prizewinning young writer.

I received this book for free from Riverhead in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

If you are any sort of reader you know that there are different categories of books.  There’s easy, light reads that can be finished in an afternoon, there’s tense, gripping reads that won’t release you until you turn the last page – and even then, you struggle with moving on from them for several days to weeks.  And then there’s the type of book that weaves a spell around you.  It slowly entrances you in a way that hides the entrancement and, when you finish it, you end up dreaming about it and feeling caught in an otherwordly-type of spell.  That’s what I’ve been doing today.  I finished LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING by Tiphanie Yanique last night and I dreamed I was in her world all through the night and woke up in a daze this morning.

That’s some powerful storytelling, folks.

It’s the kind of story-telling that I love, too.  The incorporation of myths and gods, of tall tales and history; the weaving of all of these things until you don’t know (or care) what is true and what’s not.  Add into it real events dealing with parts of the world I had never even heard of and… well, it was a heck of a story.

Still, there were some flaws.  I wasn’t gripped by the first 100 pages, in fact, I dabbled with putting the book down and not finishing it at all.  While it was interesting, it was very strongly dealing with some issues that made me more than a little uncomfortable.  As the book progressed, I understood more that it was more about symbolism and feminine power – but still, that’s hard to grasp in the opening chapters of a book, especially if the story is one that’s not often told.  I have absolutely no doubt that people with a broader worldview than my own or more knowledge of the culture and society living in the USVI may view this differently.  I’m just a single reviewer and, while I appreciate the education and feel enriched by the story, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I had to push myself to get past those first 100 pages.

I think Yanique is going to be an author to watch.  She tied the civil rights movement in to the lives being lived in the USVI in a way I’ve never seen before.  She talked about characters that were familiar to me from my readings in other areas (Western African literature and Native American).  I was thrilled to see a version of the trickster that I don’t come across often being spoken of and I was entranced by the idea of the duane.

More than anything else, LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING has kindled a curiosity in me about the USVI and the British Virgin Islands.  I want to know more and, if the other books I find that take on these subjects and the locations are only half as good as LAND OF LOVE AND DROWNING, then I consider myself fortunate.

Check out these reviews!

  • “The many voices in Land of Love and Drowning weave a powerful family saga. - Luxury Reading
  • “Like I said, I look forward to whatever Yanique gives us next, and now I’m going to go re-familiarize myself with Caribbean literature.” - Bookishly Witty
  • How rare to encounter a dauntless and complex novel that convincingly melds true history with magic, but Tiphanie Yanique’s debut—a rich seascape about family and legacy, beauty’s clout and the variable waves of race and class on the twentieth-century Caribbean islands—accomplishes just that.” - TimeOut

Book Review: Torn Away by Jennifer Brown

Book Review: Torn Away by Jennifer BrownTorn Away by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers on 2014-05-06
Genres: Death & Dying, Emotions & Feelings, Family, Friendship, General, Multigenerational, Social Issues, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Source: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
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five-stars
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Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

I received this book for free from Little Brown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

When was the last time you picked up a book and, upon reaching the end of it, were genuinely surprised that it was over already?  Granted, this happens easier on e-reading devices (which was what I was reading TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown on) but I’ve had it happen once or twice with a hard copy of a book as well.  Chances are, if something like that happens to you, you may end up feeling like I did when I reached the end of TORN AWAY.  I felt sad and a bit bereft.  I wanted the story to keep going.  To be honest, I’ve never, ever felt that way about a young adult contemporary novel.  But TORN AWAY also had something I connected hard to.

You see, my home (my family almost all lives there still) is a little town in Illinois called Washington.  Last November, an EF4 tornado ripped through the center of town destroying hundreds of homes.  In a town of 15,000 people, that’s a big blow.  We have friends that lost their homes, their items, and are struggling to get their lives back together.  Thankfully, the townspeople were almost all in church so the homes, for the most part, were empty.  There was 1 death in Washington, unlike the large number of deaths in TORN AWAY.  But, we were lucky.  In this book, Jersey was not.

Tragedy strikes Jersey from every angle and, once I got past the shallow dislike of her name being Jersey (seriously?), I immediately began to connect with her.  I’m not gonna lie, there were some honest to goodness sobs coming out of me as I read Jersey’s struggles.  I felt her anger, I was angry myself at how unfair everything was – from her losses to the actions taken by those who were supposed to be there for her.  Brown does a beautiful job of ripping away everything and making her reader understand just how powerless a natural disaster like a tornado can make a person.

But Brown doesn’t leave us there.  Instead, we, along with Jersey, start the healing process and hope springs.  It was while it was springing, however, that I stumbled into the end of the book.  I stared in disbelief, thinking I’d gotten a defective copy but – upon thinking about it, it was right to end it there.  My emotions were still in a jumble, but they were settled and, while I still felt sorrow, I knew that things would be okay for Jersey.  And the best part?  Jennifer Brown did not compromise her character.  People who were mean and nasty didn’t do a complete 180 and become someone they weren’t.  Instead, Brown worked within the confines of the story to give it the ending it deserved.

I very much recommend TORN AWAY by Jennifer Brown.  I’m giving it a full five-stars because of how quickly I became invested and how much I really didn’t want it to end.  This is my first book that deals with a tornado and the aftermath it causes and it was something I really needed to read right at that moment in time.

Check out these reviews!

  • Simply put, this book is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. Even though it’s a fairly fast read, it did not lack any pizzazz.  -  YA Book Lover Blog
  • The story was amazing, writing fantastic, main character normal girl easy to relate to and there was no love story. ” - Unladylike Reviews
  • “I’m not a crier, and this book made me tear up several times, so it is well written and I felt for the characters. I just didn’t get the unique premise that I had hoped for.” - Annette’s Book Spot

Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

Book Review: Robopocalypse by Daniel H. WilsonRobopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Published by Doubleday on 2011
Genres: Action & Adventure, Fiction, General, Science Fiction, Thrillers
Pages: 347
Format: Hardcover
Source: Doubleday
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four-stars
Buy the Book at AmazonBuy the Book at Indiebound
In the near future, at a moment no one will notice, all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. 

In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.

When the Robot War ignites -- at a moment known later as Zero Hour -- humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.
My Review:

I have to admit something right now.  I am a bit of an addict when it comes to shiny, interesting, unusual, eye-catching book covers.  I love them.  Honestly, if the walls to my house were covered in dust-jacket art I would be a very, very happy woman.  There’s just something about it…I know, I know, the marketers and artists know what they are doing but still, it’s addicting.   What does this have to do with ROBOPOCALYPSE by Daniel H. Wilson?  Well… take a look at that shiny cover.  It’s even prettier in person (is prettier the right word to use here?).  Unfortunately, what was spectacular on the outside didn’t quite make the cut on the inside.

Until about halfway through ROBOPOCALYPSE I thought this book would be a four-star from me.  It was gripping, interesting, the premise was horrifying and fascinating all at once.  I thought I was enjoying the little snippets at the beginning and end of each chapter, but unfortunately those snippets were also the nail in the coffin of that 4 star rating for me.  You see, I am a fan of classy foreshadowing in books.  But when each chapter ends with the narrator talking about the great works the person did later on…it just takes some of the surprise and fun out of the story.  By the time I got to the climax of this first book, all the surprise element was sucked out.  The ending was absolutely, dead-on predictable and I felt cheated as a result.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with the bare bones of the story.  The whole idea of a robot-uprising is one that’s interesting and still fairly unique in these days of vampire/werewolf and/or religious uprisings.  And I really liked how Wilson formed the consciousness of the robots doing their work in ROBOPOCALYPSE – but it was the packaging that just did not work for me at all.

Will I pick up ROBOGENESIS?  I probably won’t buy it like I did ROBOPOCALYPSE.  I do have an advanced copy that I’m looking at picking up in the next few weeks, but I’m not very hopeful and kind of dreading it.  What would you do if faced with this predicament?  Liking the story but hating the way its told?  I guess time will tell for me.

Check out these reviews!

  • Robopocalypse is a novel that never lives up to its potential because of subpar writing and execution. -  Fantasy Book Critic
  • Robopocalypse is an enthralling debut, don’t miss it.” - Grasping for the Wind
  • Recommended on a completely superficial, Michael Bay-ish level – just don’t take Robopocalypsetoo seriously.” - The Book Smugglers

Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Book Review: The Book of Life by Deborah HarknessThe Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
Published by Penguin on 2014-07-15
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, General, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 592
Format: eARC
Source: Penguin
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four-stars
Buy the Book at AmazonBuy the Book at Indiebound
The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close. 

I received this book for free from Penguin in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

My Review:

When I finished SHADOW OF NIGHT, the second book in Deborah Harkness’ DISCOVERY OF WITCHES trilogy, I wasn’t certain if I would even pick up THE BOOK OF LIFE.  Why was that?  Well, SHADOW OF NIGHT had me feeling overwhelmed and confused.  So many names were being thrown around and so much stuff happening that even pushed the boundaries of fantasy in my mind, that I really struggled with enjoying the story.  On top of that the romance was nearly to the sickening level.  I’d picked up a fantasy book, and while I don’t mind romance at all, this was over-the-top puppy swooning.

Now, there was some of that happening in THE BOOK OF LIFE.  The dynamic between Matthew and Diana is near soap-opera level (and don’t even get me started on the pregnancy of Diana.  Twins? Really?).  But what saved THE BOOK OF LIFE from being a total disaster was, once again, the story pushing through.  There was drama here, and action, and horror, and stories coming together.  And there was the magic.

It wasn’t until I was about half-way through that I finally began to feel the excitement that I experienced in DISCOVERY OF WITCHES.  I was reminded of what drew me to the trilogy to begin with and became even more convinced, as I read, that I needed to recommend this trilogy to my Outlander-loving friends.  Yes, there were moments still when things were pushed a little far, and the relationships were a bit strained (so much testosterone between Gallowglass and Matthew) beyond the borders of reality, but overall, THE BOOK OF LIFE was a fun, satisfying read that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning.

Check out these reviews!

  • If you enjoyed ‘Discovery of Witches’ I do not hesitate to guarantee you that you will adore this book. -  Bookish
  • “If you’re looking for something that will have you turning pages as fast as you can, wondering if these amazing characters will get their HEA and yet swooning at the love story being shared, this series is for you.” - Fic Fare
  • This is one series that will be truly missed!” - Feathered Quill Book Reviews
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