Monday, September 11, 2017

Julie's Review: The Light We Lost


Author: Jill Santopolo
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Epic
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Summary: He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last? Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning. Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts. This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation. ~amazon.com  

Review: Drop everything and go pick up Light We Lost. You will cry, you will laugh, your heart will rejoice and your heart will break. This is one of those books that will make you fall in love with love. The story of Gabe and Lucy is epic. Their love is hot but never fades away. Somehow, someway they keep coming back to each other throughout various stages of their lives. Both of them are young when they meet each other on 9/11/2001 and it is a date that will forever keep them connected. Lucy and Gabe are have a connection from the first time they meet but certain circumstances exist that don't allow them to be together until fate brings them together a couple years later. Both of them are passionate people which helps to ignite their love for each other. Sometimes being passionate can mean restlessness as you try to figure out your life's path. Decisions always change the path of your life but sometimes it changes someone else's path as well. Gabe and Lucy share everything and are always encouraging each other with their careers. He never belittles her career or minds that she is career focused. It isn't until Gabe's decision about his career will ultimately be the demise of their relationship.

Neither Lucy or Gabe are perfect, they are both far from it but together they really are yin and yang. They compliment each other like good couples should. As with life, it moves on and both of them do in their own ways but yet they still orbit around each other, maintaining contact via email/text and occasionally seeing each other. We see the story from Lucy's view point and I do kind of wonder what Gabe's point of view would be if she had chosen to tell the story from both perspectives. Lucy doesn't excuse her behavior in some ways and she doesn't ask us to forgive her choices; after all who are we to judge her? What would we do if given the same choices. I think it is possible to love and be in love with 2 vastly different people at the same time. Lucy learns things from Darren that she would have never learned by being with Gabe. Gabe though was her star and her center; how do you compete with that? I think it's a good thing that Darren never knew there was a competition going on in Lucy's mind.

I loved what Lucy's mom said to her on her wedding day, something to the effect of a relationship ebbs and flows, sometimes you will be the one who loves your significant other more and sometimes you will be the one who gets more love. This is so true and it's how you make it through these different times that define you as a couple.

I really feel that Light We Lost is a book that you need to read for yourself. My review will not do it justice. Ms. Santopolo did an excellent job of capturing first love,y young love, marriage and the fact that sometimes there's someone your history is always linked to no matter how hard you try to disconnect yourself from them.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Julie's Review: Every Last Lie


Author: Mary Kubica
Series: None
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A quick paced novel about losing grip on reality and finding the way back
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Summary: Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried. ~amazon.com  

Review: Every Last Lie is a novel that will keep you turning the pages to find out what exactly happened to Nick. Was the accident really his fault? Did someone run him off the road? Who is this bad man that their 4 year old, Maisie, keeps having nightmares about?

Honestly, I put myself in Clara's shoes for the entire book and I felt horrible for her. She's had no sleep since 6 months on due to the size of the baby and how he was sitting, so that's enough to make someone go a bit crazy plus she's days home with the baby and her husband died in a horrific accident. She's pretty much barely functioning, although sometimes I didn't think she was functioning at all.

As Maisie starts to have nightmares about the "bad man", Clara clings to this as evidence of foul play and that her husband wasn't truly responsible for his own death. Some one was after her husband, but who? Why? Her husband was a likable guy. We are also told the events leading up to the accident from Nick's POV.

It is evident that he loves and adores his wife, daughter and unborn child but other than that, he's not really a stand up guy. He's one of those people who have trouble living in reality and living beyond his means. He took on too much with the house that needed renovating and then opening his own practice. He wanted to keep up with the Jones' without being able to do so. He makes poor decisions that ultimately lead to more poor decisions. He never lets Clara in on it, so he takes all his problems to the grave.

It isn't until the end of the novel that you feel that Clara is finally starting to understand things clearly and yet you wonder if she'll ever fully recover from the issues that Nick's death dealt her.

I really enjoyed Every Last Lie especially with a good twist at the end. If you are looking for a new thriller/suspense author and you haven't read Ms. Kubica, then her back-list is ready for you to read.


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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Julie's Review: Little Fires Everywhere


Author: Celeste Ng
Series: None
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss+
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A must read
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Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster. ~amazon.com

Review: Little Fires Everywhere should be the book that everyone is talking about this fall. It is such a well-written and crafted story. There are a few different story lines but they all converge together in the end and they each add an element to the overarching themes. Each of the characters have flaws but they also have redeeming qualities that perhaps, in time, will outweigh the flaws.

The book starts with the Richardson house being on fire and goes back to the events that lead up to this event. From there we are introduced to the tenants, Mia and her daughter Pearl plus the entire Richardson clan headed by the matriarch Mrs. Eleana Richardson. It's easy to look at their life and to think they have it all, great jobs, great kids (for the most part), great house = great life. As we know things aren't always what they seem but they aren't that bad. It would be easy to dislike the Richardson family but I found them likable. They worked for where they got to and prided themselves on building their lives. None of their kids are perfect as we find out but the one that is considered the "black sheep" of the family is the youngest daughter, Izzy. Izzy and her mom are alike and therefore they butt-heads. 

Mia and Pearl are travelers/vagabonds and when they end up in Shaker Heights, Mia promises Pearl that this is it, they are staying put. So Pearl starts to make friends and make an effort at school. Her best friend is Moody Richardson and soon she is at their house after school hanging out and getting to know his siblings, Lexie and Trip. It's not hard to see the writing on the wall when it comes to Trip and Pearl. What I liked is that the Richardson kids are pretty much typical teenagers who find themselves in situations that occur on a regular basis and deal with them as teenagers would.
Pearl is wise beyond her years and as things start to unravel, she's the one who can see the situation the clearest.

There were times when I vacillated between liking Mia and wanting to throttle her. As her back story is uncovered, I spent most of my time wanting to throttle her because of the choices she made. It also made me understand as a reader, why she was always on the move. She did have an uncanny way of reading people and demonstrating that in her art.

I truly enjoyed reading each story-line and then having them all converge in a way that was realistic. If you read one book this fall, I highly recommend Little Fires Everywhere.


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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Julie's Review: The Widow


Author: Fiona Barton
Series: None
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A disturbing look at a child abduction and all the people it affects
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Summary: There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now her husband is dead, and there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything...~amazon.com  

Review: Widow is one of those novels that will make you wonder which side is up and what's the angle but when it comes down to it, it's a suspense novel that doesn't rely on a huge twist at the end. This was definitely refreshing for me. Not that I don't love a great twist, but that seems to be the go to plot device lately.

Jean is finally on her own after years of marriage to Glen who really controlled every aspect. She finally be who she wants to be and tell her story. Although when approached by reporters she doesn't seem to know if she wants to tell her side because there are always 2 sides. What it really boils down to is that she hasn't had her own voice ever. She went straight from her parent's house to Glen's. He controlled everything and she didn't mind, until she did.

Jean isn't an easy character to understand, she a waffler and very unsure of herself. There were times when I thought she had a mental illness because of how she would refer to herself. There were definitely times that I felt sorry for her but also those times where I felt she could have had the upper hand with Glen in their marriage and turned the tables on him.

While the book is really about Jean, you can't know her without knowing what Glen did and how he controlled her. It is about her complacency in her own life that drove me bonkers. While Glen was a sick SOB, Jean had her own issues and secrets but none as heinous as his.

I enjoyed the book a great deal but felt that at times it lagged and some of it could have been edited down to get to the climax a bit quicker. So if you are looking for a fast paced suspense, this may not be for you but if you prefer the slow reveal, you should pick up Widow.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Julie's Review: Fitness Junkie


Author: Jo Piazza & Lucy Sykes
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Humor
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A delightful, funny book about the fitness industry fads
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Summary: When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin—the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin—her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don't fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman's tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can't help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture. ~Amazon.com

Review:  I'm not a fitness fanatic, okay I don't even really like working out because it feels like a chore, so the women in Fitness Junkie, who are obsessed with every trend, I don't get them. Seriously. I get the need to be healthy and well (I need to be better at it) but these women view it as their lives and in some ways a competition. Who's into the newest trend? Have you been invited to the super secret workout location? What about this diet and that, etc? To me, it seems like they are bored and trying to find ways of filling a void.

What Ms. Piazza and Ms. Sykes do well is satire of an industry that seems to be a bit full of itself. No one in the fitness/lifestyle world is without reproach. Their heroine, Janey, even begins to drink the kool-aid for a while until she drank too much of it. Janey's best friend, Beau, tells her that she needs to take a 3 month break from their successful business so that she can lose 30 lbs she's put on. She's the face of the business and well she can't be seen as she is currently. So she turns to her best gal pal, CJ, who is always on the up and up on the lastest fitness routine and dietary restrictions.

Of course, the novel isn't just about fitness, but it's about Janey's journey into figuring out what it is that she wants to do for the rest of her life and if some friendships really do have an expiration date. I loved Janey and wanted her to go after Beau in the worst way but in the end I think she got him where it really counted and when it counted.

For those that love a book with a sense of humor and purpose, then Fitness Junkie is for you.





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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Julie's Review: In This Moment


Author: Karma Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: How split second decision can alter your life and those around you
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Summary:Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she’s able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes. After school pickup one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him. Meg can’t help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy’s family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy’s father. Soon Meg’s picture-perfect life is unraveling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she’s been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart? ~amazon.com  

Review: In This Moment is a novel that allows you to wonder what you would do if you were in Meg's shoes. Would you have waved a kid across at an intersection that had no crosswalk? Or perhaps you have and it turned out just fine but unfortunately for two families, this isn't what happened.

The accident spawns Meg's downward spiral into guilt, shame and anxiety. It has her reliving the death of her best friend in high school, which she still carries guilt around. It causes her to pull away from her husband and daughter. She doesn't know how to tell them about her involvement with Paige's death. She's internalized it for so long that she feels she can't verbalize it. It's what haunts her sleep. I felt as if I was experiencing the slow downward spiral with Meg, which was a good thing. It put you in her shoes and living what she was at the same time. I felt horrible for Meg but also wish she would have leaned on her husband or family a bit more.

As Meg struggles with the guilt of being part of an accident, her daughter Audrey is also struggling with her own issues from the accident. She turns to reckless behavior which she wasn't prone to previously. She also pulls away from her parents and begins to lie to them about her whereabouts.

My frustration throughout the novel was Ryan, Meg's husband and Audrey's dad. He seemed so oblivious about what they were going through. He saw the signs in both of them that said they weren't dealing properly with the accident but chose to believe they were both fine. It wasn't until things came crashing down around them that he finally acknowledged they weren't "fine". Some of Meg's decisions weren't smart but she was also reeling. I felt that Ryan needed to acknowledge his role in their issues as well.

Ms. Brown always writes engaging characters, with real life situations that you end up asking yourself how you would react. I can't wait to read what she publishes next.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Julie's Review: I Found You


Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A page turner that will have you wondering how it all ties together
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Summary: In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside. Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed. Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother. Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray? ~amazon.com  
Review: If you want a page turning suspense and mystery novel, then I Found You is for you. The story is told in 3 different parts: Alice/Frank, Lily, Gray. Alice happens upon "Frank" as he's sitting on the beach staring at the sea with no recollection of what is going on, how he got there or who he is. Alice, who still believes in the good of people even though she shouldn't, invites him back to her house to sleep in the shed she rents out. She promises her best friend that she won't get involved, but that's just not who she is or what she does. So she tries to help Frank regain his memory by giving him a safe place to say and an ear to listen.

Outside of London, Lily is freaking out because her husband doesn't come home after work and doesn't answer her phone. This is strange because he always takes the same train and gets home at the same time every night. Of course, the police tell her to give it time and he might come home. When evidence suggest that her husband doesn't exist, Lily decides to take things into her own hands. Then we get the flashback story of Gray and Kirsty on their family vacation in Ridinghouse Bay. This is where they meet Mark Tate, a young man who is a little off but clearly besotted by Kirsty. Gray feels that there is something off about him but can't quite put his thoughts around it. He wants to believe that his instincts are right and he's not just jealous that his kid sister might get her first kiss before he does.

While I figured out a few things earlier in the novel, it didn't stop me from wanting to finish the book. I figured that the author had something up her sleeve and it wasn't as straight-forward as I thought. I loved how Ms. Jewell sewed all the story lines together in the end. I loved how she showcased that each of us is capable of crossing a line when we feel that our lives are in danger or the lives of those we love are in danger.

I forget how much I love a true mystery and suspense novel because I get so caught up in the domestic suspense/psychological thriller arena. Ms. Jewell should still with the mystery genre because she's knows how to write a good one.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Julie's Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives


Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Series: None
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: Publicist  via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A novel with depth that wasn't expected but enjoyed
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Summary: Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not. What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness. ~amazon.com

Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives is a novel where the heroine might just rub you the wrong way at first but then she grows on you and by the end of the novel you will rejoice in her growth. For some reason when I first saw this title I read it at "Detectives" but then realized it was "Defectives", which had me curious.

Markie is a hard woman and one that is hard to like. You want to understand her and you want to empathize with her but at times she makes that so terribly impossible. Which is why I had mucho respect for Mrs. Saint who kept trying and trying to break down those wall. I get why Markie moved away from her posh neighborhood, school and life because what happened was embarrassing until the next scoop of gossip comes around and your situation is forgotten.  Markie spends a lot of time blaming her ex for being selfish as well as her parents, not realizing that in her own way she is as well. She up and moved her son, Jessie, to another town before asking him what he wanted and expected him to adapt. So he shuts himself down and hibernates to his room in the basement.

It is really Mrs. Saint and her group of "defectives" that help pull Jessie out of his shell and bond with others. Eventually, through persistence, faith she broke down those walls of Markie's. Enough so that maybe she could make peace with herself, bond with her son and forgive her ex-husband.

There is also an underlying mystery around Mrs. Saint  herself and her merry band of defectives. How are they bonded together? Why does she continue to help people who need help but don't know it? I loved how Ms. Timmer revealed her story at the end and really did feel like the missing pieces of the puzzle were coming together to make it whole.

I don't have to like a character in a book but I have to see them grow and change a bit, I'm not expecting a 180 because that's not realistic. Just some kind of revelation that makes them self-aware and Ms. Timmer accomplished that with Markie.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives to read; you won't regret it.



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Friday, July 28, 2017

Julie's Review: The Party


Author: Robyn Harding
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: For all the hype I was disappointed
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Summary: In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies. One invitation. A lifetime of regrets. Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong? But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed. If you loved Liane Moriarty’s and HBO's Big Little Lies, you’ll love The Party by Robyn Harding. This fast paced book exposes how even the most perfect of families can be shadowed by lies and betrayals. This is one page-turner you’re going to want to bring with you on vacation, to the beach, and add to your nightstand to be read. ~amazon.com  

Review: So much hype around The Party this summer but for this reader it fell short of it. I will say that it's a quick read. I will say that you need to be prepared for the shallowness that is in this book. It's not just from the teens either, it's the parental units as well. Honestly, there aren't a lot of likable characters in the book but hey that's life as well.

The story is told from various points of view and I think it could have been narrowed down because it muddied the story for me. Now I'm sure that if I had not gotten all those points of view, I would have wanted them to some degree. What shocked me wasn't that the kids broke the rules, it was how that impacted and changed them. Hannah was the most changed and not in the best way; she became what she despised. I never felt that the truth about Hannah was exposed other than she wanted to be every other teenager and fit in, be popular. I think they would be more shocked about how their daughter acted due to the aftermath of the party.

While this could have been an great expose on teens, family and parenting, it fell a little flat. It's about over parenting (i.e. helicopter parenting), teen behavior and taking ownership for your actions. No child is perfect and no parent is perfect either; trying to be perfect leads to disaster.



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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Julie's Review: Saints for All Occasions


Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 352
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful family-centric novel about the secrets we keep
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Summary: Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she's shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn't sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora's favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together. ~amazon.com  

Review: Saints for All Occasions makes you realize that every family is dysfunctional to some degree and our parents always are a bit different than we think they are. Nora and Theresa are sisters but Nora acts more like a mother to her younger sister given the fact that their mother died when they were younger. So it's no surprise that when they arrive in Boston, Theresa rebels a bit which ends up having consequences for the entire family. Something of which neither of them fully understands until it is too late.

Theresa escapes into the convent before realizing it was where she was meant to be her entire life. That isn't to say that Theresa doesn't still have some rash behaviors in her but she's definitely mellowed. She comes into her own and is someone the younger nuns look up to for advice. She also has the benefit of having her best friend there along side her, which means it isn't so lonely for her.

Nora, on the other hand, runs a fairly large Catholic family but is truly lonely. She's not happy and doesn't know how to be. She's at her best when pulling together a family function that she can concentrate on. She's taken over the role of matriarch but is closed off to her emotions. I know the book summary said that Patrick was her favorite but I never really got that impression. I understood that she felt like she needed to protect him because of how his life started out but not the favorite. I'm not sure Nora knew how to have a favorite because that would require more energy than she was willing to give.

Ms. Sullivan does a great job of making the reader think about how decision can affect things decades later. Sometimes you can only make decisions with the information you had in front of you. How well do you know your family, especially your parents? You only see the people they have become after having kids, who were they before? Should we have some inkling of who they were before us?

Saints for All Occasions is a novel that gets the complexities of families and how they shape who we become.


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