Thursday, December 31, 2015

Julie's 2015 Year in Review

 photo Top Books 2015_zpseiss3mrm.jpgIt's everyone's favorite time of the year! You know where everyone comes out with their favorite books of 2015 and I'm no different.

My Goodreads Challenge Goal:
75 Books
Books Read: 86!! (Through 12/30/2015)

2015 was yet another year where I had more than a handful of 5/5 books! So, here is the break down by category for my favorites (top 5 (or more) in each if applicable, not in a specific order).

Contemporary Fiction:
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Status of of All Things by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill
The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
Come Away with Me by Karma Brown

Historical Fiction:
The Magician's Lie by Greer McAllister
A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe
Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams
The Edge of the Lost by Kristina McMorris

Historical Fiction & Contemporary Fiction:
The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy
Sisters of Heart and Snow by Margaret Dilloway

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
The Mask by Taylor Stevens
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
The Stranger by Harlan Coben

Women's Fiction:
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford
Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Young Adult:
All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
If You're Lucky by Yvonne Prinz

Other Categories:
Armada by Ernest Cline (Sci-Fi)
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (Humor, Sociology)

 I am hoping that 2016 is as wonderful of a reading year as 2015! Happy Reading!


Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Julie's Review: Pretty Baby

Author: Mary Kubica
Series: None
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Mira
Pages: 384
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Suspense
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: A novel that turns everything around on a dime
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can't get the girl out of her head… Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family's objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home. Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow's past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she's willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.  

Review: Pretty Baby was one of those books where I actually had no clue where it was going. I will say that where it ended up was completely shocking and mouth-dropping. Also, my opinion shifted about each character throughout the story, which is amazing because it's hard to change someone's mind when they've already formed an opinion, typically. Heidi is a do-gooder. She works for a non-profit, recycles religiously and is extremely socially conscious. It is one of the things that made her husband, Chris, fall in love with her. It is also the thing that is now a small wedge between them. Chris also travels a ton and leaves Heidi on her own with their daughter, Zoe. Who pretty much hates everything right now.

So when Heidi happens upon a girl and a baby, her maternal instincts kick in and she offers the teenager shelter for a night. We all know that one night isn't going to be the end of it and of course Willow ends up staying longer. Chris is none to pleased about the one night and furious when it turns into more. Zoe, while she isn't pleased, she isn't really in the novel except mentions by her parents and the occasional appearance.

It's no surprise that Willow is running away from something huge since we get a glimpse into it early but Ms. Kubica leaves us kernels to follow. Willow's past is sad and disturbing but unfortunately something that happens more often than we all would like to admit. The puzzle pieces begin to fall into place pretty quickly on her story with a satisfying ending. Where things really get crazy and wacky is with Heidi. She starts to act erratic and unlike herself. She starts to miss work, forgets to pick up Zoe and generally doesn't focus on anything but Willow and baby Ruby.

You really need to pick up Pretty Baby before I spill all the details. It's the twists and turns that makes suspense novels some of the hardest to review. Ms. Kubica does an excellent job of turning everything around in this novel. I can't wait for her next novel!


Monday, December 28, 2015

Julie's Review: Come Away with Me

Author: Karma Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Pages: 304
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Damn
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary:  An unexpected journey leads one woman to discover that life after loss is possible, if only you can find the courage to let go… One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined. Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime. From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

Review: Come Away With Me is the kind of book that will keep you up long past your bedtime to complete the journey. At the end of the journey it will leave you in utter awe and disbelief. It is the kind of book that you will want to go and read again, if only you could experience it again for the first time. For me, that is a rare and delightful experience.

I know this will make me sound like a horrible human being but honestly at times, Tegan got on my nerves. I understand the horrible tragedy she's been handed but she's also hurting those that are the closest to her. She's wallowing in her own despair and can't seem to get herself out of it. Seriously, there were a few times I wanted to smack Tegan to get her to realize that she did still have a life to live. There were times when I felt her loved ones were a bit easy on her; a lack of tough love.

I wanted Tegan to lash out at Gabe. I wanted her to spit her anger and fury at him because she needed to and he needed to hear it. It would also work wonders for her recovery. You are desperate for both of them to find their way back to each other and to regain the love they have for each other.

Gabe is uber-patience with Tegan. It is evident that he just wants his wife back. He knows they can't go back to the way things were but they have to find a way to move on. I love how he makes her take the trip to some places they would eventually get to in their lifetime. He's trying to get her to live life again.

Each of the locations, Thailand, Italy and Hawaii start to bring Tegan to back to herself but not without setbacks. Those setbacks are heartbreaking to read. Each of these locations is breathtaking with beauty and makes me a bit envious of the trip but not for the reasons they are there.

I really can't go into much more detail about this beautiful, heartbreaking and hopeful novel without ruining it. If you haven't read this novel, make it a priority for the rest of the year or at least early 2016.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Julie's Review: The Guest Room

Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 455
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5.0
Bottom Line: Captivating and disturbing subject matter
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: When Kristin Chapman agrees to let her husband, Richard, host his brother’s bachelor party, she expects a certain amount of debauchery. She brings their young daughter to Manhattan for the evening, leaving her Westchester home to the men and their hired entertainment. What she does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, her husband sharing a dangerously intimate moment in the guest room, and two women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Kristin and Richard’s life rapidly spirals into nightmare. The police throw them out of their home, now a crime scene, Richard’s investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave, and Kristin is unsure if she can forgive her husband for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.  

Review: The Guest Room is a riveting and disturbing look at how something as normal as a bachelor party can turn badly so quickly. I can't even get into the debauchery that is Philip's bachelor party without giving it all away but you will want to slap the crap out of the men at this party. The aftermath of the party is told from Richard and Alexandra's point of view, which makes the story all that more intriguing.

Richard is a bit out of his depth in dealing with the fact that his actions have consequences that he can't even say, especially since his day job is M&A manager at an investment firm. He feels that things are way out of his control and isn't quite sure how to handle the situation. Not only that but he can't possibly understand what the ramifications on his marriage and young daughter will be.

Kristin isn't sure what to think or what to believe. She desperately wants to believe her husband but when she comes home and see what a shambles their house is in, she wonders if their marriage is in the same state. We get a glimpse into how her and Melissa, their daughter, are processing the outcome of the party at times, which is just enough to understand their anger, confusion, hurt and ultimately forgiveness.

The real focus is on Alexandra and her backstory, heck her story are fascinating and depressing at the same time. How she came to be at Richard's house will break your heart and you will root for her to gain her freedom. She knows loss and heartache but she doesn't know yet what it's like to live your own life, to have choices and you very much want her to have those things.

There are times when The Guest Room is hard to read. The social issue that Mr. Bohjalian highlights here is one that doesn't get a lot of airplay on the news but is definitely deserving of attention. What I love about Mr. Bohjalian's books is that no matter what the subject matter is, he pulls you in immediately. It never takes me 50 pages to get into one of his novels.

The Guest Room is a riveting novel that makes you think and give pause to something that isn't in the news daily. It is rich with well-written characters and an ending that stuns.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Julie's Review: Moonlight Over Paris

Author: Jennifer Robson
Series: None
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 352
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.25/5.0
Bottom Line: Delightful novel about coming into your own
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: An aristocratic young woman leaves the sheltered world of London to find adventure, passion, and independence in 1920s Paris in this mesmerizing story from the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of Somewhere in France and After the War is Over. Spring, 1924. Recovering from a broken wartime engagement and a serious illness that left her near death, Lady Helena Montagu-Douglas-Parr vows that for once she will live life on her own terms. Breaking free from the stifling social constraints of the aristocratic society in which she was raised, she travels to France to stay with her free spirited aunt. For one year, she will simply be Miss Parr. She will explore the picturesque streets of Paris, meet people who know nothing of her past—and pursue her dream of becoming an artist. A few years after the Great War’s end, the City of Light is a bohemian paradise teeming with actors, painters, writers, and a lively coterie of American expatriates who welcome Helena into their romantic and exciting circle. Among them is Sam Howard, an irascible and infuriatingly honest correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. Dangerously attractive and deeply scarred by the horror and carnage of the war, Sam is unlike any man she has ever encountered. He calls her Ellie, sees her as no one has before, and offers her a glimpse of a future that is both irresistible and impossible. As Paris rises phoenix-like from the ashes of the Great War, so too does Helena. Though she’s shed her old self, she’s still uncertain of what she will become and where she belongs. But is she strong enough to completely let go of the past and follow her heart, no matter where it leads her? Artfully capturing the Lost Generation and their enchanting city, Moonlight Over Paris is the spellbinding story of one young woman’s journey to find herself, and claim the life—and love—she truly wants.

 Review: Moonlight Over Paris is a great story centered in the artist community of Paris and is about being true to yourself, finding out what you love, living the life you are given. Helena almost died and decided that because she didn't she was going to live her life and to do that she needed to go to Paris to study art. Luckily she has a rich aunt that she can live with while she goes to art school.

Most of the time is spent with Helena and her friends, Mathilde, Etienne and Daisy as they make their way through the demand of art school. They spend most of the time painting, drawing, eating and drinking. Within this close knit friends is Sam Howard, who Helena feels drawn to but something makes her keep her distance. She keeps him at arms length but they develop a deep respect and friendship for each other.

It isn't too hard to see how the book is going to end but it's the in between pages that capture your imagination about how it was to live in Paris in those days. It must have been so vibrant, alive and exciting. It is the people that Helena meets/rubs shoulders with during that time that I found interesting.

If  you are looking for a solid read about the early years of the Bohemian movement in Paris and how it became to be the City of Light, then you should read Moonlight Over Paris.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Julie's Review: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng
Series: None
Publication Date: June 26, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Interesting look at how family secrets effect each family member
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins the story of this exquisite debut novel, about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue—in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party. When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is certain that the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest of the family—Hannah—who observes far more than anyone realizes and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened. A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family, and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.  

Review: Everything I Never Told You is a poignant family story about how the secrets we keep affect each of a family's members differently. How as parent's we some times can pin our hopes and dreams on our kids without knowing how it can effect them. For the Lee family and their children, being the only Chinese family in a small Ohio town has it's own issues.

Each of the family members in the Lee family has their own secrets, some more harmful than others. Marilyn hasn't been happy for years and the family has swept her disappearance years prior under the rug. Unfortunately, the fallout of her leaving and coming back have had long-term ripples that turn into tidal waves. Lydia is the favorite of the family. It is clear that she is the golden child. Marilyn has all her hopes and dreams pinned on her. James is the working father and husband who doesn't have a clue that something is wrong at home until it's too late. He's also the father who has no clue how to relate to his kids or help them to fit in, except in the most awkward way.

Marilyn has her own issues and a lot of them stem from her relationship with her mother. I don't think she married James to spite her mother but I don't think she had any clue about how difficult it would be for them with no one to help them work through it. She doesn't understand and won't until it's too late how her leaving the family left deep scars.

Hannah, Lydia and Nath all deal with their own issues with their relationships with each other and with their parents. Nath feels largely ignored or that his parents have no interest in what he's interested in. Hannah is the youngest and feels like she's on the outside looking in at her family.

It isn't until the later part of the book that we understand what Lydia was feeling and thinking. You can't help but feel sorry for her. Her parents can't see through their own goals for her to even ask if that's what she wants for her life. Marilyn is the epitome of a helicopter mom before that term was en vogue.

Everything I Never Told You will make you pause and think about how your parents shaped you and how you will shape your children. It is a book that makes you pause and think.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Julie's Review: The Edge of Lost

Author: Kristina McMorris
Series: None
Publication Date: November 24, 2015
Publisher: Kensington Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: via author
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Enthralling
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: On a cold night in October 1937, searchlights cut through the darkness around Alcatraz. A prison guard's only daughter--one of the youngest civilians who lives on the island--has gone missing. Tending the warden's greenhouse, convicted bank robber Tommy Capello waits anxiously. Only he knows the truth about the little girl's whereabouts, and that both of their lives depend on the search's outcome. Almost two decades earlier and thousands of miles away, a young boy named Shanley Keagan ekes out a living as an aspiring vaudevillian in Dublin pubs. Talented and shrewd, Shan dreams of shedding his dingy existence and finding his real father in America. The chance finally comes to cross the Atlantic, but when tragedy strikes, Shan must summon all his ingenuity to forge a new life in a volatile and foreign world. Skillfully weaving these two stories, Kristina McMorris delivers a compelling novel that moves from Ireland to New York to San Francisco Bay. As her finely crafted characters discover the true nature of loyalty, sacrifice, and betrayal, they are forced to confront the lies we tell--and believe--in order to survive.

Review: The Edge of Lost is a novel to get lost in and to explore. It is a novel that you won't want to put down until you know how the opening prologue relates to the events that Ms. McMorris unfolds in the beginning of the novel. It isn't hard to put the names together but what you long to figure out is how they got to where they are.

It is so easy to get caught up in Shan's story and adventure. Luckily for him he happens upon the Capello family that takes him in and treat him as their own. He slowly begins to form a bond with Mr. and Mrs. Capella, Lina and Nick become the siblings he never had in Ireland. He's a studious young man and ingratiates himself to the family by working with Mr. Capello. Nick on the other hand isn't particularly studious and would rather work at a club making money. Of course you know that the club Nick works in isn't on the up and up and will get him into trouble eventually.

What Ms. McMorris does is an excellent job of demonstrating how family is who we deem it to be at times. Shan's immediate family was lost to him and his extended family wasn't kind to him, so the Capello's ended up being the family he always wanted. He gave up the search for his father shortly after coming to America.

Even though it's pretty clear to the reader early on how things are related, there are a few twists and turns that were not expected by me. I closed the book completely happy with how she deftly weaved everything together! It isn't often an author can take me by surprise, especially when I thought I had figured it out. I had but not fully put all the pieces together.

The Edge of Lost is a novel that will have you turning the pages until the very end and as you close the book you will be wholly satisfied. I wish my review was longer but honestly if I talk more about the book, I'll ruin it for you. You don't want to miss out on this one though.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Julie's Review: Armada

Author: Ernest Cline
Series: None
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Random House Audio
Length: 11 Hours and 58 Minutes
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Science Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Alien invasion with a sense of humor
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: It's just another day of high school for Zack Lightman. He's daydreaming through another boring math class, with just one more month to go until graduation and freedom - if he can make it that long without getting suspended again.
Then he glances out his classroom window and spots the flying saucer.
At first Zack thinks he's going crazy. A minute later he's sure of it. Because the UFO he's staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada - in which gamers just happen to be protecting the Earth from alien invaders. But what Zack's seeing is all too real. And his skills - as well as those of millions of gamers across the world - are going to be needed to save the Earth from what's about to befall it.Yet even as he and his new comrades scramble to prepare for the alien onslaught, Zack can't help thinking of all the science-fiction books, TV shows, and movies he grew up reading and watching and wonder: Doesn't something about this scenario seem a little too...familiar? Armada is at once a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming-of-age adventure, and an alien-invasion tale like nothing you've ever heard before - one whose every minute is infused with author Ernest Cline's trademark pop-culture savvy.

Review: Armada isn't really my cup of tea and pretty much the only reason I used an Audible credit for it was 2 words: Wil Wheaton. You see, he narrated Ready, Player One and I just love the sound of his voice and how he creates the voices of the characters. While this is a science fiction book it has a heavy dose of humor and pop culture. It is evident to me that Mr. Cline is a huge gamer.

Zach Lightman is a 18 year old who isn't quite sure what he's going to do with his life after graduation. He just wants to work at his part time job and continue playing his favorite video game Armada. This life contemplation doesn't last long because what happens next is straight out of a sci-fi movie. He's quickly recruited into an elite group that is fighting an alien invasion that is imminent.

What I really love about Mr. Cline's novels is how you immediately connect to the main character. Even if you don't understand the gaming world or frankly care about alien invasions, you will like Zach and his sense of humor. Mr. Cline also doesn't go geeky sci-fi on you either. He talks enough of the language for those who do like to geek out but not too much that you get lost.

What is an important in both of his books is relationship: family, friends and romantic. He makes it clear that humans wouldn't be human if we didn't establish and maintain those that sets us apart. There is so much good in this book that it does make you believe in the good in us humans.

Let's talk about Wil Wheaton's narration skills for a bit. He's simply fantastic. I could listen to him narrate almost every book I listen to. He does an excellent job of distinguishing his voice for all of the characters and in an non-irritating way.

While I might not have liked this one as much as Ready, Player One, I still thought that was a lot to think about.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Julie's Review: If You're Lucky

Author: Yvonne Prinz
Series: None
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Pages: 288
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  YA, Mystery
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Fascinating look at mental illness in young adults
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Is Georgia’s mind playing tricks on her, or is the entire town walking into the arms of a killer who has everyone but her fooled? When seventeen-year-old Georgia’s brother drowns while surfing halfway around the world in Australia, she refuses to believe that Lucky’s death was just bad luck. Lucky was smart. He wouldn’t have surfed in waters more dangerous than he could handle. Then a stranger named Fin arrives in False Bay, claiming to have been Lucky’s best friend. Soon Fin is working for Lucky’s father, charming Lucky’s mother, dating Lucky’s girlfriend. Georgia begins to wonder: Did Fin murder her brother in order to take over his whole life? Determined to clear the fog from her mind in order to uncover the truth about Lucky’s death, Georgia secretly stops taking the medication that keeps away the voices in her head. She is certain she’s getting closer and closer to the truth about Fin, but as she does, her mental state becomes more and more precarious, and no one seems to trust what she’s saying. As the chilling narrative unfolds, the reader must decide whether Georgia’s descent into madness is causing her to see things that don’t exist--or to see the deadly truth.  

Review: If You're Lucky sucked me right in and pretty much didn't let me go until I closed the back cover. Even then, I'm pretty sure that Georgia and her struggle will stay with me for a long time.
It isn't as if Georgia hasn't suffered enough already but losing her brother Lucky puts her at the breaking point again. 

It's easy to like Georgia right off the bat, she's honest about who she is and her mental illness. She hasn't had it easy in school or at home. She's always thought of herself as the other child, so when her beloved brother dies, her parents and his friends are at a loss on what to do. You see, Lucky had it easy. He found making friends easy, had a zest for life and adventure. He was never in one place too long but managed to charm those people he came into contact to quickly.

Since Georgia is on medication for her illness, she can't feel much with the death of her brother. She often laments that she hasn't even cried and she can't stand the dull feeling of the medication. It isn't until she meets Lucky's charming and mysterious friend Fin that she feels something. She's quickly enamored with him. Until it seems, she isn't because something about him doesn't feel right. Knowing that people won't believe her because of her medication, Georgia is out to prove that Lucky didn't just die but he was murdered. First though, she needs to ween herself off the medication. I think we all know that this isn't a good idea.

Now, the ending of the novel isn't a surprise to me at all and it won't be to most adult readers enjoying this novel. What was eye-opening for me was how Ms. Prinz got us into the mind of a teen with a mental illness and how disastrous going off medication can really be for those suffering. As the book marches on, you feel almost as out of sorts as Georgia does and begin to wonder what is real and what isn't. Is Georgia's mind making her hallucinate or is her paranoia really warranted?

It's actually scary at how quickly the medication for these illnesses start to lose their effect as you lower the dosage. I can only imagine how it dulls their senses and emotions but the ramifications of not taking them are much more grave and dangerous.

If you are looking for a non-dystopian, YA novel with a mystery than you need to read  If You're Lucky.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Julie's Review: The Light Between Oceans

Author: M.L. Stedman
Series: None
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 354
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Life is not black and white but different shades of gray which this novel so beautifully demonstrates
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

Review: Light Between Oceans is a rare novel that slowly and meticulously unwinds it's story and secrets. This doesn't mean that it isn't a page turner because it is but it's a character study. Even though you know that Tom is hiding something about his past, you already can tell he's trustworthy and honest. He's also a man who lives by rules, for him there is no black and white.

His life is turned upside down when he is set to takeover the Janus Rock Lighthouse and happens to meet the young and vibrant Isabel Graysmark. It isn't too long before they are married and expecting their first child. With love comes much heartache as Isabel has miscarriages and a stillbirth, which puts a wedge between her and Tom. Once baby "Lucy" arrives, Isabel puts all her focus on caring and nurturing her. Every time Tom brings up doing the right thing and letting the mainland know that a boat with a deceased man and a baby came to the island, Isabel talks him out of it. So they raise Lucy as their own on Janus Rock.

Unfortunately you can't control how life moves forward or in this case unravels. Of course, as Isabel suffers from her miscarriages and her stillborn, your heart breaks for her. Although as the novel moves on, you start to wonder about Isabel's state of mind. Tom tries to be the voice of reason and compassion but Isabel refuses to listen to him. Tom has always wrestled with this situation in his conscious and wonders what kind of man it makes him to be raising someone else's child. He loves Isabel but this lie is taking a toll on his mind.

Light Between Oceans is an emotional novel. It is a novel that makes it hard to determine right from wrong but instead shows how life is full of shades of gray. Your heart breaks for all the families involved in how the story unfolds. What wasn't lost on me was the affect on Lucy both short-term and long-term but I think that it was lost on those who were to be looking out for her.

This novel touches on how frail the thread that holds our lives together really is and how hard it is to maintain the right touch on that thread. How our lives are all intersected and in ways we can't imagine.

If you are interested in a novel that will make you think and cause you to pause, then Light Between Oceans is one you should pick up. Beware, it will make you cry.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Julie's Review: Along the Infinite Sea

 photo Along the Infinite Sea_zpsunyono7t.jpg
Author: Beatriz Williams
Series: Schuyler Sister #2
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Putnam Books
Pages: 464
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Captivating
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: An epic story of star-crossed lovers in pre-war Europe collides with a woman on the run in the swinging '60s, in another riveting historical novel from the New York Times-bestselling author of A Hundred Summers and Tiny Little Thing. Each of the three Schuyler sisters has her own world-class problems, but in the autumn of 1966, Pepper Schuyler's problems are in a class of their own. When Pepper fixes up a beautiful and rare vintage Mercedes and sells it at auction, she thinks she's finally found a way to take care of herself and the baby she carries, the result of an affair with a married, legendary politician. But the car's new owner turns out to have secrets of her own, and as the glamorous and mysterious Annabelle Dommerich takes pregnant Pepper under her wing, the startling provenance of this car comes to light: a Nazi husband, a Jewish lover, a flight from Europe, and a love so profound it transcends decades. As the many threads of Annabelle's life from World War II stretch out to entangle Pepper in 1960s America, and the father of her unborn baby tracks her down to a remote town in coastal Georgia, the two women must come together to face down the shadows of their complicated pasts. Indomitable heroines, a dazzling world of secrets, champagne at the Paris Ritz, and a sweeping love story for the ages, in New York Times bestselling author Beatriz William's final book about the Schuyler sisters.

Review: Along the Infinite Sea just might be my favorite Schuyler sister book and although Pepper is the sister in this novel, the narrative belonged to Annabelle. Annabelle Dommerich might just be my one of my favorite feisty heroines ever. Pepper is a great character but the minute Annabelle hits the page, her story, at least for me, moves to the background. It's not that I wasn't interested in her story but she is still the same reckless Pepper she was in the previously 2 novels. Although by the end of the novel, I'm hopeful she'll change and grown.

Annabelle is a force to be reckoned with and she's only a young woman when she makes some life altering decisions. It is how she responds in times of tragedy and triumph that make her character. Is how she moves on from the love of her life to preserve herself and to be a good wife, that makes her admirable. She loves her family, even her step-children. She grows fond of Johann as their life together starts to cement itself.

Although she's made herself a comfortable life with a man who adores her, Stefan is never far from her thoughts. Their lives came together in a hurried way and he exited from her life hurriedly as well. It is not something that someone can get over very quickly. Their lives intersect again and this time, Annabelle is unable to give him up. Of course things are never that simple as one would hope and she finds herself in some situations that will change her path in life yet again.

Ms. Williams does an excellent job of stringing you along with who Annabelle's husband was in the 60s. Just as I would think I had it figured out, she'd through another fork in the path causing me to question my thought process. It is a sign of a great writer when you don't get sick of these forks but embrace them and anticipate them.

As a huge Les Miserables fan, I loved the comparison of Johann and Stefan to Javert and Jean Valjean. It definitely seemed extremely fitting. Johann wasn't so reprehensible in the end but I think Ms. Williams was trying to show that some high ranking Nazi officials did it for the love of the country and what they believed was German Nationalism not hatred of the Jews. It is easy to get stuck somewhere and not be able to know how to leave or be able to leave because you will be killed.

There are some heart pounding moments throughout the novel and ones that will make you hold your breath. I loved the setting of Antibes and then Florida/Georgia in 1966.

Ms. Williams makes you believe in soulmates and that sometimes love does conquer all.

If you haven't read Ms. Williams Schuyler Sister books than you definitely should because they are  filled with wonderful characters throughout history. Plus you don't necessarily need to read them in order.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Julie's Review: The Muralist

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Author: B.A. Shapiro
Series: None
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Intriguing look at mental illness and art
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary:  When Alizée Benoit, a young American painter working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA), vanishes in New York City in 1940, no one knows what happened to her. Not her Jewish family living in German-occupied France. Not her arts patron and political compatriot, Eleanor Roosevelt. Not her close-knit group of friends and fellow WPA painters, including Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Lee Krasner. And, some seventy years later, not her great-niece, Danielle Abrams, who, while working at Christie’s auction house, uncovers enigmatic paintings hidden behind works by those now famous Abstract Expressionist artists. Do they hold answers to the questions surrounding her missing aunt?   Entwining the lives of both historical and fictional characters, and moving between the past and the present, The Muralist plunges readers into the divisiveness of prewar politics and the largely forgotten plight of European refugees refused entrance to the United States. It captures both the inner workings of New York’s art scene and the beginnings of the vibrant and quintessentially American school of Abstract Expressionism.  As she did in her bestselling novel The Art Forger, B. A. Shapiro tells a gripping story while exploring provocative themes. In Alizée and Danielle she has created two unforgettable women, artists both, who compel us to ask: What happens when luminous talent collides with unstoppable historical forces? Does great art have the power to change the world?

Review: While The Muralist floats back and forth between the late 1930s and early 1940s and present day, it really is Alizee's story even if Dani makes appearances. What I found intriguing was how manic Alizee got when she was being creative. What I found fascinating was how some scientists have linked mental illness with creative people. I have made a note to investigate this a bit further. I was hoping for a deeper look into the beginning of the abstract movement and those who were involved but they were really cursory to Alizee's story. It was about her journey to help those that were being affected by Nazi Germany, including those in her family.

Her great-niece is the one who starts to uncover the link between Alizee and the great abstract artists of America.  Dani has always been extremely curious about her great-aunt after her grand-pere especially because he had some of her paintings. So when she discovers what she thinks are part of her great-aunt's painting, she goes into obsessive mode, seeking out anything that will connect her.

Most of the novel is told through Alizee's eyes with Dani's point of view filling in the gaps. What we find is an extremely talented  young artist who starts to suffer from the stress of worrying about  her family is Nazi occupied France. As the war gets worse, Alizee starts to lose her control on reality but her painting is inspired as she takes current events to heart.

I always find it interesting how the artistic community is very small and intertwined especially during the beginning of great art movements. How they develop bonds and feed off of each others abilities and inspirations can mean that a lot of their art is similar in likeness.

While I enjoyed the mystery of what happened to Alizee but the ending was fairly easy to figure out.  This is a great novel but in my opinion Art Forger is a stronger novel. If you haven't read that one, then you must start there.


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Julie's Review: A Window Opens

Author: Elizabeth Egan
Series: None
Publication Date: August 25, 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 384
Obtained: from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A book that almost everyone can identify with
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Fans of I Don’t Know How She Does It and Where’d You Go, Bernadette will cheer at this “fresh, funny take on the age-old struggle to have it all” (People) about what happens when a wife and mother of three leaps at the chance to fulfill her professional destiny—only to learn every opportunity comes at a price.

 In A Window Opens, beloved books editor at Glamour magazine Elisabeth Egan brings us Alice Pearse, a compulsively honest, longing-to-have-it-all, sandwich generation heroine for our social-media-obsessed, lean in (or opt out) age. Like her fictional forebears Kate Reddy and Bridget Jones, Alice plays many roles (which she never refers to as “wearing many hats” and wishes you wouldn’t, either). She is a mostly-happily married mother of three, an attentive daughter, an ambivalent dog-owner, a part-time editor, a loyal neighbor and a Zen commuter. She is not: a cook, a craftswoman, a decorator, an active PTA member, a natural caretaker or the breadwinner. But when her husband makes a radical career change, Alice is ready to lean in—and she knows exactly how lucky she is to land a job at Scroll, a hip young start-up which promises to be the future of reading, with its chain of chic literary lounges and dedication to beloved classics. The Holy Grail of working mothers―an intellectually satisfying job and a happy personal life―seems suddenly within reach. Despite the disapproval of her best friend, who owns the local bookstore, Alice is proud of her new “balancing act” (which is more like a three-ring circus) until her dad gets sick, her marriage flounders, her babysitter gets fed up, her kids start to grow up and her work takes an unexpected turn. Readers will cheer as Alice realizes the question is not whether it’s possible to have it all, but what does she―Alice Pearse―really want?

Review: I've never been a stay at home mom/part-time employee to transition to full-time working mom but I can't imagine how hard that would be to do, especially when you liked your life the way it was happening. This is what happens to Alice Pearse when her husband doesn't make partner and wants to go out on his own. It's then that Alice realizes she's going to have to elevate her employment and go for a bigger paycheck.

A Window Opens is the story of a wife, mother, friend and employee who wants to have it all but doesn't really know how to balance it all. Plus one of Alice's favorite children books is by one of my favorite authors, Mo Willems. Alice's current magazine You doesn't have the space or the funds to make her a full-time employee, so she has to look somewhere else for an opportunity. It seems totally kismet that a woman from a new venture, Scroll, gets in contact with her via Twitter. As many people around Alice exclaim "people really find jobs on Twitter", I had the same thought. As she meets with Genevieve, they click and even more excited when she's offered the job.

It's pretty clear from the get go that Alice is out of her element at Scroll. They are a little too focused on acronyms to get any work done. Alice tries her best to fit in but it's not the easiest work environment. Genevieve is pretty much Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde from one minute to the next. It's pretty evident that she doesn't know how to manage or lead by example.

While Alice is trying to find ground at work, the ground at home crumbles beneath her feet. Her husband is struggling with the drink and getting his independent law firm up and going. She fills their recycling bin is more full with empties than his client list is full. Not to mention that her dad isn't doing well right now. She's got a lot of balls up in the air and it waiting for them all to fall down.

Ms. Egan does an excellent job of writing a harried, working woman trying to do it all. Sure she has people to lean on but she certainly feels that the kids are growing up too fast and she's missing out. I found the Scroll concept to be interesting and also very strange. I don't see how you can change concepts so quickly and think the name still applies.

I enjoyed the quick wit of the book and the aspects of a working mom. The marital issues seems a little too quick to be resolved but I'll let that go. I enjoyed her friendship with Susanna and how they rectified their friendship.

If you are looking for a quick, enjoyable read then I can definitely recommend A Window Opens for you.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Julie's Review: What The Lady Wants

Author: Renee Rosen
Series: None
Publication Date: November 4, 2014
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 448
Obtained: from a friend
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: Captivating
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: In late-nineteenth-century Chicago, visionary retail tycoon Marshall Field made his fortune wooing women customers with his famous motto: “Give the lady what she wants.” His legendary charm also won the heart of socialite Delia Spencer and led to an infamous love affair. The night of the Great Fire, as seventeen-year-old Delia watches the flames rise and consume what was the pioneer town of Chicago, she can’t imagine how much her life, her city, and her whole world are about to change. Nor can she guess that the agent of that change will not simply be the fire, but more so the man she meets that night. Leading the way in rebuilding after the fire, Marshall Field reopens his well-known dry goods store and transforms it into something the world has never seen before: a glamorous palace of a department store. He and his powerhouse coterie—including Potter Palmer and George Pullman—usher in the age of robber barons, the American royalty of their generation. But behind the opulence, their private lives are riddled with scandal and heartbreak. Delia and Marshall first turn to each other out of loneliness, but as their love deepens, they will stand together despite disgrace and ostracism, through an age of devastation and opportunity, when an adolescent Chicago is transformed into the gleaming White City of the Chicago’s World’s Fair of 1893.  

Review: What the Lady Wants A Novel of the Gilded Age is a fantastic journey into the past, the history of Chicago and the evolution of Marshall Field's. I LOVED the history in this novel. Being a native of the area, I enjoyed closing my eyes and picturing the Loop back in the late nineteenth-century. How electric it must  have been to help establish a city that no one thought would add value to the trade routes. Little did some people know that it would help establish some of the greatest railways and icons in the country.

Marshall Field was quite the visionary. He knew that women, specifically rich & sometimes bored women were the key to a successful business, even if his partner did not.  Its obvious that the partner goes bye-bye but it's not until later in the book do we know why. Frankly, it was a long time coming. Mr. Leiter is more suited to a small dry good store, not a grand shopping experience.

While I found parts of Marshall and Delia's romance intriguing, it really wasn't what kept me coming back and turning the pages. It was how Chicago grew into the Second City that had me turning the pages. I think Delia was a formidable woman for her time period but I do think her affair with Marshall, made her less powerful in society than she could have been. She could have made a real difference if she didn't let her affair cloud people's opinion of her.

It is clear that Ms. Rosen did a ton of research for this novel and I'm grateful for that. I love it when I can Google something I find interesting and see that an author got that detail correct. I think that's important when you are mixing fact with fiction.

I did admire the way that Delia took care of her family as they struggled during certain points in their lives. It made her a good sister, wife and aunt. I felt the recognition that she receives by family at the end of the novel was a long time coming for her.

If you are a history buff and specifically love the history of Chicago, then you should definitely pick up What the Lady Wants A Novel of the Gilded Age. If you are looking for a dynamic romance, then you might just want to focus on the history that lays at your feet with this one.

 I look forward to reading Renee Rosen's other novels as well.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Julie's Review: Forever, Interrupted

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: None
Publication Date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: gift from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Makes you appreciate every day because you never know how a split second can change everything
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Elsie Porter is an average twentysomething and yet what happens to her is anything but ordinary. On a rainy New Year’s Day, she heads out to pick up a pizza for one. She isn’t expecting to see anyone else in the shop, much less the adorable and charming Ben Ross. Their chemistry is instant and electric. Ben cannot even wait twenty-four hours before asking to see her again. Within weeks, the two are head over heels in love. By May, they’ve eloped. Only nine days later, Ben is out riding his bike when he is hit by a truck and killed on impact. Elsie hears the sirens outside her apartment, but by the time she gets downstairs, he has already been whisked off to the emergency room. At the hospital, she must face Susan, the mother-in-law she has never met—and who doesn’t even know Elsie exists. Interweaving Elsie and Ben’s charmed romance with Elsie and Susan’s healing process, Forever, Interrupted will remind you that there’s more than one way to find a happy ending.

 Review: It's a rare book that can make you cry and laugh at the same time. Forever Interrupted starts off with a sweet moment between newlyweds ends up in tragedy as one of them dies in an accident. What is left is a story about pain and healing. It is about how we are resilient and how just because someone dies doesn't mean they leave our hearts.

Elsie is endearing and you want to take her in when she deals with the loss of her husband. Luckily, she's got a supportive friend in Ana. Trust me, Ana must love Elsie to deal with moving Elsie through the stages of grief. What isn't easy is getting everyone to understand that while her and Ben have only known and loved each other for 6 months, it doesn't make it hurt any less because their time was short. In fact, it might hurt more because they had such limited amount of time together.

What I liked seeing is how Ms. Reid moved Elsie through the stages of grief and finds her an unlikely "coach" through this time. Family isn't always blood relation but family can be those you surround yourself with throughout your life.

Ms. Reid writes with a lot of heart and I can't wait to read her other 2 books that are sitting on my shelf.


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Julie's Review: Stay Close

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Author: Harlan Coben
Series: None
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 448
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Thriller
Rating: 3/5.0
Bottom Line: If only the secret Megan was keeping was interesting
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Megan is a suburban soccer mom who once upon a time walked on the wild side. Ray used to be a talented documentary photographer, but now he finds himself in a dead-end job posing as paparazzo. Broome is a detective who can’t let go of a cold case. Three people living lives they never wanted are hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect. And as each confronts the dark side of the American dream—the boredom of a nice suburban life, the excitement of temptation, the desperation and hunger that can lurk behind even the prettiest facades—they will discover the hard truth that the line between one kind of life and another can be as whisper thin as a heartbeat.  

Review: I love Harlan Coben's books. They are usually a quick and surefire read for me but not with Stay Close. While at first I was pretty engaged in the mystery of who was killing the men or why were they disappearing, after a while I just stopped caring. Frankly all of the men had it coming one way of another, but not that murder is the way to go.

Megan is a classic soccer mom with a hidden secret but in my opinion it's really not that horrible. It's something that could have been forgiven easily if she would have just been honest with Dave from the beginning but then again there would be no backstory. Detective Broome has never given up on the case of Stewart Green. He gets a break in it when Megan comes waltzing back into town because she's restless and has some things to resolve.

From my perspective, there are no great characters in this novel. They are all selfish and just trying to clear their conscience. The characters never really move forward or grow, which is disappointing. While I might not have liked this one very much, it won't deter me from reading more of his books.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Julie's Review: After You

Author: JoJo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #2
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Pam Dorman Books
Pages: 386
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5.0
Bottom Line: A wonderful sequel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.” How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . . For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises

 Review: After You is a wonderful sequel that let's readers catch up with Lou after Will's death. It isn't easy to see where Lou's at. She's lost. She's out of touch with her parents since her part in Will's death. She's working at an airport bar and then laying awake wondering what she's doing with her life. It isn't until she has an accident that sends her life on the right path. It wakes her up a little bit but it's the people she meets that end up pulling her up from the abyss.

 Lou is trying to get her life back together but Will was such a powerful force in her life, that she's not sure how to go on without him. He wanted her to live her life to the fullest and ensured that she could do that but that's not really Lou. She didn't live an adventurous life before W and she's not sure how to do it now. Sure, she traveled but doing that by yourself can get weary as well. To satisfy her father, Louisa joins a group called Moving On that helps people cope with the death of a loved one.

While I do think that it helped her in some ways, it really was the entrance of Lily and Sam that brought her to the surface again. Sam showed her that she could love again and Lily showed her that it's possible to truly care about someone even if they don't have any true ties to you.

I didn't bawl like I did with Me Before You but I did tear up a few separate times. I laughed a lot though because life is absurd, funny, and painful. Lou still has her wicked sense of humor and her parents crack me up for some reason. Her sister Treen is the one who keeps Lou honest or tries to keep her honest.

I wasn't sure how Ms. Moyes would do a sequel without Will but his spirit lived on in this one. Lou is a great character and it was great to see her grow and find her legs again. I would say more but I don't want to ruin it for you.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Julie's Review: The Art of Crash Landing

Author: Melissa DeCarlo
Series: None
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5.0
Bottom Line: Witty novel about a 30 year old still struggling to find herself and figure out who her mother was
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever. Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make. When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own. Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

Review: Art of Crash Landing is a witty and touching novel about learning to let go of your past or your parent's past so that you can live your life: present and future. Mattie is seriously messed up. At 30 years old she's got no direction, no job, no money and she's pregnant. She's not exactly in the best position to have a child and become a mom. I'm not saying couldn't or shouldn't, but she needs to get her "house" in order quickly.

 Mattie can't let go of the guilt over her mother's death and we aren't entirely sure why. Did she play a role in it or is just survivor's guilt. She clings to her step-dad, Queeg, for some sense of normalcy in her life. He loves Mattie but wants her pull herself together and figure out what to do with her life. He hasn't given up on her but he's exasperated with her. Mattie is impulsive so when she finds out that she's inherited her grandmother's house in OK, she sets off in the Malibu. Of course it isn't as easy as showing up and getting the estate, Mattie has to wait for the law to do its thing.

Like most characters who are screw-ups, you really just want Mattie pull her $@% together and get on with it. Being in her mom's hometown makes Mattie wonder who her mom was when she was younger and why she split town and never came back. This leads her to do some digging and it really ends up in a place that I didn't expect.

While the books has its moments or getting me a little teary-eyed, more than anything I found it witty and hopeful. We all have struggles but it's how we persevere and walk through them is how we find out how strong we are. It isn't until Maddie discovers her mother's past and path, that she can separate herself from them and become her own person. Her mother's life had haunted her until she came to terms with the fact that her mother's decisions weren't hers.

The Art of Crash Landing is filled with some great supporting characters as well, whom provide a good many chuckles. Ms. DeCarlo has a gift for writing witty characters, that have struggles we can relate to as well. Her characters and plot are well written and crisp. I even liked the fact that the ending of the novel wasn't "clean" and wrapped up in a bow. Life is never a nice, neat bow

I look forward to reading Ms. DeCarlo's next book and I encourage you all to pick up The Art of Crash Landing to read.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Julie's Review: The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton
Series: None
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 598
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A mystery that shows what secrets can do to families
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure… One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever. A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.  

Review: I'm pretty sure that I've had this on pre-order for about 9 months; so you could easily say that she is one of my favorite authors.  The Lake House is another great mystery that spans over 70 years with a lot of family heartache and secrets. It isn't as goth as The Distant Hours but the setting is just as gorgeous and a bit mysterious.

Sadie Sparrow is a Detective who's on a leave of absence because a case got under her skin. She hasn't exactly told her grandfather the whole truth about why she's visiting him in Cornwall. She happens upon Loeanneth while out on a run. She's intrigued because it's crumbling and looks like time is standing still. The detective in her decides to start digging into the history. Along with the case that Sadie is licking her wounds for, there's something else going on with her too.

Alice Edevane is a successful author but lately the past has been creeping up on her. It doesn't help as her sister, Deborah is bringing up the past as well. Both harbor feelings of guilt but for very different reasons. Both think that they each have a part in their brother's disappearance. As we all know, things are never what they seem and it turns out that their parents were keeping a huge secret from them as well.

Both Sadie and Alice are interesting characters and career driven women. Both of them are haunted by something in their past and hold onto their guilt. They are both honest and this suits each of them well when they first meet.

I kind of figured out one of the plot twists early on but it was still interesting the way that Ms. Morton pulled it all together. She does do a great job of really leaning you towards one answer and then slowly reveals that it couldn't have gone the way that you initially thought.

Besides the mystery and her intricate way of weaving different story lines together, Ms. Morton always has a way of  making me want to book a trip to the countryside of England. I want to take a walk and come upon a deserted house with a history and a mystery. She makes even the simplest things seem magical.

If you've never read a Kate Morton book, you better get going because they are some of the best dual time-period books I've ever read and she's got a decent backlog going now.