Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Julie's Review: I Will Send Rain

Author: Rae Meadows
Series: None
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Thought provoking story about how tragedy can change us and our relationship
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Annie Bell can't escape the dust. It's in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children's dry, cracked lips. It's 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie's fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain. As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love. ~amazon.com

Review: I Will Send Rain is a beautifully written novel about the trials of the beginning of the Dust Bowl on a small town in Oklahoma. The Bells have worked hard to make their farm their own. Samuel and Annie left Kansas City to come get their own parcel land for free. Annie is a Pastor's daughter, so working the land is something new for her but she works side by side with Samuel to build their life. It isn't to say that life has been easy on them and the drought is about to make life a lot harder for them and the rest of the farmers surrounding them. Samuel and Annie have a 15 year old daughter, Birdie, who experiencing first love. Their son, Fred, doesn't speak but is very aware of those things surrounding him.

 Not only is nature being cruel but things are changing within the Bell family as well. Samuel feels that he is being talked to by God in his dreams and is being called to do something instead of being a bystander. Annie is feeling restless and wants more than the farm life at this point. Birdie can only see as far as Cy and Fred is obsessed with finding bones of animals for his collection.

Ms. Meadows does a fantastic job of drawing you into the characters and their strife and triumph. I could feel the dust seeping into everything as I read the novel. I can't imagine the grit that was in everything.  You can see the doom coming around the corner but I wasn't quite sure how she was going to handle it.  You get to know each of these characters intimately and you care about what happens to them.  You feel for Annie's boredom and resentment of Samuel's faith, when she has lost her own. You hope that Samuel's faith comes through for him.  You know that Birdie is going to make a big decision and not look back. That decision might be the thing that keeps her parents from falling completely apart.

While the subject matter isn't sunny but it is hopeful. People can persevere over things that nature and other humans through at us and make a difference in the end. While the Dust Bowl was awful to experience, it taught farmers about the land and how to work it differently so that something like this didn't happen again.

If you are interested in a piece of our history that isn't always talked or written about, then I highly recommend I Will Send Rain.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Julie's Review: Behind Closed Doors

 photo Behind Closed Doors_zpscb1lp84n.jpg
Author: B.A. Paris
Series: None
Publication Date: August 9, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: DAMN!
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable. Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows. Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed. ~amazon.com  

Review: Behind Closed Doors is the buzzed book about this summer/fall. It's either your cup of tea or it's not. It is the type of book that you won't be able to put down once you start reading and the disturbing parts will probably keep you hooked. In some ways this book reminded me of Room but obviously it's not told from the view of a child.

We learn the story of Jack and Grace from Grace's point of view because frankly, I wouldn't want to be in Jack's mind. At first you aren't really sure what's going on, you are a bit confused until it becomes clear what it is that's going on. In fact, I wasn't sure who was going to be the "bad guy" because of the way Ms. Paris first sets it up.

 Is it the best written book, probably not but it kept me on the edge of my seat, it made me care about what happened in the end. It was fast paced which is good because you really don't want to have that creepiness last long. This is one of those books where the review will be short and really it should just say: Read it. (If psychological thrillers are your thing).


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Julie's Review: Modern Girls

Author: Jennifer S. Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 384
Obtained: Get Red PR
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A touching look at the trials & tribulations of a girl on the cusp of having the life she wants and her mother who wants better for her children
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: A dazzling debut novel set in New York City’s Jewish immigrant community in 1935...How was it that out of all the girls in the office, I was the one to find myself in this situation? This didn’t happen to nice Jewish girls. In 1935, Dottie Krasinsky is the epitome of the modern girl. A bookkeeper in Midtown Manhattan, Dottie steals kisses from her steady beau, meets her girlfriends for drinks, and eyes the latest fashions. Yet at heart, she is a dutiful daughter, living with her Yiddish-speaking parents on the Lower East Side. So when, after a single careless night, she finds herself in a family way by a charismatic but unsuitable man, she is desperate: unwed, unsure, and running out of options. After the birth of five children—and twenty years as a housewife—Dottie’s immigrant mother, Rose, is itching to return to the social activism she embraced as a young woman. With strikes and breadlines at home and National Socialism rising in Europe, there is much more important work to do than cooking and cleaning. So when she realizes that she, too, is pregnant, she struggles to reconcile her longings with her faith. As mother and daughter wrestle with unthinkable choices, they are forced to confront their beliefs, the changing world, and the fact that their lives will never again be the same…. ~amazon.com

Review: Modern Girls is a beautiful story about the relationship between a mother and daughter, the choices we make and the options we have. In 1935 you had very few options if you became pregnant out of wedlock: get married or move to hide the shame from friends and family. These women in the novel are the ones who paved the way for us to our current options.

Dottie is an up and comer. She's smart, fashionable and friendly. She seems to have it all, including her very handsome beau, Abe. She's also a little annoying at times. I just wanted her to get her head out of her butt for a minute and really think about her options. She's a bit stubborn and still thinking that she can have it all.

Rose, is a mom of 4, who is ready to move on with her life now that the kids are all getting a little older. She wants to get back her social activism that she's missed since having to rear the kids. Now she's in for a surprise when she realizes that she's pregnant. She knows that she doesn't have options as she's told her husband that she's expecting again and he's over the moon. Rose, she's not so sure what to think.

While yes this is a novel about the limits of the choices women had back in 1935 for me it was more about the relationship between Rose and Dottie that kept the novel humming. I loved how Ms. Brown flipped it a little bit by making Rose the more progressive thinker than her daughter Dottie. I found that a bit refreshing that it was the daughter scolding the mother for not thinking forward but rather the mother doing that to the daughter.

Finally, Dottie takes control of her situation and while it might have been the decision her mother wanted her to make, it showed a bit of gumption on her part. I was happy that she was no longer a by-stander in her own life and decision making but took the reigns.

Ms. Brown did an excellent job of describing the time period and the customs during that time, which I'm sure still exist today but maybe not as broad. She got the complexity of a mother/daughter relationship down perfectly, especially as Dottie is trying to gain her independence.

While the novel it's full of action, it kept me turning the pages because I wanted to know what happened to them. For fans of Historical Fiction, Modern Girls is one you won't want to miss.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Julie's Review: Fool Me Once

Author: Harlan Coben
Series: None
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Narrator: January LaVoy
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 10 Hours 5 Minutes
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Harlan Coben does it again
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: In Fool Me Once, Coben once again outdoes himself. Former special ops pilot Maya, home from the war, sees an unthinkable image captured by her nanny cam while she is at work: her two-year-old daughter playing with Maya’s husband, Joe—who was brutally murdered two weeks earlier. The provocative question at the heart of the mystery: Can you believe everything you see with your own eyes, even when you desperately want to? To find the answer, Maya must finally come to terms with deep secrets and deceit in her own past before she can face the unbelievable truth about her husband—and herself. ~amazon.com

Review: Fool Me Once is another great novel from Harlan Coben. Once it starts it never stops, especially with the twists and turns. I wouldn't say that I liked Maya but I respected her. She was focused and determined and she must have been one hell of a soldier. Now she's trying to figure out why Joe was murdered and why is he showing up on her nanny-cam that she received after his funeral.

Seeing this video sends Maya on a crazy chase that not only brings in Joe's murder but the murder of her sister as well. How are the two connected? Are they connected? Does Maya's military history have anything to do with this?  Also what are these flashbacks she keeps having?

Mr. Coben knows how to suck me in from page one and his novels never disappoint me. While this one took me longer because it was on audio, I have no doubt that in print I would have flown through it. Ms. LaVoy did a great job with it but I think that I will stick to reading his books instead of listening to his novels.

This book keeps you guessing until the very under with quite the double whammy in the end. If you haven't read his novels, then Fool Me Once isn't a bad place to start. He does have quite the back-list if you get hooked!


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Julie's Review: The Secret Language of Stones

Author: M.J. Rose
Series: The Daughters of LaLune (#2)
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Supernatural
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: Too mystical for my taste but M.J. Rose knows how to write a setting
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Nestled within Paris’s historic Palais Royal is a jewelry store unlike any other. La Fantasie Russie is owned by Pavel Orloff, protégé to the famous Faberge, and is known by the city’s fashion elite as the place to find the rarest of gemstones and the most unique designs. But war has transformed Paris from a city of style and romance to a place of fear and mourning. In the summer of 1918, places where lovers used to walk, widows now wander alone. So it is from La Fantasie Russie’s workshop that young, ambitious Opaline Duplessi now spends her time making trench watches for soldiers at the front, as well as mourning jewelry for the mothers, wives, and lovers of those who have fallen. People say that Opaline’s creations are magical. But magic is a word Opaline would rather not use. The concept is too closely associated with her mother Sandrine, who practices the dark arts passed down from their ancestor La Lune, one of sixteenth century Paris’s most famous courtesans. But Opaline does have a rare gift even she can’t deny, a form of lithomancy that allows her to translate the energy emanating from stones. Certain gemstones, combined with a personal item, such as a lock of hair, enable her to receive messages from beyond the grave. In her mind, she is no mystic, but merely a messenger, giving voice to soldiers who died before they were able to properly express themselves to loved ones. Until one day, one of these fallen soldiers communicates a message—directly to her. So begins a dangerous journey that will take Opaline into the darkest corners of wartime Paris and across the English Channel, where the exiled Romanov dowager empress is waiting to discover the fate of her family. Full of romance, seduction, and a love so powerful it reaches beyond the grave. ~amazon.com

Review: Secret Language of Stones is definitely a book that is meant for people who are into the supernatural elements in the world. I am not that person. That being said I appreciated Ms. Rose's ability to transport you to Paris in 1918 during World War I. She has a way of taking you to a certain period in time and make it feel like you are walking those certain streets.

 Opaline is an interesting character. She has a gift of hearing voices of the dead but only when she is wearing or making her tailsman. She is also an extraordinary jeweler. She has a the job of creating lockets for the mothers and wives of the soldiers who won't be returning from the battlefield. Opaline feels that this gives her purpose and she feels that she is helping the war effort in her own way. That is until she becomes emotionally attached to one of these lockets she is making for Madamoiselle Alouette because her only son Jean Luc was lost in the war.

Jean Luc is the portal that now allows Opaline to hear those who have crossed over after death and this is not an easy thing for her to bear. It becomes something that she needs to learn how to deal with but she's always shied away from that part of her family history and abilities.

I had a hunch throughout the book but I wasn't sure I was going to be right until the epilogue confirmed my suspicions. Sometimes it's nice when your thoughts about a certain situation turn out to be right. I felt that she some times she put herself in precarious situations just to move the story along. There is one part of the story where I was irritated that she couldn't figure it out since it was pretty darn evident.

While I enjoyed the novel, I would say that I would recommend it only to those who have an affinity to read supernatural stories.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Julie's Review: Valley of the Moon

Author: Melanie Gideon
Series: None
Publication Date:July 26, 2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Pages: 416
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Time Travel that didn't make me suspend all beliefs
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: San Francisco, 1975. A single mother, Lux Lysander is overwhelmed, underpaid, and living on the edge of an emotional precipice. When her adored five-year-old son goes away to visit his grandparents, Lux takes a solo trip to Sonoma Valley—a chance to both lose herself and find herself again. Awakened at midnight, Lux steps outside to see a fog settled over the Sonoma landscape. Wandering toward a point of light in the distance, she emerges into a meadow on a sunny day. There she meets a group of people whose sweetly simple clothing, speech, and manners almost make them seem as if they are from another time. And then she realizes they are. Lux has stumbled upon an idyllic community cut off not only from the rest of the world but from time itself. The residents of Greengage tell a stunned and disoriented Lux that they’ve somehow been marooned in the early twentieth century. Now that she has inexplicably stepped into the past, it is not long before Lux is drawn in by its peace and beauty. Unlike the people of Greengage, Lux discovers that she is able to come and go. And over the years, Lux finds herself increasingly torn between her two lives. Her beloved son is very much a child of the modern world, but she feels continually pulled back to the only place she has ever truly felt at home. A gorgeous, original, and deeply moving novel about love and longing and the power that time holds over all of us, Valley of the Moon is unforgettable. ~amazon.com  

Review: Valley of the Moon is the kind of novel that envelops you slowly, like the fog that Lux walks into when she happens upon Greengage. It is a story that slowly unwinds but at the same time isn't slow in pace. Like Lux you anticipate when she will make a voyage to Greengage but she does have responsibilities that she needs to attend to in her world.

Lux is an easy character to like but at times you get tired of her flightiness. She and Benno have a great bond and it's evident they are very intune with each other. Lux struggles to provide but Benno doesn't really want for anything. He always has food on the table and clothes on his back.As she gets more involved in Greengage it becomes harder and harder for her to want to go back to her average life. In fact, one of the more pivotal moments comes when she misses a full moon opportunity to go back.

There is so much to discuss with this book and it really is an experience that will be different for every reader. It is lush and beautiful. It is a book that will leave you thinking about it long after you close the back cover. It is also a book that will get compared to The Time Traveler's Wife but in this case, I think it is warranted.

Melanie Gideon really has a special novel that she's shared with us.She has given us a bridge for time travel that doesn't seem as far out there as other mechanisms. Greengage seems to be a wonderful Utopia without seeming too hippish. If you love historical fiction novels with a bit of time travel, then this one is for you.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Julie's Review: Falling

Author: Jane Green
Series: None
Publication Date: July 19, 2016
Publisher: Berkley/NAL
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Classic Jane Green in the best way
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
When Emma Montague left the strict confines of upper-crust British life for New York, she felt sure it would make her happy. Away from her parents and expectations, she felt liberated, throwing herself into Manhattan life replete with a high-paying job, a gorgeous apartment, and a string of successful boyfriends. But the cutthroat world of finance and relentless pursuit of more began to take its toll. This wasn’t the life she wanted either.  On the move again, Emma settles in the picturesque waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut, a world apart from both England and Manhattan. It is here that she begins to confront what it is she really wants from her life. With no job, and knowing only one person in town, she channels her passion for creating beautiful spaces into remaking the dilapidated cottage she rents from Dominic, a local handyman who lives next door with his six-year-old son.  Unlike any man Emma has ever known, Dominic is confident, grounded, and committed to being present for his son whose mother fled shortly after he was born. They become friends, and slowly much more, as Emma finds herself feeling at home in a way she never has before.  But just as they start to imagine a life together as a family, fate intervenes in the most shocking of ways. For the first time, Emma has to stay and fight for what she loves, for the truth she has discovered about herself, or risk losing it all.  In a novel of changing seasons, shifting lives, and selfless love, a story unfolds—of one woman’s far-reaching journey to discover who she is truly meant to be. ~amazon.com

Review: Falling is exactly what I would expect out of a Jane Green novel and I couldn't be happier. I've read Jane for years and has seen how her writing and subject matters have grown. Her latest is about a woman, Emma, who gives up the city life and the big banking job for a more subdued life in Westport, CT. Since she's unsure of where she's really going to end up, she decides to just rent a lovely beach house for a year; see where life takes her. It is renting this beach house and meeting the handsome landlord, Dominic, that sets her life in motion.

It is a slow, easy going romance. In fact, it develops overtime instead of being an instant relationship, which I appreciated. Emma was so determined that Dominic wasn't her type, that she kept pushing him into the friend-zone, until neither of them could deny it any longer. Of course there are hiccups and bumps along the way but they are things I would expect in real life. Those daily things that every relationship needs to work through, until of course, the worst thing happens.

I'm surprised I didn't cry because usually the circumstances in this novel would have but I knew that Emma was a strong enough woman that she would be ok. She would make sure that those she loved were cared for and would be ok. I wasn't sure how she would keep living in Westport but she did because after all she made it her home.

Besides Emma and Dominic there are great secondary characters in the novel that make for a well-rounded cast. They support and encourage both of them and are there when they are needed.

I would LOVE to see this as a movie. In fact, it would make my day. I'm surprised that one of her novels isn't a movie! So Hollywood, listen up and get to moving on that, would ya!!

If you are looking for some solid story telling with a couple to root for, then pick up Falling.