Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Julie's Review: I See You

Author: Clare Mackintosh
Series: None
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Not as thrilling of a cat and mouse game as I had hoped
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Every morning and evening, Zoe Walker takes the same route to the train station, waits at a certain place on the platform, finds her favorite spot in the car, never suspecting that someone is watching her...It all starts with a classified ad. During her commute home one night, while glancing through her local paper, Zoe sees her own face staring back at her; a grainy photo along with a phone number and a listing for a website called Other women begin appearing in the same ad, a different one every day, and Zoe realizes they’ve become the victims of increasingly violent crimes—including murder. With the help of a determined cop, she uncovers the ad’s twisted purpose...A discovery that turns her paranoia into full-blown panic. Zoe is sure that someone close to her has set her up as the next target. And now that man on the train—the one smiling at Zoe from across the car—could be more than just a friendly stranger. He could be someone who has deliberately chosen her and is ready to make his next move.  

Review: I See You is a fast-paced novel that will have you wondering how much you might be watched on your commute. Kind of creepy right? That's what's going on with Zoe Walker when she finds her picture in an advertisement for a dating site. Zoe's a divorcee with a live-in boyfriend with 2 grown kids, so being on a dating site isn't really something she's done in the past or currently. It freaks her out but her family dismisses it as just being someone who looks like her. Well, Zoe does a little digging and finds the picture on her Facebook page from a wedding several years back.

Things begin to spin out of control quickly as Zoe starts to see women in the advertisements that are suddenly being attacked or murdered. She starts to fear for her own safety but also wondering if she's going a little crazy. She starts to distrust everyone, even those closest to her. She begins to become a bit unhinged.

As we meet the police officer who attaches herself to the case, Kelly, she starts to piece the puzzle together with her knowledge of the Underground and the insight that Zoe has given her. As she puts herself in the middle of the investigation, she works with the team that will eventually crack the case. Her insight and knowledge becomes invaluable but she also crosses a few lines that get her in trouble.

I enjoyed how as Zoe got more frantic the book's pace did the same. It seems to truly kick it up to another level. The idea that someone can stalk you and know your every move is truly frightening if you sit around and dwell on it because then you won't stop thinking about it. I wasn't surprised at the ending but the reasoning behind it seemed kind of far-fetched but the author definitely laid some crumbs for that to be the resolution.

While I See You doesn't pack the same punch as I Let You Go, it is still an adrenaline pumping read.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Julie's Review: Setting Free the Kites

Author: Alex George
Series: None
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Publisher: Putnam Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A heart-wrenching story about the friendships that we have and hold onto
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: For Robert Carter, life in his coastal Maine hometown is comfortably predictable. But in 1976, on his first day of eighth grade, he meets Nathan Tilly, who changes everything. Nathan is confident, fearless, impetuous—and fascinated by kites and flying. Robert and Nathan’s budding friendship is forged in the crucible of two family tragedies, and as the boys struggle to come to terms with loss, they take summer jobs at the local rundown amusement park. It’s there that Nathan’s boundless capacity for optimism threatens to overwhelm them both, and where they learn some harsh truths about family, desire, and revenge. Unforgettable and heart-breaking, Setting Free the Kites is a poignant and moving exploration of the pain, joy, and glories of young friendship.  

Review: In the way that Setting Free the Kites begins, you know there is tragedy in the pages that follow but you also know that there is hope. Robert is a lonely 8th grade boy when he meets Nathan Tilly and his life becomes that much better. Once they meet they are inseparable and the best of friends.

Robert has lived an isolated life for a couple of reasons: everyone thinks his family is well off because they own the amusement park outside of time and he's got a brother who is sick and slowly dying. Robert doesn't know what it's like to be the focus of his parents because it's always been about Liam. Robert doesn't begrudge his brother but he also thinks of himself as invisible. This doesn't effect their relationship because Robert is often in Liam's room listening to the punk bands of the late 70s. It really isn't his choice in music but it makes Liam happy to share it and explain it. Once Nathan enters their lives they spend even more time listening to Liam's music and with Nathan he has a rapt audience.

Nathan is everything that Robert isn't: he's a dreamer and a daredevil. He loves to push the limits and doesn't think anything isn't out of reach. He forces Robert out of his comfort zone by challenging him to do things he would have never done before like exploring the old, deserted paper mill.

What Mr. George does so well is weaving hope in with the despair. He also highlights how important and influential our childhood friendships are to us throughout our lives. How they shape us for our adult lives. He shows that life doesn't always pave us an easy path but with perseverance and a healthy outlook on life, you can overcome it.

If you are looking for a novel that will make you want to call your closest childhood friend, then pick up Alex George's wonderful novel, Setting Free the Kites.


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Julie's Review: On Second Thought

Author: Kristan Higgins
Series: None
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: HQN
Pages: 455
Obtained: publisher via Little Bird Publicity
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A novel about how to find your home and make peace with your path in life
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Ainsley O'Leary is so ready to get married—she's even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn't anticipate is being blindsided by a breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her older half sister, Kate, who's struggling with a sudden loss of her own. Kate's always been the poised, self-assured sister, but becoming a newlywed—and a widow—in the space of four months overwhelms her. Though the sisters were never close, she starts to confide in Ainsley, especially when she learns her late husband was keeping a secret from her. Despite the murky blended-family dynamic that's always separated them, Ainsley's and Kate's heartaches bind their summer together when they come to terms with the inevitable imperfection of relationships and family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.

Review: On Second Thought  s about redefining yourself after unexpected events happen. For me though, it was more about the complex family relationships, especially between Kate and Ainsley. It's not that Kate was mean to Ainsley but more that she was indifferent. Their older brother Sean was more removed from Ainsley and never really wanted anything to do with her. For him, she was the little sister.

Kate and Ainsley couldn't be more different. Kate has been an independent woman for year before meeting and falling in love with Nathan. Ainsley has been in love with and catering to Eric's every whim for 11 years. They aren't even married and she already keeps house while maintaining a job, even if it isn't as demanding as Eric's. With Nathan's sudden death Kate can't help but wonder if she would have been better off never meeting him and falling in love with him. His death sends her reeling and questioning her choices in life.

When Eric dumps Ainsley very publicly, she is a little lost and questioning how she could have been a bit blind about him all these years. Ainsley doesn't let it keep her down for long though; she is the poster child for resilience.

As Ainsley and Kate live together they begin to bond and appreciate each other in ways that weren't possible. Instead of Kate finding Ainsley's unwavering happiness annoying, she sees it as a good thing that her sister sees the best in every situation. Ainsley sees Kate for what she is; smart, independent, strong.

I really enjoyed the development of the sister's relationship for me that was the focus of the book. I mean you could see the romantic relationships that were going to define the novel a mile a way but they were still a fun ride.

Kristan Higgins books are the best kind of escape for me. They isn't too much fluff but enough to make it interesting. The center of this book is really about family relationships and I think that can resonate with all of us.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Julie's Review: My Not So Perfect Life

Author: Sophie Kinsella
Series: None
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: Dial Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Light fun read about figuring out that life isn't always what it seems either in the flesh or on social media
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary:  Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet. Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud. Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life. Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.

Review: My Not So Perfect Life is clever, funny and touching; pretty much everything I expect from a novel from Sophie Kinsella.Katie Brenner or Cat as she's known in London, is low man on the totem pole for a company that specializes in branding. She works for a high-profile woman who is slightly scary and a bit scatterbrained, but she's brilliant at her job. Katie hopes that she'll mentor her but Demeter is in her own world. Since Katie was small she's dreamt of living her life in London and even if she has to enter survey answers into a data base all day she's going to make it happen.

Of course, life always has to throw you a curve ball and Katie loses her job. At the same time her dad and step-mum decide to create a glamping (glamorous camping) business on the family farm. When Katie hears that her dad is just going to throw up some tents and call it a day, she jumps into action. She even offers to come out and help by taking a "sabbatical" from her job. Katie forces them to really make the farm a destination and takes charge of all the branding for it. Even brilliantly designing the pamphlet and website. They are quickly booked and business booms for them. Of course, someone from Katie's past has to show up to throw her game off.

Katie is a wonderful character who grows up a bit as the book goes on but never loses her positive outlook on life or on her talent. She doubts herself at times but never gives up hope. Demeter is a complex character as well. She's complex and not at all what she seems as well. How Katie and Demeter interact on the farm is hilarious and poignant as well. Katie want to exact revenge on her for chucking her out the door at her job; while Demeter is gullible and has no clue what is coming at her.

What I loved about the book is that Ms. Kinsella makes some very valid points: not everything you see on social media is representative and people aren't always what they seem (in the best way). Sometimes when you take the time to be honest with yourself and get to know those around you good things will happen. Get to know people because you want to instead of listening to the opinions or gossip of others.

Ms. Kinsella never disappoints me and I love breezing through them in a couple of sittings. My Not So Perfect Life is a wonderful addition to my collection of her books. If you haven't read her, you must and if you have, you will definitely will want to read this.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Julie's Review: Stolen Beauty

Author: Laurie Lico Albanese
Series: None
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Publisher: /Atria Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Historical Fiction mixed with true facts makes for a stunning debut
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings. In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the fa├žade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons. Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive. Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Review: Stolen Beauty is the beautiful story of what it takes to keep your family history close to you and the struggle we go through to preserve it. Maria Altmann is the heroine in this story with her fight against the Austrian government to get the painting of her aunt back into her family's hands. Having said that though the story is told through Adele's eyes in the early 1900s and then through Maria's during World War II.

Both of these women are fierce and strong in the very different ways. Adele is strong in fighting for the ability to be able to study and have interests besides keeping house and being a mom. She wants knowledge and art in her life; for it to be the focus. Maria is strong in the face of adversity and to try to save her marriage, her family and her history from the Nazi's.

Adele sees marriage to Ferdinand as a way out of her stifling house with her father whom refuses to give her the education she desperately wants.  Even though she may not be "in love" with Ferdinand she is very fond of him and knows that he has the means to give her what she truly desires. Being married to Ferdinand gives her the access to the coffee houses, artists and free-thinkers that she desperately desires.

Maria knew she wanted to be with Fritz Altmann the minute she set eyes on him. Despite the rumors that he is involved with a married woman, she pursues him. It is only months after they are married that the Nazi's are in control of Austria and move to take over Vienna; including Fritz and his brother's factory.

Stolen Beauty is the story of self-sacrifice for the ones we love and hold the closest. It is the story of holding your family's history close and fighting for what is right. While Adele fought for the right to learn, Maria fought for her life and the lives of her families. She got her strength from her aunt but she taught herself how to be strong and survive.