Friday, October 27, 2017

Julie's Review: The Child Finder

Author: Rene Denfeld
Series: None
Publication Date: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 288
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A slow burn of a novel that will stay with you long after you close it
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as "the Child Finder," Naomi is their last hope. Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl, too. As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

Review: The Child Finder is definitely a novel that is a slow burn because not only are you looking for a current child that is missing, but you are also peeling back the layers of Naomi and trying to figure her out as well. She searches for missing children because she herself is a missing child in some ways. There is something about this current case though, that has her memories becoming more vivid through her dreams than ever before. Will this be the key to unlocking her past?

As the stories weave in and out, we learn the hell that Madison has been through and pieces of Naomi's past start to creep back. It is Madison's story that is the most compelling though. How she creates an alternate life/person to protect the girl she was before. As a reader, you hurt for her and also realize that she's stronger than most kids. She's smart enough to learn to separate herself from the hell that she's living in.

There are parts of the story that will make you queasy and make you extremely angry. Yet, as the story begins to unfold you can only feel sorry for her captor because there is more to his story. Some how there is must more sinister history that Naomi is aware of as she begins to puzzle it together.

Naomi is a complex character. Her past is blank until she runs out into the strawberry fields to be rescued by the migrant workers. She feels drawn to save children who can't save themselves because she was able to save herself.  Her relationship with Mrs. Cottle and Jerome are her anchors throughout her life. Yet, she's still searching for something and unable to rest until she helps all the kids she can.

With the ending of the novel, I'm hoping that Ms. Denfeld brings Naomi back for another book that focuses on her search, trying to find her history.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Poll Results: Next Read

Thanks to those who voted last Friday!  The result is:

Stay tuned for a review and the next poll!


Monday, October 23, 2017

Julie's Review: The Marriage Pact

Author: Michelle Redmond
Series: None
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Publisher: Bantam
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Dragged on too long and ending fell flat for me
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact. The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .Never mention The Pact to anyone. Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.  

Review: Marriage Pact would be a really good action thriller movie with the right cast but as a novel the middle dragged a bit. I felt that it took a bit to long to get the crux of the story and then it ended abruptly. Not only that but I have to admit I wanted the ending to go the other way.

Saying all that, I enjoyed learning about Jake and Alice through Jake's eyes. Part of me thought that it was sweet that he wanted to marry her so that he wouldn't use her and then apart of me was kind of put off by it. As you get to know Jake it wasn't that he wanted to own her, it was that he loved her so much he didn't want to have a life without her. Alice was a bit more reserved with her devotion to Jake but as the book progresses, you see how much she loves Jake as well. The Pact organization was a bit like Fight Club, you don't talk about it. They are a very exclusive club designed to help couples succeed at marriage.

At first it seems like a bit of fun with the parties and the mystery but things go very weird quickly. There are rules, known as The Manual, that neither of them have read thoroughly. They find out very quickly that there is much they need to learn so they don't break the rules. Although, it is already too late for Alice, apparently she talks a bit too much.

Jake, being curious by nature, starts digging into the organization and isn't so sure that they have made the right decision. Of course, this leads them down a path that is cause for much running and discussion for them.

Ultimately, it was a fast-paced novel that perhaps could have been edited down a bit but it was a good ride. Also, my takeaway from this is, you don't sign anything to do with a secret organization, even though it sounds cool/exclusive.


Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Fun

I've been wanting to try some new stuff here on Girls Just Reading, so here's the first thing: Help me pick at one of my reads for next week. We will see the response and determine if this is something we do 2x a month or so.

What Should Julie Read Next?


Monday, October 16, 2017

Julie's Review: Where The Light Falls

Author: Allison Pataki, Owen Pataki
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: The Dial Press
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful novel about the French Revolution
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Three years after the storming of the Bastille, the streets of Paris are roiling with revolution. The citizens of France are enlivened by the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The monarchy of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette has been dismantled—with the help of the guillotine—and a new nation is rising in its place. Jean-Luc, an idealistic young lawyer, moves his wife and their infant son from a comfortable life in Marseille to Paris, in the hopes of joining the cause. AndrĂ©, the son of a denounced nobleman, has evaded execution by joining the new French army. Sophie, a young aristocratic widow, embarks on her own fight for independence against her powerful, vindictive uncle. As chaos threatens to undo the progress of the Revolution and the demand for justice breeds instability and paranoia, the lives of these compatriots become inextricably linked. Jean-Luc, AndrĂ©, and Sophie find themselves in a world where survival seems increasingly less likely—for themselves and, indeed, for the nation. Featuring cameos from legendary figures such as Robespierre, Louis XVI, and Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, Where the Light Falls is an epic and engrossing novel, moving from the streets and courtrooms of Paris to Napoleon’s epic march across the burning sands of Egypt. With vivid detail and imagery, the Patakis capture the hearts and minds of the citizens of France fighting for truth above all, and for their belief in a cause greater than themselves.

Review: Where the Light Falls takes you on a ride through the dirty, backroom of the French Revolution. While people screamed for revolution and overthrew the crown to get it, you have to wonder who was truly benefiting from it? Were the people of France better off for it? Certainly not right away as there was even turmoil within the ranks of the leadership of it as they turned on each other. Ms. and Mr. Pataki introduce characters that will stay with me long after I have finished the novel. Each of them, Jean-Luc, Sophie and Andre are fighting their own personal revolutions.

Jean-Luc came to Paris with his wife and young son to create a better life for them and to serve the Revolution. He has great potential but is currently cataloging the belongings of nobility to give back to the people. Through his diligent work he is introduced to some of the most powerful men in France and given the opportunity to join their ranks. Something about that meeting turns him off and he instead goes up against them. I admired Jean-Luc, he took the tougher path and stuck by his beliefs in the fact that all people deserved Justice, even if the forces were against you. Believe me, he made some powerful enemies but never once did he back down. He believed that what he was doing was right.

Andre Valiere is a Captain in the French Army serving his country valiantly at Valmy where his troops helped to defeat the Prussians. Although for some it doesn't matter because he's of noble blood. Andre spends a great many years in love with Sophie without being able to truly be with her due to being gone and then her Uncle keeping them apart. He even has her thrown in jail to keep them apart.

What I loved about these 3 is that they never gave up, they persisted even when things looked bleak. What it also showed me is that sometimes the people who lead the revolution are no better than the people who are in power. What are their motives? What do they hope to gain or what's in it for them? No one is every fully altruistic, even if they initially start out that way.

If you are looking for a novel that gives a behind the scenes look at the French Revolution, then look no further than Where the Light Falls.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Julie's Review: The Blackbird Season

Author: Kate Moretti
Series: None
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 352
Obtained: Friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction,Mystery
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Small town life and how rumors + poor decisions = ruined lives
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Known for novels featuring “great pacing and true surprises” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) and “nerve-shattering suspense” (Heather Gudenkauf, New York Time bestselling author), New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti’s latest is the story of a scandal-torn Pennsylvania town and the aftermath of a troubled girl gone missing. “Where did they come from? Why did they fall? The question would be asked a thousand times… Until, of course, more important question arose, at which time everyone promptly forgot that a thousand birds fell on the town of Mount Oanoke at all.” In a quiet Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall onto a high school baseball field, unleashing a horrifying and unexpected chain of events that will rock the close-knit community. Beloved baseball coach and teacher Nate Winters and his wife, Alecia, are well respected throughout town. That is, until one of the many reporters investigating the bizarre bird phenomenon catches Nate embracing a wayward student, Lucia Hamm, in front of a sleazy motel. Lucia soon buoys the scandal by claiming that she and Nate are engaged in an affair, throwing the town into an uproar…and leaving Alecia to wonder if her husband has a second life. And when Lucia suddenly disappears, the police only to have one suspect: Nate. Nate’s coworker and sole supporter, Bridget Harris, Lucia’s creative writing teacher, is determined to prove his innocence. She has Lucia’s class journal, and while some of the entries appear particularly damning to Nate’s case, others just don’t add up. Bridget knows the key to Nate’s exoneration and the truth of Lucia’s disappearance lie within the walls of the school and in the pages of that journal.

Review: Blackbird Season is a novel where it's true intent comes out during the final pages of the novel. You are going in one direction the entire novel until you aren't and it all makes sense. It wasn't a ploy but a way of showing the reader how only knowing one part of a story skews our entire view.

I'm not entirely sure if there were many truly likable characters in the novel but they each played their part. While Nate was a solid teacher and coach, he inserted himself into the lives of his students where perhaps he shouldn't have with long-lasting consequences. He was more engaged with the lives of his student than he was with his son and wife. For someone looking in from the outside, it seemed like he was trying to run away from the hard job of raising a son with autism and at times I felt that he wanted to be a teen again. He enjoyed basking in the glory of his baseball players.

Alecia, Nate's wife, is the one who runs their son's life which includes multiple therapy sessions and working with him constantly throughout the day. So when Nate is late or not helping, she gets angry. She used to be social and she used to be fun but now she feels exhausted all the time. Gabe is her life and her focus, as it is for most moms, but should it be? Maybe Nate is feeling resentful because all of her attention is focused on Gabe. One thing I did notice is that even while Nate was under suspicion of having an affair and then of making Lucia go missing, not once did Ms. Moretti have Alecia blame herself. His actions are his responsibility not hers and it was refreshing.

While I want to say that I saw both sides of the coin on the subject matter, I was definitely more Team Alicia than Team Nate. The whole time I felt that Nate didn't understand that while a bold line wasn't crossed, a smaller line was definitely ran over. I never felt that he owned up to his part in this whole entire mess. While I appreciated that Bridget stood by him and really was the only one who believed him; Nate himself didn't do much to help plead his case. He actually looked and acted guilty most of the time.

I enjoyed how Ms. Moretti led you down one trail but then veered off into the woods but it wasn't like it was out of left field either. Once all is revealed you see how she laid the ground work for it.
I highly recommend  Blackbird Season for those who are fans of mysteries.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Julie's Review: The Crows of Beara

Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Series: None
Publication Date: September 1, 2017
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press
Pages: 402
Obtained: Author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful story of losing yourself and then finding yourself again
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life. Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine. Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind. Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people. Beautifully crafted with environmental themes, a lyrical Irish setting, and a touch of magical realism, The Crows of Beara is a breathtaking novel of how the nature of place encompasses everything that we are.  

Review: The Crows of Beara is about losing yourself, becoming some one you don't recognize, to gaining back the control in your life. Annie is at the end of her rope with her marriage and her job. Her life has been derailed for some time and this trip to Ireland for work is her way of trying to get back on track. Annie has been lost for so long that she's not sure where to start and how to start.

Her mission while in Ireland is to convince the locals that the jobs the mine would bring out weighs the cost to the environment around them. She partners with the CEO of the mine to outline what their agenda and strategy is going forward. Except there's something a bit unsettling about how James feels completely comfortable with her right from the beginning.

As she's hiking along the Beara Peninsula, she feels drawn to the land and to what it is trying to say to her. The longer she's there the more time she spends on it, the more she feels the pull of it. She knows this job could end her career but she's not so sure any more that its a bad thing.

Annie is a character that you cheer for, that you want her to find her way. You know she's going to stumble but can she recover from that bump in the road.  You want her to forgive herself for her past mistakes and move on from them. Self-loathing will get her no where.

What I love about Ms. Johnson's writing is that she adds a mystical bend to the plot that adds mystery and intrigue into it. In this case it's the legend of the Old Hag of Beara and the song that sings to both Annie and Danny. It is about how a place can heal you and help you find who you are meant to be. Home isn't always a place but a feeling and often the people you surround yourself with as well.

If you love books about finding yourself and how sometimes you need to have setbacks to put you on the right path, then pick up The Crows of Beara.