Monday, December 10, 2018

Julie's Review: Once Upon a River


Author: Diane Setterfield
Series: None
Publication Date:December 4, 2018
Publisher: Emily Bestler Books/Atria
Pages: 480
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Folklore
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Gorgeously written but in the end I don't think her books are for me
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary:  On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed. Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless. Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison, stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known. ~amazon.com

Review: Here's the thing, I read The Thirteenth Tale a couple years ago and I didn't love it like everyone else. The summary for Once Upon a River sounded so intriguing that I figured I'd give her another go.

This book transports you to towns along the Thames River in an Ancient time and it captures you. The river and its mysteries seep into your soul. You can clearly picture the inn and the people within. Along with the girl who appears dead but who is not. It follows her story through the eyes of the people who love her, who rescued her and her need her. 

While Ms. Setterfield knows how to tell a tale, it took too long for this reader to get to point where it really seemed to take off. I definitely appreciate setting the atmosphere, telling a tale and drawing the reader in but for this reader it didn't connect. I really wanted to love it because so many did. Maybe my initial reading of her debut should have told me we weren't going to connect but I do believe in 2nd chances.

If you love mysterious, gothic, folklore novels then this one is for you.

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Sunday, December 9, 2018

Sunday Skim




In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of  11/26/2018:


Finished:






Out of the 3 books I finished this week by far my favorite was Into The Black Nowhere. It's a heart pounding, keep you up at night novel. I mean I even had some nightmares related to it. She continues to be one of my favorite writers. Red Notice was an utterly fascinating non-fiction account about high finance in Russia with major corruption. After finishing I did some more Googling and was intrigued by how this story continues to unfold.  People will love Diane Setterfield's atmospheric new novel but I have decided that her books aren't for me. 

Currently Reading: 




Looking Forward To:



It was a better week at work and I only have 8 more days of work until 2019. I'm pretty sure I can survive. 😀 This week was a good reading week both in print and in audio as you can tell from above. This week is busy with band concerts and basketball games/practices. At least my daughter's school musical is finished.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Julie's Review: Master of His Fate


Author: Barbara Taylor Bradford
Series: The House of Falconer #1
Publication Date: November 20, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 416
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Be transported to Victorian England in only the way Barbara Taylor Bradford can transport you
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Victorian England is a country of sharp divides between rich and poor, but James Lionel Falconer, who spends his days working at his father’s market stall, is determined to become a merchant prince. Even as a child, he is everything a self-made man should be: handsome, ambitious, charming, and brimming with self-confidence. James quickly rises through the ranks, proving himself both hardworking and trustworthy, and catching the eye of Henry Malvern, head of the most prestigious shipping company in London. But when threats against his reputation – and his life - begin to emerge, James will have to prove that he truly is the master of his fate. Through scandal and romance, tragedy and triumph, the Falconer and Malvern family’s lives intertwine in unexpected ways in this expansive and intricately detailed new novel filled with drama, intrigue, and Bradford's trademark cast of compelling characters.  

Review: No one weaves a family saga like Barbara Taylor Bradford. Years ago my Aunt gave me Woman of Substance and I was hooked. In the first book of her new series, The House of Falconer, we are introduced to the Falconer family with the focus being on James, the eldest son a family that might not have the station in life but they work hard and have drive. James has been groomed to be successful from both his grandparents and his parents. He has a natural knack for business and has the charisma and good looks to make it a bit easier for him.

On the flip, we have Alexis Malvern who is her dad's right hand at Malvern Industries. She's pretty much sworn off love to focus on her career and running a business. This is where you think that her and James will meet and fall deeply in love but nope. Both of their stories have their own plot until they really converge toward the end of the novel.

I loved both their story-lines equally and both are written so well and aren't One Dimensional at all. They are both strong characters and I can't wait to see what she has in store for this series.


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Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of  11/26/2018:


Finished:






Currently Reading: 

 


Looking Forward To:




Back to work this week was hard. I'll be honest this past year at work has been really rough and this week confirmed that it's really not ending soon. I'm counting down the days until I'm off work again while trying to get as much work done as I can. As far as reading goes, I really enjoyed Ms. Bradford's first book in her new series. So much so that I was trying to figure out when the next one comes out! My audiobook is like a espinoge/thriller but non-fiction. This one was recommended by my dad and I'm definitely enjoying it.


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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Julie's Review: Educated


Author: Tara Westover
Series: None
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 352
Obtained: a friend
Genre:  Memoir
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Brilliant; just like the author
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home. ~amazon.com

Review: Holy Cow! This book was amazing! It deserves to be on all the lists. I don't really do memoirs but this was given to me by my boss/mentor/friend who absolutely loved it. To be fair it did sit on my shelf since this summer but it happens.

This novel will have you cringing, crying and sometimes laughing. Tara is a force to be reckoned with and you know early on that she's meant for more than mountain life. Tara is youngest girl in her family and has always had a curiosity about her. She's never questioned her family's lifestyle because she's never known anything different. She's never wondered about her father looming large over all their decisions. If he says they need to prepare for the End of the World, they prepare for the end of the world. Tara's education has been at the whim of her mother and father. When her brother Tyler leaves the mountain and goes to college, Tara begins to see that there could be a life outside the mountain.

In order to get out from under her father and away from the vicious circle in her family, she will have to uproot herself from the violence of her brother Shawn and learn to protect herself. Her family doesn't value the females in their family and no one in the immediate vicinity came to her defense.

Once she does leave, it doesn't get much easier for her. She will need to understand what is considered normal and try to adjust. This isn't easier for her and she struggles for years to gain the self-confidence she needs in herself.

This is a novel for all of us to read to know that we all can overcome those obstacles that everyone has. Some of us have more to overcome than others but learning to have faith in ourselves is something everyone can understand.


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Monday, November 26, 2018

Julie's Review: A Spark of Light


Author: Jodi Picoult
Series: None
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Humanizing a very polarizing subject matter
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Summary: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day. One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding. ~amazon.com  

Review: A Spark of Light is no different than Ms. Picoult's other novels; she takes a sensitive subject and adds humanity to it. In this novel it's abortion and a shooting at a Center that performs abortions.  The story is told backwards so we are left with wondering what happens until the end of the book. This can be confusing at times but once you get into the characters and their stories you'll start to forget the backward timelines.

She gives each of the people in the Center a story and a reason for them being there. We meet Wren who is there for birth control with her Aunt because she didn't want to tell her father. Now her father is negotiating with the man who is holding them all hostage. We meet Dr. Ward who flies around the country performing abortion despite (or because) of his strong Catholic faith. He helps women who he feels have exhausted all the options. Then there is Joy who was there to have an abortion and was recovering from it. Perhaps the most shocking is Janine and her backstory or maybe it's not shocking at all. We have a nurse, Izzy, who is the real hero of the story due to her ability to jump in and save lives.

It is quite evident even before the authors note that she did her research for this subject matter. I don't really think that she aimed to change views but wants to make people understand the dangers of a world that thinks extremely on either end. It is dangerous for women to even walk into one of the clinics regardless that abortions is minor compared to all the other medical offerings.

 I highly recommend A Spark of Light for fans of well researched and complicated fiction.


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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of  11/19/2018:


Finished:




Wow! I don't really do memoirs but this book was recommended all over the place and my boss gave it to me because she loved it. It was a story about one girl/woman overcoming her childhood and her tyrannical father to become a brilliant scholar. (5/5)

Currently Reading: 

 


Looking Forward To:




I actually thought I'd read more this week but with chauffeuring the kids around and hosting 4 sleepovers, I caught up on more t.v. than reading. That's the way it goes though.  We had a great Thanksgiving. While I only finished one book, it was outstanding. I hope you all celebrated Thanksgiving however you chose! Here's to another great week!

























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Sunday, November 18, 2018

Sunday Skim


In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Week of  11/12/2018:


Finished:




At the heart of this novel lies a story about family, love and hope but then she throws in a murder and the mystery behind that murder that will have you guessing until the end. (3/5)


No one does David and Goliath legal stories like John Grisham and Gray Mountain hit all the high notes for me. It also made me cringe at time with how big coal treated their employees. (4/5)


Ms. Picoult always takes a controversial topic and adds humanity to it. She makes you think by not being preachy and she's not trying to change your mind. My favorite character was Dr. Ward and when you read the book I think you'll understand why. (4.5/5)


This is Ms. Oakley's first book and it's been on my shelf for a least 2 years. Daisy is dying of cancer at the young age of 29 and instead of letting her husband Jack into her life, she wastes her time trying to find a substitute for her for when she dies. I am actually surprised I didn't cry at this one but perhaps it is because all along you know she's not going to survive. (3.75/5) 

Currently Reading: 
 

Looking Forward To:



This was a solid week of reading for me; I finished 2 books and 2 audiobooks which is probably some kind of record for me. One of the audio books, Before I Go, I finished in 3 days. I have the week off of work (HORRAY) but it won't be restful with 2 kids. I'm hosting 3 sleepovers this week. I'm either a super nice mom or I've lost my mind. I do look forward to some downtime and some time with my family.

 I hope you had a great reading week as well. Happy Thanksgiving!





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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Julie's Review: You Were Always Mine

Author: Nicole Baart
Series: None
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3/5

Bottom Line: I figured out a big piece of the puzzle early on. This one fell a bit short for me.

Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary:  Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel. Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult. ~amazon.com


Review: You Were Always Mine is a story about what makes a family with a mystery woven into it. Jessica and her husband, Evan, have been separated for a few months when he doesn't pick up the boys on a Friday after school. No matter what is going on between them, he's always there for the boys. Then she gets the devastating call that Evan has been found dead in Minnesota. None of this makes sense to her but she's too distraught to make sense of it until things start seeming out of place.

Add that her eldest son Max has gotten himself into some trouble at school that he has to do community service for and he's also a very surly 13 year old. It was very evident to me that Jessica favored Gabe over Max. Now don't get me wrong, she loves Max but it's Gabe she showers with affection and pays special attention to as well.  I also kept in mind that Gabe was 6 which can make a difference as well. I also thought her burying her head in the sand when it came to Gabe's birth mom was selfish and ill advised. Just because you have contact doesn't make you less his mom.






I thought the premise of the novel was intriguing but it fell short for me for a couple reasons. First, I didn't really care for Jessica and she drove me a bit nuts with her pity me attitude. Second, I figured out an essential piece of the puzzle early on even if I didn't know how it fit in overall.

I loved Little Broken Things by Ms. Baart so while this one didn't resonate with me, I will continue to pick up her books.



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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Skim

 

In the vain of trying something new here on the blog, I thought I might start with some Sunday posts summarizing what I've read, what I plan to start and upcoming books I'm looking forward to.

Weeks of  10/29/2018 and 11/5/2018:

Finished:

This is a fantastic novel that involves time travel but more than that is is a story family, love, hope and trust. This story and characters have stayed with me now for over a week. If you haven't read Ms. Chamberlain before, this is a good one to start with. I highly recommend. (5/5)







What does lack of sleep do to your psyche? Top that with the loss of a love one and the fact that your identity might not be yours; you are headed for a ride. (3/5)

For me the best part of this novel wasn't the love story between Gelhorn and Hemingway but her war reporting. She was a pioneer and one I did a bit more digging on via Google as I read and then after. (4/5)


Currently Reading: 

 


Looking Forward to:


























I missed last Sunday's update because we had a Bears party for our baseball family so I was prepping for that and didn't have time to post it. I'm on a great reading roll and hoping it continues. I'm off the week of Thanksgiving so I'm hoping to make a dent in my TBR pile.

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