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
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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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Friday, November 9, 2018

Julie's Review: When the Lights Go Out

Author: Mary Kubica
Series: None
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Park Row
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: This one fell short for me
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known. Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her? ~amazon.com

Review: When the Lights Go Out is a psychological thriller that will keep you feeling frantic and wondering if you are losing your mind right along with Jessie. Jessie is reeling after the death of her mother and trying to get her life back on track. The biggest issue is that she's not sleeping which is causing her life to be chaotic. Not only that but her application to school has her as dead through the social security system.

This really sends Jessie into a tailspin and causes her mind to race and her to behave erratically. While we are tripping with her, we also learn the story of her mother's past.  Eden's past is just as intriguing as the present hell her daughter is going through.

What Ms. Kubica does extremely well is make you feel for Eden and her path to getting pregnant. I could feel the emotions from both her and her husband. I can only imagine the struggle of going through all the poking and prodding just to see if you can get pregnant. Then add in the IVF treatments and the expense and it's no wonder Eden got lost.

I felt for Jessie and the questions about who she was and how she was going to figure it all out. My only qualm was that I don't think she did enough to try to get some sleep.

If you haven't read Ms. Kubica then I recommend picking something from her backlist first.


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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Julie's Review: The Dream Daughter


by Diane Chamberlain
Powells.com
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Series: None
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating:5/5
Bottom Line: Time Travel is hard to do well but Ms. Chamberlain excelled at it
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam war, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child. But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby. What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed. Something that will mean an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly's part. And all for the love of her unborn child. The Dream Daughter is a rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother's quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget. ~amazon.com

Review: I haven't read all of Ms. Chamberlain's novels but the one's I have read I have enjoyed. The Dream Daughter catapults her into the can't miss author category because it shines! Time travel can be extremely hard to write and usually I would shy away from it but given all the fantastic buzz, I decided to give it a go.

Carly is an interesting character who definitely grows a lot during the course of the story. She's pregnant with a child that has a heart issue and just lost her husband in the Vietnam War. Her brother in law, Hunter has a way to save her unborn child; travel to the year 2001 when they have the technology to save her baby. She thinks he's lost his mind but decides to risk it to save the only thing left of Joe.  

Ms. Chamberlain definitely tugs at your heart strings and you keep going NO! These characters are complex and multi-layered and you feel for the struggles they go through. Even over a week later I keep thinking about these characters and I'm pretty sure they won't leave my thoughts any time soon. 

I would highly recommend this novel to those of you who love stories about family, love and hope. 


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