Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson

The Star Side of Bird HillThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First let me talk about the cover on this novel - it's so amazing! Just jumps off hte shelf at you! And it's perfect for this novel! It just rocks! This was a fascinating take on the coming of age story and it centers on two girls who face a lot of challenges as they maneuver through family, friends and community.

The representation of teens in this novel was really fantastic - it offered a balanced view of them which I found refreshing. Teens can be so challenging and putting that myriad of emotions onto paper can be difficult, I'm sure. Naomi Jackson excelled at that in this novel.

The characters were so fleshed out and realistic - flawed in all their beauty. I loved the character of Hyacinth (the girls' grandmother) who really had that charm and strength that a good grandmother should have. Her devotion to her girls was one of the most beautiful relationships in the novel.

I loved how this novel helped to teach me a bit about Barbados and the challenges someone might have after living in America and coming to live in Barbados. The novel explored family, friendship, and depression so well. Although not a fast paced novel, this was a nice, gentle exploration of interesting people and their interesting lives.

I highly recommend this novel - it's so good! I can't wait to read more of this novelists work in the future!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Review: Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Bellweather RhapsodyBellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a quirky little book! I really was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Although the characters were more one dimensional than I usually like, the story itself (and it's quirkiness) made up for that for me. It did feel a bit like the author pulled in some familiar things to create her world and characters - characters and event like Glee, a huge hotel with history like in the Shining (but without the horror) and a murder mystery right out of Agatha Christie!

I found the playfulness of the novel and the characters to be its greatest asset. I was curious about how things would play out but also interested in the story along the way. The humor and quirkinmess really made it memorable to me.

I don't think this is for everyone but I do think it was charming and interesting. Definitely worth your checking out to see if it's something you might like!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Review: The Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley

The Things That Keep Us HereThe Things That Keep Us Here by Carla Buckley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel has been on my Nook for what seems like ages but the cover image had me convinced it was one novel ... and it was something completely different. This isn't in any way a fluffy, family drama sort of book as the cover indicated to me. This is a family drama that's built around a pandemic taking over the world. And it's really quite good. Not perfect but infinitely readable and interesting.

I found myself a bit frightened given the fact that the events in this book are very realistic ... and could easily happen at any time. That gave the book a sense of urgency that I really enjoyed!

I wish there had been a bit more on the pandemic, to fill in some of the openings but I suspect that the author wanted to put the reader in the same place as her characters ... where things are happening but the infrastructure that we rely on for information is no longer in place.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel and recommend it. It's a unique take on the 'end of the world' tale.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Where All Light Tends to GoWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this dark and atmospheric novel. Although not a new concept (the story itself has been told elsewhere), I did find this a very good novel. Southern fiction focusing around a family impacted by meth and how it's changed them. In many ways, this is a simple coming of age story but it is even better as a cautionary tale. The impact of poverty and crime played out with this cast of characters was fascinating. Like I said, nothing revolutionary - but a solid story with compelling stories. This novel is dark and gritty - there is little to be uplifted by. However, there is a great deal of soul to this story and I found it to be a good read. I recommend it if the dark and gritty appeals to you.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Review: Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel by Julianna Baggott

Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A NovelHarriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders: A Novel by Julianna Baggott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel - such a great story about three generations of women. I loved how the story unfolded and how the author used Harriet Wolf's books to tell that story in a really unique way.

There is so much texture in this novel - both in the characters and the world that Baggott has created for those characters. Everyone is flawed and interesting and come across quite real. It was a fun and interesting adventure!

I definitely recommend this one ... it was such a pleasure to read!There is a mystical sort of feel to this novel - it's lyrical and even magical. I found it unlike anything I've ever read. This would be a great book for a book club to read and discuss!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Review: Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner

Who Do You LoveWho Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel! It really spoke to me but perhaps that is because it has some parallels to my own relationship with my husband who I consider to be my soul mate. We have been in and out of each others lives since I was 14 but I always knew he was the one.

Anyway, back to the novel ... it's a really well paced story, that allows you to get both character's perspective of what's been happening. I think this is a heartfelt and beautiful story about the paths life takes and how we never know where we'll end up! I think the love story was very realistic and honest. It felt real.

I really enjoyed this new one from Jennifer Weiner! I did miss her trademark funny dialogue which I didn't see much here but overall, yet another good book from her!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Saint AnythingSaint Anything by Sarah Dessen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am new to Sarah Dessen but I really enjoyed this novel. I felt it was very realistic about the lives of teenagers. The dialogue and characters felt realistic and true. I found this book to be a thoughtful exploration of family, self-discovery and friendship.

I feel like this quote really summed up some of my favorite parts of this book -
"I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn't shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That's the thing though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are."
I often felt invisible as a teenager and often struggled with the fact that I was so unnoticed and how that was good and bad at times. I felt this book really honored the feelings that a lot of teens have ... and it did a great job of showing how teens often rely on their friends when their family isn't meeting their needs.

I really liked this one and felt it was more mature than some YA that I've read. I enjoyed the reading experience. I recommend to YA fans!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was eager to read this follow up to Me Before You and it delivered about how I expected it to ... it was good but not nearly as good as Me Before You. I'm glad that I read it because I enjoyed spending time with Louisa again and seeing where things go for her.

I love the characters and this book continued to make them interesting and charming. I loved getting to see how things are for all of them and watch them grow. I also enjoyed the new characters that were introduced in this novel and found them to be good additions to the original cast of characters.

The same warmth and charm that permeated Me Before You is here in this one. And if you enjoyed the first one, definitely take the time to pick this one up. You'll be glad you got to see where Louisa goes and where she ends up. It's definitely worth the read. I think it explored loss and healing in a really effective way.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Review: This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such an interesting book ... unlike most books that I've read. It was unique in many ways - the narrator, the way the story was told, how everything unfolds, etc. Harriet is a character that I don't think that I will be soon to forget! She is so fascinating and interesting. I loved how the book unfolded from the perspective of different times in her life. It gave the story and character development such depth.

I don't want to tell you much about this one because I think it was nice to come to it with no expectations or idea of what I might be reading about. I think this is a novel that anyone would enjoy as it's ultimately about universal theme of coming to terms with your life. I definitely recommend this one to everyone ... you will love spending time with Harriet Chance!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Review: Jackaby by William Ritter

Jackaby (Jackaby, #1)Jackaby by William Ritter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How did I miss this book when it was released?? When the second in the series came out, I learned of this one and grabbed it up. And I'm so glad I did. I really loved this book!

This novel's main character is Jackaby who is like Sherlock Holmes but with supernatural abilities. And he is fantastic! Loved getting to know him and read about his work. His relationship with Abigail (a woman who comes to work for him as an assistant) is so interesting. I loved the mix of mystery, supernatural and the fact that there is NO ROMANCE. I was worried at first that it would become a romance but thank goodness it's didn't go that direction.

I can't wait to read the next in the series and get to spend more time with Jackaby and Abigail. Someone called this one a mix of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who and I'd say that's a good description. I definitely recommend this one! I really enjoyed the entire experience of reading it!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Review: What Lies Between by Charlena Miller

What Lies BetweenWhat Lies Between by Charlena Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am almost always attracted to novels that take place in Scotland. I believe I heard about this particular novel from a list that someone put together for fans of Outlander. Although this is no Outlander, I did enjoy this book quite a bit. It is a contemporary fiction novel with some suspense elements.

I found this novel to be well written and the story itself interesting. I liked the characters and found their development was well done. I loved the descriptions of Scotland which felt true to my own experience of visiting. The mystery of the novel was well done and the suspense pacing was handled well. There was romance but it wasn't even remotely all about romance. I'd say it was a really interesting suspense novel with a bit of romance.

I definitely recommend this one if you enjoy contemporary novels or you enjoy novels set in Scotland.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, EverythingEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm quite surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel. I think this novel tells a really sweet story that made my heart feel good. If you liked The Fault in Our Stars, you might want to check this one out. It's a teen love story that centers around an illness. The voice of the teens in this book felt very accurate and real to me. Some of the sentiment expressed about their feelings for one another felt real and true to how I felt at the same age.

I think this is a novel that adults will enjoy as much as young adults. It's not overly sweet or unrealistic as some YA can feel. I think it's just a nice story about interesting characters. It was a fairly easy read and didn't take me long to finish. I was happy to see that the main character was diverse (half black/half Japanese) which I think is something that much YA lacks. I also enjoyed the formatting of parts of the story (notes, IMs, e-mails, etc). I thought it added a whimsy to the story that was interesting.

There is a twist of sorts that I didn't see coming (in part because it felt a bit like a cop out to me). It didn't ruin the book for me but it did make me pause for a moment (and give it 4 rather than 5 stars).

All in all, I definitely recommend this one! It's a nice little story that I think many will enjoy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne

The Ice TwinsThe Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a creepy book! As a mother of twins (although not identical twins), I found this entire story fascinating. There was such a great senses of place which reinforced the creepy nature of the novel. The character development was well done as was the pacing of the story. It's interesting how Tremayne tied the various creepy aspects into one cohesive narrative. I thought it was well done. There is definitely a strong atmospheric element to the novel which made it interesting throughout.

I did have some issues with the book but they were mostly small things that didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the novel. I found it hard to believe that a parent wouldn't know which twin was which as occurred in this novel. The characters (although well developed) were not easy to like ... they were not nice people, there were few redeeming qualities in either of them for me. The ending didn't entirely work for me but not enough to ruin the overall book.

This is a particularly good suspense novel so if that's up your alley, you may want to give this one a shot! It was definitely a creepy read!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Review: House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

House of EchoesHouse of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book on a Book Riot podcast where they were recommending creepy books that had a sense of foreboding. And boy does this meet that requirement! This book got under my skin and totally creeped me out (and intrigued me)! This is a great book to read at this time of year!

The basic story is about a family that moves to a big, old house near the town where his grandmother grew up. They hope to fix this house up and open an inn. But, things don't quite work out as planned and the story goes from there.

There is something going on in this town and in the woods near this home but you don't quite know what it is until the end of the novel and all of the pieces come together. This novel is great reading, completely engrossing! I didn't want to put it down! This isn't horror in a traditional sense ... it's really much more of a suspenseful novel. But, I don't think a horror label is wrong, just that it's not traditional horror.

I definitely recommend this if you're looking for really great suspense that will keep you guessing! It's a really good read!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Review: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

EileenEileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wish I'd liked this book as much as some of my bookish friends. Although I thought it was good, it didn't quite make it over to great for me.

This is a good character study ... the characters, particularly Eileen, are what makes this novel successful. Going deep into Eileen's head while reading this novel was disturbing in every possible way. The level of disturbing that I found this book to be is a testament to Otessa Moshfegh's writing. She puts you in the head of a truly despicable and difficult to take person. And she does it very, very well.

If you love psychological thrillers, this might be worth your picking up. It is certainly one of the most in depth explorations of the psychology of a sick person that I think I've read. If you aren't a fan of characters that are difficult to like, then you should definitely avoid this one. It's very disturbing and dark. It's not for everyone.

It fell short for me in two ways - I didn't think the story itself was particularly engaging, there wasn't enough there to capture my imagination and keep me interested over the scope of the novel AND I wasn't a fan of the ending. It felt stilted and a little weak.

If you enjoy books that make you uncomfortable and ask you to confront dark things, this is definitely one you want to pick up. Although it didn't quite deliver for me, I know many readers have enjoyed the psychological exploration that this one allows a reader!

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