Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Behind Her EyesBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm struggling with reviewing this novel. On the one hand, it's really good in terms of suspense and movement. On the other hand, the ending kind of killed it for me. I don't really get the whole comparison to Gone Girl ... in my opinion, Gone Girl is much better executed than this one. This one felt as if the author gave up much of the very things that could have helped her to keep the reader guessing too early. Although the overall suspense was great, there were a number of areas that could have been used more effectively. However, I think the ending just killed the entire novel for me. It just didn't connect in that way an ending should. Was is successful? Probably. But, it didn't feel solid to me. And I don't think it would be possible for anyone to figure out the ending from the content of the novel which I guess is a good thing with this type of book. And perhaps that is exactly why it didn't work for me. I'm glad that I read it but it won't be one that I'll be recommending all over the place
like I did with Gone Girl. If you're a suspense fan, you should pick this up. If you're looking for the next Gone Girl, you may be disappointed. Many are loving this one so give it a shot if it sounds appealing.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Review: Always by Sarah Jio

AlwaysAlways by Sarah Jio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked the premise of this novel - I'm always a fan of stories of lost love. The premise of this one was right up my alley - a soon to be married woman encounters someone she used to love on the street ... and he's homeless. As she tries to understand how he came to be on the street, she uncovers a lot of interesting information. This is a novel of suspense as well as a romance. You learn about her past relationship as well as her current relationship and watch her as she begins to try to put all the pieces together. I found it to be sweet and it kept me interested. It's not what I'd call great literature but it was a quite nice story with interesting characters. I love how it took place in the 1990s in Seattle. Definitely a time frame that I can relate to as I came to age in the 1990s. I'm seeing a lot of mixed reviews among friends but I think I particularly related to this one given the time frame and the fact that it focuses on someone coming to terms with a previous relationship. Personally, I really enjoyed this story and these characters. I think it was pretty interesting and I enjoyed my time in the world that Sarah Jio created with this novel.

NOTE: I received this novel in e-galley format from the publisher for an honest review.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian

The SleepwalkerThe Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a love/hate relationship with Chris Bohjalian. I either love his novels or I just don't get them. This one was a bit in the middle for me. I liked it but I didn't love it. I loved the concept of the novel - the description sounded fascinating. My primary issues with the novel are two-fold. One thing is the pacing of the novel overall. It felt like a slow burn ... it unfolded very quietly. Which isn't always a bad thing but it didn't work for me in this novel. In some ways, it almost felt like I was sleepwalking through the book. It felt sleepy and hazy in some way. Secondly, the big mystery wasn't such a mystery to me. I suspected 'who done it' long before it was revealed. And it wasn't a far jump to identify the perpetrator. It didn't feel as intricate as it could have been to make the reader feel something about what happened. If you have any interest in sleep disorders, this might be an interesting read for you. I think the exploration of sleep issues was one of the bright spots in this novel. If you're a big Bohjalian fan, I also think this one is worth picking up. However, if you need a ton of action and fast pacing, this might not work as well for you.

NOTE: I received a galley of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

The Cruelest Month (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, #3)The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think that I may have enjoyed this Louise Penny novel the most of the three I've read in this series. It almost felt like this one went a little deeper than the two previous novels. I also found the actual murder mystery to be a bit more compelling with this one. I still didn't find this one to knock it out of the park BUT I do think it was very readable and makes me want to continue with the series. I keep hearing that it starts to pick up at book 4 so I'm eager to see if that's the case. I did enjoy getting to know the various characters a bit more - the character development aspect was stellar and I found myself connecting with them more than in the earlier books. I'm eager to see how things go with the next book.

Review: Break in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter

Break in Case of EmergencyBreak in Case of Emergency by Jessica Winter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a solid read but I wouldn't call it a favorite. It's well written and there were definitely some laugh out loud moments - especially in the context of today's working world. There is a strong mix of workplace comedy/satire and family/friend complex relationships. Jessica Winter did an amazing job of portraying an unhealthy work place as well as the difficulty of infertility. I really appreciate the way she portrayed friendship and marriage in this novel. It felt very real to me. It was certainly a well-written novel but, at times, it felt a bit too show-offy in terms of language. That gave it a bit of a less realistic feeling at moments. I wish the characters, especially the supporting characters, had more dimension. In the end, I felt as if the novel tried to be too many things at one time - a workplace satire, an intense exploration of marraige and friendship, the struggle of being an artist, and more. Although I liked it, I do think it's going to be a novel that isn't going to stick in my mind for the long term.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Review: Dare Me by Megan Abbott

Dare MeDare Me by Megan Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had such high expectations for this novel since so many people have said this is Megan Abbott's best novel. So, perhaps I went in with too high of expectations. It's definitely good. And definitely a good example of Megan Abbott's ability to bring young adults to life on the page. But, I'm not sure I'd say it was the best of her novels that I've read (which is only 3).

The book revolves around the world of high school cheerleading and part of my issue with the book is that it didn't ring true to me in terms of cheerleading. I also didn't think it did as good a job of capturing the 'voice' of the teenager as some of the other books of hers that I've read. Some of the language felt very off to me.

My biggest issue was with the plot was that it ultimately didn't feel realistic. The twists weren't very twisty. The weaving of the story didn't feel effective. I just didn't love it.

If you're a Megan Abbott fan, definitely read this one since it's one that is always mentioned in combination with her name. But, I think that You Will Know Me is a much better book overall.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Review: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

The Wolf RoadThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I kept hearing great things about this novel and wow ... the great reviews were right! This is such a good book! Pretty unlike anything I've read before and so fascinating!

The story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world and the resulting world is very wild west-like. The story revolves around a woman who was raised by a man she encountered in the world who ultimately raised her as his own and taught her how to survive ... and survive well. When she finds out something about this man and decides to escape from him and try to find her own parents who she hasn't seen since she was a child. That decision begins a journey that is unpredictable and interesting. Dark and wild, this story is so fantastic. The cat and mouse game that begins between Elka and the man who raised her is such crazy journey. The entire story just grabbed me and didn't let go until the last moment. The momentum of the story combined with the details about the brutal world in which this book takes place just made this such a fantastic read! This is really a story of survival and redemption. One that is unputdownable - not a word but it's the best way to describe this book. I highly recommend this gritty novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat while also giving you so much to think about!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Review: All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All Is Not ForgottenAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a great psychological suspense novel! I'm not a huge suspense reader but this may be among one of the best I've read. The stories exploration of memory is simply fascinating. The interplay between the characters gives this novel something really special. The story being 'told' by the therapist working with the main character (Jenny) and her family was an interesting and strong choice. I think it made the overall effectiveness of this novel much better.

The story revolves around a rape and how the victim is given medication to lost all memories of that experience. The novel explores how that medication didn't actually remove the memories and the story. The therapist works with the family and the victim to make sense of things.

But the novel is so much more than just that and there are a number of surprises. This definitely is a psychological suspense novel ... but so much more. I highly recommend it and don't want to say much more so you don't get the story spoiled for you. This one is best read with little information.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: Sex Object by Jessica Valenti

Sex ObjectSex Object by Jessica Valenti
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really struggling with rating this one - I wanted to love it and give it 5 stars. And yet, it didn't quite meet my expectations so I'm giving the entire thing a 3 star but some of the content deserves something closer to 5 stars.

Jessica Valenti put to words a great deal of the things that women in general can relate to and have frankly experienced. She spoke to me in so many ways. She doesn't downplay the crude and disgusting experiences that we experience as women every day. She tells the truth. She puts words to the experiences we've all had. It isn't always easy to read her very direct and focused exploration of sexism and misogyny. For that alone, this book needs to be read. Despite how uncomfortable it might be. Despite how hard to read it is.

The thing that didn't work as well for me was that some of the content didn't work for me. It fell flat in a way. I just didn't connect to it in the way I did other content. Each of the essays didn't seem to add up into one cohesive book for me. But, that doesn't make the impact of the impactful essays go away. It just means the essays individually were more impactful to me but the entirety of the work didn't work quite as well for me.

However, I DEFINITELY recommend this and hope you will read it despite it's faults. I think it gives the reader a critical look at something we all need to better understand.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Review: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next DoorThe Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is definitely a twisty, turny novel. If you like that sort of thing, this is definitely the book for you. It keeps you guessing throughout - giving you one thing, then taking away another, and so on. It's a quick read, one that I finished in a day. That is definitely due to the superb pacing and the twisty turny-ness. Although I enjoyed the read, there were several flaws that stuck out and made it stay at 3 stars. The story started off great but it did deteriorate a bit as we get closer to the end. It didn't have the same punch at the end as one would expect given the earlier success. The character development wasn't as good as it could have been particularly for certain characters such as Marco. The story ultimately ended up being a bit forgettable. I read it weeks ago but I barely remember anything about it. In fact, I had to go read a synopsis to remind myself. I just think there are better novels in this genre who offer a total solution to the twisty, turny thing! But, if you're a fan of this sort of thing, this one is worth checking out!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Review: Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

Difficult WomenDifficult Women by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm such a fan of Roxane Gay. She writes like no one else. This short story collection is searing, beautiful, terrifying and frankly brilliant. You should know up front that this is a very difficult collection to read - the need for trigger warnings abounds. Almost every story explores a woman's life in searing detail and unflinching honesty. The women in this collection are shown in raw and real ways that you will feel in ways that make you uncomfortable and break your heart at all the same time.

Although not an easy read emotionally, it's worth every single moment of reading time. It's a tough read and not for everyone. I think my favorite story is the first which centers around two children who were abducted and held captive during which they were sexually abused. It tells the story of how that experience affects them for the years to come. Heartbreaking and haunting. I'd say that probably does a good job of describing much of this collection.

This collection isn't for everyone ... it's one that will not work for a lot of readers. So beware if you have delicate sensibilities. This may not be for you. However, if you can tolerate the content ... it's such a worthwhile read. It's beautifully written and so complex. I highly recommend it!

NOTE: Received a copy of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Review: Wrecking Ball by P. Dangelico

Wrecking Ball (Hard To Love #1)Wrecking Ball by P. Dangelico
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this novel! What a great read! I'm a sucker for the beauty and the beast story line and this is a really fun take on it. Cam was such an interesting heroine - very sassy with a strong personality and interesting voice. It was wonderful to see such a strong woman heroine in a romance. They aren't as common as I'd like, honestly. And Calvin (the hero) really grew on me over time. He is certainly a challenging character although you grow to understand exactly why as time goes on. The story unfolds a little slowly but I was never bored. In fact, I was fully engaged the whole time. The relationship between Cam and Calvin really grew over time which I think was fantastic ... it wasn't just a love at first sight sort of story line. It took awhile to build their relationship. I loved the addition of the nephew and how he was so integral to the development of their relationship. I loved Cam's bestie and I really hope she gets her own book one day! All in all, this was a really enjoyable romance read!

NOTE: received a digital galley of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Review: Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz

Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped HistoryRad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Kate Schatz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! What an amazing book! In a year that the political landscape hasn't been particularly woman friendly, it makes me so happy to read a book like this which showcases A LOT of strong women! Although I consider myself pretty up to speed on great women in history, I was shocked at how much ground was covered in this book that was new to me. LOVE this book in every way!

The book itself is so beautiful - bright colors, beautiful illustrations by Miriam Klein Stahl and the wonderful writing by Kate Schatz! It all comes together for a fascinating, engaging read! The book is a work of art and so inspiring!

I cannot wait to share it with my own daughter so she can see how many ways women can impact the world! Such a wonderful book!

NOTE: received this book for free from the publisher for a honest review!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: I Will Find You by Joanna Connors

I Will Find YouI Will Find You by Joanna Connors
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was such a haunting and affecting memoir. Joanna Connors' story is so compelling and moving. This one explores the writer's rape by a stranger in the 1980s and the aftermath of that event. The subject matter is definitely disturbing. It's not for everyone. The events that took place are described in detail which may be too much for some readers. After her rape, the author tries to push her feelings about this rape away, to pretend it was over and she was fine. But, it eventually floats up and just won't go away. And so this memoir outlines her re-visiting what happened to her as well as exploring the background of the man who raped her. She's, in essence, trying to make sense of it and how it impacted her life.

It's a really engaging read that I think gave me another perspective on trauma and how it plays out in our lives. After working with rape victims over the years, much of Joanna Connors' experience resonated with me. This is a really haunting book that can help you give you perspective and insight into the experience of a rape victim and the aftermath of their experience.

If the content isn't too disturbing for you, I think this is a really important book that will help a reader understand the impact of trauma on victims and their families.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

The MothersThe Mothers by Brit Bennett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such lovely book. I cannot recommend it more highly. It's probably my favorite book of 2016. It's beautifully written and the story is so well done. It almost felt as if it snuck up on me in some way - I was enjoying the story, loving the prose and then BOOM it's suddenly even more than all that. I was liking it but there came a point when it all came together for me and my strong like became an absolute LOVE! Such a beautiful, haunting story with characters that I don't think I'll ever forget. It's about so much ... friendship, faith, life within a church community, and girls without a mother. It's so good and a MUST read, in my opinion.

I thought the collective voice was an interesting choice. I'm not sure it completely worked for me but I did think it was really compelling. I've read some interviews with Brit Bennett and I was really impressed with all she said about this novel and it's scope. She made me like the novel even more! Her ability to put a feeling into words effectively is one of my favorite things about this novel. There were so many passages that I couldn't get out of my head or that just summed up my feelings so perfectly. She definitely has a way with words!

Please pick up this book ... it's so worth the read! Such a beautiful and thoughtful novel! I think it's a novel that most will enjoy and find something in.

Just to give you a sense of how beautiful her writing is ... here are just a few of my favorite passages ...

“Grief was not a line, carrying you infinitely further from loss. You never knew when you would be sling-shot backward into its grip.”

“Years later, she wondered if that was the point, if sometimes the glory was in rebuilding the broken thing, not the result but the process of trying."

"Suffering pain is what made you a woman. Most of the milestones in a woman’s life were accompanied by pain, like her first time having sex or birthing a child. For men, it was all orgasms and champagne."