Thursday, April 19, 2018

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

My thoughts-

I really think books like No One Ever Asked are so important. There are some things we can never understand unless we we are able to see the point of view of others. I think this book did a great job of conveying that point. There were several different characters who cross paths but who all have different walks of life and different struggles and I thought Ganshert did a great job with their character development. I have read every book Katie Ganshert has written, and I have loved them all, but this one I think may be the most important. This is book club material. This is a book that needs to be discussed and open further dialogue about racism. I love that there are discussions questions conveniently included. I recommended No One Ever Asked to fans of Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give or to fans of Katie Ganshert.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.
From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby.
When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. 

The Family Next Door is Sally Hepworth at her very best: at once a deeply moving portrait of family drama and a compelling suburban mystery that will keep you hooked until the very last page.
My thoughts-
The Family Next Door is not at all what I thought it was going to be. I definitely knew there would be secrets exposed about the women in the town, but I didn't see the twist coming that inevitably came- and that is the way I like it. If a book can keep me guessing or be good enough to shock me, I count that as a great book. I thought Sally Hepworth did a great job developing these characters. Even though there were several different storylines going on, I felt as if I knew each of them fairly well and sympathized with the drama each woman was dealing with in her life. I recommend this book to fans of literary fiction, and fans of books by authors like Liane Moriarity.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

Cliff Hubbard is a huge loser. Literally. His nickname at Happy Valley High School is Neanderthal because he's so enormous-6'6" and 250 pounds to be exact. He has nobody at school, and life in his trailer-park home has gone from bad to worse ever since his older brother's suicide. 
There's no one Cliff hates more than the nauseatingly cool quarterback, Aaron Zimmerman. Then Aaron returns to school after a near-death experience with a bizarre claim: while he was unconscious he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley High suck less. And God said there's only one person who can help: Neanderthal. 
To his own surprise, Cliff says he's in. As he and Aaron make their way through the List, which involves a vindictive English teacher, a mysterious computer hacker, a decidedly unchristian cult of Jesus Teens, the local drug dealers, and the meanest bully at HVHS, Cliff feels like he's part of something for the first time since losing his brother. But fixing a broken school isn't as simple as it seems, and just when Cliff thinks they've completed the List, he realizes their mission hits closer to home than he ever imagined. 
Razor sharp, moving, and outrageously funny, Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe is an unforgettable story of finding your place in an imperfect world. 

My thoughts-

I find myself reaching for YA more often than not when I want a book to read that I know I will truly enjoy. I think it is important to read what you enjoy, not just what everyone else says you should like. So I found myself reaching again for YA adult novel when I picked up Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect because of the subject matter dealing with God and death, but I will say that in the end I thought the message was good. I thought that Neanderthal was a breath of fresh air in the YA genre. I liked that the main character was someone who isn't the traditional swoon worthy protagonist that you might expect in the novel, and I loved seeing the new relationship's Cliff makes throughout the book unfold. Many relevant subjects of today's high school culture are touched upon here. This is an important book about diversity, acceptance, and hope. And a great debut novel from Preston Norton. I hope to see more great work from him in the future. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own

About the book-

For fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Martha Hall Kelly’s Lilac Girls, this powerful novel of fate, resistance, and family—by the international bestselling author of The Sweetness of Forgetting and When We Meet Again—tells the tale of an American woman, a British RAF pilot, and a young Jewish teenager whose lives intersect in occupied Paris during the tumultuous days of World War II.

When newlywed Ruby Henderson Benoit arrives in Paris in 1939 with her French husband Marcel, she imagines strolling arm in arm along the grand boulevards, awash in the golden afternoon light. But war is looming on the horizon, and as France falls to the Nazis, her marriage begins to splinter, too.

Charlotte Dacher is eleven when the Germans roll into the French capital, their sinister swastika flags snapping in the breeze. After the Jewish restrictions take effect and Jews are ordered to wear the yellow star, Charlotte can’t imagine things getting much worse. But then the mass deportations begin, and her life is ripped forever apart.

Thomas Clarke joins the British Royal Air Force to protect his country, but when his beloved mother dies in a German bombing during the waning days of the Blitz, he wonders if he’s really making a difference. Then he finds himself in Paris, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and he discovers a new reason to keep fighting—and an unexpected road home.

When fate brings them together, Ruby, Charlotte, and Thomas must summon the courage to defy the Nazis—and to open their own broken hearts—as they fight to survive. Rich with historical drama and emotional depth, this is an unforgettable story that will stay with you long after the final page is turned.

My thoughts-

I have been waiting for a while for a new book from Kristin Harmel, and I must say The Room on Rue Amelie was worth the wait. The first book I read by Harmel was The Sweetness of Forgetting which I absolutely loved so I was excited to see this new book was also set during WWII.  I found myself absorbed in the story from the first sentence. I love when authors utilize different time periods to make the story more whole, and while the present day story line was pretty small in this story, it definitely served it's purpose. The Room on Rue Amelie mostly focuses on Ruby, an American who marries a Parisian and finds herself in war torn Europe. Ruby's story takes some fascinating and heart wrenching turns. It was also about the French resistance during WWII which I always find myself wanting to learn more about. Harmel added some excellent notes at the end of the book about the resistance that beg to bed read. I will definitely do some further reading based on those notes. I recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and book clubs.

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

From neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice comes a powerful exploration of regret, forgiveness, freedom, and what it means to be alive.

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

My thoughts-

You probably have heard of Lisa Genova because of her excellent book turned movie Still Alice. What you might not know is that she has so many other great books, all dealing with different neurological issues such as Huntington's Disease, Autism, and in the case of this newest book, ALS. Every Note Played is a book full of emotion and hard truth. Not everyone that has a degenerative disease was a great person before their diagnosis, and I appreciate that Genova takes us through Richard's internal struggle of dealing with the past that now haunts him as his imminent death weighs on his mind. We see Richard from the beginning of his disease and watch it progress and get to be in his head to see how he is feeling about it all. Another aspect I really appreciated about this book was the focus on the primary care giver. It is never easy to be the care giver for someone so ill, so it was interesting to follow Karina's journey as well. Every Note Played is another great book from Lisa Genova. I hope that this one is given the Still Alice treatment and that we get to see it come alive on the big screen some day as well. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Blogging For Books in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own. 

About the book-

On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. With a pianist, a painter and a teacher among them, the friends are full of potential. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence. 

But Judith is protecting long-held secrets of her own – secrets that, if brought to light, could destroy her career as a travel writer and tear her away from her fireman husband and teenage son. If she chooses to help Casey, she risks losing the life she has fought to build and the woman she has struggled to become. In any life that contains a “before” and an “after,” how is it possible to live one life, not two?

Weaving deftly between 1980 and the present day, and told in an unforgettable voice, Long Black Veill an intensely atmospheric thriller that explores the meaning of identity, loyalty, and love. Readers will hail this as Boylan’s triumphant return to fiction.

My thoughts-

As I was reading this book I kept thinking this is really not a suspense novel, I would have labeled it more as an adult fiction novel, but looking at the description above and thinking back on the book over all it did have the elements of a suspense novel so maybe in some ways it was. I think the book is missing a big audience by providing too small a plot synopsis on the back of the book that makes it seem more suspense than anything,when truly there is a lot more to it than that. After I let go of labels or what the book was or was not, I actually really enjoyed it. I liked that there were those elements of suspense which I find really help make stories like this more interesting, but mostly I like that the book gave me a new point of view. I was able to view Judith's character and life through her own eyes which was important to the. I don't want to say too much about her and spoil any of the book, but I definitely think that this was an interesting story that so many people would like. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan

*Disclosure of material connection- I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest thoughts. I was not  required to write a positive review and all opinions stated are 100% my own.

About the book-

It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs, Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.

In “I Don’t Know,” Corrigan wrestles to make peace with uncertainty, whether it’s over invitations that never came or a friend’s agonizing infertility. In “No,” she admires her mother’s ability to set boundaries and her liberating willingness to be unpopular. In “Tell Me More,” a facialist named Tish teaches her something important about listening. And in “I Was Wrong,” she comes clean about her disastrous role in a family fight—and explains why saying sorry may not be enough. With refreshing candor, a deep well of empathy, and her signature desire to understand “the thing behind the thing,” Corrigan swings between meditations on life with a preoccupied husband and two mercurial teenage daughters to profound observations on love and loss.

With the streetwise, ever-relatable voice that defines Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a moving and meaningful take on thy thoughts-e power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.

My thoughts-

For the second year in a row, I am helping out my town library with their annual Trivia Night fundraiser. I assemble a small crew of people from my book club, and we decorate VIP tables based on books that the library will have donated in their name. One of the things I love about doing this is that I learn about books I might have never otherwise heard of! One of these books for 2018 is Tell Me More. When I read the plot synopsis I thought it sounded interesting and I enjoy reading about other people's real lives. The book layout is a fresh new take on a non-fiction book. Kelly Corrigan writes about her life, but does so by fitting stories from her life into common words and phrases. This set up allows us to relate to her stories even if we haven't had the exact types of situations happen. Most of the stories relate to her father, her husband, her kids, and a good friend of hers gone before her time. Even though I have never heard of Corrigan prior to this book, I felt like I knew a piece of her by the end. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading non-fiction and memoirs.