Monday, March 5, 2018

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

 The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk
Expected Publication: March 6, 2018 

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

The Beauty That Remains is Ashley Woodfolks debut novel. It covers a variety of subject such as death, depression, LGBT and suicide. There is a great deal of grief and loss in this novel. Woodfolk does an exemplary job and expressing the deep and profound emotions that come with the loss of a love, emotion's that one doesn't understand until they have lost someone themselves.

Woodwork can capture emotions. I wanted desperately to love her novel but I struggled to connect with the storylines. There was just way too much going on and I found myself constantly trying to determine which character was telling their story. It took me nearly half the book before I was able to catch the cadence of her writing and the voice of her characters. Once I got past the struggle, I found myself much more involved in their stories and found the book to be more enjoyable.

The characters are Autumn, who's best friend, Octavia passed away in a tragic accident. Autumn struggles with this loss and as a means to heal and cope with the death of her friend, she continues to send her messages, spend the night in her (Octavia's) bedroom and form a bond with her brother.

Logan's ex-boyfriend, Bram is dead. He is full of regrets as his last words to Bram were harsh. He deals with his grief and guilty by consuming alcohol, being self destructive and unkind to his mind and body. Music is both his respite and pain.

Shay's twin sister, Sasha's life was taken too soon as a result of leukemia, leaving Shay "twinless" and alone. She struggles to cope with living her life without taking care of sister and having that constant in her life. Running, kissing and music are her coping mechanisms. Her struggles are further combated with the weakened relationship she has with her mom.

All of these stories are told separately but weave together. They overlap and music becomes the common factor in mending broken hearts.

I personally feel that this book would have been a lot stronger had there been more depth and background into the characters. It fell flat some but not horrible for a debut novel. I would give Woodfolk a second chance because the passion and ability to develop characters it there.

Don' t totally rule this book out, give it some time to tell you it's story and you will find that it is worth your time.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules (I read it in March of 2010 for the first time) is about a young man with Asperger who is  accused of murder. Jacob is intelligent, fascinated with criminal investigation and forensics. He lacks social skills and fundamental "normal" human emotions. His syndrome makes it easy to point to him as the perpetrator to those who don't really know or understand Jacob and Asperger's. Jacob's Asperger's might land him behind bars and it's up to his mother and lawyer to prove his innocence despite evidence pointing the crime in his direction.

House Rules is written from the perspective of 5 different individuals, which is very common for Picoult's storytelling. The collection of characters vary in interest and together they tell a story. 
I don't have much experience with Asperger's but it appears to be well researched. The trial is a bit long winded and repetitive and I could have done without some of it but I was entertained enough but I don't believe I will be reading this book again.


Monday, February 19, 2018

Animal Farm by George Owell

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

Animal Farm is one of those books that has always been on my To Be Read list --- I finally decided to take the plunge and read it. I took less than one day and it's rather frightening at how closely it relates to today's politics.

 It is basically a novel about revolution and the ensuing government but animals tell the story and we are all animals after all, aren't we?

Basically the animals converge together to overthrow, Farmer Jones and take over. Initially everything is in a Utopian state but the pigs (45, anyone?) team up together and use various tactics to overpower the rest of the animals. The use lying, overwriting history, backstabbing to take control and sabotage the original plans set forth.

This little book packs a lot of messages, the most important one being that power corrupts. Owell was a genius and his book stands the passage of time, which is a bit scary if you ask me.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

Rust and  Stardust by T. Greenwood
Expected publication: August 7th 2018

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Rust and Stardust is based upon the real life kidnapping of Sally Horner that took place in 1948. Her kidnapping also inspired Vladimir Naboko, Lolita. 

Sally is only 11 years old and desperate to fit in with the popular girls and become part of the in crowd. In an effort to impress them she steals a 5 cent notebook. Frank LaSalle, an ex-convict recently released from prison uses this chance opportunity to pose as an FBI agent and "arrest", Sally.

Sally being naive, trustworthy and scared falls for his ruse and becomes his victim. He convinces, Sally that in order for her to avoid jail she must cooperate with him. Sally obliges. The book then chronicles the next two years in which, Sally is physically, mentally and sexually abused. The move from one location to another to avoid detection. 
Greenwood tells this story from multiple points of views. The reader hears Sally's view, her families, the police and those few individuals who pop in and out of her life for various reasons.
 Greenwood gives a voice to, Sally with tact and emotion. Your heart will break over and over again. You will cringe, your skin will crawl in particular as the desperation, fear and loneliness come to life across the pages. Rust and Stardust is well written, dark and real.
 Be prepared to go on an emotional journey.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Party by Robyn Harding

Hannah is turning sweet sixteen and has invited a few friends over for a night of celebration but things take a turn for the worse and tragedy strikes.

The party is to be low key and quiet but the girls have other things in mind. Things get out of control and Kim is awoken by Hannah with blood on her hand. One of the girls has been badly hurt. Fingers are pointed, Hannah's parents are sued and the school is divided.

Secrets spill off the pages because like any good mystery books, secrets are the key and no one event is responsible for the outcome but a series of events.

The story is told in 3rd person and from the point of view of 4 of the 5 characters. The story is revealed over six months focusing on different perspectives. Expect an easy and fast read.
This is one of those rare books in which it's difficult to like any of the characters  and the ending wasn't what I wanted or expected. Wasn't exactly sure if , I wanted to toss the book across the room or just stew in the moment of an ending that wasn't justified.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

See All the Stars Aug 14, 2018 by Kit Frick

See All the Stars by Kit Frick
Hits bookstores August 14, 2018   

*I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

See All the Stars will draw you in and have you hooked from page one. 
There is a host of characters but our main character, Ellory is our storyteller. 
Her story flips back and forth between her, Junior and Senior year in, High School.

You are aware that an incident has occurred because the close knit group of friends, suddenly becomes torn apart, with Ellory becoming ostracized. Frick captures the mean girl, herd mentality relationships that happen among teen girls and how secrets and lies tear apart the foundation of relationships, regardless of how tightly knit the appear to be. 

The story line is well thought out and the characters are well developed. The words leap off the pages and keep you mesmerized. This is a stunning debut, with twists and turns. One of them is very predictable but the other one keeps you in the dark and when it is revealed everything falls into place, wrapping this book up with perfection. 

If you love, Pretty Little Liars, you will love, See all the Stars! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

Julia is a first generation, Mexican-American teen girl living in, Chicago. Her older, "perfect" sister is dead. Her relationship with her parents is strained at best. She will never live up to the expectations her mother has set for  her, she will never be Olga. Her father ignores her. Her parents are hardworking, strict and want, Julia to be a different version of who she really is.

Julia has realistic relationships with her friends, teachers and family. She is angry, brash and emotional all very common and understanding emotions from someone so young who is going through a tough time, later in the book her character undergoes an event that makes you understand her character at a deeper level and her character undergoes a change.

Julia  uncovers a secret(s) that her sister, Olga had and as they unravel, she realizes that, Olga isn't this perfect version, that she is very much human and she yearns for a different relationship with her sister. Wishing they had known one another better, been closer ....

This book is raw, gripping and grief fueled. There is, Spanish thrown in and it was very natural for me, as I often forgot I was reading passages in español. 

I am a first generation, Mexican-American and I connected with, Julia on so many levels. There are so many expectations and weight put on the shoulders of the generation of 1st born, Americans. We have to navigate both worlds, that of our parents and family and that of our own. We have to learn how to fit into both worlds and we often find ourselves slipping through the cracks. The struggles is real.

We are judged, we struggle, we overcome but we lose a bit of ourselves along the way. We are embarrassed and learn pride later on, our voice is seldom heard but yet we persevere. We are,  American and we are Americans. Julia is all of these things and more.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I'm Thinking of Ending Things By Iain Reid

Ever read a book and think to yourself, "What the fuck did, I just read?" because that just happened to me. It took me a while to actually unravel it all in my head and come up with my own theory/conclusion, which is what the writer wants you to do.

Here is the basics: We have our main character, Jake, who is an unreliable narrator. He is peculiar to say the least but very intelligent. He and his girlfriend embark on a trip to meet his parents. She uses this time to reflect in her mind if she should or shouldn't stay with, Jake. The visit to his parents house could be described as creepy and odd at best. After spending a short time there and having dinner they head back. It's a dark, snowy night and they are traveling the roads of a rural area when, Jake decides to make a stop at a school.

Right here.. this stop at the school is the unraveling of Jake and the creepy notch factor goes up. This is when things get out right confusing and you're scrambling to figure it all out.  I found myself re reading passages (something I seldom do) as I was certain I was missing something vital but I also wanted to finish the damn book as I was becoming increasingly irritated with it. Then it ends and you are left at WTF!

I suppose this might be one of those books that if you re read you would catch things and feel different about the entire thing but I don't want to reread it as I didn't care for it much in the first place. The characters and the story didn't deliver and I would suggest you pass on this one or read it if you don't have anything else in you to be read pile.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bring Her Home by David Bell

Two teenage girls go missing and then their badly beaten bodies are found in the city park. One is dead and the other is clinging to life. 

Bill Price the father of Summer (the girl who is still alive) runs to his daughters side. Life can't seem to give him a break. He lost his wife a few years ago to an accident and now his daughter is in a coma.  Bill makes it his mission to find out who harmed his daughter and killed her friend, Haley, however things make a turn for the worst when he finds out the girl laying in the bed in a coma is Haley and not his daughter Summer.

Bill pushes himself further into the investigation intent on finding out who is responsible but he might just end up with more than he bargained for as the unraveling of secrets proves how little we really know about the people we love.

I found this book entertaining enough but was slightly disappointed because the mystery element of the story, wasn't suspenseful as it is loosely based on the true life story of  Laura van Ryn and Whitney Cerak. If you aren't familiar with their story you can find it HERE.

There is a lot of drama, a lot of weird things are happening and it's fairly predictable but it is an easy read as Bell knows how to tie things together and simplify them. 

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova
Publication Date: March 20. 2018

You might know Lisa Genova from her other works such as, "Still Alice", "Left Neglected", "Love Anthony" and my personal favorite, "Inside the O'Briens". Lisa Genova is best known for her ability to take medical fiction to a new high. 

Her character's become your friends, family, loved one or you." Every Note Played" follows, Richard a professional, renowned classical pianist  diagnosed with ALS.  His entire life up until that point has been his music, his piano but ALS is cruel and he slowly loses his ability to play.  His hands will never again touch the ivory keys and the music will no longer flow through his veins. 

Richard keeps his diagnosis a secret and is in denial but he is quick to find out that while his mind is in denial his body isn't. He slowly starts to deteriorate and when he can no longer care for himself he moves in with this ex-wife, Karina who reluctantly becomes his caregiver. It is important to note that, Karina herself is a piano player and that their music is brought them together many, many years ago. 

Richard and Karina navigate this new world of theirs in which they both had to adjust to his illness in order to make his life as comfortable as possible. Along they way there is self discovery and healing.

ALS takes and takes from Richards. It takes body, his dignity, his independence and his essence but it gives him something he never knew he was missing, something he never knew he wanted. 
Genova wrapped the ending up perfectly and while this is my least favorite of her novels it is still worth the time and energy it takes. Just prepare yourself for an emotional journey as some self reflection. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Turtles All the Way Down is a powerful portrayal of mental illness. Green captures the essence of being anxiety drawn and having OCD compulsion. As someone who has battled anxiety and panic attacks for over a decade, I can tell you that the circling thoughts that spiral from the main character are true to form. To date this is one of the best fiction novels I have read dealing with anxiety disorder. I see a great deal of myself in the main character, Aza.

Aza is sixteen years old and suffers from anxiety and compulsions. Daisy is Aza's best friend and a Star Wars fan-fiction writer. Davis is a friend from childhood with whom Aza reconnects with following the disappearance of his billionaire father.

Daisy and Aza attempt to solve the disappearance of the billionaire but along the way they, Aza in particular forms a bond with Davis and through this bond the readers are able to get a truer glimpse of the inside of Aza's mind and mental illness.

The relationships in this novel are interesting and entertaining. I love the way Green deals and details Aza's thought process but what I also enjoy is that Green also covers what it is like to be a friend or family member of someone who suffers from anxiety and OCD because it isn't easy to be on that end of the spectrum.

I do enjoy the story but I could have done without the mystery of the billionaire it just didn't showcase Green's best work and didn't add anything to it but don't let that stop you from picking up this book.

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

  The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk Expected Publication: March 6, 2018  *I received a free copy of this book fro...