Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Life Without Summer

Life Without Summer
by Lynne Griffin

Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis:  Tessa Gray's life changes forever when she loses her four-year-old daughter, Abby, in a hit-and-run accident outside her preschool.  Once a vivacious, joyful mother and wife, Tessa now spends her days holed up in Abby's room, sleeping in her bed, clutching Abby's Tootsie Rabbit stuffed animal-anything to keep her memories close.  As Tessa grapples with a terrible grief, made worse by the police's insistence that the case is unsolvable, she finds solace in Celia Reed, the therapist her husband pushed her to see, and in the journal she's keeping, where she compulsively counts the "days without Abby" and maps out her plan for catching the driver who tore her family apart.

As Celia struggles to keep Tessa from getting caught up in a bleak crusade for answers, she finds that their sessions open the door to emotions that she's spent years ignoring, forcing her to face the rising tensions in her life-her troubled teenage son, her alcoholic ex-husband, and her fragile new marriage.  Celia begins to realize that she must come to terms with the tragic mistakes of her past and the choices that have led her family to their own brink of destruction.
from the book jacket

Review:  The first third of this book was uninteresting.  The characters were one-dimensional, flat, and mainly unlikable, Celia's new husband being the worst of them and sadly, he does not improve at all in the book.  I have some words that I would like to use to describe him but they aren't nice words so I will refrain.  He causes so many problems in Celia's relationship with her ex-husband and son.   Honestly, I think he could have been left out of the book.

I kept reading because I really wanted to know how Celia and Tessa were connected, in a way beyond therapist-client, who ran Abby down, and what the title had to do with the book (that was not self explanatory).  Once Tessa started doing more than just grieving, the book picked up.  The story is supposedly journal entries written by Tessa and Celia but they don't seem to be journal entries-the sections lack emotions and are much more like prose than something that a character would have written.  The ending is predictable.

Rating:  2.5 stars

Monday, June 20, 2016

Finding Jake

Finding Jake
by Bryan Reardon

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:  For sixteen years, Simon Connelly's successful wife has gone to her law office each day, while he has stayed home to raise their children.  Though Simon has loved taking care of Jake and Laney, it has cost him a part of himself, and has made him an anomaly in his pretty, suburban neighborhood-the only stay-at-home dad among a tight circle of mothers.

Shepherding them through childhood, the angst-ridden father has tried to do the best for the kids, even if he often second-guesses his choices.  For sunny outgoing Lacey, it's been easy.  But quiet Jake has always preferred the company of his books or his sister to playdates and organized sports.  Now that they are in high school, Simon should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't.  He's seen the statistics, read the headlines.

Then, on a warm November day, he receives a text: There has been a shooting at the high school.

Racing to the rendezvous point, Simon is forced to wait with scores of other anxious fathers and tearful mothers, overwhelmed by the disturbing questions running through his head.  How many victims were there?  Why did this happen?  One by one, parents are reunited with their children.  Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.  Lacey has gone home with her mom.  Jake is the only child missing.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for the mistakes he must have made for the reasons everything came to this.  Where is Jake?  What happened in those final moments?  Is it possible he doesn't really know his son?  Or he knows him better than he thought?  Jake couldn't have done this-or could he?

As rumors being to ricochet, amplified by an invasive media, Simon must find answers.  But there is only one way to understand what has happened...he must find Jake.
from the book jacket

Review: This book was addicting, I read it in about a day and a half.  I could not put it down until I knew what happened with Jake although it was a hard book to read.  It is difficult to read about violence in schools and violence against our children and the end made me really cry.  Not just tear up but really emotionally cry (I'm just about in tears even writing this).  While I've cried at other books, this one really got to me probably because it seemed so realistic and something that could hit close to home.  With that said, this book is not for everyone as it might be too upsetting for some.

The chapters in this book alternate between the present time right after the school shooting and a look back at Jake's life from his father's eyes.  As the book goes on, the chapters about Jake's childhood start reflecting on Simon's insecurities about how he raised Jake and doubt starts to creep into Simon's mind as to Jake's innocence and we as readers start to doubt as well.  Before I got to the end, I started to think that there were too many stereotypes about the profiles of school shooters but once I finished the book, I realized why the author did what he did.  There was a preachy, PSA section of the book which I don't think added to the book but overall this was such a compelling, albeit emotional, read.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sunday, June 19, 2016

All of Us and Everything

All of Us and Everything
by Bridget Asher

Genre: Women's fiction

Synopsis:  The Rockwell women are nothing if not . . . Well, it’s complicated. When the sisters—Esme, Liv, and Ru—were young, their eccentric mother, Augusta, silenced all talk of their absent father with the wild story that he was an international spy, always away on top-secret missions. But the consequences of such an unconventional upbringing are neither small nor subtle: Esme is navigating a failing marriage while trying to keep her precocious fifteen-year-old daughter from live-tweeting every detail. Liv finds herself in between relationships and rehabs, and Ru has run away from enough people and problems to earn her frequent flier miles. So when a hurricane hits the family home on the Jersey Shore, the Rockwells reunite to assess the damage—only to discover that the storm has unearthed a long-buried box. In a candid moment, Augusta reveals a startling secret that will blow the sisters’ concept of family to smithereens—and send them on an adventure to reconnect with a lost past . . . and one another.
from GoodReads

Review:  I was intrigued by the synopsis but the characters were just too quirky and blase for me.  I just didn't care about any of the characters and I couldn't keep reading about them because they were annoying.

Rating: abandonded

Blackberry Winter

Blackberry Winter
by Sarah Jio

Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis:  Seattle 1933.  Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, good night and reluctantly leaves for work.  She hates the night shift, but it's the only way she can earn enough to keep destitution at bay.  In the morning-even though it's the second of May-a heavy snow is falling.  Vera rushes to wake Daniel, but his bed is empty.  His teddy bear lies outside in the snow.

Seattle, present day.  On the second of May, Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge awakens to another late-season snowstorm.  Assigned to cover this "blackberry winter" and its predecessor decades earlier, Claire learns of Daniel's unsolved abduction and vows to unearth the truth-only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.
from the back of the book

Review:  This was a quick easy read that kept me engaged in the story.  Both Vera's and Claire's stories were so intertwined that both kept me reading to find out what the connection to each other was.  I felt like some of the events were a little too coincidental and didn't seem realistic.  People seemed to fall into Claire's lap as she investigated the disappearance of Daniel and of course those people had critical information.  The author has an ease about her writing style and it isn't too meaty.  A good book for when you want something a little lighter.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Greatest Star on Earth

The Greatest Star on Earth
Kate Klise

The Greatest Star on Earth (Three-Ring Rascals, # 2)

Genre: Chapter Book

Summary (from Goodreads): The rascals from the world s friendliest family circus are back in the second installment of this smafunderful * fully illustrated series.

Everyone knows Sir Sidney's Circus is the best in the world. But who's the "star" of the show? "The Circus Times" is having a contest to find out. Just thinking about it gives Sir Sidney a worrywart, and it's quickly clear why. Soon after he goes off to rest, the performers start thinking too much about winning the trophy and not enough about putting on a good show.

Meanwhile, it looks as if ringmaster-in-training Barnabas Brambles might need some help managing the crew, so Bert and Gert, the sly brother-and-sister mice who travel with the show, set out to write a book to teach him how it's done.


Does Bert and Gert s plan work? And who" is" the star of the circus? All will be revealed in "The Greatest Star on Earth." 

Review: I like this book because Sir Sidney, the owner of the circus, is very kind, and I like how all the animals in the circus are kind and funny.  It is especially funny when Leo the lion thinks he should sing high because he might win the trophy, and Tiger the cat thinks she should sing low so she could win the trophy, and it's very funny because if I could actually hear them singing they would sound really really hilarious.  This book has a lot of pictures, at least one on every page, and the pictures make the book extra fun so that kids have a good image of what is happening.  There are other books in the series, called The Show Must Go On, The Circus Goes to Sea, and Pop Goes the Circus.  I like all those books, too.

Rating: 5 stars

Tuesdays at the Castle

Tuesdays at the Castle
Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle (Castle Glower, #1)

Genre: Chapter Book

Summary (from Goodreads): Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

Review: I like this book because Celie has so many adventures and always seems to be having so much fun.  The castle that she lives in, Castle Glower, seems very interesting because it adds a new room or switches things around every Tuesday.  One time it added a room with a bouncy floor; it would be really fun to have a bouncy room in your own house!  While having her adventures, Celie figures out that one of the princes visiting the castle is a bad guy and she has to stop him.  I like Celie because she is adventurous and usually cheerful, and because she is brave and smart.  I would recommend this book to girls who like adventure.  But it has dragons and griffins in it, so I think Noah would like it, too.  There are two more books in the series that are really good, too: Wednesdays at the Tower and Thursdays with the Crown.

Rating: 5 stars

Mystic Summer

Mystic Summer
by Hannah McKinnon

Genre: Chick Lit

Synopsis:  Maggie Griffin is a hardworking elementary school teacher in a tony Boston suburb, a devoted sister, and a loving aunt.  With her childhood best friend's wedding on the horizon and her own relationship moving even deeper into commitment, this is the summer she has been waiting for.  She's eared it.

But when Maggie's career is suddenly thrown into jeopardy, it sparks an unraveling of all that matters most to her.  Stricken, Maggie returns to her childhood home in seaside Mystic, Connecticut, where she expects to find comfort in family and familiarity.  Instead, she finds Cameron Wilder, a young man from her past who has also returned home and whose life has altered in ways that put her own struggles in harsh perspective.  When tragedy strikes for Cameron, Maggie must ask herself: If you go back home, can  you truly return to what you left behind?
from the back of the book

Review:  This book was just what I needed to end my hiatus of reading.  This was a light romance beach read but it kept me entertained and engaged.  This book was a bit meatier than some other romance novels.  The romance was a bit predictable.  There were some moments of the book that I questioned why it was added to the book such as a discussion about Post Partum Depression.  It just didn't add anything to the book and it seemed to be forced into the dialogue.  If you're looking for a beach read this is a good one to pick up.

Rating: 3.5 stars