Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Good Good-bye

The Good Good-bye
by Carla Buckley


Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:  On her way to her nineteenth wedding anniversary celebration, Natalie Falcone leaves the struggling restaurant she owns with her brother-in-law, Vince.  She doesn't speak to him on her way out; they haven't spoken in months.  Out on the sidewalk, she gets a phone call every mother dreads: It's from a hospital emergency room in the town where her daughter, Arden, attends college.  Arden's been in a fire, along with Natalie's niece, Rory-Vince's daughter and Arden's best friend.

Natalie rushes to the hospital and learns that both Arden and Rory lie unconscious, and that another student has died in the blaze.  The police suspect arson.

As the investigation mounts, Natalie struggles to piece together the elusive details of Arden's and Rory's freshman year.  Growing up, Rory was charming, popular, and charismatic, while Arden was artistic, perceptive, and reserved.  They were different yet inseparable, more like sisters than cousins.  But the case unearths a different portrait-of a complex friendship, a love triangle, a fight, and a girl who was struggling more than anyone realized.  To discover what really happened that tragic night, Natalie's and Vince's families must confront the one truth that ultimately emerges: Nothing is ever exactly what it seems.
from the book jacket

Review:  I really enjoyed this book as I read it and it kept me reading with its use of suspense.  I had to know how the fire started and what really happened to Arden and Rory.  But the more I think about the book, my opinion of the book drops.  All throughout the book I felt like I was supposed to know more than I already knew but nothing was said outright so everything was to be inferred.  I never knew if my inferential thought was correct though as it was not confirmed by the end.  There were some secrets about Arden that we learn about in the book but yet we do not understand her motivation behind her actions.  The same goes for Rory.  Natalie and Rory are supposed to be best friends, more like sisters, but I found it hard to like Rory because she is portrayed as taking advantage of Arden at every turn with Arden not doing a thing about it.  I don't understand by Arden needed to stay friends with Rory.  That is just one unexplained situation in the book.  There were just too many secrets in this book.

Rating: 3 stars

Friday, July 22, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Fredrick Backman

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:  Elsa is seven years old and different.  Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy-as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy.  She is also Elsa's best, and only friend.  At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins.  Her grandmother's instructions lead her to an apartment building full of misfits, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones, but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
from the back of the book

Review:  The writing in this book isn't bad, I just wasn't interested in the story any longer.  I read the first hundred pages and while I thought the beginning when Granny was still alive to be interesting, after Granny dies, the story goes no where.  The beginning is full of stories about Miamas, Granny's make believe world that she brings Elsa into.  I just didn't care about Miamas and I figured the rest of the book would be about the lands in Miamas and the characters there.  This just wasn't a book for me.

Rating: abandoned

Endgame: Sky Key

Endgame: Sky Key
by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton

Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Synopsis:  Endgame is here. Earth Key has been found. Two keys—and nine Players—remain. The keys must be found, and only one Player can win.

Queens, New York. Aisling Kopp believes the unthinkable: that Endgame can be stopped. But before she can get home to regroup, she is approached by the CIA. They know about Endgame. And they have their own ideas about how it should be Played. Ideas that could change everything.

Kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia. Hilal ibn Isa al-Salt narrowly survived an attack that leaves him horribly disfigured. He now knows something the other Players do not. But the Aksumites have a secret that is unique to their line. A secret that can help redeem humanity—and maybe even be used to help defeat the beings behind Endgame.

London, England. Sarah Alopay has found the first key. She is with Jago—and they are winning.But getting Earth Key has come at a great cost to Sarah. The only thing that keeps the demons at bay is Playing. Playing to win.

Sky Key—wherever it is, whatever it is—is next. And the nine remaining Players will stop at nothing to get it.
 
from GoodReads

Review:  After reading the first book in this series, I had to continue because I wanted to know what happened after Earth Key was found.  This book was long and wordy.  The authors are so set on putting a puzzle in the book for someone to solve that they give up making the book fluid.  There were so many precise numbers that had no bearing on the story and got in the way.  There were so many times that I rolled my eyes with the exaggerated strength and speed.  It was just way too much.  This book could have been cut in half and just included the story of the Players trying to figure out what and where Sky Key was.  In fact, the more I think about it, there wasn't even that much of a story here.  It was mainly all action.  This book definitely could have been cut way down.  Am I going to read the third book?  Yes because I have a hard time not finishing a story.

Rating: 2.5 stars

To see my review of Endgame: The Calling, click here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Where I Lost Her

Where I Lost Her
T. Greenwood

Where I Lost Her

Genre: Mystery

Summary (from Goodreads): In her page-turning new novel, T. Greenwood follows one woman's journey through heartbreak and loss to courage and resolve, as she searches for the truth about a missing child.

Eight years ago, Tess and Jake were considered a power couple of the New York publishing world--happy, in love, planning a family. Failed fertility treatments and a heartbreaking attempt at adoption have fractured their marriage and left Tess edgy and adrift. A visit to friends in rural Vermont throws Tess's world into further chaos when she sees a young, half-dressed child in the middle of the road, who then runs into the woods like a frightened deer.

The entire town begins searching for the little girl. But there are no sightings, no other witnesses, no reports of missing children. As local police and Jake point out, Tess's imagination has played her false before. And yet Tess is compelled to keep looking, not only to save the little girl she can't forget but to salvage her broken heart as well.

Blending her trademark lyrical prose with a superbly crafted and suspenseful narrative, Where I Lost Her is a gripping, haunting novel from a remarkable storyteller.


Review: I'm having trouble deciding whether this book is actually a mystery, because I think it should have been a relationship drama, but the main character is insistent that she needs to solve a mystery on her own.  While this book was hard to put down, I wouldn't say it was easy to read; Tess's struggles with infertility and the difficulties she has during the adoption process are tough to read about.  The mystery surrounding the little girl was interesting but predictable, and while I was happy with how the story was resolved, I thought the strength of the book was more in the relationship dramas.

Rating: 4 stars

Tricky Twenty-Two

Tricky Twenty-Two
Janet Evanovich

Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum, #22)

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary (from Goodreads): Something big is brewing in Trenton, N.J., and it could blow at any minute.

Stephanie Plum might not be the world's greatest bounty hunter, but she knows when she's being played. Ken Globovic (aka Gobbles), hailed as the Supreme Exalted Zookeeper of the animal house known as Zeta fraternity, has been arrested for beating up the dean of students at Kiltman College. Gobbles has missed his court date and gone into hiding. People have seen him on campus, but no one will talk. Things just aren't adding up, and Stephanie can't shake the feeling that something funny is going on at the college - and it's not just Zeta fraternity pranks.

As much as people love Gobbles, they hate Doug Linken. When Linken is gunned down in his backyard it's good riddance, and the list of possible murder suspects is long. The only people who care about finding Linken's killer are Trenton cop Joe Morelli, who has been assigned the case, security expert Ranger, who was hired to protect Linken, and Stephanie, who has her eye on a cash prize and hopefully has some tricks up her sleeve.


Review: Stephanie Plum books are always amusing, and this one was no exception.  The antics of Stephanie, her fiesty grandmother, and her quirky friend Lula make me laugh out loud while reading, and I found the descriptions of her car disasters and funeral home visits as hilarious as always.   

Rating: 3.5 stars

The Ginger Tree

The Ginger Tree
Oswald Wynd

The Ginger Tree

Genre: Historical Fiction

Summary (from Goodreads): In 1903, a young Scotswoman named Mary Mackenzie sets sail for China to marry her betrothed, a military attaché in Peking. But soon after her arrival, Mary falls into an adulterous affair with a young Japanese nobleman, scandalizing the British community. Casting her out of the European community, her compatriots tear her away from her small daughter. A woman abandoned and alone, Mary learns to survive over forty tumultuous years in Asia, including two world wars and the cataclysmic Tokyo earthquake of 1923.

Review: While it was interesting to read about an English woman living on her own in China and Japan in the early 1900s, I was frustrated by the pacing of this book.  All the details of Mary's life would be captured in letters to her mother and journal entries for a period of a year, and then suddenly five years would pass before the next glimpse into her life.  I would have appreciated more continuity in the story.  I also found her lack of emotion towards her husband and children unrealistic.  However, the descriptions were beautiful and evoked a strong sense of place, and the author painted a vivid picture of how hard life could be for women during that time period.

Rating: 3 stars

The Love Goddess' Cooking School

The Love Goddess' Cooking School
Melissa Senate

The Love Goddess' Cooking School

Genre: Chick Lit

Summary (from Goodreads): Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces daily Benvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam...and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.


Review: I was hoping this book would be more in the women's fiction genre, but it turned out to be total chick lit, and I think I'm just old to appreciate chick lit now.  The characters were formulaic, the plot predictable, and the romance too cheesy.  I was especially frustrated by the fact that Holly, who admitted she didn't know how to cook, was able to take over her grandmother's business and cooking school after practicing for what, two weeks?  Completely unbelievable.

Rating: 2 stars

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Chosen

Chosen
by Chandra Hoffman

Genre: Fiction

Synopsis:  It all begins with a fantasy: the caseworker in her "signing paperwork" charcoal suit standing alongside beaming parents cradling their adopted newborn, set against a fluorescent-lit delivery-room backdrop.  It's this blissful picture that keeps Chloe Pinter, director of the Chosen Child's domestic-adoption program, happy while juggling the high demands of her boss and the incessant needs of both adoptive and biological parents.

But the very job that offers her refuge from her turbulent personal life and Portland's winter rains soon becomes a battleground involving three very different couples: the Novas, well-off college sweethearts who suffered fertility problems but are now expecting their own baby; the McAdoos, a wealthy husband and desperate wife for whom adoption is a last chance; and Jason and Penny, an impoverished couple who have nothing-except the baby everyone wants.  When a child goes missing, dreams dissolve into nightmares, and everyone is forced to examine what he or she really wants and where it all went wrong.

Told from alternating points of view, Chosen reveals the desperate nature of desire across social backgrounds and how far people will go to get the one thing they think will be the answer.
from the book jacket

Review:  I read a little less than half of the book before I put it down to read something else.  That was months ago and I have tried to pick it up and read from where I left off.  I've completely forgotten what has happened in the book and I really don't care about what will happen.  I didn't even get to the point where a baby went missing.  I'm pretty sure at least one of the babies had been born but that was about it.  The characters were whiny and unlikable, especially Chloe's boyfriend and Jason, the father of the baby who is being put up for adoption.  The McAdoos are annoying.  As interesting as the synopsis was this book lacked development to hold my interest.

Rating: abandoned

The Royal We

The Royal We
by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Genre: Chick Lit

Synopsis:  American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales.  Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune.  Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king.  And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, if propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.

Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with hem and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie.  But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows.  The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.

Which is how she gets into trouble.

Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.
from the book jacket

Review:  This book reminds me of the movie The Prince and Me (a prince tries to be an ordinary guy and comes to the US to go to school and falls in love with a regular American girl) as well as the love story of William and Kate.  The story was unoriginal and unbelievable but it's a romance about royalty so what's not to like?  The story extends over the many years of Bex's and Nick's relationship from when they started dating to when the get engaged and move into the public's eye.  The books is quite long for a chick lit book (452 pages) and it felt unnecessarily long at times.  I wish the authors had cut part of the story out or moved parts along a little faster (I think there could have been a few less drinking scenes).  For those of us who have a secret fascination with princesses and royalty, this was a good guilty pleasure read.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Crown

The Crown
by Kiera Cass

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Synopsis:  When Eadlyn became the first princess of IllĂ©a to hold her own Selection, she didn’t think she would fall in love with any of her thirty-five suitors. She spent the first few weeks of the competition counting down the days until she could send them all home. But as events at the palace force Eadlyn even further into the spotlight, she realizes that she might not be content remaining alone.

Eadlyn still isn’t sure she’ll find the fairytale ending her parents did twenty years ago. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and soon Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more impossible—and more important—than she ever imagined.
from GoodReads

Review:  Since I read the other 4 books in this series, I found that I had to read the conclusion to the series.  This book was cheesy.  Really, really cheesy.  I read the first couple as guilty pleasure reads but this one was just too much.  Either I overlooked the writing style in the other books or this one is much more poorly written.  I still didn't like Eadlyn.  She is flat and unrealistic (I know that princess stories are not mean to be realistic but she was just too unbelievable).  The men in the Selection were too good to be true.  Everyone seemed to fawn over Eadlyn and I just didn't understand why.  I would recommend not reading this series past The One.  Stop with America's and Maxom's ending.

Rating: 2.5 stars

What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot
by Liane Moriarty

Genre: Women's Fiction

Synopsis:  Alice Love is twenty -nine years old, and her life is soft, slow, and sweet.  She's unfailingly optimistic, and keen on sleeping in and eating anything with chocolate in it, and above all, she adores her husband, Nick.  They're expecting their first baby, who at the moment is the size of a raisin (they call her the Sultana) and to whom Nick speaks nightly through an empty toilet paper roll held right up against Alice's belly, Alice and Nick plan to spend the rest of their lives working on the ramshackle house they just bough, with the goal of completing the list of projects (they all it The Impossible Dream) sometime shortly before they die.

So imagine Alice's surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! she HATES the gym!) and is whisked off to the hospital.  Her first concern is her baby, and she's desperate to see Nick, who she knows will be worried about her.  But Alice isn't pregnant.  And Nick isn't worried.

Turns out, Alice is, in fact, thirty-nine, has three children, and the honeymoon is well and truly over for her and Nick.  Her ramshackle home is instead picture-perfect from top to bottom, and it's clear that she inhabits a body that doesn't indulge in chocolate often (or ever).  The knock on the head has misplaced ten years of her life, and Alice isn't sure she likes life ten years later.  With a decade of memories gone for the time being, she has to piece together what has happened and who she has become.  In the end, it turns out that forgetting may be the most memorable thing that's ever happened to her.
from the book jacket

Review: When the book starts Alice has lost her memory of the last 10 years and thinks that she is twenty-nine and pregnant with her first child.  She learns that, in fact, ten years have gone by and things have drastically changed for her-she is divorcing Nick, has three children, and her perspective on so many things have changed.  Alice, who thinks she is ten years younger, has such a fresh outlook on the things that have not gone the way she expected them to and is willing to make amends with so many people.  She has a hard time believing how things changed (not the way she expected at all) and does not accept them as irreversible.

Alice is a quirky honest protagonist who makes you cheer for what could have been.  You can't help but be caught up in her enthusiasm to fix her wrongs.  You feel for Alice as she struggles to remember anything of the last ten years, most importantly her children.  You also get to know Alice's sister, Elizabeth and her struggles, through a series of letters that Elizabeth has written for her therapist.  There are also letters that Francie, Alice's honorary grandma, wrote.  In these letters, we learn about Alice from other people's point of views.  This book was a little slow at first but then picked up and made me keep reading so I could find out what happened to Alice.

Rating: 4 stars