Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Driving Lessons: A Novel by Zoe Fishman

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Sometimes life’s most fulfilling journeys begin without a map.

An executive at a New York cosmetics firm, Sarah has had her fill of the interminable hustle of the big city. When her husband, Josh, is offered a new job in suburban Virginia, it feels like the perfect chance to shift gears.

While Josh quickly adapts to their new life, Sarah discovers that having time on her hands is a mixed blessing. Without her everyday urban struggles, who is she? And how can she explain to Josh, who assumes they are on the same page, her ambivalence about starting a family?

It doesn’t help that the idea of getting behind the wheel—an absolute necessity of her new life—makes it hard for Sarah to breathe. It’s been almost twenty years since she’s driven, and just the thought of merging is enough to make her teeth chatter with anxiety. When she signs up for lessons, she begins to feel a bit more like her old self again, but she’s still unsure of where she wants to go.

Then a crisis involving her best friend lands Sarah back in New York—a trip to the past filled with unexpected truths about herself, her dear friend, and her seemingly perfect sister-in-law . . . and an astonishing surprise that will help her see the way ahead.

my thoughts:

Okay, so I love reading women's fiction (and chick lit) for the drama.  I like reading about broken families, dysfunctional relationships, betrayals, etc. - its fun (because its not happening to me and is fictional)!  So, imagine my HUGE disappointment when I read Fishman's novel, Driving Lessons, and there was no drama to get lost in.  Yep, you read that right - no drama!!! What was the point of the story then?  To just tell us about a group of friends who love each other and are devoted to one another - the end!?  Seriously?!  Don't get me wrong, I like "happy, happy, happy" in my stories, but it has to be earned after someones had some huge DRAMA to deal with (like infidelity  or back stabbing co-workers).  I found this book to consist of stereotypical characters who were too similar in every which way that you wound up hating them.  This whole story felt completely unrealistic to me - it was the epitome of a lite, pop read (which I normally love, but this time didn't!)  I would most definitely pass on a Fishman book in the future. 

Here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Driving Lessons
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Black Lake: A Novel by Johanna Lane

(Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

A debut novel about a family losing its grip on its legacy: a majestic house on the cliffs of Ireland

The Campbells have lived happily at Dulough - an idyllic, rambling estate isolated on the Irish seaside - for generations.  But upkeep has drained the family coffers, and so John Campbell must be bold.  To keep Dulough, he will open its doors to the public as a museum.  He and his wife, daughter, and son will move from the luxury of the big house to a dank, small caretaker's cottage.  The upheaval strains the already tenuous threads that bind the family, and when a tragic accident befalls them, long-simmering resentments and unanswered yearnings surface.

As each character is given a turn to speak, their voices tell a complicated, fascinating story about what happens when the upstairs becomes the downstairs, and what legacy is left when family secrets are revealed.

my thoughts:

Johanna Lane's debut novel, Black Lake, is the perfect mix of intrigue and drama.  Family drama, to be specific.  The Campbell family have made their home into a tourist attraction due to financial difficulties, and this is not making for a happy family.  Forced to live in a tiny cottage the family is now tripping over one another and all of the deep, dark secrets they have kept to themselves.  Broken, messy, call it what you will, this family is in dire need of communication.  Told through the perspectives of each family member, we are able to see the slow deterioration of the Campbell's familial bond - and it was mesmerizing!  I loved reading all about this dysfunctional family.  The story was moving, richly layered with emotion, and quite character-driven - all in all, a combination for a terrific read.

I would most definitely recommend Johanna Lane's Black Lake to anyone looking for a great new read - you will LOVE this book!

Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Casebook: A Novel by Mona Simpson

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

From the acclaimed and award-winning author: a beguiling new novel about an eavesdropping boy working to discover the obscure mysteries of his unraveling family. He uncovers instead what he least wants to know: the workings of his parents’ private lives. And even then he can’t stop snooping.

Miles Adler-Rich, helped by his friend Hector, spies and listens in on his separating parents. Both boys are in thrall to Miles’s unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is “pretty for a mathematician.” They rifle through her dresser drawers and strip-mine her computer diary, finding that all leads pull them straight into her bedroom, and into questions about a stranger from Washington, D.C., who weaves in and out of their lives. Their amateur detective work starts innocently but soon takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family’s well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Once burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil, and proceed to concoct hilarious modes of revenge on their villains and eventually, haltingly, learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.

my thoughts:

I hate to admit this, but Casebook was a DNF for me.  I just could not get through this book - it didn't work for me.   I found the the story to feel rather disjointed, which made reading it rather tiring.  It was overly detailed (this could be due to the fact that it did read like stream of consciousness at times), had annoying footnotes (which were distracting), and too many characters to keep track of.  Plus, the protagonist Miles nicknamed people, which threw me off when those people were mentioned by their actual names.  I just didn't connect with the story at all and found myself feeling disappointed with what I was reading.  I had really thought I would enjoy Casebook (especially, after reading Ti's review of it), but in the end I just didn't. 

Of course, just because I didn't like the book, doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a go.  According to loads of reviewers - it is an AMAZING read.  Check out there reviews!  Here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Casebook
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paper Towns by John Green

about book: (from Goodreads)

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

my thoughts:

I loved The Fault in Our Stars!  It was such a beautiful and insightful book, that I figured I should read more of John Green's works.  So, I kindled a copy of Paper Towns.  I was so excited to step back into a world created by Green, that I immediately started reading this book.  And, the more I read, well, the more disappointed I became.  Paper Towns was not the book I was expecting.  Instead of an engaging and amazing story, I got a book filled with ramblings about paper people and paper towns.  Oh, and a mystery thrown in for good measure - where in the world is Margo Roth Spiegelman?  Ack!  What a disappointment!  I was actually so unhappy with the book that I contemplated not finishing it, but I read on until the very end ( I had hoped that Green would have salvaged the story by the end - I was wrong). 

Paper Towns was a book that didn't really seem to go anywhere.  It was unrealistic and filled with stereotypical characters.  I found myself bored by it.  The idea that Q was chosen to find Margo via her clues was ridiculous considering that they had barely spoken in several years (except for their one night of revenge).  I honestly could care less what happened to Margo - she was a selfish young woman who didn't really seem to care who she hurt or left behind.  And Q's obsession with finding her was overly annoying.  I would definitely not recommend Paper Towns, but I would read more Green.  I'm convinced that this book was a one-off and that the next Green book I read will be terrific.  Fingers crossed!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Few More Quickie Reviews

Here are a few quickie reviews of some of my latest reads:

about book:  Scotland Yard's Murder Squad returns, in the stunning new historical thriller from the author of the acclaimed national bestseller The Yard.

The British Midlands.  It's called the "Black Country" for a reason.  Bad things happen there.

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village - and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird's nest - the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard's new Murder Squad.  Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they're about to get into.  The villagers have intense, intertwined histories.  Everybody bears a secret.  Superstitions abound.  And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help.  In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave...

my thoughts:  The Black Country was a miss for me - ugh!  This book had too many gory details, several underdeveloped characters, and a disjointed storyline that was chock full of murders, epidemics, and natural disasters.  There was just too much going on (and in so many different directions) that you couldn't help but feel as if the author had tried to jam in every idea he had into one story - it was ridiculous!!  I would definitely not recommend this novel,unless you are a fan of the overkill novel.

about book:  Winner of 2013 e-Lit Awards winner in the Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction category. 2012 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the category of Juvenile Fiction.
Pablo Perez is a 12-year-old poor kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.

Pablo’s luck, however, changes after he finds a $20 gold coin while swimming in a river near his home.Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of Jesse James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He is determined to find out, and he, his 9-year-old sister and 13-year-old cousin hire an ill-natured cave guide, and begin a treacherous underground adventure in search of treasure.

my thoughts:  What a fun filled adventure novel!  This book had such wonderful characters - they were complicated, authentic, and easy to cheer for.  Three kids on a mission to find treasure - how fun does that sound?  A Boy Called Duct Tape is a heartwarming read about friendship, bravery, self-acceptance, and the belief that dreams can come true.  I would most definitely recommend this book to fans of children's fiction!

about book:  In a stunning collection that announces the arrival of an incredible talent, Kristiana Kahakauwila travels the islands of Hawai'i, making the fabled place her own.  Exploring the deep tensions between local and tourist, tradition and expectation, facade and authentic self, This Is Paradise provides an unforgettable portrait of life as it's truly being lived on Maui, Oahu, Kaua'i, and the Big Island.

In the gut punch of "Wanle," a beautiful and tough young woman wants nothing more than to follow in her father's footsteps as a legendary cockfighter.  With striking versatility, the title story employs a chorus of voices - the women of Waikiki - to tell the tale of a young tourist drawn to the darker side of the city's nightlife.  "The Old Paniolo Way" limns the difficult nature of legacy and inheritance when a patriarch tries to settle the affairs of his ranch before his death.

Elegant, brutal, and profound, this magnificent debut captures the grit and glory of modern Hawai'i with breathtaking force and accuracy.  Kahakauwila's exquisitely written stories remind us of our powerful desire to belong, to put down roots, and to have a place to call home.

my thoughts:  Fantastic book of short stories set in Hawaii!  The writing was brilliant, the characters were complex and fully developed, and the issues of identity and family were deeply explored within these stories.  This book showcased the beauty and the ugly realities within Hawaii - the real and glaringly real.  There was a tinge of sadness to each story, which really helped to highlight the ups and many downs of living in a tourist destination.  I absolutely loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it to fans of short stories - you will LOVE it!!

about book:  Eliot Lamb has had countless nights like this before.  He's out with his mates, pint in hand, shots at the ready. They're at the King's Arms and will soon be making their familiar descent: pub, bar, club.  But this time it's different.  When the night ends and tomorrow begins, he'll graduate from Oxford and head reluctantly into adulthood.  As he stares into the foam of his first beer, he knows it won't be easy.  He'll have to confront his feelings for Ella, an Oxford classmate whose passion for literature matches his own, as well as Lucy, hist first love, whose ominous phone calls and text messages are threatening to unravel him.  And then there's the tragic secret he's been hiding all this time, which is about to find its way out and send his night into serious turmoil.

Ben Masters has written a thoroughly modern coming-of-age story full of style, heart, and humor.  Eliot Lamb - for all his mastery of literary theory, postmodern novels, and classic poetry - is about to be dragged into adult life, whether he likes it or not.

my thoughts:  What do you do after you graduate from college?  That is the premise of this dull story that goes absolutely nowhere.  UGH!  What a waste of my time!  There was no plot to really speak of and all of the literary references/quotes (it was an excessive amount) were used to show off just how smart the protagonist was - LAME!  I would characterize this book as typical lad lit fare.  Definitely not a book I would recommend!

about book:  Yael, Avishag, and Lea grow up together in a tiny, dusty Israeli village, attending high school made up of caravan classrooms, passing notes to each other to alleviate the universal boredom of teenage life.  When they are conscripted into the army, their lives change in unpredictable ways, influencing the women they become and the friendship that they struggle to sustain.  Yael trains marksmen and flirts with boys.  Avishag stands guard, watching refugees throw themselves at barbed-wire fences.  Lea, posted at a checkpoint, imagines the stories behind the familiar faces that pass by her day after day.  They gossip about boys and whisper of an ever more violent world just beyond view.  They drill, constantly, for a moment that may never come.  They live inside that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

In a relentlessly energetic and arresting voice marked by humor and fierce intelligence, Shani Boianjiu creates an unforgettably intense world, capturing that unique time in a young woman's life when a single moment can change everything.

my thoughts:  A thought-provoking read about growing up in Israel - from school to the military.  We find ourselves getting a peek into the lives of three best friends and the choices they make about life, love, and career.  The writing was terrific - it was dark, enlightening, and absolutely mesmerizing!  I would most definitely recommend this book to fans of fiction.

And there you have it, a few of my recent reads.  Some were hits, and some were misses.  In the end, I found some new writers to keep an eye out for.  Now I'm off to finish reading Jacqueline Winspear's, Elegy for Eddie.  Happy reading!!