Wednesday, July 2, 2014

ARC Book Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands

GoodReads Says: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is the story of Emily Shepard, a homeless girl living in an igloo made of garbage bags in Burlington. Nearly a year ago, a power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont had a meltdown, and both of Emily's parents were killed. Devastatingly, her father was in charge of the plant, and the meltdown may have been his fault—was he drunk when it happened? Thousands of people are forced to leave their homes in the Kingdom; rivers and forests are destroyed; and Emily feels certain that as the daughter of the most hated man in America, she is in danger. So instead of following the social workers and her classmates after the meltdown, Emily takes off on her own for Burlington, where she survives by stealing, sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer's house, inventing a new identity for herself, and befriending a young homeless kid named Cameron. But Emily can't outrun her past, can't escape her grief, can't hide forever-and so she comes up with the only plan that she can.
Publish Date: 7/8/14. I received an ARC from publisher via NetGalley for review. 

I've always loved Chris Bohjalian's work. Midwives  is a favorite that I hope to re-read, soon. I recently read The Light in the Ruins and it wasn't my favorite, but I still enjoyed it. I have to be honest - I didn't even read the synopsis before requesting an ARC on NetGalley, and I'm glad I didn't, because I didn't have any expectations. 

This book sucked me in because of Emily's voice. She is a female teenager, and I'll never know how Chris was able to write so convincingly from her point of view. Some readers may have difficulty with the layout of the book. There are three main sections split into chapters. The chapters have "dividers," where Emily changes topics. She jumps out of sequential order many times. At first, it was confusing, but I quickly got the hang of it and ended up loving it - you're reading the book as Emily wrote it. It felt like how a teenager would intelligent, observant and witty teenager. 

Emily was the only character that I really "knew," which is to be expected - she's the narrator. I didn't identify with her  - she's so different from me. Even still, I was invested in her story. 

There wasn't a huge plot twist, like in some books, because this stories traumatic even happened prior to the start of the novel. It was more like Emily telling you a story, and there are little "aha" moments as you watch it unfold. 

I adored this book. It was compulsively readable and I was deeply invested in Emily. This is a book I'll be buying for The Shelves. I rate it 5/5. 

p.s. I think I need to work on how I write reviews- think of solidifying a rating system or something. Any ideas?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - July 1

Topic: Top Ten Favorite Classic Books (however you define classic) or Top Ten Classics I Want To Read <or spin it some other way..."classics" in a specific genre?>

Top 10 Classics I Tried to Read but Couldn't Finish:

1. Lolita
2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
3. Anne of Green Gables
3. Wuthering Heights
4. Emma
5. Little Women

Sorry my list is so short and hap-hazard - I've been out of town for the past week! Watch out for my upcoming ARC review of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review - Love Letters to the Dead

GoodReads Says: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

You know that girl from high school, the one that was so emotional that everything she said was intended to have a specific gravity...intended to make you think (even if the content of what she was saying was about a homework assignment?) She took herself so seriously, and came from the viewpoint that literally everything was life or death?

That girl is Laurel. Laurel's voice is .....dramatic. Emotional. Succinct, but with an edge of drama. The tone reminds me of The Fault in Our Stars, but not as good. 

In the beginning, I enjoyed the book, but wasn't enthralled. As the story progressed, I got bored and so.tired. of Laurel's voice. Towards the end I was thinking "a-ha!" It was a pretty satisfying ending (though not without the dramatic touches). It was all nicely wrapped up, and the story felt complete. 

I give this book 3.5 stars. I'm glad I read it, it made me think about a few things, and it would be good for a certain audience (this is one of those YA books that would better suit an ACTUAL YA audience. Slate, I'm looking at you.) I just feel like someone on the same emotional-field as a teenager would appreciate this book more than your average adult. 

Have you read this? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

ARC Review: The Girl With all the Gifts

GoodReads Says: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

(This book was release June 10, 2014; I received the book prior to this courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

I can't even. 

This book....not at all like I expected, but so.good. 

Since I don't want to give anything away, I'm going to list the things that I did and/or didn't like, instead of a full review.

1. I liked how it was sort of sci-fy-y (so not a word), without being firmly in that genre. The setting and plot brought out a lot of conversations regarding human nature (vs nurture), and it was handled really well.

2. There was violence, and some of it pretty (okay, really) graphic, but it didn't seem like it was inappropriate or just used for shock value. It certainly wasn't the main drive of the story.

3. I could relate to all the characters, even if I didn't like all the characters. I think this is a mark of a successful story/author - when you can tell that all characters were given consideration.

4. It's not a book that I would normally gravitate towards, but it had just enough of the familiar to interest me. Once it did, I couldn't put this book down for anything.

5. The ending felt solid. At first, I thought it was a tad abrupt, but upon thinking about it, I realized that it was orchestrated this way, and meant to end the way it did. When you get to the end, you'll notice that there is obvious forethought in the ending, and you'll appreciate it.

Overall - READ THIS. I'd LOVE to see a sequel!!!!

Top Ten Tuesday - June 17

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic:
Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List
GoodReads Says: For many of us, there comes a moment when we wish we were invisible.

For Ellen Homes, not only does she wish it . . . she actually lives it.
She spends her days quietly observing but unobserved, watching and recording in her notebooks the lives of her neighbors, coworkers, and total strangers. Overweight, socially stunted, and utterly alone, one night Ellen saves a blind young woman from being mugged.
Then everything changes.
Character-driven, poignant, and leavened with touches of humor and witty dialogue, Invisible Ellen is a remarkable novel about personal transformation, morality, the power of friendship, and the human need for connection with others. 

GoodReads Says: Self-doubting Ruth is coddled by her immigrant mother, who uses food to soothe and control. Defiant Francesca believes her heavy frame shames her Park Avenue society mother and, to provoke her, consumes everything in sight. Lonely Opal longs to be included in her glamorous mother’s dinner dates—until a disturbing encounter forever changes her desires. Finally, Setsu, a promising violinist, staves off conflict with her jealous brother by allowing him to take the choicest morsels from her plate—and from her future. College brings the four young women together as suitemates, where their stories and appetites collide. Here they make a pact to maintain their friendships into adulthood, but each must first find strength and her own way in the world.


GoodReads Says: Acclaimed for her spare prose and exceptional psychological insights in her novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Love Child, Sheila Kohler’s latest is inspired by Sigmund Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.Dreaming for Freud paints a provocative and sensual portrait of one of history’s most famous patients.
In the fall of 1900, Dora’s father forces her to begin treatment with the doctor. Visiting him daily, the seventeen-year-old girl lies on his ottoman and tells him frankly about her strange life, and above all about her father's desires as far as she is concerned. But Dora abruptly ends her treatment after only eleven weeks, just as Freud was convinced he was on the cusp of a major discovery. In Dreaming for Freud, Kohler explores what might have happened between the man who changed the face of psychotherapy and the beautiful young woman who gave him her dreams.


Good Reads Says: Amidst the lush farmland and orchards in Old Gate, Virginia, stands the magnificent Bliss House. Built in 1878 as a country retreat, Bliss House is impressive, historic, and inexplicably mysterious. Decades of strange occurrences, disappearances and deaths have plagued the house, yet it remains vibrant. And very much alive.
Rainey Bliss Adams desperately needed a new start when she and her daughter Ariel relocated from St. Louis to Old Gate and settled into the house where the Bliss family had lived for over a century. Rainey's husband had been killed in a freak explosion that left her 14 year-old daughter Ariel scarred and disfigured.
At the grand housewarming party, Bliss House begins to reveal itself again. Ariel sees haunting visions: the ghost of her father, and the ghost of a woman being pushed to her death off of an upper floor balcony, beneath an exquisite dome of painted stars. And then there is a death the night of the party. Who is the murderer in the midst of this small town? And who killed the woman in Ariel's visions? But Bliss House is loath to reveal its secrets, as are the good folks of Old Gate.

GoodReads Says: Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue--the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancĂ© up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word--at least not in a language Josie understands

GoodReads Says: Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear. 
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

Good Reads Says: After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

GoodReads Says: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.


GoodReads Says: At nineteen years old, Nicole C. Kear's biggest concern is choosing a major--until she walks into a doctor’s office in midtown Manhattan and gets a life-changing diagnosis. She is going blind, courtesy of an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, and has only a decade or so before Lights Out. Instead of making preparations as the doctor suggests, Kear decides to carpe diem and make the most of the vision she has left. She joins circus school, tears through boyfriends, travels the world, and through all these hi-jinks, she keeps her vision loss a secret.

When Kear becomes a mother, just a few years shy of her vision’s expiration date, she amends her carpe diem strategy, giving up recklessness in order to relish every moment with her kids. Her secret, though, is harder to surrender - and as her vision deteriorates, harder to keep hidden. As her world grows blurred, one thing becomes clear: no matter how hard she fights, she won’t win the battle against blindness. But if she comes clean with her secret, and comes to terms with the loss, she can still win her happy ending.          

Told with humor and irreverence, Now I See You is an uplifting story about refusing to cower at life’s curveballs, about the power of love to triumph over fear. But, at its core, it’s a story about acceptance: facing the truths that just won't go away, and facing yourself, broken parts and all.

GoodReads Says: In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that's what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: The One and Only

GoodReads Says: Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

First, was the"tragedy" they spoke of in the synopsis that thing that happened on the first page? It didn't seem like much of a tragedy to Shea. The synopsis makes it seem like this "tragedy" alters the direction of her life....and that's not exactly what happened in the book. 

Speaking of Shea, I still don't quite know who she was. I mean, I know all the stereotypes of her (there was a lot of telling and not showing), but Shea was simply one dimensional. There were many opportunities for the author to get into Shea's head, to explore some internal and intra-personal conflicts more, but the opportunities were totally wasted. 

-the football talk got old. Fast. 
-main source of tension or suspense in the book was.....icky.
-It was campy, predictable, and one-dimensional. 
-I didn't like Shea. At all. I couldn't related to her and most of the time I just wanted to slap her. 

In the books' defense, I did finish it because I wanted to see exactly how the love situation turned out. Unfortunately, I hated the ending. 

I give it two stars because it might appeal to someone, it's an original romance-novel concept, but unfortunately, it just didn't work and was one-dimensional. If you saw something in the book that I missed, please comment below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars

GoodReads Says: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

what.onEarth.was this???

So, for not really knowing what the book was about going in, and for the massive amount of hype this book received, I expected more. I wasn't sure what I expected (because the synopsis was so unsatisfying, but was therefore mysterious), but it wasn't this. 

FAIR WARNING: I didn't finish this book. I tried and I just couldn't. I made it over half way through, but I couldn't finish because 1. I couldn't figure out what the heck was supposed to be going on, 2.  I didn't know why I was supposed to care and 3. because the narrative style was just too much. 

There was a group of four people, mostly family, called The Liars (not sure why). There was some accident and one of the Liars (the narrator) suffered from amnesia around her accident.


But even over half way through the book I couldn't figure out what the actual story line was, or why I was supposed to care about this character (and I honestly didn't).

I don't recommend this one, at all.