Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Mercy by Jodi Picoult

Fiction

When the cousin of the police chief Cam McDonald drives in to town with his dead wife beside him, he confesses to murdering her. Jaime McDonald's wife had stage 4 breast cancer and was deteriorating every day. She asked Jamie to kill her and because of his deep love for her, he obliged. Some people are touched by what he did, others think he should go to jail. Cam's wife Allie is one that thinks Jamie did the right thing, but she too has a deep devotion for her husband. When Cam's attentions waiver as a new girl comes in to town, their relationship is put to test over the duration of the trial.

This book has two parts: the murder of a terminally ill wife and the affair of a somewhat distant husband. The first part is good but not very suspenseful although I'm sure it's supposed to be. The second part is awful. Cam doesn't treat his wife that well to start with, then starts a relationship with a new girl and within 3 days is in love with her. It's not that plausible and fairly annoying. I expected more from Picoult than this trashy book.

First Line: "When she had packed all the artifacts that made up their personal history into liquor store boxes, the house became strictly a feminine place."

Rating:
(2/5)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland

Fiction

Nell and her sister Eva live miles outside of a small town in California. Their mother has recently passed from cancer when the family starts to experience rolling blackouts. Then the electricity doesn't turn back on. Nell, Eva, and their dad need to learn to live without luxuries of modern day life. In their last trip in to the town, on fumes of gas, they notice not many people left in the town and not much left for supplies. When their dad dies from a tragic accident, Nell and Eva are left to fend for themselves.

I liked the premise of this novel. It isn't so much about the lack of electricity as it is about what two sisters do when they are by themselves, in the middle of no where, without any electricity to rely on. Keeping care of the house and animals, gardening, rationing; these are all things that must be considered. The girls also have to be weary of any strangers that do come by.

Not everything is perfect. The two sisters argue like any sisters do, but love prevails. I loved the way they pulled each other through the tough times.

This book is a great 'what if' book. A great point is raised that humans have been living without electricity for such a short period of time in our existence, why couldn't we go back to living without it?

First Line: "It's strange, writing these first words, like leaning down into the musty stillness of a well and seeing my face peer up from the water - so small and from such an unfamiliar angle I'm startled to realize the reflection is my own."

Rating:
(4/5)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Second Life by S.J. Watson

Thriller

When Julia gets a call saying that her sister Kate was found dead in an alleyway in Paris, Julia is in shock. Julia has to deal with her grief but also help her adopted son, who happens to be Kate's biological son, through the emotions that he's feeling. When the police have no leads, Julia tries to take matters into her own hands, viewing the online dating sites that her sister did. This leads down a path of horrible choices for Julia and she is wrapped up in an affair that starts great and ends dangerously.

Having loved S.J. Watson's first book, Before I Go To Sleep (you can see my review here), I was very much looking forward to this one. In some ways it met my expectations and in some ways it did not.

The big elephant in the room will be the ending. Some people will hate it and some people will love it. Personally, I don't mind open endings in books but can understand why people don't. If you're one of them, this book will not be for you. Looking beyond the ending, I found myself disappointed in a few things. The first was the twists to get to the ending. I felt like there was a huge buildup and then the twists fizzled out the story line for me. The second was Julia's decisions.

Julia starts up an affair with a man from a website, thinking that he may know something about her sister's death. Eventually they meet, and of course have sex. This is when I start to question Julia's judgement. And that's ok, I fully expect to do this for characters. But by the 10th time she's made a completely idiotic decision, I can't chalk it up to building suspense anymore. The character is a complete moron and I care slightly less about what happens to her because of it.

The build-up in the book kept me up late, turning pages, waiting to see what would happen to Julia and whether the killer would ever be caught. While I was reading I felt satisfied but it was once I put the book down that I felt a bit of dissatisfaction bubble up. I think part of it was because of the expectations set from Before I Go To Sleep. Having not read that book, I think this book would rate as a good (not fantastic)thriller and one that I would recommend.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this tour!

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First Line: "I climb the stairs but the door is closed."

Rating:
(4/5)

About the Author
S. J. Watson was born in the Midlands and lives in London. His first novel was the award-winning Before I Go to Sleep, which has sold over four million copies in more than forty languages around the world. It was recently adapted into a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth, and Mark Strong. Find out more about S.J. at his website, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cork Boat by John Pollack

Travel/Memoir

Since he was a kid, John Pollack has been fascinated with boats and has been saving up corks to build his own cork boat. As an adult, working as a speech writer on capitol hill, John still can't shake the dream. He sends out some emails to friends asking for calculations on how many corks would be needed and to see if anyone would be available to help. A team comes together and eventually they determine they need over 150,000 corks. Collecting from businesses and friends, they find a place to store everything and then start determining how to build the thing.

This is a childhood dream come true. It's one that seems rather impossible at first. A cork boat isn't something that's easy to build, and yet they find a way to make it happen. There are many problems along the way but they still find a way to make it happen.

Primarily, this book is about making a childhood dream come true. However there's also some interesting historical facts on cork, rubber bands, and wine. John also gives us a little bit of background about his job as a speechwriter in the White House (having written a bit for Clinton). All of these put together make for an interesting and fun read.

My only complaint about this book is why the hell is there not a picture of the cork boat in this book!?!? The guy spends the whole book talking about this amazing boat and the reader is left to dream about what it actually looks like.

First Line: "My first boat sank."

Rating:
(45)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn

Fiction

When Takeo witnesses his step-father murdered and knows that his mother and the rest of the village have been captured, he runs off into the forest. There, he is found by Lord Otori Shigeru who shelters him and then takes him back to his home, eventually adopting him. Otori is the head of a powerful clan, though his uncles want some of the power for themselves. Otori is told if he wants to adopt Takeo, he must marry Lady Kaede though his heart is with another. The family travels out to enemy territory in a facade for the wedding but really hoping to murder a top tribe rival. Takeo has realized that he has special abilities, including very sensitive hearing and the ability to appear as a mirage to others. He's sure he can use these against the enemy.

While this book is set in Japan, it doesn't seem to have any historical correctness to it. I doubt stuff like this ever happened and the descriptions of the terrain felt like it could have been anywhere. The author would continuously mention earthquakes in the book, as if that would make this seem more accurate and more like Japan but instead it just seemed to cause weird breaks in the narrative.

Taking away the historical inaccuracies, this book is fairly entertaining. A few of the characters have special abilities that provide for some interesting scenarios throughout the book. Becoming invisible or splitting yourself in two is unique and can make for some stealthy attacks. The main three characters Takeo, Otori, and Kaede are all likeable and have come from tough situations. It's easy to want to route for them.

This is the first book in the series. I have the second so I'll read it and see whether it's enough to want me to go through to the third.

First Line: "My mother used to threaten to tear me into eight pieces if I knocked over the water bucket, or pretended not to hear her calling me to come home as the dusk thickened and the cicadas' shrilling increased."

Rating:
(3/5)

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Disclaimer by Renée Knight

Thriller

Catherine is looking for a book to read, picking up one from around the piles of boxes in her recently moved-into home. She picks up a fiction called A Perfect Stranger and very quickly recognizes herself describing a secret she's been holding for a very long time. Who wrote this book? How did it get in to her home? Catherine has many questions and doesn't want to re-live this part of her life. Then her son receives the book, and eventually her husband. Her secret is exposed to those closest to her.

This book is perfectly balanced, showing us that there are two sides to every story. Catherine and the author of the book written about her narrate. It's a constant pull between the two on which one the reader should be angry at and which they should feel sympathy for. I usually try to shelf my emotions when an author does this knowing that it will all wash out in the end but I couldn't help but feel like they were both up to something. This feeling of the truth being hidden had me constantly turning pages and staying up until way past by bed time!

While at times I felt a bit frustrated by Knight not revealing any clues in the middle of the book, it didn't negatively impact my thoughts of this. The end of this book was everything I could have hoped for. I haven't been this satisfied by a story ending in quite some time (right down to the final outcome of Catherine and her husband's relationship. I was very happy it ended that way!).

We aren't half way through the year yet, but I think this is going to be a top 5 book of 2015 for me.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for letting me be a part of this book tour!

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First Line: "Catherine braces herself, but there is nothing left to come up."

Rating:
(4.5/5)

About the Author
Renée Knight worked for the BBC directing arts documentaries and has had TV and film scripts commissioned by the BBC, Channel Four, and Capital Films. In April 2013, she graduated from the Faber Academy "Writing a Novel" course, whose alumni include S. J. Watson. She lives in London with her husband and two children.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Slow Moon by Elizabeth Cox

Fiction

Sophie and her mom moved to small-town Tennessee after her father's death. The two quickly make friends in the town and Sophie, being as beautiful as she is, attracts the attention of more than a few teenage boys. Despite there being much interest from other guys, Sophie finds herself attracted to Crow and the two start dating. One night, during a party, they slip out into the woods deciding this will be the first time they have sex. Unprepared, Crow quickly heads to his car to grab protection and Sophie is raped multiple times and left for dead. Crow knows that he will be to blame, but who really did this?

There's quite a sense for foreboding over this entire book which makes it a page turner. I wanted to figure out who did this and whether they were going to get away with it. You know from the start that Crow wasn't responsible but he is charged and no one comes to his aid. This event not only permanently changes Sophie, but seems to change the entire dynamic of the town which was interesting to read.

While I enjoyed this novel, I found that there were way too many male teenage characters to keep track of, some that added no value to the story whatsoever. By the time we were told who was responsible, I couldn't even remember the names of one of them.

This is not world class literature. The writing isn't fantastic (just look at the first line from the book), but the story is compelling.

First Line: "So on that April evening in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, with spring just beginning, a copper moon rose, balanced like a huge persimmon, and two young teenagers, Crow Davenport and his girl Sophie, left a party and walked into the woods towards the river to be alone."

Rating:
(3.5/5)