Monday, July 10, 2017

All Things New by Lauren Miller

Jessa has always felt broken inside, but she’s gotten very good at hiding it. No one at school knows about the panic attacks, the therapy that didn't help, the meds that haven’t worked. But when a severe accident leaves her with a brain injury and visible scars, Jessa’s efforts to convince the world that she’s okay finally crumble—now she looks as shattered as she feels. 

Fleeing from her old life in Los Angeles, Jessa moves to Colorado to live with her dad, where she meets Marshall, a boy whose kindness and generous heart slowly draw Jessa out of her walled-off shell and into the broken, beautiful, real world—a place where souls get hurt just as badly as bodies, and we all need each other to heal.

     I really liked the way All Things New started by having the main character “Jessa” narrating the story. Upon reading the first chapter I felt like I had just put the book down halfway through the story. I felt like “Jessa” was describing all the same experiences and emotions I had gone through at her age. While the story is a work of fiction and the characters aren’t real; I felt like the emotions and some of the situations could be real experiences (at least for some people.) I liked how Lauren Miller was able to incorporate real emotion into the character’s experiences and situations. While all authors put emotion into the stories they write; I felt like Lauren Miller succeeded in making me feel the same emotions as “Jessa” and at the same time I also felt a lot of sympathy for what she was having to go through.

     The two characters that I didn’t really care for were “Jessa’s” parents. I kept thinking that they were more into themselves and one-up each other. It seemed to me a few times that they didn’t really seem to care about what their daughter was going through. I thought it was sweet how “Marshall” really seemed like he was always trying to impress her. While he was able to break down the walls “Jessa” kept around herself he was able to help her at the same time to accept things the way they were. I felt bad that “Jessa” seemed to have a lot of trouble with her panic attacks and how she was having a lot of trouble trying to get used to her new reality. I think anyone who reads this story will feel sympathy for “Jessa” and will be able to see a little of themselves in her and her experiences.  I liked that the length of the chapters weren’t too long, but they weren’t too short either. I think the chapters were the right length especially for any young adults who read All Things New. Out of a 10 I give All Things New an 8.5 and Ms. Miller a 9. I think many young adult readers will love this story as well as many adults as well!

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Tiffany

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Dinner Party by Brenda Janowitz

This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City.

The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them.

When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. Long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go.

The Passover Seder is a big deal in many (if not most) Jewish households.  It is a time for families to gather together and celebrate the most important holiday of the year.  In The Dinner Party, by Brenda Janowitz, two families meet for the 
first time and this becomes a dinner both will not forget. 

         The Gold family is hosting the dinner.  Mother Sylvia is obsessively worrying over every detail because there will be special guests at this dinner.  Her daughter is dating one of the Rothschilds.  The Rothshilds are a rich, prominent family and Sylvia will do anything to impress them (including farming most of the cooking duties out to an avant-garde chef).  The boyfriend, Henry Rothschild, is pretty lazy.  He got expelled from college and has no job.  Becca Gold, his girlfriend, is the ambitious one and is attending medical school.  The disparity in their relationship is wide and deep.

         Another daughter, Sarah, is dating an Italian who manages to get his loud, overbearing mother invited to the dinner.  The big surprise with Sarah is that, despite her family’s desire that she marry a Jewish man, she has secretly married the Italian!  And his father is in jail!   Add a son who works for Doctors Without Borders and his surprise black girlfriend, and you have the makings for family drama. 

         I cannot say that I hated reading The Dinner Party.  There were parts that were interesting and I did enjoy reading about the family dynamic.  My problem is that there was no plot to this book.  Not one thing happened.  The family came to dinner---and each person had some personal drama.  That was it.  It did NOT inspire “great bursts of laughter”, contrary to the back cover review.  Overall, the book was boring. 

         Fans of angst-filled family drama might enjoy this one.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Regina

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Place Called Grace by Fran Driscoll Roberts

To say that Leah McPhillen is unlucky in love would be an understatement. Every man she has ever loved has suddenly left her without explanation. When she finally meets a man who piques her interest, the date is interrupted by a horrendous crash, and Leah's father, Officer Liam "Phil" McPhillen, is blamed for it since he was the officer in pursuit of the stolen truck. Add to this a young cousin whose life is in danger and Leah McPhillen is about to find love, danger and intrigue in the little town of Ocean Shores, Mississippi.

A Place Called Grace by Fran Driscoll Roberts is a mess of a book.  I just finished it, and I am not at all sure about what I just read.  I am afraid this review is going to be a bit of a rant.
         1.  The book started with an abused child locked in a house.  She is starving and talking about her mother’s boyfriend, who is her abuser.  The child’s mother seems quite content to continue sleeping with this man.  The child has old cigarette burns on her feet.  She has no food.  Her grandmother lives THREE BLOCKS away.  Apparently, the grandma has tried to get custody of the child but to no avail.  Too bad, little abused child! This was completely unrealistic.  The child speaks of her abuse and fear.  Oh, I almost forgot!  He takes PICTURES of the little girl—not naked pictures, but provocative ones that he SELLS.  The little girl makes her way to Grandma’s house and is spirited away to another town.  While there, she runs away three times.  One time, she nearly drowns after being knocked down by a wave.  When she returns home, one of the relatives who “saved” her from her abuser threatens to “tear up her bottom”.  Really?  Really?

2.  The main character, a sad single lady, starts dating a man who she meets at a library.  He seems nice, and sad single lady goes to lunch with him.  A car crashes through the window.  It is occupied by two teenagers.  One dies.  The car was being chased by a policeman, who happens to be sad single lady’s FATHER.  The community mostly blames the cop for the wreck.  Cue nasty phone calls, poop left on the porch, etc.  The parents of the teenager who dies in the wreck are characterized as people who are just out for money during the trial of the officer.  There is no discussion whatsoever of the appropriateness of the characters’ actions.

3.  There is a Bible verse at the beginning of every chapter for no discernable reason.

4.  Toward the middle of the book, the cop dad starts working on an unsolved cold case involving two dead CHILDREN—who both have wrist tattoos.  Wait, what?  And they are obviously related to each other and there is probably a third victim.  This story line never goes anywhere.  Murders are not solved.  We have no idea who did it.

5.  Sad single lady has a best friend who is marrying the biggest douche in the world.  She is basically told not to say a word against the boyfriend and to just suck it up.  Best friend loves him—end of story.

6.  Sad single lady’s boyfriend has a dead wife that she did not know about and a shady business life.  He keeps both of these things from her.  She forgives him.  And then—MIRACLE!  He decides to get baptized (and proposes and gives bigger flowers to sad single girl).

7.  Add a sick relative, the abuser coming back to kidnap the girl, some discussions about why a cop likes a motorcycle rather than a car, and you have the sum total of this book.

This one gets a firm PASS from me.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Regina

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Cellar (The Cellar #1) by Natasha Preston

Nothing ever happens in the town of Long Thorpe – that is, until sixteen-year-old Summer Robinson disappears without a trace. No family or police investigation can track her down. Spending months inside the cellar of her kidnapper with several other girls, Summer learns of Colin’s abusive past, and his thoughts of his victims being his family…his perfect, pure flowers. But flowers can’t survive long cut off from the sun, and time is running out…

Collin is deranged in this thinking. He has set up his cellar to be a hidden home. It has a kitchen, living room, bathroom, and a bedroom. He kidnaps girls and puts them in his cellar. They are all names after flowers and he refers to them as his flowers. They are to live and act like a family. After a while he has his way with them. Collin brainwashes the girls into thinking this is their family and that without him they have nothing or will be dead. Can the girls escape? Can Collin get the help he needs?

This book was a real page turner. I could not wait to see what happened next. Each girl tells their story and how they end up in the cellar. Collin is portrayed as having multiple personalities and psychotic. The author lays the cellar out just right that you can imagine exactly how it is and what is going on in the book.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Knevits

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Blonde Hair, Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter

A missing girl in the news reminds Julia Carroll of herself: nineteen, beautiful, blonde hair, blue eyes.

Julia begins to dig deeper and plans an article for her college paper. She becomes gradually more obsessed with the case, never imagining how close she herself is to danger. 

Julia is a college student who also works in journalism. When Beatrice leaves home one night and does not return home, Julia starts to do her own profiling of missing people, characteristics, and locations. Julia researches and finds that Beatrice had blonde hair and blue eyes just like Julia. Julia decides to write an article with her information to warn others. But what happens when you do not follow your own advice? Is Julia next?

If you are buying this book beware it is a real short story. There is only 76 pages total to read. The book draws you in and gets you to thinking about all these things and connecting the links. But in the end boom, then it is over with no explanation. I felt like a hanging reader when I finished the book.

*I received this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Knevits

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

She Wanted It All by Kathryn Casey

Trophy wife Celeste Beard wasn't satisfied with a luxurious lifestyle and her rich Austin media mogul husband's devotion -- so she took his life!

The wife:
She wanted everything, but her husband stood in the way.

The lesbian lover:
A love-struck, middle-aged woman with a history of mental illness, she would do anything to set Celeste free.

The beauty salon receptionist:
Celeste hired her to tie up the loose ends ... in a second conspiracy to commit murder.

Celeste Beard is a mother of twin girls. She is married to a man whom is very wealthy, but what happens when he stands in the way of what she wants? She conspires many ways to kill him and to always get more money from him. Celeste never has enough money. She is a very good manipulator and even drags her twin girls into lying for her. Celeste is often in and out of the mental hospital and that is where she connects with Tracey. Celeste finds herself married to one man, in love with Tracey, and still wanting to have her night life as well. Can she have it all?

This is a true crime novel and there are some graphic scenes in the book. There are 442 pages with 8 pages of photographs. I found this to be a good read. My only complaint is like other true crimes, things are often repeated in the book many times.

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.  Knevits

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Broken Glass (The Mirror Sisters #2) by V.C. Andrews

Haylee and Kaylee Fitzgerald are twin sisters who have been forced to be identical in every way by their domineering mother. She insists they wear the same clothes, eat the same food, get the same grades, and have all the same friends.

But both are growing weary of her obsession with their similarities, so when they finally attend high school, they find little ways to highlight their independence. The transition isn't as easy as expected, however, and soon both sisters are thrust into a world that their mother never prepared them for—a world with far more dangerous consequences than just upsetting Mother. 

Broken Glass is the second book in The Mirror Sisters series and picks up right after the cliffhanger ending from book one. If you have not read book one, this review will contain spoilers. 

Broken Glass alternates between Haylee and Kaylee's point of view. Kaylee is being held captive and Haylee is pretending to be the mourning sister who has lost her twin. It's strange how a story so disturbing can be so enthralling. Poor Kaylee goes back and forth trying to figure out if she should give in or fight back against her captor. While Haylee is happy that her sister is gone, also still feels like she hasn't quite gained back control of her own life yet since she has to pretend so often at being sad. Their mother has a psychotic break and their father moves back home temporarily to take care of both her and Haylee. He also hires a nurse to stay in the home which means more pressure on Haylee to act a certain way and remain under the radar of suspicion. 

Intense with plot twists and a big creep factor, this book was definitely a page turner. Never boring and kept me anxiously anticipating the next move all the way up to the last page. I kept hoping things would go the way I wanted and there were a few times I was afraid that they definitely weren't. Like book one, this one also ends with a bit of a cliffhanger, that makes me anxious to read the next book already. It's just so hard to believe anyone could be so evil to their own twin sister. *shivers*     

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion. April K.