Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Publisher: Harper
Released: 2013
Pages: 337
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Reconstructing Amelia is an amazing debut novel. I had only heard good things about this book, but kept an open mind going in. A lot of times young adult books are hit or miss with me. I really needed something entirely different from my previous read, otherwise I would surely be disappointed in my next read. It’s really hard to pick up a new book when the one you finished was so good. Immediately, Reconstructing Amelia grabbed my attention and demanded that I pick up the book every chance I got. So,  let’s dive in and let me explain a bit about this one:

Kate Baron, a single mother with a very demanding job juggles her time between work and her teenage daughter. All her life her parents instilled in her a sense of career and focus.  As a partner in a law firm, Kate has had to put in long hours and Amelia seemed to mostly understand and accept that Kate works very hard for all that they have.  Amelia is an excellent student and well-rounded teenager. However, her daughter Amelia has been asking a lot of questions about her father, asking to spend a semester in Paris and she seems distant. Kate knows something is going on with her. When Kate receives a phone call that her daughter was caught cheating, Kate knows that’s not true because her daughter would never cheat. Despite her hectic schedule, she knows her daughter and knows how important academia is to Amelia. When Kate gets to the school and realizes there’s police and an ambulance, she begins to wonder what is going on. Kate unfortunately learns that her daughter jumped from the roof and committed suicide. Kate knows her daughter didn't cheat, didn't jump and when she starts to receive anonymous text messages that tell her Amelia didn't jump, Kate starts digging into Amelia life. It seems like everyone has a secret to uncover.

As a new parent it was hard to read about Kate’s grief, and knowing that her only daughter was gone forever. Once she starts getting deeper into Amelia’s life, readers really want to know what happened. There are quite a few twists at the end that I didn't see coming. The book mostly takes place in present day, but we do get some flashbacks of Kate as a young mom. Amelia’s narrative is interwoven throughout the story explaining her months beforehand.  Her life really started to spiral out of control with bullying, hazing, questions about her own sexuality, difficult friendships and school pressure. Reconstructing Amelia is a multi-layered novel that is sure to capture your attention, and leave you recommending it to others. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: The House of Riverton by Kate Morton

Publisher: Washington Square Press
Published: 2009
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I started The House of Riverton while going through a major reading slump, and decided to pick this one up. Kate Morton has never left me disappointed but I didn’t know what to expect from her debut novel.  It was on my tbr list for a long time, and I thought I should give it a chance. As soon as I began to read, I knew I was going to love it. In the end, I was right, this book was amazing and I had trouble to put the book down. The characters were so vivid, and likable. For those who watch Downton Abbey, the world was very similar; Aristocratic family relationships upstairs, while the servants live and interact downstairs.

The House of Riverton introduces readers to Grace; she’s ninety-eight years old and living in a nursing home.  When a filmmaker contacts Grace about her time living at Riverton, Grace realizes that so much of Riverton was a mystery, including an alleged suicide by a family friend. Grace begins to tell her story and readers are taken on a captivating ride. At fourteen Grace was given a position as a servant, her mother was once a servant and seemed to have some pull since positions weren't easily given. Grace was told to listen and do as she was told but she couldn't help but become fascinated with the children upstairs. Grace’s attachment to the siblings grew overtime and her loyalty remained strong.  As the children grow into young adults, Grace is fully aware of their struggles and desires.

Kate Morton’s descriptions are so vivid. 1920’s England, a world war and its aftermath are all key elements in story. While readers will love the past story, Grace’s present story is also very interesting. Grace admits that she wasn’t the best mother. She mentions that mothers and daughters have a difficult relationship because there’s so much pressure but grandchildren are different. The expectations are different. She has a close relationship with her grandson but his life has recently been turned upside down, and he hasn’t communicated to anyone in months. Grace knows that her time is limited, but she’s kept so many secrets for so long. The House of Riverton won't disappoint. Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and can't wait for her upcoming release. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reading Resolutions for 2015

This past year reading and blogging was put on a back burner while I spent my days with Caleb. I've already posted about him not being a good sleeper. (He actually slept through the night last night) Since I've been back to work, I realized that I have more time to read. I'm commuting to work, and have lunches and breaks that I can devote to reading.  I've been thinking about what I choose to read, and how the blogging community really influences what I read. Social media is addictive and I tend to pick up books that I see others raving about. That's great but before I was a blogger, I read whatever I came across and I read a lot of classics. I miss those books. I tend to not pick up books that have been on my tbr list for years, and opt for the newer read. I would really like to change that in 2015. I want to try and be a more well rounded reader. I would like to read or reread some classics, find some great Canadian reads, and not be afraid to pick up those chunksters.

I'm a huge Gilmore Girls fan and I've been re-watching the series on Netflix. THANK YOU Netflix! I realized that I was the type or reader that Rory is, and I miss that. I remember picking up The Bell Jar and The Virgin Suicides and being completely absorbed in those reads. I just think I'm missing out on some great reads because I'm choosing only newly released books. 

Here is a list of my resolutions

1- Don't be afraid of chunksters
2- Read more Canadian Fiction
3- Be a more diverse reader
4- Classics, it's okay to read and review them
5- The books that have been on my tbr list for years still deserve to be read

Overall, I would like seek out books that I would normal pass over. 

What are some of your favorite backlist titles?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Books, and back to work

50 weeks of maternity leave and I'm back to work. It's been really hard to adjust and I'm still adjusting but I think being a working mom will be doable. I'm still very sleep deprived, Caleb doesn't sleep his night and I don't think he ever will... Some mornings he's up at 4:30 am. I'm just trying to enjoy all the time that I do have with him, and not think about all the hours he spends in daycare. I was fortunate to gradually transition him to daycare, and he's been doing great. 

Since I'm back to work, I'm commuting again which means I can read! I was in such a reading funk and couldn't get into anything for awhile. I picked up Kate Morton's House of Riverton. I love her books and this one has been on my tbr list for awhile. I'm hooked! The world is very similar to Downton Abbey, which I didn't expect but really held my attention from the beginning. I'm about half way through and hope to review it soon. 

I've also started looking into Booktubers. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. 

For those in the US, Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Released: 2014
Pages: 192
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5/5

Prenna, a young girl from the future was born in a world riddled by plague, and desolated her population. In order to survive, she’s gone back in time and lives within a small community that has very strict rules. They’re hoping to makes some changes to make their world a better place in the future. Her two younger brothers succumbed to the blood plague in her time period, and her father never made it to her current life. She’s alone with her mother, who remains as cold hearted and distant as possible. Her mother is following the rules, Prenna is struggling. Prenna must fit in with her peers , assimilate, and not draw any attention to herself. She must never fall in love, and focus on the task at hand. She had every intention to follow the rules, but lately a boy has caught her attention, and he knows a lot more about her life than she expected. 

When I picked up The Here and Now I was looking for something to switch gears from the book I read previously. It’s been awhile since I picked up a YA book of this nature, and I didn’t really expect much. This book is fast paced, and enjoyable but not very complex compared to other YA storylines.  Brashares succeeds in depicting a realistic future, but she doesn’t elaborate on the time travel aspect of the novel. I felt like she gave just enough to keep readers going, but not having to really give any indepth analysis. 

Ann Brashares wrote The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and she really stole my heart with that series. The Here and Now is completely different and not in the same category. This book really felt like it was lacking certain elements. The love story isn’t really convincing, and I never felt the passion. I did enjoy the book. I thought it was a fast read, and if you’re looking for something not too complex, you might want to give this one a try. I’m happy I read it but wouldn’t mark it among my favorites. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 288
Released: 2014
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5


Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands will break your heart and will undoubtedly move you. Once you pick the book up, it's almost impossible to put it down. If you do, you certain do so begrudgingly. Readers are introduced to Emily Shepard, a homeless 16 year-old girl who has built an igloo with snow and trash bags. She's had to build a new identity, steal, and move on with her life the only way she knows how. Accompanying her is a little boy named Cameron, and Emily wants to protect him at all costs. Nearly a year ago, a nuclear explosion at their local power plant melted down and wiped out a large radius. Her parents both worked at the plant; her father was in charge, and her mother head of the PR department. Neither one survived, and Emily is all alone. She cannot stand to hear everyone blaming her parents, and she fears they will continue to take it out on her. When the plant initially melted down, no one held back on their thoughts about her parents. As a result Emily had to change her identity.

The narration skips around, and we learn what Emily's life was prior to the meltdown. Her parents weren't Saints, and both hated living in Vermont. They drank a lot, fought a lot, but both loved Emily. Emily was your typical teenager, going to an elite prep school and found herself getting into trouble from time to time. She rebelled, didn't live up to her potential as a student, but was a fairly good kid who loves Emily Dickenson. Sadly, coping with her new life on the streets includes stealing, resorting to prostitution from time to time, and she becomes a cutter.

I haven't read many of Chris Bohjalian's books but of the two I've read, I've loved them both. Midwives was a great read, and Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands is now one of my favorite reads. Emily narrates the story, and she takes readers on a heartbreaking journey. Bohjalian captures the raw emotion, and the desperation of a teenage girl living on the streets with no where to go. "Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands" is such a powerful statement when mentioned in the book, and it will remain with you. I highly recommend this one. I can go on and on about how powerful this book it, but you should really read it for yourself.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Review: Sweet Water by Christina Baker Kline

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 320
Released: 2010
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3/5

When Cassie's grandfather passes away, she learns that he bequeathed a house to her,  and she's not sure what to think. Her mother's family are virtually strangers to her, she's been raised by her widowed father and her maternal family never played a role in her childhood. Her mother was killed in a drunk driving accident with her father at the wheel, and Cassie wonders why he would give her a house. The family tried to move on the best they could, and they quickly offer to sell the house for her. Cassie is a struggling artist and would love to move to Tennessee and possibly get some answers that she's never been able to have answered. Meeting her family is tense, and uncomfortable- some family members are more welcoming than others. Her grandmother seems nice, but very guarded. Her family warns her not to ask any questions to her grandmother regarding her mother's death. They tell her that everyone has moved on, and she should too. When Cassie learns that there seems to be quite a bit of town gossip regarding her mother's passing, Cassie is determined to get the answers she wants. She believes it's the least they can do, and she deserves their honesty.

Sweet Water is told in alternating perspectives between a confused, and determined Cassie, and her guilt-ridden grandmother Clyde. Clyde believes her husband has hidden secrets inside the house, and this is his way of finally getting back at Clyde. Their relationship over the years deteriorated and him killing her daughter in a drunken stupor is something she will never get over. Especially since Ellen was her favorite child. Clyde clearly states that Ellen was her favorite, and her other children have always known that she was the favorite. Amory had his own secrets and thought Clyde was at fault for the accident as well. He had been drinking because of her and his secrets.

I enjoyed Sweet Water for the most part but felt the story was missing something. I felt like I've been waiting and waiting for this big reveal, and it didn't really happen. I had figured out the secret long before, and felt disappointed by the end.  The shocking mystery is incredibly obvious to readers. Cassie's relationship with Troy, her cousin, also through me for a loop. Overall, Sweet Water was a quick read and I did enjoy some aspects of the book but I was happy when it was finished and I could move on to something else.