Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Title: Then She Was Gone
Author: Lisa Jewell
Year Published: 2018

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 369
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)US (UK)

FTC Disclosure: I received this book as a gift

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a cafĂ©, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl? 

Review: I received this book from my Secret Santa and it was a good one to read during this pandemic since it is a page turner and a light read.

The story is told from varying perspectives: Laurel, whose daughter has disappeared; Ellie, the girl who disappeared; Floyd, Laurel's new boyfriend; and, eventually, another character that I won't mention since it will spoil the story. I liked hearing this type of story from varying perspectives because it means we get more of the story.

Just before half way through the book, I figured out what happened and thought, "why am I going to finish this book? I know what's going on." But, I have trouble leaving a book if I am enjoying it so continued reading, which was a good move because the author intended for the reader to figure it out. The second part of the book is when it all gets laid out by the various characters and there were details that I didn't know or expect.

All in all this is a good book and if you are looking for a non-scary thriller, you'll probably enjoy it.

Challenges for which this counts: 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Review: The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Giver of Stars
Author: Jojo Moyes
Year Published: 2019

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 400
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)US (KT)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England.  But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice's greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who's never asked a man's permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky. 

What happens to them--and to the men they love--becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic--a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond. 

Review: I thought this book seemed like a good light read for this uncertain time that we're living in. Well, it is a good read, but there are definitely moments when it is tense.

Alice and the other Packhorse Librarians are a wonderful bunch! I love their friendship, their fearlessness, their determination, their ingenuity, and more. Women in the late 1930s had to be tough, but in the rural areas of Kentucky, even more so. The people that are pulled into their circle (both the good and the bad) make for a fantastic cast of characters. I like that they each have depth, they grow, and that, in the end, we see where they each end up.

The story itself is also very interesting; I had heard of these librarians before (the Kentucky horseback librarians were a real thing funded by the WPA) and to read about them in a novel form was great.

Challenges for which this counts: 
For the Pop Sugar challenge, this book is about a book club.

Sunday Salon: March 29, 2020

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz runs The Sunday Salon.

Books read over the past week:   
Challenge progress 2020
  • Literary Escapes Challenge--This week: 1 state and 0 countries. 15 states and 10 countries total
  • Mount TBR Challenge--0 books read this week, 21 books total
  • Popsugar reading challenge--1 book read this week, 18 books total
  • Social Justice Challenge--1 book read this month, 3 books total
  • YA Award Winners--1 book read this week, 7 books total
My life outside books:
Well, we're about to enter week 3 of sheltering in place in California and, at least in our county, it seems to be helping though we're up to 62 known cases, doubling our number in the past few days. They say it's because they are testing more people and that's what I want to believe. Lines are a bit shorter at the grocery stores, people have stopped panic-buying toilet paper, and the shelves are (mostly) stocked. I do find it interesting what is difficult to find, for example, why is yogurt in high demand?

I have received the "Uplifting exchange" email at least 3 times so far and have received about 6 uplifting poems and songs back from a strangers, friends of friends, and people I love. It really is a wonderful thing in this tumultuous time!

Tomorrow and Tuesday will be filled with zoom meetings for me as our spring break ends and we prepare to begin online teaching on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Review: Hour of the Assassin by Matthew Quirk

Title: Hour of the Assassin
Author: Matthew Quirk
Year Published: 2020

Genre: Adult fiction
Pages: 560
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)US (VA, DC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): As a Secret Service agent, Nick Averose spent a decade protecting the most powerful men and women in America and developed a unique gift: the ability to think like an assassin. Now, he uses that skill in a little-known but crucial job. As a “red teamer,” he poses as a threat, testing the security around our highest officials to find vulnerabilities—before our enemies can. He is a mock killer, capable of slipping past even the best defenses.

His latest assignment is to assess the security surrounding the former CIA director at his DC area home. But soon after he breaches the man’s study, the home’s inner sanctum, Nick finds himself entangled in a vicious crime that will shake Washington to its foundations—as all the evidence points to Nick.

Nick knows he’s the perfect scapegoat. But who is framing him, and why? To clear his name, he must find the truth—a search that leads to a dark conspiracy whose roots stretch back decades. The prize is the most powerful position in the world: the Oval Office.

To save himself and the people he loves, Nick must stop the men who rule Washington before they bury him along with their secrets. 

Review: I chose this book as one of my Book of the Month books and am glad I did. During the lockdown that is our new normal while the Corona virus rages throughout the world, I was having trouble focusing on books. So, I decided to try a book that wasn't to heavy and this was just the right one.

This political thriller kept my attention from the very beginning. Nick is a likable character and the supporting characters--both bad guys (and there are plenty of them and people Nick trusts--are real and interesting.

Reading this in an election year is especially good since that's the basis of the plot: what will people do to remain close to the next president, to ensure that they have control of the United States. If you have any interest in Washington, DC power politics and the backroom shenanigans, you'll enjoy this novel.

Challenges for which this counts: 
For the Pop Sugar challenge, this book has the same title as a movie, but they are unrelated.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

YA Review: Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Title: Field Guide to the North American Teenager
AuthorBen Philippe
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 208
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2019 Google Reading map)USA (TX)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

Review: I chose this book because it won the William C. Morris Award, for best debut novel, from the American Library Association this year and I am really glad I read it. That's saying a lot since i started this book right before COVID-19 exploded, our schools shut down, and California insisted that we all stay home. It was difficult to concentrate on reading, but I persevered and finished!

Norris is a goof. He doesn't want to move to Texas from Canada, he hates the Texas heat, he's awkward around his peers, his dad has a new family, and, basically, he's not diggin' his life right now. Over the course of the novel, Norris does make some friends, does get involved in activities, and does screw up. A lot. Like, really a lot. Suffice it say, Norris needs to get his act together and there are a bunch of people telling him how and why along the way.

What feels like a light-hearted, humorous book sneaks in some really important moments that speak volumes. I won't tell you about them because I think you need to experience them for yourself as you read the book. 

Challenges for which this counts: