Friday, March 9, 2018

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

When someone first mentioned Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, my first thought was, "That sounds interesting, but I don't know if I'll ever take the time to read it." I don't even remember requesting it from the library, but when it showed up on my reserve list, I brought it home anyway. I had seen that a few other friends had marked it as read on Goodreads and that they'd liked it, so I gave it a shot. The premise certainly sounded interesting: A meteor has hit the moon and shifted it closer to the earth causing catastrophic changes to the tides and resulting in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Miranda is a sixteen-year-old girl living in Pennsylvania and it is through her diary that we read about all that has happened.

When I started reading, I almost stopped right away because it is the diary of a sixteen-year-old girl and frankly, it reads just like one. Kudos to Pfeffer for getting the tone right, but I didn't know if I could avoid feeling irritated by it. I pressed on, figuring I would give it just a bit and I'm glad I did. It doesn't take very long to fall into the rhythm of her speech patterns. I did find the plot interesting and I'm always fascinated by survival stories. I can't help but wonder if I would make it. Would I be clever enough to do what would help my family outlast the crisis?

This book was a fun, quick read. I'm not sure I'll read the rest of the series, but I would like to know what happens next. Have you read this series? Did you enjoy it? Would you be able to survive?

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Party by Robyn Harding

Public Service Announcement!

It is OKAY to not finish a book you aren't enjoying!

The Party by Robyn Harding sounded fascinating. A Sweet Sixteen party-gone quite wrong. Four friends are sleeping over at Hannah's house to celebrate her birthday. As teenagers are wont to do, rules are broken, an accident occurs, chaos ensues. Who is to blame for the damage done? The girls? The hosting parents?

It sounded interesting, but I just couldn't finish it. I did try to give it a fair chance; I read to 34%. I think that's pretty fair. It started out interestingly enough, alternating between different points of view, some adult, some teenage girl, but what made me crazy was that I just didn't like any of the characters. I can't stand to read a book knowing a character is about to make a really stupid decision. I don't want to be irritated by the people in books I read and that is all this was. Sure, teenagers are going to make stupid mistakes, but the adults should know better. And if, as adults, you don't like the person to whom you are married, or the people with whom you associate, move on! I know not every marriage is perfect and not every friendship is a best friendship, but these people are insufferable. And so I decided to go ahead and cut ties with this book, I to leave The Party early.

This book has mixed reviews on GoodReads. Some people really enjoyed it so maybe I'm wrong, but I'm okay with that. Now it is time to move on to something else, hopefully something better.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

The first thing I read by Marieke Nijkamp was This Is Where It Ends and I literally could not stop reading it. I started it one weekend morning and finished it that afternoon. It was unbelievably compelling. When I saw that her newest book, Before I Let Go, was available I snatched it up as quickly as I could. Corey is a high school student who has recently had to leave the home where she grew up in a remote part of Alaska. She misses her life there and especially her best friend Kyra. Having been away six months, Corey is looking forward to a long-planned visit back when she receives the devastating news that Kyra is dead. How could this have happened? Kyra struggled with bipolar disorder and was often seen as an "outsider" in an extremely tight-knit community, but she knew Corey was coming in just a few days. They had plans.
Was her death really as simple as Corey has been told? How and why has the town changed so much in just a few months? And why is Corey now being treated as the "outsider"?

I was so excited for this book and I had such high hopes. It did keep my attention and it was very surprising in parts, but it just didn't go where I thought it was going to go, where I thought it could have gone. I kept waiting for twists and turns that never materialized. Of course it isn't the fault of the author that I came in and continued reading with my own load of expectations. It isn't her job to tell the story I think she is going to tell, but when I got to the last page I couldn't help but feel that it wasn't what I wanted it to be. I am sure that there are other people who will love this book and not share my anticlimax, but I was a little disappointed.
I do still highly recommend This Is Where It Ends, especially in light of current events. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Evelyn, After by Victoria Helen Stone

I could not tear myself away from Victoria Helen Stone's Evelyn, After. Evelyn is a forty-one-year-old wife and the mother of a son just months from high school graduation. Her life is fine. She is heavily involved with the PTO and works part-time in the school office. She lives in a beautiful home and is married to a successful psychiatrist. So she has to take a sleeping pill every night. Lots of people do that. It doesn't mean she is unhappy with her life. At least not until she discovers how wrong her life has gone. Late one night, Evelyn's phone rings, startling her from her prescription-induced slumber. It's her husband, frantic for her help to pull his BMW out of a ditch. When she arrives, he isn't alone, and the other passenger is a very attractive patient of his. This could ruin her husband's career and destroy their family. How will Evelyn know how to come to terms with her knew world? Will she overcome, or will she take everyone down with her?

This book echoes many concerns of the average wife and mother. Are we appreciated? Does what we do matter? Below are just a few lines that ring that bell so clearly.

No wonder her husband had wanted someone else. She'd been such a wife. A dull, boring mother of his child.

Her work was cleaning and washing and planning and ticking boxes for people who only noticed that work when you failed to do it.

The reality was that she'd had to lure them close to her with scraps of food.

She needed someone to see her.

Who made her life easier while she was busy being easy for everyone else?
No one. There'd been no need. She'd never asked.

Aside from being a fascinating commentary on the life of a modern housewife, this book was also a riveting mystery. What really happened out on that dark, rural road late that night? Where had Evelyn's husband really been and with whom? Evelyn is a great character. My feelings for her ranged from pity to pride to disappointment and around and around. I love a character with enough depth to not evoke just one emotion from me as the reader. I really liked this book and I think you will, too. Can we talk about it when you finish?

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser is set in a lovely Ohio suburban neighborhood, the kind of place to which you move when you're looking for somewhere safe to live. It features a group of six women, the kind of women you would hope for as friends in this new, safe neighborhood. And it focuses on the sudden disappearance of one of these women and her two children. Kristin is the friendly, involved parent at the local preschool who is always happy to head up school projects and parties. Everyone knows and loves her. When she vanishes without a trace, everyone wants to know how it happened. First they turn to Claire, Kristin's next door neighbor and closest friend. Claire is worried about Kristin, but doesn't know how this terrible thing could have happened.
What didn't she see?

The last night they all are together, they gather around Claire's backyard firepit, get a little loose-lipped from all the wine, and start to share more than they planned. Was something said that prompted Kristin's disappearance? How much is too much to share with your neighbors? Once Kristin is gone, it changes the dynamics of the group, but can the pull together and protect one another?

This book is a fun mystery with a girlfriend side to it that I really liked. I always appreciate a good book about women and their relationships. It mostly focused on Claire and, the newest to the neighborhood, Izzy, but I would have loved to know more about the other women in the book, Randi, Rhoda, and Natalie. I enjoyed reading this book and it was perfect after the last, longer, heavier book I read. It was fast, fun, and it kept my attention to the end. Add it to your list.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I have had Life After Life by Kate Atkinson on my shelf for ages and I was finally able to find the time to read it. It follows the life, or lives, rather, of Ursula Todd. She is born on a snowy night in 1910 and due to complications of her birth, she dies almost immediately due to the umbilical cord being tied around her neck. Then it is that same snowy night in 1910 and she is born again, but the doctor is able to remove the cord from her neck and she lives. We watch as Ursula lives many different lives where each ending takes her back to the beginning. Ursula is plagued by overwhelming moments of deja vu and flashes of foreboding throughout her life that the reader knows are moments when she has previously died. Each time she learns a little more, gets a little further along.

This book is fascinating to read, if a bit complex. The storylines are intricately woven through time. This is certainly not something you can read with half your attention and I wouldn't recommend taking long breaks between sessions because you may forget where, and when, you are. For me, this book was very difficult to put down. Though it felt a little slow at the start, once I got going and understood the storyline, I was ravenous with reading it. How would Ursula avoid each death in the following life? Or would she?

This book asks the question:

What if we had a chance to do it again and again until we finally did get it right?

What if we did?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel

In Kristin Harmel's When We Meet Again, Emily is a thirty-six-year-old freelance journalist living alone in Orlando, Florida. Having lost her mother when she was a teenager, she spent the remainder of her childhood and early adulthood with her grandmother Margaret. When Margaret dies, Emily writes an article about her grandmother's life and the love she lost when she was very young. Emily is then shocked when a beautiful painting of her grandmother arrives at her front door with the message that "he never stopped loving her." This mysterious note leads Emily to embark on a journey to discover the identity of the love of her grandmother's life and to understand what could possibly have separated them.

Alternating between the present and the late-1940s and early-1950s, When We Meet Again brings the reader to a time when German prisoners of war were put to work in labor camps. Margaret meets a man she will love her whole life while he is toiling away the days in one such camp in the sugar cane fields of Florida. I wasn't even aware such camps existed, but it turns out there were 700 such camps that imprisoned 425,000 Germans in 46 different states. Overseen by the Geneva Convention, the United States was required to provide living conditions comparable to those provided to US military personnel as well as sufficient food and comparable pay for labor rendered.
I found this element of the story fascinating.

Mostly a quick read that dances lightly on the border of historical fiction and chick-lit, this book was sweet, soft and engaging. It wasn't too long before I had worked out the twists in the story, but they were fun to read, nonetheless. If you need something light, but still with a bit of depth, I would recommend you read When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel.