Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

The Girl BeforeSummary:

In the tradition of The Girl on the Train, The Silent Wife, and Gone Girl comes an enthralling psychological thriller that spins one woman’s seemingly good fortune, and another woman’s mysterious fate, through a kaleidoscope of duplicity, death, and deception.

My take: 5 looks

Mind. Blown.

Loved this one! The characters were almost caricatures of individual personality traits, and yet, they were also completely believable. Told from the perspective of two women in a "then" and "now" mode, the intrigue, suspense, and nail-biting increase with each chapter. As the two start to intersect, make sure your seat belt is fastened and your table-tray is in an upright position. You are in for a bumpy ride.

In addition to the characters, the house where most of the action occurs also serves as a real and imposing character in the narrative. It seems to be alive at some points, leaving the reader to wonder if it is a benevolent or malevolent structure.

The idea that architecture can change a person is an interesting theme in the book, and I like the light hand that Delaney uses to illustrate how this may be possible. Background music in the grocery store and shopping malls to set your shopping mood? That's only the beginning.

Thank goodness Ron Howard has already acquired the rights for a movie.

This rollercoaster ride of a book is available January 24th 2017 by Ballantine Books.

Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Banned Books Week: Entirely New List

I just realized that the top challenged books in 2015 contains no duplicates from the list last year. That amazes me! I have read only two of the 2014 list. I need to get busy!!
Top Ten Challenged Books Lists by Year: 2014
1)      The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2)      Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3)      And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4)      The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5)      It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6)      Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. Additional reasons:
7)      The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8)      The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9)      A Stolen Life, Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10)  Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit

Monday, September 26, 2016

Banned Books Week, Y'all!!

Well, Captain Underpants didn't make the list this year, but there are quite a few LGBT on this time. I don't know if that's good because it means that there is more diversity in today's books, or if it's bad because they are being challenged. I am going to stick with it's a good thing!

I have read three of the following. Let me know how many you have read!

The top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 are:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
    Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
    Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
  6. The Holy Bible
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
    Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
    Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch


Once a celebrated writer, M's greatest success came with a suspense novel based on a real-life disappearance. The book was called The Reckoning, and it told the story of Jan Landzaat, a history teacher who went missing one winter after his brief affair with Laura, his stunning pupil. Jan was last seen at the holiday cottage where Laura was staying with her new boyfriend. Upon publication, M.'s novel was a bestseller, one that marked his international breakthrough.

That was years ago, and now M.'s career is almost over as he fades increasingly into obscurity. But not when it comes to his bizarre, seemingly timid neighbor who keeps a close eye on him. Why?

From various perspectives, Herman Koch tells the dark tale of a writer in decline, a teenage couple in love, a missing teacher, and a single book that entwines all of their fates. Thanks to The Reckoning, supposedly a work of fiction, everyone seems to be linked forever, until something unexpected spins the "story" off its rails.

My take: 3 looks

Beautifully written, with finely crafted sentences that almost made me want to highlight the hardcover, first American edition. Not quite as mesmerizing as I found "The Dinner", "Dear Mr. M" is told in several sweeping sections, each giving voice to a different character. The fibers of the tapestry weave together pretty quickly, but we are left with the question of who did what to whom until the very last few pages.

A number of twists and turns, red herrings, and overly long sections made parts feel as if Koch was rambling, especially Laura's section, but this is no reason to overlook the book as a whole. I was overall satisfied with the ending, albeit after a bit of suspending belief. That's why I gave this one 3 looks instead of 4. However, it is recommended.

Many thanks to BloggingForBooks for a copy of this in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

small great things by Jodi Picoult


Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years' experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she's been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

My take: 3 looks

Like the other Picoult books I have read, this one had me hooked from the beginning. The writing is so compelling and the subject of current-day racism is so relevant.

I jumped right in, hating Turk, pulling for Ruth, wary of Adisa, and cheering for Kennedy. Living in the deep south, where the most heinous acts occurred during the civil rights era, I have a different perspective than I think people in other regions of the US may have. Like Kennedy's mother, I don't tend to look at how far we have yet to go, but how far we've come.

With that said, it was very difficult to read some of the sections, and made me put the book down so I could consider the text. I didn't read this book lightly, and am glad of the conversations that I feel it will inspire. Conversations that need to happen.

Then I got to the end. I am not going to spoil it for you, but the ending of the book left me completely deflated. I wanted the situation to be handled realistically. I wanted a real-world outcome, with all of its consequences. I wanted commentary on how the struggle for racial equity continues. I wanted evidence of small steps making a difference. I wanted to see how people changed perspectives from both sides of the color wheel. This struggle is not a tidy one, and that's what I expected to see reflected here.

Instead, I felt robbed of all of that. Instead, I got theatrics. And not even realistic, at that. The ending is out of left field, and so out of any realm of remote possibility that it almost ruined the rest of the story for me. If it were not for the strong social commentary throughout, I would have put this at a rating of two, but I think Picoult had more to offer than that rating would indicate. However, she also had a great opportunity to shine a spotlight while holding a mirror up to her readers. That opportunity was squandered.

Recommended, but prepare to be disappointed.

This book is available October 11, 2016.

Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for a copy of this prerelease in exchange for my honest opinion.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

The Wasp FactorySummary:

Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.

That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.

It was just a stage I was going through.

My take: 2 looks

This book had such potential. A young man who has a history of psychosis and murder. Yet, it's his brother whom he considers crazy. The machinations Frank goes through to "read" the signs, protect his home and surrounding areas, and continue with his every day life were very intriguing. His friendship with Jamie could have been better explored. Eric's descent into madness could have been better illustrated. Frank's father's motivations should have been clearer.

All-in-all, this book was very disappointing. It was engaging to a point, then it was over. The end was a quick jump off a cliff with nothing resolved and nothing explained.

Not recommended.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Frederik Bachman


Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy, standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My take: 5 looks

One of my favorite authors, this one did not disappoint. I adore getting to know the characters more book-to-book, and seeing the various plots from differing perspectives. In this one, our main character is Elsa, an almost-eight-year-old only child with a half-sibling on its way (called "Halfie"). Her world is rocked when her beloved granny dies and leaves behind a series of letters to deliver on her behalf.

What follows is quite the adventure. Elsa meets new people, faces fears, reconnects with her father, sees her mother in a new light, and reaches a better understanding of who her grandmother was. The story brought tears to my eyes, as well as made me laugh out loud.

Bachman's writing is so entertaining and complete in drawing the reader into the story that his books are always a pleasure to read. If you are reading his oeuvre (thanks to David A. for a reintroduction to this beautiful word), my suggestion is:

A Man Called Ove
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
Britt-Marie was Here

Enjoy this highly recommended trio of treasures!