Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello, Sunshine

Hello, SunshineSunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light.

Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor.

And then she gets hacked.

When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life.

In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

This is one of those books that appears to be a quick, easy read that's defined as chick-lit.  All of that is true, but it was more than that as well.  I read this book in under 24 hours and I didn't want to stop.  It was funny, charming and didn't require my brain to work too much.  It reminded me that I actually miss reading fun books like this.  It made me start looking for more books just like it.  But, best of all, I actually took some lessons away from it.  I have been thinking a lot about the life we live on social media prior to this book but this really hit it home for me.  What image am I trying to portray about myself?  Is it true?  Do we really "know" someone because we are social media friends and followers?  Am I cultivating true relationships?  This book will have me reflecting on those questions for awhile.  Looking forward to reading other titles by Laura Dave and novels that have the same qualities that this one had because I just don't read them enough anymore.   

         * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable People

Remarkable Faith: When Jesus Marveled at Faith in Unremarkable PeopleThis collection of inspirational vignettes, based on eight of the Bible's unlikely examples of faith, will give readers a fresh intimacy with Jesus.

REMARKABLE FAITH tells the stories of people whose faith was of such quality that Jesus himself marveled at it-people who were broken, needy, and dependent. These eight inspiring vignettes weave history, theology, and fictional detail into their biblical accounts to bring relief and a new perspective to those whose faith feels unremarkable. Written to encourage and relieve discouraged Christians who wonder if their faith is a disappointment to God, this book will demonstrate that remarkable faith-the kind Jesus marveled about-isn't about achieving or performing. Readers will discover they can exchange their performance-based evaluation of their faith with a fresh, life-giving intimacy with the Jesus who delights in transforming inadequacies into irrepressible affection. 

The description of this book was the main reason I picked it up, however something was just missing from me to give it my full attention.  I loved having the scripture and I really enjoyed the retelling of the story with more details.  I could picture it happening and it just gave me a wonderful image of each Bible story.  It was the application section that just fell flat for me.  I didn't relate the story to the application.  At times, it just seemed to not fit together.  I actually felt that those sections were not needed because the stories had enough impact on their own.  So that would be my only criticism.  I would have liked those sections to tie together better or just not have them at all.      

* I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Beartown

BeartownPeople say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.


Based on Fredrik Backman's other novels, this one came as a surprise.  A went into it expecting the tone to be different than his other works, but I was still caught of guard, in mostly a good way.   The story was beautifully told and it kept me engaged even though it took almost halfway through before anything truly happened.  This book made me feel sadness and anger in ways that most novels don't.  I felt a part of the Beartown and wanted to help the characters see the destruction they were creating.  My only criticism would be the overuse of foul language.  I take heat for saying this, but I find it detracts from the story rather than adds to it.  I realize this is my personal opinion, but I find myself disengaging when the language used becomes too much.  Sometimes a book makes me scared of being a parent, and this one did exactly that.  However, I must say that it opened my eyes to parent/child relationships and how you have to stay engaged with your children.  I'm looking forward to reading Mr. Backman's future works!
 
 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Here and Gone

Here and Gone 
Here and Gone is a gripping, wonderfully tense suspense thriller about a mother's desperate fight to recover her stolen children from corrupt authorities.. It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she's pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they're gone than she must have done something with them... Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.



Whew!  There were moments in this story that gave me goosebumps like no other!  It was gripping from the start and I found myself thinking about it even when I couldn't be reading it.  It made me stop and think about my two children and what lengths I would go to protect them as their mom. However, it also gave me pause in thinking that I need to be a little more watchful of people and situations that may not always be as they seem.  The writing was engaging and fast-paced, but my one problem would be towards the end it became a little to unbelievable and tied in a bow.  Don't get me wrong, I like a satisfying ending, but I think I wanted more.  The book could have been 50 -100 pages longer and explored additional details that could have made for a more interesting conclusion.  I wanted more of Danny's story and felt that the side of the Black Net could have been more developed.  Basically, I just wanted more!  Definitely enjoyed the book and would like to read more stories like this one in the future.

 * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Everything We Left Behind

Everything We Left BehindTwo months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancĂ©e, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.  Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

I tried so hard to love this book as much as I enjoyed the first, Everything We Keep, but I just did not.  While I appreciated the effort, it just felt forced, overly complicated and at times unrealistic.  I just wanted to get to the end to find out what happened, yet I really didn't care how.  It was fast paced, but the constant back and forth at times were confusing, even though I usually enjoy this style of storytelling.  I feel bad, giving a negative review, but I just enjoyed the first book so much and what it created but then that all was lost.  

 
  * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *
 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Breakdown

The BreakdownIf you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?
Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.
But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.
The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.
Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Oh my word...I don't even know what to say about this book!  I loved "Behind Closed Doors" and it was an incredible read, but I think I enjoyed this even more!  While there were times I suspected certain people, it still threw me for a loop and kept me on the edge of my seat.  As a busy mom, I very rarely sit down and read for a lot of time solidly, but I read this book in 2 sittings.  There were a couple things that felt a little far fetched, but I honestly didn't care.  I will automatically read anything this author publishes.  Since finishing this book, I've tried to pick up other things and I can't find anything I am interested in.  That's the sign of an incredible read!

       
       * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *

Monday, May 8, 2017

Are You Sleeping

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father's murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay.

The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past.

 I could definitely understand why this novel would be compared to Serial and I think that was a fair assessment.  It really gave me insight on how the people who are a part of these in real life must feel to have it dredged up again and on display for everyone to see.  The characters in the book were engaging, some likeable, others not.  It kept me engaged and wanting to read more.  There was something missing for me to take this to a full 5 stars, but I think for a book compared to a cultural phenomenon it could have been way worse.  Well done on a solid book!

       * I received this book from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review *