Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Sugar Men

The Sugar MenSixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.

For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.

Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.

I will be the first to admit, I passed judgment on this book before I even opened it and it proved me so wrong!  I was immediately connected to the characters and felt so invested in their lives and stories.  I had to remind myself several times that while the events in history did happen, that the story was fictional.  I think anytime a story feels that real, it's accomplishing its task of being a wonderful, engaging read.  I have read countless WWII novels as well as novels set in holocaust camps, but this one was one of my favorites.  So many of those novels tend to be long and drawn out, but this author was able to pack the same punch in a much simpler way and I really appreciated it.  I requested another Ray Kingfisher novel and I will be picking it up very soon!  

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


Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Girl Before

The Girl BeforeIn this powerful psychological suspense debut, when a woman’s life is shattered, she is faced with a devastating question: What if everything she thought was normal and good and true . . . wasn’t?

Clara Lawson is torn from her life in an instant. Without warning, her home is invaded by armed men, and she finds herself separated from her beloved husband and daughters. The last thing her husband yells to her is to say nothing.

In chapters that alternate between past and present, the novel slowly unpeels the layers of Clara’s fractured life. We see her growing up, raised with her sisters by the stern Mama and Papa G, becoming a poised and educated young woman, falling desperately in love with the forbidden son of her adoptive parents. We see her now, sequestered in an institution, questioned by men and women who call her a different name—Diana—and who accuse her husband of unspeakable crimes. As recollections of her past collide with new revelations, Clara must question everything she thought she knew, to come to terms with the truth of her history and to summon the strength to navigate her future.

I enjoyed the experience of reading this novel.  At times, it almost read like a memoir.  I truly believed these things were happening to Claire and it felt extremely realThe author did a phenomenal job of getting in the head of each character in order to portray them in a way I actually think would be very true to form.  While I was intrigued, nothing was shocking or "how did I not see that coming" for me.  It was more a fast-paced character study and I loved it.  As long as you don't have to have a huge surprise element, I think this is a great book to read next!  

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

My Name is Leon

My Name is LeonLeon is nine, and has a perfect baby brother called Jake. They have gone to live with Maureen, who has fuzzy red hair like a halo, and a belly like Father Christmas. But the adults are speaking in low voices, and wearing Pretend faces. They are threatening to take Jake away and give him to strangers. Because Jake is white and Leon is not.

As Leon struggles to cope with his anger, certain things can still make him smile – like Curly Wurlys, riding his bike fast downhill, burying his hands deep in the soil, hanging out with Tufty (who reminds him of his dad), and stealing enough coins so that one day he can rescue Jake and his mum.

Evoking a Britain of the early eighties, My Name is Leon is a story of love, identity and learning to overcome unbearable loss. Of the fierce bond between siblings. And how – just when we least expect it – we somehow manage to find our way home.

The description given for this book on NetGalley differs greatly from the one given above that is posted on GoodReads.  Based on the GoodReads summary, I would not have picked up this book.  I requested it because it was compared to The Language of Flowers and I don't think that's an accurate comparison at all.  While I loved the character of Leon, Maureen and Sylvia I didn't care for anything else about this book.  I felt that it had an agenda and I was not impressed.  I just wanted the story of Leon and instead I got Leon, mixed with issues that just fell flat.  I just didn't care anymore and that made me sad because I was rooting for Leon and Maureen.  I think better editing and focusing more on Leon's story and less on some agenda would have served this book much better.    

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

I Let You Go

I Let You Go 
On a rainy afternoon, a mother's life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . .

I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past.

At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them.

I had heard a lot of hype about this book and it delivered.  Since I knew how much people loved it, I must admit that I was looking for things so I wasn't as shocked as others probably were.  The writing was fast paced and engaging, so I will be looking for more books by this author.  There aren't many books that keep me up late in the night but this one definitely did.  While I have never experienced the things that Jenna did, it felt very real and raw.  I felt her pain and just connected with her right off.  If you love a good thriller, with a story beyond the excitement, this is a great choice!

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

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Fading Starlight

Fading StarlightA Tale of Unexpected Friendship and Old Hollywood Glamour

Lauren Summers is hiding. Her fashion house internship should have launched her career, but a red carpet accident has left her blackballed. The only job she finds is unpaid, but comes with free lodging--a run-down cottage in the shadow of a cliff-side mansion. Unsure of what comes next, she's surprised to be contacted by a reporter researching a reclusive former Hollywood ingEnue who lives in the nearby mansion.

Kendall Joiner wants Lauren's help uncovering the old woman's secrets. In return, she'll prove the red carpet accident was a publicity stunt so Lauren can regain her former job. With all her dreams in front of her, Lauren's tempted by the offer, but as she and the old woman get to know each other, Lauren realizes nothing is quite as it seems.

This was my first Kathryn Cushman novel and I am already looking forward to picking up another one of her books very soon!  I thought the writing was simple, yet exactly what the story needed.  Just the right amount of description.  While some may not enjoy the quotes and Bible verses within the text, I actually enjoyed hearing them and then seeing them applied throughout scenes in the story.  I connected with the main character in her quest to make right choices, while still making the wrong ones at times and dealing with the consequences.  It just felt very "real life" to me.  I gave this book 5 stars and would love to see the author decide to write a followup book.   

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Sister

The Sister"I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me ..."

Grace hasn't been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie's words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie's. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn't know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie's father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie's sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan's home.

But something isn't right. Things disappear, Dan's acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace's mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie   and   Anna,  is  Grace  in  terrible   danger?     There was
                                                        nothing she could have done to save Charlie ...or was there? 

A debut novel that definitely packed a punch!  While at times things seemed predictable, all the pieces weren't there to make a complete picture. This kept me guessing and wondering the whole novel, which is exactly what I look for in a book like this.  I never knew which characters were trustworthy and I loved it!  If you enjoy a good book that plays mind games with you, pick this up - it will not disappoint! 

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


Monday, May 16, 2016

The Tulip Factory

The Tulip FactoryBefore they exchange even a single word, Corrine knows that James will change everything. And sure enough, their serendipitous meeting in a North Carolina coffee shop sets off a whirlwind of desire and possibilities for the two.

Timing, however, isn’t on the couple’s side. After their relationship ends, Corrine finds that years of putting her career and passions on hold for love have led to a stalled life. She once saw her receptionist job as temporary but got too comfortable and, before she knew it, lost sight of her dream of becoming a writer.

Now, as Corrine makes her way into her late twenties, she’s on a quest to find herself. As she struggles to figure out what she really wants, she’ll discover that sometimes you have to take happiness into your own hands and that a fulfilling life is built on opportunities—even the missed ones.

I was very intrigued by the description of this title and I was delighted with the chance to review.  However, that is where the delight ended for me.  This book was predictable and just went nowhere.  The characters drank way too much, but never saw this as a cause of their problems.  I just felt like there was really no point in the story.  The characters were flat and predictable.  And the ending was just so bizarre in my opinion.  I will say that the author's writing style was easy to read and went quickly.  I tried hard to see the positive in this book but it just wasn't the book for me.  

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