Thursday, August 27, 2020

Book Review: One By One, by Ruth Ware

One by One, by Ruth Ware book cover and review
I've really enjoyed some of Ruth Ware's previous books, and even though One By One took a while to get going, it did not disappoint.

I've never read And Then There Were None, but my impression is that One By One is the same type of story. There are ten characters alone in a ski chalet. Two of the people are the employees who are there to cook and clean and generally take care of the guests. The other eight are part of a group from a high tech software company. Well, seven of them are current employees. One is a former employee who doesn't seem to quite fit in. A former personal assistant, she doesn't exactly run in the same circles as the employees.

Turns out they are on a retreat, but also voting on whether to accept a buyout deal. The employees are evenly divided, and it turns out the ex personal assistant is the deciding vote.

Then there's an avalanche that strands them all -- and people start dying.

The first 30% of the book is introduction of characters and setting, and even after all that, I still got some of the characters confused. But it didn't really matter. The narrators were all well defined and interesting.

I didn't really figure out what was going on (or who the "bad guy" was), and that was great. There were a few possibilities, and one of my suspects was indeed the culprit. The story kept me on my toes, until a pretty spectacular climax.

If you enjoy the "stranded people being killed off" trope, One By One is worth your time.

Published by Gallery/Scout Press, September 8, 2020
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
384  pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, August 10, 2020

Book Review: Beach Read, by Emily Henry @EmilyHenryWrite

Beach Read, by Emily Henry book cover and review
Another feel-good romance to keep up my reading mojo. Beach Read was delightful.

January writes best selling romance novels, but when her father dies and she discovers her parents' relationship wasn't at all the perfect romance she thought, she loses all her urge to write. But she's got a deadline, so she goes to her father's house on the coast of Lake Michigan to try to get some writing done.

Her neighbor gives her the most unfriendly, downright nasty, welcome, so she decides to just ignore him. Soon she discovers he is none other than Gus Everett, her college nemesis, who now is also a best-selling author.

These two are totally opposite, and well, you know the saying--opposites attract. And they do. The romance is a slow burn, and you can't wait for them to finally get together, but there are so many obstacles in their way. Lots of baggage on both sides. It starts when they decide they will trade genres--January will write literary fiction and Gus will write romance and the first one to sell their book will win. Some fun and dramatic situations ensue.

The sex is hot, but not too graphic, and the emotional baggage is kind of mature stuff. Older teens who are romance fans will enjoy Beach Read.

The "happily ever after" is expected, and it doesn't disappoint. The characters are well rounded, and there are a couple of side characters that add dimension. I fell hard for Beach Read. If you are in the mood for a feel-good romance that has enough substance to keep it from being to sappy, I would highly recommend it. I may need to keep up this romance trend...

Published by Berkley May 19, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4.5/5

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Book Review: The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs

I think a warmhearted romantic story is just what I needed. I really enjoyed The Lost and Found Bookshop.

Natalie has a great job working her way up the ladder and making lots of money. Just as she had planned. Her world gets turned upside down when her mother is killed in a tragic accident, and Natalie ends up back in San Francisco, taking care of her grandfather who has early-stage dementia. She's also trying to figure out what to do with her mother's bookstore that is deeply in debt.

The Lost and Found Bookstore keeps your interest with several different aspects of the story. There turns out to be two potential love interests. As Natalie explores the bookstore, she finds hidden treasures. As she deals with her grief over losing her mother, the relationship between Natalie and her grandfather is explored. And of course, there are books!

The Lost and Found Bookstore just made me feel warm all over. I started out reading very slowly, for days on end, making little progress. (This seems to be my reading pattern lately.) But after about the halfway point, I finished it very quickly.

If you are interested in a warm fuzzy story about heartache, loss, and a happily-ever-after ending, you should check out The Lost and Found Bookstore.

Published by William Morrow, July 7, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
368 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 6, 2020

Book Review: The Dilemma, by B. A. Paris

The Dilemma by B. A. Paris book cover and review
The Dilemma is the third novel by Paris that I have read, and while it is different than the previous books, it still sucked me in.

I'm going to be pretty vague about this story because I think it is required. Livia has been preparing for her 40th birthday party for most of her adult life. She was robbed of the fairytale wedding she desired, so this party will make up for it.

The only problem is that her daughter, Marnie, will not be able to travel home for the party. But Livia knows something about Marnie that will devastate her husband, so she's secretly glad Marnie isn't coming home.

Meanwhile, her husband, Adam, has pulled strings and made it possible for Marnie to attend. He's so excited about surprising Livia. But as the party approaches, he knows something that he should tell Livia, but he doesn't want to ruin the party, and besides, he isn't sure about his information.

So they both know something horrible about their daughter. Is it the same thing? Should they tell each other? When? So that is The Dilemma.

There isn't a huge amount of tension, like Paris' other books, but the reader can just see this huge trainwreck coming. And you want to see how it's going to come about and who the casualties will be.

I thought it was weird that this woman was so obsessed with having this huge party for herself. I guess I just don't have that attention-seeking personality. Because Livia was really something when it came to this party.

I cared about these characters and wished there was some way to make it all go away. Nicely told from multiple perspectives, The Dilemma will keep you turning pages.

Published by St. Martin's, June 30, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Book Review: The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood book cover and review
I've been wanting to read The Handmaid's Tale for so long. I finally picked it up and am so glad that I did.

The Handmaid's Tale deserves all the hype. Not only is it a compelling look at a very twisted future society, but it is also well written with vivid descriptions and sophisticated use of language. And it isn't bloated like most popular young adult dystopian stories seem to be.

I won't say much about the plot since I think most people know. The basic premise is the population is decreasing because most women can't have babies. So if you can, you become a Handmaid, which basically means you are assigned to some man so that you can become impregnated. While handmaids are revered and protected, they are very oppressed.

Do educators use this book in the classroom? I just think there is so much to discuss here. I don't know of any classrooms that read this.

I'm looking forward to watching the series now, although I'm sure I'll be disappointed. And I need to read the second book, The Testaments. If you are at all interested in dystopian stories, don't miss this one.

Published by McClelland and Stewart, 1985
eBook obtained from the library
320 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, June 22, 2020

Book Review: Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters by Jennifer Chiaverini

I enjoyed Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters, an account of Mary Todd Lincoln's later years. It was a perfect companion to Courting Mr. Lincoln, which I read last year.

Elizabeth, Mary's oldest sister, has been informed that Mary has been institutionalized because she has attempted suicide. Her witnessing the assassination of her husband and then the death of her son just a few short years later has taken its toll. Elizabeth and most of Mary's other siblings have been estranged from Mary for years, but Elizabeth wants to help. But Mary won't answer any letters from any of her siblings. They are assured by Mary's oldest and only remaining son that she is being well taken care of.

We get varying perspectives, and therefore opinions, of what they should do about Mary from other siblings, Francis, Emilie, and Ann. They agree they must overcome their differences to help, but they don't agree on what is best.

As the current story is told, we get flashbacks all the way to Mary's childhood, the death of her mother, her education, the courtship, her political life, the Civil War, and of course, the assassination.

All in all, we get a detailed picture of Mary's life. But is she insane? Did she need to be institutionalized?

As I mentioned, Courting Mr. Lincoln did a great job of describing a mostly missing piece of the history of Abraham Lincoln, and Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters did overlap in that area a bit. But I have become somewhat enamored with the Lincolns, and really enjoyed these perspectives. What a fascinating and tragic life Mary Todd Lincoln had.

If you are interested in this piece of history, I highly recommend Chiaverini's account of Mrs. Lincoln's Sisters.

Published by William Morrow, June 2, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Friday, May 29, 2020

Book Review: The Book of Longings, by Sue Monk Kidd

The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd book cover and review
The Book of Longings is a heartwarming and inspiring look at Jesus' time from an interesting perspective.

Ana is our main character, and you know from the beginning that she will become the wife of Jesus. But we start with her life as a child, which was difficult. Being a woman at that time was an extreme hardship. Ana loved to write, which was forbidden, but her father indulged Ana and this made her happy. She thought he favored her so much that he wouldn't force her into an arranged marriage.

But she is betrothed to an (of course) undesirable old man. I won't tell you how that turned out. She encounters Jesus at a young age and is attracted to him, but he is of a different class. All along she tries to arrange to see him again.

Ana has an aunt that lives with them because she has been banished for allegedly poisoning her husband. She helps keep Ana safe and serves as a wise counselor.

I won't say too much more about Ana's life, although it is full of adventure and plenty of danger. We know how the story ends for Jesus, but for Ana??

Given my recent difficulties with reading, and after giving up on a couple of other books, The Book of Longings was just what I needed. Poor Ana. How difficult it would have been to be an intelligent woman living in those times. But Jesus respected her and made her happy. It was a romance that melted my heart. I'm so glad I found this book, and I highly recommend The Book of Longings if it sounds like your kind of book.

Published by Viking, April 21, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
432 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Book Review: The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate

The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate book cover and review
Yay! I finally finished a book! It would seem that since we are all sitting at home by ourselves that it would be conducive to reading. But for me, that has not been the case...

The Book of Lost Friends takes us back to 1875, where our narrator is Hannie, a former slave in this recent post-civil-war era.

And, back to 1987, where our narrator Benny is a brand new teacher in a small backwoods Louisiana school for black children.

We learn how Hannie was separated from her mom and many siblings when she was very young. Now she is just trying to work her land so that it will eventually belong to her. When the master of the plantation disappears, Hannie is worried that all their hard work will be for nothing if they can't find the papers that were signed when they began to work the land. She goes on a harrowing adventure with some unlikely companions to find the master. On this adventure, she learns about a newspaper called the Southwestern that runs ads from black people who are looking for family that they were separated from before the war. Hannie and her companions begin to collect these stories and record them in a book as they travel.

Benny is struggling to connect with her students. They are poor and hungry and many of them don't come to school very much. She finds out the abandoned Gossett mansion close to her rented house contains a treasure trove of books. She vows to talk to her landlord about possibly getting her hands on some of them for use in her classroom. Doing this opens up a whole new history and gets Benny's students interested in learning about their pasts.

I don't want to say too much about how the two stories come together--I'm sure some of it is obvious to you. But the way it all is revealed is a very good story to read. Anyone who is interested in the history of the South and slavery shouldn't miss it.  I did find The Book of Lost Friends a bit slow at times, but the characterizations are so good that you really become attached to these people.

You may have to persevere (I certainly did) -- but I think you will find The Book of Lost Friends well worth your time.

Published by Ballantine, April 7, 2020
eARC obtained from NetGalley
400 pages

Rating: 4/5

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