Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Book Review: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult book cover and review
I appreciate that A Spark of Light is an "issue" book. I think Picoult handled the subject well. But I just didn't think it was very compelling.

I think Wren and Hugh are the main voices. Wren is in an abortion clinic, not to get an abortion, but to get birth control, when a gunman enters and starts shooting. Hugh is her father, who is also a police officer specializing in hostage negotiating, and he is on this case. There are many points-of-view, and it was not difficult to keep them distinct, a testament to Picoult's talent. There is a nurse, an older woman, Wren's aunt Bex, a doctor, a pro-life protester, a woman who has just had an abortion, and the shooter. And a young woman in a hospital named Beth.

I'm not going to describe all the reasons these people are narrating, that is what's intriguing. The timeline is backward, which was difficult for me to adjust to at first, but eventually, I got it.

I just didn't feel much build up of tension. We just slowly learn all the character's stories, and there are some surprises.  But, face it, what you want to know is who survives and how it ends.  So for about the last 3 or 4 pages, we get the wrap-up. I was happy with the outcome, but it wasn't that startling or exciting.

I've read almost all of Picoult's novels, and A Spark of Light is not one of my favorites. But she's a must-read for a lot of people, so go for it!

Published by Ballentine, October 2, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Thursday, September 13, 2018

Book Review: Best Day Ever, by Kaira Rouda @KairaRouda

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda book cover and reviewWhere do I start?  I really enjoyed everything about Best Day Ever.

The book is narrated by Paul, the husband.  It takes place in one day.  Paul is taking his wife for a getaway to their summer home.  He is planning the Best Day Ever for her.

We quickly figure out that Paul has issues.  Just how big his issues are is only slowly revealed.  He's a domineering husband--one that requires his wife to stay home with the kids, cook his dinners, and run his household. So even though they seem to have a perfect marriage--two kids, lots of money--all is not what it seems.

I don't want to say too much about what happens.  As Paul narrates his innermost thoughts, we get to learn about his past and really just what makes him tick. I couldn't put Best Day Ever down.  Which is really strange, because if you ask me what actually happens in the book -- well -- not much. But as I read, I just couldn't wait to see how this was all going to turn out. What did Paul have planned for his wife? Rouda subtly ramps up the tension just by letting us in this guy's head.

The ending was stunning and unexpected.

Okay.  That's it.  I'll say no more -- except -- if you enjoy a good "their marriage is not what it seems" thriller, read this one right now. Also appropriate for mature teens who enjoy the genre.

Published by Graydon House, October 1, 2018
eARC obtained from NetGalley
352 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Book Review: The War Outside by Monica Hesse

The War Outside by Monica Hesse book cover and review
The War Outside is a unique, compelling story about life during WWII that has never been told.

Margot and Haruko have been uprooted from their lives along with their families.  WWII is raging, and these families have been taken to a Family Internment Camp in Texas because their fathers have been accused of spying for the enemies.

Based on true events, this camp was the only one of its type in the country.  Both Japanese and German families were sent here.  The two teens’ friendship is unlikely, since the two nationalities are segregated within the camp.  But Margot’s family, going against the wishes of the camp’s Nazi leadership, decide to send Margot to the Federal High School, which is accredited, rather than the German school.

So Margot and Haruko begin a secret friendship that isn’t easy.  It is difficult for Margot to be honest, and Haruko tells secrets that she probably shouldn’t.  But she needs someone to talk to.  Life isn’t easy, and Hesse does a great job of pointing out hardships, both mental and physical, that readers might not consider.  No one can be trusted, the girls must be secretive, and they both have other stresses that threated their friendship.  Margot’s mother is pregnant.  Haruko’s brother is serving as a soldier in the war, and they don’t know where he is.

The dual narration is expertly utilized. The girls are in an unbelievable situation.  The War Outside isn’t a happy story. The last chapter found my jaw dropping open. But this is a story that hasn’t been told. This camp isn’t like the ones where Japanese who lived on the coast were sent. Yet another story of one of the atrocities of WWII that needed to be told.  Anyone, teen or adult, who wants to learn more about WWII should be exposed to The War Outside.

Published by Little, Brown BFYR, September 25, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
318 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Book Review: Sawkill Girls, by Claire Legrand

Teens (or even adults) who are looking for horror stories should check out Sawkill Girls--it is truly horrific!

Marion has moved to Sawkill Island with her mother and sister.  Her mother is the housekeeper for the Mortimers - Val and her mother. When Marion is injured after falling off a spooked horse, Zoey is one of the people who are first to reach her. Zoey's father is the chief of police.

Over many years girls have been disappearing from Sawkill, and none of them are ever found.  Their deaths are never explained.  The most recent was Thora, Zoey's best friend, who had recently dumped her for Val.  It seems the Mortimers have been somehow involved in all of the disappearances.  Zoey is determined to find out what is going on. The three girls' lives begin to intertwine as more girls disappear.

This book is weird and strange.  And like I said, it really gave me genuine creeps at times. Horror isn't a common genre for me, but I have read some. I really appreciated the writing.  Legrand can really describe a scene vividly.  That is the main positive for me from Sawkill Girls. However, this book just wasn't for me.

The storyline was a bit too far out and unbelievable for me. That is definitely a personal threshold, but I had trouble suspending my disbelief. My main issue was that it was, at almost 500 pages, just so looooong.  At about 50%, I thought we were going to start wrapping things up.  But...50%. At 75%, I actually started skimming. I wanted to know the resolution, but I was getting tired of it.  Which is strange, because I said the writing was compelling, but along with that it was very descriptive and the segments of action were just too far apart.

I would definitely recommend this to teens who enjoy gory, creepy, macabre stories that are a bit fantastical. It is not easy to find a real horror book.  And Sawkill Girls is one. It just wasn't one of my favorites.

Published by Katherine Tegen, October 2, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
464 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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Monday, September 3, 2018

Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers @courtney_s ‏

Sadie by Courtney Summers book cover and review
Sadie is most definitely not a happy book.  But it is a good one.

It has been up to Sadie to take care of her sister, Mattie, since her mother is a drug addict and has abandoned her daughters.

Mattie is found brutally murdered, well, I guess it was brutally because we don't get those details.  Sadie's only support is her neighbor, May Beth, who has been a surrogate grandmother doing the best she can to help the girls.

The case of Mattie's murder goes cold, and Sadie decides to take matters into her own hands to hunt down the murderer. After months, Sadie's car has been found, but nothing else.

Wes McCray hosts a podcast about small, forgotten towns and overhears Sadie's story.  He reluctantly begins to investigate and can't help but be drawn in.

Sadie is told from Sadie's perspective as she searches for the man she knows killed Mattie alternating with McCray's podcasts as he follows Sadie's trail.

The way the story is told is unique and interesting.  We slowly get the details of Sadie's and Mattie's past lives and what led up to the horrible ending. I found it difficult to put down and would think about it while I wasn't reading. And don't expect a happy ending.  It is very realistic.

Sadie has been given four starred reviews with good reason.  As far as teen contemporaries go, this one is edgy and compelling. There would be much to discuss if Sadie were used as a classroom read (although there is some language that might prevent this in some schools.) Don't let your teens miss out on Sadie.

Published by Wednesday Books, September 4, 2018
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
320 pages

Rating: 5/5

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