Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Audiobook Review: Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate book cover and review
Before We Were Yours is an interesting story, both heartbreaking and heartwarming.

Dual perspective is used very effectively, with our first narrator being Rill, beginning in 1939 when she was twelve years old. Rill is put in charge of her four younger siblings when her mother has difficulty delivering her sixth child and must be taken to the hospital. Rill and her family live on a riverboat traveling up and down the Mississippi trying to survive. They are "river gypsies." While her parents are gone, all five children are taken away to a boarding house serving as an orphanage. They are told they will see their parents soon, but that is a lie.

The second perspective is Avery Stafford, a woman who is about to have it all. She is a successful lawyer who is engaged to be married. The wedding promises to be one of South Carolina's most lavish affairs. We are in the present day, and Avery's father, the senator, is grooming Avery to be his replacement if he must retire. Avery is on a political outing with her father when she meets an old woman in a nursing home named May. When May tells Avery she knows her grandmother, Judy, Avery thinks she must be confused. May simply didn't associate with the kind of people that Judy Stafford did. And Grandma Judy is now in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer's, so she isn't much help.

Avery is compelled to find out why May thinks she knows Judy. As we are exposed to the absurdly harsh and unjust treatment Rill and her siblings are subjected to, we follow Avery as she secretly works to uncover her family's hidden past, revelations that will possibly redefine all of Avery's hopes and dreams for her future.

Before We Were Yours moves at a pretty slow pace and drags even more in the middle, but the story that unfolds is so unbelievable that you can't stop reading. Because it is based on true events, it is even more fascinating.

Each perspective is narrated by a different person, and both of them read too slowly for my taste. It is a story from the South, so the slow, southern drawl was appropriate, I guess, but I'm too impatient. I had to speed it up.

Overall, Before We Were Yours is a worthwhile read, and I would definitely recommend it. Depending on your taste, you may want to choose to read it rather than listen, but either way, you will enjoy the experience.

Published by Ballentine, 2017, Random House Audio, 2018
Audiobook obtained from the library
352 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Book Review: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Oh man, The Escape Room was a great thriller that tied me up in knots.

Our narrator is Sara, a struggling recent college graduate desperate to get a job in the lucrative world of corporate banking. She meets a man, Vincent, in an elevator, and all her dreams come true.

We hear Sara's story from the past, as she learns the ropes working with Vincent and a team of three other people. They aren't nice. But Sara works hard and is indoctrinated into this very decadent, cutthroat world.

The second point-of-view is from the present, and the four team members (without Sara) are asked to participate in an escape room scenario on an elevator. Participation is not optional (it never is when it comes to their company.) They soon realize that this is no ordinary escape room game. The stakes are high -- life and death.

As they are slowly given clues and try to survive under the harshest of circumstances, the reader is drawn into their dilemma. Even though these characters aren't very likable, surely they don't deserve this? Or maybe they do...

I loved the way The Escape Room was written. I didn't really figure anything out until close to the end. Sara's story is compelling, as we see her slowly realize the sacrifices she must make in order to keep her job and her lifestyle. And the sacrifices are huge.

The banking industry is painted in a pretty awful light, and I have no way of knowing how accurate that description is. But it is fascinating.

If I have one complaint, it was a bit too much repetition at times, I guess for dramatic effect.  An example is how many times one character's scars were mentioned. Really a minor complaint that didn't affect my enjoyment.

I loved The Escape Room and will be recommending it to all of my family and friends!

Published by St. Martin's, July 30, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

I'm not really sure what the title Wilder Girls refers to unless it's the wild ride this book takes you on!

There's an all-girls boarding school on an island and all of the people on the island succumbed to an illness about 18 months ago. Many of them are dead. There are only two adults left. Not only have the humans been attacked, but the animals and plants are all bizarrely affected -- growing larger and stronger.

A few girls are assigned to leave their fenced enclosure to go get supplies when they are delivered. Hetty has always been a lookout on the roof protecting the grounds with guns, but she has been elected to be one of the girls that go to get the supplies. It is dangerous, but she learns a lot by leaving the grounds -- some of it not very good. Then Hetty's best friend, Byatt, gets sick and disappears. Hetty will do anything to find out where they have taken Byatt.

First of all, the world-building is really good -- unique, deadly, and utterly terrifying. Secondly, the build-up of tension, from so many directions really sucks you in. The characters are somewhat mysterious. I'm not sure if that's intentional (I suspect it is), but I have questions about some of the motivations and decisions that were made.

Of course, we don't get much closure, although this episode ends at a good spot. Throughout the entire book, the situation seems hopeless, and in the end, I still didn't have much hope. The more I read, the faster I read, and that's a good thing. I think this is going to be a popular book with teens, and it has been well-received by the professionals. I'm "all-in" for the sequel. Write fast Rory Power! I haven't read Lord of the Flies (I should since my son says it's the only book he read for school that he enjoyed), but Wilder Girls has been compared to a female Lord of the Flies. Go for it.

Published by Delacorte, July 9, 2019
eBook obtained from the library
368 pages

Rating: 5/5

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Book Review: Layover, by David Bell

Layover, by David Bell book cover and review
Very mysterious, intriguing, and tense at times, Layover was a bit of a disappointment in the end.

Joshua travels for his job all the time. While waiting for a flight, he meets Morgan, a mysterious woman for whom he feels an immediate connection. This has never happened before. They have a drink, she kisses him, and states that she will never see him again. Well, we know that's not true...

Joshua knows Morgan is on a flight to Nashville, so he abruptly changes his plans and gets a seat on her flight. He has also seen stories about Morgan being a missing person. But when he confronts her, she acts as though she's never seen him, and he has to give up or be thrown off the plane. Confused, he decides to give up. But then, Morgan contacts him again.

So Joshua is dragged into the intrigue that is Morgan. She gives him part of her story but continues to abandon him, and he continues to try to find her and figure out how he can help her. It makes for a good story and pulls you in, wondering why Morgan is hiding and running.

A parallel story is our detective who is searching for a missing businessman. These stories eventually overlap, and things become even more confusing for Josh.

Layover kept my interest, but I didn't find it "unputdownable." It is well written and the characters are well developed. One of my favorite characters is Josh's dad (who he works for). I loved that he was understanding and supportive. There are some surprises in the end, but even with that, I just felt "meh." I'm not sure why Layover just fizzled out for me, but it did.

Recommendations? Like I said, I was entertained and the pace was pretty good. It was not a waste of time, and perhaps others will get a bigger impact from the ending. So yes--give Layover a go.

Published by Berkley, July 2, 2019
eARC obtained from Edelweiss and NetGalley
416 pages

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, July 1, 2019

Audio Book Review: Split Second, by David Baldacci

Split Second by David Baldacci book cover and review
Split Second, the first book in the King & Maxwell series, provided all the suspense and unexpected twists that I was hoping for.

Michelle Maxwell has potentially destroyed her career as a Secret Service agent when the presidential candidate she was protecting gets kidnapped. She is relieved of duties and looks up Sean King, who eight years ago, as a Secret Service Agent, had let his presidential candidate get murdered.

Maxwell wants to do her own investigating. Coincidentally, King is recruited by an old colleague from the Secret Service, Joan, to help her find Maxwell's candidate. She now works privately and has been hired by the candidate's family.

These three end up working together and uncovering links between the two events, as unlikely as that may seem. The characters are interesting, as we learn about past relationships and developing new ones. The pace is quick and certainly kept my interest.

There are a lot of characters and sometimes names are thrown out quickly. I think this was a disadvantage to the audio format. If I were reading the print version, I'd page back and remind myself. For the audio version, until I remembered who they were talking about, I may miss something. Or else I would have to back up a few minutes. These multiple characters and many different suspects serve to make for a complex plot that continually surprised me.

That alone makes it a worthwhile read. I really enjoyed listening. The narrator, Scott Brick, did a great job. His characterizations were distinct without being annoying.

I'm not going to rush out and grab the next book in the series (I believe there are six of them), but I would enjoy continuing it someday. Split Second is a good choice if you are in the mood for a thriller.

Published by Grand Central, 2003. Hachette Audio
Audiobook obtained from the library
432 pages

Rating: 4/5

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