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Friday, March 16, 2018

Half a Heart by Karen McQuestion

Setting: Wisconsin
Genre: General Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union
Author: Karen McQuestion
Release Date: March 13, 2018

Logan Weber stopped talking when his mother died. His father's cruelty has him suffering every day. When his father decides another beating is in order, Logan flees. He winds up hiding in a moving van and finds himself ditched in another state with only the clothes on his back.

As Logan tries to keep himself sheltered and fed, he doesn't realize that the grandmother he was told died is actually out there and trying to find him. The problem is that his father is also hot on his heels and only one can get there first.

Half a Heart is a poignant, often maddening look at a young boy's determination to find his place in a world that hasn't shown him much in the way of kindness. I really liked Logan's grit. At the same time, I found myself questioning the actions of many adults. Once they saw a kid who appeared to be alone or questioned if the kid was alone, not speaking up was just absurd to me. I have been in their shoes, and I did speak up. It's not that hard, and it could end up being what is needed to save a child from harm.

The book is a quick read. The ending comes fast, and I wish some of the characters' stories hadn't been rushed in spots. That said, I did enjoy it as a quick, refreshing story of the true power of love.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk

Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: March 6, 2018

Cover art often has a way of drawing me to a book that I might have overlooked. That's the case in The Beauty That Remains. This is a debut novel from Ashley Woodfolk. It's a tender look at death and those left behind.

Autumn, Shay, and Logan have all suffered a tremendous loss. Autumn's best friend died in a car crash. Shay's sister passed away after a long battle with leukemia. Logan's ex-boyfriend is also dead following an overdose. The three know each other through music. The three are all coping as they try to come to terms with painful losses. 

Autumn blames herself. Shay misses her sister desperately. Logan is just as lost and shuts everyone out. It's music that brought them together once, and it's music that may be the thing that draws them back into the world of the living.

Connections between characters in The Beauty That Remains may not be tight, but the emotions are powerful. It's a deal where they live in the same town and attend the same school. They are linked through a local band. The three deaths are independent of each other and affect everyone in different ways. I loved how they were tied together but not closely. It gave each character a chance to grieve separately, come to terms with the tragic events in each case, and find themselves again.

I loved the way the story is presented. You have Shay's chapters. You have Autumn's messages to her deceased friend because closing the social media accounts is too much for her to think about. Logan turns to bad habits as he copes. Each story is emotional and draws you in. There were times I felt things dragged a bit, but the emotional pull never lessened. It's a bit of a tear jerker and very heartfelt.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Setting: Vermont
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Author: Simone St. James
Release Date: March 20, 2018

Set in 2014 and the 1950s, The Broken Girls is a haunting mystery that's both endearing and spooky. Journalist Fiona Sheridan is still haunted by her sister's murder. She's convinced that her sister's popular boyfriend was to blame, but she also feels there are things that aren't quite right about the case. When new owners purchase a long-abandoned school for troubled girls, Fiona dives in with plans to cover the story of the school's past and future.

Things end up dragging Fiona own a road she's not ready for. A body of a girl is found in a well on the property. It brings memories of her sister's murder. Fiona makes it a goal to uncover the truth about this former student who was believed to have run away. The more Fiona digs, the more she realizes that her instincts into her sister's murder may have been right all along.

I always love books that have a very familiar setting. While I had my guesses as to where Idlewild Hall and it's surrounding town was supposed to be located, Burlington was spot on. As the main character walked down South Winooski Avenue, I knew exactly where she was. I've walked down that street and past those stores many times.

In The Broken Girls, the story bounces back and forth between past and present. The main focus is on the disappearance of the young girl in the 1950s. Fiona's sister's murder is secondary to that. The story, at times, delves into the supernatural. I found myself feeling chills, wanting to know what would happen with these girls in the 1950s, and even delving farther back into the history of the area.

It's an enjoyable story that never truly proved perplexing. It was finely tuned into the atmosphere of the times and area. When a big revelation is made, I wasn't shocked. Yet, despite having an instinct as to where the sister's murder was heading, I found myself thoroughly enjoying the ride.