Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

Setting: U.S., Russia, Siberia
Genre: Historic Fiction
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Release Date: January 24, 2017

The Patriots: A Novel begins with a young boy seeing his mother again for the first time in years after her release from a work camp. Rather than go with a stranger, as he fears, the orphanage where he's been staying asks to keep him. The story then jumps back in time to the decision Florence Fein makes leaving her family in Ohio and emigrating to the Soviet Union. The journey moves back and forth between Julian's experiences with his mother and Florence's experiences in the Soviet Union during Stalin's reign.

Some of the details are hard to take emotionally. It's simply so hard to imagine, yet I know it's true as I've read history books, seen movies and documentaries, and know war stories relatives shared. That doesn't make it any easier while reading this piece of fiction.

Sana Krasikov's The Patriots is a work of intricate, gorgeous writing. So highly detailed, it was easy to imagine yourself right there in the situations Florence and her son, Julian, experienced. I also, at times, struggled to keep up with the time/person in charge of the narrative. I definitely found myself enjoying Florence's story more than Julian's and often found myself walking away because I had to backtrack to find out whose perspective was in place again.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wrecked by Elle Casey

Setting: Remote Island
Genre: Teen Fiction
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Release Date: November 2013

It should be a time of excitement as spoiled twins Kevin and Sarah head off on a family cruise. The issue is that they don't care for the company they're about to keep. Their dad is hoping to wine and dine his way into a business venture with Mr. Buckley, the father to their nerdy classmates Jonathan and Candi.

For Jonathan and Candi, it's not easy to hide the crushes they have on Sarah and Kevin. The problem is that jock Kevin and popular girl Sarah would never be caught dead with them. When the cruise ship encounters issues, the four find themselves stranded on a remote island together. Left alone, it's up to them to not only survive by forming a strong team working together.

That's the general premise in Wrecked. Think of it as the popular Brooke Shield's film Blue Lagoon but with more characters. Here's where the review gets difficult. I always loved Blue Lagoon and it's realistic path. Teens left alone on an island with little to do and survival to maintain are going to find themselves in tricky situations. All of that comes true in Wrecked. Yet, there were sections of the story where the characters were more upset about potentially missing prom and that they needed to hold their own prom that the magic of the story started to get lost. I couldn't sympathize with any of them. In their shoes, I'd be stockpiling foods, making water safe to drink, and planning ahead for a storm.

If you can get past the realities that pop into your head, Wrecked is a decent read. I, unfortunately, wondered how some kids who were clearly smart could be so dense in other ways and that took some of the enjoyment away.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Sleepwalker: A Novel by Chris Bohjalian

Setting: Vermont
Genre: General Fiction/Women's Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: January 10, 2017

Late at night while her daughters sleep, Annalee Ahlberg vanishes. The wife and mother is a sleepwalker who's been known to take unusual risks while sleepwalking. Her daughters hope she's alive, but as weeks and months pass, even they start to lose hope that they'll see her again. The only clue is a scrap of her nightshirt found near a local river. No body's been found and there's been no trace of her since she went to bed.

Lianna, the oldest daughter, takes a leave of absence from her college studies to help her father with her younger sister Paige. As their father drifts farther and farther into his work and nightcaps, the girls struggle to come to terms with what happens. Lianna finds herself drawn to the older detective investigating the case. He knew her mother and is just as convinced that Annalee never would have willingly walked away. Lianna is determined to unravel events leading up to the last time anyone saw Annalee and discover the truth.

The Sleepwalker: A Novel takes a close look at sleepwalking. It's written from Lianna's point of view, and readers become privy to information as she learns it. It keeps you involved in the case and dying to know what really happened.

I love books set in Vermont. Chris Bohjalian has been a writer for a long time, so I'm well familiar with his books and the newspaper column he used to do. He captures Vermont perfectly, and it's always fun knowing exactly where he's writing about. That remains true in The Sleepwalker. Trips to Burlington, up to Montreal, it's all common ground to me. I love that and hope other readers understand that he's capturing the locations perfectly.

Sleepwalking is something I'm less familiar with. There's more to simply wandering around while asleep, so I learned a bit as I read this book. Still, it's the characters that will stay with me this time. Lianna was the ideal narrator, as she learned more about sleepwalking, I enjoyed learning along with her.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Stalked by Elizabeth Heiter

Genre: Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: December 27, 2016

Cheerleader Haley Cook vanished while walking into her high school. No one has seen or heard from her since. That is until her mother finds a journal entry hidden away. This brings the investigation to the attention of Evelyn Baine, an FBI profiler. The more Evelyn digs, the more she discovers that everyone around Haley is a potential suspect. From the things Haley hid from her mother, father, and stepfather to the things people have left out during interviews, it becomes difficult to decide if Haley was simply getting away from everyone in her life or if she is truly in danger.

Stalked is another entry into Elizabeth Heiter's The Profiler series. I've loved the books in the past, but I did find this one took me a little longer to get into. Once I did, the action held my attention until the final page.

Evelyn's tough and determined. I like that. She pairs up with a local detective in Stalked, so there are more characters to get to know and enjoy. The investigative work takes place on multiple levels with the profiling, the interviews, and then the rush to investigate new clues and suspects as they appear throughout the book. It kept me feeling involved in the story.

Usually, I try to solve mysteries before the fictional detectives, but I struggled with this one. There are so many potential bad guys. I did have part of the outcome figured out, but in general, this story kept me guessing until the very end.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse

Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2016

Almost two decades of having the perfect marriage and two wonderful daughters has Freya Braithwaite feeling incredibly content. Her world isn't as perfect as it seems, however. Soon enough, her youngest daughter, Lexi, proves to be spiraling out of control, hostage to the frightening world of eating disorders.

I remember having a guest speaker in high school who discussed her daughter's struggles with anorexia. Memories of that discussion came back as I read The Food of Love. Freya's pain and uncertainty came through clearly as the chapters progressed. yet, I also wondered why she remained so lenient as the story progressed. I started to find myself annoyed with her and cheering on her husband. I also felt her husband's fear and anger, and the older daughter's frustration. Amanda Prowse did a wonderful job capturing everyone's point of view as they watched Lexi spiral out of control.

The Food of Love was a quick read and one that kept me hooked. I wanted to know if Lexi would overcome her demons before it was too late. As maddening as sections are, I can see this leading to some great book club discussions. I expect other readers will find themselves just as entranced with the Braithwaite family's powerful situation and filled with their own opinions on how they would have handled things.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Lift and Separate: A Novel by Marilyn Simon Rothstein

Genre: Women's Fiction
Pubisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: December 1, 2016

With three grown children, Marcy Hammer and her husband should be enjoying having the house to themselves. Instead, Harvey, the CEO of a lingerie company, is having an affair with a 20-something and moving on with his life. Marcy's world will never be the same.

Soon enough, Marcy faces new challenges, and there's no time for moping in her new life. She's going to do everything she can to face each day with the strength she never knew she had and with friendships she never imagined.

Lift and Separate is part drama and part women's fiction with a bit of humor thrown in. There's clearly little to like with Harvey, though I admit there were times I almost felt bad for the jerk. Keyword there is almost! I liked Marcy, though there were times I wished she'd be a little more forthright with those around her.

There were times I needed Kleenex on hand while reading Marilyn Simon Rothstein's novel. Other times, I found myself snickering. In the end, it was an enjoyable story that left me feeling very happy for the life I have!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

All the Breaking Waves by Kerry Lonsdale

Setting: Pacific Grove, California
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: December 6, 2016

Events from her childhood shaped Molly Brennan's life. Now a single mother, her daughter shares the same visions Molly's mother had. After her visions lead to the young girl being suspended from school, Molly returns to her grandmother's coastal home in hopes of getting Cassie the help she needs to manage her gift.

Returning to her childhood home puts Molly back in reach of the love of her life. She broke his heart and misses him dearly, but secrets from her past keep her from believing they could have something more.

All the Breaking Waves is a solid contemporary romance with a few paranormal leanings thrown in. The romance builds slowly as the story's main focus remains on Molly's quest to rescue her daughter from the visions and dreams that plague her.

I found myself drawn to Molly and Cassie and wondered how Cassie's visions would play out. She's a precocious child and one that I really enjoyed. Molly's romance is secondary, but it's just as enjoyable.

All in all, this is another solid offering from Lake Union Publishing. I enjoyed every page and believe many readers looking for a touch of romance and a touch of the paranormal will agree.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

Setting: Georgia
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: MIRA
Release Date: December 27, 2016

Seven years of marriage have been nothing more than wedded bliss for Iris and Will. With a stunning home, great jobs, and the decision to start a family, Iris cannot imagine anything being better. Her world is shattered when she learns Will lied. He was heading to Orlando, Florida, for a convention, but she gets the call that he was actually on a flight headed for Seattle. That plane crashed and there are no survivors.

In the middle of her grief, Iris wants answers to the myriad of questions that are raised. The deeper she digs, the more Iris realizes that she was married to a stranger and nothing will prepare her what happens next.

Clear a few hours from your schedule. I spent a number of chapters with tears pouring down my face. Just as I started to wonder if the emotional pull of this novel would ease up and let me dry my eyes, the suspense aspect kicks in and kept me hooked. The Marriage Lie is fast-paced, completely absorbing, and full of twists.

As you keep reading The Marriage Lie, you feel for Iris and all the lies she's been told. The novel definitely loses a bit of the romantic edge and turns into a complete edge-of-your-seat suspense novel. I loved that shift and couldn't stop reading. In the end, it led to me heading to bed at 6 p.m. so that I could read the rest of the story without anyone interrupting me. It's that good.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Setting: 1950's Texas
Genre: Women's Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: December 13, 2016

I have to admit that Say Goodbye For Now infuriated me a little. Catherine Ryan Hyde is a favorite author. I loved Pay It Forward and have continued to enjoy her novels. In this case, the writing is solid, the characters are likable, but the time period and attitudes drive me crazy.

Since her divorce, Dr. Lucy likes the solitude she's created on her rural Texas ranch. She has her dogs, her horses, and little communication with the community. From time to time, she uses her medical license to help others out and that's how she comes into the lives of young Pete Solomon and Calvin and Justin Bell, a single father and his son.

Pete is heading fishing with a friend when he spies an injured dog on the roadway. He gets his wagon and takes it to the local vet, only to have the vet refuse to treat it as it is a wolf. Pete learns of Dr. Lucy and brings the dog there hoping she might help. It's a long walk and he's soon befriended by a young black boy (Justin). Pete lets him tag along and the two form a friendship.

Dr. Lucy isn't thrilled with visitors, but she looks at the wolf hybrid and knows she can save it. She also ends up taking Pete, a boy with an abusive father, under her wing. Pete's friendship with Justin brings the Bells into her life when Pete finds Justin badly beaten and left for dead. Soon she's caring for an entire household and surprises herself when she realizes she likes this makeshift family.

There's a big problem. Laws prohibit interracial relationships and marriages, so her growing feelings with Calvin put them all at risk. The Bells are forced to leave Texas, and Dr. Lucy doesn't know if the world will ever stop being such a hateful, bigoted place that simply allows love to thrive.

I'd like to say we've come so far, but then this election proved otherwise. I know some people with Indian heritage who were born and raised in the U.S. They tell me how they have people come to them on the streets or in stores saying the new president will force them to go home. Hatred and racism is clearly still a prevalent force today and that saddens me.

I loved Say Goodbye for Now, but I also found myself sad that racism and bigotry are alive and well, even if it does take a slightly different form. I suggest reading Say Goodbye for Now and enjoying the characters, the plot, and hoping we'll avoid past mistakes!

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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