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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

THAT NIGHT (CHEVY STEVENS)



St. Martin's Press|June 17, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-250-05751-8
Story Description:
 
As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn't relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren't easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.

Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

Now thirty-four, Toni, is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she's doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy - not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni's innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni's life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.

But in That Night by Chevy Stevens, the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.
My Review:
 
That Night was a phenomenal read that I just couldn't put down. I read it in two days it was that good. I kept telling myself just "one" more chapter but would read 5 or 6 more, I couldn't stop myself.

The terrible outcomes of bullying ring loud and clear in this novel. People just don't realize the damage that bullying does until it's too late. There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in bullying and the fear is very real and the feelings can and do last a lifetime and often have sad endings as in this story. Bullying leads to all sorts of difficult situations that make it impossible for the one being bullied to get out of.

For eighteen-year-old Toni Murphy, the competition in keeping up with sugar n' spice sweet sister is difficult. Toni has problems with just about every relationship she encounters and finds it hard to cope.

Toni is adamant that she did not kill her sister, Nicole. But if she didn't, who did?

You'll have to read the novel to find out, but if you've been bullied yourself in your life, be prepared because the story will bring back some hard to deal with memories. It's plainly obvious that Ms. Stevens did a great deal of research for this novel and it shines through in her writing. You will be truly frightened in certain chapters as you read along. This would make a great book club pick because there is so much than can be discussed.

GOOD GRACES (LESLEY KAGEN)




NAL Trade|May 1, 2012|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-451-23665-4
Story Description:
 
"To this day, my sister insists it was nothing more than the unrelenting heat that drove us to do what we did that summer, but that's just Troo yanking my chain the way she always has. Deep down, she knows as well as I do that it wasn't anything as mundane as the weather. It was the hand of the Almighty that shoved us off the straight and narrow path..."
 
Whistling in the Dark- a national bestseller-captivated readers with the story of ten-year-old Sally O'Malley and her sister, Troo, during Milwaukee's summer of 1959. Now it's one year later, and Sally, who made a deathbed promise to her daddy to keep Troo safe, is having a hard time honoring her vow. Her sister is growing increasingly rebellious amid a string of home burglaries, the escape from reform school of a nemesis, and the mysterious disappearance of an orphan-events that have the entire neighborhood on edge. And in that tense, hot summer, Sally will have to ground her flights of imagination, and barter her waning innocence, in order to sort the truths from the lies to protect her sister and herself.
My Review:
 
I totally fell in love with Sally and her younger sister, Troo. The story is told through the voice of Sally who is very smart, charming, witty, and full of integrity.

The summer of 1960 Milwaukee is the setting for this beautiful story and I was wishing I could somehow crawl through the pages of the book to be there and tag along with Sally and Troo.

Poor Sally works so hard to keep her father's deathbed request that she watch out for and protect, Troo. Sally takes on this responsibility with seriousness, almost to the detriment of her own pleasures in life. Sally is well-mannered where, Troo, is bossy, mouthy, and constantly stirring up some type of drama or trouble.

Good Graces is actually the sequel to ''Whistling in the Dark'' which I also recommend you read. However, each can be read as stand-alone novels as Kagen has made enough references from the first book that you wouldn't miss the message of this story. All-round a great read that I'll definitely be recommending to my book friends and family.

SWEET WATER (CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE)



SWEET WATER (CHRISTINA BAKER KLINE)
William Morrow|July 1, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-06-236100-4
Story Description:
 
Cassie Simon is a struggling artist living in New York City. When she receives a call from a magistrate telling her she has inherited sixty acres of land in Sweetwater, Tennessee, from her grandfather, whom she never knew, she takes it as a sign: it's time for a change. She moves to the small Southern town where her mother, Ellen, grew up - and where she died tragically when Cassie was three.

From the moment she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassie is overwhelmed by the indelible mark her mother's memory left behind. As she delves into the thicket of mystery that surrounds her mother's death, Cassie begins to discover the desperate measures of which the human heart is capable.
My Review:
 
I must say that I was sorely disappointed in Sweet Water. I've read other works by Kline that far exceeded my expectations of the novel before I even began to read. For example: "Orphan Train" was a phenomenal read.

Sweet Water lacked luster and polish and felt as though it had been written by someone other than Kline herself. The most disappointing part was the ending of the story. There I was merrily reading along, turned the page and DONE! Where was the rest of the story?

Overall, Sweet Water wasn't a horrible book by any means, but it certainly fell short of Kline's usual top-notch writing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

AMERICAN BLONDE (JENNIFER NIVEN)



AMERICAN BLONDE (JENNIFER NIVEN)
Plume/July 30, 2014/Trade Paperback|ISBN # 978-0-452-29821-7
Story Description:
 
A fearless and spirited pilot conquers Hollywood. Now can she survive movie stardom?

In 1945, Velva Jean Hart is a bona fide war heroine. After a newsreel films her triumphant return to America, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer promises to make her a star. They give her a new life story and a brand new name. As "Kit Rogers," she navigates the movie sets, recording sessions, parties, staged romances, and occasional backstabbing that accompany her newfound fame. She also navigates real-life romance, finding herself caught between a charismatic young writer and a sexy and enigmatic musician from her past. But when one of her best friends dies mysteriously and the most powerful studio in the world launches a cover-up, Velva Jean goes in search of the truth - risking her own life, as well as her heart, in the process.

Set during Hollywood's Golden Age and peopled with a cast of unforgettable characters, American Blonde will mesmerize readers of The Chaperone as well as fans of the Velva Jean series.
My Review:
 
Velva Jean Hart was considered a war hero in 1945 when she returned to American and was caught on the newsreels that very day.

Once home in her mountain cabin, a man from MGM shows up asking her if she'd like to enter into a movie contract. Velva Jean has always been a singer and nothing pleased her more than belting out a song. One of the big draws at MGM was singing lessons so Velva Jean jubilantly takes up his offer and off she goes to Hollywood.

Hollywood didn't think Velva Jean Hart was a very fitting actresses name and thus changed it to Kit Rogers. When Hollywood gets wind of the fact that Velva Jean was a WASP and war heroine who saved her own brother from the enemies and that she herself had suffered harsh treatment, the newsreels never stopped rolling which catapulted her to stardom in the eys of the American people.

Kit's first role as an actress is portraying a woman named Betsy Ross in a war movie that MGM hopes will become a box office hit slamming their profit up into the millions. As part of her contract with MGM, Kit receives singing lessons and acting lessons and meets everyone from stage hands to script writers to directors to fellow actors and actresses. One actress she becomes deeply friendly with is Mudge, a.k.a. Barbara Fanning.

One night at party her best friend, Barbara turns up dead! Although MGM doesn't want their name tarnished and try to clear up some details about the death they don't want the police to know, Kit is not going to allow that to happen. Kit knows she will lose everything she has worked for if she continues snooping around trying to get to the truth but she doesn't care. Barbara was too good a friend to have died in a supposed lie and Kit is just not going to allow that to happen. Although she is trhreatned, underwent suspicious accidents and other dangerous things, her own honesty and commitment to her friend, Velva Jean is stronger. She will soon find out just how tough she really is when she is pushed too far.

American Blonde was fast-paced and one of those books where you keep telling yourself "just one more chapter" before stopping for the day. I couldn't put the book down and one night I even got back out of bed to return to my reading room as I had been at an integral part of the story when I stopped for the night that I couldn't sleep for thinking about it.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that American Blonde is yet another hit and bestseller for Ms. Niven. Way to go!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

IN DOUBT (DRUSILLA CAMPBELL)



MY REVIEW:
Grand Central Publishing | August 26, 2014 | Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-1-4555-1033-7

I have read every book Drusilla Campbell has written and all of them have been top caliber and IN DOUBT was no different.

So, Sophie Giraudo is a defense attorney who has just opened a new practice in San Sebastain, California. She desperately needs new clients to pay the bills for all the new furniture and plush carpeting she just purchased. It isn't long before Sophie gets her wish when a quiet, introverted teenager named, Donny Crider, shoots the Governor at a crowded venue with lots of witnesses. He was arrested on the spot.

Sophie is intriqued as to why a seemingly quiet, layed-back boy would commit such a crime. Against the wishes of family, co-workers, and friends, Sophie decides to take on Donny's case. She knows it's going to be difficult to defend the boy but she delves in head-on vowing to learn all she can about this boy.

Obtaining the information she needs to mount a defense almost blows up in her face after meeting, Donny and discovering he is not a talker and not one to divulge information that could possibly save his own life. His mother is a nightmare and his father has been absent from his life for fifteen years.

According to the Prosecutor, this kid doesn't have a leg to stand on and is going to jail for a long, long time. Can Sophie somehow find a way through all the muck and mire to mount a proper defense to help, Donny?

In Doubt did just that, kept me in doubt throughout the entire story. I always think most books end up the way we think they should but not all. Read this one to find out what happens, it'll shock you to your core.
 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FIVE DAYS LEFT (JULIE LAWSON TIMMER)


Penguin USA | September 9, 2014 | Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-399-16734-8



MY REVIEW:
 
Mara, a lawyer, has been diagnosed with Huntington's Disease. There is no cure and she will eventually lose all control of her body and mind and die. Her husband, Tom, is a dermatologist and they have one daughter, Lakshmi who is five-years-old.

Tom is a patient and kind husband who loves his wife with all his heart but little Lakshmi doesn't understand why her mother falls down and often looks like she's drunk. She is somewhat ashamed of her mother and asks her not to come to her school anymore because the other children tease her and call her mother "a drunk." Mara is devastated and tearful but understands that Lakshmi and other children her age don't know what Huntington's is or how it affects the body. All Lakshmi knows is that her Mom doesn't act like all the other Moms do.

Mara decides that she wants to be in control of her own demise and so begins a list of things she needs to do to prepare to die at her own hand. She is giving herself five days. Mara doesn't want to suffer at the end and doesn't think it's fair to have Tom and other people caring for her very personal needs and decides it would be kinder to herself, her parents and her friends if she was gone before she got to that stage.

Mara gets support from an online community she joined called "Not Your Father's Family Forum" where she has met some nice people but they don't know that she has Huntington's or that she is planning to kill herself. She involves herself in the other people's lives, especially that of Scott.

Scott, a middle school teacher and his wife, Laurie are expecting their own child soon and are currently foster parents to eight-year-old, Curtis. Curtis's Mom is serving a year's jail sentence and will be taking Curtis back upon her release. There are five days left til her sentence ends and Scott has big plans for Curtis over the next five days to celebrate the year that he has lived with himself and Laurie.

Curtis is a troubled boy and gets into lots of problems at school and at home, but Scott and Laurie have been good for, Curtis. Being young they have the patience and understanding to cope with the problems Curtis displays.

Curtis has an older brother who attends university and plays football so he is unable to care for Curtis.

As Scott is excited about his plans for the next five days, Curtis's Mom gets out of jail early and arrives at the school and takes Curtis throwing a complete monkey wrench into all Scott's plans for his last five days.

FIVE DAYS LEFT is a story about what people can and will do under extraordinary circumstances. It's about love, faith, and understanding but also about what it's like to lose control of your life. We all like to be in control and when that control is taken away from us we often find ourselves floundering around not knowing which direction to take.

I couldn't put this book down. I began reading and when I looked back up at the clock I was astonished at how much time had passed by. I expect FIVE DAYS LEFT to be a big hit. I think it would make a great book club pick as there are so many aspects and different issues to be discussed in a novel such as this. I'll be keeping this one as part of my permanent collection as I'll definitely want to read it again.
 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

LITTLE MERCIES (HEATHER GUDENKAUF)


MY REVIEW:
Harlequin|June 24, 2014|Trade Paperback|ISBN: 978-0-7783-1633-6

Ellen Moore, a seasoned social worker has seen the best and the worst in what one human being can do to another. She has seen things people should never see in their lives but this is her daily reality. Dealing with dysfunctional families, drug addicted parents who beat or neglect their children, alcoholics who leave their children unsupervised and a whole host of other horrible scenarios. The decision to remove a child(ren) from their family home is never an easy one but she takes her job seriously and does what needs to be done. Ellen is lucky as she has the support of her family.

Ellen's husband, Adam is madly in love with his wife and supports her in her work and all her decisions. After a long hard day at work, Ellen looks forward to coming home and holding and hugging her own three children: Lucas, Leah, and Avery.

One particularly busy morning and late for an important meeting, Ellen is rushing around the house trying to get dressed and out the door within five minutes. Being late for this meeting will not be seen in a favourable light as far as her boss is concerned. Finally ready, Ellen dashes out the door and hops into her van and takes off. While on her way, she receives a call about a family in distress and makes a detour to the home to see what assistance she can be and to perform the very job she is hired to do as a social worker. The temperature is stiffling hot and humid and she feels like a washed-out dish rag.

As Ellen is watching the first body bag being carried out of the home, she hears some commotion and breaking glass down the street. When she turns to look down she realizes that people are breaking into her van in broad daylight. Using crowbars and other tools they are smashing the windows out of her van. Ellen takes off on foot and just as she arrives at her vehicle she sees baby Avery, her own child, unconscious, being dragged out of her car and layed on the ground. She'd been locked up in a hot van in the sweltering heat for a goodly amount of time and Ellen wasn't even aware that Avery was in the vehicle with her that morning. She certainly didn't put her in and she didn't notice her in the vehicle as she drove because Avery still sat in a rear-facing car seat.

A neighbour, whom Ellen had had dealings with before through her job began performing CPR while someone called 911. Thus began a nightmare that Ellen wasn't prepared for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old, Jenny Briard has been living with her father who was well meaning but often irresponsible. Not being able to keep a job nor provide an ongoing home for Jenny to live in but he was good to her. One evening Jenny finds herself totally alone and is forced to live on nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen's and Jenny's world's collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

While Ellen is charged for leaving Avery in the sweltering car, Jenny is trying to get back to her father. Each of them is living with a great deal of stress and there are some very tense moments in the story.

LITTLE MERCIES is a poignant, powerful, and emotionally charged novel about motherhood and justice. I couldn't put this book down and read it in one sitting, it was just too good to stop for any reason. I even passed up the opportunity to stop for a cup of tea which is something I would never normally do.

Heather Gudenkauf has written a truly spellbinding story that will hold your attention from the first page to the very last.