Brooklyn Girls, by Gemma Burgess

5/5 stars.

At the beginning, and even until about halfway through this book, I was unsure whether or not I liked it. There’s a lot of drinking, some drugs, and a fair amount of casual sex – none of which are things that are particularly down my alley, either for doing or for reading about. But the ending… man, the ending!! I loved it. It was all tied together so well, and it was such a feel good ending, that I can’t help but rate it 5 stars.

Pia is a lovable character. Sure, she has her flaws – and a lot of them – but that is what makes her so relatable and lovable. She’s feisty, innovative, interesting, funny, intelligent… so many more good things – but she’s also more than a little flighty, impulsive, and reckless on occasion. Combined, these characteristics make for a very human protagonist, which is not something that is always there in YA novels. Pia’s character has depth, and so does the rest of the crew with whom she lives.

My one problem is that this book is being marketed as a YA novel, when – in my eyes – it is not one. It’s more along the lines of chick fic for college-age and up. Nothing about this novel screamed that it would be relatable by teenagers, the majority of whom are still in high school. This novel was about five girls in their early 20s, finding their first jobs and getting settled in New York City. I don’t believe that many teens would really be able to relate to any of the situations in which Pia found herself.

All in all, though, a very enjoyable read.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Going Back by Richard Watt.

4 out of 5 stars.

**spoiler alert**

Above all, this book surprised me. I picked it up thinking that it would be something else than it was – but it turned out to be the story of a girl raping a boy and how that echoed over the next 25 years, the repercussions that it had, and what all of the now-adults involved had to do in order to heal. I was pretty pleased, to be honest – although it was a tough story – that it was what it was, because not many books address that topic. Self harm was also addressed, except in an adult man, which also made me happy in the sense that not many people are aware that males are also affected by self harm, and that adults can be as well. So I feel that Watt did a good job of covertly raising awareness about some things that should be talked about more among certain audiences. (I think this is my inner social worker coming out.)

The main characters, Andrew and Karla – well, I liked Andrew, for all that he bumbled around. Karla is not a character that one likes, I don’t think. She was the one that raped Andrew, and she was not a nice teenager and even 25 years later, was still a shell of that scared, abused, and abusive teenager. The other characters that were practically main characters – Clare, Anne, Liezl, and Erika – were painted well and likably. The adults in the 1978 part of the story (since it flip-flops back and forth from present-day to 1978, when it all began) were well painted, and it was easy for me to imagine Matthias’ and Karla’s father being abusive to them from what little we saw of him in the story.

The storyline itself goes on at a fairly good pace for the first third. The middle third is a little slower, and I found that it was tough for me to want to read it, but by the final third, things pick up again. The ending actually zooms and is a very satisfying ending, given the nature of the story. Healing is found for all of the people involved. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a good redemptive story, and I will be keeping my eye out for any further books that Watt writes.

 

Many thanks to Smith Publicity via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.

The April Tree by Judith Arnold.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

While this book is not the happiest story to be told, the reader can guess this by reading the premise. What it is, however, is interesting. Reading the different stories of how the three girls dealt with the guilt of April’s death, as well as how the driver of the car that killed April dealt with it, was interesting.

Half the book is devoted to the girls’ stories as fifteen-year-olds, then the other half occurred 5 years later. Little is mentioned of Mark, the driver, in the beginning sections – just enough that we get a glimpse of how unhappy and terribly guilty he feels – but in the second half of the book, he plays a much larger role. He has become an alcoholic and Elyse meets him randomly, then – upon discovering that he was the driver that accidentally killed April years ago – decides that she and the other two girls, Becky and Florie, need to “save” him.

The April Tree has many unexpected twists and turns, and that is one of the things I enjoyed about it. The reason that it didn’t get a full 5 star rating from me was its depiction of Christianity. It was a fundamentalist, cult-like “Christian” sect to be sure, but it was very frustrating for me to read about. However, it was believable since sadly organizations like that do exist out there, and it did have its place in the storyline. Overall, a good read, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a story with a fascinating set of protagonists and a storyline that does the unexpected.

Many thanks to BellBridgeBooks via NetGalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.

Dog Days #1: Autumn.

4.5 out of 5 stars.

This book was so much fun to read. I sped through it in less than a day, and while in part that’s due to it being a YA novel, it’s also due to the fact that the storyline was gripping and the characters were likable. At first, I didn’t think I would like our protagonist, Lou, but as the novel progresses, the reader gets to know her better, and she becomes very fun to read about. She’s a spunky teenager thrown into a situation that is beyond crazy.

Autumn really has it all, but without being over the top. A 200-year-old curse, star-crossed love, teenage drama, magic… but it’s all done without pretense and is stated in such a matter-of-fact manner that Lou – who normally is a skeptic – believes it, and so does the reader. Cooper is utterly lovable and the interactions between Lou and Cooper are well-written. There is just the right amount of romance – for me, at least – and enough action to keep the book moving.

The only problem I have with this book is that it ended on a cliffhanger, and I hate it when books do that, especially since the next one in the series is not due to be published until November 2013. At least I only have a couple months’ wait to find out what happens next, but I really wish that it had had a more satisfying conclusion. Instead, I was left wanting more, much more – but I can safely say that I will definitely be picking up the next one in this series.

Many thanks to Sierra Dean via Netgalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.

Top Ten… Thursday?!

Once again, I have to apologize… I have been busy, my health has not been great, and this blog got sidelined.  At least I am semi keeping up with it though, right? 🙂 This is progress from me making blogs on here, updating every day for the first few days, then totally forgetting about them.  I should be proud (but I am still sorry for not updating more).

 

Today’s topic: my top 10 books on my TBR pile for summer 2013, courtesy of The Broke & Bookish blog. (It’s their Top 10 Tuesday… just two days late is all!! 😉 )  However, unlike their blog, I am not going to do a top ten of ones that will be published between 21 June and 21 September, since I am afraid I don’t know that many that I am eager to read that will be published then. (I am more a fan of picking up a book, reading the blurb, and deciding to borrow/buy/download it, rather than getting caught up in series or particular authors’ works.)

 

So… the list!!~

 

1) A Wrinkle in Time quintet by Madeleine L’Engle.  I have read most of the books in the quintet before, but not in the proper order and certainly not close together.  I love L’Engle’s work and while it’s not super recent, I want to revisit it.

 

2) Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence.  I loved the first two books when I read them when I was 10 or something, and never finished the series.  I have them now, I just need to set aside time to read them.  But I guess I’m kinda cheating, because I’m doing entire series as books… hmm.  I wonder if that would be considered cheating. 😉

 

3) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  No summer is complete without reading a huge book of some sort and since I have it on my Kindle, I figure I may as well read it before I go out and find the movie somewhere to watch.  It sounds excellent, although dense; however, I do enjoy Russian literature.  I think it would be really cool to actually know enough Russian to read the books as they were originally written, because I think a lot can be lost in translation.  Of course, that would require extensive classes in Russian… maybe someday. 🙂

 

4) The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti.  I won this in a giveaway at Goodreads – my very first win!! – and I am excited to dive into it.  However, I really need to finish a couple of other books before I get around to doing that.

 

5) The Storykeeper by Jodi Picoult.  I was going to wait until I had finished some more of the 5 Jodi Picoult novels I own to buy a copy, but I couldn’t wait.  I’m sure some of you know the feeling. 😉 So now this is waiting on my bookshelf for me to make time to read it.  I still feel guilty about some of the other books by Picoult that I have and haven’t read, but I mean, this one is about WWII secrets and if there’s something I love more than WWII fiction, I don’t know what it is. (Well, okay, Nutella probably might beat WWII fiction by a hair… but… okay, so does frozen strawberry lemonade… but… those don’t really count!! [Yes, I do have a sweet tooth… maybe…])

 

6) Blackberry Winter by Sarah Jio.  My mom and I are currently reading another book of Jio’s, Violets in March, and I am loving it enough that I went ahead and got two more of her books that sounded good.  Blackberry Winter swaps between 1933 and the present, telling the story of a little boy’s disappearance, and I thought it sounded intriguing.

 

7) The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley.  This one I found and thought sounded quite excellent – it swaps between present-day and WWII England, replete with a mystery and dangers of unnamed sorts. (Of course.  I think I am getting predictable in my old age.) I am quite excited to delve into this one, I am not going to lie. 🙂

 

8) Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott.  I am not sure what it is that draws me to Lamott’s books, but they are very fun to read, very interesting, very thought-provoking.  As a Christian, they often don’t contain new information about my faith, but they do bring new perspectives to old issues, sometimes, providing me with different ways that people may look at hot topics in Christianity or religion/faith in general.

 

9) Stalin’s Ghost by Martin Cruz Smith.  This one is the 6th in a series, and is a thriller/mystery, very different from the other books on this list thus far, but it’s one I started a very long time ago (it was published in 2006 and I think I started reading it when it was still a new copy at my library)… okay, so that’s not a “very long time ago” but for me to remember what happens in a book, it is. 😉 So a reread is necessary.  This one I have for Kindle.

 

10)  Princess Elizabeth’s Spy and His Majesty’s Hope, both by Susan Elia MacNeal. (I am cheating…) They’re the second and third in the Maggie Hope series – I read the first one last summer while I was working at the library and it was a very enjoyable read… and I can’t wait to read her other books.  Maggie Hope was a very likable heroine and plus… WWII mysteries.  Need I say more? 😀

 

What are your top 10 books in your TBR pile for this summer?  Feel free to share!!

Invited to Die? No thank you.

Many thanks to Amazon Publishing through Netgalley for an opportunity to read and review this book.

Invitation to Die, by Helen Smith, starts out by telling us that Winnie Kaster is going to die.  She is one of the three bloggers who have been chosen to attend the Romance Writers of Great Britain’s annual conference.  However, the story quickly gets more complicated, piling on characters that seem a bit over the top and situations that make little sense to anyone except Emily Castles, who is our heroine.  The RWGB’s conference convenes in a fancy hotel in England, and soon enough, not just Winnie has died, but Teena – a fellow blogger who was also invited to the conference – has died in much the same way.  Ms. Smith makes sure that we know Teena will die ahead of time, and the reader should find that acceptable anyway, because Teena is not a very likable character.

I read this book in about a day, because it really was interesting.  It was fascinating – although a little tiresome, at the same time – to read a book that was about writing, that mentioned blogging and writing book reviews with some disdain, perhaps even hatred, from some of the characters.  It makes me wonder from what source Ms. Smith’s idea for this book originated, since so much of the story was focused on how much bloggers who write reviews of books are disliked by authors.  Yet surely she must know that her book, too, would be read and reviewed?  I suppose that is part of the irony of the book.

A couple things that I disliked while reading it – apparently the heroine, Emily Castles, is going to be the star of several other novels that Smith will write, but I was unaware of this as I began reading the book.  She wasn’t given much of an introduction in this – the debut novel in the series – which seems odd to me.  What she does for a living is a little unknown from reading this book, which also makes it difficult to get to “know” her.  She is a likable character, as are the majority of the characters that Ms. Smith writes in this book, but I never really felt all that attached to her as I read through the book.  Also, the little bit of romance that happened between Emily and the detective, Rory James, was a little odd – it felt out of place, but I’m unsure if the book would have been better served had it been removed as it did have its place in the story arc.  Lastly, I was a little confused as to how Emily put all of the pieces of the mystery together so quickly, and why she was chosen to talk about it at the first block of discussion during the conference.

Overall, though, this was a relatively light murder mystery – I don’t believe it was intended to be very serious or frightening, because it certainly did not exude that air.  I would give it 4 out of 5 stars.  I did enjoy reading it and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a literary mystery that is some serious in parts – but mostly not about the murder, for what sense that makes.  There are plenty of side stories that Ms. Smith could have followed, which adds interesting pieces to the actual story and makes it seem more alive.  I’m definitely glad I requested this title.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.

This book was unlike any that I have read before, and I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or not.  First and foremost it appeared to be a social commentary, which is all well and good, but it was a very uncomfortable social commentary.  Every situation that Major Pettigrew found himself in was uncomfortable to read about, and I often found myself cringing for him when he interacted with his brash son and his son’s fiancée.  However, I did like Ms. Simonson’s word paintings of Mrs. Ali and the English countryside; I have to say that for a good portion of the book, Mrs. Ali was the only redeeming quality about it.

 

But by the end of the book, I found myself rooting for Major Pettigrew.  He takes awhile for one to warm up to, I suppose.  The premise of the book was the romance between Major Pettigrew and a Pakistani shopkeeper, Mrs. Ali, after their respective spouses have died.  I found the level of prejudice in Major Pettigrew’s village to be surprising, although small town life shouldn’t surprise me to that degree, since I have spent the majority of my life in a small town.  There was also a side story of how much Major Pettigrew wants to reunite his pet Churchill shotgun with his deceased brother Bertie’s Churchill, since they were a matching pair.  This seems to take precedence in the beginning of the book, yet by the end of the book this part of the story seems to have petered out, and the romance with Mrs. Ali has taken precedence.

 

Overall, I would rate Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand three out of five stars.  It was enjoyable by the end, but it took me far too long to get into the story for it to earn a much higher rating.  However, the ending was satisfactory, although a lot of action occurred within the last 30 or so pages; it felt a little bit like Ms. Simonson wanted to rush the ending and get the book over with, and the amount of action also felt counter to the rest of the book, which was not action-packed in the least.

 

Still, I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys social commentary, British small town life, and a sweet romance between two middle-aged people.