Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

Wait for MeWait for Me by Caroline Leech
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent historical fiction for YA. Based on real events, the author tells the story of Lorna, a Scottish young woman at the end of WWII living near a prisoner of war camp. With men off fighting and labor left wanting, German and Italian prisoners were leased out for day work. Here Lorna meets Paul, a former German soldier from Dresden, badly scarred from Normandy. They strike up a close friendship in a village far too small to tolerate the humanity of the enemy.

Well written, rich with heart and history.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland

The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of this book is the coming together of 4 teenagers suffering from some form of mental instability at a summer camp for mentally ill teens. Loosely referencing the Breakfast Club, the themes of the 80's movies were loudly echoed; teens in pain, grown ups are bumbling idiots and completely clueless to what teens are really doing, teens can facilitate their own therapy and have a happy ending on one Saturday detention or one summer camp. Because mental illness can be resolved with peer acceptance, candy, crackers, and perhaps a daily Prozac.

I realize I am being exceptionally hard on this book but the author took on a lot of heavy issues yet did so without fully addressing any of them. My psychology background had so many issues with the above mentioned holes and stereotypes. The death knell was Cassie's story and resolution. That resolution wouldn't fix her. Or even give her hope. Clearly suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder, it is highly improbable she would respond so well to acceptance, let alone cure her of anorexia. Hers and the other's issues would be much, much more complex than as was presented.

Disclaimer: On the day I read this book, I had been to lunch with a friend who had recently made the heartbreaking decision to rescind parental rights on her 14 year old daughter that she had adopted 11 years ago after being removed from her mother's custody. She tearfully recounted how she arrived at this decision and shared the feelings of utter failure of not being up to the task to heal this child of all her hurt, her RAD, and feeling bled dry. Sacrifice, acceptance, and parental love were not enough. My friend cried and hugged her close, told her she loved her. Her daughter felt no connection to this family. She simply left.

Meanwhile, in my professional realm, I see the complicated mental health issues teenagers are facing daily. One girl is pre-schizophrenic. There are available treatments and early interventions but her parents have paranoia issues and don't want any services. Yes, there is a genetic component to it but it's not as cut and dried as presented in the book. Schizophrenia is not the same as Huntington's Disease. It can manifest itself very differently yet be managed in many cases. It is not an automatic assumption that one will spend every day in a state of psychosis and believing himself to be Jesus.

So my big issues were the oversimplification, the stereotypes and cliche's, and biting off more material than could be adequately covered in an easy read, YA genre.

But clearly I have issues.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Review: The Girl Before

The Girl Before The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This psychological thriller began as I expected, already certain I knew the plot and ending while wondering why, then, was a wasting my time. The presentation of the story definitely hooked me as there were two narrators and two timelines. That said, both women bore striking resemblances to one another in appearances and experiences. This strengthened my belief that it was a plot I'd already read. Then things started to change shape.

None of the characters are particularly likeable but the narrators also turn out to be somewhat unreliable which I found intriguing as I looked at the way information was cleverly presented to the reader to lead the thought process off direction without the narrator changing the story within her own head.

The sex is a little too salacious for my taste yet details were sparse, innuendo doing the most work. Besides the sex, the book offered a compelling thriller with story twists I didn't see coming, red herrings planted just so, then discredited, then questioned, then new possibilities arise...

Solid thriller.

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review: The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the Corner The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sweet and surprising. The story's main scenes take place in Nowhere, Scotland. I'm making that up but it's pretty close to true. A village where there are still readers but no library or bookstore. Made me determined to begin a Free Little Library.

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Review: The Burning World

The Burning World The Burning World by Isaac Marion
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have some pros and cons for this book. You might be unimpressed by my cons.

First of all, this is a continuation of Warm Bodies. What happens next? It is action packed. First off, read Warm Bodies. I don't think it will make sense without that background. I absolutely loved R and M was a very close second. All the characters stay true to the way they were written in Warm Bodies. Which brings me to one con; the language. Julie and Nora have particularly foul mouths. That said, I should have been prepared since they are the main offenders. But we are introduced to more.

Back to my pros: the storyline is intriguing. Had I read a physical book, I would have cheated to find out whether or not R ever recalls his previous life and name and how it connects to the current conflicts they are encountering. That s what really kept me reading. The content is gross, vivid, suspenseful, extremely humorous, and moves along.

My last con is my own disappointment that it didn't end. The ending was appropriate but it needs another book for a conclusion. I'm ready for their happily ever after.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Review: Lilac Girls

Lilac Girls Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm many months back. It is very well researched and written and I'm sure I'll give it a solid 5 stars. I read the chapters on the "Rabbit" research then one more chapter and decided I just needed a break.

Lilac Girls is told first person POV by three women. Caroline Ferriday, an amazing woman in New York City, who caught the attention of the author years ago, after Caroline had passed. Herta Oberhauser, the only female doctor at Ravensbruck who took part in the experimental surgery under Goebels (sp?) who also stood trial in Nuremberg after the war. The last progonist is Kasia, a Polish girl who was captured in her hometown of Lublin and sent to Ravensbruck and was later selected as a "Rabbit." Kasia's story is true but a conglomeration of people that were "Rabbits" at the time.

I found the book very addicting from the very beginning without knowing that I was returning to my Ravensbruk reading. Yet the moment I got to the Ravensbruck parts, I began recognizing names and events. This led me back to the original book I was reading and I re-read those two or three chapters. Dorothea Binz was truly sadistic. Less was known about Herta, as a person, but I liked the way Kelly fleshed her character out to be the one she was. The author stays true to all things known of Dr. Oberhauser and only creates scenes that strengthen what is already known yet adds depth to her character. I liked that the author did not try to make her out as an evil villain yet also did not try to change her true character to be one that was empathetic. She was he who she was and I thought the author did a wonderful job of adding the depth.

The book does not go into the same detail as historical documents which makes it easier to stomach. It's still a difficult read during the concentration camp days but is broken up by scenes of Caroline Ferriday in New York which is a much needed reprieve. Caroline is, by no means, a shallow socialite, yet she becomes much more conscientious as her character develops. She is likable from the get-go.

The author adds a note at the end of the book which explains much of what I have just summarized but the story came about when she found an article on Caroline Ferriday and, upon further research, realized that Caroline was an unsung hero. Her objective was to bring Caroline to the attention of the reader but in doing so, she also needed to include Herta and the experiments in Ravensbruck. I'd say she did an extraordinary job.

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Review: One True Loves

One True Loves One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This author simply has a way of describing concepts in a way I hadn't considered. First of all, let's start with the story. Emma marries her high school sweetheart then becomes a widow on her anniversary. Well written grieving, although abbreviated, I liked it. She starts moving forward and finds an old friend. There's an attraction and then love. Different love from Jesse, but steady and sure. They are engaged when Jesse is rescued. He wants to resume the old life but too much has changed.

It's a little like Castaway but from Helen Hunt's character's perspective. Except she wasn't married to Tom Hanks. Emma was married to Jesse. She loves Jesse. She loves Sam. Both love her. She can't have both. It would have been easy to write one of the men as a jerk. Fortunately, the author does not do this. I felt like there was a clear favorite and the other didn't get the attention he deserved. On the other hand, I think the real point of the book was the truism that Emma's sister says. Love is not about the other person. It is about the person you are when you are with the one you love. Although it's worded much more nicely.

The ending is beautiful although I'd like to have known a few more details regarding both men. But that really wasn't the point. The point was who the protagonist feels more authentic when in that relationship. I think that is a good concept to come away with. There is no "One." There is a choice of which lens to view ourselves, our partner, and our relationship.

I really enjoyed the book.

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