Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult)

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My Sister's KeeperMy Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a little late to this party considering the book was published in 2005 and the movie premiered in 2009, but better late than never! I’ve never read Jodi Picoult but hear fantastic things about her work so decided I would give this one a try. What a fantastic choice!

Anna, at age thirteen, hires a lawyer to pursue medical emancipation from her parents. What’s unique about Anna is that she was conceived specifically to save the life of her sister Kate, who suffers from cancer. Years and countless surgeries and procedures later, Anna continues to be poked and prodded for the sake of saving Kate, and she can’t do it anymore. Meanwhile, their mom is torn between allowing Anna freedom to make her own choices and keeping Kate alive.

The beauty of this book was the internal struggle I felt as the book progressed. The topic is tragic, heartbreaking, and so difficult to navigate. There is no right answer; there is no wrong answer. I could see the perspectives of all characters and found myself unable to pick a side.

I could tell that Jodi Picoult did her research too! The medical aspects of the book were done very well. They were clearly studied extensively, but furthermore, were explained in a way that would be understandable to the typical non-medically-educated reader.

And the ending was completely unexpected, but felt like it was destined to be. Exquisitely executed!

This book comes highly recommended if you want to read something a little controversial that will leave you internally questioning what side of the fence you lie on.

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General Fiction (Adult)

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives Edited by J.T. Ellison

A Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many LivesA Thousand Doors: An Anthology of Many Lives by J.T. Ellison

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Expected Publication: November 5th!

Wow. Wow. Wow!

What a collection of short stories by an absolute powerhouse of authors:

*J.T. Ellison (Review for Tear Me Apart here)
*Kimberly Belle (Review for Three Days Missing here)
*Laura Benedict
*A.F. Brady
*Patti Callahan Henry
*Paige Crutcher
*Rebecca Drake
*Heather Gudenkauf
*Joy Jordan-Lake
*Alisha Klapheke
*Ariel Lawhon
*Kerry Lonsdale
*Catherine McKenzie (Review for The Good Liar here)
*Kate Moretti
*Lisa Patton (Review for Rush here)
*Kaira Rouda

The concept of this book is pretty simple. Mia finds herself in a less than stellar life, unhappy with her choices, and headed toward divorce with her husband. When she threatens to testify against her soon-to-be-ex-husband in an embezzlement case, he savagely murders her.

Fortunately, in death, Mia is able to get a glimpse of all the lives she could have lived if she had made different choices in her life. Each of those lives is detailed by the various authors above via individual short stories.

This book for me was kind of a cross between The Butterfly Effect and A Christmas Carol (minus the whole holiday thing and the three ghosts). I loved all of the individual stories, some more than others. It’s so hard to choose but some of my favorites were: The Widow, The Primatologist, The Homeless Woman, The Archaeologist, and The Suicide.

I will say there were two things I wish would have been more present in the book overall. I found myself wanting to know what choice was made differently in order to land Mia in this alternate life. There’s really no discussion of how she ended up where she was, and that may have been done on purpose. But, I found myself curious about the “how.”

The second thing that I found puzzling was this underlying theme of the telephone ringing at the end of each of the short stories. I guess I thought at the end of the book there was going to be some significance to the telephone ringing and (unless I missed it) there wasn’t any real closure there.

Otherwise, this is a fabulous book. And the beauty of it, is that you don’t even have to read it in order (aside from the beginning and the end). All the parts in the middle can be read in whatever sequence the reader chooses.

Kudos to this all-star cast of authors for collaborating on such a fantastic project. Anybody looking for something unique and different should read this book.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, J.T. Ellison and all contributing authors, and Two Tales Press for the opportunity to review.-

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General Fiction (Adult)

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Rain WatcherThe Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Expected Publication: October 30th.

Yeesh… okay. This review is a little challenging for me to write to be honest. Not my favorite book, unfortunately. While I thought the concept was intriguing, I thought the execution missed the mark.

It’s difficult to even say what this book is about. I guess the overarching story is that of Linden and his family coming to Paris for a family vacation only to find themselves in the middle of a record-breaking flood that wreaks havoc on the city. Meanwhile, there are all these little micro-stories that pop up along the way and tell of the family history and dynamic. And to top it off, there is a slightly random parallel story set in the past about a random character named Suzanne which seems entirely unrelated to the major story line (but eventually ties in).

While I enjoyed all the characters and their back stories on an individual level, the story for me really lacked that cohesiveness that brings everything together. Linden has this relationship with his Aunt and we learn a little bit about her life… only to be left hanging. Linden’s mom, Lauren, has this past relationship with a man that we get a glimpse into… only to be left hanging. Linden’s dad has a slightly dark past that gets minimally revealed… only to be left hanging. Linden’s sister has a drunk husband and was the lone survivor of a tragic car accident…. which gets left hanging. You get the theme here. Frankly, it was kind of bizarre. Maybe I just didn’t get it? *insert shoulder shrug here*

The first 80% of the book felt like back story and there was a point where I found myself pretty bored. There was no real “hook” that drew me in or kept me wanting more. But the last 10 – 15% turned around for me. I just wish the latter portion of the book had a larger presence. Because as soon as it started getting good, it ended. And the ending was not very palatable. It felt very unresolved. Like the writer just stopped writing…

Also, I felt like I needed a map of Paris while I read this book to have a good grasp on what was happening. There are lots of references to geographical locations within Paris, boroughs and bridges and landmarks and streets. I had a hard time following. That being said, if you are looking for a book that has a very Parisian feel, this is it. I could definitely feel the French atmosphere and culture resonating through the pages.

Finally, the sentence structure and writing style just weren’t for me. It didn’t feel natural or conversational. The sentences tended to be very short and choppy. And the way in which some sentences were phrased didn’t thrill me. It seemed like the author used a lot of big words for the sake of using big words that didn’t add clarity, and for me, made the book more difficult to read.

All of that being said, there were glimmers of success sprinkled throughout (the only reason I’m giving this book 3 stars rather than 2). Each of the individual mirco-stories were interesting on an individual level. I enjoyed learning about the family and their history. The Parisian undertones shined through. And honestly, the last 15% of the book I would consider a success. I just wish it had all worked together a little bit more as a cohesive unit.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Tatiana de Rosnay, and St. Martin’s Press (still my faves!) for the opportunity to review-

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General Fiction (Adult), Holiday, Humor

Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

Evergreen Tidings from the BaumgartnersEvergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway and what a great win it was!

Just published last week, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners is a quirky, holiday read about a Midwestern family with its share of issues. Violet is the matriarch (we all know one) who needs everything to be perfect at all times, lives for appearances, and couldn’t be more traditional. Her daughter Cerise is a lesbian (gasp!) who is pregnant with child (double gasp!) and Violet does NOT know how to deal. What ensues is Violets incessant desire to find out how Cerise conceived and who the “father” is despite Cerise insisting that it doesn’t matter. Her and her partner Barb are the baby’s parents, and that is that.

Although Violet is a politically incorrect nightmare, the way she was written was quite humorous. She was a trip through the whole book, pushing and prodding and poking until she got her way.

The one downside…. there was a secondary story line written from the perspective of Richard, a family friend, and quite frankly, I wasn’t super invested in that story line. I didn’t see how it related and felt like it was kind of a “filler.”. Others may disagree as the story eventually ties in.

On another note, the physical book was beautiful. The pages had jagged edges and gave the appearance of letters bound into a book with a “worn” feel. Which was perfect given the fact that interspersed throughout the pages of text were Christmas letters written by Violet to the family over the years.

This book is heartwarming. It is humorous. It has a great holiday feel. It comes highly recommended.

Thank you you Goodreads, Gretchen Anthony, and Park Row Books for my giveaway copy!

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Audiobook Review, General Fiction (Adult), Young Adult

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had been hearing about this book everywhere and knew the movie was coming out soon (just came our Friday) so hurried and got on the wait list at my local library. After waiting a few months, it was finally my turn!

The Hate U Give is the story of Starr, a young African American teenager caught between two worlds. One night, her and her friend Khalil are stopped by a police officer. Khalil is shot in the back three times by the police officer and killed. The police officer claims he was reaching for a gun (which turned out to be a hairbrush). Meanwhile, Starr attends a mostly white school and her parents encourage her to keep her involvement in the shooting private. But her world starts to crumble when her mostly white friends begin talking about Khalil’s death, unaware that he was her friend.

Unfortunately, this story is not unique. But, seeing the story through the eyes of a young, African American girl was unique for me. Having grown up in a white, middle class family in suburbia, I’ve never experienced some of the struggles Starr lives with on a daily basis: the drive by shootings, the drugs, the gangs. But this book transported me into Starr’s world and gave me a glimpse into her life.

Books like this are always thought provoking and give new perspective to heated social issues. It makes you think about how the media and justice system portray the victim in relation to the perpetrator. In police brutality cases, the media can frequently portray the officer as the victim and we often lose sight of the true victim – the African American men and women who have lost their lives.

This book reminded me very much of Beartown but with a different underlying social topic. While Beartown discussed issues of rape and sexual assault, The Hate U Give focused on police brutality. But the underlying theme in both books is how the community responds following the incident and people begin to take sides, further perpetuating the divide.

I should also mention that the audiobook is fantastic. It was one of those audiobooks where you feel like you’re listening to a movie. And I could absolutely feel and hear Starr’s struggle and strife. Incredible narrator.

I think this would make a great discussion book for a book club meeting, especially those clubs looking for something told from the perspective of a person of color. I cannot wait to see the movie.

My review for Beartown #1 here and Beartown #2 here.

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