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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: And West Is West by Ron Childress

Title: And West Is West
Author: Ron Childress
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Publish Date: October 13, 2015
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "When Jessica, a young Air Force drone pilot in Nevada, is tasked with launching a missile against a suspected terrorist halfway across the world, she realizes that though women and children are in the crosshairs of her screen, she has no choice but to follow orders. Ethan, a young Wall Street quant, is involved in a more bloodless connection to war when he develops an algorithm that enables his company’s clients to profit by exploiting the international financial instability caused by exactly this kind of antiterrorist strike. These two are only minor players, but their actions have global implications that tear lives apart--including their own. When Jessica finds herself discharged from the service and Ethan makes an error that costs him his job, both find themselves adrift, cast out by a corrupt system and forced to take the blame for decisions they did not make."

My Two Cents:

"And West is West" is a thought-provoking debut novel by Ron Childress. In this day and age, wars are often fought from way off of the battlefield. Jessica is in the military and flies drones used on the battlefields of the Middle East from a safe stateside location. Ethan has found a way to harness political instability which in turn feeds into financial instability to make money hand over foot for his company. This novel explores ethics in the modern age where technology often blurs the lines.

This was such an interesting novel! The two main characters represent two powerful ideas in this modern world. Jessica is fighting a war from the other side of the world. She realizes that war waging in this way totally depersonalizes everything for her. She wonders if she is doing the right thing, especially because she's not on the ground. Much of her part of the book focuses on her struggle with what it means to be a world away from the chaos she is causing. Ethan likes making money but has his own struggle in the way that he's doing it. It was so interesting to see how the author showed changes in both characters throughout the book.

I really like when books leave you thinking long after you've closed the book. I especially like grappling with the idea of ethics, which this book definitely grapples with. The writing of the book is fairly even but could stand to be slimmed down in some parts of the story but overall it flows nicely.
  


 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Title: I'll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Dial Books
Publish Date: September 16, 2014
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world."

My Two Cents:

Before reading "I'll Give You the Sun," I had heard a lot about this book and the author Jandy Nelson. After hearing so much of the book I had high expectations for this book which were definitely met. What I can tell you is this is not the last time I will read anything by this author.

This book is about twins, Noah and Jude. Since having my own twins, I am absolutely fascinated by stories that include twins. Even at 16 months, I am already seeing such an amazing bond between my girls and that bond is present here between Noah and Jude. They used to be incredibly close but later on they fall apart after a series of missed connections and misunderstandings. This book explores what happened in the in between. I loved the way that the author was able to pull together both Jude and Noah's stories in really surprising ways!

Most of my love for this book comes from the way that the author is able to draw the characters so that you feel common ground with both of the main characters.I thought that the characters felt incredibly real and like people that you could know. This is a great read for when you're looking for something emotional and true!


 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: The Velvet Hours by Alyson Richman

Title: The Velvet Hours
Author: Alyson Richman
Format: ARC
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As Paris teeters on the edge of the German occupation, a young French woman closes the door to her late grandmother’s treasure-filled apartment, unsure if she’ll ever return. 

An elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian cultivated a life of art and beauty, casting out all recollections of her impoverished childhood in the dark alleys of Montmartre. With Europe on the brink of war, she shares her story with her granddaughter Solange Beaugiron, using her prized possessions to reveal her innermost secrets. Most striking of all are a beautiful string of pearls and a magnificent portrait of Marthe painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Boldini. As Marthe’s tale unfolds, like velvet itself, stitched with its own shadow and light, it helps to guide Solange on her own path."

My Two Cents:

"The Velvet Hours" is a book told in two time periods. It is told during the Belle Epoque in the late 1800s and during World War II in the 1940s. After enjoying a couple of Richman's other books, I knew that I wanted to read this book without really knowing what it was about. Luckily, once again, Richman has put together a great story about family secrets and how things are not always the way that they seem. 

We have two main characters here. There is Marthe, a woman who lives for beauty, who has a great love affair during the height of the Belle Epoque. Then there is Solange, a young woman who is just finding out her origins from her grandmother, Marthe. Solange is dealing with a different set of problems in trying to figure out whether it is better to wait out the war or to leave with her beau and his family where she knows she will be safer. The stories go back and forth between these two women and both of them are equally fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the two different time periods that the women were living and thriving in!

The writing in this book is indicative of why I keep coming back to Richman's books. She has a great way of weaving characters in with historical detail that feels like a treat for historical fiction lovers. This story was based on a true story about a real Solange who locked up her grandmother's apartment during the war, continued to pay for it while she was abroad, and the pristine apartment stuck in time was only found out in 2010 after Solange died and was no longer making payments on the house. It is a truly amazing story and I am so glad that Richman chose to capture it! 


Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: The Possibility of Somewhere by Julia Day

Title: The Possibility of Somewhere
Author: Julia Day 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Ash Gupta has a life full of possibility. His senior year is going exactly as he’s always wanted-- he's admired by his peers, enjoying his classes and getting the kind of grades that his wealthy, immigrant parents expect. There's only one obstacle in Ash's path: Eden Moore—the senior most likely to become class valedictorian. How could this unpopular, sharp-tongued girl from the wrong side of the tracks stand in his way?

All Eden's ever wanted was a way out. Her perfect GPA should be enough to guarantee her a free ride to college -- and an exit from her trailer-park existence for good. The last thing she needs is a bitter rivalry with Ash, who wants a prized scholarship for his own selfish reasons. Or so she thinks. . . When Eden ends up working with Ash on a class project, she discovers that the two have more in common than either of them could have imagined. They’re both in pursuit of a dream -- one that feels within reach thanks to their new connection. But what does the future hold for two passionate souls from totally different worlds?"


My Two Cents:

In "The Possibility of Somewhere," Eden wants to get out from her small town and out of the trailer park she lives in. She wants something different for her life. Ash, on the other hand, lives a very privileged life but still wants to get out of his small town. Being a part of a rich family, he can have his choice of where he goes to school. When Eden and Ash fall for each other, neither one is sure that romance won't get in the way of their dreams and ambition. To complicate matters, neither one of their families approve of the other. Eden is white. Ash is Indian.

The characters in this book are great. Yes, this is a love story but the author does a really good job of making the characters feel real and not just like vehicles for a love story. They are well-rounded. Eden and Ash both have different thoughts and dreams. They are both strong willed and want something different from what their lives are now. Furthermore, both are fighting the expectations of their parents. Eden's parents expect her to stay around and help them out with money. Ash's parents expect him to go to his mother's alma mater and to follow the career path that they have already set out for them. I really liked how the author explored these different problem sets with universal themes.

I think it is incredibly important for books to explore difficult issues. It is especially important for YA books to explore hard issues. Racism, both blatant and passive as found in this book, are a huge social issue facing our society. This is such an important issue and I was happy to see it explored in this book.  



Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Title: A Gentleman in Moscow
Author: Amor Towles
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: September 6, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery."

My Two Cents:

"A Gentleman in Moscow" covers several decades in the life of Count Alexander Rostov. When he refuses to renounce his aristocracy, he is told that if he ever leaves the grand Hotel Metropol in the center of Moscow, he will be arrested on sight. Rather than be arrested, he simply makes his home at the hotel. Little does he know how long he will be there or how much his life will change while he is basically on glorified house arrest.

Rostov is such a great character. Although the Soviets are changing the society of Russia dramatically, he does not really seem to be bothered by it at all. He is more than happy to make the best of things in a gorgeous location that is not left out of the changing society. Rostov plays witness to the entrenchment of the Soviets. Throughout it all, he seems to find good still and is willing to pass that on to the other characters that he comes in contact with in the book. I was not ready for this book to end and would love to see what happened to Rostov after the last page! Sequel, maybe?


I have a fascination with Russia and this book definitely fulfilled my want to read more historical fiction set there. This book covers a few decades and I loved seeing how the author captured the massive changes the country went through in the mid-twentieth century. The author includes a lot of historical tidbits in both the narrative as well as footnotes, which I loved. The author did a great job with making me picture Rostov's changing world. This was definitely a good historical fiction!


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon

Title: Leaving Lucy Pear
Author: Anna Solomon
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: July 26, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "One night in 1917 Beatrice Haven sneaks out of her uncle's house on Cape Ann, Massachusetts, leaves her newborn baby at the foot of a pear tree, and watches as another woman claims the infant as her own. The unwed daughter of wealthy Jewish industrialists and a gifted pianist bound for Radcliffe, Bea plans to leave her shameful secret behind and make a fresh start. Ten years later, Prohibition is in full swing, post-WWI America is in the grips of rampant xenophobia, and Bea's hopes for her future remain unfulfilled. She returns to her uncle’s house, seeking a refuge from her unhappiness. But she discovers far more when the rum-running manager of the local quarry inadvertently reunites her with Emma Murphy, the headstrong Irish Catholic woman who has been raising Bea's abandoned child—now a bright, bold, cross-dressing girl named Lucy Pear, with secrets of her own."

My Two Cents:

In "Leaving Lucy Pear," Bea has a baby out of wedlock. Instead of being strapped with taking care of a child that she is ill-prepared to take care of, she places the baby under a pear tree on her family's property where she knows that the baby will be taken in by the large family that steals the pears from the tree.

This book started out fairly slowly for me. I thought there were some strands of other stories that could have been streamlined a little bit. Eventually I was pulled into the story by Bea meeting Lucy and Lucy struggling to figure out where she fit in with both her adoptive family as well as with the family that left her behind. Lucy was definitely the most intriguing character to me. Her adoptive family is a huge, poor Irish Catholic family where each child has to struggle to stand out and be noticed. I loved seeing how Lucy comes into her own through being forced to do this.

I enjoyed the historical detail in this book. The book takes place in the 1920s in New England where the world is very divided by the haves and the have nots. This book explores this a little bit, which I really liked. Overall, this book had a slow start but ended up being a good story about finding one's place in the world.


 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker by Kat Spears

Title: The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker
Author: Kat Spears 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: September 13, 2016
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Luke Grayson's life might as well be over when he's forced to go live in rural Tennessee with his Baptist pastor father. His reputation as a troublemaker has followed him there, and as an outsider, Luke is automatically under suspicion by everyone from the principal at his new school to the local police chief. His social life is no better. The new kid in town is an easy target for Grant Parker, the local golden boy with a violent streak who has the entire community of Ashland under his thumb.

But things go topsy-turvy when a freak accident removes Grant from the top of the social pyramid, replacing him with Luke. This fish out of water has suddenly gone from social outcast to hero in a matter of twenty-four hours. For the students who have lived in fear of Grant all their lives, this is a welcome change. But Luke’s new found fame comes with a price. Nobody knows the truth about what really happened to Grant Parker except for Luke, and the longer he keeps living the lie, the more like Grant Parker he becomes."


My Two Cents:

"The Boy Who Killed Grant Parker" is the story of Luke, who is forced to move with his Dad to a small town after he gets into too much trouble in Washington, D.C. living with his mom. He has to go to a new school where he is no longer in the popular crowd. Grant Parker, the mayor's son, is and Luke gets a taste of not being popular any more. Grant begins to make Luke miserable and then fate turns.

High school is tough for Luke. I liked seeing his perspective throughout the book, mostly towards the beginning. Luke started out as a strong character to me. We learn a lot about him and what his life has been like in the past. As the book goes on, he seemed to become less of a strong character and seems to be happy to not take his destiny into his own hands. I did not really understand that. I wanted to know more about why he didn't seem like he wanted to set the record straight about what happened between him and Grant.

This book was okay. I like how the author created a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for because you just might get it but it may not be as good as you think it will be. The beginning started out strong for me but the end felt a little rushed.  



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