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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: It's Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice

Title: It's Not Yet Dark
Author: Simon Fitzmaurice
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: August 1, 2017 (soon!)
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "In 2008, Simon Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS). He was given four years to live. In 2010, in a state of lung-function collapse, Simon knew with crystal clarity that now was not his time to die. Against all prevailing medical opinion, he chose to ventilate in order to stay alive. Here, the young filmmaker, a husband and father of five small children, draws us deeply into his inner world. Told in simply expressed and beautifully stark prose—in the vein of such memoirs as Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—the result is an astonishing journey into a life which, though brutally compromised, is lived more fully and in the moment than most, revealing at its core the power of love its most potent. Written using an eye-gaze computer, It's Not Yet Dark is an unforgettable book about relationships and family, about what connects and separates us as people and, ultimately, about what it means to be alive."

My Two Cents:

"It's Not Yet Dark" is a memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice, a filmaker, father, and husband, who is struck down in the prime of his life by ALS. Even if we are relatively healthy, there is a chance that something could strike us like that without warning. It is a slim chance (luckily!!!) but there is still a chance. Most of us just don't go around thinking about things like that because it would drive us absolutely nuts. It's the fact that this book is so raw that makes it good and that makes it thought-provoking. This situation could happen to any of us.

Fitzmaurice walks us through his diagnosis and the disbelief that he originally has when he starts having issues. He blames it on his shoes at first because the idea that a healthy person like him could have a medical issue that makes it impossible to fully work his foot seems so strange and then things quickly seem to go from bad to worse.

Told in stark prose, this is a story of heartbreak and how you go on living when everything that is happening to you is fully out of your control. How do you embrace family and friends? How do you adapt and move forward? How do you form a new life when reality is so different than what you had anticipated? This book explores all of these topics and more in a really raw and real way. This book is relatively short but it packs a huge punch!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Comfort of Secrets by Christine Nolfi

Title: The Comfort of Secrets
Author: Christine Nolfi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: July 18, 2017 (Yesterday!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "Cat Mendoza needs a win. After a business failure and years of dating the wrong men, she’s ready to turn things around.

First she must convince the residents of Sweet Lake, Ohio, that she’s taking her responsibilities seriously. As the events director of the newly restored Wayfair Inn, she has the support of her best friends, Linnie and Jada. But everyone else—including her overprotective mother and the well-meaning Sweet Lake Sirens—can’t help but chime in with advice about her plans, her apparently too-tight clothes, and her undeniable attraction to Ryan D’Angelo, the charming ad exec hired to promote the inn.

Cat knows she should keep Ryan at a distance, but she’s drawn closer by the heartbreak he tries to hide. Will uncovering his secrets derail the new life Cat hopes to achieve…or will she gain something to cherish forever?"

My Two Cents:

"The Comfort of Secrets" is the story of Cat, a young woman trying her best to show the small town that she grew up in that she can be an adult with true responsibilities that she can take seriously. After developing a reputation for being fun loving and fancy free with no regard for consequences, Cat has a long road ahead of her. Luckily she has some good friends in her corner who are pulling for her to figure out her career and her romantic life.

This is the second book in the Sweet Lake series by Christine Nolfi but you don't need to read the first book in order to enjoy this book. Many of the same characters from the first book appear but Cat is really at the center of this book.

The characters in the book were great. I loved Cat! She's the kind of scrappy character that you can't help but to root for her. The reader knows early on that Cat really has changed and she really is ready to take on being the event planner at the inn in town but almost everyone around her seems convinced that she is going into this endeavor with her eyes closed and want to make sure that she knows that they think about this.

You're also pulling for the love match in the book! Ryan comes to Sweet Lake as the ad-exec charged with getting the inn some business through some slick advertising. Love is the last thing on his mind. The love between Cat and Ryan feels a little insta-love but works relatively well. Ryan is more of a realist but Cat is a dreamer and this seems to fit in her character a little more. The love between them is very sweet, especially when we see the plans that Cat carries out to give Ryan back some of the childhood that we learn he missed out on.

This is a sweet romance with a quirky set of characters. This book was a lot of fun! 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

Title: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash
Author: Candace Ganger
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page."

My Two Cents:

In "The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash," Birdie and Bash meet at a party. Birdie isn't supposed to be at the party. Bash is trying to escape from everything else in his life by going to the party. Bash is trying to do the same. At the time, neither of them can imagine the inextricable ways that their lives will be tied forever more.

On its surface, this book seems like fun romp but it is so much more than that. This book is filled with a lot of drama and questions about whether its better to hide or its better to tell the truth even with the truth has the power to rip people apart. I loved seeing the main characters and the secondary characters in the book explore what this meant for each of them throughout the book. You're pulling for the truth the whole time but the author keeps you guessing so that you are not sure on what side the characters are going to end up until the very end. I love when a book can keep me on my toes like that!

The characters really make this book. I really liked how the author gave depth to not only the main characters but the secondary characters as well (Birdie's sister and Bash's friend, Kyle - OMG! Both of these characters!). Birdie has a pretty good life. Yeah, she fights with her sister and yearns for a closer relationship. Yeah, she just lost a scholarship but things are okay until the unimaginable happens and Birdie suddenly realizes how good her family had it. Bash is struggling. His mother (the only person that she really has in the entire world) is dying and he is doing everything he can to try to forget about it. He can't confront what his life might/ will be like when he loses his mother. This book goes deep and makes you care about these characters so much.

I was left wanting the ending to draw out a bit more so we could see what happens to these characters and their families after the book ends but this isn't one of those books that would ever lend itself well to a sequel. There is a bit of beauty in the way the author left it: open with a good dose of hope for the future.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Mr. Ridley by Delilah Marvelle

Title: Mr. Ridley
Author: Delilah Marvelle 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Delilah Marvelle Productions, LLC
Publish Date: February 28, 2017
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "LONDON, ENGLAND - 1830
Criminals fear the iron fist of justice he delivers. Scotland Yard will do anything to get their hands on his mind. Whilst women? They crawl in the hope of becoming his. But only one woman is about to hold his body and his mind hostage.

Jemdanee Lillian Watkins is a botanical savant from India who ends up getting arrested for a crime she didn't commit. Only one man believes her: Mr. Ridley. Drawn to him and the rope he knots in her presence, she realizes this overly regimented dark hero hides nothing but his passion."

My Two Cents:

"Mr. Ridley" is the story of Jemdanee, a young woman who knows what she wants. Originally from India, she finds herself in danger and arrested in England and teams up with our titular character, Mr. Ridley. Neither one is prepared for the other and what they'll bring into each other lives. Filled with rich characters, romance, and deep, dark secrets, this is a thoroughly exciting opening to a new trilogy! There is so much to love about this book!

The characters really make this book. Jemdanee is a great character. She is smart, witty, and resourceful. Even with all of Ridley's darkness, she never seems to lose her cheer or her quick retorts. I was also very interested in her biology expertise. Especially for the time - she is very much ahead of her time. Her work was so fascinating! Ridley is a complete puzzle. As the story unfolds, we find that he keeps a lot hidden. His father was brutally murdered when Ridley was young. This changes his whole trajectory and acts as a massive shadow that Ridley can never quite seem to get out from under. I loved the way that we find out about everything both of these characters have been through. As their relationship together blooms, we see how they got to where they are. The author has a gift for giving you just enough detail to keep you reading for a few pages before dropping another hint that keeps you reading a bit more to try to figure these characters out.

The chemistry between Jemdanee and Ridley is amazing! Although Jemdanee seems drawn to or at least intrigued by Ridley in the very beginning, the chemistry soon unfolds into something really special. The romance in this book is so good and ridiculously hot! The anticipation builds throughout the book and the action feels realistic!

I love a good historical romance but I like when there is real historical detail in the book as well! This book definitely has that. I especially liked the glimpse of Scotland Yard that you get in this book. The author does a really good job of world building and showing us what the characters' world is like! There is a lot of really rich detail and the research that must have gone into this book is clear.

Now the only problem that I have with this trilogy is the decision of whether to read the second book right away when the third book won't be out for awhile yet or to wait until the third book comes out so that I can finish Ridley and Jemdanee's story in one fell swoop. Decisions, decisions!  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Title: All We Shall Know
Author: Donal Ryan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: July 4, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. At 33 years-old, she finds herself pregnant with the child of a 17 year-old Traveller boy, Martin Toppy, and not by her husband Pat. Melody was teaching Martin to read, but now he's gone, and Pat leaves too, full of rage. She's trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming, while the past won't let her go.

It's a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a bold young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody's life. Following the nine months of her pregnancy, All We Shall Know unfolds with emotional immediacy in Melody's fierce, funny, and unforgettable voice, as she contends with her choices, past and present."

My Two Cents:

"All We Shall Know" is the story of Melody, a young woman who finds herself pregnant but not by her husband. This sets off a chain of events that will have Melody and everyone around her questioning the way that things are supposed to be. The father of the baby is a teenaged kid from a Traveller family (that Melody has been tutoring). At first, it is hard to see why this happened but as the book unfolds, we see that not everything is the way it seems.

The strong point of this book is really the writing. It is so real and very raw. The book is told from Melody's perspective as she gets further and further along in her pregnancy. We get a lot of insight into her feelings about Pat, her husband, and the marriage that is rapidly unraveling between them. We see how she is hated by his family even though Pat is most definitely not perfect himself. I really liked that the book was told by Melody as it allowed me to get really into the story.

While the writing is good, I did want to know more of the motivations of the characters. What is driving Melody to doing what she does throughout the book? While we get a lot of her perspective, there was a lack of showing what was really driving her. What drives Mary to form the kind of relationship that she forms with Mary? And then there is the ending (I don't want to give anything away so I apologize for my vagueness). The ending is incredibly clean and neat and is very much in stark contrast with the messiness of the rest of the book. It didn't feel realistic and left me wondering.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Fox Chapel Coloring Books

I was excited to receive these two coloring books, thanks to the PR and Fox Chapel Publishing!

Thank goodness for coloring books! Even as an adult, I still love to color as a way to relax in the evenings. Both of these books are really cute and have some really nice designs. I love how different each page is and how fun the designs are in both books.

I have a fascination with henna so I especially loved the Henna Style coloring book. The designs are so pretty!

Are any of you out there into the adult coloring book craze?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

Title: The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: June 27, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn house by house into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women and torn between what she can and cannot tell."

My Two Cents:

"The Child" is the story of three women. There is Angela, a woman that had her baby stolen from the hospital many years ago. She still dreams that her child may be alive but realizes that may be too good to be true. There is Emma, a young woman trying to come to terms with her majorly messed up childhood as an adult. Then there is Kate, an intrepid reporter, who wants to find out the mystery behind the baby buried in the garden that captivates the whole country. This book had tons of twists and turns and definitely kept me guessing.

Thrillers are still one genre that I don't seem to get around to all that much but during the summer, sometimes you just want a book that is going to take you on a wild ride and this book certainly does that. It's not too fast paced but the twists and turns make this book thrilling. There were a few points in the book where I really thought I had everything figured out only to have Barton turn everything on its head again and again. I really liked how she was able to do this! She definitely knows how to build up excitement.

Another thing that I liked is that she actually puts a lot into making sure her characters aren't flat (a flaw that often seems to be hiding in more action oriented books). I especially enjoyed reading about Emma and Jude, her mother. Jude is a terribly flawed, sort of horrible character that doesn't seem to get that the world does not revolve around her. Although she wants a relationship with Emma, she seems to want to make sure it is a contentious, strained relationship at every turn. Emma seems to have some deep-rooted issues that are slowly unraveled throughout the book.

Overall, this is a good read that will keep you on your toes!

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