Book Reviews

In 2012 I made a pledge to read one book per month – it has been awesome. I’m continuing it for 2013 and vowing to review each of the books to inform my readers of my thoughts and recommendations! I hope you enjoy reading my reviews and I would be happy to discuss any of them – just leave me a message!

Book Review: What Alice Forgot by Lane Moriarty

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December’s book of the month was What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

I have participated in my second book club with Julie at Peanut Butter Fingers. I am in love with her blog and I love that she hosts a book club each month where readers can follow along with her own reviews of the book and the thoughts of others.  You can check out her book review of 13 Reasons Why and it also includes a link to my review of the book!

I have posted about this before, but I have a tendency to pick up books that are recommended to me (or because I like the look of their shiny cover) and I don’t always read what it is about. I knew that this book was going to be good because I saw it was recommended by Oprah as a Romantic Winter Read – who doesn’t like Oprah books!?

I’ll get on with my review in a hot second, but I did want to point out how the reading of this book went. First, I went to the library and checked it out (for as much as I love to read I can’t afford to buy all the books!!). Secondly, I gasped at the fact that it was 432 pages and thought “there’s no way I’m going to finish this over my break from classes”. Thirdly, I brought it home and started reading.  Lastly, it was completed in 2 days. I could not put the book down. How’s that for a recommendation??

Plot:

The book opens up in a spinning class. Alice, the main character, was completing a spin class when she passed out and fell off her bike and hit her head.  When she gains consciousness, she thinks it is 10 years prior to when it actually is.  She is confused as to why she is working out (Alice NEVER works out), she’s confused as to why she has c-section scars (she was pregnant with her first child, after all), she has NO idea who any of the people are in her class, and all she wants is her husband to come to the hospital with her (who she’s in the middle of a divorce with).  Imagine losing 10 years of your memory… concussions are a crazy thing!

Characters:

This book had many characters, but I am only going to review a few of them that I thought were instrumental in this novel.

Alice – Alice could maybe be considered the 39 year old “super mom”.  She lives on coffee, committees, low-fat banana muffins, and exercise.  She holds her kids to a strict schedule and diet and doesn’t allow for much wiggle room.  She is a woman in charge, who does what she wants when she wants to.  Yet, we learn throughout the book that she hasn’t always been this way. Alice was once an easy-going, care free woman who wanted nothing but to have a sweet, simple life with her husband and children.  She had a great relationship with her sister, mother, and “adopted” grandmother and worked hard to please people and be the best wife and mother possible. These traits changed over time, mostly due to a new friendship with her neighbor.  This new friendship led to a crumbling in Alice’s foundation and she found herself with children she doesn’t know and understand and a relationship with her husband that has dwindled resulting in a divorce.

Elizabeth – A once loving, personable, outgoing individual. Elizabeth transforms through this book from a supportive and loving sister to a woman stricken with grief and loss from multiple failed pregnancies.  All she wanted was to be a mother and it engulfed her daily life, including her relationship with her husband.  Elizabeth hides behind an occupation as a motivational speaker yet suffers deeply inside.  Over time she has grown astray from her sister as their lives have taken two separate paths. Yet, it’s Elizabeth that helps Alice through her amnesia, delicately giving her the information to remind her of the woman she had become. In this book, we follow Elizabeth’s character through her interactions with her sister, her husband, and mostly her journal to her therapist.

Frannie – Frannie is the “adopted” grandmother of Alice and Elizabeth.  She was a neighbor of theirs and came into their lives after their father had died when the girls were little – she helped take care of them while their mother was deep in grief.  Frannie seems to be a beautiful lady who lost herself when her fiance died while they were in their 30s.  The book is filled with letters that Frannie has written her dead fiance over the years.  Frannie develops throughout the book, especially as she expands her mind and lets love in while enjoying life at the retirement home.

Madison – Madison is Alice’s oldest child.  I included her in with the main characters because I was really intrigued by her and wish that I would have been able to learn more about her character.  With her parents suffering through a nasty divorce, poor little Madison seemed to get lost in the mix, something that probably happens more often than anyone would like to admit.

Recommendation:

I give this book a 5/5. I loved it.

It was a very witty but complex 432 pages with multiple stories being shared at once. It took me a little while to really grasp what all was happening with the development of the various characters, but it was addicting.  I loved the individual development of each of the characters and seeing how they all related and built off of one another.  While I am not an author in the slightest, I think it would be very difficult to write a novel like this and I think that Moriarty did an excellent job.

I was very surprised with how easy of a read it was. It’s not too often that I find a book that I can’t and don’t want to put down. I love it when I find a book like that.

While doing some research for what to write for this book review, I stumbled upon this site, BlogHer, and read through the reviews for What Alice Forgot. My favorite part is when it was said that it would have been nice for Alice to have a blog… haha how true! What a great way for her to relive and revisit her life than through a blog. After all, do we really blog for people to read it? Or do we blog for us?

Book Information:

  • Reading level: Ages 18 and up
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Trade; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425247449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425247440
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1.1 inches

Book Review: Night Road by Kristin Hannah

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I have read quite a few of her books and I thoroughly enjoy them.  When I saw this one at the library, I couldn’t resist! I have a problem where I don’t always read the information about the book, I just select it and start reading…which I did with this book. I had no idea what it was about, but I was very confident in Kristin’s work as I have greatly enjoyed books in the past (including Firefly Lane, The Things We Do for LoveDistant Shores…)

Plot:

The story involves a tale of a young girl, Lexi Baill, troubled with heartache and struggles with her drug addicted mother.  Lexi suffers through tragic events her entire life, and ends up going to live with an aunt she has never met.  The aunt lives in the poor end of town but works hard to find her a position in a school system nearby which is academically stellar but is filled with the rich kids.

On her first day of school, Lexi is introduced to Mia Farraday, a lonely unpopular teenager who constantly lives in the shadows of her twin brother, Zach Farraday. The three teenagers fell into a quick close friendship that develops into love between Lexi and Zach, leaving a lot of complication as Mia becomes the third wheel.  Kristin Hannah outlines the struggles of teenagers as they suffer with first loves, grades, college applications, and under-age drinking.

While Lexi, Mia, and Zach are main characters in this novel, the majority of the story explores the life of Jude Farraday, the mother of Mia and Zach.  Jude is a loving and involved mother who holds control over most activities of her children’s lives.  The entire book changes to focus on the grief of Jude after a tragic car accident injuring one of her children and killing the other.  Jude falls into a deep amount of depression, grief, and sense of loss which translates into an inability to be a proper wife, mother, and grandmother.

The book is about young love, loss, guilt, justice, grief, acceptance, peace, and reuniting. Most importantly, this book is about family.

Main Characters:

Jude Farraday – Jude is a loving and involved mother. She is on top of all of her children’s school activities, friends, and their academic success. She volunteers at school, she has dinner ready every night, and works very hard to mange the home her physician husband has provided.  She knows the “ins” and “outs” of her kids social, personal, and academic lives.

She has a troubled relationship with her own mother which stemmed from the grief and separation that occurred after her father passed away when she was a young child.  She routinely meets with her mother every month to spend “forced time” with her and her mother.

Jude falls into deep depression following the loss of one of her children.  She can’t eat, sleep, cook, clean, drive, garden….do anything that she was accustomed to.  Her intense grief develops into a strained relationship with her kid, her husband, and Lexi.

Lexi Baill – Lexi has had a troubled childhood.  She lived with her drug-addict mother while she was in her clean phases and saw much more than a young child should…. including the death of her mom from drugs.  Lexi moved in and out of foster homes her whole life and struggled with the attachment and separation that occurred each time.  She was very pleased but skeptical when contact was made with her great Aunt Eva, who decided to adopt her and take her into her family.

Lexi is a very well-behaved young girl.  She is very respectful, hard-working and puts life in perspective based on her life experiences.  She falls madly in love with Zach Farraday – a guy who would normally be “out of reach” as he’s the hot and popular guy in school.

Lexi makes a terrible mistake at the end of her senior year, resulting in an extended stay in prison – something that would never be expected.  She claimed guilty to manslaughter after a drunk driving accident on Night Road, killing one of the Farraday children.  The stay in prison resulted in many surprises, hard times, and reflection.

Mia Farraday – Mia is a sweet, youthful teenager living in a fairyland.  Throughout the book, she develops from an innocent young girl to a beautiful teenager.  She has such an awkward few years in the beginning of the book. But, throughout the book, we follow her transition from awkward, dependent, and innocent to strong, intelligent, and happy.  Mia constantly lives in the shadows of her older brother but has such as deep seeded connection with him that is so unique and adorable for twins.

Zach Farraday – Zach is the popular kid in school – the good looking, athletic kid that every girl wants to date and every guy wants to be.  Zach has an active social life that, in the beginning of the book, revolves around everyone but Mia and Lexi.  Yet, he eventually decides to act on his love for Lexi which leads to a profound change for all 3 teens. Throughout the book, Zach develops from this “macho” kid to a soft, driven, loving kid who takes on so much more than many thought he could handle.

Recommendation:

I give this book a 3.74/5 for my recommendation.

I was highly intrigued with this book. The interesting thing about listening to books on tape is that I find myself sitting in parking lots a little longer finishing a chapter….and that was absolutely the case with this book.

There were a lot of twists and turns in this book and I am trying really hard not to give them away through my review – but I want to still give my thoughts and opinions!

I think the book was well written, but I think it was a little sloppy at times.  Kristin does an excellent job developing the characters throughout the book. An extensive amount of time passes throughout this novel and Hannah does an excellent job of showing the changes in the characters. They are so relate-able and almost tangible.

The ending of the book kinda made me say “eh”. It was really good, but kind of expected, which made me pretty disappointed as I was so intrigued through the rest of the book. However, I did get the “feel good” feelings once it ended (which equaled out the tears I shed throughout the rest of the book).

I really do recommend this book – it’s a good, easy, intriguing read.

Book Information:

Title: Night Road

Author: Kristin Hanna

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2012

ISBN: 0312364431

Length: 432 pages

Subjects: Fiction, Contemporary Women

BOOK REVIEW: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I followed along with Julie and her followers to pledge to read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  I admit that I really didn’t know what the book was about (seems to be a trend), but I was happy when her readers voted it the book to read for October.

I guess I like to go into reading books without having much of an idea of what they were about.  I didn’t really read the description in depth, but I made sure to check to see if my library had it on cds so I could listen to it on my drives. Thank you Young Teen section. :)

Plot:

This book follows Clay Jensen as he listens to tapes recorded by Hannah Baker.  Hannah was a new student in high school and quickly fell into the “rumor mill”.  For some reason, she was thought of as an outcast and was often the brunt of cruel jokes, for no apparent reason. As mentioned, the book follows Clay as he listened to Hannah’s tapes, which she recorded before she committed suicide.  A tale of bullying, unfair punishment, teenage heartache, and lost love – this book is captivating, heart-breaking, emotional, informative, and powerful.

Main Characters:

Hannah Baker – seems to be a very sweet and innocent young lady who desperately wants to be connected to her peers and fit in at school. She struggles with many challenges that high school students face and just lets them get the best of her.  She develops into a trouble young girl who shows all the signs of suicide and desperately seeks for someone to take notice and to offer/demand help.  Her tapes explain her story of why she decided to end her life and what individuals impacted her decision.

Clay Jensen – if only he was able to act on his love for Hannah.  Clay is the kid that everyone likes in high school – he gets good grades and is nice to everyone he meets. He’s in love with Hannah, but can’t seem to get past the rumors that have circulated around the school.

Asher shows so much emotion through Clay and Hannah’s characters – it’s absolutely captivating.  You want them to realize the interest each other have in one another – yet you want to do nothing but come to Hannah’s aid.  An emotional tale…a depiction of insight into the fatal result of high school bullying.

Rating:

3.5/5 – Wasn’t my absolute favorite. However, it was incredibly captivating and information. Really made me think.  (Maybe it deserves more than a 3.5 then….)

Recommendation:

I cried while listening to this book.  I found myself thinking back to my high school days – thinking about the people that maybe could have been in Hannah’s shoes, and thinking about unkind words I have spoken to people.  The stories this one girl went through are incredible and  it’s amazing she put up a fight for so long.

It really made me think about the warning signs of suicide and why they aren’t recognized more often.  It was awful to listen to this young girl be abused, tormented, and taken advantage of from her peers.  It made me wonder how often this actually goes on. And it made me sad.

While I expressed that it wasn’t my absolute favorite, I would listen to it again – I bet I would catch something I hadn’t before.

This book would be a really good read for teens and parents of teenagers. This book really makes you think.

Book Information:

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill; 1st edition (October 18, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595141715
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595141712
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches

Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I recently finished Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  I admit that I really had no idea what it was about before I started the book, but was pleasantly surprised as it got going. I gained access to the book through Kim, who always seems to know the best and hottest books. I, on the other hand, would be happy to read Water for Elephants or The Secret Life of Bees over and over again because I don’t usually just randomly pick a book to read.

As I mentioned before beginning these book reviews, I haven’t been reading them, I have been listening to them in my car as I have a 2.5 hour roundtrip drive I make 3 times a week. I find that, while I LOVE music, I just can’t find enough to fill up that amount of time and keep me alert enough to dodge deer and opossums.

Well, I loved this book.  Gillian Flynn made me keep wanting more – I didn’t want to stop listening to it, I was so intrigued by what was going to happen next that I found myself sitting in the car when I would arrive to school and home, just so I could finish a chapter. It’s that good.

Plot:

The plot of this book revolves around a husband and wife – Nick and Amy Dunne.  The two met by fate in New York City and were both acclaimed writers and well known in the print journalism community.  Nick worked for a magazine, as did Amy, but she is also the daughter of a famous book series her parents wrote when she was young, Amazing Amy.

While living the high life from their incomes from their respective jobs, and Amy’s hefty fund from her parents success from the exploiting book, Amy and Nick find themselves in a jobless slump from the recent growth and establishment of online media.  With their marriage rocky and funds decreasing, Nick and Amy move to North Carthage, Missouri – in order to take care of Nick’s ailing father and mother.

And the book starts getting twisted.

The plot is told from Amy and Nick’s perspectives. However, Nick’s perspective starts on the day his wife, Amy Dunne, goes missing from their rented home in North Carthage, Missouri.  On the other hand, Amy’s perspective is told from multiple journal entries, starting back to the time they began dating. This story portrayal from Gillian Flynn is creative, addicting, and amazingly unique.  It allows the reader to be able to understand and connect with the characters…

The duration of the book recounts the story from the day Amy Dunne disappeared from their home, on their 5th wedding anniversary.  It seems as though the couple was in constant struggle and turmoil with their every day lives and marriage which causes Nick Dunne to be considered a suspect in the disappearance of his wife.

This book is like a rollercoaster – one you want to keep riding over and over again, despite the 3 hour wait line.  Your mind will be flipped one way and turned back the other as Gillian Flynn explains the disappearance of Amy, through two very different eyes.

Main Characters:

Nick Dunne – I don’t necessarily know if I like books that make the man look like a cheating, murdering scumbag.  But, I read this one anyways.  Nick is portrayed in a fashion that makes him seem lazy, self-loathing, unappreciative and unloving towards his wife and his mother and father. The only person it seems he has a real connection with is his twin sister, Margo (or Go).  Raised in a broken household, with a father who despised women, Nick survived the odds by finding himself a pretty, successful, wealthy wife. Only to begrudgingly return to his home town to open up a bar with his sister, with his wife’s money.  Nick is a complex individual and continually develops throughout the entire book. But I can’t even explain how many times I was yelling at him in the car for his actions, thoughts, and words – he is a very complex and deep character.

Amy Dunne – Amy’s character is a complete brain tease.  She will push and prod and your own internal morals, heart-strings, and perceptions of what a wife should be. Amy appears to be a sweet, innocent, loving wife and daughter who will do anything to provoke success and love in their household.  She comes away being a psychological mind f*ck, which causes so much of the suspense, thrill, unease, and devotion to this book, the plot and the characters.  The only child of her two psychologist parents, Amy had a fruitful upbringing and wanted nothing but to be “normal”, she didn’t want to be held up to the standard of Amazing Amy, but was, and appears to always fall short.

Rating:

4.5/5 – as I have said, I was hooked. I didn’t want to stop listening to this book and I didn’t want it to end. The characters are so complex and the plot line is suspenseful and intriguing.

Recommendation:

I absolutely recommend this book. I am not usually one to read mystery-type books, I like the “brain candy” books – the ones I can listen to and check out of the world for a bit and be engulfed in someone’s love stories, family issues, or work complications.

Check this book out, give it a chance – I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Warning – it does have a decent amount of vulgar language – which absolutely doesn’t phase me – but it is a little bit different listening to it then reading the words in a book.

Book Information:

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030758836X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307588364
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches

Next book reviewed: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  I started to read this, along with Julie at Peanut Butter Finger’s and her followers for the October book club. I flew through it – so be looking for this next review!

  • Reading level: Ages 12 and up
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Razorbill; Reprint edition (June 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159514188X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595141880
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches

The Next Best Thing – Jennifer Weiner
For the month of September, I listened to The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner. I have read some of her other books and I have truly enjoyed her characters, character development, romantic/realistic plot lines, and the wit she usually incorporates. So I was excited to “read” The Next Best Thing. 
 
Plot: The story is about a 20 something woman,  Ruth, who lives with her vivacious Grandma, Rae, and the two are completely co-dependent.  Ruth’s parents were killed in a car crash when she was  young child and her Grandma took over as her caregiver.  Ruth was burned really badly on the right side of her body and she spent a great deal of time in hospital beds – which took her away from the ridicule that followed everywhere she went.
While in hospitals and recovering from skin grafts and surgeries, she developed a love for tv – found it to be an escape from the “real world” and allowed viewers to be able to take a step out of their own lives and align themselves with the lives of the characters. Because of this love for tv, she decided to move to Los Angeles wither grandmother – the 2 packed up their home in Massachusetts and moved West.
After adapting to the new culture in California, Ruth gains a job as an assistant, throwing away a social life to the demands of her job, and Grandma Rae finds jobs as an extra on popular shows and develops close friendships with many.
Ruth submits her manuscript for her show, The Next Best Thing – a show that mimics the life of her and her grandmother.  The show is picked up by a network and the avalanche of problems begins to take place as the show spirals beyond Ruth’s hopes and dreams – leading to an unhappy main character, a strained relationship between Ruth and Grandma Rae, but of course, develops into a love story.
Main Characters:
Ruth: I never thought I would do this. I actually found myself yelling at a character. I initially found myself feeling really sorry for Ruth in all that she had been through in her life.  This quickly developed into “buck up girlfriend and make something of your life”. Then, of course, she fell into a horrible romantic situation, and all I could think is, “welp, you had it coming to ya, stupid people make stupid decisions”. By the end of the book, I found a disconnect with Ruth – she had developed into the successful individual I was hoping she would – but I found she lost herself in exchange for love.
Grandma Rae: A selfless woman, who put aside many of her hopes and dreams to raise her granddaughter – but I don’t know many grandmothers who wouldn’t do this! She was quick witted, a wonderful home-maker and a strong individual. In the beginning of the book, she seemed to put much of her personal life into that of her granddaughters and towards the end of the book she took a stand for herself and her future and found love, again.  It was great to have her develop as Ruth did and then tears were provoked when she finally decided to set Ruth free and live her own life.
Rating: 
3/5 – I found myself really enjoying the book, following the plot very easily, but I found Ruth to be a bit of an annoying “damsel in distress” and it was often difficult to relate to her character.
 
Recommendation:
If you like Jennifer’s books, I would definitely recommend it. It is along the same lines with the rest of her work, but I had a challenging time with the main character.
 
Book Information:
Pub Date: July 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4516-1775-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Atria
Next Book: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012)
ISBN-10: 030758836X
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